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Monday, April 30, 2007

A recent article in the online magazine Slate discusses the "real" connection between video games and violence. It's pretty much a load of shit, just like everything else I've read on this topic. Every study that tries to link video-game violence and violence in kids (or events like the Columbine shootings or the Va. Tech shootings, for that matter) has had giant holes and/or conditions attached that render the study useless.

Parents do need to control what media their kids take in--but not because kids will become more violent if they play Street Fighter II or World of Warcraft. They need to control it in the same way that they shouldn't let their kids watch seven hours of Happy Days all summer long. That is, if someone is going to make decisions about what a kid is taking in, it's should be that kid's parent. I believe there are some major benefits to many video games, movies, and television shows--as Steven Johnson points out in Everything Bad is Good for You--but I certainly don't think any of that media should raise a kid.

But I do see the interest in trying to find a link between video games and violence. I do think that it's worth studying "whether exposure to video-game violence is one risk factor for increased aggression," as the Slate article suggests. As big of a fan as I am of violent movies and violent video games, I'm a bigger fan of not having people kill each other. I think that if legitimate studies can consistently find a real connection, people should take that into account.

In the meantime, I wouldn't let my ten-year-old son play Grand Theft Auto, but I would let my high school-age son play it. So take that however you want.1

1One other thing I'll be doing in the meantime is not voting for Hillary Clinton and her anti-video game-agenda-having ass.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"What's that say on your shirt?" I asked Tony.

"'Not All Who Wander are Lost.'"

"What's that shirt for?"

"College of Liberal Arts."

"That's kind of a weird quote."

"It's Tolkein."

"I know, but it's kind of acknowledging that Liberal Arts majors are wandering around--isn't that weird?"

"I guess it is," he admitted.

"I mean, where else do you see that quote? Hippies' cars, travelers, places where people are lost . . . University colleges usually have quotes about shaping the future and stuff."

"I think you're over-thinking it," said Jeff.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Die, To Sleep

A few years ago I got into a discussion with Lan about the Vietnam War. I mentioned something about 50,000 dead American troops not being a cost worth the benefit of the war.

“What about a million dead Vietnamese?” he asked. I had no good answer to that. It's a memorable statistic, but not one as close to the hearts of most Americans.

A few days ago tragedy occurred when 33 people died in a shooting at Virginia Tech. A day after that, 157 people were killed in four bombings in Baghdad. The next day, the front page of CNN’s website was covered with Virginia Tech news. As of 9:31 a.m., neither the words “Baghdad” or "Iraq" were on CNN’s homepage. To find a story about the most recent deaths in Baghdad, you have to scroll to the bottom of the New York Times website.



More than 33 people die every day in Iraq, and the Pew Research Center noted that before the Va. Tech tragedy, the comments Don Imus made was the biggest story of 2007. What does it say about us that the greatest tragedy in the world today—the crisis in Darfur—isn’t even in the top five news stories in the US, and that the biggest crisis that our country is directly involved in weighs in at a distant third place?

I’m not sure who I’m criticizing here. It’s not just the media—the media reports what it can sell. It’s not really “ignorance”—that will always be a part of life. If nothing else, it brings up questions: Is this about race? It’s hard to say—America isn’t just a White country, and it’s not like American Muslims distinguish themselves by clamoring for the daily news from Iraq. If nothing else, we can say that Americans as a whole have been equally indifferent to tragedies as they’ve occurred in Vietnam, Rwanda, Darfur, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia. But I guess that's just the way things are sometimes.


For Iraq/Darfur news, look no further than the very bottom of the page, in tiny font.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quotes from Les Blank's Burden of Dreams, a documentary about the making of the Werner Herzog movie Fitzcarraldo:
Werner Herzog (Relatively early in the making of the movie): Without dreams we would be cows in a field, and I don't want to live like that. I live my life or I end my life with this project.

Werner Herzog (Four years into making the movie): Nature here is vile and base. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they--they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country. It's still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is--is the dinosaurs here. It's like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever . . . goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It's a land that God, if he exists has--has created in anger.
I guess that's what happens when you film a movie 2,000 miles from the nearest town, at a location where a border war is taking place, using thousands of hostile natives as your extras and laborers. At least the movie is totally incredible.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

PSA: National High-Five Day

SCRIPT PROPOSAL FOR "NATIONAL HIGH-FIVE DAY PSA"


PERSON 1: Hey, did you know that the third Thursday in April is designated as "National High-Five Day (USA)"?

PERSON 2: No, I didn't. (Pauses.) What's a "high five"?

PERSON 1: (Opens dictionary) Webster's Dictionary defines a "high five" as "a slapping of upraised right hands by two people (as in celebration)." What do you say we give it a try?

PERSON 2: Right on!

(The two people attempt a high five.)

PERSON 1: Ouch! You kicked me! You kicked me right in the thigh!

VOICE-OVER: Please help spread awareness. National High-Five Week is the third week in April.

PERSON 1: That's "National High-Five Day." And it's the third Thursday in April.

PERSON 2: Hey, what day does it come on this year?

PERSON 1: I think it's the 20th; the Thursday after Tax Day.

PERSON 2: That's right! Tax Day! Oh man, I totally forgot!

PERSON 1: How can you forget that? I reminded you twice!

VOICE OVER: Tax Day is April 16th.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kiva

Ben noted a sweet new way to feel less guilty about your white privelige called Kiva. It's that microloan thing that that Bangladeshi guy won the Nobel Prize for.

Basically, you loan money to a small business in a developing ("poor") country, they use it to invest in their business, they get rich, and you get your money back. With the interest you get in return, soon everyone will be driving Cadillacs. This screenshot from the Kiva website sums it up better than I ever could:



Pretty awesome.

UPDATE:

Per Kiva's FAQs, you will receive no interest on your loan. The only compensation you receive is the satisfaction of helping those in need.1



1Some people would say this has "priceless" value.2
2Still others might point out that, technically, this has "worthless" value.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

I can think of a lot of different commercials that reference movies--like this one or this one--but I can't think of a lot that do it like this one:



"You don't give another man's girl a foot massage, and you definitely don't put her in your five."

It's fitting that a commercial borrowing a line from a popular movie would borrow one from Quentin Tarantino. One of Tarantino's trademarks is the way he pays homage to other genres, directors, and films by embedding characters, scenes, and lines from other movies into his own movies. Most of the time, viewers who don't have some knowledge of the movies he borrows from would have no idea they're not original.

The most obvious example is in Kill Bill, when The Bride fights the Crazy 88 in a yellow jumpsuit . . .



which is borrowed from the Bruce Lee movie Game of Death:



A lot of the more traditional critics are wary of this brand of postmodern art, some with good reasons and some with not-as-good reasons. Others condone it as a part of the artistic process. Jonathan Lethem, in a recent plagiarism in Harper's, explains that stealing is a part of art.

I agree almost completely with Lethem's plagiarism, but one thing about Tarantino-style borrowing interests me, and I've said it already here: Most people will never know anything was ever being borrowed in the first place. For example, that T-Mobile commercial with the Pulp Fiction line? AOL has a trivia game called Gold Rush that asks the question "Watch this video (the T-Mobile commercial) and figure out what popular 90's movie made breaking the first rule famous." Now read this message board in which someone asks for the movie title for the movie that includes a line about a guy giving someone a foot massage to a girlfriend and having her in their top five.

I'm not sure if this is a complaint about online culture, borrowing art, or just stupid people in general--but they're all connected, and they've all come up in various places in recent years.

Related:

-
The New Republic
discusses how web research and availability is killing rock snobs (if everything is available, nothing is obscure)
- For some reason it seems like we're all getting dumber
- Grad-student-style essay on Tarantino

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GF/SC

On Thursday evening, just after a phone conversation with me, ES tripped and fell on the sidewalk outside school. She cut herself noticeably on her hands and knees. It looked like this:



"Weird," I said. "It kind of looks like a stigmata."

"Yeah, maybe I'm the second coming," she said.

"Wait--what's today?" I asked.

"Thursday."

"Thursday night," I said. "The Jews start their days at sundown of the day before. So in Jew time, it's Friday--Good Friday."

"Weird."

"Too weird."

"Maybe I really am the second coming," she said. "What would you do if I was?"

"Sell my story to all the tabloids," I said. "I'd be rich as hell."

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Oh, man," ES said. "I think I stepped in dog shit."

"Dog shit: man's worst enemy," I said.

"Hm."

"Isn't that ironic?" I asked.

"I guess . . ."

"Because dog's are man's best friend."

"That is ironic."

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

ES and I were leaving Marrakesh, a Middle Eastern restaurant downtown.

"That was really good," she said.

"Yeah," I agreed.

"But now my breath is horrible. Tastes like baba ganoush."

"So it sounds like there's a party in your mouth, and only Middle Eastern people were invited."

"Right."

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