Today (well technically yesterday) I found out about the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day from the Comic Riffs blog. What a very interesting and controversial event this is going to be! This all started with South Park’s 200th and 201st episodes. Following on from their protests against censorship in 2006 with their Cartoon Wars episodes, again Matt and Trey revisit the issue of censorship exploring just how far they can go with depicting the prophet Mohammed, and why they should have to censor their depictions at all. Unfortunately a group of radical Muslims took offense at this. While they did not outright threaten the South Park creators they made an implied threat by suggesting they look at what had happened to the last person to publicly offend the Islamic faith. Even this would have been absolutely fine, except for the fact that someone posted the addresses of the production houses for where South Park is made.
This stirred up a bit of controversy in that South Park was not permitted to air their depiction of Mohammed while a radical Muslim group is able to make implied threats and post the addresses of companies involved in the production of South Park. It is important to mention that Comedy Central, the network that South Park airs on is privately owned and so they have the right to air or not to air whatever they like. Comedy Central choosing to censor South Park is not the issue at hand but is rather representative of the larger issue at hand. A Seattle artist then made a small cartoon to show her support for the South Park creator’s cause which went viral. The creator states (as per the blog entry linked above) that she had no intention the picture would become so popular and has chosen to distance herself from it due to not having any control over which direction things go. The result of all this is a rapidly growing movement and support for the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, currently set as May 20th.
Most of the discussions I have seen regarding the idea seem to be in a US context. This is certainly reasonable as Comedy Central is an American company and the event was started in the US. In my opinion however the issue that the event represents transcends the borders of any nation. It isn’t limited to Freedom of Speech in the USA, it’s about the fact that under no circumstances is it acceptable to make death threats to people for drawing pictures. I also saw people comparing this to a hypothetical “Everybody Draw Jesus Day”, pointing out that this would not be seen as acceptable. First of all this is a false analogy as Christianity has no restrictions on depicting Jesus as does Islam with depicting Mohammed. Secondly Christians have never threatened death to people for drawing Jesus, and people have been mocking Christianity and other religions around the world without having to worry about being killed for it quite a while.
The issue here is quite unique and questions how much leeway we should give the customs and rules of religions and beliefs we ourselves do not subscribe to. People should be able to say what they want to say and draw what they want to draw without a fear of death. One of the main arguments against this event is that responding to the extreme minority of violent extremist Muslims in this way is not going to have any meaningful effect except to offend the millions of Muslims who have done nothing wrong and understand that in a system that enables freedom of speech there must be compromises. While many people will be offended I don’t think it will be needlessly. In fact quite the opposite, it is for a legitimate cause raising awareness. With enough people depicting Mohammed then it will become impossible to censor each of them and slowly the networks, news outlets etc will have to accept that and the current censorship problem will go away. The only way to defeat censorship is to spread what is being censored to as many people as possible until it becomes impossible to censor or nothing would be solved by doing so.
Drawing or creating a depiction of Mohammed is violating a religious taboo and should not be considered anything more than that. This Taboo can be placed in the same category as other taboos such as dietary restrictions or fasting requirements. These doctrines apply to people who subscribe to the associated faith and should never be forced on people who don’t. People of any religion have absolutely no right to force their beliefs on other people. Muslims have no right to forcefully prevent anyone from depicting Mohammed just as Jews have no right to force non-Jews not to eat bacon. Imagine if that were the case! I have no problem with Muslims criticizing depictions that are obviously meant to offend and perhaps even taking legal action depending on the circumstances. What I do have a problem with is a small minority attempting to force non-Muslims to adhere to the rules of the Islamic faith. I’m not a Muslim and the rules of Islam mean nothing to me – and I will not be bullied into accepting them. This is why I wholeheartedly support “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. Rather than just being a childish response to the controversy highlighted by South Park, it demonstrates that no religion should be allowed to force its beliefs on people who do not subscribe to that faith under any circumstances.
Some people are just using the day as an excuse to attack all Muslims which is obviously not the point of the day. I do hope that those people are a minority and that the event is successful in raising awareness rather than just being seen as an unjustly harsh attack on Muslims and their faith. It was also a pleasant surprise to see The Simpsons supporting South Park in last Sunday’s episode. This really is an important issue and I think the South Park guys are amazing for standing up for what they believe in and helping to raise awareness. Check back for Part 2 on May 20th where I will present my contribution to the cause.
The Simpsons has always had couch gags before the actual episode starts except for when the episode itself is quite long and they need to omit the couch gag due to time constraints. The one thing that all these couch gags have had over 400 episodes is that they have involved, not surprisingly, a couch. Even the much longer gags such as as Homer evolution or zooming through the universe gags still end up with a couch at the end. Recently, that seems to have changed and a couch is no longer necessary.
In the current season there have been at least two episodes where the couch gag has absolutely nothing to do with a couch at all. The first occurrence of the couchless couch gag was in S21E12 where right after the familiar Homer crashing through the door…we find Grandpa Simpsons in a tarot shop having his fortune told. The card have pictures of the Simpsons on them, but the gag does not contain and is not related to a couch in any way. The second occurrence was in S21E18 which had Comic Book Guy eating various dishes that looked like each of the Simpsons. Clever and entertaining to be sure, but also absolutely nothing to do with a couch.
I don’t know why I even really noticed this or am writing about it. Surely it shouldn’t matter at all? I guess I just find it surprising. For more than 20 years the writers came up with interesting and funny ways to make the couch gag work without ever having to resort to abandoning the couch all together. I find it hard to believe they were unable to think of anything as there options are pretty much unlimited as long as they start or end up back on the couch, or the couch is involved somehow. It isn’t due tot he writers lacking – this season has had some of the best episodes in a long time. It seems like the writers just took an easier route, and in doing so killed a 20 year old tradition. It’s not at all significant but at the same time, I found it slightly sad.
Update 1 – October 13th 2010
I just thought I would add this link, which gives a bit of the explanation behind the bizarrely depressing South Korean animation couch gag of this weeks episode, which most certainly has nothing to do with the couch. Showing
I really love QuakeLive. I don’t have to pay for it, it’s simple and to the point, works on all platforms and I don’t have to deal with any retarded cheating or DRM shit. I’ve been playing for a while, but no where near as long as some of the players on there. I would consider my skill level intermediate, or perhaps above average. One of my favorite maps to play is Vortex Portal. I quite enjoy being able to use the launchpads to gain control of a situation or masterfully escape if necessary. When I started playing I quickly thought of a strategy that I had not seen anyone else use and was quite brilliant.
This strategy is to get full health and then the megahealth, and wait until you get the shield rune. The megahealth is really only necessary to deal with cowardly railwhores, but is still a good idea in any case. Also make sure to have the Scout powerup. Wait until the enemy base is busy(you can land on the jumping thing and jump a few times to survey the situation) and then make sure to get their flag and they will likey follow you. Go back through the middle portal, and at the instant you exit the portal activate the shield rune. If done correctly this should leave a small gap so that when your enemies come through chasing you they will all plunge to their deaths, completely helpless.
I don’t know why but this gives me an intense feeling of pleasure. Perhaps just because my trick works…and that it continues to work time and time again in the same match with the same people. Oddly enough I have only ever had one person steal it and use it against me….but I have started seeing more people employ this trick. Thus, I felt I should lay claim to it. Enjoy.
I saw Avatar yesterday evening, finally, almost a full four months after it came out. A lonely little cinema on 2nd and 12th in NYC was showing it for the last time, quite likely one of the last cinemas showing it in the world. At $16.50 per ticket it was costly, although I thought it was worth seeing so I could make up my own mind about it. Seeing it on DVD or so would not have been the same, as I had heard so much that the visuals were meant to be revolutionary – even from people who didn’t like the film. There have been quite a few revolutionary films in in my lifetime…Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Matrix and maybe a few others which I all missed seeing at the cinema for various reasons. Given I had one last chance to see Avatar in the cinema, perhaps one of the most revolutionary of the revolutionary movies so far I didn’t want to miss it.
I had mostly steered clear of reading any reviews or peoples thoughts on the film, so my points should not have been influenced by anyone elses reviews or thoughts and are my first impressions upon seeing the movie.
- Revolutionary? – I really don’t think Avatar is a revolutionary film at all. I’m not sure why exactly – the worlds and Na’vi were amazing to watch, but none of it felt groundbreaking. It felt just like the next step in the evolution of an existing technology. The world of Pandora did look amazingly realistic, but I can’t help but be sure I have seen other alien worlds look just as realistic. The area where Avatar was meant to shine was with the life of Pandora, and while this looks amazing, it still does not look completely real.
- The Uncanny Valley – I saw a lot of discussion about whether or not Avatar had successfully bridged the uncanny valley with some saying it was the first to do so, others disagreeing and others saying the uncanny valley could not apply because the Na’vi were not human. The Uncanny valley can certainly be applied here because the definition is not specific to humans and in any event the Na’vi are “human enough” to count. So has it been bridged? The loose definition of the uncanny valley is the gap between obvious fake representations of humans or animals and realistic depictions with everything in between looking distorted or making people feel uneasy. While I don’t think the Na’vi or wildlife looked 100% realistic, since they looked believable and did not inflict any feelings of unease I think it is fair to credit Avatar as successfully bridging the uncanny valley.
- Avatar in 3D – I made sure to see Avatar in 3D, only because I had read much about how James Cameron had properly utilized the technology to make a very immersive movie. Avatar is the only 3D movie I have seen since the fad began, however having seen some at amusement parks and having watched 3D films in 2D they all seem to suffer from things flying at the screen, 3D for the sake of 3D. With Avatar it was rare for something to be popping out of the screen, instead watching Avatar was like looking through a portal to another world as opposed to watching through a window from a distance. It really gave the impression sometimes that you could reach through the screen and interact, and I think that was amazing. I would really hope more filmmakes pick up on Mr Camerons cue and stop using 3D as a gimick, bur rather for the level of immersion it can provide.
- Ubobtainium – One of the most common criticisms of Avatar I saw was that ubobtainium is a stupid name. Well…I don’t really think so. The word is used exactly once during the film, very briefly by the corporate guy from My Name is Earl rather than a scientist. It is quite likely it was an informal name for the mineral used in everyday language there. Even if it were the term the scientists were using, it is not uncommon for scientists to use nicknames in such a fashion when working on projects with things being formalized at a later stage. This seems like such a silly criticism, and I don’t understand the fuss it caused.
- If your avatar dies, so do you? – One thing that was not answered in the film was if Matrix or Surrogates rules were in effect. If you die in your avatar, would you die in your host body? The avatars are remote controlled, so it would seem unlikely that an avatar dying would result in your human body dying. When the humans were in their avatars and threatened they seemed fearful of the animals capable of killing them, however this could have been due to simply not wanting to experience the associated pain. For a film with such a strong devotion to scientific detail and consistency i seems like a strange thing to omit.
- Sam Worthington’s accent – I don’t know what was up with Sam’s accent. It wasn’t American, it wasn’t Australian most of the time…it was like a weird generic mix between the two. Someone needs to pay for him to have some American accent lessons, or in future just make his characters Australian. It wasn’t terribly distracting, but it was noticeable.
- Blue Na’vi breasts – Why give the female Na’vi prominent breasts as with humans? I get that they are humanoid, but the fact that women have permanantly prominent breasts is a unique trait shared with no other animal. It seems quite unlikely that an entirely different species on an entirely different world who happen to resemble humans would also have this trait. I don’t know why I noticed this i particular or it annoyed me, but there it is.
- The myth of the noble savage – Many people are probably familiar with the myth of the noble savage even if they don’t know it by that name and/or don’t consider it a myth. The idea basically relates to people less educated and enlightened or who live off the land are somehow more pure and noble. Generally discredited by those knowledgeable enough to have meaningful input with good reason. In Avatar however…the noble savage was no myth, but the reality. This is entirely due to the unique ecosystem, with all organisms having a real and tangible bond and dependence with each other. Indeed in the film it is the humans who appear to be more deserving of the title.
- The interconnected ecosystem – The whole ponytail-jack thing. That was awesome. It reminded me of the way Gaia was described in Asimov’s later foundation novels. An entire interconnected ecosystem operating as one superorganism. An amazing defense and way to ensure stability. A very interesting idea that I would have liked to have seen explored more. It was unclear to me if there was a constant link on some level with the ponytail link just being more direct, or if the link only existed when a phsyical connection was made. When the final attack was going on it seemed like the Rhinoceros things were called to attack and directed in a specific way although that could have been coincidence. I also thought it was odd that Jake and the princess didn’t seem to join ponytails when having sex. Surely if you could be that close to someone in that way you would…maybe that was a concept too difficult to explore in a PG movie. Even so, I didn’t see any of the Na’vi join ponytails, so perhaps they can only join with certain animals?
- Anti-corporate/military/human views – I saw quite a bit of discussion that Avatar was anti-corporation or anti-military although I didn’t understand that at all. First of all the soldiers on Pandora are not part of any military, they are just mercenary working for the corporation – guns for hire. So any anti-military can be dismissed. As for anti-corporate…their may be something here. I didn’t really get that from the movie, it was just a story about a particular corporation doing something morally reprehensible. We have no idea what the corporate world is like in general in the Avatarverse. It is interesting to ponder how much power corporations have that they can go to a new planet teeming with sentient life and have the power to make the decision if they live or die or not. I felt it was implied the corporation may have been responsible for first contact as well, which is even stranger. Lastly I don’t really see how the film was anti-humanity. Yes, it shows the horrible things humans can do, but it also shows how much we can care and the good we can do. It was just a film involving people and was not pro or anti humanity in any way. How anyone could think it was is beyond me.
- Can avatars be permanent? – I wonder if their is a way for Jake to take over his avatar and leave his broken legs behind. I mean it will be pretty hard to be with Neytiri if he has to go back to his human body regularly to stop it from wasting away.
Well, that concludes my thoughts on Avatar. I quite enjoyed the movie although I agree the story was quite simple and the movie did drag on a bit. I will be most interested to see what James Cameron does with the sequels now that he has announced he will be exploring the oceans of Pandora. Their is so much we have yet to learn and see, and it will be interesting to see how the oceans tie in with the whole planet as a super-organism idea and what our group of ragtag heroes has been up to since driving the humans away.
This post is to point out some of the stupid things that Americans tend to do. As with every country the US has its own culture and customs, however I feel the US differs in some ways from many other countries. Primarily because the American influence has been so pervasive in western countries and to a lesser extent in the rest of the world. When I go to Australia or Canada, I notice just how similar the culture is. There are obviously some key differences, but I feel there are more similarities than not – at least on the surface.
What is interesting however is that while I can feel quite at home in the US, Australia, NZ, Canada, the UK etc…, I have only ever observed certain behaviors in the US. The thing about these particular behaviors is that well, they’re just retarded. They also tend to be quite annoying. I think it is interesting that I can not even think of any behaviors that are similar and specific to any other country or culture, as opposed to a random subset of people in general. Without further ado…
- Clapping – Americans clap at the movies whenever something good happens, and on planes whenever the plane lands. WHY! Thousands of planes land every day without incident, and given the idiocy of airport security, lines, delays and all the other crap that makes flying a more frustrating experience than it would otherwise have to be, what is there to clap about? If disaster were averted or someone gave birth or something I could understand it, but just for landing? So what about at the cinemas? I get being engaged in the film, but why feel the need to clap everytime a superhero beats down a villain or a criminal is found and brought to justice? Why stand up and clap at the end of the movie? Who do they think is listening? Is it to let other people in the cinema know? It doesn’t make any sense, and it can be quite annoying if you are not one of the movie clappers and are engrossed in the movie, only to have your concentration disrupted by idiotic clapping. Case in point I saw Avatar yesterday and was quite enjoying it, however some college aged girl decided to clap every time the humans took a hit. I instinctively looked each time to see what was going on, and it is quite annoying being taken out of the moment like that. At least it wasn’t the whole cinema.
- Claiming a false nationality – I talk of course of the tendency some Americans have to claim to be Irish or Greek or Russian just because their uncle had a friend whose dog who lived in a different country for a short amount of time. It’s a pretty simple thing, if you have never been to a country, if your parents or grandparents are not from that country, then you are clearly not from that country. I have no problem with people claiming heritage…but to actually identify as a dual nationality? It was hilarious to see the reactions of people in Ireland to the Americans that came over and said they were Irish and it was good to be home (to a place they had never been). Yoi.
- Thinking all of the US is like a particular state – Far too many Americans think that their state is representative of the entire US. As someone who has traveled quite a bit around the US, this just gets annoying. The US is a diverse place, with the south, east and west coasts all being quite distinct and having unique charms and customs. Surely growing up in the US people would realize this at least from TV, but apparently not. Examples might be arguing that a particular word or phrase is not common in the US at all, when it may be quite common in a different region. Another example may be thinking that all states have the same type of Government, such as thinking all judges and state attorneys are directly elected whereas in some states they are appointed. It’s worse when they take it to the next level, saying that because America is a democracy all judges and state attorneys are required to be directly elected. Yoi.
Another stupid thing Americans do, and this is actually the most annoying so far. I met an American guy in Costa Rica who was convinced that Americans do not have accents, and that the rest of the world just speaks differently or incorrectly. Really? The fact that Americans sound distinctly different from other countries means that they have an accent, regardless. Whether or not is an accent that tends to enunciate clearly on a regular basis is a different subject altogether.
Continuing on with the accent thing, while in Las Vegas I met a few people who consider a non US accent to be incorrect, as simple as that. Despite the fact that a west coast accent does not pronounce many words correctly, these people consider any other accent…British, South African, Dutch, Australian etc to be incorrect. I can’t get over such ignorance and flawed reasoning. The US has quite a bit of regional variation in accents, so I don’t understand how anyone can just consider the “American” accent correct. Would these people really consider a very clearly spoken British accent, that enunciates everything clearly to be more incorrect than a thick redneck southern accent?
One thing Americans do is try to explain to me things about the US. I don’t know if this is stupid, so much as arrogant. I understand when someone visits a country, the locals may try to tell them things about their country. It is only in the US where I feel this is done in a (unintentionally) patronizing way. I’ve been in the US probably 2 years in total, and seen quite a bit of the country. It isn’t that different from other western countries, at least not drastically. Yet many Americans I meet are surprised to learn we get American movies overseas, or feel the need to explain the idea behinds states, or feel the need to explain Mexican food as though it’s only eaten in the US. I know they are trying to be helpful, but good god it’s annoying.
This one is really minor, and hardly applies to Americans in any significant number, still I thought it was interesting. I’ve heard quite a few people reject the term “Native Americans” on the basis that “America did not exist until 1776”, so they should be called simply natives or whatever term they prefer. Do these guys really not know the difference between the Americas and the United States of America? Sheesh.
This concludes my list of stupid things Americans do. At least until I think of things to add. I should point out I have nothing against the US or Americans at all, I just noted these particular behaviors to be quite annoying, and interesting because they seemed quite unique. I would be interested if people would share any equivalent stupid things from other countries.
Update 1 – August 27th 2010
Ok, updated to add the last two points about accents
Update 2 – October 10th 2010
Updated to add the point about the US educating people
Update 3 – October 13th 2010
Updated to add the point about Native Americans
At approximately 9:40 P.M. on the 2nd of April right across the Baltic Hotel on 77th street in Miami Beach, I witnessed some very poor conduct by what were apparently police officers. I didn’t see exactly how it started, but it seemed that these two officers grabbed a guy and a girl just walking by. These police were undercover or something, at least they were not in uniform and were in a plain vehicle. They parked diagonally in the middle of the street blocking normal traffic, and then started harassing this couple.
One of the first things I heard that drew my attention was on of the officers patting down the male. He seemed quite rough and was insulting him the entire time, until finally reaching down his pants and saying “Where are your nuts at? You’ve got nut’s don’t you?”. That, in and of itself should not be considered acceptable. What followed was almost an hour of insults and harassment, when all that this couple seemed to have been doing is walking by. Additionally, they left their car parked in the middle of the street, insulting drivers who were trying to coordinate to get around it.
I don’t have all the details of what happened, and perhaps these officers had to maintain a certain character or had some legitimate reason for their behavior. On the surface however, it seems to be just very poor conduct. It shouldn’t matter who somebody is or what they have done, everybody is entitled to be treated with respect by law enforcement. When police officers harass and insult people instead of just charging them and go so far as to insult people just driving by, it is hard to come up with an argument to justify this behavior. I am glad to be stating this anonymously, given the departments past behavior towards people recording the actions of police officers.
I recorded as much as I could – the audio has a lot of static, but you can hear the voices and dialog clear enough most of the time. I can’t upload MP3 files to wordpress for free, so I have uploaded the file on RapidShare which is a reliable and fast filehosting service. No registration is required nor are there any advertisements, just a short countdown timer. The link is http://rapidshare.com/files/372168217/VCE_090224_002.MP3.html and the file is about 36MB.
If anyone could advise me how to create or provide a clearer version I would be quite grateful. I would be interested to hear other people’s interpretations of what I saw, and what they can hear for themselves.