Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By Bob Herbert
It was a half-century ago this month that John F. Kennedy won the presidency in a thrilling and heart-stoppingly close election against Richard Nixon. You’d probably be surprised at the number of Americans who are clueless about when Kennedy ran: “It was 1970, right?” “Wasn’t it in the ’40s, soon after the war?” Or whom he ran against: “Eisenhower?”
I’ve been surprised by the lack of media attention given to the golden anniversary of that pivotal campaign, one of the most celebrated of the entire post-World War II period. With Kennedy, the door to the great 1960s era opened a crack, and it would continue opening little by little until the Beatles flung it wide in 1964.
Kennedy’s great gift was his capacity to inspire. His message as he traveled the country was that Americans could do better, that great things were undeniably possible, that obstacles were challenges to be overcome with hard work and sacrifice.
I don’t think he would have known what to make of the America of today, where the messages coming from the smoldering ruins of public life are not just uninspiring, but demeaning: that we must hack away at the achievements of the past (Social Security, Medicare); that we cannot afford to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure or establish a first-class public school system for all children; that we cannot bring an end to debilitating warfare, or establish a new era of clean energy, or put millions of jobless and underemployed Americans back to work.
Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
Whatever one thinks of the tragically short Kennedy administration, we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible.
Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination in a speech that he delivered before 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 15, 1960. It became known as the New Frontier speech. The candidate spoke of an old era ending and said that “the old ways will not do.” He spoke of “a slippage in our intellectual and moral strength.” He said:
“The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook. It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.”
What Kennedy hoped to foster was a renewed sense of national purpose in which shared values were reinforced in an atmosphere of heightened civic participation and mutual sacrifice. That was the way, he said, “to get this country moving again.”
His voice was in sync with the spirit of the times. Americans were fired with the idea that they could improve their circumstances, right wrongs and do good. The Interstate Highway System, an Eisenhower initiative, was under way. The civil rights movement was in flower. And soon Kennedy would literally be reaching for the moon.
Self-interest and the bottom line had not yet become the be-all and end-all.
Kennedy the cold warrior was also the president who created the Peace Corps, which Ted Sorensen, who died just last month (and whose daughter Juliet was a Peace Corps volunteer), described as the epitome of Kennedy’s call for service and sacrifice. The life of the young men and women who joined the Peace Corps would not be easy, Kennedy said, but it would be “rich and satisfying.” The volunteers would live and work among the indigenous people in developing countries, eating their food, speaking their language and helping them “meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower.”
The response to this call for service was both robust and long-lasting. The Peace Corps was one of the great successes of Kennedy’s administration.
While the myriad issues facing the U.S. have changed and changed again since Kennedy’s time, the importance of being guided by the highest principles and ideals has not. We are now in a period in which cynicism is running rampant, and selfishness and greed have virtually smothered all other values. Simple fairness is not a fit topic for political discussion and no one dares even mention the poor.
The public seems fearful and cowed. People unworthy of high office are arrogantly on the march.
You can say whatever you’d like about the Kennedy era and the ’60s in general, but there was great energy in the population then, and a willingness to reach beyond one’s self.
Kennedy spoke in his acceptance speech of a choice “between national greatness and national decline.” That choice was never so stark as right now. There is still time to listen to a voice from half a century ago.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
LittleBigPlanet 2 hasnt been getting too much hype, but I think its really gonna be a mind blowing event for PS3 owners. The amount of customization has evolved to another level of insanity - this guy basically recreated the PS3 game Flower, replete with soothing musak, in a matter of days. Can you imagine what people are going to do with the release version after its been out for a year? Comes out Jan 2011.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
As some of you know Im experiencing one of my life downswings, where everything just goes to shit - including poker. Luckily, I have some awesome friends and family, and luckily, I dont really care much about money whether Ive got a lot or a little, like right now. I have some cash saved up to pay my rent and bills and stuff for a year, and some savings, and I have a couple other sources of income, so I should be ok. But I dont think Im going to be taking any trips to Vegas soon, which I was really looking forward to. Moreover, losing streaks are just disheartening - they kill your motivation to play.
When you choose poker as lifestyle, you have to take the good with the bad. So Im taking a little break from playing after running like crap in live games and bustoing my fulltilt account. I know Im a skilled player - listen, it takes a lot of skill to get all your money in drawing dead in Pot Limit Omaha - and variance is a huge factor in PLO, but still its time to reconsider why Im playing it (mostly to get better). So Im gonna take a break from PLO, and in the next week or two start grinding my roll back up playing my best game - Holdem - and hope for the best.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Ive replayed Portal again recently, and then watched a friend play through the whole thing for the first time, and I cant say the game ever ceases to amaze me. I really think its one of the most unique and compelling gameplay experiences of this or any other generation. To say that Im excited for the sequel, which offers a single player and coop experience which are each double the length of the original game, is an understatement. 2011 cant come soon enough.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
If you havent heard of it yet, L.A. Noir is the debut game by Team Bondi, published by Rockstar. It is a detective game set in 1940s Los Angeles. The game looks, in a word, incredible. The level of detail that they have managed to achieve in the facial animation and lip syncing appears to be unprecedented.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Certain XBL gamertags have recently received confidential invites to participate in a beta for Full House Poker, the details of which are still scant. We know that Microsoft cancelled 1 vs 100 and promised to bring back something bigger and better, and it looks like its taking the form of a live, primetime poker tournament where contestants compete for Microsoft Points and other prizes. It is rumored to have avatar and kinect support, as well as more than 100 players in a single tournament field, which means bigger prizes.
Does this herald a new age for online poker? Hardly, as its highly unlikely we will be able to play 24/7 "Heads Up for Rolls" in the near future, even if your roll will only be Microsoft points which cant be redeemed for cash. For now it looks like its going to be a nightly freeroll tournament for Xbox Live Gold members. But HU4mspRollz might be a possibility depending on how well Full House Poker does, and real money games could happen years down the road if legislation regarding online gambling in the US evolves. Right now, its illegal for US banks to process financial transactions for online gambling companies, making it very difficult for US players to deposit cash into their Full Tilt or Pokerstars accounts. However, it is legal for banks to process your payment for Microsoft points. Because points arent redeemable for cash, Microsoft can offer poker tournaments for prizes and point packages and it doesnt violate any US laws. As long as we are gambling for points, and not money, Microsoft and companies like Facebook are able to offer poker legally. If online gambling becomes regulated in the US, all this may change and there will be a huge flurry of new competition, but for the time being, its appears that Microsoft is holding the nuts and all XBL gold members get a chance to scoop a nice pot.