Tuesday, April 25, 2006

You Will Pay the Price for Your Lack of Vision

I don't want to be too disparaging here: Putting a tiny pair of eyeglasses on a housefly does require a certain mad kind of genius. But if you're going to all the trouble of laser-etching a pair of fly-sized glasses, why, oh why wouldn't you go all the way with it, and make them Groucho glasses?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Addition to Previous Movie Post

After watching Brokeback Mountain, we loaned it to someone Brenda works with. It seems she had wanted to see it, but her husband was too embarrassed to rent the infamous "gay cowboy" movie at the video store.


So, before loaning it to this person, I whipped up (so to speak) the World's Gayest DVD Cover* for it, just to annoy this guy I've never even met. For those who might also have some use for it, here it is (it's an insert for a DVD thin-pack, not the full-size DVD cases). Click for full size:

Brokeback Mountain
*Well, gayest without actually being gay porn, anyway. I do have some sense of compassion...

Oscar-Nominated Movies

Brokeback Mountain - I was about as unimpressed as I expected to be. This is one of those movies where people have intense, emotional conversations with each other while gazing off in opposite directions, instead of looking at each other. Y'know, the way people in the real world behave.

It also struck me as very obviously being a movie about homosexual men made primarily by heterosexuals. It contains/reinforces a bunch of heterosexual misconceptions about gay relationships - e.g., it's basically all about the sex, the sex is rough & macho, etc. I never got any sense of a romantic connection between them - it's a very Ancient Greek conception of homosexuality, where they're basically masculine camping/hiking/fishing "buddies", except they also have sex.

I can see why it had some mainstream appeal - it's a very safe movie for straight people. Sure, they're gay, but they're also basically disgusted by their own behavior, at least at first. It certainly doesn't present their relationship as in any way normal, which would have been much more groundbreaking and risky. And, at the risk of giving it away, it follows the normal mainstream Hollywood Rule of Gay Relationships: It must End Badly, preferably with the death of at least one partner.

I guess I've just seen so many other good little independent movies actually made by gay men, that this just seemed unrealistic and stereotyped, and surprisingly prissy about it all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Must Be a Violent Dope Fiend By Now

Violent video games linked to risky behaviors. Well, um, sort of.

First of all: I applaud the researchers for actually matching similar games for their violent vs. non-violent comparison. An earlier study I'm aware of compared playing Quake to playing Myst, and it's hard to imagine two games more different from each other in every conceivable way, leaving many, many uncontrolled variables other than merely "violence level". Here, they matched Grand Theft Auto III against The Simpsons: Hit and Run, which has very similar gameplay to GTAIII, but cartoonish instead of gritty & violent. Bravo.

But what effects did they actually observe? Those who played the more violent game:
  1. Immediately afterwards, were less cooperative/more competitive.
  2. Immediately afterwards, were more likely to interpret others' attitudes as hostile toward them.
  3. Immediately afterwards, expressed more permissive attitudes toward alcohol/marijuana use.
  4. Only among those with higher exposure to real-life violence, elevated systolic blood pressure.
Once again, we have a study that measures an effect (or several effects) immediately after playing a violent video game, but makes no apparent attempt to measure whether/how quickly this effect normalizes over time. Is there still a measurable difference an hour later? A day? Is the effect permanent and cumulative? We don't know...

Now, about the headline: It's a complete lie. The study has not in any way linked violent video games to risky behaviors. It has linked violent video games to permissive attitudes about risky behaviors. I'd like to see how the question was worded: It could be that violent video games just make players more forgiving of risky behaviors in others, but not more likely to personally engage in such behaviors.

It's also unfortunate that Reuters doesn't report any more information than one can glean from the abstract of the actual study. I don't really want to pay $15 just to find out the actual magnitude of these observed effects. How much more competitive? How much more permissive?