The Unintentionally Worst Thing Heard About Grand Theft Auto V

So I was listening to NPR.

On NHPR’s “Word of Mouth”, a discussion of Grand Theft Auto… let’s see… it was The Bankable Legacy Of Grand Theft Auto; audio is available at the link. There was discussion of the economics, of the controversy, of misrepresentation of an adult game as a bad children’s game… honestly, I was mostly shopping, so I did not hear all of the program. I did hear one comment though, that went unremarked on the program, and I wanted to remark on it. At around the 8-minute mark, Jamin Warren, of Killscreen, a “video-game arts and culture company”, responds to the host’s (the excellent Virginia Prescott, I think) comment that one can, if she remembers correctly get points in this game for beating up prostitutes. His immediate response (my apologies if I transcribed it poorly–I think I got it, though):

(8:04) I think the important thing that is important to remember is that there are many things you can do in Grand Theft Auto; some of them, I think, are distasteful—well, I guess, a lot of them are at some level distasteful—but I don’t necessarily think that the violence in Grand Theft Auto against women–obviously it’s problematic at very, like at a very base level, but I think if you were to look at it in the landscape of broader media, it wouldn’t necessarily be anomalous.

And yes, (as I understand it) you can, but are not required to, beat prostitutes in GTA V. I played an earlier version of the game, and never once treated it as anything but a driving simulator with some really bizarre racetracks. It was well designed without the added violence against women; my personal tastes would have it with playable female lead characters, and none of the violence, but my personal version would sell, like, twelve copies in total.

But that’s not the important thing. I suspect you caught the important thing, though. “It wouldn’t necessarily be anomalous.” The distasteful violence against women… yes, it’s there, but it’s everywhere, so that’s ok.

No, that’s not ok. That’s terribly depressing. When the poster child for symbolic violence against women can simply point to “the landscape of broader media” and say “we’re just following your example”, this is not a point in favor of the game, or of the broader media, or of much of anything.

Let’s beat up some women;
Let’s beat up some whores;
Let’s steal us some autos
And rob us some stores
Let’s tell everybody
It’s only a game…
Cos the rest of the media
Looks just the same.

Shocking!!!

The billboard, up just down the block
Has left us in a state of shock:
Its “shocking” message? Here’s the gist:
Atheists… exist.

Not much of a story here–the fun part is behind the scenes. An Austin TV station’s website has their story of one of the local atheist billboards. It’s a nice enough story–the representative atheist is well-spoken, the representative Christian is concerned…

But, for those of you who clicked through, did you notice the URL? The article title, now, is “Atheist Community Building Support with Billboards”… the URL, though, includes the phrase “atheist-community-building-support-shocking-billboards”. That’s right, “shocking”.

Yup, they bear the radical message “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

Shocking.

Hey Rachel, Let’s Make A Deal

See, it’s not the proper mainstream
It’s the loonies at the fringe;
I can listen to the former
But the latter make me cringe
As it’s painful to the both of us,
A wound we ought to heal,
I’m proposing a solution—
Yes, I want to make a deal.

Professors of biology
Who go to such extremes
That they see religious practice
As evolving social memes
We will gladly just ignore them
When they say a bit too much
If you’ll just ignore Pat Robertson
When he goes off a touch

And Ph. D. philosophers,
And physicists, and more;
Psychologists, neurologists,
And others by the score
We’ll listen to their ranting
And we’ll try to stifle moans
If you’ll ignore their counterparts—
For instance, Terry Jones.

Extremists do not speak for all—
You understand, I hope—
It’s such a silly strawman
When you criticize the pope!
Let’s peel apart the radicals;
Dismiss them, one by one,
And look for truth in what remains
When all the culling’s done

Rachel Held Evans wants to make a deal. She noticed Dawkins’s comments about “mild pedophilia”, and feels our pain.

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole.

So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

Now, while you may have noticed multiple posts here at FTB and elsewhere calling out Dawkins for his words, he is still seen as one of our leaders (especially by those trying to equate atheism with religion). And don’t think that Christians don’t criticize Pat Robertson on occasion, like when he blames natural disasters on sin, or when he’s too liberal in his political endorsements. So, yeah, the two are roughly equivalents–you see politicians courting Dawkins’s king-making endorsement all the time, and retirees sending him all their money in return for his good word greasing their way into the afterlife, and there’s Dawkins’s television network, too. (I can’t find a comparison of book sales numbers–if anyone has that information, I’d love to see it.)

Pat Robertson does not represent all Christians. But the one-time Most Dangerous Man In America is not, in any way, the opposite number to Dawkins. I can see why agreeing to dismiss both of them would be a tempting offer… for Christians.

But what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?

What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?

My goodness, if you want extreme and irrational atheists, don’t use Dawkins as your example. He says stupid things on occasion, but believe me, we have some who seemed to have carved out a comfortable niche wholly immersed in stupidity. But again, I can see why you would wish to call this an even trade.

So, yes, Richard Dawkins is an atheist. But so is ethicist and humanitarian Peter Singer. So are authors Greg Epstein and Susan Jacoby. So is my friend and fellow blogger Hemant Mehta. So is Sir Ian McKellen.

Yes, Pat Robertson is a Christian. But so is Nelson Mandela. So is acclaimed geneticist Francis Collins. So is Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. So is Barack Obama. So is Stephen Colbert.

Let’s take Collins. Yes, he’s a nice guy. But he’s still wrong. And nice atheists also have dumb ideas.

I think it was the eminent philosopher Batman who said (stole) “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. When someone does or says something that is worth criticizing, then it doesn’t matter if it is Robertson, Dawkins, or Cuttlefish (yes, I put them in order of number of things worth criticizing); criticize.

As for getting rid of “extremists” on both ends, and looking in the middle… “When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong.

But then, that was said by an extremist.

Respect vs Seduction

So, Ophelia writes of an embarrassingly horrible bit of “advice” from askmen.com, which I really had a hard time believing was not satire–honestly, I kept scrolling to the bottom of the page, expecting then to write a deconstruction, a “can you believe anyone would suggest this?” addendum to the column. It was as if the whole thing was written by the “dear Penthouse” brain trust.

It got me thinking… What would it look like, to promote an actual healthy approach to relationships, instead of a predatory seduction model?

My attempt is not perfect–but it can’t be all things at once. First, feel free to switch around pronouns at will, cos as is it’s very hetero (cos I was responding to the situation pointed out by Ophelia, above). It still reads like sex is the ultimate goal, but I did want it to be sex-positive. Which kind of excludes another group… so, yeah, in three stanzas, I can’t even please me, let alone everybody else.

But y’know? I think I did better in three stanzas than askmen did in 10 pages.

He took her to a movie, and he took her for a drink
He liked what he was seeing, but it isn’t what you think
Insuring she was sober, he invited her to bed
She said she’d rather wait a bit… they watched TV instead.

She liked the way he treated her; she liked the way he looked
She liked his taste in music, and she loved the food he cooked
She wanted to be closer, and she told him her desire
He’d rather take it slowly, so they cuddled by the fire

He loves her sense of humor, and she loves the jokes he tells
She loves the way he holds her, and he loves the way she smells
It’s really not mysterious; it’s really not complex
It’s warmth, respect, and friendship… Oh, and now, it’s tons of sex.

Fox News’s “The Five” Debate (ha!) The Pledge Lawsuit

I know, in this country, we’re free to praise God
And we’re free to ignore those who don’t
We’d be free to spread some of this freedom around
But we’re also free not to… and won’t.
Some people might claim that we’re doing it wrong—
Why they’d say that, I cannot conceive—
Those people have freedom, like everyone else;
I suggest that they feel free to leave.

Via Opposing Views, who note Former Bush Spokesperson Dana Perino is literally telling atheists to leave the country, a case study of privilege at work. Take a look at the segment (I can’t embed it or I would); listen to the same old arguments (including “‘in god we trust’ is on our money”–so there’s another batch of coins off to the engraver–and the old favorite “they don’t believe, so why do they care?“–apparently you can either believe in god or the constitution, but not both), and then try turning it around. Imagine that there was nothing on the coins at all–not God, not Allah, not Thor, but also not “there is no god”–and imagine that their arguments were being made in opposition to a push to put “In God We Trust” on the coins to begin with. Virtually every argument they make works just as well against putting their god in our pledge (or on our money).

And then, look up in the right hand upper corner of the site, and read their own pledge:

The Fox Nation is for those opposed to intolerance, excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought, expression, and worship.

And they probably believe it. They just don’t understand it.

The Pronoun Game

The media say
Bradley Manning, today
Has decided he’s making a change
He’s making a stand
With his latest demand
But reactions have been a bit… strange.

Cos as far as I see,
It’s all “Bradley” and “he”
Like the networks are sharing one plan
But it’s Chelsea, you see,
(And the pronoun is “she”)
Who’s stopped living her life as a man

So… on Here and Now, on NPR, the hosts announced Manning’s request, and that they would be referring to her as Chelsea from now on. But the rest of NPR (at least while I was listening) was not on the same page. Most of the news sources that I have seen have struggled a bit, most often landing on “he” and “Bradley”.

This blog, unless I suffer some sharp blow to the head at some point, will speak of her as Chelsea. Comments, too, please. My house, my rules.

Ok, that’s done. The real reason for this post was to point you to Zinnia’s blog (I’m sure most of you are already readers), where Lauren simply rocks.

Feelings And Actions

He felt he was in love again—so many years had passed
And every time he saw her face, his heart would beat so fast

It happened out in public—you could see it all along
But surely, it was out of love, and could not, thus, be wrong

He never hid his feelings—he was sure to let them show
And because he signed her paychecks, well, she couldn’t tell him ‘no’

He never went ‘too far’, of course—that anyone could tell
And if she felt uncomfortable, she hid it very well

He always was a charmer—he never was a jerk
He loved the way her hair would gleam, and she? She needed work.

He acted out of love, you see—it couldn’t be his fault
He saw it as a friendship… but she saw it as assault.

There is no end to the “advice” given to the victims of sexual harassment and assault. They should have done this differently, or that differently, or worn different clothes, or not smiled, or smiled more, or not been so friendly, or not so distant, or any of dozens of other mutually impossible things. So you can look for that advice elsewhere. This is for the people who are actually at fault.

I had a friend who engaged in sexual harassment. I was there when it happened, and did not see it. This advice is your chance to learn from my mistake. (The harassed woman did go to my friend’s supervisor, and he was disciplined and counseled, and the situation was resolved to her satisfaction. All of which I learned about much later, when I learned that what I had been witnessing was, in fact, harassment.)

My friend openly confided that he was utterly smitten with X. They seemed to have a great working relationship. She was working in his lab, on an honors project, gathering and crunching data. He was her advisor. I could go into more detail, but I’d rather not.

Now, it is entirely possible that he knew exactly what he was doing, and was deliberately manipulating the situation–including my own perceptions of what was happening–to his own end. That is quite possible. But I’m going to assume, for now, that what he told me was honest, was his very real reaction, and that he had no intention of harm whatsoever.

He was still in the wrong. He was still harassing, creating a hostile workplace, and perhaps more. It was not up to her to make his boundaries clear; he was in a position of power over her. It does not matter what his motivation was; what matters is his behavior, and his behavior was inappropriate.

Our culture thrives on stories of motivation, especially the ultimate motivation, love. Romantic comedies show us that stalking is ok, as long as it is for true love (which will be rewarded in the final reel). The old fogeys among us might remember what a cultural event it was when Luke and Laura got married; they met, of course, when he raped her. Love conquers all.

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter that my friend was in love (or claimed to be–for today’s purposes, I am assuming he is being honest). Actions do not have to be motivated by a desire for control, or power, or dominance; behavior does not have to reflect misogyny, or hatred, or disdain. The road to criminal behavior may be paved with the best of intentions.

Motivation is no excuse. Don’t search your feelings; look at your behavior. If you are in a privileged position, it is never up to your subordinate to set limits. By the time someone corrects your behavior, you have gone too far.

His case is what changed my thinking on this–I hope that, in a similar situation, I would now know better. I did nothing at the time, because I saw nothing. I was looking at his motivation, not at his behavior. I was wrong.

Learn from my mistake.

Beck: Blitzer Was Set Up

The forces of spiritual darkness are strong,
As they plot, and they plan, and they scheme,
In support of the atheists’ ultimate plan
To destroy the American Dream

The atheists’ plan is: Pretend to be nice,
While the world goes to Hell (or to heck)
And they probably would have been able this time
If it weren’t for the work of Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is a master of finding the truth
He’s the best at connecting the dots
Where others see nothing at all out of place
Glenn Beck and his minions see lots

When Wolf asked an atheist woman, on air,
If she’s properly thanking the Lord
Observers were mostly amused by a gaffe
But that’s not how Glenn Beck had it scored

Glenn Beck saw the bias as clear as could be—
Some producer had rigged it, of course—
Propaganda and lies to make Christians look bad,
And to show off the atheists’ force

If the Christians and heathens are equally good
Then you can’t claim religion as why
And Beck himself knows, you can’t credit at all
Some invisible guy in the sky

So it must be conspiracy! Atheists aren’t
Just as good, in the Glenn Beck world view!
This claim, that the godless are people like us…
What a horrible thing, were it true!

Via Rawstory (video at link), Beck’s take on the Wolf Blitzer gaffe:

“I think he was fed some information about the guest he had on beforehand — that’s what producers do — given some questions that he should ask, etc., etc.,” Beck explained. “Some producer, who is sympathetic to the atheist plight or just doesn’t like Christians or whatever it is, thought it was important to point out that, in the middle of the heartland in American where most people are God fearing, there are atheists there too.”

“It’s important because it informs others what they are being taught about atheists from atheism and the bully pulpit and other sources of bias that is not a correct reflection of reality in plain view,” he continued. “We are not fighting against flesh and bone, we are fighting the forces of spiritual darkness. And it doesn’t matter what people’s intent are, but I will tell you that, that was there for a reason.”

Darkness and evil! It’s a bad, bad thing to think atheists are as good as believers:

“Have I done anything this week, have you done anything that would make anyone say, ‘Wow, what is it about them? I want to be like that. I want to be able to provide hope to others in dark times,’” the radio host said. “If you haven’t done anything different than what an atheist can do this week then your light is not shining very bright at all.”

“Because, quite honestly, if there is no difference, I mean, wouldn’t you rather stay at home on Sunday? Wouldn’t you rather just go ahead and just do what you wanted to do and not listen to some invisible guy in the sky?”

Science, Science, Science, Science, Penis Size, Science, Etc….

The papers were released online—
They numbered sixty-six—
So, how to make one paper shine?
The writers have their tricks.
A catchy title sure is fine
To pluck you from the mix
A subject could be quite divine,
But leave you in a fix….

See, that one wrote of saving wine,
But this one wrote of dicks.

I’m not a regular reader of PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), though I probably should be if I had the time… but I ran into a popular press story with a stop-the-presses title: “Science proves women like men with bigger penises.”

Past research has seemed to indicate that women, as a group, are drawn to larger male members. But those results have been disputed as sexist, or scientifically flawed, or both.
So Mautz and his team, working at the Australian National University, designed an experiment in hopes of settling the controversy. They created 49 unique, computer-generated, nude, life-sized male figures. Each figure varied in three traits: height, shoulder-hip ratio and flaccid penis size.

You can find more at the link, or at the other link, or probably by watching the evening news, at this point. I, myself, was amused that this paper, out of 66 that were published in PNAS today, was the one that merited 15 paragraphs at NBC.

My suspicion is that if a paper about penis size was not available, we’d all be reading about how global warming is going to effect wine production. Which it is–just check the other link.

And among 66 papers looking at ape parasites, hippocampal neurons, planetary basalts, noble-metal nanocrystals, antibiotic resistance transfer, and bovine viral diarrhea virus, we had a total of two titles that had potential in the mainstream media (when did I grow so cynical?). On a normal day, wine production would have been enough.

But not when up against penis size.

(BTW, one of my biggest and most reliable sources of hits on the old blog was a post about “the biggest dicks of all“–that is, about the frauds at enzyte who were marketing snake-oil. Hey. Posts about penis size sell. Apparently, even in the science business.)

Writing For The New York Times Isn’t Rocket Science

He made a mean lasagna
And was quite a dad indeed,
But what really made him stand apart
Was how he wrote a lede—

Now, there’s some that lede with puzzles,
And there’s me, that ledes with rhymes
But cheap clichés won’t work
At the respected New York Times

His devotion to his family
Was really quite exciting—
It certainly deserved a place
Ahead of, say, his writing.

He might have written brilliance
In agreement or defiance—
His cooking gets the lede, cos writing
Isn’t rocket science.

….

She changed the world; she truly lived
A pioneering life…
A rocket engineer, but first—
A mother and a wife.

This afternoon, my twitter feed blew up. The obituary of Yvonne Brill, pioneering rocket scientist, a woman who accomplished astonishing things while overcoming the prejudices of her time… led with this:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

Not with her engineering accomplishments, which won her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (presented to her by president Obama). Not with the propulsion system she invented, which became the industry standard.

Mrs. Brill’s development of a more efficient rocket thruster to keep orbiting satellites in place allowed satellites to carry less fuel and more equipment and to stay in space longer. The thrusters have the delicate task of maneuvering a weightless satellite that can tip the scales at up to 5,000 pounds on Earth.

Mrs. Brill contributed to the propulsion systems of Tiros, the first weather satellite; Nova, a series of rocket designs that were used in American moon missions; the Atmosphere Explorer, the first upper-atmosphere satellite; and the Mars Observer, which in 1992 almost entered a Mars orbit before losing communication with Earth.

From 1981 to 1983, Mrs. Brill worked for NASA developing the rocket motor for the space shuttle. In a statement after Mrs. Brill’s death, Michael Griffin, president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, praised her as “a pioneering spirit” who coupled “a clear vision of what the future of an entire area of systems should be with the ingenuity and genius necessary to make that vision a reality.”

Beef Stroganoff came first.

All the discrimination she overcame? Yeah, I’d have said she was just the exception to the rule… except that maybe she isn’t excepted after all.

********

Update! It seems even the New York Times cares about social media. The first paragraph has mysteriously changed… now, it reads:

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

So, when twitter explodes, the NYTimes listens.