Ode to the Prisoner

3 02 2009

Ode to the Prisoner

Moonlight guides the Drunken Ship,(Narrenshiff)
Stars shine marking its path
Outstreched sea is the eternal shroud of darkness
No passage of time on this great voyage
Clinging hope for ports to dock,
Hanging over the edge of reason
Staring out into the abyss
Men climb for forbidden pride
What folly is this?
Shreiking cries rise from the passengers
A great wave of woe!
Fools sing undending songs of silence
Staring out into the maelstrom
Cloaked figures drink our last drops of reason
Men swim naked to Truth while musicians strum
While a rising void cleanses every soul

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Klaatu Barada Nikto

14 12 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Stillwill live on in my mind as one of the first premiere science fiction movies to grace the silver screen. The total ambiance of classic soundtrack that unfolds creates such an eerie wave that transcends beyond the screen, beyond the galaxy perhaps. When that giant plaster of paras spaceship landed in the theatres in 1951, the children in the audience gasped at the alien cruiser. I know, I wasn’t there, but my grandfather was. He said it was just about the greatest special effects he had ever seen in movies at that time. And when the giant robot(Gort) opens his visor and begins to disintegrate the rifles, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly frightening the whole ordeal must been like to those children of the 50’s who had never seen anything remotely like the classic Sci-Fi with Klaatu (Micheal Rennie) emerging through smoke from his ship.

The entire movie wavered on a specific message to save the Earth, or we are in fact doomed to destroy it. It was a powerful underlying message of Klaatu who believed us just to be caretakers of this vast planet. Only one planet we know can sustain life, but if we don’t protect it, Klaatu and his galactic federation sure as hell will.

The story line wavers a little at first. Klaatu attempts to blend in with the humans to get their take why they should survive. Nothing like an extraterrestrial sitting at home with the family discussing things like the value of life and love. But as soon as his robot guardian awakens then things get interesting.

Gort the robot is incredible, he shambles along in this giant “rubber-like” outfit and stands at least 10 feet tall. I say shamble and I’ll put that lightly, he really stumbles around like some town drunkard in an old Irish novel. Nothing  too freightning from him, rather comical. The only menacing thing is his wandering “eyes” which fire lasers to protect Klaatu and stop all who continue to be violent in his presence.

My grandfather attested, saying he never seen anything remotely like it before. Revisiting the classic, I can only recall paragraphs from Asimov describing facets from the  ship’s walls which seamlessly move to reveal other compartments of the ship.Everyone in the movie theatres was silent during the scenes with the ominous Gort. But there was nothing quite like that at least 50 years ago.

The end leaves little to be desired but gives us a simple warning, this planet is up for grabs if we don’t take care of it. The human race is expandable, to bad most humans feel that way anyway.

I’m sitting with my grandfather at a movie he saw at least 50 years earlier. I went to the remake of the classic today and let me just say, the movie’s CGI(Computer-generated-graphics) were incredible. I had to see the movie in IMAX to get the full effect, but the movie was simply riveting, with so many great scenes it was a testament to how far Science Fiction has evolved in society since the 50’s.

the-day-the-earth-stood-still-1-10242

Klaatu is played brilliantly by Keenu Reeves(Klaatu/Keenu!?!) The man is so detached from reality, when he’s in these character-driven roles he’s fantastic. That’s why they give him these roles in Sci-Fi , ie Matrix and Constantine. His method of acting is to really have no method. He just seems so withdrawn from reality you can believe he can be almost anyone or anything for that matter. He just embodies his characters and chooses these great roles that won’t win him any Oscars , just make him an extremely high-paid, well known actor with timeless roles like Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (How’s it going royal ugly dude?).

Gort is a blast from the past, the CGI effects to make this bad boy were phenomenal. He just dominates the screen with his ominous presence and “eyes” just watching you.He’s at least a couple stories high this time, with a darker more metallic quality to him. They send wave after wave of jet fighters armed to the teeth with sidewinder missiles at him but this robot is relentless, he is all four horseman wrapped in a alien metallic casing. Also this old dog has some new tricks of his own,but I won’t revel them to you but let me just say, they only add to his status as harbinger of the Apocalypse.

So if your a fan of Sci-Fi, or just a fan of movies in general you must witness this testament which has stood the test of time, and has been revamped and re-infused with the greatest in special effects with a some very good acting by Keenu and Jennifer Connolly who graces the screen. The original is a timeless adventure in the Science Fiction genre.

So let’s go back and break down the time line. At least 50 years ago my grandfather watched in fear of Klaatu and his robot companion on the screen. This year I witnessed some spectacular CGIand a great retelling of an incredible Sci-Fi Classic. 5o years from now when I’m with my grandchildren, will I partake in the actual “movie”? I will stand on the outskirts of Washington D.C or Central Park as Gort, as real to me as the army platoons he vaporizes with insidious laser eyes, destroys the entire military, as my grandchildren shriek spilling their popcorn staring at this ominous holo-projection which is glaring back at them; watching at least a foot or two away.





Internet Killed the Newspaper Writer

24 11 2008

If the Bristol Press cannot find a buyer for their newspaper by January 1st then the paper will shut down. This leads me to my topic of local newspapers being shutdown by online newspapers which are read more widely now then ever. The focus on the digital age has lead to the downfall of both paper and ink. In this digital age people want their news streaming to them, and all customized as they see fit.

The online newspaper is in fact how I receive my news. I have two tabs which display two different forms of online news coverage, New York Times and CNN websites offer a variety of customizable news coverages ranging from from broad to specific beats. In my article Forms of the News, I already went over the significant differences so I won’t elaborate on them right now. But really why the change? Why the need for this streaming news? Maybe because it’s simple, it’s convenient, but really try explaining that to my grandfather.

It’s the simple things. It’s the local coverage of my small town. It’s the news on local skate parks fighting with the bikers. The local fundraisers and food-drives,the local highschool football coverage every Friday night. The texture, the smudges on your fingertips, the crisp smell of fine print just dripping from the pages. These are things which will be lost to my children’s children perhaps forever.

My grandfather worked at the Press. He said the parking lot would be filled with people. The place was  hive literaly bustling with writers and editors. But now there is at least half a dozen reporters. Even the people there now must understand that the thirst for local news is quenched, by a faster service provided by online news publications.

In the future we will all be are own journalists. We will cover the local stories and report on our local news blogs. Everyone can comment with first person  accounts of what they saw and be critiqued by their peers. Each comment can be edited,modified, and viewed by everyone who has logged in. News will be streaming at us spoon-fed. It will be not be rich, it will be sweet like nectar but it will be bittersweet. We will have lost the appeal of a physical presence of the paper. The nostalgia will be lost, but it will be a significant time before the presence of papers is wiped from our society. Children will access news via their console stations. Play a little Mario and check your stocks. The digital age of the future is upon us, repent the digital age is nigh.





WWRFD?: Moral Choices in the Digital Age

18 11 2008

flagg

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

-Stephen King “The Gunslinger : The Dark Tower”

He is Marten Broadcloak,  Walter O’ Dim, Randall Flagg, but mostly he is the man in black. Stephen King’s key antagonist in several of his novels. He started as a villain trying to reshape the wastelands of Stephen King’s The Stand in his image. He is the underlying traitor to the king of Gilead in King’s Dark Tower series, and is often seen running from the gunslinger.

So why does this man,this fiend,this beast hold any significance? He is the epitome of all that is evil. He is the lasting villain in most of King’s novels re-spawning and taking a new form and name every time. But he also dictates my characters “moral choices” in the post-apocalyptic video game/immersive experience which is Fallout 3.

Very recently video games have implemented a sort of moral compass for their players. Pitting them with moral choices stretching beyond boundaries of good and evil. Really the choices made in certain video games  held great weight over the character. But to be honest I never cared much for moral compasses in video games(It’s always more fun to be bad). Usually you were always forced  to be the hero, be the savior, so I believe most players found out that switching sides would be more enjoyable, less conventional. I’ve never had a problem with these choices until this damn developers  pushed moral choices with outcomes that would stretch along the entire game-sphere.

Now sometimes things could be simple. I remember the original Fable had direct consequences of your alignment to good or evil. But these were exciting choices. Steal from the pauper and shopkeeper, they simply charge too much. Kick that helpless chicken and let’s test how far he flies now. Let’s lead a group of followers to the nearest pagan church to be sacrificed, decisions which pushed all conventional games(well not quite). But then things started to blur.

Welcome to the grey area, which is most recently BioShock, which is a greatly scripted, powerful, and quite riveting game. There are these character’s these “Sisters” who are really just little girls going around collecting the lifeforce  from dead bodies thrown about the underwater labyrinth. There are choices where you can choose to rid their bodies of virus that eats at them, or you can put them out of their misery and collect substantially more Adam to increase your abilities and magical capabilities. But when you find these little girls they beg for their life. The crawl away from you screaming, writhing in their child-like state. These developers have actually tapped into my moral compass to choose what is right or wrong with virtual characters who feel no pain, but she’s begging you for her life don’t you see?This is some serious development into the psyche of the gamer.

So what would Randall Flagg do in the wastelands of Fallout 3? That has been the key question I ask myself every time I come to a moral decision in Fallout 3. The Fallout series was incredible, they actually had an early model of moral decisions which led to certain characters allying with you, or that you could only compete in certain quests with your alignment. Fallout 3 goes above and beyond with the moral choices that resonate in the virtual world. I started off simple enough a pubescent simpleton roaming around the wasteland with my tail between my legs. But in this harsh environment I had to be bad, and be bad fast or my very bones would be but crushed to sand, a sand lost in the wasteland of the post-apocalyptic nightmare.

I killed, I stole, I pick pocketed( and dropped a few grenades in their pants for good measure) , I drank, I did drugs. I was living this raucous truly evil life of Randall Flagg, one of my favorite everlasting villains in King’s books. All culminating with the entire destruction of a village called Megaton(One of my favorite video game moments). See it was I, on top of Tenpenny Tower. I pulled the detonator in the suitcase on the top of the tower. Tenpenny was there laughing and drinking and I saw the mushroom cloud in when the sun began to break over the horizon. I felt the pulse of the wind brushing past my cheeks as an entire town was wiped out. Woman and children and all. Just a heap now, a smoking crag of radiation.

But there was a change, there has to be a redemption even for virtual characters. The news of the destruction of the town spread. All over the radio my escapades were broadcasting to everyone outside in the wasteland. People survived the fallout and actually became these zombie-like ghouls. They really never forgave me for that. I traveled to a town one day and they asked me if I remembered certain people from Megaton. The news had spread and everyone knew now. Even the children being the best moral indicators could see my evil from afar. I had become an outcast in a world of scattered with outcast just trying to survive day-to-day.

I started giving beggars fresh water, I helped and completed missions for positive people. I freed slaves from Super Mutants, I helped those in need even if it costs serious caps. There was a serious turn around and I stopped asking WWRFD, but what the hell will the future bring for moral choices in video games. Do evil people perhaps have an inclination to be a positive character in video games, perhaps they don’t play, they’re just too damn evil. Does the bloodthirsty Ork in the heat of battle go to his computer to play on his account on Second life. Does he abandon his ax and armor for his tie and briefcase. For he sells insurance in his virtual world in a far off fantasy land of Utah. He doest kill or destroy he mows his virtual lawn.