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 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


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:

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.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hillarious fan-fiction reading

I love fanfiction, and it can really expand on your favorite game or TV series. But there are some really bad ones out there as well, and this Half Life fanfic is a perfect example, with its horrible pacing and spelling issues. But this particular story is redeemed by a reading conducted by God-knows-who. His overacting and stressing of the misspelled words is a wonder to behold.

The War Against Gore

For a large part of his career, Al Gore has been regularly and consistently attacked and vilified by the far right. These attacks really began in earnest, though, with the publication of "Earth in the Balance" and advanced upon his being vice president and peaked in the 2000 election, when the so-called claims about his many "exaggrations" came to light ("I invented the Internet" comes to mind).

After a few years out of the limelight, Gore returned to raise awareness of global warming, and made the award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth". More attacks ensued. Yesterday, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in fighting global warming. The right wasted no time in lambasting him once again.

On Fox News, the anchor compared Gore with other recent Nobel winners, saying they were all "anti-Bush." Like that illegitimates the award. And the anchor went on to say that his daughter didn't like the film because it was too "political" and Gore took a few shots at Bush. Well, boo-fuckin'-hoo-hoo.

In another related story, a British judge recently ruled that "An Inconvenient Truth" can be shown in schools as long as "guidance notes" are provided to give balance to the film's "one-sided viewpoint." In effect, Foxing the film. This is absurd. If one thing is for certain, it's that the global warming believers (you know, all those scientists) have brought along a lot more ammo to provide support for their argument than the global warming deniers have. Many of the deniers aren't even scientists, but political talking heads like Limbaugh and the people at Fox News. How is it conceivable to give these people equal time and act as if their arguments are just as legitimate as the scientists who breathe and live this stuff?

Coulter: "We want Jews to be perfected"

Ultra-right wing columnist and author Ann Coulter is under fire again for comments she made suggesting that America would be better if everyone were Christian. In an exchange with a CNBC host who was Jewish, she also said that Jews should repent from Judaism and become Christians.

I've come to believe that Coulter doesn't believe half of the things she says, at least on television. The more articles like this, the more people know of her and the more books she will sell. What makes it a brilliant strategy is the media's unerring willingness to enable her. She's made many outrageous statements over the years, and I've seen quite a few of the journalists who interview her become appalled, like this guy Donny Deutsch. My question is, if you find her offensive and her comments nonsensical and moronic, why do you keep having her as a guest on your programs? Why not cut her down to size and deny her a platform?

This reminds me of the comments that the late Jerry Falwell made after 9/11. He blamed America for 9/11 for its tolerance towards abortion, homosexuality, and so on. He said that God punished America on that day. You'd think that for sure, he'd be blacklisted from the major media, and it would have been rightly deserved. But no, he still appeared on Hardball and the other talking head, inside the Beltway programs.

Simcity and Big Oil

Simcity has been a very successful game franchise for nearly 20 years. For those who don't know, it's what would probably be called (and has been called) a "city simulator". You pick a plot of land, start putting up things (roads, power lines, residential areas, commercial zones). As more people move and settle into the area, they pay taxes, which enable you (as the mayor) to expand the village into a town, than a city, and so on.

I've always thought the Simcity games were really cool. The last one I did play, though, was Simcity 2000, although I did spend some time with the classic version last month. Anyway, a big component of the games is controlling pollution. You have to decide whether you'll build a plant powered by either nuclear or coal. As I understand, in the later games, there are alternative energy sources that open up as you progress.

In the newest game, Simcity Societies, the oil company BP will be featured in the game when you build an energy-efficient plant. However, their logo won't be emblazoned on a plant if it's a high-polluting one. As this article shows, this isn't just merely product placement. BP approached Electronic Arts last year to develop a game about energy use and climate change. After some thinking, EA decided to incorporate BP's ideas into the Simcity franchise.

Product placement in video games is still a new concept to me. For years, I've gotten used to it in movies and TV shows, and at sporting events. When I was a kid, I played a lot of sports games, primarily baseball. When I played a virtual game at a virtual park, I looked at the fictional logos and companies on the backdrop and the billboards, and thought it'd be cooler and genuine if they were provided by real companies. But I was a kid then, and didn't understand the implications of commercialism.

Now, as games have evolved, I've seen more real companies' advertising in games. It hasn't really bothered me that much because it was done in an apparently benign way in which the companies featured didn't have a voice in the design of the game. But the BP/EA alliance on Simcity Societies goes beyond mere product placement. A company is taking a franchise thats beloved by many, and using it to broaden its PR campaign, even if it's contrary to its real-world workings. BP is a more progressive oil company than, say, Exxon/Mobil. It's spent billions on alternative energy research and has even stated publicly that global warming is real. However, it's still an oil company.

And a "shame on you" to EA. For a long time, from its games on the Commodore 64 (my first game system) to the Genesis, EA was one of my favorite game companies. Even in the mid 90s on the PC, they were still a name you thought of when it came to quality experiences. But they've gotten far worse as they've gotten bigger. There are many sources you can find for examples, Google it. But this Simcity Societies debacle is a glaring example of what I'm talking about.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Copyright Alliance

A newly formed group called the Copyright Alliance, composed of many powerhouses in the entertainment and media industry (such as the RIAA and the ESA, Entertainment Software Association), held a presentation on Thursday in Washington for congressmen and staffers. The intent of the gathering was to reinforce the message that "copyright protection is good and must be enforced to the maximum extent." (my quote by the way)

I don't understand the urgency behind forming a group and holding yet another event to lobby representatives in Washington, when our copyright laws are already so tilted in their favor. Copyright law was originally intended to ensure that an artist or creator of some material was fairly compensated for their efforts. However, due to much corporate lobbying, it's mutated into a monster where copyright is protected for 120 years after creation and in which middlemen (and most likely not the creator) will be able to profit from the work. Talking heads say these kinds of laws protect the artistic rights of the creators, but they just do the exact opposite, which is stifle creativity. To keep it in the gaming world, over the years there have been several attempts by independent game designers to remake or expand on several games (like Chrono Trigger and King's Quest). As far as I know, these projects were undertaken with no vision of profit, only for these people's love of the games. Yet in these instances, the holder of the copyright(s) legally threatened the projects into oblivion.

There's also the DMCA, which I've mentioned before in my blog. This law considers even fair use of a product (like copying a CD that you own to your computer, or burning a backup DVD of a movie that you bought at the store) illegal. Not to mention the draconian penalties brought on people who download music by the RIAA, which I also recently posted about on the blog.

I completely support nabbing and punishing those who pirate media and then sell it for a profit. But other than that, I don't look at the Copyright Alliance (and their members) as the good guys. They've shown all too often that their idea of copyright is to prevent fair use, suppress creativity, invade privacy of its consumers, and destroy lives (like the RIAA case I talked about).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A little detail I found interesting

In this article from the Guardian telling of how many provinces in Iraq have kept internal refugees from other parts of Iraq from attempting to settle somewhere else, further down in the article was some information that I found very ironic. One in six Iraqis, consisting of around 4.5 million people, have been forced to relocate elsewhere since the 2003 invasion. Half have gone to neighboring countries such as Syria, and the other half have settled elsewhere in Iraq. But very, very few have been able to emigrate to the United States, or Europe for that matter. That's because the U.S. has cut the admission of Iraqis refugees since the start of the war.

So the message from this, if you're an Iraqi? Some imbecile decides that he wants to blow up and occupy your country, your home and possessions are taken from you or blown to pieces, you want to come to America (the place that's also responsible for your predicament) and you're turned down for a visa because it was some sick joke on part of someone in the White House to slash admissions of Iraqi refugees into the U.S.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Game used as a teaching tool

A developer has modified the game "Civilization III" to serve as a primer on Canadian history. Historicanada is being used on the Civ III engine to show that while Canada's history isn't heavy with war, there were many other important factors, social and economical, that are practical with the game engine.

While I wouldn't consider Civilization III a video game in the sense that Halo or GTA are, it still has a loyal audience, and for a company to use it as a way to teach young people about their heritage and Canada's origins is very cool.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kiefer to serve 30 days on DUI charges

My favorite actor, Kiefer Sutherland (aka Jack Bauer of "24"), was charged with driving under the influence and will serve 30 days in jail. Hopefully this won't impact the new season of 24, but in the end, what's more important is that Kiefer gets the help that he needs.

Dumbass of the Day

Occasionally, I read about a real dumbass, and what he or she did, and I feel compelled to post about it. Probably needless to say, but this is one of those days. A guy took a computer game, "Cars", back to Target for a refund, claiming that it wouldn't work on his computer. The sales clerk refused to give him a refund. In turn, the man flashed a badge, identified himself as a police officer (he was a building inspector) and threatened to arrest the guy for the "crime" of refusing to give him a refund. The clerk only offered to let him exchange the item, so the guy vowed to be back in uniform, with handcuffs, to arrest the clerk.

This guy, Steven Sather, was recently on trial in California for impersonating a police officer. It ended in a hung jury, and the prosecution is in the process of deciding what to do with Sather. My question is, what was the jury confused about? This guy is a dumbass and deserves to have the book thrown at him. I'd say the same thing, even if he actually was law enforcement. Why would you threaten to arrest a clerk or manager for not returning a game or movie you bought? They're just doing their jobs.

Plus, those rules are in place for a reason. If they weren't, who would stop people from buying a game or movie, copying it, and taking it back to the store? Also, I'm betting this guy didn't even check the spec requirements on the game package before opening it. Like I said, total dumbass.

James Rocchi is a moron

That's as mild as I can put it. A blogger for the Cinematical blog, which is part of Moviefone, Rocchi recently posted a blog on the seven worst Stephen King film adaptations. I'm reading it, agreeing with most of the choices (like Maximum Overdrive or Children of the Corn), so far, so good. But then, for a reason that'll never make sense to me and many others, he puts The Shawshank Redemption on the list. The Shawshank Redemption. A film that's beloved by nearly everyone who's seen it, a film that's been the recipient of endless critical acclaim, that's #2 on the IMDB top 250, and that is still talked about to this day. Not to mention, that it's my personal favorite film.

So what's the reason for it being on his list? TNT plays it too much. Yeah, that's his reason. It makes no sense to me either. Even if they do play it a lot, so what? It's a great picture, and it's better with repeated viewings. If you don't want to watch it again, change the channel. That's no reason to put it on a "worst" list.

I attempted to leave a comment on the blog, I called him a "fool", and predictably, it never materialized on the Cinematical blog. I never like calling people names, and I always try to be diplomatic, but I couldn't help myself, Mr. Rocchi has gone way too far.

BTW, he couldn't have filled in that spot with another horrible King adaptation? There were still a lot left, like The Graveyard Shift, The Mangler, or Dreamcatcher (which I haven't seen but everyone who has, has said that it's a special kind of horrible).

Larry Craig, Pt. II

It was discovered recently that another Republican politician has had a record of soliciting sex in men's bathrooms. Joey DiFatta, a Councilman in New Orleans and until recently a candidate for state senate, has been busted twice for unusual incidents in a public restroom. One was for peeking through a stall at a man. The other was for rubbing a deputy's leg and telling him that "I want to play with you." In a novel approach, DiFatta withdrew from the upcoming election upon discovering that this sordid chapter of his life would soon be made public, with the excuse that he'd been hospitalized for chest pains and recently had a minor heart attack.

All Republicans should just come out already. I'm convinced that they're all in the closet. There should be three bathrooms in public places: men, women, and gay Republicans.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Woman has to pay over 200 grand to the record industry

For the past few years, the RIAA has really gone on the offensive against file sharing and has sued at least 20,000 people, if not more. In the first jury trial pitting the RIAA against a defendant who allegedly downloaded music illegally, the defendant, Jammie Thomas, was found guilty and is now faced with a fine of $220,000, or $9,250 per song. I don't know about you, but this is a clear case of the punishment being far worse than the crime. I think that downloading music is wrong, but your finances shouldn't forever be pushed into the red because you downloaded a few songs, that's fucked up.

And as this article states, among other things, millions have been spent by the RIAA on these suits, and the RIAA has collected millions as a result of the settlements and judgments such as this. But how much of those millions have gone to the artists whose works are being downloaded? That information hasn't been revealed.

Also, during this trial, the head of litigation for Sony said that if you make a copy of a song for yourself, that you're stealing. I think this is actually a law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that the media industry wrote and lobbied into law. This goes back to earlier posts I've made, like the federal government invading homes that had modified game systems. Once you buy something, it's yours. As long as you're not making copies for others and selling them, you should have the right to do whatever you want with it. Making a backup copy of something that you purchased is your right as a consumer, no matter what some law says.

Bill O'Reilly

I've been pretty busy in the past couple of weeks, so I missed this. I was reading about it last night and felt inclined to post. A couple of weeks ago, Bill O'Reilly came under fire (again) for making a remark that could be considered racist in some circles. He was talking about dining at Sylvia's (a restaurant in Harlem) with Al Sharpton, and said that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." A big bru-ha-ha resulted, but as far as I know, it hasn't evolved into an Imus moment, and we should be thankful for that.

Sometimes, I don't understand the purpose or meaning of a group like Media Matters. Media Matters is a liberal watchdog that calls out conservatives in the media, which is good and all. And they called O'Reilly out on the statements he made. But they've been doing that for almost as long as O'Reilly has been on the air, and to me, it just gets old. It's like the conservative listeners who used to listen in to Howard Stern's show so they could catch whatever offensive thing he said and rat him out to the FCC. This is America, so what if someone on the radio or television is offensive? If you don't like it, don't listen.

As for O'Reilly, I'm not a fan of his, but I think this statement (and others he's made) are based more out of ignorance than racism. The guy's lived on Long Island all his life, in a lily-white part of it. I'll say one thing for him, though. I do like how he has the cajones to stand up to these groups like Media Matters and the other press that is giving the story coverage. I still think he put his foot in his mouth, and all a group like Media Matters did was tell people what he said. But Imus showed that if you reach out to some of these people, and back down from what you say, they'll eat you alive. O'Reilly learned from that.

And lastly, I'm sorry, but I thought the "hey, m-fer, where's my iced tea" remark was hilarious.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A site you just have to see

This site really surprised me. It's filled with old-school games, mainly arcade and NES, but also remakes and a few others as well. The thing is, there are no downloads or installs required, you can play them directly from this website. It was programmed using either Flash or Java, I forget which. It's not perfect, though. There is no sound in the arcade games, and the NES ones are pretty choppy (but that could be my fault for running too many programs). But if you're craving a quick and dirty fix of plenty of retro, quality games, this site is for you. There aren't ads, as far as I know.

Liz's personal view on medicine

This is a really good post, once again, from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog. It's pretty mcuh exactly how I feel about health care. Everyone bitches about the cost of a universal health care system (or socialized medicine), yet when you factor in the insurance preminums and the deductibles, you're already paying for it anyway. And the insurance companies only pay so much for treatment anyway. She also points out another enemy in this, the greedy old people who want their Medicare, while the rest of us get jack squat. They're almost as bad as the HMO's. I hope someone can put them in line, although I'm not holding my breath.

Showtime Sunday

Yet another night in the week of my life is wasted, set aside for some quality television shows. My brother turned me on to two programs on Showtime that come on Sundays, Dexter and Brotherhood. They're both in their second seasons, and I've just gobbled up the DVD's of the first seasons over the past couple months (I watched the first season of Dexter in a few days and just finished yesterday afternoon). As far as cable, I thought no one would ever beat HBO, but I was wrong. All of HBO's great, appointment television (Sopranos, Deadwood, Six Feet Under) has disappeared, with the exception of Curb Your Enthusiam. But Showtime has Dexter (centering on a serial killer, but with a "code" so that he only kills those who have it coming to them), Brotherhood (which I consider to be The Sopranos meets The West Wing), and a few shows that sound really good but I haven't gotten to see. Oh, and The L Word, which is my closet show (meaning that no one close to me knows that I watch it), it's great, Melrose Place with lesbians.

So if you haven't watched Dexter or Brotherhood, I'd certainly recommend it. And just to clarify, I'm not getting any money from Showtime for plugging their shows, but if anyone from Showtime is reading this, I'd appreciate it if you'd consider that, as I could use it :)

Partisan Justice

wrote a really good investigative report about a possible conspiracy between U.S. attorneys and judges in Alabama. They took a series of corruption cases that implicated both Republicans and Democrats, and decided to prosecute only the Democrats. The former Democratic governor of Alabama is currently serving a seven-year prison term, while the Republican attorney general at the time is not only not in prison, but is now a U.S. senator. Check the article out, there are all kinds of conflicts of interests and winking eyes. All typical of this administration.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

'The War' and the war

This is a really good post from The Bru Notes blog, contrasting the era that the current Ken Burns documentary, "The War", depicts, (WWII) with our current era. The most disheartening thing about the occupation of Iraq, as well as the whole post 9/11 era, is that aside from the sacrifices of our brave men and women serving overseas, we really haven't done a damn thing. We continue to stand still while endless scandals (the latest being Blackwater) erupt, and we don't even pay attention. A good deal of Americans probably don't even realize what's going on, for as Bru says, more Americans are concerned with what's going on in Britney Spears' life than the fates of our brave warriors. Shame on us.


October 03, 2007

'The War' and the war

I have sat transfixed through nearly every gruesome and heartrending hour of Ken Burns' telling of "The War" this past week. It's almost been enough to take my mind off the war; I mean that one our administration wants to call the war on terror. Unfortunately, the last world war didn't make history of all war. Loss of limbs and lives continues unabated in places we Americans choose to fight and in plenty of other spots around the globe we choose to ignore.

Today I find myself looking to compare the war my father fought in with the one our soldiers are ordered to contest in Iraq. But I stop short. There really is no comparison, aside from the individual bravery, sacrifice and brutality common to all wars. Still, I can't help but observe the Iraq news backdrop to the 15-hour airing of "The War" -- BlackWater, the mercenary, ahem, private security firm coming under harsh criticism for a recent tragic confrontation in Iraq. I suspect many other Americans go to the same place I do as they hear about the involvement of Blackwater and other private profiteers of war: cynicism. We grow even wearier. What else can we expect from an administration for whom the invisible hand of the free market belongs to God. Of Blackwater, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich remarked:

"If war is privatized, then private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going. The longer the war goes on, the more money they make."

And therein grows the cynicism of the day. If it's good for business in America, it's good for America. Chalk up war as another commodity to be bought and sold. Of course Corporate America benefitted tremendously during World War II. But Americans then were not afforded the luxury of cynicism. The war could not be won without the all-out efforts of business and every other institution. Whatever it took, whatever the cost to win the war was what Americans signed up for. They had little choice. Those who would destroy us had to be destroyed.

When I imagine Baghdad, I don't see the tyrants of Berlin or Tokyo. I picture the civil war leaders of Hanoi and Saigon. I don't find towering figures like FDR and Churchill to take comfort from. I seethe over the deceit of Bush and Blair. And I don't witness the sacrifice of all Americans. I see volunteer soldiers from the ranks of our most disadvantaged families and a depressingly large swath of our citizenry more concerned with Britney Spears' wellbeing than that of our warriors.

So how will filmmakers years from now look back on America's war of 2007 and counting? You can easily guess my prediction. What's yours?

Why Hillary will probably beat Rudy, for sure

I'm pretty much sitting out next year's elections, but I still like to be a spectator and post whatever I find interesting. I'm not interested in any of the frontrunners for the presidential election, and Rudy in particular is a dolt. But a recent poll has shown that if Rudy gets the GOP nomination, nearly a third of Republican voters will vote for a conservative third-party candidate. Of course, this is due to Rudy's fairly liberal positions on abortion and gay rights. This is toxic to Rudy's chances for president.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Radiohead's bold new step

At best, I'm a casual fan of Radiohead. I don't have any of their albums, and I only know a few of their songs. But their newest album, "In Rainbows", is a ballsy move, and one that could sound yet another death knell for the music industry. The album is only available via download at their website, and anyone who downloads it can pay any price they wish for the album, or even get it for free. It's not on a record label, and not on ITunes. This is one of the biggest bands in the world, basically saying "fuck you" to the recording industry. The record industry has been screwing artists since its inception, and now with the advancement of technology being what it is, established artists like Radiohead are telling them "we don't need you." If this is successful, other artists can follow suit, or use it as a strong and persuasive negotiating point with the record companies.

A Really Gay Wrestling Match

If you thought the Billy and Chuck tag team in WWE a few years back was groundbreaking, you haven't seen nothin'. This is a pro wrestling match from a Japanese wrestling organization recorded early this year. If you're homophobic, this probably isn't for you. But if you aren't, and you're a wrestling fan, you might get a kick out of this.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A scene from Burma

Some Burmese soldiers have a heart after all

Yesterday, I blogged about the brutal repression of civilians in Burma protesting against the long-standing military junta, and of how soldiers are exerting a brutal amount of power by massacring these people. I went on to express my cynicism of anyone in the military or law enforcement, regardless of country, due to their willingness to "follow orders", even if those orders are illegal and/or morally untenable. But after reading this article, I realized that there are usually exceptions. A Burmese officer defected after refusing an order to put captured monks into a truck, where they'd be taken someplace to be executed. Either way, this is an appalling indictment of the UN, Russia and China.

Trust in Government at lowest point since Watergate

From the Gallup site:

A new Gallup poll reveals that, as the organization puts it, Americans now “express less trust in the federal government than at any point in the past decade, and trust in many federal government institutions is now lower than it was during the Watergate era, generally recognized as the low point in American history for trust in government.”

Among the findings: Barely half trust the government to handle international problems, the lowest number ever. And less than half express faith in the government handling domestic issues, the lowest findings since 1976.

The trust in the president and Congress are also at their lowest points since the immediate post-Watergate era. Perhaps most tellingly, only 70 percent of Americans have faith in themselves and their ability to play a role in the workings of government. Look at the domestic contrast between Vietnam and Iraq. You had constant, escalating political activism during the Vietnam era. While there certainly has been activism as far as Iraq is concerned, it's not as nearly as... well, in your face as Vietnam's appeared to be.

"Magic" on Tuesday

The new Springsteen album, "Magic" hits stores on Tuesday. I can't wait for this. I've heard a few songs already, and they're spectacular. And it's with the E Street Band, so you know it's going to be out of this world. Not to diminish his solo stuff, I love that too, but him and E Street just bring it to a whole other level, most of the songs are foot-tappers.

Bruce and the band were on the Today Show this past Friday, and here is a link to "Promised Land" being performed live. The other songs are on the left side of the screen.