Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Victor Barreiro on Journalism, Criticism, and Debate

"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."~~William Randolph Hearst

My good friend Victor "Stillwater" Barreiro asked my opinion on a piece he wrote for Rappler a day or two ago. He's concerned about his neutrality and integrity as a games journalist. (He also has a blog over at Games and Geekery):
As Rappler editor at large Marites Vitug wrote recently, it’s been suggested that as many as 9 out of 10 [Filipino] journalists are corrupt, with the extent of their corruption varying in degrees. The problem appears to be something caused by a number of factors, such as vested corporate interests, a lack of editorial independence, the need for money to survive, a desire for acceptance among corrupt peers, or simply not knowing whether an act is wrong because it has become common practice.
If the need to survive is an indicator of corruption, then pretty much the entire human race—and several other species—are guilty of corruption. I realize that people can behave unethically, but I don't believe that is our default setting. No offense, but journalists have an overinflated sense of neutrality that can lead to false concerns over "corruption." There are corrupt journalists, to be sure. I am also sure Victor is not one. Meanwhile, critics have an ever expanding outlet for trolling people they disagree with:
A short time after [a corruption scandal broke] I was also accused of being on the take. . . The simple reason was that I wrote an opinion column about my excitement for a game’s reboot based on the information provided by various sources.
I was reading last night about incidents of corruption over the past decade or so at the American Red Cross. Some cases were patently unethical, if not illegal: embezzlement, theft of goods, sexual misconduct. Other cases were occasions where I feel the ARC was correct, or behaved ethically, then was criticized unjustly. For example, the organization was warned against appearing to endorse corporate donors, like Coca Cola and Anheuser-Busch, who donated bottled water in support of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief. What was the ARC supposed to do, not accept the water? On other occasions they had donations in excess of what was needed to accomplish their mission for a given disaster, but were prevented from diverting those funds improve their ability to respond to future relief efforts. Then they were criticized for being unprepared. Heads rolled. The whole reading riled me up almost to Hulk levels. Just ask Sctrz.

Anyway, back to Stillwater's dilemma. When journalists, whether in the games industry or not, express their opinions in good faith, they need not worry about baseless criticism and accusations of corruption. If you report something that is false, but in good faith, all you can do later is set it right by reporting the truth. As long as you weren't lying in the first place, intentionally misleading your audience, you have done nothing wrong. You're biased, but if you're honest about your bias, write on.
I want to be criticized for my opinions and my representations of entities in my writing. This is not because I can adequately defend myself, but because it makes me accountable for the things I say and the facts I write, and if new information comes to light, I must work to ensure my writing remains accurate. This is because journalists work to inform the public.
Journalistic integrity is admirable, and to be sought after. Journalists need to be accountable for their writing. But journalists are human, with human foibles. Except for Andersuperman Cooper.
But what do I know? I'm just a damn dirty blogger.

Scarybooster: Blogger Extraordinaire

I has a sad. No, seriously, I'm a little emotional here.

Today marks the last official post from one of my earliest blogging friends, an insightful man with an inimitable way of reminding me and all of his other readers what is really important about gaming. Amazingly, he has written pretty much every post from his fruity smart phone, something I tried a couple times before giving up. His stories and parables humorously illustrate the foibles of the self-appointed MMO critics of the blogosphere and skewer the cynicism of a jaded playerbase. He even had the opportunity to write for MMORPG.com, where, unfortunately, a wider audience just didn't get it.
In the spirit of said anti-cynicism, Scary brought us Developer Appreciation Week, which tradition I plan to continue. Feeling the slow drag of the blogosphere has finally gotten to him, and he is discontinuing his blog for a while. In the meantime, his blog will still be up, so you can peruse his work. He said he may still post occasionally between now and the expiration of his current domain lease, but we won't getting anything regularly from him. I personally hope he gets bit by the writing bug again sooner rather than later.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another NaNoWriMo, Another Year Without a Book Written

I'm calling it now. I completely ran out of steam on National Novel Writing Month about Day 10, after having written practically nothing for more than a couple days before that. I've never been great with long term projects, preferring and excelling at the pressure cooker of timed tests and essays. I really wanted to get something "on paper" this year, mostly to say I had done it, but also to get Scrivener at a big discount. It's on my wishlist this year for Christmas. I guess I'll have to pay full price for it. I love Scrivener, having used it last year, as well.

While I was a little better organized this year—and had more time, in theory—I just didn't have inspiration to fill in all the details of my plot outline, much less the level of detail required to fill 50,000 words worth of story. Sctrz says I am much better at essays than stories as far as she can tell, and I can't deny it. At the beginning of this month, I wrote almost a thousand words extolling the virtues of a movie, and barely got twice that in scenes for my book. Then I posted false word counts on the NaNoWriMo site to avoid the embarrassment. Who cheats on a for-fun creative writing project? This guy! :\
That Moment When . . . (cc) Alex E. Proimos
So the Great American Novel won't be rolling off this keyboard anytime soon. I'm good in short bursts, but found that even the lengthiest short story I've written for this blog was agonizing to finish. I read somewhat slower than many, and write even slower than that. I'll think I've included plenty of detail in an action sequence or description, only to realize that I have a few paragraphs instead of a chapter. Do I need more action, or more detail?

At 382 words, even this post is turning out longer than I'd anticipated. I'd like to think I have a good story in me, maybe several. But I fall down in the details of it. Maybe 50,000 words in a month is too much for my writing style. I'd be interested to see professional authors go through their writing process. As John Scalzi pointed out on Halloween, for him and many other authors, every month is Novel Writing Month.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President Schmesident! We Have a Known WoW Player In the Senate!

The Maine State Senate, that is.

Just following up on my post about Colleen Lachowicz, the candidate who was outed for playing WoW—and making "offensive comments" back in 2004—has defeated her incumbent opponent to achieve a seat in the Maine legislature's upper house.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Is an Ocean . . .

. . . but a multitude of drops?
I've never been in a "battleground" state for a presidential election. So in the past I've often wondered what the point of me personally voting is. The vast majority of other voters for one candidate or the other will overwhelm my one vote either way. In light of one theme of Cloud Atlas, though, is that even in a vast ocean a single drop makes a difference, however small. And eventually the tide changes. So I voted.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cloud Atlas

What is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?
On Sunday, Sctrz and I saw Cloud Atlas. Perhaps understandably, between the genre-defying complexity of the story (dramatic dystopian historical sci-fi post-apocalyptic industrial conspiracy action thriller farce), which makes it difficult to market, and external factors like Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, it didn't exactly do spectacularly at the box office this weekend. However, I think it may be one of the most important films of this year. Much of the praise heaped upon, say, Looper, belongs to Cloud Atlas.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Looper. Great acting, great action, great movie making. It got great reviews from critics, slightly less great reviews from movie-goers. But if you think a bit about that movie, its premise unravels pretty quickly. Cloud Atlas becomes more profound—more involving—the more I think about it. It received poorer reviews from critics, but was much better received by movie-goers, though still less than Looper. Roger Ebert, just about the only critic I trust to review a movie with a proper understanding of its target audience, shared his impressions of Cloud Atlas here.
Yesterday, I believe I would never have done what I did today.
Future. Present. Past.
The movie intersperses several story arcs set in different eras. Assuming each era receives equal screen time (they don't), they're about a half-hour apiece, with the whole thing running roughly 2:52. The plot of each era is fairly straightforward and easy to follow; the trick is that it is much like trying to watch 6 different shows by flipping channels. The different storylines are connected more by theme and character beats than plot, though some things do bleed over from one era to the next. Realizing the connections is one of the delights of the film. Omer M. Mozaffar discusses some keys to the themes of the book (which is structured differently) and the movie here.

The dialogue has been criticized by some as obscure, some of the eras use odd dialects and accents. I didn't have any trouble understanding the actors, though it did require concentration at times. The movie bears rewatching, unlike some films that you can watch once, take it all in, and never need to see it again—even if you enjoy it. The biggest distraction, actually, was a result of casting the same actors in every era, sometimes under heavy makeup that made them virtually unrecognizable. This created a game of discovering who was under what disguise that detracted from the unfolding stories. [edit: OMG! I made another connection just now.] I missed least one major character until the ending credits.
A half-finished book is, after all, a half finished love affair.
Death. Life. Birth.
As I have indicated, this will be a movie that requires effort. Maybe you don't want that in your entertainment, I don't always want it. This time it works though. I was more engaged in this movie than in any other I've seen this year. (Much like I am engaged by The Secret World.) And I've seen more than just a few.

The movie is both visually stunning and thematically deep. Some say it leans toward preachiness; and I suppose it does. There may even be some ideas that offend some people. But I think that the main theme, that we are all connected, is a universal truth. We just may not be connected the way the film portrays it.
Love. Hope. Courage.
Like all good science fiction, Cloud Atlas makes you think about the what-ifs of life—of history. What is the "natural order of things"? What prejudices do we cling to? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes? Can we break out of destructive cycles? What would you do if you were confronted with the radically unexpected?

Cloud Atlas is a movie about hope and courage: hope for a better future combined with the courage to bring that future about. We may not succeed in our lifetimes, but we move ever closer to a brighter tomorrow. Above all, Cloud Atlas is a love story. You may not believe in soul mates, but it is certainly a running theme in many Hollywood films. I think that is OK.

I fear I can't convey the feelings I had watching this movie, so this review feels flat, analytical. The lengthy trailer embedded above was moving before I saw the movie itself. Today, as I went to watch it again looking for quotes, tears welled up, twice. All I can say is go see it. And when you do see Cloud Atlas, watch it with someone you love.