Video games

Left Behind: Eternal Forces


GAMER It’s no secret. We’re in the end times, and at the clarion’s call when all of God’s children are raptured into heaven, we’ll be left to deal with the Antichrist — who, by the way, has a job at the United Nations and is working like the devil to see that people get college educations to further support the dark lord and his satanic machinations (which, of course, include sexual equality). Hail, Satan!

Unfortunately, in the recently released Left Behind: Eternal Forces — based on the best-selling series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, in which a handful of heroes is left to save humanity after the rapture — you only get to play as the "good guys," the Tribulation Force, whose mission is to foil the nefarious Global Community peacekeeper forces. Actually, you can play for Satan, but first you’ll need to convince a couple of your friends to load this crappy game onto their computers to play with you. Go ahead. Ask them. See what they say once you explain what the game is about. Unless they are 70-year-old evangelists or the parents of babbling blond, banal gospel or country music stars, your friends will laugh at you. I’m no expert, but I think former UN ambassador John Bolton might like this game’s premise.

As for me, I found it childish and ridiculous. And as a video game, it was like playing Pong in a dark swamp. In the time it took me to maneuver my character up the street in order to convert a couple people for "Trib force," I could have easily hijacked a truck or a BMX bike, robbed a police station, and beaten a shopkeeper senseless — all while dressed as Dennis Rodman — while playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The point the developers of this game are trying to make is that immoral video games like GTA and other shoot-’em-ups, such as SOCOM and Halo, offer no positive messages. That said, I’m not quite sure what moral messages there are in this game. It was so hard to play that I never really got a good feel for the potential it might have. At certain points of the game, secret clues appear, except they’re not actually clues but scriptural passages about the end times or some half-assed tirade calling evolution a satanic plot. Whenever your character is activated, he or she will say "Praise the Lord" or "Laying straight paths" before going off to save humanity. When the players run low on spiritual energy, their comments are more like "What now?" or "I could really use a sandwich."

Inside the package was a short video by its makers and the authors of the book series the game is based on. There’s also commentary from other influential evangelical leaders, including Dr. Jack Hayford, the president of the Foursquare Church, who comments that this game is "every bit as much fun as kids perceive other stuff."

Really? Whose kids?

When I was a kid, my evangelical grandparents gave me music they hoped would counter my newfound love of heavy metal. But Stryper and metal missionaries Bloodgood can’t touch Iron Maiden and Metallica, and if parents think their kids will find this game more fun than others on the market, they really should get out more often. Given the choice of playing as a Navy SEAL (as in SOCOM) or some sweater-vested geek trying to convert New York City, I would much rather be the former.

In the promotional video, a gamer named Grant says the game is so unique he "just can’t stop playing it. My eyes are getting so tired, ’cause I’m having so much fun that I might fall asleep on my computer."

Here’s a suggestion if you want to keep Grant from falling asleep and drooling in his keyboard: you have to make it easier to play. I had to keep rebooting my computer in order to get the game to move at all. When I finally did get to play, my character was killed by an evil, college-educated, rock music gang — which poisoned me. That’s right. Gangs in New York have college educations and spend their time poisoning people. I know the developers are trying to keep the level of violence down, but the soldiers get to shoot each other. Are they trying to teach their children that gangs don’t use guns? Has there been an upsurge in gang-related poisonings lately?

I found trying to convert people (which is the main point of the game) to be a soul-crushingly boring waste of time. There is no way teens will flock to this game (unless they feel an obligation to play the gift grandma got them so nobody’s feelings get hurt).

If you see this title at your local store, do not buy it, even if you think it’s funny. I promise you it is not. It must be left behind. (James Woodard)

Rock in a hard place


› a&
Who cares what I have to say? I just review video games and write lies about music for pay. You don’t want to read about what kind of “meaning” I gleaned from my experience with music that “really mattered” in 2006, do you?
It’s 4 a.m. I ran out of money one week ago. I ran out of cigarettes at exactly 2:10 this morning, and until I get paid again — in approximately eight days if I’m lucky — I will be eating only things you can prepare by adding hot water. I don’t care about music. I hate music. I hate everything.
Well, I guess I don’t hate AC/DC, especially “Down Payment Blues,” which I think I listen to every day. I used to care about music — a lot, I suppose. I don’t anymore. The only new stuff I listened to this year with any real loyalty — and enjoyment — was a pair of singles from a band I have always hated: “Photograph” and “Rockstar” by Nickelback.
First of all, “Photograph” struck me because I thought it would make an excellent song for a new country dude to cover and have a huge hit with. I elect Tim McGraw to do it, as it sounds enough like “Where the Green Grass Grows,” which is probably what gave me the idea in the first place. This kind of unknown guy Dwayne Wade could do it too. Wade is cool — he’s like the return of John Stewart, who sang “Wild and Blue.” Wait, did I write Dwayne Wade and John Stewart? Ugh. I mean Dallas Wayne and John Anderson. Dwayne Wade is a basketball player. He’s on the Jets. Stewart — I have no idea where that name came from. Sorry, this is what happens when I don’t have cigarettes. I am actually crying right now.
Anyway, I also like the sentimental quality of the lyrics in “Photograph.” I guess I am supposed to quote something here, but I don’t feel like it. Just go listen to the song. You’ll see what I mean. You will also undoubtedly disagree with me. I liked “Rockstar” because it’s funny and also has a big chorus you can sing along with after listening for approximately one second.
One thing that hit me this past week about music in general is that indie rock won’t fucking go away. I don’t understand this. How can people still care about Cat Power or Jacket or Envelope or whatever those lame-ass bands are called? I don’t think there is anything more irrelevant, except maybe college football.
And after hearing this Chromatics EP, Nite, tonight, I also realized the neo–no wave thing is alive and well and suckier than ever. Man, that shit needs to die. What are they putting in the water in Seattle anyway? Anus? I read something about Nite in which the guy said the band was playing a sort of Italo-Euro pop. Is this the new thing, ripping off Italian pop or esoteric European styles that no one likes or cares about? Jesus Christ. I hate America.
With my limited knowledge, I think the only truly interesting and innovative things happening in music are in metal, but writing that is pointless because no one really actually cares about metal — besides those 50 metal fans. So 90 percent of the people who read this will just go back to listening to Arctic Monkeys. Even if they checked out Lamb of God, they wouldn’t like it. I don’t like Lamb of God that much myself — it’s just that they are a mainstream death metal band on a major label and they don’t wholly suck. Also they are not Christian, like seemingly every other “death” metal band right now, which is another disturbing trend today. This is happening because the Christians actually want us all dead. They are trying to bring about the end of the world. The government is helping them. Holy Jesus Lord, I want a cigarette. SFBG
(10) “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(9) “Whole Lotta Rosie”
(8) “Let Me Put My Love into You”
(7) “Back in Black”
(6) “Money Talks”
(5) “Stiff Upper Lip”
(4) “Fire Your Guns”
(3) “Safe in New York City”
(2) “Thunderstruck”
(1) “Hells Bells”

Stunted growth?


(Activision; Xbox 360, PlayStation2)
GAMER The latest incarnation of the greatest skateboard video game series ever is here, and it’s a mixed bag. Wait, have any skateboard video games besides this one made it past part one? Anyway, the Xbox 360 version will both please and infuriate fans of the series, just like life. Players who are new to the game will be better off picking up an old copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 or 4, because that’s when this franchise peaked.
One of the major differences between the early Tony Hawk games and the newer ones is that there’s an involved story now. The early versions were more focused on digital shredding, while the new versions have a bunch of silly dialogue and some variation of a rags-to-riches story. The story this time: Tony Hawk is assembling a skate team that will be eight skaters deep. He’s searching for the top skaters to fill the spots. You start out ranked 200th and have to skate hard to make the top eight. When you get there, a skateboard shoots out of the Xbox 360 disc drive. It’s incredible and dangerous.
The controls, as always with this franchise, are consistent and responsive. Fans of the Hawk games will feel right at home and will be ripping immediately. Players new to the game won’t have trouble figuring out which button makes you ollie and which makes you grind. There is, however, one glaring update to the control scheme, and that is how a manual is performed. Ever since the manual was introduced in THPS2, players have had to quickly tap down-up or up-down to get into a wheelie position. Now all you have to do is press a button, and voilà — you’re manualing. The old up-down still works, but the automatic manual button takes the fun out of the combo game. Manuals, reverts, and spine transfers link tricks together for huge points and enjoyable challenges. Now you don’t even have to revert out of a transition to initiate or continue a combo. Curses. This single development in the game will make THPS fans want to break the disk in two, and you should too. But if you decide not to break it, you’ll be rewarded with some amusing junk.
Progression through the game is achieved by the completion of challenges. All the usual suspects are present — grind hella far, launch hella high, do hella tough tricks — but there’s one new sexy challenge: Nail the Trick. To do this you must click the analog sticks, at which point the camera zooms in on your board and time slows way down. Each stick controls a foot, and you have to do lots of incredible tricks. It’s kinda neat. It looks similar to the intro of Girl skate video Yeah Right.
As you’d expect on a next-generation system, the graphics are solid. But who cares — graphics have looked amazing since the Dreamcast came out in 1999. Until we’re controlling what appear to be real humans, games all have about the same level of niceness when it comes to looks. New bail animations and sound effects do make a great update.
Lots of guests are incorporated, such as skaters Bob Burnquist, Paul Rodriguez Jr., Ryan Sheckler, and leading man Jason Lee. Lee, of My Name Is Earl fame, was once a pro skateboarder and a great one at that. If you don’t believe me, go buy Spike Jonze’s 1991 short, Video Days, and buckle up for brain-exploding skating. The guests love talking about tricks and sometimes pass along tips to help you progress though the game. They are pretty nice guys.
The Xbox Live online experience is hella amazing. You play online with people, which is nice when you don’t feel like playing against computers or when you don’t feel like actually going outside and skating. But just go outside and skate, for goodness’ sake. (Nate Denver)

San Francisco Jazz Festival: Particular and infinite


› a&
Marisa Monte is a true musician. Her albums routinely go putf8um around the world, and her shows sell out wherever she plays — whether in or out of her native Brazil — but her approach is not at all that of a pop star. Her musical background is rich and combines the samba traditions of her hometown, Rio de Janeiro, European classical opera training, and Brazilian and international popular music. Music for her is not a means to an end but a process, a way of life, as she explained by phone from her home in Rio.
“I don’t do a career. I do a life, and sometimes out of my life something happens that can serve the music in my career as well professionally, but you know I do music every day with my friends,” Monte said. “It’s really part of my house, of my environment. Most of my friends are musicians — we play almost every night at home, and so it’s a natural consequence of the style of life.”
Out of this atmosphere were born her new twin EMI albums, Universo ao Meu Redor and Infinito Particular. Her seventh and eighth full-lengths were the product of a hiatus of a few years — agonizingly long to her fans — during which she took time off to have a baby. This gave her a chance to comb through her tape archives, both of her own unreleased material and of sambas known only through oral tradition in Rio. Out of these archives came most of the material for the new releases.
Although these records were issued simultaneously, they take distinct approaches to Brazilian music. Universo ao Meu Redor reflects her commitment to and exploration of Rio’s rich samba heritage, whereas Infinito Particular focuses on original compositions written over the years by Monte in collaboration with various songwriting partners (Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown, Seu Jorge, David Byrne, etc.).
Though Infinito is in the vein of some of the pop music Monte has recorded in the past, it has a conceptual depth and consistency surpassing that of her earlier work.
“Most of the songs were composed on the acoustic guitar, so all the harmonic texture is basically based on the acoustic nylon string guitar,” Monte explained. “But we also invited different arrangers to do different songs and had them all write for the same group of instruments, the same quartet, which is bassoon, cello, violin, and trumpet. So even if we have Philip Glass, João Donato, Eumir Deodato — each very different styles — the unity of the record happens through the same group of instruments, and it’s the same group of instruments that I have on stage now with me.”
For several years Monte has been archiving sambas passed around by veteran Rio sambistas, and her other new recording, Universo, collects her versions of these, combined with more recent sambas written by Monte and other contemporary Brazilian musicians. These are approached not as historical documents but as contemporary recordings of traditional music.
“Even if the repertoire sounds very classical, I didn’t want to do a traditional samba record,” Monte said. “I wanted to do a record that could dialogue with my other works — dialogue with the other references that I like and that are present in my work. So I wanted to do samba that I could call mine, and that’s Universo ao Meu Redor.
“The subjects of the songs are very pure, very naive as traditional samba,” she continued. “Most of the songs, they talk about love, about nature, about human common feelings like the values of the community … and yet it sounds very psychedelic. We deal with a lot of freedom with the sounds.”
Both records, as with most of her previous work, rely heavily on collaboration, not as a crutch but as a stimulus for collective creativity. For Monte, music is a social act both in process and in spirit.
“I really love to work together,” she said. “It’s something that stimulates me. It gives me discipline … and I like to think together. I’m very open in my work. I’m not very attached to what I do. I like to exchange and to collaborate, and something that’s very strange about music is that for me it can be also a lonely activity. You can be a solo artist, but for me it has always been a collective way, with bands, in the studio, with composers. I’ve been always finding ways of reutf8g with people and with life through the music.
“Sometimes I think if I was a plastic artist, like a visual artist or a writer, I would suffer a lot. If you are a painter or something, you have to work alone,” Monte added. “Though I would love to one day also be able to do a concert only myself. Maybe one day.”
This spirit of collaboration has manifested itself as a dialogue between different styles and approaches within Monte’s music. In addition to the Brazilian and international pop she grew up listening to as a member of her generation, more traditional and classical elements found their way into her life. Her father was a teacher at a samba school in Rio, and she grew up hearing and singing popular and traditional sambas.
“The fact is, samba is the most important musical expression from Rio, and I grew up in Rio,” Monte said. “It’s very natural, loving music.”
Later, Monte became a serious student of opera, which also continues to inform her music, both as a discipline to aspire to and as an aesthetic to avoid.
“When I was 13 or 14, people started to ask me to sing because they noticed — friends in the school and in the family — they noticed that I liked to sing and that I had a nice voice, and they started to ask me, ‘Sing for us. You sing very well — sing for us.’ And then I started to study,” she recalled. “It was very important for me to know my vocal apparel, to learn how. Until now I warm up before every concert with vocalizes that I learned when I was in classical training, but I don’t use that technique for popular music because it’s a technique that was developed for a premic world: you had to sing over a whole orchestra, so it’s very intense — a lot of volume, and it’s a little bit artificial.”
As with many musicians whose voices happen to be their instruments, Monte is forever linked in the minds of her fans with her timbre and delivery. (On Infinito, she plays with this idea of her voice as an instrument, employing wordless melodies and textures and using audio effects to alter and disguise her voice.) In any musical context, it is her profound sense of phrasing that captivates, while focusing the listener’s attention not so much on her own voice as on the song itself.
“I really search for simplicity when I’m singing. I love to sing, and my intensity, I try to find something very similar to the conversation we are having here,” Monte said. “It helps to communicate with people, to be direct, to be without any oversinging. If I am singing a song that is intimate, you can sing really slowly, you can sing it low, you can sing it soft, you can sing it with intimacy. It’s something that I really search for — the exact intensity that the songs ask me to do.”
For Monte, music is a social activity, and communication and collaboration are key elements. In her music and in her process of making music, dialogue flows in all directions: between songwriters and musicians, between audience and performers, between different musical worlds, between musicians and the music itself. The emphasis is not on creating commodities to sell but on sharing the musical process with as many people as possible.
“When we do a song, we don’t do a song to be recorded. I don’t do it like that. I just do it because it’s fun to do. It’s like a game. It’s like playing — a nice thing to do with friends, instead of playing cards or video games,” she offered. “And sometimes something comes out of this universe, this atmosphere, and can be part of something that you can share with a lot of people.” SFBG
Sat/4, 8 p.m., and Sun/5, 7 p.m.
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
3301 Lyon, SF




Ed Halter

What is war good for? Besides lining the pockets of Dick Cheney’s fun bunch, it’s sure done a lot for the video game industry. Village Voice critic Ed Halter makes two local stops with his new book, From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games. His multimedia lecture explores “war gaming in the new world order.” (Cheryl Eddy)

7:30 p.m.
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-5249

Also Sat/21, 8:30 p.m.
Artists’ Television Access
992 Valencia, SF



There’s a painting from the ’30s by Thomas Hart Benton called The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley, in which a farm town in the American West reveals its ugly underbelly in the form of a drunken man threatening a woman with a knife. The landscape swoops and swirls with a brooding menace. Local country weepers Tarnation write songs for such occasions. Possessing a voice that smokes and drifts, melancholic balladeer Paula Frazer will introduce you to loves gone wrong and lives gone sour while the band dumps you knee-deep in the most forlorn corner of the lonesome desert. (Todd Lavoie)

With Peggy Honeywell and Matt Bauer
9:30 p.m.
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk, SF
(415) 923-0923

Yay Area five-oh


“Before Vanishing: Syrian Short Cinema” A series devoted to films from Syria kicks off with a shorts program that includes work by Oussama Mohammed. (Sept. 7, PFA; see below)
The Mechanical Man The PFA’s vast and expansive series devoted to “The Mechanical Age” includes André Deed’s 1921 science fiction vision of a female crime leader and a robot run amok. The screening features live piano by Juliet Rosenberg. (Sept. 7, PFA)
“Cinemayaat, the Arab Film Festival” This year’s festival opens with the Lebanon-Sweden coproduction Zozo and also includes the US-Palestine documentary Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority, which looks at events before and after Israel’s 1948 occupation of Palestine.
Sept. 8–17. Various venues. (415) 863-1087,
“Global Lens” The traveling fest includes some highly lauded films, such as Stolen Life by Li Shaohong, one of the female directors within China’s Fifth Generation.
Sept. 8–Oct. 4. Various venues. (415) 221-8184,
“MadCat Women’s International Film Festival” MadCat turns 10 this year, and its programming and venues are even more varied. Not to mention deep — literally. 3-D filmmaking by Zoe Beloff and Viewmaster magic courtesy of Greta Snider are just some of the treats in store.
Sept. 12–27. Various venues. (415) 436-9523,
The Pirate The many forms and facets of piracy comprise another PFA fall series; this entry brings a swashbuckling Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as Manuela, directed by then-husband Vincente Minnelli. (Sept. 13, PFA)
“A Conversation with Ali Kazimi” and Shooting Indians Documentarian Kazimi discusses his work before a screening of his critical look at Edward S. Curtis’s photography. (Sept. 14, PFA)
“The Word and the Image: The Films of Peter Whitehead” The swinging ’60s hit the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as curator Joel Shepard presents the first-ever US retrospective dedicated to the director of Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London. Includes proto–music videos made for Nico, Jimi Hendrix, and others. Smashing! (Sept. 14–28, YBCA; see below)
Edmond Stuart Gordon of Re-Aminator infamy makes a jump from horror into drama — not so surprising, since he’s a friend of David Mamet. Willam H. Macy adds another sad sack to his résumé. (Sept. 15–21, Roxie; see below)
Anxious Animation Other Cinema hosts a celebration for the release of a DVD devoted to local animators Lewis Klahr, Janie Geiser, and others. Expect some work inspired by hellfire prognosticator Jack Chick!
Sept. 16. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890,
Kingdom of the Spiders Eight-legged freaks versus two-legged freak William Shatner. I will say no more.
Sept. 17. Dark Room, 2263 Mission, SF. (415) 401-7987,
Landscape Suicide No other living director looks at the American landscape with the direct intent of James Benning; here, he examines two murder cases. (Sept. 19, PFA)
La Promesse and Je Pense à Vous Tracking the brutal coming-of-age of scooter-riding Jérémie Renier, 1997’s La Promesse made the name of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, but Je Pense is a rarely screened earlier work. (Sept. 22, PFA)
Muddy Waters Can’t Be Satisfied Billed as the first authoritative doc about the man who invented electric blues, this plays with Always for Pleasure, a look at New Orleans by the one and only Les Blank. (Sept. 22–26, Roxie)
Rosetta and Falsch The Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta made a splash at Cannes in 1999; Falsch is their surprisingly experimental and nonnaturalistic 1987 debut feature. (Sept. 23, PFA)
loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies A reunion tour movie. (Sept. 29–Oct. 5, Roxie)
American Blackout Ian Inaba’s doc about voter fraud made waves and gathered praise at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival; it gets screened at various houses, followed by a Tosca after-party, in this SF360 citywide event.
Sept. 30. Tosca Café, 242 Columbus, SF. (415) 561-5000,
Them! “Film in the Fog” turns five, as the SF Film Society unleashes giant mutant ants in the Presidio.
Sept. 30. Main Post Theatre, 99 Moraga, SF. (415) 561-5500,
“Zombie-Rama” Before Bob Clark made Black Christmas, Porky’s, and A Christmas Story, he made Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. The ending is as scary as the title is funny.
Oct. 5. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400,
“Swinging Scandinavia: How Nordic Sex Cinema Conquered the World” Jack Stevenson presents a “Totally Uncensored” clip show about the scandalous impact of Scandinavian cinema on uptight US mores and also screens some rare cousins of I Am Curious (Yellow). (Oct. 5 and 7, YBCA)
“Mill Valley Film Festival” Why go to Toronto when many of the fall’s biggest Hollywood and international releases come to Mill Valley? The festival turns 29 this year.
Oct. 5–15, 2006. Various venues. (415) 383-5256,
“Fighting the Walking Dead” Jesse Ficks brings They Live to the Castro Theatre. Thank you, Jesse. (Oct. 6, Castro; see below)
Phantom of the Paradise Forget the buildup for director Brian de Palma’s Black Dahlia and get ready for a Paul Williams weekend. This is screening while Williams is performing at the Plush Room.
Oct. 6. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
Calvaire Belgium makes horror movies too. This one is billed as a cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance — a crossbreeding combo that’s popular these days. (Oct. 6–12, Roxie)
Black Girl Tragic and so sharp-eyed that its images can cut you, Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 film is the masterpiece the white caps of the French new wave never thought to make. It kicks off a series devoted to the director. (Oct. 7, PFA)
“Animal Charm’s Golden Digest and Brian Boyce” Boyce is the genius behind America’s Biggest Dick, starring Dick Cheney as Scarface. Animal Charm have made some of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
Oct. 7. Other Cinema, 992 Valencia, SF. (415) 824-3890,
Madame X, an Absolute Ruler Feminist director Ulrike Ottinger envisions a Madame X much different from Lana Turner’s — hers is a pirate. (Oct. 11, PFA)
“The Horrifying 1980s … in 3-D” Molly Ringwald (in Spacehunter), a killer shark (in Jaws 3-D), and Jason (in Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D) vie for dominance in this “Midnites for Maniacs” three-dimensional triple bill. (Oct. 13, Castro)
“Dual System 3-D Series” This program leans toward creature features, from Creature from the Black Lagoon to the ape astronaut of Robot Monster to Cat-Women on the Moon. (Oct. 14–19, Castro)
“Early Baillie and the Canyon CinemaNews Years” This program calls attention to great looks at this city by Baillie (whom Apichatpong Weerasethakul cites as a major influence) and also highlights the importance of Canyon Cinema. (Oct. 15, YBCA)
“War and Video Games” NY-based film critic Ed Halter presents a lecture based on From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, his new book. (Oct. 17, PFA)
Santo Domingo Blues The Red Vic premieres a doc about bachata and the form’s “supreme king of bitterness,” Luis Vargas.
Oct. 18–19. Red Vic, 1727 Haight, SF. (415) 668-3994,
“Monster-Rama” The Devil-ettes, live and in person, and Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women, on the screen, thanks to Will “the Thrill” Viharo.
Oct. 19. Parkway Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park, Oakl. (510) 814-2400,
“Spinning Up, Slowing Down”: Industry Celebrates the Machine” Local film archivist Rick Prelinger presents six short films that epitomize the United States’ machine mania, including one in which mechanical puppets demonstrate free enterprise. (Oct. 19, PFA)
The Last Movie Hmmm, part two: OK, let’s see here, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 film gets a screening after he personally strikes a new print … (Oct. 20–21, YBCA)
What Is It? and “The Very First Crispin Glover Film Festival in the World” … and on the same weekend, Hopper’s River’s Edge costar Glover gets a freak hero’s welcome at the Castro. Sounds like they might cross paths. (Oct. 20–22, Castro)
I Like Killing Flies And I completely fucking love Matt Mahurin’s documentary about the Greenwich Village restaurant Shopsin’s, possibly the most characterful, funny, and poignant documentary I’ve seen in the last few years. (Oct. 20–26, Roxie)
“Miranda July Live” Want to be part of the process that will produce Miranda July’s next film? If so, you can collaborate with her in this multimedia presentation about love, obsession, and heartbreak.
Oct. 23–24. Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF. (415) 552-1990,
The Case of the Grinning Cat This 2004 film by Chris Marker receives a Bay Area premiere, screening with Junkopia, his 1981 look at a public art project in Emeryville. (Oct. 27, PFA)
The Monster Squad The folks (including Peaches Christ) behind the Late Night Picture Show say that this 1987 flick is the most underrated monster movie ever.
Oct. 27–28. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
Neighborhood Watch Résumés don’t get any better than Graeme Whifler’s — after all, he helped write the screenplay to Dr. Giggles. His rancid directorial debut brings the grindhouse gag factor to the Pacific Film Archive. (Oct. 29, PFA)
“Grindhouse Double Feature” See The Beyond with an audience of Lucio Fulci maniacs. (Oct. 30, Castro)
“Hara Kazuo” Joel Shepard programs a series devoted to Kazuo, including his 1969 film tracing the protest efforts of Okuzaki Kenzó, who slung marbles at Emperor Hirohito. (November, YBCA)
“International Latino Film Festival” This growing fest reaches a decade and counting — expect some celebrations.
Nov. 3–19. Various venues. (415) 454-4039,
Vegas in Space Midnight Mass makes a rare fall appearance as Peaches Christ brings back Philip Ford’s 1991 local drag science fiction gem.
Nov. 11. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-1124,
“As the Great Earth Rolls On: A Frank O’Hara Birthday Tribute” The birthday of the man who wrote “The Day Lady Died” is celebrated. Includes The Last Clean Shirt, O’Hara’s great collaboration with Alfred Leslie.
Nov. 17. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. (415) 552-1990,
Sites and Silences A shout-out to A.C. Thompson for his work with Trevor Paglen on the well-titled Torture Taxi, which helped generate this multimedia presentation by Paglen. (Nov. 19, YBCA)
“Kihachiro Kawamoto” One of cinema’s ultimate puppet masters receives a retrospective. (December, YBCA)
“Silent Songs: Three Films by Nathaniel Dorsky” The SF-based poet of silent film (and essayist behind the excellent book Devotional Cinema) screens a trio of new works. (Dec. 10, YBCA)
429 Castro, SF
(415) 621-6120
2575 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 642-5249
3317 16th St., SF
(415) 863-1087
Screening room, 701 Mission, SF
(415) 978-2787\ SFBG



With the simultaneous advent of personal computers and video games on a massive scale in the early ’80s, it was unsurprising that Hollywood tried to fit all things virtual into the exploitable framework of cheesy teen comedies. The latest Midnites for Maniacs triple bill reprises three of the era’s daffier such efforts.
The eccentric Heartbeeps, a major flop released in 1981, puts Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters in constrictingly ingenious makeup as two servant robots who run away from their factory warehouse in the brave new world of 1995. Despite meeting such over-the-top types as Randy Quaid, Christopher Guest, Mary Woronov, and Paul Bartel en route, their comic odyssey is weirdly sentimental, even inspirational — it’s like Jonathan Livingston Seagull for androids.
More successful but equally derided was 1985’s Weird Science, which struck many as several juvenile steps backward for writer-director John Hughes after that year’s The Breakfast Club. Alas, he was never so silly or immature or funny again. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are dweebs who create an “ideal woman” (Kelly LeBrock) on their computer; she of course comes to life and teaches them all sorts of valuable life lessons while embodying a world of adolescent male masturbation fantasies.
Last and ever-so-least — save in camp value — is Joysticks, the Roller Boogie of video arcade movies, from the director (Greydon Clark) of Satan’s Cheerleaders, Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate, and Lambada, the Forbidden Dance. A mean politician (Joe Don Baker, not walking so tall career-wise in 1983) tries to shut down the local arcade, believing it to be a hotbed of underage sin. Our heroes (cute guy, nerd guy, fat and desperately-trying-to-be-a-young-John-Candy guy named “McDorfus”) thwart him and save democratic freedom amid many Porky’s-style jokes. What you need to know: sequences are separated by the graphic of a Pac-Man biting its way across the screen; “punk” subsidiary villain King Vidiot is played by Napoleon Dynamite’s future Uncle Rico (Jon Gries); and the theme song really is just about playing video games (“Jerk it left/ jerk it right/ shoot it hard/ shoot it straight/ video to the maaaaaax!!!”). (Dennis Harvey)
Fri/25, 7:30 p.m.
Castro Theatre
429 Castro, SF

Crisis on infinite Earths



TECHSPLOITATION This is really embarrassing. Last week I started crying while I was reading a comic book on the StairMaster at the gym. I got into this unenviable, geektastic situation because I’ve been reading everything I can find by Grant Morrison the British comic book writer who reinvented the X-Men in the late 1990s with his fantastic New X-Men series and it just so happened that I wasn’t prepared for the plot of Morrison’s "We3," a short series about three cybernetic animals. Frank Quitely’s anime-influenced art on the cover had me lulled into thinking "We3" would be a tale of animal heroism about a cute talking bunny, kitty, and doggy who escape the evil government that made them into cyber-weapons and find their way home.

But no. Instead, it was one of the most horrifying portraits of war I’ve ever seen. Fluffy creatures are mangled. Soldiers are sliced into bits. A senator pats himself on the back for getting animals to do his dirty human work. The animals, who’ve been given the power of speech and turned into highly efficient assassins via cybernetic implants, couldn’t be more tragic as they try to understand what’s happened to them. When the bunny got shot after innocently asking a human to help him fix his broken tail, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Hence, the tears.

The older I get, the more I’m obsessed with comic books. Ironically, this is partly a result of what many call the end of the comic book. These days publishing houses like Marvel and DC are making most of their money on quality paperbackstyle bound collections, rather than on classic, individual issues. This shift is perfect for someone like me, who started reading comics as books rather than as monthly-installment magazines. Plus, collections are really the only way for a late bloomer like myself to get caught up with the soap operas behind four-decade-old titles like The Hulk and X-Men.

Like video games today, comic books were once the objects of intense moral outrage. During the 1950s anticomic book crusader Frederic Wertham condemned the adventures of Batman, Green Lantern, and pals for promoting juvenile delinquency and homosexuality. Now, of course, his accusations sound positively quaint. How could any type of book promote anything among young people? These days it’s "common sense" that games like Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft are to blame for angry kids.

Maybe comic books are the bugaboos of yesteryear, but they still share with video games one subversive characteristic that makes them dangerous to anyone politician, moralist, or other who clings to the status quo. Comic books lend themselves well to fantasies about multiple, parallel universes. Because these are narratives that last over decades and spawn multiple spin-offs by hundreds of different authors and artists, comic books inevitably train readers to imagine how one scenario might lead to several different outcomes. And comics also invite readers to explore how one little change in the present can lead to whole new interpretations of history. There’s even a word retcon, for retroactive continuity that comic book geeks use to describe what happens when a new comic book author changes a character’s history to explain a new present. Like video games, where different characters and players take the game play in new directions, comic books remind us that there is no one perfect path to follow, and that the future can always be changed.

When the retconning and multiple story lines get too complicated, though, sometimes a crisis occurs. Thus the subject of my current obsession: the "crisis on infinite Earths" story lines from DC comics of the 1980s. This was a period when DC decided its authors had created too many parallel worlds containing multiple versions of each character. To solve the problem, DC wiped out all but one Earth and all but one version of every hero, in a plot tangle that spanned several dozen titles. In fact, I don’t claim to understand it all I haven’t read enough from that era. Honestly, it’s probably better in concept than execution.

But I love the concept: the idea that there are many Earths existing in parallel and all of them are having a crisis at the same time. It’s a perfect reminder that our lives are a tangle of possible futures, struggling to extricate themselves from a morass of multiple pasts. Choosing between them, and choosing justly, is what makes heroes out of ordinary people. SFBG

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd whose favorite comic book store is still Comix Experience because Brian Hibbs is a hero.

Prep’s cool



The unassuming men of Ral Partha Vogelbacher are a lot like those nondescript, quietly simmering step sitters of high school their noses buried in books of arcane geography, color theory, and Hapsburg history, mentally dancing along a thin pink and green line between fact and fantasy while their butts are parked in concrete, institutional reality. Imagine Ral Partha as a country and what its five-year plan might be. They might come up with harebrained projects like sending a million monkeys to Mars, or scoring a gig as the house band for The Colbert Report.

But what else would you expect when it comes to a band named after a Dungeons and Dragons figurine manufacturer and chief instigator Chad Bidwell’s eighth-grade friend-nemesis, a Pierre Vogelbacher who later got his, when his nose was sliced off by falling dishes?

Folded into a chair across from fellow songwriter, guitarist, and suitcase manipulator David Kesler and drummer Jason Gonzales, Bidwell looks like the kind of guy you might pass on the street and never think twice about, despite his soft, lingering aura of amiableness. Similarly, his Dolores Park apartment sports few distinguishing stylistic flourishes it’s more like a serviceable space to sleep in. And judging from his bandmates’ admiring comments "This band is basically about steering around an idiot savant, waiting for his next good idea, and in between trying to weather the lows," says Kesler and the songs on 2003’s Kite vs. Obelisk (Megalon) and his latest, third album, Shrill Falcons (Monotreme), Bidwell obviously spends a lot of quality time in his imagination, rather than on Dolores Street. Shrill Falcons glides away from the folkier lo-fi of Kites vs. Obelisk and ventures into a more expansive musical habitat of distortion, feedback, minimalist pop, and drone that cribs from Wire, Pere Ubu, Neu, and Slint without aping by the numbers. Toiling at Kesler’s "Frozen Skeletor Ice Castle Studio" in Oakland, the trio worked in the rich, gurgling, and bleating textures for which Kesler and Gonzales’s Thee More Shallows and contributing friend Odd Nosdam of Anticon are known. "We all collectively have a desire to make music that’s more aggressive," Kesler explains.

Composing most of the album’s tunes while traveling in China and casting aside his onetime writing preoccupation with old girlfriends, Bidwell lyrically burrowed into family, loss, and travel.

The album was first titled Scandinavian Preppy, to go with the initially bright sound and the pink and green flag that adorns Falcon‘s cover, but, Orlando, Fla., native Bidwell says, "I think it actually sounds more swampy and murky, like Florida. ‘Garden Assault’ is about growing up in Orlando, next to this park and this lake. Me and my friends would swim in the lake and sneak into the park and go into the fountain and steal quarters and go play video games."

The death of Bidwell’s father six years ago surfaces on songs like "Party after the Wake." In it, the patriarch roams his own funeral, until the family has him lie down, placing coins on his eyes. "It talks about seeing him at the viewing, his face all distorted, and I’m kind of probing his skin," says Bidwell with a bemused expression on his rubbery features, offering what might seem to be a painful life story with the puzzled distance of a perpetual observer.

Kesler first met Bidwell when the latter auditioned to be the drummer for Kesler’s pre-TMS band Shackleton. As Bidwell begins to tell the tale, Kesler pipes up, in the same way that they say they wrote songs for Falcons: "Can I edit this story? This is our relationship he gives me material, and then I edit it.

"Chad tried out," Kesler continues, "and he literally could not play a single beat. I looked over, and I thought this guy must be joking, and he was over there, totally placid, smiling." Bidwell gave a tape of his songs to the band, and Kesler was immediately impressed: "I still think Chad’s lyrics are the best I ever heard."

After Bidwell recorded one album, 2001’s The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes (Megalon), Kesler and Gonzales began to back him up, making Kite with him. So when Falcons’ songs appeared to be going slowly, Kesler offered to give Bidwell a few of the "tons of musical ideas" he had lying around.

Sounds like the solitary confines of one’s own imagination have loosened up for Bidwell, a software programmer and exGeek Corps volunteer who began his Megalon label because, he owns, "I thought that it would make my, at that point, lonely, desperate life a little less lonely. More meaningful."

"You didn’t tell me that when you told me you wanted to put out the Thee More Shallows record!" jokes Kesler.

"I just realized it at this moment," Bidwell says, smiling. "We should have just hung out more or something." SFBG

Ral Partha Vogelbacher
with Thee More Shallows
and the Mall

Thurs/25, 9 p.m.

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF


(415) 621-4455

Sleep-deprived video game maniacs


TECHSPLOITATION A bunch of Belgian neuroscientists finally figured out a way to turn spring break into an article for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the current issue, they report on what happens to the human brain after playing a lot of Duke Nukem and experiencing total sleep deprivation. Although the study is actually about how the brain stores spatial memories (in which "spatial memories" refers to retained information about virtual towns from the game), it is in fact a very tidy way to make a science experiment out of everyday life.

If the scientists conducting the study aren’t themselves in the habit of staying up all night playing video games, they almost certainly have friends, colleagues, or children who are. Being neuroscience geeks, their first response when confronted with video game obsession isn’t "Dude, what level are you on?" but rather, "Dude, what’s it doing to your brain to stay up all night shooting invaders from another world?"

Now they have their answer. The researchers told 24 test subjects to play Duke Nukem, after which one group was given a regular night’s sleep, another no sleep at all. Both groups subsequently got two nights of sleep and were then tested for spatial recall. The sleep-deprived gamers remembered the layout of the game far less clearly than the sleepers. It turns out that sleeping allows the brain to reorganize our spatial memories, moving them from the short-term memory zone of the hippocampus to the long-term memory zone of the striatum (an area of the brain also associated with body movement). So, if you stay up all night killing aliens and go to work or school the next day, you won’t remember very well the layout of the game you played.

Sure, that’s interesting, and it confirms what you might guess: Playing video games instead of sleeping is messing up your brain a little bit. But what I like about this study is the way its elements are cobbled together out of ordinary experience. This isn’t the kind of test that can only be dreamed up in the labs of a synchrotron or a giant room full of superfast DNA sequencers. It’s right out of our living rooms and laptops.

In the world of social science, there’s a long tradition of people studying themselves or their own cultures. Anthropologists who dig live-action role-playing games turn themselves into "participant observers" and write books about friendship rituals in live-action role-playing games. Psychologists in nonmonogamous relationships conduct research on the emotional states of people in nonmonogamous relationships. And ethnographers visit the inner cities where they grew up to create intricate analyses of ghetto graffiti and neighborhood basketball teams.

Is there something wrong with studying ourselves? Some would say it’s not good science because self-analysis is never objective. In fact, classic mad scientists, from the fictional Dr. Frankenstein to real doctors throughout the 20th century who jammed electrodes into the brains of asylum inmates, are dubbed crazy for turning the people around them into lab rats. The madness of these scientists is linked to their propensity for converting their communities into elaborate research projects.

Those Belgian neurologists, although they could hardly be accused of harming anybody, were therefore close to "mad" on a scale of mad to scientist. They took some people engaged in ordinary activities let’s face it: Sleep-deprived video game playing isn’t that unusual and made them into a bunch of test subjects. There’s something deeply weird about that. It’s also exactly the sort of experimentation that scientific inquiry should inspire. Sometimes the results may be silly, and they were downright scary in an era before review boards regulated tests on human subjects. But today such experiments encourage us to question what we take for granted in our daily lives. After all, it’s the urge to understand the everyday that drives other MRI nerds to study how the brain processes vision, and geneticists to investigate which genes regulate aging.

I’m glad I live in a world where everything can be turned into an impromptu scientific paper. I’d rather be a research subject than an undiscovered condition. SFBG

Annalee Newitz is a surly media nerd who has, in fact, been studied by several scientists, but not for the reasons you think.


Warriors, stay in and playiyay!


AN ENTIRE GENERATION was introduced to the 1979 cult classic film The Warriors in 1993 when Ol’ Dirty Bastard warbled "Warriors, come out and playiyay!" on Wu Tang’s "Shame on a Nigga." That’s why I rented it. It was one in a long string of rentals prompted by the Wu, and just like Shaolin vs. the Wu Tang, Shogun Assassin, and Master Killer, it was great. Now the most controversial company in video gaming has made a game based on The Warriors. Yes, the company that brought Grand Theft Auto to the world and prompted Hillary Clinton to declare war on vulgar video games, is at it again. As expected, The Warriors (Rockstar Games; PS2 and Xbox) is chock full of violence, street culture, swear words, and antisocial missions. The game loosely follows the movie with recognizable scenes and characters popping in and out, but unlike the movie, it is pretty monotonous: How many hobos and hookers do you have to mug to prove you’re capable of strong-arming digital victims, especially when there’s no variation or challenge in the act? And swearing? Unless there are hidden new swears that were recently invented, I’ve heard and grown bored with them. The fighting engine is pretty simple and easy to use: Kick, punch, and grab buttons allow you to kick, punch, knee, and throw people. It’s somewhat cumbersome and generally leads to button-mashing, but if you have patience and press buttons in certain sequences or twice in a row, special moves occur. Rembrandt, the new blood, sprays paint in his enemy’s face while yelling, "In your face!" Ouch. The game starts a few months before The Warriors are framed for killing gang kingpin Cyrus, which is when the movie begins. The story mode leads you through missions that involve tagging, jumping in new members, and other junk. Unlockable levels reveal the backstory and history of The Warriors. Rumble mode features minigames and a Create a Gang feature. A two-player mode allows you to play through the game with your best pal. Rival gangs like the Satan’s Mothers present all kinds of problems, but you’ll be all right. Each level has you play as a different character, which is great. Playing Rembrandt is the best because you get to tag walls. Tagging is accomplished by navigating a spray can over an on-screen pattern with the analog stick. If you veer from the line, the stick vibrates and paint is wasted. To get more spray paint, you just buy it from a guy on the street, which is totally realistic. To get money to buy paint, you can steal car radios, rob stores, and mug people. If you manage to get whooped by a rival gang while tagging, mugging, or looting and you find yourself lying lifelessly on the ground with a red cross floating above you, a fellow Warrior will revive you if you have Flash, a street drug easily purchased from drug dealers hidden in dark alleys. If I saw my niece playing this game, initially I would want to murder the game designers, but then I’d come to the conclusion that if a kid is stupid enough to want to buy drugs because he/she saw them restore his/her health in a video game, that kid is probably a moron and should be on drugs. In GTA you hump hookers to restore your health; in The Warriors, you do drugs. Big deal; Rockstar loves shocking people. Sex and drugs? Dudley Moore desensitized us to those long ago. Video game voice-overs have improved dramatically in the last few years. This game features great voice actors, including DMC, Aesop Rock, and some people from the original film. The city walls feature art by artists like Futura 2000 and DONDI (RIP), and SEEN’s Hand of Doom car is in the game. The soundtrack is an eerie horror drone occasionally interrupted by rock and soul songs. (Nate Denver)

Army of glum



ANY GIVEN FIVE minutes of Battlefield 2 (Electronic Arts) play can resemble the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. You’re riding in an amphibious tank with your squad across enemy waters. Rumbles from explosions start getting louder and closer. Stray bullets hit the tank’s armor and the water outside. Suddenly you’re on land, the tank stops, and your squad leader yells, "Move!" over your headset. You jump out into utter chaos, bullets flying everywhere, your teammates falling around you. You run for cover as a stray grenade explosion blurs your vision and rings in your ears. With a giant whoosh, a support bomber passes overhead and takes out some enemy tanks. You blitz the checkpoint, trying to pick off remaining defenders and hoping you didn’t miss anyone in the huts that you’re sprinting past.

One of the most realistic war-themed action games ever made, rivaled only by its predecessors, Battlefield 1942 (EA) and Battlefield Vietnam (EA), BF2 is rightfully one of the most popular action games in the country today. It seamlessly integrates land, sea, and air vehicles into lush, photo-realistic maps where trees shake from the force of chopper propellers and snipers hide in swaying blades of grass. And the game play is just as slick as the graphics, allowing you to coordinate complicated team strategies through a simple command system and speak with your squad mates if you have a mic with your computer. The most dynamic part of the game stresses teamwork. Because of its massive strategic depth, if you want to accomplish anything other than annoying people online, you’ll have to work with your team to capture checkpoints and win matches – a feat never quite achieved on this level by other games.

This is the game I dreamed of when I was a kid playing Rogue Spear and Counter-Strike, diet versions of this action-packed feast. But that was before the current ridiculous war and all the oh-my-god footage coming back on television and in films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Gunner Palace. As the previous games in the series did with WWII and Vietnam, BF2 trivializes the trauma of our current war in Iraq – and a possible future war with China – by making it into entertainment.

The game claims to sidestep politics by presenting a fictional conflict between a hypothetical Middle East Coalition (MEC), China, and the US Marines. The MEC and China switch off battling an invasive United States for strategic checkpoints that your team must camp at for a certain amount of time to gain control of. From the opening cutscene that plays like an action movie with all its destruction-glorifying grandeur, it’s clear that only a nation-player with the will to achieve total military dominance over other countries – and a complete ignorance of the ramifications for the people in those conquered countries – could take pleasure in acting out these scenarios. I’m glad most gamers playing BF2 probably don’t have firsthand experience with military oppression, but games such as this present a disconnect between reality and fantasy that contributes to the acceptance of US military actions.

After 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s safe to say that we’ve ceased to live in a bubble. Yet, although BF2 is just a game, its release at a time when 30 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq are reporting mental health issues stemming from the horrors they’ve witnessed, is a sign that our entertainment-industrial complex has shirked its responsibility by uncritically celebrating a very complicated issue, however inadvertently.

The problem is that the premise for war games acts as its own excuse. Nina Huntemann, director of the 2000 film Game Over: Gender, Race and Violence in Video Games, describes how some military games rely on the narrative of neutralizing a terrorist threat without questioning what makes someone a "terrorist" or why we should "neutralize" them. Though BF2 includes little narrative, the idea that there could possibly be a military conflict between the Middle East, China, and the United States is so obvious and predetermined that none of these types of questions even come to mind.

I don’t fault Digital Illusions, BF2’s developer: It’s difficult to sell sensitivity, but it’s easy to sell explosions. I blame a general immersion in entertainment that is predicated on the lie that fantasy is divorced from reality. The fantasy that we are removed from the war in Iraq is one of the things that allows the reality of it to continue.

Video games haven’t just become more like war – war has become like video games. I’ll never forget the moment in Fahrenheit 9/11 when a kid talks about how he listens to the Bloodhound Gang while he sits in his tank and shoots at people. That sounds a lot like what you do in BF2. The war in Iraq is at least partly being fought by kids whose first ideas of war were shaped by video game simulations before they experienced the reality. Like the tactics of dehumanizing the enemy to ease the ethical hang-ups involved in killing them, this extra layer of detachment enables kids to reconcile participating in potentially traumatic events.

Even the US Army actively tries to sell war as a video game. Recently I’ve caught Army recruitment commercials of guys working at computers and coordinating attacks from the comfort of a tent, perpetuating the idea that war can be fought on a flat screen without real-world messiness. Naturally, BF2’s commander screen, on which you can zoom in on different parts of the map and order squad movements or artillery strikes, looks a lot like the graphics flying around an Army commercial.

The Army also invested more than $6 million in a g ame called America’s Army, which it released for free over the Internet in August 2002, less than a year after 9/11 and seven months before war was declared on Iraq. Possibly one of the most sinister forms of propaganda to fly under the media’s radar, America’s Army essentially indoctrinates players into military life through a graphically advanced action game. Openly billed as a recrui tment tool, the game has players make their way through virtual boot camp and then move on to military operations.

Of course, games have always revolved around war and violence, from dodgeball to capture the flag. War is about strategy, problem-solving, and competition, just like most video games. Its popularity as a theme for video games is no surprise, just as it’s no surprise the Army wants to tap into that recruiting pool. These games aren’t desensitizing kids to real violence or instilling them with a lust for it. But the games’ latent values feed an unquestioning acceptance of the United States’ current militarism and normalize it for future generations. I don’t know if we – or the world – can afford another detached generation. Until we find a way to give kids, and, for that matter, adults, a real context for the fantasies provided by the entertainment industry, the enabling disconnect will continue.