Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rant: Sony are sickos who have lost my custom

In an earlier post I commended Sony (against my better judgement) for creating video games that girls might like to play. I take it all back. Sony have done a bunch of things that have really pissed me off, including rootkits, non-redbook CDs that actually broke some Apple computers, and supporting the notoriously misogynist Grand Theft Auto by releasing it on the Playstation platform. I am also of the firm opinion (and experience) that most of their hardware, far from being the reliable gear it used to be, is crap, these days.

None of that, though, was enough to make me boycott their stuff. You would think it would be, but no, my love of their Singstar and Buzz series has outweighed my disgust with their general business practices, until now. After using a dead goat as a prop at a party (and making it look like the goat had been recently slaughtered), and then, for fuck's sake, publishing the pictures in their magazine, Sony has lost my business.

Now, Sony are claiming that the goat was already slaughtered by a butcher, and that the "still warm intestines" they invited guests to eat were actually offal. I, frankly, don't think either thing makes their behaviour okay; they glorified the torture of an animal (even though it may not really have been tortured) not just at the party, but to their magazine subscribers worldwide, and for what? To sell a few computer games? Some commenters suggest that if one eats meat, one has no right to complain about this use of the goat; I disagree. Consumption, as a use of a dead animal is wildly different from a Japanese corporation (though run by a Welsh man) using a dead goat as a sales prop -- meat does not glorify cruelty, and is, for some, a necessity of life.

The goat is the really horrific point in this story, but I also feel the need to point out that Sony also had topless women at this party, serving drinks, presumably to increase the "orgiastic" atmosphere. While I am no prude, this seems a particularly exploitative use of women's bodies; selling computer games. I also find it bizarre that the newspaper that broke the story pixelled out the head of the goat, but left a young lady's bare breasts and face on display; the goat was dead and could suffer no further indignity (and the full horror of what Sony did should really be made clear), but the young lady is alive and still subject to exploitation.

While no doubt this revolting stunt by Sony has created a wave of publicity that may even sell more games, they have also overstepped this time. I will be boycotting them, I will be encouraging my friends and workmates to boycott them, and comment on the web suggests many others will boycott them too. If I were in Sony's shoes, I would be making a very hefty donation to humane societies and women's shelters about now, and I would watch my commercial step for many years to come.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rave: I love Melbourne

As some of you might know (hah, like anyone is reading this anyway) I recently moved to Melbourne. Now, I was kind of worried, because everyone I talked to (apart from Martin, who is living here and can't have the kind of life he can have at home) told me I was going to love Melbourne, and always exactly like that, with the emphasis on the word love. Normally when something is talked up up to me like that, I find whatever it is a disappointment.

Well, today I realised how much I really, truly love this adopted city of mine. I walked out the door, and it was foggy, and I thought "oh hey, it's foggy. Cool!". Those of you who lived with me before, or indeed know anything about my previous home city will know that it is notorious for fog. Anyone who lived there with me will know that my reaction to the fog was anything but "Cool!". It's true. I love Melbourne so much, I even love the fog.

Loving Melbourne as much as I do has made me realise that I never really settled in to my previous home. I loved the people there, and I was in many ways loath to leave, but I was always disenchanted with the city itself. It was muddy in the winter, and humid in the summer. The winter fog often did not lift. The terminal rain in winter really slayed me. I lived in that town for ten years, and it was never really home -- there was no loyalty, and no love lost.

I've been in Melbourne six months. It really shouldn't be that different to where I was before. In some ways, relying on public transport, and living in rented accommodation, and having fewer friends, I should find it more difficult here. There are no mountains here. And yet... I love Melbourne, even on foggy days. Here there are concerts, and art galleries showing things that interest me, and local artist markets and loads of good cafes within walking distance of where I work and live and there is public transport, and it doesn't rain for days on end. Here I saw a band that I thought were cool back when I first heard their song while I was living at home, and who I never thought I would see (Eskimo Joe), and they were awesome. Here I saw a band I fell in love with on TV (INXS), again, and they were awesome, again, and I will never forget the concert (but that is a whole other story). Here I saw the guy from Black Books -- and if it weren't for my workmate I wouldn't even have known he was coming. Here, if I had a radio, I would hear Placebo played (and with a station like Triple J, we must do something about a radio). I will always associate Livin' by the Day by Dilana with getting used to here, and it is one of my favourite songs.

None of that would make a difference, though when my many of my friends and none of my family are here, if it weren't for one thing: Melbourne was a choice -- and a good one at that.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rant: David Bain: A life (needlessly) lost

Unlike the rest of New Zealand, and maybe because I am not there, I don't believe I know for sure that David Bain did or did not murder some or all of his family on June 22 1994. I have heard all sorts of theories, from "he did the lot, and might just off Joe Karam while he's at it" through "his Dad shot the family, but he shot his Dad" right up to "he is inncoent and his Dad did it" and the conspiracy theory "they burned the house down, and someone important did it and wants this to go away". I'm pretty certain the guy is innocent (in no small part because you would have to be one scary, talented individual to protest your innocence for 13 years if you did it), but only he (and depending on what you believe, his dead family and God, oh, and maybe the conspiracy theorist's murderer and police) really know.

The justice of the matter is, though (since the truth, for once, is irrelevant) it that it really, truly does not matter whether he did it or not. There is no way that based on the evidence he should have been convicted of all five murders (or even one of them), and thus he has spent nearly thirteen years in jail unjustifiably (well, maybe fewer than thirteen, but at least since the first appellate court rejected his appeal). I, like the privy council, do not blame the judge or the jury at the trial, they had a shit of a job, and I am sure under the circumstances they did the best they could. The same cannot be said for the police, I don't think, and it certainly cannot be said for the court of appeals, who appear to have taken the path of least resistance at every possible opportunity. Woe for NZ that we no longer have any international courts above our own internecine, incestuous little judicial affairs.

Now there is all the scrap about whether he should be re-tried (the privy council said yes, but that it was up to the local courts to decide what would be in the best interests of the public), or indeed whether he can have a fair trial (a decision on this is expected to be made later this month). There is also the question of compensation, for which apparently present laws state he would have to prove his innocence.

In all the hue and cry, however, we seem to have forgotten that it is not just David's family who wrongfully had their lives cut short, it is David as well. This is a man who spent 13 years, from his early 20s to his mid 30s, in jail (not known for it's pleasant environment) in jail for a crime he should never have been convicted of. He's never held a job, owned a cellphone, had a long term relationship, had the chance to have a family, surfed the web because he felt like it, had the chance to vote on a reality TV show--the list goes on. He has been locked up not just through his own early adulthood, but also through a time of great change in the world. While he was in jail, he went from an adolescent looking young man, to a man who is suddenly middle aged.

Young David Bain

David Bain in 2007

To be fair to David, he learned a marketable trade in jail, and seems to remarkably well adjusted. He has job offers (which is a good thing, given he hasn't a cent to his name, being wrongfully convicted of this has even taken his inheritance), and he is learning to cook. He has a supporter in Joe Karam, and many others as well.

Just because he is taking it well, though, does not excuse us from knowing our criminal justice system has made him into a not-guilty 34 year old man who feels "It is nice to have different drinks and hamburgers and things to choose from". Our justice system, with no right, not only took this man's life, but kept it long after the court of appeals had seen evidence that should have released him.

Should he be retried? Probably not. Should he be compensated? Absolutely. Even if he did do it, he should not have been in jail for a good chunk of the time he has. The government, the justice system, and we as electors and jurors owe him more than we can ever repay for those years. What is the most scary thing about this case? That it is likely not the only one, and jail does Bad Things to people, often. Something is very wrong, here, and I don;t know how to fix it.

David, you have my apologies for not finding out how to support you. You have my apologies that our justice system was prepared to leave you in jail to cover it's own ass. Most of all, though, you have my apologies that you needlessly lost not just your family, but your own life.

Update, 21 June 2007: Apparently the NZ judicial system has not had a big enough piece of David Bain yet. The decision to retry him was reached today, and so we are going to waste yet more of his life (though how they are going to get a jury that will even consider convicting, I would love to know).