Thursday, July 28, 2005

Steal cars, kill cops, but please: no sex!

I've seen this story knocking around for a while now. I'm well aware that there's more important news out there right now - this, for instance. Then there's this. Or how about this?

But there's something about this. . . nonsense that just tickles me. The Grand Theft Auto series of video games, in case you are not aware (or have been living under a rock for the last decade), are amoral entertainment of the highest order. The object of the game(s) is to kill, maim, steal and generally be a naughty person in the pursuit of personal glory. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the latest installment of the franchise, puts you in the shoes of young, black gang member Carl Johnson in the early 1990s. Your objective? Kill rival gangs and take control of the state. Plus some other stuff.

Anyway, why all the fuss? Well, it seems a geek somewhere has written some code that reveals some (gosh, I can hardly bring myself to say it) scenes of a sexual nature within the game. That's it. Apparently this is shocking enough to get Hilary "Keep A High Profile, Only Two And A Half Years 'Til The Next Primaries" Clinton involved, and it's even been debated in the House Of Representatives.

This is utterly preposterous for three reasons:
  1. It's only a computer game.
  2. It's only a computer game.
  3. This game has been on sale since before Christmas with an 'M' (Mature) rating in the US. Which means you have to be seventeen to buy it (18 in the UK). In other words, old enough to have sex.
Elsewhere in the game you can (if you so choose) drag somebody from their car and kick them to death. Or you can run over pedestrians for fun. Or perhaps you'd rather shoot a cop in the head from point blank range or bludgeon a prostitute with a baseball bat and steal all her money? It's all in there, and well advertised.

So what are we supposed to conclude from all this? That creating a bloodbath with a shotgun is tolerated within a video game. As is being a cop killer or a psychopath. But the merest suggestion that two badly animated digitised people engage in sexual acts and Congress want to get involved! This from a country where you can buy an actual gun only a year after being old enough to buy GTA:SA.

Topsy-turvy morality perhaps? It's just a game. It's definitely not for kids - but that's for parents to control. In any case, it couldn't begin to compete with the violence, terror and horror that exists in the real world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Was this review useful to you?

Originally posted by The Realist

And now, in a change to our normal output, it’s the culture slot. This week sees the return of our ever-popular book review.

The Realist writes:

I’ve just read a book entitled ‘Leviticus’. What a downpour of shit. It took me forever and was as painful as glass to digest. I find it amazing that this cockdribble has been published in the first place – it reads like the daily cooking routine of someone with OCD:

‘The carcases of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you: every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.’

‘And he that beareth the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean unto you.’

‘And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.’

Mind you, I’m with them on the last one – I have many, many issues with shellfish however the author then goes on to bash our friends from across the Channel:

'the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole. These are unclean to you’

And I’m also confused about the author’s attitude to matters carnal. Apparently, post coitus:

‘every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean’

Well, that may seem like reasonable advice in, say, a sterile, hospital environment, but what about the film set of ‘Daisy-Chaining Anal First Timers II – Charlene and The Chocolate Factory’ – can a whole film studio be unclean? I’m not sure how that works.

This book has left me disappointed. I’m assured that it’s part of a wider work of books, which I would strongly suggest avoiding at all costs.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Dere's more to Oireland dan dis."

Well, I'm out of here for the next week and a half. Citizeness Sane and myself are taking a well deserved break in rural Ireland with some friends. Much as I hate to leave humid, smoggy London, waking up every morning to a view like this will cushion the blow.

No horses running through council estates here.

The Realist is also away for a week in sunny France, so there will be no activity here for a while. See you on the 26th.

Oh, well done boys.

Originally posted by The Realist

So gentlemen, I am presuming that you are looking down from allah’s right hand side, proud of what you have achieved. No? And the virgins you were promised? No, not there either? Oh, I see. Perhaps you reached the afterlife* only to discover that, in fact, Quakerism was the correct religion! Oh, you’ll be kicking yourself now. And kicking allah.

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it many times again – the sooner that we, as a world, stop this superstitious bullshit defining how we operate towards each other, the sooner we can just go about our business like the amazing species we should (and could) be.

Another irony is that it was a truly naff effort. Apparently, the aim was to create a giant cross across London (er, can anyone appreciate the irony of that?!) but instead they spelt a T.

For Twats.

*There is no such thing as the afterlife.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"Owners of unattended items will be destroyed."

Inevitably, we now live in a city of continual security alerts, where any suspect package is considered a threat. Inconvenient, but obviously necessary given recent events. I'm sure we've all been caught up in, or held up by, a security alert over the last four days. My building was 'invacuated' (yes, apparently, there is such a thing) on Friday: we all had to go and linger in the basement while some abandoned item was investigated on a bus right outside our building. The whole area around St. Paul's Cathedral was shut down and blocked off. Turned out to be nothing, but weird all the same.

Anyway, it occurred to me that in order to minimise disruption what we need is some drastic ruling to stop morons leaving their baggage unattended on buses, tubes and trains. As well as destroying the item in question, they should also destroy the owner when he/she has been located. This would serve a dual purpose: firstly it would cut down on false alarms and the resultant panic and disruption they cause; secondly, it would also get rid of a few more idiots who don't realise that walking away from a suitcase in the middle of Waterloo station in the current environment is a bit stupid.

A bit drastic, perhaps, but we live in extreme times.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

They'll never succeed

It's all the more revolting that these attacks took place on the day that G8 were due to meet and discuss the two biggest issues facing the future of this planet: world poverty and global warming. Discussions were meant to be taking place that might, just might, make the world a slightly better and fairer place. Instead, the day was hijacked by demented extremists who want to drag the world back to the middle ages.

Well, they'll never succeed.

It's kind of ironic that they should target London, where around seven million people of different race, nationality, religion and outlook live in close proximity to one another in near harmony. Sure, there are tensions like anywhere else, but for the most part people live happily side by side. The people who committed these acts today oppose that sort of thing. They don't want tolerance. They don't want personal freedoms. They don't want education. They don't want sexual equality. They want to apply a twisted version of an otherwise peaceful faith upon everybody. They are fascists, in the purest sense of the word. As a liberal who embraces Enlightenment values, they are anathema to me. I hope they are hunted down like dogs and eliminated.

This is not patriotic fervour speaking. Nor is this an anti-Islam tirade (I'm sure many of the murdered and injured people today were Muslim - don't let anyone tell you that these people speak for the Muslim community at large. They absolutely do not).

No. This is the indignation of the modern, civilised world against a murderous, totalitarian ideology.


What a day. It's a surreal experience, turning up at work, tired and hungover from the previous night's indulgence, then to discover that your home city is under attack from deranged Islamofascists. That bombs were going off, and people were being murdered, only a mile from where you sat at your desk, drinking coffee.

As events unfolded, it felt almost dream-like. For the first hour or so, we did not even know if this was a terrorist attack or not. The official line was that a power surge had caused an explosion near Liverpool Street tube station. Then another one at King's Cross. Then Russell Square. Then Edgware Road. Then buses blowing up? What the fuck is going on? Telephones wouldn't work, mobile phones were useless, the internet told us nothing, Sky News and the BBC could only report an 'incident'. Very scary indeed. It felt like 9/11 again (albeit it on a much minor scale), that feeling of hopelessness, where all you can do is watch events on the TV.

I work in the City, but a good mile from the nearest explosions. My beloved Citizeness Sane works a bit nearer, but she was also safe. The Realist was right in the thick of it (see below) but was fine. Gradually, through e-mail and text messaging, news got back that everyone we know was OK, if a bit shaken. Under instructions not to leave our buildings we could only sit, wait and hope that nothing else was going to happen. Thankfully, this was the case.

In terms of getting home, I was one of the lucky ones. The Underground remained completely out of action, but overline trains were operating. Packed to the rafters, but operating. I don't think I've ever been so relieved to get home.

Holy Shit

Originally posted by The Realist

Just a quick note for those I can't reach and those who read the blog. Citizen Sane and I are both OK.

More than nine times out of 10, I take the Piccadilly Line to work via Kings Cross. Today, I got to the platform and the next Piccadilly Line train was three minutes away, so (being impatient and angry as it was the morning) I took the Victoria line - something I had NEVER done. EVER. NOT ONCE.

So I should have been on that train this morning.

I was, however, on the tube at Kings Cross this morning when the incident happened there, albeit on the other line. The train driver lied to us about why we couldn't stop, locked us on the train, to keep us calm and sped us through the City, where I found out (only later) that other bombs were going on above my head. Absolute nightmare.

What was great was that myself and all of my friends called and mailed around and it didn't take long to work out that no-one was hurt. I'm in shock at the moment, but I'm sure future blogs from Citizen Sane and myself will make sense of it all. That's what we're here for, after all.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Vive le difference!

Seeing as Jacques Chirac has seen fit to haul up the old clich├ęs (pardon my French) about terrible British food and mad cows, is it acceptable to have a go at the nation of cheese-eating surrender monkeys over which he presides? To mention their questionable personal hygiene, hopeless military record (How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? Nobody knows, it's never been tried. Boom! Boom!), bad manners, arrogance and lazy, inefficient, highly unionised work force?

No? Oh, OK then.

To vote Labour, text "Tony" to 81505

Geoff Hoon today gave a speech outlining his suggestion to ensure higher turnouts at general elections: make voting compulsory.

Personally, I'm not convinced. Isn't there something a bit twisted about forcing people to fulfill their democratic rights? And that's the key word here - we have democratic rights, not obligations. In any case, it would be dangerous. Look at the governments that are produced by people actually having a preference. What would we get if the great unwashed suddenly turned up? And what are these recalcitrant voters supposed to do when they're pushed into the polling booths with cattle prods? Flip a coin?

I agree that political participation should be encouraged, but if people genuinely cannot be bothered to get off their fat, lazy arses and vote then, sad as it may be, we just have to accept it.

But there is a tried and tested method of getting people to vote in huge numbers, to hold strong opinons on the candidates, and even pay for the privelege of doing so. It works, without fail, every summer. Put them on Big Brother. It's a depressing statistic, but more people under 35 vote during this show than in any general election, so there's only one way to really engage this demographic: put the leaders of all the political parties in the house for 10 weeks. Get them doing tasks, let them speak their minds in the diary room, deprive them of contact with the outside world, withold treats from them, then get them drunk and rubbing each other's tits in the hot tub. Guaranteed to increase participation.

Mind you, first they'd have to carve the house out into constituencies and pervert the voting system so that 35% of the votes gives you 55% of the seats. Otherwise, it just wouldn't be British democracy.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Wish you were Gere?

I thought Pink Floyd were excellent at Live 8. But I was a bit confused because I was under the impression that it was a reunion with Roger Waters. So what was Richard Gere doing there?

Dave Gilmour, Richard Gere and the other two

Friday, July 01, 2005

Pop Stars Against Starvation

So, Live 8 tomorrow then. I’m not going, nor would I want to. Standing in Hyde Park watching a load of acts, most of which I have no regard for whatsoever? No thanks. To compound matters, the whole event is going to be an alcohol free zone too. Wahey! Let the festivities commence! To those “lucky” enough to have won tickets in the text lottery: you are very, very welcome to them. Enjoy!

That said, I obviously support the aims. I don’t like the whole back-slapping, self-congratulatory aspect of it all and the concept of rich musicians proselytising about the starving is a tad ridiculous. The idea of Sting, for example, encouraging us to dig deep makes me physically ill. (Come to think of it, the idea of Sting full stop makes me feel a bit nauseous.) We’re talking here about a man so rich that, when his accountant swindled him of six million pounds, he didn’t notice for a couple of years. But that aside, I think anything that raises awareness can’t be considered a bad thing.

Personally, I think the battle to reform the EU budget and the scrapping of the Common Agricultural Policy is of greater significance to helping Africa in the long-term and we should be supporting that, but I suppose more people prefer Dido to complex trade subsidy arguments (not me though – I don’t think there’s anything in the world more dull than Dido’s music: blander than a cardboard sandwich).

But I’m not totally cynical. I think Bob Geldof believes passionately in the cause, does excellent work and deserves full credit. He gets a lot of undeserved flack, which is unfair because his intentions are without question honourable. There’s a rather sceptical piece on the BBC website today written by David Stubbs, reviews editor of Wire magazine, explaining why he won’t be watching the event. Fair enough, and he makes some good arguments, but one point in particular about Geldof struck me as rather absurd:
But inevitably, given (Geldof's) profession, he is addicted to the spotlight and despite his reputation as a plain and profane speaker, rather too chummy towards the powerful over the years - be it Prince Charles, the Pope, Mother Teresa, Tony Blair or George Bush.
Well what are you suggesting? That he should try to turnaround attitudes to Africa WITHOUT the assistance of the most powerful people in the world??!! Ridiculous. He’s just playing the political game because that is what you have to do.

So yes, full credit to Sir Bob say I. Whether or not Live 8 is the best way to tackle problems on the scale of Africa’s is obviously contentious, but nobody can deny that he has done more than any other individual to highlight the plight of many people in that troubled continent. Who knows, I may even watch some of it tomorrow. From the comfort of my sofa. With a beer.

But obviously not when Sting or Dido are playing.