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Journal Journal: AK Senator Ted "Tubes" Stevens Loses Re-election

The Alaska Division of Elections has officially declared Democrat Mark Begich the winner of the 2008 Alaska senatorial election against incumbent Republican Senator Ted Stevens. With only 2700 absentee ballots left to count, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich leads Stevens by 3724 votes (1.18% lead). Begich needed to beat Stevens by approximately 1500 votes in order to avoid an automatic state-paid recount. Stevens may appeal to the Republican party to pay for a recount, however, ongoing questions surrounding the legitimacy of the 2008 Alaskan election, as well as Stevens' status as a convicted felon, make the prospects of a Republican party-paid recount fairly dubious.

Ted Stevens is famous for his diatribe criticizing network neutrality in which he described the internet as "a series of tubes." The comment went on to be lampooned by the media; most memorably by John Stewart of The Daily Show. The Alaska senator is also famous for his "bridge to nowhere", and brought his 40 year (10 term) career to a close by being found guilty of 7 felony counts of failing to properly report gifts from VECO executives.

Mark Begich is a highly regarded mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, and ran an unusually positive campaign against the incumbent Stevens, focusing mainly on expanding energy production and alternative energy solutions, as well as the Alaskan economy.

With Begich's victory, this puts Democrats at the 58 seat mark in the senate, with Michigan and Georgia still up in the air.


Journal Journal: What is required for an eBook to succeed?

In the wake of the Amazon Kindle, the possibilities of an "eBook world" seem ever closer. However, some major oversights may likely keep the Kindle from being the device to win the hearts of the reading world. In various interviews, including one on PBSs Charlie Rose, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos seems to have his head in the right place, but the actual product doesn't seem to quite meet the philosophy he tries to represent. A successful eBook needs to evaluate the big picture a little more than the Kindle has.

First, design. Let's face it, all readers, world wide, have grown up holding paper books. We are comfortable with this, we are used to it. Maybe 30 years down the road, after the entire population has been "curling up" with eBooks for a few decades, will a "Tricorder"-like device feel comfortable, but not yet. For now, we're going to need a bit of hand-holding, a bit of prodding and ingenuity in order to ease the reading world into switching to these devices. The first widely successful eBook needs to feel, and operate, even if superficially, like a traditional book. It likely will need to have two folding screens, and be encased in a material that is pleasant to hold: possibly even a leather or vinyl covering. Electronic paper displays will make the experience much more conventional. Any buttons need to be visually and tactilely invisible during the course of reading (touch screen, most likely). We're going to need to be tricked, at least for a while, into feeling like we're reading an old-fashioned book. All that extra high-tech functionality must disappear during the reading experience.

Secondly, infrastructure. Reading books isn't just about information gathering. There's a community aspect, and an aesthetic one as well. Libraries and bookstores have, forever, been more than just information repositories; they're communal and aesthetic locales. Barnes & Nobel has figured this out. Each store offers a partially secluded area with comfy chairs and a fireplace. It works so well, that many people go there to read even if they don't purchase anything there... but you can bet that their next book purchase will be from there. If I were to walk into a traditional bookstore with a Kindle, I'd be a heretic. So a widely successful eBook needs to offer an alternative to the traditional community experience. And it can. For example, an eBookstore: within the confines of which, any eBook can be downloaded and read for free, and offering places to sit, along with food and drink, as well as a pleasing aesthetic ambiance. This may not require a new chain of bookstores, but traditional bookstores, themselves, should be approached to allow themselves to be eBook repositories. Without sounding morose, I think it's clear that an eBook revolution is inevitable, and the end of the paper book is an eventuality, and bookstores, if they wish to continue to exist, should embrace the most genuine of eBook technologies, and play a direct role their evolution.

I believe these are the biggest hurdles in front of eBooks, today.


Journal Journal: Sonic Confirmed for Brawl...

In a surprisingly early move (or late, depending upon how you look at it) Nintendo has officially confirmed that Sega's mascot: Sonic the Hedgehog, will be a playable contender in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Brawl, according to the official Smash Bros. website. They openly acknowledge that Sonic is the "most desired" challenger in the Smash universe, and ccompanying the update is a short video containing gameplay footage and some ideas of Sonic's gameplay: wavedash, spin jump, and Super Sonic transformation (most obviously his Final Smash), as well as his own expectedly cheesy buttrock soundtrack.

On a bit more worrisome note, however, the release date, previously confirmed as December 3rd on the website, has been removed and replaced with, simply "TBD". Whether this shoves the game back into 2008 or not remains to be seen.


Journal Journal: Clear Channel Goes Private and Streamline

Clear Channel Communications Inc., the nations largest radio, billboard, and entertainment outlet, announced, this morning, their intention to sell the company to a consortium of private-equity firms for over $26 billion. In addition, Clear Channel's TV division, as well as its smallest 448 radio stations would be sold out of the company and will be looking for potential buyers.

I, myself, am an employee of a Clear Channel TV station, KTVF in Fairbanks, Alaska. This may mean a major shift for my company. Being out from under the wheels of one of the largest iron-clad media corporations in the nations may feel like a positive thing, yet I believe their decision to go private is a step forward for them and their reputation. I would have been interested to see the growth of the company out from under the talons of shareholders.

Oh well... anyone looking to buy a small local TV station in the arctic?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Okami and Art...

With the recent dissolution of Clover Studios, and having been playing Okami myself lately, I have begun to question when and how future games may take on an artistic vision. I have no intention of debating the endless question of "Are Videogames Art?", in fact, this is irrelivant, as I'm approaching this from the standpoing that games are a medium in which various arts can exist (music, painting, architecture, acting, litterature, etc).

I fall onto the question of whether Okami is really art, or simply a copycat, exploiting the creativity of previously concieved styles, which are accepted as "high art"? Banning the possibility that the entirety of the visuals are ripped directly from existing japanese water color (which is rediculus since there's also much cartoon/comic influence as well), I think it's safe to say that a lot of creativity went into its design.

So, how do we proceed? What can we expect and hope for? Will indy studios spring up in a similar fashion to modern cinema, in which there will be attempts to push the envelope of creativity and style? Or should we not get our hopes up, at least any time soon?

What I hope to see, someday, is a progression from our current trend of absolute realism (which requires very little subjectively artistic vision) to copycat works, exploring pre-existing artistic styles, and then finally to games that extend beyond the boundaries of those styles, forming new movements in the community of interactive/visual arts. Can we expect this, someday? This is how photography began, it's also where cinema began. Or will it eventually sink, as Rock & Roll did, into the common conception that it enherently lacks any sort of sophistication (even progressive rock is considered, by many, to lack the same level of sophistication as other styles... maybe someday)?

What can the history of the creation of creative mediums tell us? Proportionally, games have large obsticals to overcome. They began as works for children and young adults—an even younger audience then rock music did. Cinema and Photography started as copycat mediums, but there was always a general push toward creativity and sophistication, even from the beginning. Yet, there's the anomoly of Jazz, which began as Rock music did, but which now houses idols like Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, whose portraits can virtually sit on the mantle next to those of Mozart or Stravinsky.

50 years from now, will Okami be regarded as a Charles Mingus, at the forefront of a fresh creative field, or as a Keith Emerson, pushing, desperately into a field which will never gain the status of "high art"? This will make a huge difference in the perception of games, and the direction they will take.


Journal Journal: Why Apple won and Why Nintendo will...

I'm going to make a fairly bold statement that will go against the current grain of many analysts and gaming editorialists: Nintendo will win the coming console war. It will seem fairly unintentional and noncompetitive publicly, and they will win precisely because of that. The reason has nothing to do with gizmos, sexy stats, promises of multiple add-on services or even basic functionality, but by sheer public persona.

Consumers use their purchases to help define themselves as individuals: "I'm a Ford guy", "I'm a Windows kinda girl", "I'm the kind of person who won't shop at Walmart". But people are very sensitive to the issue of mass consumerism to the extent that they don't want to outwardly appear, to themselves or to others, to be simply following current trends. People wish to feel in some way enlightened, while at the same time having the security of following the actions of their pears. What are you willing to pay for feelings of enlightenment? Well, as it appears, quite a bit.

Apple struck a chord with people when it introduced the Think Different campaign, shortly preceding the launch of the iPod; endearing itself to consumers as the bastions of innovation and individuality. Consumers were willing to pay (and pay quite a lot), to buy into this "enlightening" product line... and I'm no exception. Let's be fair, Apple's innovation was legitimate, the idea of putting a video-editing-style shuttle wheel on a portable music device was a very clever one, indeed, but the effect wasn't nearly as appealing as the feeling consumers got when they felt like they were buying into innovation itself. No one has been able to touch the iPod, because Apple are the good guys, and therefor everyone else is the enemy of individuality. Are the other products as good? Probably. Do they have the functionality that people need and are willing to pay for, even above and beyond Apple's line? Certainly, some do. But until one company steps forward to replace Apple as the supposed kings of innovation and individuality, the iPod will continue to dominate.

Enter Nintendo, a company who I've always felt (and written about) portrayed a similar public persona and philosophy: appearing noncompetitive, "friendly" products, not afraid to take risks with their products, innovative design and user philosophies. While the other guys are duking it out with objective system specs, and add-on features, Nintendo announces the Revolution, which by it's design interface, looks to take the gaming world in a completely new direction. They downplay any system specs and make no move to challenge Sony or Microsoft—on the contrary, having such a distinctive product makes competition with them seem fairly benign. Suddenly, Nintendo has secured themselves, with gaming audiences, as the bastions of innovation and individual thinking. This comes at a time when the gaming community is quickly recognizing that the source of their entertainment is being championed by large corporations who are utilizing closely monitored social analysis to develop their products; the idea of being a corporate whore is not a positive one. A truly independent company does not have much of a chance being able to reach large audiences, but Nintendo offers a close alternative: a large enough company to have significant market penetration while retaining the identity of a smaller, more agile, more "independently minded" company. The Revolution is bound to be the gaming industry's iPod; for Nintendo offers its audience the chance to feel neither more powerful, faster, or stronger, but more empowered, more innovative, and more enlightened. And in this case, they're not simply selling enlightenment, but selling enlightenment cheaply, at a third the price of the cold, corporate competition.

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Artificial intelligence has the same relation to intelligence as artificial flowers have to flowers. -- David Parnas