“I am not as good of a person because I play that game,” I confessed to a colleague earlier this week in reference to Grand Theft Auto V, the latest iteration of the boundary-pushing franchise which moral crusaders love to hate. Its release served as one of two recent events which prompted me to reevaluate the effect of media upon minds young and old.
The other event involved my four-year-old son, whose development has taken off over a summer at home with his mother on maternity leave. The previous year left us concerned, as he was slow to talk, reluctant to engage with other children, and prone to tantrums which defied our efforts at discipline. He now rattles on as if his life depended on it, communicating with increasing creativity and sophistication. That affords us a wider window into his developing mind which has revealed just how impressionable he — and presumably all children — can be.
The influence which media can have upon my son proved dramatic this week after he watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. A cartoon spin-off of the classic PBS series Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, the new show chronicles the adventures of preschooler Daniel Tiger in the world of Make-Believe. Utilizing techniques which have become standard operating procedure in children’s programming, such as speaking directly to children through the camera and soliciting response, the show takes kids on a tour of new experiences like going to school or visiting the doctor.
Understand that my son has always been terrified of the doctor’s office. A dual ear infection which occurred earlier this year was torturous for all of us. My son has required reassurance to get him into a drug store, let alone a clinic. So imagine my surprise when, after journeying through the magic of television to the doctor’s office with Daniel Tiger, my son was suddenly eager to submit to an exam. He’s been stomping around enthusiastically all week, talking about sitting in the waiting room, reading books until the doctor comes, and getting to listen to his own heart.
Daniel Tiger did in twenty-one minutes what his mother and I could not accomplish in four years. That’s the power of media.
Warning: Mature content. This video and its audio track are NOT safe for work, and most certainly not suitable for children.
Grand Theft Auto V came out for video game consoles earlier this week and pushes boundaries in every conceivable way – creatively, technically, and satirically. The franchise has always served as a send up of American culture, leaving few memes unexploited in its expanding and increasingly complex world.
The last iteration, Grand Theft Auto IV, introduced television watching as an in-game activity. As your character, you could sit in a home within the game and watch original programming which fleshed out the game world. That feature is back in GTAV, and one of its shows can be viewed above.
Impotent Rage: The Liberal Superhero pulls no punches in its evisceration of the modern pop culture leftist. While delivered in crass and intentionally offensive packaging, it nonetheless serves as a daring example of how the tools of Hollywood (or Vinewood, as its GTA counterpart is known) can be used as effectively against the Left as they are so frequently used by them.
Worf wants back into your living room. Michael Dorn, the veteran actor who portrayed Star Trek’s most beloved klingon in two series and five films, has been telling fans of his desire to bring the character back to television. Hollywood.com shares Dorn’s belief that Worf has more to give to the galaxy.
Once I started thinking about it, it became obvious to me that I wanted to at least put it out there, which I have, and the response has been pretty amazing. We’ve been contacted by different individuals… about wanting to come on board and be part of this.
I was on a movie not too long ago, where one of the producers was basically lobbying to be part of it. He was like, “Michael, I’d love to write it, if you haven’t.” So, at this point, my agents and my manager are looking at all the avenues and trying to figure out which is the best one.
The itch to bring Trek back to the small screen has Rolling Stone clawing as well. A recent article calls for the re-launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, arguably the most popular and successful series in the franchise. Author Andy Greene explains why the time is right:
With Star Trek Into Darkness hitting DVD this month and a third film in the rebooted series roughly slated for 2016, it’s pretty safe to say the Star Trek movie franchise is in the best shape it’s been in years, possibly all the way back to the days of The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. Prior to these recent J.J. Abrams movies, there were never even two great Star Trek movies released back-to-back, and Paramount is obviously thrilled by the box office results.
Unfortunately, no Abrams-like figure came around to save the Star Trek TV franchise. It’s been off the air ever since Star Trek: Enterprise got yanked in May of 2005 after just four seasons. Audiences never warmed to Scott Bakula’s Captain Archer, and the idea of a show taking place 100 years before the original Star Trek was better in theory than actual practice.
In the last eight years there hasn’t even been any serious attempts to put Star Trek back on the air, and everyone seems entirely focused on the movies. This is a horrible mistake. At its core, Star Trek is a television series…
Indeed, Trek thrives in its native format. However, Green’s call to revive The Next Generation sinks with the same nostalgic weight that Enterprise did. The fourth and final season of that last Trek series was actually quite good, but hit its pace too late to save the show. Viewers tend not to suffer through three seasons of meh waiting for a cast and crew to get their act together. A new show would have to make it so from the start.
Trek should return to television. The time is right. However, it needs to arrive with a new perspective. It needs to progress. The Next Generation did not succeed by its emulation of the original series. It made its own mark, building on the original’s legacy and advancing in creative new directions.
A new series would signal a new era of Trek – a next, next generation. And would need to set a new tone for a new time. To do that, it would have to go where no Trek has gone before. Here are 7 possible directions.
Five-year-old Suzie heads off to kindergarten in rural Minnesota. She settles into her class routine full of activity, discovery, and friendship.
Then the day takes a turn. As part of newly mandated diversity training, Suzie’s teacher brings out Heather Has Two Mommies for some light mid-morning reading. A typically precocious kindergartener, Suzie pipes up during the story to correct the teacher’s telling. “God gave us a mommy and a daddy,” she exclaims.
Though no student takes exception to Suzie’s remark, the teacher cringes and becomes keenly aware of her state-mandated role to report any incident which could be construed as bullying. So Suzie gets pulled out of class and taken to the principal’s office, where she’s met by a counselor.
There begins a process of formative intervention and remedial discipline. More than correction for objectively inappropriate behavior, this intervention focuses on changing who Suzie is, on correcting her values to ensure that she accepts each of her classmates and values their diverse backgrounds.
Confused, disturbed, and teary-eyed, Suzie comes away from the experience convinced she has done something wrong. Worse, she feels the very sense of rejection which her accusers claim to deplore. She learns her lesson, that the values taught at home are not welcome in school. A bit of her innocence dies. She grows more guarded, less expressive, and unfairly subdued.
Such a tale may be among the tamest of experiences awaiting children in Minnesota, if a task force of social engineers commissioned by Governor Mark Dayton succeeds in lobbying for legislation which has already been approved by the state House. House File 826, misleadingly titled the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, serves as a trial balloon modeling what its supporters would like to implement nationally – a radical transformation of schools from institutions of academic achievement into political reeducation camps which correct Orwellian Wrong Think.
Sold colloquially as an “anti-bullying bill,” the proposed legislation actually institutionalizes bullying, targeting political minorities with suppressive badgering. The bill would repeal existing anti-bullying statutes which have proven effective. It would create an invasive, overbearing, and unfunded new state bureaucracy to impose politically correct values upon students, teachers, parents, staff, and anyone serving in or around the educational system. It would affect both public and private schools. In a state which already has one of the worst achievement gaps between white and black students in the nation, the bill would burden struggling districts with new mandates diverting precious resources away from academics. Teachers and staff will become thought police and value mediators, shifting their disciplinary focus from correcting inappropriate behavior to remediating students’ belief systems. As with any state bureaucracy, reams of new data will be generated and follow students throughout their academic career, if not the rest of their lives.
The phenomenon occurs among activists on the Left and the Right. Regardless of their ideological perspective or particular cause, amateur activists sabotage their own effort at every turn. Whether due to ignorance of processes or – more likely – stubborn defiance of reality, citizen activists focus too much on grinding their axe and not enough on achieving a goal.
Three recent examples warrant consideration. First, in Maine, a group of libertarian Republicans including a National Committeeman authored an open letter to the state party secretary tendering their resignation from the GOP following a rules fight which didn’t go their way at a meeting of the RNC. Dave Nalle, former national chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, an organization working within the party to steer it toward greater advocacy of individual rights, called the mass exodus a “betrayal” in a public Facebook post:
After years of working to gain those positions of influence and as a key component of a liberty coalition which controls the state party, they have thrown everything away because of losing one battle over the rules with the RNC leadership.
Did they go into this thinking it was going to be easy to change the Republican Party? I respect their efforts and commitment up to this point, but what they have done puts liberty movement control of their state party in jeopardy and hands additional victories to the malefactors who run the national party. It weakens the movement nationwide and sets a terrible example for others.
In Minnesota, the Occupy movement has splintered as Occupy MN announced that it was cutting ties with a spin-off organization called Occupy Homes MN on account of the latter becoming “commercialized” and “profitable.” City Pages reports on the schism, citing a public statement from Occupy MN:
Many of us helped create, volunteered with and were arrested with Occupy Homes, until unethical tactics serving the goal of evolution into a profitable Non-Governmental Organization achieved dominance.
Last but not least, activists made a stink following an incident at the Republican Party booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Volunteers arrived to work a shift at the booth wearing campaign t-shirts supporting a libertarian challenger to Congressman John Kline. The state party chair, fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility to protect the party brand, required the volunteers to turn their shirts inside-out while representing the party in an official capacity. The move sparked a firestorm of protest from liberty activists within the party. A former candidate for the state chair position rallied support on Facebook by noting:
Neither Kline nor Mr. [David] Gerson [the challenger] is endorsed for the 2014 race to keep MN CD 2 in GOP hands.
Apparently, political parties have no vested interest in promoting their elected officials or protecting their brand by not associating it with non-endorsed challengers. So goes the protesters’ argument.
Each of these examples and many more which could be cited indicate an activist mindset which I refer to as anti-activism. Like a gerbil running on its wheel, anti-activists expend tremendous energy toward getting nowhere. That becomes problematic for more thoughtful activists who focus on affecting public policy rather than protest for its own sake. Let’s consider 6 ways activists sabotage their cause.
Iron sharpens iron, so the saying goes. When it comes to developing your skills as an online activist, the iron can be found at RightOnline, an annual conference put on by Americans for Prosperity where advocates of liberty gather to network and learn from the greats. This year’s conference kicks off in Orlando at the end of the week. From the website:
The RightOnline Conference brings top new media, technology, and messaging experts together with hundreds of committed citizen activists to provide important leadership and grassroots training, offering tools and inspiration to more effectively impact public policy in favor of limited government and free enterprise. The agenda provides a solid program of workshops and training seminars on new media strategies and tools that can be used to mobilize and advance free market policies.
Since its first conference, RightOnline has been expanded into a broader initiative that includes state-based and local grassroots training seminars aimed at promoting and increasing citizen participation in the public policy process through the use of online tools.
Among a handful of activists sponsored by AFP to represent Minnesota at the conference, I look forward to two days of intense training and encouragement from some of the most accomplished names in alternative media. Conferences like RightOnline offer a buffet of knowledge for those willing to lap it up.
The hardest part of attending such an event is choosing which tracks to follow in the breakout sessions. Previous experience has taught me that following the track of greatest interest may not lead to as much learning as sitting in on something less familiar. So assessing which sessions will yield the highest return requires an introspective analysis of strengths and weaknesses.
With that in mind, here are 5 lessons worth learning at RightOnline. Be sure to let us know which sessions you’ll be attending in the comments section below.
If you need help digesting the news that Ben Affleck has been cast to play Batman in the 2015 sequel to Man of Steel, feast upon the “true Hollywood story” above. In it, Kevin Smith relates the tale of how he came within a hairsbreadth of writing a Superman film which would have been directed by Batman auteur Tim Burton and starred Nicolas Cage as the super-powered Kryptonian. Smith demonstrates in entertaining detail the fundamental problem which plagues the development of big-budget blockbusters, namely executives and producers whose talents belong in the business office taking creative control of properties they know nothing about.
While the overwhelming majority of reaction on social media to the news about Affleck as the Caped Crusader has been negative, the occasional Pollyanna pipes in to remind us of how we first reacted to the casting of Christian Bale in Batman Begins and Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Indeed, Affleck may surprise us all with an inspired performance none could reasonably expect. I’m not taking that bet though.
Some of the better reaction on Twitter:
A new category of television now available for purchase enables two viewers watching from different angles to view different full-screen high-definition content. The Samsung 55-inch Curved OLED TV retails for about $9,000 and boasts “deep blacks and vibrant colors, while providing an immersive experience with improved viewing angles.”
Can you see yourself buying something like this? Let’s say the price comes down in a couple of years, which it surely will. Does the notion of watching something completely different from the person next to you carry appeal?
Scoffs come cheap. Putting the question to my Facebook friends produced a list of emphatic negatives. “Might as well not be near each other if not sharing the experience,” one wrote. “As if technology isn’t creating more isolation and poorer communication already! Arrgh!” exclaimed another.
Yet, there was a time when the notion of having multiple televisions in the same home seemed isolating and extreme. Remember this scene from Back to the Future when Marty McFly has dinner with his seventeen-year-old mother Lorraine and her family in 1955?
Lorraine Baines: It’s our first television set. Dad just picked it up today. Do you have a television?
Marty McFly: Well, yeah. You know we have… two of them.
Milton Baines: Wow! You must be rich.
Stella Baines: Oh, honey, he’s teasing you. Nobody has two television sets.
That was written in 1985. Today, we not only have a television in every room, but a bunch of smaller screens as well. Tablets, laptops, smartphones, e-readers — everything but Dick Tracy’s watch. As it stands, each person in a five-member family could theoretically watch their own hand-picked content at the same time. So is it really that big of a stretch to watch two shows from the same couch? Technically, it brings people formerly on separate devices closer together.
Samuel Lamb defied the Communist Chinese. A leader in the underground Christian community, Lamb passed away earlier this month in Guangzhou, where he ran a house church for decades. Voice of the Martyrs reports:
When the Communist Party took control of China in 1949 under Mao Zedong, Christians were forced underground or forced to submit to Party control. Those that refused were interrogated, arrested, tortured, imprisoned or even killed. Samuel Lamb became one of the best known of these persecuted church leaders.
Lamb first tasted prison in 1955, when he was sentenced to serve 18 months. He was imprisoned again in 1958, this time receiving a 20-year sentence. Part of his sentence was spent serving forced labor in coal mines, where working conditions were deplorable and many prisoners died. Lamb would later talk about how God preserved his life even in the midst of such dangerous work.
For most American Christians, Lamb’s experience lays so far outside our own that it can be hard to perceive as modern. Living as we do in a land of relative religious liberty, we understand persecution only as an intellectual concept. It lurks in the depths of church history, or haunts the horizon of a distant future glimpsed through biblical prophecy. The idea of facing persecution today, in present America, seems unthinkable at first consideration. After all, we’ve spent our whole lives driving past a church on every corner, swearing oaths on copies of the Bible, and covering our hearts while swooning over the Land of the Free.
Be that as it may, as the culture makes radical shifts in the 21st century, the price of Christian confession begins to rise. If certain coalitions have their way, adherence to the Christian faith will be regulated out of public existence. Oh, the church buildings may stand, and 501(c)3s operating in the name of Christ may remain. But biblical Christianity taught without compromise will be relegated to underground enclaves like those formed under the Communist Chinese.
Every kid wants to be a pirate at some point. While sailing tall ships around the Caribbean on a quest for buried treasure remains an elusive fantasy, modern pirates take a less romantic form.
Based on reaction to a recent piece by PJ Media’s Susan L.M. Goldberg, it seems many of you – our dear readers — sail the digital seas looting movies, television, and music. To many, the suggestion by Goldberg that such activity might have economic consequences proved deeply offensive. One of the top-rated comments reads:
Quoting the RIAA [Record Industry Association of America] about piracy is like quoting the Mexican Cartel on the dangers of drug legalization. The dubious study RIAA cites assumes that all piracy are lost sales, for which there is simply no evidence.
And there is a lot to the concept that pirated copies lead to sales of legitimate copies and related merchandize. Certainly, there are studies that show that free downloads and DRM free products lead to more sales such as this one.
But mostly I don’t think you understand fully understand the tradeoffs, excessive zeal to stop piracy can annoy one’s legitimate customers.
Considering such arguments reminded me of a guy I know who spent years amassing piles of pirated DVDs by making copies of discs rented from Netflix. We’ll call him “Guy” for the sake of discussion. He obtained the requisite software with ease, available free on the internet, and set off to build a library of titles he wanted to watch but didn’t want to pay for.
Guy knew that what he was doing was illegal, briefly deterred as he was by those menacing FBI warnings displayed before each feature presentation. He felt pangs of conscience, but consoled himself with a number of convenient rationalizations.
While she does not explicitly say so in her report of new tech developments in the fast food industry, CNET blogger Amanda Kooser seems to disapprove of self-service checkouts. She writes:
McDonalds recently went on a hiring binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employees to its roster. The hiring picture doesn’t look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is drafting 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to handle cashiering duties.
Kooser calls the move “another blow against human interaction.” It doesn’t take much to imagine Occupy protesters lamenting a successful corporation destroying good entry-level jobs.
Of course, as we have seen in grocery and retail stores across the country, the addition of self-service checkouts does not completely eliminate the need for flesh and blood cashiers. In my experience, someone still stands by to monitor the transactions and assist customers who run into problems. And cashiers still man standard checkouts, serving a majority of shoppers who like things as they were.
That said, even if computers replaced every cashier on Earth, they could not be properly regarded as destructive. Jobs lost to innovations which increase productivity and profit should not be mourned. After all, a job has purpose only so long as it remains mutually beneficial to both the employee and the employer. That means it must maximize profit.
Such a notion proves offensive to many, certainly to those on the political Left who regard employment as a right. A business owes something to the community in which it operates, the argument goes, and should provide good-paying jobs at the expense of its owner’s gain.
James D. Conley, the Roman Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, pivots in a recent piece for First Things from the criminal drama of Ariel Castro to a condemnation of pornography. He writes:
Ariel Castro belongs in prison. Last week, he was sentenced to serve more than one thousand years. But despite the depths of his depravity, when Castro stood shackled in a Cleveland courtroom, he confessed a common American problem. “I believe I am addicted to porn,” he said, “to the point where I am impulsive, and I just don’t realize that what I am doing is wrong.”
Pastors everywhere have heard those words before. Probably many times. Pornographic addiction is powerful, destructive, and all too typical. Ariel Castro’s addiction is no excuse for his actions, but it points to a deep and sobering reality: Free, anonymous, and ubiquitous access to pornography is quietly transforming American men and American culture.
Conley goes on to cite sociological data and build a case indicting pornography as a pervasive, degenerating influence.
The Raw Story’s Amanda Marcotte objects to his line of reasoning. She spins Conley’s effort into an indictment of Christianity. Her title says it all: “Christian website falls for Ariel Castro’s pathetic excuses.” She concludes:
Yes, men like [Castro] look at porn and probably drive the market for some of the uglier, more misogynist stuff out there, but men who don’t beat and rape women also look at porn without creating those problems. That’s because the link between wanting to rub one out and wanting to feel the power over a woman as she pleads for her safety aren’t the same desire.
This isn’t that hard to understand, so why does this Christian blogger refuse to see it and instead tries to make it about lust and pornography? Well, because to talk about the real causes of violence against women is to implicate social systems that teach that women are a servant class put here for men’s use….and the church is one of the biggest promoters of that belief. So yeah, I can see why they want to talk about anything else, preferably in terms of making people feel guilty about harmless behavior like sexual fantasy and masturbation.
From the discourse, we discover what it takes to get a feminist averse to misogyny to stand in defense of pornography. Any chance to take a stab at Christianity makes strange bedfellows.
Is the above quote true? Should you do more than you get paid for, hoping that you will eventually be paid for more than you do?
While it may at first sound like an expression of good work ethic, this quote proves not only incorrect, but dangerous. People who take it to heart could find themselves stuck on a path to nowhere.
Certainly, we make all manner of investments which do not produce immediate or guaranteed returns. Education and advertisement come to mind. Internships and apprenticeships involve work for little if any pay while students develop their skills in a practical environment. But none of that really amounts to doing more than you get paid for in hopes of getting paid for more than you do.
To truly do more than you get paid for is to sacrifice, trading a greater value for a lesser one. Investments in education, marketing, or the capital requirements of a business do not amount to sacrifices. Time spent studying for a big test or money spent trolling for new customers serves a valuable interest. Likewise, interning without monetary compensation provides an opportunity to develop both skills and a professional network. That has value. That value substitutes for a paycheck. Otherwise, if the value received was not perceived as greater than that expended, no one would agree to intern. Certainly, work done to produce a long-term value has virtue. But long-term value is still value, not “more than you’re paid for.”
The belief that you ought to provide a greater value than you receive in hopes of one day receiving a greater value than you provide stands on no principle. If doing more than you get paid to proves virtuous, then seeking to get paid for more than you do would prove wicked. Given that paradox, why would you do either? More to the point, why would anyone ever pay you more to do less?
Is the real economy like the board game Monopoly? We can pick out particular similarities, such as the instance cited above. The game’s banker does issue an unlimited amount of paper money which has no inherent value. For the most part, however, the comparison falls flat.
Last year, two leftist authors used the board game as an analogy for “the danger of raw, unfettered capitalism.” Published at Truthout, Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks paint a dramatic picture of how the cannibalistic final rounds of a Monopoly game model both the recession of 2008 and a larger economic collapse yet to come. They argue that a high concentration of wealth in the hands of a few initiates an economic collapse as an endless quest for profit drains consumers and ultimately deprives even the rich, ending the game. They write:
But let’s assume the Monopoly game doesn’t end there. Let’s assume the broke players keep rolling the dice and keep going around the board. They essentially keep living their lives desperate and broke, using their credit cards and home lines of credit to stay in the game. Maybe they end up in jail. If they’re lucky, they land on Baltic Avenue and can afford to stay a night in the slums.
Meanwhile, the oligarch who owns everything can no longer collect any income. The other players can’t afford to pay rent, they can’t pay utilities, and they can’t ride on the railroads. Eventually, without consumers spending money, the Monopoly oligarch goes broke, too. His properties and businesses disappear and suddenly everyone is broke!
That’s what Monopoly’s version of economic collapse looks like. And it’s very similar to what global economic collapse in the real world looks like, too.
Their analysis proves worth reading in its entirety, if only to fully demonstrate its error. Their argument rests upon premises which fall apart when tested.
Urban legend holds that Willie Sutton told a reporter that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” Not to be outdone, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison recently made a similar observation. CNS News reports:
Ellison was discussing his “Inclusive Prosperity Act” measure at the July 25th Progressive Democrats of America roundtable in Washington.
“The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it,” Ellison continued, “The government has a right, the government and the people of the United States have a right to run the programs of the United States. Health, welfare, housing – all these things.”
The “Inclusive Prosperity Act” would levy a sales tax on the trading of stocks, bonds and derivatives.
We can induce from Ellison’s comments that he believes the government cannot go broke so long as money remains in the private sector to be taken. In other words, your money does not belong to you. The state allows you to keep what you have and reserves the right to seize it for redistribution.
Benito Mussolini would be proud. The Italian dictator who coined the term fascism defined it as a system of government where the state exists for its own sake, subordinating the individual. Like Ellison, Mussolini spoke of the state as though it were a person, elevating its “will” above that of the individual. Ellison ascribes “rights” to the government — to “the people of the United States” — while denying the property right of individuals.
Try as I may to give the upcoming Neill Blomkamp sci-fi actioner Elysium the benefit of the doubt, the more I hear from star Matt Damon, the more I stand convinced the film could have just as easily been titled Occupy Space Station. Promoting the project on the Late Show with David Letterman this week, Damon joked about his 2012 flop Promised Land, a film produced on the presumption that American audiences love a good yarn railing against oil fracking. “You and I are the only ones who saw it,” he told Letterman after the host claimed to have liked the environmental tale.
Naturally, when one movie preaching against the evils of capitalism and development fails, Hollywood tries and tries again. Damon describes the forthcoming Elysium as an attempt to cloak the social commentary of Promised Land in sci-fi garb. Truth be told, the tactic may work. The science fiction and fantasy genres boast a long history of controversial social and political themes going back to 1951′s The Day the Earth Stood Still. Stick forehead ridges or antennae on a painted head and you can recast real-life tensions with alien stakeholders, lowering audience resistance to embedded ideas through making the players unreal.
Letterman turned serious on the topic of fracking, making the ridiculous claim that “water is disappearing from the planet [because of fracking], we’ve poisoned and drained the great aquifers underneath the great plains.” Damon took the opportunity to tout his non-profit, which seeks “safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime.” The hand-wringing commenced.
Every 21 seconds, a child under the age of 5 dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation.
The irony of Damon’s concern takes shape when we consider his opposition to capitalism, development, and the free-market process. All of these things enable the world’s poor to rise and enjoy the benefits of modern civilization.
The first game I played in the Elder Scrolls series was Oblivion for the Xbox 360. Its in-game legal system, among many other features, blew me away. In most video games, you can loot any area you can access. In Elder Scrolls, trespassing where you do not belong or stealing something or killing an innocent attracts the long arm of the law. Villagers report your crime to town guards, who pursue you until you pay a bounty, spend time in jail, or fall under their sword.
That element of realism puts into perspective how much bad behavior goes tolerated in other games. Playing any game in The Legend of Zelda series provides ample opportunity to trespass, ransack, and thieve to your heart’s content. Some games have even made a joke of the trend by scripting a non-player character who objects to an intrusion. Then there’s the parody above with close to six million views on YouTube, leveraging for laughs the wanton destruction and looting committed by a “hero.”
The best humor rests upon truth. A live recreation of Link smashing pots in a random house makes us laugh because we recognize its absurdity. You can’t just barge into someone’s home and start trashing and looting.
… unless you’re the government.
There is a strange tendency in our political culture to wring hands over imagined violations of perceived privacy while tolerating routine violations of actual privacy. We see this while juxtaposing reaction to recent state laws toughening restrictions on abortion and the lack of sustained concern over the IRS and NSA scandals. Tell a women she can’t kill her unborn child, and you supposedly violate her privacy. But feel free to tax her political speech and search her phone records.
The First Baptist Church in Beckley, West Virgina, organized a conference to help young girls build self-esteem in defiance of a beauty culture which fixates upon superficial features. The Register-Herald reports:
Contemporary Christian musical artist Karen Spurlock will be leading worship at the event.
“Having three girls of my own, I am very aware of how early little girls begin to evaluate themselves and others in superficial ways,” said Carrico. “It occurred to me that so many women suffer daily by comparing themselves to others, and it all starts between the ages of five and 10.”
Part of the reason girls are so imprisoned by the beauty culture, Carrico said, is that they mistakenly equate being “pretty” with their self-worth.
One goal of the Christian-based conference is to assure girls that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but in the “eye of the Creator,” Carrico said.
“The only way to help girls see past all this is to teach them that pretty is fine, that’s awesome, but it’s not beauty,” she said. “Their belly may not be completely flat today, or ever, and that’s OK, because God created us in His image, so…deal with it, you’re perfect.”
Certainly, girls and young women ought to be encouraged to look beyond the superficial. That said, should any self-evaluation result in the conclusion that you are perfect?
Promoting self-esteem has become a primary goal of education and community activities involving children. The now cliché participation trophy stands as a hallmark example. Adults teach children to feel good about themselves not due to cited merit, but as a means to spite the evaluations of popular culture. However, unearned pride can be just as destructive as a lack of confidence. Rather than teach children to err on one side to spite the other, we ought to encourage honest evaluations based on objective criteria which help guide efforts at improvement.
Hey, kids! Here comes another franchise reboot no one wanted. Robocop returns in 2014 taking new form played by The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman.
The new take looks to resume the original’s political satire by leveraging concern over domestic spying and the use of drone technology by law enforcement. In retrospect, the original film deserves a lot of credit for anticipating the modern convergence of military technology and domestic law enforcement. The Verge reports:
“We are more and more in a country where Robocop is relevant. You will see robots in wars,” said Jose Padilha, the film’s director. “The first film saw it way back then. Now we have more knowledge and we know it’s coming true. First we are going to use machines abroad, then we are going to use machines at home.”
Despite retaining many of the themes established in the 1987 film, the reboot will depart from the original on many key plot points. IGN shares the details:
In this RoboCop, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) isn’t killed by a ruthless outlaw and his henchmen, In fact, he’s not killed at all. He’s gravely injured by a car bomb that leaves him massively burned all over his body. In order to “save ” him — and give OmniCorp their cyborg lawman they’ve been desiring — Omni scientist Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) essentially amputates Alex’s body from the neck down and rebuilds him as, yes, RoboCop. (They keep Alex’s right hand as a humanizing element for when RoboCop shakes hands with people.)
There were several scenes with OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Keaton), a believer in his products and what they can do for the world who makes his decisions not so much out of being a villain as because he’s decided it’s simply the best option available for his business and what he thinks it can provide. Keaton described Sellars as an antagonist rather than as a villain.
Readers may recall that Omni Consumer Products senior president Dick Jones, played with relish by the irrepressible Ronnie Cox, was the ultimate villain in the original. As he and director Paul Verhoeven also did in Total Recall, Cox created one of the greatest caricatures of corporate villainy put to film.
Outlast may be the scariest video game ever produced. IGN’s Marty Sliva passed along anecdotes last March:
Before my demo, the team at Red Barrels, which is comprised of ex-Ubisoft designers who worked on Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, told me about some of the crazy things they’d seen the brave attendees of PAX East do while playing their game. Some bolted out mid-demo, others stumbled out unhealthily pale, and one guy almost destroyed the entire booth in a fit of panic.
The game pares down the survival horror genre to a single visceral action. No other option exists in Outlast. If you see something intent upon harm, you have but one choice. Run!
The game takes place in a freakish asylum which you enter for reasons unknown. Once inside, a haunting atmosphere manifests. Lights start to flicker and die. Shadows begin to move. Voices dance at the edge of earshot. And the only way to reliably see what lies ahead is through a power-hungry night vision camera that’s always on the verge of dying. Needless to say, you soon discover that you’re neither alone nor at the top of the food chain.
I thought of Outlast after considering last week’s remarks by President Obama which he offered in response to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Predictably, the president chose to amplify the narrative that the black community was somehow owed a conviction. The threat to liberty posed by our nation’s highest executive suggesting that a criminal case ought to be decided not on the facts, but to satisfy a subjective sense of racial justice, cannot be overstated. However, what specifically reminded me of Outlast was the president’s call to examine “stand your ground” statutes to determine whether they “may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case rather than diffuse potential altercations.”
Crime doesn’t pay. That used to be the cliché moral of black-and-white detective stories during the Golden Age of television. Today, a sad variation has emerged. Marriage doesn’t pay.
A Voice for Men published a provocative list last month of “8 reasons straight men don’t want to get married.” A thoughtful consideration may leave married men with the distinct impression that they have been suckered. Less respect, less sex, fewer friends, less space, less freedom, and the threat of losing half your stuff all tilt the scales against tying the knot. Discounting any emotional or spiritual value to matrimony, the practical value seems to have diminished.
While fewer men seek marriage in the United States, more men are likely to end marriages in China after the advent of a new law which may leave their ex-wives homeless. The Telegraph reports:
According to the new law, residential property is no longer to be regarded as jointly owned and divided equally in the event of a divorce.
Instead, whoever paid for the apartment or house is the legal owner and gets to keep it in its entirety.
For a variety of cultural reasons, the legal owner tends to be the man. Chinese marriages typically occur only after the man has secured a home for the new couple. Wives labor under the cultural expectation that they care for both children and elder parents, which mostly precludes any direct financial contribution to the home. For wives, this means that their husbands now have less incentive to remain faithful, because the threat of divorce has lost most of its financial teeth.
Looking at the Chinese marriage crisis, we see yet another example of how the institution has been steadily redefined over decades from a sacred bond fulfilling a spiritual purpose to a legal arrangement teetering on the precipice of personal convenience.
Here’s my elevator pitch for a modern follow-up to Back to the Future. Since this is likely the only place it will ever be expressed, I am willing to waive any shot at a story consultant credit.
The year is 2015, our 2015, the one we tick toward now, unremarkable and mundane. We don’t watch holographic movies. We don’t eat rehydrated food. And we certainly don’t commute in flying cars. Of course, most of us wouldn’t expect to be doing any of that. But one among us does, one who years ago glimpsed a future very different from our present. For that man, Martin Seamus McFly, the world is wrong. Ever since a tragedy which first triggered his suspicion that the future was not unfolding as it should, McFly has become increasingly compelled to find out where and when history went off the rails.
You can imagine where the tale might go from there. Suffice it to say the disparity between how 2015 was imagined in Back to the Future Part II and how it has manifest in real life would be the catalyst for brining the band back together.
The nearly thirty year interval between the release of Back to the Future and today has unfolded very differently from how writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale imagined it. As it turns out, the world does not yet run on garbage-fueled fusion and fashion still refuses to accept the wearing of two ties or the turning of pockets inside-out. Perhaps we can live without those innovations. But I want my flying car.
Why do our projections of the future prove so grossly inaccurate? Some imagined developments manifest more quickly than expected. Star Trek’s communicator portended the cell phone, as its pads and touchscreens portended tablets. Yet, it also imagined we’d still be using “computer tapes” in the 23rd century. Other imagined developments remained imagined. We’re still some time away from anything approximating warp drive or transporter technology. What enables us to achieve some but not all of our imagined progress?
As a child, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad worked for a major airline as a mechanic and I spent a fair amount of time in and around aircraft as a result.
Dad was also a big computer nerd who always had the latest and greatest personal computer in the house. Those two interests combined in the form of flight simulators. The first I can recall was Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64, a program which used simple geometry and rows of lights on the ground as reference points to indicate that you were moving. Later came Microsoft Flight Simulator in its various and progressive forms, raising the bar of realism and fidelity with each new version.
Having recently built a new computing rig, I have a renewed interest in flight simulation after many years away from it. I’m currently deliberating between the purchase of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the most recent yet dated entry in that franchise, or the more contemporary X-Plane 10.
One of the truly amazing selling points of the latter is its immersive recreation of the entire planet. X-Plane 10 utilizes terrain and scenery auto-generation built atop data obtained from OpenStreetMap to simulate your town – and every other one on Earth – with amazing fidelity. In one video demonstrating the technology, the lead developer boasts that the road system proves adequately detailed to serve as a driving simulator. Indeed, YouTube videos showing a virtual drive down X-Plane 10’s streets prove reminiscent of any given trip through any given suburb, complete with picket fences and SUVs.
Come August 1st, gay couples within Minnesota will be legally bound in civil matrimony. The state became the twelfth in the nation to legalize gay marriage after being among the first to reject a ballot question which would have affirmed the traditionally understood definition, a union between one man and one woman.
The debate which culminated in this dramatic shift in social policy has been enormously divisive, provoking conflict between friends, among family, and within organizations. Standing up for the traditional definition earned allegations of bigotry. Reasoned discourse proved elusive. Talking points erupted from emotion. Slogans distorted the truth. As the dust now settles in the North Star State, gay marriage manifests from concept to reality.
As a resident and politically active Christian, I have taken some time since the law has changed to deconstruct the battle for marriage in our state. I stand convinced that it was lost long before anyone suggested the notion of same-sex unions.
Advocates of tradition have framed the debate over marriage as an attempt to redefine a sacred institution. What we weren’t prepared to admit is that such redefinition had already occurred. While the extent to which marriage has ever been broadly held sacred remains an open question, it was at least treated as such in times past. There were natural incentives to encourage it. The greatest of those was children. Beneath higher concepts of honor lay the simple facts that sex may result in children and children present responsibility. The proverbial shotgun wedding was a pragmatic affair, because a father properly ought to provide for his offspring and their mother.
Such incentive abated with the advent of birth control, the rejection of gender roles, and the legalization of abortion. In a matter of decades, the pragmatic reasons for entering into matrimony no longer applied. Sure, sex could still lead to children, but not necessarily. Conception could be prevented. Pregnancy could be terminated. And the state stood ready to provide when fathers would not.