The Werribee Boys

The ABC News website is reporting that after five months of investigation eight teenagers are beeing charged for “procuring sexual penetration by intimidation, manufacturing child pornography, and assault”.

For those not familiar, this is clearly referring to those involved in what Wikipedia calls the 2006 Melbourne teenage DVD controversy. I was surprised that this has taken so long; all the teenagers were in the video (the police clearly have a copy) and many have myspace profiles. Hopefully, they have just been gathering as much evidence as possible to mount a strong case.

The main point of public information on the case comes from an October 2006 report on Today Tonight. The report includes footage of these kids harrassing a developmentally delayed girl. It only includes a brief clip, but it’s still very disturbing. The video commentary from the boys included:

Everyone is scared to go first. They don’t want any diseases.

The report mentions that in the full video they forced her to perform a “sex act”, set fire to her hair (3 times, once using a aerosol), threw urine on her, and urinated on her. It also mentions that in the video the kids attack a taxi, bully drunks, make bombs, and drop flairs on a sleeping homeless person.

I assume that they haven’t yet been detained (?) and I wonder what the kids have been up to in the last five months. I’m also surprised that for such abhorrent behaviour, they still garner support from some “friends” on myspace. Supportive arguments seem to be based on “you don’t know the whole story” (it’s a media beatup) or “something else is to blame” (parenting, the school system, the media, etc.)

I think Johnny Knoxville put it well when he was asked by a reporter what he thought about these “Jackass inspired stunts”:

What the **** are you talking about? Jackass inspired stunt? We’re not evil. We’re not mean-spirited. We don’t ****. I mean, those guys, shoot those little bastards.

I think this is a rare case in which I really don’t need the whole story. I cannot fathom any situation in which the above is acceptable. I’m not sure about “shoot those little bastards”, but we should sure as hell keep these people far away from those they would victimise.

Open letter to Red Octane and Harmonix

I spent an hour or so playing Guitar Hero II at a friend’s place the other day. It’s a great party game, but there is something that tends to slow things down ever-so-slightly: Left-handed players need to set the “left-flip” option when it’s their turn to play (and right-handed players need to remember to turn it off when they take over!).

There’s got to be an easier way… then it hit me… and I decided to write an open letter to the hardware and software developers of the Guitar Hero series:

Dear Red Octane and Harmonix,

Please consider integrating automatic handedness detection into your guitar controllers and guitar games.

A simple mercury switch should do the job. It could be mounted such that when the switch is on, the guitar is being held in the left-handed orientation. This could automagically set the in-game handedness option at the start of each song. (Then left-handed people won’t have to worry about manually setting the “lefty-flip” option.)

You could also consider making your controller more symmetrical, or at least including alternative mount points for the strap. (The guitars sit a little weird when used left-handed.)

Best regards,

– Nick Lowe

The fact that having to set the lefty-flip option slows down gaming must have occured to the developers. They moved the option from the main menu (in Guitar Hero) to the in-game menu (in Guitar Hero 2); this saves a lot of time, but it could be even better!

Update: I got a cautiously positive response from Harmonix:

Hey Nick,

Thanks for writing in with your ideas. I’ll post this to our internal
boards and see what people think. We have a few lefties here.


Sean Baptiste
Manager of Community Development
Harmonix Music