The Northern Light The student newspaper for University of Alaska-Anchorage. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:52:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 There is nothing free about NBA free agency Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:52:42 +0000 By now the NBA’s free agency frenzy has mostly quelled. Journalists, fans, and team front offices can finally get some rest.
Some have called this off season’s NBA free agency one of the most eventful ever.
Scores of players were either re-signed with their current franchise — like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and DeAndre Jordan — or were signed with a new team, like Wes Matthews, Roy Hibbert and LaMarcus Aldridge.
While both the Lakers and Knicks did nothing to boost fans’ optimism for next season, other teams’ fans do have reason to be merry.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs all added some interesting pieces and will put more skilled teams on the floor next season.
But what made this free agency so eventful was not so much the relocation of any one superstar as it was the manufacturing of new ones — through the granting of additional superstar-like salaries.
More players these days are being compensated like NBA superstars than ever before. Here are three examples of non-superstars who signed mega-contracts during free agency.
Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks signed a five-year, $70 million deal.
Reggie Jackson of the Detroit Pistons signed a five-year, $80 million deal.
And finally what I consider to be the most overpaid contract of them all: Former Trailblazer Wes Matthews signed on with Mavericks in a four-year, $70 million contract agreement.
Middleton, Jackson and Matthews are all respectable players and each certainly has the potential to make a future all-star team. However, the impact they can have on any particular game is nowhere near the likes of a Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, who I deem both superstars.
But before looking at the implications of this trend in the NBA, it might help to back up a little bit.
Last October, the NBA renewed its media rights agreement with its three current television partners: ABC, ESPN and TNT. The deal is worth $24 billion and is good for nine seasons, beginning the season after next (2016-17) and ending the 2024-25 season. It is about triple the amount these networks will pay this year for broadcasting professional basketball all across the globe.
Now zoom ahead nine months to the start of this month, the league announced the new salary cap for the 2015-16 season would be $70 million. This is the limit on the amount of money individual teams can spend on players’ contracts for the upcoming season. It’s an 11 percent growth from last season’s cap of $63.1 million but will likely be outgrown once again next season, when the television monies begin to flood in.
It is clear there is a high demand to keep this game on television. Basketball has reached most of the corners of the earth, thanks to the popularization of the NBA over the last couple decades.
We must be careful when we scrutinize players who make seven-figure salaries. After all, is it not you and I that determine what kind of demand is placed on sports entertainment by the choices we make? Would TV pay $24 billion to keep a show on the air that wasn’t well received? In the world of professional basketball, as is the case in most professional sports, the demand profusely outweighs the supply.
Each year there are only 300-odd men with the aptitude to play at the highest level of basketball. As long as we celebrate the successes and failures of them to the level we do, it is foolish to think a pay cut will come anytime soon.

]]> 0 The Northern Light A condensation of my thoughts and opinions on Dr. James Naismith's game
Stone lion guards UAA Rock Garden Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:43:49 +0000 The massive feline looks startled as if rudely awakened from an afternoon snooze from commotion outside the UAA Natural Sciences Building — fortunately for UAA students, staff, faculty and visitors, an escape should be no trouble. The beast, after all, is made out of several tons of limestone.

Last Friday, a small group of students and faculty gathered outside the Natural Sciences Building to celebrate the arrival of the newest, and fiercest, tenant to the UAA Rock Garden: a sculpture of the extinct American lion.

The creature, which roamed the continent several hundred thousand years ago, was part of the Natural Sciences Building renovations that wrapped up more than two years ago.

“I wanted something to draw students in,” Summer Sauve said, a project manager with UAA’s Facilities Services who coordinated the lion’s arrival to campus.

The piece of art comes from the handiwork of Kentucky stone and bronze sculptor Meg White.

White explained part of her sculpture method for this piece.

“I wanted have something where it’s protected, where freezing and thawing would be less of an issue,” White said.

White, who is based in Stephensport, Kentucky, was chosen from over 100 applicants to carry out the work by the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

The ASCA facilitates the “Percent for Art Program,” state legislation passed in 1975 that allocates 1 percent of all capitol construction costs of public building to go toward the acquisition and installation of public artwork, which was what paid the lion’s way to Alaska.

Andrea Noble-Pelant, who helps select the artwork for the program, was also on hand.

“It’s a good example of what’s possible,” Noble-Pelant said, pointing out that despite Alaska’s abundance of stone, there are few stone sculptors and bronze artists in the state.

To see process photos of the lion while it was being sculpted, visit the Meg White’s blog at

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The Ten-Week Initiative: Does “Red Dead Redemption” really hold up? Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:13:44 +0000 Westerns aren’t a genre that you see often in video games. Perhaps this is a sign of the times we live in; the Wild West just isn’t a popular setting anymore. Back in the first half of the 20th century, Westerns dominated the cinema and the literary world, but since the Space Age, they’ve fallen out of vogue.

That hasn’t stopped many games from exploring the scene, however; in fact, one of my top games of last year, “Fistful of Frags,” used the slow and clunky weapons of the Old West to its advantage, crafting a careful, risk-rewarding multiplayer experience. So it can be done well. But when Rockstar, the developers of the legendary “Grand Theft Auto” series, tried to implant their open city formula to the setting in “Red Dead Redemption,” it was hailed by critics as a masterpiece, and as one of the definitive games of the last console generation.

I hope I don’t offend anyone when I say that I disagree with that sentiment.

The story is as stock Western as you can get: John Marston was once an outlaw, robbing banks and tearing up the American frontier. When he realized just how crazy his colleagues were, he and his love Abigail fled the gang and started up their own ranch. But when federal agents kidnap his family and demand that John hunt down his former brothers in arms, he must take up the saddle and go on a journey to end his outlaw life once and for all.

It is stock, but it doesn’t feel cliché. It feels more like a carefully crafted homage. Marston’s tale is a tragic one, taking him across lines that he doesn’t want to cross and ultimately revealing what lies at the end of a violent, outlaw lifestyle.

The world of “Red Dead Redemption” reinforces this with a sense of isolation. While many of the game’s mechanics are ripped wholesale from “Grand Theft Auto,” they’re placed in a world that feels significantly more alone than the bustling streets of Los Santos or Liberty City. Often, you’ll be riding through an empty desert, with a full moon in the sky and a coyote’s howl in the distance. It’s a more contemplative atmosphere than that of “GTA,” and that would be preferable if the game’s mechanics were up to snuff.

But they aren’t, unfortunately. Part of this may be my fickle PC-gamer mind, but the controls of “Red Dead Redemption” are terrible. Because aiming weapons on a console controller is impossible, the game relies on several crutches like auto-aim to help make it easier. But those crutches are unreliable, and it’s so hard not to feel aggravated when an enemy kills you because the controls decided against you shooting first. It takes a bit of control away from the player, and when it gets you killed, it makes you want to throw your controller through the television.

Most of the other activities aren’t much better. There are stock Western activities like Poker, cattle herding, and horse-breaking, which are fun to do, but they’re vastly overshadowed by things like fort assaults or dueling, which rely on those fiddly shooting controls. The end result is a world that gets a lot of things right, but still feels incredibly frustrating to play.

I wanted to like “Red Dead Redemption.” The world is beautifully atmospheric, and the story matches up with it perfectly. If only the shooting were as fun as exploring the world, then we’d have a real classic on our hands. But it remains an issue that will possibly haunt the game for the rest of its life.

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Movie Review: “Ant-Man” is good, dumb fun Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:08:36 +0000 Poor Ant-Man. He’s the Marvel hero no one can take seriously. When you have gods like Thor, super-soldiers like Captain America, and forged warriors like Iron Man, it’s hard to take someone who can shrink himself that seriously. And when news of an “Ant-Man” film hit the Internet, the general public was quick to mock the idea. What, a man that shrinks himself and retains his human strength? Big whoop!

The film knows these expectations well, and while it doesn’t subvert them, it does use them to its advantage to great comedic effect, at the cost of any dramatic or serious heft.

Just after getting out of prison, cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, “Anchorman”) wants to go straight, but his old robber buddies set him up with one more gig: a safe in the basement of a mansion, which belongs to the supposedly senile old scientist, Hank Pym (Michael Douglass, “Wall Street”).

Lang is shocked, however, when it’s not riches he finds, but rather a strange suit that allows him to shrink on a whim. Pym reveals he wanted him in the suit all this time, so that he can steal an experimental suit with similar technology from his old lab before the bad guys can get their hands on it.

It was a smart move to make this movie more of a heist film than a traditional superhero action movie. Lang’s new-found powers lend themselves better to a stealthier kind of story than the kind you’d see in something like “The Avengers.”

When the story calls for something with more gusto, however, it always tries to keep it small. There are explosions, yes, but they’re only on the scale of, say, the toy train set that the battle takes place on. It’s a story that knows its limits; a man whose power is shrinking cannot be taken seriously as an action star, so they don’t make him one. He’s more of a clever thief, focusing more on outsmarting the forces of evil than destroying them with whizbangs and explosions.

As I said earlier, “Ant-Man” also takes advantage of audience expectations. No one was able to take Ant-Man seriously, so the movie is not a serious one. It plays up the ridiculousness of the technology and powers at hand. It’s much funnier to see a supervillain knocked out by a bug zapper than with a typical Marvel blow, for example. And it reinforces the silliness with silly, self-aware writing.

It lacks cleverness and depth, but it’s admirable that “Ant-Man” was able to use the weaknesses of its story to an incredible advantage. If you want something that subverts the typical Marvel action-fest, “Ant-Man” is one you should check out.

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You won’t believe what Klax has to say about clickbait Sun, 26 Jul 2015 07:03:32 +0000 We’ve all seen them. They’ve graced Facebook and Twitter feeds everywhere. They’re the bane of journalists, and the disappointment of the masses who dare to give them a look.

This week, we talk about clickbait.

Mention the word to any journalist (or anyone who complains about journalism today), and they’ll instantly get a chill down their spine. It’s the lowest form of attention-seeking.

Clickbait, for the few of you fortunate enough not to know, is essentially the online version of old tabloids. They rely on sensational headlines and the people stupid enough to share them with friends. Often, it’s nothing more than a picture ripped from DeviantArt, or a video from YouTube. But instead of just sharing the video or picture, clickbait attaches it to a weird website that grants the poster ad revenue.

You’ve all seen it. “This man does a thing, and the reason may surprise you.” “This Craigslist missed connection is an instant classic.” “You won’t believe how inferior to the Slug Empire humanity really is.”

Notice how they never tell you what the picture or video is actually about, or what it might actually look like. It seductively tries to trap you in its web, after which it throws ads, newsletters, and pleas to share with your friends in your face.

It’s not cool, and most of us are pretty immune to it. It’s the kind of thing our… well, I don’t want to say “stupider” friends, per say, but let’s put it at “more-easily-impressed” friends – anyway, they’re the ones who are impressed by it and sharing it around, none the wiser that it’s something that could’ve been found elsewhere, more efficiently, by someone else.

If they’re responsible, they’ll at least credit the artist behind whatever they share, but aside from the really big ones, clickbait sites are not known for their decency. They just want the ad revenue, and they know there are plenty of rubes on social media just waiting to gobble it up and shove it in their friends’ faces.

Those “more-easily-impressed” friends – or MEIs, for short – are calling this a revolution in journalism. Websites like Buzzfeed, Distractify, and Upworthy are being hailed by many as the next big way to get news and content. Buzzfeed even calls itself “The Media Company for the Social Age.” And it is true, those sites are bringing issues to light that may not have gotten the attention they might have deserved on something like, say, BBC News.

But when you read something like BBC News, it’s news that’s actually important. You don’t see BBC or the New York Times come up with manipulative headlines like the examples I gave above, and their content is more substantial, more in-depth, and more intelligent than sites like Buzzfeed.

Let me put it another way. News sources like the New York Times are like a big, juicy steak. It’s a great effort to eat it all, but it feels fulfilling. You can feel every ounce of effort that went into it. And it’s filling. When you’re full, you don’t feel ashamed, you feel accomplished. You feel like a better person for having eaten that steak. It took effort to consume, but it was very, very enriching.
Continuing with that analogy, clickbait sites that rely on social media are like potato chips. They’re not designed to be enriching or fulfilling; they’re designed to be consumed en masse. When you finish a bag of chips, there’s a little bit of a happy rush, but that rush subsides with every chip. At some point, you’re not even eating them for the taste; you’re eating them because they’re designed to get you addicted. And when you finish that bag, you don’t feel full or happy. Maybe you’ll buy another bag in the hope that eating more will provide that rich feeling you crave, but it’s never going to help. It’s all empty calories.

Watching or reading content on Buzzfeed or Upworthy feels good, at first. But that rush goes away. But every time you see the site pop up on your Facebook feed, you still click on it, hoping that it’ll give you that same rush.

But when you read an article that had actual effort and research put into it, it’s informative and enriching. If you’ve been consuming nothing but Buzzfeed for a while, of course an article from the New York Times is going to feel daunting to read at first. But it’s healthier to get your news from a reputable source, and I guarantee you’ll feel better about it as well.

And then, like George on his current diet, you can look down on all the Buzzfeed-consuming masses with laughter and pity, as they fatten their minds with useless junk. You, on the other hand, will feel like a new person, ready to tackle the world.


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The Ten-Week Gaming Initiative: Gaming classics I’ve never played before Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:00:54 +0000  

I like to think of myself as a pretty decent gaming critic. But with that said, with the many new releases that I cover (and the fact that I’m a busy college student), I often don’t have time to play what many consider to be hallmarks of the video gaming medium. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve played my fair share of classics. But there are too many missing to justify my status as a gaming aficionado, which makes me a bit sad.

Well, no more! Releases have started to dry up this summer, and I think it’s about time I get around to playing these gems. I’ve compiled ten games that many people consider classics, and I’ll try to finish one a week. There are still a lot of important games I’ve never played before, even when I don’t count these ten, but with this initiative, it’s a start.

#10: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

One of the most crass games ever made, “Conker” tops many “funniest games of all time” lists, and it features everything from a sarcastic, drunk squirrel to a literal singing turd. It was a departure from Nintendo’s more family-friendly policies, making it a landmark title for the publisher.

#9: Red Dead Redemption

Many consider “Red Dead Redemption” to be Rockstar’s magnum opus, with a vast breathing world filled with more Western tropes than you can shake a buffalo chip at. In addition, protagonist John Marston is also considered by many to be one of gaming’s most interesting characters.

#8: Kirby Super Star

The only other “Kirby” game I’ve played is “Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards,” which I didn’t even finish. As a something of a “Kirby” newcomer, “Super Star” seems as good a place to start as any, featuring eight adventures/games with lots of “Kirby” saccharine goodness.

#7: Dishonored

This one has actually been reviewed by a previous TNL writer, but as a fan of games like “Thief” and “Deus Ex,” I’m shocked that I haven’t really touched it. With interesting new mechanics that bring new meaning to the stealth genre, it should be a stabby-good time.

#6: Banjo-Kazooie

“Conker” may be considered one of developer Rare’s finest game, but “Banjo-Kazooie” is often heralded as the king of the “collect-a-thon platformer” genre. With the spiritual successor “Yooka-Laylee” becoming a Kickstarter success story, “Banjo” has become a must-play.

#5: Resident Evil 4

This is considered one of the most important games of all time, introducing the world to third-person shooting in an intuitive new way. This, combined with the horrific atmosphere, scary enemies, and goofy story, should make it a no-brainer for me to play. Even if I haven’t. Yet.

#4: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Now that we’re on Rare’s third game for this list, I have to wonder if I haven’t played enough of their games yet. However, I am a huge fan of the first “Donkey Kong Country,” and if what I hear is true, this should be an even greater experience. According to many, this is one of the best platformers ever made.

#3: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

But if “Diddy’s Kong Quest” is considered one of the best platformers, “Yoshi’s Island” is considered the best. And again, I’m already a fan of the original “Super Mario World,” which is timeless platforming bliss. And “Yoshi’s Island” looks to be more of that, and with a unique crayon-like art-style to boot.

#2: Silent Hill 2

I’m kicking myself over this one in particular. I’m a huge believer in video gaming’s storytelling potential, and many claim that “Silent Hill 2” tells one of the best stories in gaming history. And yet, I’ve never experienced it, in part because horror games aren’t really my thing. But hey, it’s worth a shot.

#1: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

This is the real shocker, though. I’ve been a huge fan of Star Wars for as long as I remember, and I’m a big BioWare fan as well. And yet, I’ve never played “Knights of the Old Republic,” which is acclaimed as one of BioWare’s best games, and one of the best “Star Wars” games ever made. So I owe it to myself to finally play it.

Every week, I’ll be reviewing one of these games, starting with “Conker” next week. If you have these games and want to follow along, feel free! Or better yet, if you have a backlog of old games that you’ve never played before, now is the best time to give them a go.

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Seawolf Slug: The Confederate flag: disgusting, or worth protecting? Tue, 07 Jul 2015 20:56:40 +0000 Ho boy, the news has just been absolutely juicy for the past week or so. I have so many topics to write about!

First up was the crappy PC port of “Batman: Arkham Knight” which pushed my host to the brink of insanity. I don’t think it’s fair that a bad porting job does a better job of messing with George’s head than I do as the Earth’s lone brain slug.

Second was the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, which you can bet I’ll be writing about next week. There’s a lot of things to talk about, from the long journey that the LGBTQ community still has to take for full equality, to Facebook’s odd social experiment with the rainbow profile pictures. But again, it’ll have to wait a week.

What I want to talk about today is the Confederate flag, which I really do not want to talk about so soon after writing a whole article about the Third Reich.

So, a little history for those of you who slept through every history class in your life. The middle of the 19th century was a good time to be alive for white slaveholders, and a pretty bad time to be alive for anyone else. When the political landscape threatened American slavery with abolishment, a group of Southern states seceded from the United States to become the Confederate States of America. This led to the bloodiest war to be fought on American soil. While the rebellion was thoroughly crushed (man, we brain slugs love using that phrase), and the Union did end up abolishing slavery, this was hardly the end for those wanting true racial equality. In the Southern U.S., non-whites continued to face immense prejudice and hatred from racist Americans.

This, unfortunately, is still going on today. On June 17th of this year, nine people were shot and killed because of their race in a church in South Carolina. People on social media and news networks replied as they always did: this is a tragedy. A few people continually posted pictures of the victims to help others remember the dead. Some viewed the perpetrator as a terrorist. And while both my host and I are atheists, we both agree that Barack Obama gave a moving spiritual speech at the victims’ memorial ceremony.

But one question rose above the rest and went viral: why the hell are people still flying Confederate flags? Up until recently, big stores like Wal-Mart were still selling them, and people were decorating their cars with them and flying them with pride.

Many defend the flag as a symbol of rebellion against an oppressive government. And while I hate the flag (as I, as a scout for the greatest empire in the galaxy, instinctively hate any sign of rebellion against oppression), they have a right to fly it, just as people have the right to fly stuff like Nazi flags and things like that. However, I still have the right to criticize you about it, and companies have the right to have the decent taste to remove it from stores.

I could say that, in George’s eyes, the flag is a disgusting sign of racism, oppression, and discrimination. And I would totally agree with him. Many in America would. But that’s irrelevant. It’s the flag owner’s right to fly it. It’s free speech. It’s in the constitution. And that’s America’s way of doing things.

However, I do believe that one company went too far in their censorship of the Confederate flag, and that was Apple, who removed any game with the Confederate flag from the iOS App Store, regardless of context. And that’s silly. If you want to take down games that promote the Confederate flag and fly it with pride, fine. But you should at least give the historical apps and games a free pass, because that’s, you know, actual history. Even we at the Slug Empire see the value of keeping an accurate record of history. And games are a valid way of doing that, even on mobile devices.

But even then, it’s Apple’s right to do that. While people on both sides of the Confederate flag argument have done some pretty disgusting things (and I will admit to siding against the flag), they have the right to say what they want to say, however they want to say it. And don’t forget that that goes both ways; if a flag offends you, speak up about it. Flying the flag after a tragedy like this (or… well, ever) is in extremely poor taste. But if a person is stubborn enough, don’t be surprised if your words end up doing nothing.


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Movie Review: “Genisys” can’t adapt to save itself Tue, 07 Jul 2015 20:52:10 +0000 This movie had the potential to rescue a franchise that badly needed rescuing. The first “Terminator” film was an awesome thriller with excellent character development, and it was exceeded by “Terminator 2,” which had a wonderful emotional payoff. However, the franchise was soon milked by entries that didn’t understand the appeal of the series: the threat of an unstoppable monster, with strong characters sprinkled in.

“Genisys” gets so close to returning to what made the franchise great. But while the characters are well-acted, it has a nonsensical story with almost no heart, filled with more holes than a liquid Terminator post-shotgun-blast.

For one, the film takes place across three time periods, which already invites the plot to become a mess. John Connor and his men are on the brink of winning the war against Skynet. And in fact, they do win. But when Kyle Reese goes back in time to ensure the survival of Sarah Connor, he finds that the 1984 he goes back to is very different from the 1984 he visited in the original “Terminator” movie; Sarah already has a Terminator at her disposal, and they find that the old date of Judgment Day, 1997, has been postponed to 2017. So they go a little bit further to ensure that Skynet, now rechristened “Genisys,” doesn’t go online.

And in addition to Sarah’s Terminator (reprised by Arnold Schwarzenegger; charming as usual), there’s also the Terminator that chased Sarah in the first film (also played by Schwarzenegger), a liquid Terminator, and also John Connor, who has traveled back in time as an odd human/Terminator hybrid of sorts.

So that’s four Terminators, across three time periods. This leads to the obvious problem of making the plot incredibly hard to follow. And while the John Connor Terminator opens itself to a lot of really interesting plot opportunities, the film doesn’t take advantage of any of them. Instead of trying to do something original or interesting, the film is content to keep making references to the first two movies, which leaves holes open and makes the film a whole lot messier.

It’s a film that tries to do too much service to the “Terminator” brand without thinking about what new directions the series could move towards. And as I said earlier, the potential is there; I really like the human/machine hybrid idea, and tying Skynet to today’s always-online society was an idea that really could have worked. And hey, the actors don’t do a bad job, either. But “Genisys” is too nailed to old ideas that once worked in the early simplicity of the franchise, but don’t anymore. This machine doesn’t need simple oil changes anymore. It needs a true overhaul.

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