Sunday, June 27, 2010


I can’t quite figure out why I continue to comment on Kotaku. I hold pretty much every other commenter there in the highest contempt for their petty squabbles, incessant complaint, and furious nitpicking. And I make no attempt to hide my contempt. And for it I’ve been starred twice, destarred twice, and banned twice. (if you’re wondering, it’s a newish merit system to comments, people who are otherwise completely undeserving can be given a star and the ability to have their comments appear by default on posts, being the representatives of what is supposedly the most “mature” of the group and making Kotaku look good)

I go there for news and to read articles by what is essentially my favorite author, Tim Rogers. I can’t help myself sometimes, I just scroll on past the news and legitimate journalizing to descend into the morass of morons who misread, misunderstood, or misinterpreted the above article, moving me to my misanthropy.


Everyone complains about the same damn thing over and over again. It makes me unbelievably annoyed. Gaming is my hobby, supposedly. I haven’t played a video game in about two weeks, though. I don’t… I’m not all that into it right now. Despite that, it’s still my hobby and I follow news about it. I’ve been doing so for some godawful number of years now. More than ten. It is funny, because I was at a wedding the other day and I got to say “yeah, I haven’t been to a wedding in fifteen years.” It’s kind of neat to be able to say stuff like that. “Yeah, I’ve been gaming off and on for about 16 years now.” To me, and probably a fairly large amount of my generation, that’s about as mundane as saying “yes, I’ve been breathing air for about 20 years.” The thing is, I go to these websites and read these comments and it’s like I’m living five years ago. “Games are too expensive.” “I can’t wait for half-life 3/kingdom hearts 3/the next Zelda.” “The new sonic is going to suck, just as every sonic since a varying marker from sonic 2 to sonic adventure 2.” “Videogame companies are evil because they stifle the awesome creativity of the artists that make games.” “The wii/gamecube/n64 is for babies, real men play the xbox/ps2/360/ps3.”

It’s just the weirdest feeling, one that is almost sort of comforting. It’s like being stuck in a time warp. I don’t know how it’s particularly relevant to the people playing it, but having games like Pokemon fire red or heart gold just feels awkward and confusing, because the original games only came out about 10-15 years ago. The push for remakes just feels strange. The original King Kong came out in 1933. The remake was released in 2005. That’s 72 years of prime vintage time right there. King Kong had more than enough time to be established as a classic and well respected by several generations. The remake was regarded pretty widely as “not bad.” The original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film was released in 1971. The remake was also released in 2005. That’s 34 years, just enough time for it to become relevant to a new generation of youngsters. Reviews are mixed. I liked it stylistically over the first one, it felt more coherent, but the first one seemed more fun and memorable. They’re very different films, despite the basic premise being the same.

Remaking videogames, however, is a much more immediate trend largely fueled by the clamoring of nostalgia driven fans that played the originals and want to see a fancier new version. Ostensibly because it would be cool, but purposefully to attempt to re-create the emotions and ambiance of playing the original. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, used to sell many things. Commercials attempting to invoke a quieter, simpler time are rife on television. It’s the very basis of a major political party’s appeal. So it’s not entirely surprising to see it being used to sell entertainment products. I just find it strange that the range of nostalgia in the gaming community appears to be somewhere in the ballpark of 10 years. That seems remarkably short, given that Reaganites have been begging for a return to a time now almost thirty years ago.

Perhaps nostalgia is not limited by the amount of time passed. Perhaps it can be as simple as a few years down the road, after the person experiencing it is in a place from which they can’t return. Even so, what is nostalgia when the products of it can be experienced anew in its original form? If you miss the original Mario game, just go and purchase one of the many times it’s been re-released in its entirety. Heck, given its age and technical simplicity, you can easily pirate a copy and run it on nearly any technological device available these days with a screen and some sort of input. All it takes is a little time and a willingness to break shaky copyright laws.

But the originals won’t do it. The players don’t feel that same sense of discovery or wonderment. Playing the game on these new devices, they may see the rough edges, or the poor design choices thanks to limited contemporary technology. It just won’t be the same. And so it goes with all nostalgia. Nothing is as interesting as it is when you experience it for the first time. The neural pathways are already created, and plodding through them again becomes mind-numbing chore, instead of delight. So remakes are suggested. Why not create something that is true to the original, but with all the new nuance and flashy technology available today. Thus we can re-experience it and feel some appreciation of a new side to an old game. That’s the concept, anyway. How well it works is up to the player. However, if the 3DS is any indication, we’re going to see quite a few remakes being re-made. Everything will be bigger, better, and flashier. We’re going to be sold the same games we already played, again. Again again, actually, given that the originals are already on the “virtual console,” essentially an in-house version of the emulation technology available on the internet for years, only not nearly as legally shaky because money is passing hands.

A cynical person would point out that a large component of the idea of remaking things is that a game can be produced without much of the effort necessary to conceptualize a new story or system of play, thus being far less expensive than creating new content, but that’s a sort of cynicism that has also been wielded as complaint for some ridiculous amount of time. “Sequel-itis” they call it. “Why hasn’t Nintendo produced any new franchises in so long?” “Who even cares about another God of War/Gears of War/Dawn of War?” and so on. All the same, new stuff comes out and the games industry is largely the same as it’s always been. There are some sure winners, some franchises that rock, lots and lots of crap all over the place all the time, and the occasional weird quirky critical favorite that no one buys. It’s a lot like films these days. Or even books. Or music. They’re incredibly similar in approach, actually. I can’t say that many books have been remade (though a lot have been abridged or edited or made into synopses of their original stories using contemporary language) but songs are covered all the time and movies get remade every so often. It’s probably in a larger sense a result of the commercialization of story-telling, rather than any medium-based trend. But don’t tell that to the fans. Oh no, video games are a higher order of entertainment.

The intense hubris of the video gaming community astonishes me every single time that I am confronted by it. Those heavily invested in games truly do believe their hobby, their passion, to be superior to all others. I suppose this should come as no surprise. I’ve known plenty people who will talk at great length about how print is a vastly superior medium to all others. I’ve mentioned hubris before, mostly to make the point that a certain amount of self-importance is essential for anything to survive. A being or concept that was completely selfless, had no inherent valuation of itself, and had free agency would likely self-terminate for the reasoning that by its very existence it was utilizing additional space and resources that could go to other, more worthy beings. I assume this is how anti-matter feels.

So in a fandom, people will irrationally support their fandom solely for the sake of justifying their activities. “I’m a connoisseur of digital art” they’ll say. “Video games are capable of a wider and deeper depth of emotional expression than any medium before because of their interactivity.” Doesn’t that sound much better than “I purchase entertainment vehicles from corporations who are delighted to produce something that requires so little resources and yet garners them so much raw money?” Despite the expected and understandable response, it’s still a little grating, especially when developers like Peter Molyneux hyping everything they produce to be “the biggest step in interactive storytelling yet.” Interactive storytelling started and has stayed around campfires, dinner tables, play rooms, tiny model houses, any old time when a group of friends got together to play pretend. Modern video games are much more akin to playing a choose-your-own-adventure book by yourself.

Occasionally games are described as being “a conversation between the developer and the player.” This could not be more disingenuous. Let’s start with the technical aspects of such a claim. The vast majority of games are produced as a collaborative effort between a team of people. Though one man may be the lead or the director of the game, it would be ridiculous to claim that every aspect of the game was created by them. Even directors of movies often work with a script written by someone else, a group of actors with their own concept of the characters they are playing, a filmography team with certain equipment and techniques, a special effects studio that has their own style of effects, an audio engineering team with their idea of acoustical performance, so on and so forth. The director may strongly influence all of these, but he cannot control their interpretations of his idea. The exact principle holds for every game produced by a major publisher. It’s preposterous.

Perhaps it refers to independent games made by one person to express something. These games, like many underground films, animation, and music, are noted for their creativity and divergent art styles. They often feature themes that would prove unpopular in a mainstream setting, or themes that are not commonly introduced to videogames. I will use for example the game Loved. It’s an artistic “short story” made by a single person: Alexander Ocias, an Australian artist and web developer who works with primarily digital medium. The game, or story, or however I am to refer to it, presents a fairly simple 2d platformer interposed with vaguely unsettling phrases and commands. The game invites you to choose to either obey or disobey the commands, and the world alters based on your choice. If you follow the commands, the game world becomes more detailed and slopes appear, easing some of the jumps. The world, however, remains ugly and bleak, despite its detail. If you do not obey the commands, portions of the world begin to change colors in blocks, until near the end you find yourself swimming through a relative sea of pixilated color. The dangers of the world remain vague and unfocused, except as blocks of brilliant red. Very deep. The interactivity comes in the ability to choose your fate. The story comes in the form of the unsettling things the voice-over (text-over?) says.

But is it art? Art conveys a message, specifically an emotional message, and the best art is the art where an artist conveys a complex emotion particularly well. J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is well known for capturing the complex cocktail of emotions that adolescence brings. The book conveys the feeling so well that many people cannot simply enjoy the book without a strong opinion of the main character. Either they hate the book because of the main character’s attitude, or they love the book because of his attitude and the emotional resonance it brings. Loved, however does not evoke this same wide-reaching reaction, and does not properly convey its message. Sure the game, if properly invested into, creates a heavy feeling of malaise and unease. Certainly there is some emotional reaction behind the choices one is forced to make and the outcome of those choices, but it is not clear what message is being conveyed. This can most obliquely be demonstrated by the schism of reaction between myself and the people who have commented on the game on While their take, or the take of the person whose comment is most promoted, is that the game demonstrates “Doing everything that you're told makes others happy. But then your life lacks color.” my understanding is that this is a game about an abusive relationship. My experience in abusive relationships might be the cause of my interpretation, and the Kongregate commenter’s lack of experience might lead to his misconception, but it may be the other way around, with myself jumping to the most depressing and relevant conclusion while the creator simply wanted to make a statement about freedom.

And there are other interpretations. Even if you follow the voice’s instruction, it intentionally misattributes your gender and age until near the end, when it finally acknowledges your maturity and gender. Perhaps, then, this is a game about growing up. Seriously, who knows? The creator might, but he’s not telling. A good magician never reveals his tricks. But this isn’t art. This is simple perplexation. No message is being transferred but the message interpreted by the player. It is the same as carving a rock into a cube and calling it “sphere” and putting it on display. Maybe you’re making a statement about irony; maybe you’re trying to demonstrate differing perceptions. Or maybe you have no idea what the hell you’re doing and you’re just creating something that seems pretty deep to you, or mimicking other people’s concept of what art should be.

So far, that’s all games have. Mimicry of cinematic techniques, mimicry of literary techniques, even mimicry of musical techniques with sound effects tuned just so to create a pleasing musical palette. So far, no one has quite understood how to use an interactive medium to convey a static message that’s more complex than general righteous anger or sadness for the death of a character or so on. Sometimes games have some legitimate emotional impact that appears to be unintentional, and as such usually isn’t properly explored. Often the impact comes from storylines that truly aren’t interactive in any real sense, as is often the case with Japanese produced role playing games. Axel’s death in Kingdom Hearts 2 only developed further meaning and impact after playing through the prequel (sequel (lousy condensation of play-style into a technically impressive version of the game given the console)) 358/2 Days. But it’s not in any case interactive. No amount of button mashing would have saved him from his fairly lame death. It’s not much better in western role playing games that try to replace coherent story with a large amount of choice and exploration. Fallout 3’s most dramatic event had next to no legitimate impact. Sure you spent some time with your (Liam Neeson) dad at the start and a part of the reason you head out on your journey is to find him, but after all the adventuring to go and save him to have him up and die not a few hours after rescuing him is quite an emotional anticlimax, to say the least.

So games aren’t art, despite what gamers will insist. Even if your definition of art is broad and varied, games are at the least a much commercialized art; like the art of an advertisement or the design of a logo. It lacks the creative expression that legitimate art is so lauded for. Because games are made by companies. They are made by gigantic soulless entities whose sole motive is to make a profit. It’s a commercial enterprise. Many gamers can’t stand this concept. They hear Bobby Kotick telling his stockholders that Activision is interested in making a profit and not just messing around and making “art” and they flip out. Gamers hate Kotick with a passion that political parties spend millions to attempt to inspire in their base. It’s not just Kotick that they hate, either. Nearly every gaming executive who is not directly involved in the creation of games is demonized in one form or another. While I typically applaud anti-corporate sentiments, this sort of base and irrational hatred is something to be lamented as the confused whining of toddlers. All I ask is for a shred of realism concerning the companies and an understanding of the place a gamer holds as a consumer, rather than a “connoisseur” they assume themselves to be.

It’s the repetition that really irks me. The repeated comments, the repeated complaints, the repeated clamor. It’s been the same for so long, I am sick and tired of it. It’s dumb to say, but I feel like I’ve already heard everything there is to hear from the community and since my voice is too controversial, I can’t myself contribute anything new. Perhaps I’m a radical and this is just another way of me being excluded from the mainstream. Perhaps I’m just simply wrong and everything is okay and I should get over it. I’m almost certainly being unreasonable. But damn, who in the hell is being reasonable in this community? Is it really so bad that Sonic games no longer cater to your nostalgic concept of them? Do we really need to hear your feelings about it every single time Sonic is mentioned in the news? Are video games really so important that the most inflammatory comments need to be made concerning which vehicle of profit (sorry, console) is superior? Does anyone ever grow out of it? Am I reading a new generation of people behaving like the last generation? I have no clue. I wish someone would tell me.

In some sense of dramatic cosmic irony, when I began this post, I was a banned commenter, now that I am finished, I find myself with my ability to comment restored. Will I learn anything from my experience? Will I finally accept the futility of standing against the tide of idiocy before me? Not bloody likely. If you liked this post at all, feel free to follow me on Kotaku as “thejakeman” and join me in making trouble and snidely insulting people I don’t like.

After all, I’m a gamer too.

Update: No, I am banned again. Humorously, I was banned the day of being unbanned for commenting on and agreeing with this comment here. Crecente also banned the other people involved. Clearly the claim of advertisement is something of a bugaboo for him, since he went on banning all these other people and starred the one person who defended his terrible article here. This is just ridiculously petty stuff. Damn. and I thought Kotaku was a news website, not a prima donna conglomerate. Oh well. *shrug*

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whining, transhumanism, Danny Elfman

I’m a pretty inconsistent person. I can’t focus on any one thing for any real length of time. This sort of behavior runs up and down everything I do, from actual physical activity to things I’m interested in. It’s a rather large part of my character, and I sort of hate it. I’m not sure what it is (actually, I have a few depressing theories that I will tack to the end of this) and I don’t really like it. It makes it hard for me to finish things sometimes. I get distracted and decide to do something else instead. In order to really finish things, I need to devote all of the time I have that I am still interested in doing them all at once. I write, yes? I write everything I write in more or less one sitting, because I can rarely come back to it and find myself in the same mindset that drove me to write the original. It’s tough.

What I worry about most, though, is how it must appear and affect other people. I do my best to be reliable, I really do. I don’t promise things very often, but the things I say I’ll do, I almost always do. It’s just that once in a while I wake up in the morning and think “Ugh, I don’t want to do whatever it is I agreed to do today” and then I don’t and I feel sort of bad, but I get over it pretty quick because I am pretty self-centered. Check out all those “I”s. I have moved a total of 13 times in my life, most of those as a kid. I don’t keep in touch with anyone that is not in my immediate vicinity any more.

I really don’t get super attached to people or stuff because of this. I literally have no clue where I’ll be the next year. I had no clue I would be where I am last year. I never minded much, because that’s just how stuff is. It’s not a huge deal, you get used to it. I can’t hold on to people, so I rarely try. Welcome to Jake-land, where all is Jake because Jake is all I have. I dunno, I forgot what my point was a while ago. Let’s make it sound angry and stuff like usual. HEY YOU FAGS BE GRATEFUL FOR THE SHIT YOU’VE GOT. I guess. I dunno, nothing I say or yell will make a difference to you. Maybe if I were your psychotic parent who threw away your shit and kicked you to relatives for no reason then I could impart something of what I’m talking about. I really wouldn’t wish that sort of instability on anyone, though.

So I guess that’s what I am here to whine about now. I am an unstable person because I was brought up in an unstable way. That shit is kind of uncool. Obviously I don’t mean emotionally unstable, I just mean incapable of keeping focus.

But none of that feels true. I do things pretty regularly. I sit on the internet for hours at a time bouncing from the same websites and do that day after day. So maybe I am not unstable, just lazy? I’m not all that lazy, either. I don’t know. Clearly I didn’t think this one out too well. I have been sitting here applying for scholarships and WASHING FUCKING EVERYTHING so I can clean up in here. My dad who I have the misfortune to live with has told me that he has essentially broken up with his fiancĂ© and he wants to move to LA of all things to attend UCLA for…. some reason. I am a few months behind on rent because I am unexpectedly broke this summer, so I get to hear all about how anything I do that isn’t directly related to getting a job is an out and out waste of time. Anyway, I am trying to clean up and make my stuff more or less ready to go, both for this Montana trip and the point in time in which I get back from Montana and he kicks me out again for some retarded reason. I really hate this “not having a support structure” thing.

It’s not really true that I don’t have one, my mom’s side of the family is very nice and are pretty willing to help me in any capacity that they can, for which I am incredibly grateful. I just think they’re a bit overbearing and I don’t really want to take any more help from them than I have to. It’s stupid. My dad’s side of the family has no idea who the fuck I am, for the most part. There was something of a schism after my grandpa died. Or something. They’re just not close at all. I don’t know what I’m going on about now, really, but let’s get back to the angry and say HEY FAGS, BE GRATEFUL FOR ALL THAT FAMILY SHIT YOU GOT.

I guess the only thing that is stopping me is money right now, which would probably explain why I have been complaining about it so much. Stopping me from what, though. I don’t know. I want to go find somewhere nice that I can live and hang out with people that I like. The only friends I do keep in touch with anyway, the ones I really have never met. But that would be dumb.

Who am I even writing to anyway? I don’t even know any more. Who was I writing to before? Hi Bill! I love that someone reads the stuff I write. It makes me happy, which is the only real reason I am sitting here at three in the morning whining about dumb stuff. It’s funny. I write stuff like this and there is literally an internal monologue going “Stop whining so much, Jake, so many people have it so much worse than you. None of your problems really matter. No one will read about them. No one cares. Everything you do is awful.” I think this would be enough for most people to just give up, and that is why most people don’t write rambling 1500 word essays about how shitty they feel. The thing is all I can hear when I hear that is my mother telling me that I have problems and that everything is my fault and why won’t I just get over it and behave. That stuff just makes me mad. So I’ll write this and publish it anyway. I don’t even care. Maybe if more people were able to personify their insecurities into a person they don’t like, less people would be so insecure.

Haha, that was sort of silly. I like to talk dramatically. I’m a melodramatic person, I think. Every emotion that is worth feeling is worth feeling to the fullest extent possible. I am going to join a Slaaneshi pleasure cult. That will be fun. Until my inevitable mutation and death, I suppose.

I’m a determinist and a strong proponent of the concept that humans are just complex chemical reactions, but I get a bit frightened of the implications of that idea. Today I was confronted (in a dark alley(it had a knife(I threw my wallet at it and ran))) by the question “if transhumanism works out and we find a way to hook up the pleasure circuits to run constantly, would you?” The obvious answer is yes, as life is essentially a quest to receive that sensation or one closely related. If the easiest way was simply to hook your brain up to an automatic dopaminifier or whatever this thing would be, then that would be the best way to go. It’s not a question of which way is more honorable or any sort of maniacal religious belief that demands a greater difficulty in achieving pleasure, it’s closer to a question of “there are two houses near your job for sale for the same price. One is behind a deadly mountain range filled with cavernous gaps and rickety rope ladders, the other is across the street from your workplace.” If it were that simple, it would be unwise to choose the harder path. No argument could be made because all of the sensations associated with anything else you do and at any intensity would be covered.

Then, what if human life is reduced to essentially auto-hedonic activity, assisted by these machines or this escape from the physical limits of the body? How will humanity cope with essentially the most powerful drug ever? Will that finally signal the end of the species, not in violent war but in masturbatory pleasure? Is that heaven? I really do hope such a thing is never invented, or at least humanity reacts essentially the same way as rats whose pleasure centers are constantly stimulated and they crawl to the corners of their cage and die in ecstasy. But what a way to die. I’m sure it will be extremely popular. It feels a little strange to bring this up, it’s not a new idea at all. I just worry that it is a legitimate problem I am going to have to deal with in my lifetime. Technology has been advancing at a breakneck pace, and it’s aimed straight at what I’m talking about. Entertainment is the biggest and best selling branch of high tech knickemknacks. I can get pleasurable vibrations transmitted into my ears by devices not much larger than a pebble.

The only real difference between an iPod and a drug is the ridiculous notion that iPods have no harmful side-effects. Of course they have side-effects. Look at the obsessive reliance on iPods just to get through the day, look at the vast amount of accessories designed to increase your time exposed to music, look at the people who are finding themselves hard of hearing because they blast the pleasure waves into their brains as loudly as they can to drown out the unpleasantness of the rest of the world. It’s totally a drug, and anyone who disagrees is in denial. The same with TV, movies, video games. They’re all designed to evoke a pleasurable reaction in their users. It’s all an industry entirely set up because we’ve gotten so good at keeping ourselves alive that we can devote time to simply making ourselves feel good.

I don’t know, I guess I’m not really worried about what other people choose to do with their lives. I probably wouldn’t get into it, or even if I did, I would lose interest because I’m not a consistent person. I think the thing I will be most bitter about is if this sort of invention keeps us here on earth instead of exploring and traveling through space. That’s all I really want to see happen, I think.

Note: it’s not that I think that music, movies, television, or video games are incapable of providing a legitimate artistic medium through which to share ideas and emotions. I just saw this music video of an old Oingo Boingo song and realized that it did a great job of expressing how it feels to be me when I feel lonely and shut in from the lyrics to the expressions on the face of Danny Elfman. Here’s the video. I just dislike the trend of pulpy movies made to visually delight but not to particularly think. But what am I saying, I loved Speed Racer. Everything in moderation, I guess. Balance is really where it’s at.

Theories of my inconsistency:

1. I am inconsistent because if I work too hard on one thing I begin to feel like I’m stuck doing that thing, and in order to free myself from the grasp of an activity, I switch to something else. This is possibly some sort of delayed rebellion from the intense level of structure that I was forced into in my adolescence. I instinctively try to destroy that structure before it can affect me.
2. I have some form of ADD or AD/HD. I really don’t think this one is true, but I have probably been diagnosed with this before? I’ve been diagnosed with pretty much everything at one point or another. I don’t really agree that these are real disease; it is much more likely that they are simply a result of living in a world, or at least a culture, where there’s been a dramatic upswing in things to do. And I can certainly focus if I really want to. I spent a good week solid doing little more than playing WoW. I read every Harry Potter book after the third nonstop until I was finished when I got them. I have done nothing this evening but write this, with occasional music and textan.
3. I blow my load too soon. Metaphorically. I enjoy something and then I exhaust everything I enjoy about it instead of experiencing it in full. I used to have this problem with music. I would really like one song and then I would listen to it over and over and over until I pretty much didn’t like it any more. There was no newness left, because I had worn it out instead of taking it in moderation or mixing it with other songs by the same artist.
4. I think too damn much. For years I have been doing this weird sort of psychological conditioning experiment with myself where I try to think without using words, because my thoughts are always faster than the words I make out of them. It’s worked pretty well, and I’ve got great intuition for a lot of things. Stuff occurs to me really fast. This can be really distracting, though, cause I can sort of detach from a situation and start simply absorbing my surroundings and making free associations. Lots of fun, but terrible if you’re trying to get something done.
5. I am just buttfuckingly lazy. I don’t consistently put a lot of effort into things because I really don’t like putting any effort into anything. Seriously if it involves a lot of movement or strain I generally put it off until the last minute. I am only really skinny because I am too fucking lazy to eat most of the time. It’s pretty pathetic. (:D)

Like I always always always say: the answer is probably some horrible amalgamation of these and several additional factors. There really are no simple clear-cut answers whenever living things are involved. That’s part of why I like anthropology and sociology so much. If you can come up with a theory and argue it well, it may end up as canon. Though, it does bug me when self-help “psychological professionals” start trumpeting their theories as the end-all be-all of human behavior. “Evolutionary psychology” is probably the most egregious offender. I’ve read EP essays supporting the most absurdly sexist ideas, arguing that culture has no appreciable value to a person’s psychological makeup, and just in general promoting the concept that Human behavior is inherited instead of learned. It’s a major reason why I hate atheists and Richard Dawkins in particular. They all have their heads up their asses for these sweeping statements about humanity that are poorly researched, poorly conceived and poorly understood. It’s a god damn fucking religion and a terrible one because it pretends to have some sort of scientific legitimacy rather than a blind faith in the process that creates it. It gives the rest of legitimate social studies a bad name. Oooh, I am livid now.


Monday, June 21, 2010

"You rely too much on your voice, it lacks structure."

I played a lot of wow two weeks ago, and for a stunning twist I spent pretty much all of last week hanging out with other people. I missed the weekly. Big deal, I know. Sometimes I complain about living here. Actually, a lot of the time I complain about living here. There’s nothing to do and no real clear hangout to meet people at. Everyone who has lived here for a significant portion of their lives has essentially their own clique of friends. Certainly, there’s overlap, but they all grow up with the mindset that you know who you know and meeting new people is pointless because you already have a group or two to hang out with. Make new friends but keep the old, the first one’s silver, the other gold. It permeates every person born or raised here. No one is free from it. That’s why no one escapes. That’s why people live here for all of their lives, or move out and move back, or have friends they’ve known from high school in the same area. It’s a mindset. It’s stagnancy. This area is very fortunate to be as wealthy as it is, but that wealth breeds complacency. It breeds ignorance and hostility. It breeds a warped perspective on “the way things really are™. It’s an illusion, an oasis in the desert of life.

It’s wealth, is what it is. It’s the lack of needs. Mankind’s most compelling reason to associate with each other is nearly always linked to some sort of need, some survival necessity that cannot be gotten on one’s own. We collaborate, it’s what we do. It’s what makes us unique from nearly every other animal besides hive-based insects. But here we have people without needs. Without compelling reasons to collaborate with others. They’re provided for. Their parents cover the cost of living. In the event of lacking needs, Humans have this amazing capacity to create more needs. Needs that don’t exist, needs that have very little relation to legitimate survival. So they need coffee. They need cool hangouts. They need the latest gadget or doodad. It’s really not all their fault. A lot of companies wised up and realized that these people had a bunch of money to waste and nothing in particular to waste it on. So they spend billions each year convincing them to need the things the companies sell. It’s a very tidy operation. Unfortunately it becomes a mindset, a consumerist lifestyle. Things become more important than people. Things become a means to an end. Shopping malls become a place to hang out, not just to shop. Artsy stores become hip and trendy.

But none of these things are necessary. No one goes to grocery shops to hang out. There are no trendy hardware stores. The hippest people wouldn’t be caught dead in a Wal-mart. It’s just as superficial and hollow as money itself. Part of the process, though is the buy-in. Once a person is invested in all these things, they can’t stop, they can’t give it up and admit it’s a sham. That would be foolish and they would feel foolish. It’s a modern Emperor’s New Clothes.

Bah, what am I complaining about?

I guess I’m complaining about the crosswalk buttons that loudly state “Cross street with caution, vehicles may not stop.” I’m complaining about the 2,000 seat theatre set to be built right next to the 500 seat theatre, within 2 years of that theatre’s opening. I’m complaining about the pine tree with yellow ribbons and American flags next to a giant downtown flag in front of two fountains and a very noisy and very busy street. I’m complaining about the fact that a major issue raised by some old woman in a city council woman was that they were worried that all the new buildings might make it hard to see aforementioned giant American flag from afar.

I guess I just want to live really far away from here and nearly everywhere else I’ve been and forget they all exist. But I can’t. Not yet anyway. I need to play the game for a little while longer. I need to live here for a little more. But I’m not letting that time go to waste any more. As long as I’m stuck here I am going to make sure everyone I know and everyone I meet knows exactly why and how this place is terrible. I will do everything in my power to make it less terrible. I’ll get away as much as I can, even if they’re only sojourns. I will not let this bullshitty bullshit place keep me down. It’ll be hard, especially with me being as retardedly shy as I am, but by George I will do it. For starters, I joined the school paper for next year, on which I intend to spend most of my time complaining. I also joined the radio, where I will mostly play techno and rant about politics. I’m working on an advanced level academic project, which will hopefully vastly improve my ability to get the hell out of this town. I’m getting the hell out of this place for a few weeks next week, which should help ameliorate my dissatisfaction with everything. Please, if you live here and also hate it, hit me up when I get back. I really don’t do a whole lot with my time and I secretly actually like people, even though I sound angry and misanthropic. It’s crowds I don’t like. Crowds and cliques and authority.

I also canceled my wow subscription (again(haha(until cataclysm comes out(this game should be illegal(fucking crack-game))))).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whorled Of Wharfcraft

I spent the last week or two playing a lot of WoW. Pretty dorky, I know, but I got hooked back in after quitting for a few months. I’ve finally got to level eighty where they have all this nice stuff for max level players to do so they don’t get bored and quit. Very cool. They’ve got this “emblem” system that doles out emblems for every boss kill in heroic or “hard” dungeons, or two for completing one entire dungeon. The thing is, you need like 40-60 of the easy to get kind to get anything cool with them, like better armor and stuff. And then there’s the best tier armor that you need to collect at least 60 for the cheapest parts of it, but you can only get two of those a day, and like another 9ish per week. Plus some more in Icecrown Citadel, the final final boss zone. More or less. Vance once told me that he didn’t like WoW because he felt like it was too artificially paced, intentionally made that way to keep people playing for longer periods of time. It was too obvious and fake to him. I can totally get where he is coming from, actually. It is pretty fucking annoying that end-game gear is set up precisely that you’d need to make multiple runs of raids that you can literally only do once a week to get any really decent stuff. It’s pretty messed up.

Of course the difference between him and me is that I am totally hooked. I have a totally different perspective on it, I think, because I do dumb things like collect Jarritos bottle caps. I only buy them maybe three or four at a time, and most of the lids are only one point (unos puntos) so it has taken me quite a while to collect them. I still don’t have enough for the awesome our lady of Guadalupe bottle cap earrings that I want because it so perfectly iconizes the commercialization of Mexican culture into a form acceptable to the American model of capitalism. I collect them anyway, even though I only get one maybe every week on average because that is what I do. I suppose the difference is that I am paying fifteen bucks a month for the privilege of collecting virtual bottle caps. It really could be worse. I could play Magic: The Gathering Online and pay real money for packs of virtual cards. Man, that just bugs the bejeezus out of me. On the other hand, I do pay four bucks for tiny packages of art printed on worthless paper. Haha. I guess I’m just doomed to frivolously spend money on things that tangentially make me feel happy or accomplished. It’s the curse of the consumer. This might be a nice launching point for some anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist invective. Nah, I don’t really want to talk about that.

I am not a big fan of American culture. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hate American culture. I hate the culture of competition. I hate the idea that in order to get anywhere I am supposed to stab my brother in the eye and step on the backs of everyone else. It’s just dumb. I hate the concept that we must be vigilant for every other nation or obscure terrorist cell is out to steal our freedoms. This constant war, this constant masculinity wears on me. It really does. I dunno, I guess it’s just cause I am lazy. I don’t want to compete. Too hard. Maybe I don’t think I will do a great job. Maybe it’s my lack of self-esteem that keeps me from going out there and batting all comers off with my huge dick. Maybe I am just too much of a pussy to appreciate the eternal struggle that is America. I just don’t accept the popularity of sports. They reinforce the constant conflict that America is in. I should be contributing to the conflict. I need to be fighting. I need to be throwing my money at American produced products and supporting our soldiers in times of war and peace and so on and so forth. I need to do it, because America is always at the edge of the precipice of disaster. We’re always about to collapse forever. We need to be. If we weren’t so busy trying to prop up America from its perceived dangers, we might become complacent and learn to forget the meaning of America, the purpose of a national boundary. We might lose pride in being American. We might figure out that our borders are just invisible lines that mean nothing to anyone outside of the government. We might forget that we’re better and different than everyone else because we have more guns. Heaven forbid we might lay down those guns and forget that we have enemies and remember that first and foremost, we are brothers and sisters. We might remember that all of us are human and this is to be celebrated.

No, I’m pretty much an idiot. We Americans love peace. We would gladly share our peace with everyone, but they don’t want it, the ingrates. That is why we have to go over there and enforce peace. It is our job to keep the peace, by shooting anyone who disagrees with us. Peace in the majority, friend.

I keep telling people that money doesn’t exist. I will keep telling them this and I will shout it at them until I am blue in the face, because so many people live their lives focused on money. Their existence depends on it. Their very self-worth is attached to the cash they make. In an Asian or other traditionalist cultures, your very worth to your family is how much money you make. I can’t tell you how messed up this is. It’s worship. It’s a distorted sort of secular worship, but it’s still worship all the same. We pray at the altar of mammon, and the douchebags up in Wall Street who generate money from thin air are our priests. We watch crap like Jim Cramer’s Mad Money because we need someone to interpret the market for us. He’s a modern diviner, coming down from the mount to tell us to buy, sell, or hold. It’s absurd. I don’t care about money. I am a jerk for this, I suppose, but really it has long lost its original point and become a farcical tool of social demarcation. It’s no different from pretty much every society since we discovered crop rotation. At least one family gets really lucky and really rich and dictates the activities of everyone else because they seem more valuable than anyone else. It really hasn’t changed. I am so dull. Look at me complaining about the same thing people have complained about for thousands of years.

The problem is that our competitive nation is tied to its money. We need to be more financially active. We need more guns and more peril, we need to be leaning on the red button at any given time. Why? So we can justify our money. Money as it is today is essentially based on the idea that the American government won’t fail. That’s about it. Money has even less meaning than when it was tied to shiny bricks of metal. It’s laughable. Money has exactly as much value as we believe it has. Maybe more appropriate, money has exactly as much value as we can be convinced it has. Money in the real world has literally no more value than money in WoW. They even translate. About 1k gold is $2 according to gold-sellers. Maybe a better analogy is EVE online. You can convert about $15 into an in-game item that lets you play for another month. This item is worth about 300 million Isk, the in-game currency. So voila. Money is getting translated back and forth (well, money is mostly being putting in, as the company is understandably reluctant to hand out money, though I am sure plenty of player-to-player interactions exist) from a virtual space to a real one. Clearly it doesn’t have any legitimate physical worth. But we keep it up anyway, because money really is the best tool we have for measuring what other people think of us, more or less. Our value to society, supposedly. This idea too falls apart before the absurd billions made by companies that produce nothing but ways to kill us or rot out our teeth or waste our time. I don’t find Blizzard a particularly necessary company, especially since they’ve been bought out by those douchebags at Activision. I don’t consider WoW much of a contribution to society. I enjoy their drug, however, so I send them money. Rather, Visa sends them money and then breathes down my neck for me to give them money back for it. It’s a very neat system. I am not really against it. It really is a fantastic tool. I don’t really think we need to get rid of it or anything. I just want a re-evaluation of the current model of fiscal purpose. I want to see money being used in a realistic and reasonable fashion. No one needs billions of dollars. Hardly anyone needs more than a few million dollars. I expect such largesse to be matched by an equally amazing contribution to society, such as solving overpopulation or discovering a new and more efficient process for generating nutritious and plentiful food for the exploding population that hasn't been solved. Perhaps money could go to the people who successfully find a way to mediate conflict between two societies with conflicting views and conflicting homesteads. Maybe I sound a bit retarded, but I really think a Nobel Prize model of payout is vastly more effective than rewarding people who cut costs by refusing safety checks and allowing bullshit like the Deepwater oil volcano happen.

But, no, the people demand oil and cars and such, so they can set what prices they like. People demand cool movies and neat cell phones that do all sorts of stuff. People demand cosmetic surgery and 3d TVs. People demand the latest shiny crap and they’re willing to pay whatever they can to get it. Maybe what I’m asking for is not to trust the people to get money where it needs to go. Maybe I am asking for income redistribution by the government. I suppose I am asking for socialism (since communism is… you know… dead.) to take away those darn rich people’s monies and give them to the poor. Really, I just can’t help but think that there must be a better way than this. And by George, I’m an American. I demand only the best in governing practices.

My net worth is in the negative, by the way. Therefore I am an active detriment to society and everyone hates me. I would make a terrible Asian. However, I have a level 80 druid healer in WoW that is fully geared in T9 stuffs and will be getting her first t10 piece before the week is out. This is quite a feat of dedication and I am very proud of my virtual accomplishment.

A whirlwind of activity.

I am going to update my blog with everything I have written on Facebook. I hope this works out okay, because I added pictures and stuff to some of them.

EDIT: it worked out okay. welcome to a much more fleshed out blog.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Whiny Bullshit




Let’s talk about something else for once. Yeah. Let’s talk about. Hmm. Let’s talk about grades. I think I already talked about this, but not fully. Nope. Okay here we go.

I—fuck. I did it again. Well, dick it, You’re getting my ego whether you or I like it or not. I was in the 99th percentile for reading comprehension in first grade. I was reading at a high school level in third grade. Then I kinda quit any intense legitimate reading (I read comics, lots of Doonesbury and Dilbert and Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side) for a few years and pursued videogames. Then I lost all my videogames and got back to reading. I didn’t read the lord of the rings until I was thirteen and the movies were already two thirds of the way done. I thought the book was pretty dreadful, Tolkien was a fantastic world envisioner, but a dreadful writer. I will fisticuffs anyone who disagrees. Anyway, by that point I was going through about 3-4 novels a week because I had shit-all else to do at RICA or at home. I am not actually all that well-read, though, because I read the books that interested me, and that was pretty much comics and fantasy novels.

Anyway, I am a very good reader. I’ve got great reading comprehension, as competitive testing against other average students will show. I took an IQ test once because my therapist requested it and psychiatric professionals ejaculate all over that sort of thing. I got a score that was reasonably high but not shared with me for fear of blowing up my ego and letting me trumpet it around and feel superior to everyone. Or something. Ironic, given that that was pretty much the exact opposite of my behavior in tenth grade. I heard the number anyway cause the home ec lady (an amazing excommunicated catholic with one eye after a classmate had jammed a pencil into one of them when she was young. Also she was like seven feet tall. Not even kidding) was telling me off for something and was all like “how can someone with an IQ of 132 be so dumb yada yada yada” and I was all like “how do you know what my IQ is,” playing it all smooth, acting like I knew all along. Anyway my point is by some objective measurement, I’m really smart.

So I’m smart, right? I must do real good in school, where smarts count. Haha, no. I squeaked by every grade except ninth. In ninth I had straight A's and I was on the honor roll because I was living at rica and I had to do my homework or I couldn’t go do the activity and had to sit in my fairly bare room with nothing to do but feel badly about my decisions. So I did my homework. It’s a pretty shocking twist from 6th grade, where I got a 28% in math despite showing up every day and the only class I did good in was English, because quite frankly I was horrified of the teacher, Ms. Beadle, who might have been crazy. Got an 83% in that class. The kicker too is that I took geometry in ninth grade like all the good students who took algebra in eighth and I got me an A. So what is my point? Clearly grades are not correlated with smarts. I have buckets of that. I try my best to give it away. Nope, grades are about effort.

Now this is probably pretty obvious and not all that thrilling to all of those neat folks I know who spend a bunch of their time studying for all their tests and who do all their homework. I really think you guys are neat, and I appreciate that you have the passion and interest enough in your classes to do that sort of thing. I don’t. I really don’t do any homework. This last semester was a bit of a marvel in that I did quite as much as I did. Part of it was because I really liked the classes, part of it was because the homework was largely short quizzes I took on the internet once a week. Nothing too difficult, but I still did them the night before class. Cause I am a lazy motherfucker. I am as shortsighted as the day is long, too. If I had any real sense of consequence to my actions, I probably wouldn’t have done such a shitty job the semester before last. I also probably would have gone to the final for that bullshit music class, even though it was a bullshit class full of the most bullshitty bullshit any government spent $78 plus the $100 books and CDs on. But I need the grade. I need that letter that demonstrates the effort I put into the class. It doesn’t matter that the class was nothing but open book tests and rushed powerpoints being delivered by a person who I could barely hear, let alone comprehend. It doesn’t matter if the tacked on assignments were tacked on, like a “group presentation” that consisted of me listening to a series of people presenting the life history of lil’wayne and Johnny Cash. It most certain-buttfucking-ly does not mean that a damned person in that room learned a damn thing about music. No, it just means I put enough effort, flipped enough pages, knew where to find the right answers at to demonstrate that I did well in that class. I probably failed.

And I don’t give a fuck.

Thank god not every class is like that, otherwise I would have quit and taken to whoring myself on the street or ended up dead on the train tracks next to the transit center so I could be as big an inconvenience as possible. I would have died holding an extra bucket of blood or two just for good measure. What a story it would have been. “Young man, 18, dies while crossing train tracks with buckets of blood. Suicide has been ruled out for sheer unlikelihood.”

No, some classes have been sane. I really liked Polysci with Dr. Shumaker. Although she has an undeniably dour expression on her face that almost always makes me cringe and feel guilty when she looks at me, she is actually a funny and interesting person. Total shocker. I loved her class. No homework, just participation and tests. I spent all year listening to Professor Hasten lecture people who were doing poorly in her class that big kids college was gonna be nothing but a lecture delivered by a guy who doesn’t know your name and then exams. Seriously that is the best news I have had all year. I hate high school kiddie bullcrap. I hate the fact that I am in “college” and I still get assignments to make presentations and fucking posters. God. Damn. It. I am an adult, for fucks sake, and adult who is spending his government’s money and his own future money to learn things and instead I am being told to make posters about the things I have learned. Christ on a stick this shit is ridiculous. And most people don’t care. For most people it’s just more of the same. They went through all of their schooling doing this stuff back when the concept of doing a poster had a purpose: to keep kids from getting bored doing the same thing over and over. Now they’re adults and they take it for granted that instructors will go out of their way not to bore them. I love Professor Hasten to death, I think she’s a great teacher and a fascinating woman, but even I sat through some lectures that were essentially her repeating herself. Yes, it was boring, no I didn’t wave my hand around and demand that I be given something to color with. I’m a fucking adult. Doing boring things is what we’re supposed to do. We spend all our childhood being surrounded by glitz and glamor and epic struggles against fate and all sorts of things and then we grow up and realize that no, you’re going to spend a lot of your life doing pretty much the same things again and again. You get up in the morning, brush your teeth, go to work, and come home. You do whatever it is that you like to do and then you go to sleep. For the next 60 years. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s what all of you business majors are aiming for. So why does this college feel the need to pull the wool over our eyes and pretend that the future is full of all sorts of neat posters and powerpoints and awesome field trips and all sorts of things. If college is so “career-oriented” why does it spend all of its time teaching me how to do things that I probably won’t ever do in a career?

Fuck I wouldn’t care, but it’s my dollar. I go to college to learn, not to put effort into stuff. The effort is already in the dollar I gave you. General education requirements are already pretty bullshit. It ought to be my business if I want to be a well-rounded person or just take every history class I can get my hands on and fuck all the rest. Again, I wouldn’t care, but colleges are so expensive and profit driven these days. I am fortunate to go to such a cheap college, so maybe I should appreciate the cheap education I get. We’re even green, too. We just blew a whole wad of cash on building a fancy new theater arts center and putting in solar panels over the parking lot. Isn’t that great? So great we have a 50 inch plasma tv in the 2400 building telling us just how much electricity we’re saving! And it’s on 24/7! Way to go, Laspo.

Ugh, I just hate this place. I am only here because I didn’t apply to anything else in senior year of high school. I didn’t really want to go to college; I just wanted to be dead, mostly. People will tell me “quit and get a job and come back to college after a few years” as if that were actually feasible. As the job market continues to upgrade even its most unskilled labor into degree requiring positions, getting by without a degree continues to become less feasible. There’s a good reason for that, and it is money.

Money and immigrants, probably. The people who go to college are the people who can afford to or who have the guts to go into debt for it. Already right there that excludes most of the poor, the so-called “working” class that make up pretty much half of America. So great. Keep that riff-raff out of the proper jobs. The poor have no manners and no taste. I know because I watched the king of queens reruns for a really long time. So here we have an excellent system of social stratification. Keep the riff-raff and the people unwilling to play the debt game here in America at the bottom by reserving all of the nicely paying jobs for people who get degrees irrelevant to the positions they are working in, and ignore the probability that simply working in these positions should provide one with all of the skills necessary to effectively work in that position in due time. It’s a barrier to social mobility, and only a fairly recent one at that. Used to be if you wanted to be a bigwig in a company, one either worked their way up from the bottom or knew somebody that knows somebody. Nowadays one first goes to college and then works their way to the middle or so and stays there or else they know somebody that knows somebody and get to the top. The reason presented, the ostensible purpose of this system is to identify the people who would put in enough effort to complete college and thus hire only those who are capable of putting effort into things. What a load of it. Poor people work fantastically harder than I ever have. For every strung-out couch surfing meth addict there is a harried single mother working two jobs and all sorts of people in between. And that’s primarily blue collar work. Undesirable work. Stuff that isn’t ritzy in the least. The middle and upper class get white collar jobs, easy desk work, stuff that is not nearly as physically demanding. What effort is it exactly?

Globalization plays a role here. Immigrants from countries with conservative cultures such as Pakistan, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have flooded in for essentially the same reason people always flock to America. Money. Of course they bring their culture with them, and of course they adapt it to American traditions. Financial success is a matter of great concern for the families coming here, given their reason for emigration. In America, that success is inexorably linked to becoming a person in great demand, such as a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. So families pressure their children to become successful doctors, lawyers, or engineers, because to the people of these traditional cultures, children are not independent beings, but carriers of the family legacy and products to be exploited for the family wealth. This is a wholly un-American point of view, but one that has been embraced in a very American fashion as a great source of wealth for colleges. These families will invest huge amounts of money into their children, as they assume them to be presumptive nest eggs. Many are, as that is the culture they are brought up into. They grow up being treated kingly and then they fulfill their end of the bargain and score top marks, earn the best grades, get the best degrees. Colleges and high schools pick up on this, and try to get as many hard-working Asians as they can into their schools so it looks like they’re a top-notch organization worth being funded by the government, when really they just happen to have tapped into a culture that values responsibility to the family over responsibility to the self. These kids aren’t “smart.” They’re certainly not smarter than me. They’re just hard working because they know their families will disown them if they don’t work hard.

It’s all a game, like everything else. I wish I had been born into an earlier time when colleges were reserved solely for the rich not through monetary exclusion, but simply because the poor didn’t need a college degree and often found it an effeminate and unnecessary privilege. The only people in college were the people who either cared about this stuff or were too lazy for a “real” job and preferred to read books and tell people what they thought about things instead of contributing anything worthwhile to society. I asked what kind of effort modern college demonstrates. The answer is probably something close to “how much bullshit will you put up with?”