Archive for News

Too soon?

Seems that an Irish writer has gone and upset the applecart again.  He’s only gone and written a sitcom based in the time of the Irish potato famine.

Consequently there are calls for it to be banned for being an affront to the dignity of those who died or emigrated.

Hang on a mo.  How many died?  A million or so?

Wasn’t Blackadder 4 set in World War 1?  I don’t recall the same outrage when that was commissioned.  It’s nearer to the present day, more people died, more people had their lives turned upside down.

Ah but laughing at awful situations is frowned upon now.  Really?  Why?

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Gamer what?

Do you ever hear about something and just wonder at how inane it all is?  OK yes this website I know.  But discounting that?

I’m behind the times a little on this but I’ve failed to come up with anything that can summarise the sheer disbelief in how pathetic something can be yet somehow still retain the power to cause so much upset and offence.

The thing in question is “Gamergate” (gg from now on).  I won’t go through the history of it as that’s been done by innumerous other blogs and news sites.  It’s about “ethics in videogame journalism” apparently.

Did I mention how inane it was at first sight?

Only it’s not journalists and game sites that are being grumbled about really.  Mainly it seems to be about harrassing women in tech.  One female journalist (NB with no issues regarding her ethics) has left the games press due the stress she was getting from gg; one female game developer had the veil on her private life lifted by a grumpy ex and death and rape threats etc etc; another female game dev had to leave her house after rape and death threats again; one female game critic (independent – not even writing for a games site) had more death threats, a speaking engagement cancelled due to a significant threat of a school shooting if she were allowed to speak and on and on.  Yes you read that right.  Years ago gamers were outraged when people said that games lead on to violent behaviour; now they’re threatening a school shooting purely because of an intellectual disagreement about games.  It’s amazing to see how spectacularly mis-judged all this is from the GGers side.

The one connection being damn all to do with ethics but because they’re outspoken women.

I’ve had chats on twitter and followed sites where boys have been up in arms about these women “trying to take our games away”.  But they’re not.  2 of those people MAKE bloody games for heaven’s sake. And of course you’ll notice that there’s no mention of any bloody “ethics in game journalism” in there.

So then let’s go their preferred route; ethics.

Thus far their ethics have consisted of threatening women out of the industry, out of their homes, and more recently laughing and gloating at them when one of their dogs was dying (not unreasonably she was concerned re poisoning, turned out not to be the case and she publically said so – but apparently she’s paranoid – after receiving death threats pushing her out of her home). Their ethics also include trying to get game sites shut down, trying to get journalists to write “objective” reviews (whatever they are) and getting advertisers to withdraw from certain sites that don’t meet their approval (read any sites that have a conscience).  Nothing wrong with a boycott of course, not that I agree with this one.

And they think they’re winning.  One web forum has people gloating that they’re winning in that fewer people are using the “anti” tag on twitter now.  That’s not winning.  The other side have left the game.  The “anti”s are enjoying themselves in the clubhouse having a drink before going home whereas these whingers are still on hole 13 arguing about a rules infringement that’s long been settled.  But the women “anti”s are being threatened with having their cars keyed (metaphorically) in the member’s car park if we don’t listen to these imaginary ethical concerns.  Enough of the golf analogy.

My favourite bit of the this kafuffle is the whole “objective” reviews thing.  Despite asking questions of them I’ve still never had a good answer as to what this would be.  Surely “objective” is measurable, unbiased fact.  Sounds good but what would this mean in practice?

“The game works and runs at a decent speed.  Controls are tight and responsive”?

A that’s rubbish.  Almost any first party game on Nintendo machines could be effectively summarised by that review.  It tells you nothing at all of interest.  And b: even that’s subjective.  I hated a game called “Super Smash Brothers”, found the controls awful, the game a waste of life and I, and friends collectively, came to refer to it as “Super Random Button Pressing Brothers”.  But it was well loved by loads of players and the newest version is likely to increase sales of Nintendo’s latest machine massively in the US and probably the UK and Europe too.  So I’m wrong then?  Objectively maybe.

So how would fillum reviews be if they were objective?

Transformers: “Bright and loud; shot well with clear dialogue; runs for 144 minutes.”

The Artist: “Filmed in black and white, no dialogue only music but they kept putting cards up to tell us what the characters were saying; runs for 100 minutes.”

Well that’s that sorted.  We know which is more to our taste.

I’d say we’re at a stage with games now that we can assume a certain level of quality on controls.  If a particular game fails on this meter then I seriously doubt any reviewer on a decent well-thought of site won’t pick up on it and at least mention it.  Again in fillums we hear time and again something along the lines of “I loved the fillum, it has its problems but these don’t subtract too much from the enjoyment” or “I wanted to like it more but its problems just kept rearing their heads”?  Happens all the time.

So then content.  The actual issue that many GGers have is that people are critical of the content of some of the games.  This has been true since the start of computer games.  Nothing new under the sun.  Hell even novels were seen as “a bad thing” (especially for women) when they first became popular.  Imagine an objective review of a novel:

“Pride and Prejudice: Clear typeface, x many pages, bright picture on front cover”.

So what makes games different?  Only that you participate really.  Nowadays there’s a story, there’s surprise, joy, upset, fear and more.  Do people really not want any of that mentioned?  Or how well those aspects worked to the reviewer in question?  That’s purely subjective of course hence not allowable under this objective system.

And all of this is happening at a time when the games industry is at its healthiest.  More games written by more people than ever are being released covering myriad genres and styles.  The turnover of the game industry is way bigger than the Hollywood move industry.  It’s worth billions.  There’s room for everyone.

Of course the big issue isn’t ethics at all, it’s feminism.  Women getting uppity and pointing out that women characters don’t get much of a look in in certain games.  And that’s it.

Apparently one of them (Anita Sarkeesian) is the devil because she’s pointed out that women in games consist of a: victims, b: eye candy, c: captured princesses to be rescued, d: cartoonish harridans and e: an occasional playable character.  That’s her thing; it’s what she talks about.  She doesn’t talk about outlandish representations of men in games because that’s not her thing.  But apparently being biased is bad.  So that condemns all of us as we all have our biases.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!

She can’t censor, she doesn’t want to censor, she wants games to get BETTER at representing women.  And that’s it.  Cue death threats, rape threats, threats of a school shooting etc etc.

Another, Brianna Wu, runs a game studio (hilariously the common refrain of the GGers is “If you don’t like games as they are then go and make your own”.  She does!) and talks about needing more women involved in tech, in the games industry, in journalism.  If that doesn’t happen she reasonably suggests that women’s voices won’t get heard so you’ll get a male only opinion constantly feeding back into itself, hence more very male games getting made.  AARRRGGGHHH, SHE’S A WITCH! BURN HER! AND LAUGH ABOUT HER DEAD DOG, HAH THE STUPID COW SHE HAD IT COMING. KARMA AT ITS BEST. ETHICS RAAA….

Yes again, we have someone who wants to expand minds and opinions and vistas.  She clearly must be stopped.

I’d never heard of these 2 and others before all this kicked off.  I’m a massive fan of both now.  Depressing to see how insular and infantile certain other folk can be.

(Of course I’m a man so I’ll no doubt be labelled a “Social Justice Warrior” or “White Knight” – both apparently perjorative terms for someone who isn’t a raving misogynist.)

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Stressy

Ah what a month.  Some lovely things happened.  J had his 4th birthday do which involved his first event out with friends from nursery.  Turned out to be a mellow affair at this soft-play place we’d found.  Considering we paid extra for a birthday party there was very little in the way of organisation done by the place.  The kids ran around for an hour having fun (or ramming other kids in ride-on cars, grr) then a basic lunch of sandwiches and pizza slices, then more running around a bit.  J had fun anyway.

But then. Oh then.

I got a bailiff’s letter demanding £1400 or thereabouts.  For non-payment of council tax at my place.  Seems the tenants hadn’t told the council they were there and letters hadn’t been passed on to me.  Hence angry red letter at my door.

On phoning the bailiffs it seems that they were just about to come round and nick all my stuff.  I asked how soon I needed to sort stuff and they wouldn’t tell me.  Had I got a week or a couple of days?  Wouldn’t say.  Well that was a stressful weekend.  The letter came on a Saturday so I couldn’t contact the council until the Monday.

To cut things short it’s now all sorted out.  Seems the tenants had sublet to “friends” who left them in the lurch.  They disappeared after being confronted about this debt.  Thankfully all paperwork was kept and in order.

Starting soon there’s a couple moving in who only want the place until March.  Perfect for me as I can get in there and hopefully get the place ready to sell.  I hate being a landlord – I don’t have the time nor money to do the job properly.  Fingers crossed I can sell and not lose money on the place.  Sigh.

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Oooohhher

This annoyed me.  Best news for the NHS in ages comes along (see here) which states that, yet again, it’s the best health service around (in lots of ways) and it seems to have been completely ignored by various newspapers whose political interests are not served by reporting it.  Bloody shocking.

So yet again, feel free to ignore those “The NHS is over-priced and unaffordable, as well as badly managed” news stories.  It’s nonsense designed to get people more amenable to selling the thing off – to which the only benefit is that lots of politicians involved get rich by moving to jobs as consultants in the companies that will the contracts.  We get a more expensive health service with worse outcomes.  Great swap eh?

Edit: there will be people who whinge that we came second to last in “Healthy lifestyles”.  Well if we pushed harder at the healthy lifestyles thing from government then those complaining would also be those most vociferously complaining about “bloody government telling us how to live, how dare they?”

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Just popping this here

BlzLkIxIQAAl-Tm

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Better with finances eh?

There seems to be some belief going around that the Tories are better guardians of the public funds than Labour were during their reign.  Shouldn’t the public deficit be going down then?

Debt

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Not just the Mail

In the interest of balance I just needed to mention this.  Nigella Lawson is apparently in court today.  I’m not that interested in the story as it seems rather horrible to look at someone’s married life breaking down so publicly.  Anyway the Guardian, yes the Guardian, of all places sees fit to include the following line in its coverage:

“Lawson, dressed entirely in black apart from a white collar on her shirt, said:”…

Sigh.

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A bit of knowledge is bad for you

There’s been a very lurid and unpleasant news story doing the rounds this week.  In bald terms it sounds absolutely horrendous – so it’s perfect tabloid fodder then.

There’s a woman.  She was pregnant.  A “secret” family court agreed that medics could then require a c-section on her and then take her baby away.  Orwellian nightmare!  So says the judge who insists on the state’s agents explaining themselves.

And it is pretty horrible.

But the real oddity is the way the story was reported.  It all seems to be about the faceless bureaucrats merciless stealing a woman’s baby, helped by evil medics doing the state’s dirty work.  And, reading that link’s comments, this is how people are reading it.  Even Liberty seem to say that this is all horrible and they’re the bastions of uber-PC nonsense and protecting scum [/irony], so it must be bad.

On first thought though it does seem a trifle overblown.

Firstly the medics can’t force treatment on someone unless they’re detained under the mental health act.  So clearly there are at least some mental health issues in the story.  This is quite an extreme response so I’m guess that the mental health issues are quite extreme.  Indeed the last line in that linked story says

“Essex children’s services said a health trust had applied for the forced caesarean after telling social workers it had concerns over risks to the health of mother and baby. It said Italian courts had been made aware of the case and ‘social workers liaised extensively with the extended family”.

That sounds very thorough.  No doubt the county court weighed the evidence and came down on the side of the county.  Of course there can be errors but to contemplate actions like forced c-section I can’t believe they didn’t have some pretty urgent and valid reasons.

The judge asking them to explain themselves isn’t news – it’s what judges do – that’s what going to court is about.

And Liberty didn’t say it WAS horrible they said

“At first blush this is dystopian science fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. “

Hardly the same thing.  In fact it’s pretty much what I’m saying now.  Sounds horrible but without the back story (which we rightly won’t get the full details of) it’s impossible to know.

And of course the flip side of this story could perhaps have ended up with a story along the lines of

“Schizo woman kills unborn baby after social services fail to intervene. Sack those responsible for failing to protect this child.”

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Hot air and imbecility

The IPCC report on Climate Change came out.  Frankly we should be bloody scared about what it says because if we don’t get our backsides into gear and actually do something it’s going to be terrible.  Start with intensifying storms and increased frequency and severity of natural disasters to acidification of the oceans (leading to the devastation of aquatic life as the smallest things at the bottom of the pyramid starve hence everything else will), to raising sea levels, to potentially major extinctions (some experts currently believe we’re in a mass extinction event now).  Bloody hell!

What’s depressing about the whole thing…. well how many things are depressing?  I’m not talking about potential outcomes, I’m talking about how it’s being discussed in the media.

The first thing is that huge numbers of normal folk seem to think that it’s all overblown.  Is it?  Possibly.  My opening paragraph will be read by some as hysterical nonsense.  Well that’s just a description of the outcome if the bods doing the science are right – the only questions there are “how soon” and “what can we do to stop it”.

And then the “facts” keep changing.  Do they?  Yes well inconveniently the surface temperature hasn’t risen much since 1998 – hah, caught you.  AND the arctic ice sheet has expanded this summer, hah again!  OK well 1998 was a massively hot outlier caused by a known climate phenomenon so picking that is like saying “computers aren’t getting any faster ‘cos the US had a supercomputer back in 1998 and my desk top isn’t that fast even now”.  And this is the hottest decade on record, and the one before that was, at the time, the hottest on record, and the one before that was the hottest on record etc etc…  And the arctic ice did expand – to the 6th lowest level ever recorded.  Ah but what about the antarctic sea ice – that’s expanded hasn’t it, they cry.  Yes, yes it has.  In area.  Volume however hasn’t, and major ice shelves are breaking apart like never before.  What’s so depressing about this tack is that every single one of the objections has been answered but people don’t want to hear it so they parrot basic unthought through facts as if they’ve landed a stinging blow to those who’ve spent years actually looking at the details.  No matter how many times they’re rebuffed they’ll keep parrotting nonsense until someone they’re talking to hasn’t heard the rebuttals and then they’ll both nod sagely and think how wonderfully clever they are seeing something that thousands of profs and PhDs haven’t seen (or refuse to see ‘cos they’re only it for the moolah of course).

So yes, apparently the scientists involved are only in it for their “lucrative jobs”.  But apparently the known funders of the denialist campaigns are oil magnates aren’t in it to keep their somehwat immense profits.  If you’re looking at funding then surely the billions profit to the oil companies far outstrips the probably less than £100k salaries of the very top scientists (and certainly dwarfs the salaries of the post grads and such – UCL’s website suggests top qualified lecturers get around £40k after many years of work).  Do people really think that scientists earn immense amounts of money?  Really?

And then it’s all about tax isn’t it.  Oh yes those sneaky governments just wanting to find ways to tax us more.  What an utterly pathetic argument.  That’s right yes the government just wants us to have less money that’s right.  Why?  Because they do.  Oh yes I forgot governments just want lots of money, no doubt so they can spend it on subsiding food and drink at the houses of parliament eh?

Such a depressing thought that I share air with such imbeciles.

So on one side we have a body set up by the UN, presided over by a multinational panel of experts in their topic looking at thousands of research papers, answering every single question put to them by the governments of the UN, yes every question no matter how banal or how often asked before, and kicking out a paper that has to be agreed on by the signatories – no mean feat in science (apparently scientists aren’t easily herded sheep unlike the masses).  On the other the fat bloke down t’pub says it’s all bollocks cos he read an article that questions it written by a journalist with no more knowledge of science than a bleedin’ slug.  And what good did scientists ever do anyway, with their frankenfoods and bombs and that?

Who are you going to listen to?  The level of certainty shown in the report is the same that says “smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease” and “HIV leads to AIDS” – there are denialists who think those things aren’t true too but they’re routinely looked down on and laughed at – because that’s what they deserve.

I’m sure it’s comforting to repeat the mantra “It’s not happening, it’s not happening” to yourself over and over as you slowly crouch into a foetal position as the consequences become clearer and clearer over time.  But that’s really not helpful.

We’re an inventive species – we can sort this, or at least have a bloody good go.  What benefit is it to NOT do something?  Well you’ll save some of that extra tax no doubt.  You pathetic moron, you have evolved intelligence, bloody use it.

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Yes Prime Minister is right again

Please please please don’t read this entry’s title as “Yes THE Prime Minister is right again” – I wouldn’t dream of such a hideous thought.

I learned a lot from the tv show “Yes Prime Minister”.  One of the most useful things it taught me was the logical fallacy of:

“All dogs have 4 legs.  My cat has 4 legs.  Therefore my cat is a dog.”

or in other terms:

“Something must be done. This is something.  Therefore we must do it.”

I have seen this happen so many times and it seems to be the inevitable result of a media led government.

And what’s the most influential newspaper?  Yes, sadly it’s the Mail.  They have a massive hypocrisy thing going on where they’ll berate some for their lascivious ways but somehow their own website, which is chock full of scantily clad “celebs” and more shockingly, celebs’ daughters, many under 18, looking “all grown up” in their scanties.

Back in the ’80’s it was “video nasties” – they successfully canvassed for the most draconian fillum censorship in the western world for that one – not only do fillums and videos have to be “classified” and/or censored but they even got a quango set up that censors and vets the bloody video box covers.  In recent years the classification board has gone searching for public input and the stuff we can see are allowed to see now is far stronger than the vast majority of stuff that got banned way back in the 80’s.  Oddly the serious violence statistics haven’t sky-rocketed.  Could that possibly be because, ooh I don’t know, we’re all adults and don’t need a nanny telling us what we are allowed to see?

Now it seems the baddy is the internet.  We must save the children.

OK so am I now backing the pornographers and the exploiters of women, children and whatever?  Not really no.  I am concerned that, once filters are set up it’s a short hop from “opt in” to “not allowed”.  It also won’t take much tinkering to add a few other search terms to the banned list – maybe “demonstration” or “riot” or “sit in” will be banned next after all we don’t want too many people getting involved in direct action – we know best and we’ll keep them ignorant.

In other areas of life the Mail is banging on about how too much government is bad for us – they want lower taxes and fewer public services as a case in point.  But somehow when it comes to parents being in charge they feel that we’re not up to the job and it needs government action to “help” us.

Frankly if someone’s giving their children unfettered access to the seedier side of the internet they should be done for child abuse or at least neglect.

Can anyone argue that it’s NOT the parent’s responsibility to keep their children safe?  (That’s assuming there’s any evidence that viewing “damaging” material is in any way materially damaging) .  Somehow we’re expected to keep them safe in every other way but not when they’re on the computer?  Really?  How pathetic some parents must be.

I propose a referendum:

Question: Do you adults wish to be treated like adults?  Yes or No?

How about the government start treating us like adults?  Chance would be a fine thing.

Further problems with the system occur – my mobile provider has an opt-in system in which they ban certain websites that are flagged by visitors to them or picked up via search algorithms.  One of these is a daily diary written by a comedian I like.  It’s entirely written IE no pictures – there’s no porn, there’s no threat to anyone BUT the language used isn’t suitable for use in a family newspaper – to read this site I would have to phone up my provider and ask them to unblock the “adult” filter – thus opening me up to the entire seedy side they’re stopping at their end.  Nice unintended consequence there.

Maybe this website would be blocked under the proposals because there’s an occasional category A swear word.

And depressingly nothing will change – there are many and varied ways to subvert filters – many developed by techies in places like Saudi Arabia and China (wow aren’t we doing well – copying the practices or those 2 places just as any good free democracy should) – some of which are now untappable and impossible to decrypt.  What next?  Ban all those systems?  It would stop political dissenters keeping their anonymity but that’s a small price to pay for “keeping our children (read “your children) safe”.

So I say again – “Something must be done.  This is something.  Therefore we must do it.”

Depressing to realise that “something” in this case is a clear nod to publicity (that no sane opposition wanting to be popular would oppose) is a vacuous nonsense that does nothing but push the dodgier users on to untraceable systems thus putting them further out of reach than they seem to be now.

Edit: A tory putting my case (or part of it) rather eloquently here

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