Monday, October 31, 2011

Blizzard in a Teacup?

Blizzard is one of the world's leading computer game companies responsible for World of Warcraft, the world's most successful subscription-based game of all time. Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band from New York.

I used to play World of Warcraft for years and enjoy it a lot until I realized that playing it properly required treating it as a part-time job. When a computer game becomes more demanding than a husband, baby and two dogs combined you know there's a problem. Cannibal Corpse is a band I was very very vaguely aware of other than the fact that they make dreadful music.

The two were involved in a little scandal recently at a Blizzard Convention where the band played and the organizers aired an edited version of a clip showing George Fisher, a member of the band, ranting against players from the opposite faction with plenty of homophobic slurs and wishing to see them commit suicide. Wonderful stuff.

Here's the video: You have a much higher stamina for douchebaggery than me if you can watch this video to the end.

There was obviously lots of fuss in internet forums and apologies were issued by both the president of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, as well as George Fisher.

Morhaime's apology:

Dear members of the Blizzard community,

I have read your feedback and comments about this year’s BlizzCon, and I have also read the feedback to the apology from Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. I’d like to respond to some of your feedback here.

As president of Blizzard, I take full responsibility for everything that occurs at BlizzCon.

It was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form. The language used in the original version, including the slurs and use of sexual orientation as an insult, is not acceptable, period. We realize now that having even an edited version at the show was counter to the standards we try to maintain in our forums and in our games. Doing so was an error in judgment, and we regret it.

The bottom line is we deeply apologize for our mistakes and for hurting or offending anyone. We want you to have fun at our events, and we want everyone to feel welcome. We’re proud to be part of a huge and diverse community, and I am proud that so many aspects of the community are represented within Blizzard itself.

As a leader of Blizzard, and a member of the band, I truly hope you will accept my humblest apology.

- Mike Morhaime President, Blizzard Entertainment

Fisher's apology:

Hey guys, we read and heard all the feedback from BlizzCon this year. The Corpsegrinder bit was never intended to be taken seriously. We are sorry that we offended anyone; everything at our shows is just meant in fun. Thank you all for speaking up. We’ll definitely keep this in mind for future shows. Our humblest apologies, Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain

I frequently visit The Chaos Engine, a forum for video game industry professionals and a discussion started there where many of the posters didn't see what the big deal was. The main arguements were that the video was edited so you had to look up the original video to be offended by the words and that there was no actual intention to hurt gay people and the slurs weren't aimed at anyone directly.

Lets start with the fact that this man is married and a father. He's not some 14 year old boy who doesn't know better and repeats words he heard from his peers without fully understanding them. With that in mind, possible homophobia aside, one must wonder what is wrong with that man to make him talk like a mentally challenged moron in the first place and then wonder what is wrong with whoever it was at Blizzard to think that this video was worth showing, beeped or not. Is that how little they think of their own fan-base: that they would find any entertainment value in some old dirty slob cursing and ranting?

The beeped up excuse is weak. Obviously when Blizzard showed the video it made curious people look up the original video to hear what was really said. If the beeped out words were slurs against blacks, Jews or Muslims Blizzard wouldn't have touched it with a five feet pole. It would have been PR radioactive waste. But the person who picked up that video thought that anti-gay slurs were not really that bad and somehow less offensive.

Here's the thing: Treating homophobia as a lesser bigotry contributes to a homophobic culture, especially among young impressionable people. This fuels homophobic bullying which ends up in suicide at worst and at "just" misery at best. It's the same homophobic culture that allows gay rights to be a political issue that is discussed openly when no political party will ever dream to openly discuss laws that affect the rights of other minority groups such as blacks or Jews. The message to young people right now is that being a homophobe is a perfectly acceptable and socially accepted position.

The battle against homophobia is waged on many fronts. As well as spreading a positive messages to young gay people it's also important to curb stomp any intentional or unintentional negative messages.

As a closeted gay teenager no one attacked me personally because not one single soul in the world knew and I planned to carry that secret to the grave. Yet it was so painful to hear gay slurs used as pejoratives, especially from family and friends - Even when it wasn't aimed at me. If 15 year old me was a Blizzard fan it would've been very painful. I'm 33, married and with a kid now, so I can shrug it off with mild annoyance, but I know how many people in a more fragile place in their life feel. When I put myself in their place, which is quite easy based on past experience, I get angry.

Hearing all of these homophobic slurs that weren't meant to hurt me personally hurt a lot. It reinforced my feeling that something was very wrong with me, that people like me were defected and that the best thing we can ever become is the butt of a joke - pun intended. Did it make me consider suicide? Yep, a couple of times. But I guess you go for it when you are more afraid of living than you are afraid of dying. Fortunately back then I was afraid of living, but I was far more afraid of dying so it was never an option I seriously considered. If it wasn't for my friends, family, hobbies and imagination it might have been a different matter.

It's not the end of the world. If I was still playing World of Warcraft this would have not made me stop playing. It won't kill Blizzard to put some money into a relevant charity like The Trevor Project to show they are truly sorry. They make mountains of money (probably a couple of millions since you started reading this blog post) and won't miss it and it will be a much better use for the PR budget than airing beeped videos of ranting morons. It might make their apology feel more sincere and at the very least something positive will come out of all of this.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dexter is Delicious

We've been in Winnipeg for four weeks this Tuesday and I just wrapped up my fourth week at my not-so-new job at a web development company. Blake started nursery and goes four times a week for a couple of hours and loves it. Miron is holding down the fort and juggles the many headaches involved with moving into a new house and making it liveable. The dogs are getting used to the new neighbourhood and home.

On the one hand it’s a huge collection of changes that affected every aspect of our lives, but on the other hand we had enough time to set into our new routines which made it feel as if we’ve been doing it forever. Hence the lack of writing in my blog as I find it hard to naturally come up with ideas for blog posts when every day is the same. Mind you, this type of "boredom" is exactly what I was yearning for over the last year.

Well, my blog readers can thank my utterly nutty dogs for spicing things up and get me writing again. Go dogs!

Dexter, a couple of days before being eaten.
Dexter is still aggressive to other dogs and I suspect that’s not going to go away any time soon, maybe fade away a little when he gets a bit older. But he’s a weakling and I can handle him if I walk him alone – which is what I do nowadays. Gone are the days when I would be dragged down the street by two dogs right into traffic. The real problem now, something I never imagined would be the case, is the escalating canine rivalry at home.

The serious fighting started right after Dexter was neutered. Dexter didn't lose his aggression towards other dogs, it just made his flesh taste better. I can’t otherwise explain why Leo is so into puncturing holes into Dexter and tearing his flesh. Dexter has lost his edge and barely scratches Leo while being minced himself. You'd think Dexter would figure out he's no match for Leo, but nope. He's a wonderful combination of bravery and suicidal stupidity.

Since we moved to Winnipeg there was one fight on the first night in the new home after a four days car trip right after a inter-continental flight preceded with a week’s stay at a kennel. Then on that first night I fed them both outside since we still didn’t have bowl stands for food in the kitchen and when one of the bowls fell to the floor they just went at each other. It was almost expected considering the huge trauma they’ve just been through, but it doesn’t change the fact that Dexter gained a whole bunch of new deep scars that will decorate him for the rest of his life. Ha! We thoughts the scars from that fight were bad. Little did we know they'd look like paper cuts compared to the next fight.

The fight two days ago came out of nowhere. At least it seemed so at first when the dogs just went at each other for no apparent reason when all 14 legs were hanging out in the basement rec room late in the evening. Miron and I separated the dogs and Dexter immediately lay down in shock. I had to put a paper towel against his shoulder to stop the bleeding. He had several deep cuts, some obviously needing stitches. It was never this bad before. Ever. Blake was completely unbothered by the commotion and carried on watching his cartoons.

Then I realized why they fought. They were just getting used to the fact that I went back to work and came home every day around five. That day I came home late from a little event in town after work. As I got home I went to clear up some mess in the rec room as the carpets were to be steamed the next day. Dexter jumped around trying to burn some energy so I played with him a little and continued to work. Leo got jealous and tried getting my attention so I'd play with him too, which he does by grabbing a toy. Dexter apparently didn't want to share the toy Leo wanted. Then the fight broke.

We took Dexter to get his stitches the next day after I returned from work, visiting our local vet for the first time. "Hello, nice to meet you! We have two big dogs and they like to eat each other." It cost quite a bundle and we still have a few more visits over the next two weeks so it's not over yet.

Obviously it can't happen again and it'll be difficult (and heartbreaking) to rehome either dog for different reasons (especially after all the hassle of bringing them over from the UK). So the next stage is to seek a local dog behaviourist and probably get a soft muzzle for Leo to wear at home at all times except feeding - if he can't open his mouth wide he won't cause such horrific injuries.

Ooga Booga
On the bright side Dexter is now set up for Halloween with his Frakendoggie costume complete with shaved skin, plastic drips, stitches and dried blood. Oooooh, scary!

Maybe I should rename Dexter "Stitch". Then my dogs will be called "Leo & Stitch". Awesome! I can still turn this around into something positive.

Dexter has been avoiding Leo a little, who can blame him, and spent a lot of time resting due to the injuries and the drugs, but he's in fairly good spirits. Leo has been very sheepish and looked very guilty when he realized Dexter is injured and bleeding that it was all his fault. Silly puppies.

Jokes aside this has been quite upsetting, but I hope this is the worst dog fight we would ever experience in our home. One can only hope...

If you ever plan getting two male Great Danes, based on my personal experience there is one great piece of advice I can give you.



Sunday, October 09, 2011

Go Jets Go!

Our move to Winnipeg essentially started when we came for our first exploratory visit in January. Another event that took place earlier this year is the glorious rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets. Check out the full story on Wikipedia, as my summary will probably be inaccurate and dull - and it doesn't matter.

We followed the story with interest and unexpected patriotism, even when it still wasn't 100% certain we were going to move to Winnipeg. We waited with bated breath for the announcement of the new name and then equally thrilled to see the new logo. 

In a few short hours the Winnipeg Jets will make their return to the NHL facing off against the Montreal Canadiens. I'm actually sort of excited!

What's the big deal? Well, I need to go back and share my personal history with team sports.

I have none.

I wish I was into it. It cost me a lot of valuable bonding time with my dad who used to religiously follow basketball games with my older brother. I tried a few times to watch those games, but they were so boring. A bunch of guys running back and forth on a court throwing a ball around. Growing up in Israel you pretty much had only basketball and soccer and I couldn't care less about either as spectator or participant.

I suspect that I might have shown a bit more interest in North American sports if I had access to them. Football and Hockey are violent and intense and while baseball is mind numbingly boring, they get to wear the sexiest outfits and most of their "moves" involve sticking their butts out in one way or another. Also, there's always a chance of seeing an audience member get hit in the face by a rogue ball.

Once I knew my unborn child was going to be a boy I knew that I would have to get into whatever sport he was into. That is actually, and you're reading about this here for the first time, the real reason we moved away from England. If we stayed in London I'd be forced to get into soccer and David Beckham and all that nonsense and I thank God, Allah and the Care Bears that this is no longer going to be the case. Here in Winnipeg we have the Jets and the Bombers (Football) and I can live with either. 

A bunch of big hot guys knocking each other's teeth out. Nice.

So I'm ready to watch my first ever full hockey game - albeit on TV. I just need to check the basic rules and terminology of the game on Wikipedia so I'll be able to shout the right things at the screen.

Testosterone levels... Rising!


Thursday, October 06, 2011


I am no longer moving to Winnipeg.

I moved.

We've been here for over a week now. Blake started going to nursery on Thursday last week and I started work on Monday at a web design company. Everyone, including the dogs, has settled in the new home.

On the last day of our drive from Toronto we stopped at Lake of the Woods and Blake went skinny dipping. The weather has been fantastic since, a great introduction to Winnipeg.

I had to learn everything from scratch. Where to take the dogs, how to commute to work on the bus, how to speak Canadian. It was exhausting but not necessarily interesting enough to write about.

So I took a little break from writing to let it all sink in.

My blog was never a dear diary chronicles of my every move and it almost became that over the last few intense weeks, but I hope to go back to writing about more varied issues from now on.

I'm back. Not that I was away long or that anyone even noticed..!