If the Defenders of High Culture didn’t have enough to worry about with the Harry Potter conference, there now comes an announcement that a new Harry Potter game will be coming out this fall. Perhaps the 2013 conference will feature an in-depth examination of Harry Potter for Kinect and what it means to our society.

If it’s anything like Star Wars Kinect, it might not be such a great thing, although I think Potter fans might be more receptive to that sort of thing than Star Wars fans. As long-time readers probably know, I think that J.K. Rowling’s series is fun, but deeply flawed. (Someday maybe I’ll write about that at length.) I’ve never played any of the games based on it, as they all seem to have about them the feel of something done just to cash in on the popularity of the name.

As far as I can tell, all Potter games have been based to a large degree on the books and movies. As a Star Wars fan, I know from experience that this usually means trouble. Star Wars games are either excellent or really bad. And the bad ones are often the ones that try to follow the movies, and have you playing as Luke or Anakin or someone. (The LEGO ones don’t count; they follow the movies, but with an original twist.)

The great Star Wars game series everyone thinks of are original stories like Rogue Squadron, Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic. These take place in the Star Wars universe, and though in some cases they overlap with events or characters from the movies, for the most part they are their own stories. They don’t let the established stories dictate their course too much.

Are there any Harry Potter games that take place in the Potter universe, but don’t more or less follow the established story and timeframe? That would have the potential to be good, and to keep the franchise going. Now, for all I know, Rowling has forbidden this. Which she, as the creator of the series, is totally within her rights to do. But it would be the best thing for it as a franchise.

Fox News headline: “Alien life clues in Antarctic Ice?” The story says, in part:

[Scientists] don’t expect water samples from Lake Vostok will hold alien life, though any life it contains may have taken a slightly different evolutionary path than what appears on the planet today.

As the rest of the article goes on to say, it wouldn’t be “alien” life at all–just other forms of Earth life. So the headline is perhaps slightly misleading, although it does sound like it could hold some interesting stuff. But the scientists’ hopes that it will tell us something about alien life are all so heavily based on conjecture–they’re hoping to find life that might resemble life that might exist in some similar places that are “suspected” to be on the moons of Jupiter. It’s hard for me to get too excited about that.

I just wish they wouldn’t “hint at strange survival in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism.” And it’s the Antarctic, which automatically demands a Mountains of Madness reference.

(Just so you know, I’ve always treated these real-life similarities with Lovecraftian tales as mere humorous coincidences.*)

*But sometimes, “I am inclined to wonder—and more than wonder.”

I try not to read the same news sites all the time. Every month or so, I try to switch around which sites I read, just to change things up. I also try, insofar as possible, to look at sites that have various different biases. I used to read Huffington Post a lot, then I switched to Drudge Report and now I’m trying to decide what to use next.

It’s surprising how hard it can be to do this. It’s easy to get in a “comfort zone” of going to the same sites every day. I’ve found I have to actually delete bookmarks to keep myself from just automatically clicking the same things out of habit. I know I’m probably ridding myself of any loyal readers I might have by telling you this, but I have found it does help to keep your mind flexible.

That said, there are some sites I always check in on–especially individual writers and bloggers that I can always count on to have something interesting. (Someday I’ll figure out how to add a “recommended reading” list and put up the blogs I used to link to from my old blog.) It’s more important to switch up which major news sites or aggregators you use than which individual writers you follow.

I haven’t seen The Phantom Menace in 3D yet. I’m not sure if I’m going to, either. Like I said back when it first came out that they were making these, I’m kind of conflicted about the idea. On the one hand, I’m curious to see how they did it, but on the other, I wasn’t completely blown away by the 3D effects in Avatar, and it was shot in 3D. And I assume that something originally designed for 3D would be superior to a movie that was subsequently converted to it. (Technically speaking, that is. I thought that as stories, Avatar was lousy and The Phantom Menace was pretty good.)

What would be really cool would be if they would make some new Star Wars movies optimized for 3D. (A Mandalorian Wars movie would be awesome.) But, let’s face it, that probably won’t happen anytime soon. And, in the end, as Avatar proves, it’s the quality of the movie that really matters. Generally, you get better results when the director’s vision drives new technology than when new technology drives the director’s vision.

Can you think of any scenario where 3D alone could make the difference between a movie being good or bad? I can’t.



I don’t watch cable news, except when I see a particularly interesting clip from it on the internet that I feel merits writing about. But this Politico article by Keach Hagey indicates that apparently there has been something of a shift in the coverage style of the Fox News channel, a shift that might not be apparent in one clip, but in the general tone of its coverage.

It seems, according the article, that Fox has shifted “to the left”. Of course, as we know, the left-right dichotomy is pretty simplistic, but we know what they mean. As the Politico article describes:

Last week, [Bill] O’Reilly invited onto his show a gay-rights activist to weigh in on Roland Martin’s controversial tweets during the Super Bowl. O’Reilly and Martin may be old foes, but the spectacle of watching O’Reilly, who once compared gay marriage to interspecies marriage, attacking a CNN anchor for being insufficiently sensitive to the feelings of gay people was quite a switch from the tone of two years ago.

Obviously, there’s a bit of opportunism here–it’s a chance to tarnish someone from another network, and that is opportunity that is hard to pass up. But still-quite remarkable. As the article shows, Fox has shifted away from the Tea Party crowd of “two years ago”.

The article goes on to quote a “Cliff Kincaid, president of America’s Survival”, who says things like “‘what happened is they buckled under pressure from George Soros and his operatives to get rid of Glenn Beck.'” in order to explain this development.

This is quite amusing. The Soros conspiracy never fails to provide a handy explanation for things in the minds of some.  The general assessment of the situation is something much more mundane: that Fox has made this shift for the sake of broadening its appeal.

I have a somewhat different take on this situation. The obvious point is that, two years ago, the Republicans were basically powerless. They could do nothing except be furious at the Democratic Congress and Executive. And this they did. And it won them the House of Representatives.

Now, because of that victory, they have some share in how the country is run. So, things can’t be quite so apocalyptic as they were when Democrats had all the majorities. Obviously, that would make the Republicans in the House look stupid. Fox has to paint things as somewhat less dire now, for their sake. The Politico article ends by mentioning a Tea Partier who “feels like she hears more apologies for the status quo on Fox these days.”

Maybe this is just a crazy conspiracy theory, as far-out as Cliff Kincaid’s idea. But it does fit the facts. And recall Megan McArdle’s observation, known as “Jane’s Law”,  that “the devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.” Now that the Republicans have gained back a share of power, they must become more “sane”.

Paul Krugman offers his assessment of what’s going on with the Republican party:

[T]he long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

To put Krugman’s idea in my preferred terminology, the Nationalist wing and the Materialist wing have finally reached the breaking point, at which their many contradictory ideas no longer can be made to hold together.

Over at thingy’s blog the other day there was an interesting discussion around the question “what if robots engaged in political discourse“?  Well, if I may use the analogy of “the Republican party as robot”, Krugman is saying, effectively, that the party has gone the way of G0-T0, and is “unable to follow both of its prime directives” and, like G0-T0, this causes it to “break”.

At the moment, this has produced a field of candidates consisting of three rather ridiculous figures and one extremely dull one. I don’t say that the Republicans won’t win the Presidency this year, but even if they do, it will probably be Romney, who most of the nationalist wing hates anyway.

I wonder, though, what this means for the party longer term. Win or lose, I expect to see some big changes in the Republican party. I would venture to guess–and this is only idle speculation, not firm prediction–that they may become more like the pre-1960s Democrats. That is, remain fairly conservative on social issues, but become decidedly more liberal on economic issues.