The Charlotte Gore Blog

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Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

Bioshock Infinite! Political geeks feel the gaming love!

September 25th, 2010 at 12:27 am

Weekends at the Charlotte Gore Blog are devoted to games, films and culture. Happily this post is nearly about politics, too.

Few game franchises excite political nerds quite like Bioshock. The first game was set in the 50′s, in a city under the sea called Rapture, owned and run by a man called Andrew Ryan… Andrew Ryan.. which is sort of an anagram of Ayn Rand, you see? And that’s relevant, because the opening lines of the game tell the player about the political motivations for escaping the confines of dry land – and their Governments.

The result? Well, liberated from ethical or legislative constraints devastating biological technology is created which, whoops, accidentally sends its users a bit mental. Well, a lot mental. Try psychotic, in fact (it’s a computer game, you have to have meat to hit with things otherwise people feel they’re denied the ‘game’ part of a game… pity really). Add to this a ban on immigration, emigration and trade with the outside world, aiding the inadvertent creation of very powerful and rich smugglers, and the beautiful and courageous Objectivist paradise quickly descends into hell. Oh, and this technology that’s sent everyone mad? It depends on exploiting little girls. Oh yes. Moral compass THAT!

Now, this is still a video game, yet it has a compelling and absorbing story, and appears to have been written by people who’ve read books and the result was… brilliant. It’s my favourite game of all time. Except for Rock Band 2. And Tetris. And Flight Controller. It’s ONE of my favourite games of all time. Ahem.

Happily Irrational Games, the creators of this fine work, have announced a new game in the series which they call Bioshock Infinite, set on 4th July 1906 and, quote, it’s about “American Exceptionalism”. Be still my beating heart! For reals? First Objectivism and now a study on Nationalism? Yay! And I can shoot things in this world and unlock XBOX achievements while I’m playing, too? I can? YAY!

And yes, it’s for real. They’ve released a “Gameplay trailer” which is nothing of the sort really, but the opening moments feature a mural of George Washington clutching the Liberty Bell and Moses’ Ten Commandments tablets, with the slogan, “It is our Holy Duty to Guard against the Foreign Hordes”.

And this is real? And we’re going to be able to buy this? Like, whoa. Bring it on! A minute or so later you come across a politician giving a racist speech. You can pop a steampunk cap in his Victorian ass. Seriously, I’m in love already.

The only game I could possibly get more excited about would be one set in Philip K Dick’s counterfactual world of “The Man in the High Castle” where the Nazis have won and America is split between their control and that of the Japanese. That… that would be great. Games like Bioshock seem to make the chance of that sort of game existing seem more likely than ever. It’s just a pity that the vast majority of games are so horrendously dull by comparison.

Sadly games take forever to make and Bioshock Infinite is due, I believe, in 2012 if we’re lucky. Arse. What am I supposed to do until then?

The Deadly Threat of Atheist Extremism

September 21st, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Religion! Yay!

Here’s the hot new phrase for the chattering classes: “Atheist Extremist” Laugh, now, while it’s still funny. If there’s one particular American import I really don’t want to see in the UK, it’s the word “Atheist” becoming a pejorative. I think, perhaps, it’s too late already. It’s getting there.

In the US the relationship between “Atheist” and “Marxist Pinko Homosexual Abortionist” appears to be rather concrete, unsettlingly so. “Of course you don’t believe in God” says the Republican. “You’re going to hell for your Marxist Pinko Homosexual Abortionist ways!” I honestly don’t know if the Church wrapped itself in American style Capitalism to protect itself from Marxism, or if American Capitalism wrapped itself in Jesus for the same reason but the link is there. This is a well poisoned well.

So imagine everyone’s astonishment and bafflement at the Pope’s insistence that “Atheist Extremists” need to be fought in order to prevent another Holocaust. I mean, it felt rather like some arsehole turning up at the bar on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation and trying to get everyone to join in with a chant of “Queermo! Queermo!” It’s just.. you know… kind of lame and embarrassing to see someone trying to bully a victim who has no comprehension that they’re supposed to be embarrassed and ashamed about X, Y or Z.

Atheist isn’t supposed to be an insult in the UK. We don’t have an “Atheist problem”. We haven’t got the papers foaming at the mouth about “Atheist Extremists”. What does an Atheist Extremist actually do? Really, really really not read Bibles? Really really really not believe? See, there’s no Atheism Player’s Handbook to refer to. Eg:

Godlessness (Level 1, Human Atheist)

+2 Smugness

After using Godlessness, you make anyone with a faith feel moderately uncomfortable for a few minutes.

Hand Of Dawkins (Level 29, Human Atheist)

+100 Smugness

Casting Hand of Dawkins causes impressionable young Atheists to go suicide bomb Mecca and the Vatican.

No. Richard Dawkins – whom many regard as A (of not Thee) Leader of the Atheist “Movement” and, presumably, the Atheist equivalent of Osama Bin Laden – has a problem, and his problem is that people think the Catholic Church and the Pope are easy targets (they’re not at all… it’s nearly 2000 years old and it’s proven itself resilient enough to survive pretty much everything the world throws at it, and there’ll probably still be a pope 2000 years from now) and that to bash them is somehow unfair or insensitive to the feelings of ordinary Catholics, that it’s just plain rude.

That’s because it is. Dawkins’ entire point, entire modus operandi is to deny the religious the normal protection that cultural norms provide and confront them with the stupidity of their beliefs directly. That’s fine, and he’s entitled to do that but they’re still cultural norms. He’s still being rude, better or worse.

So long as Dawkins comes to be regarded as the Boss Of Atheists (“I BELIEVE IN YOU, RICHARD! SHOW US THE WAY”) then Atheists slowly come to be regarded as rude, insensitive, quasi-sectarian dicks. When this happens, people start trying to find ways of describing themselves as non-believers without using the word “Atheist”, or perhaps they’ll add, “I’m an Atheist but I’m one of the good Atheists, not one of those Extremists” or something like that. As soon as that happens then Atheist becomes a pejorative, an insult, and suddenly we’re living in the Parallel Universe of the Holy See where, next time he comes to visit and slags of Atheists we won’t be shocked at all. We’ll almost expect it… after all, those bloody Atheist Extremists DID kill all those Jews!

Sadly, at this point, it’s all so horribly inevitable. The Pope bashing of late has, in many ways, explained why those cultural norms of tolerance and politeness in the face of other people’s beliefs are largely preferable to religious hatred and sectarianism.

If history tells us one thing, is that religions have to clean up their own mess. Seriously, if setting people on fire or setting lions on them doesn’t destroy a Church, calling them a bunch of Paedophiles on Twitter won’t do the trick either.

Labels and other Miscellany

September 16th, 2010 at 2:38 am

Oh dear. It must be September.

It’s the season of blogging introspection and mutual appreciation. After all, after spending the last year writing so many words, sentences and clauses and having little to show for it but bigger heads and missed opportunities to sound barking mad when explaining this hobby we need a bit of self love.

Oh yes indeedy.

So yes, Total Politics and Iain Dale have been doing their annual popularity contest. This year I’m no longer THE ULTIMATE LIB DEM BLOGGER because I’ve been inconsistent, flakey, not really posting very often, sloppy with grammar and spelling, didn’t whore for votes and… oh yeah… not actually a Lib Dem. Knew there was something!

Instead I’m just on other charts, which is plenty lovely for all concerned. Thank you for the votes wot you done, that was very kind considering how abused and neglected you’ve been.

Featuring on the Libertarian list was very welcome, but the Right Wing too? Crikey. Not sure how I feel about that. A year ago I would have been okay with it, but now?

Since then I have discovered that ‘Right Wing’ is basically understood (outside of crazy political circles) as synonymous with, basically, being a racist arse and that whether or not one is racist is the ultimate and most important indicator of one’s alignment on the Good/Evil Lawful/Chaotic axis. My political beliefs, socially and economically, put me on the opposite end of all spectrums from the BNP and yet, the BBC, being chumponauts, will continue calling the BNP ‘Right Wing’ causing an astonishing amount of confusion.

I guess the question should be asked of Iain and Total Politics: Do we really need these additional charts? Shouldn’t us funky new breed of political gobshites do our own thing and not feel like we should be constrained by the same backward limitations and conventions of the mainstream media?

Oh well.

In more joyful and amusing news those terrible fiends over on Lib Dem Voice have shortlisted me as “Non-Lib Dem Blog of the Year”. It’s a loophole in the system! I thought I’d escaped! Ah well, gives me an excuse to scoot on over to Liverpool and lurk around the Lib Dem Conference being a nuisance. Again.

This particular category is open to a public vote, so basically you can go over there and make your opinion on the matter perfectly clear but to be honest I’m tickled enough to have been shortlisted.

So, that’s nearly it for this year’s introspection. This year I’ve quit, started again, got paid and both mellowed out AND gone more crazy. I’ve left the Lib Dems and discovered that being Independent is actually rather lonely. I discovered that I actually care about this blogging business more than I realised. I want to do more about the hidden politics in the everyday things around us and less party political rubbish. I want to continue to pretend there’s some sort of political nerd identity that transcends party affiliation or political beliefs, mainly cos I think that we – that’s me and the people reading this rubbish – actually have more in common with each other, despite our political differences, than we have with the people reading Pop Bitch or The How To Sew Awesome Looking Bears blog. Just sayin’, like.

Let’s Watch Children Play!

September 14th, 2010 at 11:57 am

Anecdotal Solicitation To Abuse Children!

One of the more enlightening encounters had in America (this time in San Francisco) was being presented with the following question as we were traveling through the Golden Gate Park.

Did I prefer to a) Go watch Hippies having an impromptu bongo jamming session to the right or b) Go watch children playing on the playground to the left?

The question was sincerely asked, no joke, no clever ironic statement about the state of the world today. Those were the choices.

My friend and I looked at each other in surprise, and explained to our guide that, in Britain, adults can’t just hang out at playgrounds watching children play, that essentially someone would probably call the police on you if you tried. “Pedophiles”, I said. There’s peedos everwhere! Even suggesting hanging out at a playground to watch kids play made me feel a bit squirmy.

Our guide was baffled and confused and couldn’t quite believe what we were saying. I felt like I’d learnt something… important. Something.

The California Zephyr and other Tales

August 27th, 2010 at 1:35 am

Am still on holiday. This post will have photos added to it soon.

Ask most Americans what the absolute worst way to travel is and they’ll tell you the Greyhound Bus. One step up from the bus, apparently, is the train. “Scum of the earth take that train” I was told… by an actual Amtrak employee. On an actual train. My apprehension about the coming journey was getting worse. Every American I’d mentioned the epic train journey to had been relentlessly negative about it. Everyone, apparently, flies. Trains are for scum. End of story.

Nevertheless, competing with the negativity and that advice was that of Michael Palin on Radio 4 who probably had no idea that people were going to make life-changing decisions based on his advice to “travel slowly” and to avoid planes where possible. Travel slowly, he says, and make the travelling as much the point as the destination.

How slow is slow, though? Well, New York to San Francisco is a 3,500 mile journey that takes 4 days using two trains, the Lake Shore Ltd to Chicago then the California Zephyr to San Francisco. It goes through: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island [Those are the Acela Express, Boston to New York, not the Lakeshore Ltd.. did that 4 days earlier.. whoops], New York, Pennsylvania,  Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and finally California. It is astonishingly long.

Turns out the Americans were wrong about this journey. It’s sort of redefined the words ‘spectacular’ and ‘epic’ in my brain… apart from the Day Of Corn which involved waking up in the corn fields of Ohio and going to sleep in the corn fields of Iowa and seeing very little else all day.. okay most of the day involved hanging out in Chicago Union Station, but it’s hard not to be someone stunned by the scale of the corn growing operations they have in the USA. There’s a day of it. A day.

The next day, however, waking up in Denver and then making our way through the most literally breathtaking landscape I’ve ever seen – first the Colorado Rockies then watching the sun go down on the monumentally epic mountains in Utah… I don’t know how I’m going to ever be content with Yorkshire now. Damn. The day after the train goes through the Sierra Nevada mountains and it’s goo goo time, your brain is gone. That’s it.

America… it turns out… is a truly beautiful country. The magnificence of the scenery is then added to by the sheer audacity, courage and engineering-fu to build a train line all the way through it, not to mention everything else they’ve done to this continent.

I’m a bit stunned. In awe, really. San Francisco awaits outside but it’s all a bit too much.

What’s devastating, however, is that most Americans will never have this experience. They hate the train. They’ll fly, or maybe drive instead.. and they just won’t see their own country this way. They really, really, really don’t know what they’re missing. Far from sharing the train with ‘scum’ I found really pleasant, friendly people wanting the same kind of experience, sharing my own lack of comprehension at the gap between the perception and reality of these rather immense train journeys.

I’m glad I’m the kind of soppy loser tourist that can get some sort of quasi-spiritual experience from a journey of this kind. I gave up smoking so that this journey wouldn’t be ruined by waiting for the next smoking stop (few and far between) rather than living in the moment. Best. Decision. Ever.

Still, to get off a train 4 days after getting on feeling like it all went by far too quickly is not what I expected at all. Colorado… we’ll meet again, you and I, mark my words.

Apologies for the lack of blogging and continued off-topic stuff. Things will be back to normal soon.

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