December 31st, 2003


You can get a degree in ANYTHING these days...

(Nicked from flemco:)

Course Description

A staple of nerd subculture for almost three decades, fantasy role-playing games have taken on new life in the era of networked computing. High-speed connections, sophisticated graphics and powerful microprocessors have paved the way for massively multiplayer on-line role-playing games (MMORPG’s) such as Everquest, Anarchy Online, and Asheron’s Call.

In this course, we will conduct an ethnographic study of the behaviors, cultural practices, and motivations of MMORPG players. The course packet will include readings that explore role-playing games, virtual community, and the construction of identity on-line. Extensive attention will also be given to methods for conducting research on- line.

Course Requirements

In lieu of a textbook, you are expected to purchase a copy of the Everquest Trilogy software (approximately $20 retail). You must also commit to a three-month subscription at the rate of $12.95 per month. Since the first month is free, the total expenditure for computer supplies is approximately $46. A significant amount of class time will be spent in the virtual world, but you are also expected to conduct on-line research outside of class.

It's time for a politics post again!!

Some words better left unuttered

WASHINGTON -- Some of the words uttered by very important people in Washington in 2003 are best forgotten. On the other hand, as we enter an election year, maybe they should be remembered.

* * *

In an interview on Dec. 16, television anchorwoman Diane Sawyer pressed Bush on the fact that no unconventional weapons had been found in Iraq some nine months after the search had begun.

Bush kept interjecting: "Yet."

Sawyer persisted, asking about the administration's flat statements that Saddam had such weapons versus the mere possibility that he could acquire them.

An exasperated Bush replied: "So, what's the difference?"

Do we really have to explain?

* * *

On Dec. 17, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the Bush administration gave a classified intelligence briefing to members of Congress in October 2002 saying Iraq not only had the weapons "but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities." The briefing was held before the vote authorizing the use of force to attack Iraq.

So why the congressional silence -- throughout 2003 -- after being misled into voting for war?

On May 28, in a Vanity Fair interview, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraqi war, told of the administration plotting to sell the war to the American public.

"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue -- weapons of mass destruction because it was one reason everyone could agree on."

Honest but appalling.

* * *

For credibility, I'll take former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. He reminded us on Dec. 23 that there are only two justifications for pre-emptive war: the presence of a threat of armed action credibly documented, and an urgency that does not tolerate delay.

The U.S. action against Iraq met neither test.

So, how many more soldiers will die for NO REASON until we get this goofball, fratboy, puppet-king out of the highest office in the land? I say the next election is not soon enough: (and we'll call it even, suckas...)

[Fark] Banner couple of days over at Fark.

A 105-pound woman was crowned Fruitcake Champion after swallowing nearly five pounds of the treat in 10 minutes, beating her closest rival — a man almost four times her weight — by a single bite. "My jaw is very tired right now," Sonya Thomas said Tuesday after out-eating 405-pound Eric Booker of Long Island by one-eighth of an ounce.

A federal appeals court has upheld a Utah artist's right to make nude photos of Barbie dolls being menaced by kitchen appliances. Noting the image of Barbie dolls is "ripe for social comment," a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected toymaker Mattel Inc.'s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of lampooning the popular doll. Holding that social criticism was protected by the First Amendment, the court affirmed a 2001 federal court ruling in favor of Thomas Forsythe, who had produced photos of nude Barbies in danger of being attacked by vintage household appliances.

Mattel had argued the photos infringed on their copyrights and trademarks. Forsythe had used Barbie dolls in absurd and often sexualized positions for his "Food Chain Barbie" photos. The artist had argued that the photo series, which also included a photo of Barbie dolls wrapped in tortillas and covered in salsa in a casserole dish in a lit oven, was meant to critique the "objectification of women" and "beauty myth" associated with the popular doll.

The most important book to be published in the last several years is not on sex, drugs, or rock 'n' roll, but on taxes. That's right: taxes.

David Cay Johnston knows taxes: He's won one Pulitzer, and been nominated for several more, for writing about them for the New York Times. We all know, instinctively, that the system is screwing us, but Johnston tells us how exactly we're being screwed in clear, comprehensible, everyday language that anyone can understand.

And finally, Dave Barry examines the joke of a year that was 2k.3:

* Who's watching all these "reality" TV shows? Nobody admits to watching them; everybody agrees they're even stupider than those infomercials wherein Ron Popeil spends 30 minutes liquefying vegetables to the rapturous delight of a live, if half-witted, audience. And yet "reality" shows keep getting ratings. Who are the viewers? Have houseplants learned to operate remote controls?

* Can young people wear their pants any lower? Their waistbands are now at approximately knee level. Where will this trend end? The shins? The feet? Will young people eventually detach themselves from their pants altogether and just drag them along behind, connected to their ankles by a belt?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. All we know is that 2003 is finally, we hope, over. But before we move on, let's put our heads between our knees and take one last look back at this remarkable year, which started, as is so often the case, with...