Friday, November 30, 2007

Gamespot Editor Gerstmann Fired Under Advertiser Pressure

In a sad turn of events, GameSpot has fired editorial director Jeff Gerstmann due to advertising pressure following a negative review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Gerstmann earned the ire of fanboys following a review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a positive review in which he stated the game's strong points, as well as pointing out some flaws and game the game an "excellent" 8.8 rating.

Fanboys, unable to think rationally due to holing up in their houses playing Nintendo games and RPGs with ridiculous names while mom plays bingo, cried foul, demonstrating through uncreative insults and ridiculous accusations that they had little-to-no grasp on reality and were unable to think objectively.

But that was fanboys. This is a (perhaps formerly) respective gaming news and reviews site. If the rumors are true, and they've fired Gerstmann for showing a little journalistic integrity, GameSpot is finito.

Romney's Stance on Torture Wanting

Mitt Romney's comments to John McCain last night during the CNN/YouTube Republican Debates were illuminating. As the author shrewdly observes, here is yet another politician who decries violence in the media (particularly electronic games) as desensitizing and immoral, and yet declines to make a strong statement against real violence and torture, by a typical political tool of omission (transcript from GamePolitics).

When asked by John McCain, who was himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War, his opinion on the torture practice of waterboarding:

"Romney: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say and I do not say that I’m in favor of torture. I am not. I’m not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we’re able to do and what things we’re not able to do." [emphasis added]

Though Romney did condemn torture in his comments (in a general way), he was very, very vague on which practices he considers torture.

The belief that we have the right to conduct torture upon our prisoners is a narrow-minded, selfish belief. When debating this topic I frequently hear: "You're saying that it's not worth torturing prisoners in order to save many lives!?" This angry, knee-jerk reaction is not based on logic but emotion and blinded nationalism.'

When a foreign operative captures a U.S. soldier with possible knowledge on an upcoming attack on their forces, do they have the right to conduct so-called intensive interrogation techniques in order to save the lives of their men? (Don't ask this question to people who feel strongly in favor of torture. You'll get their spittle all over the front of your shirt and possibly get punched.) Torture is a form of pre-emptive punishment. It is a gigantic blow to due process. Worse still, it sets a dangerous trend for captors of our citizens (presuming that the reader lives in the U.S.).

I don't believe that these political prisoners should be represented in the public legal system, due to the sensitive nature of the charges against them, but torture is unconscionable. If you'd like to find an activity to erode our national moral authority and desensitize us to violence, there's your issue, Mr. Romney - the video game issue circulates well in fundamental Christian circles but is hardly honest politics.

Fourth Post On the Same Topic

I thought I was done with the whole Teddy Bear Teacher thing, but the responses of some overreacting nutbags really takes the cake and smashes it into debris. I've highlighted the worst, most overreactionary parts:

Calls in Sudan for Execution of Briton

Email this Story

Nov 30, 10:17 AM (ET)

(AP) A Sudanese man reads newspapers at a street vender's corner outside Khartoum court, Sudan,...
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KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.

They massed in central Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. They did not try to stop the rally, which lasted about an hour.

"Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted.

They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

The women's prison where Gibbons is being held is far from the square.

Several hundred protesters, not openly carrying weapons, marched about a mile away to Unity High School, where Gibbons worked. They chanted slogans outside the school, which is closed and under heavy security, then marched toward the nearby British Embassy. They were stopped by security forces two blocks away from the embassy.

The protest arose despite vows by Sudanese security officials the day before, during Gibbons' trial, that threatened demonstrations after Friday prayers would not take place. Some of the protesters carried green banners with the name of the Society for Support of the Prophet Muhammad, a previously unknown group.

Many protesters carried clubs, knives and axes - but not automatic weapons, which some have brandished at past government-condoned demonstrations. That suggested Friday's rally was not organized by the government.

(AP) A Sudanese man walks by the Unity High School in central Khartoum, Sudan, on Wednesday, Nov. 28,...
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A Muslim cleric at Khartoum's main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however.

"Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers.

"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad [What?!]," he said.

Britain, meanwhile, pursued diplomatic moves to free Gibbons. Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with a member of her family to convey his regret, his spokeswoman said.

"He set out his concern and the fact that we were doing all we could to secure her release," spokeswoman Emily Hands told reporters.

Most Britons expressed shock at the verdict by a court in Khartoum, alongside hope it would not raise tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain.

"One of the good things is the U.K. Muslims who've condemned the charge as completely out of proportion," said Paul Wishart, 37, a student in London.

"In the past, people have been a bit upset when different atrocities have happened and there hasn't been much voice in the U.K. Islamic population, whereas with this, they've quickly condemned it."

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Sudanese authorities of "gross overreaction."

"This case should have required only simple common sense to resolve. It is unfortunate that the Sudanese authorities were found wanting in this most basic of qualities," he said.

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a political advocacy group, said the prosecution was "abominable and defies common sense."

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which represents 90,000 Muslim students in Britain and Ireland, called on Sudan's government to free Gibbons, saying she had not meant to cause offense.

"We are deeply concerned that the verdict to jail a schoolteacher due to what's likely to be an innocent mistake is gravely disproportionate," said the group's president, Ali Alhadithi.

The Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organization, said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should pardon the teacher.

"The Ramadhan Foundation is disappointed and horrified by the conviction of Gillian Gibbons in Sudan," said spokesman Mohammed Shafiq.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, said Gibbons' prosecution and conviction was "an absurdly disproportionate response to what is at worst a cultural faux pas."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador late Thursday to express Britain's disappointment with the verdict. The Foreign Office said Britain would continue diplomatic efforts to achieve "a swift resolution" to the crisis.

Gibbons was arrested Sunday after another staff member at the school complained that she had allowed her 7-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Giving the name of the Muslim prophet to an animal or a toy could be considered insulting.

The case put Sudan's government in an embarrassing position - facing the anger of Britain on one side and potential trouble from powerful Islamic hard-liners on the other. Many saw the 15-day sentence as an attempt to appease both sides.

In The Times, columnist Bronwen Maddox said the verdict was "something of a fudge ... designed to give a nod to British reproof but also to appease the street."

Britain's response - applying diplomatic pressure while extolling ties with Sudan and affirming respect for Islam - had produced mixed results, British commentators concluded.

In an editorial, The Daily Telegraph said Miliband "has tiptoed around the case, avoiding a threat to cut aid and asserting that respect for Islam runs deep in Britain. Given that much of the government's financial support goes to the wretched refugees in Darfur and neighboring Chad, Mr. Miliband's caution is understandable."

Now, however, the newspaper said, Britain should recall its ambassador in Khartoum and impose sanctions on the Sudanese regime.


Associated Press writers Jill Lawless, David Stringer and Kate Schuman in London contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Final Update: Hate-Mongering Teddy Bear Teacher Jailed For 15 Days

So Breitbart reports that the teacher's been giving a break, so to speak, and is being jailed for a mere fifteen days for allowing her class of 7-year-olds to name a teddy bear Mohammed.

To be honest, I didn't expect much different. Sudan's government is in a difficult space right now trying to appease the hard-liners and moderates in their country.

It seems to me that the best way to honor the name of Mohammed would be to act in accordance with Qur'anic teachings, particularly those bearing the name of Mohammed. But that's just me.

100th Post Extragavanza!

. . . And I'm using it for an update on yesterday's story.

I'll accomplish this through quotes from the ThisLondon article regarding the teddy bear controversy:

"A Sudanese official said it was "unlikely" that Mrs Gibbons would be convicted.

A powerful Sudanese newspaper urged authorities to call a hardline Islamist leader linked to Osama bin Laden to give evidence at her trial, to stress how offensive the case was to Muslims.

Extreme Islamic groups said Mrs Gibbons "must die" and urged Muslims to hold street protests after prayers tomorrow.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was "appalled" at the decision by Sudan."

Regarding the naming of the bear and public outrage:

"The mother of two grown-up children was arrested on Sunday after parents were said to have complained she had insulted Islam's prophet by naming a teddy bear Mohammed as part of a class project.

However, a boy of seven came forward on Tuesday to say it was "all his fault", as he and his classmates at the Unity High School had voted to call the bear Mohammed after his own name.

He insisted his teacher had not intended to insult Islam.

Mrs Gibbons technically faces three charges - insulting Islam, inciting religious hatred and contempt for religious beliefs - each of which carries a maximum penalty of 40 lashes and a year in jail. But it is believed she will stand trial on only one."

One of its authors, 27-year- old Elsheikh El Nour, added: "If she made an innocent mistake and did not mean Mohammed the Prophet (when naming the bear) there is no problem.

"But if she did mean Mohammed the Prophet, she must die."

Leaflets distributed outside Khartoum's Great Mosque urged Muslims to march tomorrow in protest at Mrs Gibbons' actions.

They condemned what they described as "flagrant aggression" against the Prophet Mohammed and asked imams to address the subject Friday prayers.

The leaflets added: "What has been done by this infidel lady is considered a matter of contempt and an insult to Muslims' feelings and also the pollution of children's mentality as an attempt to wipe their identity."

The Muslim Council of Britain was furious at the decision to charge Mrs Gibbons.

"This is disgraceful and defies common sense," said Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari. "There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith.

"The children in Mrs Gibbons's class and their parents have all testified as to her innocence in this matter. We call upon the Sudanese President, Umar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Mrs Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal."

Her defense tactic is obvious: Mohammed is the #1 name of all time. This woman should have known to avoid all mention of any Islamic figure in any context, but a small minority of extreme fundamentalists with large followings may have disproportionate sway in this decision - overreaction is more apt a term.

A central principle of Islam practiced by Mohammed is tolerance and respect for other religions. It's a shame that some clerics and imams may blow up this extremely-minor issue beyond the attention it deserves. Shameful ordeal indeed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

British Teacher Charged in Sudan Over Teddy Bear

The Sudanese Government has decided to pursue criminal cases against 54-year-old Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher, after she allowed a class of seven-year-olds to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Some of the parents of her students complained (isn't that how these things always start?) and she is now being held by police in Khartoum.

According to Sky News, she faces possibility punishments including "40 lashes, six months in prison, or a fine".

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Mohammed (including its many variants) merely an Islamic name meaning "praised"? Why must a naming of Mohammed necessarily refer to the original prophet Muhammad? It may be the most common, most popular name of all time. Even allowing the bear to be a direct reference to the founder of Islam, teddy bear naming is a term of endearment, not a sign of disrespect. I'm assuming that most of the citizenry of Sudan probably does not support this action against Gibbons.

Though I doubt this will reach a level rivalling a "Satanic Verses"-like scandal in the Muslim world, nothing can be more telling than the fact that the private school has shut down since the scandal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Mole Man" 's Underground Home Found

This reminds me of the Mall Apartment a few years back. Police recently found a hidden entrance to a 200-square-foot home dug by Bruce Tracey, a homeless man living in Orlando. The story reports that Tracy had a "bed, a leak-proof roof, a kitchen and escape hatch". This guy's motivated.


Democracy in Action

Greenpeace is using the Democratic System to choose a name for an infant whale.

The results are a stunning affirmation of democracy. Coming in with 76% of the votes: Mister Splashy Pants. Gorgeous. Saying "Mister Splashy Pants" stimulates the pleasure centers in my brain."

boingboing's fault again

"Office" Versions Count: 4 (With Clips!)

"The Office" has more incarnations than I thought. In addition to the UK and US versions we're all familiar with there is a French and even German version of the show.

Slate magazine's article comparing the four versions of the show is more than a year old, but completely new to me. Check out the video clips on the page for strange alternate versions of sketches you may be familiar with from the English-speaking versions: the office suckup discovers a dessert in his desk, co-workers are forced to wear stickers on their forehead (if any German-speakers can explain that clip to me, I will be very grateful. . .)

Jack Thompson In Ethics Trial

In a nice side update to my comments earlier on everybody's favorite nutbal lawyer, it seems that Jack Thompson may be in serious trouble he can't crazy his way out of.

In a nice dash of poetic justice, JT will get a taste of his own medicine as he faces the Florida Bar in an ethics case revolving around his (mis)conduct in a recent wave of lawsuits against the electronic games industry. He's tried his usual legal loopholes - attempting to block the trial and plea-bargain his way to a temporary punishment, but this time it's going through.

Finally - a case that Jack Thompson's in that's actually justified.

Shows That Don't Need Writers to Resume Production

According to Yahoo News, Carson Daly is about to resume production of his talk show in defiance of the writers' strike. Good for you. Wait - his show has writers?

Update on Previous Post

In response to a request to back up my assertions of the lack of evidence between violent video games and violent behavior:

From the American Academy of Family Physicians:

"The authors note that rates of adolescent violence, homicide, weapon-carrying, and other markers of antisocial behavior fell consistently during the period when violent video games became ubiquitous, more graphic, and more realistic. Furthermore, no consistent theories have emerged to explain a causative relationship between violent video games and antisocial behavior. Theories linking video games to violent behavior include learning and imitating aggressive behavior, arousal by the success or peer status of winning a violent game, and "priming" (changing the threshold at which violence seems acceptable or increasing the likelihood that ambiguous behavior is perceived to be threatening).

An extensive search of literature databases, personal contacts, and other sources identified 29 studies of this topic. The studies varied greatly in design and quality, leading the authors to conclude that a major deficiency in randomized, well-controlled studies prevents firm determinations from being reached. In children of middle-school age and younger, no association was found between video games and aggression in girls. In boys, studies report both increased and decreased aggression. Studies of middle- and high-school students predominately studied boys and often used self-report. Again, both calming and arousal effects were reported, and no consistent relationship was demonstrated between violent games and actual behavior. In college students and young adults, results were again mixed, but studies reporting calming effects were more common, particularly if the prior mood was hostile, angry, or aggressive.

The authors conclude that, contrary to popular impressions, little evidence supports concerns that violent video games are linked to aggressive or antisocial behavior. They caution that this topic is quite complex and not easily studied. The effect may depend on individual characteristics, including age and mood before playing the game, as well as the characteristics and complexity of the game itself. Modern, more realistic games may have very different effects than earlier versions. The authors do not regard violent video games as a significant public health concern."

From Science Daily:

According to Williams, researchers have suspected a strong linkage between games and aggression “but, with the exception of relatively short-term effects on young adults and children, they have yet to demonstrate this link.”

Williams and Skoric undertook the first longitudinal study of a game to see whether they could determine a link.

Because most video game research has been conducted in the laboratory or by observation in the field – methods “not representing the social context of game play” – they had their participants play the game in normal environments, like home.

The results of the new study, Williams said, support the contention of those who suggest that some violent games do not necessarily lead to increased real-world aggression.

Bottom line: A long-term correlation has never been found between video game violence and an increase in violent behavior. Children who play video games for an inordinate amount of time have a statistically-higher rate of delinquency and are more likely to drop out of high school, but I think anyone else who knows people who shoot their lives away in front of a TV screen could predict this for themselves.

Short-term brain effects are out-of-context at best and not statistically valid at worst, as the same brain effects have been observed in people playing competitive sports, listening to music or even watching a symphony.

Until researchers take these factors into account and value the scientific method rather than merely forwarding an agenda I am not obliged to entertain their baiting.

British Board of Film Classification Admits No Evidence Connecting Violent Games to Violent Behavior

So the BBFC has admitted that no causal link has been found tying "violent" video games (correctly phrased: video games depicting violent behavior) with "violent" behavior itself, but says that further study must be done before ruling out the possibility.

Yes, the article speaks for itself.

And I speak for myself as well; here's where I derail the topic:

Has anybody else noticed that the same conservatives who reject evidence of things like global warming and damage to ecosystems by industrialists due to politics and a lack of "conclusive" evidence have jumped on the goose chase of violent video games as a political issue? Despite the fact that their evidence is insubstantial and biased at best, especially when compared with the aforementioned environmental issues? Hmm. That's more than a double standard - it's just sad.

The evidence connecting video games legislation to violence, however, is stunning. Just look at unhinged reactionary nutball Jack Thompson. The ambulances were just a little too fast for him during his Law internship so he's forgone them for the slower-moving targets of the video game industry.

Roger Ebert Explains Why Some Films "Only" Get ***1/2 Stars

Movie critic Eric Snider is no stranger to criticism, whether giving or receiving (I won't pursue that). When reviewing music for Sputnikmusic I've often felt an inability to reconcile a concrete rating with others. Roger Ebert explains why some films "only" get a near-perfect score:

On Eric Snider's Blog:

In a recent “Answer Man” column, he received this question:

I often find some of my very favorite films are ones you give 3 1/2 star ratings. I’ve never read a review where you explain what costs these movies the last half star…. How do you decide on those?

And Ebert explains it thus:

I wish that I didn’t give star ratings at all and every review had to speak for itself. But 3 1/2 is a very good rating, meaning all a movie lacked was an ineffable tingle at the base of my spine.

There you have it - criticism is visceral. I can live with that. I've been doing it the whole time. An A- or Three-and-a-half stars are very good, near-perfect ratings. So rather than wondering why a critic awarded your favorite game or movie with "only" a B+ (I'm looking at you, whiny Legend of Zelda adulators), accept that some things aren't quantifiable.

So when I tell my friends that Superman Returns did absolutely nothing for me, that's my last word. Last. Word.

Image by Jorodo of the Cartoon Database (Thus the huge "C")

Out Of Context

So Drudge is reporting that Stephen King has suggested that Jenna Bush be waterboarded.

In context you'd learn that the comment wasn't quite so personal. King feels that the usage of the torture method known as "waterboarding" is an important issue, suggesting facetiously that "someone in the Bush family" (he later says Jenna) should be waterboarded to bring the issue to the President's attention.

I am left to wonder if Sean Hannity will jump on the absolutely out-of-context quote as an example of Stephen's jump to the "vitriolic" left.

Wikipedia Entry on Waterboarding

Stephen King Interview

Toilet to Tap

One more reason I'm glad I don't live in Orange County, California: This Friday, the Orange County Water District will begin their process of "indirect potable water reuse", or recycling sewage water (after a lengthy purification treatment) as drinking water.

Though the idea is offsetting, I'm not entirely turned off by the idea (it's gross in theory but no grosser than eating, for example, maraschino cherries after you know how they're made). Were it not for the tendency of public officials and so-called "experts" to make purely economic decisions while calling out PR agencies to minimize the public's awareness of health risks, I might even be behind (ha!) the idea.

Still, read this: "The Groundwater Replenishment System, as the $481 million plant here is known, is a labyrinth of tubing and tanks that sucks in treated sewer water the color of dark beer from a sanitation plant next door, and first runs it through microfilters to remove solids. The water then undergoes reverse osmosis, forcing it through thin, porous membranes at high pressure, before it is further cleansed with peroxide and ultraviolet light to break down any remaining pharmaceuticals and carcinogens. The result, Mr. Markus [the plant general manager] said, “is as pure as distilled water” and about the same cost as buying water from wholesalers."

Yum. Anticipating public backlash. . . now.

New Age Sewage Spewage

Friday, November 23, 2007

Private Underground Temples

Pursuing, as always, my interests in ancient religion (and, perhaps, attempting to assuage the torrent of G*ne S*mmons ads Google's put into my blog since the post awhile back pertaining to Mr. Gargoyle Codpiece himself), Clumpy's Believe it Or Not is delighted to introduce you to the story of the man who independently nine complex, five-level temples in a hillside in Italy.

Nothing short of a complete iteration of the article can do the story justice, so I won't attempt:

Eighth Wonder of the World?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kill the Silent Protagonist

Courtesy of Kotaku

So designer Rick Luebbers has the same beef that I have: games that attempt to "immerse" you in the story by putting you into the shoes of a character with no personality who does not speak. Misguided designers of games like Golden Sun, Half-Life and the Zelda series have the idea that this enhances gameplay. I say that it kills storytelling.

Read the full post on Rick's blog.

The bottom line:

"Making the player into the character isn’t actually what’s going on! Yes, in a game, where the player really can define their own story there might be some value here as long as the player has a way to interact with the world beyond hitting/shooting it in the head. But that kind of game was always rare and is becoming scarcer and, further, the character isn’t even truely silent there. In the other 99% of games this isn’t what’s happening. You will uncover the character’s secret past, you will marry the princess, you will travel down the beach to break your friends from prison… but this is NOT the player’s story. It’s the character’s story! The essential flaw of this technique is that a character’s story arc is defined by so much more than simply dialog and by hacking out one aspect of that you are doing nothing more than deluding yourself."

Buy This

In my ongoing quest to rip off everything on boingboing I find interesting, this amazing "fake beard" cap is now available courtesy of designers vikprjonsdottir. This should catch on with the college campuses.

Top Ten Most-Viewed Pages on Wikipedia and Conservapedia

This is absolutely priceless.

Courtesy of, the top ten pages viewed on both Wikipedia and Conservapedia. The contrast is stunning and shows a morbid fascination on the part of Conservapedia.

Top Ten Wikipedia and Conservapedia Pages

For those who don't follow these sorts of things, Conservapedia is an "alternative" to Wikipedia created by a bunch of fundamentalist Conservative loons who, quick to see bias in everything from weather reports to cereal boxes, have created their own Wiki project for the purpose of asserting a paranoid conservative perspective. They're (understandably) fraught with bias, outright lies, half-truths and "weasel words" intended to discredit all views seen as "liberal" and elevate fundamental conservative beliefs.

If you'd like some fun, try viewing the page on any Democratic official for a catalogue of all mis-statements and mistakes of their careers. Republicans are let off the hook. Another good laugh is the paranoid diatribe known as "Examples of Bias in Wikipedia".

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Mix #2

I've made a new remix called "Serein-t" which is three parts. I'll touch it up a little tonight or tomorrow.

Thanks to Sigur Ros, Serart, Boredoms, Serj Tankian, Secret Chiefs 3 and (for one brief sample) System of a Down for samples.

Serein-t - Click to Download or Listen

Gene Simmons is Still an Ignorant Gargoyle

Anyone familiar with Gene Simmon's rambling knows by now that he can be entertaining - in an ignorant, "Michael Savage" sort of way. He may be getting dumber - he's lost his mental buffer of stream-of-consciousness idiocy and is now giving his actual opinions. Whoa - bad idea, Gene. Go back to soliciting the Wendy's cashier.

In the file of "He really said it!(from The Register):
In a recent interview with Billboard, Simmons curmudgeonly blames "college kids" for the "mess" the record industry is in, and blasted artists like Radiohead and Trent Reznor for seeking a different businesses model to vend their music.

"The record industry doesn't have a f---ing clue how to make money," Simmons told Billboard.

"Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning."

Simmons said that he doesn't plan on making a new KISS album because he doesn't know how he'll get paid for it if people can just get it for free.
Here's the golden quote: "Doesn't affect me. But imagine being a new band with dreams of getting on stage and putting out your own record. Forget it."

Gene - anyone reading that quote must know you don't keep up with the modern music scene. It would be difficult to find a band these days whose career didn't begin through a combination of web buzz, piracy and reviews. Gene may be expecting the industry to go back to the hit acts of the 80s, full of manipulating corporate rock-posturing posers (no offense, Gene).

Or is he expecting FM radio to snap out of their post-grunge/emo kick long enough to start acting responsibly and delivering the goods?

Gene - while you were tonguing cameras and hooking up with every star-eyed groupie who looked your way, the rest of us were studying economics (well, everybody except the record company executives).

Your first research question, Gene: Does every downloaded album represent a lost sale?

Question #2: How can artists benefit from music piracy? (There is an answer.)

Question #3: Could suing every member of Generation X to oblivion somehow hurt your future fanbase? (This is the gimme.)

Question #4: How does information benefit commerce?

Remember, Gene - it's not always the first idea that pops into your head that's the golden one. Sometimes you have to wait until the second or even third idea.

So Drudge Isn't Misrepresenting This Time. . .

. . . it's the actual article's headline that's dishonest.

Knee-jerk sensationalist headline: "
Nancy Pelosi tries to force the Salvation Army to hire people who can't speak English"

If you read the article you'll see that the bill doesn't require Hispanic workers only to know English, it requires them to speak English exclusively on the job, even to other Spanish-speakers. Everyone who's holds no racism against Hispanics should realize that this is unfair. The other 25% will continue to show their anti-Americanism defending this bill. Hate on, cross-eyed racists!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Violent" Children vs. The Drudge Report

A sensationalist Drudge headline once again obscures the context of a story. I'm noticing this sort of thing more and more and it bothers me.

Today's Drudge headline: "Six-year-old suspended over stick figure drawing"

The first paragraph of the article: "A first-grader was suspended Tuesday for drawing a stick figure shooting another in the head with a gun and allegedly threatening students. Little Butte School officials sent 6-year-old Ryan Weathers home after receiving complaints from parents saying he threatened their children, said Douglas Weathers, the boy's father."

So, if you only read Drudge a child was suspended for a violent drawing (a political point about societal overreactions, teachers, etc.). If you read the article you'll learn that the child's disciplinary report states that the child "threatened to shoot two girls in the head".

Leaving aside the question of whether a six-year-old can knowingly make death threats (probably not), would it have taken very long for Drudge to include the proper context for the article in his headline? It's completely dishonest sensationalism.

The Article

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Limbaugh Era"

A Variety article fingering Rush Limbaugh for the tone of the current writer's strike actually contains a deep, deep cut on the man (and against other fighting demagogues of every color):

The fallout from this in politics is the tendency to dismiss anything contrary to one’s ideology as being tainted at the source. On the right, the familiar cry is the “liberal media.” The left has countered by deriding the “corporate media” — a charge that quickly crept into the writers’ rants.

Of course, those who refuse to entertain competing viewpoints can hermetically seal themselves in bubbles more easily than ever. Unfortunately, the air inside those cocoons soon becomes pretty noxious, which is fine if you’re spoiling for a fight instead of fishing for solutions.

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch talk radio. So the Savage/Hannity/Coulter wannabees are running out of air. Sounds right to me. Of course, none of these people will admit that their behavior mimics the above paragraph. This article is just another example of "leftist" ideology. Pshaw.

I couldn't think of any left-winger names to add to the above paragraph because they don't have the same influence. The liberal influence in America is real (of course) and influential (hence the name), but far more spread out. Conservatives point to some example of bias here or there in the network news or some Hollywood actor's rants as evidence of a sinister conspiracy. Still - name a single commentator with Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity's influence.

Sax Madness and Raving Concert Lunatic

I attended an "avant-garde" concert last night for my music class. Most of it was fairly unremarkable, aside from a neat saxaphone/laptop solo that inspired this doodle:

From the program: "Fiore. A solo saxaphone is processed through live computer electronics. The signal path is split and routed through multiple layers of processing, each layer manipulated using feedback loops, vocoders, pitch shifters, distortions, ring modulators, and delays. Nothing is pre-recorded. - Lance Montgomery, saxaphone and electronics"

The first half was great - it was clicky and melodic, like the best indie (very "Kid A"-era Radiohead). The second half was like the picture.

The concert got more interesting after this number, wherein a man halfway across the concert hall stood up and starting screaming at a couple people sitting one row behind me, a few seats away. Their very surreal conversation went like this:

OVERREACTING LUNATIC: "Are you the one that's been talking!?! Is it you that's been talking!?! I can hear you across this entire concert hall."

ABUSEE [taken aback]: "Very sorry, sir."

OVERREACTING LUNATIC: "I want you to know that you've ruined the last three numbers!?! You - you just don't give a #$(@, do you!?!"

ABUSEE [angry and defensive]: "Apparently not, sir."

OVERREACTING LUNATIC: "Why don't you leave? I can't trust you if you stay. Why don't you just leave now!?!"

ABUSEE: "We're leaving, sir."

This guy apparently has hearing sensitivity to rival that of a tuning fork because I couldn't hear these people talking. Maybe just a little, during the craziest parts of the laptop/saxaphone solo, but that's it.

And whether they were talking isn't even the issue. How does this nutbag react when a policeman writes him a ticket? If the guy at the supermarket won't accept his credit card?

You don't treat other people like that. If anybody ruined my concert last night, it was him.

Teletubby Plot Conspiracies

Elmo Saves Christmas isn't the only children's television series with potential for discussion. What about the strange world the Teletubbies infest? Great topic for discussion with friends!

Of course, this was all prompted by Teletubbyland Apocalypse, a long-held joke of mine.

Possible Teletubby explanations:

  • The Teletubbies are the relics of an ancient alien race (the constructors of the metal control dome, now grassed-over), whose goal was to colonize the Earth. Following this theory, they may be actual members of this race who, despite their vast intellectual handicaps, found themselves immune to the strains of terrible geoviruses that caused the rest of the colonizers to flee and, eventually, die alone in space. Alternatively, they may be a genetic creation or animal species of this race implanted with torst-mounted monitoring devices and sent to survey the planet before the actual invasion (intended for the season finale).
  • The Teletubbies live in a horrific dystopian future wherein the most significant population of humanity has been eliminated by their own weapons, bio and nuclear. The Tubby dome and so-called "baby sun" have been set up as sentries by some intelligence to be sure that such an occurrence never happens again. (This is backed by evidence from the first season; on two separate occurrences large rockets can be seen slowly rising in the background.) They are nourished and protected by their guardian, often seen (mistakenly) as a large blue vacuum. It is, of course, an ancient member of the forerunner civilization.
Do I think that I could get away with this on the Teletubby Wikipedia article? I think they check that one a little more often than "Elmo Saves Christmas".

Elmo Saves Christmas Philosophical Implications

Wow! Apparently my "Elmo Saves Christmas" edit I put up years ago on Wikipedia is still up. I'm surprised - I thought that the Wiki Fun Police would have chopped up the article by now.

I'm posting my favorite bits here in case it goes down (it's all true, by the way):

Elmo Saves Christmas is a children's home video that was released in 1996. In the story, Elmo learns that Christmas cannot occur every day.

Throughout the story, Elmo and the other characters also indirectly learn the value of a healthy disdain for the media. In this film, all of the characters in Sesame Street begin their daily celebration of Christmas solely at the word of the news media, led by Kermit the Frog who announce the new daily celebration of Christmas.

Elmo's wish of a daily Christmas leads to a fascinating dystopian future wherein sickness and the ravages of a complete collapse of capitalism due to constant vacation from work have reduced the people to miserable shells of their former selves. This is a direct result of their dependence on the media: were it not for their trust in the media and its infallibility they could simply have stopped celebrating Christmas any moment they wished.

Paradoxes Within the Film

  • The time-travel aspects of the film mirror similar thematic elements from the Superman films as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home wherein rapid travel orbiting the planet Earth results in a time shift. However, Elmo Saves Christmas chooses not to treat this as Science Fiction; neglecting, as it does, the issue of a reindeer and Muppet flying in an oxygen-free environment. It is stated in the film that Lightning the Reindeer has magical abilities, which may extend to near-infinite lung capacity, which may explain this plot hole. Nevertheless, while Jim Henson never stated whether or not Muppets require oxygen, Elmo would require air to speak in the many space-based scenes in the movie, as he does. All of these plot problems (except the time travel) would be solved if the movie made it clear Elmo and Lightning were flying within the ionosphere at a sufficient level for respiration.
  • Though the spiritual aspect of Christmas is ignored in the film, Elmo Saves Christmas does not take into account the effect of daily Christmas celebration upon those who do not celebrate Christmas. Presumably Jews, Muslims, and others who do not normally celebrate Christmas would be free to celebrate their respective seasonal holidays and move on. Had the effects of Elmo's wish been allowed to continue, it is doubtless that viewers would witness a complete destruction of all Christian society.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Price of a NYU Student's Vote

Drudge went for the (misleading) headline that sounded best: "NYU STUDENTS WOULD GIVE UP RIGHT TO VOTE FOR AN IPOD TOUCH".

Drudge's sensationalism notwithstanding, the truth isn't nearly such a talking point, but still interesting. A recent NYU journalism survey found that, of students surveyed:

  • 20 percent would trade their right to vote for an iPod Touch.
  • 66 percent would trade their vote for a free ride to the University (the article doesn't say whether this is was one ride or not).
Other vote prices: A year's tuition (66% of students), One Million Dollars (50% would trade lifetime voting rights).

The bigger story: 70.5 percent of students think that one vote can make a difference. Is this a theoretical, butterfly-creates-a-whirlwind possibility to these students, or do they really believe that a single vote can make a difference?

Seventy percent of students who said that they would give up their right to vote also said that they think a vote can make a difference. They would make the economically-correct decision but they don't understand it.

The stats:

NYU students who understand economics: 0.5%
NYU students who not only don't understand economics, but are possibly immoral: 70%

How much is an individual vote worth, especially in a state like New York that's already pretty much locked Democratic? Have you ever seen a presidential election that came down to a few votes?

One vote?

Your vote?

I don't know how to do the calculations but I don't think you'd get a Snickers out of your vote.

I don't know if the rest of these students understand economics, but they are willing to make a statement by theoretically retaining their right to vote at real personal expense. I have to respect that - though the worth of their actual vote in hard cash may be negligible, the right to vote is worth far more than the vote itself. The fact that we're allowed to vote is a rare privilege. So - no hard feelings either way, as long as you understand the economics of your situation.

Still, the entire democratic system is set up so that one vote can't make a difference. It's set up that way. Imagine if Li'l Joe Boy Muslimhater Gun Nut had a real influence on the election. Michael "Sausage" Savage would be President before you knew it, and Arizona would be knee-deep in land mines or something.

Go for the tuition.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ultimate Boredom-Busting Blogs

Due to my business and general state of studification for college, I'd like to post something simple which should benefit a few of you with a little too much time on your hands. (For the purpose of argument, I'm assuming that anybody reading this blog has too much free time. I dare you to prove me wrong.)

When you have a few moments between assignments or during your day, I suggest that you check out the following sites or blogs. These meet my criteria of 1)Updating frequently and 2)Being interesting. You're welcome:


The Comics Curmudgeon at

Insightful, usually-sarcastic and nearly-always hilarious commentary on the daily comics page. Exactly the sorts of things you tend to joke about with your friends.

The Dilbert Blog at

Personal blog of Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Sometimes juvenile, usually funny and insightful. May help revamp your thought process.

Pitchfork Music at

Reviews the albums Rolling Stone doesn't, the way they won't (in other words, no 4-star Linkin Park reviews). Occasionally-snobby prose is part of the charm.

Metacritic Music at

Indexes album reviews from all major sources and gives an aggregate score. You could waste hours up here. (They also have books, gaming and movie subsites, which aren't as comprehensive.)


Breezy, often-updated gaming blog with a focus on business news (though not so much as Penny Arcade). Enjoyable randomness.

Perhaps the king of all blogs. An absolute grab bag at the oddity of the web. (NOTE: Falsely blocked under most filters under the "nudity" category.)


XKCD - Unusually-resonant observational humor (and nerd jokes)

Dinosaur Comics - Similar to XKCD with a sillier slant (and the same art used to great effect)

Toothpaste For Dinner - Great minimalist strip. Hit-or-miss but updated daily.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"I Can't Get Behind That" Performed by Puppets

We all know that anything can be improved by adding puppets, provided they're sufficiently-good ones. Here's an excellent version of William Shatner and Henry Rollins' trademark rant "I Can't Get Behind That" performed by unusually-emotive puppets. The last 30 seconds or so is rubbish but the rest is great.

"Privacy" No Longer Means Privacy

In what is sure to be another glorious public relations victory for the White House, national intelligence deputy director Donald Kerr has confirmed what we all already knew: "privacy" no longer means what we think it does.

The new definition of "privacy", according to the My Way article: "government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information."

I guess that it's okay for shady organizations to collect your personal information as long as they keep it secret. Let's rely on government and businesses' excellent track record for keeping secrets private.

War is peace. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery. Publicity is privacy.

My Way News - Say Goodbye to Privacy

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Improved Version of Yesterday's Song:

I've gone through and improved the general sound of the song I wrote last week (specifically, I've added verses and trimmed up some of the madness towards the end of the last version). This one's a little longer and doesn't have that startle moment at the end. It's a little experimental towards the end - tell me how you like it!

Malfeasance Toned of Argon <-- (No Meaning)

This song uses samples from "A Tale of Apes I" by Subtle, "Brandenburg Concerto 1 (Adagio)" by J.S.S. Bach, "Albatross" by Public Image, Ltd., "Voodoo Lady" by Ween, and electronic doodickery from "Atlas" by Battles and "We Will Rock You" by Max Raabe Orchestra.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Santa Ordered to "Slim Down For Christmas"

According to, malls have ordered mall Santas to slim down or be refused this Christmas season. Health groups say the saint is setting a bad "example" for children.

Let's do something these groups have apparently forgotten and take a look at the HISTORICAL RECORD on this one. Changing the mall Santas won't change the reality that St. Nick is a bit of a butterball. And no matter how greasy and oily his innards may be or how gridlocked his arteries, by golly he accomplishes his duties. It's not for lack of exercise - Santa's nighttime giving spree once a year, even when averaged over the rest of the year, is formidable.

They'll have to change certain offending passages from Clemente Clark Moore's classic poem. Allow me to have a go:

"He had a tight face, was trim and was tall

Belly shook when he laughed? Not at all! Not at all!

He was threadlike and trim, a jolly old elf

And I thought I could use a few pushups, myself!

From a moment's joy spent with this giver so thin

I had a desire to go hit the gym!"


He's already fat. Let's not go and drive him to drink by misrepresenting his character. Giamatti has the facial expression down pat.

The Circle of Integrity/Stupidity

Our college testing center has a poster on the wall with this text:

"Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape, but stand me on that floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first!"

I confess that I've always found this hilarious. I applaud the honesty, but would like to offer a few additional suggestions for the person mind-bogglingly stupid enough to draw a circle on the ground and then promise never to leave:

* Lock yourself into the bathroom and then promise on your honor never, ever to go outside again, even for food.

* Promise to never, ever eat anything other than marshmallows for as long as you live (approximately two weeks by most estimates).

* Place your hand on a warming stove-top and then promise to never, ever raise it again.

Just a thought. You don't have to constrain yourself to the whole "starve to death in a circle" thing. Be creative.

Self-Aggrandizement ^ 3

For the five of you who know what I'm talking about and/or care, Man Man, one of my favorite music groups, has now been signed to Anti- records. Seeing these guys on a major label is great, but seeing them move over to Nick Cave's and Tom Waits' label? Priceless.

Man Man Signs to Anti-

Stinktier! [Skunk]. Also: new Forest For the Trees!

New Forest For the Trees (until FFTT #11) available now at Forest For the Trees.

In response to the questions, yes, I do happen to have the complete lyrics (with translation):

Ful Hausch by Rammstein

Verse 1:

Dunn licht buch kunden meiss
(Somewhere there is a house)
Ech hitt but schaudenriere
(The house is always full)
Lass mich deine eine verstreckt
(But no one ever leaves)
Dass est un Sonnenschein
(Perhaps they are dead)


(Maybe we will see them as they die)


FUL HAUSCH! (Repeated sixteen times)

Verse two is pretty much more of the same.

Possible Alien Attack in My Room or Just a Prank From My Subconscious

Saturday night, after working with my music software on my computer for a goodly number of hours, I was finally in bed and in that nether world between consciousness and unconsciousness.

I was abruptly (and rudely) awoken by a loud "pop!" This was no ordinary "pop!" It had sort of that mechanical Pshhhh! edge to it - almost as if my computer or iPod had finally bitten the dust.

Naturally, I sat upright in bed - not a good idea when your room is the one with the bunk - and, after a second of looking around, decided everything was safe and I should continue my plans to go to sleep. If anything was fried it wasn't worth getting worked up about it in the middle of the night.

I still have no idea what that was. Everything seems to be working fine. I'm forced to conclude that it was just one of those subconscious things, like those spontaneous leg spasms you get sometimes. It's a great excuse for couples:

"Honey, why did you kick me? Was I snoring again?"

"Leg spasm. Go back go sleep."

Mind-Bendingly Awesome Remix

I downloaded Acid Pro last week and have spent some time making just about the coolest remix I've ever heard, speaking humbly.

Download it here:

Samples I used for the song:

Beat from "Like a Pen" by The Knife
Bass from "Albatross" by Public Image, Ltd.
Goofy warping sound effect from "Atlas" by Battles
Melody from "Brandenburg Concert 1 (Adagio)" by J.S.S. Bach
More bass and two loops from "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes
Techno sound effects and rap from "A Tale of Apes I" by Subtle
Short Segment from "Moonlight Sonata (Presto) by Beethoven
Power Chord from "Prison Song" by System of a Down
Explosion from "We Will Rock You" by Max Raabe Orchestra.

Please listen and tell me what you think! It took me about four hours!

Image from

Friday, November 02, 2007

"Forest For the Trees" Announcement

Hi, everyone! I hope to make up for the lack of updates lately with this announcement - I am now premiering my own, shiny new webcomic, called "Forest For the Trees". The first week or so is available now at my sister blog, ffttcomics. The image quality is a little wonky so far but I will be working on my scanning/Photoshop skills until the contrasts are just right. I will update several times a week with an average of two or three new comics per update, so be sure to check back regularly.

For now, I will be hosting Forest For the Trees online at Blogspot until I get my own domain. I'm having a lot of fun drawing this, so I hope you enjoy it!

Forest For the Trees

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Airport Security Madness

Airport Security agents often have more power and less accountability than just about any other organization imaginable. I'd like to draw attentions to a few recent particularly-egregious examples.

* A Polish immigrant dies in police custody in a Vancouver airport after being kept in a sealed room for ten hours and then tasered twice, as his mother waits across the security line. LINK

* Finnish folk band falsely accused, abused and violated by beady-eyed, moron security:
". . . an ICE agent approached the long-haired male musician and began jabbing his finger into the poor guy’s face and screaming, "You’re a criminal! Don’t deny it! We know you’re a criminal!" The musician, whose English is limited, tried to explain what he was doing in the country, but to no avail. The agent went on with the tantrum.

Before long, the entire group was accosted by agents – eventually eight ICE agents in all were involved in the incident -- all screaming and carrying on like a military patrol kicking in doors in Anbar Province. Before long the group’s luggage had been dumped in the center of the room and, while other passengers waited to get through Immigration and Customs, searched.

Failing to discover any contraband, the ICE agents - -rather than releasing the group with an apology – changed tack and decided that its real offense was to try to enter the country under false pretenses. Because the artists were not being paid to tour – the University was covering its expenses – they did not all have work visas, just passports. LINK

* Woman detained after becoming angry for a missed flight, and eventually choked to death by her own handcuffs (the imaginative, official story is that she choked herself with the two-inch chain). LINK

This is literally just the tip of the iceberg. The first people that travelers into America meet are often the most horrible, paranoid, cruel and ignorant representatives of our citizenry. We are often merely exporting the worst attributes of us around the world. The problem isn't particular to America, but as one of the busiest travel areas in the world, we see far too many violations of trust.

Getting angry or upset at airport security puts you under their mercy. When the power of arrest is used for personal revenge and satisfaction, you have no recourse - your only representatives to the outside world are your tormenters. When the innocence of these victims is inevitably proven, do authorities back off their charges? No - they pursue them out of embarrassment.

Let's professionalize our airport security and eliminate that rotten 10%. It will be well worth the investment and dignify the rest.

Spider Scissors

Christopher Locke of blog The Heartless Machine has an awesome gallery online of metal spider made from confiscated scissors. I always knew those TSA actions had a point. . .

Spider Scissors

Thanks again to BoingBoing

Good News: This Zombie Isn't Dead

We're used to macabre, bloody and horrific costumes, but the scene seems to be different in part of Germany, where a man dressed as a zombie (complete with artificial blood and gore) was mistaken for a murder victim and reported to police.

Turns out the guy was only sleeping, in a "drunken slumber".

It's a semi-heartwarming story - in New York, they would have gone through the guy's pockets. Anyone thinking of becoming an attack victim should probably stay far, far away from Mesa, Arizona, whose citizens would just nick your groceries and run.

Link to Reuters Story