R.I.P. Kenneth Mars →

Kenneth Mars in The Producers

You have no idea what a big deal The Producers was in my house growing up. I didn't get half the jokes, and I had no clue what the hell a Nazi was, but goddammit, I knew that Kenneth Mars guy was funny.

Playing the Rape Card: ‘Media Psychiatrist’ Ratchets Up Anti-Videogame Rhetoric →

"Games like Bulletstorm cause violent behavior and, since rape is a violent crime ... ergo, there is no question that [violent videogames] cause an increase in rape." - all this without a single report that links violent videogames to criminal violence of any kind.

By the same logic: "I'm eating an apple. Apples are fruit. Bananas are also fruit. Ergo, I am eating a banana. Q.E.D. PEACE OUT, BITCHES."

Real-Life Mario Kart →

Remi Gaillard recreates Mario Kart on hte streets of France. Better than I'm making it sound, I promise you.

Roma Sparita

Boy, is my face red. I've been living around the corner -- literally a 20 metre walk -- from Roma Sparita for the past 3 years, and I never once popped in to give it a go.

To be fair, it's not like I should have expected much. From the outside, it's just another unassuming restaurant in the corner of a piazza with a menu advertising the same cucina Romana you find in on every street and every piazza in Rome. There's nothing that stands out about its menu. Plus, there are two major flags that I tend to watch out for when judging a restaurant. First, it's beside a fairly solid tourist attraction -- Santa Cecelia -- which is usually a sure sign of a shithole that doesn't care about quality (Trying to find a good place to eat around St. Peter's is like walking through a culinary minefield). Secondly, it's within spitting distance from Piazza dei Mercanti. Have you ever seen the restaurants there? One of them is decked out with a bunch of fake crap on the walls which is supposed to make it look like a ye olde trattoria but actually makes it seem like you're eating right in the Pirates of the Caribbean. The other puts on a pantomime show during the summer, with people opening the windows of the building and shouting out of them. The whole thing is like a weird, distracting 18th century Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in. Both restaurants are extremely gimmicky and going heavily after the tourist market. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and they both seem like they do great business there. But it also means that I've been painting Roma Sparita with the same brush.

Here's the embarrassing part: it took an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations to get me to check out Roma Sparita. Or, more specifically, their cacio e pepe. Now, cacio e pepe is my favourite pasta dish. It's the one I always pounce on when I see it on a menu. Up until now, Da Augusto has been my favourite, by a long way. So my wife and I are watching No Reservations and we see Piazza Santa Cecilia and both shout 'Hey! That's Piazza Santa Cecilia!" But when they brought out the cacio e pepe, I leaned a little closer. Okay, so the whole thing is a little gimmicky, coming in a edible bowl made of parmesan. Then Bourdain started eating and his hyperbole glands kicked in. "I'm sure this is illegal somewhere," "This could be the greatest thing in the history of the world" (ACTUAL QUOTE), "In order to enjoy this plate of food, what would I be willing to sacrifice from my past? ... Catcher in the Rye... My third, fifth, seventh and ninth acid trips... my first sexual experience, definitely." You get the picture.

So we took a stroll around last night. We got there at about 8.30pm without having booked ahead, and we were the first guests to be put into the 'overflow' part of the restaurant. I started worrying that we were getting shoved into the 'chump' (read: tourist) part, but the whole thing filled up within a few minutes. It was extremely popular. For starter, I got the bresaola with rocket and parmesan, my wife got the carciofi alla romana. Both were excellent, solid dishes, and very well done. When it came time to order our pasta, the waiter didn't even wait for us to say anything, he just said "Cacio e pepe?" with a little wink. I think my defences must have been up because I wasn't sure how to interpret the wink. Was he onto us? Was he saying "You look like Americans who saw this place on Anthony Bourdain and of course you've just come for the cacio e pepe." Or was he saying "We know we knock this shit out of the park, so why would you ever want to order anything else?"

Turns out, it was the latter. It was a room full of Romans and everyone, I mean everyone, ordered the cacio e pepe. And for good reason.

That was easily the best cacio e pepe I have ever tasted. It follows a slightly different recipe - rather than being the traditional pasta covered in grated cheese and an assload of pepper with a drizzle of oil and leaving it to the eater to mix up, Roma Sparita cook the cheese and pepper sauce with butter which, in a Roman kitchen, is almost unheard of, before tossing in all the pasta and coating it all in the pan. It's a great way of doing it, and one I think I'll be copying when I make the dish myself. And then there's the parmesan bowl, the 'gimmick'. Personally, I left the entire bowl until the end and ate that as one giant crispy, cheesy flavour-bomb1.

It was a delicious blast of umami and an amazing way to finish the meal. Leaving the place, my wife asked how we were going to manage the next few months. We have so many restaurants left to try in Rome before we leave, and all we want to do now is go back to Roma Sparita and gorge ourselves on the cacio e pepe. I told her I don't think there would be any shame in that.

1

I also tend to eat my french fries before my burger, and then eat around the burger, leaving the pickle right in the middle until the final bite

The Yester-Daily

Last week, News Corp unveiled their latest attempt to figure out this whole 'new media' thing with the launch of The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper-magazine hybrid that is published, uh... dailyLike Abed from Community, News Corp aren't great at coming up with names. It wasn't the smoothest launch ever and it has already drawn a couple of complaints from the tech community. The first is that the app itself is slow and badly programmed. Gruber timed how long it took from launching the app to actually reading a single thing - one minute and twenty seconds.

This is just a teething problem, and I'm sure it'll be fixed in later versions of the app. I mean, Loren Brichter managed to fix problems with The Daily's carousel (the thing you use to navigate the different articles) in around two hours. I don't think this is a show-stopper.

The other issue is more complicated. People like Ben Brooks complain that the biggest problem with The Daily is that its content is stale. Rather than pushing out up-to-the-minute news, The Daily pushes out yesterday's news. Is it still news if it happened yesterday?

With respect, I think that Ben is missing the point, and I'll explain why.

First, as with everything I write, I have to take you on a little diversion that seems completely irrelevant, but eventually ties back into the first subject.

There's a videogame magazine called Edge (or, if as it's called in the US, Next Gen). It's the one magazine I'm completely devoted to, and I've got every issue going back to issue 3. It's published monthly, which means that 95% of the news and reviews in the magazine have been scooped by online sites like Joystiq or Eurogamer. I've gotten into more debates than I care to remember with nerds who said that there was no longer any place for magazines, arguing first, why would people want to read stale content that's potentially a month old, and second, why would people pay for stale content when they could get the fresh content, online, for free?

Okay, so let's take a slightly more highbrow example: The International Herald Tribune. This is essentially nothing more than a reprint of yesterday's New York Times. Who would want to read that? Well, Speaking anecdotally, this is the one reliable English-language newspaper you can get in Italy. It's the one newspaper we get delivered to our newsroom (although it's used more as toilet-reading than a source of news). Less anecdotally, the IHT has a circulation of around 219,188 - not bad for a reprint of 'stale' content.

See, I think the issue isn't about how 'fresh' the news is, it's about the quality of the writing. It's depressing to see how much Churnalism there is in the world. For example, BBC News -- which is where I tend to go to for my 'breaking news' -- is mostly reprints of AP stories. It's an understandable practice: when you've got a 24/7 news cycle, you just have to get stuff out there as quickly as possible, without being able to put much effort into it. And so I'll go to BBC News for breaking news, but I tend to go elsewhere for analysis.

It's the same with Edge. I'll happily take a wobble over to Eurogamer and have a quick breeze through their reviews, to see what score they awarded a particular game, but I won't read the actual review because their writing isn't great. I'd rather wait for the Edge review, even if I have to wait the full month for it. With the IHT, yes, I'm happy to read yesterday's New York Times because it's (for the most part) still vaguely relevant and still better-written than most other newspapers.

With The Daily, technical kinks aside, I think that if the content is compelling enough, its 'freshness' doesn't matter.

(If you don't have an iPad and want to see what all the fuss is about, Andy Baio knocked together The Daily: Indexed, where you can find browser-readable versions of all the stories from the iPad edition.)

Amazing Life

Here we have the man who invented the personal computer, then the laptop. He’s now destroying them. That is an amazing life.

Rupert Murdoch on Steve Jobs

Books and e-books

Two interesting, possibly not entirely unrelated news stories in the past week.

First is the really sad news that Waterstones is closing its two Dublin stores. I'm genuinely quite upset about this. Not only because I know a few fantastic people who work there, but also (and slightly selfishly) because I loved going into these shops. The Dawson Street branch is like a Georgian oasis of peace and quiet. I'm less excited about returning home to Dublin now that Waterstones is gone.

Then there's the news that for the first time, Amazon sold more kindle e-books than paperbacks. Amazon claim that for every 100 paperbacks sold in the last quarter of 2010, it sold 115 kindle e-books. I'd love to see the actual figures here. It could be, as Steve Jobs suggests, that people just don't read anymore, in which case the entire story is a statistical blip and not worth getting too excited about. I'm guessing it's not, and we're seeing a genuine shift in the way people read.

When I was back home in Dublin, I took a stroll around Waterstones in the Jervis Centre. I spent almost an hour browsing because, like I said, it's a nice place to take your time in. Although I had three books in my hands (Bad Science, Operation Mincemeat and The Good Fairies of New York, if you're interested), I put them back. I realised buying them would take up precious space in my suitcase for the trip back -- space that could be used for Tayto and Ballymaloe relish -- and then I'd have to find space for them on already-overflowing shelves. While I was sitting down for coffee later, I bought the Kindle versions of the three three books I had been looking at.

Now I feel pretty bad.

But at the same time, I think now is a good time for publishers and booksellers (the bricks-and-mortar kind) to tackle this problem. Because they have something powerful that Amazon, as much as it tries, can't compete with.

I love my Kindle. I love the convenience of it. I love the fact that I've got my library with me wherever I go. I love that every book I buy for it means one less book taking up space on my bookshelves, one less thing for my wife to yell at me about. I love the experience of reading on it.

But I don't like the experience of shopping on it. Or rather, I don't like the experience of window-shopping on it. It might give me the choice of hundreds of thousands of books right at my fingertips, but unless I know exactly the book I'm looking for, I'm screwed. There's no serendipity.

Retail stores, like Waterstones, have the opposite problem. They're all serendipity. Conversely, because they have limited physical space, chances are they might not have that one particular book you're looking for, especially if it's in any way off the beaten path. But that doesn't matter because while you're looking for that one book, your eye might be drawn to something else. An author you haven't heard of, writing in a genre you don't usually like. You decide to check it out and -- boom -- you have a new favourite book.

Amazon doesn't have that.

Another thing Waterstones has that I'm really going to miss are the 'Our favourites'. A curated section with books chosen by the people who work there, with a little note underneath, written by the member of staff who chose it explaining why they like that particular book. These were always great places to discover something new because their choices were always wonderfully idiosyncratic and always interesting.

Amazon doesn't have that either.

What Amazon does have are recommendations based on what I've already bought. In other words "If you liked this, here's more of the same". I'm sure it's a very sophisticated algorithm and took hundreds of man-hours to perfect, but that's not what I want. It sounds stupid, but I don't want you to recommend stuff I like, I want you to recommend stuff you like.

That's the role retail book shops play. That's the itch they scratch that online shops just can't reach. And I think it's time for them to start playing that up. It wouldn't take much for retailers to offer the option of selling digital copies of books on small, cheap USB keys, but I doubt Amazon will get the 'window-shopping' experience right anytime soon.

Pixar has us right where they want us

Pixar is bulletproof, assholes. We can put out any old piece of shit that perfectly examines universal themes of love and friendship and just walk away with record box-office numbers. In fact, I think I'll have my award-winning design team get cracking on an anthropomorphic piece of shit right now. Yes. Shit. I'm talking actual human feces here, folks. We'll give it eyes and limbs, and—I don't know—call it Danny Caca. Brad Bird can make a story about how it got lost on its way to the sewage treatment facility. Its best friends are a used sewage-logged tampon and a hypodermic needle. Then we'll just sit back and watch the receipts come in.

Yeah, it'll have heart and depth, but still, it's going to be a talking piece of shit. Kids won't flush for years because of it.

John Lasseter - I've Got You Dumb Motherfuckers Eating Right Out Of My Hand

Everything is a Remix →

The second part of Kirby Ferguson's incredible Everything is a Remix series. Two things: 1. 'Sorry about colonialism' is a great name for Avatar's genre. 2. I know Kill Bill is like the film version of a nerd's scrapbook, but I personally find Death Proof almost completely unwatchable.

Up Premake Trailer

A trailer for Up created by splicing together bits of old movies. What an amazing piece of work.

Jersey Shore, in Italy →

Jersey Shore is coming to Italy

Sources connected to the show tell us they will be scouting locations in Italy -- similar to the way they did it in Miami -- to find the right locale.

One source connected with the show says they've already lined up some of Vinny's Italian relatives to host the "Jersey" crew for an authentic Guadagnino dinner.

Called it.

This is how all games should be reviewed

reley dont wan to say this, but i have to now.
this game is so esey. i mean, all you do is hit the spacebar. thats it! how is this an RPG anyway? you cant contrail anything but what it says on > the screen! what if i didnt want to buy the potion? what apout quests? all you can upgrade is stranth? there is no way you can lose to the boss at > the end! this game is crap! its not even an RPG at all! i mean look at it! in what way is this supposed to be an RPG if you can do quests and stuff? all you do is press one butten the entier time! explain to me! the athore coments al totol lies! is it supposed to be stick dudes? i dont even know how this damn game got the daily 3rd prize, or a rating of 4.26!
pepole think this review is worthles.
go ahead! say it! i dont care! im just trying to make a point here!
blam this piece of crap!!!!

P.S the only reson im giving this a 1 is beacuase the voices where pretty good. but thats it!

Penis →

penis

Community is so good, even its throwaway jokes are gold.

Death in Videogames

Kotaku - There is real death in this video game

Beloved niche PC publishers Paradox Interactive today revealed Salem, a free-to-play MMO that wants to make sure that players take their decision-making seriously. To this end, things you do in the game are promised to have a lasting effect, while more importantly, if you die, you are dead.

Your character is gone, and all your equipment is set loose for other players to grab. There is no respawning, no retention of your name or your stats or your skills. You are simply dead, and if you want to play again, you need to start all over at the beginning with a new name and a new character.

... It's a brave decision, and one that has a far more drastic impact than in a singleplayer game, where you're the only person who cares. In an MMO, when you die, you can be mourned.

I love this idea, and I applaud the publishers for having the balls to put out a videogame that actually deals with death in a serious way, beyond the usual "LOL I TOTALLY JUST SHOT THAT FUCKER IN THE FACE." My only concern is with how they are planning on implementing this. When you die, will you immediately be able to start a new character? Will they ban your account for a period of time? Death only has meaning because of its permanence. It's the ultimate full-stop. There's no coming back. And in an MMO, the character doesn't matter, the player matters. So the idea that a player can just roll a new character and maybe even be present for the 'funeral' of his previous character bothers me slightly, like it's missing the point slightly. Why would anyone mourn a character when they know the player is still around - the same person in a different avatar?

Still, it's a step in the right direction.