Thursday, November 30, 2006

How does the PS3 market add up?

Namco believes that a developer must sell 500,000 copies of a game to make money. UBS believes that 30 PS3 games must be sold per PS3 for Sony to break even.

In mathematical terms, what does that mean?

Playstation 3 (60 GB) = $600 + tax
30 PS3 games = $1,800* + tax
Total = $2,400

* Assuming that each game costs $60

Sony earns $10 per PS3 game sold. That's $300 in revenue for 30 games. That almost covers losses from the 60 GB PS3, according to my oft-cited Ars Technica article.

Of course, GameStop has reported that PS3s sell with an average of 1.5 games per console.
Rounding up, Sony gets only $20 from the average PS3 user.

Here's the math for the market buying enough games to recoup a developer's costs:
Number of copies of a game needed to sell in order to break even: 500,000
Minimum amount of money the market will spend to recoup a developer's costs: $330,000,000 *
Sony's subsequent minimum costs to make that sale happen: $400,000,000
Revenue Sony receives from the sale of 500,000 consoles: $300,000,000
Revenue accumulated by Sony from the sale of 500,000 games: $5,000,000
Sony's profits from the money consumers will spend at minimum to recoup a developer's costs: $-95,000,000

* Assuming each consumer buys one 60 GB PS3 and one game for $60

Here's the math for the market buying enough games to recoup a developer's costs and Sony's costs:
Number of copies of a game needed to sell in order to break even: 15,000,000 *
Minimum amount of money the market will spend to recoup everyone's costs: $1,200,000,000 **
Sony's subsequent minimum costs to make that sale happen: $400,000,000
Revenue Sony receives from the sale of 500,000 consoles: $300,000,000
Revenue accumulated by Sony from the sale of 15,000,000 games: $150,000,000
Sony's profits from the money consumers will spend at minimum to recoup everyone's costs: $50,000,000

* Assuming 500,000 consumers buy 30 games
** Assuming each consumer spends $2,400 for a 60 GB PS3 and 30 games

Bear in mind that the number of PS3s sold is at most 300,000. We're looking at perhaps January 2007 before 500,000 PS3s become available. The time and money that must be spent by the consumers, the developers, and Sony to reach equilibrium is enormous. At the moment, Sony's success in the market seems unfathomable. In contrast, Nintendo has already shipped over 400,000 Wiis. Considering that buying a competing console decreases a consumer's buying power, Sony's ability to reach PS3 fans decreases with every Wii sold. The question is transforming from one of how Sony will succeed to one of how Sony will recuperate its PS3 launches in its other product lines.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Digg: Four things you can put in story descriptions besides, "Title says it all."

When I visit news aggregator Digg, there is a multitude of stories that have titles but no descriptions. Increasingly, users are submiting stories with nothing in the description field but, "Title says it all."

No. Really, no, the title doesn't say it all. Here are eight kinds of descriptinos you could add to give your story depth and a reason for visitors to actualy read your stories:

  1. Personal insight. How does the story relate to your life? What does the story mean to you? Have you had an experience that relates to what you're submitting? Does the link talk about an ordeal that everyone can relate to? If you're truly a human, surely you have an opinion about what you're submitting and a reason for why you're submitting it. God forbid you're linking to your blog and can't be bothered to say why your blog entry deserves to be Dugg. While there's nothing wrong with submitting one of your blog entries, you shouldn't expect to draw traffic to your unknown corner of the woods if the traffic has no incentive to come.

  2. A witty comment. Are you good at telling jokes? Do any obvious puns come to mind? Perhaps you can think of a play on words. Even if it's just a one-liner, readers will appreciate a good laugh. Remember to use humor for stories that are light-hearted or oddball or YouTube links. You wouldn't laugh at a funeral, would you?

  3. Summary of the story. What's the gist of the story? Think back to the fundamentals of writing essays in high school: Who, what, when, where, why, and possibly how. People will want to know the specifics once they know what's happening. Why is the story relevant to anyone? How does the story relate to other stories? What's the backstory? All or some of these can be answered by a concise summary.

  4. Highlights. What if you don't want to write a summary? What if you don't like summaries? If you're linking to an article or thesis, nobody will mind if you cut and paste a section of text from the source that best exemplifies what the story is about.

Let's sum up:You get 75 characters in the title and 350 in the description. You have over quadruple the room for a reason for people to click the link. Why are you submitting to Digg if you don't really have much to say about the story? People will - possibly justifiably - think your story is spam or the dreaded blogspam. The people who read Digg regularly aren't idiots. Write a description that says you aren't one. People's brains won't break if they read a few more words.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

No love for Sony

As a fan of Digg, it's been quite obvious to me that in the past few weeks and even months that the dislike of Sony is intense. If Digg was the entire market, Sony would fail to sell more than a few PS3s. Now, I'm not claiming that there is only antipathy for Sony at Digg; Digg is representative of many gamers. I can't say that I know exactly how many gamers are angry at Sony, but there are a few reasons that I can find for this:

  • Price. Sony didn't make many friends by making the 60 GB Playstation 3 a full $600. You want to alienate your fans? Charge them through the nose. This isn't disposable income, here. And increased development costs leading to $60 games don't help either. But what's even worse about pricing your product badly is when it's accompanied by

  • Arrogance. The Sony execs seemed to assume that everybody would love the PS3, no matter what, simply because the first two consoles were great - and let's not forget the PS2. The PS2 is an awesome console. It was simply better than the Xbox and Gamecube, and still is a good platform, with its cheap price, large library of games available for it, and large fan base. Of course, Sony couldn't help but ride on the PS2's coattails for as long as possible; unfortunately, when it came time to develop the PS3, the execs believed so much in the brand that they forgot about

  • Innovation. Seriously, what's new about the PS3? A hard drive, some shinier graphics, Blu-Ray, and a motion-sensitive controller. Oh yeah, Sony got the idea for their controller from Nintendo, and the new controller has no rumble feature. The hard drive? Sony produced a hard drive attachment for the PS2. Sony chose for the next generation to simply include one. Shinier graphics? Shouldn't we expect the graphics to be improved from the last generation? Check. For $600 per unit, I would expect the graphical capabilities of the PS3 to be better than those of the competition. No check.

    So it seems like the most innovation Sony has done with the PS3 is the introduction of a Blu-Ray drive. The thing is, most Americans don't have HD-compatible televisions. Microsoft kept the price of the Xbox 360 low by selling the HD-DVD drive as a separate component. Sony wants all or nothing: You get the Blu-Ray drive, or you don't buy the console. Since the BR drive costs $125 per unit, many fans are unhappy about the prospect of buying a Blu-Ray drive they don't want.

But all is not lost! Theyre might just be something Sony can do to win back disenfranchised gamers:
  • Lower the price. This one won't happen for a while - not until manufacturing costs and component costs drop. Right now, with Sony losing hundreds of dollars on each PS3 sold, Sony can't afford to drop the price without a damn good reason.

  • Wait. I'm serious. Sony has either made a big mistake in the inclusion of the Blu-Ray drive, or Sony is in fact ahead of the curve. By that, I'm talking about the prospect of consumers buying HDTVs. It's possible that in a year or two, consumers might like the included BR drive, which will enhance gameplay a lot. Of course, that's still a long shot: What if Sony had taken Microsoft's route and instead opted later to release a cheaper Blu-Ray add-on? Time will tell.

But what about innovation? Sony is screwed here. Buying a video game console isn't like buying an iPod. You don't buy second or third generations of your video game console. (If you do, you're a consumer whore.) Sony is screwed on the hardware. Sony is stuck with the hardware they got. Sony would just anger everyone more if they released "Platstation 3.1 - Now with more innovation!" Sony has failed to offer a new experience with the PS3, and there's no firmware patch that can upgrade components. Right now, what Sony really needs is a patch to fix their relationship with the gaming community at large.

Friday, November 24, 2006

My quest for the Wii

Since last Sunday, I've been aiming to get a Wii. So far I have thus been fuitless, since it seems that to score one of these mythical consoles I have to undertake drastic measures. The closest I got a Wii was earlier this morning, when I stood only five feet from one of those boxed beauties.

I admit that I haven't made the most intelligent choices regarding time. In my quest for the Wii, time is key. Depending on the steps that I take, I can stand in line for a while or wait until the demand for the Wii has been sated such that I can walk into any electronic entertainment retailer and purchase one right off the shelf.

I didn't pre-order the Wii, which immediately put me into a difficult position. I hadn't decided that I truly wanted a Wii until a few days before, and after that I was too late. I comforted myself with the belief that demand for the Wii would be less than the demand for the other two consoles, since the Gamecube has and has had such a small market share in the five years that it has been on the shelf.

Boy, was I wrong.

On Sunday, I went round to K-Mart, Target, GameStop, and Sears, starting at about 10:30 A.M. Sure enough, all four stores were out of Wiis and unsure of when the consoles would be restocked.

On Tuesday I checked out Target and GameStop again, since it was doubtful a new shipment would be in on Monday, and I had read on Digg that you could walk right into a GameStop and buy a Wii. Once again, they were all out of stock. I knew at that point that there would be no point in looking for a Wii on Wednesday or Thursday, since the retailers would be saving them for Black Friday.

On Thanksgiving, I decided that waiting in line for an hour would not be worth it, so I would not try going to Best Buy at 5 A.M. or Target at 6 in the hope that so few people would be looking for Wiis that I would get one. I still have no intention of waiting in a line for more than fifteen minutes. There are so many other things I could be doing (like blogging) that just standing around would be pointless. Sooner or later, I will be able to buy a Wii. Perhaps in a month, perhaps sooner, or perhaps even later I will be contentedly shaking the Wii like a can of spray paint, for lack of a better simile.

So at 6:25 A.M. today, I got up, and at 6:50 I went to the GameStop, since I live close to one. I would have gone earlier, but I knew that it wouldn't be worth my time to stand in line for a while, so I wouldn't mind if I was too far back in the line. When I got to the store at roughly 2 minutes 'til, there was a line of 20 people. Even as I joined the line, men and women of all ages - even soccer mothers and plaid jacket fathers - stood, all talking about the Wii and how their sons or daughters wanted one. I talked briefly with the grandmother in front of me about the violence surrounding the PS3. I knew that everybody there wanted a Wii, since I had heard no reports of PS3 units being restocked in stores.

Big time, was I wrong.

At seven minutes past 7, the door was opened, and the line progressed into the store. My place in line was right next to the Xbox 360 display unit. I attempted to play a demo game while I waited, but the display unit only had videos to watch. Trust me, video games are a lot more fun when you actually get to play them, so I chose not to watch.

the line was very cordial. I walked out of line to grab a copy of Red Steel for some guy who asked after I checked to see if Twilight Princess was on the shelf, and when I got back to my place no one made a fuss. Ten minutes later, the Wiis were all sold out, and GameStop wasn't selling vouchers for them. So I left, glad that I didn't wait around longer to not get one.

So I am still waiting for a Wii. I mean waiting, not searching, since Christmas shopping season will mean stuffed parking lots, cramped stores, long check-out lines, and heavy traffic. I figure that my best bet in finding a Wii is the Internet (or more specifically, Amazon), but even then it looks like the rest of the world wants a Wii, too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sony Playstation 3 units see price drops on eBay

The price and quantity of PS3s on the free market (eBay) have both dropped since the Friday launch. Though the Kotaku story doesn't mention quantity, rest assured that fewer and fewer PS3 units are for sale on eBay at any given time. On Sunday, there were over 19,000 units for sale. By Monday, that number dropped to 12,000. The average sale price has also dropped by $800-500 to an average $1,200 or so per unit. I predicted on Sunday that PS3 fans that didn't want to pay a fortune for their coveted consoles would have to wait a month or two to find a PS3 at the retail price. Boy, I was foolishly wrong. By the end of the next week, you will see PS3s selling at $600 or an amount slightly higher. A few sellers will try to compensate by upping the shipping costs to ridiculous amounts to trick would-be buyers who aren't careful enough.

The biggest enemy of the PS3 sellers is the next restock date. No one knows for sure when that date is, but rest assured the marketplace for PS3s will change, for two reasons:

  1. Decrease in market price. As the buyers who are willing to purchase Playstation 3 bundles on eBay for high prices exit the market, there's less incentive to wait in line for 14 hours and sell what you buy: There are fewer buyers competing for the same product, so there are fewer bids on PS3s. During the weekend, you could have easily seen 50 bids on one Playstation 3. On Monday, a more common number of bids was 30. Expect that number to drop in the next few days. The number of bids per system will drop slowly, as new buyers who wish to take advantage of the decreasing market price enter the market.

  2. Another source for Playstation 3 units. Since the market price on eBay is dropping, many potential sellers will stay home and not enter the market. The marginal revenue of the market is slowly decreasing, meaning that each additional PS3 sold nets on average less revenue than the last one sold. Now that the market price is dipping below $1,200, some people will decide that the effort spent is not worth the money.

    Because second-hand sellers aren't entering the market, actual PS3 fans will have greater access to stores stocking PS3s. There is an obvious difference between spending $600 and spending $1,200. As soon as consumers become aware that PS3s are obtainable in retail chains for same-day pickup, second-hand sellers will have to drastically lower prices to compete. Eventually, the profit from selling a PS3 on eBay will reach zero. The eBay sellers will actually see losses: They not only made no profit but spent hours waiting in line and additional time shipping PS3s.

The market is gradually drying up for those who want to make a profit on eBay, but what if Sony sold PS3s for $1,200 apiece? For one thing, the demand for PS3s would be much, much lower. People looking to make a profit on eBay would have to sell for at least $2,000 to make the effort to get one worthwhile. Some consumers would just give up. Sony wouldn't be able to justify a price at $1,200. The market price only exists at that point because of the second-hand market. If twelve hundred dollars was the retail price, there would be no PS3 fans. Not only would consumers not want to pay for a console that expensive, but no video game developer would want to produce games for a platform that risky.

So it's tough luck for Sony, and it's soon going to be tough luck for the people who waited in line overnight to get their hands on a precious console. As people become aware that cheaper PS3 systems exist, consumers will flock to Target and company instead of eBay.

What does this leave for Sony? Low sales. Beyond the PS3 fans, of which there are admittedly a few, the brand name is really the only thing that's going to carry the PS3. Even then, it's going to be tough for parents to think about buying a $600 game console this Christmas. The Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii are cheaper alternatives to what will otherwise be a not-so-subtle attempt at pushing Blu-Ray on consumers - consumers who probably aren't ready for high-def television and movie discs that cost $25 a pop. (Seriously, who would pay $25 to buy a Blu-Ray movie that would otherwise cost $15 on a DVD?) If Sony decided not to include a Blu-Ray drive, there is no doubt in my mind that demand for the Wii would drop substantially, and the Xbox 360 and PS3 would be locked in a battle for control of the market. The reviews are in, and the advantages of owning a PS3 to an Xbox have yet to emerge. In the meantime, expect the for-profit PS3 market on eBay to evaporate.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nintendo to take advantage of Sony's limited supply?

The week before the Playstation 3 even launched, over 3,000 PS3 units (pre-orders) sold for prices near $2,000 on auction site eBay. Each 60 GB PS3 nets Sony a profit of $-240. That must suck, but Sony's not the first manufacturer to produce at a loss to gain marketshare. The only problem is that most of the people buying the PS3s have no interest in keeping them: Their only intention is to auction them off on eBay for twice the MSRP. The PS3 has experienced so much hype simply because there aren't a lot of them. Real PS3 fans either have to buy now or wait a month or two. They face a large reduction in their buying power or a very frustrating wait.

I know what you're thinking: Next I am about to tell you why Nintendo will muscle in with the Wii and steal customers from Sony. I'm not going to do that. The suggestion is unreasonable.

There's a fundamental reason that Nintendo will not pick up PS3 fans with the Wii. The two target markets are much, much different. The PS3 boasts gorgeous graphics, a new wireless controller, the possibility for huge games stored on Blu-Ray disks, and a legion of developers who know that the target audience is a group of enthusiastic adults who appreciate good action.

What about the Wii? Take a look at this Wii commercial produced by Nintendo. Notice how the actors using the Wii look like ordinary people who are really getting into the game and having a great time. The Wii is about being accessible to every body. Everybody can use their arms to produce the movements previously choreographed by button pushes. These aren't people with high definition televisions or expensive sound setups; these are people have a good time. While Sony introduced motion sensing as an added capability, Nintendo has made it so much more.

Nintendo has a big advantage over Sony in inventory. Most Target stores, for instance, received 30 to 50 apiece. Nintendo not only shipped more units than Sony to each store on their respective launch dates, but they also shipped to more stores than Sony. Nintendo will also restock stores faster than Sony. Nintendo already is shipping more Wii units for sale on Monday, November 20, only one day after launch. Nintendo clearly has more inventory to move. Nintendo could easily pick up the fans that Sony dropped. The question is whether or not that will happen, since the goals of each system are completely different.

Nintendo is about simplicity; Sony is about possibilities. Both routes have their advantages and disadvantages; for Nintendo, it's the lack of crisp graphics; for Sony, it's the price tag. The customers of each console have specific need in mind. Some people are buying both consoles, because neither system has everything. While Nintendo is striking out in an entirely new direction, Sony is continuing down the same path and improving on an already established formula; the only change in Sony's formula is the amount of money being demanded from consumers.

So, no. Nintendo isn't taking advantage of Sony's limited supply. Very few PS3 fans will be so discouraged by their situation that they will just bail on Sony. While I expect that a PS3 fans might just buy the Wii and play until retailers can carry the new Playstations for more than an a few minutes without selling out completely. The fanbase is too distinct and too established to simply jump ship.

What is still questionable to me is what will happen to the people who buy PS3s on eBay. What percentage is the buyers who have incomes that aren't impacted harshly by the amount they're spending on one console? What percentage is comprised of average guys? As the news changes, I'm left wondering more and more what the outcome of Sony's gamble will be.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PLAYSTATION 3: Brand success, or economic failure?

By all means, Sony's Playstation 3 has undergone a rocky start. Sony sold 88 thousand of the promised 100 thousand Japanese PS3 units on Sunday, November 11, when the unit went on sale. It is no coincidence that, a short time later, many very expensive Playstation 3 units appeared on eBay.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Sony launch without technical problems and issues. There is the occasional high definition picture issue, reports that some games already available on the XBox 360 have bugs and issues that make the PS3 versions slightly inferior, and some claims that backwards compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games is somewhat glitchy.

Of course, Sony will be low on supply of units meant for the American launch, games will be more expensive, a high definition television is needed to grasp the true PS3 experience, there's an extremely high cost of ownership that decreases buying power and reduces the number of PS3 games that will be sold, and the PS3 is being used as the platform for a new media format. These are fundamental issues at the heart of the question of whether Sony will succeed in its PS3 endeavor.

There are clashing theories of whether the PS3 will whip the market or succumb to competing forces within PS3 production.

Ultimately, the PS3 will succeed. It will dominate the market in 2007 and 2008, but Christmas 2006 is doubtful. This is not based on analysis of the traits of the Playstation 3 or of Sony's marketing prowess or of the fanbase of the PS3. Simply put, the Playstation 3 will dominate the market because it's a Playstation.

The truth is, possibly the most some consumers know about the Playstation 3 is that it is a Playstation. That enough evokes the association with a strong brand name; Sony has historically provided excellent console systems to the market. Nintendo doesn't have that power; they are constantly referred to as a company that manufactures video games for children.

Ask an uninformed person which is cooler - Nintendo or the Playstation - and the Playstation will win, hands down. Gamers, geeks, and nerds just don't represent the market as much as parents buying games to their kids. Think about it; most gamers are reasonably intelligent and are aware of what goes on in the gaming industry. Would there really be a Hot Coffee scandal if gamers constituted the majority of the market? No. Otherwise, Rockstar Games would shrug their shoulders and say, "Our profits are secure."

And here we have competing factors. Based on brand name, it is extremely conceivable that the PS3 will save the day for Sony. But there are a number of economic factors that might hinder the Playstation's success.

The mainstream video game consumers will be in for a shock when they go to check out that sweet new Playstation, only to find out that it costs six hundred greenbacks. What will really be a measure of Sony's success is whether or not the consumer will still accept the Playstation - even if it's the priciest net-gen console - based solely on the Playstation's reputation as the hip system that has the best games.

Chances are, even if that consumer buys the Playstation 3, Sony still loses. After you shell out $600, ow much money do you have left for games? The 60GB Playstation 3 costs twice as much as the Playstation 2 at the PS2's debut. Some consumers, clueless as to the PS3's considerably greater functionality, will accept the 20GB model as a more affordable substitute. Even then, disposable income allocated to games will be much smaller than the income allotted to games for any other next-gen console.

Sony is betting that the Playstation's image will save the PS3. The ultimate test of the PS3 is whether or not the Playstation has an image worth $500 or $600. Add to that the cost of additional games and accessories in the lifetime of the PS3, and the PS3 could cost anywhere from $700 to $1,500.

But there is one crucial piece to this puzzle that I have not talked about. What of people trying to buy the PS3 now, or the people who will try to buy it in the days following Nov 17? Consumers have a month to find out that trying to get ahold of one of these mythical consoles will cost possibly $1,000 to $2,000, or even more. That reduces buying power even more, leaving game developers out in the cold if they want to make PS3 games. The average consumer just can't shell out $2,500 for the lifetime of his her video game console. Many potential buyers will resist buying a PS3 until the price comes down.

But when PS3s are available in stores finally, the PS3 will see the ultimate test to the Playstation brand. How much is it really worth?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Doubts about the Zune

As the Zune sees its release into the wild, numerous doubts and issues have arisen. These range from hardware to software problems and quirks, and leave the Zune's usability in doubt.

For one, there is the problem with the software that connects a Zune to a computer. The software is of course for Windows, but strangely there is no integration with Windows Media Player. Microsoft has spent a great deal of money developing Windows Media Player, but they don't even integrate their flagship music device into it? It sounds like it would be a lot easier to simply integrate Zune support into WMP11.

Then of course Microsoft has the Zune Marketplace. Again, where is the integration with WMP11?

Speaking of the Zune Marketplace, consumers are sure to be confused as they buy "points" to spend on Zune songs. But why is it that $1 = 80 points? Shouldn't it be more like $.01 = 1 point? People aren't good at math, so the latter idea sounds like a no-brainer.

It seems to me that the problems with the Zune stem from Microsoft's attitude toward consumer products. Namely, Microsoft has a vendor-based attitude instead of a consumer-based attitude. This is a product that's supposed to be big this Christmas, so why try to please the vendors so much? Microsoft is paying a fee to Universal Music Group, it probably isn't integrating the Zune Marketplace with WMP11 because of the Urge service, and it requires an entirely new program to be installed. People don't like how that sounds. Apple does integration perfectly for the iPod: One program, one store, prices in actual money.

On the plus side, the Zune has lots and lots of features. It's big on features, unlike the iPod - which does a few things and does them well. Microsoft definitely wants to out-feature the competition. They also want to convert you from the iPod camp (not likely) by offering free WMA versions of songs you bought from iTunes.

But in between use (listening) and functionality (the computer) comes the interface (the software). The software is definitely the weak point in Microsoft's launch, a lesson that needs to be learned as soon as possible.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New American racism

America now boasts 300 million citizens, a quarter of the number of legal residents in China. Whether you see that as a positive achievement or a detestable one is not relevant to the matter at hand. My focus is on out status as Americans.

What does it mean to be American? 20 years ago, 50, or even 80 years ago, anyone would tell you that America is a mixing pot of different races and cultures, barring the anti-immigrant sentiment that was present a century ago. But despite all our different ethnicities, America isn't really like a melting pot; America is like a fruitcake. It's comprised of many different chunks, each quadrant featuring a unique mix of individual flavors with little in the way of blending.

But now there is a new fear, a fear of Spanish. Bluntly, America is losing its whiteness. I'm pro-diversity, don't get me wrong. It is in recent years that good, honest Americans, especially Americans in Arizona; New Mexico; Texas; and California have begun to show anti-Mexican tendencies. Groups that support making English the official language of Arizona and border protection groups like the Minutemen are clearly examples of this. Some might see the Minutemen as nothing more than border patrols, but there is an underlying racism present; if there was no social issue with Mexicans entering the country illegally, would the Minutemen exist? There is a real and present dislike and distrust of Mexicans, legal or not, by the white majority.

Now that the population has reached 200 million, I've begun to hear this joke being told in one form or another:

"Congratulations! You are the 500 millionth American!"

There is a genuine fear that illegal immigration will cause a culture shift. There is a whisper in the wind that whites are on the way out. There is a general, subtle fear of it - and why not? Why wouldn't the dominant race fear its supplantation? Indeed, who wouldn't be afraid of waking up to find their language no longer in use and their culture frowned upon? The status quo is continuously arming itself against anything that isn't the status quo.

But is there anything to fear? Besides the fear of irrelevancy, is there a reason to fear the new immigrants? Remember United States history; a long time ago Americans were immigrants. A long time ago Protestants were suspicious of their Catholic neighbors. A shorter time ago NINA. A short time ago America was whites-only. Fear and loathing of Spanish-speaking immigrants is the new wave of immigrants to see marginalization. I predict that there is actually no need to fear the growing minority. Some will argue that the primary difference between Mexican immigrants and the Ellis Island immigrants is the fact that many Mexican immigrants aren't assimilating. But of course! When immigrants in the 1920s came to America, they didn't assimilate either - Their kids did. That's why there's no cause for alarm; if history repeats itself, the children of the Mexican immigrants will learn English and be Americans, separated only by skin color.

Seventy percent of Arizona voted in favor of a bill that would make English the official language of Arizona on election day 2006. Arizona voters also passed, among others, a proposition that barred illegal immigrants from seeking compensation if they or their property were damaged in Arizona. Voters apparently failed to realize the harmful implications of such propositions. Those propositions will do absolutely nothing to keep Mexicans from crossing the border illegally. Instead, they will end up being demeaned and dehumanized as a result. The worst conditions in the United States are better than what the Mexican poor will see in Mexico. These new laws threaten to make illegal immigrants less than human beings. They are already strangers in a strange land; shouldn't they at least have some dignity?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So much for the mandate

The Republicans are the minority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. And to add insult to injury, President Bush has been forced to let Donald Rumsfeld go. Things couldn't get any worse for the Bush administration, could they? Without a doubt, Congress will start hearings on a wide variety of President Bush's policies with remarkably celerity. Not to mention that any laws that clear the House and Senate will lean to the Democratic side.

Since the Democrats have the clear majority in the House, they can pass practically any bill agreed to by most Democrats. Even if every Republican in the House voted against a bill approved by most Democrats, the bill would still pass. Then there is the quasi-majority held by Democrats in the Senate. If the Independents lean toward the Democrat's side of the fence, the Democrats will pass what comes from the House. Then, of course, the president will veto the Democrats' bills. Either that or he'll issue signing statements. Of course, since the Democrats have the House, they can hold hearings on that sort of thing, can't they? This is a lose-lose situation for the president. He can sign no laws and become a do-nothing president, or he can accompany each unfavorable law with a signing statement and very likely face the wrath of a bunch of wrinkly old men who don't like his style.

Ultimately, the current electoral situation is worst for the Republicans. I'm not talking strategy wise. This has got to be disheartening. They had the majority in Congress, and voters didn't like it. More than half the country wants Republicans to scram.How can that be?

Ultimately, the current electoral situation doesn't reflect on how well the Democrats campaigned but how badly the Republicans failed. Republicans had six years with the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House, and arguably the Supreme Court! They should have been able to go out there and tell the Democrats and the voters of America, "Look at all the great things we've done!" Instead, they had to defend themselves from Hurricane Katrina, Mark Foley, a failing Iraq war, and widespread corruption - present in both parties, I might add. The Republicans were the ones with power! They had the majority! They should have had a pristine record that they could show off to voters coming into the election cycle. Instead, they had to try to convince America that the Democrats would be even worse than the Republicans.

Clearly, this can mean only one thing: The Republicans lost because they had a lousy record. They had the majority, they had the incumbency, and they blew it. They had everything going for them, and it's their own damn fault they lost.

But what does that mean the Democrats should do?

Reach across the aisle.

As tempting as it is to pass bills that favor the Democrats, it would be the Democrats' fault if the president vetoed it. Their majority means that they have leverage, not power. If they don't work with Republicans, it will be their own damn fault when they have a hard time passing bills. Doing what the Republicans did would invalidate any moral high ground the Democrats have. Doing what the Republicans did would be Un-American. The Republicans for the last for yours and last two years especially have shut out the Democrats from negotiations and drafting of bills. The Republicans shut out one half of the country's representatives because they could. The Democrats were doing the same until the Republican majority rose in 1994.

If the Democrats want to stay in power, they have to understand that moderation is good. It is essential that they understand that no one party should ever have the power the Republicans had until now. If the Democrats were in the opposite situation, eventually the same thing would happen: The part would become very extreme without any opposition to bring them back to the center. Working with Republicans will not only keep both parties in check but allow Congress to pass bills that represent both Republicans and Democrats. Let's just hope the Democrats don't get big heads from this.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Republican will not win Congressional District 8

Do the Republicans have a secret card that they believe will help them win the election? I am writing this entry on the eve of what promises to be the most revolutionary change in Congress since 1994, when the formerly Democratic Congress was traded for a republican majority. Now, however, that majority seems poised to all but evaporate. Now is not the time to discuss the merits of the 109th session of Congress. The debate is over. It is far too late for that.

If the polls are right, the Democrats will rise again. One of the most poignant symbols of that is Jim Kolbe's seat in Congressional District 8 in Tucson, Arizona. Kolbe, a Republican who held his seat for 11 terms announced early in the election cycle that he would be retiring. Thus began the campaigning by both Democrats and republicans for what has been a Republican seat since 1985. One might expect that the frontrunner in the election would be Republican candidate Randy Graf. On the contrary, Democratic candidate Gabrielle Giffords, who is leading Graf in the polls by a 15% margin, according to local magazine Tucson Weekly. Is that really possible? It is.

I'd say that District 8 is the most likely district in which a Republican candidate will lose. In an election where many races are very national, the Tucson race is half and half. Tucson is historically more Democratic than Phoenix. Janet Napolitano, the governor is Arizona, is a Democrat. That is partially due to her campaigning in Tucson a significant amount.

Another reason is that some Republicans are wary of Randy Graf. Graf is ultra-conservative. When he beat the more moderate Steve Huffman in the primary, Democrats rejoiced; an outspoken conservative like Graf will alienate the more moderate voters and leave them indecisive about whether or not they should vote for him. Granted, few Republicans are expected to switch to the other side and vote for Giffords, but it is expected that some Republicans just won't vote for a candidate in the District 8 election.

Perhaps one of the most telling signs of Graf's defeat is Republican reluctance to accept Graf as a candidate. His own party has been unwilling to provide Graf with a great deal of support. Even Jim Kolbe was reluctant to endorse Graf; during the primary, Kolbe picked Huffman as the candidate he wanted to win. The GOP seemed particularly split over the primary when the Republican party funded Huffman's advertising campaign. Mike Hellon, another Republican candidate in the primary, angrily told the GOP to stay the hell out of Arizona. The Arizona branch of the Republican party has reportedly abandoned Graf to Giffords. (Scroll down to the middle of the page.) It seems to be almost taken for granted that Giffords will beat Graf.

So while the race to replace Kolbe is very much focuses on national issues like abortion and the Iraqi War, one cannot forget local issues when considering a candidates odds of winning. It is important to remember the local factors that national news may forget in their effort to make the news understandable by the entire country. The possibility that Giffords, a smart Democrat (who was received an education from Tucson's prestigious University High School), could change the face of a Republican stronghold is not only real but visible to the naked eye - and apparently the GOP.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Why would anyone participate in National Novel Writing Month?

This month I decided to participate in the mind-blowing event known as the National Novel Writing Month. It is mind-blowing mainly because I'm very likely to hate writing after putting down 50,000 words. People might wonder who would be driven to write 50,000 words in 20 days. To be frank, I'm not sure why I did it - but I like writing, and if anything NaNoWriMo will at least teach me how to stretch out a story for 100 pages. Some of my friends who are participating with me claim that the idea is not to write a comprehensive story but simply to write 50,000 words. That to me defies all logic. While I can see what's desirable about writing a novel all in one go, because otherwise that novel wouldn't be written, why would anyone write a nonsensical story that goes places only because the author has run out of ideas? to be sure, National Novel Writing Month isn't about improving one's writing style. That takes, time, effort, and dedication. Writing a cluster of random sentences in the style of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am sounds like a lot of extraneous effort for no apparent reason.

So why am I attempting to write 50,000 words when I could make sure that I could update my blog regularly with nice, long entries? I see NaNoWriMo as a way to test my writing skills. I like to write, but I don't appreciate essays for school. Part of the allure of a blog is that I can write in whatever style I wish, about anything I wish. I can write about what I think is significant. Restrictive school essays only bring me a feeling of anxiety - Will the teacher appreciate my composition or not? School essays simply don't encourage kids and teenagers to write. The constant feeling of dread associated with regularly assigned essays only brings a desire to escape from the cycle of writing long passages and hoping for the best.

Some writers feel bitter about National Novel Writing Month. I know some people who feel that the event emphasizes quantity over quality and therefore has no merits as a serious event. That is an over-generalization. The quality of the novel written depends on the author's skill. A mediocre writer will pen a mediocre story. That story will happen to be 50,000 words long. Perhaps the story could have been better if the author wasn't so rushed? That is a valid argument, but it fails to consider authors who both write quickly and write well. Perhaps I lack modesty when I claim that I belong to the latter category. I am not ashamed to admit that I am quick on me feet in my head. Though I may lack a wide vocabulary, I feel that my abilities as a writer are sufficient enough that I am not simply writing crap. Everything I have written thus far has been comprehensible and comprehensive.

NaNoWrimo certainly isn't for the weak-willed. It requires skill (to a degree), dedication, and time. It takes me an hour to an hour and a half to write 1,700 words. A cumulative count of the time I've spent thus far writing my novel adds up to perhaps six hours or so in four days. (I am writing my novel at night.) Undoubtedly I could have spent that time for purposes for constructive and less lofty than a goal of 50,000 words. So far my schoolwork has not suffered, so I know that it is my free time that is being spent, not my studying time; that is taking into account the homework I receive from a competitive high school.

Inevitably I must sum up this entry with a question: Why would I participate in an event that takes up a great deal of time, requires much of my brainpower, cuts into my free time, and needs me to do work I normally would shy away from? The answer is simple. I like writing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What does Viacom's deal with YouTube hold for the future?

YouTube allows Viacom content on YouTube.

YouTube, the online video giant now owned by Google, has recovered the momentum it stood to lose when the likes of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert disappeared from the site. Thousands of fans were dismayed to find that YouTube was no longer Comedy Central central. Some users of proclaimed that they would be moving all their Stewart and Colbert clips to Dailymotion, one of YouTube's many competitors.

It's good to see that companies are embracing the Internet, not scorning it. This deal will work well for both parties; Viacom (presumably) receives compensation for the content posted, and YouTube draws more visitors and raises its value thanks to the traffic of people looking for Jon Stewart. Both companies would lose out if Viacom chose litigation over co-operation: The only important question to ask is what of what Viacom's compensation consists.

It's possible that media giants are warming up to technology - a move completely uncharacteristic of the entertainment industry of olden times. Media giants fought tooth and nail against the VCR, radio, and even the piano roll; every time, the entertainment industry eventually learned to embrace technology. While anyone might be afraid of new technology, to examine history and subsequently ignore it is downright ignorant. But now that the likes of NBC, Warner Bros. and Viacom have deals with YouTube, it's possible that fear of technology might in the future take a back seat to jumping on the technology and making a profit before anyone else can. The porn industry has been notorious for this.

Why exactly is the porn industry so adept to learning technology. It all has to do with the market. To a certain degree, the porn market is perfect competition. There are lots and lots of porn makers each making very similar products. There are many varieties of porn that all share similar content, depending on the type. That means that there isn't a lot of room for branding; company has to stand out before it can establish a brand peopel can recognize. Also, a lot of porn on the Internet is available for free - on websites, in file-sharing network, etc. There is so much free porn available that there is very little incentive to actually buy it. Subsequently, porn companies cannot dictate the market price easily; while they may be able to charge different rates for certain content, a movie priced too high means that consumers will just look elsewhere for porn - Namely, the Internet, where porn is free. When wiggle room is not easy to come by, porn studios can differentiate themselves from the market by utilizing the latest and greatest in technology. This allows them to drive down costs and provide a unique product for which people are willing to pay more.

The porn industry is not like the entertainment industry at all. The music industry, for example, is an oligopoly, where roughly 85% or more of record labels in the United States are owned by four companies. Each label dictates the market price for a certain product, because each product is different; unlike porn, music is distinct. Artists usually have a certain sound or image associated with them - The Decemberists have Colin Meloy's nasal voice and acoustic backing, Muse has Mathew Bellamy's falsetto and controlled guitar distortion, and Modest Mouse has Isaac Brock's definitive drawl and twangy guitar. These are aspects easily recognizable and exclusive to each artist. Unlike porn, every production is unique. Famous bands often seek specific producers or studios for a sound that they want to call their own. The television industry is in some ways like the music industry.

Since the entertainment industry not only sets the market price but controls the availability of content, the entertainment industry has little incentive to adapt to new technology. Most people are unfamiliar with technology and don't care about new gadgets and widgets. Since the entertainment industry is so ingrained in the current system, and since there isn't a large demand for entertainment sitting on the bleeding edge of electronics, the entertainment industry has been non-responsive to new technology. As with the VCR and radio, the entertainment industry only got involved with the new technology when it threatened the current system.

YouTube is something else. YouTube is no VCR or radio; YouTube has the potential for users to commit copyright infringement on a massive scale. That the old media companies are partnering with YouTube is significant in that regard. Though the movie studios were shortsighted when it came to Sony v. Betamax, the media industry appears to be showing an impressive amount of patience in dealing with YouTube. When Google bought YouTube, many speculators predicted lawsuits coming the way of YouTube, due to receiving funding from a company with such deep pockets; so far, that has not been the case (except in the ironic case of the UTube lawsuit, which is totally unrelated to media).

Could it be that the media industry no longer intends to litigate every new technology out of existence? Perhaps these companies have come to the conclusion that money is wasted in trying to destroy technology that might upset the media companies' control over their media. Perhaps these companies have come to the conclusion that consumers don't like the image of over-litigious stuffed suits. Perhaps these companies have given up. Perhaps they are simply biding their time, waiting to strike. Ignoring the RIAA's lawsuits against consumers, it seems that media companies might be changing the ways they handle technology. Could we finally see the day when a record label executive doesn't start to sweat bullets at a technology that takes him completely by surprise?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sex, violence, and perpetrators in society

Isn't it time we re-examined the United States of America? After all, it is the country with by far the greatest influence in the world. Decisions of the future, decisions of morality, and decisions of life made by the leaders of Earth are all affected by the United States. But taking a look at American society we see some major problems. There is for one a distinct schism between the acceptance of violence and the acceptance of sexuality. Specifically, violence is universally accepted or even welcomed by adults, but exposing people to sex is considered disgusting. How is it that movie theaters across the country clamor to carry a movie depicting several gory murders, but it is widely unthinkable to carry a film in which no one dies and the climax occurs on a bed? How is it that the miracle of life is considered objectionable, but no movie channel on television has a problem with showing a movie in which someone dies of gunshot wounds or a stabbing? Isn't it suspicious when a country appreciates the destruction of life over its creation? As much as America's leaders are loathe to admit, sex is a natural part of life.

No undeserved blame is laid when America's leaders are blamed for the current state of affairs. The administration of George W. Bush has declared a war on porn with several bills and devoted taxpayer money to fighting this war. Searching 'War on Porn' in Google reveals the devotion of FBI resources to finding and searching for obscene porn. Near the bottom there is one key sentence:

"The adult obscenity squad [in the FBI]. . . stems from an attorney general mandate, funded by Congress," she [Debra Weierman] said.

Alberto Gonzales made it a top priority to fight porn websites selling subscriptions for "obscene" material to consenting adults. What is considered obscene, why is it considered obscene, and what's wrong with it if adults have no problem with it? What is impressive about this case is that it is hypocritical in three ways: One, this is using taxpayers' money for an additional government project; whatever happened to fiscal responsibility? Two, this is more big government; an invasion of privacy cannot be regarded as little government. Three, whatever happened to the free market? George W. Bush won the presidency not once but twice based on the economic positions of fiscal responsibility, small government, and free market. Yet, when it comes to porn, economics take a back seat to morality and making sure that some adults can't see what they want to pay to see. Somehow the administration decided to interfere in the lives of its citizens for the arbitrary reason of enforcing arbitrary morality.

Even if some people have questionable taste in pornography, how is that worse than violence? While adults may have the opportunity to view pictures simulating situations of domination and submission, bondage, or other situations involving black leather, how is that worse than violence? After all, even if the sex appears violence, it's still simulated - just like in movies. But for some reason the fact that it's sex makes the content much more dangerous to the community. No movie theater will carry NC-17 movies. It's okay to be ripped apart by a chainsaw, but oh my God are they having S-E-X? Call the police!

And of course we cannot forget books. How could we forget books? Senate candidate George Allen produced a series of excerpts from challenger James Webb's novels - excerpts containing sex. Apparently headline-worthy material consists of politicians putting pen to paper and producing two people getting down and dirty. Disparaging politicians for writing simulated sex is hypocritical. Public figures like Barbara Boxer, Newt Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, Jimmy Carter, and even Bill O'Reilly have chronicled fictional sex. How can we criticize one politician without criticizing them all? Come to think of it, why criticize them? What's wrong with writing sex scenes? In eighth grade a novel writer came to my school and talked about her career as a novelist. One of the things she mentioned was that she was required by her publisher to write sex scenes. She was required to do so. Should I think any less of her for writing about two people taking their clothes off? If not her, why James Webb? In fact, why criticize anyone for writing a sex scene? Who would be traumatized by reading about two fictional characters having sex, versus reading about people being killed? Why is James Webb being criticized for writing about sex, but no one gives a damn that Stephen King has written scenes that include people being killed? While violence and even racism has been covered liberally throughout the history of novelization, some people feign illness at the mention of sex.

I am not criticizing artists, writers, or filmmakers who depict violence. There is nothing wrong with exercising free speech. Violence occurs in daily life, in different forms, so it seems only natural that people want to depict it on film. What's suspicious about violence in film is that people will trumpet this violence over the mountaintops but kick and scream when the sex appears too graphic.

Isn't a society that covets the destruction of life over its creation backwards? Isn't a society that believes in death flawed? While every person has a tendency to act violent, isn't it completely different to glorify it and abhor its opposite?