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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2008

While Jason Bateman spends the morning dishing with MTV about the “bent and twisted” script that may one day become the Arrested Devlopment movie, his Arrested co-star Henry Winkler is on the road in the UK getting Brit-kids into books.


Winkler is in London promoting his Hank Zipzer series of books featuring a 10-year-old protagonist with dyslexia. His tour of London schools as a representative of the First News for Young Minds group kicked off at St. Matthews Church of England School in Westminster. UK Schools Secretary Ed Balls was on hand to help Winkler in promoting 2008 as the UK’s National Year of Reading.


Winkler is quoted in the Epsom Guardian discussing his objective with the Zipzer stories: “Just because we learn differently, that does not mean that we are not incredibly smart human beings. That’s something I need every child to understand.”


The Hank Zipzer novels boast some great titles like I Got a ‘D’ in Salami!, The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down, and Barfing in the Backseat: How I Survived my Family Roadtrip. The latest (they’re up to 14!) came out in May. It’s called The Life of Me: Enter at Your own Risk and features Hank putting together a memoir-scrapbook while dealing with the ups and downs of a major crush. They’re published by Penguin.


Winkler takes on the Independent‘s “5-minute Interview” here.


 


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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2008
Excited as anybody by the upcoming DS re-release of Chrono Trigger, I'm curious as to what makes it such a well-regarded and influential game.

Did you hear?  Did you?  Chrono Trigger is coming out for the Nintendo DS.  Chrono Trigger!


Of course, anyone who has witnessed Square Enix’s recent track record when it comes to re-releasing their old RPGs and still happens to be surprised by this isn’t really paying attention.  Chrono Trigger, which gained the majority of its notoriety as a classic RPG for the Super Nintendo, has already been re-released once, as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles for the original PlayStation, complete with a few bonus cutscenes created for the purpose of giving the included games a reason to live on the PlayStation.


Like a lot of kids who were just getting in to the whole “video games” thing in a big way during the time of the SNES, I simply didn’t notice Chrono Trigger amidst a sea of Final Fantasy games; my time with the SNES was limited as I didn’t own one, and the only RPGs that I ever played at my friends’ houses were variations on the Final Fantasy name (II/IV, III/VI, Secret of Mana and so on).  Phantasy Star was my drug of choice, RPG-wise, and Chrono Trigger barely registered a tick on my still developing hype meter.


As such, despite the fact that Square Enix might just be releasing another port for the sake of a quick buck at the hands of a ravenous fan base (most recently exemplified by The Brainy Gamer’s assembly of his RPG class syllabus and the drooling posts from some of the major blogs), I’m pretty excited about this, as it’s the first time I’m seeing Chrono Trigger during a time in which I’m actually likely to care (the PlayStation re-release came and went while I was transitioning from Nintendo 64 to PS2, unfortunately).


My question, then, is this:  What makes Chrono Trigger better than, say, Final Fantasy IV?  Or VII, for that matter?  Why should I play Chrono Trigger ahead of more advanced fare developed specifically for the DS, like the Pokémon games or Atlus’ Rondo of Swords?  It’s obviously an influential and beloved game, but why?  Or would it be better, at this point, to be surprised?


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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2008

Since I switched to Google Reader, I’ve gotten into the habit, as I’m blasting through all the blogs I subscribe to via RSS, of starring items that I want to think about more later, and perhaps even write about. Of course, I almost never refer back to these starred items, because there is a nonstop flow of new items in my Reader I’m always trying to keep pace with. Instead they linger there, with my act of starring them standing in for the promised deeper thought that never occurs. Before Google Reader, I’d tag items in del.icio.us and send them to bookmark purgatory. And I’d do a lot of thinking about what I was calling the bookmark effect, which I first noticed when studying for exams. I became aware of how underlining something or scrawling a note in the margin of a book was very gratifying, and how if I wasn’t doing that, I felt like I wasn’t really studying or learning anything. This was true even though the underlining was replacing thought—it was as if I were acknowledging that someone else thought something perceptive, and it was sufficient for me to let that person be a proxy for my own thinking. The underlining was an act of appropriation, a way of buying and consuming the perceptive thought without having to think through it or extend it or integrate—that work was left for some time later. (That time has not yet come, and I still have many of the annotated tomes to prove it.) The decision to underline was akin to a purchasing decision—did I “buy” that idea? And this process commodified my reading for me, which gave me an elusive feeling of mastery over it, even as the reading lists continued to extend themselves.


Now, as technology has advanced, bookmarking an interesting post or article (or starring it) has supplanted underlining, etc. It’s still a way for me to dispatch interesting ideas without having to deal with them any more deeply—I just add them to the collection, and take comfort that it is there, forever fresh in my starred items list. It’s not all that different from buying books in lieu of reading them. The bookmarking/starring gesture allows me to consume in the present moment the thinking I pretend I’ll do later, which is an extremely gratifying feeling, particularly if I wisely avoid ever consulting my bookmarks later on. If I make that mistake, though, I feel nothing but shame for my laziness, and despair when the deferred overwhelmingness of it all hits me like a furnace blast.


At some point I’ll need to do a link dump of all that stuff, sort through it and see if still recognize the potential I once saw there. But still the urge to avoid is strong; the ideas seem more potent as unrealized potential. Sorting through them would be like cleaning out my closet; I’d be forced to get rid of stuff that I may never use but that still somehow comforts me to possess.


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Wednesday, Jul 2, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
Stanton Moore is a respected New Orleans drummer and a founding member of Galatic, a jazz/funk group that is a perennial PopMatters favorite. Moore digs into our 20 Questions to reveal his creative inspiration.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Actually it was a song. Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Water From an Ancient Well”. I heard it right after a storm. It moved me so much, I recorded it on my record III.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Han Solo


3. The greatest album, ever?
Jimi Hendrix’s Axis Bold As Love.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars... yeah definitely Star Wars... yeah… Star Wars... def, defin… definitely Star Wars


5. Your ideal brain food?
Going to see Shannon Powell, Herlin Riley or Russell Batiste play in New Orleans. I always come away with tons of ideas.


6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
My first instructional book and DVD project. It was a hell of a lot of work but it has been very well received. It’s my approach to New Orleans drumming and it features the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ivan Neville and George Porter Jr.


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Tuesday, Jul 1, 2008

With the Fourth arriving on Friday, Hollywood is getting an early jump on the holiday box office bonanza. For 2 July, here are the films in focus:


Hancock [rating: 6]


Hancock is either a brilliant disaster or an often uneven masterwork. It either represents Will Smith’s decision to break free of his formerly fashionable (and profitable) summer movie mythos, or another chink in a box office armor that has shown some signs of wear as of late.

Will Smith is the new up to date version of the late in life career of Charleton Heston. No, he’s not some gun wielding NRA apologist who narrates Bible videos in between bouts with aging. As one of Hollywood’s leading ticket/turnstile draws, he’s embraced the science fiction format in a way no actor has since the one and only Chuckster. From Independence Day, Men in Black, I, Robot, I Am Legend, and now his latest, the surreal super hero movie Hancock, no other contemporary star has dabbled in the speculative as often as he. Sure, he moderates such stints with powerful dramas and urbane comedies, but it’s clear that the majority of his bankability comes from action and adventure. Whether this latest film will advance his reputation remains to be seen. read full review…



The Children of Huang Shi [rating: 5]


The Children of Huang Shi is so desperate to be the Asian Schindler’s List, an example of atrocity draped in abject artistry, that it forgets to lay out the context. 


While it may seem sacrilegious to say it, stories of heroic human efforts during the tenuous dangers of wartime appear to be an international dime a dozen. Just when you think all the narrative bases have been covered, and no other angle could possibly emerge, a film comes along that explains yet another case of will triumphing over evil, spirit surviving the horrors inherent in conflict. Granted, not every one of these tales needs to be illustrated, but that doesn’t stop Tinsel Town from cranking out such indirect apologies. Japan’s torment of China prior to World War II serves as the basis for The Children of Huang Shi, yet another explanatory attempt. Yet as typical with most of these stories, it takes a courageous Caucasian to steer the natives - and the narrative - in the right direction.  read full review…



In Brief


Kit Kittredge: An American Girl [rating: 4]


G Rated fare is so rare in Hollywood these days that even the most mediocre example of kid pandering receives a slap on the patently wholesome back. Who cares then if the premise is founded in a misleading marketing gambit? As a popular doll and book series, the American Girl movies have been boob tube staples of years. Now, Oscar nom Abigail Breslin is aiming her prepubescent crossover appeal by playing the juvenile reporter turned community defender…and she doesn’t even look Nancy Drew-ish. When her dad looses his job and heads off to Chicago in search of work, a Depression era Kit helps her mom convert their Cincinnati abode into a boarding house. While a series of shady and stereotyped characters wander in and out of the front door our high-strung heroine helps the poor misguided hobo population redeem themselves in the eyes of a prejudiced public. In between homeless slurs (usually centering on the term “evil”) and soft sell slapstick, there is an attempt to impart a meaningful message of not judging a book by its penniless cover. Unfortunately, said good intentions get lost in a sea of formulaic plotting and tear-jerking contrivances. Even the mystery at the center of the story delivers an obvious dumbed down denouement.


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