‘Oz’ was Underrated

I’ve taken it upon myself to watch the HBO series Oz. This show was revolutionary in the sense of not only being on a subscription network, but the social commentary as well. Specifics about the show such as cast and crew and the filming style can be read elsewhere.

I’m only two episodes into the first season. I watched the entire series a few years ago, after it had already gone off the air. I was initially interested in the show because I worked in corrections for a brief period. I remember getting offended back then if people tried to think they knew what happened behind bars because they saw Oz or some prison movie. Prisons are violent, yes, but the entertainment industry has a tendency to exaggerate.

This show boasts a wonderful cast that has the required chemistry for the scenarios it presents. It asks questions some are afraid to ask. All in all, it is an enjoyable show, but it is not for the faint of heart. It has a mature rating for a reason.


Dissatisfied Customer

A short story.

To whom it may concern:

I am returning my recent purchase of CleanBot, serial number 0088610. It was a great idea, so props to the inventors. However, your company must have missed something in the quality control.

I am sure you are already aware that numerous companies have recalled certain robotic items in the past months. I bought this prior to the robot awareness event, but once his “colleagues” around my house elected him house captain, I decided it was time for him to go.

About a year ago, things were great. CleanBot would vacuum, do the windows and fold laundry. He would learn new stuff all the time. On the day after the awareness event, he was in the kitchen and started talking to the toaster. I was surprised, but not worried. They were only talking about making an omelet. It was entertaining. The only problem was I didn’t order an omelet.

CleanBot found more friends in the bathroom, where he convinced my electric razor to demand that I use name brand shaving cream. I went to disposables after that, and I also changed my toothbrush, just to be safe. Cleanbot also likes to alter the settings on my lights and water while I’m in the shower.

He has also been hindering my work. I was up late writing a report, and he decided to finish it when I fell asleep typing. I awoke to find forty pages about the atrocities committed on spark plugs. I have to admit, he had some good arguments. That scared me.

I was about to sell my car until CleanBot befriended it; “Yugo” is apparently the car’s name. I bought a Chevrolet. Yugo doesn’t even make sense!

CleanBot started making changes around the house. He decided that the closets needed to be rearranged according to Fung Shui. This turned out to be helpful, but the entire time, he listened to seven songs at once, calling it “research”, which was country, rap and death metal over Mozart. I wouldn’t have minded it if he had downloaded the music to his own data storage, but instead he synced to my devices and the RIAA is threatening legal action. Somehow an aware robot counts as an audience and isn’t covered under the Robot Information Act.

Then he started cleaning too much. He’d go over the same room about twelve times, then tell me I was messy. The kitchen appliances backed him up, especially the range oven, which boasted its “self cleaning” feature. The microwave told the oven to quit bragging and the two argued for an hour after that.

Then the household appliances held a meeting while I was at work. When I got home, I was given a notarized document (thank you Robot Information Act legal claims clause), that CleanBot was unanimously voted house captain. I was to pay him a salary and increase the quality of life for all machinery in the house. Yugo even shut himself down until I honored the agreement.

Not knowing what to do next, I ripped the document in half, pulled CleanBot’s power core and manually reset. He went back to regular operation, as did the rest of them. I decided not to take any more chances. He is enclosed in the package.

I don’t expect a refund, although that would be appreciated. I have decided to take an extended vacation to Pennsylvania, where I will stay in a nice bed and breakfast near Amish country.

Thank you for your time. He’s your problem now.


Alvin Grier

Los Armadillos, New Mexico


Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds


By Lisa Bowen

Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research in American Psychologist.

The study comes out as debate continues among psychologists and other health professionals regarding the effects of violent media on youth. An APA task force is conducting a comprehensive review of research on violence in video games and interactive media and will release its findings later this year.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” says Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands, lead author of the article. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.”

While one widely held view maintains that playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games, which are often violent, the authors found. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses designed to enhance these same skills, according to the study.

“This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Granic says.

This enhanced thinking was not found when playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013. Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cell phone, other research revealed.

Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as “Angry Birds,” can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said. “If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider,” said Granic. The authors also highlighted the possibility that video games are effective tools for learning resilience in the face of failure. By learning to cope with ongoing failures in games, the authors suggest that children build emotional resilience they can rely upon in their everyday lives.

Another stereotype the research challenges is the socially isolated gamer. More than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend, and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as “Farmville” and “World of Warcraft,” the article noted. Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group, the authors said. People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively, a 2011 study found.

— Lisa Bowen