Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This some lady Believes

Last night on All Things Considered, a woman talked about what qualities she hopes her newborn child will have in life. She nails it.

I don't know if I have much to add, except I think she names the 3 best qualities to make a good person. It's a beautiful, positive list of things. Caring, honesty, and being able to laugh at yourself. I hope I live up to my potential in these.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ebert: Video games not art

Roger Ebert has said that video games cannot be art.

Many have written well on this question. What's interesting to me is Ebert's structural claim. He claims that it's impossible to have art in a game. He subscribes strongly to the French auteur theory that art requires a singular author, with a singular vision. And he argues that video games, by giving any control over the story to the player destroys that authority.

I'm willing to accept that the Bergman of video games has not yet emerged, and no art in this form exists yet. But it seems to me that it's possible to tell an interactive story and still maintain a great level of control as the creator. As an actor, it seems fairly obvious to me that the difference between watching a play and playing a video game is the difference between watching a play and starring in a play. Does Ebert believe that actors cannot have artistic experiences, because they are part of the craft? Or would he argue that a truer comparison to gaming would be performing in an improv show, where the actors have more choices?

As an actor, I have many choices in a performance. And there are poor choices, and better choices. Perhaps a game is only art when played well, and the high score is achieved?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bad Ohio. Bad!

Apparently, in Ohio you can find out how people voted in the last election.

The saddest part is that other states know how to keep this from happening. The article suggests the simple move of randomizing the voter list.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Primary scheduling gone wrong

In a futile bid for relevancy, Florida has scheduled a very early primary in the 2008 presidential election.

I can see why people get tired of their primary votes not mattering. After the first few states, most of the candidates drop out that the apparent victor glides through the rest of the states. However, the value of the first primary being in a tiny state like New Hampshire, with a tiny population, is great. When the candidates can meet with people face to face, talk to them at length about issues, candidates like Jimmy Carter have a real chance.

Florida is a stupid place for an early primary. With 18 million people, you can't win an election with anything but huge amounts of money and TV advertising. That doesn't create good democracy. (Unless we have public funding of campaigns, which is a whole other blog post.)

What would make sense is a rotating primary. Every presidential cycle, you move the first primary. '08 is in New Hampshire, '12 is in Wyoming, '16 in South Carolina. Maybe 2024 in Alaska. Each cycle, you go to a different region of the country, so different voters get to ask about different issues, and the whole country gets to participate, instead of feeling like the Central Committee of Iowa and New Hampshire decide who's president of the rest of us. (I believe that the people of those 2 states take their responsibility seriously, but that doesn't remove the sense that we would like to have a voice as well.)

Hopefully, in the 15 smallest states, there is enough political and regional diversity to offer true variety from year to year. But the simple fact is that Florida, California, or any other state in the 30 most populous, should never be an early primary state. And that includes my home of Oregon. We're too big to do it right.

Boy, would I like to see the Republican primary season start in Washington DC.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bans on sales to children unconstitutional

So, it turns out that every single attempt to criminalize selling inappropriate video games to children has been ruled unconstitutional. Free speech is tricky. If government can't regulate it, it can't criminalize anything based on content.

Ironically, the government is allowed to regulate sex, just not violence.

This does point out how empty the government's threat is every time they talk about regulating TV or movies or radio. The MPAA and other rating systems are corporate, not government, not because they're afraid of the government, but because if the government did it that would be unconstitutional. And then babies could see naked breasts.

OK, bad example. But they'd also be able to see relationships and violence which their still-forming minds aren't ready to handle.

I like video games. (I can stop any time I want.) But young children shouldn't be seeing some stuff before they're ready. Politicians want credit for protecting the children, but it's illegal for them to do so. And Wal-Mart pretends not to sell video games to youth, but does anyway because it's in their financial interest to sell more games, and to pay a low enough wage that their workers aren't motivated to enforce the rules.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't delete that!

So you thought it was safe to empty the trash on your computer. Turns out a guy is being sued for doing that. Of course, the files in his computer's trash were the markers used by Coupons.com to track him as a unique user and keep him from printing off more than one of each coupon.

And they're suing him under the DMCA, for cracking their security "technology". Because the DMCA is a law that makes it criminal to even think about cracking security technologies, even if they're stupid. Or if you have a legitimate reason for cracking them, like they are keeping you from your own stuff.

Hopefully this new legal strategy will fail. Or else we'll end up like the White House, not allowed to ever delete anything. Not that the rules stop them from deleting, either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Violence attacks video games

After years of violence being blamed on video games, the internet was shut down by violence, surely putting a stop to some online gaming.

Ironic, given how rarely computers actually lead to violence, that real violence should stop pretend violence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fox News - unfair and cruel

Wow. I never watch Fox News. Now I know why.

They called Mr. Rogers evil, for teaching kids that they're special. I guess Jesus' message of universal love is evil.

They want us to teach our children that they're weak losers, who will never amount to anything in this evil, brutal world, unless they work hard to destroy other people. Wow. Their parents must have beaten them silly. Thank you, James Dobson. (Hey, one good straw man argument deserves another!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Antibacterial soap bad

There's a new study out that shows that "antibacterial" soap is no more effective than regular soap, partly because the "active ingredient" triclosan is present in such low levels as to have no effect.

Too bad almost every soap has triclosan in it. This ship has sailed. And created lots of bacterial resistance to this particular antibiotic, also making all this antibacterial soap utterly irrelevant. I guess there's no harm in using it, but it's certainly stupid to pay extra for a feature that doesn't do anything.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cheney on why not to invade Iraq

In 1994, as former Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush, Mr. Cheney defended not removing Saddam Hussein from power. He explains exactly what has happened when we did invade. A shame he didn't listen to himself. And a real shame no one found this video in 2003.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bergman Homage

Ingmar Bergman is dead.

This is a parody, in fake Swedish, sort of like Middle English. Only silly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Online Morals

Lore makes an interesting point.

What is it about online "sex" that's immoral? Apparently Jesuits are trying to get people online to not engage their online characters in online sex.
But it's not as if video game murder is equivalent in any way to real violence.

And yet it seems like video sex is somehow less harmless. Certainly our movie rating system judges the slaughter of hundreds less harmful than one exposed breast.

And yet real-life violence is much more harmful than real-life sex. Unless you get AIDS and die, but that's not my point. There's something interesting here that I haven't figured out yet.

The harm from anything bad in a video game is much less than in real life. But there is a wider difference between video murder and real murder, than the difference between going to a real strip club and entering a video game strip club.

At least when it comes to real life actions, we're clear that murder is worse than prostitution. Way longer jail sentences.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fair Use for documentaries

Apparently a bunch of filmmakers came up with a set of guidelines for fair use in documentaries. It includes things like "If you accidentally capture a TV or music in the background, it's ok." Which is not what giant evil corporate lawyers would say, but they're evil.

Apparently this same group is going to come up with rules for YouTube and other video sites. I hope their rules hold up as worthy in court. Because there's good fair use out there.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Left Hand, meet Right Hand

So, Universal Music is going to sell music online without copy protection. Good for them.

However, they should talk to the jerks over at Universal Music, who are suing a video site, for not using copy protection to keep people from copying their music.

Universal Music could learn a lot about reasonable music technology practices from Universal Music.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Crap Chocolate

The FDA is considering letting the word "chocolate" go on stuff that doesn't contain chocolate. Corporations want to be able to make "chocolate" more cheaply. Consumers want their food to be accurately labeled. Oddly, I expect corporations to lose this one. But if it were "juice" or "cheese" that were at stake, I bet some random vegetable powder substitute would be completely acceptable to our government today.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Take that, Red Cross!

So, I previously wrote about the Red Cross trying to keep anyone from using a red cross on their products.

Well, now Johnson & Johnson is suing the Red Cross. Seems J&J used a red cross first aid emblem before The Red Cross used a red cross.

It's definitely dickishness karma. A truly universal symbol, probably pre-dating any particular corporate use, should be available to all. If Johnson&Johnson get control of the red cross as their own logo, that'd be dumb. But if they free it for all to use, I see nothing wrong with that.

Of course, the actual facts are that J&J want to be the only ones who sell first aid supplies, and don't want The Red Cross horning in on their market share. It's just greed meeting greed. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Disney propaganda

This clip is a short cartoon about how reasonable America is and how manipulative Hitler is. I think it's interesting how emotional the cartoon is, when claiming that reason is the superior tool. I think it's the nature of video - an emotional medium can't help but make emotional appeals. The "argument" against Hitler is quite emotional.

Not that I'm arguing for Hitler. I'm just enjoying a paradox in an argument for something I actually believe in.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Levitation made possible?

This story just broke today.

It claims some scientists have figured out how to reverse a quantum mechanical force to get objects to repel each other. Not magnets, but something way more fundamental. It could lead to hoverboards, or it could be a load of crap.

I hope we get hoverboards.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Impeach Gonzales Already


When I read that Congressmen Blumenauer, DeFazio and others were proposing impeaching Attorney General Gonzales, I felt relief. At last someone will be held accountable.

We have waited for too long, as the President hands out medals to incompetents, for someone to be held responsible for failure. From Katrina to Iraq, from spying on Americans to torturing prisoners, it is time for us to say "Enough!"

Thank goodness for a Congress that might finally act.

This got printed by the Oregonian. In its original form.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Cartoon Censorship

I read an interesting article today on censorship in cartoons.

For me, the most shocking examples are the "curse" words of "heck", "darn" and "furnace".

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Big Boom

Once upon a time, there was a rocket fuel factory. Then it caught fire. There are two explosions.

For lots more information on the Pepcon explosion, you can search for Henderson, Nevada.

And other big booms.