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Once upon a time, a year prior to a certain bombing of a certain harbor named after the June birthstone and Roosevelt still ruled over our fair republic with an iron fist, a clumsy teenager named Archie Andrews was crapped out on the comics stage as the retarded brainchild of a man with the rather dubious name of "Bob Montana". For over 60 years, the badly written, poorly illustrated and cheaply printed Archie Comics is still churned out monthly. Like buttermilk, nobody knows who consumes it, but somebody's got to, because they sell it.
Well, actually, I take that back. That's my churlish Internets persona talking, the spawn of a 21st century irony, a childhood where Archie's Riverdale was a hopelessly backwards neverland of malt shops, Model T jalopy races and that weird crown-hat-beanie thing that Jughead wears. Truth be told, I have something of a fondness for the absolute brainless mush of Archie and Pals, and I'm known to occasionally pick up a digest. That they're called "digests" is somewhat bizarre, since "digest" implies that somewhere there are individual copies bought and sold on a regular basis.
Still, there's an art to reading Archie Comics. First off, you must know the rules of this strange little continuity:
- Archie as a teenager in school exists concurrently with Little Archie, Paranormal Investigator Archie, and whatever the hell happens over in the "New Dynamic Look" Archie. Time is always subjective, but usually at least 15 years behind the current fads. You know something is no longer cool the second Betty adopts it: they're just now getting in-line skates.
- Archie and friends are basically commedia dell'arte interchangeable characters. In one story, Archie can simultaneously be the most popular kid in school and an utter graceless buffoon. Do not try to rationalize characterization. You will fail.
- Archie exists in a permanent purgatory, which he can never escape, no matter how hard he tries. Jughead is the omniscient overlord of this universe. Betty and Veronica are his tormenting demon-harpies, ripping his flesh off and his heart out daily. Like Phantasm, Archie thinks it will all be over when he dies, but in truth he reincarnates as a hideous troll being named Little Archie and the process starts over again. Actually, the Phantasm motif is pretty constant throughout, only Veronica's father is Angus Scrimm.
- Archie has met The Punisher. And it was played straight without the slightest ounce of irony. Even weirder, Riverdale was The Punisher's first stop on the way to Gotham City. Figure that out.
This month, however, it has been announced that Archie will finally choose between Betty and Veronica, and he has chosen Veronica. This has happened before, although not with rings, with one of the greatest cop-outs in history: Cheryl Blossom. While I won't go into the details of the inane Cheryl Blossom's dunderheaded existence, just suffice it to say that it was bad. 61 years in perpetual adolescence and finally the eternally chaste Archie is going to get some.
I can't help but think he's making an enormous mistake. I guess it's not my Hell to live. Unlike Gilligan, who had the Skipper to fall back on when forced to choose between the down-to-Earth Mary Ann and the sultry (but utterly unlikeable) Ginger, Archie has not only Betty and Veronica to choose, but also had to weed out such non-runners as Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats.
However, in these woeful economic times, maybe Archie is making a good choice. Veronica is wealthy and clearly capable of keeping him in chocolate malts and sweater vests for the rest of his unholy and miserable existence. Archie's life is almost Miltonian in agony. Any small bit of comfort he can get is probably more than enough to keep him from staring into the brutal realization that Jughead is the unflinching demi-lich Acererak in his own personal Tomb of Horrors.
I think I have sufficiently pumped more nerd in this opine than has ever been delved. Feel free to print it out and shellac it to a chair for future generations to behold.
Ultimately, I suppose that I have a soft shell for Archie because no matter how hard it tried, it still never changed. It was a solid rock of stasis in a steady stream of cultural devolution. I'm not sure I feel comfortable with Archie Andrews having a sex life (although I suppose... no... premarital sex has clearly never been an option for the poor guy, although I'm sure there are plenty of pics on /y/ about it). I don't think the world is ready for the the sex-howl that shook Riverdale.
Being a success on the internet should be like the equivalent of waking up one morning as Quasimodo: people should be throwing rotten cabbages at you as you are wheeled down the streets, you should be chased into cathedrals with pitchforks and torches, you should be found dead in a Parisian catacomb, clutching the dessicated corpse of your beloved Gypsy woman of choice.
You should never want internet success. This is why the internet sucks, and blogging sucks, and Twitter sucks, and everything sucks and you suck and I suck. Sucky sucky suckaroo Magoo.
First off, the lack of journalistic ethics is somewhat dumbfounding in the blogging community. Do they still call it "blogging" now? It seems like that would be one of those terms that would be outdated 5 days after it's coined, like "Surfing the Information Superhighway" was circa 1994. Blogging requires absolutely no training, no statement of sources, and relies almost solely on gossip and hearsay. If you're a conservative blogger, 99% of your "articles" will be thinly cribbed Free Republic rants. If you're a liberal blogger, 98% of your "articles will be thinly cribbed Huffington Post rants. Yes, you're 1% better than conservatives, libbies. If you're like me, and you are an e/n opine writer, a full 100% of everything you say or do has already been covered by Seanbaby and Matt Carracappa in 1998, or if you're very clever maybe you can slide in some Charlie Brooker and hope nobody notices your source, and you dread the inevitable when Brooker finds your blog and mercilessly reams you on Screenburn.
The agonizingly annoying thing about blogging, from the perspective of reading, is that so many bloggers actively push the idea that they somehow found these sources themselves. Everybody in the show really does think they're that interesting. Even worse, bloggers have a tendency to supply each other with ego boosts. The highest goal of your average low-on-the-totem-pole blogger (sup?) is to get linked on Kotaku or Wonkette or whatever your favorite blog happens to be, which fill their daily crap quotient linking to other blogs. It's a vicious circle, inescapable except by just not caring.
Second, just not caring.
You're not allowed to be seen caring what other people read on your blog, all the while actually caring what everybody thinks about it. There's the tendency toward the Geocities Site Hit Paradox. If you mention you want site hits, they never come. Nobody wants to read the opinions of a shameless hit gigolo. It's sort of a subtle undercurrent of etiquette that sort of reminds me of the various unstated court politics of the Gormenghast novels. We're all a bunch of toadying fops, standing around waving lacy handkerchiefs and hoping, praying that somebody will notice how much we don't care if they notice us.
There will be no spoilers in this article. It's the very core of geekery. It's the glue that holds our universe together. It's canon, and it is quite an important part of the myriad mythos we love and cherish. The way a mythos' timeline fits together, the relationships between characters, the locations they are able to explore, everything that makes a world feel fleshed-out and real lies in canon. It's also one of the things that drives us geeks mad, especially when an "official" source seems to get it wrong. But should canon really even matter to you?
For writers on a series or a movie based on a beloved franchise like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Star Trek, the franchise bible is quite important. It facilitates the writing process, helping you remain in the world you set out to tell a story in. For the end-user (reader, viewer, listener, whatever) it is what makes the world feel real. While all fiction requires you suspend disbelief to some extent, canon is the thing we can always go back to and point a finger to when something doesn't seem to make sense. If a story breaks its own rules, it feels disingenuine - like the author maybe isn't taking it as seriously as you want them to.
But then... what about Star Trek canon? The new movie is a reboot of the franchise. All new actors playing old characters meant to refresh the canon. Yet, it's also the first time in Star Trek history where I haven't heard much discussion about where this new bit fits into the canon. Perhaps that's not all bad. This weekend I was checking out the wiki page dealing with Star Trek canon and found this little nugget:
See, people can easily catch us, and say "well, wait a minute, in 'Balance of Terror', they knew that the Romulans had a cloaking device, and then in 'The Enterprise Incident', they don't know anything about cloaking devices, but they're gonna steal this one because it's obviously just been developed, so how the hell do you explain that?" We can't. There are some things we just can't explain, especially when it comes from the third season. So, yes, third season is canon up to the point of contradiction, or where it's just so bad... you know, we kind of cringe when people ask us, "well, what happened in 'Plato's Stepchildren', and 'And the Children Shall Lead', and 'Spock's Brain', and so on -- it's like, please, he wasn't even producing it at that point. But, generally, [canon is] the original series, not really the animated, the first movie to a certain extent, the rest of the films in certain aspects but not in all... I know that it's very difficult to understand. It literally is point by point. I sometimes do not know how he's going to answer a question when I go into his office, I really do not always know, and -- and I know it better probably than anybody, what it is that Gene likes and doesn't like.-- Richard Arnold, 1991
Another thing that makes canon a little confusing. Gene R. himself had a habit of decanonizing things. He didn't like the way the animated series turned out, so he proclaimed that it was not canon. He also didn't like a lot of the movies. So he didn't much consider them canon either. And - okay, I'm really going to scare you with this one - after he got TNG going, he... well... he sort of decided that some of The Original Series wasn't canon either. I had a discussion with him once, where I cited a couple things that were very clearly canon in The Original Series, and he told me he didn't think that way anymore, and that he now thought of TNG as canon wherever there was conflict between the two. He admitted it was revisionist thinking, but so be it.-- Paula Block, 2005
Star Trek's revisionist history dates back to the creator himself, who repeatedly threw things out, brought new things back in, and denounced his own creations as "non-canon". So what's the big deal? Are you annoyed when a series breaks its own canon? Or do you just suspend your disbelief a little while longer?
It's always amazed me how similar horror is to comedy. For example, attempting to present horror on television is an incredibly difficult thing to pass by the network Standards and Practices, since horror is based on shocks, exploiting existing social mores, and imagery that some might consider to be offensive. Horror makes us uncomfortable, because horror shows us what it is we DON'T like. To work successfully, horror needs to be a reaction to what the majority of society rejects.
Vampires, for instance, have ceased to be horrifying to us. Originally, Dracula was a horrifyng example of what people in the 1890s West found scary: backwards and corrupt aristocracy, the liberated woman, the fear of sexually transmitted diseases, and the breakdown of the established post-Enlightenment social order. Dracula was scary because he was all the things the 1890s gentleman might find repellent. Frankenstein's monster, similarly, was a manifestation of early 19th century's worries about the amorality of the inevitable extensions of the Age of Reason's search for progress, and there is a very good reason why it took the wife of the second most prominent British Romantic to write it. The monster represents authority gone wrong, authority that translates into fear, because we have to deal with it.
Like monsters, comedy requires a working knowledge of what it is the majority of the audience finds valuable. Comedians and monsters both rely upon the knowledge of communal truths to operate successfully. The comedian is a living monster, only one we want to know, instead of one we don't. We invite the comedian to make us laugh by pointing out the things we know to be true. Jon Stewart and the kids from South Park are characters that ask questions and speak to authority, questioning it. In the circus, clowns are divided into White Face and Auguste (Red Nose), the two primary characters of the circus clown system. White Face represents the character who makes us laugh because he's smarter than the system, Auguste represents the character who rebels against that system. White Face usually takes the pie to the face, and Auguste usually throws it.
The interesting interplay between Batman and his nemesis, The Joker, reflects this weird dichotomy. Batman is a force of authority outside of the control of mundane confines, and The Joker is a reaction in the opposite extreme, the ultimate avatar of chaos. Horror and comedy meet, and because they are so thinly delineated, they become compelling. The 1960s Batman show was an example of taming the horror... the 1960s culture was no longer afraid of authority, and so Batman became a source of comedy. It wasn't until the Reaganite/Thatcher era that authority became something to be scared of again, and Batman took on new relevance, and The Joker returned to his psychotic roots.
The worst thing in the world is when attempts at comedy don't even try to question authority. Circus clowns have ceased to be funny because they are now a cultural institution, completely unresponsive to the desires of the audience, and have mutated into a common childhood phobia. Whereas generations ago, the clown might have been a visual grotesque, it has now become an uncomfortable form of stasis. The clown hasn't had innovation in nearly a century, and ceases to be amusing.
Comedy Central's Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is a bit like the circus clown. It's a painfully enormous, overwrought and too desperate exercise in nerd-fan-wankery, of the kind that usually happens in bad sprite comics. I can only assume that Comedy Central assumed they were going to get a Blackadder-esque romp through High Fantasy, but what they got was... something else entirely.
The concept is that Krod Mandoon is the Mary Sue of somebody, and the story is about his team of D&D adventurers of various offensive cultural stereotypes trying to take down the evil and cackling Chancellor Dongolor, played by Matt Lucas, the tedious half-star of Little Britain. Yes, "Krod" is "dork" spelled backwards, and "Dongolor" is a name that basically represents the high-water level of comedy you're going to expect here. Like every good D&D party, there's the dumbfoundingly black wizard, the teenage sex fantasy rogue, a wacky half-human sidekick and, yes, the gay cleric.
Little Britain, by the way, is basically an exercise in which two Oxbridge graduates mock those who need the least mockery: the poor, the gay, and the mentally challenged. The show is utterly puerile trash of the highest order, and yet Krod Mandoon seems to top it. It's really quite amazing if examined from a purely humorless, ironic level. It's basically the Hoover Dam of Unfunny, a gigantic structure built solely to restrain funny from bursting forth.
The whole of Krod Mandoon consists in playing up various high fantasy/D&D tropes, while not doing any of them very well. Krod Mandoon, played by Sean Maguire, is a very well acted source of physical buffoonery, but because Sean Maguire is so damningly attractive, the comedy is short lived. Half the first episode consists of Krod, shirtless to expose the admittedly splendid torso of Mr. Maguire, berating his astoundingly attractive girlfriend for wearing a skimpy costume. If Krod was a little less attractive, and his girlfriend a little less sexy, the conceit would work. Instead, we get an episode of The OC in the middle of what is essentially a parody of Xena:Warrior Princess.
The villain, Dongolor, sits in his palace most of the show and much of his "comedy" revolves around him killing various henchmen non-chalantly as he explains, ad nauseum, how he was more popular than Krod in school. Dongolor would be an interesting character if he wasn't so fucking annoying and plagiaristic. He's basically a word-for-word rip-off of Mike Myers' Doctor Evil, and Matt Lucas' horrendously unlikable sort of comic whinginess is so stupidly painful to watch that it just comes off as agonizing.
The whole show is like this... we're supposed to identify with Krod, who is clearly the Mary Sue character of a fairly interesting, yet unseen, 17 year old nerd. His friends are the characters that a particularly unimaginative group of tabletop gamers would roll up in 20 minutes, and the villains are so ridiculously ugly and sociopathic (yet played for laughs) that they're just as, if not more so, unfunny.
The offensiveness of the supporting cast is at a level unseen. For example, the black wizard is so urban that every word he says is in a Chris Rock impression. The gay character, named Bruce (of fucking course), is mincing and limp-wristed, and so annoying that it becomes even worse when Krod displays obvious homophobic behavior around him. Even Reno 911, which thrives on the consistent mincing behavior of the outrageously funny Lieutenant Dangle, justifies this transgressive comedy by making Dangle the most intelligent and relatable character in the cast. Not so here. Krod seems utterly broken that Bruce is the prison boyfriend of his beloved mentor, and makes repeated pointed remarks about not wanting him around. If these are the characters of unseen D&D players, they're all very young, very shielded, and likely living in Orem, Utah.
The crux of this litany is this: comedy, in the case of Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, has been flipped on its ass and has turned into horror. Authority isn't questioned in this show. The whole show sneers down, as if through the monocle of a 17th century fop, at those who society has mocked for so long and so hard. Racism, homophobia and sexism isn't questioned, it's encouraged by the character of Krod, who has no problem whatsoever engaging in all three at once while the writers try to cast him as a sensitive character. For a network that has some of the most progressive and thought-provoking shows in current rotation, this is just unbelievably painful, not even hitting the level of transgression that it thinks it's aiming for. Staring at this brutally and unrelentingly anti-comedy "comedy" is an instance in staring straight into the face of Hannibal Lector, who is juggling and telling knock-knock jokes, or possibly a jaw-droppingly bizarre re-edit of the Masters of the Universe movie.
Last week we received an interesting mailbag from WANTED outlining a particular flavor of displeasure I completely relate to. While the origin of my own ire varies, the frothy foam that flies from my gaping maw like so much volcanic ash as I vent primal anger is very likely the same.
That scene in Swordfish with the (wine/dancing!?) coding cube, the magic image enhancement flaunted in so many episodes of CSI, and easily half the shit pulled in Hackers (alright, the rollerblades were super hot). Why does this bother us geeks so much? Lightsabers, photon torpedoes, and time travel are gravy but damn the production that allows our hero's clip to magically hold 500 rounds.
Examples of such deviancy permeate every genre, doubly so if an area you happen to have as a profession is the topic abused. For WANTED it was the impossible image enhancement, for me its just about any military film of late. Hell, seeing characters in BSG with their uniforms all open and disorderly was enough to make me cringe. And they were in the future. Fighting robots. In space.
Just as gross exaggeration fuels frustration, a square hit on a niche topic lends incalculable credibility. One such example is the 7-part HBO mini series Generation Kill.
It's true. I don't like to play World of Warcraft. I know it's been available for something like 5 years now, but I just finally downloaded the free trial last week, and I played my 10 days, and now I'm done.
Maybe someday I'll come back, but I was somewhat disenchanted early on. I started as an Undead Warlock, which maybe wasn't the best choice. As I kept playing, I quickly discovered that I had to press about 18 buttons all in exact casting order, tell my minion what to do, and make sure that the dude I'm killing dies when I throw off a certain spell so I can make "Soul Shards".
It was sort of bizarre. The most annoying thing is that I spent about fifteen hours traversing Brill and the skeleton infested hills of Doomy Swampy Scary Land, carrying the bassist from Oingo Boingo's skull around, desperately trying to bury it. I had tried every grave I saw, and nobody told me there was a graveyard behind the chapel. By the time I finally buried the fucking skull, I was about Level 8.
I also didn't die until I hit Level 10. I felt that was somewhat odd.
So, growing bored of my Zombie Warlock, I tried an Orc, which was really fucking dull as hell. I was in a neon orange valley that looked like Duckburg 200 years after the nuke dropped.
Eventually, I discovered the only quest I was interested in, which was the seasonal easter egg hunt. Bear in mind that I had already done the exact same thing in Animal Crossing a week earlier, and I did it splendidly. I got a full set of the Easter Egg furniture.
It then became obvious that building a WoW character is a lot like Animal Crossing, in that you're supposed to do a lot of things: killing 20 centaurs, finding a walrus a red snapper, killing 20 gnolls, planting flowers and trying to breed a blue rose, sending a party of 40 characters to kill a dragon, sending a party of 40 characters to kill Krazy Redd. They're very similar games, really.
I think the deal-sealer was that Nintendo sent me an in-game couch for my in-game house, shaped like a Nintendo DSi. The week previous, I got a red Pikmin hat, and before that was a green St. Patricks hat.
You see, I happen to like that Animal Crossing has no levels or ways to kill characters or anything like that. World of Warcraft does appeal to my desire to collect absolutely everything in the game to see what they do, but the problem is that I have to kill 4,000,000 zombies to do it.
If you want to see the future, Winston, it's Tom Nook's foot, smashing into your face, over and over and over again.
It's not that Animal Crossing doesn't have flaws. The Wii version is the same damn game as all the others, with a few annoying tics to make a learning curve inherent. For example, players and animals build trails based on where they walk most. It took me a few weeks until I realized that my entire village was beginning to look like Planet Arrakis. I now have been spending every last Bell on flowers, the only way to reseed your village's brown.
So, despite Animal Crossing being a flawed game, it's still way more fun than World of Warcraft. Of course, I'm deeply disturbed, and Animal Crossing is the video game equivalent of a padded looney bin cell, where absolutely nothing can possibly be a stressor, so it might, just might, not be for you.
Every week when I compile this list of actual search terms people have used to get to this site a little bit of blood starts dripping out of my ears. It's not much, but cumulatively I think I have probably lost about 3 liters of blood from my brain in the time since I started this feature. It's a real problem. This week I'm focusing on some of the... more strange terms. Because of the... strangeness, I'm skipping the requisite Google Image Search link.
tasty earwax confections
precious moments clip art
real turds in a toilet
please rub my man parts ryan g biv
how moms can fix ps2
why won't chris furniss return my phone calls?
can i get an std from a potato?
self actualization through coffee enemas
alton brown gets a brazilian
No Billy, I don't think you can get an STD from a potato. But be sure to wear a condom just to be safe. Join us next week when I *collapses into a massive seizure*
posted by Chris on April 10, 2009 10:01 AM in Rant
A brand-new month means a brand-new set of crazy things people have typed into search engines to get to this site. Yes, they are real. Yes, they are insane. Be sure to click through to the Google Image Search results! Here we gooooooooo
Before we get to a brand new set of completely insane How Did I Get Here entries for April, let's wrap up March! I scoured the whole set of March search terms and picked out the best of the rest. Let it be known that these are real search terms people used to get to this site. They are not fake. I can't make this stuff up. They are genuinely crazy. Remember to click through to the Google Image Search results for extra crazy.
As I scroll down the list of completely ridiculous terms people actually type into search engines in order to end up at The Weekly Geek, often times I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something. This week I'm showcasing the month's most negative and insulting search terms. Be sure to click through to the Google Image Search result for added angst!
posted by Chris on March 13, 2009 11:44 AM in Rant
It's Friday! You know what that means? More batshit crazy search terms from The Weekly Geek's raw server logs. Each one of these terms are actual phrases someone typed into a search engine in order to get here. Each week is just another layer in the onion of insanity. And if you read them all together, it kind of sounds like a beat poem! Like always, click the phrase to get the Google Image Search result. Onward!
Well, there's no Doctor Helmig for this week. February is not a good time for me, and the past week was particularly horrid, but I won't bore you.
I feel I have some sort of responsibility for providing you, our audience, with some sort of humor-based visual stimuli. So instead of a comic that takes many hours to complete, how about a random bitter commentary on an episode from a television series nobody remembers? That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I present for you:
While preparing for an upcoming trip this week I created a checklist of things to do. Some items were specific to travel but most were part of the weekly routine that involves feeding not only my own mouth but also those of a few cold-blooded accomplices that have managed to stick around over a decade of constant relocation.
My current digs are in the same locale I grew up in so the choice of where to acquire the premium of gut-loaded insects was a simple one. I'd be paying a visit to the independently owned pet store not only marked as one of the older establishments in the area but also as the very first distant destination I was permitted to bike to as a child. It had supplied me well on and off for the last 14 years whether I was there to gawk with my GT Performer inverted out on the sidewalk or I needed to special order a questionable toad. As time passed I'd buy crickets from the same guy that sold me that one tarantula I had to get rid of while in college or the lizard that once escaped for an entire winter break only to somehow re-emerge fatter than when he vanished.
The list grew shorter and I eventually pulled in to the pet store's lot as I had literally hundreds of times before. Upon arrival, however, I was not greeted by the oddly satisfying view of windows plastered with faded vendor stickers and condensed seawater but instead with the harsh contrasting colors of BUSINESS FOR SALE signs.
I blinked a few times as a random minivan swerved, cutting through yellow lines of the crosswalk despite the moron standing there staring up in confusion.
I've scoured Pricegrabber for years and typically allow a few days of web crawling when seeking the best deal for just about anything. I've clipped coupons, mailed in rebates, and traded in the old to offset the new while taking an intense pleasure in skipping from stone to stone across the swift rivers of commerce both electronic and physical.
This was different.
If ever there were a brick and mortar location I'd pledge loyalty to this was it. I'd been genuinely sad when the store cat, a multi-colored behemoth named Monty that would unexplainably sit on my foot for pleasure, came up missing. Even while working in a competing pet store all through high school each week would end with me stopping by for dozens of crickets at full price. This place and I, we had a history.
Truth told this wasn't completely unexpected; I've watched countless local places trampled either by the fickle economy or links of ever-expanding chain stores, but it was the response the owner gave as to why he thought that pet stores in general were on the decline that I found the hardest stomach.
posted by Chris on September 11, 2008 9:25 AM in Rant
This discussion probably requires tons more academic research and thinking than my anectodal mind is capable of, but this is something that's been on my mind as of late. I am not an adult. I freely admit this. I am not a child, either. I've been called a man-child before, but that description has more of a negative connotation than my lifestyle indicates. I have a pretty good job, I pay my bills, and I've accomplished quite a lot in the short time I've had on Earth so far. While the label "Adult" itself isn't necessarily important, it is important to note that the idea of "adulthood" has changed drastically in this last generation. Granted, these definitions change every generation, but I am of the opinion that we are in the beginning of a new golden age of sorts and we need to accept and embrace change, and redefine who we are in order to succeed and live fulfilling lives. It feels like there is this ambient wave of depression washing over our generation as we struggle to fit into this world, a rampant fatalism that leads to excess and is more focused on the self rather than society as a whole. Is this from a lack of maturity? Are we all just stunted adults, forever doomed to be children and will that drive our society into the ground? I am of course specifically referring to geeks. We're nuts about toys, video games, cartoons and other "childish" pursuits. We are driven by nostalgia, but I wonder if it's just a need to escape to simpler times or a change in the way we define adulthood.
Times are tough. We are mired in one of the most convoluted bullshit wars modern history has known. My whole adult life so far has seen George W. Bush as the commander-in-chief. The world is feeling the strain from having so many humans on it, and global warming and other fears are weighing on the shoulders of society. Life sucks and living in a time when all your concerns surrounded the fate of a rotund plumber in blue overalls is highly preferable to the realities of now. But I don't think it's just the need for escapism that has thrown the modern geek's pursuits into the mainstream but our generation's ability to network. We are very comfortable with the internet and social technologies in general. In the past people would correspond with old friends infrequently, sending letters or making irregular phone calls and yearly visits. Perhaps you had a local club to go to in order to pursue a hobby, and television fed you news nightly. Now we can be connected with friends constantly through instant messages. Our local clubs have become communities on the web, and our news is fed to us from the angry fire hose that is an RSS reader. More than that, there's a new sort of ambient presence fueled by Twitter. With Twitter (and Facebook, to a lesser extent) you can be kept up to date with the minutae of every single one of your friends' lives. A single tweet about making a sandwich doesn't mean much, but a day's worth of tweets and you have painted a picture of what occupies your time. I know which one of my friends is currently traveling and where, which friends are ill and are staying at home. Who is bored and who is busy, who is having a good day and who is having a bad one. I can instantly comfort a friend who needs it, and things like event planning is a breeze when we are all connected. It's just normal to us. We are almost a hive mind and handle it with savvy.
I think that we are very much adults, though some may call us childish. Sometimes our pursuits show a kind of narcissism which can be perceived as negative, however. Fewer of us are choosing to have children, which I think is not the best thing for society as a whole. While we can be immature, we are also often thoughtful, intelligent people. We have an awareness and breadth of knowledge the world has never known and to pass that on to a new generation is an exciting prospect.
Maybe that's what makes you an adult. Perhaps it's when you finally decide to put yourself aside and focus on the life of a small human in your care. The label doesn't matter, anyway. Every generation experiences change such as this, and the differences between who is an adult and who is a child have always been varied. For now, though, I think I'm happy being stuck inbetween.
The Weekly Geek doesn't get political often, but it should be said that we're all progressive (we don't use the slur term "Liberal" that Bush Sr. invented). Since we're also a blog, we occasionally see things that normal media don't, and I found this on Youtube this morning and am shocked it isn't plastered all over the news. Sarah Palin, praying for a pipeline (since those only go to Christians, apparently).
What is worse? A sincere Fundie or an insincere Fundie?
This episode of The Mind Boggleth isn't devoted to a central theme, as it's been a fairly busy week here at Seckscab Inc. I was recently "released" from my job as a picture framer, only to find another identical job at a different outfit, so I have a few weeks unpaid vacation between jobs. This is the advantage of having a skilled trade, I imagine. Somebody, somewhere, is going to need my services at any given time. Picture framing is hardly strenuous work, it's fairly tedious and requires a lot of fine motor skills and attention to detail, so not many people stick with it long enough to learn the details of the job. Add into it the reality that there aren't any colleges who teach picture framing as a major (I had a few seminars in college about general gallery prep, but nothing really specific to how to put the frames together) and I suddenly realize, at the age of 28, that I finally have something to trade goods and services for monetarily.
It's a good feeling, and I suggest to anybody, like me, who hates desk jobs and hates labor work to find a niche service and learn it by rote. Your brain becomes detached from the job and you're free to have remarkable flights of fancy in your head while slaving away, and you develop a sincere case of bipolar syndrome. Not only am I the president of Insane Niche Trade Destined To Drive You To Drink Club For Men, I'm also a member!
While I'm enjoying these few weeks off, I settled in to play the newest installment in the Final Fantasy Ivalice Alliance series, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2. When we last left Ivalice Alliance, Vaan and Penelo were in an annoying Warcraft real time combat environment that involved summoning everything under the sun to kill bosses that are infinitely more powerful than your characters will ever be. If you kill them, it's generally through a combination of luck combined with sheer balls-out lack of strategy.
I was surprised, quite surprisingly, too, in the depth of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2, especially since the first FFTA annoyed the ever loving shit stones out of me. FFTA2 is still annoying at times, but it seems to be of superior mettle. The main plot is far too child-friendly for most adults to get enthralled with (something about an evil clan that wants to rule Ivalice by use of some crazy dimensional rift thing... I dunno, you tell me). What really seals the deal is not the main plot but the various subplots that weave back and forth over 300 quests to build an incredibly funny, character rich, almost Cervantes-esque series of episodes.
One plot arc, possibly my favorite plot arc in anything ever, involves bringing various potions and thingums to a zombie who is trying to commit suicide. If you know the Final Fantasy universe at least in a rudimentary way, the undead are harmed by "White Magic", which is anything that heals HP or MP to living creatures. The plot brings back the suicidal zombie several times, and you get to learn her little story and eventually find a way to bring her back to life, at which point you win a new super-character with lots of love in it. Another plot arc, involving a rival clan from another country who doesn't understand the rules of Ivalice's judge system, moves into your turf and tries to take it over, mafia style.
All in all, if you are a gamer that likes a good laugh and building your characters with the care and attention of a Pokemon Trainer, FFTA2 is your best bet. If you're one of those burly manly-men over at the Xbox playtesting who demand bigger guns, it's maybe not for you. I dunno, I like my games cute and without much depth that I can come back to again and again and check in to see how my d00ds are. FFTA2 fits that bill. I've still got 150 quests to go, even after beating the main plot. I can't wait to unlock them all.
On a complete different note, somebody sent me a link to the Vatican Gift Shop, which offers a peculiar service. Anything can be blessed by the Pope himself for no extra charge, as long as you bought it from them. The gift shop sells enough religious shlock to raise Martin Luther from the dead in rage, but the kicker is that you can have a mousepad bearing adorable Botticelli cherubs BLESSED BY THE POPE. Imagine taking that one to the office on a Monday. And then imagine me as both of your snarky coworkers.
YOU: "Hey guys, my mousepad has been blessed by the Pope. I have signed certificate that says so!"
COWORKER #1: That must be a clerical error!
COWORKER #2: What a nun sequiter!
COWORKER #1: A goddamn cloisterfuck, that's what it is.
COWORKER #2: What'd he do? Wimple out?
COWORKER #1: You're not making this a habit, are you?
COWORKER #2: Quit this bull and take some collars! We can't be Latin starting this Mass of work we've got!
YOU: That last one didn't quite work out.
COWORKER #2: Cardinal since when do I care?
And, lastly, from blessings to blasphemies, we here at the Weekly Geek get a lot of emails begging us to plug shlock. Sometimes it's useful, like when Chris got free beanbag chairs and then forgot to write an article about them, or when Qais got an "intimate massager" and the only thing we heard about it later was a slight buzzing sound as he walked by, here at the palatial Weekly Geek Plaza. That said, probably the worst, least informed attempt at a Plugola/Payola was this week, as a porn site offered us free admittance if we linked them.
Chris runs a tight ship, as well as tight pants, and he tries to keep things as PG-13 as possible. Why he lets me, with a terminal case of Tourette's FUCK ASS COCK, write is beyond me. Still, I'll be damned if he lets me review a porn site on the Weekly Geek.
Trust me, I asked if I could. I explained that it is engaging, well designed and has some of the hottest barely legal vaginas in hardcore scenes with big black studs that will BLOW YOUR MIND, but he would have none of it. He was simply adamant, like the members of the biggest stars the porn industry could summon on the very self-same site, but there was nothing doing. And doing is what they specialize! Lots of doing! Doing it in every position, variation and costume you sick little perverts could possibly get off on!
I just hope they use a condomine patrias et sancte filias.
A phrase you hear uttered by at least one voice in the crowd whenever a movie is adapted from a beloved work of fiction. Novels, comic books, video games, no matter what the source material there's always dissent. The long-time fans come out of the woodwork to frantically stake their claim as the Originals. The Ones Who Knew About It First. There's a bit of selfishness there, almost a protectiveness being displayed. Books and video games are much more of an engrossing, personal experience than film and the depiction of narrative that plays out in your head is as intimate as one can get. When a big-name director and hotshot actors get attached to the movie adaptation of a favorite, it can be jarring. Fear of mangling the source material. Fear of not giving the material the respect it deserves. And maybe a little bit of fear that the movie version will be entirely different than the version you saw in your head. That disconnect is so loathsome to fans they'd do anything to stop it. And by "anything" I mean angrily posting on message boards. And by "stop it" I mean annoy the shit out of people.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a movie adaptation. There, I said it. Breathe a sigh of relief, fellow nerds! You don't have to act elitist in the face of mainstream movie-goers anymore!
Take Watchmen as an example. This twenty-some-odd year old story has been read and re-read and obsessed over by fans. It's on the Time Magazine Top 100 Novels of all time list, which tells you something. Not "graphic novels", mind you. Novels. It's good. Really good. Incredible, in fact. I just picked up the trade paperback version and read it for the first time this week and it's already one of my absolute favorites, no hyperbole. I am intensely excited for the movie adaptation, which is being shot by the director of 300 in a similar frame-by-frame comic to film approach. Mixed feelings pervade the internets about this adaptation. Some fear it's going to be just another summer blockbuster action movie, failing to display the true gamut of emotions, the sheer gravitas of a world filled with flawed superheroes with everyday problems. Making a Watchmen movie is like, well, making a Lord of The Rings movie. There's so much that would be lost in translation. Watchmen relies heavily on its literary style, on you as the reader becoming engrossed in the words and intimately relating to the characters one by one, chapter after chapter. Even writer Alan Moore has stated he wants nothing to do with the movie, nor does he plan on watching it. What an asshole.
"Nothing is any good if other people like it." It's an indie rock and nerd mantra that I admit I often live by. But movie adaptations of excellent works are inevitable. Why not embrace that fact and treat these films as companion pieces to the greater work? Why not get upset when action figures are created or t-shirts made? Why not take it as a whole and use it to personally enrich your experience and understanding?
One of the things I love to do is to pick apart a story and relentlessly analyze tidbits of mythos. To piece together the puzzle of characters and plot and, ultimately, pick out the differences between book and film. The best fiction is able to engage everyone depending on how much you want to engage with it. From Lost to Shakespeare there's a perfect balance of highbrow and lowbrow content. You can enjoy the weirdness of the island and chat about how Kate and Sawyer are toooooootally made for each other - or you can decipher intricate codes and maps to delve deeper into the mysteries they've laid out for you. Or you can just marvel at how dreamy Sawyer is. How dreamy? SO dreamy.
Shakespeare liked to write fart jokes and add gore to fill the front rows of the Globe with commoners. The cheap seats. In the back were the intelligentsia, silently appreciating the literary tapestry unfolding between bloody sword fights and bawdy displays of machismo and lust. It's classic. It works and it is fantastic.
The fact of the matter is that as fans we want to evangelize what we believe to be truly good while still maintaining the integrity of the product. It's contradictory in a way: we want to keep these things as our own yet we still want to share our enthusiasm with the rest of the world. When it comes down to it we're all just insecure. Who cares if the whole world knows and loves a mainstream version of Middle-Earth, or a watered-down Watchmen? No matter how exposed our favorite works get, it doesn't change how we feel about them. We should learn to appreciate the fact that more people are being exposed to great works of fiction every day.
And hey, if they like the movie maybe they'll read the book.
"Or, go to YouTube. You'll see videos of teens experimenting with digital drugs. You can decide for yourself if binaural beats induce drug-like effects."
That's right, parents. Press your legislators to outlaw something that YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOURSELF IF IT ACTUALLY WORKS. While you're at it, let's get placebos outlawed, since sugar pills are made out of sugar and might actually give you cavities.
Seriously, ABC News has really reached the bottom of the barrel with this one. Not only do Binaurals not work, but they're not even an illegal commodity. I suspect this might be an RIAA-plant article, since they haven't had a good "Illegal downloading supports Al-Quaeda" article in some time.
Seriously, d00ds. Try harder or we'll slip some Heroin Binaurals into the overhead music they play at K-Mart, just to see what happens. We can do that, you know. We are Anonymous.
This past weekend, Jinny and I fulfilled our collective destiny to be the last two people in Seattle to see The Dark Knight. A few factors contributed to our lateness in maintaining geek status quo by absorbing media as fast as the companies can sling it at us: we wanted to see it at IMAX and the IMAX showings at Pacific Science Center have been sold out for most of August, and we both greatly despise the current state of the theater experience. A venue has to offer us something unique to drag us away from our fancy HDTV and 5.1 surround setup at home. Where we can pause the action to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Where we can watch the movie with subtitles so we never miss a line of dialog. Where we don't have to worry about people around us talking or incessantly chewing popcorn. Ever chewing. Ever munching.
The Dark Knight? Amazing. You already knew that. Heath Ledger was incredible as the force of nature that is the Joker, Aaron Eckhart was compelling and sympathetic as Harvey Dent and Christian Bale's Bat-Lisp annoyed the crap out of me. The IMAX scenes were well-worth it: high-altitude shots of Hong Kong and Gotham, breathtaking and enormous in scope. Stadium seating and a 6 story screen meant even the most comically tall hat couldn't impede our sight. Snacks were overpriced as always but in my opinion you just can't watch a movie in the theater without Sour Patch Kids. It just doesn't happen.
This experience was special not only because of the film format or the venue, but because it was the first movie we'd seen in the theater for about half a year. The Pacific Science Center's IMAX Theater showed me that going to the movies doesn't have to be a painful experience, but there can always be improvements. This made me think: what would my ideal movie theater experience be like? I know there are some venues around that offer this stuff, but I think that the big theaters would do well to adapt some of these ideas to boost sales and not have to keep increasing ticket prices. At the very least it would bring me back on a regular basis.
Assigned seats would be nice. Being able to nab 6 seats in a row for you and your friends would save the frustration of walking into a darkened theater and trying to find a spot that would accommodate your group. Even with just two people this would be a great benefit.
A personal listening device would be neat. Being able to focus on the movie when there's people around you making random noises would be awesome. Imagine if you could have a little headphone jack in the arm rest of your seat (like in an airplane) that you could use in addition to the main sound system. You'd still get the booming bass and surround sound, just with the added benefit of being able to ignore the giant blob man next to you who is enjoying his popcorn a little too much.
Maybe I'm missing out on the social aspect of going to see a movie. Perhaps the big draw is being around other humans and sharing the experience with a large group of random strangers. I just don't see the appeal when it comes to the large-chain movie theaters. I'd much rather wait until the movie is out on DVD, where I can pop open a beer, eat dinner and be terrified of the Joker all from the comfort of my own couch.
What would you suggest to help improve the movie going experience?
If you're reading this on Friday, August 8, 2008, then you will be happy to know that you are not dead due to a man-made black hole sucking you, and the rest of the solar system and surrounding environs, into oblivion. Yesterday, or tomorrow, as I'm writing this, the CERN Large Hadron Particle Collider was turned on for the first time.
First off, this thing is ENORMOUS. It's a 17 mile tube, with the price tag of 6.4 BILLION EUROS. Since Euros are super expensive incomprehensible moon moneys, that's like a billion trillion zillion dollars. Hadron collider? More like HARD-ON collider.
Of course, the likelihood of a black hole forming is extraordinarily remote. Vegas chances are that we'll survive and nothing will have happened. Worst case scenario, Switzerland is evaporated. But will we miss Switzerland?
Let us explore this idea a little further.
- I have never met anyone from Switzerland, or anyone who has personally encountered anybody from Switzerland. I have met somebody who has met Rick Steves, who has been to Switzerland, but Rick Steves is a ginger with eyes that are a bit too close together. I think he's one of the Lizard People, or possibly a Weasley. Maybe both.
- History books are full of countries that do shit. France had Napoleon, Italy had Mussolini, heck, even Belgium has Tintin and Belgium is a completely arbitrary made up nation that exists solely out of certain treaties that were signed after a "war" consisting of twenty people armed with pointy sticks. The fact is that war makes history, not particle colliders, nor, for that matter, the Calvinists. The only thing Switzerland has ever contributed to mankind was Calvinism, and we can all see how that turned out.
- When was the last time you said to your loved one, "Loved one, let's order out for Swiss?" Exactly.
QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM: Switzerland does not exist, except on the Platonic conceptual level, in the same way that love and justice and freedom and George Lucas exist, i.e. they are simply words we made up to describe things that are ephemeral at best, laughably void from our lives at worst.
If you're reading this, and if we survive our impending doom, then Switzerland suddenly has something that proves it exists after all. This is a harrowing thought. What other things may exist that we never had proof of before?
I have considered this possibility, and it occurs to me that the last horizon is not space travel, nanotechnology or particle physics. The last horizon is the Christian Science Reading Room, four words that do not, in any way, describe what is inside those innocuous doors. There is no Christianity, no Science, little to read and more than one room. Furthermore, nobody ever goes in, nobody ever comes out. It's the religious equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
There could literally be anything behind those doors. ANYTHING.
There could be a Victorian style opium den of vice in there. There could be a child porn ring that puts Jeffrey Jones' basement to shame. There could be Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earheart, Resurrection Mary and Don Knotts back there.
We just don't know.
So, if you're reading this, congratulations on not being vaporized. There's an end to a Lifetime Exclusive Movie of the Week for you.
Welcome to the return of The Mind Boggleth! Every Friday you will be treated to rants, screeds and tirades against society courtesy of the mad mind that is Max Brooks. No, not THAT Max Brooks. Enjoy. --Chris
I recently renewed my membership at Hollywood Video, because I just like the visceral experience of going somewhere, something I rarely do these days, what with Netflix, Youtube and the liquefied food hose I just had installed (they just pump it straight from KFC to my arterial veins, it's pretty sweet; only $60 a month for continual life support, and no need to brush my teeth anymore!). I decided that I actually prefer a video store. Hollywood Video is pretty good at getting rarer DVDs these days, and have recently installed a new "Arthouse Basement" section that amuses me to no end because I can think of exactly two things wrong with that title, but it's a gimmick that works.
They've separated "Arthouse Basement" in very small genres, such as "Foreign - European", "Foreign - Asian", "Gay and Lesbian Friendly" (also known as "Foreign - Australia"), "Animation" (changed from "cartoons" after the Otaku apparently threw a hissy fit, throwing John Kricfalusi from the top of a cathedral in the process) and "Cult Classics", which was always in Hollywood Video in the first place, just over next to "Special Interest", which is where they put the concert DVDs. All this subdivision of genre got me thinking about other, smaller, yet equally important genres that perhaps need their own space on the shelf.
CAR MOVIES: These are generally not Dramas or Comedies, they've been filed under "Action/Adventure" for decades, but I think the Car Movie is it's own genre, and the qualifier is pretty simple. If a movie's content is 75% car chases, people talking about cars, or cars killing people, it goes in "Car Movies". Naturally, this includes 90% of Steve McQueen and James Garner's repertoire, everything involving Jason Statham, and "Christine". Also, did you know that 1/10th of all Pixar movies are about cars? It's true. That's a commanding percentage.
PEOPLE IN SPACE MOVIES: I've always been torn about Sci-Fi. On the one hand, you have some really deep, philosophical, introspective movies that challenge conventional thinking ("2001: A Space Odyssey", "Logan's Run", "Gattaca", etc.), while the rest of Sci-Fi is just Star Wars inspired dreck that tries to sell you on Joseph Campbell somehow being more than a racist nerd who really liked Dairy Queen porn. "Universal Hero" my ass, Campbell. It's lazy writing and even lazier film making. Still, I think that if we remove all the "People in Space" movies from the Sci-Fi section, you maybe could separate the wheat from the chaff, theoretically. Also, while we're at it, let's move the Fantasy section further away from the Sci-Fi section, maybe across the street and into the Android's Dungeon. "Lord of the Rings" is great and all, but Fantasy is a realm reserved for genuine freaks.
On a side rant, I've given up tabletop gaming and anything fantasy related. In a world where John McCain is theLEAST DYSFUNCTIONAL AND INSANE Republican candidate possible, the need for fantasy in my life has diminished. We're living the dream, folks. This is it. Sauron has turned his eye toward the Shire, and us hobbits are about to get steamrolled.
Dueling MAGICIANS: A newcomer to the "Smaller Genre" world, the Dueling Magician movie may perhaps go down as the defining genre of the 2000s, in the same way that Blaxploitation only happened in the 70s and "Starring Seth Green" only happened in the 90s. Films such as "The Prestige", "The Illusionist", Mitchell and Webb's "Magicians" and the latest Quentin Tarantino masterpiece: "Bonzo the Clown vs. The Amazing Anzelini On The Moon". These films have built an exciting world of magic, intrigue and Doug Henning into a new standard. Scientists estimate that by 2009, nearly 30% of all films shot in Hollywood will be about dueling magicians. The other 70% will be sequels to superhero films.
VINCENT PRICE STARING OBSESSIVELY AT A PORTRAIT OF HIS DEAD WIFE: I know, it sounds like a crazily obscure genre, this genre fills up exactly 100% of Vincent Price's career. Films like "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", "Tomb of Ligeia", "The Fall of the House of Usher", "House on Haunted Hill" and "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" have brought us exactly what we, as an audience, demand: nothing but Vincent Price staring obsessively at a portrait of his dead wife. If a formula isn't broken, don't fix it. Keep hacking at it, until it is sublime perfection.
NAZI MOVIES: With all the movies about the Holocaust, it's sort of silly that a few people still believe it never happened. There has been so damn many movies about the Nazis and the Holocaust that it's become a cottage industry, or as the Germans call it, cottagenbrickdermakenzegeschelleshaft.
The Weekly Geek is less a blog and more a podcast, this much is true. I completely admit that my little rants here and there on this site are the equivalent of the Tom Jones that's playing over the speakers at the grocery store. You're not there to listen to Tom Jones, you're there to buy rutabagas. Why are you buying rutabagas? I don't know. What's a rutabaga, anyway? I don't know. I don't know a damn thing about rutabagas. It's just a fun word to type.
Rutabaga, rutabaga, rutabaga.
So, ultimately, as far as the Weekly Geek's blog goes, it's here for your convenience while you wait for the podcast to download. A crunchy, sesame flecked breadstick before the Baloney Alfredo that is Mack and Caspian. Would madame prefer some FRESHLY CRACKED PEPPER? Would sir enjoy FRESHLY GRATED PARMESAN? Would Her Majesty gasp wistfully at some FRESHLY BUTTERED HAGFISH CUBES?
While the Weekly Geek's Blog is just a side dish, there are, believe it or not, blogs that exist solely for the pleasure of blogging alone. Self-induced bloggery is a disease and a scourge upon the urban landscape, somewhere between prostitution and those embroidered jeans with pseudo-Victorian motifs on them. Blogs like Perez Hilton and Ain't It Cool News are essentially shill-magnification zones, the rebirth of the Payola Scandals of the 1950s.
If you aren't aware of the Payola Scandals, they worked a bit like this: Record Company A would come to Radio Show Host B, and offer Radio Show Host B several hundred dollars to play one of Record Company A's records over and over again until the public had no choice but to accept it as a required purchase on their next record buying trip. This was, of course, the days before iPods and mp3s, so if a record was being pushed heavily by the record company, your Montgomery Wards or J.C. Penney's or Wilburson-Cockshit-on-Cam's would stock it by dearth of knowing that it was being played so often on the radio.
The Payola system explains why Buddy Holly became famous. I know I'm going to get hundreds (well, maybe one) of hate mails about this, but Buddy Holly was, and still is, the worst singer/songwriter of all time. Buddy Holly is to singing/songwriting what leprosy is to a Fourth of July Barbecue. Thank GOD he died in that plane crash. He fucking deserved it. As he currently burns in Hell for his crimes against humanity, we can all be thankful that Congress took the Payola problem into their own enormously chubby and checkered hands, and outlawed it.
Still, the Payola system lives on, in the so-called NEW MEDIA. NEW MEDIA must always be capitalized, because NEW MEDIA is here to stay. Basically, in the NEW MEDIA Payola, the Payola is even easier than it ever was, because bloggers are generally amateurs who have day jobs, and therefore, no dignity. Whereas before the NEW MEDIA, people who reviewed media were called "critics" and generally had doctorates or war correspondent credentials or very large hats, "critics" these days are rarely actually critical of anything at all, and hopelessly fawning over whatever they're given for free.
A few years ago, the decision was made that E-3 would restrict it's invite-only system to make it much more difficult for bloggers to attend, and the bloggers threw an unholy fit about it. I find it interesting that E-3 has to restrict attendance, whereas the Adult Industry Convention in Las Vegas actually SELLS tickets, and people who are otherwise completely passively associated with the "adult industry" (i.e. they've certainly been on a few covers, and interior pages, if you know what I mean) have no problem getting in. E-3, however, is different, and exceedingly exclusive, and this works to the favor of the gaming companies, because a ticket to E-3 is the blogging equivalent of a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Bloggers will do literally anything to attend, going so far as to give Will Wright a complete pass on his child molestation rumors. Now, I'm not saying Will Wright is a child molestor, but I'm not saying he isn't, and you're free to read between the lines on that, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
And now, the Weekly Geek will never again be invited to E-3.
Will Wright's supposed tendency toward underage pederasty aside, there are a few tricks and tactics to being a successful Indie Blogger Cock and, thus, scoring as many freebies as possible.
1. DRESS AS ECCENTRICALLY AS POSSIBLE
Nothing says "NEW MEDIA" like dressing like an explosion at a K-Mart. Harry J. Knowles, who makes Two Ton Torres look like Karen Carpenter, seems to have started this tendency, although Matt Drudge's "Lemony Snicket" affectations certainly didn't stop that ball from rolling any further than it needed to. Perez Hilton, who otherwise looks like a total cuddlebug, personally keeps Manic Panic in business, and Ana Marie Cox, "Wonkette", tries to buck the trend by presenting herself as a fashionable Barbera Bush style proto-matron, but ends up looking like Cruella de Ville on a chubby day.
I, personally, admit to a certain predilection toward velvet and leather in my wardrobe, and I own a pair of trendy black nerd glasses. Of course, unlike the pretenders, I have spent time in a mental institution, so "eccentricity" is not my goal, it's just the polite way of describing it.
2. PICK A SUBJECT AND NEVER DEVIATE FROM IT.
If your blog's subject is "film", for instance, pick A film, preferably a sci-fi trilogy of some sort, and yammer on and on about it endlessly, comparing every new film you see unfavorably to the brilliance that is your particular hobbyhorse. If your blog is political in nature, pick a hilariously offensive nickname for the leader of your party's opposition ("Black Insane Obama" is a good one, "John McGain" is a slightly more subtle equivalent) and refuse to call that person by their real name. If your blog is about fashion or celebrities, obsess over one certain person ad absurdam.
Remember: Blogging isn't journalism. You're not supposed to be objective. You are to be slavishly one-sided and utterly devoted to your pointless "insider" position.
3. DEMAND AS MUCH FREE SWAG AS POSSIBLE, AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE, AND TO AS MANY PLACES AS POSSIBLE.
And don't be afraid to threaten to throw back the thinly woven curtain of deceit surrounding the pedophilic tendencies of your quarry, either. Please give me free Spore stuff.
Again, the Weekly Geek is guilty of this one, although I am, admittedly, not a recipient of as much largesse as others. The worst I get is emails offering me "sneak previews" of shitty web cartoons. And while my particular sickness gets off on cultural fecalphilia, I should, by all rights, be demanding much, much more. I should be demanding paid junkets to the Lucas Ranch for hookers and blow and handjobs from Robert Rodriguez. I not only demand these trinkets, but I also demand to be put on VH1 as an "I Heart the ________" talker. I heart the ________ more than you do, and I can prove it, because I have a blog.
Incidentally, Michael Ian Black* the penultimate hearter of the ________, opened his blog a scant few weeks ago, to coincide with his book of essays about his van customization service. 90% of it is him (charmingly) attempting to start an East/West Rap style feud with David Sedaris. Good for him! My dream is to be a heart-er of something, preferably the 80s, maybe the 90s, but I'll settle for the Oughts in due time.
The Free Swag situation is a problem, sadly, especially in the geekier parts of the blogospheroidmatron. The comic conventions, which have long basically just been an excuse to throw free shit at increasingly desperate nerds, excel (saga) at this tactic. Nerds will love anything they get free shit for, which explains why Iron Man somehow became this century's version of Citizen Kane overnight.
On the video gaming front, from Nintendo, I was given a plastic mannequin hand for my DS. X-Box once gave me a foam rubber brain shaped stress ball and a LANYARD(!), and Sony gave me a keychain shaped like a tomato, in one of the great non-sequiters of all time. Of the three, Nintendo's was the best, thus tainting my opinion of Nintendo for decades to come. Still, I sigh longingly whenever I see that LANYARD(!) and think of my close personal friends at Microsoft (especially Ted in Accounting, KEEP AIMING FOR THAT STAR, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND!). As for Sony, they can choke on their own vomit, so far as I care.
APPENDIX: WEBCOMIC BLOGGING
This one is tricky, and, admittedly, a salvo for the few brave souls who have webcomics AND blogs. Your webcomic must be understood by reading your blog, and your blog must be completely unreadable without first reading the webcomic. This cyclical system is required, and cannot be broken, lest the whole balance of the Chi be thrown off.
Your webcomic explains your blog, and your blog explains your webcomic. Break the circle at your own peril. Penny Arcade once broke this rule, and the next day, Tycho got fat. I know, man. I KNOW, MAN.
*I harbo(u)r a personal lust for Mr. Black that few would ever understand. You think I'm joking. Ha ha. I'm his own personal Mark David Chapman. I'm right behind you, Bright Eyes.
Well, it's safe to say that the power of animated character is not only made incredibly apparent but thrown right into the face of those who fear it most, as Wall•E takes the metaphorical ball and metaphorically runs with it. Despite positive reviews from just about everybody, a few hold outs are doing what the Internet does best (factionalizing ad infinitum) and the conserva-prigs at Free Republic are hilariously fuming at the film. Whatever it takes to keep the headlines off this douche, right guys?
It looks like Republicans are hating this movie, just because Fred Willard's character drops the "Stay the course" line. Why, yes. Yes it is anti-Republican. It shows us exactly what the world would look like 800 years after a third Bush presidency. The earth will be full of garbage and devoid of human life, and the rare few who somehow manage to escape will be fantastically wealthy and their society will be built on the remnants of whatever and whoever they stepped over to get there.
They didn't complain one bit when Grade-A Crank Brad Bird's looney Randroid screed, The Incredibles, told their audience that some people are born "special" and are therefore criminally suppressed by the rest of society, who should be thankful just to have them around. Republicans LOVED that one, because it reinforced their deep seated paradigm notion that there are, indeed, certain people deserving of much more than others. Brad Bird, you're a cock. Choke somebody on you.
Fat people are now, apparently, a political base of their own, now. I guess I should start getting my membership card pretty shortly, I could use that 10% off at KFC and the Enema Bag Emporium. Being a man who could stand to lose weight, but not a man whose weight has lost him the ability to stand, I have not yet lost touch with the reality of satire. The ultimate animated "Americans are fat" movie, The Triplets of Belleville, to which Pixar owes a great deal in the comedic style and pacing of Wall•E, was never given a broad release by Sony because the fat "lobby" was so offended by it. The "Fat Lobby" sounds like a really smelly place.
But then, of course, fat people are more than welcome to head over to Kung Fu Panda, a film tailor made to their purposes. I believe they just wheel in the Happy Meals by the cart now. It's got everything that Wall•E doesn't... a happy-go-lucky (yet insipid) main character, dozens of well known (yet insipid) A-list voice actors, and more pop (yet insipid) cultural references than you can shake your enormous, enormous booty at. Let them have it, I guess. It's all there, and by the truckload.
If I seem to be commenting frequently on the H.G. Wells characters, the Morlocks and the Eloi, Wall•E seems to reinforce my suspicions that the distinction is happening faster than we think. The film doesn't answer everything, and that's really great. A truly good film won't prechew thought for you like the food the Hoverchair family in this film has to slurp down.
All is not so bleak, I suppose. The truth is that Pixar is a proven quality, and not a single one of their films has ever lost a dime. Parents will bring their kids to Wall•E, young adults will go to Wall•E, post-ironic hipsters such as myself will go to Wall•E. If, perchance, it makes people think about the ramifications of a McCain presidency, so much the better.
I sometimes think that maybe I'm the one who is living in Bizarro World. In the real, non-Bizarro world, George W. Bush is an Austin news weatherman, the dollar is worth the same as a Soviet ruble, and the evolutionary distinction between the Eloi and the Morlocks still had several thousand years before it really kicked in. Unfortunately, here in Bizarro World, everything is the complete opposite. Therefore, instead of heckling the current situation, I think I should just accept it like the good White Male Consumer 25-33 like I am.
Still, there's one Bizarro thing that I know is Bizarro and is going to stay Bizarro: I am not wealthy enough to even comprehend renting a villa in Italy. In fact, I have never actually paused to think to myself, "Self: We should really think about that villa in Italy, what with all this spare time and all of these millions of gold coins we have in the Money Bin, maybe we should get a little place in Tuscany instead of swimming around in all of this obscene monetary excess," that is, of course, before Facebook decided to tell it's advertisers that I am.
Now, every single time I check my Facebook profile, there it is.
It sounds a bit like an M. Night Shyalaman film, doesn't it? "The Villa". The obligatory twist at the end? It's full of BATS. It would be just like The Birds, only, you know, with bats. Even worse yet, it's full of ITALIANATE bats. Bats with names like "Manny" and "Guido". Bats with really great shoes. Bats that own fish markets on the South Side and mysteriously get Christmas cards from Sammy Davis Jr. Bats that have Steve Buscemi on speed dial for blow. Those kind of bats.
Only Facebook isn't trying to rent me a house full of adorable winged mafiosa with echolocation, no. Heavens to Mergatroyd, no! Facebook is trying to honestly convince me, and their respective advertisers at Invitation To Tuscany, that I am in the mood to rent a villa in Italy, and, conversely, that Invitation To Tuscany is not throwing away their hard earned Euros in advertising to riff-raff like me. I'm the kind of jerk that throws financial caution to the wind to splurge from time to time on a Grilld Stuft Burrito at Taco Bell, a place that is so inexpensive they can't even afford to put certain vowels in the names of their products. Even in this time of global kicking up of heels and international high spirits, when people like Henry Kissinger are doing the Charleston with glee since there's just so damn much money around, renting a villa in Italy is just a tad bit pricy for the likes of me.
It's not like I'm blaming Invitation To Tuscany, they're probably owned by a senile necromancer, and their call center is staffed by the zombies of old people, typing very slowly and growling with rotting, pallid lips into those teeny little earpiece/microphones that every office has these days. Nor am I placing the blame on Facebook. No, I'm placing the blame on Hanna-Barbera, because ever since Jabberjaw, the increase in natural disasters, childhood obesity and lupus has increased exponentially.
They call him Jab-Jab-Jab-Jab-Jabberjaw, the most demonic Faustian manipulator you ever saw.
So, Facebook, I know you're trying to build a successful business model and not end up like that shmuck Tom over at MySpace. I can rid you of the influence of Jabberjaw, trust me. It'll be a long, hard process. Lucky for you, I'm a trained professional Life Coach. Just leave all your problems to me. That mean ol' Jabberjaw won't get you.
Your advertisers need to be relevant to the audience, stores like Target or Borders, possibly. Then, once you've got a good, steady set of appropriate advertisers, start slowly picking off Facebook members at random. I can think of a few already, personally. Nothing TOO violent, of course. Just a quick injection of bleach in the buttock, or maybe a nice, quiet strangulation with a necktie. Guns would be a bit messy, yes, but maybe that would be a good idea too. Snipe them in public.
Once you've got a few random Facebook murders under your belt, things will slowly become evident. I've provided you with a business model, Facebook.
1) Ramp up your advertising to be relevant to the audience. Low-to-middle market retailers, bookstores, convenience foods, florists, funeral homes, manufacturers of black textiles, taxidermists, that sort of thing.
2) As you slowly start to pick off Facebookers, one by one, your advertisers will suddenly experience a spike in return clicks.
3) Reign of terror, followed by profit. Reinvestment in Facebook branded cemetaries and the new "WHO'S DEAD YET?" application.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure that Facebook hasn't already started this new campaign. That would explain the sudden rise in advertisements for FTD.
I'm slowly starting to wean myself off my RSS reader. Being a blogger and a podcaster has really taken its toll on me as I try to find a good work/life balance. Whereas in the past I thought it would be cool to be a pro blogger and get shipped around to press events and be wined and dined by major game companies, now it's starting to look a lot less appealing. For today's rant, I'm going to tell you how the basic model for the video game blog is broken and useless.
There was a time when I was subscribed to as many game and geek blogs as I could find, and I was motivated to keep up with them. That was when they still all had original content. Remember those days? The culture has shifted now to the point of over saturation, where there is very little original content and in order to fulfill quotas and sound like "real journalists", game bloggers have ensconced themselves in the echo chamber. Here is the usual process:
1. A press release is sent out by a game company stating that their new game has gone gold, released new screenshots or gameplay video or has hit store shelves. 90% of the time this is non-news that the normal everyday gamer shouldn't care about. These press releases are sent to every single game blog in existence.
2. Game blogs who thirst for pageviews/popularity/money/whatever republish said press release and attach a cleverly photoshopped header image.
3. Every single other game blog republishes the already republished non-news press release, either citing the release proper, or whatever other game blog got the press release first.
Only occasionally is there ever original content on a game website, and it's usually poorly researched and lackluster. If you're lucky it ends up being an intelligent rant, but these rants are more blog than news (see: this website). In the rush to get their post numbers up, these blogs allow egregious journalistic mistakes such as spelling and grammar errors and publishing rumors as fact without researching them first. We see articles about bland industry-related facts, such as NPD numbers or sales statistics. Why should gamers give a shit about on what console a cross-platform game sold better? Why not just enjoy the games?
We, and by "we" I am referring to the hardcasual early adopter gamer, have lost our way. We are being dragged around by the games industry PR machine and to what end? Bloggers are hurried through media events and fed data which they are expected to digest and spew to their readers without coming up with any original ideas. We're expected to review games and promote them in order for the game company to make enough money to release the next one and the next one and the next one. And this is the culture. It's a sea of early adopters catering to other early adopters who obsessively read these blogs.
Take a look at Kotaku, one of the web's largest and most popular gaming websites. Kotaku must publishing something like 70 articles a day. Just keeping up with Kotaku is a full time job in of itself. There are literally people who sit all day on Kotaku, waiting for the next article to be posted so they can comment. Kotaku publishes so fast I imagine their editors don't even edit the content before it's pushed live.
We're geeks, I get it. We are passionate about our "hobby" and our lives revolve around it. We eat, drink and breathe video games and fail to realize that the rest of the world doesn't. The rest of the world is content with bringing out the Wii Fit every time company comes over, showing off the shiny new gadget and putting it away until the next chance. We're stuck in a loop, an echo chamber. We don't need all these PR blogs, we don't need gamer's day events. We don't need companies showing us brand new screenshots every week until a game release. The PR blogs are being driven by the needs of the game companies, not the game consumers. Here's what we should do to fix it:
1. STOP POSTING EVERYTHING A GAME COMPANY SENDS YOUR WAY. We don't need 500 websites all posting new screenshots for the Hulk game at the same time. We don't even need one. The PR company should just post new content on their own website and allow the game blogs to research and notice on their own.
2. DO RESEARCH. If a friend of a friend of a friend told you that Gamestop posted a release date for Starcraft II, it's most likely not true. Don't post a "Rumor" post to your blog just for speculation sake. Do some research. Reporting on rumors is like telling your readers you're too lazy to give them accurate information. Anyone can say they heard a rumor from someone. You're not providing content, you're just adding to the chatter.
3. STOP POSTING ARCANE INDUSTRY NEWS. Do your readers really need to care when an exec from EA steps down? How does this have even the smallest bearing on whether or not the games you play will improve or decline in quality? The games industry is so obsessed with its shitty minor celebrities, it will pretty much post anything. These people are not celebrities. They are normal people. Please start treating them as such. Sales numbers aren't amazingly interesting.
4. POST LESS. I like reading blog posts about video games. It's the reason why I have my own blog. But when a blog posts 70 times a day, there's no way to filter out the mundane from the high-quality. Focus on quality. Post less frequently and not only will you improve the level of discourse, you will save the sanity of people who actually have other things to do during the day than keep up.
What would you guys add? Have you been feeling the same frustration I have, or is this limited to people like me who run their own blogs?
Perhaps there are others amongst you, dear readers, who felt the familiar, icy grip of The Fear when, upon watching Sin City you saw Frank Miller's name listed as a "director". Perhaps, like me, you may have shuddered at the thought of the horror that would be wrought by giving this man such a lofty title and, perhaps, you too felt ill when it was announced that he would be "directing" the film adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit.
It is unsurprising that Miller would choose The Spirit for his first solo project; after all he has a history of gallantly and self- righteously attaching himself to comics's old guard, like a vampire, riding their accomplishments and championing their causes as if they were his own and I'm sure it's been difficult now that Jack Kirby is gone.
The Spirit, then, is a gift from the gods. Here is an opportunity to take the work of one of the medium's greatest contributors and, due to the average movie-goers ignorance, shamelessly co-opt it. Congratulations Mr. Miller, they may never name an award after you, laud you for expanding the breath of what comics could accomplish, or stand in awe of your storytelling abilities, but fuck 'em right? Judging from these posters it is better to have made Sin Spirit instead. That's a legacy you can be proud of.
Mike linked me to this article today on Gizmodo about a single mother who's 13 year old kid wouldn't do his chores. The story goes that the kid wouldn't quit playing Xbox and do the list of chores that his mother had typed out for him. After repeated requests, he deviously broke the vacuum in order to get out of vacuuming. She even found out he was surfing porn sites on his computer! So she retaliated by hacking his MySpace profile and selling his Xbox and games. Good parenting or horrible parenting? Gizmodo seems to think that this is an appropriate response, but I have to disagree. I don't know the specifics of this family's relationship with each other, and I don't claim to be an authority on parenting, but I think this was probably one of the worst things she could have done to raise this kid, and let me tell you why.
While I do think that we need less 13 year old Halo players spouting ignorance over Xbox Live, let me discuss this from the kid's perspective. All kids are biologically pre-programmed to rebel. At around age 13 they are supposed to start showing signs of rebellious behavior. It's called being a teenager. There are myriad ways to deal with teenagers, but more often than not extreme forms of punishment only serve to push them further and further away. I had a very similar experience as a kid, as I am sure a lot of you have. I think this kid is going to hate his mom even more for her actions, which I would imagine is not the desired effect.
I was a lazy kid. Hell, I'm a lazy adult. I never liked doing chores, and I would usually put them off in favor of video games. Even more I despised the parental notion that going outside and doing things under that burning ball of fire we call the Sun was somehow more life-enriching than, say, experiencing the brilliance of Final Fantasy. We were always on different planes of thought. I'd request something like a new Game Boy game for my birthday and I'd get a pair of rollerblades. I'd ask for a comic book subscription for Christmas and get a telescope.
I'd get a list of chores, do them and then go back to playing games. My parents, however, weren't satisfied with that. They'd always leave one thing off of the list, such as taking out the trash. Of course, since it wasn't on the list, I wouldn't take out the trash. And then they'd get pissed off and take something away, such as computer or video game privileges. They'd even rush into my room after getting off of work and yank the cart right out of my SNES while I was playing it. It was a completely mind-boggling discipline process to me. In my opinion they weren't teaching me any sort of valuable lesson, just flailing because they didn't know what else to do. That's not good parenting, that's just retaliation. These kinds of experiences actually caused me to disassociate myself from my parents. I just recently got back in touch with my father after about 7 years of silence. While extreme, I am sure the mother mentioned in this article doesn't want anything near that.
I understand that kids are a bit different these days. They tend to be more independent, more uppity, and more prone to backtalk. What I think would have worked better is regulation of said child's game time, rather than getting rid of the thing altogether. Kids may be pre-programmed to rebel against you as a parent, but you can do things to help hold back the tide. Compromise is one of those things.
And as for the porn sites the kid was surfing? How about you teach the kid about sex in a frank and honest manner instead of keeping it taboo and mysterious? Now he's just going to be more careful in the future about hiding his porn. 13 year olds are obsessed with sex. Teach him how to deal with it instead of making him think it's a shameful, horrible thing. Put your computer in the family room so that someone is always monitoring what he's seeing, and talk to him. He is an intelligent future adult who deserves your respect no matter what vitriol his mouth is spewing. He's meant to do that. It's up to you to deal with it in a manner that results in a well-adjusted individual.
What do you guys think? Is this bad parenting or good parenting? Follow up question! Did any of you experience something similar with your own parents, and do you think it was positive or negative for your personal growth?
Love them or hate them, the Puritans at least had a goal. Several of them, in fact. Redeeming the Church Triumphant from the besodden hands of the Papacy and Powers Temporal, saving the souls of the faithful, guiding them toward an outward perfection suited for their inner Godliness, moving the educational and aesthetic commonweal toward the everlasting love of Jesus Christ, and burning an assload of witches. At least you knew where they stood on any given subject.
Good was good, bad was bad, and in case of confusion, steer toward hatred. They were anything but not apathetic. Sure, they were vicious bastards who'd slit your throat and throw you in the oubliette if you so much as talked out of place, but what's the harm with that? I can think of few people that need a good bit of 17th Century Puritanical asskicking more the absolute titchuckers at Spike TV.
If, in case you are doing the reasonable thing when faced with modern reality and your head is currently encased in a bucket of rapidly solidifying Plaster of Paris, you haven't heard of Spike TV, perhaps you've heard of it's predecessor, The Nashville Network. The "The" is capitalized because it was founded and perpetuated for twenty years by people who called it "TNN", instead of "NN", which logically it should have been. Then again, we are dealing with the utter fuckwits who would watch something called "The Nashville Network" in the first place. People so neanderthalic that the sheer concept of images moving around on a lighted box constituted entertainment, doubly so when said moving images were SINGING AND YODELING, just like the folks on the radio tube!
The fact that "The" in "The Nashville Network" was capitalized is a sticking point, because it led to a cultural dynamic that still haunts us to this day. While The NN never took a political stance officially, it was pretty much de facto Republican, and, along with the Pat Robertson owned Family Channel, built the fundamental anti-rational force of the 1990s, the Christian Coalition. These piddling little factories of nincumpoopery created the atmosphere that led to the fullscale official amnesia of the Bush administration, fed by the belief that nothing between Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan actually happened. When pressed, TNN would revert back to "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!" just like Robertson would retort "IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS!", proving that country music fans are not only dogmatic and conservative to the Nth degree, but piranha like in their refusal to admit anything might actually be open to debate.
Then, of course, Viacom put a bead out on TNN, and it was assassinated with one bullet to the forehead like a Yucatan drug lord on a parade float. It was swiftly transmutated into "Spike TV", the idea being a snarky male response to the female Lifetime Network, which is similarly insipid in nearly every context. Whereas Lifetime produces overblown soap operatics by the bushel, Spike doesn't actually produce anything at all, and sticks to the truism that men actively enjoying being able to recite every line from every rerun science fiction and cop drama they can get their greedy, Cheetos-besmirched fingers on.
Spike TV, just so you understand, is a rerun dump. That is all it is, that is all it ever has been. in case Viacom has a movie or television show elsewhere, they advertise it ad nauseum on Spike, since the theory is that anybody who would conceivably want to watch Spike is at least sentient enough to have another, better, network on the Memory button, just itching for a reason to turn elsewhere. In fact, Viacom has taken this into account, and it's a somewhat twistedly brilliant example of Corporate Symbiosis in all it's evil, mutant glory.
As an irrelevant side note emphasizing their patronizing attitude toward the hand that feeds them was the notoriously silly "Video Game Awards", hosted by noted albino marionette, David Spade. I'll give you pause to snicker to yourself at that idea. HINT: They gave an award to "Best Power Up".
In response to this theory, Spike has actually found ways to start disregarding commercials altogether. To this end, they've come up with the "commercial show", which is a mini-show that runs IN THE COMMERCIALS, with advertisements in little sprawling banners under both shows. Where it used to be that you only put up with the commercials so you could watch the show, with the grim reality setting in that with seven million other options available to you on Comcast alone, advertisement and entertainment are now fused at the spine like some sort of freakish, hateful Siamese twin garden gnome that attacks you while stabbing your grandmother with a rusty railroad spike.
The rusty railroad spike, of course, is what the network is named after, y'see.
AH, BUT WHAT IS HE RANTING ABOUT, you ask. And rightfully so.
Weekly Geek (Greek?) HQ recently received a not so thinly veiled attempt by the Spike TV treants to get us to pawn off to you their latest awful idea, a Commercial Show called "Hot Chicks with Cheat Codes".
Hold it. Scan up. Read that again. Then read it out loud. Then read it in a silly voice.
"Hot Chicks with Cheat Codes".
The morons reign victorious. We're doomed. Humanity only has a good few years left, it's been a great run, but all things need to come to a timely end. Yoko has joined the band. Better cash your Economic Stimulus checks ASAP, because it's the last hurrah before the concentration camps.
There is a saying in advertising circles, "No publicity is bad publicity". Therefore, we at the Weekly Geek will not be giving this foreskin wrinkle the time of day by linking you to it. That would be giving them exactly what they want. Oh, no. We have a much worse idea. I will be illustrating it for you with MS Paint.
The effect, to be frank, is exactly what we saw.
Braindead models stroking controllers like dildos, "bitchin'" pseudo-rock music, playovers of Halo greenscreened behind them.
Yes, we get it. You have absolute, utter disdain for your desired audience. And we can't blame you. If they're falling for this, we hate them too. The British equivalent of Spike TV, "Nuts TV" (yes, you read that just as correctly), has a show called "Fit and Fearless". Scantily clad models are locked in haunted houses with cameras, the idea being that presumably young British men enjoy a bizarre combination of sado-masochism and 19th century Blavatsky Spiritism.
Brilliant media commentator Charlie Brooker has written his piece about Nuts TV, and I boldly stride forth in his jowly shadow by saying that the point behind "Hot Chicks with Cheat Codes" is equally terrifying: presumably you're supposed to be masturbating while watching it, but doing so means you're totally, undeniably insane. "Fit and Fearless" is the next logical step, followed by "Bikini'd and Bound", which is essentially just softcore dungeon play with a streaming banner underneath inviting us to purchase Axe bodyspray. After that it's just a long, languid close up of a bleeding corpse, although doubtlessly, Spike will ace that up a bit with some tips on how to avoid the police read by wacky, sarcastic jerks deserving of a good unwrapped SlimJim being rammed down their tanned, impossibly intolerable little snouts.
I leave this blahdy-blah with this final thought: according to Wikipedia. Spike TV's average viewer age is 42. Mayhap they should reconsider their concepts just a bit. "Hot Chicks and Tax Tips", 'Hot Chicks and Mortgages", "Hot Chicks and A Solid Plan for Building That Patio You've Always Been Talking About" may be a little bit less insulting.
Unlike the rest of the Geeks (Greeks?), I live to the south of Seattle, in Olympia, Washington, which is a lovely little slice of heaven somewhere between Tolkien's Shire and the Green Greens arena in Smash Brothers. It's basically a town interspersed by enormous sections of forested hills, running straight up against Puget Sound. I really do like it here, and not simply because I'm not forced to drive on 75 degree angle streets. Sure, there's lots of foul smelling hippies, there's only one 24 hour grocery store, and renting movies from a foreign land is impossible without the help of Netflix.
Still, there's something most foul that lurks just a few yards away from my Sensory Deprivation Chamber, and that is a garter snake hibernaculum. What's a hibernaculum, you ask? OH DEARIE ME. From Wikipedia:
"In zoology, a hibernaculum is the location chosen by an animal for hibernation. Commonly this may be a hibernating mammal or insect."
Of course, this is Wikipedia, so it's also got "In music, Hibernaculum is a single by Mike Oldfield from his The Songs of Distant Earth album, and the name of an album by the band Earth." Thankfully, Wikipedia has a policy where they try to discourage trivia sections. Hopefully that also applies to everything I'm not immediately interested in.
Garter snakes, in case you were not aware, are not hatched from eggs like other snakes. They are born live. Female garter snakes secrete a pheromone that attracts male garter snakes for miles, gathering in one little hole by the hundreds around the one female. One of these female garter snakes (and presumably her many female offspring) has chosen the vacant forest lot behind my apartment as her mating space, not to mention the hundreds of females she also has pumped out over the years. I don't know (or even care) how long garter snakes live. I don't want to.
I need to preface this by saying that I actually like creepy crawly things, generally. I like rats, after a roommate bred them and I learned they were actually fairly clean and intelligent. I like spiders, especially after I allowed one that lived in my window to live and I watched it make it's lovely web every morning. I even have an emperor scorpion encased in orange lucite on my coffee table, which I consider to be one of my favorite objects.
But if there's one thing I hate, more than anything else on the planet, it's snakes.
Sweet Christ do I hate snakes. I hate everything about them, I hate everything they do, I hate their activities and, most importantly, I hate the way they writhe about. I hate their cold, unblinking eyes. I hate their glassy, alien, evil scales. I hate that they manufacture neurotoxin like it's going out of style.
I. Hate. Snakes.
I once dated a girl (zomg, I know, rite?) that was equally terrified of snakes. It was probably the only thing we had in common. She took it the next step and hated anything that reminded her of snakes, included pussycats, which admittedly have that cold predatorial streak to them, when they're not being ADORABLE. So, clearly, I'm not THAT bad. I'm not phobic of snakes, I just hate them. I feel no compunction whatsoever fulfilling the Biblical mandate to crush their heads beneath the heel of my foot. I swerve to hit one on the road.
Anyway, with spring comes snakes, by the hundred. I always jump when I see one, every single time. I think that maybe it's an ancestral Jungian imperative. Somewhere in my genetics, snakes were a serious problem. Ancient Sexcabs were flung into a daily life-or-death struggle with these demonic creatures, and I am doomed to repeat their struggle even into the modern world and the Pacific Northwest, where our snakes are actually fairly innocuous.
I not only wish that all snakes were eradicated, but that we set up some sort of Department of Herpetological Homeland Security, where all governmental bureaus have a single clearinghouse from which to attack the ever increasing snake menace. I, personally, am for the death penalty for any being caught being a snake without legal authority to do so. Of course, I might be a little old fashioned in these things, so a snake Abu Ghraib and a snake Gauntanamo is also acceptable. The snakes need to be humiliated, first. They need to be photographed in sexually humiliating poses and forced to recant their snaky ways at gunpoint. These snake prisons will have very tiny bars on the windows, so the snakes can look out and see the world that they are no longer allowed to be participants in, to remind them that their kind cannot be tolerated in this modern day and age. Imagine little orange snake prison uniforms. Little snake shivs and little snake gay rape scenes. Little snake prison law degrees and little snake dining halls and little snake murders in little snake laundry rooms. Little snake Aryan Brotherhoods.
Yes, a prison for snakes is what we need, because they've been snakes once, they will be snakes again, and they will continuing being snakes as long as they're allowed that freedom. We have the children to think about, first and foremost. He have to keep these recidivist serpents off the streets and out of the playgrounds.
You know what I think would be great? If gamers stopped being so damn selfish, collectively removed themselves from their couches for once, and used all that energy they spend playing games for the betterment of mankind. Wait, no, I don't think that, the Red Cross thinks that, or at least that's the implication given by their latest ad. The reason I don't think that? Gamers are are spending time, money, and effort to make the world a better place to live, and we're doing it with the thing we most love, games.
Now I'll be the first to admit that I can get a little reactionary when it seems like someone that isn't "hip to the lingo" is using games as a scapegoat or device in their advertising to drive people to action. And this ad by the Lebanese Red Cross is really clever, well designed, and is ultimately advocating something that I am behind 100%, but lumping gamers into the mix to make their point because it's convenient causes exactly what they're trying to avoid to occur; it's a divisive message and is going to make those of us sensitive to this kind of thing less likely to lend aid to their cause.
Thankfully, those of us that are now unwilling to lend aid to the Red Cross are likely still involved in any number of the multitude of charitable organizations run by and for gamers and the rest of the world. There are organizations such as Child's Play which donates games, books and toys to sick children across the world, Folding@Home which can be run in the background on a PC or a PS3 and distributes computer processing across the globe in order to better understand the evolution of viruses, or Gifts From Gamers which sends consoles, games, DVDs, CDs, books and magazines to soldiers currently stationed on the front lines. That last one is interesting considering the International Red Cross' roots are in assisting soldiers during war time. Seems the Lebanese Red Cross is a little late in their appeal, we've been on point helping those that need it for years now, especially soldiers.
Again I'd like to state that I don't disagree with the Red Cross' underlying message, we should be saving the world for real. The world is a horrible place full of violence, illness, tragedy, and horror, and we as human beings have a responsibility to put an end to that. The thing is though, we are, and we have been for a long time without any other unifying factors in place except that we all enjoy gaming and we aren't the shallow, thoughtless gang that we're often painted as. Take a look at gamers as a whole and you'll find an incredibly diverse group of people, a group that has put aside any differences it might have in order to help those in need. How many other charitable organizations can you think of whose members ignore the boundaries of race, age, gender, sexuality, and religion simply so they can give aid and make the world a better place to sit on your couch for hours at a time, seemingly doing nothing but accomplishing so much?
We all want to help, that much is obvious, but alienating gamers isn't the best way to get that help, no matter how many ignorant cause-heads titter at your clever joke.
I'm going to break down the fourth wall here for a second and let you in on some industry information. Game journalists get a lot of email. Most of it is complete trash, it's usually a PR company trying to tell you that their most recent game (usually with a title like Mageknight: The Reckoning or Knightmage: The Fightening) is coming out. Over and over again. It's difficult to sift through the good news and the awful news, and recently a major company has made it even harder: Sega.
I understand that no matter what press release comes into game journalists' inboxen, it will get posted to some blog somewhere. Just by the sheer fact that there are SO MANY game blogs out there, someone will be aching for a story and will post your news. That's fine. When you abuse that system, that's when I take issue.
Sending out press releases when your hot new game finally releases first screenshots is appropriate. Sending press releases every single day with brand new screenshots is an abuse of the system, no matter what the game. Sega, for the past six months or so, has been spamming my inbox on a daily basis and I'm a bit fed up. On one hand, I'd like to keep good relations with the company as they do send us games for review. On the other hand, I'm really tired of getting daily updates on The Incredible Hulk game. It's not a highly anticipated game, yet they are treating it as such. Perhaps it's my own jaded mind, but when I see a press release I turn on my bullshit meter.
Most PR companies are full of shit. It's true. Take, for example, the weekly emails Nintendo sends out in order to announce new Wii Virtual Console games. Whoever writes the copy has to come up with an appealing description for each new title, no matter how incredibly awful the game. They have to find some way to drum up hype for a poor product, so they usually revert to hyperbole.
An amazing jaunt through a highly imaginative world with stunning graphics and gameplay!
The blockbuster franchise returns with the most action-packed story yet!
You can tell these are lies because of all of the lying. You can feel the desperation in the copywriter's voice. During the last holiday season, I literally got one email a day from Sega PR telling me that a brand new gameplay video for Mario and Sonic Go To the Olympics was released! Oh yay! It's a lackluster idea of a game, banking on the fact that people enjoy Mario and Sonic and will buy anything with those two attached. Do they honestly think I am going to want to post their new gameplay video and screenshots every single time they send them out? Even if it was only half of the time, I wouldn't post them.
This is the worst way to generate hype. Currently, all new Sega releases are on my shit list. PR, like all things in life, requires restraint. You want to promote only your best content, and keep that promotion rare. Keep us chomping at the bit for your game-related media, don't try to shove it down our throats.
The icing on the cake? Sega seems to have hired another PR company to help them with email blasts for The Incredible Hulk. Just today I received two emails, one from the new company and one from Sega proper, with the exact same press release.
One of the things about being a misanthrope is that people are constantly not inviting you to things. Usually, of course, I don't mind. This is because I don't like people. I don't understand them. They stand around with their hands in their pockets and their haircuts and their clothes and their breathing of oxygen and I think that, ultimately, I just would rather not talk to them at all.
Still, in those circumstances when I have to (and there's not so many of them these days), I am at a complete loss about what to talk about. I don't watch television. That's not an idle liberal pseudo-hipster boast, I seriously just don't have the time, money or interest required to maintain a hobby like watching television. I'd rather sit in here and type away at my Livejournal, TYPE TYPE TYPE, and pretend that when I do watch Arrested Development endlessly on DVD while drawing, it's somehow not creepy and reductive at all when I sometimes like to act out the part of Buster Bluth, who I identify with the most (largely because I lost my left hand to a loose seal in 1997). When I absolutely must indulge in the unforgivable sin of "yak", I have very little capability of starting it.
One time, I had a feckless wanker of a friend tell me that every conversation is about give and take, and that if I wanted to be successful, I need to pretend to be interested in the other party's half. This tells me that not only do successful conversationalists actively enjoy the activity, they're also perpetuating the deceit. Of course they're not interested in my half of the conversation. They are only waiting for me to stop talking long enough to get their attack of opportunity.
I'm told that most conversations involve one of the following things:
The past weekend
The upcoming weekend
The weather of the past weekend
The weather of the upcoming weekend
I'm also told that public conversations are supposed to try to avoid religion, politics or sex. I would like to point out that these are my three favorite topics, and the only things that I am possibly qualified to talk about, having personally engaged in all three multiple times with multiple partners. I think that this is why I am at a loss when it comes to talking. I don't really notice the weather or the weekend, and I don't really think that talking about either will do anything. It's just wormy talk for wormy talk's sake.
On the plus side, I can think of one reason why I should have conversations: each time I meet somebody new, that's one new person to hate completely and wholeheartedly. That's a grand thing. A fine shot in the arm to keep my misery intact.
And, lo, this is perhaps why I love Facebook so much, and my invitation to join was accepted with some wariness that eventually sprouted like a turtle covered in mutagen. Every day is just a brand new person to loathe utterly. Even better that Facebook is little more than friendly, Chuck E. Cheese style Orwellian surveillance. I can watch all of my "friends" meet other "friends" and add annoying doo-bobs and widgets which all ask me the ultimate question... do I want to accept or REJECT them?
Oh, how I love to press the REJECT button. If only real life conversations had the option.
"Oh, hi. How are you today? How was your weekend?"
"It's a scorcher!"
"Stop, collaborate and listen, Ice is back with a brand new..."
It's wonderful. Thank you, Facebook. Now get offa mah lawn.
I don't really watch TV, not so much anymore, especially now that digital is becoming mandatory and that means paying for channels I would never watch. Since the freedom to use bunny-ears has been taken away from us, I have decided to stop paying for cable. I've also decided to connect via wi-fi to the Starbucks down the street, so between that and the reality that I don't buy video games anymore, my net entertainment budget is down less than 1% of my income, which is apparently BLASPHEMY to Corporate America, especially for an unmarried white male between 25 and 36.
The reality behind my newfound miserliness is due to the fact that every entertainment mode is now pretty much demanding a "subscription fee" from me, with the exception of my Nintendo DS, which I only ever hook up to the wi-fi in order to download this week's free Professor Layton puzzle. Last week, it was a maaaaze.
I feel that it is actually necessary to state that I, deeply, personally, from the very bottom of my soul, loathe "subscribing" for the freedom to be entertained. I only buy DVDs I care about and I have no intention whatsoever to upgrade to Blu-Ray (probably going to end my association with paying for media with this incarnation... fuck the RIAA, they're a dead horse anyway). If I want to go see a new movie (and why would I? All movies that go to theaters I'm capable of walking to are "event movies," full of shitty CGI and that lame blue filter that Spielberg slaps on everything), I attend during a matinée and smuggle my own snacks in.*
Xbox? Do I need to pay a monthly fee to be yelled at by middle school students? No. World of Warcraft? If I'm paying to play a video game, I'm paying so that eventually I can win it and return it to the store for a partial refund to apply to another game, repeating this cycle ad absurdum. If I can't do that, I'll pirate the game five years down the line and play it on my own shed-yule. If you can't work with me, developers, you're working against me and thus deserving of my disdain.
Yes, indeed. I am what Best Buy internal literature calls a "Devil Customer," a cheapskate determined to squeeze maximum enjoyment out of minimum investment. I'm the kind of feller who buys Totino's Pizzas ten for a dollar, picks off the sub-par toppings and replaces them with actual vegetables yanked from the Food Bank. I don't pay for things I don't enjoy and I don't experiment if I have to pay for the privilege of doing so. I go to Costco on Saturdays and gorge on free samples, one day out of the week I don't have to purchase food. I watch any show I need to watch on Youtube, I hold no religious beliefs that require the investment of a tithe and I've been known to walk a few miles to get a used object from the Craigslist "Free" listings.
I'm cheap. I have no qualms about being so. I think it was the Writer's Strike that put it into perspective for me, but subscription television is just not a bargain when you think about it.
So, my latest cheapness is in my refusal to pay for cable networks that I don't watch. Call me a spoiled member of the Youtube generation (and, yes, you will, since I'm sure that SO many corporate executives read this blog and actually pay attention to what we proles have to say from their insulated yacht anchored off the coast of Dubai). The situation breaks down like this:
25% of all networks I wouldn't watch anyway, regardless of how awesome they may be to their niche market (Bravo, Style Network, Golf Network, Nickelodeon, Noggin, any shopping channel).
25% of all networks try too hard to garner my demographic and so therefore present noodly focus-grouped bullshit that I actively avoid because I'm a hipster doofus that wouldn't be caught dead watching that anyway, lest my reputation suffer (Spike TV, ESPN Anything, FX, MTV)
25% of all networks that act like I owe them a pence daily just out of dearth of being around so long (Any news network, The Weather Channel, the Big Four, WB).
20% of all networks that I might be interested in but only in an incidental, post-ironic sort of way (Food Network, Game Show Network, TV Land).
This leads us to the remaining 5%, the only networks I will ever actually want to watch, despite their myriad internal problems and general lack of interest to me outside of "Oh hey, a documentary about Hitler": History Channel, Comedy Central, PBS and C-Span.
Those are the only four channels I'm interested in paying for, Comcast. One of them isn't on Basic Cable, so I'm required to order Expanded Cable if I want to watch History Channel. Locally, that's $40 a month.
Forty of my dollars.
For four channels.
That's ten dollars a month to watch "History's Mysteries". Ten bread a month to watch "The Colbert Report," ten balloons a month to watch "Charlie Rose," ten smackers a month to watch "Book Notes".
If I break down my "List of things to spend my money on," which I keep laminated in my wallet so that it isn't ruined when it goes through the wash, it's just not worth it to me.
The proposal, therefore, Comcast, is that you give me something to spend my money on, or I'll go elsewhere. And you're not. You're not doing anything about the fact that these networks then expect us to stay and pay attention to the ADVERTISEMENTS, which we're ostensibly supposed to be enthused by (really though, how often can you tell us that any given product exists? We can see it on the shelves, we know it does).
The contrary proposal, assuming Comcast (or whoever your cable company happens to be) doesn't pay attention (and why would they from that yacht in Dubai?) is that we stop paying for entertainment entirely unless they find a way to make entertainment entertaining and therefore worthy of our ::Realbucks::. The library is free. It's not difficult to get the Internet for free if you live in an urban area. A box of Legos doesn't require a subscription. Sex is always a great option. Whatever, I'm doing my part to drag down those at the top who pay no attention to those of us at the bottom, and so should you.
Steal entertainment today!
*In response to me and my hated ilk, the theater chains have started phasing out actual employees, and automate their snack counters. I hate automated anything. Do not automate things. You may automate things when I get my maid robot like in The Jetsons. Until then, I will avoid your skinflinty ways in favor of my own, superior skinflinty ways.
posted by Chris on January 24, 2008 4:21 PM in Rant
See this gray box, Google? Do you see it? Because I see it constantly. If you can't see it you could always click to zoom and then experience my pain. I imagine it's some sort of display glitch caused by embedded flash videos or something but I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. It appears ALL THE TIME and blocks headlines and content in my RSS reader. Please fix or my mind is going to go explodey.
If you're moderately interested in blogs, which I assume you are because there is plenty of outdoors you could be playing in right now, you may be aware of the commentraversy involving a blogger from Gizmodo turning off all the TV screens at the CES convention (what does it stand for? Cunts Educating the Self-Important, apparently) with a handy device called a TV-B-Gone. Those without a sense of humor are OUTRAGED, repeat, OUTRAGED that a blogger would be guilty of such an "infantile" crime.
Well, let's put things in perspective. CES limited bloggers from regular amenities, such as the usual convention coffee and donut room, and went through an inane regimenting process where only certain blogs were allowed to attend. Would the Weekly Geek have been invited? No. We're not "big" enough.
So, God bless Gizmodo. It is perfectly acceptable to harangue and harass the high-falutin', and the whole affair has the charm of the old dude in the monocle and top hat in the Three Stooges getting hit by Larry Fine with a cream pie. Then, of course, you've got the neo-conservative "BUSINESS GOOD CORPORATIONS BETTER" crowd that is dredging up the ol' "They were messing with people's PAYCHECKS!" argument.
Trust me, kids. No bodies paychecks were in any worry. Let's tack this down financially, shall we?
A big Las Vegas convention booth, for two people, costs well over $15,000. That is at least a good 15,000 times more money than the Weekly Geek brings in on a monthly basis, once we factor in Furniss' cocaine habit and Qais' "sensual masseuse" fees. Any "small business" that can afford a weekend at $15,000 (not counting the cost of lodging and feeding those employees) is not in any fear of losing money over a single convention snafu.
The greater issue is this: CES feels that it is so mindbogglingly important that they're now fully intending to further ignominize the loathed bloggers, of any site, that we're just not likely to even see any blogs invited at all, period, barring incredibly strict behavior and censorship rules, which essentially makes any reputable blog immediately out of the running. That is an overreaction to a non-problem, and one of the exact reasons why blogs are necessary as a form of journalism. The little guy WILL be represented, regardless of how strict the rules might happen to be, and as the Muggles say, the truth will out. The blogs will take a more skeptical and aggressive stance in response, and it will make self-congratulating conventions such as these increasingly irrelevant, like E3 eventually became.
I'm sorry, CES. You might represent the corporations, but we represent the customers. Like produces like, culturally. Treat bloggers as unwanted children at the big kid's table, and they will act like it in response. Treat bloggers with the respect and dignity that they deserve, and they will return in kind.
posted by Chris on January 14, 2008 8:38 AM in Rant
I know, that's a silly question. Why do we game? Well, because it's fun. Article's over, goodnight everyone. There's always something deeper though. This generation - more so than previous generations - seems to place high regard on playtime. Our personal lives are vastly more important than our professional ones, and we just plain like to play. Board games, chess, sports and other forms of play have been around for centuries but video games have captured imaginations far more than any previous incarnation of kicking a ball around or moving a carved piece across a board.
Of course, video games are more immersive. As our technology increases we are able to provide increasingly more realistic simulations of the various environments we are trying to recreate. Games are more intricate and more detailed, but I believe there is something deeper to our obsession. I think it's us. It's how we were raised.
Keep in mind this is entirely anecdotal. I am not a psychologist. I have a degree in Art, not in analyzing brain meats. I am just spewing a mind-dump on you this Monday morning as I sit on the couch with a horrible head cold. Maybe it's the NyQuil talking, but I felt like sharing something personal with you guys. I, like many of you geekateers, come from a "broken" home. My parents divorced when I was 7 and spread a lot of anger, resentment and other generally negative emotions about. That's not to say that children from divorced families don't grow up to be normal, fantastic citizens in their own right. Divorce is not a bad thing. Marriage is a bad thing; divorce is just the product of us finally reaching a breaking point after being fed lies since birth that every princess must find her prince, and that a man and a woman must both be present to raise a child. It doesn't work, it never has worked, give it a rest. No, I am mainly talking about the effect living in such a negative home situation had on my personal level of growth.
After the divorce I spent a lot of time playing video games. I remember renting games from the local corner store religiously, playing through Mega Man 2, Final Fantasy and other NES classics. Sitting in front of that TV and experiencing the brilliance that was the NES heyday is one of my fondest memories of childhood. It was escapism, pure and simple. I was sitting there and having fun instead of listening to my parents argue violently. When they moved apart, I continued my obsession fueled by the fact that my mother was never at home. She was always out on dates, or out at bars after work, and my sister and I were left to our own devices in the evenings. Usually that meant playing video games or watching TV. Every other weekend, I would go to my Dad's house where we had an SNES that he kept over there so we had something to do. Between chores like mowing the lawn, I'd be playing more rented stuff like Secret of Mana, Earthbound, Final Fantasy 3 and Actraiser. I always loved the games that I could spend massive amounts of time in - real marathon sessions with Harvest Moon and SimCity. I'd stay up late, past when everyone had gone to bed and turning the sound down to barely a whisper. I'd let the quiet of the evening sink in while I sit there and play through these brilliant games.
Of course, having the SNES at my Dad's house meant that I couldn't play it all the time. I had to wait every other weekend, and when that time came you better be damn well sure I played it as much as I could. During the Summer that meant my Dad yelling at me to play outside, which I never understood. I was never athletic, I sunburned easily, had allergies and just felt more comfortable indoors with these highly intellectual and supremely fun games. Why would I want to go experience tired, sunburned sneeziness when I could quest with Moogles?
When the N64 came out, I had just received my very first paycheck from my very first paying job ever. I spent it on the N64 and a copy of Star Fox 64 and never left my bedroom. My friends would come over almost nightly to play Smash Brothers and Goldeneye. Now that I had my own money, I could get games whenever I wanted to, and it became a kind of natural high. It was a sort of a "screw you" to my Dad that now I could play games as long as I want, whenever I wanted to. I'd pick up a new game from the local Game Crazy. I'd tear off the cellophane and open the box, immediately smelling the manual. I'd read it cover to cover to make sure that I got everything out of my purchase. I was going to experience every single second of this game because I bought it.
This kind of obsessive behavior has spread to my adulthood. I still choose to escape into video games, but now that it's become part of my professional life as well it feels a bit less dirty. Everyone I know plays video games, and it's fast becoming one of the most successful forms of media, surpassing the movie industry by far. Is it still escapism? For me, only sometimes. Now I game for various reasons: to keep up with the industry (Halo 3), to relax (E4), to have fun with friends (Rock Band).
Going through my very own divorce this year has made me contemplative about life in general. As I grow older I notice similarities between my parents and I. Whereas at my age my parents were giving birth to me and working long hours in order to survive, I put my focus on how much time I can spend with friends, and how many hours a day I can squeeze in game time. I am by no means hardcore, I don't play shooters and tend to gravitate more towards adventure or puzzle games - stuff I can pick up and put down at any time. My gaming tastes have changed, but the reason I play remains the same.
So admittedly the headline is an obvious statement to make. Any game based on the September 11th attacks is going to cause a controversy; hundreds of people died in a vicious, underhanded attack for a questionable ideology. Base a game on that and yeah, controversy will abound.
Now before I expound on whether the game should actually have been made I'd like to at least describe it, to give you an idea what you'd be dealing with if you actually sat down to play it. Supposedly, New York Defender II (as it is titled) features a sky full of planes soaring overhead, which you, a lone gunner, are obligated to shoot down. The rub here is that only a few of the planes are to be shot down as the majority of them will simply land on runways dotting the landscape. Fail to shoot down the appropriate planes in time and a clutch of New York City monuments (such as the UN building, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge) will be destroyed.
Admittedly I haven't played the recently released sequel, but I have played the original and unless some major technological advances in Flash games have been made that I'm unaware of I'm relatively certain they're similar.
That being said, I'm pretty appalled at this game. The tagline for the original is, "Go beyond your powerlessness and use your mouse to fight back" which indicates if nothing else that the game was likely created out of anger and a severely misplaced sense of patriotism. How many friends and family of those lost do you suspect will find solace in firing at planes representing the cause of their loved one's deaths? My suspicion is none.
The game is simply in incredibly poor taste at best, and serves as an incredibly painful reminder of what happened to those that were involved in this tragedy at worst. Yes, there are a lot of really violent games that from a purely analytical standpoint outdo New York Defender when it comes to pure violence. What that doesn't address however is that the majority of those games aren't based on real, recent events and like any fiction is intended to be taken with a grain of salt.
How much salt do you think you'd need to stomach New York Defender? I'm guessing far more than a grain.
The oft-rumored "360 Ultimate" has been recently "profiled" in the "magazine" entitled "Stuff", Kotaku brings to our attention this week. The system is supposed to cram all sorts of amazing junk into one box, in order to more fully compete with Sony's PLAYSTATION 3. To echo the almighty house of Crecente:
The Xbox 360 Ultimate, Stuff writes, will be hitting store shelves by this autumn and feature "1080p HDMI output, built-in Wi-Fi, hi-def audio output, cooler 65nm hardware architecture and a near-silent fan." On top of all that, the IPTV service that MS touted at last year's CES will be good to go.
Microsoft is a fan of making money, so as long as they can turn a profit on the hardware, this rumor sounds slightly reasonable. Readers of the site will know that I don't usually post articles about hardware rumors, or newly posted specs about a system. Usually, I just don't care. Sure, it's neat that eventually I can replace my clunky hd-dvd player drive hanging off of my Xbox 360 like a remora, but the best part of this article is the comments section on Kotaku. I've been a commenter there for a while, yet I hardly use the ability to comment there. Why? Ridiculous statements by ill-informed children such as this:
BY CHINEZEPANDA AT 04:43 PM
Never going to happen.
Even if it does..
SONY WILL OFFICIALLY HAVE THE UPPER HAND.
And by that I mean.. Microsoft will be acting in an act of desperation... and my 360 will be going on Ebay.
I love the use of the phrase "Microsoft will be acting in an act of desperation" so dramatic! So final! SO EXCITING. Conjures images of the stunning beauty Microsoft being strapped to train rails by the dastardly Sony, who now has the UPPER HAND! This one is classic, too. And they go on for a couple hundred comments of ridiculousness!
BY CAPT_BIRDSEYE AT 01/02/08 05:42 PM
You have all been Riped off by Microsoft, BTW that reminds me microsoft can't think of thire own ideas.
Now it gose to show why microsoft want a new console the so called "Xbox Ultimate" let me gess Sony have the upper hand? thire tryied with the core, premuim and the elite and now the ultimate. But sony have only made 4 versions of playstaion 3, 20gb, 40gb, 60gb and 80gb now in terms of that thire have only added more harddrive space and removing ps2 BC from most of thire modles. Micro$oft umm money crabbing creedy mofos if u ask me.
Ok, so making fun of this guy's spelling is a bit of a low blow, but come on. It's a company that wants to make money. That's what companies exist for. Microsoft is not some sort of happy shiny non-profit game company who just wants to give you exactly what you want. They want to make a bunch of fantastic games for you SO YOU WILL BUY THEM. It's pretty transparent. All this knee-jerking and fanboyism is really ridiculous. Can't you just say "hey, neat. Hope that comes out and is reasonably priced." and leave it at that? Not everyone is an analyst. Heck, I am not even an analyst. So quit thinking that you are. Or, at least, learn to spell. It's embarrassing.
The holidays are a time of family gathering. People coming together at the feet of the matriarch (or patriarch if all those studies regarding women living longer than men are hogwash) to exchange gifts, well wishing, and other disingenuous pleasantries. This is also a time of horrifying anticipation for geeks and nerds around the world. This is the annual cleaning of computers and long winded, often confusing, explanations of hobbies, jobs, and functioning in an incredibly disparate world of those in the know and those blissfully ignorant.
I spent my own holidays with my family, and as many have related to me in the past week, I spent much of that time explaining what I do for a living, what I do for fun, and last but not least, hunched over a jaw-clenchingly slow computer doing everything in my power to keep from sending my boot through the monitor.
It is a strange experience, these annual info dumps and viral scrubbings. Not only are we suddenly the resident expert but we are also surrounded by people that have no idea what we're talking about. No one knows what an RSS feed is, or what the word "blog" means, or even why setting up a vast library of MP3s might be preferable to a big collection of CDs.
And it is thus we, the geeks, are faced during family gathering. Many of you are tempted to scoff and sneer, maintaining an air of intellectual superiority that only comes off as severe douchebaggery to your family (because it is). Others will try to drag their family members kicking and screaming into the 21st century, spending lavishly on electronics that would make any geek worth their salt salivate and taking hours to explain the finer points of internet culture.
Personally, I'm a little of both. It seems I simply can't completely rid myself of that sighing IT jerk from the back of my head, nor can I stop myself from expounding on memetics to the blank faces of my family.
What challenges do you face with your technologically phobic (or at least uninformed) family, and what are some of the best ways to gently push them into the blinding light of the technological singularity?
posted by Chris on December 27, 2007 10:10 AM in Rant
I went back to the place that shall not be named for the first time in about 7 years this xmas. Due to various familial rifts post-high school, I chose to avoid any sort of activity in which I'd have to see my family, so holiday get-togethers have been an entirely foreign thing to me for a while. This year I had a change of heart and the overwhelming desire to impress my family with my ultra-awesome girlfriend and Rock Band won out. It was like stepping into a strange alternate dimension, where there's no wi-fi, decorations everywhere, holiday music plays and boozy drinks flow.
I managed to avoid the typical "hey my computer is acting up, can you fix it?" kinds of scenarios, and we all ended up playing Rock Band instead of pretty much anything else. Family and friends of my parents came and went, each one hesitantly looking at the game, and eventually breaking down and trying at least one song. It's remarkable to me how something like that really breaks down inhibitions and emotional barriers. Pretty much everyone just cut loose, singing Bowie songs and having an amazing time.
There were a few humorous moments when my parents sounded quite out of touch. My dad asked me how much a Playstation 360 costs. He wore tights and a football jersey when we had to go to Game Crazy to pick up a new component cable for my 360. I played some of Sufjan Stevens' Christmas recordings, to which my step-mother said indignantly "This is Christmas music?" They marveled at the wireless capability of the Nintendo DS, and even broke out the old Super Nintendo to play Mario All-Stars. It was surreal and humorous at times, but I survived.
I'd love to hear everyone else's holiday tales. How does your family respond to your geekiness? Are they oblivious or savvy? Did you get that Playstation 360 you've always wanted?
posted by Chris on December 20, 2007 3:37 PM in Rant
On the last podcast I ranted a bit about my day job and how much I loathe the term "viral marketing". Seriously I think people who blindly use buzzwords and corporate speech need to take lessons on how not to be douchebags (not from me though, because we all know that I am the king of the douchebags). Over at Conversation Marketing, Ian Lurie has come up with a fun distraction for all of you who get equally furious at "viral marketing" and "web 2.0". It's printable and not in flash or anything, so dust off those inkjets and get angry at some words today!
A week and a half ago I decided to take the very generous offer that EA had put forth to replace Rock Band Guitars that don't function properly. A co-worker had done it and it had worked well for her so I decided to give it a shot. I went to the Rock Bandproduct support website and registered for a replacement guitar. I decided to take advantage of the Express delivery option. Using this I'd put $125 down as a deposit and then they'd 2-day mail me a guitar. Take the new guitar out of the box, put the old guitar in and send it back with the pre-paid slip. Easy as punch.
Upon completing the registration and inputting my credit card number I was told to wait for the confirmation email. It didn't arrive that day and I got distracted by other things and didn't think about it until a couple days later. I decided to call up the EA technical support hotline (which is impossible to find if you don't have the game manual right there, so that adds 15 minutes to the call time). After waiting on hold and being forced to listen to awful hold music from the Burnout games and Madden I finally got in contact with someone there. He told me that the guitar had been shipped and he gave me a tracking number, a reference number, and an RMA number. I checked the tracking number on the UPS website and it said it was already in town and out for delivery. Great!
The day passes and no truck arrives. I go to the tracking page and it says the package has been delivered to the "mail room" to someone named "Macy". Well great, only we don't have a mail room, and who the hell is Macy. At this point I'm still not panicking because I know that UPS sometimes delivers to the Post Office who then actually take it to the address. I give it another day to arrive. It doesn't.
I call UPS and they say that something has happened and that the local UPS distribution center will call me if they can figure out what happened to it. I call EA and tell them that UPS lost the package and that I'd like a refund on my $125 and for them to send out an empty box for the standard replacement. For some reason the support person's phone keeps cutting out and breaking off and I am disconnected before I can confirm the details. Since I took a break to call him during my work day and I didn't have time to call back I had to hope that everything worked out. Heading back to my computer I saw a new ticket added in on their site and figured it had gone through.
A couple hours later I got a call from the local UPS distribution center. They'd figured out what had happened. Apparently they delivered the guitar to the mail room of one of the dorms on the university campus near my house. They had no explanation for this. They offered to send a driver to retrieve it the next day but I told them I would go pick it up myself. After work a friend and I walked across the campus and went to the mail room and claimed the package (maybe from Macy, I didn't ask).
I packed the old guitar and sent it back and I figured that even with the muddled delivery, that was that. Well the guitar should have arrived by now and I still haven't received my deposit back. On Friday I received a box in the mail from EA games. It's a box for drums. I called technical support Saturday and they told me that they don't have record of the guitar being returned or even sent. Then she told me she was going to escalate the issue.
"I'm going to have a senior customer service person call you tomorrow," she said.
"Why not today?"
"They're not here on weekends."
"So they're going to call me tomorrow."
"Which is a Sunday..."
Right now I'm pretty sure that my $125 is gone for good. I realize that EA games isn't at fault for the delivery but they completely mishandled every point where they were involved. I don't know what to do. Ideas?
posted by Grant on December 9, 2007 10:17 PM in Rant
Hey there all you Geekkateers. I have an announcement I need to make. I have decided to take a break from The Weekly Geek. I won't bore you with all the details, but it was a little of this and little of that that added up to me wanting to just get away from it all for a while. Now, I can't say for sure if it's temporary or permanent. I don't know that right now. I think there's probably a good chance that I am going to miss all the fun stuff that being a part of The Weekly Geek brings, but I need to step away from the work of it all to focus on other general life things at the moment.
It's been wonderful having the opportunity to invade your iPods and Windows Media Players and other such listening devices week in and week out. It's been great to sit around and talk about video games and stuff and actually have people think it's fun to hear. I thank you all for listening, whether you've been around since we started uploading our radio broadcasts back at CWU, or if you've only recently found us.
I won't be totally gone, though. I've got a few YPS posts pre-written and loaded in the hopper that you'll see over the next couple weeks. And I'll still hang about in our rad forums with our awesome little community.
Thanks again everyone. Please keep visiting the site and listening to the show as there are exciting things lined up for the future of The Weekly Geek.
See you space cowboy...
Don't drive like my brother.
Good night, and good luck.
And that's the way it is
Kay Ee Why...Why? Because we like you
I'm Kevin Nealon and that's news to me.
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars
Fred Gwynne had it right when he said, in a ridiculous nor-eastern accent, that "sometimes dead is better." As a die-hard fan of MST3k (I have every episode, watch them a ridiculous amount, and I have a tattoo of the Gizmonics logo on my shoulder) I've tried to follow the former members of Best Brains in their post-show careers. I've bought their books and as a result of Rifftrax actually own copies of Wicker Man and Battlefield Earth. So when I got home last night and found this postcard in my mailbox I was actually pretty excited. I'd talked with Chris about the upcoming animated shorts and even though I'd expressed doubts, this little card ballooned the hope right up in me. Excited, I hurried upstairs and headed over to mst3k.com as soon as I got the chance.
What greeted me was this. What the heck is this? I don't know exactly what to make of it. For starters it makes my old computer ache and strain just to render it. If you click on videos it takes you to a couple clips from the series, which is nice. When you watch the actual animated short that things start to go downhill in a hurry.
Spoiler Alert! The "joke" here is that Crow is riding in a canoe and then he falls out of it when Tom rides by on a jetski. That's it. I just saved you 3 minutes. Use them well.
Now that I've experienced the first salvo in the destruction of my favorite show I feel that, like Fred Gwynne, I too have had a deceased child spring out from under a bed, severing my tendon with a scalpel before slicing a slit across my wide, screaming mouth.
In Pittston, Pennsylvania, a 14-year-old boy was suspended from school and authorities are considering terrorism threat charges for notebook sketches of Halo.
In Georgetown, Delaware, a 15-year-old boy was suspended from school for wearing a black trench coat several years after the infamous Columbine shootings.
Interestingly, both are true events and both are complete and utter travesties of justice. Interestingly, the school's case is based on the fact that the teenager said something along the lines of, "I'm thinking of murdering you." My school based my suspension on the fact that I looked weird, instead, this unfortunate young man's school based his on here-say. It's difficult to say which is worse. Considering I told countless members of my alma-mater that I not only was, but had often thought of murdering them, I'm surprised this kid hasn't been signed, sealed, and delivered into the hands of an apoplectic school board-cum-judiciary out to make an example of one poor kid.
School officials claim this kid sat on top of his roof and shot pigeons with an assault rifle. I'm not sure how many of you have shot an assault rifle, but I'd like to inform you that it's one of the most gratifying experiences of your as yet unfulfilled life, it's also pretty loud. Having some experience with the tendencies of Eastern seaboard neighbors I can say unequivocally that if anyone, let alone a child, shot off an assault rifle once, let alone multiple times, the police and a new catch phrase would've been involved faster than you can say, "Don't tase me bro."
Granted, the residents of this podunk burb are probably too stupid to realize the difference between an airsoft gun and an assault rifle but even so, this kind of thing is an indelible mark on the report card of gamers worldwide. We're all horrible, blood craving monsters, we have been since childhood, and the inception of video games is simply an outlet for all of us to hone our vicious and coldblooded skills.
Thankfully, the day has yet to come when I'll unleash my vicious brutality on the world, but the years of my adolescent training will see the light. Alternately, I'll just play Portal again and laugh at another of Furniss' fart jokes while we make fun of bros.
I have never been a person to utilize dating or match up sites. I personally find most of my success with the ladies to be in places like nightclubs or art shows, both places where women are too intoxicated to realize what a horrible mistake they're making (whether it be from alcohol or an inflated sense of intellectual might). However, I'm not going to simply write off the success of such places or make fun of someone because of they're participation, or at least not for the last 5 minutes or so. Dating sites have their niche, and while some of you might think that niche is people too awkward to function in meatspace, I'm of the high minded opinion that some people are simply too busy to interact with your viscera. I solve this problem by avoiding people and interpersonal relationships, quietly crying myself to sleep at night, clutching my pillow not because I'm busy but because I chose to be a lonely, spiteful, jerk.
Now while I won't bash dating sites as a whole, there is a trend of specialization among dating sites that is ripe for ridicule. J-Date is one of them, but considering I'm the only moderately Jewish staffer at Chez Geek ridiculing them won't garner me very much hate mail. Nor would it provide me with the satisfaction of having alienated yet another peer group.
Today I bring you riches from a dark cavern otherwise known as Soul Geek, a site providing an opportunity for self proclaimed geeks to meet one another and eventually sit awkwardly across from each other at a dinner which the male counterpart will request going dutch for. But not until halfway through the meal and only after regaling his date with epic tales of shenanigans in the A/V closet of his high school. If everything works as it should then she'll eat this up with a spoon and happily split the meal. Anything to get out of the house with a guy that doesn't affectionately refer to you as a "fruitfly" right?
Click this here clicky bit for a disturbing look at some of the denizens of Soul Geek and some running commentary from me that only barely disguises my self esteem issues.
Hot on the heels of two horribly tragic instances of childrenleaping to their doom in what some might say was gaming inspired madness, the British government is launching a review on the effects of violent games on children. The study will be launched by Dr. Tanya Byron, and the unfortunately named Schools Secretary Ed Balls, at a school in East London, making some kinds out in East London just about the luckiest bastards ever. I remember when school was just endless repetitions of busy work while my teachers nursed hangovers and shattered illusions and not a hotbed for barely scientific testing.
I think it's safe to say that introducing horribly violent and graphic media of any kind is going to alter a child's perception one way or the other. In the coming days I fully expect to hear a report out of the UK on a proposed study examining the effect of subjecting children to 12 hours of watching puppies being brutalized.
Dr. Byron, in her seemingly infinite wisdom, was quoted as saying, "Video gaming and the internet themselves are a very positive and important part of children's and young children's growing up and learning and development. But it is also about saying where are the risks?" and Dr. Byron is correct. Video games and the Internet are a huge part of child's development now (if you were lucky enough to be born in a place where such things are prevalent), but the risks should be obvious. Violent media has existed in some form or another since time immemorial, and yet only now are we so concerned with governing who might actually get their hands on the media that inquests are being made.
Newsflash, if children are playing violent video games it is the fault of the parent, either for not policing the media their children feed into their horribly malformed brain meats or by failing to instill enough respect (or fear) in the kid to respect the wishes of the parent. How about next we do a study on the affect of verandas on children, I mean two kids have already succumb to veranda related deaths, it must be a problem right?
Throughout the day Chris Furniss, the inimitable overlord of all things weekly and geekly in nature, will jabber at me incessantly through the aetheric void of the tubes. Most of the time our conversation is limited to an unintelligible hooting and keyboard mashing the likes of which could only be the result of an epileptic seizure. However, occasionally one or the other of us will manage something that could possibly be construed as sensical or even literate most of the time these are simply links or a quote from those far greater than ourselves.
When Chris sent me the link to the above image exclaiming, "OMG EPICLULZ D00D" I was of course immediately suspicious. We had played this game before, and assuming that my threats of physical violence if he sent me another LOLcat had gone heeded I clicked. For a moment I wondered if perhaps this was like some Magic Eye image, that I would need a moment for what I was truly supposed to see to sink in. Nope, that is not the case. Apparently it's pretty hilarious that you're able to flip an Elephant (one of the big machines you fly around and shoot kittens or walruses or dragons with or something in Halo 3).
Thinking that perhaps my humor module needs to be replaced I have decided to turn to you my gentle Geeks. Please, someone explain why it is funny that I can flip a gigantic tank while in the Forge. A mysterious prize will be awarded for the best answer, seriously.
New Jersey is a town often lampooned in the media for being home to filth, petrochemical refinery, and a seemingly endless display of dullards. While this may or may not be true, although I'm inclined to believe it having lived within smelling distance for a time, what New Jersey is unquestionably home to is over reactionary parents, a newspaper of questionable scruples, and, if memory serves, Robot Hell.
While I take no umbrage with the latter, the former are a current source of consternation in the form of seemingly reasonable (yes in spite of living in New Jersey) adults pitching a fit over the new Wii zapper. Apparently for them Nintendo's new peripheral is just the thing to finally turn their otherwise innocent children into roving gangs of monsters, bent on destruction. Thankfully the blame can't wholly be placed on the shoulders of parents with enough time in their day to respond to newspaper polls, we must also look to the media in this case, for it is with them that this conflagration begins. The aforementioned poll from New Jersey newspaper The Star-Ledger (emphasis theirs) reads as follows:
Wii announced over the summer that it's coming out the a gun-like remote, so kids can play shooter games, with, well, a shooter.
What do you think about making a wand in the shape of a weapon so play is more realistic? ...Is it harmful? ...Will you buy one for your kids?
I realize that nearly every retailer (on or offline) sporting game preorders has sold or will continue to sell people out from under their placeholder copies. It's a common practice, but this is the first time it's happened to me - so naturally, I'm effing cheesed! Especially when it happens on what is figuring to be the game of the year (maybe century), Bioshock.
So I used a birthday gift card I got for Best Buy to place my preorder. I think you can all guess where this is going - I arrive at my local Best Buy to discover that whoever did the preorders "didn't order enough." (Translation: "We couldn't wait 24 hours to hold your copy when a half-dozen walk-up customers were salivating over it.")
I figure since this thing is obviously selling like a free griddlecake special on a street corner full of hobos, that my chances are slim. Sears: Nice try, cigarless. GameStop: No dice. FYE (and perhaps the best denial): "Are you looking for Bio-something? No, we don't have it."
Finally, I stop in the Bellevue Fred Meyer. The answer: I saw it on the faces of the clerks before I even asked. But this time, I told my sob story to the two guys in the Electronics Department. Defeated, I rejoined my wife several aisles down and resumed food shopping. "At least maybe I can get some ice cream out of this," I thought.
One of the clerks caught up with me and said, "Hey, were you looking for Bioshock on 360?" I nodded, slightly more hopeful. "I was holding a copy for myself until I got paid on Friday," he continued, "but I'll sell it to you." Here was my ray of light, but not wanting to be a total douche, I replied, "No man, don't sell yourself out of a copy for me." He insisted and led me back to the register and I walked away elated.
I write this article for that kind, kind clerk (you know who you are dude, if you're reading this). Anyone in the Greater Seattle area, please: Drive, even out of your way, to give these guys in the Bellevue Fred Meyer your business.
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