Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On Grand Theft Irony

Okay, so when I was a teenager, back before roving bands of kids skulking around with water guns constituted a national-security threat, we played a game we called Assassins. We each had one target, we each were a target to one other player, and our goal was to take that target out--without being taken out ourselves--using water pistol, water balloon, or Super Soaker. It was a fun game and a great way to spend the summer, planning out strategy, staging ambushes, never knowing who the enemy was or when the icy stream of an assassin's attack would wind its way down our spine. And not one of us, not even my gun-crazy friend Newman, ever progressed from Super-Soaker attacks to the real thing or thought for a moment that actually killing someone was in any way an appropriate or acceptable response to a real-life problem.

Similarly, I have played, and enjoyed, the game Grand Theft Auto. I like driving around town and exploring what the game designers have created, and while I'm not crazy about the first-person shooter aspects of it, I'm kind of tickled to be able to steal someone's car and run them down with it. I do have to wait a couple of hours before actually getting behind the wheel of an actual car, because I'm an assertive enough driver anyway, but I recognize that it's a game and that running down old ladies and shooting up dry storefronts and beating up hookers isn't something that you're meant to do in real life. It's not okay.

So what in Dick Cheney's own hell is this kid's problem?

It's fun to do bad things! He just wanted to do hood rat stuff with his friends!

You can blame a lot of stuff on bad parenting, and I suspect that this kid might suffer from lack of supervision among other things, but you can bet he has never gotten the message that bad things are, y'know, bad to do. Despite being fun. Bad. He probably wasn't led by his mother to believe that doing "hood rat stuff" and running a stolen SUV into things is acceptable behavior.

So where's the disconnect? Where, in kids, is the line between "it's fun" and "but it's bad so I shouldn't do it"? What's the inherent difference between a kid who can make that distinction and a kid who can't?

I think kids these days lack a sense of irony. They don't get that Grand Theft Auto is funny because you don't actually win "health points" in real life by patronizing prostitutes. They don't understand that Road Runner cartoons are funny because coyotes don't actually make coyote-shaped holes when they fall off of cliffs (or flatten out into coyote-shaped pancakes) and then make a full recovery. They demand literalism in all things, and when they're presented with something that requires any appreciation of satire, it flies right over their little heads.

Humor and irony should be required subjects starting early in elementary education and carrying well into high school. Tom & Jerry through Jonathan Swift. Why is this funny? Why do we laugh at this? What does this tell us about our lives? Sure, funny things sometimes lose a bit of their humor on analysis, but when you're faced with a crisis, sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of humor in the interest of public safety. I would much rather have a teen driver on the road who knows the difference between an entertaining video game and real life--or a kid in high school who knows the difference between a song lyric and a life strategy--than one who can watch a Simpsons episode with a chuckle and then go to set the cat on fire.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so TGTBATFRT is BACK, people, although I don't think you could say it's better than ever. Just back. Its absence is attributable to a great many reasons: Bloggerpalooza and G-Day, a deeply awesome trip to New York with the fam, a massive and time-consuming project at work, and a general paucity of words and/or motivation on my part. The last two, actually, still factor significantly in my life, and that's not going to resolve any time soon, but I thought I'd at least try to bring the standard Friday meme.

On that note...

What's good (for the three weeks ending 4/25):

- New York, bitchez, and food, and shows, and fake Hermes bags, and the swankness that is Sofitel. Seriously, as we walked in, Doug said to me, "Are they playing something from Massive Attack's first album? This place is awesome." We had no idea, at that moment, how right he was.
- Bloggerpalooza, bitchez, even if it was raining much of the time
- The Riches
- picnic weather
- Ben & Jerry's ONE Cheesecake Brownie ice cream

What's bad:

- graduation speaker Clarence Thomas. Some may (rightly) point out that Justice Thomas was accused, but never convicted, of sexual harassment, but considering the recent spate of dirty professors at UGA, it seems like the kind of controversy the administration might want to avoid. And come on, professors. It's called professionalism. You're not their friends; you're their teachers.
- haggis. Well, okay, it's not actually bad, certainly not sexual-harassment bad, but it tastes like precisely what it is, which is organ meat, and I just don't see the attraction.

The Ten:

1. Men At Work, "Overkill"
2. Athenaeum, "No One"
3. Gioacchino Rossini, "Kyrie" from Petite messe solennelle
4. The Smiths, "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"
5. Shirley Bassey, "Big Spender"
6. Duran Duran, "Come Undone"
7. Hepburn, "I Quit"
8. Further Seems Forever, "Bye Bye Bye"
9. Ella Fitzgerald, "Ill Wind (You're Blowin' Me No Good)"
10. The Rivieras, "California Sun"

Now it's back to unpleasant and uncomfortable amounts of work. What's good for you this week? That, your Ten, and your position on organ meats go in comments.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On self-defense

Okay, so as long as they're not zombie five-year-olds, it looks like I'm good.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

On a story that'll break your heart, now available in hardback

Okay, so last September, I blogged about Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who is facing pancreatic cancer with more courage than I address the average hangnail.

He gave a powerful "Last Lecture" last lecture on the most valuable lessons he's learned during the course of his life--a lecture that's worth bookmarking and watching regularly, incidentally. He has since expanded on that lecture and provided it in convenient portable form with his new book, The Last Lecture.

I encourage--nay, order--you to buy a copy.

Monday, April 07, 2008

On the power of the Rick

Okay, so we continue our Rick Rolling kick with Mr. Astley's humanitarian power to soothe the savage breast. Who else could tame the hysterical hate-spewers at Westboro Baptist?

Well, okay, so Rick wasn't enough to actually tame them, but I'm sure he confused them pretty solidly for a few minutes. And shut them up a bit, too, which is never a bad thing. We take what we can get.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so Tom Cruise and his team are up in arms over a new strain of medical marijuana now available in California. The strain is called Tom Cruise Purple, is labeled with a picture of Tom Cruise's manically laughing mug, and is rumored to have hallucinogenic properties.

Wow. They really do know how to cure disease.

Here's my question, though: Most people I know smoke pot for the mellowing properties. If that's what you're going for, are you going to buy weed stamped with a picture of America's most famous hysterically laughing couch-jumper?

What's good (for the week ending 4/3):

- pot roast sandwiches. I know I've done pot roast as "good" in the past, but this is pot roast sandwiches, which is what happens on Day 3 after pot roast and pot roast leftovers.
- fourth dates. Everyone talks about how great first dates are, and butterflies and excitement and meeting someone new and blah blah blah, but I'm strictly "whatevs" on first dates. First dates, to me, are a necessary evil endured only for the sake of getting to second and third dates and, ultimately, Date Number Four. Date Four is the comfortable one where you've hit the bottom of the well on flashy marketing tactics and must resort to being yourself; trading awkward silences for companionable ones is, in my opinion, never a bad thing.
- Hillary Clinton's unique relationship with Barack Obama:

- John Frieda Radiant Red Luminous Color Glaze (if you can find it)
- a piano guy who doesn't charge for the first consultation

What's bad:

- rain on your wedding day. And on your tailgate. If Saturday is a-raining, Bloggerpalooza 2008 is assembling in the North Campus parking deck just before 11 a.m.
- Madonna's latest. The editing on that video gave me seizures. And Madonna, you're pushing 50, you've got a bangin' body... look into pants.

The Ten:

1. Vertical Horizon, "We Are"
2. Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In the Heart"
3. REM, "Why Not Smile"
4. Sade, "Feel No Pain"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "Friendly Fire"
6. Etta James, "I'll Be Seeing You"
7. Cee-Lo, "I'll Be Around"
8. Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, "You Keep Me Hangin' On"
9. Shirley Bassey, "Just One Of Those Things"
10. John Coltrane, "Cousin Mary"

That list makes me appear far cooler than I actually am. Shame, really.

And a question, apropos of nothing, for my male readers: If medical science advanced to the point that you could get preggo and carry a baby yourself, would you choose to? Your answer, your ten, and anything else you feel like blathering about go in comments.

On not no ghetto Boone's Farm

Okay, so when I say "Lil Jon," you think "class," right? I know you do. You think class and then you shout, "Yay-uh!" And that's precisely why Mr. Jon is starting his own upscale winery:
OS ANGELES (AP) -- It turns out Lil Jon drinks more than crunk juice - the larger-than-life producer and rapper has started his own wine label, offering selections including chardonnay and merlot.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," Lil Jon told The Associated Press of his new venture, Little Jonathan Winery. "We were just going to do some private label stuff (for parties) and we did it, and people was like, `Hey, it's pretty nice.'"

Lil Jon acknowledges that he's no wine connoisseur. "I'm not no `drink wine every day' kind of dude," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm not like an expert, so don't ask me no questions ... I just like the taste."


Mr. Jon made his first foray into the beverage industry with Crunk!!! Energy Drink, but this one he's taking a little more seriously. That's why he's putting his full name on every bottle.
"My full name is Jonathan," the Atlanta-based artist said. "The wine is more nature: I wanted to not just have a direct connection, but make it just a little bit more upscale than regular 'Lil Jon.' ... This is not no ghetto Boone's Farm; this is some real wine."


Full disclosure here--I will be purchasing at least two bottles of Little Jonathan Sauvignon Crunk, Beaujolais New Ho, or whatever else rolls off the conveyor belt: one to display and one to serve to my friends without telling them first.

(H/T The Superficial.)