Gaming Taxonomy

As philosophical and analytical as I am, I must utterly cede all pretense of expertise to this incredible analysis of gamer motivations.

"Meandering Mind" suitably describes my jumbled, rambling thought processes. With enough discipline I might one day be able to mimic the precision displayed in the linked article, and perhaps I will make it a future goal. In the meantime, that blog has instantly become on of my favorite reads. If you are anything like me, you will enjoy it as well.


Media Rare

There is good news and bad news today. I like good news a lot more than bad news, but I like bad news more than what qualifies as "news" on television these days.

The good news is that our President is on the job. He have a very nice interview to 60 minutes covering the vast scope of all the crises our country currently faces, showing exceptional resilience in the face of incredible obstacles. He also fielded an interesting online forum today, even answering questions a typical politician might deem unseemly. It's good to have a president that's willing to get his hands dirty.

The bad news is the "news" didn't really care about that, and instead got all riled up that Obama laughed once during his interview with 60 minutes. You can get the whole story on that here.

The key here is less that the media blew something out of proportion, but more that they ignored important issues by doing so. This isn't an isolated incident, but a daily, even hourly occurrence. Quite simply, the 24-hour news networks are to insightful coverage what Trivial Pursuit is to a dissertation on the transformation of the nation's zeitgeist. CNN, NBC and FOX are great at provoking and expounding meaningless trivia, but are not thought-provoking or informative.

This is not only a shame, but harmful. Given 40 minutes of interview to pour over, discuss, critique, and grapple with these networks decided that a few seconds of rueful laughter were more newsworthy. I ask a simple question, "How does this help or inform the public?" The trick is that from the perspective of the networks I asked the wrong question. Their version of the question would be, "Does this entertain the public?" The public doesn't want to be informed, they posit, they want to be entertained. Thinking thus, the networks have evolved themselves into a faux-respectable televised tabloid.

While I can't claim I'd watch 24 hours of Jim Lehrer's News Hour, it would do the country good if such a channel came to replace these worthless husks.



I went to see Watchmen today. This is not surprising, except maybe that it took so long for me to do so. It was a good movie, also not surprising. In fact, I'd call the movie almost perfect, the issues so tiny and minute they can hardly be said to have occurred at all.

The conversation that the usher had with the couple behind me wasn't surprising either. Apparently some people bring their kids to R rated movies (if you didn't know this, you missed the 80s and 90s), some people also leave movies halfway through due to explicit sex scenes, and if you make a Venn diagram the two have significant overlap.

The surprising moment came immediately after the very explicit sex scene in the movie, and bloomed fully once the movie ended. It's not the scene itself that was surprising or anything that came before it, but rather that parents waited until that moment to decide to leave.

It's not that there are sex scenes beforehand, but that there are scenes of such horrific violence I would pause before I let someone in college watch them. In fact, I can think of many college friends who would be shocked at and cross with me were I to subject them to such barbarity. Many of those moments were truly gruesome.

It is, I think, indicative of the state of our culture that a bloodstain on the ceiling including a dangling, half-exploded arm followed immediately by scenes of women showered in blood doesn't warrant a quick exit for the sake of the children, but a couple of people engaging in an activity practiced by offendees themselves (I mean, they do have kids) is somehow worthy of their ire. It's nonsense.

I'm not advocating Japanese-like acceptance of sexual deviancy, but I am saying that we have our priorities utterly backwards. Everyone should recoil violently when someone is brutally murdered, not just during sex.


Like the Scent of Fresh Lemon.. you see.

I gave Cramer too much credit apparently.

When asked yesterday if Stewart had a point to his criticism, Cramer responded thus:

Cramer ... called it "a naive and misleading thing to attack the media."

"We weren't behind this. CNBC, in particular, has been out front on this," he argued. "I think there are people who bear so much more responsibility [than the media] that it's just wrong-headed -- the politicians, the regulators, the SEC, the lenders, the investment banks. ... It's just a naive focus, it really is Meredith."

Right, where have I head this one before...

Dad: You shouldn't have pulled up mom's plants.

Me: But it was her idea, and she pulled up more!

Cramer's argument childishly assumes that because he is receiving blame this precludes anyone else from taking their rightful fall. Were such an assumption true it would indeed call into question whether we were going after the correct person or institution. Thankfully it is not.

I had high hopes that Cramer was intent on actual reform, but they are now dashed upon the rocks. Neither he nor NBC seem interested in their faults or the correction thereof. This is, again, a shame and ill omen of our times.


Ah, the Days of my Youth

I'm going to quote two paragraphs from a Huffington Post article which includes a response from NBC's chief executive Jeff Zuker to Jon Stewart's interview of Jim Cramer. I am then going to point out something incredibly obvious.


Stewart has had strong words for CNBC on his Comedy Central show, arguing that journalists who cover Wall Street should have done more to warn of the financial meltdown through critical reporting, instead of acting like market cheerleaders.

Zucker said while interviewed on a stage by BusinessWeek that while "everyone wants to find a scapegoat," to suggest that the business media or CNBC was responsible for the economic meltdown is "absurd."

Funny, I have encountered this form of reprimand and rebuttal before. I think it went something like this:

Dad: You are not allowed to enter your sister's room without her permission.

Me: But I wasn't the one who knocked over all of her dolls!

It is irrefutable that I did not knock over her dolls (on that particular occasion). It is also a terrible defense when the alleged crime is trespassing.

I highly doubt Jeff Zucker watched the clash between his subordinate and some comedian. If he did, he obviously didn't understand the signifigance of the event. Pervading his response is this assumption that this was standard media outlet finger pointing, lacking any nuance or discernment beyond "blame X for the problem of the week/month/year/decade". The disconnect is blisteringly obvious from the two quoted paragraphs.

It's a shame, as Stewart's plea was so genuine and concerned. CNBC and similar networks could have mitigated in some notable way the impact of the current crisis, but instead lined up and drank the koolaid. They can still change and be helpful to the public, but rather than listen it's all blown off. However terrible Jim Cramer's advice has been, he at least has the guts to answer for it, admit he was at fault, and accept that change is in order. He deserves that much credit.


There are several elements of this recession that bother me. This discomfort and irritation stems from the lack of understanding I have regarding them. They don't make sense to me, and I don't see why they should make sense to anyone.

The first is AIG. They'll be paying out $165 million in bonuses to 370 people who are largely responsible for tanking the company. Now that seems unthinkable, idiotic, and stupid but hold your judgement. They're only paying the bonuses because they are contractually obligated to. Wait, what?

For the common worker, a bonus is something they get when they work hard and deliver for the company above and beyond the call of duty. It's an optional reward, usually tied to a specific, tight deadline or milestone. The average office worker is never guaranteed a bonus, they have to sweat for them. That's the whole point of bonuses, excel and you can reap the benefits. It's a pat on the back for a job well done, a reminder that companies value those who put in their best effort.

What in the name of sanity was AIG's HR department thinking when they made "bonuses" a contractual obligation. How can you even call it a bonus? I don't understand how that works or makes sense. It defeats the entire purpose and concept to award people who seriously fubar'd the company and economy such lofty sums.

The second confusion is short selling. I want to make sure I have this concept down. You borrow someone else's stock, which you don't actually own, and sell it. Then you rebuy it at a later date and give it back to them. You're betting the stock will drop, so that when you rebuy the price will be less than it was when you sold.

First issue: Whose stock are you borrowing? I want to know, because the idea that some creep can use my stock for such things is terribly upsetting. I can't walk into someone's house and sell their antiques, promising to buy them back later. It doesn't work that way.

Second issue: Doesn't this create a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts? Say Mr. Financial Guru suggests short selling stock A. A whole crapton of people follow his suggestion and low and behold the stock drops. Tadah, short sellers make money, while whoever was actually holding on to the stock loses.

The financial markets are seriously whack. Seriously.


On Journalism, Again

CNN recently noted that Jon Stewart might be the next Edward R. Murrow following the comedian's extremely precise dissection of Jim Cramer and the financial branch of the media in general. This is a dark day for journalism.

I ask, why are we relying on a comedian to fill the crucial role Murrow played? This is not to suggest that Stewart is incapable, but that it is ridiculous to think no journalists have the capacity. There is at least one journalist capable of Stewart's feats, as seen at Slacktivist, yet we live in a society where public media outlets cede credibility to networks featuring puppets making crank phone calls.

CNN also ineffectually complained that they exposed Cramer first back in October. I say ineffectually for two reasons. First, nobody noticed. Second, if you go to CNN.com's own website to their topic page "Jim Cramer" there is a single article from October which only mentions him once, in passing. The closest equivalent I could find to a takedown was an article on Chrysler mentioning Cramer's recent prognostication of automotive doomed while briefly criticizing him for the frequency and accuracy of his pronouncements. The article quickly returned to topic.

These points are especially illuminating. The media outlets are perfectly capable of making a story, any story, noticeable and important. We've had much ado about many nothings over the years and CNN's supposed takedown of Cramer could easily have been much ado about something. That it did not receive much notice is indicative of how important CNN itself considered the story, clearly seconded by the fact that you can't even find the story.

The difference in urgency is astounding. Jon Stewart felt this task was so important that he not only brought Jim Cramer onto his show, but went so far overtime with the interview that sections had to be cut from live broadcast. Rather than lose those sections, the full interview was made available to the public on the internet with references to previous episodes on the topic.

The power of the interview itself isn't only in the lack of kid gloves, the explicitness of the hypocrisy encapsulated in video clips of Cramer's own words, or Stewart's sagaciousness. What makes the interview authentic is the clarity of Stewart's goal, not damnation but redemption, not vengeance but reconciliation. It is true that a one sentence summary of Stewart's message would necessarily begin with "You screwed up", but the humble, hopeful admission and conclusion that follows is "and we need you."

That essential quality Stewart displayed in the interview, and his legendary appearance on CNN's own Crossfire, is completely lost upon those involved in CNN's discussion of the confrontation. They recognize neither that he spoke truth to power, nor that he spoke truth to self, but only that something newsworthy occurred and it garnered more attention than their own attempts in the same field.

It is impossible to say without the source itself, but I strongly suspect that CNN's takedown was an overprocessed, empty calorie blurb on the subject, diluted by the typical media outlet aversion to critiquing other media outlets. At best there or four people, none of whom would have been Cramer, might have discussed the hypocrisy or foolishness for five minutes. Were that the case, maybe CNN will take note that talking about someone behind their back is generally only interesting to the people doing the talking.

In any case, as grateful as I am to Jon Stewart for doing the job of CNN/NBC/CBS/FOX etc. for them, I am dismayed at the ill omen this event signifies.


On Journalism

It is a dark day for journalism when one of the White House Press Core refers to an interview conducted by comedian Jon Stewart as "serious journalism". Not because it isn't true, but because it is.



Strange beast engineer,
words they do not understand,



Work a single day,
the hours greater than one hand,
then comes peace.