“Man of La Mancha” is the musical adapted from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, about the deluded hero who charges windmills on horseback. Commentator Ben Bradford feels for the Don–he has his own windmill.
Posted on 11 May 2012.
Posted on 11 May 2012.
One of the most popular genres of video games are first-person shooters, like the Halo and Call of Duty series.
Millions of players compete against each other in virtual warfare, online. Amidst the violence, an unusual sub-culture has emerged.
One of the most popular genres of video games are first-person shooters, war games such as the Halo and Call of Duty franchises. Thousands of players compete against each other in virtual combat online. Amidst the violence, an unusual sub-culture has developed. We sent Ben Bradford to the virtual field of battle, and he embedded in an elite unit, the Peen Kings.
In a high-rise office building in New York City, Russian special forces are raking machine gun fire at us. (Sounds of fire). I’m crouched behind a desk watching the Peen Kings return fire, holding a gun that I refuse to use—journalistic ethics and all that. One Russian goes down. (Soldier is hit). The Russians have a bomb, and the unit has to stop them from setting it off.
Reckless: There’s the bomb.
We go after it. (Search and Destroy music.) Two members of the team, called Reckless and Marksman, take off running, and I follow. Out the window and along the side of the building.
Reckless: Matt break the window for me. (Sound of a smoke grenade through the window.)
A bullet pulls down Reckless mid-stride and just like that he’s gone. (Shot.)
Reckless: Snipers! [Expletive].
Then, Marksman, too. Exposed and suddenly alone, I dash for cover, while the sole remaining Peen King, Mouth of War, protects me with sniper fire from inside the office building. He methodically takes down two of the enemy.
Reckless: You’ve got two left.
Then, I’m hit. (Shot and heartbeat.) I don’t know from where. Thankfully, Mouth finds my assailant before he finds me.
Mouth: …I got him.
The Russians have one man left. And then– (Shots)
Reckless: Oh! With the headshot!
None. The battle took only a minute. But the next round begins immediately, only this time we’re the Russians. (Search and Destroy music).
This is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a 2 and a half year old first person shooter. An average game lasts 10 minutes, then we’ll spend a minute in a lobby with the opposing team while another level loads.
Offline, the Peen Kings are friends from Malden, Massachusetts—Tony, 20 years old, his brother Matt and their friend Daniel—both 17. They’ve allowed me to follow them in the game, and ask questions. In-between bursts of fire, I asked how many games they’ve played.
Tony (Reckless): We get some in—we get like 10 in every day.
The game records that all three have spent between 50 and 100 days playing. But the friends spend far more time chatting and bantering than strategizing.
Daniel (Mouth of War): We’ve played more than 20 games today.
Tony: I haven’t no way.
Daniel: Yes we have!
Tony and Daniel say the camaraderie essential to their experience.
Tony: Yeah I mean it’s fun. I don’t really play shooting games by myself, I just like playing with my friends.
Daniel: Yeah I can’t play by myself.
University of Alabama Professor Matt Payne says these online games allow players to connect with friends or strangers, and work together. That’s their appeal.
Payne: The reason why gamers play together is not simply to win, but it’s so they can be with one another, so they can accomplish things together, so they can do things together that they couldn’t do apart.
Payne admires the exploration and teamwork first-person shooters encourage. But go online, and you’re certain to experience far less friendly communication. Like from this guy. He’s just finished a game, and he has some words for his opponents.
Daddy Oakes: You all know you suck, right? Nail sucks. Homebird really sucks. Bus Patrol, I know you could have done better, but—hey Homebird, [expletive] you.
Payne says the anonymity of the Internet plus the game’s competitiveness fosters taunts, gloating, and personal attacks.
Payne: You have all of these gamers who are there to dominate. Part of that domination escapes the gameplay round and it gets expressed and manifests through language.
They shoot you, then they make fun of you. In all kinds of creatively insulting ways. If your killer crouches up and down on your corpse—that’s called teabagging. It means they “pwned” you, another gamer word. Teabagging may be in good fun…but the most odious mannerism is the use of the n-word. You hear that word everywhere. Tony and Daniel don’t see a problem with it.
Tony: You could be [expletive] yellow, you could be purple, you’ll still be called a [expletive]. You could just be out of friggin, like the Klan, and you’ll still be called a [expletive].
Daniel: Yeah, it’s just a word, it’s what we call each other.
In the real world, it’s a forbidden word for most people. In the virtual world, it’s as common as hello or goodbye. But then again, in a virtual world where slaughter is routine, perhaps the word is not so remarkable. Psychologist Brad Bushman of Ohio State University sees a connection between what he calls two taboo behaviors.
Bushman: I think taboo behaviors are contagious. … And engaging in one taboo behavior greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll engage in other taboo behaviors.
Studies by Bushman and others suggest violent games also raise players’ aggression—though that does not mean people turn into killers.
Bushman: In first person shooter games you have the same visual perspective as the killer, so you see the world through the killer’s eyes. You’re the one who pulls the trigger.
Scott Rigby studies the psychology behind games. He disputes that the nature of the games causes negative behavior.
Rigby: I enjoy headshots as a gamer, and I’m also a guy who catches bugs and takes them outside because I don’t want to kill them, so how do you reconcile those two things?
Rigby sees the competition and teamwork required by shooters as a psychological positive. But, he agrees the realistic, graphic violence—exploding heads and bloody corpses—can be desensitizing. His solution is to tone down the blood and guts while leaving the gameplay intact.
Back in an Afghani scrapyard, I’m hiding out with the Peen Kings (gunfire and explosions) and ask Tony what he thinks. He considers while a grenade explodes.
Tony: That’s completely retarded. I’ve never in this game went around and shotgunned someone and said that’s really cool, you know what I’m going to go and shotgun someone in real life.
The Kings don’t spend a lot of time considering the issues of violence or language. For them. the game is their hobby, and they’re just online to compete together, and to hang out, talk about sports, friends, girls, and of course to make fun of each other. (Sounds of battle slowly overwhelmed by a falling nuclear missile.)
Tony: Obviously I didn’t mean that way you [expletive] idiot.
From deep inside the game, I’m Ben Bradford, Columbia Radio News.
Daniel: You’re an idiot because you don’t know how to put your words together.
Tony: You’re an idiot for confusing my words together.
Posted on 04 May 2012.
On Sunday, 32,000 cyclists will pedal through New York City in the annual TD Five-Boro Bike Tour. The 40-mile ride is the largest urban bike tour in the country. The Staten Island-bound lanes of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will be closed until 6pm and parts of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Belt Parkway will also shut down for most of the day. This year — the event’s producers created a three-day bike expo as a prelude to the tour. Ben Bradford is there now, down at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side.
Posted on 27 April 2012.
Ben Bradford brings us the news at the top of the hour.
Posted on 20 April 2012.
And more and more it’s on e-books. Now, libraries have been struggling with years of national, state, and local budget cuts. Galante says the new medium could bring some relief, because it eliminates the cost of labeling, shelving, and tracking.
Galante: In Queens we have over 70,000 books a day that we check back in and 70,000 going out. So in a digital world, there’s considerable savings for libraries.
For customers, the lure is simpler. Downloading an e-book is just convenient.
Gussie Young: I can do it right from my house. I can do it from my computer, if I wish.
Gussie Young has been visiting the Queens Library since moving to New York in 1963.
Young: You just hit the button and it comes to your computer. It’s a wonderful thing, if you can find a book you want.
But finding a book can be tough. Wait lists for popular titles can literally extend for years. On last glance, 46 people were waiting for two copies of the first Harry Potter, published in 1998. That’s better than many bestsellers, like the Hunger Games series. Publisher Scholastic is one of four—out of the six biggest publishers—that doesn’t allow libraries to purchase its e-books.
But down the road, there’s another problem. Almost all U.S. libraries that offer e-books do so through an outside company called Overdrive—although competitors are cropping up. Galante says when libraries buy an e-book from Overdrive, they don’t actually buy it.
Galante: When you license content through them, you really aren’t owning the content. Every year you have to pay them to continue to use that subscription service or you lose the content you’ve already paid for.
If a library stops using Overdrive, they lose all the books they’ve licensed. For the first time, libraries are renters, not owners, of their content. And, the more e-books they purchase, the larger the problem becomes. So, libraries are looking for other solutions. Robert Wolven heads an American Library Association group that’s tasked with addressing the problem. He says libraries need to develop a new model for e-books, but they don’t know what that is yet.
Robert Wolven: These are questions that go beyond what we’re doing now and what we’re doing next year. We’ve talked about how we want to avoid developing the model for next year that’s going to be obsolete by the time anyone puts it in place, and that’s a real challenge.
Wolven says e-books could change the entire way books are sold. He theorizes that publishers could sell subscriptions to their books—like a Netflix for paperbacks. Maybe libraries will pay a fee for books based on how popular they are. Or, maybe they won’t actually own their books at all anymore.
Ben Bradford, Columbia Radio News.
Posted on 30 March 2012.
Posted on 30 March 2012.
Warner: “You’re probably looking at one of the most significant areas of growth over the next couple of decades.”
That’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner at a hearing held yesterday to brief lawmakers on this emerging technology.
Some financial research firms estimate that mobile payments could account for as much as half a trillion dollars in transactions just two years from now. Google, Apple, Walmart, AT&T, Visa, and Paypal are just a few of the companies chasing that market.
I decided to try a mobile wallet.
I left my real wallet on my bed, pulled out my smartphone, and downloaded “Pay with Square,” the most popular and established application. It took about a minute to install, another minute to load up my credit card information, and then…much longer to find a place in Manhattan that would actually accept it.
AMBI: Bradford rejected
BB: “Can I pay with my phone?” Clerk: “No you can’t.” (5s)
That’s the kind of response I usually heard. After about a half hour, I found Prodigy Coffee in the West Village, using the app’s list of merchants.
AMBI: Bradford at Prodigy
[Post entering Prodigy, fade under narration, post back up for marked lines, and repeat through end of doc sound]
Clerk: “Hi!” BB:”Hey, how’s it going?”
The manager, Ali Horowitz greeted me as I walked up to the counter. I took out my phone. I was a little tentative.
BB: “If I get a uh small green tea, can I pay for it with my phone?” AH: “With Square? Yeah.” BB: “Okay, cool, let’s do that.”
The app used my phone’s GPS to determine that I was close to Prodigy Coffee. A button appeared on my screen to “open a tab”—I pushed it, and sent a signal over my phone’s Internet connection to Horowitz’s iPad behind the counter. My name popped up on her screen.
AH: “Benjamin. Bradford.” Ben: “That’s me.” AH: “Love it. Thank you!”
With a push of a button, I was 2 dollars poorer and one green tea happier. Horowitz says it’s as easy for merchants as it is for consumers.
Horowitz: Your name pops up, you just hit the picture, and then the other person will get an email saying Prodigy Coffee has charged their email account. (10s)
It may be easy, but not many people use the app. Over the past three months, Prodigy Coffee has had a grand total of about ten customers pay with their phones.
Adil Moussa is an expert on merchant payments for the consulting firm Aite Group. He says the big firms like Google, Walmart, and AT&T are developing different technologies with the same goal in mind: they hope to create the definitive mobile wallet…and to reap the profits.
Moussa: That one bank becomes top of wallet or top of mind, whenever you want to use—whenever you want to purchase something, you would think of that card or that device as the first thing you were going to use. (12s)
The winner would receive a cut of every transaction, as well as data about their users’ buying habits, and the potential for vast advertising revenue. But. There are a number of obstacles to widespread acceptance, and Moussa is skeptical you’ll be leaving your cash or credit cards at home anytime soon.
Moussa: Let’s face it. To get somebody to change their behavior and to trust the fact that they can actually put their information on a phone is not going to be easy. (12s)
The security of mobile wallets was the major topic of discussion at yesterday’s Senate hearing.
There’s also a chicken and egg problem. Consumers won’t adapt until retailers do, and vice-versa. Jen Brown is both—she uses Pay with Square personally, as well as to organize class events as a student at UCLA’s business school. She says she’s been able to use her mobile wallet less than ten times.
Brown: I mean, I probably use it most just by paying for tickets to myself at school where I’m both the merchant and the customer. (7s)
The technology has been slow to catch on in the U.S. Phone carriers, developers, and banks all want a cut of the profits, and they’ve been hindering rather than coordinating with each other. That may be changing.
In other countries—particularly Japan and South Korea—mobile wallets have been used for years. When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Japan already had millions of cell phone transactions every month.
Posted on 09 March 2012.
BY BEN BRADFORD
Former governor Mitt Romney has the most delegates by far, and his campaign claims his opponents are ignoring the “basic principles of math” by staying in the race—because they can’t earn enough delegates to win the party’s nomination.
Mathematically, that’s almost, but not quite, true. But Ben Bradford reports Romney’s opponents may be looking at another path to victory.
Bradford: Let’s do the math—quickly I promise: It takes 1,144 delegates to elect the Republican nominee, and so far former Senator Rick Santorum—in second place—has about 160. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has about 100. Mitt Romney has 404, more than double their amounts, combined.
With about 1400 delegates in the remaining contests, it’s an uphill climb for non-Romney candidates to reach the magic number of 1,144. Political scientist and statistician Ken Jillson explains what it would take.
Jillson: They would have to win about two-thirds of the delegates that remain available and it’s sufficiently difficult that it’s nearly impossible, but it’s not mathematically impossible.
Bradford: In races so far, winning candidates have generally earned 35 or 40 percent of a state’s delegates, so two-thirds is a tall order, or as Jillson says, nearly impossible. But the candidates have shown no sign they see it that way. Here’s Gingrich in Georgia on Super Tuesday, after winning only that state:
Gingrich: We’re going on to Alabama. [Cheers] We’re going on to Mississippi. [Cheers] We’re going on to Kansas.
Bradford: Gingrich probably can’t win, but he can also not lose. If current voting patterns hold, Romney won’t get to 1,044 for months. If successfully slowed down, he might never reach the winning number.
Helping this strategy, elections next week in Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri favor the more conservative candidates. That will provide an opportunity for Gingrich and Santorum to peel away support from Romney.
Santorum is in better position than Gingrich, with a higher delegate count and more state wins under his belt.
Santorum: I’m asking for your help and support on Tuesday, you do that, you deliver us a victory on Tuesday. We will make this a two-person race, and once it’s a two person race, the conservative will be the nominee.
Bradford: That’s Santorum speaking yesterday in Alabama. He wants to stop Gingrich from winning anymore, from keeping any momentum, and to drop out. Then, in an ideal scenario for Santorum, Jillson explains:
Jillson: All of that anti-Romney vote could consolidate around him and give him a chance to beat Romney and go into the convention with a number of delegates, perhaps still less than Romney but hold Romney under a majority and then fight it out at the convention.
Bradford: The Republican convention is usually a formality for the candidate who has already won. But in this scenario, the decision would occur at the convention. It would also be chaos. Quin Monson at the Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy says in that kind of convention anyone could be nominated—Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, or even someone who isn’t running, like New Jersey governor Chris Christie or former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Monson says the effect will be to hurt the eventual nominee’s chances, whoever he is—probably Romney.
Monson: If I’m a true-blue Republican, I want Romney to get the nomination and I want him to wrap it up quickly. I want Santorum and Gingrich to bow out gracefully and to endorse Romney and to be nice [laughs].
Bradford: Like all of these scenarios, the chances of that happening look slim. Not impossible, but slim.
Ben Bradford, Columbia Radio News
Posted on 02 March 2012.
BY BEN BRADFORD
HOST: Nearly half a million U.S. workers develop applications for mobile devices—smart phones and tablet computers. It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the US, according to a recent report by the Washington tech policy organization TechNet. And, New York has a large share of those jobs—almost 10 percent according to the report. Ben Bradford visited one of the city’s app businesses to find out why New York is doing so well.
BRADFORD: New York software firm Expand the Room has been around for ten years. It has about 30 employees, a floor in a chic little office building down by Fulton Street, and a speakeasy-ish bar tucked in back. The company has traditionally developed websites that featured a survey or a contest, or browser-based games. For instance they’re getting ready to launch a new slot machine/time-travel game on Facebook.
SOUNDS: slot machine game
BRADFORD: But since last summer, company president James Cole says demand has changed significantly.
COLE: Up to a year or two ago we were primarily 100 percent web-based and now about 50 percent of what we’re doing is mobile-based.
BRADFORD: In other words: Apps. Apps. Apps. And that’s been good for business. Expand the Room is…expanding. In 2009, the company had 10 employees, now it has about 30. And, still hiring.
The surge in demand started after Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. But it was another two years before Expand the Room started to see business. The company’s Matthew Brochstein thinks that, as more people became comfortable with mobile devices in their personal lives, corporate executives felt pressure to evolve as well.
BROCHSTEIN: All of a sudden these CEOs—50, 60, 70 years old—running these companies were aware that apps existed, and their kids and their grandkids, they were now using these. And all of a sudden, it moved to “well if I go into the app store, and I don’t have an app, and someone searches my brand and I don’t have an app, they’re just going to stop, because I’m not taken seriously anymore.”
BRADFORD: The company produced its first app last summer. As Cole tells it, celebrity gossip magazine Us Weekly was already a client, and now the magazine wanted an app—something with fitness news and photos of celebrities. So the folks at Expand the Room built it. Another client saw that app and wanted one too, so they made that. And, then another. These clients are predominantly from the media and entertainment industries in New York.
Donn Morrill, who’s president of the trade group the New York Technology Council, says the presence of those powerhouse industries in New York helps explain the city’s booming app market.
MORRILL: You’ve got this interesting combination in New York between media, entertainment, and technology, and I think that’s driving a lot of the innovation you’re seeing in the mobile and the app space.
BRADFORD: And a third major New York industry is driving the boom, as well: finance.
But Morrill doesn’t think the city just got this business by default. He says Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have prioritized the technology industry, most recently offering Cornell billions of dollars to develop a tech campus on Roosevelt Island.
MORRILL: He now has a post of a chief digital officer, he has Cornell opening up shop here in the city, so I think you’re going to see long-term sustainable technology growth here in the city.
BRADFORD: So, Morrill thinks these jobs are here to stay. But, the app economy is still only five years old. While apps are the hot new frontier, the TechNet report warns, “the location and number of app-related jobs are likely to shift greatly in the years ahead.”
Ben Bradford, Columbia Radio News.
Posted on 17 February 2012.
The House and Senate passed an extension to the payroll tax cut on Feb. 17, reaching relatively quick agreement on an issue that was extremely divisive just two months ago.