Category Archives: Video Games

Sony Takes On Too Much Again

Now that the PSP is limping its way off the battlefield, Sony is pushing two new handheld devices. One is the NGP (which I’ll talk about in a later post) and the other is the Sony Ericsson Xperia.

In particular, they are making a push for the Xperia PLAY, basically a PSP Go with cell phone capabilities. The marketing push includes a series of ads featuring Flight of the Conchords actress and occasional Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal. Here’s one:

As soon as I saw this, alarms started sounding in my head. Sony’s problem has always been that they try to make their products into jack of all trades, and it never quite works. The PSP Go already failed because of its terrible price point. How much is the Xperia PLAY going to cost?

And who is the target audience supposed to be? The kind of person who uses their cell phone to play games is just looking to kill a few minutes waiting in the lobby or sitting on a train. They are perfectly content with simple games such as World of Goo or Angry Birds. Games requiring the kind of high dexterity afforded by a control stick and buttons are probably not in high demand among this group.

Then I saw this other ad and started worrying about something else entirely.

Is it just me or are the graphics in that game really crude? Maybe an FPS wasn’t the best demonstration for this ad. If this is what I can expect from online play on the Xperia PLAY, I would frankly rather stick with the Wii.

You will also note that the other Kristen is playing ome kind of phone with a touch screen. The ad is apparently trying to take a shot at either the iPhone or at other Android devices with a touch screen only. And while it’s true that playing with actual buttons instead of a touch screen is an infinitely better experience, cell phone users just don’t care about that. If they’re playing against each other at all, it’s probably Scrabble. People who do care about that sort of thing probably also want better graphics than are evident in that ad.

Apple has proven that it is possible to make highly versatile mobile devices, but they did that by making sure their device was really good at one particular function first before expanding out with new iterations and software updates. The Xperia PLAY has all the makings of another Sony boondoggle. There’s a reason why Nintendo has openly stated that they consider Apple to be a much bigger competitor in the handheld market than Sony.

Sony teh Haxxorz?

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In light of the new developments and failures that completely expose Playstation 3′s copy protection, many wonder how long it will take to affect software sales a-la PSP (which has seen Dreamcast proportions of failure in terms of software sales).

It appears that PS3 is even following the same path as PSP’s updates- within weeks they are bypassed with Sony playing catchup and blocking accounts and systems. This is similar to what’s happening with Wii homebrew, but with far less consequences than all the bricking and NAND corruption Nintendo is notorious for.

Most media outlets outright refuse to have the word “hack” or “homebrew” even mentioned on their sites, much less the inpact on the industry.

So what do you think-is PS3 doomed to repeat the same cycle as the PSP scene? Can they find a way to combat new threats effectively? Why or why not?

A Shadow Fox Review: Heavy Rain

A Shadow Fox Review: Heavy Rain + The Taxidermist
Platform: Playstation 3 + Playstation Network
Genre: Action/Adventure, Interactive Drama
Released: February 2010
Reviewed: October 2010

The Origami Killer is...

What defines a video game is a concept constantly challenged by new ideas and technology. Shenmue popularized in 1999 what would eventually be known as the Quick Time Event (or QTE), which provided players with a playable cutscene with more dynamic consequences, unlike the static nature of games like Dragon’s Lair in the 1980′s (regardless of the programming ideals being basically the same). To- date, several popular games have made use of QTE’s, God of War being the most recent. Has there ever been a game that consisted of nothing but QTE’s?  To my knowledge, none in the post-2D graphics age with the exception of Heavy Rain. This game by European studio Quantic Dream takes what we once knew about the QTE and turned it on its side, providing a very rich and compelling thriller whose quality could arguably rival that of the box office. Never before has a game presented itself so professionally. Ideally, this is what a CSI game really should be like (pay attention, Telltale games).

Story in this game is the forefront and driving force of the game. Four individuals (a divorced father Ethan Mars, a retired cop-gone-private eye Scott Shelby played by Sam Douglas, journalist Madison Paige, and FBI agent Norman Jayden) all share playable experiences and eventually weave a web of connection together as they all solve the case of the Origami Killer- a serial murderer who collects his victims and drowns them in rainwater which declares the title of the game. All the characters outside of Norman Jayden have reasons to solve the case that are personal and are explained during the play-through, and this review will omit said topics to avoid possible spoilers. In any case, the game plays itself out as a race against time to find and stop the killer before they succeed. The story progresses as choices are made, and they alter other opportunities or choices later in the game minutely. If a character say, dies in the game- they aren’t coming back, and the ending of the game will be different based on that “error”. There are a total of 17 different endings and 3-4 different climaxes to the story based upon choices made in the game, ultimately increasing the replay value of a single-player, linear story. The plot is very well done, and there are several details even the keen eye will miss until they are touched on again towards the end of the game, proving expert direction of scenes and game design.

Heavy Rain plays like Tomb Raider + Shenmue (moving + QTE’s). Players guide the playable character’s direction with the left analog stick, and initiate movement with R1. This takes some getting used to coming from an FPS, platformer, or any other game not Tomb Raider 1, so take note of this before starting. Players move about an environment to find objects of interest, which are highlighted by context-sensitive buttons when nigh. The player can also initiate thoughts of the character being played by holding R2 and then pressing an appropriate button in the resulting menu for hints, or general feelings about the situation at hand. This “thought menu” can be displayed while moving, which is useful, but cannot be done during QTE’s. Context sensitive areas can be initiated by the button required or with sweeps or flicks of the right analog stick and when input, other contextual buttons will be requested, or the game will cut to a QTE, where buttons must be pressed in a certain order to continue the game. If you fail a QTE, you will either have to complete the QTE again, or in more serious QTE’s (like fights) QTE results are permanent.  So if you fail the QTE, consequences (lost friends, lost fights, or lost life) are saved and you are stuck with said result for the remainder of your play-through (unless you reload the game otherwise).

This attention to context sensitive action really works well in Heavy Rain- commands are demanded quickly so interaction is mandatory, yet engaging, but not too demanding as to turn off players. Chapters are re-playable in the main menu, and it is tempting to reload them just to play them again, and not just for seeing a different outcome in the story, but often just to perfect the way you”played” the QTE- which is something only rivaled by God of War and parts of RE4/5. These actions are spread out well, and only in the beginning of the game are some of the events likely result in one or two ways. The context menu in this game really sets the gameplay apart instead of turning the game into a rolling FMV interrupted by control input.

Controls are very responsive with one glaring exception- The Butterfly chapter in the game has excruciatingly bad turn controls, making the character feel like the old Resident Evil tank walkers (or in this case, crawlers) of yore. Otherwise, looking around with the left stick is accurate, though pressing R1 to walk takes some getting used to after all these years since Tomb Raider 1. Inputting button presses and even holding multiple buttons all over the controller in some instances all work well, provided the aforementioned time to adjust to some awkward (and sometimes funny) context commands.

Heavy Rain is a single player game, but it doesn’t skimp on replay value. The game is home to some 17+ endings (more if you count the climax and other parts of endings modified), all dependent on how you play the game, who you befriend, who you fall in love with, and how you complete certain tasks and actually catch the Origami Killer. Each chapter can be replayed to see how the story would otherwise play out, and some of the trophy challenges are really grueling- don’t expect an easy Platinum Trophy here. Bonus features are unlocked along with trophies such as extra art, promotional videos and “making of” documentaries. From your first pretend sword fight with your children as an architect to a tragic childhood as a mystery man, Heavy Rain is full of different reactions to how the gamer plays. In addition is the Taxidermist DLC, which adds one more chapter to play prior to the events of Heavy Rain for the low price of $5 (unless you got the free unlock from certain pre-order deals).

Heavy Rain’s main attraction prior to release is its graphics. Awarded for the “Casting” demo seen two years ago, Quantic Dream has outdone themselves not only in the detail of the character models and environments in Heavy Rain, but also in HOW it was all made. Proprietary Vicon scanning tech loaded faces and expression animations into live models in Heavy Rain’s game engine, and 6,000+ shots for motion capture of ONE scene in the game proves the length the developers went to create the illusion of photorealistic people that also behaved and animated as extremely believable performances. Sam Douglas’ likeness in the game is uncanny in how realistic Scott Shelby looks and behaves in-game. HDR lighting in scenes, heavily populated scenes like crowded malls and subway stations look just like real-world counterparts, and details like rain dropping on cars and dripping from the edge of a characters’ face are phenomenal. PS3 has finally seen a game that isn’t made by Factor 5 that takes every advantage Cell and RSX have that created visual magic- one of the prettiest game you will see on the platform.

The original score for Heavy Rain is a triumph, rising greatly in the height of drama and life-or-death situations with perfect cues. From orchestrated pieces to Trance/House in a neon nightclub, the soundtrack traverses every genre possible situation the game itself does in spades. Thumping bass in action scenes and times of suspense, and decent voice acting bring the world and its characters to life.

Heavy Rain is a culmination of nearly four years of perfecting a craft that previously went unproven. Noir Crime Drama as a video game genre is an extremely high risk, and Quantic Dream went all out on this title and it shows. This is a sweeping novel that is only eclipsed by itself in graphics, plot, and excellent use of the mature themes that are rarely ever explored seriously in this industry. The game is a fresh, wild and emotional piece of art that has to be experienced by every person that considers themselves a gamer. Highly Recommended.

Shadow Fox bottomline: 9.5 out of 10

Scott Pilgrim vs the PVG Review

In some ways, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is the best video game movie made thus far. Then again, it’s really the only true video game movie ever made. Other movies merely borrow the plot of the video game they are based on. Scott Pilgrim vs the World adopts aspects of video games and manifests them literally in the world of its story. Meters pop up to indicate the status of the characters. Vanquished opponents explode in a shower of coins and award points to the victor. Various actions elicit sound effects reminiscent of video games (including some that are recognizably lifted straight out of The Legend of Zelda or Sonic the Hedgehog). Even the Universal globe at the beginning of the movie is rendered to look like an 8-bit graphic.

The movie also pays homage to its graphic novel roots. Black lines often divide up the screen, dividing it into multiple shots and angles much like the panels of a comic and sound effects are signified by onomatopoeia words (such as “thud,” “thwack,” and “krak”) popping out of the scene at appropriate times—an effect which will probably remind many people of the old Batman TV series with Adam West. The movie is also filled with other whimsical touches. A kiss is often preluded by a fade to black and a pink heart popping onto the screen. Curse words are censored out with a bleeping noise and a black box appearing over the speaker’s mouth (prompting one character to ask, “How are you doing that with your mouth?”).

For all I know, these are actually shots lifted out of the graphic novel the movie is based on. I haven’t read Scott Pilgrim, you see. And I’m happy to report that the movie entertains just fine without any knowledge of the source material. I’m told that the broad strokes of the plot are the same: Scott Pilgrim is a 22-year old pathetic shlub of a boy living in Toronto with his rather bad indy band. Currently he is dating hyperactive 17-year old Knives Chau, but it is clear that she represents a rebound relationship for him after a bad previous breakup. And then he meets Ramona Flowers who is the girl of his dreams (literally. She appears in his dreams before he meets her in real life). He manages to go out on some dates with her, but then he finds out that she has seven superpowered evil exes and that he must defeat them all before he can continue to date her. Although Scott Pilgrim seems vastly overmatched, his world obeys video game rules in which even the lowliest character can perform the “Fight” command and earn power ups throughout their journey. We are thus treated to, essentially, seven wildly creative boss fights rendered on the movie screen.

The central metaphor of the movie is not very subtle. The characters spell out how Ramona’s evil exes represent the previous baggage she brings to her new relationship, and in order to defeat them, Scott must learn the nature of her previous relationships and discover their weaknesses in order to ensure his own survival. Scott also has some previous relationships trying to sabotage his chances with Ramona, and in the end he must learn how to get in touch with his inner feelings (which are represented by flaming katanas) and move past his and Ramona’s dirty laundry. Despite the obviousness of the metaphor, it gets applied in a lot of fun and surprising ways throughout the movie.

I’m told that the movie hugely condenses the story of the graphic novel, cutting out several sub-plots and side characters in order to fit everything into a reasonable movie length. I didn’t really mind it. The central pacing problem of the movie is that it has to fit in seven major battles without becoming repetitive, and fortunately the fight choreographer is up to the task. Scott’s battle with the first evil ex-boyfriend is a straightforward beatdown, but each one after that involves twists on the formula (I particularly loved the battle with the vegan ex-boyfriend). Nonetheless, fitting that much action into the movie has the effect of giving it a rather frenetic pacing, and director Edgar Wright has elected to roll with it, often tossing away several hours in-story at a time with a simple camera cut (often to the confusion of Scott Pilgrim) and packing in as many sight gags as possible. This is a movie which is determined to do absolutely anything it can to keep you entertained, from hilarious send ups of indy band songs to the “expression” on Knives’ face when she realizes what’s going on. I don’t know what the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel was like, but the movie at its heart is a galloping comedy.

Nonetheless, even a movie like this needs to be anchored by well-developed characters, and this is where the time constraints of the movie hurt the most. All of the characters are essentially plot devices defined more by their relationships to the main couple than by their personalities. Michael Cera is fully capable of playing his typical role as an awkward boy looking for love, but he doesn’t get a chance to show much dramatic range otherwise. Ultimately, although he is winsome enough that we can root for him, he doesn’t quite connect with the audience as a real person. Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes for one cool hipster chick, and she very clearly enjoys herself during the fight scenes, but even so Ramona Flowers remains a cypher. It’s never clear exactly why she agrees to date Scott Pilgrim other than that he is nicer than all of her exes. Possibly the biggest success ends up being Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. The character could have been an irritating distraction whose purpose is to be gotten rid of so that the main couple can get together, but instead she remains relevant throughout the story. Although 25-year old Wong doesn’t quite look like a plausible teenager, she successfully channels Knives’ energy without becoming grating. In fact, her character makes a better emotional connection with Scott in some ways than Ramona does (which the movie acknowledges at one point).

Despite the brick-to-the-face nature of the story, there are some themes in Scott Pilgrim vs the World to consider. And compiling all the references to video games, comic books, or Canada would be a fun exercise that would probably reveal unexpected depths. Nonetheless, the movie really isn’t meant to be taken seriously (what does that say about video games, I wonder) and really has just one purpose: entertain us for a 112 minutes. And when you see the first evil ex-boyfriend summoning a harem of Bollywood hipster chicks, I think you’ll agree that the movie succeeds.

Sony Needs to Fire their PR Department #61

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these, but it’s time to revive an old PVG standby. This entry comes courtesy of the president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida. He spoke for a little bit about how Nintendo continually emphasized with the 3DS that the device doesn’t need glasses for the 3D effect.

“I have hope that they have a broader perspective with 3D,” Yoshida said. “When you listen to what they are saying about the effect of 3D perspective to the games, they are saying the same message we are, but they don’t have to bash some small part of what the other company is doing.”

Source: IGN UK

The idea that the lack of glasses for the 3DS is a “small part” is pretty absurd. Plenty of people think it’s actually a pretty big deal. But setting that aside, this quote commits two terrible sins of marketing:

  1. It looks defensive. The public doesn’t like people who are defensive, be they politicians or corporate executives. What’s more, it looks needlessly defensive in proportion to the perceived attack. Nintendo wasn’t really bashing Sony that hard for needing 3D glasses on their screens.
  2. It tells a competitor what to do. I don’t mean that Yoshida was giving an opening which let Nintendo know what they should do next. I mean that on its face, he was telling Nintendo what to do (or in this case, what not to do). Think of political campaigns for a moment and all the times you’ve seen someone say something like, “Don’t talk smack about me unless you can take it, too” or “How about you quit making stuff up?” Such lines are always spoken to a crowd of supporters—the base, if you will. Here, Yoshida wasn’t talking to a group of Sony fanboys or even a Sony fan site. He gave this quote to IGN who is generally neutral on the console wars. The reaction of the IGN readership can partially be summarized as, “You’re the one to talk!”

Yoshida has just exacerbated a problem for Sony. The fact that the 3DS doesn’t need glasses and that any 3D implementation for the PS3 or PS4 will need glasses is actually a fairly significant point. By drawing attention to this difference, Yoshida has just made the comparison more stark. What’s worse, he has made it look like Sony is worried about this issue. It’s time for him to go back into his undisclosed location in the Sony campus.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising and the End of Stealth as We Know It

Metal Gear Solid: Rising looks awesome. Of course, I still have to see more before I decide if I would want to buy it (a big part of that decision will be whether or not Kojima manages to restrict himself to mere ten minute cutscenes). The one consistent gripe I’m hearing is that it doesn’t have much emphasis on stealth. It should be noted that we don’t actually know that stealth is gone from the game. We are told that stealth will rely on Raiden’s agility and speed rather than just hiding and camouflage as Snake did. But even if the game is pure “Lightning Bolt Action” and “cutting,” I have to say that I won’t mind one bit. In fact, I just don’t care about stealth.

We are now entering a new phase in stealth videogaming. The latest Splinter Cell game ditches the emphasis on sneaking through completely unnoticed and instead allows, even encourages, you to just run right up to enemies and sock them. On the other end of the spectrum, the Assassin’s Creed games revolve around social stealth (i.e. blending into a crowd or hiring people to act as distractions) rather than physical stealth (i.e. staying out of sight and out of hearing). There is a very simple reason for this: it has become abundantly clear that the old ways of stealth gameplay don’t work. Just watch this clip from Splinter Cell: Double Agent in which Sam Fisher repeatedly and blatantly runs within two yards of guards in broad daylight (while carrying on a conversation out loud with someone on the radio).

The problem with stealth gameplay the way it has been practiced by the likes of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid is that it is impossible to find a good balance between realism and playability. If guards are made too smart and wary, the game becomes impossible to play except through rote memorization. If guards are too lax and stupid, any pretense towards realism becomes a joke. Sneaking around in real life is accomplished through the use of dozens of senses that are not available to gamers. Making a realistic stealth game where the emphasis is on staying hidden from view and unnoticed at all times is simply not feasible. To that extent, I have always regarded the stealth element of Metal Gear Solid games as being somewhat broken. The much-parodied “hide for 50 seconds and then everything goes back to normal” element was novel back when the first Metal Gear Solid came out, but now it’s painfully dated. If it turns out that Metal Gear Solid: Rising consists of no attempts at stealth or subtlety and merely has Raiden running around chopping everything into little pieces, I for one won’t miss the Tactical Espionage Action one bit.

The Videogame Character Formerly Known as Prince

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the best videogame movie made thus far. If you’ve read anything I’ve said before, then you know I consider the previous sentence to be an incredibly back-handed compliment. To put it another way, Prince of Persia didn’t suck. Neither does it give a very compelling reason for watching (although Gemma Arterton is very easy on the eyes. More on her later).

Prince of Persia, as you know, is based on the Ubi Soft videogame from the last generation. I’ve been on record saying that the game would make a good movie. In fact, if the producers had simply taken the plot from the videogame, translated most of the cutscenes verbatim to live action, and done a little trimming to get it down to movie length, they would have had a decent little film on their hands. It wouldn’t have been unforgettable, Academy Award winning stuff, but that was never the goal. The problem with videogame movies was always that they failed at the basic aim of creating characters we care about in a story we are willing to follow and remember fondly (I include Tomb Raider in this criticism). Prince of Persia gets part of the way there but not as far as it could have (and some would say not far enough).

I am not a purist by any means. I often get irritated by people complaining that some movie adaptation changed some aspect and therefore the movie is not as good. But in this case, I can trace almost every problem in the movie back to a change made from the game, starting with the setup. Whereas the game has the Prince accidentally unleashing sand monsters on the world and working with the Princess as his only ally to fix his mistake, the movie has no sand monsters at all and instead has a plot involving a struggle for succession to the throne of Persia. I’m not really sure why this was done. The movie is advertised as coming from the people who brought us Pirates of the Caribbean which did have lots of monsters. Monsters are good for blockbuster movies. Heroes can kill them without feeling guilty. Instead of monsters, we now have a plot involving several half-developed characters, and the movie has to slow down to explain things to us. The Prince now has two brothers, and he was not born into the royal family but was adopted by the king from a life on the streets. Neither detail adds much to the story; none of the secondary characters have enough screen time for us to care about them. The setting for the action is no longer just one palace but is instead all of Persia, with the Prince running around the place like a medieval James Bond. Like most road trip movies, we generally don’t care very much about the traveling around although in this case there is some nice scenery. Finally, the ending has been changed. What the Prince does to get to the ending is very similar to what happens in the game, but the end result is a complete reversal of what happens in the game. I understand why they did it because the ending of the videogame is not a typical Hollywood feel-good ending, but it was the perfect cap to a fairy tale story. It’s kind of disappointing that they had to change it for the movie.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the fitful, initially antagonistic relationship between Prince Dastan (did I mention he has a name now?) and the Princess. Like in the videogame, the Prince’s country invaded the territory of the Princess and took her hostage so that despite being allies by circumstance, they are initially enemies. Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton manage to generate pretty good chemistry with each other which is good because the script doesn’t give them that much to work with. They throw barbed one-liners during lulls in the action and that’s about it. The one time they kiss each other, it ends up looking preposterous because they are in the middle of a battle at the time. With all that, it’s amazing that they do manage to convey a real sense that they are truly attracted to each other. It probably helps that, as I said before, Gemma Arterton is gorgeous and she delivers her lines with verve. She gets a lot more to do in this movie than she did in Clash of the Titans.

There is a good amount of parkour in the movie, but it unfortunately is not shot very well. Part of the reason is certainly because Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t actually doing the stunts, and that’s reasonable. But even taking that into account, there is a lack of gravity to them which is odd because as far as I could tell, there was very little wirework. Somebody really was running across those rooftops and swinging from those rafters. Nonetheless it all just ends up looking mundane rather than awe-inspiring and transcendant. The movie might have benefited from having the Prince pull up his hood to hide his face so that some professional traceur who doesn’t look much like Jake Gyllenhaal could really cut loose.

So in the end, as my previous post suggested, the movie didn’t suck. But in all honesty, I still can’t recommend that people go see it. There are better action movies out there, even this summer. The movie is faithful to the videogame in the broad details, but the changes have been for the worse. The videogame was a paragon of economical storytelling. Although the movie is not very long, it packs in filler scenes and extraneous characters so that it feels like it could have been a half hour shorter. Besides the central relationship between the Prince and Princess, there’s a strange lack of joy in watching the proceedings. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like how Pirates of the Caribbean would have turned out if Johnny Depp’s character hadn’t been around. The action is competent and the special effects are top notch. If that sounds good to you, then it may represent $10 well spent. For myself, I can’t help being disappointed at all the wasted potential.

P.S. I have no idea how they’re going to make a sequel out of this. I’m sure they will manage somehow, though.

Score One for Vietnam…I Guess

Looks like Apple has lost another iPhone model. This time it was in Vietnam. I don’t know how exactly the phone was lost, but I do know that cell phone theft is big business in Vietnam. Visitors are often told not to use their phones while standing on the sidewalk near the road, for example. I once saw someone who was talking on his phone a little too close to the road and someone driving by on a moped snatched it right out of his hand.

Or maybe it just got left in a Bia Ôm by accident. In any case, here’s a video of someone checking it out.

If you’re really curious to know what he’s saying, I can translate it. But it’s really pretty basic. He comments that this model is slightly narrower (because of the straight edges) than the old model and also a little bit heavier. It’s also apparently very hard and solid (that’s what he’s saying as he taps the front and back).

Cheers to Leland Yee (for once)

Unless you follow California politics very closely, the only reason you would know Leland Yee’s name is because he is a California state senator who went on frequent crusades against videogames. The issue reached its climax in the public mind when California passed an age restriction bill on videogames based on the ESRB. The bill was promptly struck down by the court system. You can read my analysis of a similar bill from Minnesota and the reasons it was found unconstitutional here.

The reason I’m posting now, though, has nothing to do with videogames. Rather, it’s because I noticed a story floating around that Leland Yee has been poking into a public university’s finances and has gotten hate mail for trying to find out the terms of Sarah Palin’s speaking contract. Contrary to what you might expect, this isn’t a public hit job on Sarah Palin. Rather, Leland Yee appears to be merely digging into the budget of Stanislau State University to find out how much they are paying Sarah Palin (who reportedly pulls a six-figure speaking fee). You can read a bit more about that story here. And I think this is a commendable thing. Regardless of one’s personal view of Sarah Palin, a state senator is well within his rights to want to know how a university funded by taxpayer dollars is spending that money and to ask whether a six-figure speaking fee for a politician is really the best use of resources. Before I get flamed, I know that the situation is a little more complicated than that, but it still boils down to the same issue. Stanislau State University in California is funded by the taxpayer and a state senator rightfully wants to know if paying for someone’s speaker fees is going to impact the education of students.

This story is one of those occasional reminders that people it is possible to agree with someone on some issues, disagree on other issues, and still not know much about personal character. I don’t know Leland Yee. And for all I know, he may be picking this fight in order to grandstand. What I do know is that he had a pet crusade on which he was wrong, he sponsored an unconstitutional bill, and he made a fool of himself in the eyes of many people in my generation. And now I also know that he is taking on a political task that I agree with and that I think any responsible citizen should agree with. Good for him.