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by Rachel Balik

13 Oct 2009

Last week, Randall Stross wrote an article in the New York Times called “Will Books Be Napsterized?”. Stross reports as more readers opt for e-books over print or audio versions, the usual slew of piracy web sites that traffics in free music downloads is making it possible to download e-books for free. In other words: more grim news for the already beaten-down publishing industry. Book sales have been plummeting for the past two years anyway; the article reports a 13% decrease in 2008 and a 15.5% decrease in July 2009. Of course sales were down in every industry in 2009, but everyone knows that the book industry has troubles of its own.

The business model has never been particularly cost effective, with publishers footing the bill for printing, shipping copies off to booksellers and hoping for the best. E-books are certainly a more viable model in terms of overhead costs, but if the piracy of e-books takes off, the publishing industry is in big trouble. And of course, that’s not really an “if”. The piracy of e-books will take off, and it’s inevitable that books are headed down the path of CDS: towards the graveyard.

by Eleanore Catolico

13 Oct 2009

Phoenix, continuing to make the late night rounds, performed “Girlfriend” off their current record, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last Friday.

by L.B. Jeffries

13 Oct 2009

It is unfair for me to write about the issue of games and violence without acknowledging that I am not inclined to believe there is a causal relationship. I have played games my entire life even Wolfenstein when I was barely old enough to understand basic DOS. I learned to read and write by playing adventure games. I also do not have children, so these thoughts are all coming from a person with no experience raising a child. So go to your kitchen and fetch a salt shaker. Now lick your wrist. Pour salt on that spot then lick that.

This post was originally meant to be a comparison between two books, one claiming games make you violent and the other claiming they do not. Unfortunately, neither selected book really made a good case for either argument. The leading book that claims there is a causal relationship is Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents. Written by Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley, it summarizes three studies of varying types that test the correlation between aggressive behavior and playing video games. The book pretty much shoots itself in the foot right off the bat by establishing a problematic definition of aggressive behavior. It must be “(a) a behavior that is intended to harm another individual, (b) the behavior is expected by the perpetrator to have some chance of actually harming that individual, and (c) the perpetrator believes that the target individual is motivated to avoid the harm.” (13) The problem is that the book is a study of children and adolescents. How many small children wrestling with one another have a large enough comprehension of consequences and intent to be able to consciously register any of these things?  The book is rife with moments where what’s being claimed contradicts common sense and the definition of aggression. For example, a lengthy exposition of why studies on aggression during the 1990s are flawed due to socioeconomic upbringing is generally considered bad because kids from privileged backgrounds are already less likely to be violent. Your common sense should kick in here: if the connection between games and violence is literally that playing them makes you more aggressive, why does wealth undermine it so drastically? Some difference is to be expected, but it doesn’t help the argument that playing the games by themselves is inherently bad for a child.

by Bill Gibron

12 Oct 2009

With its fourth place finish at the box office this weekend, $7 million-plus haul, and continuing buzz about its scary movie status (or lack thereof), Paranormal Activity has once again spiked renewed interest in the oddball combo category known as Found Footage/Mock Documentary horror. Used sporadically since the inception of post-modern era, this experiment in attempted authenticity has been rather hit or miss. For every proposed blockbuster, there are an equal number of mere busts. In fact, with the advances in technology, more independent filmmakers are trying their hand at such a stunt-oriented style. More times than not, it doesn’t work (see the crappy Chronicles of an Exorcism for further proof).

In light of all the hype surrounding Oren Peli’s limp haunted house saga, SE&L has decided to recommend 10 films it feels does a much better job with the cinematically sticky format. Not all of these movies succeed - in fact, more than a couple are just as underwhelming as Paranormal‘s dull demon attack. But when given over to proclamations and unnecessary superlatives, it’s nice to get little added perspective on what you’re celebrating. If the movies mentioned here are any indication, the current cause celeb will have a long way to go before it matches the menace generated by its commercial cousins. Let’s begin with one of the original attempts at combining fact with fiction:

by Rob Horning

12 Oct 2009

I don’t have an invitation to use Google Wave, so I can only rely on journalist reports as to what it actually is. But these reports don’t seem especially objective; tech writers have every incentive to hype the next big thing and drive traffic. That seems to be the idea behind this WSJ piece by Jessica Vascellaro announcing the death of email at the hands of Google Wave and Facebook, which Wave most likely endeavors to supplant.

Why wait for a response to an email when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging? Thanks to Facebook, some questions can be answered without asking them. You don’t need to ask a friend whether she has left work, if she has updated her public “status” on the site telling the world so. Email, stuck in the era of attachments, seems boring compared to services like Google Wave, currently in test phase, which allows users to share photos by dragging and dropping them from a desktop into a Wave, and to enter comments in near real time.

As Nicholas Carr points out, the assumption here is that real-time communication is something that everyone is clamoring for and will be experienced as a joyous improvement over the delays and distance of email. Carr recalls email’s early days, when its main workplace benefit was that it freed people from the tyranny of the phone—of being disrupted by it and the demands of callers. Email in theory could be read and answered on one’s own schedule. But since email has next to no transaction costs, personal communication, Carr explains, became broadcasting. We get inundated with trivia and simultaneously we cease to recognize when others might think what we have to say is distracting. So parents forward religious inspiration and “funny” pet videos to their agnostic children and so on. As the internet has merged with phones, email has become merely a more intrusive and all-consuming version of phone communication—both disruptive and trivial. Wave will worsen this, making email even more immediate and presence-demanding than it already has been become thanks to BlackBerrys and iPhones. Carr’s conclusion seems spot on:

//Mixed media
//Blogs

In Defense of the Infinite Universe in 'No Man's Sky'

// Moving Pixels

"The common cries of disappointment that surround No Man’s Sky stem from the exciting idea of an infinite universe clashing with the harsh reality of an infinite universe.

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