Journal

Patrick's Birthday Party

Following Khalid’s party, Rae and I drove across the City to Frankie’s Bohemian Cafe on Divisadero to catch the tail end of Patrick’s belated birthday party. The dinner was just about ready to break up when we got there, but we at least had the chance to say hello and happy birthdy to Patrick. He recently returned from China and was showing everyone his photos from the trip.

Afterwards, the group dispersed to go to an 80’s party where DJ Bam was spinning records. Rae and I decided not to go and headed back down 280 to the South Bay.

Earlier in the day, Rae, Susan, Bryan, Petrice, and I went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to check out the Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts gallery. I really enjoy art exhibits where you can interact with the pieces on display. Walking into the gallery, one’s first impression might be, “This looks like an arcade!” The gallery featured a playable demo of American’s Army, a first-person shooter that puts you in the place of an American soldier. What’s unique about the game is who developed and markets the game, the American Army! It’s said to be a good recruiting tool for the military. What I wonder is if it is causing certain populations of people to be objectified as “the enemy.”

Remembering Waco places you in the role of David Koresh, the former leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. The game recreated the Waco compound and the assault by the BATF. As David Koresh, you’re armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and a bevy of “bibles” that fall from the sky giving you special powers. To activate these powers (with names like Cleanse My Soul, Gunshow, and Awaken), you speak the name of the power in a David Koresh mask that you wear during the game!

A set of flash animation games placed you in the role of suicide bomber. Using the mouse to move to the left and right, you move your suicide bomber (who looked a bit like Saddam) as cartoon figures of women, children, and men walk past you. With a click of your mouse, your character opens his jacket up and blows himself and everyone around him up. As you can guess, the goal of the game is to kill or wound as many people as possible. The artist explains that he is neither a Jew, nor an Arab, nor a terrorist. He’s making a point that suicide bombing is ridiculous. When you look at it this way, it really is.

One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit involved no direct interaction with the piece itself. The piece featured several large screenshots of scenes from history rendered in a SIMS like fashion. We could see famous photos of Rodney King being beaten, the Unabomber’s mountain shack, photographs from Vietnam, the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the protest at Tiananmen Square. The screenshots were often recreations of the historical photographs but taken from a different angle. Despite this difference, you immediately could tell what photo the screenshot was associated with. I found that really fascinating because it points to how your mind interprets photographs. It’s like a bullet-time scene from the Matrix. For a given moment in time, you can spin or rotate around the scene. Very cool, indeed!

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