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William Volk may not be the world's oldest game designer, but he's up there. He started out as a play tester for Avalon Hill in 1979, and since then has worked for Activision and other major players in the game space. His current job is with PlayScreen, where he's working on their Word Carnivale iOS game, which is not violent at all. But over the years Volk has worked on slightly violent video games and has watched public outcries over video game violence since 1976. He's also tracked how much less violence we've seen since lead was removed from gasoline. (Editorial interjection: Aren't most remaining pockets of massive gun violence in cities where many poor kids grow up in apartments that have lead paint?) Due to technical problems during the interview, some of the conversation is missing, primarily about the recent spate of multiple murders. It seems, for instance, that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was heavily into violent video games, which is sure to spark plenty of new discussion about how they affect players. But then again, as Volk reminded me in an email, "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now," a meme that has been floating around Facebook since last year, if not earlier.

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Desillusion magazine and Nixon proudly present their latest video instalment “This is Andrew”, a video portrait paying tribute to US street skateboarder Andrew Reynolds. Growing up in a small town in Florida, Andrew started skateboarding at a very young age. Due to his exceptional talent – Reynolds won the first contest he ever entered – he drew the attention of the skate industry and landed on some of the top sponsored teams as a teenager. Following Tony Hawk and others to the Californian epicentre of skateboarding at the age of 18, he met fellow skateboarders like Jim Greco, Ali Boulala and Knox Godoy, later on known as the “Piss Drunx”, ruling the streets of LA.

http://vimeo.com/39201565

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With the flight of Atlantis, the 30-year-plus space shuttle program comes to an end. Six shuttles — five operational and one test vehicle — were built. Two, the Challenger and Columbia, were lost in accidents, killing 14 crew members. The remaining four shuttles will be retired to museums.

This gallery consists of over 50 images released by NASA from the years 1972-2011. Most come from a package moved by Reuters earlier in June. A few others come from Associated Press. I added one important image — the Columbia breakup during reentry — shot by Dr. Scott Lieberman and moved to AP by the Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegraph.

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autopen.jpg

As noted here on Boing Boing yesterday, the US has renewed three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that were to have expired last night at midnight, granting four more years of overly broad surveillance of Americans. After the Senate and House rushed the extension with only a few lawmakers drawing attention to civil liberties concerns, the bill went before President Obama, to be signed into law.

What makes this news even more depressing? The president, who is on tour in Europe, didn't even sign it in person. According to a White House spokesperson, Obama used a device called an autopen, which mechanically reproduces a human signature.

This was an act so important that it must be signed into law at once to protect us from what Harry Reid suggested could be immediate terrorist acts, but not so important that the president might be inconvenienced during a foreign trip to return to Washington, D.C.

A Reuters item is here. Gawker has a timeline of Great Moments in Autopen History here, and links to this video (animated gif, Flash-ified?) of an autopen device in action. Over at the New York Times, Michael Shear notes that it's unclear whether president Bush ever used an autopen to sign a bill into law.

ABC News examines the constitutionality of using an autopen here, but that isn't enough to comfort conservative Georgia Republican congressman Tom Graves, who sent an email to reporters today:

I thought it was a joke at first, but the President did, in fact, authorize an autopen to sign the Patriot Act extension into law. Consider the dangerous precedent this sets. Any number of circumstances could arise in the future where the public could question whether or not the president authorized the use of an autopen. For example, if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing? I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.

I don't know that I agree with Graves' fears (a wink! a squeeze!). But something just seems wrong about automating the process of signing this particular bill into law, given its far-reaching implications for the privacy and liberty of all Americans, and all the secrecy this law entails.

Maybe I'm having a Bill Keller moment: maybe the technology doesn't matter, and the analog ceremony of a human hand and a pen and a piece of paper is just familiar theater. But in this case, could the president have been any more detached?

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