Year: 2004

Time for a Break

It’s about time this past semester came to a close. It wasn’t as bad as last spring’s semester, lovingly referred to as “the semster that wouldn’t die,” but this one seemed busier than it should. I’m glad I didn’t involve myself in any Theatre stuff, because with 16 credits and workstudy, it seemed to take up most of my time. I think the biggest obstacle was the fact that I had an impossible number of pages to read for my classes; five classes, 24 books. Impossible.

I checked my grades online and I’m satisfied with the results. They aren’t as high as I had originally hoped they might be in September, but solid nonetheless. At the very last minute, I decided that I will be in Scranton for Intercession to direct a play; I will also be working at the CTLE a few hours a week. However, I don’t have any classes to take, so I hope to have a lot of time to work on web design work that I’ve been looking forward to completing.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

GTA: San Andreas

I spent a few late night hours playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over the Thanksgiving break and loved every minute. It’s amazing that RockStar continues to trump insanely high expectations with each successive installment of the GTA series; they’ve improved on every area of the previous games in big ways.

Before I get into the details, I just want to take a moment and state clearly: this game is not for kids. Emphatic enough for you, Christian Conservatives and deadbeat parents? This game is “worse” than any of the earlier GTA games in terms of violence, language, sex, et cetera. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the game is rated “M(ature) 17+ for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs?” It’s not.


The graphics render smoother throughout every aspect of San Andreas than Vice City: the people, vehicles, buildings, roads, scenery, and vegetation have improved slightly, but the atmosphere at dawn or dusk just blows away the previous GTA’s attempts to recreate the environment. It’s almost beautiful at sunset to watch night descend over San Andreas as “C.J.” flies in a stolen corporate jet. Speaking of the region, it really strikes me as almost unbelieable how objects or scenery do not repeat at all throughout the entire game; previous GTA versions—and many, many other games—look repetitious after exploring a little bit. That just isn’t the case here.

Driving and Traffic

My favorite update to the world of driving that shows up in San Andreas is the very smooth blur effect that happens when your speed gets (more) dangerous; it’s like a type of tunnel vision and shakiness that makes you really feel like you’re in the car or on the motorcycle. The driving control feels more accurate to the vehicles’ real-life handling and accident physics seem much more realistic. However, the most important correction to traffic in this installment is that the AI drivers don’t stop the car and run when you shoot at them or hit them; they do what real people would do: they slam the gas pedal down and weave crazily through traffic. By the way, don’t walk in front of any cars on the freeway or stop your car; the other cars will almost always hit you. Hard.


My third and final section—because everyone loves the rule of three—deals with the actual gameplay in GTA: San Andreas. I’ve touched on a few aspects of gameplay, but I want to specifically address the overall game. As per the norm at RockStar, they’ve managed to tap into a specific world—in this case, that of California in the early 1990s—very well. Ripping into the culture of Bad Boys, COPS, grunge, yuppies, and every gangsta rap video ever produced, RockStar managed to make a game that is both an accurate representation of the culture and a product of that culture at the same time. San Andreas is immersion gameplay. When the digital world is so entertaining that it’s fun to just drive around or watch one of the thousands of different street scenes that play out from busy intersections to peaceful suburbs, congratulations are in order. Don’t get me wrong, the missions are great and vary in difficulties, but the realness of the game makes GTA: San Andreas an instant classic.

A Draft Dream

Last night, I dreamt that I was drafted by the Army to fight in Iraq. As part of a new law passed by Congress, students were no longer able to avoid the draft while they were in college. Unsettling as it was, I reported for basic training and received a rifle, a uniform, backpack, and the rest of the standard military gear.

I wasn’t sure what to do as I was getting ready to ship out, but as I was standing in my kitchen of the house I lived in when I was in grade school (for reasons I can’t fanthom), I decided that I would not be going to Iraq. Why? Well, of course there is the fact that I don’t want to die. But the real deciding factor was that I felt I shouldn’t serve a government that was willing to send men to die in a crusade for oil. So, I gathered up all my military gear and some other camping supplies, hiked out past my backyard into the woods and set up camp a few miles from my house. In my dream, this made perfect sense: I wouldn’t be caught trying to cross the border into Canada and imprisoned.

I’m still not sure what I would do if I was drafted in real life—it would depend on the pretense of the war, I suppose—but I’m fairly certain that I would not be camping out in the backyard.

Not Speaking English Is Hard

The other day the woman who cleans my apartment mentioned to me how hard it was to not speak English fluently. In the past, I assumed—wrongly, in fact—that Spanish was her first language, judging by her accent. However, she mentioned to me that she was originally from Bosnia and that she spoke Russian and German as well. It seemed unfair to me that a woman who is fluent in three languages works as a maid, while many people who only speak one language have more prestigious careers.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles on DVD

Annie and I saw The Incredibles on Saturday. It really was as good as I expected and my expectations were sky-high for Pixar’s latest wonder.

One point that has been mentioned in other reviews is the sense that The Incredibles feels more like an action movie than an animated one; it’s true. With the brilliant animation, great plot, believable (yes!) characters, and superb voice-acting, it was easy to forget that the entire movie takes place in a digital world. The CG from beginning to end were nearly flawless; there was one point where I noticed a slight lag, but it was gone in a second.

Given all of this, I thought the movie was better than many of the “action” movies that are produced each year. The Incredibles was funny, smart, and exciting; in sum, a great film.

Election 2004 and the Aftermath

I wish I had written something on Wednesday, when all of my emotions were raw and vitrolic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really write anything besides angry rants and whiny raves as a result of the deep emotions I felt. However, several other people summed up this election better than I could in its immediate aftermath.

William Saletan at Slate wrote:

[Simplicity] is what so many people like about Bush’s approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he “gets it.” They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don’t hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Greg Knauss at Waxy wrote:

This determined emotionalism—which is another way of saying anti-rationalism—is what drives us today. You can find it distasteful, you can find it depressing, but it’s most important impact is that we have turned over the direction of the country—our future—to the part of our psyche that doesn’t want to think.

It’s not about smarts. The lunatics aren’t stupid—just the opposite. It’s about the willingness to abandon the deductive process in favor of epiphany. It’s about the abandonment of the brain in favor of the gut.

Jason Kottke wrote:

It’s not necessarily that America as a whole validated the actions of George Bush over the past four years… it’s that the Republican Party got more of their people to the polls than the Democrats did. Looking out across America, what’s one of the largest groups of people with a single strongly-held set of beliefs? The evangelical Christians. They comprise a large portion of the US population and believe in God more strongly than most other groups believe in anything. The Bush camp used a coordinated campaign to speak directly to those people and put their strong belief in God in direct opposition to what the other side stood for: liberals want to kill innocent babies, allow gays to marry, and let non-Christians run the country/world. To an evangelical Christian, the fear that those things will happen is almost overwhelmingly unbearable.

Jesse at Hyperion Court wrote:

We need to remember that the contest was close. While Bush will act like he has an overwhelming mandate, he received no such thing. The country is divided in half, and the divide runs deep. We can’t win by outvoting or outspending or outsliming the forces arrayed against us. We have to bridge that divide. We have to make people understand why we think the way we do. If you want to take your country back, you’re going to have to change it first. That battle will never end, but it can be won. It starts now.

I think these four posts sum up the election result in great ways. I’ve sampled some great bits, but read the full posts for even more good stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but all of them are worth the read. Eventually, I was able to get my thoughts together in writing.

Not Creepy Enough to Spam?

I received an amusing spam today from an email address based at in my Gmail account.

Gmail Spam Screenshot

I’ll bet that “kvfmdtmb” didn’t know that I have all of my email forwarded to Gmail, but he/she/it still should be careful because “Gmail is nearly immortal!” Don’t worry “kvfmdtmb,” your crap is “Spam.”

And I Knelt on the Floor

I went to Mass in the university chapel last night, and while it’s generally a nice little space, some seats don’t have kneelers. So long story short, I pay $30K a year to go to school and I had to kneel on the floor. How’s that for a lesson in humility?

The Political Spectrum

“I am, as far as I can tell, more or less a centrist, equally repelled by either extreme of the political spectrum. Indeed, I believe that the spectrum forms a full circle, with right and left merging, as they meet at their respective extremes, into luminous batshit evil.”

by William Gibson