Saturday, March 31, 2007

battle of the noisy morons

All in all, I think it's great Rosie O'Donnell is able to put out hard core progressive views on a major TV show. But I have a real problem with the 9/11 conspiracy folks. Yes, you can throw out a lot of convincing sounding stuff about 9/11 that sounds suspicious, as Rosie does (rather incoherently) on her blog, but only if you ignore the excellent article in Popular Mechanics that suggests most of this stuff is actually not at all suspicious. I feel most 9/11 conspiracists don't really bother to even read stuff from the other side (I've known people like that) and it drives me nuts.

This unfortunately makes Bill O'Reilly look sane when he says
Rosie is nutty, but at the same time, he is complaining that she is given a platform to spout off nutty shit, when she hasn't spouted off near as much nutty shit as O'Reilly. So he really can't demand she go off the air unless he demands he goes off the air as well. Which I don't expect to happen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

lovely to look at, delightful to beat to death

Just saw this in the Huffington Post. America's Top Model (dull reality show about a bunch of brain dead models; saw one episode) did a photo shoot in which models posed as murdered corpses.

Now, some feminists object in general to portrayals of women as victims, and I don't know that I would go that far, but these are really disturbing pictures. And it is just hard to imagine what was going through the mind of whoever thought this was a good idea. These are the ultimate in fetishized violence, and they are so creepy that they're rather hard to look at. They also just seem very anti-female. All of which is exactly what any sane person would have thought when someone said; "let's make all the models pose as beautiful, gory corpses." But apparently there aren't too many sane people at America's Top Model.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

pet food made by animal haters?

There's a move to boycott Menu Foods, the company who makes seemingly 80% of all the cat and dog foods in the world and who recently made news when a bad batch started killing animals. There are two reasons people want to boycott Menu Foods, first because they knew about the dangers weeks before they issued a recall, and second because after learning some animals had gotten sick, they
fed the tainted food to lab animals to see how many would die. For comparison, when people have died from ingesting something purchased at a drug store like tainted aspirin, the aspirin companies did not start feeding aspirin to prison inmates to see if it was really dangerous or not.

Those are pretty good reasons to boycott Menu Foods, but I don't know if I can do it. I might be able to switch my cat's dry food, but she will only eat one flavor of one brand of wet food.

But I do think I'll try to see if I can find something outside of the Menu Foods universe to feed my cat. Even though I am covered with scratches, I'd still like to keep her alive.

Update: I bought a bunch of cat foods not in the menu foods universe, and while my cat Tropicata rejected Pet Guard, she likes both Innova's dry and wet food, so I am going to boycott menu foods. CORRECTION: Menu Foods makes that too, so I'm still checking (see comment from Anonymous below).

Update 2: Just saw this about Natura, who make Innova, saying they're working on dropping Menu Foods and in the meantime will have an inspector on site at Menu Foods facilities. So I give them credit for that. My cat will also eat Triumph though, which apparently is not connected to Menu Foods, but she actually seems to like California Natural, which is another Natura brand (it would be a lot easier if companies would just use one brand name instead of half a dozen). So I might stick with Natura cat foods just because my cat seems more enthusiastic about them than what she has been eating.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Republicans; enemies of the system

Last night there was a very interesting debate on the Daily Show between Jon Stewart and John Bolton. Basically, Stewart complained about the way Bush has surrounded himself with yes men and how he has made questionable appointments, like, say, making Bolton, who famously disdained the United Nations, the U.S. representative to the United Nations. And Bolton says that the real problem is people who don't go along with the president, such as bureaucrats who have their own agenda and don't work to fulfill the president's political agenda.

This is a good example of what is always abundantly clear about Republicans; they don't believe in the system. They are radicals. You could see it when they tried to get rid of the Filibuster; the Democrats saved it by essentially agreeing not to use it, because they didn't want to destroy part of our system of government. The Republicans were perfectly willing to toss it out, although of course they filibustered themselves when the Democrats wanted to debate Iraq.

The United States was set up by its founders in such a way that change can't happen too fast; you can't just come in and reshape the government in your image. This is why congressional terms are staggered, this is why Supreme Court justices are permanent and insulated from concerns about getting fired. The system is designed to promote stability; to keep some idiot with an utter conviction of certainty from shredding all our rights at once.

The bureaucrats Bolton disdains are a stabilizing force. While political appointees float in and out, and are often unqualified and unknowledgeable, bureaucrats are experienced and understand the way things work. Yes, they can be intractable and get in the way of change, and that can be a problem, but it is more often for the best. You might think it's great to have a car that can go 400 miles an hour, but if you think you can drive that fast without an accident and you're wrong then you're a pancake. The problem with Republicans is they really believe they can drive 400 miles an hour, tearing down the freeway, rewriting the constitution, reshaping the world, and they hate the checks and balances speed limits.

What's amazing about Republicans is even though they can see, as much as they can see anything, that much of what has been done by Bush has been disastrous, they still hate curbs on their actions, and seem to truly believe that if everyone would just get out of their way they could create something perfect.

Republicans are, underneath it all, revolutionaries and anarchists, and that's what makes them so dangerous, and allows them to do so much damage even within a system designed with checks and balances.

Friday, March 16, 2007

God of War II review

Due to reasons I'm not going to get into, the review I wrote for my column in the New York Times of God of War II is not going to run. Since it's quite a good review, IMO, and it would be a shame for it to remain unread, I'm putting it here for anyone who wanders this way.


I have slain gods. I have snapped the spines of minotaurs. I have bent time to my will and brought Olympus to its knees. So bow down. Bow down! Not to me, but to the designers of SCEA’s incredible action adventure game God of War II, which turns every player into a raging force of destruction.

God of War 2 continues the story of Kratos, a brutish soldier who in the first God of War game set out to kill Ares, the God of War, and ended by replacing him.

As the sequel begins, the god Kratos is leading his Spartan worshipers to bloody victories. Things are going pretty well for Kratos for the first few minutes of the game, but things take a turn for the worse when Zeus comes along and kills him.

Death slows most people down, but it just makes Kratos mad, and with the help of gods opposed to Zeus he sets out to persuade the Three Fates to return him to his last minute of life for a do over.

God of War was a game of massive scale, full of giant beasts and mammoth structures, but the sequel aspires to dwarf its predecessor. The game kicks off with a battle against a living, hundred foot tall statue, and then just gets bigger. At times the game’s immensity is overwhelming. At one point Kratos must bring to life four metal horses, each one hundreds of feet tall. He reaches them by walking along their harness, a chain thousands of feet long. Elsewhere he must free his mount, Pegasus, from a rock monster whose fingernails are longer than Kratos.

Kratos himself seems unimpressed by his outsized opponents. A conscienceless anti-hero, he is masculinity run amok, unafraid of death and pain, throwing himself into every insanely dangerous situation in a way that suggests extreme bravery or severe psychosis.

As in the first game, God of War II is divided between savage battles and clever environmental puzzles. Everything about the game has a magnificent intensity. Amidst stone ruins, Kratos swings his deadly chained blades at soldiers and monsters or hurls them into the air and then pummels them back into the ground. As enemies become more powerful, Kratos gains additional powers, learning to slow time and generate earthquakes. When an icon appears over an opponent’s head, the player can press key combinations to perform remarkably savage and deadly attacks that spray blood over the scenery.

Puzzles are often just as savage, as when Kratos throws a wounded soldier to his death to breach a wall or uses heavy machinery to smash and trap the many arms of yet another gigantic creature. It might seem rather odd that every monster in ancient Greece happens to be surrounded by mechanisms whose only possible use would be to vanquish those monsters, but it certainly is convenient.

Zeus isn’t the only mythological figure Kratos has to deal with, and he gets along with few of them; when Kratos needs to glide a long distance he grabs Icarus and tears his wings off.

No matter how many times I use words like huge and immense and vast, I just can’t properly convey the grand sweep of God of War II. With an epic story that brings its twisted Greek mythology to ferocious life, gripping battles, logical, challenging puzzles and awe-inspiring visuals, the game is electrifying. And pitch perfect game mechanics that include responsive controls and a camera that always supplies the ideal view make the experience seamless. The original God of War was an almost perfect gaming experience; the sequel doesn’t need that “almost.”

Let the prostration commence.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

the bush justice machine still has most of its cogs

It seems to obvious once it's pointed out, but until I read Paul Krugman's op-ed piece, it hadn't even occurred to me that the firing of those 8 prosecutors would also mean the prosecutors who weren't fired were probably going all out for the Bush agenda.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn't go along with the Bush administration's politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

I wish I could say I was smart enough to think of that myself, but that's why it's great people like Krugman are out there pointing things out to those of us who aren't connecting all the dots.

Monday, March 12, 2007

nice guy, shmice guy; throw him to the wolves

There seems to be a lot of people saying Scooter Libby should be pardoned; even some members of the jury that convicted him say he should be pardoned because he's such a nice guy.

Well, if he's such a nice guy, why was he in the Bush administration? I mean seriously, can you be a nice person if you are working hard to help build up fictional reasons to get us into a bloody war and to smear administration critics? I say no.

Yes, he's a fall guy, and there are certainly people in the administration far more deserving of jail time than Scooter (Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, etc.), but this is as though the only person caught after a bank robbery was the getaway driver and people are saying, "gee, he shouldn't go to jail; he didn't run into the bank with a gun, he didn't shoot anyone, he just drove."

The getaway driver goes to jail, no matter how nice a guy he might be, and so should Scooter.

the perfect Republican law; it hurts immigrants AND the poor

The Republicans have always had this overwhelming fear that the poor and oppressed of this country are pulling one over on us, so I doubt they mind that a law designed to keep illegal immigrants off Medicaid is crushing poverty-stricken U.S. citizens. It's typical, screwing a lot of people in order to deal with a fairly insignificant problem that has more to do with paranoia than reality. As pointed out by the director of the Department of Human Services in Iowa, “We have not turned up many undocumented immigrants receiving Medicaid in Waterloo, Dubuque or anywhere else in Iowa.” So a lot of U.S. citizens are suffering for a non-existent problem. And I can't imagine too many Republican who read about that are going to be crying over it.

But if there were a law to present corporations from ripping off the government and it caused a few massive corporations to get less in the way of government handouts, you can bet they'd be shedding gallons of tears.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

why the Scooter verdict doesn't have me jumping for joy

I really should be happier that Scooter Libby has been found guilty of perjury. It's certainly nice that someone in the Bush administration has been convicted of something, and it's always handy to have yet more proof of the evils of Bush. So why do I feel depressed about it all?

Well, first off, because he's going to be pardoned anyway. The guy is not going to jail. There's no reason for Bush not to pardon him; his popularity is so low it doesn't even matter anymore. And if Scooter did go to jail he might decide to take Cheney and Rove down with him.

Second, he's not one of the people in the Bush administration who I feel passionately should be jailed. Jail Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. These men should be put on trail for war crimes and sentenced to life in prison. These people are criminals who have caused unimaginable suffering through the world, are responsible for a tremendous numbers of deaths, have stolen civil rights, left Katrina victims hungry, homeless and in danger for days, given our soldiers substandard health care, sold the country to Halliburton and reached a low that makes past criminals like Richard Nixon look like angels.

And that's perhaps the biggest problem with Scooter; it's just something else that makes me think of how Bush has trashed this whole fucking planet. And how even now almost 30% of the people in this country think he's doing a good job, in spite of truly overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Even the fact that it's more proof of the corruption and vileness of Bush & company doesn't mean much, because we have all the proof we need and at this point you can either see it or not. And Scooter's not even going to be punished; the bastard will probably wind up getting a medal of freedom like every other disgraced member of the White House gang.

So instead of jumping for joy, I'm just fuming.

Friday, March 02, 2007

please do not drive for 24 hours after playing Burnout

I swear I once wrote a game review in which I talked about whether speeding around in a racing game could make people speed in real life, but I don't know when. Anyway, one study claims that, in fact
racing video games encourage real-life speeding. The authors of the study say the results are "indisputable," but from the article it sounds like they just asked people if they drove more dangerously, and I wouldn't call people's opinions of their own actions indisputable evidence of anything.

On the other hand, drive game fans seem to be a bit better at passing driving tests, so perhaps they're faster but better, which might even out.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

my child wouldn't do that: he's white!

Here's an interesting article suggesting racist undertones amongst the people scapegoating game violence for crimes. When I think about I realize that every time some murder has been committed and the press has gone on about how the perpetrator was a video game fan, that perpetrator is always white. In the words of sociologist Karen Sternheimer:

White, middle-class killers retain their status as children easily influenced by a game, victims of an allegedly dangerous product. African-American boys, apparently, are simply dangerous.”