Archive for October 5th, 2007

Bono ‘Boomer’

Goddammit! How come local interest stories like this one -from July- pass me by?

The Irish rock star Bono has been unwittingly caught up in a row over a computer game that features a fictionalised invasion of Venezuela to counter a “power-hungry tyrant” who has seized control of the country and its oil.

The computer game is played from the perspective of a mercenary who is dispatched to Venezuela with the guidance: “If you see it you can buy it, steal it, or blow the living crap out of it.” Called Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, it is made by Pandemic Studios, based in Los Angeles, in which a private equity firm established by the U2 lead singer has invested $300m (£165m). It is one of the world’s largest independent games producers.

It looked as though Venezuela solidarity campaigners had made representations to Bono’s ginormogantuan vanity:

A letter this spring from 50 US religious leaders to Bono, which was organized by the DC –based Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, apparently led Pandemics to reconsider the story line according to director Marie Dennis. “Bono never responded directly, but apparently our point hit home that financing a violent video game that targets a government already targeted by the Bush administration is counter to the reputation as a humanitarian that he has earned with his work on AIDS in Africa and debt relief. Pandemics began to change the story line soon after our letter was delivered,” Dennis said.

But! Shack Magazine is reporting that Pandemic is not for turning:

Update: Pandemic has apparently denied any allegations that it changed aspects of Mercenaries 2 due to pressure from the Bono-obsessed Venezuela Solidarity Network.

“Pandemic Studios never has and never will be intimidated by tyrants,” Pandemic president Josh Resnick told Shacknews. “Our invasion is on schedule: Mercenaries 2 will be released in early 2008.”

Fair play to them, though tyrant is a harsh word for Bono. That said, maybe they could base Mercenaries 3 in Killiney. Someone should have a quiet word with the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

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Brute Force and Ignorance

The other night’s concluding episode of Murphy’s Law was abysmal. In the final scene, when the shattered Murphy sat in his old Volvo overlooking the rain-battered coast, holding a gun to his head, about to end it all, I found myself willing him to go ahead and pull the trigger.

Whereas previous series had managed to leaven the intensity with some dark humour, offering James Nesbitt the chance to deliver some resounding one-liners, this three-parter was darkly ridiculous, full of macho indignation and gory detail.

But it wasn’t completely bad. The central theme was disintegration: of societies, institutions, personal relationships, and psyches. The backdrop was the murky underworld of people-trafficking and prostitution rings, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone was involved, from East European immigrants to scuzzy mobile-home dwellers to the nice Middle-Englanders to the ersatz squire living in his stately home.

If I recall correctly, it was emphasised at one point that the squire referred to himself as ‘Major’, even though he had never risen to that rank in the army. This struck me a curious piece of editorialising: perhaps it was necessary to make clear to the viewer that real Army majors are incapable of serious crimes and grand deceit.

One undercover colleague had been killed, and another had been kidnapped, tortured and gang-raped. For Murphy, this meant that the gloves were off. ‘Write a letter to Liberty’, roared Murphy, after a colleague had objected to him slapping a Cardiff madam about the face. He promptly went off to torture a bouncer implicated in people trafficking, crushing a pint glass and slamming the bouncer’s hand into the shattered glass. Then, after he’d rescued his tortured protegée and she had pumped a couple of shots into her psychotic East European captor, he staged things to look as though he had shot the captor in self-defence.

What was the viewer to make of this moral disintegration on Murphy’s? Had he been driven to this by preening career policemen higher up in the bureaucracy? Or was it a Nietzschean abyss now gazing back at him? Lucky for the viewer that all those whom Murphy bullied, threatened and tortured had, in fact, been to some degree implicated in the whole episode. Perhaps we were simply to sympathise with the spectacle of a fundamentally good man driven to torture because it was fundamentally necessary: after all, his charge was in grave danger, was she not? And it was Murphy’s method -not that of the careerist plods- that had resulted in her rescue from the physical -if not the psychic- chains that her depraved captives had placed her in.

The connoted moral message in this case, as it seemed to me, was that you should never judge torturers too harshly because their intentions may be good. And you should bear in mind the crimes of the people who are being tortured. And you should pity the torturer for being forced to renounce his goodness in order to root out evil.

Another problem I had was the stereotypical representation of East Europeans. When not a psychopath or a rapist or a simple-minded weakling, the Eastern European is a brutish fashion victim, in love with the most vulgar aspects of Western European culture, but without the smarts to express himself appropriately, resorting to the most absurd imitations of Hollywood slang to get his point across. As usual, I had the subtitles on, and any time the Eastern Europeans spoke in their native language, they said SPEAKS IN EASTERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGE. This seemed appropriate enough.

Accidentally, Like An Expert

The BBC has a report into the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman’s investigation into the death of Neil McConville. Some interesting detail:

… the ombudsman expressed “grave concerns” that some intelligence information about the police operation had been deleted from a computer during her investigation.

She questioned the police claim that this had been an accident.

Any eejit will be aware that most deleted information these days can be easily retrieved. And if there’s anyone that ought to be capable of retrieving deleted information, it’s the peelers.

Here’s what the Police Ombudsman’s report itself says on the matter:

Despite seizing the relevant computer hard drive and securing expert assistance, it proved impossible to recover the information. There was no evidence to either support or disprove the police explanation of human error for the deletion of the information.

Here’s what Computer Weekly says about files getting deleted:

And that is the problem with electronic information. Dragging something to the wastepaper basket does not get rid of it at all. Corporate embezzlers or illicit internet surfers trying to cover their tracks will need either a lot of knowledge or a lot of luck to be successful.

Information about that data, along with the data itself, will be smeared all over the hard drive in temporary swap files and registry entries. In many cases, the original file will still be found intact.

When a user deletes a file, they want it to disappear as quickly and conveniently as possible, so pressing delete or dragging it to a wastepaper basket makes sense. But for the computer, which will have scattered parts of the data all over the hard drive, it is more efficient to delete just the information about that file, rather than the file itself. The file stays there, but the operating system – and the user – cannot see it.

It suspect it was an accidental expert deletion. Things like this happen in other walks of life all the time. Highly trained experts, somehow operating in accordance with established procedure, do the craziest things. For instance, there was this one military surgeon dude who once accidentally performed a successful operation on the ingrowing toenail of a patient who had been taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Baiting For The Man

John Harris has a silly piece in today’s Guardian, in defence of major labels:

Any half-decent record collection bulges with logos symbolising commercial clout and recurrent musical brilliance: CBS, Parlophone, Reprise, Elektra, Atlantic, Geffen. It’s instructive to remember that despite the conveyor-belt cynicism that defines the world of The X Factor, the best labels still take punts on the basis of taste and belief; no one, I’d wager, signed such recent sensations as Kasabian or Klaxons with an eye on the balance sheet.

He must think that popular capitalist wisdom such as ‘you’ve got to speculate to accumulate’ does not apply to those working in the record industry. If labels ‘take punts’ based on taste and belief, it’s partly because they think their taste and belief will lead to a hit record. And, I’ll wager, their ‘taste and belief’ is largely a function of the amount of capital they have at their disposal.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that the strategic vision of a record label need not entail making every record a hit (was it Adorno who talked about how military language gets instrumentalised by the culture industry in order to better ‘target’ the public?). That would be ludicrous. Indeed the function of a record label may not be to sell vast quantities of records at all, but to fulfil a strategic objective of the corporation of which it is a subsidiary. Granted, a by-product of this may be the odd listenable record. But it seems slavish to write paeans to The Man on this basis.

Mornings

I’m not one for detailed routines, but no working day of mine would be complete without a bowl of organic Weetabix (it has to be organic: the other stuff tastes like dog food by comparison) and then, at 10 past 6 or so, tuning into RTE Radio 1 for a few minutes to listen to Risin’ Time with Maxi.

What I like about the small portion of the programme I listen to is that, even though at 6 in the morning or so you already have tens if not hundreds of thousands making their way into the capital for work, and the same number dragging their children from their beds in order to pack them off to creches and schools so that they learn to compete with the Chinese, the programme makes you feel like it’s a public holiday in 1987, in a world with neither mobile phones nor internet, where everyone else is still slumbering peacefully, and the only people up in the entire country and listening are a few sexagenarian insomniacs in the midlands, and maybe a badger somewhere in a field in county Kilkenny, nuzzling her cubs with love beneath a dew-degged spider’s web as she slowly opens her eyes to the theme from Schindler’s List.

I listen to about five minutes or so and turn it off. First, there’s the light music, then the self-explanatory Items Of Interest In The Papers. The latter is a labour saving device for people who don’t have the time to stop for a second at the news-stands and scan the headlines. You get the sensation, when listening to Maxi read, that all the items are of the same order of interest and impact. So you might hear of a slowdown in export growth, a car crash with multiple fatalities, and a scientist discovery that smearing yourself with pig fat can slow the ageing process, and, such is Maxi’s soft-spoken delivery, you think all is well with the world. (This morning I think Maxi had forgotten her glasses, because she stumbled a bit over some of the headlines, and I’m pretty sure I heard her say that John Bruton was the new deputy leader of the Labour Party.)

Of course, this feature of the programme is a microcosm of radio news reporting. I wondered as I turned off the radio this morning what it would be like if you habitually told your friends about your day in a similar style to the delivery of news on the radio.

“How are you doing?”

“Not too bad- the doctor says that I have rheumatoid arthritis. Yesterday I wondered if Ian Beale will be returning to Eastenders. My mortgage is ten times my salary. The inside of the kettle is all furry with calcium, and I found out that a dose of water mixed with white wine vinegar will get rid of it. I am not paying enough into my pension, and finally, I find that a nice glass of red wine helps me relax after a hard day at the office. Yourself?”


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