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Image courtesy of gamepolitics.com.

Image courtesy of gamepolitics.com.

Barack Obama has often lectured kids and their parents to “put the video games away” on the campaign trail, but if people insist on playing the stupid things, they might as well vote for him. That’s the message many are getting from the news that the Democratic presidential candidate has taken out ads in 18 games for the Xbox 360 that will feature on virtual billboards and other in-game signage. The games include EA titles like Burnout Paradise, Madden 09, NHL 09, Skate, NFL on Tour, Nascar 09 and Need for Speed Carbon. Of course, the ads will only be seen by gamers in the all-important swing states playing online (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin).

Evidently, both the Obama and McCain camps were approached by online advertising company Massive, but McCain’s campaign passed on the opportunity to put his message out into the virtual world—perhaps wisely considering the huge advantage Obama has in the 18 to 34-year-old demographic (though perhaps McCain maybe should have at least considered ads in a Republican-friendly NASCAR game). According to a poll of 100,000 Xbox Live users that asked gamers to select their nominee for president, 43 percent chose Obama, 31 percent went McCain and the rest were undecided or for a third-party candidate.

So maybe it’s not a bad move for Obama to ask Xbox Live users to hold off on another game of Madden long enough to get off their couch and vote for him—he certainly has the money to spare.

Image courtesy of destructoid.com.

Image courtesy of destructoid.com.

This does however beg the question of whether this convergence of politics and games is a good thing. Some gamers say they don’t like the idea of these types of real world invasions into their fantasy realms. But in reality, advertisements have been creeping into games for years now (anyone remember Marlboro ads in Sega racing games in the 80’s?). Does it really matter if it’s a giant corporation trying to sell us a product or a presidential candidate trying to grab our vote? An ad is an ad.

Also, I think an in-game billboard with Barack Obama telling you to vote seen while you’re speeding down a highway in Burnout is pretty inoffensive. If, however, Master Chief’s face got replaced by Obama’s when you turned on Halo 3—well, that’s a different story.

That’s what this Silicon Alley Insider article is wondering about the new service, mtvmusic.com, and how it’ll fair in the Net world.  As even our grandparents know by now, MTV’s heyday is in the past tense, though it’s by no means toast now.  As the SAI article points out, YouTube offers a lot of the same material that the new MTV service does (though they do have some exclusives) so what exactly is gonna peel away millions of YT users to an older name brand?  Nostalgia?  Probably not for the most part, especially if they’re already used to YT as a video destination.  Plus, part of the fun of YT isn’t just the music stuff there but also all the historical stuff and the bloopers, jokes and ridiculous home movies there, which MTV would be hard pressed to compete against, even with their flood of reality shows.

And it’s not as if the channel isn’t trying but as a wise industry-watching friend pointed out, too many of the Net projects seem to evaporate too easily- remember Urge? I give ‘em credit for trying and as I said, it’s far from over for them but it’s touch for relatively older name-brand to get a hold in the video game which they once dominated after a destination like YouTube has taken over that ground.  Of course, the day will come when YT itself will be an ol’ brand and struggling to catch up to the next online video destination.  Then again, after Google spent $1.5 billion dollars on YT two years ago, they still have yet to figure out a way to milk some serious profit out of the site much less make back their investment.  It’s a tough business and though YT’s the head dog now, they ain’t exactly on firm ground.

UPDATE: Wanna see how another site can actually compete with YouTube effectively?  Check out this USA Today article about Hulu’s success.

I’ve noted before Dialectic of Sex author Shulamith Firestone’s fatwa against smiling. Firestone responds to the way men often demand smiles from women (and children) and mask their aggression with this request that seems to them innocuous, almost a favor (she’ll be so much prettier if she smiles!) by calling for “a smile boycott, at which declaration all women would instantly abandon their ‘pleasing’ smiles, henceforth smiling only when something pleased them.”

She wouldn’t be happy with this article by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, noted by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. The article suggests that women with their faces frozen in a smile by Botox are possibly happier because they are always smiling, and they are also consequently making others happy with their contagious expression:

People with Botox may be less vulnerable to the angry emotions of other people because they themselves can’t make angry or unhappy faces as easily. And because people with Botox can’t spread bad feelings to others via their expressions, people without Botox may be happier too.

It’s easy to imagine this being distorted into lending support to the sexist idea that women owe the world their smiles, lest they become guilty of transferring negative emotions to the world. Maybe Botox is less about wrinkle eradication (a mere alibi) than it is about making women into dolls that can only express placid agreeableness. Zimmer sensibly warns, “Making faces helps us understand how other people are feeling. By altering our faces we’re tampering with the ancient lines of communication between face and brain that may change our minds in ways we don’t yet understand.”

The ability to use our face to express what we feel—the ability not to smile—seems fairly significant. When you are being leered at, for instance, it’s probably comforting to have a sneer in your arsenal to discourage others from consuming you as an object. The idea that what our mind feels can be altered or dictated by what our body is doing involuntarily is sort of scary and probably should be resisted, not abetted. Freezing our faces into a nonexpressive mask just doesn’t seem like a good way to enhance our interactions with the world, regardless how pleasant others may find it when we are incapable of expressing displeasure.

While their live show alone could easily carry them into the future, if Monotonix can find a way to translate the reckless energy onto record, these crazy folk from Tel Aviv are going to be huge. It was a smart lineup decision to put these guys on last, as trash buckets flew, drums were annihilated, and beer was spilled over the entire audience. The best thing about Monotonix, though, is they aren’t gimmicky; the instrumentation—just drums, guitar, and vocals—is so ungodly powerful that it would be fantastic even if they were just standing stoically. More bands need to take note that you’ve got to incorporate the best of both worlds to make it in today’s oversaturated musical market. Monotonix not only heed this advice, they go above and beyond it.

High Places put out one of the best debut records of 2008, but unfortunately, their live show isn’t going to push them out into the crowd of developed bands quite yet. Although it’s hard for a duo to be able to put on a captivating live show with so much going on musically, they need to add elements to their live show to hold the audience’s interest. To be fair, they are still new on the scene and they have plenty of time to grow. The songs are great but the show is lacking, a common case these days it seems

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Is Black Widow Still a Hero? Dissecting the Misogynistic Outrage Against the Avengers

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"Black Widow may very well be the pinnacle of the modern action heroine, so why is there so much backlash about her role in the new Avengers film?

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