Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Save Skrien!

I didn't even notice this startling news: apparently, the Dutch government is thinking of withdrawing its subsidy for Skrien, now in its 40th year of publication, due to budget cuts or something. It's the only serious film mag the Netherlands has, and a safe haven for mediastudies scholars.

The following pressing letter was sent out through the film and television industry mailing lists. It’s in Dutch, it basically states that if you want to offer your declaration of support for their cause, do it today on skrien2008 @

Skrien reddingsplan 2008 – Ondersteuningsbrief

Beste filmliefhebber,

Waarschijnlijk heeft u al via de media vernomen dat de Raad voor Cultuur aan het ministerie van OC&W heeft voorgesteld Skrien niet langer te subsidiëren. Dat betekent kort gezegd het einde van Skrien.

Wij denken dat er nog ruimte is om de Raad voor Cultuur en het ministerie van mening te doen veranderen. We vragen daarom of we uw naam onder onderstaande brief mogen zetten. Daarmee kan Skrien laten zien een gewaardeerd onderdeel te zijn van de Nederlandse filmwereld.

De brief zal worden aangeboden aan de Raad voor Cultuur en het ministerie en online worden gezet op de website van Skrien.

We hopen dat u deze mail wilt doorsturen aan collega’s en vrienden in de Nederlandse film- en televisiewereld. Mocht u hierdoor deze mail meer dan eens ontvangen, dan vragen we uw begrip. We hebben helaas weinig tijd en er staat veel op het spel; daarom maken we gebruik van deze methode.

We hopen dat u in een e-mail aan skrien2008 @ wilt bevestigen (onder vermelding van uw naam en functiebeschrijving) dat wij uw naam aan onderstaande brief mogen toevoegen. Het liefst voor 29 mei, zodat de brief op tijd is voor de deadline van het beroep bij de Raad voor Cultuur. Maar ook daarna zijn nieuwe namen welkom: de definitieve beslissing van het ministerie valt pas in september.

Bij voorbaat dank,

André Waardenburg en Kees Driessen

hoofd- en eindredactie Skrien

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Digital Culture, Play, and Identity – A World of Warcraft Reader

I finally got my copy of Digital Culture, Play, and Identity – A World of Warcraft Reader. And all I can say is that it turned out great!

For those who don’t know it yet; it’s an impressive collecting of articles from a collective of researchers who gathered to not only analyse World of Warcraft, but also to play it. It’s a broad
but still in-depth look into the WoW phenomenon and, being the object of my research too, I will certainly enjoy digging further into these articles.

Even though I missed out on participating in the creation of the book (I joined The Truants too late, meh), I’ve been playing with this crowd for quit some time now and they are not only a smart but also a fun bunch
(go Truants!) .

A big /cheer to Hilde and Jill for this fine book. And /hug Torill for keeping the Truants spirit alive!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bavarian porn > soccer

Sometimes I get asked to write weird articles. Still, I wasn’t expecting this one.

With the European soccer championship coming up, the
University of Amsterdam’s weekly magazine, Folia Civitatis, decided to make a soccer-themed issue. As I’m their regular film journo, they asked me to write something film-related. Of all things they could’ve come up with, they chose Bavarian porn.

‘Bavarian porn?’ some of you might think? Well, it was a highly successful 70’s softporn/comedy genre from the Bavaria/Tirol regions of
Germany and Austria (there’s your link with soccer; Austria is one of the hosts of the championship). It’s infamous for its combination of heimat nostalgia and silly sex and nudity. In a sense a bizarre subgenre of sexploitation. The genre is known as Lederhosenfilm in German speaking territories, and as Tiroler seksfilm in the Netherlands. It’s cheap, dumb and degrading to women and/or humankind in general. But in its stupidity and offensiveness it’s also very, very funny.

Really, track one down if you’ve never seen one, they are hilarious.

I actually had the dvd of Ach Jodel Mir Noch Einen (1974) lying around the house (don’t ask) and revisiting it was a blast. It’s better (un)known as 2069: A Sex Odyssey in English, a title which should be telling enough; it actually combines all that is worst/best of Bavarian Porn with sci-fi!

Naturally, I had a lot of fun writing the piece, especially as it needed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek (it’s pretty hard to write anything serious on this stuff anyway). I'll provide a link when it's published. The conclusion was that if you don’t give a crap about soccer (like I do by the way), watching Bavarian porn this summer is the next best thing to do to cleanse your thirst for stupid fun in the

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jack Thompson: Guilty!

I couldn't let this one slip:

Jack Thompson, considered to be the bane of gamers worldwide, is guilty of no less than 27 of 31 misconduct charges in court cases he led against Bully and GTA. At least, this is what a judge is recommending to the Florida Supreme Court.

Only some of the charges:

-Knowingly making a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal
-Using means that have no purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person
-Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation

Oh, the irony...

Read the full report here.

Maybe this will halt his strange crusade. It probably won't...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

GTA IV makes babies happy

I guess this is my first entry into the ‘blogosphere’. Well, here goes…

One of the best things about getting a little kid - she is one month old now and growing like crazy - is that I actually had more time to, well, do nothing much. Sure, taking care of the wee one takes up a healthy chunk of our time, and the whole sleep-poo-cry cycle can be tiring for all involved. But I had taken some weeks off from work to be a full time family man, which freed up so much time that, suddenly, I had the liberty to do all those things I never had the time for! Did I read all those books and articles lying around? did I watch all those films and series I missed? Did I even go out in the sun which scorched Holland in the past weeks?

No, I pretty much spend most of my free hours playing GTA IV.

Perfect timing Rockstar!. Some recent minor distractions aside, this is the first game to really pull me away from World of Warcraft. Which wasn’t that hard by the way, my WoW being hacked and plundered just after my kid was born (I lost 8000g on that one, thanks virtual economy!).

Thus, there I was, taking my new buddy Niko through all kinds of violent ordeals in Liberty City. And what a splendid killing spree it turned out to be. Gone are most of the troubles which plagued prior instalments like messy aiming, cars popping in out of nowhere, no multi-player. And now we can even skip those unnecessary long drives to and from quest objectives after failing missions again and again; now you can just take a cab, pick your location and skip the entire ride!

Skipping the ride almost always feels like a loss though as GTA IV’s Liberty City is one of the most beautifully rendered, vibrant and believable virtual worlds out there. It is however not just a New York 2.0 for virtual sightseeing. It is clear that, like previous GTA’s, Rockstar wanted to make a sandbox with a point. GTAIII, Vice City and San Andreas all parodied American culture through its radio channels, billboards, dialogues and so on. GTA IV follows suit but got rid of all the over-the-top silliness which tended to make you forget its finer details. So, no jetpacks, Area 51’s or overkill of ramps here. Calling the changes ‘gritty’ or ‘darker’ is marketing mumbo-jumbo but there’s truth in it as well. You could almost say that Rockstar has taken a more mature approach (gasp!).

More than ever, Rockstar’s Liberty City is a bleak, dystopian depiction of the real. It takes no prisoners; the media, the internet, the government, the crime gangs, even people just walking down the virtual streets, all of them are degenerated, corrupted, spoiled. It might still be far off - ‘it’s only a game’, remember - but it’s eerily recognizable. As suggested elsewhere, the American Dream has never been so far out of reach for Liberty City’s inhabitants. Drawn to Liberty City under false promises of freedom, peace and wealth, Niko’s downward spiral into sin is entirely believable, even logical. And you wish him while doing so.

Exposing a child to such harsh, violent worlds might be a bit unethical but hey, where else but in your lap do you put a crying baby when you’re playing! When I was ploughing down rows of pedestrians and crashing my car into other players (GTA multiplayer is a hoot!), the pleasure the baby seemed to derive from the rumble my controller made on her tummy made it al seem ok. She really digs that!

Ps. This post seems a bit dated already but Blogger decided to lock my brand new blog for suspicions of me being a spambot (sigh).