Go Go First Amendment!

Turns out that video games are protected by the First Amendment, at least according to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which today overturned a St. Louis ruling that video games do not constitue prtected speech. The entire 8th Circuit Court Opinion is here, but here are some choice quotes:

“If the first amendment is versatile enough to ‘shield [the] painting of Jackson Pollock, music of Arnold Schoenberg, or Jabberwocky verse of Lewis Carroll,’ we see no reason why the pictures, graphic design, concept art, sounds, music, stories, and narrative present in video games are not entitled to a similar protection. The mere fact that they appear in a novel medium is of no legal consequence.”


“We reject the Countys suggestion that we should find that the ‘graphically violent’ video games in this case are obscene as to minors and therefore entitled to less protection. It is true that obscenity is one of the few categories of speech historically unprotected by the first amendment. But we have previously observed that ‘[m]aterial that contains violence but not depictions or descriptions of sexual conduct cannot be obscene.’ Video Software, 968 F.2d at 688. Simply put, depictions of violence cannot fall within the legal definition of obscenity for either minors or adults.”

And, critically:

“While it is beyond doubt that ‘parents’ claim to authority in their own household to direct the rearing of their children is basic in the structure of our society,’ Ginsberg v. New York, (1968), the question here is whether the County constitutionally may limit first amendment rights as a means of aiding parental authority. We hold that, under the circumstances presented in this case, it cannot.”

Rock on, First Amendment! And welcome to the 21st Century.


Curse You, Habitat For Humanity!

I cannot tell you how much personal inner strength it took me to reject Habitat For Humanity’s new Poverty Theme Park for inclusion into The Book of the Dumb. Because, truth to tell, it’s a friggin’ horrible idea: “See life-size Habitat houses from countries around the world. Learn about the devastating effects of poverty. Try your hand at making compressed-earth blocks or roof tile.” All for five bucks (four for seniors and three for the kids).

Sure, it’s a cheap day out, but if you get the kids all riled up by telling them they’re headed to a theme park and then force them to make bricks all day long, well, that’s years of therapy right there. This a place for People Who Mean Well, and unfortunately most People Who Mean Well have had their sense of fun leached out through years of empathy, folk tunes and hammering crossbeams. Most likely the kids will ask if they can just stay home, so you can get them the souvenir that says “My Parents Went to the Global Village and Discovery Center And All I Got Was This Organically Printed T-Shirt Made From Hemp.”

No Joke: There’s a “Living in Poverty Area.” “Experience firsthand the conditions poor people in the world today,” the site proclaims, thankfully leaving off the expected exclamation point. Well, hell; if I want to experience that, I’ll just hang out in front of the Wal-Mart.

But I just can’t bring myself to include this in the Book of the Dumb. Because it’s Habitat For Humanity, for God’s sake, and making fun of Habitat For Humanity is like kicking your sweet ol’ grandmama. They build houses! For poor people! For fun! Well, or whatever it is that passes for fun for these folks. I’m sure that someone somewhere has something bad to say about Habitat For Humanity, probably someone who’d call some grindingly poor Habitat For Humanity house recipient a “lucky ducky” for getting a new home cheap, or someone who’s convinced Jimmy Carter is the true source of all evil in the world today. But I’m just not one of those people. I just can’t do it.

Curse you, Habitat For Humanity! Curse your fundamental goodness! You’re spoiling my fun! Arrgh! I mean, really. For all the fun I’m having, I might as well just make a brick.


Where the Hell is June? And OPM. And IndieCrit. And the Cat.

I try not to comment overly on weather, but come on. It’s June, and here in my little corner of Ohio, the temperature outside is 65 degrees. It was only marginally warmer yesterday, and will be only marginally warmer tomorrow. It’s also raining. I’m sorry, but my contract clearly specifies that so long as I am in the northern hemisphere, my Junes are to be warm to hottish warm (say, 75 to 90 degrees) and generally sunny. The only option not specified is humidity, which why June in these here parts is generally sweatier than I like. Even so.

If I don’t start getting some service around here, I just may take my business elsewhere. Let that be a lesson for you all.

On a completely an utterly unrelated note, I got a spot of good news yesterday from one of my employers. Those of you who read Official Playstation Magazine know that I write a column for them every other month on social and legal issues involving video games, called “Watchdog.” Well, now it’s going monthly. So for Scalzi fans, OPM becomes even more of a wacky hot value: CD reviews, DVD reviews and me acting all serious and grownup-y in my column (that’s right. I’m a magazine columnist. Stand back, y’all). Add that to the fact that it’s a damn fine magazine on its own and you’ve got yourself roughly 124 to 158 pages of fun every month. Honestly, I don’t know why you don’t just drop what you’re doing right now and race out to buy a copy. Don’t be afraid to elbow aside that twelve-year-old loitering in front of the magazine rack. You’re a paying customer!

Another quick note: I’m taking a break from IndieCrit for June, for the usual work-related excuses I provide whenever I take a break. I don’t know how many of you trundle over there for music reviews (actually, I do, because I look at the referrer logs, but never mind that now), but I guess you’ll just have to play your old records until I come back. Or let someone else tell you which music is good. But know you’d never do that. Would you? You would? And here I thought what we had was special.

Yet another quick note: Ghlaghghee likes to sleep directly in front of my keyboard. I thought this would be annoying but in fact resting my wrists on his furry little kitten body is helping me avoid RSI. He’s like one of those gel rests, in fluffy mammalian form. Try it yourself. You’ll have to get your own cat, however.

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