Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Did Pop Music Start to Suck?

I inadvertantly got into a discussion with Art today about pop music. I know, it's not our usual topic, but I do think it came out of a discussion of 80's metal... so please give us a pass this once. The thing that we both agreed on was that pop music just plain stopped being any good after the 1980's. You can disagree with this statement if you want, but you would be wrong. The fact is, I'm as much a child of the 90's as I was of the 80's, so I don't think my opinion is a result of simple nostalgia. The question is... why did this happen? I have a theory of course.

Think about it... in the 1980's we had a significant number of exceptionally talented mainstream pop artists with their own identities. People like Madonna and Michael Jackson turned out hit album after hit album of consistantly high quality pop music. Artists like Prince, Peter Gabriel, and George Michael not only made great albums but could write songs as well or better than anyone on the record company's payroll. Hell, Prince produced and played all the instruments on most of his albums! Many of these 80's pop acts released great material into the 90's, and in the case of Prince and Madonna... into the 2000's.

But something terrible happened in the 90's. There were solid rock bands that came into prominence in the 90's and enjoyed the great success they deserved... no argument there. But there were little to no new solo pop acts with any longevity and legitimate artistic merit. To put it simply there were no new Princes, Michael Jacksons, Madonnas, or George Michaels in the 90's. My personal reasoning on why this happened has everything to do with image. This might seem strange, because people like Michael Jackson and Madonna were masters of image. Why couldn't similarly shrewd and creative pop artists have found the same success in the 90's? That's the thing... it doesn't have anything to do with these artists talent for creating an image... it has everything to do with the importance of image itself in the visual cable television and MTV era.

This is the way I see it. When music became a visual medium in the early to mid 1980's, the music companies didn't have the time or the forethought to start fresh and manufacture new artists and new images. They just had to pull from the available talent pool. People like George Michael and Prince managed to succeed because they had the ability to create great images... but they were already hard working motivated artists with a shitload of vision. Once the record companies realized the importance of image, they probably became less likely to let younger artists present their music and themselves in new creative ways. They had to stick to what was already working. Who was in charge of deciding what images "worked"? The record companies of course.

My guess would be that a lot of the people who wrote songs on the level of Prince and George Michael found jobs as staff songwriters for the major labels, but were not allowed to step into the spotlight. I'm also willing to bet that a lot of pretty people who could sing and dance got record contracts even when they had no real artistic vision of their own. Creating an image was the job of the producers and all knowing assholes at the major labels. As a result, all we got as far as new artists in the 90's and 2000's were a bunch of pretty people with pre-fabricated studio defined gimmicks.

Now we get soulless shit like The Spice Girls, Mariah Carey, Celene Dion, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Beyonce. I hope I'm wrong, and this is my point as well as my biggest fear, but I suspect that we are very unlikely to see a mainstream solo pop act write and perform a song nearly as good as "Doves Cry" "Like a Prayer", or "Father Figure" in this decade or the next.

Like I said, I hope I'm wrong on this. Would somebody please poke holes in my argument. That would make my day. I want to see the second coming of Prince!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Man Names, Not Baby Names!

Winston ChurchillAs most of my readers probably know Arthur recently posted an article on the main page of Arthur's Hall ( entitled "You People are Stupid: The Ills of our Society Begin at Birth" in which he brilliantly brought to light the modern plague of ridiculous and trendy baby names. In this article Arthur delved into many of the weak-ass social trends that we've collectively been complaining about for years. Naming your child is a very serious thing. They will be living with that name for the rest of their lives, so one should not fuck around in this matter or be swayed by modern trends when making this sort of decision. What I want to do here is add a bit of a supplement to Arthur's article by going more in-depth into the strategies one should employ in actually picking a proper name for your boy.

The first thing you need to get through your head is that you are not selecting a "baby name". You are selecting a man's name. If you get too caught up in the idea that you are naming a baby, you might well lose sight of the fact that this baby will one day grow into a man. With that mindset I suspect anyone is more likely to give their son some sort of trendy cute abomination for a name. You are not naming a baby, you are naming a future man. The name you pick should be serious, traditional, and above anything else the name should make a statement. Naming your child after a respectable deceased family member or great historical figure will give your child the message that something is expected of him in life. It will give them something to live up to.

I've created a list of general rules for picking a name for your son. Follow these rules, and your child won't have to deal with sharing the name Brayden with 6 other godless pussies in his 3rd grade class. Follow these rules, and you will be giving your son a leg up on life. I would even venture to say that if a name you are considering doesn't fall into one of these categories, it should be discarded immediately.

1) Traditional Names and Family Names
Naming your boy after a respected patriarch in the family is a no-brainer. As I said before, this will set up some expectations for the boy... and that's always a good thing. For instance, my grandfather was a calm, kind, manly, strong, hardworking oil man named Doyle. Now there is a great manly name! It isn't trendy, it isn't common, and it can't double as a girls name. Thankfully, my cousin named his son after my grandfather. Great work! I'm actually sorry he beat me to it.

You also can't go wrong with names that come from cultural traditions. If you are a devout Christian, names like Paul, Moses, Noah, Solomon, Joseph, and David are fine names... even if some are far too common. If you have northern European ancestry, try going with a name like Magnus or Axel. German? Albrecht, Frederick, and Ludvig are fantastic. As a general rule, any name that you've ever heard followed by a "Ver" or a "Von" is manly gold. If you are English, you simply cannot beat Winston.

2) The Presidents Rule
Here is a simple rule... you cannot go wrong naming your child after a US President who served previous to 1932. Why 1932? You don't want to name your child after god-damned communists like FDR or LBJ, do you? Lord knows naming your son Barack isn't an option. The one exception to this rule is of course naming your child after Ronald Reagan. Ronald is one of the manliest and proudest names there is.

A lot of presidential names are fairly common, but they are all good. Naming your kids George, Thomas, James, Benjamin, or William may not set them apart in life, but they are solid respectable names. I personally like the idea of naming my son after Jefferson for the message it sends. Washington and Jefferson will always be our two greatest Presidents, and one should never shy away from using their names... even if they are somewhat common. Among these presidential names there are some real manly classics however. Uncommon names like Millard, Chester, Rutherford, Ulysses, Woodrow, Calvin, and Abraham are among the most serious and manly names you could possibly name your future man.

3) Greek and Roman Names
Another simple rule: virtually every traditional Roman or Greek name is a classic of masculinity. There is the added bonus that many of these names were shared by the men who did more to shape western culture than any modern man. Some come off a bit odd now, and I suppose that is something to consider. I fully support people naming their boys Pericles, but I can see how many would balk at such a name.

If you want to go Greek, try names like Themistocles, Lysander, Brasidius, Pericles, Homer, Cimon, Thucydides, Epaminondas, and Aeschylus. All of these were great men, who had great manly names. Do try to stay away from Leonidas however. I figure the film "300" ruined that name for at least a decade. Roman names are also brilliant. Julius, Titus, Gaius, Virgil, Augustus, Maximus, Octavius, and Rufus are manly as all hell.

4) Famous Kings, Generals, and Conquerors
Another good rule to follow is naming your boy after someone who actually accomplished something. Nobody did more to form the world we know today than ancient kings, generals, and conquerors. Alexander of Macedon is probably the most accomplished man in human history, and he died at the age of 32! Say what you will about his tactics, but Alexander is a fantastic name, and Alexander of Macedon excelled at every human endeavor. Alexander changed the world.

Other great names also fit nicely into this category. Here are a few: Napoleon, Phillip, Hannibal, Lysander, Ulysses, George, Edward, Charles, and Pyrrhus. Just try to stay away from Adolf. That name isn't popular for a reason.

As I said before, you can't fail in you task of naming your future man if you are following one or more of these simple rules. Following these four rules will assure that there are fewer Jaydens, Aidens, Masons, Landons, Braydens, Austins, Hunters, and Brodys in this world. That would be a great thing indeed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ten Best Virtual Console Games*

Sin and Punishment N64You might notice there is an asterisk next to the title of this article. That is because I wanted to write an article about my favorite Virtual Console games for the Wii, *but I didn't want it to be a list that includes the following games: Mario World, A Link to the Past, Mario 3, Punch Out, Ocarina of Time, Super Metroid etc. If you haven't played those games, get a better job, move out of the third world ghetto slums in which you are currently living and fucking play them. Simply put, if you haven't played Super Metroid or A Link to the Past, I don't even want you reading my blog.

Regardless of how great so many of those first-party Nintendo games are, I want to expose people to new (old) classic games. So I'm going to list some of my favorite games of all time that are not on everyone's list of " the greatest games ever made". This is a list of classic games that you may not have played, and it is also a list that will be updated the very second Tecmo Superbowl or The Lost Vikings gets released for Wii Virtual Console.

Adventures of Lolo 2#10 Adventures of Lolo 2 (NES)
Adventures of Lolo 2 is a extremely charming puzzle game that gets real hard real quick. Don't say I didn't warn you. This isn't a falling blocks puzzle game like Tetris or Puzzle League. The puzzle designs in all three Lolo games are more akin to the sorts of block pushing puzzles you might find in a Zelda Dungeon.

I did warn you, Adventures of Lolo 2 is a hard game, but this early HAL production is a real classic. Pick this game up if you enjoy a good brain teaser with some emphasis on action.

Super Dodgeball NES#9 Super Dodgeball (NES)
I am a huge fan of 8-Bit Technos games. I love the big blocky character art style, and I love the over-the-top presentation of nearly all of their games. I particularly love the violence in Super Dodgeball. In Super Dodgeball players don't get knocked out of the game... they fucking die... ascending to heaven as angels! Classic!

There are a lot of strategies and special moves to be found in this game of dodgeball. You will soon figure out which of the many international teams are best, and you'll even find yourself rearranging your roster of players, so you will have access to your favorite special attacks. No matter how charming and violent Super Dodgeball may be, I still wouldn't get this game if I was looking for a single player experience. Super Dodgeball is all about murdering your friends!

Wrecking Crew 98#8 Wrecking Crew (NES)
Wrecking Crew is a very early, and somewhat simplistic puzzle game starring Mario. It was also one of Nintendo's early programmable games that let you design levels (like Excitebike). Of course, the main problem with those programmable games was that you couldn't actually save your levels after you turned the power off. With the Virtual Console, you can... sort of. You can save one level at least, thanks to the save state feature in all Virtual Console games.

Wrecking Crew isn't an epic by any means, but it does have tons of challenging levels, and you can go to any level in the game from the title screen, so there is no need for a save feature or password system, you just need to remember which level you completed last. I've spent hours smashing buildings, climbing ladders, and avoiding those eggplant looking creatures in Wrecking Crew on my Virtual Console... this game is $5 well spent.

Gunstar Heroes Megadrive#7 Gunstar Heroes (Genesis/Megadrive)
The first of two Treasure developed games on this list, Gunstar Heroes is my favorite shooter for the Genesis. Heck, its probably my favorite 16-bit run and gun shooter ever, since I can't stand those damn "Mode 7" levels in Contra III.

Gunstar Heroes has everything you'd want in a shooter from the early 1990's. It has a genius weapons system that the player can adjust on the fly, and the programmers pulled off all sorts of crazy graphical effects you won't see in any other Genesis game. Frankly, I'm a little surprised this game was emulated so efficiently on the Virtual Console. You won't find any 16-bit game with more action and flair than Gunstar Heroes.

Ristar is better than Sonic#6 Ristar (Sega Genesis/Megadrive)
Ristar was a very late Genesis release, but it's roots lie in the very infancy of the development of Sonic the Hedgehog. You see, in early development Sonic was a rabbit who could grab things with his long ears. At some point Sonic Team decided they wanted to go with an emphasis on speed, and the rabbit became an annoying fucking hedgehog with an annoying fucking attitude, and annoying fucking idle animations. Ristar was Sonic Team going back to their original idea, this time with a different character who grabbed things with his long elastic arms instead of ears, and it's one of my favorite 16-bit platformers ever.

I know I'm going to get some complaints from the furries out there, but I think Ristar is better than any of the Sonic games. The graphics are sharp, the control is super tight, and the difficulty balance is somewhere between just right and damn hard. If you are a fan of 16-bit Sonic Team, why haven't you played this great game?

Wave Race 64#5 Wave Race 64 (N64)
When I first put this game in my N64 back in 1996, I couldn't believe what I was seeing and playing. I never thought a jet ski game would be one of my favorite games of all time. The waves were beautiful, transparent, and had a huge impact on gameplay. The physics and control in this game were so spot-on and perfectly tuned. With a little practice you could duck under or catch air off of almost any wave in the game.

Wave Race is a game for real racing fans. The courses are brilliantly designed, and the balance between the racers is perfect, offering a racer for every skill level and every racing tactic. Perhaps it is a sad comment on water based racing games, but even now, Wave Race 64 is still the best game ever released in the genre. Splashdown was a fine game... but Wave Race is better in all the ways that really matter.

Lifeforce is better than Gradius#4 Lifeforce (NES)
A sequel of sorts to Gradius, Lifeforce adds a two player option and the "Contra code" for an easy 30 lives. The gameplay, level design, and graphics are all sharper than Gradius, and you'll curse your friends as they steal your lives just as you did in Contra. I'm continually shocked by the number of people who haven't played this classic game. Lifeforce is the best shooter ever released for the NES... nothing even comes close. I don't think I have any more to add... except for this...

Up, Up, Down, Down, L, R, L, R, Start!

Super Tee Shot#3 Kirby's Dream Course (SNES)
If you are as geeky as myself, you just might remember that game advertised on the back of early SNES consoles called Super Tee Shot. Well that game was never released, but it eventually became Kirby's Dream course. Kirby's Dream Course is a hybrid of golf, pinball, and your average 16-bit platformer. The physics are fairly easy to grasp and the control is tight as you bash Kirby through the many courses in this game. There is so much challenge and so many techniques to discover, it is very easy to sink a lot of time into the single player portion of the game.

So the single player is great in Dream Course, but if you can find a friend willing slog through what is a pretty steep learning curve, only then will you really understand Dream Course's real potential. 2-player games are extremely tactical and competitive. You can do cold, evil, devious things to your opponents. Expect physical violence to result. Kirby's Dream Course is one of the great overlooked classics of the entire 16-bit era.

Bomberman 93#2 Bomberman 93 (TurboGrafx 16)
With the way Hudson has whored themselves out by releasing every single god-damned TG-16 game they ever made on Virtual Console, I'm shocked that they haven't released any of their SNES Bomberman games. No matter, Bomberman 93 is almost exactly the same game as Super Bomberman for the SNES when it comes to its ground-greaking 4-player vs mode. This is one of the best 4-player (5 player if you have a Gamecube controller to add) games ever made.

I would also add that everything that made this game great back in 1993 has held up perfectly. This game is not only one of the best multiplayer games on Virtual Console, but its one of my favorites in the entire Wii library... right up there with games like Smash Bros, New Super Mario Bros Wii, and Boom Blox. Get it!

Note: Bomberman 94 has also been released for the Virtual Console as an import title. I haven't had a chance to play this update yet, but from what I've read, it is another quality Bomberman release.

Sin and Punishment#1 Sin and Punishment (N64)
Sin and Punishment is the best N64 game never released in the United States. Thanks to the Virtual Console, you can play this game before you dig into the sequel due out on Wii in 2010.

Sin and Punishment is a rail shooter like Starfox or Panzer Dragoon with one little twist... most of the levels are played on foot and you can wield a sword against nearby enemies. I guess you could call Sin and Punishment a cross between the arcade classic Cabal and Starfox 64. The really great thing is that Sin and Punishment is every bit as good as Starfox 64! Thanks to some brilliant art design and technology from the developer (Treasure), this game holds up very well visually. This is one of the very few N64 games that I can go back and play these days... its a masterpiece.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Its Time to Kill the Postal Service!

From Wikipedia:
Article I, section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution grants U.S. Congress the power to establish post offices and post roads. The Federal Government has interpreted this clause as granting a de facto Congressional monopoly over the delivery of mail. According to the government, no other system for delivering mail - public or private - can be established absent Congress's consent. Congress has delegated to the Postal Service the power to decide whether others may compete with it, and the Postal Service has carved out an exception to its monopoly for extremely urgent letters.
I'm not going to claim that the Postal Service never had it's place here in the US. You could argue that the Postal Service did a lot to keep Americans connected during our nations formative years when no other model existed to provide that service. I may or may not completely agree with you... but you could still make that argument while sounding informed and intelligent.

But look at the state of things now. Postal unions are standing in the way of modernization. The USPS had a 2.8 billion dollar loss in 2008, its third straight. But now its getting even worse. The USPS ran up a 1.9 billion dollar loss in just the 2nd quarter of 2009! FedEx and UPS offer rock solid reliable service without any taxpayer dollars. The USPS is projecting a decline of about 10 billion pieces of mail each year for the next two years. There are also new technologies such as email and online bill paying being used by millions of Americans that make the Post Office's services much less essential to most citizens. No matter how one feels about the Post Office's place in history, I think anyone who is willing to look at the facts would have to admit that something needs to change. The change I want to see is this... it is time to kill the United States Postal Service as a government organization.

The main problem in my view is the Postal Service's lack of profit motive. No private company could be run like the Post Office is operated today and stay in business. The Postal Service doesn't exist to give unionized mailmen high wages and expensive pensions. The Post Office should not be a welfare state, and if it is, they could at least own up to that fact. The Postal Service does, or at least should exist as a service provider. If they can't provide that service efficiently, or without taxpayer dollars, they do not deserve their monopoly protection or their state ownership. As it stands now, it is hard to see the Post Office as anything more than a welfare state.

Thankfully, this is a problem that is easily solved. There are models around the world as to how we should handle this government monolith that will lose money each and every year from here to eternity. Germany and The Netherlands have already privatized their mail delivery, and are now models of efficiency compared to our Postal Service. The Germans being efficient? I know it's a shock, coming from the country that industrialized homicide.

After a net loss in the the 3rd quarter, Deutsche Post adopted a new cost cutting plan, and is now projecting profits through the rest of their 2009 fiscal year. I'd love to see any state run organization turn things around that quickly! Heck, a German State bank still owns over 64% of Deutsche Post, but the rest of those outstanding shares are held by private and institutional investors, and that alone provides enough profit incentive to make Deutsche Post much more efficient and responsive to changing conditions than our mail delivery in The States.

The Post Office is a slow moving government monolith that cannot possibly adjust quickly enough to meet modern economic conditions. But the Post Office does have an infrastructure worth billions (if not trillions) of dollars that could be sold to private companies wanting in on the business. There are two ways to handle this. The government should at the very least lift the Post Office's protected monopoly status and let it die a long debt ridden death like any other inefficient company would in a competitive marketplace. Or we could sell it off and get the taxpayers some of their money back. Obviously, I'm for the second option.

I don't want the Post Office to die a long and painful death, and I really don't want to pay that bill. I want to see the Post Office put out of it's misery as quickly and humanely as possible. Death with dignity... right? I want to see it divided up and sold to the highest bidder(s)... whatever would bring in the most cash. I then want to see those private interests change that business model and make a shit-ton of money while offering better services. Political interests may make this a hard-sell, but the time is here now... we need to kill the Post Office.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Letter to the Child of Two Godless Socialists

Two of my godless hippie socialist friends are expecting a child. At first I was shocked by this news. I had assumed they'd see the world as too terrible and inhumane a place to consider rearing their own child. But more power to them for taking the plunge!

The sister of the husband sent out a mass email to all of our friends. She's putting together a book of our words and advice to be read by the child in the year 2030. I couldn't resist the opportunity for some good-natured ribbing of the only two people I've ever met who actually defend Hugo Chavez in conversation. I've changed the names to Jack and Jill to protect the (somewhat) innocent, and hopefully my response is entertaining enough to justify being posted on my blog.

If anything, I hope that this letter will find its way into the hands of other children who had godless communist parents... that would be rewarding.

To Jack and Jill's Son or Daughter
(to be read in the year 2030)

Being that you are the daughter or son of Jack and Jill, and youth rebellion being such a constant throughout the history of our great country, I imagine you are most likely now a nearly religious follower of the works of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich August von Hayek. You are probably in your second year at The Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago, and maintain dreams of some day running a great American corporation, and being at the forefront of American capitalism and entrepreneurship. I for one, would like to congratulate you for your hard work, bold dreams, and I do hope you make those dreams a reality.

But at this point, and at your current age, I do worry that you might not see your parents for who they truly are. You might be angry at them for their political activism for greater (and all too easily corrupted) centralized power in government. You may be bitter that as an only child of two hand-wringing socialists, you never had a sibling to play with, or to push you in your many athletic undertakings. You may feel that your two intelligent and educated, but overly conscientious parents contributed to the infamous "Idiocracy Effect", first put forth in Mike Judge's brilliant 2006 film. I can only imagine how your relationship with your otherwise loving and caring parents could be strained by this scenario.

I'm not normally one to argue for the virtue of intentions over outcomes, but I think parenting is a bit of a different animal than most of our human undertakings. I also know that you will some day realize and come to terms with my basic premise here, and I want to challenge you, and perhaps hasten your arrival on what is an inevitable conclusion concerning your upbringing. We are all products of our surroundings and upbringings. Your parents are the people they are because they are loving and conscientious, and because they rebelled, bravely pushing in the opposite direction of mainstream culture, just as you are doing today. Regardless of how differently they see the world, they did this out of love and concern for you and the world you are going to be living in.

So perhaps now is the time to start putting the bitterness aside, and see your parents as they really are and always have been. Jack and Jill were great parents who loved you, and who encouraged all of your intellectual pursuits... even when they didn't agree with you. They made you who you are, and you are a smart, caring, and driven person. The world needs godless hippies to drastically change culture from time to time, and the world needs the children of hippies to help re-balance their excesses. Your family is an example of this progress, and make no mistake, it is progress. It has happened before, and it will happen again. But what you are left with is two loving parents, and that's something to be thankful for.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game's I've Loved this Year: Part 2 - Lost Winds

I like epic games, and I like intense action games just as much as much as anyone but I also enjoy smaller more focused games. That's why I'm so happy with the appearance of services like WiiWare, Steam and Xbox Live Arcade. The fact that smaller developers can now produce smaller games with smaller teams, and still market their work in an economically viable way is one of the best things to happen to the industry in years. So I want to take this opportunity to sing the praises of Frontier Games, and their "Lost Winds" series.

The first "Lost Winds" game launched with the WiiWare service, and it is still one of the best games on the WiiWare store... along with Mega Man 9 and World of Goo. The sequel "Lost Winds: Winter of the Melodias" was just released last week, and I just finished my first play-through.

These games aren't trying to be huge epic experiences. Both games will only take 3-4 hours to finish, but you can pick them up for only $10. Both games are so well designed and paced, the hours spent playing them will seem like minutes. The art design and sound are exceptional... and it boggles the mind how Frontier managed to get them under the 40 meg WiiWare limit.

I'd describe "Lost Winds" as "relaxing Metroid", with a "Windwaker" art aesthetic. The world is small by Metroid standards, but every bit as meticulously constructed as your favorite Metroid or Castlevania map. This game design is combined with a exceptional Wii-pointer interface to control the wind and solve puzzles makes both "Lost Winds" games much more original than your standard Metroid rip-off.

I'm in awe of the work Frontier Development has done with these games, and I know I'll be buying their next game. Until then, I hope all of my readers give "Lost Winds" a try. I seriously doubt anyone will be disappointed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Game's I've Loved this Year: Part 1 - Punch Out

Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Wii
Right to the point: the new Punch-Out!! for the Wii was one of the very few games that exceeded every expectation I had leading up to its release this year. Granted, a new Punch Out is a much smaller production than a new Call of Duty game or a Halo spin-off, but you really can't overstate how much fun a simple game can be if it is as meticulously crafted as Punch Out.

Like I said... everything in Punch Out exceeds expectations. The gameplay is right in line with the earlier games, but with more hidden depth and secrets. The challenge is both more approachable than previous games, and thanks to the new Title Defense Mode, the later part of this game is just about as difficult as any Punch Out veteran could want.

There is also an brilliant achievement system that doubles as a teaching tool for finding opponent's weaknesses. For example, you get an achievement for knocking Von Kaiser out in only 5 punches. You probably wouldn't guess that was possible on your own, but the achievement challenges you to attempt new strategies. Everybody will be able to jump in and enjoy the first third of this game, and nearly everybody will be challenged by the second third. The final third will have Punch Out veterans studying every single frame of animation... just to survive.

The Wii isn't a powerful console, but this entire game is built around rendering just two characters, and they look great... even on a HD TV. Punch Out isn't filled with a bunch of motion-capture or procedural animations, everything is beautifully timed and executed 3-D hand animation. Punch Out is a Wii game, but some of the characterizations and animations are nearly Pixar quality. Beyond the Animation, the voice acting and character designs are top notch, particularly for a Wii game. Most of the fighters are returning from old games, but they are hilariously re-imagined, and have even more personality this time around.

The other day I logged on to the "Nintendo Channel" on my Wii and checked how many hours I'd put into Punch Out. I was surprised to find out that I'd played the game for almost 50 hours this year! 50 hours, and I haven't even beaten the final boxer in Title Defense, although I'm only one boxer away.

Punch Out is a simple game, but it has shit-loads of hidden depth, and if you really dive into the game, it has almost unlimited replay value. Punch Out is always challenging, and because of it's meticulous game design and balance, you'll improve with every win, and particularly with every loss.

Support the blog (and capitalism) by purchasing Punch Out from here >

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mastodon - Dethklok Concert Review

I had the opportunity on Saturday (10-3-09) to see Mastodon play the WaMu Theater here in Seattle, and I figured this blog would be a fine place to share my feelings.

The WaMu Theater isn't much more than a corner of Seahawks Stadium, but they can pack a bunch of people in there, and the huge industrial strength curtains along all the walls make for a fine acoustic setup. The bill was as follows: High on Fire and Converge opened, with Mastodon and Dethklok sharing the top billing. There were three beer gardens, pouring $8.25 pints of Sierra Nevada, Ea was promoting Brutal Legend with a gameplay booth, and the t-shirt merch selection was pretty damned epic and priced to sell. It all sounds great... except for the $8 beers.

High on Fire started off the night. These guys sound like a pissed off Motorhead to me. I've seen them open for other acts a few times, but I don't know their songs, and I'm not really in a position to grade their performance. They seem like a solid band. I'm not sure I can say the same for Converge however. Once again, I'm not very familiar, and all their songs blended together for me into a bunch of sludgy screaming. But you didn't start reading this post to learn what I think of Converge... right?

Mastodon was next on stage, but for the sake of my article's main point... I'm going to skip them and cover Dethklok first. Dethklok is a joke band of course... but the touring band they put together for the show was tight, and the accompanying videos they played were funny. Not my thing really. We left after three songs feeling like we'd seen it all. We collectively wondered how long they were going to play, but I guess we'll never know. Mastodon tore through an epic set, and I just can't imagine a Adult Swim joke band being entertaining that long.

Now for Mastodon.

First of all, you should know my opinion of Mastodon. Mastodon is the absolute fucking greatest band still recording! As far as I'm concerned, they are the only metal band of the decade that matters... and the only young metal band that deserves to be compared to the Metallicas and Slayers of the world.

Mastodon's set list was very similar to the last time I saw them. They are very much still promoting their (mind blowing) new album "Crack The Skye". Just like the last time I saw them, they started out playing the entire new album, in order. There wasn't any interaction with the audience this time around. Mastodon was letting the music speak for them. The highlights for me were the epics "The Czar" and "The Last Barron". Watching Brent Hinds go crazy at the end of "The Last Baron" was worth the price of admission alone.

Once they finished the "Crack the Skye" material, Mastodon worked back in time through their body of work. Playing two songs from "Blood Mountain", "Leviathan", and then "Remission". They finished things off with a song I wasn't familiar with. Part of me was hoping this was new material, but it sounded more like a Melvin's cover. They ended the evening with Brann walking up to the mic and saying "Thank you Seattle"... the only words exchanged with the audience all night long.

If you are going to see Mastodon this year, you are not going to get a interactive metal extravaganza. You are going to get to see some very hard-core metal geeks playing their music very well. Mastodon is obviously very proud of "Crack the Skye", and want everyone to experience it live. If you have a taste for Mastodon's style of metal, you should let nothing stop you from seeing them this fall.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thank the Lord for Watergate

I was reading an article by Gene Healy (of the CATO Institute) today and came across an interesting figure. It seems that back when Lyndon Johnson pushed the "Great Society" program through congress, two thirds of the American people polled said they trusted the federal government to do what was right "most of the time" or "just about always". Today, only 30% of Americans polled would respond in that fashion.

So Americans have lost their trust in the federal government since the days of FDR's inescapable government propaganda, and the "good old days" of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. We can probably pin that on Nixon's corruption and law breaking, The Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter's mismanagement or our economy, Reagan's Iran Contra scandal, Bill Clinton's blowjobs, and President Bush's miss-handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All of this scandal and miss-management looks bad at first, but in my opinion, American's losing their trust in the federal government is almost certainly a good thing.

Let's be honest, it's not like the federal government was squeaky clean and efficient in the days before Nixon. Lord knows FDR oversaw some of the most blatant corruption and waste our country has ever seen. But to a large extent, they were protected by a friendly press, and there was no way to disseminate information quickly outside of a few major print publications. The fact is that "conservatism" and "free market" principles have taken a bashing thanks to George Bush.

This may not be fair, since Bush was no conservative, and our recent economic downturn is more likely the fault of government meddling than it is a true market driven bubble. But perception is reality, and we need be willing to recognize the reality of the political situation today. The only thing standing between Barack Obama and even bigger growth in government is the American people's mistrust of that government.

As a libertarian, I would never expect the federal government to act responsibly. We can all love our country, but we are correct to be skeptical of our government. Thanks to Watergate, and the scandals that followed it, even some moderate and left-leaning citizens are less likely to support the sorts of bills Obama is trying to muscle through congress. There are many liberals (I know some of them) who are at least a little skeptical of Nancy Pelosi and those other animals in congress. What seems like a black mark on our country is probably the only thing currently checking the growth of government and the loss of our freedoms.

When I look at the political landscape right now, I can only come to one conclusion. The Watergate scandal was a very, very good thing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Album Trade

I have a friend who operates his own blog, and is a bit of a social media guru for what will remain an unnamed mega-corporation bent on world domination. I listen to metal, and he listens to sissy stuff like Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie.

We realized the other day that neither of us had any exposure to the others favorite genre. I've never listened to "OK Computer", and he's never heard "Master of Puppets". Pretty wild, particularly the part about never hearing "Puppets". So we've decided to do an album trade. I'm giving him three metal albums for him to review, and he's going to give me three boy band albums (or whatever it is he listens to), and I will review them here on my blog. All joking aside... the rule is that we are both going to really listen to these albums and review them fairly.

But now I need to pick my albums. I've already chosen the first two, and I'm going to have to think more about the third. The first album I'm sending him will be "Crack the Skye" by Mastodon... not only because it is a fantastic modern metal album, but because I think your average pretentious indie musician might actually find something to love about it. The second album I will be sending him will be "Master of Puppets" by Metallica... purely because of it's insane overall quality. I figure if someone can't find something to love about Puppets, they will never appreciate metal at all.

I don't know yet what the third album will be. I'm considering "Powerslave" by Maiden, "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns n' Roses, and perhaps "Reign in Blood" by Slayer. Slayer would be an wild pick... but he is a musician, and he might appreciate seeing the extremes of the genre.

So this is where I need some reader help. What album should I send the man... and why? Please fill up the comment thread below.

Update: The other side of my album trading experiment can be found at If you give him any feedback... please be nice. We may not see eye to eye on politics or music, but he's a nice enough gentleman and he deserves your respect.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gran Turismo Games are Not Good

There are a lot of solid things about Sony's Gran Turismo games. The graphics are some of the best in the industry, there is a ton of attention to detail in the tracks and cars, and the physics model is great in most ways. But Gran Turismo games still suck, and here's why:

  1. GT games are not really racing games! That's right, they don't actually challenge you to race. Turismo games are very open ended, feature hundreds of cars, and a nearly infinite number of tweaks to those cars. This can be fun for gear heads, but it causes the game to lose focus when it comes to actual racing. In almost any given race, it is quicker and easier to win by purchasing a better car, or upgrading the one you have rather than actually learning the track. For example, last year's game "GRID" by Codemasters was far more focused. There plenty of cars, and a good number of tracks, but each race required a very specific car, so the programmers were able to balance the challenge. Say what you will about GRID, but to me it is a stronger actual racing game than any Gran Turismo game.

  2. GT games have huge gaps in their physics models that let you, or should I say, nearly force you to cheat. Try hitting a wall, or another car in a GT game. Nothing happens... you don't slow down much, you don't take damage, and you almost never spin out. When I'm coming up to a big turn with a car in front of me... why would I break? Of course I won't break... I will use all my speed to blast into the center of the turn and hit the other car to help keep me on the track... and I'll gain 3 seconds on the other cars. I've found small 2nd gear turns in GT 4 that allow me to blast right over the curb and grass at 120 mph skipping the turn completely, never causing me to crash or take any damage. This isn't just a small oversight... when it comes to a racing sim... this breaks the entire game.

  3. GT games lack focus in other ways as well. They feature a rally racing, grand prix, and will soon have F1 cars. I can only imagine how well they could actually nail GT racing if they actually spent their time making that part of the game better. People who want rally and F1 games buy the rally and F1 games. People buy Gran Turismo because they want to whip around a course in a 700bhp Nissan Skyline. I wish the developers would remember that.

  4. Because of the lack of focus on racing (point #1) these games become a grind. And I mean a real grind... as in "grinding" in Japanese role playing games. These games aren't about learning to race well. They are about being completely OCD and getting every car, or at least all the good ones, and making them as fast as possible. Sure, you can sink hundreds of hours into any GT game, but how much actual fun and challenge are you likely to have? How much time are you going to end up spending on a joyless grind for more cars, and more money?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Milton Friedman Videos

As many of you probably know who follow our work on Arthur's Hall, Milton Friedman is one of my heroes. I wish I could think like him... and I wish I could never lose an argument like him. So I thought I'd make a quick post with some of my favorite Milton videos for everyone to enjoy

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camille Paglia: My Favorite Democrat

Camille Paglia is pretty damned awesome... hands down my favorite "liberal" on the planet. I'm not sure she really is a liberal as we would normally define it. She's liberal on many social issues, but is shockingly out of step with the Democratic party when it comes to government solving our problems.

For those of you who haven't explored her past writings on get to it... you will be entertained. She touches on all sorts of issues, politics, stupid celebrities, and her favorite lesbian porn. Yes... she is that awesome and unpretentious!

Her new article taking the Obama administration to task on health care is classic and biting, here is an outtake... scroll down to jump to the entire article:

What does either party stand for these days? Republican politicians, with their endless scandals, are hardly exemplars of traditional moral values. Nor have they generated new ideas for healthcare, except for medical savings accounts, which would be pathetically inadequate in a major crisis for anyone earning at or below a median income.

And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.

But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.

Read on >

Sly Cooper and Sucker Punch

Up until now my posts have all been about politics and movies, but there is another side to Shatner... and that side is a big-time video game geek. This will be the only post where I make any excuses for this... from here on out it is going to be a mix of libertarianism and video game geekiness.

I don't have as much time as I once did for longer games, so lately I've been playing a load of traditional 2D and 3D plaformer games. I started out with that Klonoa remake for the Wii, and then started picking up a bunch of the stuff that I missed out on for the PS2 like Klonoa 2, Prince of Persia 3, Scaler, Ratchet and Clank etc.

The thing I love about well made plaform games is that they tend not to be too hard. I love fluidly jumping from platform to platform, and exploring new areas. The best ones are just breezy romps that keep you feeling challenged, but never get too frustrating.

Most recently I've been playing the Sly Cooper games from Sucker Punch. In the past two weeks I've burned through both Sly 2 and Sly 3, and I've found them insanely enjoyable. The control is fantastic, they have tons of exploration (Sly 2 particularly), and I found myself appreciating some things I hardly ever admire in platform games... story, characters and voice acting.

I'm sure furries love these games and these characters, but I've been trying not to let that ruin my fun. How can a turtle date a mouse exactly? How does that work? No matter... I guess I'm glad Penelope and Bentley found each other... I just hope there are no erotic fan-fictions out there... and I do not want to see their offspring.

Sure, the plots are mind-bogglingly ridiculous. But these games have so much charm and some surprisingly cleaver writing, you can't help but be excited about what insane excuse they will come up with next for you to do some crazy jumping and running. Not only is are the traditional platforming mechanics super sharp in these games, but the Cooper games delve into tons of other genres. Some levels have you doing first person shooting, rail shooting, racing, dog fighting (not the Michael Vick sort, although that might be fun), stealth missions (that are actually fun), and even managing strategic pirate ship battles! There are a few stinkers I was happy to be done with, but for the most part all the multi-genre elements work great and end up being very, very fun.

It's crazy that a little company here in Seattle was able to cram so many different wild ideas into these games and have them turn out so well. I met some of Sucker Punch's art staff a few years at the Seattle Comic-Con, and they are were all super smart, talented, nice dudes. So I want to give their work a little shout-out here on my blog, and encourage anyone who thirsts for some light fun to try the Cooper games. In just the past few weeks, both Sly 2 and Sly 3 have shot up to the top of my list of favorite platform games ever... just behind a few Mario games. Great work! I just might have to get a PS3 and give Infamous a try.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gun Control is Racist

Jaktens Tid from the Arthur's Hall Forums just wrote an incredible article about gun control. This is one of the strongest pieces I've put up in a long time. Great job Jaktens! I'll start you out with the first two paragraphs, follow the link for the entire article.

When the average person thinks of “gun control”, they probably think of gang members, weeping parents making pleas to uncaring politicians to do something “for the children”, and paranoid white militia members decked out in camouflage and toting black rifles. This image of gun control is very recent, created by a combination of television news and big-budget movies, and power-hungry politicians whose knowledge of guns extends only to the same news and movies. Let us now divorce ourselves from such short-sighted conceptions and take a look at images associated with gun control that have a better basis in historical reality – the Klan in their late 19th-century heyday in the Southern U.S., and the National Socialist German Workers' Party, known by its German abbreviation as the Nazi Party.

What makes the United States a free society? Is it because we have a right to vote, to spend our money as we please (December 23rd, 1913 to the present notwithstanding), or that we have a wonderful Constitution that tells us we are permitted to exercise certain rights? NO. We are free because we live in a society where ordinary people – rich and poor, black and white, straight and gay, young and old, religious and atheistic - who obey the law are able to keep and bear arms. The men who founded this great nation of ours knew first-hand the benefit of having an armed citizenry, instead of restricting the use of arms to a particular class, race, or religion. English common law, as expounded upon by superb thinkers such as Sir William Blackstone and A.V. Dicey, was very clear in defining that ordinary law-abiding citizens were not only allowed to keep and bear their own personal arms, but that keeping and bearing said arms was a good and noble thing to do! Our own Constitution has a very solid basis in English common law, so there is little room for questions as to the place that the Founding Fathers saw for arms in their fledgling nation. Advocates of gun control measures appear to have only a distorted view of the Constitution alone, ignoring all the other writings from its Framers on the subject of arms and their place in a free society...

read on >

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Brief Ideological History of American Politics

Democrats are liberals and progressives who believe in the expansion of government and more federal control. Republicans are the conservatives who stick up for individual rights, state rights, and smaller government... right?


While there has been truth to both of these statements at one time or another in our modern era... it just isn't that simple. Both sides have expanded freedom, and more often than not, reined it in. So I thought I'd try to provide everyone with a short ideological history of the modern era to show who the real heroes and villains are.

It is best to start with Republican Herbert Hoover who took the presidency in 1929. While the government had been growing slightly for some years, it was the Hoover administration that started things down the wrong path. In an effort to deal the the Great Depression Hoover began to listen to the Keynesians... he started make-work programs, raised taxes, and signed the disastrously protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that caused far more economic distress that it could ever have solved. A lot of conservatives like to blame FDR for our problems, but the really bad shit started under Hoover... FDR just took things much, much further.

FDR was a democrat and an egotistical monster who wanted to be king. That's harsh, but I'm going to stick by that statement. He did more than anyone in American history to shit all over our constitution. In all practicality, we lost our democracy under FDR, and only gained it back because Eisenhower and Kennedy were better men.

FDR ruled by executive order, declaring things law, and sending them to congress to pass the next day, often without finished text. When the Supreme Court struck down a number of his New Deal policies... he threatened to simply nominate a few new justices... the court backed down. FDR also broke President Washington's precedent of only running for two terms, which is essential for balance between the executive and the courts. He ran for 4 terms... this allowed him to pack the court with a bunch of his ideological cronies who were willing to sign on to any of his schemes.

I'm not done with FDR. His most flagrant violation of our Constitution and of human rights was Executive Order 9066 in which he imprisoned over 100,000 Japanese nationals and American Citizens based purely on their race. They lost their homes and their businesses because of this tyrant's rule by fiat. Short of slavery, this was the most offensive violation of the the wording of our Constitution ever committed. Fuck you FDR... fuck you!

Yup... still not done with FDR. He raised top marginal tax rates as high as 90%, and he ran the farm sector like a command economy with price controls and output quotas. Surprise... farm output went down disasterously. The government started paying large farming operations to destroy crops and livestock during a time of food shortages. FDR redistributed taxes to swing states and political cronies, and sold so much government debt he crowded out all sorts of private investment... making a proper recovery from the Great Depression that much more difficult.

Nobody in private industry could work around federal encroachment in most sectors of the economy, and as a result only large businesses with political ties succeeded while others failed. FDR claimed to be for "the little guy", but government control of the economy left thousands without their farms and businesses. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. FDR was more than a well meaning progressive pushing failed ideas, he was downright sinister.

The Eisenhower administration was not filled with strict constitutionalists, but Ike was a huge improvement of the tyrant FDR. The Eisenhower administration kept income tax rates high, but they did undo the most offensive of FDR's policies. By 1953, America was in a much better place.

Things start to get really confusing with John F. Kennedy. Kennedy really wasn't very liberal... at least not in the FDR mold. In Fact, Kennedy passed one of the the biggest tax cuts in American history. Top marginal rates fell from about 90% to around 60%. This was certainly a win for those who believe in freedom. Kennedy was also a hawk, though he entered office a bit naive, made some early mistakes, and began our Vietnam entanglement. Kennedy did abuse the FBI and the CIA with illegal wiretaps on political enemies and civil rights leaders... but the real tragedy of the Kennedy administration is his untimely death, which gave his Vice President Lyndon Johnson all the political capital he needed to tear up what was left of The Constitution.

Lyndon Johnson was a miserable asshole racist intent on growing his political base by making more Americans dependent on the government. It was under Johnson that black Americans gained the remainder of their civil rights... and while this was clearly a positive development... black America was then saddled with LBJ's "Great Society". Federal welfare programs would go on to completely destroy black culture and the black family in America. Just as black were poised to enter American life on equal footing... they were crassly struck down by LBJ's political maneuvering to secure long-term majorities. I know, some of you will say that black Americans still had opportunities... and they did... but I'd like you to show me any culture that wouldn't be destroyed by getting everything for free. The catastrophic cultural failure of black America can be placed on the head of LBJ as far as I'm concerned.

LBJ's administration tried to deal with economic problems with a loads of unconstitutional federal price controls. He also escalated Vietnam and made that "war" the disaster we now see it as by micro-management and running the war from behind a desk. But as LBJ won his second term in a landslide, his opponent Barry Goldwater helped to change the entire political landscape for decades.

Barry Goldwater lost when he ran against LBJ, but Goldwater was a true believer in freedom and the Constitution. Even with Goldwater's example set, we would still have to suffer through two terrible Republican Presidents before seeing any real change. The Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations bleed together for me. They abused their power, and continued failed "Keynesian" economic policies. Price controls were used to "solve" food and gas price inflation, monetary inflation ran rampant destroying savings accounts, high interest rates made home ownership more difficult... and Americans were overall becoming less and less free. At best, our basic freedoms lay stagnant for most of the 60's and 70's... as did our economy.

Ronald Reagan was a Goldwater conservative. He entered office determined to lessen the power of the federal government, solve our economic problems, and stand up to the Soviet Union. On most accounts... he delivered. Top marginal tax rates fell from 75% down to 50%, then down to 28%, while government revenue went up.

New monetary policy from the fed managed to control inflation, enabling middle class citizens to save their money again. Interest rates came down. Entire industries were deregulated (some of which began under Carter), and the economy responded in a big way. Reagan may not have cut the size of the federal government, but he did succeed in minimizing its encroachment into our daily lives. Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect, but his administration was a huge plus for those of us who believe in freedom and the Constitution.

The best thing about the Reagan era, was that it continued for two more administrations. George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton both raised taxes before they left office. But Clinton's top marginal rate was never higher than 40%... and Clinton cut capital gains taxes as he raised income taxes. This was clearly a better situation than we had under Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Clinton also signed the massive federal welfare reform that has raised the living standards of many who were previously on federal aid, and who are now productive workers. I have my complaints about Clinton personally, but in hindsight, his administration was a huge improvement over the Democratic, and most of the Republican Presidents that came before him. The Reagan era lived on!

George W. Bush ran as a conservative against Al Gore, but Bush was no conservative. Bush expanded government entitlements with Medicare Part-D, ran up massive debt with pork-laden budgets, pandered to religious groups to consolidate power, and build a new and completely unnecessary cabinet level bureaucracy called The Department of Homeland Security. Now our airports are filled with fat depressed federal employees, just sucking up our hard earned tax dollars. Fuck you W!

All of this is bad, but the single worst thing about the Bush administration wasn't Bush's big government liberal policies... it was the fact that his failure was branded as conservatism in the media and the public's eye. The name of conservatism was tarnished... which leads us to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama is a power hungry statist who has been able to lead America to the left by falsely calling Bush's policies the failed ideas of the right. Right now the Obama administration is making Bush's already massive debt look like child's-play, and they are passing out federal dollars to all sorts of political interest groups in very much the same way as FDR.

The government now owns Chrysler and GM, and is dictating where they build their cars, where their front offices must be located, and what types of cars they make. Money from government managed bankruptcies (a bankruptcy through the courts would have been just fine) was illegally given to bankrupt union pension programs, while preferred lenders stood around contemplating the meaning of "the rule of law".

We may soon be saddled with federally managed health care, and a debt that will be impossible to pay off without massive tax increases and inflation. We are looking at an almost certain return to the stagflation of the 1970's. It seems Obama has learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. If the Democrats are smacked down in the mid-term elections we may be able to avoid disaster... but don't bet on it. Thanks a bunch George W. Bush!

There you have it... a modern ideological history of both parties. Some good, some bad, some presidents who fit our conventional wisdom, and some that break it...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Made a Milton Friedman T-Shirt!

Some time ago I designed a shirt honoring the great economist and believer in human freedom Milton Friedman. I put the shirt up on the Arthur's Hall store, and it has sold pretty decently over the last few months.

But I am a capitalist, and I figured a blog post properly tagged would make this shirt even easier to find for people on the web. Where the hell else can you get a Milton Friedman T-Shirt with a heavy metal logo?

So do yourself a favor and buy my Milton Friedman T-Shirt and wear it proudly! I have, and do, and occasionally get really entertaining comments from folks around town.

I recently added a new store at for those of you who aren't fans of Cafe Press.

Zazzle Store:

Cafe Press:

Libertarians in the Media

Everyone knows who all the Hollywood liberals are... quite nearly anyone who has ever acted in, directed, or edited a movie. Unthinking godless totalitarians! Some people might even know a few conservatives in the media or in Hollywood. But even more rare is the Hollywood libertarian. I say libertarian with an emphasis on the small "L". I'm not convinced that our path to a more free country is through voting for the Libertarian party, but I do think we should celebrate those who are in the public space and care about freedom.

I've compiled a short list of famous freedom-loving Americans who are in the public eye. Like I said, we should celebrate the fact that they exist, and are willing to speak out.

Adam Carolla
Carolla has never stated how he votes to my knowledge, and I suspect that it is likely he's too busy working on his Lamborghini Miura to vote most elections. But one thing I'm sure about from listening to his old radio show and his podcast is that he despises nanny-staters and liberal do-gooders.

So he's not a liberal, but he's not a conservative either. I've never heard him rant about anything that I'd consider culturally conservative. He consistently has guests on his podcast that seem to share his views... and I often wonder if he's a member of a secret Hollywood libertarian club. Carolla strikes me as very sharp, very funny, and a true libertarian. We should all listen to Adam Carolla, and not just because he's he makes us laugh.

Drew Carey
Now Drew Carey... there is a real libertarian. You wouldn't know by watching his old sitcom, or seeing him on "The Price is Right". But Drew Carey has been involved with using his name to sell the ideals of freedom for some time now on

Drew has even produced a series of fantastic videos for that were later combined for a 20/20 special with John Stossel. Drew Carey is smart, rational, usually funny, and always right when it comes to issues concerning freedom.

John Stossel
The host of ABC's 20/20 used to be a liberal consumer reporter, how he has changed over the years. I think there is an understanding at 20/20 that most of their stories slant left, because they have allowed Stossel to put a libertarian slant on virtually every story he produces. Stossel is well-read and clearly idolizes great libertarian thinkers like Friedrich von Hayek, and Milton Friedman... and you should too.

Stossel isn't just a reporter, he writes a lot of opinion pieces, and he's quite good. I hope my readers will start reading his columns, and if you must watch network news, do watch his work on 20/20. I would also like to add that Stossel's push-broom moustache is the very height of manliness.

Ted Nugent
Uncle Ted... now there is a guy who believes in Freedom! I can't count the number of interviews I've read with Nugent, and he is 100% consistent. The man loves guns, meat, and freedom. He has a delightfully offensive way of making his points, and I can't help but love him for it.

Nugent may be more likely than the other people on this list to associate himself directly with the Republican party, but if you hear what he says and read what he writes, it is pretty apparent he only cares about one issue... freedom.

Glenn Beck
I have a love hate relationship with Glen Beck. I hate him because he is a pandering opportunist who will say or do most anything to get people talking about his show. But I also respect him because he really isn't a traditional conservative. I don't disagree with the points he makes, I just disagree with the way he goes about it. Still, if you must watch Fox News... you could do a lot worse than Beck.

The Hurt Locker = Girl Power

I've been meaning to get this blog rolling for some time, and I always keep putting it off. But the fact is, I really want to have place to share some smaller ideas and thoughts without having to make it relate directly to Arthur's Hall.

I got some quality inspiration last week when I went to see the new Iraq War movie "The Hurt Locker". Now this is one of the better war movies of this decade! It is shot beautifully, and feels very real. But the most amazing thing about this movie is that it was directed by a woman.

Here's the fact, there just aren't many great female directors in Hollywood. Maybe there aren't many women interested in film making, maybe the deck is stacked against them, or maybe the visual and observational skills required to be a great director just aren't very common among the female population. I don't know what it is... but Kathryn Bigelow has made a giant leap forward for female movie directors with "The Hurt Locker".

I'm going to completely avoid plot details here, because everyone reading this should see the movie. I will speak very generally. "The Hurt Locker" is so well crafted, I can't imagine there are more than a small handful of directors in the world who could have pulled off a film like this. All the characters are men, and they are presented nearly perfectly. Nothing about the portrayal of these men feels false, and to be honest, there is nothing that could be seen as a "woman's perspective" in the entire movie. This is exactly as it should be. A war movie is about war... not the battle of the sexes. How Bigelow got this amazing independently financed war movie made is beyond me, but this one is right up there with the war films directed by Spielberg, Riddley Scott, and Eastwood.

"The Hurt Locker" goes right beside Death Proof as one of my favorite "Feminist" films of recent years. Not a film about women and their feelings... but a film where women kick ass competing in a man's world, and win. Bigelow just did it from behind the camera.