Tuesday, July 15, 2008

on dickwads:

I'm a bit late on this one, but Ren and Belle are spreading word about Kyle Payne, who is a blogger - a man who both blogs and does IRL conference stuff against pornography - who has pleaded guilty to breaking into a woman's bedroom, assaulting her and taking nude photographs of her in her sleep. He is still merrily blogging away, and presumably will continue to do so until he gets put away. What. As Belle reports, he is facing an open sentencing at Buena Vista County Courthouse, Storm Lake, Iowa on August 11th. If you live nearby, you might want to show up and have your word on that.

Someone else is being a dickwad lately: Obama and a supporter of his, comedian Bernie Mac. Lisa K is just plain mad about this. Gina brings the context:
Most Black women know that the standard fare for African American comedians is anti-Black woman attacks. It is always acceptable to make us the butt of their jokes. They usually get a pass however by the Black community, because the people they are insulting are Black women and nobody really cares about us anyway. No Black woman is immune from the anti-Black woman musing of these Black comedians, not even a potential Black First Lady, afterall, she’s a Black woman, and nobody really cares about us anyway. The only people that get into hot water for disparaging Black women are White people.

[...]Let’s be clear, Bernie Mac didn’t get shouted down because of his sexism, he got shouted down because he embarrassed Barack Obama. Sexism and misogyny by Black entertainers is permitted and even rewarded. It was refreshing to see someone confront it, whatever the reason. They were right, implying that Black women are inherently unsuitable to serve as First Lady of the United States of America is not funny to me.

I am avoiding most threads about this one; my fee-fees, they are slighted. (Yeah, pass me a hanky). But ultimately I'm reminded of Obama's early ties to gay-bashing preachers - something that put me off a lot at the time but later became a 'teachable moment', and also a tool with which to extract promises and declarations of tolerance. (Promises. Declarations. Yeah.)

My fee-fees. But get down to blood and bone and there's something that matters far more; Iraq, and the continuing and consistent commitment to getting out. A commitment to not continuing, or repeating, such massive bloodshed and extortion. I'm going to c/p from a MoveOn mailing here, even though I hate their tone, because it has all the important bits in it:

Iraqis want U.S. Troops out. No one was expecting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to speak up in favor of withdrawal—after all, he's close with the Bush administration. But with elections in Iraq coming up, and a great majority of Iraqis opposed to a prolonged U.S. occupation, Maliki can't afford to toe the Bush line. So he's surprised everyone by standing up this week for a timetable for troop withdrawals and a date certain to end the war. The LA Times headline reads, "Iraqi prime minister advocates withdrawal timeline."

As a result, the "endless war agreement" Bush has been pushing fell through. Since January, hundreds of thousands of us pushed Congress to stand up to President Bush's proposed treaty with Iraq, which would have tied the next President's hands and made it much harder to get out. This week, the Washington Post reported that that agreement has fallen through—Iraqi leaders are putting their feet down and demanding a much shorter agreement.

And now even the Pentagon is considering faster timelines. According to reporter Michael Hirsh at Newsweek, "a forthcoming Pentagon-sponsored report" will recommend a big drawdown of troops—suggesting "that U.S. forces be reduced to as few as 50,000 by the spring of 2009, down from about 150,000 now."

In other words, it's now clear: Most Americans are for a timeline, and so are most Iraqis. And even experts in the Pentagon agree.

For his part, Barack Obama is using these developments to hammer home the point that John McCain and President Bush are now isolated in their resistance to any kind of timeline for withdrawal. He wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times yesterday that reaffirmed his commitment to a timeline that would have all combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months.

It concludes, "Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea. . . [F]or far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender. It's not going to work this time. It's time to end this war."

They added a thing Obama said today:

George Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq—they have a strategy for staying in Iraq. They said we couldn't leave when violence was up, they say we can't leave when violence is down. They refuse to press the Iraqis to make tough choices, and they label any timetable to redeploy our troops "surrender," even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government—not to a terrorist enemy. Theirs is an endless focus on tactics inside Iraq, with no consideration of our strategy to face threats beyond Iraq's borders.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Americans and their crazy social taboos

I keep meaning to write about Everything That Is Clearly Wrong With This Strange Country, but not doing. I could say I don't know where to begin, but a lot of it dispirits as well as confuses me, and then I have to think of the things America does right instead of getting on the internets and typetty typetty type. (I'm only blogging now because I have some immigration paperwork due. Srsly). Things America does right include icecream, butterflies, the cost of videogames, children (though I am sure that every nation on earth has better children than the UK), mainstream gay clubs, shoes, icecream and icecream. But some things here are terrible to contemplate. I am never going to an American mainstream straight club ever again. (And I really want to write about that here, but damn, it'd be hard). I get a lump in my throat every time I remember that most Americans do not know the taste of bread. (I am going to make them some next weekend. Disaster awaits).

And sometimes I just trip over stuff that I know isn't their fault really. My belief that they urbanised wrong is clearly biased and unfair. They have a whole vocabulary for being polite, and I am not fluent in it. And their social taboos are in places I never expect them. (If I knew what my social taboos were, I couldn't possibly tell you).

I am c/ping from my own Deadjournal here:

Look. We (that is, a large and assorted group of relations) were off foraging for lunch and I ended up in a car that also contained M (driving) and two smaller people - his stepbrother (aged 16) and his half-nephew (aged 11). I was asking the elder of these about his tatts and piercings, pretending I took his replies (and him) very seriously, like you do when people are 16. Nod, smile, He then starts talking about his atheism. Nod, smile, a few supportive comments, 'it's good that you've thought about this for yourself', nod. It seems to me that the two boys have had this discussion before, and the younger is not happy with it. We reached our destination right then, and M's sister is already there, and the 11-year-old is fretting and going over to her.

So I get chastised by M and his sister for not being a responsible adult and somehow putting a stop to that conversation. I have always thought that afflicting the comfortable was part of my remit (at least when I am not being a giant wuss), but no, I am supposed to be shutting the closet door and leaning hard against it. Of course it wasn't that they disapproved - they were concerned about what their elder half-sister would say if her little boy told her of this shocking thing, that a teenage relative talked about atheism and an adult openly encouraged this. Never mind that he surely already knows his step-uncle is an atheist; responsible adults are not supposed to facilitate that kind of conversation. Never mind that neither M nor his sister are Christians themselves.


This kind of thing leads to me feeling anxious.

I've tried discussing it with both of them and they seem to be making mental leaps that I am not capable of at all. (I have an unhelpful belief that one closet is much the same as any other; just a place between two high walls). M says I have it all wrong and I'm just thinking of the elder kid but his thoughts are of the younger; myself, I don't see any reason for an 11-year-old to be shielded from the fact that not all of his family are devout Catholics. Worse, I don't see why anyone would want their child to assume that no one doubted his religion. What am I not seeing?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Christmas IV [more videogame blogging] & some Christians

So in a new MMO, Age of Conan, female characters are up to 35% less effective than male ones, and this is not mentioned anywhere in the character development process. Why?

Short answer: the game designers did not intend this, it's not like they're misogynists or anything like that - they just decided that there would be attack animations and you could only select a new attack once an animation had finished. Then they allowed the misogynist animators to get obsessed with lengthy boobie shots, thus making the female characters exist to be looked at while the male characters got on with shredding things. For some mysterious reason that we couldn't possibly guess at, the designers did not seek to fix the problem until gamers started complaining.

Long answer:
Let me begin with saying “yes, we here at Funcom agree with you; this is an unacceptable bug”. We never intended for any character to be stronger/weaker than another based on its gender, and we have been working on making the necessary adjustments to correct this issue for quite some time already.

Now, in our game, we have two primary sources of damage; ‘normal’ damage, commonly referred to as “white damage”, and ‘combo’ damage. Making the white damage equal for both Male and Female characters is, in this context, a fairly simple task and something we’ve already done and which should already have been patched out to Live.

For future reference, when I say that it was a fairly simple task to fix it, we’re still talking about modifying, either through actually having an animator work on the animation resource itself or by having a BCC designer adjust the speed-scaling of said animation resource, of more than 150 unique animations. In addition, these animations are fairly “simple”; by which I mean that they are your ordinary attacks and don’t contain any flourishes, sequential blows or other “complicated” stuff.

However, if we move onto ‘combo’ damage, which is what is causing the notable part of this issue, there are suddenly several factors that come into play when determining the final damage. I won’t be wasting too much time in this update to go into detail about every factor, but to quickly list a few they would be stat/modifier/multiplier (which in turn depends on class, level and weapon equipped), length of animation and, although irrelevant to this exact issue any longer, amount of steps in a combo sequence.

The main reason for the discrepancy in damage output that you’re seeing is that the length of an animation isn’t equal for both Male and Female characters in many cases. This is what we’re currently fixing, but there’s roughly 800 to 1000 animations in total that are involved here, and that they are significantly more “complex” than the ‘white damage’ animations mentioned above this naturally takes a lot more time.

Short version of long answer: boobies. FFS.

h/t Dee.

One thought I didn't add to my last gaming post - I'm playing a female PC in the NWN2 xpac, and (because of plotty plot things) this causes the Red Woman, and later Safiya, to allude to Delicious Genderqueer Subtext With Lesbian Overtones. (Um, I guess you can only fathom this bit of my rant if you've played the game, sry).

My first thought: there is no way, from the moment they'd thought up the game's background, that Akachi was going to be anything other than male, or the Red Woman anything other than female. It's only the female PC, if you have one, who is framed as perhaps being genderqueer. I cannot believe that a game plot would ever make a nod to a story's queer subtext if you chose to take a male PC, while not possessing this subtext if you choose a female PC. I think the same root sexism - the fear of women - explains why Akachi (male) in the xpac is framed as having far more to do with you than Gith (female) in the base game is.

(That's when they even refer to Gith as being female, which is about twice ever in all three of the videogames I've played that allude to her. Gith is an icon, and her various legacies have remained among the brightest plotspots in the AD&D canon since her invention in 1981; none of the 3ed manuals mention that she is female, and I had no idea myself til I played NWN2 earlier this year. Floored me, that.)

What both these things reveal is something I've known for a long time; videogames are far more conservative than reality. They're also far more conservative than any other form of storytelling. I wonder if conservatism is perhaps proportionate to the cost of entry into a medium; games are huge projects with slim profit margins at best, and each one has the power to destroy a studio. That means that, you know, the basic variety and tolerance you find out in the real world has to be nixed.

Now, Christians! Anglican ones. Who have decided that yes there will be women bishops, and no they won't be mollycoddling anyone who thinks this is a bad idea. For, mm, a reason I can't possibly fathom, not all Christians are happy about this. Libellum, LJ, qwp:

What I'm currently furious about is a quote further down the article from the Bishop of Fulham, the Right Reverend John Broadhurst, saying that the decision will cause a schism in the church because "I think a lot of us have made it quite clear if there isn't proper provision for us to live in dignity, inevitably we're driven out. It's not a case of walking away."

So allowing women equality makes it impossible for men to "live in dignity"? This is the problem. This. Right here.

For shame, Right Reverend John Broadhurst, you possessive, petty, overprivileged misogynist waste of space. As I understand it, Christ taught that all you need to live in dignity is humility and love. People like you make me glad I left the Anglican communion. A decision, by the way, which I am happy to accept personal responsibility for, unlike your craven whinging about being "driven out" as if you had no will or voice of your own. You have more status and power than most people in this country. You have no damn idea what it's like to not be able to live in dignity. Being driven out, not living in dignity - that's what happens to refugees. What you're having is a tantrum, and I'm disappointed in the BBC for bothering to print it.

And that's not all! Combatqueer brings more:

I know, I know, it seems impossible, but somehow the Vatican has become upset over something that isn't any of its business. [...]

As my Congregationalist grandma once told me, a church fight is like a divorce between five hundred people. Ugly.

Combatqueer is also wondering why the Vatican's opinion is newsworthy. Go read!