Mélange

8 11 2008

Regarding this most recent absence which has been my longest hiatus since starting this blog, I don’t have much to say. For expressing my opinion on issues, sharing neat finds from the web, and sharing quick anecdotes from my day, Twitter has taken over thanks to its higher efficiency at all those things. Twitter is no replacement for blogging as a whole, as a controversial Wired article written by Valleywag author Paul Boutin recently suggested. If nothing else, blogging is and will remain an oyster for writers. Do I still consider myself a writer? I suppose, but I’m casual enough that writing school papers here and there and composing 140 character quips is all it takes to satisfy my appetite these days. The common saying, “eats like a bird” just came to mind, and how ironic that Twitter, whose imagery is little birds, is the champion of “writing like a bird”. (I bet Jack Dorsey didn’t think of that. How English studenty of me.)

The other major deterrent from posting here is my ongoing struggle with subject matter and an unstable stance on public identity. Do I post for myself or my audience? How much do I want to share? Do I focus on personal newsy posts or try to write periodic articles about things I think are important? These are the questions I’ve wrestled with since the beginning and, thanks to my tendency to be a perfectionist, they end up immobilizing me.

Self-reflexivity aside, what actually moved me to put on my blogging cap again was a momentary crescendo of frustration about the Brandon Crisp story. Despite having cooled off while thoughtfully plunking out the last two paragraphs, I still feel strongly about this issue. Here’s what you’ve been hearing on the news lately: Xbox-addicted teen from Barrie, Ontario has fight with father regarding excessive Call of Duty 4 playage; father takes console away, teen leaves home and vanishes. Parents suspect he’s been abducted or lured away by blood-drinking miscreants he met playing the game. A few weeks later, his body is found in the wilderness.

I was about to go off on a big rant about this: about how I suspect the parents are the main factor at fault here, and how I think it’s sad that the media turns this into a story about the dangers of gaming when it should be raising questions about parenting. But I’ve mostly lost the fire for anything long and in-depth. Suffice it to say that, despite how many times I’ve seen it now, the mainstream media’s propensity to spin things a certain way – for ratings, or simplicity’s sake, or a combination of both – never ceases to amaze me. Adding salt to the wound was FutureShop’s decision to cancel midnight launch events planned for Gears of War 2 out of respect for Brandon Crisp, despite this game having nothing to do with the game that Crisp played. And I respect the spirit of decency behind the decision, (although I suspect it’s more about playing it safe) but unfortunately it only does more to feed the public perception that video games brought about the untimely death of a fifteen year-old.

Update: Autopsy says: Brandon fell out of a tree and sustained mortal injuries. Rest easy, kid.

Exhibit two: CNN’s “holograms” on election night, which they led audiences to believe were Star Wars-like in that a projection was physically visible on the studio floor. Wolf Blitzer mechanically gushes, “Oh wow, yeah, I can totally see you standing right there, as if you’re really in the room with me! Wow! That is really amazing!” as if he’s hiding something. The Discovery Channel’s interview with a CNN rep revealed that, no, in fact, what they were doing was really just green screen, more or less. Projecting a hologram-like image of the correspondants onto screens, but not into the studio. While it may not seem like a big deal if CNN wants to pretend they have sci-fi tech on a really big night, I question what other illusions they’re willing to spin as the truth. Note that a fair amount of effort went into this little publicity stunt. At first I thought they avoided calling the hologram anything specifically and that’s how they were able to get away with being dishonest. However, Wikipedia explains that “Calling this technique ‘holography’ was just an ‘artistic license’.” World, beware: “the most trusted name in news” is dabbling in the arts.

Also note how in this article from CNN themselves, this “Chris Welch” character lies through his teeth about what he saw on the studio floor. Nice journalistic integrity you have there, Chris.

It’s misrepresentations like these, and more importantly, the bigger things that have been misrepresented and more carefully covered up, that I see as a serious problem in democratic communities. When I say I want to “go into media studies” when I’m finished my English degree, this is one of the main issues I have in mind and I think deserves looking into.