Friday, April 28, 2006

Started to go in a different direction--thought the better of it

A change of pace

You’ll have to forgive me departing from my project of video games, but I have found myself less enamored with the subject and more concerned with a far more pressing topic of late, one that is currently weighing upon my mind; suicide. The original project was to weigh the importance of government regulation as applied to the buying and selling of video games, and to what extent states and the federal government should take part in regulating the sale of violent and graphic games to children. However, I have found myself unable to truly care much either way on the subject, unable to truly pick a stand. So, in light of recent circumstances and substantial personal losses, I have opted to instead, explore the concept of suicide, in regards to reasons for and against, including arguments from religion and a socio-economic perspective. The subject in question will be me, the writer, and it will be my personal views on life, the afterlife, love, and logic that I will be exploring throughout this paper. While the subject matter is quite personal, my arguments will be kept to the point and fairly dry in an effort to avoid anything overly maudlin. At the outset of this paper, I am in favor of suicide, and will take the reader on a journey through my thoughts, all the while providing supplemental material as to make for a balanced research paper. I hope this does not disappoint.
The realms explored in this paper will be primarily religion and finance, with an inclusion of suicide demographics in the United States and other countries. Christianity, it seems, holds the highest penalty for killing oneself, whereas many Eastern religions are far more lax in metaphysical consequences. As a person’s personal religion is often a conglomerate of personal belief, we shall study those particular to the subject. A cost-benefit analysis will be given to the subject’s financial situation, weighing the apparent gains from life-insurance to existing college debt, with concerns to next-of-kin and so on.
However, before one applies such drafty topics to an individual, one must first study the subject from a larger perspective. [Insert suicide demographics here, showing first, the world, then the United States, then the statistics for college students.]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Peer Review Letter Article

Dear Lauren,

I must say that I found your essay to be an absolute delight to read. Or, more specifically, I found the opening to be wonderfully engrossing, intensely personal, and entertaining. The second portion, full of facts, quotes, and history, I found a tad dull, dry, and wordy.
Given my understanding of your topic, and you reiteration of it in your title, I can only say that I think that your essay was a wonderful illustration of gender communication, and integration on a personal level. Your personal experience do a wonderful job of illustrating first-hand accounts of strained gender communication with which everyone can identify. I don’t quite know what you’re arguing, however. Are you simply arguing that gender communication is strained?
If that’s the case, then your argument is sound and more than settles your point. Otherwise, I’m having trouble picking up your key concepts. You include what seems to be a major overview of the recent history of feminism, but I can’t quite tell where you’re going with it.
Your credibility on the other hand, is impeccable. The past experiences that you share with your reader are wonderful and so full of vivid imagery and emotions. You evoke the sense of what it was like as a child and how it feels now, with a decade of perspective on the subject. I have to say that it touched me personally, and I found myself reflecting on my own past in regards to your subject after reading your paper. That, I think is fantastic, that you can reach your reader, touch something deep down that we all share—that hidden bit of awkwardness that’s still there all the way back from elementary school.
Your first paragraph is a straightforward plunge into your life, your past, your history, and it’s a shock at first, but it draws in the reader forcefully. You make it very clear that this article is very clearly about you—your experiences, your perspective. The big lead out at the end of that paragraph is, I think, wonderful. It’s so positive, but I was reading it and thinking “Uh, oh—is this where it’s about to go wrong? This is the sort of line at which things always go wrong in the movies.”
But it doesn’t—not immediately anyway. You move on to discuss your elementary school life, with a great overview of your life and accomplishments at that time. I think I wrote some stuff about your choice of words and a sense of hesitation in a few of them, but looking back, I think that “pretty good,” “fairly happy,” and “seemed to increase” work very well with your tone.
There’s a wonderful shift in this tone in your next paragraph—where you talk about your friendship with Daniel. There’s a wonderful, chatty feeling to this paragraph, and it like you’re having a friendly talk with your reader. It’s a great window into what seems a marvelous childhood, but the “pretty, fairly,” adverbs and “seemed” verb from the previous paragraph warn us of what’s to come.
And come it does, for while the next leads in with the wonderful, wonderful nostalgic passage about playing “without a care in the world” we bear witness to a fracture in the fantasy, a break in childhood, and though you state that you, yourself noticed very little at the time, there’s the sense that this is almost a memorial to those carefree days, and an accompanying sense of sorry that the reader can feel quite poignantly.
And here’s where it starts to get heavy, here’s where we feel the perfect world falling about. Your point emerges here in this paragraph—an inexplicable divide between the genders, made literal by the voluntary segregation on the dance floor. You even end with a great, ominous transition sentence, “It had begun . . .”
The obnoxious, screaming siren transition is great! I love it! There’s a cinematic quality at work here, that I think you’re very aware of and using to its fullest. It’s like all the paper prior to this has been a memory, a dream even, and just after the last paragraph begins to fade out, the alarm clock rings, jarring both you and the reader from your reverie. The last sentence on this one gets a great sympathy “awww” from the reader, and reminds the reader of those exact same insecurities at the time.
The mirror is a fantastic way to describe yourself. It fits perfectly in the narrative, but gives you a way to give the reader a visual as well as further your thoughts. It tells us what, exactly you thought of yourself at the time, and gets us into your head. This is wonderfully personal, and really works well.
I love the way that as you walk down the hall, we hear your thoughts—again, it’s that cinematic quality, like in a movie where the main character strolls through the hall, but you hear her thoughts as different things come on screen. I hope it’s not insulting, but I keep thinking of Lindsey Lohan’s character in Mean Girls when she starts her first day at school.
Then we transition again. It’s a departure from the movie-like feel of the earlier part of your paper, but deeper into your head. These sound like your thoughts, your musings, partly a continuation of the prior paragraph, and partly a deep introspection. It’s still wonderful and a nice transition paragraph.
It just doesn’t quite cover the abrupt shift in tone to the rest of your paper. Full of factual evidence, history, and opinion stated as fact, it breaks this wonderful effect, atmosphere and tone that had me enthralled so far. It’s not bad; it’s just a little dry and impersonal after the close, friendly tone of the previous stuff. It’s like . . . all the stuff before was stuff you’d tell a close friend, and the reader feels privileged to be listening, and then it shifts to something you’d be delivering as a speech in a lecture hall. I miss the chatting.
From your notes here, I can see that this second half is still in-progress, but even when you flesh it out, it looks like it may have lost the friendly tone of the first half of the paper. It would be great, I think, if you could intersperse this with more personal experience. You’ve given a lot already, I know, but the shift in gears to pure factoids is really hard to take. If anything, more of the “internal monologue effect would be nice.” Maybe as you observe the world around you, include quotes by Virginia Wolf, or sneak in the statistics that describe what you’re seeing. I just think that your style is too good to loose to a parade of facts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nationalism and Culture

The interview with Isaiah Berlin brings up an intriguing concept—that of nationalism in the place of cultural study. Granted, this is not a brand new idea, but after studying small communities within large areas, the researcher can lose sight of the effects of nationalism upon the culture.
Some cultures, like the rainforest tribes of the Amazon and villages in Africa possess nationalism, to a degree that is often not recognized as true nationalism to Westerners. What we recognize as nationalism is a sense of “togetherness” and fellowship with other members of a strictly defined community. It is the definition of that community as a nation that is key to our understanding of nationalism. There must be some concept of a nation, a geographic place that is home to people, home to a government before what we consider “true” nationalism to take place.
So what is it? Would we consider the tribal community of the peoples in The Storyteller to be a nation? No. But different people will argue different points. One major one is that there exists for them no clear-cut geographical boundaries to their world. As Llosa writes it, there is simply the world, and they wander it. This is not a “wrong” mindset, just one that is incompatible with the Western definition of “nation.” It seems their existence as a nomadic tribe disqualifies them as a nation, not because they are nomads, but because they seem to have no concept of geographical location and boundaries. Boundaries, however, can exist only when a culture is aware of the existence of others, and their fixed location in regards to their own. This expands our definition of a nation to mean a community that has not only geographically defined itself, but identifies itself in regards to the geographic location of other nations.
To use another example, the village of Things Fall Apart would likewise fail to be considered a nation, to western eyes. This time, the reason is much easier to understand, though more difficult to define. The community in question is too small for Western definitions to consider it a nation. While I don’t think there exists a true numerical value for the number of people in a region, a single village is undoubtedly too small. Another key factor that was made a painful point in Things Fall Apart that a nation requires is sovereignty over itself. It must reserve the right to exercise power within its boundaries with little to no interference from other countries. The incursion of the white man and the subsequent powerlessness of the native peoples to drive them out makes it clear that the single village was unable to exercise its own sovereignty.
So we have identified that geographic boundaries are essential in identifying a nation, as well as a large size. Furthermore, community members must be aware of themselves in regards to other nations, as well as exercise sovereignty within their own boundaries. The last point is one that the example groups would fulfill, which is a shared sense of community, a sense of “us” in regards to “them” or a community of others.

Journal Article

Parental Guidance Requested
Parental Figures and Video Game Playing

I never had video games growing up; my dad didn’t allow them in the house because he thought they were a bad influence. His argument was that we (myself, my brother, and two sisters) spent enough time in front of the T.V. already, and didn’t need any more reasons to do so. I can hardly fault his reasoning now—my siblings and I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the television—to this day, I can recite the opening theme to Darkwing Duck. At the time, though, it hardly seemed fair. After all, all my friends has game systems of some sort, from Jason Ho down the street with his classic Nintendo console, to my friend Lawrence Lau with his vastly superior, and thus appropriately named, Super-Nintendo, to Brandon Leung with his state-of-the-art Sega Genesis. I felt deprived, left out, bereft in sharing with my friends the adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Link, and the dubious adventures of both Mario brothers. I complained constantly, often accompanied in stereo with one or more siblings, but my dad was adamant.

Me: Dad, can we get a Nintendo
Dad: Is that one of those game things?
Me: Maybe . . . kinda . . . well, yes.
Dad: Then no.
Me: I thought you might say that, so I’ve brought in some accompaniment
Me, my brother, and one of my sisters: Dad, can we get a Nintendo
Dad: No. Stop asking or I’ll throw you to the sharks.

And that was growing up in Hawai’i. Give or take the shark part—my memory’s a bit rusty. From a retrospective distance of about a decade, though, I can see why he said “no” to our constant requests. We honestly did spend too much time in front of the T.V.—it went on the minute we got home from school, and didn’t get turned off again until dinner time; a good 3 hours later. For three hours, we would sit, listless in front of the flickering screen, bombarding our brains with shows crafted to do nothing more than hold our attention and convince us to buy plastic toys made in Japan.
In addition to this, snacks would accompany our daily worship of the T.V. and I, for one, have never escaped the long-term effects of junk food and television. To this day, I can’t run a mile or listen to the Voltron theme without thinking of Fritos—this is all you need to know to understand why my pants don’t always fit.
There were limits, of course. My dad, always a proponent of healthy exercise and “going outside” (the worst kind of “going” imaginable to a couch potato in the making) would periodically shut off the T.V. and tell us to get out of the house and into the sunshine. We would protest, of course, but the truth was that after too much time in front of the screen, there was always an uncomfortable aching sensation to our bodies, an unpleasant itching to our eyes, and stiff necks from lying on our stomachs looking up at the T.V. So go out we did, into the sunlight, and we were better for it . . . I think. I seem to remember my brother being stung by an inordinate number of bees through his childhood. I, myself avoided them, making up for it in jellyfish and Portuguese man-o-war stings—again, part of growing up in Hawai’i.
Being kids, we would play the usual games, chasing each other around for no particular reason, playing with the neighbor’s dog, listening for cars, and catching lizards, forever surprised that they responded by biting us. My brother and I would inevitably head over to the neighbor’s place, where another set of kids—two boys—lived. Oddly enough, I can’t recall where my sister’s went during our trips to the neighbor’s house, and I can only surmise that they did “girl things.” The neighbors always had the best toys, and we would play with Mighty Morphing Power Ranger toys, combining, uncombining, and re-un-combining to make large, larger, and largest robots. Some of the most fun, though, was when we’d play video games with them. They had a Super Nintendo hooked up to a television screen larger than me, and one of their favorite games was “Mortal Kombat.”
“Mortal Kombat,” produced by midway games, created an outcry in 1993, after its initial release in the United States. The fighting game allowed a player to control a pixilated puppet to fight against computer-controlled puppets, or “sprites.” Alternatively, two people could use their respective controllers to do battle with each other on a digital, two-dimensional field. Mortal Kombat belonged to a genre of games known as “fighting games” which were exactly as described; the games consisted of a series of fights verses increasingly difficult computer-controlled characters. There were some loose plots incorporated, but no one really paid any attention to them—the point of the game was to fight, to play round after round.
And play we did, round after round, against each other, or against the game itself, for hours on end. Our fingers would callus, and our backs would temporarily fuse into “C”-shapes (perhaps to make up for the one missing in the game title) until an increasing sense of nausea became unbearable and we had to walk away from the T.V.
As I recall, there was a sense of irritation accompanying this nausea, at nothing in general—but at the world itself. Did we know, on some level, that we were wasting our precious time with this game? Were we aware that our childhoods were rapidly funneling down into the dark heart of Midway Games? Could we even comprehend that in a few short decades, we would long for our carefree days of childhood, wishing that we had warmer memories of innocence and carefree play, rather than hurried breaths in a dark room, trying to beat Liu Kang with Rayden?
No, it was probably a result of watching a rapidly flickering screen in a dark room. Continued exposure to that might have given us epilepsy, but we were far to younf to humor such deep thoughts. Our parents did, though, or, at least, mine did, and these warnings were constant and regular. We were warned that we would wish that we had spent less time in front of the T.V. and more time outside playing. For example:

Mom: Jason, why don’t you take your brother outside to play.
Me: I don’t wanna—Voltron is on.
Mom: You’ve watched enough T.V.—it’s time to go outside.
My brother: We wanna watch Voltron.
Mom: Go outside, or no T.V. for a week.

Alright, so there was no deep philosophical ramblings in regards to the future in that example, but it does illustrate a threat that was used on us, and from what I gathered from talking to my friends, was used on all of them, as well: Parents got their children to leave their games and T.V. with the threat of denying them games and T.V.
There was something amiss in the logic here, but as children, we were more or less conditioned to respond to this sort of “either/or” scenario by doing what our parents wanted. We didn’t even realize that this sort of thing was a net loss either way, not being accountants, or math majors, or computers. What we did recognize was that we would loose our access to the screen if we didn’t voluntarily give it up, and thus, we did.
A decade later, I look back on this and am very thankful that my parents pulled the plug, so to speak. My neighbors would spend a great deal of time playing their video games, and I suspect, had we a system, that we, too would have played with increasing regularity. As it stood, my childhood was filled with games of pretend with my siblings, where we’d create elaborate fantasies, running around the neighborhood, making strange new worlds from the same street a thousand times. At other times, I’d be reading—fantasy and science fiction and fairy tales and comic books, loving dragons and aliens and gingerbread men and talking pets.
I began to notice a difference, though, between myself and my video-game-playing friends. In school, when it came time to define difficult words like “hyperbole,” I knew them (thanks to Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes) or when the teachers tried to pound into our heads that people from other places might have different customs, or even completely different ways of thinking, I understood. After trying to learn to understand the ways of authentic aliens in science-fiction books, how difficult could it be to understand other humans? My gamer schoolmates, however, seemed to have trouble grasping the concepts.

Ms. Matsuda: That would be an example of hyperbole. Can anyone tell me what “hyperbole” means?
Class: . . .
Me: It means “exaggeration,” right?
Ms. Matsuda: Good—you get a Luau!
Tikis: Aloha!

And that was elementary school in Hawai’i.
Reading is an incontrovertible boon to a child’s development, and while modern research is torn as to whether video-games inhibit development or aid in it, it seems that they take away from other activities. Judging by what I remember from elementary school, it seems to me that however video games affected the other students, it took away from time that could have been spent outside playing or reading.
And I noticed something else, too. The games they’d play in the playground were rough, and always involved someone being the “bad guy” or the “monster” and getting shot or blasted away. Their games were, on the whole, more violent than the ones I’d known. However, I’m loathe to attribute this to video games, as I was raised by parents who were as close in some regards to hippies as you can get in middle-class.


But let’s leave the past behind, and see what the world is like now. Video games are as alive and well as they were a decade ago—in fact, there now exists a new sort of video game, one that can be played on the computer with thousands of other players around the world at the same time. The Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, or MMORPG, is a multimillion dollar industry, with such giants as Sony Entertainment taking a hand in game production with Final Fantasy Online. Other companies, ones that deal primarily in games, have their own MMORPGs. The current leader in the United States is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. In this game, a player may create a character, customize it, and explore through a massive world full of other players and computer-generated people, monsters, and hazards.
And yes, this is the game that I play now. As I am no longer 11, and not living with my parents (a surprising feat for someone who plays video games, I’ll have you know) there exists no parental body to monitor my gaming. Because of this, though I am free to abuse the game to its wildest excesses. Calm down, it just means that I play until 4 in the morning, sometimes. Because World of Warcraft is marketed to the mid-teen and up market, it’s violence level is surprisingly low.
Violence level? What’s that? [insert ESRB stuff here]
Because the violence of World of Warcraft is low, Blizzard is able to market this product to a wider audience than, say, the now-infamous Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which sports an Adults Only sticker. Unfortunately, the accessibility of the game makes it perhaps more dangerous than simple graphic violence. The nature of the MMORPG is one that lets a player don a persona, and those unaccustomed to such a thing, or refugees from the local drama guild, can take this seriously. There are reports of individuals losing themselves in the game, or simply becoming too attached to their respective games. In South Korea, a young man gypped in an in-game trade with another young man was so infuriated that we went to the second youth’s home, and stabbed him in the best with a sword. Sound fanciful? Is it more fanciful than American student shooting up a school because his first-person-shooter game prompted him to kill his fellow classmates?
It seems that the influence of video games is spreading as more and more children play them. This, in itself can be a great boon. Like television, video games can be made educational. Unlike educational television, educational video games can be made fun. Will Wright, an award-winning game designer, creates games that stress creativity and interactivity with learning that is not overt, but rather covert—secret agent learning, so to speak. His games, like SimAnt, SimCity, and the upcoming game Spore, allow the player access into the tiny realm of the ant to being the designer of a spinning metropolis, to playing a game that creates an interactive history of life, in which the player is in charge of simulated millions of years of evolution. In learning to play these games better, the player must gain a deeper knowledge of the subject, all of which is readily available within the game itself.
There is a dark side to video game influence, though, and I have seen it with my own two eyes. I have seen the dark rooms, cut off from all natural light, the cloisters in parent’s basements—the 35-year-olds living with their parents and playing games all day long. These are people that have submerged themselves in video game culture, without a hope of returning. These are the unwashed, the unshaven, the overweight, the balding ponytail-wearers, who make video games their lives.
I wonder, with a shiver, if this is a fate that could befall me. Because I did not grow up with them, I have little grasp of how much time per day playing a video game is healthy, and in that regard, I am as crippled as those that grew up with video games but given free reign by their parents. The ideal situation would have been parental control, guidance, to video game playing. In the same way that my T.V.-watching was monitored as a child, so too could my game-playing have been regulated, and thus better prepared me for games as an adult (though some would argue that playing video games at 21 retards my ability to lay claim to the dubious title of “adult”). There is a dark limit, I know, a point past which I should travel not on, but lord help me, I do not know what it is, or when to stop. Fear for me, and fear for your children.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spontaneous but slow

Diopsid camera
Wrinkling rose
Rocking chair
Shoe bag
Portabella toes

Sasperilla King Kong
Donuts in the room
Lazergun and lymph nodes
train stop in Khartoum

Anger what vanilla
System peacock blue
Banana-fana distraught
Telephone a-flew

Neckerchief and sockhat
Gravity merengie
Dinosaur apartment
Ankylosaur rehang

Words before the ring-wrong
knowledge ground absurd
When monkeys echo tophats
Nonsense is the word

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Portrait of a Dungeons and Dragons Character

How much longer? thought Jethraak. He grunted as he wiped the sweat from his brow with a muscular, yellow forearm. The sun beat down, high above, in the Talenta sky, and though Jethraag was of hardy, hobgoblin stock, the heat was proving to be much to bear.
“Go faster!” yelled a halfling astride his swiftfoot mount as his compatriots laughed. His words were in broken Goblin, despite assurances by Jethraag that he could speak the Common of Khorvaire quite well.
Heaving out a massive sigh, the burly hobgoblin picked up his smithing hammer and began pounding again on the cherry-red metal. The forge was cheap, something likely scavenged by the halflings from some caravan, and though of appropriate size, if was of inferior make. Jethraag counted himself lucky for having packed his tools with him. These he now pounded with the rhythm of the forge, beating down on the armor. It was of Valenar make, if Jethraak was to judge. And from the bloodstains left on some of them, they were not donated voluntarily to the loot-packs of the halflings. He was not one to pass judgment on matters of armor-obtainment, though—his own armor, piled to the side of him was cobbled together from years of battle-spoils.
How much longer until they’re satisfied? The halflings had assured him that in helping to refit the armor for them, he was helping the position of Darguun in trade negotiations with the Half-Moon tribe. Three days later, he was not so sure. After three days of back-breaking labor under the burning sun of the Talenta plains, and under what he was beginning to suspect were constant Talenta insults from the halflings, he was beginning to suspect that they little humanoids were taking advantage of his hard work and generosity.
While his body was no stranger to the hard work, his generous nature was wearing thin. Sweat poured down his face, plastering his red hair to his scalp. Muscles rippled under his sweat-soaked tunic, yellow skin gleaming in the sun. A sudden blast of sparks flew from the forge accompanied by one of the infrequent gusts of wind native to the plains. While his leather apron caught most of it, a great spray of burning motes flew against his arms and face.
“Rakka!” he swore in Goblin, dropping his tools and shielding his face. This elicited another burst of laughter from the nearby halflings.
Why am I doing this? Jethraak thought to himself, picking up his tongs, wiping the sweat from his face.
As he did, his fingers brushed over the raised scars on his forehead. He knew they continued around his head, marking him as a member of the Rhukaan Taash, the Razor Crowns, those loyal to Lesh Haruuk Shaarat’kor, the King of Darguun. His loyalty to the crown was unswerving, his dedication to the nation like tempered steel. If this is what it took to aid Darguun, then so be it.
He nodded to himself and reached down his hand to pick up his hammer. Sunlight flashed over a band of gold on one finger, sparking memories. He saw his wife’s face, and knew that she was waiting for him on their farm just outside Rhukkan Draal. At this time of day, Valnaara would be feeding the twins, Kivvi and Jetraag, with a kobold servant helping nearby. Outside the other kobold workers would be plowing the fields on the acre of land they owned. Jethraak saw their faces in bright detail and remembered his promise. He had seen the wonders of the human nations during the Last War, and he had sworn to make sure that his children would grow up in a Darguun that matched or surpassed the human nations. He would go to any lengths to make sure they saw a world that was bright and gleaming. He would hammer out a thousand sets of armor, a million, if that is what it took.
With a determined smile on his face, he brought down his hammer and began his work again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the U.S. Tobacco Industry in Africa

So Angry!

I had heard about it, but didn’t believe it was true. American tobacco companies, restricted within the United States, expand their campaigns in other countries. I had initially read this in a comic book, in which the writer, Judd Winnick, had a character comment, “Every time the U.S. cracks down on smoking, the tobacco companies double their advertising in other countries.” Now Keim reemphasizes what I had assumed what I had assumed was exaggeration. Keim states “While American tobacco companies are increasinly restricted in the United States, they are expanding their advertising campaigns in the developing world” (77). I find this onerous on multiple levels.
First is my own vehement opposition of smoking. I find it repugnant that the companies would pull the same crap in other countries that they do in the U.S.—namely, sell an addictive product that kills people. And, because of the lack of regulations, lobbyists, and health programs, they are able to sell at a frightening rate. I limit myself here, because I have a mountain of unkind words for the tobacco industry, and this is not the place for them.
What is more pertinent to the discussion is my second qualm with tobacco sales in Africa, that Keim states very well. Keim says “To see people [. . .] smoking Marlboros when their children have inadequate nutrition is troubling.” (77) So, rather than feeding their children, people, addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, are purchasing packs of smokes. So, as the children grow up, they get to observe—sitting down, of course, since their malnutritioned frames can’t support their weight—their parents die a hacking, painful death from lung cancer. The tobacco industry makes me sick.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Annotated Biblioaphy Extended

Hatch, David. “Lieberman Blaster by Industry Over Ratings.” Electronic Media 20 (2001): 3, 20. A 2001 hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs panel, entertainment industry executives rejected Senator Joseph Lieberman's proposal for a universal rating system for television, movies, video games, and music. The writer conjectures that this rejection could result in Lieberman completely abandoning his stance. Lieberman’s reasons for the bill were to create a universal rating system to aid in protecting children from “explicit and graphic media images.” I think I should further investigate Senator Lieberman’s stance on video games for a fully scope on this issue.

MacQueen, Ken. “Killing Time.” Maclean’s 114 (2001): 22-6. In British Columbia, legislation was passed in 2001 what implements a mandatory classification and regulatory system for video games. Minors are no longer able to rent or buy games rated Mature or Adult. Individual stores are responsible for sorting games so that minors do not have access to such games. In British Columbia a provincial film classification branch possesses the authority to ban games that exceed standards of violence and graphic depictions set for movies. This is a set system in place that many states in the U.S. are currently emulating.

Kaminer, Wendy. “Toxic Media versus Toxic Censorship.” American Prospect 12 (2001): 23-4. Kaminer takes care in this article to define her opinions on the difference between justified censorship and governmental control. She does not make the empty claim that criticism of media content is censorship, but hammers down her point: that governmental controls on media are not in place to protect citizens, but rather to filter out things that it does not like. This is a strong point made with strong words that could very well form the basis for my argument.

Reid, Calvin. “Publishers, Writers Warn Against Censors.” In a response to presidential and congressional initiatives to address media violence, the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Society for Journalists and Authors, the Association of American University Presses, the Authors Guild, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and PEN American Center released a statement warning against the dangers of government censorship. The statement addresses perceived threats from congress that the media clean up its act. In tracking down this statement, I can certainly find some fun rhetoric to mimic for my paper.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Journal Article Proposal

Government regulation of video games will be the primary concern of my article. While some discussion of video game violence will be necessary in order to explain why some feel that government regulation is necessary, but an all-encompassing discussion of the subject will not be necessary. Instead, I will limit myself to research data used specifically in cases for and against government regulation and specific instances of video-game-implicated violence.
Specifically, my article will begin with an overview of current government regulations on the purchasing and selling of video games. This will connect to a list of different regulations in particular states across the country; from Wisconsin’s 5 years of jail time for selling a game containing mature content to a minor, to South Dakota’s lack of video-game related laws. The article will continue on to give another brief overview, this one of numerous outbreaks of youth violence that have been connected to video games, to help to explain exactly why state governments are beginning to closely monitor video game retail.
I will then cover recent developments in video game violence and subsequent government regulations with a focus on prominent figures in the debate and leading perspectives. These range from the extremist, Jack Thompson’s view on complete banning of any and all violent games, to a focus on parental regulation proposed by prominent figures in the gaming community.
This, will be my personal stand on the subject as I side with the gamers, and push for parental regulation over government regulation. My argument will revolve around current theories in parenting that urge for parents watching television with their children rather than plopping them in front of the T.V.—the argument there being that the television can be a source of education for the developing mind, but it is the responsibility of the parent to monitor how his or her child receives it. With the interactivity of video games, I argue, the potential gain is increased, but more problems arise, such as total immersion, desensitization, and subsequent rising levels of aggression, and thus the need for parental guidance is even greater. Supplementing my argument will be personal interviews with gamers to gather their perspective on the debate, to present the insider’s view on the subject, as well as excerpts from interviews with top figures in the fields of game design, game review, and game regulation.
I plan on submitting this article to the online journal, Gamestudies.org (http://www.gamestudies.org/) a self-proclaimed “international journal of computer game research.” Their focus is as follows:

Game Studies is a crossdisciplinary journal dedicated to games research, web-published several times a year at www.gamestudies.org. Our primary focus is aesthetic, cultural and communicative aspects of computer games.
Our mission - To explore the rich cultural genre of games; to give scholars a peer-reviewed forum for their ideas and theories; to provide an academic channel for the ongoing discussions on games and gaming.
This description, I think, is in keeping with the intention and subject matter of my article, and I believe that if I can manage to present my material in a clean, concise, and scholarly manner, they may publish it.

Proteus-Nix

A very lengthy description of this art post.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/31380380/

One of my favorite DnD characters. Proteus-Nix is a doppleganger--one of my first D&D characters. Ah, fun times in the Temple of Elemental Evil. His original classes were in rogue and ninja spy, from the old Oriental Adventures campaign setting. He wasn't so great with actual combat, but so very fun to roleplay. After the Temple of Elemental Evil, when we started Spelljamming, was when he really shone. You see, Proteus-Nix was an accomplished liar--his Bluff checks were insane, as were his disguise pluses.Memorable times:Choking a dragon with a bead of force.Spiking the food at the mess-hall of a ship with Love PotionAnnoying the hell out of the party paladin.In fact, I liked him so much, that when I ran an Eberron game three years later, I brought him in as a primary NPC. Disguised as a harmless old man, he sent the party on quest after quest unknowingly collecting the pieces he needed to reconstruct his spell-jammer. When it became apparent that it was a Spelljammer (a trans-planar ship) that had crashed in the middle of Aundair, half of the Houses in Eberron began to compete with the party to find the pieces. Eventually things came to head with a massive war breaking out over national borders and salvage rights.Yes, this is what he does. He sows chaos for the sheer joy of it. His personality is pure Trickster, taken from such mythological tricksters as Coyote, Anansi, Raven, and Monkey, with borrowed bits from comic-book characters as Morph and Deadpool. His appearance, as you can see, if you're familiar with Exiles, is based loosely on the shapeshifting character Morph. As a matter of fact, that "Don't Panic" pin he's wearing is not only a tip of the head to Douglas Adams, but a gag that Morph pulled in an issue of Exiles.D&D, Eberron, Aundair, Spelljammer, Doppleganger, Temple of Elemental Evil, Oriental Adventures, and bead of Force are all trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, and subsequently Hasbro Toys."Don't Panic" is copyright Douglas Adams.Morph, Deadpool, and Exiles are copyright Marvel Entertainment

Friday, April 14, 2006

Late Night Essay

I wrote a poem about a hypothetical situation. Honestly--it's hypothetical--I swear.

I’m sitting here at my computer
Wondering what to type
Contemplating whether I’ll be done in an hour
Or if I’ll be up all night

There’s a report due tomorrow
And the teacher was quite a bitch
She told us one essay question would be due
And waits ‘till today to pull a switch

I’ve been to sparknotes and they don’t help
Essay finder gave me naught but crap
Report-o-matic burned a fuse
I feel like I’m in a trap

I think I’ll spend an hour
Complaining to my friends
Talk to them about all this shit
And how it never ends.

Then I burn the midnight oils
Trying to find the notes I took
Reading through my classroom doodles
And puzzling together how they’re supposed to look

But Lo and Behold, I’ve found a site
It’ll give me all I need
I’ll yoink off the information
And my essay I shall weave

Yes, I’m ready, I can do it
My worries are but ash
The only worry I have now is
If the computer’s gonna--… 100!#$%0101 crash

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

1) Identify his argument for each "article"4) Examine how Schlosser ties his points, his narrative, his argument together. What insights have you gained about his organization (review your outlines)5) Discuss Schlosser's manner of persuasion. To what degree is it overt? Insinuated?6) Begin thinking about how you might create a similar piece. What persuasive, narrative, informative, and organizational elements might you include in your "Journal Article" assignment?

"On the Range"
Schlosser makes a statement on the replacement of the sanctuary of the past with the newere, more sinister future. Hank's past life becomes synonymous with his life, and thus when his life ends, his life ends, so to speak. Scholsser organizes his chapter with divisions that each begin with more general information that zeroes in on Hank specifically as the main point of the section is brought into view. While the style is overt, the presentation allows for a subtle presentation of information, tying the general infomation into its applicable, and real-life-affecting capabilities. I could potentially use this in my paper, presenting larger information, statistics and theories before relating it to personal experience.

"The Founding Fathers"
Schlosser treats the reader to an intimate view of the world of fast-food in the making, providing the reader with a view from humble beginnings to coporate takeovers. Specifically, though, we are treated to the life and times of Carl. Through the entire narrative we grow with Carl through his life, sharing in his ups and downs, his triumphs, and failures. We come to identify with Carl--he becomes familiar to us. In this way, what becomes the enemy to Carl becomes the enemy to the reader--we effectively see the world through Carl's eyes. Thus, Schlosser does not overtly tell the reader what is right and what's wrong, instead using our connection to Carl do the judging for us. I like the feeling of ambiguity there, that the writer doesn't TELL the reader what to think, but instead lets the reader adopt the views of a familiar character.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cat Massacre

What a Revoltin’ Development!

The “Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Severin” article provides an interesting take on the subject of cultural studies from a Western perspective. Here is an incident that took place in the Western world, but is incomprehensible to modern interpretations. What the reader is presented with in this article is not so much a completely alien culture, but instead a culture that is alien to the reader’s views because of a massive difference in time.
Time, it seems, has created a massive rift in cultural understanding, however. Though the Cat Massacre in question undoubtedly takes place in France, in the Western World, 370 years have made it a France with which the reader is unfamiliar. What is described here is a pre-industrial society, with massive differences in social structure, civil behavior, and beliefs that marks it as a culture that require further investigation to fully understand the meaning of the cat massacre.
To the perpetrators, the massacre was an extraordinarily funny joke, and the author of the article identifies that in understanding the joke, the reader can more fully understand the culture of the 1730’s artisan class. One such point that the author brings up is that the reader, in the modern age of prevention of cruelty to animals, finds something very nearly depraved about the practice of torturing and murdering cats. The author’s approach from there is not to attempt to parallel the cat killing wit modern-day approximations—for surely a reader would take issue with anything being compared to killing cats for amusement—but to delve deeply into the historical significance of not only the artisan class, but the body of folklore surrounding cats.
The working-class relationship of apprentice and master is brought into sharp relief as the reader discovers the strained relationship between the newly-bourgeoisie masters and the still-lower-class workers. The killing of the cats was, in all respects, a form of entertaining retaliation against the rich and lazy masters. It is not simply that the killing of the master and mistress’ cats as a form of disobedience, but that there are several deep significances to the uses of cats.
The author of the article unearths gems from the massive body of folklore surrounding cats, tying in not only superstition, but figures of speech that survive in both English and French today, combining humor with superstition information that I find fascinating.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sojourn

I decided to play around with an old poem--expand and update it, so to speak

Sojourn

Can I presume to speak of life,
Tell the world the little I know?
Speak of life as though I have
But a few short years to go?

What I know now is precious little
I have seen what I have seen
I have list’ned to the siren’s call
And spurned the Garden Green.

I know that karma has it’s way
To bring proud men to their knees
Turning gold to dross, riches to rags
Changing toadies into fleas.

I know that God has His simple ways
To rule the lives of men
To change the course of time and tide
Makes emperors of children.

I know luck is a fickle lady
As soon in arms as in bed
To bring great riches of evermore
Then change the gold to lead

I know that men have their own say
In how they see this world
Some see a burning hell on earth
Others, Golden gates a-pearled

I have seen this world and all the glory
I have dreamed of ones beyond
I have heard the rotting creak of gates
And wept as Cerberus yawned

I have sung the morning sunrise
I have mourned the waning moon
I know of the infant, too-young night
That perished all too soon.

I know not love, aye there’s the rub,
The transcendent truth, the darkest lie
I know not love. I know not life.
I have worlds to go before I die

Harris reading

And I’ve Reached My Limit

Marvin Harris presents a sociological study on a South American tribe, explaining what we in the “civilized world” would consider “savage” behavior as a system of societal actions necessary for survival. The behavior in question, female infanticide, frequent war, and ploygyny, wife-beating, gang rape of captured women, and other forms of male supremacy, are found in the Yanomamo tribe of Brazil and Venezuela. Harris describes their society, environment, and necessities in order to give the reader an understanding of why such savage brutalities are essential to tribes’ survival.
The article is fascinating for the reason that it attempts to provide a cultural understanding for practices that most people from civilized countries would consider “distasteful” at best, and “depraved” or more at worst. Harris’ explanation for the behavior—that it is necessary for population control and resource distribution—does not sit entirely well with me, but because of Harris’ explanation I am able to understand it better. Harris has effectively chosen one of the most difficult perspectives to argue—one of violence, brutality, and rape—and attempted to shift its horizon to match that of the reader.
While I can understand the place of female infanticide in terms of population control, I cannot understand the need for gang raping of women. Perhaps I am less unable to see it, but unwilling. I think it is at this point that I reach my limit for empathy with another culture. As different as its people and customs are, I cannot see the need for such brutality within a social structure, and more than that, I do not want to be able to see. I find the whole subject so distasteful, that I am more willing to write the Yanomamo tribes off as “savages” than try to understand a way of life that feels a need for such bloodthirsty practices and disgusting enforcements of male supremacy.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Narrative Writing Center Reflection

Narrative Writing Center Reflection
or An Abundance of Absurd Analogies

My primary concern going into the Writing Center was whether or not my Personal Narrative was indeed a personal narrative. The feedback I’d received from my peer reviews was mostly complimentary, and the major question raised in that was whether or not my paper was truly on topic. Later, during the spot-welding discussion-time during class on Wednesday, I found that a lot of my peers were confused as to the actual nature of the personal narrative. Without a single structure to follow, we all felt a little adrift in the sea of the personal narrative. While the example narratives were constellations in the night sky, none of us knew which one, exactly, pointed home, so to speak.
Thus, my question to the Writing Center consultant was simply “Is this a personal narrative?” To my delight, she answered “yes.” She said that my structure was a tad on the unusual side, but some of the stylistic things I’d done helped to clarify. Specifically, I’d broken my narrative down into paragraphs, paragraphs that each represented a different carriage in the massive train of thought that was my paper. Given that, for the most part, my narrative could be described as a conscious stream, I tried my best to separate it, break it apart so that it could be more easily understood by a reader. I used two tactics for this, one being the separation of thoughts into paragraphs, and also using single words as breaks between the paragraphs. The Writing Center tutor commented on this, remarking that they served almost like chapter headers, each marking off the main idea of the following paragraph.
One portion of my paper that seemed to require a bit of explanation on my part was the portion in which I changed tenses. In order to illustrate a level of immersion in the game, I instituted a shift in person towards the end of the narrative. While essay had begun with a personal “I” distinct from any other entity, I wanted to show a blur and eventual assumption of a fictional identity in the form of the video-game character. In order to do this, I let the lens go out of focus, so to speak on the tone of the narrative. There was a switch from “I”-me to a third-person “one,” then to a second-person “you,” finally arriving back at “I” but this time referring to the video-game character. I had to explain that this was an intentional mistake; a purposeful shift. I’m not trying to sound too proud here, but my group really liked that part and they said that they didn’t even notice the shift until after it had happened. Maybe they were just being nice, but it felt good to know that my intentional error was not in vain.
Other than that, there was little to my Writing Center visit. I went in with a simple question, and having had it answered, I left, feeling much more confident about my paper. I had a few questions about structure and style in a narrative essay, but as it turns out, the structure and style of a narrative essay are protean elements, depending greatly on the writer for individual definition. Thus, continuing with the tradition of ridiculous metaphors in this reflection, I arrived at the understanding that a personal narrative is like the writer’s thumbprint left on a sheet of paper. Every writer will leave a completely unique mark, and while one can attempt to generalize the shape and form[1] there’s not one way to write a personal narrative. It’s sort of like eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in that regard.
[1] Roundish, made of lines, and with swirly bits in the middle.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Good News, everyone . . .

The Gospel According to Franklin
The Real Good News

Benjamin Franklin’s opinions on religion are ambiguous—while he has no qualms against the idea of religion, he is very much unimpressed with the practice of religion. In his autobiography, Franklin relates to his reader a tale of his encounters with a Presbyterian minister to elaborate upon this point. Beginning with a general overview on Franklin’s opinions on his past experiences with religion, Franklin shifts to his story of the minister then concludes with his final perspective on the subject in general. The end result of his contemplations on the subject of religion is that while his fundamental beliefs are not atheistic, he, himself, is not in favor of any form of organized religion.
Franklin details his brief association with religion with regards to his current set of beliefs in an effort to lay a foundation for his later discussion. His opening sentence on the subject begins with “I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian” (590), in a straightforwardness that identifies not only Franklin’s original religious upbringing, but an opening view on the subject of religion. He immediately identifies Presbyterianism as an institution of religious education, giving it a concrete purpose and meaning. Thus, Presbyterianism, and by extension, all other organized religions are institutions established with the clear goal and purpose of educating people about religion. It is important at this point to distinguish between two meanings of the word “religion” and how they are used by Benjamin Franklin in this portion of his work. In regards to such organizations as Presbyterianism, Franklin uses the designation “religion” as in “the Essentials of every Religion, and being to be found in all the Religions we had in our country” (590). However, in regards to a set system of beliefs that apply on a personal level, Franklin uses the term “religious Principles” (590). Thus, when Franklin establishes that he did not take well to Presbyterianism—“[it] appear’d to me unintelligible” (590)—but was still “never . . . without some religious Principles” (590), he differentiates for himself the distinction between religion on an organizational level and religion on a personal level.
In regards to his personal beliefs, Franklin states, “I was never without some religious Principles; I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World and govern’d it in his Providence” (590). This first portion of his list of beliefs establishes a belief in a general Christian practice of God. However, the next few lines are less Christian than they are humanist. “the most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man; that out Souls are immortal,; and that all Crime will be punished and Virtue rewarded either here or hereafter” (590). Aside from the middle portion concerning the immortal soul, this half appears to take on a different perspective on the subject of God than standard Christianity. “The most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man” flips a long-held standard of Christianity onto its head. Rather than man serving to give glory to God, or to live out lives of penance, Franklin states clearly that God’s purpose is to do well for man, and that even this is not so much a great gift as it is “acceptable,” a satisfactory fulfillment of God’s obligations. The last portion, “all Crime will be punished and Virtue rewarded here or hereafter” contains a Franklinism revealed to the keen eye. Franklin here does not affirm any sort of belief in the afterlife, but instead offers it as an alternative to justice on earth. Even its placement in the sentence sets “the hereafter” secondary to “here” indicating a belief that punishment and reward are most likely to happen in “the here.”
Franklin does not openly devalue institutionalized religion, however. In regards to the religions found in the United States, Franklin states, “I respected them all” (590). He is quick to add, however, that he regards such “with different degrees of Respect as I found them more or less mix’d with other Articles which without any tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality, serv’d principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another” (590). Franklin’s primary complaint is not the religions themselves, for they all seem to be the same to him, but rather, their diversity schisms the people, and the multitude of religions is a cause for discord. A second complaint about religion contained within this quote is the failure of any religion to truly impress Franklin.
This failure on the part of religion to truly take hold of Franklin is illustrated by his anecdote of a minister trying to entice Franklin into becoming an active participant of the Presbyterian Church. Admonished by this minister, Franklin attends church for five consecutive Sundays. However, in Franklin’s words, “Had he been, in my Opinion, a good Preacher perhaps I might have continued . . . But his discourses . . . were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since not a single moral Principle was inculcated or enforc’d” (590, 1). Here, it becomes clear what Franklin expects from religion and does not receive. Having expressed dissatisfaction with the inspirational and moral qualities of religion earlier (“without any Tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality” 590) it becomes clear that Franklin sees the purpose of religion as a serving as a vessel in which one instills morals unto followers. Instead, what Franklin concludes from listening to five weeks of sermons, is that “their Aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good Citizens” (591). Thus, through Franklin’s eyes, the goal of organized religion is not to instill morals, as Franklin thinks should be the case, but rather to perpetuate itself, in a form of religious bureaucracy, or auto-reproduction. What Franklin found to be the tenements of the religion in question were five points that seemed to only function as methods pertaining to habits that only affect church-going life and not daily life. In regards to this, Franklin states, “These might be all good things, but as they were not the kind of good Things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more” (591). Here, Franklin very clearly states that since he could not find the morality for which he was seeking in this religion, that he gave up trying to find it in any other religion out of disgust.
Franklin’s overall thoughts on religion are that it should serve a purpose, and that purpose is to teach people morality, but instead, it creates a self-perpetuating system, concerned only with its own propagation. Franklin ends with a reference to a separate work on the subject, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion, in which, presumably, he solves the discrepancy of morals and religion. He closes the subject with a not that though people may be upset with his words here, he is less concerned with apologizing for relaying what he has seen than with conveying the facts to his audience.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

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The door slams shut behind me as dash into the dimly-lit room. I could swear that the phone was ringing, but silence fills the room, save for the rush of my feet over a carpet in dire need of vacuuming. I toss my backpack onto the floor, the silence amplifying the loud thump of the bag full of books. Words fail as I regard the phone with disbelief, daring it to continue its silence.
She hasn’t called again. I haven’t heard from her in a month. Really, what did I expect? Did I expect that the phone would be ringing and I’d hear her voice again, that she’d be on the other end, her voice pouring through the receiver like sweet, audio-wine? The red recharge light stutters, imbalances in current causing the tiny bulb to wink at me, mocking me.
Recharge.
With a resigned shuffle, I kick off my shoes. They land against the pile of textbooks at the corner of my bed, knocking over old pages of notes from semesters past, unearthed for reasons too obscure to comprehend. With a grunt, I move a pile of library books from my bed, their covers wearing away under my hands in the form of a chalky dust. I settle down into my desk, homework put aside for another . . . day perhaps? Hour, at least. I draw the computer close, the laptop’s black plastic making a smooth hiss against the wood of the table. Behind the screen is a nest of wires and drives. Tiny neon lights blink at me from the tangle in the gray gloom of the room. Under my hand, my mouse comes to life, a sullen red glow busting to life with ruby fire, illuminating the mouse pad. I slide it across the black surface, smooth as silk, in motions now permanently etched into my muscles as the computer wakes up from its day-long slumber. The black screen bursts into the garish colors of my desktop. Acid greens and alien teals burn my eyes with vicious intensity, as whites, oranges, and red tattoo my retinas, leaving aching after-patterns as I shift my gaze.
Double-click.

The computer pauses, considering the command I have given it, finally acceding to my demands, as the screen flickers again, a window unfolding itself before my eyes. I affirm to the filibustering machine what I want, and it goes black.
The gates are there, behind the log-in screen. Stone sentinels flank a stone post-and-lentil doorway, a swirl of fire between them, the text-boxes suspended equidistant between the statues. The company knows me by a name, a name attached to my credit card, attached to my address. I type in my password, a conglomerate of letters and numbers of no importance to any but me. The keyboard clicks and clacks as my fingers dance, the sound rattling through my brain as I relax, letting myself slide into the game.
Black and blue figures watch me. Locked in permanent illustration, they observe me at my keyboard as I stare blankly at the loading screen. Four pairs of yellow eyes pierce the navy illustration. The tall man, bearing a large book, the standing dead man, swords in hand, the dwarf, grizzled beard and musket standing at equal attention, and the comical gnome regard me for the briefest of moments as the game loads.

Reboot.
I spin quickly in my chair, the rough fabric scratching me through my shirt, eyes and ears straining. Was that the phone? Was she finally calling? No. I turn back and settle in, sliding down in my chair, right hand resting lightly on the mouse, left hand hovering over my keyboard before resting, fingertips lightly touching on the familiar pattern of the WASD keys. The plastic of the keys has been worn smooth, white letters worn away from constant use. The room lights up as the screen comes to life, monitor pouring a wash of light over the walls.

“World of Warcraft is an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world. World of Warcraft is a "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" which allows thousands of players to interact within the same world. Whether adventuring together or fighting against each other in epic battles, players will form friendships, forge alliances, and compete with enemies for power and glory.”
—“An Introduction to World of Warcraft,” Blizzard, Inc.

White, burning light.
In the game, it is daytime. On my screen I see countless tiny figures milling about. Each less than a hand-span tall, they rush about, some too fast to be seen. I see them all move.
Each character is unique. There are four races in this city. The elves, the dwarves, the gnomes, and the humans. Tall and short, stout and thin, they fill the screen. Facial features and hair style and color are determined at character creation. Armor is collected through playing, clothing determined by luck and perseverance, ranging through entire spectrums of color; reds, greens, purples, blues. Weapons flash from character’s sides, or glint from their backs. Swords and spears, maces and staves, some glow and other merely gleam. Above each of them, the hundred that rush about, are the names, written in green. Character names form a glowing green swarm of gibberish, hovering over the masses like teeming flies.
Each of these characters, animated pixilation, digital manikins represents a human being. Each of these is another person, similarly seated at their computer, somewhere across the globe, anywhere and everywhere, part of the parade of puppets.

“MMORPG is an acronym for "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game". In an MMORPG, thousands of players exist in the same game world at the same time.”
—Blizzard, Inc.

I have one too. Female. Gnome. Dressed in blue robes—the mark of a mage. Her name is a trick of Japanese—“Nani”—a word, that be taken to mean simultaneously a question and an answer. It stands; idle animations making the puppet’s head turn from side to side, in a simulation of realism. I type the “W” key and she darts forward. Programmed subroutines and lines of code cause the digital illustration of a cape to flap behind the puppet as the representation of arms move in the simulation of running. It is still again. I hold “W,” using “A” and “S” to steer, as the puppet’s line of movement veers left and right.
Respond. The perspective shifts. Behind my screen, I can see the world changing, perspective changing, angles shifting to allow for a new point of view. The computer is processing countless strings of calculations to create the illusions that appear before my eyes. Nani is positioned with her back to me, and it is as if I float, hovering a constant few feet above and behind her as I control her actions. There is a sense of voyeurism with such detachment. The puppet moves and I follow, controlling its actions, watching,

Monday, April 03, 2006

Personal Narrative with revisions

Jason Clements
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The door closes behind me as rush into the room. I could swear that the phone was ringing, but the room is dead silent, save for the rush of my feet over a carpet in dire need of vacuuming. I drop my backpack to the floor, the silence amplifying the loud thump of the bag full of books. Words fail as I regard the phone with disbelief, as if daring it to continue to be silent.
She hasn’t called again. I haven’t heard from her in a month. Really, what did I expect? Did I expect that the phone would be ringing and I’d hear her voice again, that she’d be on the other end, her voice pouring through the receiver like sweet, audio-wine? The red recharge light stutters, imbalances in current causing the tiny bulb to wink at me, mocking me.
Recharge.
With a resigned shuffle, I kick off my shoes. They land against the pile of books at the corner of my bed, knocking over old pages of notes from semesters past, unearthed for reasons unknown to any mortal man. With a grunt, I move a pile of library books from my bed, their covers wearing away under my hands in the form of a chalky dust coating my palms. I settle down into my desk, homework put aside for another . . . day perhaps? Hour, at least. I draw the computer close, the laptop’s plastic making a smooth hiss against the wood of the table. Behind the screen is a nest of wires and drives. Tiny neon lights blink at me in the gray gloom of the room. Under my hand, my mouse comes to life, a sullen red glow busting to life with a ruby flare, illuminating the mouse pad. I slide it across the black surface, smooth as silk, in motions now permanently etched into my muscles as the computer wakes up as well, the black screen bursting into the garish colors of my desktop. Acid greens and alien teals burn my eyes with their vicious brightness, as whites, oranges, and red tattoo my retinas, leaving aching after-patterns as I shift my gaze.
Double-click.

The computer pauses, considering the command I have given it, finally acceding to my demands, as the screen flickers again, a window unfolding itself before my eyes. I affirm to the filibustering machine what I want, and it goes black.
The gates are there, behind the log-in screen. Stone sentinels flank a stone post-and-lentil set-up, a swirl of fire between them, the text-boxes suspended equidistant between the statues. The company knows me by a name, a name attached to my credit card, attached to my address. I type in my password, a conglomerate of letters and numbers of no importance to any but me. The keyboard clicks as my fingers dance, the sound rattling through my brain as I relax, letting myself slide into the game.
Black and blue figures watch me. Locked in permanent illustration, they observe me at my keyboard as I stare blankly. Four pairs of yellow eyes pierce the navy illustration. The tall man, bearing a large book, the dead man, swords in hand, the dwarf, grizzled beard and musket standing at equal attention, and the comical gnome regard me for the briefest of moments as the game loads.

Reboot.
I spin quickly in my chair, the rough fabric scratching me through my shirt. Was that the phone? Was she finally calling? No. I turn back and settle in, sliding down in my chair, right hand resting lightly on the mouse, left hand hovering over my keyboard before resting, fingertips lightly touching on the familiar pattern of the WASD keys. The room lights up as the screen comes to life.

“World of Warcraft is an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world. World of Warcraft is a "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" which allows thousands of players to interact within the same world. Whether adventuring together or fighting against each other in epic battles, players will form friendships, forge alliances, and compete with enemies for power and glory.”
—“An Introduction to World of Warcraft,” Blizzard, Inc.

White, burning light.
In the game, it is daytime. On my screen I see countless tiny figures moving around. Each less than a hand-span tall, they rush about, some too fast to be seen. I see them all move.
Each character is unique. There are four races in this city. The elves, the dwarves, the gnomes, and the humans. Tall and short, stout and thin, they fill the screen. Facial features and hair style and color are determined at character creation. Armor is collected through playing, clothing determined by luck and perseverance, ranging through entire spectrums of color; reds, greens, purples, blues. Weapons flash from character’s sides, or glint from their backs. Swords and spears, maces and staves, some glow and other merely gleam. Above each of them, the hundred that rush about, are the names, written in green. Character names form a glowing green swarm of gibberish, hovering over the masses like teeming flies.
Each of these characters, animated pixilation, digital manikins represents a human being. Each of these is another person, similarly seated at their computer, somewhere across the globe, anywhere and every, part of the parade of puppets.

“MMORPG is an acronym for "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game". In an MMORPG, thousands of players exist in the same game world at the same time.”
—Blizzard, Inc.

I have one too. Female. Gnome. Dressed in blue, eye-catching robes—the mark of her profession. Her name is a trick of Japanese—“Nani”—a word, that be taken to mean simultaneously a question and an answer. It stands; idle animations making the puppet’s head turn from side to side, in a simulation of realism. I type the “W” key and she darts forward. Programmed subroutines and lines of code cause the digital illustration of a cape to flap behind the puppet as the representation of arms move in the simulation of running. It is still again. I hold “W,” using “A” and “S” to steer, as the puppet’s line of movement veers left and right.
Respond.
The perspective shifts. Behind my screen, I can see the world changing, perspective changing, angles shifting to allow for a new point of view. Nani is positioned with her back to me, and it is as if I float, hovering a constant few feet above and behind her as I control her actions. There is a sense of voyeurism with detachment. The puppet moves and I follow, controlling its actions, always watching. There are other players, but they may as well be ghosts for all that they affect my character. I guide her out of the gates of the city, and into the forest. The background noises change, almost too subtly to be noticed. The artificial sounds of people bustling and chattering are exchanged for the chirping of birds and the soft sigh of wind through branches. My screen displays the forest, spreading out over the simulation of distance. Through the trees I can make out the deep portions of the forest, where pixilated monsters lie in wait, programmed to be hungry for player-controlled characters.
This world is massive, built to scale around the player characters to recreate two massive continents, sectioned off by mountain ranges and natural barriers. There is enough space for the thousands of player characters to roam and never see one another. This is not the only one that exists. To allow for the millions of players that play the game, designers have copied the same world over and over, the same, self-contained world repeated a hundred times, each one cut off from the rest.
If one were of the right mind, one could see the screen as not an LCD display, but a window. Indeed, the sound, the responsiveness of one’s character, the depth of the world almost seems to invite the player in, creating an alternate reality, a tempting form of escapism. Check the phone again.

She hasn’t called—she probably won’t. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? You know someone for too long and they just stop calling. I slam myself back down in my chair, clicking furiously with my mouse, fingers pounding down so hard on the keyboard that I think that they’ll stick. Below the desk, I kick hard against the wood, there is a cracking noise as something breaks. Stupid! The wood is ragged and I feel it bite into my skin, leaving a trail of splinters buried inside me.
React.

She walks forward. It has been a while, but she knows where to go. Nani propels her tiny body through the forest. A small stream flows through—ignore it. There were fish in there once, but no longer. Other players had over fished it, and now the river was just a clear, blue stream. Cross at the bridge—avoid the gnolls. Ravenous dog-men stalk the woods, ready to surround the unwary player, ready to leap from behind trees with yelps and barks, jaws slavering. She has been through this area enough to know where everything is, what paths are safe.
Zoom in.
Travel on through, travel on through until you reach the edge of the forest. Travel on until the trees thin, travel on until the grass underfoot gives way to rough clay. Until the sounds of your feet padding softly over bright green becomes the sharp thud of boots slapping against hard ground, where the chirping of birds dies away and what is left is the howl of wind. When you see the river before you, cross it, swim through the murky waters, through the brown muck, until you emerge on the other side, dripping wet, in the Duskwood.

I can hear the owls hooting, and out of the corner of my eye, tiny lights blink in the low bushes. Tall trees loom over head, branches and leaves lost in shadow. This is a place of darkness, of living shadows and sudden deaths. Giant spiders lurk in these woods, I can see them, larger than any gnome—a green leg slipping out around a tree trunk, a swollen abdomen slick with poison glinting the nether light of Duskwood. Fortunately, they are too far away to notice me. Still, I can hear the chittering noise of their mandibles clacking together. I can see the green ichor that drips from their fangs, leaving stained trails on the blackened grass. One bite would mean instant death—a single scratch from those poisoned daggers would send a searing poison through me, killing me in a matter of seconds. I back up, not ready to deal with them, and a howl from behind me reminds me that spiders are not the only inhabitants of Duskwood.
Two hours later, I am still in the woods. More confident now that I’ve become more familiar with the dark locale, I dart toward the graveyard. I no longer fear the spiders—I know that the fire I wield is enough to drive them away. The woods are silent, and there is the faintest whisper of something moving nearby. It has been bothering me for the past hour—the sound of something following me. Someone, or something has been stalking me,
There is a rush, a blur, and a snarl of fangs and claws, as I stagger back. A zombie! This shambling parody of a human being lunges toward me, slavering and moaning. Wet, gray flesh hangs from exposed bones, and a jaw far too wide to be natural is filled with needle-sharp teeth. It snaps at me, and my heart skips a beat. A twisted hand, foot-long black claws protruding from it, slashes at my midsection. With a cry I stumble further back. I have seen what this monstrosity would do me—it would kill me, and gorge itself on my still-warm body. Its voice is a confused babble of words that it once knew in life and it fills my ears. There is another sound, too, harsh and shrill, halfway between an extended beep and a ringing noise somewhere in the background. Ignore it—there’s a zombie trying to eat me—that’s a bit more of a priority.
Fire courses out from my fingertips, engulfing the monster in flame. Crackling red light licks up and down its rotting flesh, setting the monster ablaze. One fire spell had been enough to drive off the spiders, but this aberrant beast felt no pain. It continues to slash at me, and I cannot dodge it forever. My staff is drawn, and I deliver a resounding blow to the creature’s head. There is an almost humorous noise, like that of an empty coconut being struck, accompanied by that incessant ringing noise. What is that? I yell in frustration and fury as the claws strike home again, tearing through my robes, biting deep into my flesh. Someone’s talking—I hear a voice in the background—it’s distracting me from the task at hand. I grit my teeth and begin to cast another spell. Fire is not my only weapon—ice will freeze it in its tracks, and then I can—
With a gibbering cry, a hand with blackened claws drives into my face, and the screen goes dark.
I’m dead.

My heart is still beating, pounding furiously. With an outraged yell, I slam my computer shut. I stand up—I can feel the splinters digging deep; far too deep to ever be retrieved—and whirl around, shoving my chair back. It hits the floor—but by then I’m halfway to the door. I cut the lights and the florescent bulbs cease their yammering hum, struck dead in the darkness as I slam the door with all my strength, the hinges shrieking in protest.
Oddly enough, the ringing has stopped.

Behind me, in the empty room, a faint blue glow still issues from closed laptop. A small crackle announces a failed circuit, a broken line, and the light goes out.
Logout.

"The Moon, A Lamp, and the 9:15 to Brooklyn"
by Jason M. Clements

I saw the moon tonight and thought of you
I don't know why but I did
'Twas a sliver of yellow encased in blue
Above the trees, more small than big

A sliver of light, amid the blue night
I swear I could see the whole
The shadowed, the gibbous, hidden in flight
The rest of the moon; its body and soul

They say you can never see all of the moon
That you only can see what it wants you to see
The earth casts a shadow, a dark counter-tune
To let it pretend what it wishes to be

But the moon won't stop changing, forever and now
What I saw tonight is there just for tonight
I don't know the why, I don't know the how
The save it for you, to falter its flight

The shadow is passing, ethereal, wan
It changes before your eyes and mine
Before much too long, what I saw will be gone
I can't stop the moon, I can't falter time

How I wish I could save this--not for me, but for you
I wish you could see the moon through my eyes
I wish I could show you what I see as true
But you are not here, or else I am not there. Alas, oh alack--how the time flies!

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