Letters

Letters 10-27-2014

Paging Doctor Dan: The doctor’s promise to repeal Obamacare reminds me of the frantic restaurant owner hurrying to install an exhaust fan after the kitchen burns down. He voted 51 times to replace the ACA law; a colossal waste of money and time. It’s here to stay and he has nothing to replace it.

Evolution Is Real Science: Breathtaking inanity. That was the term used by Judge John Jones III in his elegant evisceration of creationist arguments attempting to equate it to evolutionary theory in his landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education decision in 2005.

U.S. No Global Police: Steven Tuttle in the October 13 issue is correct: our military, under the leadership of the President (not the Congress) is charged with protecting the country, its citizens, and its borders. It is not charged with  performing military missions in other places in the world just because they have something we want (oil), or we don’t like their form of government, or we want to force them to live by the UN or our rules.

Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism?: I walk the [Grand Traverse] Commons frequently and sometimes I include the loop up to the cistern just to go and see how the art on the cistern has evolved. Granted there is the occasional gross image or word but generally there is a flurry of color.

NMEAC Snubbed: Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) is the Grand Traverse region’s oldest grassroots environmental advocacy organization. Preserving the environment through citizen action and education is our mission.

Vote, Everyone: Election Day on November 4 is fast approaching, and now is the time to make a commitment to vote. You may be getting sick of the political ads on TV, but instead, be grateful that you live in a free country with open elections. Take the time to learn about the candidates by contacting your county parties and doing research.

Do Fluoride Research: Hydrofluorosilicic acid, H2SiF6, is a byproduct from the production of fertilizer. This liquid, not environmentally safe, is scrubbed from the chimney of the fertilizer plant, put into containers, and shipped. Now it is a ‘product’ added to the public drinking water.

Meet The Homeless: As someone who volunteers for a Traverse City organization that works with homeless people, I am appalled at what is happening at the meetings regarding the homeless shelter. The people fighting this shelter need to get to know some homeless families. They have the wrong idea about who the homeless are.

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Masters of Doom: How the Lennon and McCartney of Video Games Transformed Pop Culture

Nancy Sundstrom - June 5th, 2003
You may not know the names John Carmack and John Romero, but chances are excellent that you’ve had some kind of encounter with what they did to mastermind a major industry and shape a generation.
Carmack and Romero are a real-life dynamic dup who created the blockbuster computer games Wolfenstien 3D, Quake, and Doom, and the anti-heroes of “Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture,“ a compulsively readable biography of the pair written by journalist David Kushner.
Kushner was a natural for the project. As a recognized authority on computer games who has covered them for scores of publications from Wired to Salon, as well as the digital music columnist for Rolling Stone online, he’s a true aficionado whose passion for technology is nicely balanced with a clear empathy for his subjects.
Some have hailed the eccentric “Two Johns“ as the Lennon and McCartney of video games, and Kushner builds a compelling case for such a bold comparison. The two were geeky whiz kids who took what was once a hobby of marginal interest and built it into a veritable art form. Along the way, they evoked the ire of countless parents and the U.S. Senate with the violence and controversy of their games, were courted by the likes of Bill Gates, and grew so big, so fast that their Cinderella story was destined to become a nightmare or a soap opera.
In this case, it was a little of both, and the games the pair lived for became anything but. Carmack describes their wild ride together as one where “You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on and the dedication to go through it. We slept on floors, we waded through rivers.“ That sort of observation almost sounds romantic, but the reality of Carmack and Romero’s saga is that is a dark one, in many regards.
But before they revolutionized the video gaming world, there were humble beginnings. In the first chapter, “The Rock Star,“ Kushner lets us into the world of young Romero, setting the stage by looking at a backdrop that was of equal parts of teenage angst, budding genius, and broken home:

“Eleven-year-old John Romero jumped onto his dirt bike, heading for trouble again. A scrawny kid with thick glasses, he pedaled past the modest homes of Rocklin, California, to the Roundtable Pizza Parlor. He knew he wasn‘t supposed to be going there this summer afternoon in 1979, but he couldn‘t help himself. That was where the games were.
Specifically, what was there was Asteroids, or, as Romero put it, “the coolest game planet Earth has ever seen!“ There was nothing else like the feeling he got tapping the control buttons as the rocks hurled toward his triangular ship and the Jaws-style theme music blipped in suspense, dum dum dum dum dum dum; Romero mimicked these video game sounds the way other kids did celebrities. Fun like this was worth risking everything: the crush of the meteors, the theft of the paper route money, the wrath of his stepfather. Because no matter what Romero suffered, he could always escape back into the games.
At the moment, what he expected to suffer was a legendary whipping. His stepfather, John Schuneman -- a former drill sergeant -- had commanded Romero to steer clear of arcades. Arcades bred games. Games bred delinquents. Delinquency bred failure in school and in life. As his stepfather was fond of reminding him, his mother had enough problems trying to provide for Romero and his younger brother, Ralph, since her first husband left the family five years earlier. His stepfather was under stress of his own with a top-secret government job retrieving black boxes of classified information from downed U.S. spy planes across the world. “Hey, little man,“ he had said just a few days before, “consider yourself warned.“
Romero did heed the warning -- sort of. He usually played games at Timothy‘s, a little pizza joint in town; this time he and his friends headed into a less traveled spot, the Roundtable. He still had his initials, AJR for his full name, Alfonso John Romero, next to the high score here, just like he did on all the Asteroids machines in town. He didn‘t have only the number-one score, he owned the entire top ten. “Watch this,“ Romero told his friends, as he slipped in the quarter and started to play.
The action didn‘t last long. As he was about to complete a round, he felt a heavy palm grip his shoulder. “What the [expletive], dude?“ he said, assuming one of his friends was trying to spoil his game. Then his face smashed into the machines.
Romero‘s stepfather dragged him past his friends to his pickup truck, throwing the dirt bike in the back. Romero had done a poor job of hiding his bike, and his stepfather had seen it while driving home from work. “You really screwed up this time, little man,“ his stepfather said. He led Romero into the house, where Romero‘s mother and his visiting grandmother stood in the kitchen. “Johnny was at the arcade again,“ his stepfather said. “You know what that‘s like? That‘s like telling your mother ‘[expletive] you.‘ “
He beat Romero until the boy had a fat lip and a black eye. Romero was grounded for two weeks. The next day he snuck back to the arcade.“

Not too many years later, Romero and Carmack would meet at a small tech company in Louisiana in the mid-1980s and recognizing a kindred soul in the other, went on to form their own company, id. Their approach to computer games was innovative in every sense of the world, especially technologically and financially. The obsessive late nights scarfing pizza and quaffing Diet Coke became the incubator for these two game geniuses to channel their imagination and alienation into a wildly successful franchise. They opened up the world of computer games, and in the process, nearly opened up each other.
Kushner’s expertise on the topic is a great aid in the reader understanding the obsession with computer games that can overtake both creators and players, and it’s hard not to be dazzled by the way he makes it seem accessible and understandable. If you’ve ever played one of the Two Johns’ masterpieces, you won’t want to pass this riveting bio by, but the appeal of this book is much more far-reaching than that, making it a highly recommended read.

 
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