Sunday Morning Reading Material: Second Sunday in April 2011 – Causing problems to avert a crisis Edition
Ask the scabs: which side are you on?
It’s Sunday. Sundays are for writing, and heading to work. Sundays are for getting better. Sundays are for heading home to Seattle after a few days spent in the Bay. Sundays are for playing Sins of a Solar Empire.
This week the US government very nearly shut down because the Republicans hate taking “yes” for an answer. The Nigerians and the Japanese are planning to vote today. Also this week, there was fighting in the Middle East. Also also: the Giants have clawed their way to a .500 season. It’s still early yet.
Republican Paul Ryan released his budget road map. It’s upfront declaration that social welfare programs ought to be slashed so that rich people can enjoy a lower tax rate has been called “brave”. It is, I think the same sort of bravery exhibited by the 9/11 hijackers. Though cutting Medicare will probably kill significantly more than 3000 people. I didn’t used to be that guy who cries “class warfare” so often. But then I started looking at conservative budget priorities. The truly disgusting thing, though, is that the Ryan numbers are pulled from the same study that Bush had used to predict that his budget would turn 2008-2011 into awesome economic times. Fail.
It all comes down to math, really. It doesn’t matter if the question involves the curve of the earth, or the metaphoric shape of a budget, math is going to be involved rather heavily. A revolution that doesn’t change the electoral math isn’t really a revolution– it merely changes the people to whom the spoils flow. The state of Maine is looking to stage a revolution against bad legislative math. I hope the Federal government does the same thing. I hope the California government does likewise.
On Friday morning, Kevin Drum asked “So what’s next? Democrats cave in again and Republicans turn down them down unless they accept $50 billion in cuts and Obama goes on national TV to apologize for the New Deal?” 12 hours later, that’s pretty much exactly what happened. Important lesson: in order to keep food stamps flowing, medicare payments happening, and the mail delivered, Democrats will humiliate themselves on national TV. That’s a worth voting for. Preventing it’s necessity is worth voting for twice.
Everyone reading this post has on their desk, lap, or phone enough computing power to put a human being on the moon. It turns out, though, that very few of us want to do that. Instead, what we want to do is talk with one another. The computer turned out to be marginally useful for solving stupendously big problems, but incredibly useful for keeping in touch with everyone you’ve ever met. We humans are incredibly social. Which is why it’s a no brainer that Twitter would eventually be used around labor discussions that are federally protected. Also remember: the Republican party’s government shutdown would have kept the National Labor Relations Board from having the personnel-hours to help this case, handing a de facto win to a giant corporation’s ability to trample the rights of it’s workers.
There are two very basic theories of inequality. In one case, the individual creates everything they have, and therefore it is theft for the government to use it’s monopoly of force to demand an individual pay for anything they haven’t entered into a prior contract to pay for. The other theory holds that wealth creation is enabled by society, and therefore unequal distribution of that wealth can only be justified instrumentally (ie: we give more to the highest producers in the hope that they will continue producing more). To me, it is quite obvious that had Bill Gates been born in Kenya, he would not have
stolen the idea for Windows from Steve jobs and improved the business practice involved in selling software invented Windows. But the mere fact that Xerox, Apple, and Microsoft all had the same basic idea at the same rough time means that none of them could have come up with the idea de novo. Anyway. In America, the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are not. What do you intend to do about it?
A friend of mine is trying to figure out what our options are if the world runs out of fossil fuels. Every week he puts up a new post looking at some aspect of energy consumption. Recently, he asked how much oil is left. Not enough, really. Not nearly enough.
I’ve been seeing a shrink recently. We’ve come to the conclusion that I’m either depressed because ADD keeps me from doing anything, or depression is keeping me from focusing. Since the first option is a much easier fix, I’ve got a prescription for Adderall. We’re gonna cross our fingers. The brain? It’s poorly understood. For instance, about 10% of the population will occasionally pass out while they attempt crossword puzzles. No one really knows why.
It is worth remembering that the vast majority of Americans are significantly richer than the vast majority of people outside of North America and Europe. How much richer? Some people actually pay people in the third world to play games for them. Apparently gold farming is more lucrative than coffee farming.
I was saddened this week to see that “A Different Light” bookstore will be closing this spring. It’s worth reflecting a bit on the causal factors behind that store’s closure. Having been there once (for a book reading), I noticed that most Barnes and Nobles tended to carry about 90% of the fiction/non fiction side of their business. The beefcake calendars and various pride-flags can be purchased at a great many specialty calendar/flag stores, and the “3rd space for queers” was easy to find at… basically any other shop in the Castro. Frankly, I’d rather hang out at Starbucks (less than a block away) and get a coffee than at a bookstore that wants to cram itself full of novelty items. It is, perhaps, a sign of the success of the gay-right’s movement that corporate America did a better job filling Different Light’s various queer niches better than the bookstore was able. The initial candle may have gone out, but it lit a thousand torches that yet provide illumination.
In all my years working at bookstore, I only once had a customer hit on me. Though I did go out with a few of my coworkers…
Do not confuse “button down” with “button up”. In fact: don’t wear button down shirts at all.
Funranium brings us a musical interlude.
I guess everyone thinks their blog should do something special for Sunday. For instance: Bill Abner thinks Sunday is for wasting time. Last week he showed the world his gaming tree. It’s sort of like a genealogy. But for games.
Good writing is very important. Seriously. It’s incredibly important. I’m doing my best to highlight that fact by not employing good writing in this paragraph. So click that link.
I’ve spilled quite a few words on Dragon Age 2. I plan on spilling even more. I’m not sure I will get to it, but I plan on it. For all it’s mechanical flaws– all it’s flaws as an actual game– it tells an interesting story in an interesting way. The parts where it’s mechanics work best– the parts where it is at it’s best as an actual game– teach important lessons about social justice.
Portal 2 is out soon. VALVe have put out a comic filling in some of the gaps between the stories. I’m not sure how much the comic will make sense if you’ve not played the first game, but if you have, this comic is spectacular.
This is the bit where I say “if you only click 1 link”. Breaking with all tradition, I am going to use more than one paragraph to get to that link.
A few years back, I started reading a site called “Rock, Paper, Shotgun”. Honestly, how can you not click a blog with that title? Every Sunday, they do a feature called “the Sunday morning Papers”. Yes: they are a direct inspiration for this very article you’re reading. The site excels at writing about games on the game’s own terms. If a game wants to be about Nazi’s riding dinosaurs (a real game. Can’t make that up), they will talk about how gleefully fun it is (or isn’t). If a game wants to make a serious point about human interaction, RPS will discuss how that game succeeds or fails. How good is that blog? It’s one of 2 that I will keep on my RSS reader despite the lack of a full story RSS feed.
One of the founders of the site, Jim Rossignol, has written a book– This Gaming Life. The book is about what it means to be a gamer. What is the culture of gaming? How do gamers process information? How does gaming slot itself into the broader human experience? Rossignol is very much a member of the gaming tribe, and it would be very easy for him to write a triumphant narrative about how games will conquer everything. That book wouldn’t be worth reading. Instead, he takes a more anthropological approach. In the process he helps define the boundaries of what it means to be human. The book can be purchased above, or downloaded (legally, free) here.
This week’s theme? Sex and violence. So leave a comment below about your favorite book.
Hey, Hipster? Leave those kids alone:
Right now. Behind you. Look. It’s a tiger.