Your Thoughts Exactly: July 2005

Thursday, July 21, 2005


HP VI Speculation: SPOILER

Well I could give you an attempted literary review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince but really, it’s the speculation that makes the series fun. So here are my thoughts on the plot etc.

Snape is an unforgivable bitch. Speculation exists as to the true motivations behind his killing Dumbledore, whether Dumbledore pleaded for Snape to do it, due to the fact Snape was needed in Voldemort’s confidence, or for the final showdown or whatever. But to execute an unforgivable curse, according to both Snape and Lestrange, one must be filled with anger and hatred. Harry is unable is execute the Cruciatus curse successfully for this reason. Killing requires an even greater commitment to evil; even a punk as nasty as Draco fails miserably. Snape, despite any grand plans or schemes, is still a killer. In the World of HP, that ability to kill, and the distinction between good and evil “souls,” is crucial. That’s why despite Dumbledore’s “pleadings,” I can’t think that Snape is a Dumbledore guy.

Horcruxery…There are 7 pieces of Voldemort’s soul: the ring, the Hufflepuff icon, the diary, the one R.A.B. has, the snake, the piece in voldemort himself, and the speculated ravenclaw or gryffindor piece that we don’t know about. The Gryffindor sword is safe, leading to believe that is has something with Ravenclaw. Of course, there are other theories. Reading the book, I thought that Harry himself could be the last Horcrux, with his scar containing some part of Voldemort’s soul. This would explain the two’s shared emotions and visions, and the ability of Harry to posses the snake in book five, etc. It would also help explain the prophecy and set Harry up for martyrdom in the last book.

R.A.B. is likely Regelus Black. Is he alive? The Horcrux he stole, if not destroyed, is probably in the Black residence somewhere. My prediction: Harry gets Kreacher to give it to him somehow.

Most importantly…what’s on tap for book 7? Will it just be Harry tramping around looking for Horcruxes trying to kill Voldemort? Will Ron and Hermione get to join him? Will they go back to Hogwarts?

I think they have to go back to Hogwarts for the 7th year, if only because Hogwarts is the primary scene where everything else happened. I could see the book going Goblet of Fire style where Ron, Hermione, and Harry go looking for horcruxes and don’t end up at Hogwarts until p. 300 or so. Obviously the question of who is going to replace Dumbledore is huge: it probably won’t be McGonnagal, but rather someone Ministry related. Additionally, who will take over the Order of the Phoenix? Harry is too young no? The most logical candidate for me would have been Sirius before his untimely demise. Arthur Weasley…too much of a family man. Kingsley Shacklebolt…too much of a fringe character. Tonks…too young. Lupin seems depressed by his wolfiness…Here is my wildcard pick: Albeforth Dumbledore.

Regardless, I can’t believe we have to wait for however long we do to read the last book. My sources tell me J.K. has barely started book 7, choosing instead to selfishly focus on raising her newborn child. Until then, I will remain a Dumbledore man.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Are video games art?

I've been thinking about this topic since we started this blog, and I've never really tried to post it because I could never come up with a really good definition for what art is. There's art, and then there's Art. As Calvin (the six-year-old one) says, there's also "low" art and "high" art. Where do video games fall in on this scale?

Well, like everything else in life, it depends. But it hasn't really depended on the video game, like you would think. It depends on the point of view, and the purpose of art. At its base definition, art is simply human creation designed to convey a human response- emotions, feelings, and the like. Obviously, video games have evoked a large ranged of emotions and feelings from people. From this perspective, video games are just a different medium, an evolution of television and film into the interactive present. So from this perspective, of course video games are art. And luckily, most rational people recognize this, as the Supreme Court has made rulings to the effect that they are protected speech. Less rational people have said things like 'video games have no redeeming qualities'.

Of course, in Marmar's last post, he alluded to "senseless" violence within video games. But many people derided movies, music, and television for the same reasons. And even though I could never argue that mowing down hundreds of people in GTA lends itself to high culture in any way, I can still argue that it's still free speech, and the whole industry should be protected so that it can grow into an actual artistic medium. But, of course, by saying that, I'm freely admitting that they're not they're yet. Which is why we have people like Hillary Clinton trying to take down the GTA:SA because it may have hidden sex games in it.

But, from their perspective, they look at the worst games, like GTA and Hitman, and say "Where's the art?" Well, I would like to know that too. A few video games have had artistic moments, great cutscenes, breathtaking visuals, etc., but by and large, I would say that 90% of video games aren't art. Actually, now that I think of it- that may be why I loved Homeworld so much- it was an artistic endeavor as much as it was a video game. Anyway I digress. Video games are made to be fun and addictive, not because some guy just 'wanted' to make one. And now that they're a multi-billion dollar industry, it's going to be tougher and tougher for people to make video games based on their whims. The film industry has had it easier in that regard. A low budget film can be just as good as a high-budget film because the minimum needed requirements to make a film are far below the requirements to make a video game. Of course, the most expensive video games and the most expensive movies can cost similar amounts of money to produce. The bottom line is because of all this money, there's even less risk taking in video games than there is in Hollywood. Sure, everyone complains that there are 5 batman movies 6 star wars, remakes galore, and that every good movie spawns bad sequels. But imagine if it were like the video game industry- there'd be a new star wars movie ever year. Star Wars 2006: Now with game-changing lightsaber moves! And how many deer hunter games have there been? A hundred?

But still, video games have to be considered a burgeoning art form. And even though most video games still require a huge suspension of disbelief (how could someone live their lives getting shot or hacked at with a sword for 24 straight hours?) eventually video games will surpass the technical and monetary limitations of today and become more immersive fantasies, making them an even more powerful vector for conveying emotions and storytelling. Of course, most video games are action movies. I can't see many people wanting to play a video game with a story like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Almost Famous. I could be wrong. Actually, I would like to see those video games. Of course, those movies are about 2 hours long. And video games are expected to be 10+ hours long. So I don't know what to tell you.

But, think about it- the few times I've ever actually connected with a video game emotionally, it was almost purely because I was so involved in the game that disbelief wasn't even in my vocabulary. I've said that a few games had good stories to them- but they were only good as video game stories go: Half-Life's story was a C-movie sci-fi flick at best, and even KOTOR wouldn't have made much sense if they had had to flesh out the whole thing. Just imagine what happens when they couple good stories and characters with video games. Then we'll be talking about real Art. Until then, though, we'll have to settle for "low" art.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Violence is a guys best friend

Like most human beings, I love legalized violence. Football, boxing, and UFC are examples of sports which I spend a substantial amount of my life following (football mostly) where a portion of my enjoyment is garnered from seeing two human beings pummel each other. In all three sports, I can appreciate the strategy involved in achieving an outcome, be it a knockout or a touchdown, but I do like seeing a few sick hits.
Moreover, unlike most of the moralizing media outlets, I am not automatically “turned off,” by violent acts that break the rules or cause injuries. The enjoyment I get out of the violence of the act far outweighs any moral outrage I am supposed to feel. I understand the need for rules to protect the safety of the players, but to me any moralizing on excessive violence in sports is total hypocrisy, since it is the attraction to violence that helps to sell the product. The Todd Bertuzzi hit on Steve Moore, (where he slammed him into the ice,) is a prime example. What caused the outrage and Bertuzzi’s subsequent suspension was the consequence, (Moore’s severe back injury) not the action itself.
The hypocrisy of violence spreads to television and music, where violent personas sell records and violent television shows and video games are simultaneously vilified and critically acclaimed. Once again, it is the consequences that determine the agenda. Following an incident such as Columbine, moral outrage peaks until time and other facets of life distract our minds, and the companies that market these products can feed the market for more realistic first person shooters, or shows that are more “cutting edge,” in how they display someone being murdered.
Of course, I find these games and programs to be wildly entertaining. But it is not the violent acts themselves that make them entertaining. Grand Theft Auto is simply a well designed expression of rage and criminal hedonism, well thought-out, with incredible depth in terms of missions to accomplish, gameplay, and humor. Of course, you can also spend most of your time throwing Molotov cocktails at innocent bystanders and killing police officers if you so choose. The problem is 10 million people might play the game, but it takes one to not understand the disconnect between entertainment, fiction, and reality to ruin it for the rest of us.
I have seen thousands of murders on TV and movies, killed thousands of computer generated bad guys in various video games, but how much real violence have I been exposed to? A few minor scuffles here and there. I’ve been punched in the face and bleed all over the place. I’ve been attacked by a bunch of random Greek kids. I’ve headbutted Jay in the face because he broke my sauerkraut. I’ve seen puddles of blood spilled outside a neighborhood convenience store due to a stabbing in a robbery gone wrong. But like most people like me, I have not seen death, or genocide, or war, the worst of what humanity has to offer. What we sit and wonder about, what TV and movies are obsessed with trying to express to us. And if I did, my reaction would not be one of lustful excitement, but horror and revulsion.
Yet human beings are prey to the forces of the world, to the forces of nature. And Nature is a violent place. Weather is cruel and punishing. Animals eat each other and fight constantly with their own kind for dominance. Humans starve, and rob, and loot and kill each other. But through our self-consciousness, ability to moralize, and social organization, we have come to distinguish between right and wrong, and mandated the need to control our violent instincts. But those instincts are still there, waiting to be quelled. TV, video games, and sports are three relatively safe ways to quell such instincts; but when control is lost and violence has consequences society flips out.
Violence is supposed to be contained, or, if not contained, monopolized and legitimized through an apparatus like the state, military, or police force. Justifications must be attained at a macro-level, and there are rules of war, once again to control humans’ violent impulses. Yet on the level of the individual soldier, at what level are they simply expressing their violent instincts? Is this impulse an aid or a hindrance?
Violence is all around us. It takes many forms, be it a man getting shot on TV, a boxing match, or exploiting the world around you for personal gain. Violence thrives on fear, fear of people different than ourselves, fear of the world around us, fear of losing what we hold close. In some ways, it helps humans survive, and has been helping us survive for millions of years. Yet there is another force that can guide and shape humanity, and create what I believe would be a better world. through violence’s antithesis. Love. I’ll be back with you on this subject after I figure that one out. Give me about 8 years.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I think they called it "The bus that couldn't slow down"

Bombs on buses and trains have been part of modern terrorism for a while, and they're going to be here to stay, and Americans should prepare to accept the fact that it's going to happen here sooner or later. But despite this, all the TV news coverage that I saw about the London bombings focused on 'what can be done to prevent a similar attack on the US.'

Well, I'll tell you- nothing. A lot of people have been saying that the federal government hasn't spent enough money on public transportation security. I think what people don't realize is that we've wasted billions of dollars on airplane security, but that public transit security is doing about as well as we can expect it. After a bus or train gets blown up in the U.S., that's when the U.S. will beef up security. That's how our society works. We spent billions of dollars on airline security after 9/11, even though 9/11 itself solved the airline security problem to a large degree. No one will ever try and take over an airplane again, especially not when there are other targets. And as Israel can probably tell us, there's not a whole lot you can do to prevent bombs on buses at the bus, train, or station level.

If anything, I'd say that the london and madrid bombings are proof that they could be attacking the US, but they simply didn't want to at that particular time. And of course by 'they', I mean those faceless and nameless terrorists who we should all be on the lookout for. I'm sure that the news organizations think they are raising the alarm by saying "buses and trains could be next", but is that really news?

Ahhh, whatever. there's a million targets in the U.S., and people can try and sound the alarm on all of them (the water supply! the power plants! public transit! bridges! oil refineries! hmmm, maybe I am making a to-do list right now) but the simple fact is that you can't prevent an individual (or group of individuals) from doing anything, especially if they're willing to die for that cause. And especially not if you want to preserve individual liberties at the same time. Actually, there's an idea! We could force everyone to get totally naked before they board and public transit vehicle! Or even better, let's not let anyone bring anything anywhere they are going- it would have the added benefit of boosting our consumer spending rates because everyone would have to buy new clothes, toothbrushes, and computers wherever they went!

It's been almost 4 years since 9/11 (of course, if you listened to Bush's security speech a couple weeks ago he makes it seem like yesterday), and yet I think that's still not enough time. And what I mean by 'enough' is that if another attack happened, Americans everywhere would go apeshit, shutting down whatever it is that gets attacked, rounding up thousands of people everywhere, sending the economy into the tubes and escalating "the war in Iraq" into "the war on the Middle East". Maybe I'm the one who's actually guilty of paranoia here. But I don't think so- I think I have a totally normal, rational fear of genuine American stupidity.

The last thing I want to imply is that the terrorists are 'winning', though. Even though the US might curtail some civil liberties with stuff like Patriot Act II, that's not what they're after. Osama doesn't think to himself "I'm living in a cave, but at least the US is a virtual police state now!" If anything, he's just going to exacerbate the tensions between Islam and the West. And in that case, everyone loses. But I don't think the terrorists really think things through any better than anyone else, although the eternity in paradise with 70 virgins seems pretty enticing (are they eternally virgins too, though?)

Well, anyway, thanks for reading Your Thoughts Exactly, where every post you read could be our last!

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