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.