Sunday, July 18, 2010

Research Phrases That Should Be Systematically Wiped Out

A couple of weeks ago I went to another research conference, which in itself isn't the impetus for this post, but it reminded me that there are several terms that researchers use that really get on my nerves. The following is a list of terms I plan to never use (and if I do there must have been editorial interference):

-literature: Oh yes... the old 'literature review'. Unless your entire purpose is to actually review what previous authors have done (which is what my colleagues did recently, hence this clause saves me from hypocrisy), there really is no excuse for doing a lit review. Often it's used to either show how 'well-read' the researcher is, or to pad out the length - for God's sake, just use what actually affects your own research. Leave the 'literature' to Salman Rushdie.

Acceptable alternatives: articles, studies, evidence, work.

-key: Often used to make a point seem more important than it really is. Or if the author has written a piece of work and hasn't made their message clear enough, so that they feel they need to point out what the 'key findings' are. Not that I am against summarizing - indeed, it's necessary - but I can't stand people hitting their readers over the head with how terribly significant their work is.

Acceptable alternatives: main, summary.

-jointly/co-authoured: Why not just say 'work done with such-and-such'? Why? Because either you want to draw people's attention to your more famous co-author, or you want to say 'Hey look, I have a friend!' Get over it...

Acceptable alternatives: none.

-paper: Yes, I hate the term 'paper', even though I know it's been in academia forever. But such a fetish has developed around the concept that I think we're best rid of it. Plus it's so limiting. Why can't a groundbreaking theory be written on the back of a napkin? Why not do a YouTube video? Why not express it through interpretive dance? Why does it always have to be a freakin' 'paper'? Be creative people!

Acceptable alternatives: see alternatives for 'literature', also add clip, txt msge, etc.

(I will now return to my unresolved rage issues...)

Friday, July 16, 2010

'Scarlet' and 'Casanova'

Partly because I am now on the older side of 30, and partly (or as a result) because my tastes are changing I have found that more and more I have become tired of the standard comic book superhero fare. While DC has had its Vertigo line in place for years now, Marvel has only recently started to offer its own creator-owned line with its Icon imprint. This week I tried two new series from this line - 'Scarlet' and 'Casanova' - (which has actually been around for a while, but not through the Icon imprint; the first issue is a re-release), and both were quite impressive.

'Scarlet' is the more immediate of the two, and has a very interesting concept, although it's actually difficult to glean the concept from the first issue. Essentially, a young scarlet-haired woman decides she's had enough of the wrongdoing in the world, and decides to do something about it, which itself is hardly new, but apparently we're going to see her crusade build up over time from a series of localized incidents into a global revolution. Writer Brian Michael Bendis likes his media and he likes his female protagonists, so it seems like the kind of series he was building towards, even as it is in some ways different from what he has done in the past. The supremely talented (if publicity-shy) Alex Maleev is doing the art, and his photographic style should make the series very pretty to look at, whilst maintaining a sense of realism. Expect a 'Scarlet' film sometime in the next few years as Hollywood-types salivate over this concept...

'Casanova' is a very different series not only to 'Scarlet' but everything else on the stands, and frankly it confused the hell out of me. Artist Gabriel Ba worked with Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance fame) on 'The Umbrella Academy' and that confused the hell out of me too, so maybe there's a connection. Anyway, from what I can figure out, the main protagonist Casanova Quinn likes to steal stuff, except his dad is the leader of a huge spy agency, and his sister is the top agent. But that synopsis doesn't really do the series justice, and there's things like battles with giant brains, and random liaisons with nurses, and multiple timelines, and who knows what else? I think I like this better than Matt Fraction's other work though because, strangely enough, the weirder it gets the more honest it seems. That is, Fraction seems at his best when he is writing almost purely for himself and doesn't give a toss how stupid it may seem. Then again, by issue four I may be ready to tear the whole thing to shreads. We'll see!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 25

A while ago it was suggested to me that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo bore a resemblance to video game character Earthworm Jim (see below). Well, I went on Google in search of an image to demonstrate this and came across this website, which has, among other things, the best comparison for Kobe Bryant I have ever seen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Miami Three (And Further Thoughts on LeBronapalooza 2010)

Well, that was wrapped up quickly... With LeBron James' announcement that he will be joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat next season, all of the major free agents bar David Lee (who looks to be going to the Warriors) have found their homes. So it looks like we can work out who are the winners and losers from this circus.

The big loser obviously has to be Cleveland who, without the best player in franchise history, will be lucky to scrape into the playoffs next year. I feel really sad for Cavs fans - this one is going to hurt for years. The only solace for them is that at least LeBron is not going to the Bulls.

The big winner is obviously Miami who have gone from borderline playoff team to championship contender. How good they will be depends on who they can surround their big three with, but put them down for at least 55 wins over the next few years (barring injuries). Their marketing department will also be huge winners, as LeBron #6 jerseys fly off the rack.

Toronto, Phoenix and Utah are clearly losers, having lost the big men (Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer) who have been crucial to their success. Phoenix and Utah should still be competitive; Toronto though will be a basketcase.

For Chicago and New York, it is harder to evaluate. Chicago should definitely be a better team with Boozer on board, but Bulls' fans may feel a little deflated given the higher hopes they had only days before. However, given their depth, they are a good chance to be up there with the Eastern Conference's best. I don't think that's true for New York, who have gone through years of pain only to come up with Stoudemire - a great player to be sure, but not up there with LeBron, and possibly no better than David Lee. Optimistic Knicks fans (are they still around?) will counter that they are not done yet, as they still have enough salary cap space to add another star to their roster.

And my beloved Detroit are still losers.

Now all the interest lies in watching these guys come out in their new uniforms next season. Already the speculation about Kobe & Gasol v LeBron, Wade & Bosh in the Finals should be underway. At least there'll be plenty of sun...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Amar’e’s Going To New York (And Other NBA Free Agency Thoughts)

This year’s NBA free agency class has pretty much overshadowed the season itself – which is not that surprising when you consider that the next five to eight years’ worth of championships may be up for grabs depending on where two-time regular season MVP LeBron James (Cleveland), 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade (Miami), and all-stars Chris Bosh (Toronto), Joe Johnson (Atlanta), Amar’e Stoudemire (Phoenix), Carlos Boozer (Utah) and David Lee (New York) decide to call home. Today the news was that Stoudemire, one of the few star big men in the NBA, will sign a 5-year, $100 million deal with the very much star-starved New York Knicks. While Stoudemire was quick to claim that ‘the Knicks were back’, the worth of this deal will only be able to assessed weeks down the track, when all of this chaos should (hopefully) be over. If Stoudemire’s arrival can convince James or Wade to jump ship, then the deal will go down as a landmark in NY hoops history. However, if not, it’s hard to see it as much more of an upgrade over current Knicks all-star David Lee, who will presumably sign elsewhere now that Amar’e has taken his starting spot. And given Amar’e’s history of injuries, the euphoria in Madison Square Garden may be short-lived.

Apart from Stoudemire, Joe Johnson has already committed to a team, returning to Atlanta for a deal that one ESPN columnist described as ‘the winner’s curse’. While Johnson is a handy player, Atlanta is now paying him like a superstar, which they may very well come to regret. This leaves James, Wade, Bosh, Boozer and Lee as the only major free agents yet to sign. Not long ago, Wade looked a certainty to return to Miami, the only major question being whether he could convince James and/or Bosh to join him. But reports have surfaced that Wade is taking a keen interest in his hometown of Chicago, which is a surprise to those who thought that the Bulls were focusing their efforts on the duo of James and Bosh. Bosh, meanwhile, seems to be the key player in all this, as it is believed that both James and Wade would like to play with one of the NBA’s few other star big men (and one who is younger and reportedly more congenial that Stoudemire). I think it’s a fair bet that Bosh will end up with one or both of the two. As for James, who knows? My heart hopes he stays in Cleveland, but if I were LBJ the prospect of teaming up with Bosh, and young stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (who took the Bulls to the playoffs last season) in Chicago would be very hard to resist.

So, with all that said, here are my predictions: Wade and Boozer to Miami, James and Bosh to Chicago (as much as it pains me to think of it) and Lee to sign with Utah or New Jersey. But all it takes is one player to make an unexpected move for the whole landscape to change. Meanwhile, I’m still crying over the fact my beloved Detroit Pistons spent all of their cap space last season on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva…

Monday, July 5, 2010

Welcome (Back) To The Galaxy!

The original ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ for Nintendo Wii was, without a doubt, the greatest video game I have ever played. When I first played SMG it had been many a year since I had been a committed video game player; in fact not since the dying days of the now-many times superseded Nintendo Entertainment System had I followed the new video game releases with any regularity. Hence, I had missed ‘Super Paper Mario’, ‘Super Mario Sunshine’, ‘Super Mario 64’ – even ‘Super Mario World’! – in the time between then and when I first popped SMG into our Wii. Needless to say, I found SMG completely addictive, to the constant bemusement of my wife, until she started playing it and found it even more addictive. Compared to the 2D graphics and ‘run, jump, bop’ of early Mario games, SMG was a revelation in terms of its range of gameplay options and beautiful 3D worlds.

All of which made SMG2 the most eagerly-awaited item in the Wheatley household since the release of the ‘Mad Men: Season 3’ DVD box set. So what’s the verdict? I had heard varying reports about how much different it was from the first game; having played through about 30 galaxies to date, I would say it is not a dramatic departure. The best analogy I have been able to think of is those movie sequels that work well because all of the foundation has been laid out in the first instalment, leaving the second instalment to just kick things off from there. Similarly, although SMG2 does run through for newbies the basic moves from the first game, experienced players can get right into the new stuff, of which there is a lot. Yoshi’s return is the most obvious example, although he actually isn’t as prominent as the advance press would have you believe, with Mario still having to tough out most levels by himself. (The level in which Yoshi swallows a hot chilli pepper and then uses the fire coming out of his butt to sprint up steep walls is a highlight to date.) There are plenty of new bosses, and while defeating most of them involves figuring out that boss’ one weak spot and raising holy hell on it, there are quite a lot of variations on how that is achieved. And there are several new transformations (Cloud Mario, Rock Mario), and heaps of new ideas for galaxies that will keep you entertained for months on end.

So better? Yeah, I’d say so. The best quote I have read about it (from Edge Magazine) is that ‘this isn’t a game that redefines the genre: this is one that rolls it up and locks it away’. Well, let’s hope that isn’t strictly true: while I struggle to see where they can go next, one could easily have said the same after the first game. There has got to be at least a few more places where they can they hide those friggin’ power stars yet…