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Grand Theft Auto Murder (Made in U.S.A.)

On the day when a man is stabbed by a crazed devotee of surrogate violence generator 'Grand Theft Auto', it does occur to make a list of the all other truly great, brand-leading products of American design and manufacture. Their triumphant design answers to the Rolex watch, the Mini, the Dyson, the diamond-frame bicycle, the Volswagen beetle, the cat's-eye, the Sony Trinitron TV, the Cheddar Cheese, Concorde, Chinese porcelain, French wine, Belgian chocolates etc etc.
It turns out to look like something like this.
The Bowie knife, the Winchester rifle, the Colt 45, the Mosquito fighter bomber, the atom bomb, the Stealth fighter, the Cruise missile, the cheeseburger, Coca Cola.
Apart from a few notable gadgets like the Fender electric guitar, 'Made in America' means either weapons or junk food. Or in the case of GTA, a world where human life is always dispensable, and there are no consequences and every millivolt of hatred for the human race can be expressed, and more importantly for sales of the product,
It is yet another fantasy to imagine that fulfilling a violent dehumanising fantasy on a regular, sustained, systematic basis, with no moral or practical consequences, and no goals other than triumphalist domination of the assigned enemy by whatever force possible, does
not transfer some of the values of that barbaric world to the user - the subject in this conditioning process. The fact that many, if not all of the witnesses to the attack in the Croydon queue seem to have believed that the incident was a publicity stunt by the developers - that the blood and screams were simulated - is more evidence of this effect. They were, in other words, prepared to discount the evidence of their senses and lapse into a world of virtual wish-fulfillment again. Like a pathologically alienated version of the dancers' anthem 'Everything is beautiful at the ballet".
It is equally deluded to insist that such role playing can be therapeutic, preventing inevitable explosions of real violence. The same argument which is still sometimes used to justify sexual pornography, strangely enough. That a fantasy rape is a replacement for the real thing rather than a rehearsal for it. Furthermore, this apology for technologically-induced triumphalism is nothing more than a confession that society is so rotten that it makes us all violent psychotics, and that without the help of computer games, horse-tranquillisers, distilled sugar beet, and other narcotics, we would all kill each other. That acting out the fantasy of killing your boss prevents you from actually doing it.
The 'real' solution of course, if that word means anything anymore, is to have a world where you don't feel like killing your boss, or every cyclist on the street, or everyone else who is IN YOUR WAY and preventing you from squeezing out whatever Life there is left in your time on earth after the demands of the job and bank and state have taken their 80% cut.
But that would be silly. And too much like hard work.
Practice does make perfect, it seems. -
"Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention."
Gaming and Learning which is a serious responsible blog, is very positive about the benefits of gaming as an educational tool. But why should a tool as powerful as computer gaming only be able to teach nice lessons? The truth is that nasty lessons are easier, and more profitable, to teach.


Cohen The Barbarian

Desperate to cling on to his schoolboy literati dreams, Nick Cohen, the Observer's head grump, again directs the monstrous anger of his guns against the internet. (In Books We Trust) This is a parasitic medium, he tells us, which is apparently proven by the fact that travel guide 'The Lonely Planet' does much of its research online, rather than going to the places it informs its readers about. He quotes Lonely Planet co-author Thomas Kohnstamm with the gem; "what I can't plagiarise, I can always make up."
But how much better then that those seeking information about, say, Colombia, draw their information directly from source, rather than relying on a capital intensive, cost-cutting medium such as print, from which Lonely Planet still earns most of its profit, in spite of its alleged shoddiness.

But where are we to find this source? Where are the people on the ground, the people with the real inside story, those who live in the country all the time. Not the playboy hacks flown in for a week to the local Hilton, and shown around their patch by a government-approved guide - or one affordable by the expenses department of the publishers concerned. Where are these fonts of local wisdom? Why, writing away 'for love' to use one of Cohen's sneers. Producing and publishing their own accounts online of the place they live in, based on real experience. But how can they be believed? As we all know, the less a writer is paid, the less truthful are his words. The closer he is to his subject matter, the more biased his opinion.

The failings of Lonely Planet, and much of the rest of the bankbound print media, are in fact an argument for more use of the internet in the form of the bloggers who Cohen despises. Of more elimination of the dubious middle man from Del Media.
In his yearnings for a return to the good old days of print, when hacks were hacks and civilians were civilians and both knew their place, Cohen displays a serious morbidity which will not do him any good in the long run, and which will gum up his synapses until he is indistinguishable from Victor Meldrew.

'Colombian Blog' Which describes itself as The Complete Resource on Discussion, Travel, Living In Colombia.

Bogota Blogger

As one commentor to this blog says here of the colombian political situation:

"Let's hope the authority of the civil society can be strengthened and the wings cut of the politicians who have robbed the people by action or omission."
It isn't all white sands and the quality of the pina coladas, Nick. And the more bloggers there are, writing without fear, the wider the view we can get of any country which allows freedom of expression. As for countries which don't allow freedom of expression, why would journalists, of all people, want to encourage anyone to go there in the first place? I know I know - because they are PAID to encourage them. Silly question.
In the meantime, Nick Cohen howls like Lear against the storm, and those pesky bloggers simply refuse to go away. Why, he seems to ask, can't they all be as jaded and bitter as him and the rest of the print junkies at Grouchos, then the world would be a much happier, or at least better informed place, or at least, more profitably informed.. Where anyone living in the age of Wapping gets this idea is a mystery. How can anyone who saw the Miner's Strike buy the myth of the integrity of the Fourth Estate? Pretending that politics throughout the ages haven't been distorted by the press and the money the press needs to exist is a neat mental trick for a journalist to be able to perform with the truth. But it seems that writers are becoming more like their cousins, the lawyers and accountants, in that respect.
And how exactly do Nick and his grumpy fellow-hacks propose to stem this tide of filthy lies - which nobody even gets paid for? How do they propose to turn the clock back? What is it they actually want? The uninvention of the internet? The shackling or censoring or pricing of the internet to make all content pay for its keep? A Commissariat of the Inky-fingered to oversee the 'quality' of all content, and allow only the acceptable gems in the shop window as in the China and Iran which Cohen and Friends shed such crocodile tears over? Totalitarian regimes rigidly exclude all unnecessary information, they do not think it is the kind of truth their subjects need or which they are prepared to verify, and refuse to be accountable for its dissemination. As editors of The State News, they make their decisions on which information is profitable to publish and which not.
Cohen does not think blogs are necessary either, and almost says they are evil. So he has to either recommend their eradication by some means, which would put him on the dole, or use his column and its parasitic blog to try to poison as many people's minds as possible to the idea that their minds are capable of telling the difference between shit and sugar.
Reason not the need, Nick. Allow not nature more than nature needs, man's life's as cheap as beast's' And all that. Or, if you prefer a more modern sage: 'Let a thousand flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend.'

The Snail Which Did For The Taliban


The Cone Snail Genome Project for Health
undoubtedly represents another major advance in the cause of medical science. The potential for non-addictive pain relief, and the possible marginalisation of opiates must be a good thing, if only to make the job of winning the Afghan War cheaper by undermining the demand for opiates.
This humble species (Conus consors) is generally to be found in warm shallow seas, the marine habitat most at risk from rising sea temperatures and other human intervention, which isn't quite so good for it.
Luckily, we have already discovered this useful little beast and can now synthesise its secret ingredient and so don't have to worry about preserving its species for future harvesting or research. Its little act of kindness is done. But its new status re-emphasises the fact that we simply do not know what miracles we are destroying before we even know they exist.
Most scientists accept that there are still millions of species unkown to man. So with every acre of habitat and every species carelessly destroyed , the chances increase that their chemical gifts to us will also be lost forever. The future beneficiaries of Conus consors may not worry, but the future sufferers of aids and cancer who may go uncured because of our insane system of planet management may not be so lucky.


The Death Of The Local

Shane Williams Try

Several things are causing the death of the traditional british pub.

1. The assinine stubbornness and lack of enterprise of landlords and brewers, who want the public to buy their out of date service out of a sense of duty. the smoking ban was in fact an opportunity for governors to expand their clientelle, but instead they merely sulked.

2. Demographic changes- the arrival of cultures which do not rely on alcohol was a similar opportunity to diversify and expand, but was again missed because of parochialism and stupidity. The recent development of Halal pubs demonstrates the market for social drinking exists, it just needn't depend on drunkenness for commercial viability. The same market, only bigger, exists for young people, who at present are driven on to the streets to kill each other out of sight of drunken adults.

3. Pure market forces. The big chains swing such a degree of bulk buying power that they can easily outprice the local back street pub and the independent. And we're all in favour of devil-take-the-hindmost capitalism, no?

4. Property values. Again, who can argue with those lovely rising house prices? Not quite so appealing when they're cleansing communities of pubs, post offices, churches and schools, are they? when homes are merely a way of making money, communities disappear, and with them any need for communal experience and culture.

Halal Pubs


South East London BT Blackout

An oddly under-reported little disaster.
For over a week now, thousands of BT Customers in South East London have been without telephone, fax or broadband connections due to a contractor 'slicing through a cable the thickness of an oak tree' - according to one BT technician in Pomeroy St, SE14 on sunday morning.
Businesses along the Old kent rd as far as new Cross have been effected, and while some subscribers have been lucky, and been able to persuade technicians to 'do them first', others may have to wait another week, or even longer.
Even at a time when the mobile phone is so common, a landline is a necessity, not a luxury, and the incentive to restore services should be more than the 60 pence a day compensation offered by BT. Unless, that is, BT is trying to send the message that its vulnerable tangle of cables is the technology of the past, and that any sensible person would switch to something more ethereal - or even to a cable provider, which at least has the benefit of smaller bundles of subscribers, in shorter lengths, to slice through.


ITV Broke - Auntie Picks Up The Pieces

The mass audience is dead? Then the mass advertising audience is dead. Boo hoo. Perhaps this will mean fewer fat, sick, indoctrinated children, junked out on chemical foods and synthetic pastimes - as highlighted by this week's belated call for certain food poisons to be banned.
 The only problem is that, according to this week's Ofsted Report, because it has spent its time being a socially
responsible broadcaster, the BBC will now have to pay for the excesses, follies and anti-social opportunism of the commercial sector. In the same way, the taxpayer is now having to pay for the equivalent follies of the banks. When they make obscene profits from very dodgy investments, they get to keep the money and gloat about the universal benificence of the spriti of the free market. When the short-term greed of the market turns to disaster, the taxpayer pays.
The Licence to Print Money from TV commercials has finally expired, as it was always going to as technology gave more pesky power to consumers. Making them less and less like sheep. It transpires that as a basis for broadcasting, advertising was only ever a passing phase - at least in a responsible culture like Britain, which saw the limitations of the industrial marketplace from an early stage - having invented it. But why should the licence payer now pick up the pieces and buy Mr Grade's cigars and Rolls Royces? Why does the state owe the media billionaires a living for peddling their monumentally narcotic trash? Where is that written? Why does the taxpayer always have to pay for the business errors (the greed) of a marketplace which cannot see beyond its annual shareholders meeting?
Commercial TV and the advertising industry were warned almost a decade ago that the narrative TV ad was under serious threat from advancing technology - even the humble remote control eliminated commercials which cost as much as running and A&E department in an inner city borough for a week. Alan McCulloch of Saatchi's in 1999, urging the industry to adapt in order to survive: “TV advertising has to become more interactive. The agencies are failing to create new forms. Their heads are still stuck up their arses doing TV ads.” As were the heads of the TV companies.



The Flickry Future

Canary Wharf 6

Is the argument against video on photo-sharing site Flickr a logistical one? That it will slow down the experience? If so, deep under a mountain in a cold northern land:

Is it philosophical? Is the juxtaposition of two visual media somehow a negation of or to the detrement of either? Is it political in some way? I can see how it might be, but what exactly would signatories to the Anti-Video petition be putting their names to?

I understand that pro users have a lot invested in Flickr. A Pro account is almost a one-way street. - or so it seems to me. And I can see why they feel aggrieved when, as unofficial shareholders, their company radically alters policy. What are Flickr's stated reasons for doing this? Does Yahoo's flirtations with the Pearly Gates' mob have anything to do with it? Especially now, when Microsoft's breath is heavier than ever down Yahhoo's neck.

If Flickr is determined to ostracise its pro base, then there are many, many alternatives. And maybe the end of the Flickr hegemony is no bad thing. People may decide to target and exhibit their work differently. Is it so terrible that Flickr is diversifying? How will it get in the way? Who will be forcing anyone to watch videos? Is this a new form of media Puritanism? Surely the internet itself is all the evidence needed that the distinctions between the traditional media are obsolete? That the material and financial reasons for those distinctions do not apply online?

This should be interesting to watch, especially as the Flickr community isn't exactly solid on the issue.


Shock Report. Immigrants Only Human, say Lords

According to a House of Lords report, immigration into Britain has no overall benefit for the poorest members of British society. Just like 'economic growth' and war, in fact.
Man for man and pound for pound, each immigrant only contributes roughly as much to the British economy as their British counterparts, and as usual, the working class doesn't benefit much at all. Not so much news as a giant April Fool joke. Only not funny. And if anything, further evidence that people are far more similar than they are different - which is an argument in favour of immigration, if anything.
The benefits of a diverse society, where even South Africans are allowed to influence British culture, are only a mystery to devout racists and hand-wringing liberals who cheered their brains out at the destruction of the trade unions and the closed shop. Without regulation of working conditions by workers, immigration was always inevitable in the 'free market', and those who rejoiced at the defeat of working class then are now squealing loudest at the effects of removing that layer of regulation.
So the anti-immigration lobby hate both the union-based regulation of the labour market and the free market which exploits a weakened trade union movement. That is classic doublethink, and I wish these people would make up their so-called minds.