Category Archives: SOCIAL and NEWS

Beware the Zombie Hordes!

My brother sent me this Web board link:
http://www.graffe.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29465

which contained a link to a news article:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/08/high_school_zombie_threat/
which is about a high schooler in serious twubble for a perceived threat to his school. According to the highschooler, the threat is in the form of a fictionalized account of an unnamed school being attacked by zombie hordes.

If this is true, either our “administrators” and legal bigshots are completely off their rockers, or they know something regarding the undead we don’t and should be very concerned about.

I remember when I was in HS I wrote fictional stories all the time that had something to do with school or teachers or teen friends…because that’s the life I was a part of. I was a student at a school that had teachers and all my friends were teens, so naturally, my fiction would have those elements. I can’t imagine if I went to school post 9/11 how often I’d be in trouble for what I wrote.

“I’m still free, how about you?” – binLaden (not really)

On the same subject, here’s a very interesting group:

www.zombiehunters.org

I saw them (although I missed their presentation) at Archon sci-fi/gaming convention last year. They looked COOL! One member has this REALLY killer black jeep with their logo on it…. anyway. I thought they were some role-play group like the Society for Creative Anachronism or Live Action Role Play or something. I didn’t realize until yesterday, when I really started looking into them, that they’re a real organization that believes in what they do.

Oh, not zombie hunting exactly. Their forum has some threads on the theoretics of if a viral or bacterial mutogen could create zombie-like symptoms in living people…but that’s not the point. The point is, they believe that if they prepare for hordes of attacking zombies, they’re prepared for anything. And that includes natural disasters, disaster relief and planning, as well as survival preparation and pseudo-paramilitary training.
They’re careful to point out they’re not “survivalists” in the Idaho compound sort of way, or seperatists. They just believe in good planning for all terrible occurrances and successful survival afterward.

It’s really interesting. I’m considering involvement.

Mario Brothers Made Me Do It!

60 Minutes had a report on whether the violence in Grand Theft Auto can cause someone to murder.

I didn’t see the report, but this debate has raged for years in many other venues. The idea is that violent video games cause kids to be violent and potential murderers. Some go so far as to say games train kids to murder. Games like “Hitman” and “America’s Army”.

To that I say, when they make game controlers that look, feel, and act like an M-16 carbine or a garrote, then perhaps. But unless H&K starts making a submachine gun that looks like a game controller, there’s no viable training involved here. Anyone playing any video game isn’t going to know how to disengage the safety much less know how to load and chamber a round. Although they may get that from movies….

But I’m being a little facitious. The real issue, does it make kids more violent? Are kids that influential?
My opinions: Not necessarily, and yes to some degree.
What?! An avid video game player and violent movie watcher admitting that violent media may actually have an affect?
Yes. I believe that violent media desensitizes one to violence. I think I’m an example of that. My watching violent movies (mind you, I’m not even talking about slasher movies which I detest,) has desensitized me a LITTLE bit to violence. And I have seen kids, small kids, act out violent behavior mimicing TV.

However. I think real-world violence desensitizes 100 times more and efficient. If a person grows up in an environment where people around them are violent, that will do more than a million hours of movie watching and game playing. If they see people around them getting their way through intimidation or force. They constantly hear and see news reports of violence all over the world.

Although, to take another look at it, we’ve always been a violent culture. Looneytoons have been around for decades. Violent westerns and gangster movies. Then before the 20th century, most every kid was involved in hunting or war or crime or protecting their family from crime. It’s only really been in the last 100 years that our culture has really become one where a person can be expected to not come in contact with violence or death and killing.

And per capita, violent crime is down. There are more people in the country every year, and every year crime rates stay about the same or go down.
Which brings me to this challenge: If games like “Grand Theft Auto” which alone has sold millions of copies, are killer makers, why don’t we have unchecked violent crime? Why is crime committed by teens down?

Government’s Bereau of Justice Statistics shows violent crime going down over the last 10 years.
Governmental Office of Juvenile Justice shows juvenile crime in 2002 at its lowest point in 10 years. Half of what it was 8 years prior.
Late 90’s report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (focus on California crime)

In the 50’s, a psychologist did a very one-sided study on criminals and found most convicted criminals read comic books. So he concluded that comics books lead to declining morality and a propensity toward crime.
Despite the fact he was a licensed psychologist, he failed very basic statistics 101 concepts. He didn’t also study how many “normal” kids and teens also read comic books as well as adults with no criminal history who read comic books as a youth. Also, that notwithstanding, concluding that one component of someone’s life is a cause for criminal mentality based solely on the fact that that item is present in most similar person’s lives is spurious logic and faulty deductive reasoning.
Most heroin users drank milk as a child. Therefore milk leads to hard drug use. Nevermind that milk itself is harmless and most non-heroin users also drink milk.

We know now that comic books, with their glorification of violence, are perfectly harmless. Just like all past social scapegoats: jazz music, then swing music, rock and roll, then heavt metal, Dungeons & Dragons…. These are all social areas where millions of people have listened to or participated in, even to excess and have not become criminalistic.

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service has published research, like this one, that presents a very complex reason for juvenile violence.
It states what I think is obvious: no one factor causes a kid to become violent, much less criminal. In fact, it takes a mixture of components to create a criminal person, there is no one cause. There is no one thing a person can point a finger or a lawsuit to and say “That made this kid kill!”

And that complexity is the other part of the problem. We humans don’t like complexity. We like simple answers that make sense. Magicians and con-men both recognize this and capitalize on it. We humans like to fill in the holes with “common sense” and make simple answers for things we don’t understand. ( I could get into another anti-religious tirade right here, but I’ll hold off.) We feel comfortable trying to find the one thing to blame, it helps us sleep better at night, thinking we have the answer and it’s something that can be fought. And so we completely ignore the complexity of the issue. We’re so busy find a single scapegoat we lose sight of the real problems.

And create new ones or enlarge an existing one, which I see as displacement of responsibility. If there’s one thing that the complexity of the situation, of the causes reinforces in me, is the belief that it all comes down to individual responsibility. It’s not the music someone listens to, it’s not the movies, it’s not the games, not the neighborhood, not peer pressure — it all comes down to the individual. You are responsible for your actions. Those two 18 yearolds being encouraged to blame “GTA” for killing people, they are responsible. They broke and entered, they pulled the triggers, they sought to get away with the crime. They are responsible. Movie makers can make all the violent movies they want, game makers can make a million violent games, but it doesn’t matter if we hold everyone accountable for their actions.

We’re raising kids in a culture where it’s OK to find reasons why you’re not at fault. Where it’s the norm to shift blame and seek a cause for the actions. If there is one additional factor of blame it may be parents. Parents are responsible for raising their kids and have the most control over all the factors. But even so, what they’re most responsible for is raising kids who take responsibility for their actions. But all too often parents raise their kids with the attitude “Not my perfect child, they couldn’t have done that. It must be a friend at fault, or the teacher, or music.” Stand-up comedians joke about it, but it’s true. Once there was a time when kids got in trouble at school they got in double trouble at home. Now if a kid gets in trouble at school parents march to the school and demand an apology for punishing their kid.

I LOVE violent videogames! Love violent movies. Used to love death metal and speed metal as a teen. (I still listen to old Metallica and Black Sabbath.) I was an avid D&D player. I loved the most violent cartoons. All of this, if any or all of these really had some powerful ability to make killers, shouldn’t I be a violent criminal? If these are such evil and powerful social ills? And yet here I am. I’m not even capable of killing a bird (I cried for hours and felt guilt for months when I killed a bird with a BB gun around age 11.) I’ve never been in a fight with anyone. Never involved in an instance of road rage. I don’t even cheat on my taxes.
Am I an exception? I alone know more than 20 individuals who are metal music listening D&D playing violent game playing and violent movie watching young males. And not a one of them displays violent or criminal behavior.

The evidence doesn’t bear out the theory. Juvenile crime rates continue to fall even while more and more violent games and movies come out. Meanwhile lawsuits and lawsuit settlements rise. THAT’s a more telling piece of information in my mind.

Yeah! The proletariat has broken into space!

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/10/04/spaceshipone.attempt.cnn/index.html
The X-Prize has been won, and the door has been opened for commercial, civilian space flight!

Oh, we’re still decades away from from interplanetary travel…perhaps many decades. And maybe even a century away from regular civilians entering space for less than $100K. However, the posibilities of newer orbiting space stations, lunal stations, asteroid mining, Mars exploration, will only accelerate. We may see a day in my lifetime when ordinary union workers will be flown into space to work on asteroid mining or scientists going into orbiting stations or to the moon on a regular basis.

Altough, the length of time between the Wright Brothers 1st flight and the hundreds of airplanes used in arial battles in WWI seems rediculously short. And from WWII to the fighter planes of WWII and jets of the Korean War to space travel by 1969…the jumps of evolution of space travel may be just as dramatic.

Even if I never have the chance to travel into space, even low Earth orbit, it’s still very exciting!

“New Craze/Pastime” Is a Rare and Ancient Ritual

CNN article on the body-mod ritual of suspension.

Well, I just lost a lot of respect for CNN. Granted, they can’t be “up” and “hip to” every counter and sub-culture out there, but they can tone down the blatant and unfounded sensationalism somewhat.

Basically, a group of people wre found on a beach practicing “suspension.” A ritual in which one suspends themselves on hooks through their flesh. Usually through the back over the shoulders, sometimes from the chest, or from many points along the front or back.

It’s a very personal, spritual, powerful way some people reach a mental “place” outside their body. No, not astral projection, just an altered awarness and mental state. And it’s not a new pastime–very few people practice this extreme form of body modification. I mean, sure, thousands of college kids have gotten their navels and tongues pierced over the last ten years, but it takes a very dedicated, very intensely concious person to agree to and then practice the act/art of suspending themselves from very large hooks. Do you really think this is going to be some craze that sweeps the nation?

Native Americans performed this ritual both as a rite of passage and as a part of vision quests, for centuries. There’s evidence of other primitive cultures around the world performing similar rituals for either developing oneself as a warrior, or for a spiritual ritual.

“New craze.” Sheesh. What bad journalism.

A suspender’s web site (may be disturbing to some)
An About.com explanation of suspension (have your pop-up ad killer on)
Art, an member of Sci-Fi’s “Mad Mad House” performing suspension

Fiction on the Sci-Fi(ction) Channel? No way!

CNN article explaining SciFi special a hoax

Background (in case you don’t want to read the article nor watch Sci-Fi channel commercials,) in conjunction with M. Night Shaymalan’s new movie “The Villiage”, Sci-Fi Channel produced a documentary that was supposed to be an expose’ on M. Night that gets “too personal” and M. Night refuses to be a part of any more. It’s supposed to be very revealing and a little mysterious.

Here’s the deal, it’s a documentary produced by the SCI-FI Channel, to be aired right before the release of a new spooky movie, made by a director known for spooky “what’s real, what’s not” themes. Is there anyone with an IQ over 90 who actually thought the documentary was totally real?

But, because reasonable people like us understand this, we can still be excited about the air of mystery around it and enjoy the feeling of spookiness about it and participate in the fictional drama.

So it really, really surprises me that CNN would make some big deal about the fact that this fictional documentary was…fictional. Who didn’t “get it”? And why ruin that dramatic feeling by making a big deal about it being a hoax? It’s entertainment for goodness sake, not some “48 Hours” or “Nightline” special.

Here’s something I don’t get: the article mentions a couple of times that people felt they “went over the line.” But they don’t explain HOW. What the heck is “over the line”? Was it over the line for the surprise ending of “The Sixth Sense”? Was Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds” over the line? Was the Web marketing of “Blair Witch”, which claimed the movie was real, over the line? Every “got” that. The whole premise was fun to consciously “buy into.” Why make a big deal it was faked as if you were personally hurt or damaged by it?

I just don’t get it.