John Walker's Electronic House

Rants

You Probably Aren’t Reading The Original Post

by on Jun.25, 2014, under Rants

I’ve deleted this.

I stated at the top of the piece that it was a deliberately one-sided argument, a counter to an ongoing topic I’ve seen come up over the years, and made emphatically clear that things about it would be wrong. But this is not a possible way to go about things, it turns out. A large part of the reaction has been incredibly inappropriate, with people interpreting an argument that contained,

“And I am quite certain that some brilliant writers are not receiving the consideration they deserve because of their sex, sexual identity or nationality. There are boys’ clubs in this business, and this business is a massive majority of white men. Hello. The lack of diversity in the coverage is a significant problem, and is most clearly revealed in the tacit or overt tolerance for the worst tropes of the games themselves. It’s a mess.”

as one that was arguing that there were no such problems, or even that I was deliberately attempting to oppress people. That’s insane, and not something worth trying to deal with. I know it’s a lie, and the people close to and important to me know it’s a lie. But it remains a terrible lie.

It’s been pointed out to me that my article, on a different day, might have been received differently, but right now a few people are hurting too much for it to be a useful contribution. This may well be the case. I haven’t engaged with that side of things, presumably I don’t follow the relevant people on Twitter and missed it. I was capturing thoughts I’ve had for a long time, and wasn’t responding to any individual. But if it just caused more hurt, then it wasn’t useful either. I likely wandered into a discussion I don’t know about, and looked like I was directly attacking specific people. I wasn’t, and I apologise to anyone who was hurt by it.

I have worked so hard to fight for the rights of freelancers, both when I was one, and since I’ve been in a position to employ them. I vociferously campaign against companies that are exploiting freelancers by not paying them. I am proud of what I’ve done. Since what I wrote was either so faulty and poorly communicated, or so wilfully misinterpreted, to suggest the opposite, I can see no good in leaving it up. Thank you to everyone who understood what I was saying, and thank you to those who engaged with where the argument was wrong and provided excellent replies. The comments are still below.

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On UKIP, Ignorance, And The Lazy Lie Of “Disillusionment”

by on May.27, 2014, under Rants, The Rest

Disillusionment is so often cited as the reason people vote for extremists, the underpinning reason why X or Y is happening in British politics. And it’s mostly gibberish. It’s a nonsense told both by those who wish to vote for extremes, and by those attempting to justify why others might vote for those extremes. The reality is, it’s barely ever the case.

I feel like we’re in a pretty scary place. When it comes to politics, there’s obviously a tendency for hyperbole, exaggerating one’s claims to suit one’s political agenda. But for someone with left-wing beliefs, their understanding of how to treat others best represented by socialism, the United Kingdom is currently a frightening political landscape.

People are voting UKIP/BNP/English Democracts, etc, etc, we’re told, because they’re disillusioned with the main parties and want to see things shaken up. This is plain, absolute rubbish. It doesn’t make sense in any way, and the media’s frequent declaration that this is the case is both intellectual snobbery, and woeful naivety.

The obvious reality is, a large contingent of people voting for extremes, for racist and homophobic parties like UKIP, BNP, etc, do so because they are racist and homophobic. Pretending this isn’t the case is endemic in the reporting of our politics, perhaps from a fear of appearing “biased”, perhaps from a fear of alienating the racist and homophobic contingent of their audience. Very few people tend to wear the mantle of “racist” with pride, hence that most oxymoronic of aphorisms, “I’m not racist, but…” The inevitable continuation of something either grotesquely or insidiously racist rather confirms the contrary, but for some reason our press has opted to acculturate itself to the opening gambit. Essentially, the coverage of UKIP in the recent elections has been, “UKIP isn’t racist, but…” The reality of course being: UKIP is racist, and lots of people who agree with their racist views have voted for them accordingly.

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You & Yours And Its Gloriously Failed Attempt To Promote Audiophile Woo

by on Mar.06, 2014, under Rants, The Rest

Oh glorious day!

One of my favourite worst things is BBC Radio 4′s You & Yours. On when I get my lunch, each weekday I get to hear a portion of this most daft of consumer shows, as they spread fear and concern about whatever was in yesterday’s Daily Mail. That’s not to say they don’t sometimes do some good – I believe they were pivotal in ending the banking scam over taking five days to process cheques, and they often do a good job of airing scams to make people aware of what to avoid. But this is always scattered with main host Winifred Robinson’s scaremongering and personal vendettas, as she ceaselessly attempts to campaign against things she’s been proven wrong about, most recently her deranged fury about DAB radio.

Today though, something wonderful happened. The end of the episode featured a segment in which two music engineers came on to explain about the wonders of “high resolution music”. This, we were told by straight faces, was the same as increasing the pixel count of a picture, enabling more detail to be heard. Incredibly at one point one of them acknowledges that previous recording qualities already matched what the human ear could detect, but no no! Despite this, the “harmonics” were more clear if there was a new way to have to buy lots more expensive equipment!

I’m not a sound engineer, and I’ve no idea if there’s genuinely any measurable improvement in the quality of the recording, but I certainly do know that no human would be able to tell.

As they were given air time on this national radio station to make their ridiculous claims entirely unchallenged, unquestioned, and only excitedly enthused about, they played in clips of recordings in “low res” and “high res”, so these experts could explain the difference. And it was pure woo bullshit from start to finish. Brilliantly they made it clear that no one listening would be able to tell any difference between the two because radio waves would take the magics away. But then played them anyway. They would be able to tell, in the studio, listening on a “high definition Sony Walkman” through their £90 billion headphones. They played Ella Fitzgerald twice, explaining which was low and which was high. Winifred declared she could “almost” hear Ella’s breathing on the second, opening the door for some wonderfully silly explanations about the guests’ surprise at how noticeable it was, how it was a “mellower, warmer sound” and “more dynamic”. “It actually started off slightly quieter,” the second expert explains, “and that’s one of the great things of higher resolution, whereas a CD if you like levels it out a bit just by the nature of the delivery, so you’re right, I think it was more noticeable than I thought, and I think we are losing dynamics on a lot of CDs.”

(continue reading…)

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Low Carb Diet Tips! Delicious Alternatives To Those Carby Treats

by on Jan.27, 2014, under Rants

Are you on a low carb diet? Whether you’re keto, paleo or cavemanning, there’s a good chance you’re craving some cakes, begging for bread, or pining for a pie. Fortunately, there are many delicious low-carb alternatives to all the most tempting treats, and we’ve compiled a the best of them here for you. Read on to find out how you can stick to the diet, while keeping away from flour and sugar!

1) Tortilla Wraps

Remember when tortilla felt like it was a healthy choice, rather than a great chunk of bread? Well, nope, it’s just as packed with the carbs, if not worse! But thankfully there’s a superb way to enjoy your chicken salad in a wrap without turning to flour: lettuce! All you need to do is take a nice big lettuce leaf, pop your sandwich fillings in that, roll it up, and then stare at it on the plate. Just stare, keep staring. Don’t look away! The longer you stare, the more awful everything starts to feel, until eventually you stuff the green, crunchy mess into your mouth in an attempt to make the darkness go away.

2) Those Pub Pies

If you’re like me, one of the toughest aspects of paleo living is losing out on those succulent, tasty pub lunch pies. That gorgeous crust, the combination of pastry and filling – what a thing it is. But what a lot of carbs it is, too! Instead, as a light-weight healthy alternative, why not try sitting in a corner and crying?

3) Pizza!

One of the ultimate comfort foods, pizza has for so long been that Friday night treat, delivered to your front door and gobbled up by all in sight. But that doughy base wouldn’t have been on any cave man’s menu, so it can’t be on ours. But do not fear! There are fantastic pizza substitutes. Why not try taking a circle of cardboard, and then drawing a pizza onto it. Chow on that, until eventually the craving or will goes away.

4) Baked potatoes

Sure, it may seem like a cruel joke when the thing everyone told you was a healthy choice for lunch turns out not to be bloody okay either. But the paleo pantry has much to offer in its place. What about having some more cauliflower instead? Sure, you’ve only eaten cauliflower for the last seventeen meals, but why not have some more again, now, instead of everything nice or fun? This time, why don’t you bake the cauliflower, because you would bake a potato, and perhaps there’s some sort of toxin in cauliflower where if you eat enough of it eventually it causes delusions and the manner in which you cook something will be enough to trick your starving brain into believing it’s some food you actually wanted to eat.

5) Fish and chips

Certainly not appearing in any diet, fish and chips is Britain’s national dish, adored by content people everywhere. They may well feel guilty for all the oil it’s cooked in, but we know better! It’s the flour and the potato about which they should feel unending shame. So here’s a neat tip for your keto supper replacement: oil! Not olive oil, apparently, or any of the oils you can actually buy in shops, because they’re probably made of bread or something. But oils no one has ever heard of before, that can only be bought in specialist shops that exist only during thunderstorms. Oils like elderberry oil, broccoli oil and cheese oil. Just have some of that, in a bowl. With butter.

6) Happiness

We all see the smiles on the faces of people coming out of Subway, or polishing off a bag of crisps outside the service station doors. We want to remember what that was like – to smile, to experience positive feelings. But fortunately there’s a great keto equivalent: despondency. While it may not appear to be quite the same as happiness, it contains 90% fewer carbs to be disappointed, and weeping discards plenty of the body’s unwanted sugars. Sure, your thin friends all eating their cornish pasties and drinking absolutely any form of alcohol that isn’t neat ethanol seem like they’re having a good time, because they are.

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5 Reasons Cracked.com Is About To Kill Your Family

by on Dec.11, 2013, under Rants

No one loves making things up more than lazy people, and therefore something something people think Cracked is staffed by murderers and Nazi robots. Well, I’m here to tell you, based on things I’m writing at the moment, that those people might be more right than anyone realises.

I’ve written for a website, as a writer, poster, editor, deleter, scheduler and writer. My work hasn’t won a Games Media Award, but I’ve been around the block, and I can’t help but notice that these days you can’t browse forums about Cracked.com without pretending you’re reading about how they all time-travelled from the Crusades, the blood of Muslims still on their tunics, to write propaganda for North Korea.

So are we heading for an explosion? Short answer, yes. Long answer? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssss.

#5. They Kill Pandas For The Noise It Makes

Not to stereotype here, but we can safely assume that everyone at Cracked.com just adores the sound it makes when a bullet or blade slices through the flesh of a panda. It’s not the sport, the challenge, just purely the aural pleasure it brings them as they steal the life from those beautiful creatures. The younger the better, too, with Cracked staff often found crouched outside of zoos where reports of a panda birth have reached them.

#4. The Management Have Gone Insane, And That’s Making Editing Impossible

Let’s say you’re putting on a child’s birthday party, for some reason. Maybe you have a child you love. Well, you can probably be sure that the management staff of Cracked will turn up, chainsaws circling above their heads, as they scream something about how the Dark Lord Morbidor instructs that all innocent life must perish. And to fund this, the budgets at Cracked are out of control. One article on Cracked might have cost upward of EIGHTY TWENTY HUNDRED THOUSAND MILLION DOLLARS. And these costs are stifling all other articles on the site, and indeed on the whole of the internet, as all hastily written bitter rants have to compete with these figures. Even those on a blog written by some guy in his spare room, for some reason. And then there are those guys writing on their blog in their spare room, who can do it for cheap, and how is Cracked.com supposed to compete with them? By spending a millionty more money of course! This all makes sense, and someone’s got to fuel those chainsaws.

#3. Cracked Articles Are Written By Chinese Slave Children In Manacles

Although I’ve never written a Cracked article, nor ever been to their office, I can speak with some authority when it comes to the way their articles are written. Generally a Cracked editor gets driven to the offices, for free, in a platinum-coated Mercedes, where he’s carried aloft the shoulders of Filipino boys, and taken to a room built of gold and caviare. Here he is given wads of banknotes and golden jewellery, while maiden nymphs fan him with rose-scented palm fronds. As he is fed with truffles and cake, an unseen army of enslaved Chinese children are forced to type up pithy lists of search-result-catching topics. Should they not be sardonic enough, the children are beaten to death. Of course, you’ll see people writing positively about Cracked articles – that’s no surprise when every dollar bill in America contains Masonic iconography, depicting the faked moon landings in Dallas, 1963. Why else do you think 9/11 happened to happen on a Tuesday?

#2. You’re Always Buying Flan

Every human being alive has seen an Outbrain link to a Cracked article promising the funniest subject imaginable, only to have the article contain two decent ideas awkwardly dragged out to six or seven parts. You may ask yourself why they’re allowed to get away with that – isn’t it false advertising? Or fraud? Well, SEVENTY FOOT TALL KILLER CYBORGS FROM SPACE.

In the world of writing for Cracked, octopuses control the oceans, bending the watery reality to their will, forcing all other lifeforms to ladder breakdown particle hyphen topography. They’re killing us. They’re all killing us. They’re controlling our minds, making us do what they say. Can’t you see? Can’t you see that everything is a lie, and we’re their puppets? They own us, they make the decisions that decide our daily lives. Everything they write is a trick, and they’re unravelling the internet!

#1. Cracked Writers Are Monsters And They Eat Newborn Babies

All things are the same everywhere, and because one place is bad, everywhere in the whole of everything is bad. I once ate an apple, and it was all mushy and unpleasant, and so all apples are mushy and unpleasant and the whole of the apple industry is doomed. Cracked have published one dreadful, poorly researched and madly fictional article, and therefore all their articles are terrible and their website is doomed and so is humanity. But look, here’s my Kickstarter!

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Comment On Indie Game Mag’s Charging For Reviews

by on Nov.28, 2013, under Rants

Indie Game Mag, a print and web publication for indie games coverage, has recently seen a change of management, and a new policy where they plan to charge developers $50 to have their products reviewed. Obviously there has been an extremely negative reaction to this. What’s more peculiar is the incredulous response from the site’s new owner, Chris Newton, who can’t understand why anyone’s upset. He concludes,

“If it offends people that I believe that my writers and editors should be afforded compensation, then I don’t feel like I should apologize for that.”

I’ve left a comment on his post, but it has yet to clear moderation, so I’m putting it here:

This isn’t okay. To attempt to make the argument, “If you object to my charging for reviews, then you object to my paying my staff” is disingenuous and palpable nonsense.

That you encountered other unethical and advantageous sites, who also practice the disgraceful act of charging developers for exposure, is not a justification for doing the same. That’s so fundamentally obvious. “But all those other boys were stealing sweets” isn’t a very effective argument, and I’m quite sure when you discovered your product was being ignored because you weren’t paying unscrupulous sites, you didn’t click your heels together and think, “Well then, where’s my cheque book?!” You’d been screwed over. Your response is to want to screw others over.

I co-run an independent gaming site, which also went through years of almost no income and a lot of struggle. I understand the situation. But there’s never a reason to consider the notion of such an inherently cruel and openly corrupting system as to demand money from the developers whose games we review, because it’s clearly so lacking in integrity. I knew what it was like to not know if our business was going to make it. But that never gave us an excuse to abandon basic principles.

As a gaming site, you should operate an editorial system that selects the games you cover based on your own methods. Not have your content dictated by which indies are willing to buy their way onto your front page. And what are your plans for when the big name indie games come along, who obviously aren’t going to fall for your money trap? Do you plan to ignore the next Double Fine or Introversion or Majong game? Or will you decide that they get coverage even though they haven’t paid? And what will that say about your policies? Screw over the little guys only, or ignore the most popular names in indie gaming?

I implore you to reconsider. IGM will descend from an interesting site championing indie games to one of those vile iOS scam sites designed to take advantage of the desperate. Its reputation will be in tatters. It pretty much already is at this point, and needs a big mea culpa to survive.

I recognise you want IGM to succeed, and I know from experience how frightening and difficult it can be. But back away from this idea. You’re in the wrong, and the site will only suffer as a consequence.

Also, in responding to questions about this from another journalist, I wrote this, which I’ll tack on too:

“Yes, I do think someone could charge for reviews and remain unbiased. If I imagine the scenario where I charged developers for every review I did, I’d still gladly slag off crappy games. I’m not sure how long this business model might work, since I imagine there’s only so often developers will pay for someone to tell lots of people not to play their game. But I can see myself maintaining my integrity in that situation. However, that counts for absolutely nothing, since I would *look* corrupt as hell. And that’s what counts. Who cares if I’m telling the truth about a game, if to absolutely everyone else, those words were literally bought? Those words can never be trusted by anyone but me alone, and thus they’re worthless as reviews.”

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A Level Results Day

by on Aug.15, 2013, under Rants

Every year I realise I’ve not written this down so I can point to it, and then forget after. So today, since I’m already too busy, I’ll do it. My A Level results. This is the story of how the results do not need to define the rest of your life.

My A Level results were:

N,N,E

There tend to be two categories of people. Those who got an N, and those who didn’t know you could get an N. While I believe it no longer exists, it once fell between E and U, seemingly serving to reward those who took a stab at spelling their name correctly on the front page, or at least drew some nice doodles for the examiner to enjoy. At the time I assumed it simply stood for “No.” “Not you, matey.”

I took biology, chemistry and maths, which of course makes perfect sense for a writer… I was convinced I wanted to be a scientist, and despite my dad’s confusion as to why I wasn’t pursuing subjects in which I more obviously showed talent, I defiantly went on to attempt to get a place studying microbiology at Edinburgh university. That was the goal. Why microbiology? It’s horrible to realise now I can’t even remember having a particular passion for it – I guess I liked learning about it at school, and I had already realised I wasn’t good enough at sciences to be a vet.

I wasn’t exactly expecting good grades. When you spend the two hours of a chemistry exam plotting a graph on your graphics calculator that makes it draw a train with smoke coming out of the tunnel, you can be pretty well assured that you didn’t ace it. Convincing my parents of this was tougher, trying to explain that, “You always think you did worse than you did!” doesn’t tend to apply when you hadn’t written anything in the little boxes.

It was a combination of things. The wrong subjects, not really doing any work for two years, and being absolutely atrocious at exams. I had managed to get through GCSEs on blagging along, and then discovered that didn’t work for the next stage up. But I also wasn’t stupid – I picked up an awful lot of it, and can still recite the anatomy of kidney or make my way around a Krebs Cycle, seventeen years later. I just had no ability in exam conditions, rather worsened by having done far too little revision after far too little effort for two years. So yes, not the best approach.

Results day sucked. Obviously. I was helping out at a holiday club that week, so couldn’t get down to collect my results first thing with my chums. But when I went down later in the morning, some friends turned up to meet me there. I wished they hadn’t. My friends at school were smart (they’re still smart, as it happens). At a time before AS/A2, when you took three A levels as standard, friends of mine took five or six, and got As in all of them (this was before A*s, too). Most my friends got straight As. A couple dipped into Bs. I got grades that none of us even knew were available. It didn’t feel good sharing that moment.

For reasons I still cannot explain, beyond sheer miserable panic, I decided to retake the same subjects. There was no time for thinking about it – to get a place at the local six form college, I’d have to apply on results day itself, and I just went for the same ones. I still had those ambitions of studying biology at such a good university. And so it was that I had the most miserable year of my life, as all my friends went off to university or gap years, and I stayed in the same town, studying the same subjects, in a grotty hole of a college with few friends. My routine became a depressed trudge. I distinctly remember that the highlights of my weeks were: Chris Evans’ (genuinely great) Radio 1 breakfast show, especially the handovers to Simon Mayo; Monday, Wednesday and Friday night on BBC 2 when they’d show Seinfeld followed by Larry Sanders; and Sunday and Wednesday nights when the just-launched Channel 5 would show baseball from midnight. I used those as the stepping stones between the rubbishness of the days, studying subjects I knew I was no good at, in a place I didn’t want to be, while hearing of my friends’ amazing times. Woo! This time I got:

E,E,D.

Improvement! Sigh.

But here’s the thing: turns out, life has been brilliant. I screwed up my A Levels twice, and tried to do a completely ridiculous degree in a made up subject at a tin-pot university, which was a colossal waste of time. But after that, and after a brief, peculiar stint working at a national radio station under the control of the utterly repugnant Kelvin MacKenzie, I found my passions. I’ve been very fortunate, but I’ve also worked incredibly hard. I discovered youth work, and I re-discovered that I can write. I went on to do a degree in youth work and applied theology, and came out of it with a first class degree, while at the same time writing my arms off for PC Gamer, Eurogamer and others. Six years ago I co-started RPS, and now is now, and I’ve a wonderful job, amazing wife, and my NNE means absolutely nothing whatsoever.

I recognise that I’m extremely fortunate. I understand that not everyone gets away with such a screw-up. But I feel it’s important to say on results day that the grades you get do not define you, and do not need to define the rest of your life. You are bigger than them.

It sucks to do badly. I had a really crappy year because of failing. It’s not something you breeze past. But it’s something you certainly do get past. Life is enormous, and if you work your butt off, and acknowledge your passions, opportunities can come up.

And if you did well: fistbump!

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Why The GMA’s So-Called “Media Academy” Prize Is So Demeaning

by on May.24, 2013, under Rants

While common sense should assume that the Games Media Awards is incapable of doing anything without making it a murky, dubious mess, I really didn’t see how they could make a new student prize something awful. But their abilities know no boundaries.

This year there are definitely some claimed improvements. They’ve stopped PRs from voting in most categories, which is something I’ve appealed for since the awards first began. And they’ve got rid of the “goodybags”, which contained hundreds of pounds worth of items and were given to every winner. It’s great that these things are gone.

What hasn’t changed is that it’s an evening funded by publishers and PRs, in which they provide the games journalists who report on them with free food and limitless free drink, and then present them with awards sponsored by themselves. It’s promoted as a piss-up, and it has, for years, been the British games industry at its most tawdry, wretched, and dubious. From the first year’s awarding of prizes to magazines owned by the sponsors of the categories, to the despicable antics of two years ago with the Grainger Games sponsorship, to last year’s disgraceful mess of journalists tweeting adverts for games to win a Playstation, it has always been a horror show. That it has cleaned up a fraction of its act is progress, but it’s certainly not anything for celebration. That most of the UK games industry will still happily trundle along for the free booze, no matter how it associates them with it all, is hugely demoralising.


Picture nicked from the Guardian, showing the dancers at the strip club in which the first GMA took place.

And this year they’ve added the ludicrously named “Games Media Academy”. This pompously grandiose title is really just a prize for a single person – an unpaid hopeful writer – of £1000 of commissions, and some unexplained (and indeed entirely unmentioned by the actual description at the bottom of the page) “mentoring” from “some of the biggest names in games media”.

The prize is to get some paid work.

In an industry that is increasingly screwing over new writers by not paying them, some might want to argue this as a positive step. I’d suggest that’s a bit like giving a trophy to husbands who don’t beat their wives. What it is, in fact, is publishers doing their damned jobs, and pretending it’s something special. It’s like telling a plumber they’ve won the lucky prize that you’ll pay them to fix your sink.

It is a part of every media outlet’s job to find and hire new writers. Submissions arrive to magazines and websites all the time, both solicited and unsolicited. When a publication is looking for new freelancers, or even new employees, they look at these, and they commission based on potential talent they spot. People who are good enough at writing get paid work, and the system continues.

The idea of doing exactly this, but pretending it’s a special prize, simultaneously demeans both the writers submitting their work, and the entire occupation itself. It reduces our job down to a special treat, given out to one lucky person, and a ruffle of their hair. And it reduces potential writers down to entrants in a competition, and then pretends that doing the work that earns the money is some manner of award! It’s outrageous. There is NO prize! They get £1000 for doing £1000 worth of work!

So what is it really? It’s IGN, Future, MCV and bloody Network-N advertising themselves, getting their names mentioned in concert with this extraordinary act of altruism of paying some writers to do a job. The people judging may not have been so cynical in their acceptance – they may simply want to be involved in a process that finds new talent. But unfortunately, as positive as their intentions may (or indeed may not, looking at some of the names) be, they’re associated with the awfulness of the GMAs, and they’re – perhaps unwittingly – part of a non-prize that demeans everyone involved. Oh, and the winning entrants get published in a supplement in trade rag MCV, owned by Intent, who own the GMAs. Will they be paid for that publication? There’s no indication that they will.

(So what should they have done instead? Accepted nominations for a category for unpaid writers, and given the best one an award in the hope of raising their profile. Editors paying attention would look at their work, and if they liked it, commission them. Instead, because this is the GMAs, it’s become about promoting publishers in a faked act of goodwill, bullshitting that paid work is a prize, and insulting everyone involved.)

There is no obligation on anyone in this industry to attend the GMAs. If free drinks mean so much to you, crash a wedding. By walking through those doors, you endorse everything the GMAs have done, and intend to do. And for what? You don’t even get the bag of bribes this year. Please people, just don’t go.

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Science Vs Faith Vs The Deluded Sociopathy Of Religion

by on May.18, 2013, under Rants

This evening I went along to a talk, part of Bristol’s Festival Of Ideas, by geneticist Steve Jones. He’s recently published a book, The Serpent’s Promise, in which he reinterprets the Bible as a science book. It’s not as spurious as it sounds, although I’ve not read the book yet – Jones is an atheist, and was interested to investigate whether there’s any science to be found in the books, and to reinterpret the pseudo-science and historical claims it makes. Which sounds tremendous, so Laura and I went along.

The talk itself, in which Jones answered questions from a host, was a good time. It was a touch lacking in depth, a little heavy on the “buy the book in the foyer after” and a little light on the meat. But an enjoyable evening nonetheless.

One particular comment really stood out to me. It was a response to a question about whether religion made people happier, in which he explained that the data he’s seen showed that no, in fact religion fails to make people happier. Those who identify as agnostic or atheist tend to identify as happier.

And I realised a part of where this debate is going so wrong. Obviously the “Science vs Religion” discussions are far too often between those who wish to “oppose science in the name of religion” and “oppose religion in the name of science”, as if either were anything less than mad. But it’s understandable! Because the religiosity that’s presenting itself is one that absolutely should be attacked by those of a rational, scientific mind.

During Jones’ talk, it became very apparent that the version of Christianity he’s experienced, and the version that others have expressed to him, absolutely merits the dismissal and refuting it receives. A Christian doctrine that proselytises on the basis of offering “happiness” is fundamentally unrelated to the faith on which they claim to be based. Christianity sold as everything from a means to escape the pits of hell to a self-help cure for the lacklustre is a heretical misinterpretation of the most serious magnitude. This is perpetuated by both the intentionally malevolent, usually with a financial and/or power-based incentive, and the ideologically naive, people who very genuinely want to help spread something they believe to be good. This “Christianity”, the one that makes people happier, entirely merits the scorn it receives from the scientific community, and absolutely deserves to be found as lacking under any scrutiny.

It’s just, that’s not Christianity.

(continue reading…)

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A Response To PAR’s Adblockers/Games Press Article

by on Apr.17, 2013, under Rants

Today Ben Kuchera, of the Penny Arcade Report, wrote an article in which he explained how games journalism works in relation to content and advertising. That gaming sites put up the galleries of cosplay babes because it’s necessary to fund the better, less popular content, all driven by a constant need for pageviews and unique hits. In his article, he writes as if he’s speaking for the whole industry, although excludes himself from the process. I’d like to add RPS to that exclusion list, thanks very much, because I don’t recognise a word of how he says my business works.

I’m not going to get into how RPS’s advertising works, because frankly I don’t know, and I prefer it that way. That’s all done by someone who works at Eurogamer, with whom we have an advertising partnership. We have laid down strict rules, they follow them, but how the charging works I’ve no idea.

Kuchera makes a few statements which I want to make clear don’t speak for me, or the business I co-own.

“People like to say that the games press is just chasing page views with certain stories, but let’s be honest: We’re chasing page views with every story.”

This is a very loaded statement. It’s both as banal as saying “Newspapers only include news stories because people want to read news,” and as sensationalist as saying, “They’ll do anything to make you click!” The truth is of course somewhere between. RPS, and I can only ever speak for RPS and no other gaming site, is a business. We make money from advertising, and we get advertising because we have people reading the site. So yes, we post things on RPS in order to run our business. But how that defines what you post is always the business’s choice, and Kuchera’s frequent inference in his piece that it automatically causes nefarious or unsightly content does not speak for me. If anything, at worst his article ends up being apologist propaganda for the sites that lazily rely on crude hit chasing, as if it were the only way.

(continue reading…)

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