Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I wasn't alone I guess...

I orignally wrote the post below in January of 2007. Tom Watson had invited me to join a gang of bloggers in a venture he titled "Newcritics". It was the first I submitted to him. Sadly, Newcritics is folding up shop, but it had a great run and I made some cool friends while being a contributor.

Last night, I was flipping through my latest copy of Newsweek and caome upon this article. It is definately worth the read and I encourge everybody to read it all the way through. My first reaction was amazement that so many soldiers participated in the games creation, but also feel a bit vindicated by the the parents and loved ones lost during The Battle of Fallujah. In the end, it's their wishes that come first, and I think it's time to stop making games out of things like this.

But that's just one man's opinion. Read it all and let me know what you think in the blog or Facebook comments.

Here's my original post form Jan. 2007...

Band of Brothers: The Game...

Call of DutyI write this post at great risk of sounding much older than my 42 years, but my lack of diction and eloquence coupled with the fact that I regrettably paid exactly zero attention during any writing class throughout high school and college leaves me with this handicap that I alone am accountable for.

The fact that Tom Watson finds anything I write at all interesting tells me a few things about him: He is either certifiably insane, bored, both, or he possesses the uncanny ability to ignore all the poor grammar, misspelling, terrible syntax, etc... and somehow get what it is that I'm attempting to say, actually thinks others might be able to do the same, and somehow find it the slightest bit interesting. So, on the strength of that assessment here goes nothing...

One of the cool things about our trips back to the NYC area is that I get to see my young nephew. He's now a seventh grader and it pains me to hear his voice deepening and listen to him speak of the opposite sex without the adolescent disdain that was so abundant during our last visit only a year ago (see the opening sentence of this post). He's an extremely bright and well-mannered kid that any parent would be proud to have as a son. He's also a video game addict.

He's played video games for as long as I can remember him having the dexterity to operate a joystick. I always feel bad when I see him because he immediately wants to show me his prowess at the latest game flying off Best Buy shelves everywhere, and I sometimes have to fane interest since I can not readily identify the subtle graphical enhancements between Madden Football IV vs. V that he's so amped to demonstrate for me.

This past holiday season was different though. His parents were actually able to hunt down a Nintendo Wii system for him as a well-deserved reward for his continued success with his school work. Since I read a crap-load of tech blogs, I was genuinely curious to see what this thing could do with it's forearm mounted virtual controller and all. As soon as we hit his front door, predictably he dragged me post haste to his room to check it out. As he cut the machine on, up came a graphic for the game Call of Duty 3.

Within a few seconds, we were in the 1st person behind an M-1 rifle making our way through the Normandy seawall breech. Extremely realistic graphics. Frighteningly realistic graphics. My nephew was able to hurl hand grenades, reload his rifle, direct mortar fire at enemy armor, navigate the ruins of war torn French towns, etc... To say this gaming system is amazing would simply be the understatement of the year. But it wasn't the gaming system that caught my long term attention though; more it was the content of the game he was playing.

Since I don't play video games of any kind (I'm a pinball man; again see the opening sentence of this post), I've found myself struggling not to overreact to strong feelings that bubbled up while watching my nephew take such great joy in German soldiers flying through the air after the grenade he just heaved into their machine gun nest exploded. I will tell you that I'm the one who you'd normally find scornfully rolling his eyes at children's birthday parties when I hear some parent say, “We don't play guns, army, war, etc...

We played war in the woods as kids all the time. We made M-16's out of tree branches if we didn't have plastic replicas already and none of us went on to pick off innocent civilians from a clock tower after all, but this game with its shocking detail and historically accurate depictions gave me great pause, great pause.

I wonder if it's the right thing to be doing creating a game out of the “Day of Days". Are we desensitizing this young man to the sacrifice our grandfathers made for the liberation of Europe and for all mankind? Marginalizing for our youth the horrors of warfare perhaps? Will my nephew experience the same feelings of awe I did when I first saw the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan? Will his eyes well up with tears, or will he see it as another redundant recreation, just another level in a game he's long since mastered? Does he know that these stories are real? That entire companies of men lost their life in an instant after the sea baring carrier that brought them to shore let its door down? That thousands of fathers and mothers would get a telegram delivered to them by an Army Chaplin driving an olive drab car informing them of their loss as a result of what transpired on June 6th 1944?

I want to think that perhaps this game will make learning about historical events like WWII more interesting since he will have visual references to draw on, but are these the preferable references we want our kids to have? The thing that had the greatest impact for me regarding the release of Saving Private Ryan was the feedback from surviving veterans I read in so many magazines and a few of my father's military publications.

Many stated that the realistic 1st person aspect of the opening montage was a quintessential testament for the benefit of the ages and all who weren't there. After seeing the D-Day sequence many experienced emotions long since buried deep within their psyche. I wonder if we're not somehow doing a dishonor to these men by making a game out of their most horrific memories.

I don't pretend to have reconciled any of this, and to be honest, have come to not a single conclusion other than to say that I still have that sickly feeling in my lower abdomen when thinking about kids my nephew's age all over the world laughing and smiling while they lay waste to a division of Nazi infantry. It's just a feeling of wrongness that I can't overcome and get right with the progressive side of me. However, I'm keenly interested in hearing others thoughts on this subject and when Tom invited me to contribute to this new venture, I thought this post would be perfect for this forum.

So what is it? Am I just getting old? Is it becoming a parent that has brought all this on? Am I out of touch with today's youth and their reality/fantasy separation capabilities? Whatever anyone's feelings are about our countries current engagements, my gut says that one thing we should all agree on is that every American should understand the consequences that fall solely on the shoulders of our men and women deployed in combat. Do games like this help teach our kids, or do a disservice?

This is the question I ask to all of you...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iranian voters say, "I want my MTV!" Council responds, "How 'bout The Disney Channel instead..."

Boy, how ‘bout that Iranian election huh? Not a better example of democracy in action than that, I tell ya… Sure, the favored candidate lost, but the level of acceptance and tolerance of the returns and the overall support for the Iranian constitution by all parties is a shining testament to the fairness of a one man, one vote society.

All snark aside… Sadly, I wish I had more of an optimistic outlook for those who are taking to the streets in Tehran today. I wish I believed that a momentum swing has/is occurred. I think many pro-democracy western friendly students and academics are sort of waiting to see if the tide is really going to come in on this thing before they close their books and join their braver counterparts. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Honestly, part of the problem is that young folks in Iran have it better than the generation prior as far as freedoms and are reluctant to see it all evaporate demanding more. They’ve adopted the very American “ignore them (the hardliners) and they’ll leave you alone” approach. Too bad they can't get a grip on the reality that they will NEVER truly leave them alone EVER.

The facts are this… Iran is ruled by the HYPERWEALTHY Supreme Guardian Council. These are mullahs and judges install during the late 70’s revolution. These council members and their extended families are the main benefactors of Iran’s petroleum exports (their is little diff between these asshats and the House of Saud as far as oil money distribution goes). They are rich beyond belief. Their thievery is concealed under the cloak of religious totalitarianism, a popular favorite in the Middle East. The council has effectively played the game of puppet government VERY well in Iran, perhaps as well as their most hated enemy the Saudi's. Giving in and looking the other way on small breeches of obedience as long as it didn’t look or smell like a movement. Hell, the mullahs don’t even care that most educated Iranians dismiss them and their loud mouth puppet president as idiots and thieves, as long as these things don’t coalesce into popular opposition movement.

I do think the elections have moved the ball forward though, if only a yard or two. Assuming that a Tienanmen style crack down is avoided, in the coming months Ahmadinejad and the council will release the pressure valve of “personal freedoms” a little to calm the most dangerous numbers among the dissenters (those on the fence right now) and a go back to barking at the west. While this may not help Hillary in the short term, playing this game ultimately is bad for Iran’s Supreme Guardian Council. Funny thing about freedom, it’s awful hard to roll back up once you’ve let it out.

I’d love to be wrong here, I’d love to wake up everyday this week to headlines that the crowds in Tehran are growing each day and a real movement is gaining a foot, but I sort of put myself in the shoes of one of those fence sitters over there and analyze it from a more tactical standpoint. As much as I hate to say it, it’s probably better to provide assistance to street fighters when you can, keep your face covered to remain anonymous, shoot and scoot, and live to fight another day, perhaps when the ”Great Gettin’ up Morning” actually does come. See how this plays with the White House and Europe, maybe let opposition leadership evolve and organize a little bit more.

That’s how I see it anyway. My best wishes for those brave Iranian men and women who are taking to the streets. I hope what you’re feeling is contagious…

Friday, June 05, 2009

Office Space: The Decline of Western Civilization Part I...

I knew when I packed up my spacious office on my last day with Sprint-Nextel that the chances of moving back into an office at my next job would probably hover around 50-50. As it happened, I was only out of work for two and half months before landing here at my current employer. I felt then, certainly as I do now, grateful to be gainfully employed doing work that I enjoy for the most part. Since my new job had no direct reports as my last one did, back to the cubicle farm I went. After a month or two had gone by, I discovered that NOT having to be responsible for subordinate employees FAR out weighed the lost in privacy, plus the cube my new boss gave me was huge. About this time last year, they did a restack and my boss again ensured that I got one of the large cubes even though there weren’t enough for everyone to have one.

After surviving five layoffs and two restacks it would appear that my string of luck has come to an end not with a whimper, but with a bang. No, I’ve not been laid off, but our department was ordered to move into new space this week and I’m now in a cracker box. Let me give you a tour of my sorry new digs:

I'm a big guy, my only chair move is to spin around stationary otherwise I'm in the isle. Not good.

The left wall. Note my six projects lying neatly over one another. I'll get to them as soon as I'm done with this post, check my personnal e-mail and blog feed reader (for Chan, note 'Slammer' playbill in upper right hand corner).

Dig the old skool Roladex and photo of the Porsche I no longer own.

This is Katie's Wall. Reminds me of the reason I drive an hour into the city and sit in a tiny ass cube all day long.

The worst thing about this cube other than it's tiny size, is it's proximity to the "short cut door". The damn thing is directly behind me.

Assholes barging through it every ten minutes instead of walking the five steps around the mail desk. Dicks, all of them.

There is one potentially positive omen. The dude that used to dwell in this cube left this guy behind:
AWE HELLS YEAH!!! Check out the rockin' Indian dude playing the lap piano. Even retains the curry odor.

I'm getting a telepathic message from him right now... he says... Tony, you've earned it... Take the afternoon... You're boss has headed home already... Go grab a cold one and sit in your new pool floaty... I have deemed it so.

This dude must abide...