Monday, November 16, 2015

I'm a broken record.

And again, and again, and again, and again...

Back in December of last year and January of this year, I wrote two posts about humanity; how we fail and how we can prevail. I far from claim to be any kinda of expert on the matter, other than being human myself, and I don't pretend like I know the right answer to any of our problems, just things that we could try to do to be better. But honestly, I'm just preaching to the choir. Folks who read this are going to be like minded individuals and are pretty much going to agree with me, and for those who don't, they'll quickly dismiss this as another asshole with a blog. This past year, I haven't blogged much. I've been doing things and I've been going through things that I felt I've had to deal with personally before I felt comfortable sharing with it to the few who read this. And really, what can I say that people who are way smarter than me haven't said way better? Truth be told, I haven't had the words to talk about the tragedies, the ignorances, the audacities, and the stupidities that sum up the majority of humans. At least, not words that haven't been said a thousand times a day. But I feel with the latest tragedies to befall us, there is something that I haven't covered in any one of my posts before. And because of that, I feel I need to deal with that topic, just once, so I can get it out there among the multitude of folks who have felt the same and have said the same. One more voice to the never-ending chorus of "Are you there, gods? It's me, Margaret; go fuck yourselves." Another brick in this wall of social media, another broken record.

There is evil in this world. And there are those out there that have filled themselves with nothing but that darkness for whatever reason they found fits them. There is no reason to try to logic it out: be it any sad, horrific, disgusting circumstance, or the pomp that most folks tend to attribute to the most vile of the lot; some folks are just plain evil, and a lot of them are never coming back from it. Spin your tale of woe for these people if you wish. Blame society, geography, education (or lack there of), these folks are the darkest aspects of humanity, and they revel in it. They're here to watch the world burn. They'll kill, butcher, and rape everyone and everything in their path in the name of all and nothing at all. Some folks might claim that this is too easy a definition, that there are varying degrees and that people are more complex. It's true, some people are quite complex. But I'm not speaking of those people. No, the definition is not easy, the definition is actually quite hard to come to. Saying someone is evil is stripping away all humanity from that person, minus the scariest part of us. That kind of definition has been lost in the haze of ill-definings and Godwin's law that has become standard affair for people. We've done this so that we don't have to think or see or imagine people like this.

But they exist. It's a reality. Stop, look, and listen. They're there, killing innocent lives without a second thought. Terrorizing whole countries, stomping the humanity out of us.

And they succeed, in small ways, but they get to us. We see a travesty from halfway across the world, and then another, and then another, and it becomes so much that the average person can barely keep up. And those in the know berate the people for not knowing enough. Someone changes their profile pic in solidarity with Paris and all of a sudden they are considered blind and racist for not putting up a Syrian flag, or a Kenyan flag. We attack each other for not caring the way they should or not enough. We become so pissed off that we lash out at each other, completely forgetting that we are not the problem, someone's profile pic is not the problem. The problem is those evil assholes.

I can pretty much bet that in the millions of years of human evolution, we've never not had some evil disgusting sack of shit in the gene pool. And I'll guarantee you, for as long as we tread on this planet, we will continue to have those sacks of shit, festering. We do what we can to not let them run rampant, though, there are times it feels like that's all they do. And they want us to feel desperate, they want us at each other's throats, they want us to see them try to burn the world. That's the world we live in.

You know what pisses off evil bastards more than anything? Continuing to strive for a better one. We do not have to accept the world with their narrative. They want to watch the world burn. Let them watch us eternally trying to put it out.

This won't be the last travesty, and it probably won't be the last time I feel the need to share my opinion on one. But if I have to be a broken record, I'd prefer to be a song I like than an asshole.

Monday, February 09, 2015

What's a "Gamer"?

Global Thermonuclear Wa... I mean, Pong! Pong is cool.
A lot of us remember the scene (if you've never watched WarGames, please go watch it, it's dated, it's totally '80s, and also a great flick); Matthew Broderick's character (David) sits in front of his IMSAI 8080 microcomputer. That 2 MHz Intel 8080 processor was running all night and day making phone calls all over Sunnyvale, California to find a video game company that would be releasing some pretty sweet games. He thinks he finds it and begins to interact with a computer that asks him a very simple but (as we begin to learn) important question, "Shall We Play A Game"?

See, David is a gamer. When we first see David, he's standing in front of an arcade cabinet playing Galaga. He was so into video games that he tried to break into a game company just so he can have early access to a game. Hell, he saves the world from destruction (SPOILERS) by playing a video game. David was a gamer, through and through. The problem is, that Ally Sheedy's character (Jennifer) who plays Global Thermonuclear War with David and who helps David to finally save the world would not be considered a gamer at all. The term gamer, mainly referred to men.

The dictionary defines "gamer" as a person who plays games, especially computer or video games.

The dictionary has also changed the meaning of "literally" to mean the exact opposite of what the word originally entailed so the dictionary can go fornicate itself.

However, as society changes the meaning of certain words over time, the term "gamer" has never been able to fully come out of its negative connotation. The term is still restrictive depending on who is defining it.

So what is a gamer? Well, let's look at who's answering that question.

If you asked the average person who doesn't really play video games, "What's a gamer?" This is what usually comes to mind. A male who has no real life outside of the virtual world. He is constantly playing video games, cut off from the outside world. The older "hardcore gamers" will look down on you for thinking Call of Duty is hard when you have never played Mega Man 2. The younger hardcore gamer would mock you for not being able to hang in Grand Theft Auto V and have already beaten the game and traded it in a day later.

In truth, these players do exist. But it is a stereotype. If you asked these hardcore gamers what a gamer is, their response would be very different. To them, a gamer is a video game enthusiast, they have no loyalty to consoles, they love good games. They've been playing them all their lives. They've beaten Legend of Zelda on multiple occasions and have the maze section memorized. They could tell you the order of villains you should beat in MegaMan. They're the ones who made Street Fighter IV happen. They're the ones who stood together and shamed Xbox into changing their policies regarding game swapping. Yes, the hardcore gamer is a fervent player, passionate about what "he" loves. And therein lies the problem, because if you're not a hardcore gamer, or claim to be one, it becomes a pissing contest. And if you're a girl that claims to be a gamer. Well, the hardcore gamer only sees you in one way.

God forbid you're a woman into gaming. The first four tropes in the picture above are dead-on accurate. The hardcore gamer sees a woman as they see a gold ring, or a princess in a castle, or as the polygon-ed ass that they keep the camera on for far too long; women are objects.

Of course I speak in generalities, but the truth is women who love playing video games are treated as second class citizens. They're ridiculed or sexualized in an online match, if they choose to cosplay or play something other than an MMORPG (massive mutiplayer online role playing game) they get labeled with being a "faux gamer".

There's the story of Gary Gygax when he came out with Dungeons & Dragons back in the '70s. When asked about the lack of women in his game, his answer? He would add more women if women started buying his games.

So, ask a woman who's into gaming what she thinks a gamer is, well, you obviously get a different opinion. One more accurate, one that defines them as a gamer.

With so many varying definitions of "gamer" and the majority coming with some kind of stigma, we have to ask ourselves if it's time to either unify or just get rid of the word that is used to define anyone who plays a game. The casual gamer, the pro gamer, the retrogamer, the gaymer (it is what you think it is), I ask myself, what's a gamer to me?

To me, my grandmother shaking the joystick while playing PacMan on my Atari 2600 and who nows plays Angry Birds on her iPad, that's a gamer. My wife who will devour a Lego game in a day, but who can't stand first person shooters, that's a gamer. My nephews who would play Spider-Man on the Xbox 360 just to get him to the highest building and then jump off, that's a gamer.

I call myself a gamer, but I call anyone who enjoys just playing any game a gamer. If you want to faction that off that into different definitions, I think you've stopped having fun, and you are way more concerned about appearances than playing games.

I call that vanity.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The critic is dead. Long live the critic!

Either they don’t know… or don’t show or just don’t care…
about bein’ a menace to South Central
while they drink their juice in the hood.
It was 1996, two men are sitting down talking about the nature of comedy and how it is used to bring to light the issues of race and stereotypes. The movie in question? “Don’t Be A Menace In South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood”. The two men? Siskel and Ebert on their show, “At The Movies”. In four minutes, these two film critics had an intelligent discussion about a satirical film that could have easily been dismissed as just another “ghetto” film. And if that wasn’t enough, Ebert, in a very honest moment says that he’s unsure how he feels about the film. Imagine that? A critic who didn’t “criticize” the film, but rather took the highs and the lows and weighed them for what they were.

I love French films, 
pretentious boring French films!
 I love French Films, two tickets s’il vous plaĆ®t!
The role of the critic is a thankless one. These are folks who usually go to school to study the particular field that they are into. They take the history of such-and-such, they read, they partake, they pour themselves all over the medium, yet they don’t create anything but an opinion.
Who chooses to be a critic? No, really, I’m asking. Who purposely decides that they want to look at art and pull apart every aspect of it until nothing remains?
I used to think these people were all frustrated artists, the very epitome of “those who cannot, teach”. But the fact is, a true critic unabashedly loves every aspect of their genre, and will be damned to see it sullied by those who would coast on passable material. At least, that’s how it started.

So, I could go back into the history of the critic, specifically the film critic, but it’s pretty much only interesting to people who are critics. Let’s just say that at one point is was only done by a few people, and that it only got huge when two guys came on TV to share their opinions on films.

There was an explosion of film critics in the ‘80s. And what made them fascinating is the fact that they grew up in a time where “Hollywood Legends” were pretty much accessible. These were journalists who in the ‘60s and ‘70s talked to actors and filmmakers directly. There was a rapport that seems artificial when you watch critics today.
We watched what they had to say and for the most part listened. I know I had my opinions swayed by a critic here and there without giving the film a chance. And why wouldn’t I? These are professionals, right?

In the Summer of 2000, a critic came around by the name of David Manning. David had some great things to say about certain movies. According to David, “A Knight’s Tale”, starring Heath Ledger described him as “this year’s hottest new star!” Now, I personally agree with David, I loved the hell out of this movie and frankly, I think it was Heath’s best performance outside of The Joker.

Yup, David loved a lot of movies, curiously, only films made by Sony, but it would soon come to light why. David wasn’t real. David Manning was a pseudonym used by a marketing executive working for the Sony Corporation. They created a fake critic to give their films positive reviews.
Sony wasn’t the only studio at fault for fake criticism. One critic’s review of “Live Free or Die Hard” was shortened from “hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining” to “hysterically… entertaining.”

And of course, there are the junkets, the free screenings, the food, the accomodations to wherever, the goodies. Studios would do just about everything to get a positive review from these people whom apparently held the keys to the opinions of the common man. But the common man’s (or rather, those who didn’t get kickbacks to watch a movie) voice became the death knell of the critic. Because the internet.

There is no secret that when social media hit, everyone with access became just that little bit louder. And by a little bit louder, I mean everyone felt that their opinion had to be typed in boldfaced fonts and youtubed from their bedrooms, shirtless, sometimes bottomless.
Sites like metacritic became the go-to go-to for what regular folks thought of films. The professional critic slowly became something to be scoffed at, ridiculed, and even mocked. People began to see them as archaic. Even filmmakers began to question why should critics have their opinions held in higher regard than anyone else?

Slowly, the hashtag started to creep onto film posters. The voice of the people was now visible in commercials, in the theaters, and of course online. The professional critic was relegated to blogs and the few websites that still catered to that kind of thing.
The critic was dead. Long live (for better or for worse) the new critic! The very loud, noisy, at times incomprehensible critic!

There is no arguing that the hashtag has become the means in which most people garner opinions. The live-tweet is just a torrent of short one-liners, not unlike the taglines from the movie posters. And although everyone has their opinion, and everyone is entitled to one. A part of me feels that not every opinion is created equal. There is something to be said about a person who studies a particular craft, and can tell you with a learned opinion about what a filmmaker tried to convey; versus someone who went to watch a movie and didn’t understand why the sex scene was filmed in the way it was, but tweeted, #DAT ASS.

I recently posted (in another blog) that I’ve yet to see “Godzilla”. However, I’ve had some friends tell me they loved it, and others tell me it was terrible. I tend to lean to those who I know have a bit of film knowledge. Is it snobbery? I don’t think wanting an opinion from someone who is “in the know” is such a bad thing. But for a lot of people, critics are shit. And at the end of the day, a person is going to enjoy what they enjoy despite of what other people say. Still, I have to say I do miss an educated opinion, not necessarily to sway me, but to start a conversation. And that above all, is what I feel is missing in today’s new critic. Everyone’s yelling, and no one’s listening.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Greetings, Earthlings

If anyone reads my blog; other than the few I know who do, it may seem like I'm pessimistic on my outlook of humanity. Truth is, I love humanity. For all its failings (and let's be honest, there are a shit ton), humanity can do one thing that no other animal on this planet can do. Cross-species empathy. A human who is aware of another species pain has the unique ability to help them in a way that no other animal can do. When we see a bird with an injured wing, we can mend them. When we see a species on the brink of extinction (be it our fault or not), we can use our tools to bring them back. This ability to care about something other than ourselves is probably the sole guiding love I have for our species and that keeps me from giving up on us. It is just a goddamn shame we can't share that empathy with ourselves.

To say that this past year and the beginning of this year have not been our best hour would be an exaggeration. Hell, in the days that I've started and stopped writing this post, there was another person of color killed by police, several terrorist attacks, and even more human tragedy. It's as if we continue to stare into the abyss and the abyss just keeps getting wider and wider, and we're about to fall in at any moment. How is it that we can go on? How is it that we can just overlook the disgusting nature of humanity and pretend to have a good day? Truth is, we can't, and more importantly, we shouldn't.

We should never be blind to the horrors we do. We should never not know about the atrocities, the lies, the betrayal, the murder that one human being does to another. We should feel every injustice, every evil, every disgusting aspect of humanity. We should take them all, and with love, hand-in-hand with each other, we should stand, as one. And in one unified voice say, "No more."

These are things we should do, but we don't. At least not all of us. There will always (and I do mean always) be those who just want to see the world burn. How do you fight something that has nothing but hate in their hearts? You do it, by being the change that you want to be in the world.

And I just don't mean by talking about it. It's easy to say, "Oh, I hate murder." Hating the thing that you would never do because you wouldn't go to those extremes is easy. You have to actively stand for the little things that represent the broader scopes you claim to uphold.

You say you respect women? Then do so, and not only when it suits you. If women have issues with the way they're treated in entertainment, in social media, in life; don't all of a sudden assume that there's something wrong with them because the things you enjoy are being brought into question. Listen to what they have to say. Hear the injustice they feel. Understand the fear they go through on a daily basis even if you're not the direct cause of it but the thing you happen to be into is a factor. Stand with them and say, "No one should live in fear or feel like they are being treated as inferior."

You say you're not racist? Then don't discriminate on the basis of cultures that you don't understand and assume that because someone looks a certain way that he or she must be something that has been negatively stereotyped. Don't get offended when a particular race says you will never understand their plight because you have never been put in that situation. Don't pretend you even know for a second what it feels like to be in a country where the color of your skin defines your importance to a situation. Stand with them and say, "No one should suffer this injustice."

You say you're for freedom? Then don't begrudge others the same freedoms. Don't belittle the protests of those who want to have their voices heard. Don't turn away someone who wants the same freedoms you more than likely take for granted. Stand with them and say, "No one should silence the rights that we claim to uphold."

When we're at our most mediocre, our worst tends to run rampant. We allow fear to dictate what we pick and choose to stand up for. But when we're at our best, when we come together as one, when we solidify as brothers and sisters; there's nothing we can't do together. We are capable of such beauty despite our horrors. I know we can, I have seen glimpses of it, I know it exists. We, all of us, we just need to take a stand. Not only for ourselves, but for the planet. We're all Earthlings here. Let's start acting like it.