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Posts Tagged ‘political’

A little knowledge goes a long way sometimes… and maybe not in the direction we’d like.

As I’ve noted before, my college degree is in computer animation, specifically geared to film making.  In the course of earning that degree, I learned a lot of film making tricks and tactics, as well as the extra layer of tomfoolery that computer graphics permits.  As such, it’s very hard to watch a movie these days and not see all the little hacks and cheats.  I can’t help but see behind the curtain because I’m so familiar with what goes on back there.

I have a similar problem with games.  Since I work in making games, usually creating, texturing and animating 3D models, and I’m very familiar with the industry, I see all the little tricks that other game developers use in their games.  Even if I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and just be entertained, it’s a reflex to see, catalogue, and examine how things work, and perhaps more importantly, how they don’t work.

Similarly, since my degree is technically a Bachelor’s of the Fine Arts, and I’ve been an artist who studies art for a long time, I have a lot of experience with art, both creating it and in analyzing it.  I see art problems way too easily.  Even my hobbyist knowledge of astrophysics, physics, math and science makes some things hard to swallow, like the awful science in that recent Star Trek movie.

This is the effect underlying the Uncanny Valley effect.  Y’see, we’re all experts at being human, just by virtue of, well… living life.  When we see something that doesn’t agree with our experience, it just seems wrong, no matter how well-crafted it is.  It need not even be conscious; we notice the inherent wrongness whether or not we want to, and it colors our experience.  Even something like basic kinesthetics can be thrown off, as is the case with the Kinect motion sensor control system for the XBox.  The functionality is wrong compared to what we know so well, and it just doesn’t work.

So when we see something like this, where a psychotic nutjob’s murderous actions are blamed, in part, on video games, as gamers, we cannot help but shout:

OBJECTION!

We know enough about the reality of games from our own expertise to call “shenanigans!” on the media narrative.

Of course, there’s a flipside to this.  If we don’t have personal expertise in a topic at hand, and don’t want to bother informing ourselves about it, it becomes very easy to just go with the flow, accept fallacious authority, and accept whatever we’re told, especially if it’s something we think we agree with and fall prey to confirmation bias.  If we want to hate someone or something, we’ll find reasons to do so.  If the narrative suits our taste, we’ll happily ignore facts.  We embrace ignorance and live in our own little perception bubble, because we’re happy there.  Manipulative agenda-riddled media is more than happy to play along.

This is certainly obvious in politics and the so-called “mainstream media”.  This is one reason why blogging is changing the world and why it’s important to protect in the face of political opposition and Big Brother control; the “news” networks get called on their lies and matters of public policy can get a bit more transparency with concerned citizens involved.  Nothing quite dies on the internet, and it’s increasingly easier to do a bit of research and do a little fact checking.  Of course, even then, so-called “fact checkers” are usually biased, too.  You really have to go do your homework and proper research if you care about something.

Remember the murderer who played WoW?  When there’s a causal link implied by shoddy reporting and poor courtroom procedure, and you know the argument is pure crap, you don’t trust the narrative, and you are right to be distrustful.  You know better, no matter what the talking heads on the magic light box try to tell you.

The really crazy part is when you see through the curtain sometimes, but decide to let it slip back into place later, say, if the same media outlet reports something you want to hear.  They are no more trustworthy than they were before, but this time, since it’s something you agree with, it doesn’t matter what goes on behind that curtain.  The narrative is what matters, not the truth.

WoW subscription numbers down 300,000?  The game is finally dying!  Thanks for the brave reporting, guys!

WoW subscription numbers steady next quarter?  Must be a statistical blip or someone cooking the books.  They are desperate to show they aren’t dying!  Lousy lying media!

So what?  Just sayin’…

Trust, but verify.  Understand your own bias and get past it… at least, if you care about truth.  Sometimes, we just want to be lied to.  Being able to swallow the lies, benign or otherwise, certainly makes it easier to be entertained.

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Apparently the spirit of unrest so prevalent in Egypt and other assorted countries is making the rounds.  Here in the U.S., Wisconsin is stirring up old debates about the nature of a Federalist government.  And as usual, it’s about the money in the end.  Or freedom and agency… but it’s easier to argue about money.

Interesting times, these.  I guess the Chinese still don’t like us dirty capitalists.  (Or wait, who’s the bad guy this week?)

Time to go ignore the world and finish up Dragon Quest V or go grind for a bit in some random MMO.  Reality bites sometimes.  May as well do something with measurable success, hm?

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A brief sociopolitical/psychological tangent, then the good stuff.

I’m of a mind that good fences make good neighbors.

I don’t want a global government or global culture any more than I want a global economy (which is to say, not at all).  Many things just work better locally.  Beyond that, though, there’s the old thought that if you get any three people in a room, you’ll have four different opinions on any given topic.  …or something like that.

People just don’t agree in general; we’re individuals, and we all come at things a bit differently.  Trying to make a global government never did make much sense to me.  There’s certainly a good place for a baseline of civility, but trying to impose a collective consensus from on high just won’t work out.

Out here in the fringe society of MMO gaming, EVE works as a one-world sort of game, but even there, you have players going places to get away from each other.  Low-sec vs. High-sec, mining vs. wormhole exploring.  Us crazy humans are just a diverse lot with varied interests, and that’s OK.  Even when more technology advances sufficiently to make other solid one-world MMOs, people will still just go off and do their own thing.  (Especially us nefarious soloists.  Neener neener.)

Anyway, I’m not really out in tin foil hat land huffing and puffing about the New World Order or the latest Communist Manifesto, as much fun as that could be to prompt some minor flamewars.  What’s really important here is that people are inevitably individuals, and expecting to be able to mold people en masse just isn’t realistic.  That notion of individual agency has implications for any sort of activity where people are involved and interacting, from gaming to politics to religion or whatever.  We all need fences around our own decision making processes, or we’re no better than automatons fit for the Soylent Green Big Brother state dinner, and we need to respect the fences of other people.

As Robert A. Heinlein noted:

“Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

I’d posit that this division isn’t just political; it’s philosophical, and touches every human activity, at all ages.

So what?  Well, lengthy preamble aside, I do find things like this to be curiously touching:

Pachelbel’s Canon in D… with Beatboxing, Breakdancing and Korean stringed instruments.

I don’t want globalization imposed from on high, but this sort of artist-inspired bizarre mashup of old and young, East and West, high class and street class, elegance and irreverence… well, it gives me hope that people from vastly different backgrounds really do have something to say to each other beside arguing.

That’s what I want out of “globalization”; people sharing and being good to each other, building something that is more than the sum of its parts.  Call it “Peace on Earth”, if you will, but that’s my Christmas wish for this year:

May we all find reason to celebrate the other, learning and creating with an eye to cooperation, serving each other because we choose to, not because we’re told to.

Merry Christmas or Happy Whatever It Is You Celebrate This Time of Year!  I hope it’s a good one for you and yours.

Oh, and speaking of Pachelbel and Christmas, I do love these, both hybrids in their own right:

John Schmidt’s Pachelbel Meets U2

TransSiberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon (and the Rock version is here, if you like that better… it’s a bit more of a hybrid)

…and while we’re talking rock, bonus points for the band OK Go teaming up with Notre Dame’s marching band and kids for a curiously philosophical comment or two:

This Too Shall Pass

Maybe it’s dumb, but I can’t help but smile a bit seeing potentially diverse groups like that producing something fun together.

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…or consent.

Hat tip Victor for this one.

China’s War Beyond Azeroth

Imagine your own political commentary on this one.

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OK, OK, more game design goodness in the queue (tomorrow morning and beyond… there’s a lot of game design stuff I really want to dig into, from tabletop mini games to MMOs to Candyland), but I wanted to throw this one out there and get it out of my system.  What if a politician ran on a platform with the tenets espoused by Mr. Denninger here?

A True Path Forward?

Talk about Hope and Change.  (Anyone else find it interesting that Obama’s splash page is a commitment to vote?  OHai, Big Brother, ya man, here’s my info, rock on!)  I’m idly curious if such a platform would gain any traction in a political climate that all too often wins by promising the moon in as vague of terms as possible, with no actual intent to deliver.  Mr. Denninger’s tenets are altogether too… specific, dramatic and pragmatic.

I like that.  I also find myself oddly reminded of that Dave movie, where an accountant or some such who looks like the President finds himself doing the job.  I found it funny that he’d actually take time to work on cutting spending and balancing the budget.  What a weird notion.  I mean, austerity, pfft.

I find myself detached from any real politics these days, though.  Maybe that’s because the politicians are detached from the people?  Interesting times, these.  If I wasn’t living through them, I’d find them utterly fascinating to study.

Disclosure:  I didn’t vote for Obama… or Bush… or McCain… or Kerry.  Can’t stand either party, or most politicians in general, no matter the country or party.  At least gamers have the courtesy to keep their megalomania restrained to fictional worlds.

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Well, it’s not exactly a poke in the eye, but this system is certainly taking a clooooose look at some eyes.

Iris Scanners

Orwell had his timing off a wee bit, but really, is this sort of thing inevitable?  And perhaps most importantly, when will ActiBlizzard make iris identification the new account security feature?  I mean, people are already posting photos of themselves on FaceBook, so this is just a hop, skip and a jump for RealID.  Besides, eye scanning is better than a literal poke in the finger for ID testing.

This makes me want to play Monopoly, or maybe just indulge in some graphical design.

Rebranding U.S. Currency

Do you think putting Puzzle Pirates Ringers on the money would be a bad idea? Cleaver for the $100… Nemo for the $50!  Maybe World of Warcraft key characters?  Ah, the debate:  Thrall or Jaina for the $100?  Maybe one of each with concurrent Horde/Alliance crests and graphical design… collectors’ items!  Alamo for the $50?

This sort of explains it all:

U.S. students don’t understand math, science or history because they aren’t being taught

So my next question is:  When do we get to apply for citizenship of Azeroth?  Forget this pansy Real World thing.

I’m reserving my Tauren Druid now.

Bonus reading if you want something a bit more… fiesty.

Hypocrisy on Display: Islam

It’s always interesting to me to find the good and useful points in a reasoned rant.  Sometimes, rants are simply anger incarnate, but more often than not, there’s something real under the hood, something worth thinking about and deciding where your own opinions lie.  For me, the take-home thought this time is “what do you do when compromise with someone who wants you dead isn’t an option?”  Plenty of storytelling seeds in that one.

Anyway, it’s not like game bloggers ever rant without having a good reason, right?  Sure, sometimes you have to dig to find it, and sometimes it’s just kicking up a storm for attention, but that’s just part of this silly “internet” thing.

…and now I wonder what Freud would have done with the internet.  Can you imagine the psychoanalysis he’d come up with prowling the web?  Would he get stuck on the tvtropes website, too?  Would he get stuck endlessly trying to correct people? Would he have a FaceBook and Twitter account?

@Freud: Have returned from 4Chan foray. Paper forthcoming. … I need a cigar.

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The Utah GOP rejected Bob Bennett last night, a conservative Republican incumbent senator.  Pundits are suggesting this will have a ripple effect in the upcoming elections, as a strong anti-incumbent sentiment has been festering for a while.  From what I can gather, Bennett’s position on TARP (support) and his championing of a bipartisan health care reform bill (not the one ultimately signed into law) were keys to why people wanted to see him leave.

The anti-TARP position is pretty easy to explain; there’s a natural pull to austerity in any financial crisis, and when the government votes to spend taxpayer money to bail out businesses (especially the ones who caused the crisis), an allergic reaction from said taxpayers is not unexpected.  I won’t belabor my personal objections to TARP, but will instead suggest (once again) Karl Denninger’s The Market Ticker as a good place to prowl around regarding the bill.  Denninger digs into the market implications of the bill (and other political gerrymandering), which tends to make for a fairly nonpartisan critique.

The health care bill issue is a little fuzzier.  It’s worth noting that the bill that did pass isn’t popular among American citizens.  Those who supported it are also in a bit of political hot water, but in Bennett’s case, he supported a different bill proposed as an alternative.  What’s interesting to me is the commentary around this aspect of Bennett’s loss.  Nearly every writer who addresses it in this nice roundup of articles tries to blame Bennett’s loss on partisanship.  They believe that Utah voters considered it a cardinal sin for Bennett to work with a *gasp* Democrat on the proposed bill.  Even Bennett is reported to believe that opposition to him was based on the “toxic” partisan atmosphere of Washington D.C.

Nonsense.

No, reasoned opposition to Bennett’s actions in the proposed bill have nothing to do with his efforts to work “across the aisle”, they are purely objections to what the bill contained.  It mandated that citizens must purchase health insurance.  See, people don’t like Big Brother telling them what to buy.  (A critical component of opposition to the bill that did pass as well, by the way.)  It doesn’t matter whether Big Brother is using his Democrat hand or his Republican hand, it’s the action of the government trying to direct citizens that doesn’t go down well.  (That’s a peculiarly American political thing; the country was formed largely in opposition to an overpowerful government, and established on principles of small central government and self-governing freedom.  Almost everyone rebels when told what to do, we’re just wired that way, but the trend seems to run deeper and broader in America, French guillotines notwithstanding.)

Cooperation across the aisle tends to be a healthy thing.  The problem isn’t cooperation, if there’s a problem, it’s with what that cooperation produces.  When the Democrats and Republicans cooperated on a bill that the people didn’t like, the bill is the problem (and to a degree, the people who supported it), not the principle of cooperation.

It’s amazing to me that the vast majority of commentators don’t see that, and instead, try to frame the discussion in partisan terms.  It’s not a surprise, since that sort of juvenile debate tactic has reigned supreme for a while, ever more acrimonious.  It’s just… an affront to logic, common sense, and rational thought.  It’s also a fine way to dodge the real issues that should be debated, namely the results of the bills in question and why people might be bothered by what they mandate.

It’s not unlike the puerile fanboy arguments that we see in the console wars or the endless debates about WoW vs. MMOoftheMonth.  When the arguments turn more to namecalling and ad hominem attacks, the real issues are lost.  Sometimes, that’s because the real issues aren’t really anything to argue about, since they are merely matters of opinion and taste.  Arguing to try to prove someone else’s opinion is wrong never really accomplishes much.

The more troubling times are when the real issues are decidedly worth discussing, but neither side of the debate wants to address them.  As in Bennett’s bipartisan proposed bill, the discussion should have been about whether or not people wanted to be forced by the government to buy health insurance.  Increasingly, the debate in American politics isn’t so much Republicans vs. Democrats, it’s the People vs. the Government.  The Rs and Ds both want control, and the people want to govern themselves.  The niggling little details about what form that control takes isn’t the issue that should be debated, rather, the existence of that control in the first place is the big question.

It’s like the idiotic debates from the 80s about “Coke” vs. “Pepsi”… as if those were the only drinks that anyone would even consider imbibing.  It’s the nature of any rivalry played to the crowds; Red vs. Blue, F2P vs. Subs, Engineer vs. Soldier, White vs. Black, Boxers vs. Briefs, Sox vs. Cubs, Horde vs. Alliance, Edward vs. Jacob and so on.  The polar argument takes on a life in itself, totally distorting any reasoned critique of surrounding issues.  (Twilight is still atrocious, whichever team you’re on.)

It’s almost as if the Rs and Ds are arguing about how the deck chairs on the Titanic need to be arranged, and anyone arguing with them is demonized, while the citizens just want them to get out of the way so they can board the lifeboats.  It’s no surprise that some of those squabbling power brokers get tossed out of the way when the people start to panic a bit, and the boat lurches seaward.  Suggesting that the people did so because the deck chairs weren’t the right color, or because the arrangers cooperated on one chair is extremely selective interpretation of events, and a gross misunderstanding of the real issues at hand.  Just get out of the way!

So, while this particular article is rooted in a singular political event that may well show hints of voter patterns to come, it’s really that sense of larger issues that I wanted to underline.  We can’t afford to get lost in the trappings of idiotic debate tactics that dodge the real questions.  Bread and circuses can keep people entertained and busy, certainly, and picking sides creates an investment in the show… but more often than not, it’s not the show that’s important.  Remember that magicians want you to be distracted while they work their sleight of hand.  Less benign characters also benefit from such distraction.

tl;dr version?  Learn to read between the lines, ignoring partisanship and fanboy shrieking.  Find the real issues, and don’t be distracted.  Dig deeper than “Paula vs. Simon”.

Edited to add:

The particular case of Bennett also reminds us that the sense of political entitlement and inertia is a fickle thing.  Bennett’s record is fairly conservative, but screwing up on a few big ticket items really can be enough to make people mad… if they are paying attention.  (Not unlike WAR’s recent billing issue; a significant blunder can totally destroy the goodwill banked in the past.)  I think it’s a healthy thing for politicians to be afraid of their constituents, and to realize that their job isn’t assured.  It’s good to know the people are watching, and have the power to change things.  The uneasy truce between the power brokers and the people, fueled by healthy distrust and leeriness about abuse of power, goes a long way to forestall any huge abuses.  That’s what the balance of powers in the U.S. Constitution is all about.

A while ago, the Illinois Senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for a dynastic 48 years (in itself a symptom of entitlement issues) was up for grabs after Kennedy’s death.  It went to an upstart Republican (Kennedy being a Democrat), seen by some as a signal that people are tired of the “same old” politics.  Incumbents tend to enjoy a significant edge in most elections, partly because people fear change, and have gotten used to the gravy train.

Still, it’s not wise to push people too far, and increasingly, American leaders are doing so.  Bennett is, in some ways, a victim of larger societal forces at work, but blaming those on partisan hackery is missing the point.

That’s not to say that there’s no partisan bickering.  There is plenty of that sort of nonsense at play.  It’s just not the real issue, and getting caught up in it doesn’t solve anything.

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