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The Weekly Report 30th April 2012

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Welcome to The Weekly Report at the Cheap Ferret. Every week I dissect the news that’s crossed my radar and offer my opinion, which everyone is entitled to.

The big news of the week is, of course, the Murdochs appearing at the Leveson Inquiry and offering their supposed evidence. And from that, suggestions that Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt was secretly plotting with them to try and provide them with everything they wanted.

But what concerned me about the whole matter was the fact that James Murdoch seems to be suffering from some kind of severe amnesia and Rupert Murdoch has no idea what’s going on inside his own company.

There’s not a lot that James Murdoch remembers. He doesn’t remember why he rang Jeremy Hunt, he doesn’t remember ever reading his emails, and he doesn’t remember being given any files pertaining to hacking. I was waiting for him to reveal he doesn’t remember where he left his keys, what his name is, or why he wears glasses, and after leaving the inquiry would probably forget he even went in front of it.

Rupert Murdoch, on the other hand, claimed that he finds tactics like phone hacking to be “lazy journalism”. And yet, considering how long it was going on at his papers, it seems he’s quite happy to support lazy journalism. But to be fair, it was The Sun and the News Of The World. No one was particularly claiming they were pillars of great journalistic integrity in the first place.

They also seem completely deluded into thinking the public doesn’t see them as greedy, vampiric ghouls having clandestine meetings with politicians to try and get their own way, despite the fact that the general public has been thinking that about them for a long time. Also, the evidence that they were doing just that might have a hand in why people think that. Just saying.

Oh, and neither of them really read their own newspapers. Stellar job making yourselves look good, fellas!

At this point they’re both either deeply corrupt, lying really badly in front of a major inquiry, or they’re downright stupid. Possibly both, but I’m definitely leaning towards the latter. Neither of them remembers anything, and never have during the entire investigation. It would be funny if the company wasn’t so desperate to influence public decisions.

In other news, Heathrow Airport has yet again been having trouble for excessively long queues at border control. A big part of this is due to reduced border control staff, an ingenious idea three months before the Olympics brings us an influx of tourists, holding people up as they arrive fresh off the plane.

Naturally, people aren’t happy, not least BAA, who owns the airport, who’ve demanded an explanation in front of the board from the immigration minister. Hilariously, the spokesperson for the home affairs select committee stated that this needs to be fixed, regardless of the upcoming Olympics, since Heathrow needs to be a world-class airport at all times. Well, they’d better get started at some point.

Heathrow has never been a world-class airport. Everyone coming into the country seems to be funnelled through Heathrow, while other UK airports (including Gatwick, which serves the same city) remain largely empty. This creates endless disruption, angers visitors and generally creates a bad situation for anyone involved. But rather than accept that maybe fewer flights need to be filtered through Heathrow, and maybe use Gatwick or other nearby airports more, they find as many inane ways to cling to Heathrow as the UK’s sole airport.

It’s notable that Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport by international passengers, and yet has fewer landings and take-offs than Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport. Those are not good statistics, and probably explained by all those endless, unmoving queues and delays as a result of trying to serve too many customers at once.

Maybe they should be thinking about how to spread some more flights to other airports and employing enough staff to meet demand if they truly want to be world class. Otherwise they’re just a busy but ineffective mess.

Moving on…

Due to their prevalence on the Twitter feeds, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid drab, uninteresting boy band One Direction these days. Which is why it’s hilarious that this week they complained about how little they get paid.

Here’s the thing though. They’re a Simon Cowell vehicle, which is the first flaw in their argument. They want to make vast amounts of money as musicians? Well, maybe going down a route that involved Simon Cowell wasn’t such a great idea. See, here’s the thing, One Direction, Simon Cowell is the antichrist. He’s a vile demon of a man that likes to devour the souls of delusional people who believe him when he says he can make them famous. This is why we never hear anything from X Factor contestants after their first single. They get taken to Cowell’s cave and sealed in carbonite, so he can continue feeding off their essence. The more souls he has in captivity, the stronger he gets.

So by signing a deal with him, you have literally sold away your soul. Expect to be his bitch for another year or so before another bunch of pretty boys come prancing along in his path, and then it’s straight to the carbonite cave for you.

Fair play to them, they have realised that the real money in music comes in songwriting due to the greater amount of money you receive in royalties, but their statement on wanting to write their own music is hilarious. They claim they never want their music to sound like it’s been written by some 40-year old in an office. Except that accurately describes the entirety of their first album. Protip: the statement you wanted to make was that you want to take charge of your musical careers, not that you never want to sound like something you already do sound like.

The worst part is they watched A Hard Day’s Night and decided they wanted to do that. Let me tell you something about The Beatles. Lennon and McCartney were writing songs before they were a band. You guys didn’t even know each other before you were a band. Also, you guys strike me as completely bland and humourless, something The Beatles never were personality-wise.

Now, if you meant you wanted to start taking copious amounts of LSD and cheating on your girlfriends with Japanese conceptual artists, that I might be able to get behind. But something tells me you just watched the “Can’t Buy Me Love” segment and decided it’d be nice to go outside and play for a little bit.

Of course, this is the point where I realise I’m too old for mainstream pop music and doom myself to a life of hipster obscurity *listens to 90s trip-hop and jazz-influenced Japanese dance music for comfort*

And that was this week’s Weekly Report at The Cheap Ferret. I’ll have more next week, but for now please feel free to follow me on Twitter or take a look at my sister blog Sven vs. The Movies. My name is L. Haydn Price. Stay classy, San Diego.

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One Of Many Things I Know

April 27, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently came across a little movie online entitled “The Only Thing I Know”. Put together by animator Brian Schmoyer, it suggests that video games are a waste of your life, and almost suggesting that video games are some evil substance that needs to be wiped out.

OK, that’s an exaggeration of the guy’s message, and he does at least acknowledge his opinion is likely to be unpopular and accepts general criticism. But something about it just bugged me about it. So because of that, I figured it would be appropriate to offer my own stance on the “video games are a waste of time” argument.

I agree with Schmoyer in the sense that video games are entertainment, nothing more. But so are so many other things. Entertainment in general is a time sink, that’s a fact I’m willing to agree with. But here’s my counter-argument:

Entertainment is important.

It’s amazing how many people say that you need to work hard, make something of yourself, do something important, and never once do these people stop to unwind. Entertainment helps provide that method of unwinding. Video games are just the latest in a long line of “time-wasting” entertainment activities humanity has created to distract itself from some of the hardships. This doesn’t make them bad or worthless.

If Schmoyer’s argument is that we should stop playing video games because there are more important things to be doing, then should we also renounce the entire last century of great film, centuries of literature, the plays of Shakespeare, the classical arts of ballet and opera, classical compositions of the likes of Mozart or Beethoven, even all the way back to the Greek tragedies?

All of the above are time-sinks, just like video games. They were all created to entertain, to thrill, to provide a form of escapism. Schmoyer talks about trading in real life for experiences that aren’t real, but surely watching some people standing on a stage pretending to be people that don’t exist is the same principle? That’s been socially acceptable for centuries, though!

The important point that seems to be missing from Schmoyer’s argument is that of moderation. Yes, video games can be addictive and can eat up hours of your time, but this doesn’t mean that everybody who ever plays a video game wastes their life.

I play video games. I also am an aspiring writer (hence the blog), I enjoy films (hence the other blog), I love to travel when I get the chance, I am attempting to learn the keyboard, I enjoy cooking, I exercise regularly, and I like to think I have a good deal of intelligence and a decent sense of humour.

The difference between my life and Schmoyer’s life that was apparently “ruined” by video games is that in his life, he put video games before everything else, whereas in my life, and in many other healthy gamers’ lives, games are merely a patch woven into the intricate tapestry of their lives. I’m the sort of gamer who will sit down and play around on something for an hour or two when I’ve not got much else on my plate, but if my to-do list is colossal, the consoles are silenced.

What Schmoyer describes is video game addiction, which is a genuine issue, and though he seems to have overcome it, it seems as if he fails to recognise the issues underlying it, and so cannot truly say he’s gotten better. He’s avoiding the issue by cutting games out of his life, instead of facing up to the fact that something is wrong and he needs to cut back and make a few changes in his life.

His insistence that playing video games is what made his depressed, lonely and overweight reminded me of a quote from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (or also the movie starring John Cusack):

‘Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music?’

Obviously the quote is about music, not video games, but the point still stands. The question here still stands. Was it the excessive video game playing that made him lonely and depressed, or was he so lonely and depressed anyway that he found it easy to be drawn to playing video games for hours just to escape from the real world for a while?

As I stated, video game addiction is genuine problem, in much the same way that alcoholism is. A video game addict approaches games in the same way an alcoholic does with whiskey – a way to escape the real world instead of facing up to their own issues. I’m not belittling anyone has this problem, of course, I’m merely pointing out that there is more to this than just “video games are bad.”

Instead of making a film attacking video games and claiming they ruined his life, it might have been better for him to see a professional counsellor and talk through some of his underlying issues. He needed to really ask himself why his marriage failed, too; why did he put video games before his wife? Plus, I feel he needs to ask himself, if video games weren’t around, would he have just replaced them with something else, like hours of mind-numbing reality TV?

He’s very right in pointing out that no one should ever put games before their real lives, and I would say lay off them entirely if you have more important things to get on with, but I would argue that with about a million other potential distractions too (hell, as I write this I’ve got a self-imposed non research-related Internet ban going on!).

More does need to be done to combat crippling video game addiction, but blaming video games is not the way forward.

– L.Haydn Price

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The Weekly Ferret Report 2 April 2012

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Welcome to The Cheap Ferret and this week’s edition of The Ferret Report. Every week, I will take a look at some of the week’s events and distil them into a small easily digestible nugget of coverage, accompanied by my own, possibly misguided opinion.

So the big news of the week here in the UK is that fuel delivery drivers possibly, maybe, almost certainly might go on strike. Perhaps. Because of this defiant show of indecisiveness, many people decided it would be a brilliant idea to go stock up on extra petrol. And by brilliant, I meant completely stupid.

Yes, petrol stations across the country were rammed on Wednesday onwards, as people felt the need to fill up their cars and jerrycans and plastic bottles and waterskins with the most precious liquid on the planet – petrol. Never mind that the threat of a fuel shortage is only exacerbated by people buying so much fuel that the petrol stations run out, people still did it.

Now, with petrol prices increased due to lack of supply, political commentators have been discussing what this means for David Cameron, who’s had the worst week of his career as PM lately. First the clandestine dinner meetings with big business leaders, then the “granny tax” and tax on sausage rolls, and now the petrol business, it seems like he just can’t catch a break.

But I don’t feel like discussing what this means for Cameron, I feel it raises questions about our attitudes as a nation. That we take a piece of misguided advice at face value instantly without properly researching the facts behind it. The same people who rushed out to buy petrol in hoards are now the same people complaining about the rise in petrol prices, despite the fact that, really, they were responsible for it. Blame the government’s misguided advice all you want, but if people had been a little more careful and not just had the usual British knee-jerk reaction to everything, we wouldn’t have had that “crisis”.

Yes, a strike would be an issue and reduce stocks of petrol, but surely rushing out and buying more than you did would also severely reduce stocks too? Why not look at the many ways you can reduce your petrol usage instead of hoarding a million jerry cans? It’s possible, and makes more sense than panicking and running around like you’re on fire. It’s not the apocalypse, it’s going to be a minor fuel shortage. One that we don’t even know the date for yet since negotiations are still going on. Keep cool. Take a deep breath. Everything is OK. Regain your common sense.

Speaking of a lack of common sense, the English Defence League have popped out of from under their bridges yet again, this time causing riots in Denmark. Now, that in itself raised questions. After all, surely trying to keep Denmark British is colonialism, and hardly helps your case when everyone’s calling you a bunch of xenophobic nutcases. Denmark don’t want to be British, they want to be Danish, and I say let them stay Danish.

But no, this wasn’t the beginning of some bizarre EDL world war, this was actually something even more illogical and downright weird. The EDL were in Denmark trying to recruit followers, and getting a far-right group there to assist their cause. Now, let me get this straight. Your organisation is devoted to a misguided cause of trying to protect Britain from being somehow destroyed by foreign influence, and to help you achieve this you went to another country to try and recruit a bunch of foreigners?

No, sorry, I’m not following this at all. I get you want more influence and want to recruit as many people as possible to your pointless, unnecessary campaign, but surely by recruiting non-British followers, you’re kind of defying your own cause. “We want Britain to be British!” sounds absurd when you have Danes in your ranks. Nothing against Denmark, obviously, but I’m just trying to wrap my head around the warped logic at work here.

The irony is lost on them, of course. Best leave them to go on shouting about Muslamic Ray Guns.

Meanwhile, in gaming news, Assassin’s Creed 3 has been announced, and details have been released. Now, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series thus far, following the conspiracy-laden adventures of Desmond Miles and the historical epics that make up the backbone of the plot, I’m definitely interested in this new one.

No, it’s not because it aims to wrap up Desmond’s story, nor is it because it aims to be a huge epic frontier adventure set right in the middle of the American Revolution, it’s simply because in this game, you get to assassinate bears. Bears! Huge grizzlies! And you can sneak up on them and attack them in the same way you would a guard! I don’t care about anything else, this is now Game Of The Year.

That was the condensed news of the week. My name is L. Haydn Price and this was the Ferret Report.

For more Cheap Ferret goodness, feel free to follow me on Twitter, or check out the side blog Sven vs. The Movies. I’ll be back next week.

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