Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Konami shelves Six Days in Fallujah

I'm not a gamer but follow the culture closely and enjoy gaming, so this post about a game based on the Battle of Fallujah in 2004 is important on a number of levels. First, there is the requisite shock that video games would deal with the subject in the first place, which is why the project has been cancelled. But as an advocate of free markets and a defender of gaming in general I found myself wondering why? Hasn't Hollywood already done this? Why can't video games deal with the war?

The first answer is obvious. Video games are still going through the process of cultural evolution. They have not yet entered mainstream culture or circulated enough for them to be a comfortable reality like movies. The same colleagues who have no problems using movies as instructional aids are balking at using video games instead. I imagine professors back in the 70s and 80s probably reacted the same way when videos were first used in the classroom. At this point gaming has not had enough time as a major player in our culture so it is still foreign and alien. We maintain irrational double standards for gaming and Hollywood, but they will eventually disappear.

However, games are different than any other entertainment medium before them on one critical level. They are immersive and interactive. Even the most powerful and engaging movie does not require the level of active participation a video game requires. Therein lies the question. What does this active participation in violence, sexism, and gore do? Many cultural conservatives would say this is a moot point. It's the violence idiot. Remember Columbine? But I would throw that back at them and remind them that high schools used to have shooting teams and kids would bring rifles to school on a daily basis for practice. Similarly, my grandfather carried an illegal gun all his life, and got into daily fights as a youth, but never woud have dreamed of killing someone except in self defense. I would throw it back at the cultural conservatives and say that they failed to do their jobs and preserve those elements of pre-sixties culture we obviously still need. The question is a complex one, and one that has no obvious answer yet. But I would advise you not to run off blaming video games or be outraged at the concept of an Iraq War video game. We will just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Please no!

It seems inevitable. The government wants our money so they can take care of us better. The Right could gain a lot of traction with youth, geeks, and techies on this, but don't hold your breathe. On the heels of nationwide tea parties the media ridiculed because the government is "lowering" taxes on most Americans. Maybe they will lower them, but adding new ones is exactly what the protesters were protesting. We're the government and we're here to help.

Comeback or Uncle Rico moment?

Back in 82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile... Nothing represent the mainstreaming of formerly rebel punk skate culture than the relaunch of legendary 80s brands like the Bones Brigade.

The question is: is it cool or pathetic? Peralta has been off playing in Hollywood making cutting edge documentaries on actions sports (and getting rich too...), but he's ready to come back to skateboarding now that Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Kohls, and ESPN are involved. I loved the Bones Brigade and love seeing the interest today's kids have in skate history, but sometimes I wonder if we spend too much time looking for that time machine with uncle Rico?

Monday, April 20, 2009

And people called Bush stubborn...

This is hilarious and scary at the same time. It's also very dangerous if true. It would indicate that the new president is just as blindly committed to certain pet projects regardless of facts as the former president was supposed to be.

Damn the Scurvy Dogs!

Even though it was inevitable in today's world it still hurts to see those irascible punks at Pirate Bay go down. You knew that those open minded, champions of free expression and radicalism in Hollywood would not tolerate free roving pirates with no respect for sovereign waters and kilobytes.

They may have lost the battle and even the war (at least in their lifetime) but the boys of Pirate Bay are cult heroes and icons of the Digital Age. The money grubbing establishment may think they are winning, but someone else will take up the mantle, and the crew of Pirate Bay has already decided to appeal. More power to you. These Pirates are true antiheroes for all Digital Rebels.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Real Test

As I argued in a post last week, President Obama's involvement in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips proves nothing about the young president's leadership or talent as a president. Dealing with four primitive Somali pirates is nothing to get excited about. Obama did what anyone in that position would have done: more or less authorize the use of deadly force. The result was what you would expect when the world's most talented, best equipped military goes up against four primitives armed with AKs.

But the imprisonment of Roxana Saberi provides exactly the kind of test Joe Biden mentioned during the campaign. A real opportunity to see what the young president is made of. Iran is a banana republic, but that is where the comparison with Somalia ends. They have international support from Russia, potentially France, and offer the kind of complexities not present in the pirate kidnapping affair. Saberi is an American citizen, and her kangaroo trial was probably more of a set-up than anything. She was picked because she is an American and the Iranians are confident they can back Obama down in ways they never could have with Bush. I have argued this for a long time. Anyone from a masculine culture, anyone from a background less genteel instintively senses weakness in Obama, because he represents the new man of the Left, one who consciously eschews the "male" image of the past. Again, as I argued before, this is not inherently bad. Indeed there are many good things about the new man, but there are great potential dangers and pitfalls when such a man comes into contact with distinctly different cultures where strength is the only way to get respect. Obama is not imposing, and he lacks the depth or experience to not make dangerous blunders like his deferential bow to King Abdullah.

As I understand Middle Eastern and Persian cultures the "bow" indicates subservience, a tacit and conscious admission of inferiority. I would guess that Obama's bow was the impetus to Iran's decision to find a way to test the waters. Seeing the president make such a cultural blunder encouraged the Iranians to find a way to embarrass the president further, deligitimize him in the Islamic world, and continue positioning in the Intenational game of politics and power. Saberi was picked not because she is a journalist, not because she is a woman, not because she is a spy, but because she has American citizenship. The Iranians want to force president Obama into a situation that really tests him. There is almost no way they can lose, as it seems unlikely that Obama will find an easy way out of this situation. We hope that he will surprise them and begin building the respect he desperately needs in the Islamic world, but it seems far less possible. The Iranians timed it perfectly. Worrying that Obama may gain some respect by association with the successful rescue of Captain Phillips they immediately put him on the defensive and deflect attention away from his success with Phillips. They are in essence, trying to bolster the inferior image the president unconsciously created with his bow to King Abdullah. The show of strength and superiority over the Somali pirates is no longer on the radar and Obama gains little, in the Islamic world at least, through it. Instead he now faces a far more complex and dangerous situation, but one he should deal with, as Saberi is an American citizen and deserves our defense and aid.

The ball is in his court and he must play. But this is a far more difficult game, and while we all want to see him back down the Iranian thugs it will not be so easy. The Russians and the French may not feel like helping, and Obama may be in a lose-lose situation. The Iranians have too many options and even releasing Saberi can be, if manipulated correctly, done from a position of power and authority, the way a king would grant a boon to an inferior. Good luck president Obama, and good luck Roxana Saberi.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cool Article from Wired

If you don't read Wired or subscribe to its blog you don't know what you are missing. Read this killer article. Wired covers more ground and more topics than anyone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Techies getting a clue

It's been funny watching the tech community deal with the Obama administration's unenlightened approach to many issues near and dear to our hearts. There have been more posts and worries in the first three months of the Obama administration about net neutrality, freedom of information, free association, filtering, transparency, and the like than in the last year of Bush.

Obama made great promises, but techies are slow to realize that the core Leftist principles stand in direct contrast to free markets, individualism, and the free association that is the core of the tech world. Techies are instinctively laissez-faire and free market, because that is the way their culture has evolved and that is the way their culture thrives. Some few bloggers that I follow have begun to consciously realize the disconnect between them and the party they have been trained and programmed to associate with. But techies for the most part, like the rest of their generation, came of age in a culture that bombards them with messages in every medium, messages whose basic meaning is "think, vote, leftist." They could not go to high school, listen to the radio, buy music, watch tv, go to a movie, get a degree without the left wing establishment socializing them, so they vote Obama and democrat. Leftists have been running the cultural equivalent of the Microsoft monopoly for the past 20 years, so it is no wonder if every "machine" out there only works with leftist programs and apps.

Posts and articles like these are sadly lacking analysis and thought- not because the writers are incapable, but because reality is hitting them with a process their hard drives do not recognize. Even the wordier posts cannot really do more than display the data, no processing, no analysis, nothing.

Conservatives and republicans could be utilizing these opportunities to gain market share, but unfortunately, they are lacking the RAM, processor, and broadband capacity to do so. They are Apple of 1990 rather than 2000. Does not compute.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Smart enough to get in out of the rain... eventually

The story behind Captain Richard Phillips' rescue remains somewhat murky, but the story behind the Media's ability to spin anything and everything remains predictable and consistent. Take Chris Cillizza's analysis of the story for the Washington Post. He spins it as a great triumph of the Obama administration's grit, resolve, savvy, focus, determination... well you get the idea. It takes Cillizza six short paragraphs to also do the requisite "contrast" to Former President Bush's "inept" leadership and failure. Of course Cillizza has to compare four Somali pirates armed with AKs floating in a raft surrounded and cornered by the world's most powerful navy to a natural disaster like Katrina to make Obama's "competence" and "leadership" contrast with Bush's, but hey, we have come to expect this. Even Cillizza tacitly admits it took Obama 2 days to authorize "potential emergency actions" to deal with the pirates, which should of course exonerate Bush, but then Bush was dealing with a natural disaster the size of a small country in a state run by corrupt and incompetent politicians who happen to be in the same party as Obama.

What's incredible is how low the standards have become for President Obama. I am not as harsh in condemning the president for taking 4 days to deal with the issue, because it seems like there could be a lot of extenuating facts. You know, if I was a journalist I would be busy covering the Obama's first puppy, the choice of a church, the fact that they are kicking poor black children out of the same school they send their children to(wait, scratch that one). Heck, the teleprompter may have been in the shop for those first two days, right? But seriously, there is simply not enough info and this was such a small incident compared to natural disasters like Katrina that no conclusions, positive or negative, should be made about the president in this incident. Yes, it seems that he did take way too long to approve the use of deadly force, but we have no way of knowing how complicated such a thing could be. Moreover, if over the next few years this becomes a pattern of successful actions it could in fact become evidence of Obama's leadership and savvy. But right now there are just not enough facts and this is too minor of an incident to stand on its own as proof of anything regarding the president, in spite of the press and his fans desire to turn it into a victory for the president. What is sad is how the standards have been lowered for the first black president the same way they are lowered for minorities in college admissions.

Essentially Cillizza and the rest of Obama's fan club in the press are praising the president for being smart enough to get in out of the rain- after two days. Approving the use of deadly force is a no brainer. If Obama would have waited a few more days then we could be critical, but personally I think there are enough variables and enough distractions in a nation where the economy is circling the drain to give the president the benefit of the doubt. What disgusts me is the way the press, and Cillizza is a great example of this, dumb down the first minority president. Cillizza offers no evidence for his narrative of Obama, which is probably why he has to jump into a comparison with the former "incompentent" president so quickly. But even there he has to compare Obama dealing with something as simple as eating breakfast- Yes, approving the use of deadly force against four untrained, poorly armed, primitives from a nation with no international backing or clout is as simple as pouring a bowl of Cheerios- to something as complex and huge as a hurricane. Soft bigotry anyone? The first black president has authorized deadly force against four Somali pirates and the best military in the world did their thing. This is really a nonstory in terms of the president. And Obama has rightly treated it that way.

But Obama has had so few victories since his election his fans have to make this one for him. Pathetic. Maybe it's not soft bigotry, maybe it's just partisans desperately looking for something other than the string of incompetence and defeat Obama has thus far delivered. But as a minority who has lived with the soft bigotry of lower expectations my whole life I am starting to wonder if the Left wing establishment is beginning to act on their natural inclinations to lower the standards for minorities and treat things as simple as getting in out of the rain as a major victory for our first minority President.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mainstreaming the Lunatic Fringe

One of my biggest frustrations about the current culture war is the unbalanced rules of engagement. The Left can call the Right racist, bigot, homophobe, sexist, war-monger, and a host of other well worn epithets; the Right gets to (sort of) suggest that the Left is unpatriotic. We tend to blame this on the unfair nature of the news media, but that is only partly correct. The other half of the equation is that the Right needs to start calling a spade a spade.

For example, leftists have become even bolder this past week and are blaming the recent shootings in America on conservatives everywhere. Rick Sanchez's "journalism" makes no bones about it. Everyone on the Right who supports gun rights has blood on their hands, and he helps his viewers out by naming a few names. Sir Harold Evans does the same thing. There are two immediate observations to be made. First, how in the world did our culture ever become this unhealthy and delusional? The lack of intelligence and seriousness boggles the mind.

But there is another observation that is just as important. The Right rarely does this. When Harry Reid said the war was lost a few years back his comments were on Al-Jazeera within 24 hours. Is there any doubt that the enemy was encouraged by this? That some jihadists and insurgents whose morale may have been low were suddenly encouraged to go out and kill more American soldiers? Yet, he was never called out on this and none of the democrats were. Don't they have soldiers blood on their hands for all the support and encouragement idiotic and uniformed statements like Reid, Murtha, and Kerry made? But America has come to expect and now tolerate such undignified and reprehensible behavior from the Left. So what if Ward Churchill is an unqualified psycho? Let him teach at one of our elite universities. If we get rid of him that would mean we would have to get rid of lots of professors, and so instead of recognizing the problem and dealing with it, we make the problem normal. This is the classic, "But mom, everyone else is doing it" rationalization.

The Right needs to stand up and begin calling the Left out on these things. Harry Reid should have been called out. Yes, it will open up a Pandora's box, because this sickness has been allowed to spread far and wide. Stupidity and insanity are no longer a fringe element, because the Left wing establishment has spent the past 20 years sanitizing their fringe the same way Barack Obama did with Jeremiah Wright. The crazy but harmless uncle card needs to be called out for it has dome more damage to our culture than anything else over the past 20 years. Obama and the mainstream media did the same thing with Bill Ayers. Bill Ayers position as an education professor is proof of the decay and intellectual depravity of academia. Instead, Obama and the media argued the opposite. In their eyes his professorship, provides him with mainstream respectibility. If lunatic fringe thinking had not been allowed to be treated as the harmless but cute pet projects of otherwise mainstream people our universities, our media, our schools, and both political parties would be far healthier than they are. This would also solve some of the core problems in our culture as our perspectives have become so warped due to the mainstreaming of fringe radicals that we cannot even begin to assess our problems much less solve them. Take Michael Moore for example. There is no better example of the destructive nature of this norming of dangerous and irrational radicals than Michael Moore's triumphant position in our society. In any healthy society such a fringe lunatic would get the John Brown treatment. Instead, his poison and lies pervade out society and we have been immunized to think of him as simply a passionate advocate. USA Today made him a regular contributor during a presidential election and nobody blinked.

What does this do to our youth? It destroys their ability to have any perspective on any issue, because perspective has been so warped from reality. They have no idea what or where the middle is, because extremism is prime time. They hear it on their radios, see it on TV, and hear the Senate leader of the democratic party make statements that contributed to the deaths on their countrymen and never stopped to question why. They have been anesthatized by years of gradual doses of extremist poison, and are no longer capable of feeling or seeing the danger they are in. I am reminded of Martin Luther King's impassioned pleas to not take the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism." He was right. America needed to draw out the poison of racism and segregation quickly and painfully. For millions of Americans then , and now, had simply become accustomed to things, and were unaware of just how cancer ridden their society was. We desperately need a similar awakening today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Impossible Today

A reader suggested I read some of Eric Hoffer's work based on what she thought of my thinking and writing. Much appreciation. He's a great read and almost prophetic in some places. At other times I find the scenarios he describes next to impossible. Take the chapter on Bernal Heights from his book In Our Time. Hoffer served for two years on the San Francisco Art Commission, a task he found dreary and boring. Except for one amazing incident:

There was a crowd of people in the back of the room when I arrived... The crowd came from Bernal Heights, a workingman's neighborhood, where people of different ethinic backgrounds live side by side. There were whites, blacks, Chicanos, Samoans, Indians, and some Chinese. The neighborhood had its share of loud-mouthed sekf-appointed spokesmen for minorities, but judging by what the crowd has to say, the militants were without a following. The people of Bernal Heights, most of them members of minorities, did not want to be minoritists. They wanted to be full blown Americans, members of one nation indivisible, and to symbolize this common aspiration they had decided to paint their schoolhouse, situated on the top of a hill, red, white, and blue. To do so they had to have the permission of the art commission, but our expert had vetoed the color scheme as garish. The crowd had come to put the case before the members of the commission and call for a vote.

They were well prepared. Their speakers spoke clearly and forcefully. The principal of the school spoke last. He was a middle aged, gray haired, neatly dressed, passionate Chicano, with a stars and stripes bow tie. He spoke of America the way a man speaks of the woman he loves. he had discovered America all by himself. It occurred to me as I listened to him that America is only appreciated by people who discover it. Some of us discovered America in the prison barracks of North Vietnam.

The commission voted unaminously to let the people of Bernal Heights paint their schoolhouse red, white, and blue.

Try imagining that happening in San Francisco today... Impossible right? Why? Because leftists are no longer liberal. Our culture has changed. As I have argued elsewhere, leftists are being perfectly rational and consistent when they eschew patriotism. There is no rational basis in their worldview for such a thing. In today's San Francisco no school principal of any color, religion, or sexual orientation would want to paint the school house red, white, and blue. Any flag except the American flag is welcome. On one level this is because their cultures and values have changed. They are no longer "liberals." They are postmodern leftists. The other reason they would not feel such urges as those minorities did is because they take America for granted as Hoffer suggests. If you do not discover America, you tend to take it for granted. I have always found the most patriotic Americans in my postmodern world to be immigrants who understand just how amazing America is, because they have something to compare it to. Everyone else just keeps expecting more from their country. Free health care, mortgage payments, more education...

The Left has managed to radically shift our culture from its original values. So much so that most youth don't even know what the original America was.