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June 27, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Video Game Art

  |   Video
  • “The Art of Video Games” is a Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit currently on display at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibit displays the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium. Chris Melissinos, the curator of the exhibition, and Jim Ballinger, chief curator for the Phoenix Art Museum, will discuss the display.
  • Chris Melissinos - “The Art of Video Games," curator
  • Jim Ballinger - Phoenix Art Museum, chief curator
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: arts, video games, phoenix, museum,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The art of video games is a Smithsonian American art museum exhibit on display at the Phoenix art museum. It includes years of video games as an artistic medium. Good to have you both here.

Jim Ballinger: Ted, grade great to be here.

Ted Simons: I never thought I would be talking about fine art and video games.

Chris Melissinos: Well, we're talking about the fact that video games if you break them down into their individual components they are an amalgam of all things we consider to be traditional art. You have illustration and composition and narrative and sculpture. Together they form this amalgam that becomes greater than their individual parts.

Ted Simons: Why should we consider video games art?

Jim Ballinger: Well, Chris is right, a little history lesson, if you thinks about it technology brought those things together, made it available. years ago we had an explosion of color photography magazines which gave us all the great illustrators we think of today. Frederick Remington a great western example, Norman Rockwell the high point absolutely. We have no problem thinking about him. I would co-tend in when we start looking back we'll look at it in similar terms. You have all these unbelievably talented artists put to work within this industry.

Ted Simons: Yet I can see some people trying to figure out is this art? Is this design? Is this commerce? Is it technology? What is it?

Chris Melissinos: It's all of those things. But any one of those doesn't negate the value of the work as an artistic expression. Embedded in so many games we play if we casually observe them on the surface we do them a disservice. Many cases much deeper messages about our world in those video games.

Ted Simons: Give us an example.

Chris Melissinos: We were talking earlier about a video game called missile command made in the early 1980s, where you were defending six cities at the bottom of the screen and missiles descend on you and you have to blow them out of the skies and save the cities. The gentleman who created the game he said I will do so but I have certain conditions. The first of which is I will not create a game where we are firing nuclear missiles at the USSR. Consider the language and the time in which this game was created. He was speaking about the cold war. The six cities were meant to represent the six major cities in California where he lived. He suffered from nightmares and waking up in a cold sweat for almost three years after the creation of the game. So you have a moral stance, you have reflection of what's going on in the world and someone suffering for the art. How is that any different?

Ted Simons: Let's talk about how you exhibit this particular form of art. Are the games being played, can I go play the game?

Jim Ballinger: Absolutely. Covers the full gamut of years of the gaming design world. Of each of the five eras there is one major game that's playable by anyone any time in the galleries. The others are shown in a very animated way. So that's very important. The other thing we have done we add add few extra pieces that are paintings by artists that came out of video game in their brain that are not game designs per se but shows the influence of game design on the art world today. Even down to a Navajo weaver who did angry birds.

Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness. We do have a bunch of images from the game. Supermario. This is art!

Chris Melissinos: Yes. This is if you take a look at what Mario represented at the time that it was introduced to American audiences this is the first time where we saw opened up to the player this world to explore. It had hidden secrets. If you were to give yourself up to the game and try to understand the mechanics it would allow you to finds certain things in the game that didn't appear on the screen. People found self-expression and a way to connect to the material.

Ted Simons: Our next one is pac man. How deep are you going to get on that? He's eating a bunch of stuff.

Chris Melissinos: This is from the Atari BCS version. At the time the original game was released into arcades this is the first time we have seen a game that actually brought both men and women into play. Most games that existed at the time were about military -- they had military themes, about invaders from space. Along comes this candy colored game that changed the entire social dynamic of the arcade.

Jim Ballinger: The design came right out of Pete Mondrian, a minimal abstract artist of the 30s, 40s and 50s. It's clear.

Ted Simons: Wow. Tomb Raider, which became a very famous movie based on a video game, you mentioned men and women. There you go.

Chris Melissinos: Here we have tomb Raider. This is Laura Croft, her first outing on a home console. This is the first time we saw a female protagonist take the stage in this broad swashbuckling type of adventure. It just changed again the dynamic.

Ted Simons: As we look at these particular images without commenting on each one, this is high-tech stuff. Can you be over-academic on something like this as opposed to just enjoying and playing?

Jim Ballinger: I am a believer art museums in general are a place to have fun but yes you learn about other cultures and therefore the answer is yes to looking at video game designs. Interestingly museum of modern art just bought 14 games for their collection.

Ted Simons: This is your field here. How do you -- can you get too academic with a show like this?

Chris Melissinos: I think absolutely you can. I think the important thing here for anybody that comes to see the exhibition is to pay the games the respect they deserve, not to rush past them, this is a simple game. Listen to what the games are trying to say. Experience those games because you will find not only much deeper messages but you may find a deeper connection with yourself to the material than you first thought.

Ted Simons: Interesting. New kind of audience? What about the old audience?

Jim Ballinger: It's been interesting. We have had some raised eyebrows. That was part of the reason we did some of the additions I talked about. I think we expected we would see dads particularly bringing kids, a little bit nostalgically that I played this game. Now you play this game. A lot of grandparents particularly here bringing grandchildren down. It's a very family friendly game. It was structured such and there's a concern about violent images in the audience probably. There isn't any of that here. It was carefully crafted to make sure everyone could enjoy it.

Ted Simons: How long does it run?

Jim Ballinger: September 29th. It's the coolest place in town.

Immigration Reform

  |   Video
  • The U.S. Senate passes an immigration reform bill. Mike Slaven, who’s written about the issue for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute, will talk about what’s in the bill.
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: immigration, reform, bill, ASU, senate,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening. I'm Ted Simons. U.S. Senate pass add sweeping immigration reform bill that among other things increases border security and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Joining me to talk about today's move by the Senate and what comes next as the bill heads for the house is Mike Slaven from the Morrison institute. Good to have you.

Mike Slaven: Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons: What did the U.S. Senate pass today?

Mike Slaven: It's the first big movement on immigration reform legislation in the past six years. It include threes pillars talked about as the important parts of immigration reform which are border security, legal status for the people who don't have legal status right now and new legal channelings for workers to come into the U.S.

Ted Simons: We had a - vote. Republicans supported. Surprised?

Mike Slaven: They have been trying to get as many Republicans as possible to support it. 68 votes nowadays in the Senate is an accomplishment especially on a divisive issue. You with barely get people to name a post office for that amount of votes. It's a big accomplishment an has substantial bipartisan support. We'll feed into the debate in the house.

Ted Simons: First of all this broad bipartisan support, how did that happen?

Mike Slaven: Well, they added a lot of border security provisions to it later on in the process. John Hoeven, Bob Corker introduced an amendment that bolstered the border security provisions. Looks like there are always going to be votes, something between that for the bill. But those border security add-ons brought in a lot of people. Among them the big thing talk about is adding 20,000 border patrol agents to the southwestern border.

Ted Simons: Basically doubling the number.

Mike Slaven: The border patrol has been doubled once in the past seven or eight years so we're talking four times as many as early 2000’s.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though you have unmanned surveillance drones and finishing a mile fence. All put in place over the same amount of time to get a permanent resident card?

Mike Slaven: A lot of the argument about the bill is so what are we going to require on the border before we allow the legalization of the undocumented population to take place. People have very different views. What they seem to have agreed on is that DHS needs to create a plan for how to have effective control over awful the sectors of the southwestern border and they need to have put this plan into substantial operation, needs to be operative ten years after. Then people who oversee the temporary status can then move into a Green card status. Basically the DHS secretary and other officials have to confirm it's operative. Initially a lot of the details of that plan had been left up to the discretion of DHS. Some Republicans don't trust the federal government to implement it so they got specific. This technology at minimum needs to be there. These agents need to be there. There need to be 38,000 agents on the southwestern border. Once that's certified it's an operational program they can move on ten years after the fact to moving people who would have a provisional status into having permanent status.

Ted Simons: Is that professional into permanent here illegally which is a catch in the house.

Mike Slaven: One of them.

Ted Simons: They say people say this is dead on arrival.

Mike Slaven: John Boehner's attitude is he will do what the house does. They are going to start from scratch. They are not going to take the Senate bill and put it in front of house. John Boehner has to deal with a caucus. A lot of them are very conservative. Some are not going to like the bill. He said he won't move a bill to the floor without a majority of his caucus. They are going to come up with something that's palatable to a majority of house Republicans. As to whether they can, that's another issue. Boehner has not said they are not going to deal with the issue but whether they can succeed ironing out the differences, giving it to the president, that's another matter.

Ted Simons: The bipartisanship in the Senate, is there momentum that sweeps things along?

Mike Slaven: Some people have said there is. Boehner and other leaders seem to say they are just going to do their own thing but you have 68 Senators voting for this. These are obvious problems for the country that are for the going away. You have to resolve them somehow. You have a lot of Republicans thinking they have to pass something if they want to start appealing to Hispanic voters which they have identified as a big problem for them as to why they lost the presidential race. You have those things coming together. As to whether it really matters there's 68 versus 65 or 71 votes in the Senate it's not clear but there's a substantial number of Republicans voting for it in the Senate.

Ted Simons: Last question, will we see some kinds of comprehensive immigration reform get out of Congress and on to the president's desk?

Mike Slaven: That's the question. I think that the chances of it happening now are probably the best in the past five or six years but the fact that the Senate has moved on it is a huge step. Not willing to say for certain, but if things were ever aligned to make it happen it will be right now.

Ted Simons: Mike Slaven, thank you so much.

Mike Slaven: Thank you.

Mayor Stanton

  |   Video
  • Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton will discuss city issues.
  • Greg Stanton - Mayor, Phoenix
Category: Government   |   Keywords: phoenix, mayor, stanton,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton joins us to talk about a variety of issues facing the city each month. Tonight it includes historic decisions on same-sex marriage and voter registration law. Here is Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton. Good to see you.

Greg Stanton: Glad to be back.

Ted Simons: I want to talk about ethics reform -- the Supreme Court reared its head and the United States Senate with immigration reform. Your thoughts on what the Senate did today?

Greg Stanton: I am proud of our two Senators from Arizona, Senator McCain and Senator Flake took a courageous political stand to be part of the gang of that was the framework for the bill. I'm really excited there was a bill gone through the United States Senate a yes votes. I believe no region of the country will benefit more from comprehensive immigration reform than the Phoenix region. Our region. Obviously the politics the house are much different. I hope and pray they do the right thing, don't play politics, understand this is the best long term interests of our country, but I'm -- cautiously optimistic.

Ted Simons: Let's look at it from both sides. Those still opposed say this is amnesty by any other name and anything that involves granting people who are here illegally, any sort of break regarding citizenship, should not be allowed.

Greg Stanton: I politely but strongly disagree with that position. Look, our diverse population here in this region is one of our great elf strengths. Phoenix is about to be a majority Latino city. The Dream Act kids came here through no fault of their own. They are graduating high school, hopefully moving to college, they want to serve in the military. Why would you want to deny that person to fully participate? Those are leaders of our future. Those who take a dogmatic approach are taking the wrong approach. The bill in the Senate is by any definition a compromise bill that involves very tough border security measures. It does have a tough but fair path to citizenship, and by the way, it has provisions that allow people with technical degrees to stay here in the United States so they can start businesses. It's good for the economy. By any measure this is not a one-sided bill and deserves the support in the house.

Ted Simons: The other side would say the security, the surge here, was too much. 35-some odd billion dollars for security. Too much to sway Republicans and that some would say tough but fair, some say it's too tough, it's not fair.

Greg Stanton: Even the gang of eight before they had the surge had very tough and strong positions relative to border security. So I think this bill is strong on border security. The issue is, is it too much. The answer is instead of just throwing people at the border should be based on need. How many are occurring, what's the level of violence. It shouldn't be just throw a raw number at it, do it based on the actual needs. But let me tell you something I have learned in the public affairs business being in the leadership position. That is you're never going to get everything you want in a bill. Compromise is a necessary part of leadership. The Senate bill is a compromise bill and deserves support of the House of Representatives.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the Supreme Court decisions. Start with same-sex marriage. Your thoughts on DOMA being -- whittled down and certainly affected here greatly.

Greg Stanton: First it says under federal law federal employees cannot be treated differently, gay couples cannot be treated differently than straight couples. It's a smart strategy from an employment perspective. You want to recruit and retain the very best no matter their nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Obviously it's going to inevitably lead to saying state bans are illegal as well. I think it's a march towards history, a march towards equality. I have taken the position and I certainly believe that when it comes to the issue of marriage equality should be the standard across our country. Love is love. It should be respected no matter what the relationship but from an employment perspective, from the city of Phoenix perspective we want policies that embrace diversity. That's good for the future of our city.

Ted Simons: With Arizona that particular ruling doesn't impact same-sex marriage here in Arizona at all.

Greg Stanton: Well, you say it doesn't impact it, inevitably there's going to be lawsuits against state bans on marriage equality. I believe that the precedent set in this DOMA as justice Scalia pointed out in his dissent will likely be used because it's a constitutional standard will likely be used as a way to say that any discrimination on the issue of a marriage, any attempt to not allow equality on the issue of marriage is likely a violation of our country's constitution. It's an important civil rights issue of our day. The march towards justice is heading in the right direction in my opinion.

Ted Simons: Supreme Court ruled on plea clearance section of the voting rights act. This seemed as if they basically said that it is antiquated, something that was in the past, not necessary for now. What do you say?

Greg Stanton: I politely disagree with the Supreme Court on this one. I think it's a very low burden. As we make changes in our voting laws to make sure that our growing diverse population, particularly Latino community, has a full, fair opportunity to participate in the system. So getting pre-clearance on any changes in our voting to make sure we're embracing the diversity that is here, making sure everyone is encouraged to participate in the electoral system is very low. Congress just overwhelmingly reauthorized the act just a few years ago. So I don't understand why the Supreme Court would step in on that one.

Ted Simons: But for those who support the decision in that case they say you change a polling place from one corner to another you have to go to the Department of Justice for clearance. Does that make sense?

Greg Stanton: Well, I would politely argue that it may not make sense in every single instance however pre-clearance is a relatively small burden. You just have to submit it in advance. They signed off on tons of changes in our electoral system over the course of many years. The protection that it provides to make sure that any changes in our voting law whether intended or not have a disproportionate impact particularly on African-American residents, Asian residents, Latino residents, taking that extra step to make sure we have a system that embraces them, gives them a full opportunity to participate, I think it's a very low burden.

Ted Simons: I know ethics reform is being looked at city hall. What does ethics reform mean? Why would it be necessary?

Greg Stanton: I believe that it's incredibly important people look at the decisions we make and have confidence those decisions are made in the public interest, not by some back room deal or deals with lobbyists. This is part of a larger transparency policy at the city. I want the public to understand everything that goes on with the city. Under current rules if an elected official has engaged in inappropriate behavior it's awkward because there have to be council members acting against other council members. We set up a separate system of judges that would look at any complaint and make a recommendation. The council would ensure more due process but also an outside group that would make that recommendation. It also involves a lot more disclosure. If I attend an event for some nonprofit organization that has to be disclosed so people can see everything that you are doing. It lets the sunshine in.

Ted Simons: Critics, you mentioned luncheon, something along these lines, when does a luncheon become a gift? Is that something for the panel of judges?

Greg Stanton: Under state law any time you go to a nonprofit dinner it's technically a gift. Our point is I don't think anyone wants to stop elected officials from being in a leadership role. I speak all the time at many nonprofit organizations. I want to help promote them. What this will require is that you now have to disclose that. Online you'll be able to search any luncheon or dinner which I have gone to and spoken on behalf of a nonprofit. That will be out in the public and the public will have that full information.

Ted Simons: How far is this going to go? Is it going to happen?

Greg Stanton: It passed city council. It's going to take a while to put in place. The outside group of judges, our ethics panel. We're having the city attorney make sure we define gift. Nobody wants to have in place a system where an elected official going to chase jobs in California, bring him here, we stop that from happening. We want to make sure we define these things exactly right. It's being implemented now and you'll see it in place in the very near future.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here.

Greg Stanton: I enjoy it every time.