Oct 09

In Africa, there are diplomats working to quell tensions amongst tribes and ethnicities in regions ravaged by war and atrocities for years.  In Asia, there are doctors who are saving the lives of men, women and children who have fallen victim to violence and disease.  In South America, there are aid workers ensuring that residents of barrios and remote villages alike have food and clean drinking water.  Worldwide, activists risk their lives and freedom to stand up against repressive regimes and fight for basic human rights.

There are legions of individuals working throughout the world to improve the lives of their fellow human beings and striving to prevent conflict through mediation and education.  Many of those folks have whole months of their lives to this cause.  Many have devoted years.  To accomplish this, a great number live in the same conditions as those whom they are trying to help.  They put themselves at risk of infection by foreign parasites, viruses seldom seen in advanced countries, and physical harm by local thugs and military juntas threatened by their presence.

Amateurs.

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Barack Obama, sitting President of the United States for nine months, single-term U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois,  three-term state Senator, lawyer, 3-year community organizer and political science major.  He was nominated for the Prize prior to the 1 February 2009 deadline, at a time where he had served as President for less than two weeks.

The five-member Nobel Committee examined the 205 nominations for this year’s award and chose President Obama over other nominees such as Afghani human rights activist Sima Samar, Chinese political prisoner Hu Jia and Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The Committee’s citation reads:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates include Martin Luther King, Jr., UNICEF, Andrei Sakharov, Mother Theresa, Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel and the Dalai Lama.

Apr 06
Rooftop battle

What's on the roof? Not pigeons. Not Santa.

One of my favorite games right now is Left 4 Dead. You can’t possibly go wrong with zombies, guns, and cooperative multiplayer action.

Or so I thought, until this past weekend.

Up until now, I’ve been pretty fortunate in my online play. Sure, I’ve been teamed up with some real dopes from time to time, but mostly I’ve had the good luck to play with fairly intelligent adults.  But the past two nights have, with rare exception, been a different experience.

Along with the undead and the near-dead, I’ve now played with the brain-dead: individuals apparently devoid of the gray matter that zombies crave so much.  Individuals with unimaginitive, all-lowercase names like will and thomas, who find shooting their teammates or clogging the voice chat with anemic attempts at humorous banter to be far easier than actually fighting off the legions of Hell.  Many more remain nameless, since I seldom saw them — they were too busy racing through the level to offer their teammates any kind of support.

Do not feed the zombies

Actual picture from our last trip to Pennsylvania

I realize that my experience is not unique.  Ever since I started playing Quake online in 1996, I have run into horrible players.  I read about foul-mouthed 13-year-olds on Xbox Live all the time.  An environment that allows for anonymity and easy communication at the same time is bound to cultivate that kind of activity.  The studies into the phenomenon are legendary.

Maybe it was the fact that it involved zombies, or that I had waaaaay too much caffeine in my system, or that I was suffering from some sort of bug that prevented me from sleeping soundly the night before, but when reflecting upon this sad state of affairs last night I had a revelation.  Not an uplifting spiritual revelation or a world-improving scientific revelation, but rather a “oh crap, we’re screwed” firefly-flash of insight.  It is this:

Left 4 Dead is not simply a brilliantly-conceived and executed first-person shooter, it is a hyperaccurate simulation of a zombie apocalypse.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, who will survive?  The Ted Nugents, the Heidi Grimms, the Les Strouds?  Nope.  They’ll either be killed off by the mutated supervirus or by tragic accidents in the midst of riots and civil disorder as the citizenry panics.

Instead, the survivors will be the aforementioned wills and thomases, the Octomoms, the ShamWow guys, the Ward Churchills.  They’ll be the hapless Taco Bell crewmembers who can never get a drive-through order right (I’m looking at you, Powers and Palmer Park store).  They’ll be head shop employees, minor politicians and the shrillest members of your homeowner’s association.

Cooperation between armed survivors won’t be the norm…because you’ll want to shoot them in the head within minutes.  You’re not going to be marooned with the Professor, you’re going to be teamed with Gilligan.  And Lucy, and Urkel and Bobcat Goldthwait. Everybody on MTV, the E! Channel, and Bravo.

Yep, the truly dead will be the lucky ones.

Mar 07

As I was pulling into my neighborhood Friday night, I passed a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver — you know, with the sign on the top of their car and all.

The car was a Jaguar.

I swear to God I’m not making that up.

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