Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Grusin and Me

Richard Grusin defines remediation as the “double logic according to which media refashion prior media forms.” He then goes on to say “video and computer games, we argued, remediate film by styling themselves as ‘interactive movies,’ incorporating standard Hollywood cinematic techniques.”

While this is true for the most part, video game programmers are styling game concepts and visuals as a form of movie experience, but more so now is the idea that video games are an expansion of the movie experience. Film studios have linked themselves into the gaming world in an attempt to bring a whole new experience to movie-goers and gamers, a sort of connectedness between the movie and game, not merely a reiteration of the film in game form.

The Wachowski brothers and the entire concept of The Matrix films has expanded into other media forms such as video games. But while most other games simply rehash the same basic storyline as the film, Enter the Matrix, The Matrix: Path of Neo, and The Matrix Online all provide a deeper insight into the world of the matrix. All incorporate cinematic elements from the films, but none rehash the premises of the three films, rather, each game provides an entirely new experience and storyline in relation to the films.

The same can be said for the Evil Dead trilogy of which the cult following has called for a new film to be released since the last of the films Army of Darkness was made some 14 years ago, leaving fans hungry for more. But while the directors and actors of the films have not felt a need to drag on the series through film, they decided to use video games instead. And released three different games, each with its own storyline in relation to the films, providing fans with a new experience altogether.

And now films such as The Godfather and Scarface are being resurrected through video games, which have taken the basic storylines of the film and expanded on them, giving the gamer an entirely new experience. So, while games do tend to remediate film in trying to style themselves through cinematic elements, they also expand on the filmic atmosphere and give studios, actors and directors a chance to further develop their stories into a different medium—that of video games.

McLuhan and Me

“It is the inclusive mesh of the TV image, in particular, that spells for a while at least, the doom of baseball. For baseball is a game of one-thing-at-a-time, fixed positions and visibly delegated specialist jobs such as belonged to the now passing mechanical age, with its fragmented tasks and its staff and line in management organization. TV, as the very image of the new corporate and participant way of electric living, fosters habits of unified awareness and social interdependence that alienate us from the peculiar style of baseball, with its specialist and positional stress. When cultures change, so do games. Baseball, that had become the elegant abstract image of industrial society living by split-second timing, has in the new TV decade lost its psychic and social relevance for our new way of life. The ball game has been dislodged from the social center and been conveyed to the periphery of American life. In contrast, American football is nonpositional, and any or all of the players can switch to any role during play. It is, therefore, a game that at the present is supplanting baseball in general acceptance. It agrees very well with the new needs of decentralized team play in the electric age.” - Marshall McLuhan

In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan saw the face of sports changing, a dramatic shift from America’s pastime to its future, from a nation wrapped in baseball to that of football. And it isn’t because the quality of the game lacks in one more than the other, rather, because of the shift in media, the inclusion of TV images at the stadiums.

The digital media has taken much of the sport of baseball away from itself, taken the fans out of the experience of attending a baseball game and placing them in the presence of a giant screen, eliminating the aura and as McLuhan puts it, “psychic and social relevance for our new way of life.”

Football, on the other hand, welcomes the inclusion of TV as it adds to the experience through instant replays of a vicious tackle or coach’s challenges. It brings the fans into the playing the role of referee and carries them deeper into the mindset of the gaming experience. The fan experience has expanded and taken a larger role during the game.

The birth of TV screens in stadiums has created a shift in the collective experiences of fans in both baseball and football. Baseball, which was once considered America’s pastime and the quintessential fan experience, is now a fallen commodity to the ever-growing phenomenon of football, professional and college. McLuhan saw it in the 1960s and it is even more so conclusive in present times. Baseball has lost its aura.

Virilio and Me

The giant push towards technological advancement, especially within the digital media ranks, has its positives while at the same time burdens a great deal of negatives.

As with all inventions or advancements, humans have a tendency to ruin the experience by resorting to idiotic, obscene behaviours. With the advent of the automobile industry came the desire to crash, and in the most extreme cases, to drink and drive one’s self into oblivion, taking down innocent bystanders in the process. And with the upgrades in weaponry came the Cuban Missile Crisis and countless decades of senseless violence and wars.

And now, in the age of digital media, computers consume every aspect of life. As Paul Virilio argues in Open Sky:

Where physical displacement from one point to another once supposed departure, a journey and arrival, the transport revolution of last century had already quietly begun to eliminate delay and change the nature of travel itself, arrival at one’s destination remaining, however, a ‘limited arrival’ due to the very time it took to get there.
Currently, with the instantaneous broadcasting revolution, we are seeing the beginnings of a ‘generalized arrival’ whereby everything arrives without having to leave, the nineteenth century’s elimination of the journey (that is, of the space interval and of time) combining with the abolition of departure at the end of the twentieth, the journey thereby losing its successive components and being overtaken by arrival alone.

As Virilio states, our sense of physical journey is non-existent. We live our lives in front of a computer screen, conducting conversations with friends, playing games, traveling through different spaces all while sitting at our desks, building a whole other life for ourselves. It is possible to never leave the house and still meet an honest, healthy standard living void of any physical contact or companionship.

It’s a scary thought that there are most likely people whose lives have unraveled in front of the computer screen, who no longer know what it’s like to feel the physical presence of an outside world, one that exists outside of the screen. But as with all technologies, humans always find a way to meet an expected level of extreme, to teeter on the brink of an insane justification of such technologies.

And so as long as technologies continue to advance, humans will continue to lose their sense of a presence, of a journey, of an actual life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Catch Me If You Can

A man walks into a Hollywood agency, unkempt, brazen smile and says to the agent, “man, do I have a mind-blowing story for you.”

The agent’s bitter expression exhibits deep disinterest.

“I’ve had thousands of people walk through this door with uplifting stories and tales of underdogs overcoming all odds to become winners,” explained the agent. “What could possibly offer that is so different and mind-blowing?”

The man, unnerved, begins his story.

“Well, you’ve just described uplifting stories and tales of overcoming life’s obstacles, which is all touching and causes happiness or excitement, “ the man argued. “Mine is nothing of the sort. It’s the story of a general manager, who has run the team into the ground. My tale is not an uplifting one, though one of promise it may be, but a distant promise.”

With each word, the agent’s expression changes from bitter, to interest, to a deep involvement.

“Please, continue,” said the agent. “For all the years I’ve been involved in the business and all the millions I’ve earned, never have I been introduced to such heart-wrenching horror.”

The man continues.

“Horror indeed. The city demands honor and professionalism from its teams of which each demonstrates with highest regards except that of which is run by our protagonists.”

“In the last four years, the general manager has elected to draft a wide receiver as his first pick in three of them. Of the three receivers, one was hurt the first two seasons and cut this season. The other had weight trouble and his work ethics have been deeply criticized, rendering him unplayable in the coach’s eyes. Only one has demonstrated any type of athletic ability. And, in his first year as general manager, he selected a promising quarterback, whose pessimistic attitude damaged teammates’ psyche and left them unwilling to perform for their leader.”

The agent interrupts: “All this is inconceivable to rationalize its happening in true life, but what is its selling point? All you have described to me is the unfortunate transgressions of a general manager. This character’s intentions have been for good, just haven’t worked out as such.”

Taken aback and with slight irritation, the man tried to further explained his story.

“As I was about to say, he’s formed the team to his liking, drafting and trading players, who he feels are winners, none of which are winning. He’s taken none of the blame for it and has fired three different coaches in five years.”

“Wow,” uttered the agent. “This character is the perfect villain. His motives are so secretly bound, yet, so clear. And no blame comes his way? Remarkable.”

“Yes. An entire city, with hopes of the future, have been led on by the powers that be. Their team of the future and its so-called work ethic is a sham to bring in fans, who otherwise wouldn’t show. The city’s hopes and dreams of a successful football team erased because of greed. He drove out the remaining semblance of a running game during his inaugural season, his draft picks and coaches have been major disappointments, and the roster moves are laughable, yet, he is still in office promising a brighter future and fans keep attending aimlessly hoping.”

The man stands up, hand outstretched, awaiting a response he assuredly knows will come.

“So, are you in,” he said.

“Most certainly,” said the agent. “But, what will we call it?”

After a brief conversational hiatus, the man jolted his head up.

“I feel there can be only one title for this film,” proclaimed the man.

“The Destructionist.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Benjamin and Me

In a world of black and white, so to does Walter Benjamin speak of dualities within the world of art. He defines art through a series of oppositions: original versus copy, tradition versus modernity, contemplation versus distraction, cult value versus exhibition value, ritual versus disinterested expertise and optical versus tactile.

Original and Copy

Benjamin describes the difference between original and copy by means of the original being associated with the unique, traditional, aura and reverence. Copy translates into a reproduction, of no value or reverence, ordinary or lesser. For example:

"In photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself."

He associates the original as mystifying, a phony reverence and the copy as with our world, democratic, egalitarian, a new social movement.

Tradition and Modernity

Tradition is good, it is society and culture, with fixed roles. It is described as a type of hierarchy of art. Benjamin depicts modernity as free. In discussing the ideas of tradition and modernism within an individualist construct, he labels tradition as fixed, a freedom to be oneself. Modernity is thought to be free, a construct of one’s own identity.

Contemplation and Distraction

The contemplation form of art is valued and cultivated. Distraction, on the other hand, is associated with how we live; it is a stimulation, and a type of constancy. Contemplation, much like the idea of the original, is connected with mystification, or taking yourself out of flux.

Cult Value and Exhibition Value

Cult value is a form of priestly sect, or experts, where commoners and lay people are forbidden. Benjamin compares it as:

"Today the cult value would seem to demand that the work of art remain hidden. Certain statues of gods are accessible only to the priest in the cella; certain Madonnas remain covered nearly all year round; certain sculptures on medieval cathedrals are invisible to the spectator on ground level."

Opposite of cult value is exhibition value, which is a work to be viewed by all people. He exemplifies the exhibition value as being:

"In the same way today, by the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental. This much is certain: today photography and the film are the most serviceable exemplifications of this new function."

He conceives today’s art, film and photography, as being highly attainable and viewable by all people unlike earlier art such as sculptures and statues.

Ritual and Disinterested Expertise

Ritual comes out of rich, historical tradition, whereas, disinterested expertise is the news voice where all are experts.

Optical and Tactile

Optical is traditional and tactic is contemporary and shock-induced. He identifies this as a comparison between the Egyptian “optical” and the Greek “tactile.”

Benjamin portrays a period in which art was more of a tradition historically for a special order of people. Not everyone was able to appreciate art. Until the modernization of photography and film, art had never been a worldwide representation. Once progress was made, this art form became more readily available and more popular among all variations of people.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Boxing War

Didn’t the Cold War end in 1985 once Rocky heroically out-muscled the Russian machine, Captain Ivan Drago?

If so, how come no one told professional boxing?

With Hasim Rahman’s recent defeat at the gloves of Russian General, Oleg Maskaev, Russia now controls the heavyweight division, owning the four major championships: WBC (Maskaev), WBA (Nikolay Valuev), WBO (Sergei Lyakhovich), and IBF (Wladimir Klitschko).

An iron curtain has descended upon the realm of professional boxing, and the U.S. forges no response. Previous U.S. heavyweight champions Chris Byrd, with his unorthodox southpaw fighting style of which offered no competition in either bout against Klitschko; John Ruiz, who sent opponents into a sleepy haze through his mind-numbing interviews and turtle-like reflexes in the ring; Hasim Rahman, whose only claim to fame is a fluke knockout of then champion Lennox Lewis--who destroyed Rahman in their next fight--and Lamon Brewster, who proved no match for Lyakhovich’s in-ring dominance, each received a hardcore shellacking in his respective title defense against Russian opponents.

Now, behind its hopeful leaders James Toney and Calvin Brock, the U.S. looks to regain respectability among the boxing ranks and to relinquish the Russian stronghold that has plagued U.S. history.

From communism and the red scare to 24 and its nuclear warfare, Russia seemingly finds ways to infiltrate American comfort zones. Its takeover of professional boxing is just another example. But, Americans might not have a solution to this monstrosity of a problem.

Unless…

As it was in the past, the U.S. desperately needs another Soviet collapse internally, a self-destruction among each of Russia’s current titleholders.

Or…

Newly un-retired, 43-year old boxing icon Evander Holyfield climbs the ranks of the heavyweight division and single-handedly takes down each Russian champion. He’s already on his way after defeating Jeremy Bates.

Whatever the case, the U.S. must find an answer before the much-feared domino effect occurs and Russian dominance emanates into other facets of American life.


An iron curtain has descended upon professional boxing.

Who is courageous enough to be our Rocky and defeat Russia’s Drago?

Photo courtesy of www.Mgm.com

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Zidane the Conqueror

Thanks to a Herculean effort by France’s Zinedine Zidane, the Brazilian Hydra was destroyed in a blaze of fury.

It took eleven World Cup opponents to figure out the weakness of this monster. Whenever one of its main heads was cut—whether it was Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano or Kakà—several other heads grew in place, making it physically and mentally impossible to defeat the Hydra.

Until recently, when Zidane, who earlier in France’s World Cup run announced his retirement from both international and club play once the Cup ended, led his team through the depths of a fiery hell into heavenly bliss.

“We needed a great match and we delivered. We knew we would have to be fit physically and we were,” said Zidane. “We fought closely together for a well fought victory.”

Not yet willing to release himself from the soccer world, Zidane worked his magical feet throughout the game. He played an enchanting match, setting up numerous opportunities for teammates, splitting countless double teams, and playing floor general throughout. His desire matched by none. All of his efforts came to a final thrilling moment when, in the 57th minute, his free kick found its way to Thierry Henry, who powered it passed Dida.

An eighteen-year veteran, Zidane is no stranger to these magical moments. In 1998, he led France into the title match against Brazil, scoring two goals en route to a 3-0 victory, Brazil’s last defeat prior to today. He’s also been named FIFA World Player of the Year on three different occasions—1998, 2000 and 2003. Labeled by many, the greatest player of his generation, today’s effort exemplifies just how brilliant he truly is when given the ball.

Having already accomplished such great feats, what else is left for Zidane?

“Now we’ll try and win a place in the final. We don’t want to stop now. This is so beautiful, we want it to carry on.”

Humbled. Determined. Magical. Herculean.

We’re going to hate to see it come to an end.

Picture of Zidane produced by: Simon Bruty/SI

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moving On...

The round of 16 is set. After 48 games, 117 goals, 256 yellow cards and 18 red cards, the World Cup readily moves into its next stage.

But, before bidding adieu to the group stage of the World Cup, it’s only fitting to acknowledge those teams whose valiant efforts weren’t enough to advance into the next stage.

The smallest nation ever to qualify in the World Cup, Trinidad and Tobago, instantly surprised fans and analysts alike with a 0-0 draw against highly favored Sweden. In its follow-up, T&T battled group favorite England to the brink before Peter Crouch scored off a header in the 83rd minute. They were able to stay in contention within the group until their final match against Paraguay, which quickly ended in a 2-0 loss.

While T&T surprised us in an entertainingly good way, the 5th ranked United States did so in a disappointingly pathetic way. Among the upper echelon of teams in statistical categories such as red and yellow cards and fouls, the U.S. focused more on trying to physically power its way to the next round instead of producing any resemblance of an offense (they recorded only four shots on goal in three games).

Amidst a web of controversy, the U.S. has no one else to blame but itself. The players failed to represent their country from the outset of the tournament, quitting after the Czechs (who also disappointed greatly in not advancing) scored the first goal of the game. Their brief moment of success came against Italy, who resorted to scoring on itself in order to cause a 1-1 draw. The U.S. found itself without a sound strategy, without solid commitment, without pride.

It’s the sense of national pride that catapulted several upset specialists into the round of 16. Ghana, who no one considered would play its way out of Group E, and Australia, World Cup first-timers, both poured their hearts onto the field in each game.

In their first game of World Cup play, the Socceroos overcame a 1-0 deficit against Japan by scoring three goals in the game’s final ten minutes (84, 89, 90). They then played into a tough 2-0 loss against World Cup juggernauts Brasilia. Ending their run in the group stage, they played into a 2-2 draw against Croatia to move into the round of 16.

Ghana began group play with a 2-0 loss to the Azzurri. But, full of heart and not allowing themselves to quit, they stunned the Czech Republic 1-0 and the U.S. 2-1 to lock themselves into the round of 16.

“We did our best today,” said Ghana midfielder Michael Essien after a 2-1 victory over the U.S. “We did it for Ghana and the whole of Africa so they should keep cheering us.”

Both Australia and Ghana will look to carry their intensity over into the next round of which they have insurmountable tasks in Italia and Brasilia respectively.

Brasilia spells doom for all teams in its path. In its final match-up before heading into the round of 16, the sleeping giant was awoken in defeating Japan, who offered a scarce moment of trouble for Brasilia when it took a 1-0 lead, 4-1. Ronaldo counterpointed any criticisms about his being overweight with two goals, tying the record (14) held by Gerd Mueller for most goals scored in World Cup history.

“I have complete knowledge of my possibilities, of my condition,” said Ronaldo after Brasilia’s victory. “I knew I arrived at a level below my teammates, and that I would have to work really hard to reach them.”

With Brasilia finally playing to potential, the competition will face a tough challenge in trying to tame such a prolific attack.

The group stage was a milieu of surprises, upsets, letups and letdowns. It’s time now for the elimination stage, the round of 16. Each of the remaining teams has one last chance to represent its country, to stand in front of tens of thousands of jeering fans, and one last chance to bring home the Cup.

And, until it’s proven otherwise, count on a Brasilia to repeat as World Cup Champions.

Teams advancing: Germany, Ecuador, England, Sweden, Argentina, Netherlands, Portugal, Mexico, Italy, Ghana, Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, France, Spain and Ukraine.

Teams to watch out for: Brazil, Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Portugal.

Photo of Ghana coach and player produced by: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

World's Greatest Athlete

Have you ever noticed how every sport claims to have the world’s greatest athletes?

It poses a quality question that begs an answer.

Which sport can actually stake claim in having the best athletes?

In order to find out, we must first take the best athlete from each sport:

Soccer – Ronaldinho
Basketball - LeBron James
Football - Michael Vick
Hockey - Sidney Crosby
Tennis - Roger Federer
Golf - Tiger Woods
Baseball - Albert Pujols

With the athletes chosen from each of the major sports, it now must be established which events will be played in determining the true athlete.

But first, it should be determined what qualities a true athlete possesses that define him a true athlete. The main characteristics of a true athlete are agility, endurance, skill, style, physical and mental toughness, so it’s only fitting to run several events specific to each of the categories. Such events include:

Agility - Shuttle run
Endurance – Tri-level aerobic test
Skill – Talent show
Style – Culinary arts
Physicality – Battle Royale
Mental - IQ Test

He who accomplishes each task with highest honours, who soars above the rest displaying the greatest skill, in so doing, will be acknowledged the truest athlete.

And therein stands the sport that can claim the world’s greatest athletes.