Monday, April 30, 2007

what? blaming all your mistakes on other people doesn't always work? who knew?

George Tenet's attempt to rehabilitate his reputation by trying to weasel out of responsibility for being one of the main reasons we invaded Iraq in a search for non-existent WMDs may not be going as well as he hoped, judging by his lambasting from six ex-CIA officers.

So from my point of view this is all pretty good; Tenet writes a book that further exposes the lies of the Bush administration yet fails to convince people he was just an innocent pawn. Now I'm hoping Rumsfeld will come out with a book of his own soon.

how to get press you don't want

So, videogame violence is a hot topic politicians are using to connect with parents, and pundits of dubious sanity are pushing a connection between games and every ill of society. So what should game publishers do to make it clear that they are not an industry of bloodthirsty, irresponsible creeps who will do anything to titillate the public? How about

chopping the head of a goat?

That's right, the folks at Sony had a party in Greece for God of War II in which they reportedly had a headless goat and topless women. Which is a shame, because God of War II is one of the great action games of all time and there's no need to cheese it up for a little publicity.

I hate the words "grow up." I've been told to do it but I've never rushed into it. But I don't run a huge corporation whose actions have huge ramifications. So I'm going to have to say it: game publishers, grow the fuck up already.

UPDATE: Turns out the original story was exaggerated, according to Sony. Still a rather unfortunate choice though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Christian thing to do: use the Virginia Tech tragedy for some free press

Yesterday I received this press release:

Hi Charles,

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, it is now more important than ever to take a serious look at what violent video games are teaching America's youth. One company, Digital Praise Inc., has been trying to change the content of computer and video games for a few years now, and as more and more of these horrific events take hold, it becomes clearer as to why Digital Praise is working so hard to do what they do. As a leading manufacturer of Christian themed, family-friendly entertainment software, Digital Praise has created six popular game series that combat the ever-growing trend of violent video games.

Would you be interested in learning more about these games? I can also arrange an interview with the founders about their views on how violent video games influence and affect our kids.

This is disgusting on so many levels. First off, while the VT killer did play videogames in high school, like 99.9% of teenage boys, there is no indication that he was a serious gamer, and only nut jobs like anti-game activist and crafter of unconstitutional anti-video game legislation are suggesting otherwise. So this doesn't have any real basis in anything. And I also think it's foolish for a game publisher to be trashing the video game industry; like it or not you are a part of that industry and if some forms of free expression start being censored there is no guarantee that this won't come around to bit you sooner or later.

But mainly, it's just really, really disgusting that a game company is trying to use a terrible tragedy to sell its games. It is reprehensible, and the people involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Although I am often amazed at the capacity of some Christians to not feel shame at grotesque behavior.

One last point: Christian preacher Jim Jones killed a lot more people than any video game fanatic I can think of. So what's more dangerous, Counter-strike or The Bible?

Monday, April 16, 2007

time for another thank you letter to the NRA

Virginia Tech Shooting Kills at Least 22 - New York Times.

Sure, gun rights people claim guns don't kill people, people kill people, but doesn't it seem people kill a lot more people in countries where it's easy to get guns? For example, when I tried to find a school shooting incident in England for comparison, all I could find was a story on boys shooting kids with plastic pellets.

Say, I have an idea. Let's just amend the fucking second amendment and get rid of that whole argument about what it means. Just fucking amend it to say, PEOPLE CAN'T HAVE GUNS.

another interesting take on Imus

Jason Whitlock does a good job with one of the sub themes of the Imus controversy;

what Imus said pales in comparison with most rap videos. It's interesting because Whitlock is black and apparently very down on the rap attitudes.

If you look in the comments of the Imus article there's something I find particularly interesting; one person (who from what he says is presumably black) who'd heard about the controversy but hadn't heard the specifics who writes, "Nappy headed ho's? Thats it? THAT'S IT?" He says Imus should be off the air for doing far worse, but he isn't impressed with this one.

not if but when

True Majority has created a very amusing sort of office pool for the world on when Alberto Gonzales will resign. Guess the date and time and you win a year's supply of Ben & Jerry Ice Cream. It's a lovely way to tweak the administration and give us all something fun to do. I figured after he testifies it won't go well and he'll be gone pretty quickly, so I guessed in about a week, but I suspect I'm being optimistic and am not counting on that ice cream. But hey, you never know.

frank rich on Imus, saying what I want to say so much better, as usual

The always-insightful Frank Rich has written a very smart piece on Imus, which has, for those of you who don't subscribe to the New York Times' "Times Select" service, been posted on usenet.

I don't know how long it will be there, because I imagine the Times wouldn't like that and may notice it sooner or later, so I'll quote one important line from it:

Let Bill O'Reilly talk about
"wetbacks" or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his
Parkinson's symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

And that perfectly sums up my thoughts ... "let the rest of us answer back." We don't need less speech, we need more speech, we need to all discuss these things with all viewpoints heard. It would be ideal if all viewpoints were heard equally - it's a shame more people hear Ruch Limbaugh than Al Franken - but the important thing is, everyone should get to say whatever the fuck they want.

Friday, April 13, 2007

the imus dilemma

Interesting story in the New York Times on how, in a world where radio personalities are constantly saying moronic, outrageous things, Don Imus was the one who got torpedoed, in part, according to the Times, because it was a slow news week.

I've got real mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, the offending conversation was pretty repellent. While the big quote is Imus describing the Rutger's women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," the racism is really a sort of casual, throw-away thing compared to the sexism represented in basically slamming these women for not being sufficiently stereotypically feminine.

Yes, Imus is a racist, sexist idiot, or at least talks like one, and according to wikipedia this is not the first time he's gone over the line, but taken in a broader context, the ability for an outraged public to run a pundit out of town could be a problem.

First off, people say worse and get away with it. Bill O'Reilly said a kidnapping victim wanted it, yet he's still on the air. But then, racism seems to get people in more trouble than anything else nowadays, just look at Michael Richards. (Note to shock jocks and pundits: you're really better off being sexist or attacking victims of child molestation than uttering racial slurs. At least then Al Sharpton won't use you as part of his fame machine.)

But the real problem with muzzling Imus can be summed up in two words: Lenny Bruce.

Like Imus, Bruce used racist language. Of course, his purpose was very different, as discussed in an excellent article at Bruce used provocative language to comment on society; Imus uses provocative language for cheap, crude laughs and, at least subconsciously, to promote the status quo (be prettier girls, even if you play basketball).

There's a temptation to throw in, "also, Lenny Bruce was funnier," but that's not the issue. The issue is that, you can't actually differentiate Bruce and Imus in any meaningful way in terms of law or the rules of censorship. They both used language many people found offensive and they both got in a shitload of trouble for it. So if we start saying, offensive language has to be kept out of public discourse, then we get rid of Imus but also lose Lenny Bruce.

I tend to feel that what this country needs is a lot of dialog. By this I don't mean just quiet, politically correct academics discussing issues in a reasonable, moderate way. I do mean that, and I wish there were more of it, but I also mean people being outrageous, people saying abhorrent things, other people slamming people for saying abhorrent things, and basically the whole messy process of figuring out where we are and what we think by talking to one another.

I can't feel too bad for Imus, who struck me as unpleasant when I saw him on TV a few months back (my mom's a regular viewer; she says he constantly slams George W. Bush, so she likes him for that). Imus will probably land on his feet somewhere, perhaps setting up on a satellite radio station like Howard Stern did. He's a popular guy, and I've read he does go out and raise money for worthy causes and good stuff like that. I tend to think his racism and sexism are so ingrained that he just can't see that's what they are; I don't think he means to denigrate other races or women, I think he just has this narrow view of how the world should be and he expresses it in unfortunate ways.

But I do feel bad for discourse in this country. I don't think things are as restrictive now as they were when Bruce was doing stand-up in the 1960s - South Park was always able to cross lines with abandon, but Imus' firing looks like another bit of a slippery slope we've been sliding down for the last 10 or 15 years of trying to save the world from bad thoughts by shutting people up. And I don't think that's the way to do it. I just hope I will always have the opportunity to say that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

videos shmideos

Why is it music video channels always wind up hating music videos? MTV went to game shows and later to reality TV. VH1 is mainly shows called "the top 20 things you don't give a shit about" and more reality TV. So I watched Fuse, mainly, because MTV2 plays either rap or white-boy-screaming music and VH1 Classic plays way too much schlock that deserves to be forgotten. But now Fuse is playing endless reruns of Felicity (such a stupid show, from what little I've seen) and other non-music-video stuff. And when I tried to fall back on MTV2 they don't seem to have music a lot of the time. VH1 Classic seems to have the most music of the lot but is drifting into "about the artist" type shows so I expect to see less and less in the way of music videos there.

It's interesting; apparently playing music videos is a good way to get a cable channel started but once you've got name recognition you can make more money with anything except music videos. Which is a shame, because they're good to have on when you feel like having the TV on but don't want to pay a lot of attention to what's going on.

What's really needed is the equivalent of cable music channels that just stream a particular genre of music 24 hours a day with no commercials; but I suspect the cable companies wouldn't want to devote that much bandwidth to the enterprise.

What's really needed is an internet video equivalent to Pandora Radio, which streams a customized selection of music to the user. Then I could just watch it on my TV through my Playstation 3. So if you know of something like that, leave a comment here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

lumpy introspection

Alanis Morissette's plaintive balladic cover of the Black Eyed Peas infectiously dopey "My Humps" is the funniest insanely-slowed-down cover since Vanilla Fudge did Sonny and Cher's Bang Bang. It's also a really nice song. The video is great too, taking the hip shaking of the original and doing it all in slow motion. (If you're not familiar with the original song check it out first so you can appreciate it fully.)

This isn't one of these songs that attempts to find the melodic side of a party song, like Joss Stone's cover of the White Stripes' Fell in Love with a Girl or the Mama and the Papas take on the Beatles' song I Call Your Name. Even though it's a pretty song it is done very much tongue in cheek, and manages to simultaneously make fun of shallow, sex-crazed pop music and Morissette's own angsty image. It could even be seen as a take off of pop stars trying to jump to the latest trend; perhaps it came about when someone told Alanis to update her sound.

Seriously, your life won't be complete until you hear Alanis sing "The boys they wanna sex me" as though it is the most heart wrenching fact in the universe. Now we just have to wait for someone to do a mashup and turn both versions into a duet.