Monday, December 31, 2007

An Unreasonable Man

I want to let you know of a great documentary I just saw on the life of Ralph Nader called "An Unreasonable Man." Nader is one of the greatest patriots that America has ever seen. You may know him from his presidential campaigns, but he's also been a lifelong advocate for the American public. He's been the spearhead for many forms of legislation, including the Clean Air Act, he got seatbelts and air bags into our cars, he's responsible for the X-rays we get at the dentists' being free of lead.

And this is a fantastic documentary. It covers his presidential runs in detail, including the aftermath of the 2000 elections. I voted for Nader in '00 and '04, happily and unregrettably. I still can't fathom the logic of the Democrats who were rabid with rage after 2000 and blamed Nader for why Gore lost. As most rational people know, there were many factors behind the coup of 2000, but Nader's participation as a candidate was very low on that list, if it's on it at all. It's all covered, and to the filmmakers' credit, some of Nader's vocal, outspoken opponents are interviewed. Guys like Todd Gitlin and Eric Alterman, guys whose works I read and are informed by, do come off as total douchebags. And they should really know better. I never felt as if Nader set out to "spoil" the election, and research that was conducted (and is revealed in the film) validates that perspective. I remember for awhile afterward, when I told people that I voted for Ralph, they told me that I voted for Bush, and I'd tell them "you don't understand, New York's a safe state", and it just flew right over them. A lot of people aren't educated in the electoral college, I suppose.

What's worse to me are the turncoats like Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon, who supported and campaigned for Nader in 2000, yet then proceeded to turn on him in '04. That's the worst, just total hypocrites in my book.

I unregistered from the Democrats last week. I wasn't a Democrat to begin with (independent) until Kucinich ran in '04. He is running again. I like Dennis, he's a lot like Ralph on the issues and he's probably as close to a progressive Democrat as you're going to find. Unfortunately, he has no chance. I had to hear that a lot in '04, when I directed his campaign in western Suffolk. I was more idealistic back then, younger. But now, I realize that if a candidate like him had half of a ghost of a chance, he'd be shot. Besides, in '04 when he was told that he couldn't win, he said that he was running to move the Democratic party platform to the left. Which, on paper, makes sense. But just look at the Democrats in the '04 general election leading up to the present. They've been horrible and haven't stood up to Bush once. To me, that vindicates Nader's position in his campaigns. We're told that Nader's responsible for our last 8 years, but in the meantime, where the fuck were the Democrats?

Well, I didn't mean to get off track. Anyway, do see the Ralph Nader movie, "An Unreasonable Man". I'm not planning to vote next year, but the one exception I'd make would be if Ralph ran again. Run, Ralph, Run!

Happy New Year

Few people are more indifferent to New Year's than me. I never saw the fascination with making New Year's Resolutions (which people are doomed to fail anyway), gathering together in the cold, and watching a ball drop. It's just another year, and it'll probably suck worse than the last one did. And I'm not just talking about me either. Our economic slide will continue, our Earth will get warmer, more of our men and women will get killed for nothing, and we'll continue to treat each other like utter crap.

Now, as I've probably spoiled your good mood, let me rectify that. If you are in the New York area and it reaches midnight, rather than watch the ball drop and see lame musical acts on these New Years' specials, tune to Channel 11 for the annual Honeymooners marathon. It's over 50 years old, but I'm such a huge fan, as it easily blows the door off most sitcoms leading up to the present. The characters are just memorable and play so well off each other, and the lines and situations are really for big laughs. I can watch this for the rest of my years and it'll never get old to me, I'll still laugh my ass off, while most sitcoms leave me with a few slight chuckles, at best.

So, for what it's worth (if it is worth anything at all), have a happy new year.

The Story of Stuff

Thanks to the Bru Notes, I discovered this 20 minute interactive video that'll blow your socks right off. It's called The Story of Stuff, and a woman named Annie Leonard guides us through the five steps of "stuff" (extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal). In a rapid-fire but easy-to-follow style, she shows us how we can't possibly sustain our endless, ever-increasing pursuit for "stuff". I highly recommend taking 20 minutes out of your life and watching this video, rather than watching TV or shopping. It's pretty difficult to talk about consumption and environmental issues without getting bogged down in details and making it difficult for the layperson to follow, but Ms. Leonard does a wonderful job. There are also resources on the website if you want to get further involved.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Gamer's Dream

This is why I want to go to Japan someday, or at least part of the reason. This is a gaming shop in Japan that is two floors and wall-to-wall games. Virtually every gaming console you can think of is here along with games. There are loads of rare games too, and as you notice, a lot of things are in plastic wrap to protect its condition. I don't think a store like this exists in the entire United States. We're not that lucky. We get stuck with Gamestop, which I consider to be McGaming. It's a corporate piece of crap, all its stores look the exact same, they have all the same stuff, they piss all over everything pre 21st century, its employees don't know shit about games, and I could go on and on.

I'm impressed that in this shop, you can even get an MSX computer. And there's games for the SNES, etc. Just a total heaven for gamers.

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to drop in real quick and wish you all a Merry. I had a really good Christmas this year. From my mom, I got a 50 dollar Kohl's card, 3 pairs of pants, and other stuff. But the best gift hands-down came from my brother. He got me all 3 seasons of one of my favorite shows on DVD, "Deadwood". Just a tremendous program, and HBO will eternally suck for cancelling it. Almost as good is that I got a 40 dollar Best Buy card from my sister. I really hate Best Buy, but fuck it. I'm not sure what I'm gonna get with that yet. I also bought a Target gift card that I don't think I'm gonna give, and "Heroes" is going on sale starting tomorrow for 20 bucks. So, you know what that means.

I am running out of room on my small shelves due to my always expanding DVD collection. I barely have time to watch them, but it's so damn addicting, I can't help myself. I'm also gonna treat myself in some fashion, I just don't know how yet. Oh, and I saw "Sweeney Todd" today with Johnny Depp. Very good film/musical.

I can't believe that I'm starting class tomorrow. I worked so much this past week that it just crept up on me. But I'm ready, I already got my reading done and just have to work on the assignments. Now I have to get up even earlier, at 7.

Again, I wish you and yours a great holiday and New Year too. This may not be much, but here's my special holiday gift to you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Boston Legal

I just watched the first season of "Boston Legal" on DVD. I can't get enough of the Priceline Negotiator commercials with Shatner, so I saw it at the library and gave it a try. I'm also starting my paralegal program in a few days, so I was telling myself that it'd be a "form of research". But it's so good, and very funny and lighthearted. I get turned off by the CSIs and the Law and Orders because they all take themselves so seriously. But a lot of the characters in BL are very funny and offbeat, and a lot of the situations and the cases provide plenty of room for humor. Shatner especially does a great job. He's basically playing himself, and has the best lines of the show.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, because I read that Boston Legal was a spinoff of The Practice, which I was never able to stand. It was so preachy, and I hated Dylan McDermott's character and that obese woman. But yeah, anyway, it's not like I don't watch enough TV already, and now I have another favorite show I have to watch.

Congress is Losing More Ground than the "President"

This is an excellent blog from KdLiz's Contemplation of Preponderance blog. Can you believe that Congress has a lower approval rating than Bush? I certainly can. An interesting point that Liz brings up, and which I totally agree with, is that as much as we may loathe the man, at least we can say that he's consistent. He promised us war and fiscal mismanagement, and he actually delivered. There's something to be said for that. Contrast that with Congress ever since it went into the hands of the Democrats after the '06 elections. All they have done is promise, promise, and promise again. They keep giving ultimatums, like "no more blank checks". And they cave, every single time. As Liz says, why get elected, and then complain and just give the guy what he wants? You could have lost and done the exact same thing.

I have a voter registration form that I'd intended to send out months ago. I'd put down that I was going to change my party registration, from Democrat to independent. I balked at the time because I couldn't believe that you had to pay for a stamp to put on the form, since it's going to the Board of Elections. But I'm so disgusted at this point that I'll swallow it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I Broke the Fucking Starbucks "Cheer Chain"

While surfing for material to put on the blog, I came across this hillarious website, that features blogs from celebrities and world leaders. The thing is, the blogs aren't real. They're parodies on what these people might really post if they had a blog. What a great idea.

I was reading about the "cheer chains" that have allegedly been occurring at numerous Starbucks' over the past week or so. A "cheer chain" is when a customer at a Starbucks drive-thru pays for the drink of the next customer in line, that customer pays for the drink of the next customer, and so forth. As cheerful and as in the spirit of the holiday as this sounds, and I hate to be an old fuddy-duddy and rain on Starbucks' parade, but I'm thinking these random acts are a little too perfectly timed with the "pass the cheer" slogan of Starbucks during the holidays. They're probably a product of Starbucks' PR machine, who needs all the good press it can get these days.

Anyway, I came across this website, NewsGroper, that has fake blogs from people like George Bush and Hillary Clinton. One of the parody blogs was from Gordon Ramsay, the guy who does the "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" shows on Fox. I've never seen them, I try to make a habit of not watching reality television, but I hear they're uproariously funny. And "he" wrote this blog on the Starbucks "cheer chain", which is entitled "I Broke the Fucking Starbucks 'Cheer Chain'".

The blog is also uproariously funny, LOL, so please read it.

Sobriety Checkpoints

I've noticed that, at least for awhile, Suffolk County Police have engaged in the practice of putting up sobriety checkpoints on busy streets, usually on the weekends. Last week, it kind of hit home when my brother told me that he'd come across one on Route 112 on his way to work. Like probably like most people, he looked on it as a mild inconvenience. They were just an obstacle to pass on the way to work, or the way home.

It'll never cease to amaze me how indifferent we are towards maintaining and preserving our most basic freedoms. It's like most of us were asleep when they taught us about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in school. I think I remember being taught that, I wouldn't be surprised if they stopped teaching it to the current generation of children and teenagers in school. When he told me what'd happened, I immediately thought of the Fourth Amendment (which prohibits the government from unlawful search and seizure) and probable cause. The police can't just lean into your vehicle and ask you "have you been drinking?" (or any other question, for that matter), without having probable cause. In other words, having a reasonable standard; such as you driving erratically all over the road. Simply making a police checkpoint and asking every driver, or even every other, or every tenth driver whether they'd been drinking makes the Fourth Amendment pretty worthless, IMO.

Shortly after finding out about this, I went to that most valued of sites, Wikipedia, and found the entry on sobriety checkpoints. I found out that eleven states have banned the use of sobriety checkpoints by law enforcement. Unfortunately, New York isn't one of those eleven. But far worse, I then read that in 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are Constitutional. Reinquist, the Chief Justice, said that the state interest in reducing drunk driving justified a major breach of the Fourth Amendment. For anyone who thinks that the USSC started to go downhill with the Bush V. Gore decision, think again and look back to this decision. When looking at the Supreme Court, I'm reminded of Emperor Palpatine and the Sith. Powerful, arrogant people who use their ideology for ends that lead to unrecoverable damage to our freedoms, and like the Emperor and the Sith (at least from midway through Episode III to Episode IV) , totally unaccountable.

Sicko

I just saw Michael Moore's "Sicko" again, this time on DVD, and again, I implore you. Get to a video store and rent it, order it from home, or put it on your Netflix queue. Just an outstanding documentary, in every sense of the word. And there are a lot of little bonus features, the bonus features on a Moore DVD are always worth watching.

Iraqi Extremists' War on Alcohol

This article from the NY Times shows why I hate fundamentalists of any stripe, be they Christian, Muslim, or whatever. A bombing in Baghdad on Thursday targeted a street with several liquor stores. No one knows whether the bombing was conducted by Sunnis or Shiites, extremists both, who oppose alcohol consumption. I have to say that I take this a bit personally, as I've worked in a couple of liquor stores over the past few years. Who knows how many of my comrades, whose job it was to stock shelves and mop up broken wine bottles, were killed as a result?

At least the people in this neighborhood kept partying and going on with their lives in the aftermath, denying the terrorists an important victory. Just a thought: I think the Iraqis are seriously lagging behind us musically, as the article says that people were listening to a sound system blare out the Foreigner song "I Want to Know What Love Is." Damn, I was in diapers when that song was a hit.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tent Cities

As you might recall from a history class you took on U.S. history, in the 1930s there was a monumental event that struck the entire world, known as the Great Depression. Due to many factors, the economies of many countries, including ours, were in disarray, and most people endured quite lean times, for many years. One of the tenets of information I took from those lessons, were the formation of what came to be called "Hoovervilles." These were shantytowns formed by people who were left jobless and homeless by the Depression.

An article in Yahoo reminded me very strongly of this. Due to the mortgage crisis, there is a tent city in a South California suburb. It's a growing "city" that now houses 200 people, including several children. I feel this is probably a harbinger of things to come; one person with Catholic Charities says in the article that the rising home foreclosures are an indicator of a "trickle-down effect". In that once those who would have bought homes find themselves renting apartments, the people who would have rented apartments, well, who knows what they'll do now, and so on and so forth.

I have no doubt that we're on the path to becoming a third-world nation. It became apparent once factories began moving south and to Asia, leaving us with not much of a manufacturing industry to speak of, and then you add globalization and NAFTA and all the other stuff, and it's been downhill from there.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More proof that abstinence only-programs don't work

This article in the Washington Post states that more and more states are rejecting federal funding for sex education in the schools, since the funding is tied to having an abstinence-only program taught to students. Any reasonable person will tell you that simply telling people, especially teens, to not have sex just doesn't work.

Besides, IMO, it isn't the job of the federal government or the schools to teach kids about sex. That responsibility rests solely in the hands of the parents, and it belongs in the home. Just like it isn't the job of the government to have programs like DARE. Can't parents simply tell their kids that drugs will fuck up your life?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Are Americans "Better Than That"?

This is an article I read from Consortium News on the torture scandal that's been hitting the news. I haven't really commented on it because to be honest, I have mixed feelings on the issue. As much as I abhor the torturing of others, I do believe that there can be, and probably have been, situations in which it was necessary. And this guy who wrote the article, brought up "24" and Jack Bauer. Of course, this became of interest to me, because I'm such a big fan of "24". The writer brings it up in a totally disrespectful way, without having seen the show. He says that there is at least one torture scene an episode, which is really fucking ridiculous. I can probably count on one hand the number of times Jack has tortured someone in the history of the show. But to the layman who's never seen the show, because there have been a few moments of torture in the show, the whole show must be about Jack Bauer plying out someone's fingernails, or waterboarding a Middle Eastern man.

The author, Ray McGovern, also refers to our policy of torturing terrorist suspects as a "Jack Bauer culture". When I read that, I thought of Orwell's quote, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." It's easy for all of us to play armchair quarterback and second-guess the actions that these men (and women) decide to take. But can it be a necessary act? If someone in custody knows of, say, an imminent attack (or heaven forbid, something having to do with nuclear weapons), IMO, torture would be a last resort, but still on the table. If living in a Jack Bauer culture is wrong, I don't think I'd want to be right.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Konami characters and their 80s counterparts

This is a fun article about how some characters from Konami games (or their box covers) bear a striking resemblance to some 1980's action movie icons.

Walmart: Purveyors of Filth

It's so funny and ironic how Walmart boasts of its stance on family values conservatism, does things like censor music CD's, but then they'll sell something like this:






It's one thing if it were in the adult women's section, but it was in the junior section (girls 12 and under) for $2.99.

Update on telecom companies spying on Americans

A few months earlier, I posted some articles and information about how the major telecom companies (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are colluding with our government to spy on Americans' phone calls without a court order or any kind of judicial oversight. I found some new information buried in an article about the passing of a House bill on banning torture by the CIA. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to reject legislation that would have immunized the phone companies from being sued. Of course, the Cheney White House is vowing to veto.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Michael Jackson and Sonic 3

I didn't know this until very recently, but it was apparently revealed a few years ago by someone within Sega during the 90's that Michael Jackson had originally done some work on the soundtrack of the classic Genesis game, Sonic 3. Tonight, I discovered a small documentary comparing and contrasting some of Jackson's music (recorded approximately around the time of Sonic 3's development) with some of the songs from Sonic 3. So this is pretty much true, judging by how similar the songs are. It's said that collaboration between Sega and Jackson ended upon him being accused of allegedly molesting children.

But this is a pretty interesting video for those interested in gaming history:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jericho

I just finished the first season of a TV series that I can wholeheartedly recommend, especially since it's returning in February. It's called "Jericho", you might have heard of it, it's about a small town in Kansas that feels the repercussions of a widespread nuclear attack on the U.S. It's really good, and makes you think of what'd happen to us if something like that actually occurred. In a good documentary on the DVD about the making of the show, the creators said that the concept of "Jericho" came out of 9/11 and Katrina, but multiplied by 20. As the series goes on, you see people fighting for food, a place to live, mineral rights. I don't want to give away too much in case someone reading this chooses to give it a try, but it really provides food for thought on how our lives could change if something this dramatic happened, and how we could also change as people.

Just a note of caution: it takes time for the show to really stand out. Don't get me wrong, it's a really solid season, but the first few episodes are kind of slow-paced and give you the impression that it's a different show than what I described. But stick with it, and you'll be rewarded. The later episodes reach 24-like levels in intensity.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Al Gore's Nobel speech

Here is a link to where you can watch a few minutes of the recent speech Al Gore gave upon receiving his Nobel Prize. I would kind of like to see him run for President again, but I think he's probably better off rising above that and sticking to what he's doing. Talking about issues like video games without even having played one, like most politicians, would only cheapen him as a person.

Electoral Politics and Video Games

Via Gamepolitics, I came across a group called Common Sense Media. They asked some major presidential candidates what they would do when it came to the regulation of video games. Some comments were sensible, others weren't. In particular, Milt Romney and Hillary Clinton have come out against violence in "adult" video games. If I had a chance to converse with them, I'd ask them if any of them had ever picked up a gamepad. I'm sure the answer from amongst the candidates would probably be all in the negative. Well, I did see a photo of either Huckabee or Brownback (who's out of the race now) playing Guitar Hero once.

Maybe we shouldn't take it so personally. Politicians always need a whipping boy of some kind to deflect the responsibility from where it really belongs: inattentive, wandering parents. Before this, it was violent movies and obscenities in rock and rap music. But since politicians don't understand gaming culture, and again have probably never so much as picked up a joystick, they should shut the hell up and stick to more pressing issues.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Homeless at Starbucks

This is an article from the Washington Post, via Starbucks Gossip. This article reminds me of one that was on this blog months ago about a Starbucks employee who was fired for drawing something that was considered to be racially offensive (and that was really debatable) on the board. In that it's by no means certain what the facts really were, yet some sanctimonious, holier-than-thou columnist felt the need to demonize Starbucks anyway.

If this is true, I feel that it was a terrible thing to do, but I'm also convinced that we haven't heard the whole story. It's important to understand that most homeless people are human beings and probably have families, but a lot of them have very serious problems. When you work in a retail environment and deal with the homeless each day, like I did, you see that the negative stereotypes that are allocated to them are usually true. They aren't hygenic, they talk to themselves, they're usually very angry and are only one wrong word or gesture away from showing violent behavior, and they're disruptive and either beg people for money, or ask you to give them something for free.

I'm sure there are some real dicks out there who accost and harass homeless people for no reason, but I think it's important to give Starbucks the benefit of the doubt here. It's a private retail environment, and they do have the right to refuse service to anyone. Due to lawsuit concerns, I'm sure that isn't a responsibility that most employees take lightly. My personal policy towards the homeless, if I owned a business, would be the same as it would be for any other customer, with one exception: If you emit a foul odor (like feces or urine), sorry, but you're outta here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How America Lost The War on Drugs

Now and then, I read a piece of first-rate journalism like this that really defies an introduction or a summary. You should just devour the whole thing, although it'll take awhile, it's pretty heavy reading. We all know that the U.S. War on Drugs is a colossal loser, but Ben Wallace-Wells of Rolling Stone outlines its history very, very well.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Samoa Joe Shoot

This is the video from last night's TNA Turning Point pay-per-view of Samoa Joe's "shoot" promo. The main event was supposed to be Samoa Joe and The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) vs. Kurt Angle, AJ Styles and Tomko. But Hall no-showed, as he has a history of doing. And Samoa Joe just goes off and totally says what needed to be said. This is awesome, I haven't seen anything like this since Vince Russo went off on Hogan at Bash at the Beach, way back in 2000.

The Gamespot Controversy

When I am in the market for a game, the first place I go is to Gamespot for a review. I find their reviews generally well-written and concise. I also use the user reviews at Gamefaqs as well. But, like everything else, these sites that were originally designed for gaming enthusiasts by gaming enthusiasts are now affiliates of major corporations. Both of these sites I visit regularly are owned by one of these companies, CNet.

There is currently kind of an uproar in some elements of the gaming world about the departure of a Gamespot editor and reviewer surrounding a negative review he wrote and did a video on of a game called Kane & Lynch. The company's publisher, Eidos, has purchased lots of advertising on Gamespot to promote Kate & Lynch. So it's not hard to follow where this goes. This editor, Jeff Gerstmann, worked at Gamespot for ten years, and at the end, was locked out of his office and escorted off the property.

Due to our litigation-happy world, we will probably never know the full story of what happened, or if there was something else that led to Gerstmann's demise other than this scathing review. But if this is really the center of it, than it's disgraceful and inexcusable. Anonymous people from within Gamespot are writing of breaches in the wall separating the editorial staff from the sales department (the people who sell ads). So I could no longer look to Gamespot for honest, no-holds-barred reviews of games that I'm interested in. And as for Gamefaqs (which, again, is owned by the same company), who knows if the wrong kinds of user reviews are rejected?

I just see gaming, in general, moving in a direction I don't care for. I grew up my whole life around games. I can't relate with the mainstream crowd today who talk about Halo 3 or Guitar Hero, or these other kinds of games. I'm currently playing this neat little handheld of 8-bit Sega games. Columns is a game that's 20 years old, and I just feel this calming magic whenever I play it, that I just haven't been able to get in the newer generation games. It's kind of following a rock band from the time they're playing small clubs and releasing records on independent labels, and you feel special cause you're part of a small fan base, but then they break through into the mainstream, all of a sudden everyone and their mother is a fan, and they aren't special to you anymore, you kind of feel like they sold out. I know the analogy doesn't entirely fit, but that's how I feel about gaming right now.

Another example of why religion and politics do not mix

Again, I haven't been following the various campaigns in the presidential primaries closely at all, but now and again, I'll stumble upon a story that attracts my interest. Milt Romney, one of the frontrunners for the GOP nomination (along with Rudy), is a Mormon. This is immaterial to me, as I already don't care for the guy regardless of what religion he is. But this has generated controversy for some, mostly Christians who are uneasy about giving their vote to anyone who is a non-Christian, or who practices an offshoot of Christianity, or whatever. I wouldn't be able to tell you what exactly a Mormon is, I don't know much of them outside of the show "Big Love". But the fact that Romney is a Mormon has apparently generated so much attention that he's felt the need to schedule a speech and address his faith.

I've heard all my life about how America is the land of the free, and that this whole shebang got started in the first place by immigrants from Europe who were marginalized for their religious beliefs and wanted to be able to practice them in peace elsewhere. But yet, it's been a constant for political candidates, especially those running for the Oval Office, to talk about faith and how they practice their religion. This is no more clear than this current situation with Romney, and JFK before him (who was, of course, Catholic). This guy's wasting important time, in which he can address far more pressing issues, so he can appease a few religious bigots so that he could, maybe, get their vote.

Faith, and how often someone practices it, isn't a litmus test for how qualified they are to serve in office, or in their capacity to use proper judgment and make the right decisions. Just look at Bush. As I recall, he made his faith a centerpiece of his 2000 campaign, and look at the job he's done in 7 years. Whether you get into political office should depend on your traits as a decision-maker, and your intellect, and your savvy, and on your ability to raise money (sadly, I'm not being sarcastic here), not on how often you go to church or pray to your God.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Guitar Hero on the Commodore 64

I'm kind of ashamed to say that I haven't played any of the Guitar Hero games, which are a big deal. It's such a big deal that someone is porting a version of it over to my first system, the Commodore 64. This tells you what kind of awesome community the good old C64 still has.

We could cut nearly a third of greenhouse gases, but don't hold your breath

This article from the Times, via the Bru Notes blog, informs us of a new report that states that we could cut up to 28 percent of greenhouse gases in relatively simple ways and for not a lot of money at all. As Bru explains so much better than I could, even this fairly modest task is an uphill battle since corporations are all about making profit now. These kinds of initatives will pay for themselves, and then some, in the long run, but businesses aren't interested in that. If there's not a big incentive for them, than they won't do it. Maybe capitalism is a necessary evil, and maybe it's better than everything else that's been tried, but this is what sucks about it. No one wants to do the right thing because it's the right thing. They'll only do it if there's something in it for them.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Program on the History of the Sega Dreamcast

I found this on Google Video, it's a program that was aired on the G4 channel called "Icons". It documents important events, games, and consoles in gaming history, and this covers the Sega Dreamcast. It's a fantastic overview and short history, and even non-gamers can follow it.



If you're interested in this kind of thing, I really encourage you to seek out a site called Eidolen's Inn, which gives a very in-depth, comprehensive view of the history of Sega. It's very compelling, and a real treat if you love the history of games. To briefly clarify something, the reason why Sega was bleeding money and lost the war to PS2 had nothing to do with the performance of the Dreamcast console. The Dreamcast did an excellent job, and was a smash hit by the standards of the late 90's. It was due in large part to past mistakes. Sega overextended themselves with too many consoles, as was stated in the program. But something that wasn't mentioned was the decision by Sega of Japan to discontinue support for the Genesis, their most successful console, in order to focus on the Saturn, which proved to be a failure in North America. This cost them millions of dollars. SOJ were real boneheads, the arrogance of these morons never ceases to amaze me.

Kurt Angle's New TNA Theme

I've been looking for a copy of this on Youtube for months and finally found it. The album TNA Total Meltdown was released last week, and this was on it. It's Kurt Angle's theme that he's been using for the past few months, which is badass IMO. It was cool before, but adding a rap track to it just complemented it perfectly. I wish I was still in a gym, this'd be a perfect workout song.

Greeters at Starbucks? Oh, please no.

As far as I know, this is just a suggestion from a Wall Street broker on a business website, and hopefully that's all it'll be. He is suggesting that Starbucks needs a "greeter" at the door to smile and ask how they're doing today. What for? You already have the barista, who is (usually) friendly. This is another step in the wrong direction for Starbucks. I still go there regularly, but it's becoming more like a McDonald's than the third place that it should be. And a "greeter" would be taking a page from Walmart's book. It just makes a company seem even more corporate and artificial, with this bland, manufactured politeness. I think I'd be embaressed to go to Starbucks if they instituted a ill-thought out policy like that.

The Anatomy of a DVD Cover

Very soon, Season 6 of 24 will be released on DVD. This is always a moment when I just pick up the case and buy it, without hesitation. This'll be no different, although Season 6 was pretty weak (as far as 24 goes) and although I'll be waiting for Target to put it on sale for ten bucks cheaper a few weeks later (like they have before). But I am very upset about something. A few months ago on the blog, I saw a preliminary cover of the sixth season DVD. I have no way of knowing whether it was genuine or a fan design (although it looks professional and glossy enough to pass for a design sanctioned by Fox). This was it:






IMO, this is the best cover design for any DVD I've seen. It just captures the feeling of "24", and Jack Bauer, perfectly. Jack is, without a doubt, the most tormented character on TV today, perhaps ever. He has lost everything in the name of protecting his country. And that really came to a boil in Season Six, with the ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** killing of Curtis, after which he called Bill and told him that he couldn't do this anymore; his reuniting with Audrey, the woman he loves and the only person he has left, only to find that she's in a catatonic state; the involvement of his family (the Bauers get my vote for the most dysfunctional family on television); and his confrontation with James Heller in the last episode of the season, in which it all comes out.***SPOILERS OVER***

So, to me, this cover was just a natural. Jack is clearly at odds with himself and the world around him in Season Six, so this cover was just brilliant. But unfortunately, Fox isn't going with this cover. This will be the cover instead:



I like it, if it was the only one I saw, I'd be okay with it. The cover design isn't a big consideration when I buy my DVDs. But after seeing the first one, this just seems so damn generic. It's Jack Bauer in a typical badass pose covered transparently by the American flag. It's no surprise to anyone who's even heard of the show. But the first design is such an eye-opener, it looks different from anything else on the shelf. If it was something made by a fan, than I can't really fault Fox and the creators of 24. But if it was really being considered as being the cover and was turned down, than, shame on them. What a way to pussy out, for whatever reason.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Get the Sega portable from Coleco

I don't know if this is still available on the shelves of retailers, but a few months ago, I bought this small portable system by Coleco (that old toy company that made the Colecovision in the early 80s) that had over 20 Sega Master System and Game Gear games built right into the system. It was on clearance, I think I spent less than 10 bucks for it, so it might be hard to find now, or it will be. Anyway, if you can find it, I'd suggest picking it up. It's just classic gaming action on the go. Some of the games haven't aged that well, but just being able to play Columns again makes it really worth getting. Columns was a Sega puzzle game that was popular on Genesis and the Game Gear back in the day; I loved it, I think it's much better than Tetris. This has the Game Gear version, which is my personal favorite.

I remember having a Game Gear back in the day, and at one of my first jobs, a hotel, I remember hiding in an empty meeting room for hours and playing Game Gear in the dark. And this game can sink you in. I know it's gonna happen all over again, and it's very bright, so it's perfect to get into a game. It also has Super Columns in it, which I've only played once but it seems like a pretty good game. A couple of Sonic games, Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone, and a bunch of SMS games are included. So if you can get it, definitely do so.

Genesis Music Medley

I found this great video on Youtube, very well-edited in particular. It's an assortment of stills from classic Sega games, accompanied by memorable music from these games. Just a big thrill for an old school gamer like me. It has some of my favorites, like Golden Axe II, Columns, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Candidates are hypocrites on the pot issue

Barack Obama is a center-right candidate like Hillary. While speaking about medical marijuana recently, he first said that he smoked pot as a teenager, then went on to say that while he doesn't support medical marijuana, he supports more research. This is typical doubletalk (or even tripletalk) from these lousy politicians. On top of the utter hypocrisy that every modern politician has expressed on the drug legalization issue, they even balk at supporting substances like marijuana for medicinal purposes. There doesn't need to be more research, a vast litany of it already exists that supports the use of medicinal marijuana.

"Research" is the new way for candidates to avoid giving a clear, definitive answer on an issue. Taking measures on climate change? No, we have to wait for more research to come in. Reforming a seriously wrongheaded drug policy? No, let's have some other bureaucratic agency write another report.

I never expected much out of this guy, Obama, but he's just another cheap suit. They all are.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Incredible Invention

I found this on the Popular Science website. There is a recycling machine that pares down everything put into it, into oil. After just posting about American consumerism and Buy Nothing Day, it'd be pretty swell if this machine came to wide fruition. A Long Island auto-recycling plant is actually the first client.

Commercial for Buy Nothing Day

Here is a commercial of Buy Nothing Day from last year that sums up (in 30 seconds) what this is all about. The images of the effects that American consumerism has are very sobering. Even now, at 1 AM in the morning, there are hordes of people waiting outside department stores and shopping malls. I'm trying not to sound self-righteous about this, but I know I'm miserably failing at that. I just find gluttony of this nature really embarressing, especially when it's being viewed from the eyes of others in the world. Some time ago, I saw a documentary about Star Wars fandom. There's a scene that juxtaposes footage of people at a Toys R Us store at midnight when toys from Episode One went on sale, with footage of U.S. soldiers throwing food to kids in Serbia.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Tomorrow, which is considered Black Friday since it's the first day of the holiday shopping season, is also Buy Nothing Day. Over the years, BND has gone from being an escape from our obsession with consumerism and buying things, to a special occasion that symbolizes the importance of consuming less in this age of climate change.

A big flaw that I see in what's called sustainable development or buying green is that it's just a band-aid. If you're still consuming resources at a super-high rate, like most Americans (or Europeans), it isn't really going to matter if you're driving a hybrid car or buying eco-friendly stuff. Our very survival can depend on all of us shifting away from our rampant need for more and more stuff.

I went to a Target last year on Black Friday, when they opened at 6. I wasn't planning on it, I just couldn't sleep so I figured I'd walk there and check it out. It was embaressing to be a part of it. The line was pretty much wrapped around the store. And once the doors opened...it was chaos. People everywhere, carts smashing into each other. I got a few Simpsons DVD sets, and a quart of milk, and was probably the first person to check out of there. Everyone else was in a shopping, zombie-like frenzy.

But I'm no better than them. I was still there. I ask every time I shop, "do I really need to be buying this?" When I have a day off from work, I always used to like to go out. Now I find myself staying at home more, reading a book or watching a movie. You don't need to get up at 4 AM and get the newest TV or game system, when the one(s) you have are probably still working just fine. Think about what little acts like this can do for the Earth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I know what I want for Christmas



This is Starbucks' 600 dollar espresso machine, co-designed by BMW. It looks so good. It'll help me on those long nights studying cases and legal theories. So, if you care about me and visit this site, go to the Starbucks site and net me one of these bad boys :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Some appreciate democracy more than others

This is an article on Ukraine's young democracy and the exciting, offbeat things that happen in it during election time. The article contrasts Ukraine with Russia, where election results are often fixed and demonstrations are quickly dispersed, sometimes violently. But I was also thinking of the differences between Ukraine and us here in the U.S. Ukraine has a vibrant populace who are passionate about politics, and a media that actually asks the tough questions. Contrast that with the almost total apathy here (or in a few cases, blatant hostility) and the corporate media that marches in lockstep with whatever administration is in power and suppresses a lot of controversial stories.

It's granted that our government has been around much longer than Ukraine's has, and as our democracy started out young and wild and grew old and bitter, so too will probably Ukraine's. But after living under tyranny for so long, Ukraine realizes the importance of democracy much more broadly than we do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"They" Say the Economy Will be Slowing . . .

Another great post from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog. It covers the absurdity of the current use of the term "inflation" and how our standard of living has fallen exponentially since the 70's and 80's. We squander a substansial amount of our paychecks in filling up our cars, we can't afford homes, yada yada yada. But the way she outlines this is just stunning. And it hit a chord with me. I recently had a career shift due to parting ways with my employer, I'm making less money now than before, I realized that I have a degree that's difficult to market, and now I'm returning to school next month to supplement my education. I'm not entirely complaining, I'm pretty excited about the program that I'm about to take and I'm confident that it'll take me to a place that I'd want to be. But I'm realistic in that I'm not going to have lots of money, or be able to buy a home like my parents. Our generation is really fucked.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Radio series examines consumerism

A new series on public radio (that you can listen to over the Internet) focuses on the consumerism of the American people. It's pretty rare that you see a business-themed program cover a topic like this, as it's examining what's pretty much the foundation of our economy: our endless need to have more "stuff". I'm going to try to listen to these segments (which are around 3 minutes long) in the coming weeks.

Something interesting in the segment I just heard was an interview with a longshoreman in California. A few years back, there was a strike and the cargo wasn't being moved. Within a week, Bush had to call everyone back to the table because shelves were starting to empty. And he also says that cargo deliveries can only increase, as our appeitite has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Thanks to the Bru Notes for posting about this.

Voices of Uncertainty



When the network heads are talking to their shareholders about the Internet and digital content, they're telling them that they're making billions of dollars. That it's the wave of the future. But when a writer asks them? Than they say that the company isn't making any money on it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bring the Real World Home

This is a very good column in the New York Times about the Al-Jazeera English network. Al-Jazeera is an Arabic news network that became well known after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. They have launched an English version of the network. Our soldiers stationed in Kabul even watch it, but it's available in very few homes here. Many cable companies are pressured not to carry it by far-right wing groups.

I have never really seen Al-Jazeera; I remember visiting their website a few times, particularly when they had photos and video of dead American soldiers in Iraq. They are derided by "patriots" here for their supposedly slanderous coverage of America, and their positive coverage of Al-Qaeda. But since I've never seen it, I really can't comment on that. But any alternative to our commercial news media here is a great thing. The media's antics during the onset of the Iraq war, from the high-tech graphical themes with the booming music, the slogans ("Fight for Freedom", "The War Against Saddam"), the "embedded" reporters, were embarressing to me as an American.

I remember when those photos of American soldiers killed in combat were posted on Al-Qaeda's website, many people were very angry at them for showing those images. I lauded what they did, because in that time, many media outlets (especially in the U.S.) were engaging in the practice of sanitizing the war. You didn't see dead Americans, or mutiliated Iraqis on the 6 o'clock news. Those photos should have been a sobering reminder of what war is.

As Cohen states in the column, it's essential for Americans to expand their horizons and get their news (if they get it at all) from more than just Fox News or CNN. Our status as a country and a beacon is diminishing rapidly due to our blinding ignorance.

A Very Cool Thing

A couple of Army wives have started an organization to provide gaming systems and video games to our soldiers in Iraq. This is a great idea; games could certainly provide an escape from the troops' daily routine of evading bullets and mortar attacks. They're a great stress reliever. While I don't support the war, I fully applaud acts such as this.

To donate, please go to the Fun For Our Troops website.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WGA Strike

I haven't really posted in the past few days because I've been following the strike by the Writer's Guild of America. If you haven't heard, which isn't surprising since the mainstream press has given it next to no coverage, the WGA walked out and went on strike last week after failing to come to an agreement with the media companies on the terms of a new contract. The WGA is a guild for screenwriters, the people who create and put the words in the mouths of the stars in our TV shows and movies. So they're basically the creators of a lot of the content we see on the screen, and as long as this strike happens, it won't be too long before we see a TV wasteland of reruns and crappy reality shows.

Which is a big shame. I'm a huge TV guy. I don't spend ridculous hours in front of the set, but I do have a lengthy list of shows I try to watch. By next month, all these shows should be in reruns, and due to the strike, it'll stay that way until it's settled. For an example of how bad this is, "24", my favorite show ever, has been postponed indefinitely. It's become a tradition to roll 24 out every January, with a 2-night, four hour premiere, and have it run for the rest of the season without a break. So, as I've read someone post elsewhere, this is like moving Christmas.

I support the writers 100 percent. The sticking points in why they've walked out and are picketing at studios every day are the issue of residuals for DVD sales and "new media" (meaning the Internet and IPods). A writer makes less than a penny on the dollar for every DVD of a TV show that's sold. And they receive no money at all when someone watches one of the shows they've written over the Internet. The producers (studios) claim that there's no money in the Internet. Or that it'll take them years before they figure out whether it can make a profit. I can tell you that that's bullshit. When I miss a show, I catch it on the Internet (which is very handy, I do have to admit that I love it). But there is advertising during the shows on the net as well. This ad time is being paid for, just like it is when you watch commercials on television. So the networks have to be making money on "new media." And they don't want to share any of that with the writers.

The tragic thing is, I don't see this ending well for the writers. They are going up against the mega-corporations that own the media and churn out the content that these people write. And the companies have bottomless pockets. Contrary to what you'd think, most screenwriters and television writers aren't millionaires, but simple middle-class people who are trying to pay their mortgage and raise their families. And writing isn't a constant, regular job. One of the reasons they're fighting for residuals is because writers go awhile in between gigs, and while they're finding that next job writing an episode, they live on the residuals they make.

This is a great link to a letter sent out by Shawn Ryan. Ryan is the creator of "The Shield", one of my favorite shows ever. It's entering its final season, and as Ryan wrote this letter, filming was about to begin on the final episode of the series. And Ryan won't be on the set because he's in solidarity with the writers. It really shows what's at stake in the strike.

I just hope I'm able to see the final season of "The Shield", and the new season of "24". But that all depends on if there's a limit to the studio's greed, which I'm not counting on. It might be just as well, I'm starting school next month and this'll give me more time to study. But give me new episodes of "24", "The Shield", and the 10 other shows I watch every week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Example of how the Mainstream Media Distorts the Truth

I was watching CNN this morning, and there was a segment on a scheme by some state governments (including New York's) to give illegal immigrants drivers' licenses. The anchor said there was a "big debate" over the issue. Shortly afterwards, she turned to a poll (I'm not sure if it was traditional or online) asking people if they supported it or not. 83 percent said that they did not, while a mere 17 percent said they did.

That wasn't surprising to me. It's obviously a very unpopular idea, and one that I'm against as well. But how can it be a "debate" if over four-fifths of people don't want it? A debate is when it's split at 50-50, or 60-40, or even 70-30. But when you have more than 80 percent opposing something, there's no debate, it's a clear, overwhelming majority saying "we don't want this."

Yet another example of the corporate media trying to shove their own agenda down our throats.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can lower consumer confidence be good?

Consumer confidence dropped last month. This is used as an indicator of where the economy could be headed, and is often used as a doom 'n gloom type of threat from economists. But as the Bru Notes points out to us, lower consumer confidence can be a good thing in the long run. You only have to take a look at the state of the planet to see where this constant consumption has gotten us. While it may sound good, in terms of maintaining domestic stability and keeping our jobs, it can have devastating effects in other areas.

To quote Tyler Durden, "I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

One culprit for climat change that hasn't really been talked about

Cement, which is used to make concrete, makes up 5 percent of global CO2 emissions, more than the airline industry. This good article from the New York Times (thanks to Bru Notes) shows some of the inherent contradictions involved. While the world's largest cement maker, LaFarge, is pursuing green initatives in lowering emissions, this can be considered to be largely meaningless as they're making more cement than ever before. And some of the places where they're making this cement, like Ukraine, aren't regulated.

Man Robs Gas Station With NES Zapper

This story sounds like a "dumbass of the day" blog, but the consequences of this are kind of tragic. Two men in Kentucky robbed a gas station using an old NES Zapper, which was an orange light gun. They made off with only a hundred dollars, and needless to say, probably didn't get very far. They were sentenced to ten years in prison. One is 18, the other 20. They're kids.

They probably were represented by some dirt-poor Kentucky public defender. They didn't even go to trial, they pleaded and got the maximum sentence. They might as well have just taken their chances at trial.

Bush attacks Move On bloggers

See this video, in which Bush gets a sustained standing ovation after taking a shot at Moveon.org and Code Pink. But that's only one noteworthy part. He actually mentions Osama Bin Laden's name (remember him?) and has this to say about Congress:

"Congress needs to put the needs of those who put on the uniform ahead of their desire to spend more money."

This douche never ceases to amaze me. You'd think that after Iraq, that the absolute last person on Earth to take shots at anybody else over spending money would be W. Congress has nothing on Bush when it comes to spending (and wasting) countless amounts of OUR money. This is the guy, who every few months, comes hat in hand asking Congress for another 70 to 80 billion dollars to fund Iraq.

On top of that, the quote above makes no sense. What does Bush mean when he says that Congress has to consider the needs of those in uniform? He means that they have to spend money. So the desire to spend more money and to consider the needs of our military are really one and the same. So why does Bush want to send all our money over there, instead of having it put to use over here, where it's truly needed?

I'm back

After a short break, I'm probably gonna start posting regularly again. I just felt I needed a break from the blogging scene, and I've had other things going on, like enrolling in the program. So look for me to start posting again today.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I met with the director of the paralegal program I've been planning to take, and what an experience. In academia, I've come to experience that a lot of people you talk to have that strong whiff of arrogance that just smacks you in the face. Like they're so all-knowing and superior to you. But the guy I met with today, total 180 shift. He couldn't have been more helpful and open to answering my questions. We even went over a possible schedule for when I start class. So now, I'm just really pumped. This is a strong vision, on the cusp of being reality. In the summer, hopefully I'll be doing an internship, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Federal court in Islip. That'd be such a really cool experience. Not that I'm especially fond of court, it'd just feel, for me, to be the first time that I'm doing truly adult work. Not just punching buttons on a cash register or lifting cases, but work that requires actual skill and education.

Otherwise, today's been such a wash. I was walking around college all day, and was so exhausted when I came home. On top of that, I'm catching a cold. Oh yeah, and I lost my FAFSA form (with my pin number on it) somewhere in the campus parking lot. That's bad, right? My number's easy to remember, but still.

And I didn't play any games today. I plugged in my Gamecube the other night, and played some of the Mega Man Collection. I played some of Mega Man 1, and man. When you get piqued by a difficult game from today, put in a game like MM1. It'll make the game you're playing seem like the Barney game for Genesis. Damn, I forgot how frustrating it was. Now, I'm getting nostalagic for Sonic. So tomorrow or soon, I'm gonna pop in the Sonic Mega Collection. It's been a long time since I've kicked Robotnik's ass.

I recently got around to playing Max Payne and beating it. It's an easy game, but very fun if you like Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe, with a healthy dose of old-school John Woo style action thrown in.

Now I'm gonna bury myself in two comforters cause of my cold and leave jazz music playing. Goodnight.

It's been awhile

I'm still here. Just decided to take a short break from blogging. It was just reading some depressing stuff (the California wildfires, global warming, next year's election). I got tired and spent the weekend doing other things. I've started watching the 1st season of 30 Rock, it's a really great show. Very smart, funny satire, best show about network TV I've seen since Larry Sanders. I also have a meeting tomorrow with the director of the paralegal program I'm going to start taking in a couple of months. I really didn't want to have to take classes after getting my B.A., but I know that this is going to give me a new sense of direction in my career. The hard truth is that a B.A. simply isn't going to do it for a lot of people in these days. You need something more to supplement it. This is a lot better than the alternatives I was considering (a Master's in Library Science, or law school) due to the fact that it's much less expensive and less time-consuming. And in the end, I'll probably end up making the same amount of money.

I'm also probably going to get another job since the holidays are coming up. The extra free time is fun, but the money's leaving faster than I can make it. I should get back to posting soon. In the meantime, enjoy the fall weather (it's finally here, at least I think it is) and have a good Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Rockies Get Off Their Knees

This is an article in the Nation about the Colorado Rockies, the NL representative in this year's World Series. I haven't been a baseball fan for years, but the Rockies' story is an inspiring one. They've won 21 of their last 22 games (the article doesn't make it clear if this happened in the regular season, or from the regular season into the playoffs, but either way it's an incredible feat). Last year, there was a controversy in which the GM and CEO both said that they were looking for Christian players. The writer of this article tries to raise this as a form of intolerance and forcing a certain religion down other people's throats.

I'm against religious fundamentalism and intolerance in the name of religion as much as the next guy. But I honestly don't see a problem with a sports franchise proclaiming that they want players who have "character" (Christianity). When you factor in all the stories you hear about athletes, and how they set a bad example for others, maybe it's good for a team to proclaim that they want and they expect something different out of their players.

I do agree on the writer's opinion about the Rockies' policy on selling their World Series tickets exclusively over the Internet. It's a deplorable way to treat your hometown fans and have them lose out at the expense of rich carpetbaggers who just want to snag tickets to the World Series. That's not a very Christian thing to do. But they're not the only team in professional sports who pulls that shit. That's why I'm not a sports fan anymore. You just see these organizations hold the fans in total contempt and treat them like crap.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Little Green Lies

This is a really good cover story in "Business Week" through the eyes of an environmental director at the Aspen skiing resort, and how much of the corporate hype you hear about how they're fighting global warming and lowering their carbon footprint, is just that, hype. You're shown a world where aspirations for pursuing green policies collide with the ever-present profit motive of Corporate America.

I'm taken in when I see an ad from a company about their concern for global warming, and that they've pursued energy conservation methods. It makes me feel good and that powerful people are doing something about it. I'm sure I'm not the only literate person who's taken in like this, and this article made me more cynical and careful in the future. Also listen to the podcast, included on the link. Thanks to Bru Notes for posting about the article.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Future is Drying Up

This is a very long, but a very recommended, article from the NY Times on the drying up of the west. While most of us think of global warming as the ice caps melting and our coastal cities being submerged underwater, it's really much more encompassing than that. Science isn't my forte, but I'll try to sum up the article. In the American West, mountain snowpack (winter snow that falls on the mountains at high altitudes and then melts and seeps down in the spring to provide water) is decreasing every year as a result of climate change. This is bad enough in and of itself, as there's less water to go around for people in California, Nevada and the other states, but the population in many of these states is growing rapidly. So there's going to be less water for more people.

The article discusses this as well as interviews several scientists and water treatment experts who are trying to find solutions to this problem. As places like the Sierra Nevada, the Colorado River and Lake Mead dry up, it becomes problematic in terms of litigation, as there are many contracts between states and localities for water rights.

This is very relevant, especially today, as both the California wildfires and Georgia declaring a state of emergency over its drought are top stories. It's funny how we thought global warming would be a problem for the future generation, but it's fast proving to be a major problem for us.

Reel Bad Arabs

I saw a Youtube video for this new documentary (along with a book) called "Reel Bad Arabs". It depicts how Hollywood vilifies Arabs by giving viewers a one-dimensional portrait of them. In old black & white movies that are shown, they're like the old Ali Baba stereotype, and in the color ones, they're violent terrorists.

The film looks watchable, and it's from the makers of Hijacking Catastrophe, an excellent documentary about the post 9/11 era. But I really think the filmmakers are barking up the wrong tree here. The point of the film seems to be that Hollywood molds the perceptions of their viewers by treating Arabs in a certain light. I don't think most people, including film buffs like me, have even seen the black and white films that are shown. So there's that.

So we get to the more recent movies, in which Arabs are usually portrayed as cold-blooded, inhuman terrorists, and again, the filmmakers claim that this is another example of how Hollywood molds people's perceptions to make a certain reality. But, I feel the need to ask these people, aren't at least some acts of terrorism committed by radical Muslims who are Arab? It seems ridiculous to expect filmmakers to ignore the realities of the world just to be PC, especially after 9/11. Most people, in my opinion, probably think that a majority of Muslims are peaceful, tolerant people. But there are also radical Islamofascists out there too who are intolerant to women, homosexuals, non-Muslims, etc. And to top it off, they engage (or attempt to engage) in terrorist acts that have killed thousands. And the people who made this expect Hollywood and filmmakers to ignore this aspect of Islam? That's irresponible, to be putting it mildly.

And to the movies that I have seen in the trailer. This is fun for me, I'm a movie buff, so I've seen a lot of the films that they showed. "The Delta Force" with Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin was loosely based on the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. The hijacking was orchestrated by an offshoot of Hezbollah. Like I said, it was loosely based, so a lot of things were changed for the film. I guess the ethnicity of the hijackers should have been changed as well. Oh, and a funny sidenote: the head terrorist is played by Robert Forster (of "Jackie Brown" fame). And he's as Arab as Pat Robertson.

Then there's "True Lies", one of the best action movies ever. And it's really funny too. The main villains are also Islamic terrorists. But there's also a Muslim character that works for the secret agency that Schwarzenegger's character works for, and he guns down some of the terrorists near the end. So, you have a positive Muslim character along with the negative ones, but I guess it wasn't convenient for the "Reel Bad Arabs" filmmakers to show that.

And finally, this is my favorite. One of the clips shown is that of a beautiful "Arab" woman sitting in a chair, and pressing a detonator that blows up a room in a hotel building. The movie was the (unofficial) Bond movie, "Never Say Never Again", and the actress was Barbara Carrera, whose parents were a U.S. ambassador and a Nicaraguan woman. So these guys are so desperate to make their argument that Hollywood is a bunch of racists who stereotype Arabs, that they use non-Arab characters played by non-Arab actors to make their point.

I think I can make a case that Hollywood appeases Arabs in the name of tolerance. Take "The Sum of All Fears", the adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel. In the novel, the bad guys were Islamic extremists building a nuclear bomb. In the film, the villains were changed and they were now white European right-wingers. And the film came out less than a year after 9/11.

There's so much more I can say on this subject, but it's long as it is already and I just realized that I have too much time on my hands to be writing this kind of stuff. Here's the trailer for the documentary "Reel Bad Arabs." Decide for yourself.

Clinton II = Bush II

A few weeks ago, I made a brief post about a comment that Mos Def made during Bill Maher's talk show, namely that control of the White House has been passed around like a marijuana cigarette from Bush to Clinton to Bush, and apparently back to Clinton again if the tea leaves are to be believed. I read this informative article today on Hillary. It confirms what I've always believed, but it should be an eye-opener to most of you. For all of the right-wing hate towards Hillary left over from the Clinton years, the truth is that she really isn't that different from Bush II when it comes to most issues. She's a hawk, she voted for the Patriot Act, she has supported Bush on warrantless wiretapping, and to make it personal, she co-sponsored a bill to ban violent video games and is a friend of the entertainment lobby and their copyright agenda, which I've posted about.

What's funny is that while Hillary's policies won't be that much better than Dubya's, and would probably be right at home with the GOP candidates on most issues, the Republicans would have the best chance of winning if she were to run. The anti-Clinton camp still runs deep. But if Hillary does win as the general Democratic candidate, it'd be a Pyrrhic victory. For if she does win the White House, it'd just be a Democrat going in the same path as Bush.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gamers are social?

I like how this blog on Gamepolitics.com starts out:

"Hey, gamer! Are you an antisocial, friendless shut-in who wouldn’t know how to interact with another flesh and blood person if one walked up and bit you on the controller?"

I answered "yeah, pretty much." But it links to an article on the BBC website that states that this really isn't true. Between multiplayer gaming and casual talk between people in the workplace about games like Halo 3, gaming can really be a very social experience. I've talked with a few people about gaming, mostly at work, but they have XBox 360's and I don't (I'm still in the last gen, with PS2 and Gamecube) so I'm more of a spectator. But that's fine.




French work-week being "reformed"

A few of you are probably asking, "why am I posting about those cheese-eating surrender monkeys in France?" Yeah, France is a world away and I don't keep track of their politics. But I feel that this particular story ties us together.

The new finance minister of France, who has spent a long time in the U.S. and speaks English flawlessly, is trying to break down the 35-hour work week of the French people. She's abetted by the columnist who wrote this piece, Roger Cohen, who's a right-wing nincompoop. He calls the French lazy, because they like spending time with their families and doing fun things, rather than working 'till they drop, like so many of us do here in the States.

Christine Lagarde, the finance minister, says of her old job at a U.S. corporation, "The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed, the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the mantra." That's really all well and good, but not everyone shares that philosophy. There are concepts far more important than money, at least to me anyway. And as repeated eras of downsizing should have shown us here, making profit for the firms or companies that you work for doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the long run, at least not for you.

Lagarde also says that once the 35-hour work week was passed, it met with "disastrous effects". What kind of "disastrous effects"? "People didn't talk about their work, but about their long weekends." Man, she's right, that's a travesty, we can't have people talking about activities other than work.

But this is the keeper:

French workers are expected to take to the streets today in what will likely be one of many big strikes against the Sarkozy-Lagarde reforms. Former governments have caved as Bastille-storming specters rose.

Not this time, insists Lagarde. “We certainly have the resolve to see reforms through,” she says.


It looks like the French are taking a page out of our book and saying "fuck the people", even when they take to the streets and clearly say they're against something. And French activism is much more of a force there than ours is here.

This reminds me of these Noam Chomsky books I read years ago, in which he said that corporations want a society in which people "live to work" and that they aren't entitled to luxuries. I think that what ends up happening in France could be a deciding factor in whether this becomes a reality.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Researcher says that media isn't culprit in kids' behavior

In the last decade or two, a lot of people have looked at the misbehavior and aggressiveness of children, and have blamed it on the media. The media has usually consisted of what's on television, some of which is considered violent, but it's lately expanded to include video games as well. Violent rampages, such as Columbine, were blamed partly on video games.

But now, in an expansive, multi-year study that was just released, it's revealed that childhood aggression is a genetic trait. It has nothing to do with television or games. It's been going on long before television. Richard Tremblay, the scientist who did the study, added that maternal factors that occur when the fetus is being developed (such as drinking and smoking) could be responsible for a child's aggressive behavior.

This study tracked over 35,000 children for more than 20 years. It's certainly far more reputable than the rantings of anti-game crusaders or government officials who want to do the parents' job for them. As anyone with any common sense would know, it's the nature of any child to show aggressive behavior at least sometimes. This is the case, video games or not. I think this is linked to how teachers in public school react to an active child. They always want to put him or her on Ritalin or some other drug. Parents just can't let kids be kids anymore.

Obama Wants Official Fired for Comments

Last week, the head of the voting rights division of the Justice Department said that voter ID laws hurt the elderly but that they don't hurt minorities as much because they often die before old age. Now, Barack Obama wants him fired. When doesn't a prominent black person want a prominent white person fired because of something he or she said? It's immature and reflects more on the person complaining than then the one who made the remark in the first place.

Here is what John Tanner said:

"That's a shame, you know, creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance. Of course, that also ties into the racial aspect because our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first. There are inequities in health care. There are a variety of inequities in this country, and so anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly has the opposite impact on minorities. Just the math is such as that."

And further down in the article:

A black person born in 2004 had an average life expectancy of 73.1 years, about five years less than for whites, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

So while Tanner should have been clearer and not had generalized as much, he was still right in a sense. Black people, on average, have a significantly shorter life than white people. What I find ironic is that Tanner was taking a liberal position on the issue of voter ID's. And so he should be fired because...?

Barack's name might as well be Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. We're never going to have that honest discussion of race in this country as long as there are people waiting to trip up someone for what they say. I might have had the audacity of hope to think that Barack Obama was different. Turns out, he's just a jackass.



Friday, October 19, 2007

Brit spies use video game job ads

To follow up on my post last week about Simcity and BP acting as a co-designer on the game, British intelligence is going to be putting up job ads in games like "Splinter Cell." This is something that sounds pretty positive, and shows that advertising has much better uses in gaming than what BP and EA are up to.

...And I've always wanted to play "Splinter Cell". As a big 24 fan, it sounds like it'd be up my alley.

Celebrating a Massacre

Left I on the News has an insightful post about a celebration taking place remembering the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. It's usually remembered as a fiasco for the U.S., but it should also be remembered for its illegality and the needless sacrifices that were made. It is being remembered, but for all the wrong reasons. An oil painting will be shown depicting an aerial attack that took out around 900 Cuban soldiers. This was one of the "successes" of the Bay of Pigs, so it's being remembered in this way. "Yeah, we failed our mission, but at least we took out 900 atheist commies." Truly revolting, if you ask me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And you think the ERSB is bad

A lot of hardcore gamers (and their parents) are pretty critical of the ESRB, either saying they're too harsh with the ratings they hand out to games, or not harsh enough. Well, at least virtually all the controversial games are released here. Unlike, say, in Australia. In Australia, many games have been banned over the years. A lot of them bad games like the 50 Cent one, but bad or not, people should still have the right to try it for themselves. This is due to Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification, which doesn't have an 18+ rating (what would be an "M" rating here) for games with adult content (like violence and swearing).

The latest controversy (and game to be banned in Australia) is the latest game in the Soldier of Fortune series. SOF: Payback has many forms of extreme violence and gore. In this video, you'll see legs being shot off, and heads too. I love these kinds of games, and that I can play them here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Green-Collar Solution

This is a really good column (thanks to Bru Notes for posting) from Thomas Friedman about an African-American activist in California who is also an environmentalist. He also carries a law degree from Yale, so he's not your typical guy. As an activist living in a poor area of color, he has a unique perspective on environmental and global warming issues. The growing movement surrounding global warming has many hurdles in front of it. One that I haven't thought of until I read this, is that part of the problem is that the movement is led by upper-class white guys like Al Gore. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm not trying to start a class war and Gore and co. have certainly done a ton concerning this issue.

But as Van Jones points out, people in Oakland who don't have jobs and live in an environment of fear, crime and poverty, have much more pressing concerns than melting glaciers or the fate of the polar bears. If we want to have any hope of tackling the global warming crisis, we have to get people from many different environments like this one on board. We can't just shoehorn them along with everyone else.

Also, some of the biggest beneficiaries of what Jones calls "green-collar jobs" (jobs created as a result of green environmental legislation) would be people from areas like Oakland. When many of America's manufacturing jobs were outsourced, there was no replacement for them. This left many people without an education with nothing to fall back on in terms of a long-term job. "Green-collar jobs" can help remedy that, as you can't send a building to China to be weatherized and have it sent back. You need American labor.

I find that I'm pretty much repeating verbatim what Mr. Jones said, but he says it much better than I could. So check out the article, it's worthwhile reading.

When is it a "massacre"?


This is a really good blog post from Left I on the News
. It's another example of the power of language, and how certain words are used (or withheld) depending on the parties involved. As the post lays out, a recent mass killing of civilians by government troops in Darfur is labeled a "massacre" by mainstream media. However, when news initially got out about the shooting deaths of 8 Iraqis by Blackwater, such words as "killing" and "incident" were used to refer to it.

Anyway, read about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What If We Followed Our Own Advice?

Another thought-provoking post from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog. It compares and contrasts the Israel situation with our immigration situation here in the States. Liz suggests that since Bush is suggesting a, more or less, Berlin-type plan for Israel (half of Jerusalem for Israelis, the other half for Palestinians), that we should use a similar solution to address our illegal immigration problem here. Since we stole Texas from Mexico anyway, why not just give it back for the illegals to inhabit? That's brilliant. We may lose a state, our biggest state, but we also gain because we take our biggest domestic monkey right off our shoulders. I think it's a solution that the pro and anti-illegal factions can actually agree on. And also, as Liz says in the last sentence, it also means that we won't have any more presidents from that state.


Monday, October 15, 2007

What If We Followed Our Own Advice?

They used to call that "practicing what ya preached." I've been reading that Dr. Rice is telling Israel how it needs to be, and making some pretty strong statements regarding the American administration's expectations. I mean, really, her boss is out in about 15 months and his vision or dream just isn't coming to fruition in the Middle East, so she's going to get things moving. Now, I realize America would never admit this, but in all the stories about this, it seems she is indicating that Israel is being held responsible for the lack of progress in President Bush's Roadmap to Peace. Isn't that the typical, age old "blame the Jews" that has always run rampant in the world? And now America is doing it, too, only in a more difficult way to identify as such . . . Anyway, I read that Condi is going to be dealing with all those concerned this week and one more time before the big Annapolis Summit that is one month from today. So this is a high pressure deal and the big prize seems to be turning Jerusalem into Berlin. Half for Israel and half for Palestine. Since the religious right can't seem to see the handwriting on the wall, let's bring this same strategy closer to home.
Americans are up in arms about all the illegals from Mexico that don't have to leave and now can't be employed without getting the employers in trouble, so they'll have no choice but welfare and charity agencies. Just as Israel gained the territory in question in the Six Day war, we "won" Texas from Mexico. President Bush is convinced that Israel's land concession will resolve the conflict of the Middle East. Why not give the same concept the same confidence here? So, let's take our own advice and just give Texas back for the illegals to inhabit. Say, there would be an added benefit to giving Texas back, we'd not have any more Presidents from that state.
But let every man prove his own work . . . New Testament

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White House forbids telecom companies from telling Congress about surveillance activity

I've been posting about the violations of U.S. law in the name of national security by this administration. Recently, I posted about how our government and the major telecommunications companies collaborated to unlawfully listen in on the phone calls of Americans without a judicial warrant. Yesterday, the White House invoked something called the "state secrets privilege" (basically meaning that due to national security, it's none of our business) to prevent three major companies (AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest) from testifying to Congress about whether they gave U.S. intelligence agencies access to our phone and email records.

There is that, and there is also something else. A former Qwest CEO, Jospeph Nacchio, was convicted of insider trading six months ago. He recently testified that the NSA asked Qwest to allow the NSA to conduct wiretaps, again without a warrant, six months before 9/11.

Between this, the X-ray machine at airports that can see you naked, and everything else, our experiment in democracy is coming to an end. When will we change to the USSA?

Monday, October 15, 2007

College student in trouble over posting video

First, the story:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/10/12/regent-2l-lands-in-hot-water-over-pat-robertson-photo/?mod=djemWLB&reflink=djemWLB


I don't know what to make of this. I think it's bad what Regent is doing to this guy, but at the same time, you have to factor in what kind of school it is, and that Robertson is the President. You couldn't have possibly expected something like that to just pass unnoticed.

As for Key, I think it takes stones to be a liberal and attend a school like Regent. I also think it takes a lack of common sense. I think he made the wrong decision to attend Regent, also because he doesn't seem to be getting a proper legal education. So he wrote a 14-page brief defending his posting on the grounds that it's satire protected by the First Amendment. I've never been to law school and I can dismiss that in one sentence. A student gets no First Amendment protection in a private school.

Lastly, he's doing himself no favors by fighting it and letting the story go national. Some potential employers are likely to remember this. He should have just took the video down and moved on.

Supreme Humiliation at our Airports

I try posting about our decreasing freedoms as Americans when I can. Just the latest was warrantless spying on Americans by our government in conjunction with the major phone companies. Lately, I've also been talking about the sicko politicians (many of whom have happened to be Republican) who are publicly high and mighty about family values and how homosexuality is an abomination. At the same time, they're engaging in deviant sexual behavior, and it's often with men or little boys. I say this, because I just came across a story that, in my mind, merges these two together.

Last week, Phoenix International Airport began using a new kind of x-ray machine to search passengers for weapons. It's called a "millimeter wave" and scans a person's entire body. It creates a "graphic image" of the person's body, and it's as close to the real thing (seeing someone naked) as you can get.

This is a voluntary alternative to being "patted down" (at least for now). Either way, it makes you forget that you're in America. And it has many kinds of implications. In some religions, it's prohibited for a woman to show her naked body to anyone other than her husband. So as well as our freedom of privacy being eliminated in this case, freedom of religion is as well.

And what kind of people are hired for these kinds of positions? I don't want to be vulgar, but what if an attractive woman walks through there? Can the guy looking at these images save them and print them out? Or worse, what if it's a child? This could be a dream job for a pedophile. What about radiation poisoning? And what happens when it becomes required, and you know it will be. When someone comes into the U.S., the land of the free, maybe for the first time, the first thing they'll be required to do is go through one of these machines.

Will this prevent terrorism? Of course not. It's yet another way for someone to make a lot of money and weaken the values of this nation at the same time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A reign of terror which history has chosen to neglect

Right now, there is a conflict brewing. Kurdish rebels in southern Iraq have been attacking Turkish troops. There is a large Kurdish population in Turkey, some of whom have long wanted their own autonomous state. Turkey has been mobilizing potential aerial strikes against the Kurds based in Iraq. This obviously causes a big problem that the United States would wish to avoid.

I haven't mentioned that there also is a pending resolution in front of the House condemning the mass killings of Armenians by the Turkish during World War I as an act of genocide. Turkey has already withdrawn their ambassador to the U.S. in protest of this, and have threatened the U.S. military with stripping them of access to their military bases.

So it's quite a heavy issue. Upon reading Robert Fisk's column on the Turks' persecution of the Armenians, I couldn't say I knew very much about it. I still don't know much about it, as this is a short article. But Fisk tells us enough and gives us enough evidence to at least provide us a glimpse of what exactly happened, and I really didn't have an idea. I was stunned at the similarities between this and the holocaust against the Jews by the Nazis. The only thing different, apparently, is the attention given to each one.

Yet another sicko Republican brought to justice

Yet another Republican, this one in local government (a county in Wisconsin to be exact, and a party chair), has been charged with a series of lewd acts, these ones being fondling a boy under 18 (as well as other sexual acts having taken place) and giving pot to another. He lived right near a halfway house for runaways and troubled teenagers, and used his power to abuse them.

What makes him worse than someone like Larry Craig or the other ones that have been mentioned is that he's a predator. Although our law is more forgiving, a castration of this guy would satisfy me.