Fair game

Boston Phoenix Letters: May 9, 2008
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  May 7, 2008

There is a big difference between games that are consciously edgy or controversial, such as Postal or Super Columbine Massacre, and games that are intended as nothing but exploitive pornography, such as Custer’s Revenge. One difference is that Postal was widely distributed in mainstream markets, and Super Columbine Massacre was designed to make a statement and promote discussion, while Custer’s Revenge was given a limited release and sold only at porn shops. Saying that Mortal Kombat was a “not-so-great moment” in video-game controversy is sort of like saying Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a not-so-great moment in film controversy. That’s not quite right. Some may feel the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESBR) or the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has developed over the years in a “not-so-great” way, but that doesn’t change the fact that Virginia Woolf was a great movie for its time, as was Mortal Kombat a great game.

T.J. Deci
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Holy smoke!
Thank you, James Tierney, for “The Bong Show," an informative article on the herbal substance Salvia divinorum, which has been used by native healers in Mexico for eons. The attitude of the police-mentality types that are frightened by the use of any “drug” not already sanctioned is, of course, quite predictable. We need a better vocabulary, as the term “drug” automatically triggers hysterical reactions among the burghers. “Drugs” can also be medicines, for psycho-spiritual as well as physical ailments. Your readers might be interested in what I call the “Sin of Alcibiades.” Alcibiades was mentored by Socrates, was a contemporary of Plato and Aristotle. He was a gifted military man, but got in trouble because he was profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries, by using the psychotropic potion Kykeon in a recreational profane manner. He was to be exiled from Athens, but his military prowess was needed, so he was pardoned.

Our innocent/ignorant young adventurers are doing the same thing, as they have no background in sacred ritual, ceremony, or religious experience, tied to their video games as they are. There are wise ways of utilizing such substances, and of course ways that are abusive. There is much ignorance concerning ritual, and the importance of “set and setting.” I quote Octavio Paz, in Alternating Current: “What the authorities are displaying is ideological zeal, they are punishing a heresy not a crime.” And from the book on mysticism by Agehananda Bharati, The Light at the Center: “The West has a tradition of amalgamating the heretical with the illicit, the illegal and the immoral.” A modest proposal: that the use of such Eucharistic entheogens be proscribed to use only in churches, synagogues, or retreat centers.

Art Victor
Turners Falls

Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire
Regarding “Gore Fest”: does anybody remember the gubernatorial race between Ed King and Francis Hatch in 1978? Well, King won by defining himself as the “can do” candidate, while his opponent was the “cannot do” one. Hillary Clinton is the “can do” candidate in this run-off, precisely because she, like King, is the less circumspect. She can set out plans for health care and education and give people hope, while Barack Obama is tied up in his Hamlet complex of putting all his energy into thought — trying too hard to measure how doable everything is. It is the difference, in literary theorist Paul de Man’s conception, between adhering to what is “true,” and what is “right.” To do what is right, we have to lie, which is why Clinton lies. That is, we have to tell ourselves lies to get anything done. If Obama loses Indiana, he may best follow Clinton, become her running mate, and learn how to make blind promises. Not all of them will be kept, but if no promises are made, no promises will be kept.

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