Open Mic – Is This Bullshit?

One day, you could be downloading some of the hottest songs off the Internet to make a ‘Party Mix’ CD. The next day, there could be a lawyer knocking at your door with a subpoena for you to appear in court for online piracy. The only thought in your mind (aside from “This is bullshit”) would probably be, “Shouldn’t I be allowed to download music for free without being sued?”

Although the Recording Industry of America Association (RIAA) is starting to crackdown on file swappers, there is only one man who can take credit for starting a revolution of MP3 File Sharing: Shawn Fanning. Shawn Fanning was just a normal college student at Northeastern University, but created a place where he and his friends could exchange MP3 files to one another. What eventually happened was the modern-day success called Napster. Napster is probably the most known File Sharing Service that has ever been seen. When artists (Lars Ulrich and Dr. Dre) and the RIAA tried shutting down Napster, more music services opened up, like Audiogalaxy, Morpheus, Kazaa, Bearshare, and Limewire, just to name a few. Due to the constant threats of being sued, some of these music services are willing to play by a few rules, by asking for money for downloading music, but is that enough to keep artists and the RIAA from taking everything you own?

Bottom line is that by downloading music for free, recording artists, record labels and copyright companies (like the RIAA) are strongly offended. One reason is it takes away the element of surprise. How so? There are many performers who say that they like to shock their audience with their unreleased songs and give away special items, but with file sharing services offering swapping of almost any files (music, movies, photos, etc.), the “shock value” completely disappears. What I can’t seem to figure out is even if someone were to download a tune, video, or picture that was surprising, wouldn’t he or she have the same exact thought(s) if it were to be released at a later date? Another huge grudge that composers have is by getting music for free, people are taking away money from the artists. This argument is totally understandable because if someone were to write, publish, and perform an act, then that person should be entitled to rights. What seems fishy about this is although companies say that downloaders are taking money away from the industry, the numbers show that there is actually an increase in record sales since File Sharing Services have surfaced. Also, band’s first week numbers have never been better. Limp Bizkit sold over a million copies of their “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” in its’ first week. N’SYNC set a Soundscan record for most albums sold in one week, with their 2000 effort, “No Strings Attached,” moving over 2.4 million copies. Queens rapper, 50 Cent sold over 800,000 units in his opening week. One has to wonder that if labels, artists, and companies claim they’re losing money, is it really just an unsupported excuse? The most valid argument they have is downloading music, movies, and photos are illegal: it’s called copyright infringement. Sure, this may be criminal, but isn’t public intoxication, prank phone calls (harassment), smoking marijuana (drugs), and prostitution illegal as well? Those are all characteristics in the lives of rock stars. I’m not saying that every rock star does this, but a great majority either pursue these illegal activities or activities related to this sort. Don’t celebrities know whether they like it or not, that society makes them role models? Shouldn’t they be setting an example for others?

On the other side of the coin, file swappers feel that they have a God-given right to exchange music through the Internet. Some people feel that they should be allowed to get music off the net for free because they believe recording artists make a ton of dough. They have the mentality, “So, I’m not buying the album. What’s a few bucks going to do? They’re rich anyways.” This isn’t entirely true. In a recent interview with MTV for a special program, Good Charlotte (widely known punk rock band) stated they weren’t rich. When thinking about any music group, some people fail to take into account the use of money. When a record label signs a recording artist(s), the band usually gets a low percentage of the album sales (I believe the norm is for every album sold, they group gets eight cents). With the money gained, they have to pay their manager, tour bus, gas, motels, sets, meals, public relations and (but not limited to) marketing. Some of the most successful music groups have even gone bankrupt (remember TLC)? Some fans download tunes just because they want to hear what an artist has to offer. If someone were to download a couple of songs and really liked them, not only will that individual be heavily interested in the artist, but would probably purchase the album, DVDs, concert tickets, and memorabilia. On the other hand though, you have the really cheap people who cry poor and refuse to do that, although they would be extremely happy to burn the whole album to a blank CD, laughing away because they “screwed the group out of buying the album.” It’s sad to see that those people feel the need that the entertainment industry owes them something. There is a lot of creativity, diversity, and messages being thrown out in the forms of audible and visual art that draws people in. Artists do this stuff out of love, but it seems that there are some people who want to be selfish and steal every chance they get. But hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Even though there is a hot debate on whether downloading music should be free or not, some artists don’t mind it at all. Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame) was on HBO and even said, “It doesn’t bother me. Just because people download my music, I won’t be at a huge loss. I’ll still be able to eat in the morning.” I even remember Napster funding a free tour, which featured Limp Bizkit and Cypress Hill in 2000. Napster even gave the fans free pizza and drinks. Other artists like the Offspring, Rage Against The Machine, and Dave Matthews have shown support to the File Sharing Services.

Although there are unlawful ways to acquire music, there are lots of ways to do it legally and for free. iTunes has teamed up with Pepsi and one out of every three bottle caps wins the Pepsi drinker free song to download. Also, there are a lot of groups who post their songs on their website to be heard by web users. The reasoning behind this is fairly simple: the band wants to get their name out in the world. One interesting thing is even though Napster closed down, it is back on the market, however, tunes aren’t free. To download a song, it costs one dollar.

Today, we live in a society where we are consumed by the almighty dollar. Whether it is the recording artists who are trying to make a buck, the businessmen trying to keep their buck, or the fans that are trying to con them out of a buck, what it all boils down to is selfish propaganda. The only question left to ask is if this is bullshit.

{Please post a comment}

For Whom the Bell Tolls: V

Okay children, today I will be doing one of my trademark mini-reviews. I’m not really sure what alternate week I’m on but I have two very hot review prospects, so my feature article will be next week.

Movie: Osama, written and directed by Sidbiq Barmak, winner of the 2003 Golden Globe Award for best foreign language film. The basic plot is the story of a girl who masquerades as a boy in order to work for her mother an grandmother (women were not allowed to work, or appear in public unaccompanied by a man). Clearly written to make a statement about life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the film as a work of art is left far behind its political motives. The characters are, for the most part, undeveloped and uninteresting. The film would be poignant and effective if I cared in the least bit about the characters; unfortunately the film was blatant and simplistic and had none of the effective tactics of procuring sympathy from the viewer. The central character was presumably being displayed as conditioned; however, I felt that she was weak, obnoxious and poorly conceived. The only interesting character in the entire film was a young orphan/beggar boy whose role was minimal. Not only is the character development poor, but the film managed to turn a very promising plot into a series of interesting scenes that, when strung together, become tedious. The writing and acting were also points of some distress, but none that I can go into without being confronted with the obvious language barrier, so I will let well enough alone. The films redeeming values? The storyline was, despite its fine-tuning flaws, quite interesting and the scenes individually compelling. For instance the scene when she gets her period is very powerful. Some of the cinematography was breathtaking and shocking, but I was sometimes left feeling that the film was trying to hard to be provocative and shocking. The overall package was less than appealing. I think the biggest downfall of the film, besides my Hollywood trained pet-peeves, was the desperate urgency of its political motives. From the very opening until the final shot the film was self-righteous in its attempt to bring light to issues of human rights and anti-dictatorship sentiments. I say, wait for the video. Star Rating: 1.5-2

Literature: Woman Warrior, a collection of interwoven stories written by Maxine Hong Kingston. This book was written years ago, and has caused uproar in both the Asian-American community and the literary community for its somewhat conflicted and confusing views of Chinese-Americans. Kingston uses words as her weapon against the injustices she has experienced both within the Chinese-American community as well as the larger American community. She employs elements of satire and candor as she explores the role of her femininity and individuality in her Chinese family, the greater Chinese culture and the American society in which she grows up. Her stories are intricate tales that blur the borders of fiction and non-fiction employing the Chinese tradition of talk-story to weave fable like stories that create an image of her life as a child torn between the Chinese traditions of her family and the expectations that American society placed on her. She tells personal anecdotes as well as doctored vedrsions of Chinese myths, such as the story of the warrior Fa Mulan (of recent Disney fame). The book is phenomenally detailed and the five tales intricately woven into one another. She writes from several perspectives and employs many styles, thus the texts moves quickly. However, the book is not disjointed and feels more like an abstract novel. Excellent read and a wonderfully interesting book to pick apart as there are many layers to Kingston’s writing and many different elements of the Asian diaspora and her personal experiences. Star Rating: 4.5

Album Review: A Crow Left of the Murder

After coming off of Llollapalooza 2003, multiplatinum-selling artists, Incubus returned to the studio, but it wasn’t located in California. “Well, we actually decided to do our record this time around, not in our comfort zones. We went to Atlanta, Georgia,” said Brandon Boyd (Lead Singer of Incubus). So, like usual, Incubus is attempting to be more creative with their music, especially Mike Einziger (Guitarist of Incubus). When talking about the melodies for this album, he says, “I just sort of became comfortable with what I’ve been playing for a long time and never really branched out, gear wise. Now, I’m back to spending all my playing with my pedals and trying different guitars.” You can easily tell their rhythms are different; the style is harder and bluesier. The crew enlisted Brendan O’Brien (worked with Soundgarden) to produce and mix the album. Five weeks after the project began, Incubus’s fifth studio album, “A Crow Left of the Murder” was done.

“A Crow Left of the Murder” was released to the public on February 3rd, 2004. It immediately landed at the #2 slot on the Billboard 200, selling 331,000 copies. The leadoff track is “Megalomaniac.”

“Megalomaniac” is (in addition to be Incubus’s hit song) defined as a pathological egotist. After hearing a beating, scratching, and annoying noise, the song starts to take shape with a steady guitar rhythm. Soon, the drums and bass come in, adding to the tune’s edge. Then, Boyd sings to a Megalomaniac or a “pathological egotist” that he or she isn’t placed on a high pedestal. Boyd even discredits the “egotist” by saying how he or she can’t compare to real influences like Jesus and Elvis. This track has gotten so popular that it landed in the #1 slot of the Billboard Modern Rock Charts.

Throughout “Pistola,” Boyd makes it appear that his physical demeanor isn’t violent, but his words could be. He compares his intention to a bullet, his body to a trigger finger, and his pen to a Pistola (or a Pistol with the letter “a” added on the end). Just like “Megalomaniac,” “Pistola” starts out with the same annoying, screeching beginning. Although the lyrics are right on the money, there is a bad scratching part and a lengthy guitar solo, which makes the song even longer and not worth listening to. The irony is that “Pistola” sounds like a horrible version of “Megalomaniac.”

By going from the West Coast to the East Coast, one has to assume that Incubus’s style is becoming more cross-cultural. After all, they wrote, “Southern Girl,” one of their mellowest tunes on the album. Boyd expresses his hormones in this song by convincing a “Southern Girl” to engage in sex, however, instead of coming out and saying it, he uses examples of Mother Nature to get his message across. He sings, “So come outside and walk with me, we’ll try each other on to see if we fit/And with our roots, become a tree, to shade what we make under it.” It doesn’t stop there either. Part of the chorus is, “We’ll behave like animals, swing from tree to tree/We can do anything, that turns you up and sets you free.” This sounds a little too kinky even for these beach-rockers. At least this is an alternative to having sex on the beach.

If you buy “A Crow Left of the Murder,” it may come with a bonus DVD. The bonus DVD features a few performances from Llollapalooza 2003 and the Bridge School Benefit. You’ll also be able to view the “While we were Out” documentary, which shows the making of Incubus’s album. Oh yea, you can also see a cheesy re-enactment of Boyd’s.

Whether you hear them talk about relationships and drugs in “Leech,” or shallow people like in the fast-paced “Priceless,” you’ll be guaranteed cool melodies, but maybe not the greatest arrangements. There is only one thing left to ponder. Can Incubus keep up their streak of multiplatinum albums?

Group: Incubus
Album: A Crow Left of Murder
Record Label: Epic
Stars: 3 out of 5

The Master of Illusions Strikes!

Title: Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions

Back in 2001, Vicarious Visions released Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace for the Game Boy Advance. This time around ol’ Webhead is taking on the master of illusions, Mysterio, who has enlisted the aid of many of Spidey’s nemeses in his quest to destroy the webslinger.

Right off the top of the game the thing that stands out is the story sequences. The storyline bits are hand-drawn comic book art that look fantastic and tell the story of Mysterio’s villainous plot against Spider-Man and the city of New York as it unfolds. The story is fairly solid, beginning with Mary Jane sending Peter Parker out to get her a fishbowl. Unfortunately for Peter, news reports of chaos all over the city start sprining up, and it looks like a job for Spider-Man. Spidey swings out to save the day and the battle begins.

Speaking of battles, the gameplay in Mysterio’s Menace is surprisingly good, considering the inherent difficulties in making Spider-Man operate in a way that does the character justice. Spidey can swing on weblines by double-tapping the A button, throw punches and kicks by hitting B, stick to walls, throw web-balls, snare villains in web-nets, and even spin a web-shield to protect himself from the onslaught of the game’s assorted goons, thugs, and super-powered ne’er-do-wells. The only issue I found with the controls cropped up when Spidey was on the side of a small platform, making it difficult to figure out which direction I needed to push to make Spidey go where I wanted him to. Other than that the controls are crisp, responsive, and well-done. The actual gameplay involves moving through multi-tiered levels thrashing goons and, in some cases, searching for stolen goods or switches that will allow you to move on. Each level ends with a boss fight against one of the members of the Spider-Man rogues gallery, including such luminaries as Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, and of course Mysterio, as well as lesser-known villains such as Hammerhead and Big Wheel. The boss battles are fun, but are either very easy or very hard, with not much middle ground. Scorpion and Mysterio, in particular, are very difficult opponents, while Hammerhead and Big Wheel are rediculously easy to defeat, since Spider-Man takes very little damage from most attacks.

The bold and colourful grahpics, which are especially cool during the story sequences, are also very good in-game. Spider-Man is big and easily recognizable, as are the boss-characters. The hired thugs employed by the super-powered psychopaths that make your life as Spider-Man difficult look good, although there isn’t a lot of variation in the appearances of each of enemy classes, which include basic thugs, clowns, skeletons, guys who may or may not be AIM Agents, and ninjas(probably Hand Ninjas, but that wasn’t made clear during the game). In a neat twist, Spidey can also pick up different versions of his suit, including Spider-Armour, which increases the webslinger’s health, and suits resistant to electricty and fire, all of which change Spidey’s appearance on-screen.

The sound in the game is good, the pinnacle of which I found to be the very satisfying “UGH!” noise that the bad guys make when they’re dispatched by the wallcrawler. The music in the game is nothing to sneeze at, though, and is reminiscent of the soundtrack to the old ’60s Spider-Man cartoons with some techno-style beats mixed in to create a new and groovy soundtrack for all your villain-thrashing needs. Hey, every vicious pummelling needs the proper musical accompanyment.

Mysterio’s Menace is a solid game with bold graphics and solid gameplay, but suffers from a major flaw: enemy attacks don’t to much damage to Spider-Man and there game isn’t that long. I managed to finish the game in under two hours the first time I played it, so be warned, an expert gamer will probably be able to beat it in less time. I definitely want to see a follow-up to this game, though, as more levels and more balanced difficulty in the boss fights would make it a GBA classic. Mysterio’s Menace is a great game while it lasts, and is enough fun that I want to go back and play it again, so Spider-Man: Mysterio’s Menace gets a 7/10.

The Hits and Misses
+ Great comic-book style graphics
+ Solid control
+ Includes lots of classic Spidey villains
– Unbalanced boss battles
– Could use more levels
– Some control issues while wallcrawling

The Decay of Society: Videogames in America

(By Guest Author ‘Chaos’)
Videogames have vastly changed over the period of time that they have existed, since the days of the Atari 2600 and the arcades. Technology has vastly improved the performance of the games as well as the graphical realism and quality. Technology isn’t the only thing that has changed videogames, however. Some say the changing of content in videogames is analogous to the maturing of those who played the Atari and arcade games in the past, having grown up with time, and video games having grown up with them. And thus, video games have become more mature in terms of its presentation, appearance, and content.

Some critics would argue, however, that this is a very negative change, and that today’s videogames are targeted to today’s youth, who in turn are negatively affected by the violence and mature content of videogames. It is the purpose of this paper to analyze the arguments these critics have made and respond in a fashion that will defend the side of the mature videogames. Throughout the paper the term “mature” will be used to refer to content in videogames that include violence, sexual content, vulgarity, and overall mature themes as defined by the ESRB ratings that are now required on every videogame title that is released. I will cover these areas of discussion: I. That those who are influenced by videogames are not stable mentally or in their personal lives. II. That the media has portrayed videogames in a negative light and misrepresented many aspects of videogames, specifically the Grand Theft Auto series. First, we will observe the affect of videogames on their players; or, more specifically, their addictive nature.

Shawn Wooley, a 21 year old addicted player of the PC game Everquest, commited suicide on Thanksgiving Day 2001, supposedly as a result of the game. Elizabeth Wooley, his mother, is attempting to sue the makers of the game and put labels on the game stating it is addictive. She stated, “It’s like any other addiction, either you die, go insane or you quit. My son died.” She also noted, “Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn’t supposed to because he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures,”. ( This cites that Shawn Wooley had some medical problems. In another article, courtesy of, the following is stated:

Woolley contacted a St. Croix County mental health care program and tried to get Shawn to reside in a group home….Woolley feared Shawn was becoming suicidal, but officials told Woolley that without an actual threat by Shawn, who was now an adult, they couldn’t take protective action.

It also states that Shawn was given pills and diagnosed with his mental disabilities including, according to an article at, “depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings” as part of the process to get Shawn in the home; but Shawn wouldn’t take them. The article also cites that Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor, “said Woolley’s mental health problems put him in a category of people more likely to be at risk of getting addicted to online games”.

Shouldn’t Shawn’s mental conditions and refusals to take his prescribed medication for obvious mental problems be justification enough for the officials to take that “protective action”? Certainly someone with so many confirmed mental disorders should be put in an institution, as they can be a danger to themselves or others. I think the case here is not with the video game, but the actions that were taken to try to prevent Shawn’s mental problems and addiction. There should have been some law that would allow for Shawn to be forced into a mental institution based on his instability, not simply because he is old enough to be considered an adult. As we all know adults can be just as irresponsible and unstable as anyone else. It was Shawn’s personal life and personal problems that caused him to be influenced by these videogames, and thus his real life was the issue, not his virtual one.

Now we can’t possibly consider all of this without looking at the opposing views, and first we’ll delve into the counter considerations of my comments on how video games affect people. One opposing view against my claim that only those mentally unstable are seriously affected is that this may be true, but also that normal people are affected by this as well. There are several groups based around the same Everquest game in the Shawn Wooley case where people there claim to have friends or close loved ones addicted to the game and spending more time on it than with their real lives. This proves there is an addiction factor for a great majority, with the cost being social relationships.

Further studies that have been made according to various sources have found that boys who play games with aggressive content do in fact tend to feel more aggressive after playing the games. This would eventually lead to violence due to the increase in aggressive mood and behavior exhibited by boys, and if given a proper reason to, could cause them to become violent to others as a result of this increase in aggression. This has been a primary point in the discussion of video games’ affect on the boys responsible for the Columbine shootings, who were said to have played Doom (a gory first person shooter). An article on cites a study conducted at Iowa State University and Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina which found that:

In a study of 227 college students that those who more frequently played violent video games during junior high and high school were more likely to have engaged in “aggressive delinquent behavior”…..The researchers speculate that video-game violence influences behavior not by inciting aggressive feelings, but by teaching players to find “aggressive solutions” to problems.

The article also cites another study that concluded “of 210 college students who played either a violent or benign video game revealed that the violence-packed games increased subjects’ aggression immediately afterward”. This supports the claim that video games do in fact affect people, even if they are mentally stable.

However, what the studies do not take into account is the factor of the real world. From what I have collected from the Columbine case, the two killers involved were cast as outsiders and ridiculed by their fellow students. As we all know teenagers can be incredibly heartless and unfair, and we’ve all seen what bullying is like. No scientific facts are needed to prove that constant bullying and being outcast by a social environment you must be around every day (school for example) can test one’s mental capacities, especially if you can do little about it. The two Columbine shooters from what I have seen on the news and read were very depressed individuals who became so frustrated with the way they were treated that their minds finally gave way and they retaliated the only way they knew how, by killing. I have known plenty of people who have been mentally scarred by such harsh bullying and likely have considered suicide or murder of those who hurt them. It’s easy to understand the hatred these two felt and how it grew out of control until it exploded in a school shooting. Was their influence to kill the people in that school a result of the unfair treatment and the harsh attacks they faced by their fellow students they experienced, or because of a simple video game? It is true that perhaps the video game fed into their desire and allowed them to day dream about the shooting, but would they have done it if their fellow students were not so harsh and disrespectful to them? I sincerely doubt it. We have all faced hardships in our lives, and those who experience worse hardships and feel hatred and anger often are the ones who turn to violence, not because a video game encouraged them to, but because they must respond to the conflicts that they face in the only solution they feel they have. In this case for the Columbine shooters it was to retaliate by killing in a blind rage, not because Doom was on their computer. Since these critics are so concerned about what’s on people’s computer or television screens, lets see just what they have to say about it.

This brings me to the news media, a prime source of these critics (as well as a source of information for critics) and its take on videogames. In an article on ABC News’s site,, it observes several 13 year old boys playing GTA3, a violent video game, describing them as “masters” of the game as they “yell at the screen and make macabre jokes as they carry out a killing, carjacking, murder spree on screen that would place them on the nation’s most-wanted list in real life.” The article goes on to quote James Oppenheim, a video game reviewer, as stating “When you see that you get extra points for shooting somebody in the head, as opposed to shooting them in the body  you have to wonder exactly what the values are that we are teaching our children.”

Seeing as the article is so focused on the details of the game, I thought about some of the details it observed. I cannot deny that “killing” and “carjacking” are not elements of the GTA series, because it is. However, the presentation of the game exhibited by this article and numerous others like it simply do not go beyond that. They give no mention as to what the true “purpose” of the game is, or if there is even a purpose. Anybody who has actually played the game can tell you that it is a free roaming game that allows you to do what you want, when you want. This means you can do everything the article suggests, or not. You can simply walk or drive around the world that the game provides and explore, looking for the secrets the game makers have put into the game. In no way does the game ever force the player to participate in violent gameplay. There are instances where violence does occur, but just as in real life you do not have to behave violently in the game if you don’t want to. My niece, who enjoys the latest addition to the series (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) is content with simply driving around in a vehicle listening to the music. I seriously doubt that she is learning about carjacking or murdering, or anything for that matter while doing this. She’s simply enjoying another side of the game that is never appreciated by the media, the audio and visual beauty of the large environments. I seriously doubt she is learning the value of how many points she gets for “shooting someone in the head” as Oppenheim suggests. I personally have never looked at how many points you get for anything while playing the game, because I’m not concerned about that aspect. As a mother who bought the game for her son stated in this article, “I see Lawrence playing with it and he’s not caught up in the quandary of moral issues over it. It’s just a game.”

More importantly, the media focuses way too much attention on the details and often fails to see the truly important details that they miss. They focus on the violence in the game, then state that the actions displayed by the 13 year olds would land them in the prison. This implies that in the game there is no punishment for your actions. Several other opponents of violence in videogames focus on this, believing that violence is rewarded in GTA, as Oppenheimer observes through points awarded in the game. What no news report that I have seen about the game take notice of, though, is the actual response the game presents to the violence. In the game, when you commit a crime, if a police officer is around or if the crime is bad enough (such as murder of several people) the police force comes after you in an attempt to stop you. Several stars are lit up on the screen to show the level of “authority” figures, six stars being the highest level of law enforcement that will try to take you down. As your crimes worsen and increase in number you get more stars and the authorities become more aggressive, moving from the police department, to the FBI, and eventually to the Army. Even at just a few stars it becomes very difficult to escape these opposing forces and nearly impossible once you reach the last two levels. To say that the game does not punish you for your actions is completely ignorant and shows that those who observed the game did not even “play” the game. Anyone who has played the game can tell you how difficult and ruthless the law enforcement figures become in the game once you commit so many crimes, and to ignore this or look past it (as the media tends to do) only shows how the media unfairly portrays games like GTA by not showing this “punishment” system that is implemented in the game and thus balancing out the immorality of the violence.

The same can be said of other games, which will often punish the gamer that kills an innocent civilian by ending their game or detracting points from their score. An example is the video game Splinter Cell, in which civilian casualties are fiercly punished by either a game over or a verbal thrashing from a character in the game. To say that these games, while containing violence, don’t teach some form of ethics is not only incorrect but ignorant, as often those who claim it don’t ever seem to actually play the games themselves.

One example is a statement made by Congressman Joe Boca in the May 2003 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly concerning the recently released Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. He said on his website in a description of the game that it “Allows players to create female characters, with full control over breast size and the option to have the character appear topless”. I wish I was able to play the same game he was playing, because from my experience with the game it allows you to do absolutely none of these things. The supposed topless mode Boca suggests was a hoax, an April Fool’s Day joke played by EGM in the April issue, which would explain Boca’s misinformation, but the other two observations including a character creation mode and ability to manipulate the “breast size” of the characters are nowhere to be seen in the actual game. Anyone who has played the game knows this, so why doesn’t Boca? Could he have been misinformed by the media, or a victim of the same ignorance? If critics of video games would just play them (or as it’s said, “do their homework”) before making such accusations perhaps their criticisms would be more respectable. Of course, that’s not to suggest there are no respectable and sensible arguments against mature video games, and we’ll look into that now.

To look at my position on the media in another light, one may claim that despite the media’s portrayal of video games that in the end what should matter is whether the video games end up in the hands of children who are not old enough for them. Therefore the parents of the children should be more responsible and evaluate what their children play, whether by reading articles or watching television programs that cover the content of the games. It can be attested that it doesn’t matter if the media portrays games unfairly, but the fact that they point out the negative and more violent or mature content of the game that parents don’t want their children exposed to that is important. Because they emphasize on this content and children generally don’t consider the ethics or what they’re learning about the game, it doesn’t matter if the media’s methods of journalism are flawed but simply the fact they expose the sort of content in the game. Overall then this argument revolves on the basis that these reports do right in showing parents the content of the game.

I can say in response to this stance that I agree entirely. Though the media does often portray video games unfairly, they still show parents (although in a biased fashion) the sort of content in the game. And it is my firm belief that parents should be the ones who decide whether or not their child plays the game.

But do parents know enough about the video games to make a judgement? They certainly don’t have much time to research. To solve this the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has placed ratings on the front of video games that designate what age level the game is suitable for, and summarizes the sort of content in the game. In addition to this, there are measures instilled in video game distributors that makes it policy not to sell video games to minors, and even possible laws that are running through the lawmaking process to make it a crime to sell these mature games to those who don’t qualify age wise to own the title, keeping minors from purchasing them themselves. I do believe that those not old enough to own the game due to their content should respect the wishes of their parents and either try to convince them through intellectual and mature persuasion to prove they are mature enough; but in the end it should be the parents’ call on this.

However, there are several problems with this consideration. Many parents nowadays do not take the time to think too much about this issue and simply buy the games for the children, not considering whether their child is mature enough. Many children also can gain access to the games from friends or get an older friend to buy the games for them. Another issue is that several people have questioned the ESRB’s definitions of what really makes a “mature” title. The definition of mature content can differ among parents, and obviously don’t have the time to read video game reviews that go in depth on the content.

These are all reasonable objections and I do agree with most of them. The solutions, however, are easy to consider. Parents who are concerned with the way the ESRB rates video games should form interest groups and attempt to analyze what they consider to be mature content and give these suggestions to the board. As far as children eventually gaining access to the mature games, the best I believe parents can do in this situation is realize this can and will happen, and explain to their children that video games, no matter how realistic they appear, are simply not real, and that in real life there are no continues or health recovery items. Parents need to teach children to enjoy the video games for what they are, entertainment peripherals that allow them to escape the real world, even if the world they are immersed in is a lot like reality. Parents should always be teachers and supporters of their offspring throughout their lives, and if they do this right they won’t have to worry about their children whether they’re playing Super Mario Brothers or Grand Theft Auto.

A Peerless Perspective.

There once was a man who did something somewhere. He didn’t do it here, though. So if you feel like bringing it up… bite me.

A while back, I talked about my column on alchoholic musicians. People kept coming up to me with suggestions. But they came to me with people who’s drinking had resulted in bad stuff. I’m all about positivity, so I’m not gonna touch on Pearl Jam’s rum-swilling frontman or any of that. Even if it wasn’t his frontman. You won’t see me mentioning Jim Morrison. I’d rather stay on two happy drunk people.
The first is Jimmy Buffet.
Now, we all know that Jimmy Buffet wasn’t just drunk. Nobody thinks up “Cheeseburger in Paradise” while drunk. “Margaritaville”, maybe. But “Cheeseburger”… wow. You have to be on some crazy magic fruit pills to come up with that.
CRAZY magic fruit pills. But the guy is absolutely a hoot sloshed, more than you an say for most folks. He changes lyrics on stage. He’s just a nice guy. Drinkin’ and singin’ about Cheeseburgers. And stars falling on Alabama. You could groove to that shit, man, you could groove all the way to St. Elle’s. No bad feelings there. No threatening to shoot people and smoking weed. Just drinkin’ and cooking shrimp.
And no problems at all. Take that, Eric Clapton!
But the king… the lord of all drunkenness… is Frank Sinatra. You doubt this? How can you? Listen to the end of “Strangers in the Night”, where he slurs “DOO BEE DOO BE DOO… BA BA BA BUhhhbeehhhbu…” And how wasted do you have to be to sing “My Way?” And how wasted was the COUNTRY TO EMBRACE AND LISTEN TO THAT SONG? It was the fourties, I know, and we were riding on a patriotic high, and prohibition was repealed… and there wasn’t a depression or a war to keep us from drinkin’… but STILL. C’mon, people… seriously. I know sex appeal can lead (Timberlake) us to embrace (Spears) really (Aquillera) crappy (Usher) artists, but still…
“I did it maaaaaaaw way!”
Good lord. Good….lord.
It’s still better than Linkin Park. Although lyrically, the only difference is the big nerdy words.


I don’t get the outrage over GTA3 and GTA Vice City. I do however think it is absolutely HILARIFYING that the same prudent, powder-smelling rich women who decry this violence back a president who’s made his legacy in blood. What’s a dead pixelated hooker compared to a dead American soldier? Not a lot. “But you can burn them with fire! Or drive over them! What the hell do you think is happening in Iraq? Nobody’s dying of food poisoning. And this sure isn’t Bill Clinton’s fault. IT’s the fault of YOUR president, you pampered cows. You and your impotent ex-footballing failure husbands elected this guy while watching Fox News and reading Paul Greenberg. Why are you so mad your kids are seeing violence? Don’t want them to get burned out before they turn eighteen and can go fight for Bush in some other nation that might have a weapon?
Mr. Bush will not read this column. But if he does, he should know that an American soldier is not his toy. These are damn fine individuals, and damn brave ones at that… and who the HELL is he to risk losing them? His information was faulty? No, that’s not adequate. If you’re gong to risk the life of an American, you better make sure there’s a damn good reason. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t see any point in it, then you’ve no buisiness being an American, much less the president of America. Bush should take his bogus morals and pompous blowhard attitude, and go over to Iraq. Fight for once. No Air National Guard this time, you squinty-eyed liar. You squinty-eyed, lying, self-righteous, double-talking, alchoholic, selfish, senseless ASS.
Wasn’t that exciting?
Now I’m gonna be like Meg Ryan’s good looks, and suddenly vanish. Catcha on the flip-side
-Bishop (courtesy of

'Boy Bands' get bounced

Anastasiya Gorshkova, a Ukrainian Student at Pfeiffer University, was just like many other teenage girls in the late Nineties: hanging posters of the Backstreet Boys on her wall. She was a huge fan of the so-called labeled ‘Boy Bands.’ “I liked them when I was 13 – 14, so when you’re at this age, you dream about all those guys falling in love with you and you’re going crazy. Their songs are so romantic and you dream about a romantic guy and all the things they sing about in their songs.” However, when her parents renovated her room, instead of putting up ‘Boy Band’ posters, she was taping Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Nickelback ones to the wall.

When ‘Boy Bands’ came out, although the teenage girls fell in love with them, a lot of males despised them. Richard Kane, a DJ at The Chimes in Kent, England doesn’t like them because, “There’s absolutely no soul in anything they do. If you’ve heard one ‘Boy Band’, you’ve heard them all. It just seems like they recycle the same song over and over again, which the next ‘Boy Band’ then goes and copies, just changing the lyrics a little to claim it as their own.”

A lot of people in the late Nineties were either fanatics or enemies of the teen frenzy known as ‘Boy Bands,’ but in 2004, it seems that the once famous ‘Pop Groups’ are a dying cause. All of them have either called it quits, are on a break, or were canned by their labels. Regardless of the reasoning, the fact remains that they are no longer on mainstream television or radio.

There are many factors as to why ‘Boy Bands’ are no longer dominating the airwaves. Jessika Smith, Pfeiffer Student, says, “At first, they were ok, and all of us girls fell in love with them. But then, too many of them came out and they lost their appeal. They seem so clich now.” John Morrison, co-owner of, agrees with what Jessika says, but brings up another issue of why the ‘Pop Groups’ are becoming extinct. “Number One, there was over saturation of the market; there was too much at once and people grew tired of it being largely the same thing. At the same time, the underground rock and punk scenes have thrived, especially among college students. The labels have seen this and have basically started to shift their marketing to things in this vein as something people in punk culture (or those who want to be) can relate to. Artists like Avril Lavigne have taken the spot of the Backstreet Boys because it appears to have all the edginess and rebellion of the underground. The only difference is it’s the same thing as before, with the same people writing the songs, and pulling the strings. It’s all about image. People got tired of the pretty boy image and they wanted something rebellious.”

Elysa Gardner, a journalist for USA Today, acknowledged this action back in July 2001. She writes, “Five years after the Backstreet Boys’ first album launched the latest bubblegum-pop conquest of radio and MTV, a number of teen-‘zine-friendly acts are having a more difficult time either cultivating a mass audience or following up promising debuts. A CD released by 98 Degrees was one of last year’s biggest commercial disappointments; in recent weeks, heavily promoted albums by the rising young group LFO and Mandy Moore, a blond baby diva who has been likened to Britney Spears, entered the Billboard chart at No. 87 and No. 35, respectively. And Backstreet is suffering some grown-up trauma of its own, with member A.J. McLean currently in rehab for depression and alcohol abuse.”

“I think we’re in a phase right now where there’s no question that the bloom is off the teen-pop rose,” says Alan Light, editor in chief of Spin. “Superstars like ‘N Sync and Backstreet and Britney and Christina (Aguilera) can still sell records, but they’ll face a challenge even if their sales start to dip a little … if there’s any sense that they’ve peaked,” he told USA Today in July 2001.

It’s clear that a big role that could contribute to this is inactivity and a decreasing amount of record sales. The two most famous ‘Boy Bands’ would probably be the Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC. Their highest achievements ever would never be matched by a long shot. The Backstreet Boys’ 2000 Studio Album, “Black & Blue” sold 5 million copies fewer than their 1999 studio album, “Millennium.” N’SYNC’s 2001 compilation, “Celebrity,” couldn’t even sell half the amount of units that their 2000 effort did, “No Strings Attached” (selling over 11 million copies). Since then, the members of both bands have gotten older and haven’t made a new album since.

Whether or not this is a phase, the popularity of ‘Boy Bands’ is dropping at a rapid pace. It doesn’t matter if it was cool to love them or cool to hate them, one no longer has to worry about that because they are no longer in the spotlight. Now, there are more people like Anastasiya who are starting to take posters and photos of the Backstreet Boys off their walls.

{Follow-Up Story soon to come. Until them, leave a comment}

Short 'N' Sweet

Well here I am. Finally. Well, kind of. I’d say it’s been a long time coming in regards to me getting my column up and running on but if I did say that I’d be lying because this is NOT the premier edition of The RKane Domain. This is more an… introduction of sorts. Unfortunately time restraints have kept me from knocking up a full-blown column but I assure ya’ll that the first edition will be here soon. I’ve got a few gigs to review, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff so it’ll be worth the wait. For now though I’m going to touch upon my foremost area of expertise, that being the metal scene. This year’s looking to be a damn good year for all us metalheads so with that in mind here’s some (extremely brief) news and whatnot…

– Dry Kill Logic are set to release their new LP “The Dead & Dreaming” sometime within the coming months. All the tracks have been finished and there looks to be 11 in total. At the moment they’re just finalizing the track titles and then all should be set. Head on over to and you can hear “200 Years”, one of the new tracks and one helluva kick-ass song. I for one am looking forward to this album a whole damn bunch.

– 62 more days until Fear Factory release their new album “Archetype”. I’ll have more info soon but oddly enough I actually have very little clue as to what’s going on with the new album.

– Rob Halford is finally back where he belongs with Judas Priest after 12 years out on his own and they are set to tour this year, as well as having several projects in the works. No news on a new album as of yet though.

– In related news former Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens is now providing the vocals for Iced Earth, whom recently released “The Glorious Burden” LP that, coincidentally, has attained the highest chart position worldwide in Iced Earth’s history.

I’m afraid that’s it for now folks. Extremely short I know and very sparse on the news but it can’t be helped. I’ll have plenty of news next time though (since I’ll actually have time to hunt for info) and I’m predicting that the first actual column will be up within the next two weeks. Definitely no later than that.

Anywayz metalloids, keep moshin’ and keep safe!


Open Mic w/ Bear F'N Frazer: Contra-Celebrity

Controversy is something that surrounds us. Society places celebrities on a pedestal and talks all high and mighty about their new Hollywood attribute. However, when media exposes this new-found star and puts them under the bright lights, it allows our new accused TV sensation to get criticized by the society that made them. It’s like, “here’s our new pretty boy, everybody should flame him, and maybe in a few months, if Public Relations does a good job, everybody will forget about it. No harm done.” Sure, it could be a bogus situation, but these things could obviously help make or break a career. This is a tale that we have all seen before but right now, I got the mic.

The Super Bowl was simply incredible, regardless who won. Sadly, the game isn’t the big thing being talked about … all anybody cares about when they hear the Super Bowl is, “I saw Janet Jackon’s booby.” I don’t want to discredit this matter because it brings up a big issue, “Should Commercial TV be censored?” Personally, I don’t think it should be, but that is a whole other can of worms I would be opening up. As far as seeing Jackson’s breast, I really don’t think it is as bad as everyone claims it out to be. I mean, everybody probably has CBS and little kids are usually allowed to watch CBS unsupervised, so yea, some little kids probably saw something that maybe they shouldn’t have. That is the only problem I see. There are a few reasons why I think the incident really isn’t so bad though. Firstly, you got every single male in Corporate America who probably lived out their fantasy by seeing the breast of one of America’s sexiest females ever, Janet Jackson. Secondly, this was probably unplanned and the breast was out for less than three seconds. The Super Bowl wasn’t based around Jackson’s hooter: it was (and will forever be) based around the biggest football game of the year. thirdly, you probably have a bunch of drunken guys with their kids watching the Super Bowl and if their favorite team makes a bad play, these males are probably yelling obscenities and throwing beer bottles at the television set. think about it for a second. What is worse? Having your son or daughter see Jackson’s booby for a few seconds (probably under parental supervision), or exposing your child to anger, violence, and alcohol? You make the call.

Not to emphasize on this incident, but is UPN or FOX being looked down upon? How different would this be if a child turned to WWE Smackdown on UPN and saw two girls fighting each other, trying to strip the other down to their bra and panties? Better yet, look at shows like Blind Date, Elimidate, and the Fifth Wheel. Sure, it’s shown during the daytime, evenings, and afternoons, but when was the last time you have heard people complaining to FOX or UPN because of the show’s elusive behavior? You can see a guy drink with multiple females (eventually getting heavily intoxicated), hooking up with some girls in the hot tub, club, or bar, and literally caressing them. Are we trying to send out the message that brief nudity isn’t allowed, but alcoholism and hooking up with strangers is?

This also marks the second Sunday in a row where CBS is under fire. The first time was obviously the halftime show at the Super Bowl on February 1st (as mentioned in above paragraph) and the second time was during the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, aired on February 8th. Andre 3000 performed “Hey Ya!,” at the Grammys in-front of a tepee while being flanked by women in bright green outfits. As it turns out, the Native American Cultural Center in San Francisco is encouraging others to boycott both OutKast and CBS because of the performance. They found it offensive towards Native Americans. This is exactly just what CBS needs more of: controversy. Two weeks in a row, they have pissed off a lot of people. You have the feminists, Native Americans, and sheltered people very angry. I have a sneaking suspicion that the ratings for CBS may drop … just a little one though.

So, all the heat seems to be on CBS, OutKast, and Janet Jackson. I guess everybody forgot about Justin Timberlake. Wouldn’t you think he would be under more fire? I mean, he was the one who ripped Jackon’s outfit and exposed her breast. It can’t be Timberlake’s fault though; he’s “America’s Sweetheart.” For days, both parties have apologized, but Justin made a public apology at the Grammys. After all, no one can stay mad at “America’s Sweetheart.” How about R. Kelly? He was on hand at the Grammys and he was widely accepted at the Awards Ceremony. the only reason he attended was because he was out on bail. Does anyone remember the guy who was charged with 21 counts of videotaping, producing, and soliciting a minor to be in a porn video (that isn’t including the 12 counts of taking pictures with a digital camera of a minor and himself both in the nude)? To my knowledge, that is child pornography and one of the sickest acts in mankind, however, he is being cheered at the Grammys. Let’s not even forget about Christina Aguilera and her attire. Although her outfits are sexy, doesn’t she show more skin than about 98% of the people in America (that aren’t in nudist colonies)? Heck, even the suave musician, Prince was on hand. Prince has been a symbol of controversy for the past couple of decades. All of these stars are shown on the Grammys, broadcasted on CBS, the same place that broadcasted the Super Bowl. It’s just odd that a lot of celebrities who have enraged the public and/or committed several offences are forgiven immediately, but when one celebrity makes an honest mistake, they are shunned by the whole world. Maybe not everyone can get away with murder.

Whether you tuned into the Grammys or not, there was definetely something going on. From offensive behavior by OutKast or 50 Cent walking offstage, to Evanescence being awarded the Best New Artist Award or the Beatles Tribute, there was something for everyone at this year’s Grammy Award. Obviously, there were good vibes and bad vibes, from the winners, to the losers, and from the loved, to the unforgiven.

No matter what your taste in music or television is, controversial behavior will always be present. the Entertainment Industry is always loaded with scandals and crude behavior. Some of those will be washed away but for some, a stain could always remain. It’s up to us and society, on how we should deal with it. For, this is Bear F’N Frazer, and it’s about time for me to drop the mic.

{Some stuff got edited out. Leave me some feedback … post a comment}

Wasted Words 19

Recommended download: Remembering NeverFrom My Cold Dead Hands

Wow, look at that. It’s on time this week. I’m getting back to a semi-regular schedule this week, thankfully. I’ve got some short album reviews this week, as well as a few small news bits. Enjoy.

SilversteinWhen Broken Is Easily Fixed: One word for this album, amazing. I’ll admit, these days it seems that screamo/hardcore bands are a dime a dozen. Everyone’s doing it. Well, not everyone is doing it as well as Silverstein. I’ve noticed something with most of the screamo bands that are out there today. You either get a vocalist with excellent screams and mediocre singing, or you get a vocalist with excellent singing and mediocre screams. Shane Told, Silverstein vocalist, offers up the top notch shit in both areas. These guys offer up the best in aggressive, energetic, emotion-laced hardcore. This is truly one of the best albums I’ve purchased since Avenged Sevenfold’s Waking the Fallen. This is the perfect album for fans of A Static Lullaby, Finch, Thrice, and Story of the Year.
Recommended tracks: Giving Up, Smashed Into Pieces

AlexisonfireS/T: Proof that screamo/hardcore isn’t dying out anytime soon. On their debut album, Alexisonfire dish out 11 tracks of pure, nonstop energy. The harsh, throat scratching screams backed by mind-blowing instrumentals makes for a winning combination. They have excellent lyrics as well. Lyrics which make the listener think, and at times will have you wondering “what the hell were they thinking about when they wrote this.” Granted, they’re not exactly doing anything new or innovative, but one listen to this album and you’ll know they’re definitely not just another screamo band. For fans of A Static Lullaby, From Autumn to Ashes, and Funeral for a Friend.
Recommended tracks: 44.Caliber Love Letter, The Kennedy Curse

VauxThere Must Be Some Way to Stop Them: After first hearing Ride Out Bitch, then seeing them perform at Warped Tour 03, I’ve been meaning to pick up their album. But instead, I waited. What the hell was I thinking? I tried to come up with a way to describe this bands sound, and this is the best I came up with; Grungy garage rock and Hardcore had a hot and steamy one night stand, and Vaux is the bastard child that came afterwards. I think the first line of the first track says it all though, “This is the anthem of the year and I’m fucking gold.” There’s really nothing more to say other than give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, after listening to this album the only thing I was lacking was an explanation to why it took me so long to finally buy it. For fans of Snapcase and The Bronx.
Recommended tracks: Set It To Blow, Ride Out Bitch

Keep an eye out for the Rock Against Bush Volume 1 album, which is being released in April on Fat Wreck Chords. The compilation will contain 26 songs, 18 of those will be unreleased. There will be unreleased songs from Alkaline Trio, The Ataris, Against Me, Anti-Flag, NOFX, and others.

The Warped Tour Internet presale has begun. The cost is $23.74, which gets you a ticket to the event as well as a copy of the Warped Tour 2004 Compilation CD. Warped Tour

That’s it for this week. Stick a fork in me because I’m done. Thanks for reading.