Angry Robot

Some Thoughts on Mad Men 302

There’s an impressive roman-a-clef aspect to Mad Men. Female identity is a strong theme in episode 302, as indeed it always is on the show. (Mild spoilers follow) The episode opens with the opening to Bye Bye Birdie, as Ann-Margret’s “25-year-old pretending to be fourteen” annoys Peggy. She asks, why does Pepsi want us to copy this in order to lure women, when it’s only men who are interested in her? Don passes on the conventional wisdom that men want her, thus women want to be her, leaving Peggy to mull that over. She performs an hilariously bad Ann-Margret imitation when alone in her apartment, and then later experiments with her own ability to make men want her (and thus make her want herself), by initiating a one-night-stand with a young student. She appears to be modestly happy with the results.

Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated plot sees Don and the others woo and then reject the business of some developers who plan to tear down Penn Station in order to build Madison Square Gardens. I know little of New York history, but I read in the Globe today an article about Jane Jacobs that mentioned she was a key player in the public outcry against this development. Jane Jacobs, of course, as an involved and thoughtful activist and citizen, would be a much healthier model of female identity than Ann-Margret, but circumstances conspire to deny Peggy awareness of her. Fittingly, this detail is also denied the viewer. It fits in perfectly with some dialogue elsewhere in the episode, about cities, living downtown vs. commuting, Betty’s dad’s need to ‘get out of the city’.

The episode is titled “Love Among the Ruins.” Which seems apt.


This is my first year attending the Toronto Film Fest in a serious way. By serious I mean I have a 25 daytime ticket package, I have the week off work, and I will be seeing 3+ films a day.

I generally attend a few screenings a year, either free passes through work (most often for Midnight Madness, which I adore), or going with a friend to something. But nothing comprehensive, and I confess to having a slightly negative view of the festival. I’m not a huge fan of celebrity culture, so the people who are drawn to that often bother me. Some of the film selections are questionable (every year there seem to be a lot of mainstream Hollywood flicks that are about to be released in theatres). And the process for getting advance tickets is so byzantine that it has turned me off doing it until now, despite my overpowering love of watching movies all day.

But thanks to the expert guidance of some TIFF vet friends, here I am, about ready to drop my order book off, having waded through an overcomplicated but doable selection process.

The site Tiffr (found via funkaoshi) was a huge help. The official TIFF site looks decent at first glance but the illusion quickly crumbles when you do something foolish like try to search for a film. Then you notice how it sometimes remembers your film list, sometimes not. Instead, Tiffr is like a benevolent parasite – you click a bookmarklet to shortlist films as you browse the TIFF official site. After that, your shortlist can populate a planner screen where you see the films you want to see in all their chronological, overlapping glory. Once you’ve made a series of frustrating compromises and finalized your schedule, you can print it, export to iCal, etc. (here’s mine, for whatever it’s worth to you.)

I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming festival experience. I think I’ve picked some decent flicks, and I’m frickin’ thrilled to have a week off work to do nothing but watch theoretically awesome movies. However, I understand there are at least a couple more Soviet bureaucratic hoops to be jumped through before I have my tickets, and possibly some lining up, so I’ll just wait and hope for the best.

PS3 Slim? Who Cares. $300? Sign Me Up


Yeah, there’s this slim thing (pictured), and that’s great, but the important part: only now is the PS3 hitting the launch day price point of the PS2. Consoles traditionally launch at $300, but this time Sony and Microsoft went much higher ($399 for the Xbox 360 and $599 for the PS3), whereas Nintento went all the way down to $250. And just look what happened. Nintendo has sold more consoles than the other two put together.

The word is that Microsoft will now eliminate the Pro model and drop the price on the Elite to $299 to compete with the PS3. That puts it at the same list price, sure, but Microsoft still charges you an extra $50/year to play online, and the 360 can’t play Blu-Ray discs. For the first time, Sony offers the most value for the money. Take a look at the below chart, taken from PC World


I think those stats are a little hard on the 360 (not sure how many people care about the number of USB ports, or Sixaxis), but they speak some sort of truth, and that truth is not kind to the console with the 50% failure rate.

Do I sound eager? I do indeed plan to buy one. I’ve been holding off for this price cut. I’ve owned every console Sony has put out except the PS3, and I bought a PS2 at launch. If there are more people like me – and in this regard at least there may well be – I think these things will sell extremely well.

A word on downloads vs. Blu-Ray. I am perhaps snobbier about my HD signals than most. It comes with making TV for a living; you get very fussy about your picture quality. I think Rogers compresses the hell out of their HD feeds, and they suck. iTunes HD doesn’t look great either. If I can see compression artifacts, can we really call it “High Definition”, regardless of how many pixels there are? So suffice it to say that while many people are excited about HD downloads and think optical disc formats are already dead, I’m singularly excited about having Blu-Ray and its relatively guaranteed quality. Besides, with Canada’s so-called high speed internet being what it is (and what it is is oligarchitastic!), it took me longer than an hour to download an hour of crappyish iTunes HD Dollhouse. This new PS3 can’t come soon enough.

Strategies for Beating Civilization Revolution on Emperor Difficulty


I’ve been playing a lot of Civilization Revolution lately, partly because there are few new games of interest right now, partly because Civilization has long been a favourite game franchise, and partly because of the new iPhone port. I now have this game on three platforms (360, DS, iPhone), which is sort of silly. So I just stepped up my difficulty level from King (medium) to Emperor (second hardest) and the difference is staggering. I’m not getting destroyed per se, but certainly not getting close to winning. This is a good thing, as it indicates there’s a lot more strategy to this game than you might guess from its general air of casualization as compared to past Civ games, which were insanely complicated. I’m also happy about Civ Rev’s shortened play time (three or four hours per game) – it’s a godsend for those whose minds Civ tends to conquer like pikemen under Roman tank armies.

So I’ve been researching strategies, and recently tested some out. Thought I’d share, y’know.

The Emperor AI civs will attack you constantly, so research bronze working first and then build archers. Aim to have an archer army in each city – it’ll hold you until the invention of gunpowder, or thereabouts. You’re not going to do a lot of attacking in this mode, not until the late game, so avoid wasting resources on too many military units that will just obsolete themselves, and concentrate on good defense. Meanwhile, concentrate your building on improving your cities.

My general civ strategy is to expand early in the game by spamming out settlers. This is much harder to do in Emperor, partly because you’ll need defensive units accompanying every settler and partly because you become acutely aware of the damage settlers do to their originating city. You lose two population every time you build a settler (unless you have a Republic), so in many cases you may do better to let your older cities grow and be choosier about new cities. I lost a game to a Chinese civ that only had four or five cities. But boy were they doozies.

The single most important point is that cities cannot produce both gold and science – that toggle in the interface between them is in fact toggling the city’s output (not simply the display of them as I had thought). So following from that, build cities to specialize in one or the other. In a gold-producing city, build a marketplace and then a bank; don’t waste time on libraries and universities. And vice versa, obviously. You will probably have mostly science-based cities, and one or two for gold. You’re going to want one or two production-geared cities that can spam out military units, too. But you probably already know that.

Don’t be afraid to micromanage as much as is possible in this game. For example, in a city that is working on a Wonder, switch the workers to concentrate on production. Or, if late in the game one of the AIs is close to winning and you’re closer to an economic victory than a technological, switch your cities from producing science to gold.

Early game exploration is as important as in easier game modes, with some good money available from villages, natural features, and barbarians. Getting navigation early on will help you find atlantis and the other ancient artifacts that will spew forth a bounty of bonuses.

Keeping your cultural production up is extremely important. Not only is it a possible route to winning, but you need some culture to prevent your neighbours from converting your cities. With a lot, you can be grabbing their cities, but also some fat bonuses in the form of Great People. Use them to reinforce your cities’ specialized roles. Great artists should be sent to cultural and/or border cities, great scientists to science-producing cities. Great builders are especially valuable, as they can be used to complete any production, including wonders. So you can park one, find a good Wonder to build, and then use the builder to complete it immediately.

Just as you are doing with your cities, you are going to want to specialize with your civilization as well. Figure out whether a domination, cultural, technological or economic victory makes most sense. Let your environment dictate this. If you are in arid, trade-producing land, go for economic or tech; if you have many neighbours, go domination or cultural. Each path yields its own bonuses.

This page has some interesting strategies for Deity mode that would hold true for Emperor as well. I do agree that an economic victory is probably the easiest.