Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 06:21 on 13-10-2014, Arthur B
Shit, you're right. And with the biopic in development hell the contract's going to be an issue for a good long while.

I tried redownloading the Bring Up the Bodies Text Factor episode but all I got was fifty minutes of you screaming and weeping, and I swear the original episode only had about five minutes of that at most.
at 02:02 on 13-10-2014, Shim
It looks like my series through the Booker may also have been a casualty, but TBH I've been increasingly embarrassed by the gushing tone, so it may be for the best. I'm more concerned about the disappearance of TextFactor Summer Wars? I swear I squandered months of my life reading Bring up the Bodies.

Arthur, not sure if reposting the Cordova articles would potentially breach your contract re: the biopic? You know better than me, just thought I should flag it up.
at 23:54 on 12-10-2014, Arthur B
Given the frankly ugly direction the associated discussions took - really, I'm surprised at some of the commenters' behaviour there - I think it's best that the missing articles stay offline for a bit.
at 23:45 on 12-10-2014, Bjoern
That's a shame. I also notice that the "Travel" section under "By Theme" seems to be missing. Is there any chance you can repost your insightful backpacker's tips for Tlön, Uqbar and/or Orbis Tertius? Those seemed really quite helpful.
at 21:58 on 12-10-2014, Melanie
Ouch, that sucks.

Still, glad the site's back online.
at 17:12 on 12-10-2014, Arthur B
Apologies for the technical difficulties over the last few days, readers. Unfortunately, they seem to have eaten my multi-part retrospectives on the Sutter Kane bibliography and the movies of Stanislas Cordova, and the backups I had on Google Drive seem to be corrupted - oh well, maybe I'll get around to reconstructing them later.
at 04:54 on 07-10-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
...elyts ni kcab emoc ...ot gniog si ekil uoy mug taht ...swen doog tog ev'I


I wonder if we'll ever find out what happened to Agent Chester Desmond? (I assume David Bowie made it back to his planet safely.) I also wonder what's going to happen now that Frank Silva's gone. I suppose that upsetting old woman from The Oregonian could use some work.
at 20:17 on 06-10-2014, Bjoern
it makes me want to speculate who's been holding the copyright up to this point - somehow, I doubt it's a Hitler Family Estate

It went to the Federal State of Bavaria after Hitler's Death, so up to now the book never was properly "banned" in Germany, it was rather a question of copyright claims.

Bavaria first gave 500,000 Euros to create an annotated version of the book when copyright lapses, then it withdrew its support, then it said they'd ban even annotated versions going to court, then they said an annotated version would be fine and the current state of affairs is that a critically annotated edition might be acceptable, but this would have to be considered on a case to case basis once the critical edition has been finished.

Which, if I were a historian working on this, is not something I'd see as a clear-cut "yes". Might be a lot of time and effort to just get banned anyway.

The whole story shows quite well how problematic handling this part of our past and finding a proper response to it is... even to this day.
at 18:02 on 06-10-2014, Robinson L
Also, Arthur is now once again lord and master of the front page.
at 18:00 on 06-10-2014, Robinson L
Fin: I saw this chilling article earlier today.

That is, indeed, deeply disturbing. However, I keep getting stuck on this bit:

"I look at the US military and government, ironically, as having some of the very same problems as what the Call of Duty franchise has," Anthony continued. "We are both on top of our game. We are both the best in the world at what we do. We both have enemies who are trying to take us down at any possible opportunity."

Really, Anthony? Look, I happen to be of the opinion that here in the US, the threat posed by the military and government's "enemies" is vastly over-instated; and while I'm sure there are plenty of state and non-state actors who would like to topple said institutions, I doubt there are more than a handful who seriously believe there's a chance they'll ever be in a position to do so. That said, are you seriously comparing whatever skullduggery your rivals in the video games industry may or may not get up to with the tactics of people who are trying to overthrow a foreign government? Isn't that just the tiniest bit conceited?

Reaching back a bit,

James D: Blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. isn't cutting edge at all, it's shit that was commonplace in decades past and is still pretty common today.

... And into Ye Olde Quote File. Well said, sir.

Reaching still further,

Arthur: It's worth noting that, what with next year being the 70th anniversary of Hitler's death, Mein Kampf is entering the public domain.

That's interesting, and now it makes me want to speculate who's been holding the copyright up to this point - somehow, I doubt it's a Hitler Family Estate.
at 09:28 on 05-10-2014, Bjoern
Forbes author manages to hilariously miss the point.

Short version: If GamaSutra doesn't want ads pulled, it shouldn't allow women to have opinions that make straight, white dudes uncomfortable or critically question them.
at 22:59 on 04-10-2014, Andy G
at 14:31 on 04-10-2014, Arthur B
Something like the Tom & Jerry notice, then?
at 14:26 on 04-10-2014, Andy G
@Arthur/Chris A: What I had in mind with respect to children's books wasn't so much generically disturbing content as notices about more specific issues such as racist language/depictions in old children's classics.
at 19:48 on 03-10-2014, Fin
Holding websites to the mercy of advertisers is of course the best way to combat censorship.

I saw this chilling article earlier today. Wonder when GG will turn their attent... okay, I can't even finish that sentence, they won't.
at 18:07 on 03-10-2014, Bjoern
Back to what started the brouhaha: The GamerGate crowd have so massively swamped Intel with mails, twitter spam, etc. that Intel decided to pull it's ads from Gamasutra. Similar things seem to have happened to RPS and Kotaku.

So, the straight, white men that form the Gaters, who complain about their toys being taken away, now manage to deprieve websites that dare to offer POC, women, gay or disabled gamers a place to voice their opinions of necessary funding. This being a rather underhanded form of censorship...
at 15:18 on 03-10-2014, Shim
Another complication is, as far as I understand, music rating is almost entirely about whether the lyrics contain whatever the current generation of ajudicators considers profanity ("zounds" doesn't make it in, I understand). I don't think they consider the overall message of the song, and certainly they don't get graded on whether they are making an actively positive contribution to society.

Film rating systems generally pay a lot of attention to specifics (swearwords, instances of violence, nudity, actual sex), some attention to scenes as a whole (is the scene disturbing at the 5-minute level even if not at the 10-second level) and again, very little to themes or messages - although Tolerance of [latest point of social contention] is usually a factor. Games seem to be pretty similar, mostly dealing with the level and realism of violence.

When books come into play, suddenly everyone cares about messages and themes and ideas. Book categorisation/censorship is usually discussed in those terms, and almost never in terms of how many times the word "fuck" appears or how many people are graphically killed by the protagonist. You can read as much Tom Clancy as you want, none of this club seems interested in stopping you. I strongly suspect the same people would push rather disturbing books onto school reading lists because they Address Issues, object to the exact same content in films, and complain about Twilight or Fifty Shades because of the sexual content rather than any more pertinent issues about the positions they promote.

But, I speak largely from a position of ignorance. My schools were just glad to see you bothering to read at all.
at 14:06 on 03-10-2014, Arthur B
My understanding is that those stickers substantially boosted sales of the albums in question.
at 12:59 on 03-10-2014, James D
I think it's also just that we're used to rating systems for movies and vidya games but not for books. People sure fought hard against ratings for music, but now those parental advisory warning stickers are hardly noticed.
at 11:01 on 03-10-2014, Arthur B
Suggestion on why rating systems for books feel more intrusive than those for vidgams or movies - books can be experienced silently, with a visual component generated primarily by your imagination, so restricting books feels more like a restriction on the mind itself.

Though I think this is probably irrational and based on a snobbish assumption that visual and audio arts can't affect us the same way prose does.

I think it is just as legitimate to protest books being withdrawn from libraries censoriously as it is to protest films or games being suppressed on a similar basis. Most librarians probably won't let kids take out Cannibal Holocaust, of course. But whichever amazing work that opened your eyes and unlocked your soul and showed you that you weren't alone in the world and which is opposed by narrow-minded parents was - and I think most of us can name one - it probably wasn't whatever the prose equivalent of Cannibal Holocaust is.

Plus kids can get around parental bans trivially. Those who have access will get pirate stuff through IT means, those who don't will probably have friends who can. Hell, watching movies we had no business watching was a standard playground rite of passage for my generation, and that was well before downloading a movie was a practical possibility.
at 05:21 on 03-10-2014, Chris A
It may well be a cultural issue. We're fairly backward here in the US, and challenges to books are not uncommon.

I’ve never really seen those as an “aid to parental monitoring of their kids’ reading choices”, but as a way to help people choose media suitable for them – for children, this might involve parents, just like every single other part of their life.

Yes, I totally agree that content warnings are of benefit when they help people make informed decisions about their own reading choices. I was responding to the suggestion that content warnings are especially appropriate when they help parents decide what books are appropriate for their kids.

I confess that I have no rationally persuasive argument as to why parental supervision of children's choices in this area is uniquely unsettling, however, so I suppose I'll have to let go of the issue.

Now, surely what we can all agree on is draconian laws demanding that book blurbs accurately reflect what the book is actually about. “In Winter’s Heart, people ride across the country for several hundred pages. Nothing interesting happens.”

"The best-written pastiche of '80s and '90s Tolkien imitations I've read in the past decade!" - Famous Author
at 03:18 on 03-10-2014, Shim
I don’t know if this is a cultural thing? I’m not aware of challenges to school libraries or reading lists being a common issue in the UK, despite being a UK librarian. My primary school teachers did discourage us, at age 7ish, from borrowing Point Horror books on our trips to the village library, but that’s as far as it went.

Speaking personally, I have always very much appreciated the existence of content warnings on stuff. I’ve turned down plenty of films based on content because I, a grown adult, don’t want that. Book blurbs sometimes, but not often enough, give the same help – I’ve had some nasty surprises. So I for one would very much argue that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings should have a note if it contains rape and child abuse, so that people can chuck it aside with great force. I’ve never really seen those as an “aid to parental monitoring of their kids’ reading choices”, but as a way to help people choose media suitable for them – for children, this might involve parents, just like every single other part of their life.

I’m just not convinced that limiting what children read is qualitatively different from limiting what they watch, play, wear or eat.

Now, surely what we can all agree on is draconian laws demanding that book blurbs accurately reflect what the book is actually about. “In Winter’s Heart, people ride across the country for several hundred pages. Nothing interesting happens.”
at 01:28 on 03-10-2014, Chris A
For sure, in a world where school/library selections are always challenged and subsequently ruled on by people who have actually read them, that's true. Perhaps it's cynical of me to suspect we don't live in that world.

Outside of the school/library institutional context, my distaste for the idea of a rating system as an aide to parental monitoring of their kids' reading choices isn't really tied to any notion of redeeming social value, though. I just don't like the idea of limiting what kids read, at all. Your parents should be oblivious to your awful reading choices.

I confess that my strongly felt position here is irrational, maybe unethical. I have no problem with rating systems for films and video games, which means this is probably coming from nostalgia and personal experience, possibly inflected by some weird and sentimental "Books Are Good" prejudice.