A blog about the many neat things in life, along with the many other things that are lying around. Categories include: political things, philosophy things, design things, template things, garage things, music things, and lots and lots of other things!

Monday, February 18, 2008

No Gods or Kings: Objectivism in BioShock

No Gods or Kings: Objectivism in BioShock:
"Levine said he actually wrote the story of BioShock as a fan of Ayn Rand's precepts.

'I'm probably way more similar to her in my terms of how I think about religion and politics than any other philosophers,' he said.

But Levine believes that Rand would reject that take on philosophy, that Rand believed it was 'her way or the highway.'

So BioShock wasn't meant really to be a game about Rand's beliefs, but more about her intensity.

'I wasn't setting out to make a game about objectivism, I was setting out to make a game about someone who had a very strong belief in a philosophy that was similar to this philosophy.

'It's a cautionary tale about wholesale, unquestioning belief in something.'"
Even athiests are prone to the ideas of dogmatism - as proven by the virtiol spit out by Rand and her philosophical followers such as Terry Goodkind. Reading some of their more volatile rants, it's easy to see how dogmatic one can become with "absolutist" beliefs such as objectivism. I loved Bioshock for exploring this aspect of objectivism, and for bringing up the philosophy without abjectly worshiping the shadow of Atlas.

Like Levine, I don't think there is any single philosophy which can be used to guide all moral and ethical decisions we face in life. Everything breaks down after a point. So far in my life I've found the best way to make decisions is to trust instincts and intuition - the high-level calculating one's brain does behind the scenes, factoring and weighting inputs from as far back as pre-memory childhood, and generally encompassing all the various philosophies I've considered. When intuition fails to provide an answer to any given dilemma, it's generally because of unique situations or factors that bear further study.

But getting back to Bioshock - I think it's major ethical and moral innovation is not in the system of rescuing or destroying the monstrous children known as Little Sisters. Such a binary decision between "save the kids" and "murder the kids" doesn't present ethical shades any less clear than those in Grand Theft Auto. The game rewards you handsomely for saving the kids, offsetting the loss of the precious resource ADAM you face for not killing them. So it's not really a hard choice - just, do you want to be moral, or not?

The ethical dilemma in Bioshock that I found innovative was the conflict between the objectivist creator of Rapture - Andrew Ryan - and the anarcho-mobster Fontaine that tried to take him down. Is Fontaine any better or worse than Ryan? Could you provide some kind of better alternative to an addicted and horrifically warped populace? Is there any saving Rapture?

I may sit down and play the game through a third time, having read this. Such a great FPS.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Going to the Valley

Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch on the Silicon Valley vs. Seattle debate:
Sure Seattle is beautiful (Kelman talks about lakes and outdoor stuff a lot in his post). And if you want to have a balanced, healthy lifestyle, that’s a great place to do it. If you don’t think you have what it takes to make it in Silicon Valley, maybe Seattle or other mini-tech hubs is the place for you. But the best of the best come to Silicon Valley to see if they’re as good as the legends that came before them. It’s a competitive advantage to be here. And if you aren’t willing to take advantage of every possible advantage to make your crazy startup idea work, perhaps you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.
I've never felt so anime about going to the Valley. I've known that that's what I should do since reading Ev Williams' article on the subject.

But the way Arrington puts it, it's like hitting the Pokemon League for real. You go there to prove you're the best. I don't think I'm as competitive as people make the Valley out to be - but I'll take the chance to emulate my favorite Shonen series and note that I plan on being the Hokage of web apps, the Pokemon Master of the internet, and the Pirate King of the west coast. Kicking ass starts in T-3 months.

4th Hokage
Originally uploaded by caleighrg.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Politics in class

My HIST 590B class - history of the dead and undead - is an interesting study of ghosts, myths, legends, and concepts of death in a historical perspective. This week, we read about medieval views of ghosts, stemming from Augustine onwards.

In class today, however, we talked politics. Our teacher, who wouldn't say if she supported any of our potential politicians, started the discussion and asked around for various opinions. She phrased almost everything as "I do not support position X, but how can you support opposing position Y? Do you not see anything wrong with that?" It was pretty funny to watch - all the Republicans in the class (which was most of the class - stupid Indiana) touted the same talking points repeated by Hannity, Limbaugh and the other frigtarded jokers of the Republican noise machine. It seemed most people hadn't thought about any of the issues surrounding the Iraq war beyond the talking points they had heard.

A big issue that came up three or four times in 30 minutes of discussion was miscommunication. Our teacher kept bringing in examples to challenge students to compare our current situation to historical events. Students would then misunderstand what she was talking about, and she would miss the fact that they were on two different subjects. It seems people tend to hear what they want to in political debates, rather than actually listening to anyone challenging their viewpoint. Or they're all just very poor communicators, and lack any sort of articulation. I'm not sure which is better.

In any case, I'd say it was more fun than our regular discussions, which can be drier than good gin. Except that I have to move to the other side of the room now - I can't sit next to Huckabee supporters. *shudder*

Labels: , ,

Ze on V-day

Ze Frank: Valentine's Day

Old content, but still funny. Every now and then I miss the Sports Racer crowd and the League of Awesomeness.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

TV News is a Shithole

Sorry for cursing. Anyway, here's a letter I sent to NBC today:
Hi NBC -

This morning, I gave you a chance. For the last 2-3 years, I have been so fed up with the stupidity of TV news networks (starting Fox, then spreading like an infection to CNN, ABC, and other networks) that I have never tuned into the stuff. I get all my news from blogs these days, since at least their opinion is transparent and they link back to sources of detail on the things they mention.

This morning, I gave you a chance. My house was too quiet, and I wanted to hear about Super Tuesday. I flipped through news channels and stumbled upon your network, and Kate Hudson was talking about Super Tuesday. Golden.

I could bear it for almost a minute before the waves of idiocy forced me to turn off my TV, lest it leak stupidity all over my carpet. Kate finished the three sentences about Super Tuesday, then went to report on some other headlines: environmentalists suing the military over too-powerful sonar technology, scientists being concerned about new indicators for global warming, and US monuments being left open by lax security.

The whole time, Tim Russert and the other chump on that show was MAKING FUN OF KATE FOR REPORTING THE NEWS! They were mocking her reporting, being sarcastic, and generally interrupting news for their stupidity.

There's a couple things wrong with this:

1 - Tim chimed in as soon as he heard the word 'environmentalists.' He said, "I care about our national security more than whales." That's a fine opinion, but he obviously had never heard of the piece on sonar technology, had no clue what the details of it were, but was already comfortable interrupting the news to tell the US his gut reaction. And being a sarcastic dick about it. I call it 'willful ignorance,' and it is the greatest sin we can commit in the information age.

2 - He then proceeded to mock Kate openly about global warming, saying repeatedly, "And tonight's news: polar bear cubs! Oh, the polar bear cubs!" Does he think that's funny? It's so 4th-grade. But the fact is that if I saw that happening in a bar, I'd hit the man, no doubt. IT IS NOT OKAY TO TREAT ANYONE THIS WAY EVER, let alone live on a 'respected' news show!

3 - Did I mention Tim was INTERRUPTING THE NEWS?! Isn't this a NEWS SHOW?! Why would anyone watch the Today show except that they wanted to hear about the news? And Tim was blocking that with his unwitty invective.

So, I gave you all a chance. And you know what? NBC, with it's Tim Russert, has reaffirmed my faith in blogs, and confirmed for me that all TV news is insipid twattle. Worthless trash. I hope I see Tim apologizing to Kate live on the air - but I will be seeing it on Crooks and Liars, or YouTube, or some other online outlet. I certainly won't be tuning in to your trashy network again.

Good day.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, February 01, 2008


Good news: It's snowin'.
Bad news: School's still on.
Good news: I ain't goin'.

Bad news: ...?
Posted by Picasa