Thursday, December 31, 2009

An End-of-Year Announcement

Hey there, I close the year with some good news that I am proud to announce.

I am starting up a new blog with several other bloggers titled The Radical Reviewers. In the new year, you can expect a wealth of awesome content up on this site, including independent critical reviews of video-games, books, films, restaurants and many other kinds of products. The blog-format of this new site distinguishes it from the multitude of other critics like Gamespot and IMDB, making it a unique free service on the web. So please bookmark it and suggest it to friends.

On a related note, I’m pleased with the growth that this site has shown throughout this year. What used to receive three hits a day now receives thirty-hits per day. The quality of new content has grown considerably, hopefully capturing my reader’s interests and enhancing their lives. Expect a surfeit of content in the next year, including the final video from Darwin Project!



Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Minimalist Challenge

Some of my favorite bloggers hold minimalistic views. People like Tynan and McCandless believe that the acquisition of unneeded stuff is destructive towards one’s efficiency as a person.

I had become addicted to the freedom and peace of mind that accompanies minimalism. Each possession I got rid of was another possession I never had to keep track of, put away, or consider upgrading. ~ Life Nomadic

I remember the summer of 2008, where I was at the educational summer camp CTY. There I had little. Clothes, toiletries, a single notebook and a single pencil, and that was it. Save for my ubiquitous camera, I was without electronics. I also left behind a cell phone, placing me incommunicado with the outside world.

Nonetheless, the spartan conditions of my dormitory was one of the greatest pleasures that I experienced at CTY. I had little to keep track of, little to fear losing, little to worry about. Without the burden of unnecessary possessions, I felt emancipated. I was able to live carefreely for weeks. Not having to take care of and keep track of belongings is one of the greatest liberations that the privileged can experience. Being incommunicado from friends back in San Francisco forced me to connect and establish relationships with strangers that I would otherwise not have interacted with. 

A Challenge

See them floundering after their cherished possessions, like fish flopping in a river starved of water. ~ Sutta Nipata

Now that it is established that liberation from the burdens that possessions place is beneficial to the quality of one’s life, I have a challenge for my readers.

Simply compile a list of 100 possessions that you have that could be gotten rid of. Unused possessions make for clutter, frustration and worry. Acknowledging that one holds unneeded possessions that burden him and would be beneficial in another’s hands is the point of this challenge.

Thus, I strongly encourage you to participate in this challenge. You can email your list of 100 possessions to if you would like it to be published on this blog. I myself will publish my own list up here in a month.

I hope this challenge will greatly enhance the quality of your life. Good luck!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching them All

Hey there, I hope this posts catches you well.

I write this quick post in a small sector of time that I found while studying for finals. I just wanted to share this quick link with you,

Tomorrow, the Speed Gamers will launch their “Gotta Catch em All” video game charity marathon. In which gamers will attempt to capture a 493 Pokemon throughout the series. Money accrued from 220px-448Lucariothis event goes to Ally’s House, a nonprofit organization benefitting children with cancer. I hope all of you can support this truly fun fundraiser.

To raise awareness of the event you can help by changing your Facebook profile picture to your favorite Pokemon. This fundraising organization is an unique and impressive example of new methods of initiating social change spurred by the internet.

I will likely be out of town for the holidays, so the chances of a blog post coming out before the end of the year is highly unlikely. I wish you all well, happy holidays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Sites 48

This week’s Sunday Sites is published during finals week, and we are all exhausted as we prepare for the upcoming tests. Ode to Source, a history of Valve Software’s ancient, yet powerful game engine. IGN has always been a fascinating site with editorials and columns galore. This one is about achievements and how they can sell even the crappiest of games. I believe that I might have posted this before in the past, nonetheless, given the events of this week, it is entirely relevant. Enjoy.

There is also an important announcement that I must make.

Given the success of the previous blog post titled “Five Essential Games”, I will be starting up a new blog coming out in the new year. Look forward to it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Five Essential Games

The following is a column that I wrote for the roundtable, reviewing games for Holiday 2009. This was a particularly fun article to write, and I thought it would be important to share it here on My Back Pages: Question the Answers.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is by far the most popular game at Stuart Hall. Noting this, Stuart Hall’s taste is regulated mostly to mainstream super-hits. For this set of reviews, I have focused on true classics in desperate need of greater attention. Enjoy.


PC. Half-Life 2Valve Corporation

Half-Life 2 is easily the greatest first-person action game ever made and one of the most atmospheric. Its dystopian near-future world is frighteningly believable and imaginative, contributing to an original and gripping story. Excellent voice-acting and facial animation are to this day unsurpassed.* The frantic combat might come as a bit of a culture-shock to those raised on Halo and Call of Duty, but brutal AI makes encounters entertaining. Nonscripted enemies will pathfind, suppress, flank half-life-2-20041116061507162_640w and take cover, using a small variety of unique guns as well as use physics objects as weapons. The gameplay variety within Half-Life 2 is huge, each chapter capitalizes upon a different gameplay mechanic. Puzzle, squad-based, vehicular travel, turret-defense, stealth and horror elements are found throughout the game, preventing it from ever becoming repetitive. Half-Life 2's eighteen-hour campaign is one of the best ever found in a shooter, and is one that fans of the genre must experience. The game costs $20 on STEAM. It is also available for mainstream consoles as part of The Orange Box for the same price.


PS3. Uncharted 2Naughty Dog

Uncharted 2 was released to a metascore of 98 and was hailed to be the best game on the Playstation 3. The absolutely gorgeous game plays like a hybrid of Gears of War, Zelda and Tomb Raider, with the gunplay, puzzle and platforming elements from each respectively. The graphics are among the 955125_20091005_790screen001 best seen on a console, its varied, colorful and photorealistic locales make for impressive set-piece sequences. Decals and textures are matched only by Crysis. Its gripping story is enhanced by fantastic voice acting and facial animation, which were the only to surpass Half-Life 2 in quality. Uncharted 2 is highly cinematic in nature, its action sequences are intense and involving, making the game fun to watch as well as play. Strong stealth, puzzle and precise platforming elements prevent the game from becoming repetitive and add variety to the lengthy campaign. Robust multiplayer rounds off the $60 package, with variants on deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination and capture-the-flag. Difficult and satisfying co-op missions make the game incredible. Uncharted 2 is this year’s most likely contender for Game of the Year and a game that shouldn’t be missed by any action enthusiast.


Wii. Okami Clover Studio (Ported by Ready at Dawn Studios)

Okami is the freshest and most original action-adventure game in recent years. Intense attention was given to the games graphics, and it shows. Okami is a magnificent-looking game, using cel-shading robustly to create a watercolor/woodcut art-style, making the massive world a joy to explore. Fantastic music, gameplay and thematic content make it a particularly refreshing experience. The 30-hour story casts you as an incarnation of Amaterasu, a Shinto kami. Combat and exploration is influenced by the Zelda series, melee combat in the enormous world is done by rhythmic swings of the Wiimote, far more interesting is the Celestial Brush mechanic, allowing you to interact with the environment in any number of ways, including solving puzzles and dismembering foes. Drawing bombs, suns, moons, lightning bolts and flames and turning 943732_20080318_790screen004those into objects make for radically different gameplay. However, by far the most invigorating aspect of Okami is its story, which definitely has a Luddite edge to it. Plants and flowers flow in your wake as the player moves throughout the world and antagonists are based on some aspect of civilization, like illness or environmental destruction. Having the player restore a dead, rotting countryside makes for one of the most memorable moments in recent gaming. Okami is simply amazing and a game that anyone must experience.


Xbox 360: Shadow ComplexChair Entertainment

Shadow Complex is a 3D side-scrolling action-adventure game, a nostalgic tribute to Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It is also the most inexpensive game on this list, retailing for 15 dollars on XBLA. Fantastic writing by Orson Scott Card of Ender’s Game fame powers forth this fantastic action game. Its gameplay, right down to the shooting, exploration, character development and minimap, is highly reminiscent of Super Metroid. Upgrades to the player character are numerous and hidden all over the large world. Basic rifles give way to fantastic foam guns, double-jumps, wall climbs and missiles give the player plenty reason to explore the 2D world. Shadow Complex runs on the Unreal Engine 3 and is easily the prettiest downloadable game around. This game, like Super Metroid, is short, clocking at nearly six hours. But given the low price, as well as quality and replayibility, this is easily a must-play for Xbox 360 owners looking for both retro appeal and modern advancements in 2D gaming.


MOBILE. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars ~ Rockstar

When Chinatown Wars was unveiled, it drew a great deal of disappointment. Screenshots made it look like a throwback to the days of the top-down perspective of the original GTA games. When it was released, all fears were proved wrong. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars despite its visual similarity to the games of old, had much in common to the recent Grand Theft Auto IV. Liberty City was still gigantic despite the 4 GB limit, with a multitude of things to see and do, driving remained fun with realistic physics and a huge variety of vehicles, changed however is the gunplay and travel, which have evolved due to the top-down perspective. Despite the glowing critical reception, Chinatown Wars flopped when it was released, selling only 90,000 units in its first few weeks. A price cut was announced and it was ported to all three portable platforms. Chinatown Wars is the closest thing that portable gaming might ever get to console-like complexity. Given its wide availability, there is little excuse not to own it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Videos from Darwin Project Part 1

I apologize for the late-ness of this post. These videos are about a month overdue. Nonetheless, this is only part one of two. Technical difficulties are preventing me from adding the third video. Nonetheless, enjoy and be enlightened by these videos as I find an alternative video-sharing service that does not crash every time I upload.

Suggestions for video-upload sites are greatly appreciated. YouTube is failing on me far too often. Thank you.

In the next few days, expect a special post about gaming. I will see you then!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Sites 47

I apologize for the long time it is taking for the Darwin Project videos to upload. Please be patient, technical difficulties with a slow internet connection are crippling and frustrating. Thank you Gaming is no stranger to controversy, oftentimes, controversy is used as a marketing tool to gain media attention. But even more frequently there arises controversy for arbitrary and trivial reasons. A fascinating article on the state of the Wii

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from My Back Pages: Question the Answers!

Yes, I do understand that this blog, being a one-man project, does not have a huge staff contributing content to it. Still, there is a multitude of people that I would like to acknowledge who have worked behind-the-scenes for the improvement of this site. This site has been around for nearly a year and a half and has witnessed tremendous growth in popularity and content quality. I would like to give thanks to the following people for helping me with this blog, I could not have possibly done it without you.

Diego Otero-Caldwell, Alex Hillan and Michael Kreher for contributing reblog content and quotes. Expect to see these people later in the blogosphere.

Joshua Wretzel, Lisa Turner and Scott Roos for making me think in logical and different ways. Without you, My Back Pages: Question the Answers could have become just another generic personal journal

Daniel Kutznetzov, Diego Otero-Caldwell, Sean Patrick, Jackie Myers, Jack Taylor, Whole Wheat Toast, Alex Hillan, Kirill Volchinsky, Michael Kreher, Vincent Wong and Roger Troiani for giving me encouragement and support throughout this entire endeavor as well as reading nearly every post that I have put out throughout all this time. My friends and fans, all of you have made my life worth living.

Whole Wheat Toast for introducing me to the concept of blogging altogether, as well as several other publishing technologies including Twitter, Flickr and Youtube.

the roundtable for publishing my work and thereby allowing me to reach out to new audiences.

An Unknown Number of influential people who have made their mark on me and my work, including, but not limited to Chris McCandless, John Lennon, Banksy, Valve Software, David Anderegg, Siddartha, Timothy Patrick McCarthy, my family, Streetlight Manifesto, Charles Darwin, J.D. Salinger, Lorraine Hansberry, Ayn Rand, Justin Walsh, Lao Tzu, Shigeru Miyamoto, 2D Boy, Diego Otero-Caldwell, Gordon Freeman, Sean Patrick, Tal-Ben Shahar, Rene Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sergio Vasquez, Shannon Halkyard, Thoreau, Harvey Milk, Scott Young, Cal Newport, Tynan, Karl Marx, Bob Dylan, Peter Mundy, Russell Shorto and of course, Link. All of you have made your marks on my life, enriching me and making me a better person. I love you all and give you my sincere gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Sites 46

Here is this weeks Sunday Site, as well as an important video that you all might be interested in. A fairly small, but interesting collection. Difficulty in Video-Games, or the lack thereof and why it is important to the pleasure.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Darwin Project

About a week ago, Convent and Stuart Hall, my high-school, held a special event titled The Darwin Project. Where a set of five panelists visited to give presentations on evolutionary controversy and the possibility of harmony between the opposing viewpoints. Here are photos from the event. 


There were five panelists.

  • Dr. Francisco Alaya: Biologist and Philosopher at U.C. Irvine
  • Father George Coyne: Former Director of Vatican Observatory
  • Peter Hess: Faith Project Director at National Center for Science Education
  • Leslea Hlusko: Associate Professor of Integrated Biology at UC Berkeley
  • Stanley Pruissner: Nobel Prize winning Neurologist and Biochemist









I was planning to have video content on this blog post. But my slow upload rate prevented me from having it up on time. As a result, I will have the videos up on a later date.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Sites 45

Guess what? Sunday Sites had its first birthday just a week ago! Here is this week’s sites. Everytime I go on Facebook, my newsfeed is plastered with Farmville stories, if not socialinterview requests. Here’s a good document on the phenomenon. 50 Amazing Blog Designs. Good, good read. Alternatives to schooling? I am in an unusually jovial mood as I write this post. Thus, that’s why something like this shows up. zzz3333 is one of the most interesting Vloggers I have ever had the chance to meet. Here’s one of his films. Watch, and appreciate. If you click on only one link for this Sunday Sites posting, let it be this. Zero Punctuation is one of the funniest vloggers out there. Highly, highly recommended.

Well, that’s it for the first anniversary of Sunday Sites. Look forward to a special photoblog post. If you haven’t already, be sure to add yourself as a fan on the Facebook page for My Back Pages. Thanks!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rebuttal to “Why Video-Game Legislation Would be Ineffectual”

Please openly welcome Diego Otero-Caldwell in his debut in the blogosphere. Diego is a close friend of mine who wrote a rebuttal to my previous blog post on why video-game legislation would be ineffective, published here as a reblog. Diego is a fan of Modern Warfare and Half-Life and has reached Round Eight of Nazi Zombies, a very impressive feat.
I was playing Call of Duty: World at War with my cousins last summer, and my character had just gotten killed by my cousin’s character’s trench gun. As I was watching the killcam replay my entire left arm getting blown off, I looked to my right and noticed that the cousin who was responsible for killing my character was only about eight years old, and there were even younger cousins standing behind me watching our game. Suddenly I started to worry about my little cousins, and by the end of the night I was thinking about all the small children in this same situation.
What does violence like that do to a kid? It is well established that young children (by young I mean between ages 6-10: the effect of games on teenagers is an entirely different matter that I will not bother getting into) have a natural tendency to absorb and imitate almost everything they see. Considering this bit of common knowledge, it seems obvious that exposure to intensely violent and disturbing games such as GTA IV, Dead Space, and Call of Duty: World at War is terrible for a developing child’s behavior and psychological state.
Still, many young kids in America are playing these games, and so far the government has made no laws to stop it. Measures exist to protect children, but the are not enough. Some private organizations (namely the ESRB) do rate games to suggest what is safe for children to play. Some stores such as GameStop that will not sell “Mature”-rated games to children, but methods such as these are far from enough. Many vendors such as Best Buy will sell any game to anyone, and many parents see no problem in buying an inappropriate game from GameStop and giving it to their children. The United States needs a better system of game censorship, and it is the government’s duty to provide us with such a system.
Doubts exist about the effectiveness of legal regulations on inappropriate game sales. As SHHS junior Marco Garcia stated, “it doesn’t matter what’s illegal or legal, people will always be getting things they’re not supposed to.” Although it is true that simply making a law cannot guarantee that something will not happen, possible ineffectiveness is not an excuse for a law to not exist. In 2008, only 12.5% of all burglary cases in the USA were cleared  (meaning someone was declared guilty of the crime), yet burglary still remains illegal. The government does not base its laws on whether or not they are easy to enforce; it bases its laws on what is just and what will protect the people of the country. So for the protection of our country’s children and their healthy development, it should no longer be legal for a eight-year-old to get his or her hands on a M-rated game.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Sites 44

Jumping off the morning’s post about why video-game legislation would be ineffective, here are related sites for that. People like Jack Thompson are usually unemphatic and fail to view gaming through the eyes of a gamer, thus, their accusations come off as ignorant and malicious. It’s relieving to find well researched and unbiased studies on the effects of violent games. Highly recommended reading. Neutral and unbiased dialogue. The most vocal, and if not ignorant and immoral, critic of video games  Welcome to the Jungle

More will come on this topic later. Until we meet again!

Why Video-Game Legislation Would Be Ineffective

There is no denying that exposure to violent video games has an adverse effect on young children. Playing through Ocarina of Time's Shadow Temple at the young age of four was slightly disturbing for me. Although I am unfazed by games like Half-Life 2 and Gears of War now, I expect that young children would find the gore in such games hard to swallow. Most video-game publishers engage in self-censorship, console manufacturers place restriction on the development of AO-rated games for their systems and retailers refuse to sell M-rated games to young children. Despite this, young children can still circumvent these systems and access potentially disturbing games. Politicians have called for sharper legislature to prevent the access of such games from minors. However, legislation restricting minors from accessing disturbing games would be ineffectual, if not wholly unethical. Screenshot of MadWorld for Wii

Postal 2 was released to major ridicule from both opponents and proponents of gaming, politicians decried the game in Congress while critics dismissed it as a bad game devoid of any entertaining facets, made solely shock its players. While video game legislation would prevent the sale of sadistic games such as Postal 2 to minors in retail stores, many other methods of acquisition, including piracy, online distribution and simply having an adult purchase a game for a minor, go unaccounted for. In addition, the underground indie development scene made of individual hobbyists cannot be regulated by legislation. While some indie developers such as 2D Boy (World of Goo) and Jonathan Blow (Braid) have their games published and regulated by mainstream distributors, the great majority of hobbyist developers self-publish their works. Self-published and open-source games like SuperTuxKart are regulated by neither publishers or legislation. Thus, indie games like Super Columbine Massacre RPG lie out of anyone's realm of control.

Friday, October 23, 2009

On Censorship of Catcher in the Rye *REVISITED*

The first blog post I ever published was titled, like this one, On Censorship of Catcher in the Rye and was uploaded on April 26, 2008. Since then, I have changed significantly as a person and as a blogger. That first post now comes off as naive, ignorant and poorly-written. As a result, I felt obligated to revisit the topic of the censorship of that book, while my position on the matter has not changed, my reasons for opposing censorship have. At that time, I thought of Holden as a “free-spirit”, while I could identify with him, I lacked the maturity to understand him.

Fear and Misunderstanding: Why Catcher is Challenged and Why That’s Wrong

You call yourself a Christian, but you’re an atheist, a communist, and a smut peddler. Why do you insist on having children read four-letter words in school? Why do you want to fill their minds with trash? Why do you want to destroy America’s children? ~ Anonymous

The great majority of challenges to Catcher in the Rye condemn its use of profanity. Other attempts to censor it are based off Catcher dealing with taboo themes. Throughout its entire history, the book was constantly challenged, in both its literary merit, appropriateness for children and its dealing with such taboo themes.

Rye_catcher In 1978 a campaign to remove the book from Washington English Classes was held. The campaign stated that a woman counted 785 profanities throughout the novel. She proceeded to stat that the book was part of a “Communist [brainwashing] plot in which a lot of people are used and may not even be aware of it”. This is clearly a slippery slope, meant to cause a hysterical reaction from its audience to gain unwarranted support.

People tend to think that challenges against Catcher in the Rye have ceased or waned in the 21st Century. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1997, then 16-year-old Kimberly Gordon made efforts to have the novel removed from her school’s required reading list. She objected to the novel’s use of profane language and taboo themes. In addition, she denounced the book for its “lack of literary value”. She lost her attempt to have the book removed, but her case brings up moral questions.

The sad truth of the matter is that people like Kimberly Gordon fail to see past the cursing to see the deeper meaning beneath them. They take the novel at face value and miss out on the point. While she had every right to refrain from reading the book, her decision to attempt to remove the book from reading lists shows that she believed the book to be inappropriate for her peers. By asking for the novel to be removed from reading-lists, she imposes her own perception of the book upon others and limits the intellectual freedom of other children and their parents.

Intellectual Freedom 

The frequent attempts to ban The Catcher in the Rye show us that the censors do not want the novel to be read by the public. By this, the censors are imposing their own misguided morals upon others. This in itself is immoral. While the censors have every right to refrain from viewing offensive material, they have no right to limit the ability of others to access this material. They cannot decide for others what is or is not appropriate.

The prevention of people from accessing any material is severely damaging to intellectual freedom and the open exchange of ideas. By forcing a person to lose access to information, the mindset and thoughts of that person are locked within the realm that he already knows. When that person cannot expand beyond what he already knows, he becomes ignorant of other truths. When a censor bans a book, he is locking important truths away from entire communities. Thus, individuals within these communities lose the freedom to explore such truths and ideas.

Misinterpreted and Misconstrued: Why Maturity is Needed

I recently read The Catcher in the Rye for a second time. The novel was far more meaningful for me with this second reading and brought attention to my own personal flaws. Since then, I IMG_1726 have brought my own relationships and way of life under serious scrutiny. I clearly misinterpreted the book on my first read-through and that misinterpretation has been destructive to my social interaction. By initially idolizing Holden as a champion of freedom and authenticity I jeopardized every relationship that I had with my peers.

So that is why maturity is needed to understand The Catcher in the Rye. If students approach the book without the life-experiences needed to interpret the novel correctly, they will only find themselves in social chaos and loss. Yet, if interpreted as Salinger intended it, The Catcher in the Rye can be an enlightening novel that draws attention to the painful social-lives of adolescents. I was profoundly affected by my second read-through of the book, and upon understanding it, I embarked on a painful journey of self-scrutiny. Reading through The Catcher in the Rye can serve as a catalyst for self-improvement. However, if the reader lacks the needed maturity, then the novel will only serve as an agent of self-destruction.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Sites 43

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of a blog post this week. Several different personal, school and health problems harried me this week, so I was unable to blog. Thank you for understanding. Should I find the time to blog this week, expect to revisit one of the oldest and weakest blog posts on this site. Will 2012 be the end of the world? What effect has the media had on it and the culture behind it? The Page Title is “He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day he Died” The title itself should be enough to pique your interest. This is another photoblog, as opposed to the Journalistic nature of the Toasted Blog, Caliber has more of a “Digital Art Photography” theme. The Yahoo! Directory of personal homepages… hmm… I should submit this site…

That’s it for this week. Until we meet again!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Sites 42

This is Sunday Sites 42. President Barack Obama, after a lengthy period of silence, finally revealed his standing on gay-rights and same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was a topic that this blog covered intensively earlier this year. A gay-rights rally in Washington Another fantastic Bay-Area photoblog URL says it all A documentary currently in production on the problems with civilization.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Index of Greatest Hits

Welcome to the Index.
I’ve been planning to compile a collection of links to the best posts on this blog so that new visitors can easily find the best content here. This will be periodically updated and placed in the “Quicklinks” sidebar.
An Open Letter to Leland Yee and the Supreme Court This is an important post. In response to Schwartzenegger v. EMA, I wrote this open letter defending gaming.
In Defense of Gaming: The Most Misunderstood Medium Meditations on Gaming
Nerds and Popularity: A Social Analysis This site received nearly fifty-pageviews in the evening that this post was published. Receiving nearly ten likes on Facebook, this is quite possibly the best post on the blog.
Islamophobia Another one of my social analyses on religion.
Problems with Religious Fundamentalism, this post introduced new formatting making the site considerably easier to read and enjoy.
Commercialism in Education An important blog post addressing oft-ignored norms in the lunch rooms.
An Open Letter to Steve Jobs I have no problem with advertising. But when advertising causes problems in the lives of people, I am deeply disturbed.
More Letters This post was written during a phase of intense animosity towards proposition 8. I compiled letters to create a collage of vocal opposition.
Eight Years in Retrospect My retrospective on the Bush-era and growing up in it.
Photography and Freedom of Expression An early blog post, this was my first insertion into questioning the answers.
Authenticity and Phoniness After a summer of studying philosophy at CTY, I wrote this essay. While I admit that as a thinker and writer I have matured since then, and that this comes off as primitive compared to my more recent posts, there is value in knowing where I came from as a thinker.
Censorship of Catcher in the Rye I am very humiliated to bring up this post. This was the very first real blog post I ever wrote. The thinking within is truly primitive and flawed. The writing is convoluted and a chore to understand. The logic remains weak and riddled with angst. The only reason that I retain it is to acknowledge the radical changes within myself that I have seen over the years.
An Open Letter to Senator Leland Yee and the US Supreme Court Regarding the EMA case and the possible restrictions on violent games
Discussing the EMA Case with Senator Yee Coffee with one of the most important detractors of Violent Games
Morality in Video Games One of the longest and most extensively peer reviewed articles on the site. But also one of the best.
Thank you!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Race for the Cure - San Francisco

I’ll take a cue from my blogging-friend Whole Wheat Toast’s The Toasted Blog and create a photo-oriented blog post. Letting the pictures tell the story, this will be an enjoyable blog post to compile.

Before the Race 

Team Convent/Stuart Hall

I wanted to be 1337










Race for the Cure 160

Taking a Picture

Race for the Cure 170

During the Race

Race for the Cure 176

Race for the Cure 179

Race for the Cure 193

Race for the Cure 181

Race for the Cure 184

Race for the Cure 205

Race for the Cure 209  Crossing the Finish Line

After the Race

Race for the Cure 216

Race for the Cure 227

Race for the Cure 238

Race for the Cure 234

Race for the Cure 229

This’ll be it for now. In the coming weeks, we’ll be revisiting a very old post from a year back. Look forward to that!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Sites 41

Sunday Sites 41 brings us these posts. SparkNotes seems to have a differing opinion on nerdiness than I had in a post from earlier this month. Tech Blogger, damn good one at that. I really can’t believe that I haven’t shared this link earlier. It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan. "There are very few people I would consider not only above anything I could put together, but above everyone else period. Whole Wheat Toast is grade A+ with a period at the end. You can look but you won't find someone more in tune to this city and what it really feels/looks like. Keep it going Whole Wheat. Fucking beautiful work." ~ Lets_dothat (A testimonial on Flickr)

I’ll have another special post up in a day or two. Look forward to that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Very Best of

A week or two ago, I included a site named in a Sunday Sites feature. A database of quotes gathered through IRC and other chat mediums, it is one of the funniest sites online. What you see here is a compilation of quotes that I have collected throughout my experience with
5f88d1f2d09ff1ca4383618 (Highly Recommended) (Highly Recommended) What does STFU mean? (highly, highly recommended) Oh, so that’s why we’re so lonely =D Quite possibly, the best conversation on the site Another reason why we’re so lonely =D Self owned? (highly, highly recommended)
(Special thanks to Sean Patrick for helping me collect these quotes)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Sites 40

Well, Sunday Sites has been going on for more than forty weeks. Here we go again! This will be a short one, with only three sites. But do expect something big and amazing to come out this week. Transcripts of Barack Obama’s speeches. I recently found out about Derek Sivers. His blog posts are incredibly short and meaningful. Highly recommended. Hack’d

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama’s Address, Slippery-Slopes and Scrutiny

President Barack Obama gathered a great amount of controversy in the week before he made his speech to American students. Conservative parents feared that the speech would be tantamount to indoctrination, forbidding their children to listen to it. Republican bloggers blasted the president, fearing that such a speech would be tantamount to mind-control. An outraged senator accused Obama of attempting to promote socialism. The speech itself had little controversial content, merely encouraging pupils to do well in school. So then, where did all this controversy come from?

The sad truth of the matter is that such fear is the result of a dangerous slippery-slope. Previous, Republican presidents have made the same speech to schools in the past. The fact that Obama is liberal, coupled with his recent healthcare bill, caused many conservative parents to misconstrue the announcement of the speech as an attempt at indoctrination. By blowing the speech out of proportion and context, they were responsible for creating their own hysteria.

Hysteria and its Effects

Previous Republican presidents have made similar addresses to American students, none of them have faced the same scrutiny that Obama was placed under. No complaints were made when Reagan spoke to students in 1988. No demands of censorship were made when George W. Bush read to students in 2001. Yet, Obama's association with liberal values garnered him a false reputation for indoctrination. Thus, Americans panicked, vehemently demanding censorship out of fear and close-mindedness.

However, the most disturbing part of this issue is that parents blatantly demanded that schools not broadcast the message. These demands are tantamount to censorship, and represent an attempt to suppress the intellectual freedom of students. By preventing students from accessing this knowledge, they are preventing them from being able to make their own, independent decisions. Thereby preventing children from developing individuality. While parents blast Obama for indoctrinating their children, they fail to see that their own indoctrination of their children is far more harmful than any presidential address conceived.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Sites 39: Nerds

Jumping off Wedsnesday’s post on the problem of nerd-bashing and its effects, I thought having a Sunday Sites devoted to that topic would be appropriate. Nerd Self-Tests for diagnosis are not a new thing. There are hundreds of them online, many of them give insight into the stereotype. My score is straight through the roof. Guide to Dating: Why Nerds Aren’t as Bad as they are Thought to Be. Shyness is usually associated with nerdity. Read on. A treasure trove of nerd humor and quotes. Why Nerds are Unpopular by Paul Graham The Urban Dictionary gives us some excellent information on the topic. A lengthy and excellent interview on nerds and the discrimination that they face. A book review discussing nerdiness. Philp Guo on Popularity and Nerdiness. One of my favorite bloggers.

That’s it for this week. Check out the Facebook page for My Back Pages if you want to start a discussion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nerds and Popularity: A Social Analysis

While I was in middle school, popularity was extremely divisive. The school lunch tables rarely interacted with each other, and when they did, it was seldom amicable. The problem of nerdiness plagued me for my years at primary school. The archetypical nerd is unsexy, interested in obscure topics and has few or no friends. Typically considered to be a problem, the discrimination that they face is part of a larger problem of anti-intellectualism and social conformity. This blog post will 220px-Spock_vulcan-saluteanalyze the affects of nerd-stereotyping has on both nerds and non-nerds.

Yes, A Problem Exists
My greatest fear in writing this post is that my readers will dismiss the problem without thought. I find that such people have been sheltered and unexposed to the sad truth of this discrimination. They may simply write off their experiences with nerds and the teenage social structure as simple, light-hearted jokes, remaining completely ignorant of the far-reaching damage it has caused.

The putrid hatred that nerds face is a caustic acid that causes massive emotional and mental damage. In the worst cases, the misery is so great that they commit suicide. This hatred is supported not only by their peers, but school administrators, parents and popular culture.
On April 20, 1999, the Columbine Massacre occurred, bringing social outcasts and their behavior into public scrutiny. Harris and Klebold were both labeled as “nerds” for their anti-social behavior and their interests in obscure gothic culture. The massacre that they started brought nerds into scrutiny. That day started somewhat of a “witch-hunt”, fearing another shooting, administrators sought to eliminate nerds. By sending nerds to behavior modification specialists, they created a popular slippery-slope out of ignorance and misinformation. They created imaginary enemies.

WikipedianMarlith’s Theory
Middle school presents the most vicious social structure that children face during their educational career. Personal popularity is extremely divisive during that time. As a result, many children become willing to push their more helpless peers down the ladder through constant derision. Such slurs are repeated to the extent that they become misconstrued as truth.

In addition, the preteen years present to children a desire to mature as rapidly as possible. The aggressive children’s media supports this, by pushing forward their vision of “cool”, they only reaffirm the stereotype for them. The upcoming teenage years are what preteens look forward to and what they perceive to be “cool”. Hypersexualized gossip and machismo are often highlighted in tween media. People who lack interest in such topics are radically different from the crowd, and thus, are labeled as nerds and social outcasts by their preteen peers.

The tween years also present the greatest extent of social conformity. Conformity comes directly out of a fear of being ridiculed. A kid that is interested in Pokemon at twelve will be derided by their classmates. To avoid such derision, he would hide his interest in Pokemon to avoid being perceived as “nerdy”. By conforming to preteen social norms he oppresses himself.

The popular culture does nothing but ingrain this stereotype into our collective social consciousness. Villains in science-fiction media are DrWallaceBreenHL2typically depicted as nerds. Take for example, Wallace Breen from the video game Half-Life 2. Within the Half-Life universe, Breen is the director of the Black-Mesa Research Facility. Brutally intelligent, he negotiates an agreement with an invading extraterrestrial race to enslave humanity in exchange for power. Establishing a dictatorial government, Breen fits very much into the nerd stereotype. This only reinforces the misinformed belief that anti-social people threaten society.

Vicious Social Structures and the Media Problem
Developmental psychologist Gil Noam highlights some issues that characterize preteen development.
  • Self strongly defined by group.
  • Self defined through others’ eyes
  • Sense of belonging essential to well-being
  • Hypervigilance about being liked and accepted
These social worries take the prime position of importance in tween minds. As a result, marketing has been quick to take advantage of them. The anxiety over “belonging” is what powers the preteen media. Thus, we have gossip magazines pushing forward a preoccupation with identity.
As a result, nerds, who are not concerned with “belonging”, are left completely out of the social turbulence of that time. They stand aloof to the common interests of their peers, unknowingly adhering to unfashionable passions. Thus, they are mercilessly teased and must change their behavior or feign an interest to avoid such derision.

Video Games and Anime: Why Stuff that Excites Nerds Bores Everyone Else
When asked what nerds do for fun, most non-nerds would respond with video games and anime.
Video games have become mainstream now. While in the nineties, video games were niche, a small market was powered by smalltime hobbyists. Playing games was considered a nerdy activity back
Now, in the year 2009, the market is massive, powered by great corporations and powered by non-nerds. At this point, the fact that someone plays video games is not justification to classify that person as a nerd. The type of games that one plays governs the classification of people as nerds. Take a look at some big games from the last few years.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ~ Infinity Ward (2007)
  • World of Warcraft ~ Blizzard (2004)
  • Guitar Hero ~ Various (2009)
  • Chrono Trigger ~ Square Enix (1996)
  • Command and Conquer 3 ~ EA Los Angeles (2007)
  • Madden 10 ~ Electronic Arts (2009)
From the list provided, a great distinction can be seen in the types of games listed and the audience that they target.

Modern Warfare and Guitar Hero are both pick-up-and-play games. They are simple with little back story. With little to understand and simple, reflex based gameplay, such games are not complex. Thus, they are popularly perceived to be non-nerdy.

Take a look at games like World of Warcraft, Chrono Trigger and Command and Conquer and a clear distinction between the two camps appears. The latter games require a high-entry fee. Interest in them takes a long time to develop.

Command and Conquer requires the player to understand a complex backstory and universe, as well as memorize formations, unit types and resource types. World of Warcraft requires the player to understand a fantasy universe with conflicts between kingdoms and races, in addition to that, the player must master a complex battle-system and participate in an alternative economy. The sheer investment that these games require of their audience separates them from the likes of Modern Warfare and causes their fans to be perceived as nerds.

Intelligent, Yet Ugly and Awkward: The Unsexiness Stereotype and Why Lewis Skolnick Will Never Get Laid
Nerds are typically considered to be unattractive and awkward, knowing more obscure Metroid characters than they do girls. Once again, stereotyping rears its ugly head to portray such people as unsexy and creepy.
As I stated above, popularity is the most divisive factor for middle-school kids. At this time, social conformity and sexual flaunting begin to take place. Intelligence at this point is widely perceived to be unsexy, as the kids who were always “good at math” were usually the most aloof to the social structure. Being smart would only distance kids from their popular peers. Abnormality is shunned during this period, and thus, intelligence is perceived to be unsexy.

The fact that intelligence pleases adults is a contributing factor to the unsexiness stereotype. Kids who get good grades are usually perceived to be “suck-ups” who exist to please teachers. Their peers eventually fall upon a slippery-slope. They conclude that nerds are far more likely to snitch on their peers as well as suppress sexual contact in order to gain adult approval. Thus, the closeness that nerds have with adults causes them to be perceived as unsexy.

Status Anxiety
Kids who are weird or unpopular or nerdy get treated with contempt and feel less confident; therefore they seem less appealing, at least while everyone is under the spell that lasts until later in high school. Then most kids wake up and realize that variety is the spice of life, and nerd/geek persecution abates dramatically ~ David Anderegg

If nerds are the archetypical model of the unpopular, anti-social kids, than the exact opposite of them will be popular, highly social kids. Popularity is important to preteens, and thus, nerd-persecutors oftewhite-nerdyn seek to push nerds down the social ladder. Status anxiety is fueled by insecurity, fear of ridicule. Nerds are self-unconscious, making them an easy target for their persecutors.

The kids who are hurt most by stereotyping are the ones who suppress their own interests to fit in. Nerd-bashing does nothing but promote anti-intellectualism and cause pain to its victims. Preteen social-conformity is on the rise because of stereotyping, causing self-destructive behavior on the parts of both nerds and non-nerds.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Sites 38

Hey. I have a special blog post coming out on Wednesday, the ninth of September. Look forward to it. A Boy’s Horror on his First Solo  Muni Ride An intensely controversial topic, Obama goes to schools to seek supporters. Is this moral? How is this any more indoctrinating than what kids learn in schools now? Freedom of expression? What do you think? Analysis of the aforementioned speech.

Also, if you haven’t already, feel free to add yourself as a fan of My Back Pages on Facebook:

That’s it for this week. See you Wednesday.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Woodstock and the Modern Generational Conflict

The Outside Lands Music Festival is going on in Golden Gate Park as I write this. By no means a modern Woodstock, such a festival does not mark a major ideological shift in generations. However, there is no denying that conflicts still exist. Battles are still fought within families today. However, the topic of the fights has changed.


Woodstock was a music festival that occurred at the end of the sixties. It marked the ushering in of a new generational mindset, more openly liberal than before. Attracting over half-a-million Woodstock_redmond_stageattendees, the festival was a logistical failure, but a cultural success. For many, it was life-changing. It showed individuals that people who had common interests and experiences existed. Ideological clashes with parents were commonplace in this period, this gathering brought together people with common wishes. This was a generation that would never trust anyone over the age of thirty. What has changed?

Forty Years Later

Forty years later, the original attendees of Woodstock are in their sixties. Weeks ago, the fortieth anniversary of the festival was celebrated, and the ongoing relevance of Woodstock was questioned. The attendees of Woodstock are the parents of this generation. Does a conflict on the scale of the sixties still exist? That is questionable. Do small-scale familial conflicts still exist? Absolutely.

Families that have never experienced the counter-culture of the sixties still hold on to socially-conservative values. Immigrant families lack exposure to such values. As a result, there still exists a generation conflict in those families. Unexposed families still deride their children for trivial reasons. Their lack of appreciation that they have for counter-culture is the driving force for the conflict that they hold with their children. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Sites 37

Sorry for no post last week. I was a slight bit busy. But do expect one to come out this next week.;title;3b The Blind Gaming the Blind. How do blind people play video games? A Simple Method for developing an innovative activity. Live an idiosyncratic life and your envy of others will cease. Living unconventionally and dealing with loneliness

That’s it for today. I’ll see you in a few days with a new post.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Sites 36

The penultimate Sunday Sites of the summer comes with these additions. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and an economic philosopher, weighs in on the conflict over ObamaCare Facebook represents a huge annoyance to anyone who has over 100 friends. Who are the most annoying types of friends? Click here to find out A bill was discussed regarding language freedom, or the right to speak whatever language one wants to regardless of situation.;title 100 things that the Internet has taught us;_ylt=AjXTRxevy8Fy6REoJcU18a6s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTMyaWdqbGthBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkwODE5L3VzX29iYW1hX211YmFyYWsEY3BvcwM0BHBvcwMxBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5faGVhZGxpbmVfbGlzdARzbGsDb2JhbWFlbmNvdXJh Barack Obama discusses dialogue as a means to peacefully avoid violence in the Middle East. FACT CHECK, lies and misinformation surrounding Health Care reform

That’s it for now. See you some time next week on the Information Superhighway.