Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gamer's Surprise: "The blood's real, the death's real"

Front page headline in yesterday’s New York Times……“Violent Crime in Cities Shows
Sharp Surge, Reversing Trend”

The news….Many communities are suffering a rise in murder, robbery and gun assaults since late 2005 because of methamphetamine use, gangs, poverty, more released ex-cons on the streets, easy access to guns and, according to the story, “a willingness, even an eagerness, to settle disputes with them, particularly among young people.”

But the real kicker comes next, in a quote from Chris Magnus, the beleaguered police chief of Richmond, Calif.: “There’s a mentality among some people that they’re living some really violent video game…What’s disturbing is that you see that the blood’s real, the death’s real.”

And that’s it: A passing reference to a culture of video-game violence that most certainly plays a significant role in fueling crime among vulnerable youth in vulnerable communities.

The story is loaded with statistics, but none reveals how much time these young robbers and murderers spend in a cruel, addictive video world that teaches them that violence is fun, acceptable, and carries zero consequences.

It’s bad enough that time spent with these violent games is time utterly wasted for all players. Chief Magnus and others in law enforcement may be realizing that “Grand Theft Auto” and its ilk are conditioning the suggestible to kill.

The law enforcement/crime prevention community needs to wake up, gather the evidence, connect the dots and demand legislation that will address the problem. They might start by looking at this Free Radical "video games" site, which is packed with links to references on video games and crime.

While they are doing that, we—adults and kids alike—need to take back our lives from a synthetic, mediated world of twisted values and violence.

More resources: You can find help at the Center for Screen Time Awareness and the Northwest Media Literacy Center.... An excellent video on this subject is "Game Over."

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 09, 2007

TV-B-Gone zaps the White House

Steve Brannon, who alerted me to TV-B-Gone, has mused that a Cellphone-B-Gone might come in handy. Out driving, you could zap that zoned-out talker/driver, who would just think the zapping was another dropped call.

And if a Cell-B-Gone is possible, why not a Bush-B-Gone, packaged with a requisite Cheney-B-Gone?

That would give us Pelosi-B-President.

Not that I would wish our current leadership permanent off-dom, but a temporary disappearance wouldn’t hurt.

Like the TV-B-Gone, the Bush-B-Gone could turn Bush back on—just later, say after the next election.

We might actually give responsibility for turning Bush on again (and interesting phrase in itself) to a bi-partisan “Return-George-On” Commission. Its membership might be something along the lines of John Kerry, Al Gore, Al Franken, Jon Stewart, Donald Rumsfeld, Ann Coulter, and Mama and Papa Bush. If only Molly Ivins were still around to serve, alas....

The understanding would be that a returned-on Baby Bush would be “extraordinarily renditioned" to some appropriate place. I’m thinking Elba, Abu Ghraib, or, best of all, Guantanamo—in an orange jump suit with goggles, ear-guards and no lawyer.

Fair's fair.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fuel/Cast busters: Oregon and TV-B-Gone?

Yesterday's post about the spread of public screen advertising to gas stations needs an update.

Steve Brannon, an internet buddy, fellow typewriter collector and occasional Red Electric reader, writes from Richmond, Virginia, to alert me to a handy, miniature TV remote, TV-B-Gone. It has one function: OFF.

And it works the airport, in the bar, at the gas station, in the men's room (yes, there are now screens over urinals).

I'd heard of this TV-B-Gone gizmo before, but the web site, and particularly the testimonials, are great. Here's mine: A TV-B-Gone is exactly what you need to blacken screens and take back your life. Emerson and, in particular, Thoreau would have loved this device. It's like Walden Pond in your pocket.

If that's a stretch, it does have a whiff of civil disobedience about it. I'm ordering one to "de-screen" the local mall as well as the video-plagued check-out line at our local Albertson's.

Look for my "road test" in a future post.

The other thought related to yesterday's post is that Oregon really is different. We had a slogan that said precisely that a few years back. It seemed dumb at the time, but now I'm beginning to wonder....

We are one of two or three states that require gas to be pumped by attendants. That means we never need to soil our rain-softened hands, or despoil our organic minds by watching ads on gasoline pumps.

When I wrote from here (Hillsdale to be exact) yesterday I imagined that the Fuel/Cast (Get it? Fuel pump + broadcast = Fuel/Cast) screen installers would put video panels right next to the driver's window. No, they wanted to break the agonizing boredom of customers forced to pump gas in all those un-different states.

So we Oregonians may been spared—at least for now. The big question is whether we are different enough. And if not, do we dare utter weirdness?

I'd bet on it.

Finally, one of the great things about the web is that you can see how industries like public screen advertising make their pitch to customers, in this case, gas station owners trying to squeeze an extra buck out of you and me by luring us inside their over-priced convenience stores.

So take a look at Fuel/Cast to see exactly what they are thinking about screen-addicted, purchase-prone you.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A few things to do while filling your tank....

My friend and loyal Red Electric reader Mike Ponder sends this story about the latest screen intrusion into our lives—this time coming to your neighborhood gasoline pump.

Mike's alert came to me as I have been studying the Transcendentalists, who would certainly wonder about one question raised by the San Francisco Chronicle article about FuelCast Media Network and its ilk.

FuelCast, a Los Angeles (of course) firm is forcing hundreds of thousands of motorists to watch TV ads beamed right from gas pumps equipped with in-your-face monitors.

Gary LePon, executive vice president of FuelCast, is hardly a modern-day Emerson or Thoreau but his words prompt larger, deeper questions: "There's not much else to do while you're filling your tank. This gives you something to do while you're waiting."

Something to do while you're waiting....

I don't know about you, but I've never had trouble finding something to do while at the gas pump.

I usually have a book or newspaper handy. There's the radio to be listened to. You can always talk to a person next to you, if one is handy.

My interior (my own and my car's) can always use tidying up.

Thinking is an option, as Thoreau and Emerson remind us.

If that's not possible, a tree is usually available for contemplation...and inspiration. Birds, particularly sparrows, often frequent gas stations. I even remember times when I have struck up conversations with service attendants. We still have those here in Oregon.

It's a good thing too, especially if Mr. LePon and his hucksters have their way, as I am certain they will. We can politely tell the attendants to shut off FuelCast's bleating TV monitors.

And if they don't, or, as is more likely, can't ("I just work here.")?

Well, look at the bright side. They and the LePons of the world could be doing everyone a favor without knowing it.

Maybe video muggings at the gas pump will persuade us to do what we should be doing anyway—driving less, and a lot sooner.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Charter commission's composition pre-determined revisions

One big reason the recommendations of the 25-member Mayor’s Charter Review Commission ignored the interests of neighborhoods may be that only two members were identified with neighborhoods.

Here are the two, as they were listed the official résumés accompanying the press announcement of commission members:

Jillian Detweiler. Employed by TriMet, she has served as an assistant to former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, and is a past board member of the Southeast Uplift and Brooklyn Neighborhood Association.

Robin Plance. A maintenance supervisor, he has served with the Gresham Optimist Club; St. Johns Neighborhood Association Board and Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group.

And that’s it.

The other 23 commissioners were seemingly appointed for their trade or labor affiliations, ethic group, non-profit work etc.

All well and good, but when it came time to offer some form of representation for neighborhoods in a new charter, the overwhelming majority had little reason to speak up. And they didn’t.

This is why jury selection is so important in determining verdicts.

It should have come as no surprise that the verdict of the charter commission would exclude neighborhood (and neighborhood coalition) representation and power from a new city council.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Local art auctions for nuclear warheads?

On Saturday night, after countless hours of volunteer work to organize a benefit auction, receipts-counters reported that Multnomah Arts Center volunteers grossed more than $26,000 at the "Give the Arts a Hand" auction attended by 240 patrons.

Coincidentally, over the weekend, we US taxpayers learned that the Bush Administration is asking Congress to spend hundreds of millions (and ultimately billions in classified "Black Budget" funds) to "upgrade" our (yes, OUR) nuclear arsenal. All the better to warm the globe with.

Lest we forget, these weapons are thousands (millions?) of times more lethal than the dread weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration claimed justified our invasion of Iraq.

But then we do have to keep those defense industry profiteers happy, don't we?

I was reminded of the bumper sticker that says something to the effect: "What if we held bake sales to build ABMs, and adequately funded our schools?"

Which raises another one of my favorite questions: Is there intelligent life on Earth?

There most certainly isn't in the White House.

But I digress...

At the same benefit auction was Portland Parks Director Zari Santner, whose underlings have put forward a proposal to sell naming rights to Portland parks facilities in order to sustain them.

Note: The Multnomah Arts Center is a parks facility.

I know Zari socially and didn't want to blemish her evening at a social event by restating my opposition to the proposal.

But it seemed to me that by simply selling off the naming rights to the arts center to, say, Waste Management or 1-800-Got-Junk?, we might be able to forgo the need for annual auctions.

So I asked an exhausted auction volunteer near and dear to me whether she would be willing to sell off the name of the arts center to be free of organizing the auction.

Zari take note: Her answer was an unqualified "NO!"

Labels: , , , , ,

Lettera 32 Down Under

A few posts back I mentioned Christina Wall, a Michigan graduate student, who has discovered the joys of using an Olivetti Lettera 32.

Now comes news via one of my typewriter forums that Matthew Smeal, a photo-journalist in Sidney, Australia, is similarly smitten.

Enjoy his photos as well. Be sure to make the connection between excellent photography and an eye for elegant design.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A man with a candle in the rain

Friday evening was cold, wet and gusty. Still, he decided to make his way to the busy intersection of Capitol Highway and Sunset Boulevard to stake out his candle-holding, placard-waving place on the northwest corner next to the crosswalk signal.

Being there helped sustain the six-week-old Friday night peace vigils.

He was alone on the corner, but across Capitol were four others, and he could see his friend Joan catty corner from him with her battery-powered string of lights and her rainbow-striped peace banner.

The Hillsdale peace vigil was small on this nasty night, but its spirit was alive.

The weather cut through his raincoat. He really should have put on another layer of clothes. The wind whipped the rain around him, soaking his jeans. The little candle in the jar blew out three times, and the matches grew moist making it harder to spark a flame.

But the more miserable he became the more he thought of the true misery of war, the fear, the agony, the death, the destruction, the hatred.

The vigil’s small but palpable discomforts fed his resolve to oppose war—to “Wage Peace,” as his placard proclaimed,

A stranger bearing a bulky camera suddenly appeared next to him and asked whether he had another candle. The one he was holding had gone out, again. He thought the stranger, who introduced himself as Joe—Joe Cantrell—wanted to hold one himself, but it turned out he wanted to take a photo.

Joe is drawn to taking photos with a social message. He had been driving home in the busy, rain-splattered commute and spotted the soaked, slightly stooped figure cupping a glowing candle, balancing a placard at his feet, and somehow managing to keep an umbrella canted over his head.

Now Joe wondered whether the sodden man could light the candle again because he wanted to record what he had seen.

Here it is.

Labels: , , ,