This is my Blog, on it I simply write stuff that I feel like writing about. You'll find it heavily slanted towards tech, games, entertainment and the like. I write about other stuff too, and somethings I write about things. I also do photography, the link is on your right.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Playstation 4 Officially Announced!

Oh my goodness!  The internets are all aflutter about Sony's press conference this week as they officially outed their shiny new next gen console, the creatively named PS4.

Hey!  Wanna hear an angry, cynical, baseless opinion on how the conference went?  Well, too bad, you’re gonna hear it anyway!

This gong show of a press conference was a dismal, awkward failure on so many levels.  Let’s start with the hardware itself.  They showed the fancy new controller, that’s all well and good, but they said nothing about how and why the fancy new controller is awesome.  Hey look, you can share video clips on your Facebook page with a press of a dedicated share button!  Wow, that adds a look to the game experience.  What’s up with the camera sensor type thing they very briefly mentioned?  The one that tracks the motion and position of the controller?  What is that for?  How is going to apply to new games, if at all?  The touch pad, how is that gonna work?

The actual “console” itself was nowhere to be found.  I put “console” in quotations because in my mind, the PS4 is still just theoretical.  If seeing is believing, then I am having a crisis of faith right now.  All the specs they did showcase falls squarely into the “no shit!” category.  Lot’s of fast memory, copious amount of cores in the CPU, new graphics chip, and a faster Blu-ray drive.  Was anybody shocked and surprised?  Anybody at all?  Basically after all this time in design they just said ”fuck it” and made a PC with a custom interface.
What’s the price of this bad boy?  When is coming out?  Where is the damn thing?  What does it look like?  I have a lot of unanswered questions.  A lot of people have come to Sony’s defense on this one, stating that they need to leave some details for E3.  Here’s what I say to that, “no they fucking don’t!”  The cat is already most of the way out of the bag, just let the damn thing go.  You think anyone is going to go crazy at E3 when they stand up on stage at the press conference and say, “you know that console we told everyone about months ago?  Well, here’s the last few little tidbits of info that we inexplicably left out, for no discernable reason.  Yay.

What does it matter what gets shown where?  What they should have done is flushed out ALL the hardware details this week, and not bothered with those shitty tech demos and 7 month old trailers.  Then when E3 comes around, blow everyone out of the water with all the excellent eye popping software.  That’s what gaming is about after all, games, the hardware is secondary, just a means to a end.  Now, if Sony doesn’t have any killer software to show off by the time E3 rolls around, then I think it’s time to pack it in.
The software that they did show, stuff like Killzone and Watch Dogs was very much a “been there, done that” sort of affair.  Not to mention that they looked very current gen to me, as did the new title “Knack.”  Everything else was nothing more than cutscenes and tech demos.  I’ve heard some argue that developers need some time to figure out how to develop for the new system.  Well, if a developer can’t get a game to work on what amounts to off the shelf PC components, then the whole industry is in a hell of a lot of trouble.

I really don’t give a shit what the possibilities of the system are, I want know what it is ACTUALLY doing.  Most of the presentations were desolate at best, devoid of any real substance.  Square-Enix was particularly lugubrious.  They showed a rendered cut scene that they’d showed months ago, stating that that was what their goal was.  Then they had the audacity to stand up on stage and say, “oh yeah, one more big announcement!”  Everyone watching leans forward, curiosity piqued.  “The big announcement is that there will be a big announcement at E3, LOL!”  You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Yo dawg, I hear you like announcements, so we put an announcement in our announcement!

A quick word about backwards compatibility.  There is none.  That quick enough?  Ok, to be more specific, none of the software is backwards compatible, that includes PS1, 2, and 3 games.  Not as of yet.  They coyly hinted that they might be at some point.  Translation: “We have no idea what we are doing.”  Old Dualshock Controllers are also not compatible.  However, move controllers are.  Sony.  Stop trying to make move controls happen, they are not going to happen.

On the plus side, this leaves Microsoft plenty of time to figure out what not to do.  Sony put on a damn clinic about that.  The victory is there for XBOX 720 to simply reach out and grab.  That is, assuming MS doesn’t fuck it up somehow.  I guess we’ll all get to see in a few months how this all pans out.  Rest assured, I will be there to spout, angry, cynical, judgemental, obscenities.


P.S. Blizzards announcement of Diablo 3 coming out on console deserves nothing more than a post script.     

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Retail is Chasing it’s Tail

It’s that time again.  Time for another baseless, highly uninformed, talking-out-of-my-ass opinion.  Today’s topic?  The state of affairs in the traditional “brick and mortar” retail business model.  Specifically, whether said business model simply needs an overhaul, or needs to be “old Yeller’ed.”  Taken out back and shot like a rabid dog.

Game Stop announced that it would be shutting down 250 stores in 2013.  Best Buy closed 50 stores in 2012, their stock down a whopping 94% from the previous year.  Sears has closed, or is in the process of closing 100 to 120 stores, K-mart closing 26.  Zellers stock dropped by close to 100% in the past year, it’s last gasping breath was punctuated by a large Target logo, who bought them lock, stock and barrel in 2012.  In addition to these tragic downfalls, I would also like a brief moment of silence for the following fallen:  A&B sound, CompuSmart, Radio Shack, Blockbuster, and Rogers video.  Cue the “Runaway Train” music.
Does this mean that retail all over the world is crashing, I mean, the world economy has gone to shit, we all know that.  Surely that is to blame.  Not so fast hot shot.  If you do some snooping around you will find that businesses like Safeway, Loblaws, Shell, Bell, and Rogers are showing year after year growth, it’s business as usual.  The difference of course is that all these companies provide what would be classified as essential services, food, clothing, gas, phones, things of that nature.  They can pretty much continue business are usual, people won’t simply stop buying food anytime soon.

The first list of companies however, sell commodities, non-essentials, luxury items.  Almost all of them involved in technology in some form or another.  you can blame a depressed economy all you like, but I’m here to tell you that is not the case.  The reason for all these failures is not unlike the recording industry trying to sue a 7 year old for piracy.  It’s the inability to cope with and adjust to the changing landscape modern business.  it’s a sad, sad downward spiral.  Sales start to get soft, so they start to cut corners.  First and foremost companies will cut payroll.  They do this mainly because it’s a really easy stop-gap.  It requires minimal effort to do, and saves a ton of money.  Now all their stores are understaffed, and all the staff that survived end up doing the job of two or even three people for the same or less pay.  They get surely, disgruntled, and unhelpful.  It becomes a terrible experience to go shopping, and sales get softer.  Now the company starts cutting stock.  That saves a few bucks on purchasing, but now someone walks into the store and there is sweet fuck all to buy, everything is a special order.  Well, if I’m gonna order it anyways, why don’t I just cut out the middle-man and order it myself from the comfort of my home?  Sales start to get even softer, and the company starts closing stores.  Eventually they just fade away, all the time wondering what went wrong, blaming everyone except themselves.

Here’s the thing, a store like Best Buy is commonly known as the “Amazon show room.”  People go to the store to shop for products, find what they like and then go home and buy it online.  Now why do they do this?  Is it really because it’s 5 bucks cheaper?  No, it’s because it’s pretty much the same experience either way.  That is, you are going to be helping yourself.  You won’t be getting any sort of meaningful help from anybody, remember those payroll cuts?  How many times have you found yourself wandering around a store, craning your neck over the shelves fruitlessly searching for non-existent, unhelpful staff.
When is the last time you walked out of a retail outlet of any kind, feeling like you actually had a good time shopping there?  It happens from time to time, but the majority of retail experiences these days go like this:
You walk into Bob’s Thing-a-ma-Bob’s.  You either get ignored completely, or get a half-hearted, distracted greeting from someone who would rather be literally anywhere other than here.  You walk over to the widget section display.  You find that the display is dirty, and in complete disarray.  There is ten slots for different widget display models, five of them are empty, and of the five full ones, three of the display models don’t work.  You keep moving to the widget accessories section, right beside the sorry displays.  Half of the accessory pegs are empty, most have the incorrect price, or no price at all.  You don’t see the model you are looking for, so you begin the epic quest of finding a staff member.  If you find one, you have to be quick, because chances are they have three different jobs to do all at once, and they are scurrying like crazy.  You finally manage to snag someone, they look up the model you are looking for, they don’t have any.  So you ask about the model that they do have, one that is similar to the one you want.  They can’t tell you anything about it that you couldn’t find within 30 second on your smart phone.  You say screw it, go home, and order it online.  Bob’s Thing-a-ma-bobs gets one step closer to the grave. 
Now, when I was a retail manager I had a saying, “don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.”

What I meant by that was, any of my staff could come to me to complain about a problem they were having, as long as they brought with them a few possible solutions to said problems.  It insured that my staff weren't bitching for the sake of it, and it encouraged problem solving and critical thought.
So, I have to abide by my own rules here.  I need to come up with a possible solution to the sorry state of retail.  Given all the changes in the way people shop today, retail needs to adjust to stay relevant.  They need to offer something that cannot be experienced with online shopping.  Simply having the lowest possible price is not the answer.  If you try to engage in a price war with a website you will lose, as Best Buy is going to find out soon enough since they started price matching websites.  The brick and mortar experience needs to transform into the “premium” version of shopping.  It needs to be great.  Lots of selection, neat, tidy, clean stores with an abundance of well paid, well trained staff.  If you talk to any retail executive today, or believe the commercials on the ol’ TeeVee, you’ll find the claim that their business is exactly that.  They will beak about striving for excellence and all that crap.  There is a colossal difference between talking the talk, and walking the walk, and I have yet to see too many businesses walk that walk, from the inside as a manager, or as a customer.

I will leave you with one great example of a business that “gets it.”  I fully endorse this company for what it’s worth.  That company is Memory Express.  They sell technology, computer parts, TV’s, cameras, laptops, tablets, etc.  Now you can get that kind of crap just about anywhere.  Amazon, Newegg, and NCIX come to mind.  In a way they are direct competitors, these websites all sell the same stuff Memory Express does, and usually for just a little bit cheaper.  Here’s the thing, every time I walk out of Memory Express, I feel good, even if I didn’t get anything.  I feel good because they do all the things I talked about, they walk the walk.  The staff are plentiful and knowledgeable, not hurried or stressed, even though they are very busy.  Everything is neat and orderly, and they actually have lots of stuff in stock.  For that, I am perfectly willing to pay 5 extra bucks for a video card.

Obviously there is still a place in this world for businesses like Wal-mart, where it’s expected that corners are cut for the sake of lower prices.  Employee treatment not withstanding, but if all you sell is non-essential, specialized, products, you’d better step your damn game up, or it’s just a matter of time…..old Yeller…..


Friday, 8 February 2013

Much too Old to Feel This Damn Young

I’m a mind reader you know.  I know exactly what you are thinking right now, and it goes a little something like this.

“Oh for the love of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s been two months since there has been a new post from this asshole.  I though he had finally lost interest in polluting the internet with his insane rambling and gibberish.”
Well, I regret to inform you dear readers, that I have in fact, not given up on this blog.  If you were to click on the link to my photography site, you will notice that it no longer goes anywhere.  I did have to give that up, simple economics really.  It was costing me $150.00 a year, and was recently upped to $250.00 a year. 

After running the site for 3 years, I have made a total of $40.00 in sales.  You don’t have to be a math wizard, (or mathemagician as they like to be called) to figure that one out.  As for the blog itself, it’s not going anywhere, last year I wrote 35 posts at an average of 1000 words each.  This year I regret to inform you that you will likely have to endure another 35,000 words, possibly more.  So, as they say to inmates facing the death penalty, (according to movies) “may God have mercy on your soul.” 
It’s been a wild couple of months, hence the lack of updates.  I moved into a new place, I continue to grow sicker, and the medical powers that be still don’t seem to be taking me seriously.  It’s seems that as long as I’m still on my feet, they don’t appear to give a damn about my health.  I’ve also fallen into complete and total financial ruin.  Don’t worry, it was self imposed and necessary.  I am not ashamed, it was the right thing to do.  As I posted on my facebook a few months ago, “Sometimes, if you want new growth, you have to burn down the old forest.”

I’m starting to see some saplings.

Enough of that shit.  Let’s get to the point of this post.  Here’s a though that has been rattling around in my so-called brain for a while now.  It’s has to do with comparing ones self to the expected societal norms.  As soon as you mention something like that, brace for a torrent of quips about being your own person, not caring what other people think, etc. etc.  The truth of the matter is that everyone does it, if you claim that your never have, your are a liar, or deluding yourself.  Either way, I hereby sentence you to 30 minutes of quiet introspection.  May dog have mercy on your bowl.

Now, by commonly accepted standards, I could (should?) have a family by now, also a career, and my own home.  Where does this metric come from?  Well, some of it comes out of the societal ether, some of it comes from the influences in my life.  No small influence is of course my father.  Where was he at 35?  Where am I right now?  I can tell you they are a far cry from each other.  I know that every one is different, I know that that different people have different priorities and different life experiences that shape them if different ways.  I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that NOT having all these “normal” things, like children and a career have a negative connotation.  I could technically have a teenager by now.  Really?  I look around my house, books, movies, video games, computer, consoles….It would be a like a teenager raising a teenager.  I sure as hell don’t feel qualified for that sort of responsibly, nor do I desire it.  I can’t even manage myself, let alone a mini-me.

I feel like I’m suffering from Peter Pan syndrome.  My body has gotten older, but my mind didn’t follow suit.  I am an adult, it’s easy to say that, but for me, it’s much harder to DO that, be an adult.  I don’t feel like it.  I can’t escape from that childhood feeling that adults have all the answers, and take care of everything.  If I don’t, and I can’t, am I?  Is being a grown-up a physical state?  Or just a state of mind?

That’s a lot of questions.   I know one thing, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Way back in high school, all us teenagers were petty, overly emotion, insecure, and immature.  We were all trying to figure ourselves out, who we were, who we are, who we will become.  Years later, everyday you meet people who, are petty, overly emotional, insecure, and immature.  I think even the most together people you ever meet have some sort of emotional train wreck they are trying to clean up, you simply cannot travel through life without packing some bags.  How scary does that sound?  A whole world full of people masquerading as responsible grown-ups.  No offence to those of you who truly have all your shit together.  You magnificent bastards you!

I know what I need to do.  I need to shuffle away the expectations that I think people place on me.  I need to be ok with the fact that I will not be living my life the way my dad has, or the way that the model of standardized society expects.  There is no correct way to do it.  You have to make your own life, I truly envy people who have got that figured out.

As for me, I will continue to struggle against the artificial insecurities, limitations, and hang-ups that I have placed on myself.  Someday I hope to truly find my own path, and travel down it without compunction.  I can’t feel guilty for being who I am.  If I can’t manage that, then blog have mercy on my goal.