Hello, all. Hope everyone had some good holidays.
As for me, Christmas was great this year. In the days before Christmas, my wife had Best Buy install a CD player into my Crown Vic without my knowing (my being generally oblivious helps), my in-laws gave me an XBox360 among other things (like a pocketknife, a bag of peanut M&Ms, and a little book called "365 Thing Every Man Should Know", which I can't help but think was intended as a comment of some sort), and my folks, privy to the impending gifting of the XBox360, bought me a game, "Superman Returns", an additional wireless controller, and a wireless internet thingie so I can do the XBox Live thing. A nice haul for my 30th Christmas.
Peggy also started a free trial membership to a video-game rental service called Gamefly.com. So on Christmas morn I had not only the so-far disappointing "Superman Returns" to play, but also "Gears of War", "Call of Duty 3", and a swat/X-Files hybrid game called "F.E.A.R.". The clear winner out of this grouping is, hands down, "Gears of War".
My brother came over last night and we played a campaign of "Gears" in cooperative mode till the wee hours and I'd have to say that "Gears" is the most-clever, most intelligently-designed video game I've played since "Halo". There isn't anything lazy about this game. A lot of games, of which "F.E.A.R." is an excellent example, are content to set up an overarching storyline and then lead the player through level after level which all look numbingly alike, killing gun-wielding baddies who all wear the same uniform. In "Gears", the designers designed the game as though terrified of ever letting the player get bored. Each level is thoroughly unique, ranging from shelled cities to decaying mansions to a vast complex of mines. Even within each level, each section is wholly its own bit of geography; every inch of the landscape looks as though it was designed and built by a studio art department, and with the same attention to detail. Storywise, there's very little in the way of exposition, which gives the game a you-are-there feel. Though there is a lot of grabbing cover and popping up to exchange fire with enemies, the designers break it up by introducing new weapons (like the Hammer of Dawn, which directs a satellite-originating laser onto your unsuspecting foes), and punctuating the action with exciting side missions. Anyway, it's a great game, and I'm about ready to play me some in the next little while.
It's been a newsy last week of 2006. James Brown and Gerald Ford passed over the past few days. If famous deaths comes in threes, as they say, then Saddam Hussein may well be the third. NBC is reporting today that Saddam Hussein may well be remanded over to Iraqi authorities in the very near term, and he will be hanged shortly thereafter, perhaps as early as tomorrow, but definitely before Sunday. I'm anti-death penalty, even in cases like this where we know the bastard's guilty, and I think it's wrong to kill Hussein. I think banning state-sanctioned murder, as most of the first-world industrialized nations have done, is a hallmark of a civilized society. Iraq is anything but, but in a place like Iraq where so many have died, and often senselessly and at random, I think commuting Hussein's death sentence would make an important and persuasive statement that the Iraqi leaders were substantially different from the insurgents who are currently fomenting chaos in that country by killing those in opposition to them. Commuting Hussein's death sentence would send a message to the non-violent Iraqis who are either fleeing the country or cowering in their homes, that killing is not the answer to any problem, especially not to those entrusted with helping Iraq back to its feet. I'm not naive enough to think that any statement the so-weak-as-to-be-useless Iraqi government might make would have much of an impact on what's happening there (which seems intractable and unfixable), but hanging Hussein seems to be the least thoughtful option.
Anyway. It's time to administer the death penalty to swirling masses of pixels on my TV screen.