Friday, February 25, 2011

What Have You Ever Risked?

Dear Esther, a well-recieved Half-Life 2 mod got so well recieved, Valve (the makers of Half-Life 2) included, that the modder and Valve came up with a deal to add to the mod, include better music and then sell that for money. Unsurprisingly, the mod community feels betrayed, because they're a bunch of insecure kids who don't understand the concept of making something, thinking its awesome and then a certifiably awesome company says "hey, we want to sell this with you" and going through with it. As Dave Eggers once put it: No is for wimps.

But beyond that, the community is spouting the insane theory that the plan was always to make a game for sale, that Dear Esther going in the mod community was just a way for him to seed it for its eventual release with the free release of the full game. Which, I guess, if you take two Ambien and mix it with a couple shots of tequila and a handful of horse tranquilizers, makes sense.

(Wait: It doesn't.)

It presumes that the guy knew, when he started the project, that he would have a venue to sell it in and something worth selling. Which is ridiculous. But even then: What if that was the plan? That all the time spent on ModDB in 2008 and 2009 was just an investment in a later return on a 2011 release for this project?

Then it still means the mod community wins. What I mean is that the mod community has the kind of talent within itself, to release games that Valve Software (nobody's idea of a bad game company) thinks is worth cleaning up and charging money for, which means that more people should be paying attention to the mod community, because that's where the new shit is and will always be.

What remains, whether the mod community likes it or not, is that there will be a game that one of the best videogame companies ever believes is worth paying for that has its origins, its growth and its full bloom in the mod scene. More to the point, it's still available today, for free and will likely remain so for the rest of its existence. If that's not a victory for even the most anti-commercial people in the mod scene, I'm not sure that they like winning.

One of my favorite Bane b-sides, You Wrote This Song For Me. Relevant lyrics: "This has nothing repeat nothing, to do with your ignorant arrogant ass. Or some preset image of some preset scene..."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rest In Peace, Dwayne McDuffie

Without Dwayne McDuffie, I wouldn't be here. Literally. I wouldn't have made Subsidized Sincerity. I wouldn't have cared about comics universes. I wouldn't have a couple of the interests I do because of what he wrote on Justice League Unlimited.

He's dead now.

See, the "comic" I read as a kid was Tintin. In French. And for the better part of 20 years, I thought that it was as far as it would go. But then, someone, and I forget who, introduced me to Justice League Unlimited. I remember Websnark (Jesus, a website that hasn't been updated in a year now. How old am I?) was talking about it. And I don't think I got it from there. I think I got it from a friend of mine.

Dwayne McDuffie was the head writer on the show. And when he didn't write the shows, he bought scripts from people that would also blow my mind, Gail Simone and Warren Ellis.

And somehow, by hook or by crook, I watched the second season of Justice League Unlimited. Along the way, I met the Question, which led me to love what I thought was the character, only to have the character's nature flipped on my head when I read his solo series and had my mind blown again. (This seems apropos: the picture to your right is drawn by the penciller on the Question, Denys Cowan.)

But before any of the Question, I had a lot of goddamn fun with the Justice League. I didn't know Green Arrow's backstory, or why he was so sly, but I could tell a conservative/liberal discussion underneath his arguments with Captain Atom. JLU was funny, serious, terrifying and genuinely suspenseful when they wanted to.

When I think of Green Lantern, I don't think of Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner or Kyle Ranyer. I think of John Stewart, black Army grunt. I think of John Stewart, the guy who loved an alien, who lied to him under order from her people, blackmailing her. I think of John Stewart, trainer of Supergirl, conscience and counsel of the JLU. I think of John Stewart, a Green Lantern that made mistakes but never excuses.

I'm never going to meet Dwayne McDuffie now. Beyond that, he had a bibliography that I was aware existed, but never really looked for. There were always interesting stories: The way he fought and bled out for Milestone Comics, now a horror story of the comics industry, bought and then buried by DC because they had no goddamn idea how to market characters that weren't white. The way that every time he tried to write the JLA, there was some inane crossover which killed any momentum he had going with the characters and yeah.

What's...also inspirational is that none of the garbage, the horrible, terrible garbage made him stop or let him give up. It's not like he hadn't done his fair share, he fucking founded a comic book company that wrote non-white superheroes and got screwed by a corporation too goddamn rigid and you know what?

It didn't stop him. He didn't leave comics a husk, burnt out and angry. He kept going, he kept creating and he kept writing. That's inspirational.

I'll console myself with this: I started getting serious about comics thanks to Dwayne McDuffie's writing and now that I'm serious about comics, I'm going to check out more of Dwayne McDuffie's writing.

He's dead, but if nothing else, he started something. In his honor, let's keep it going.

Rules are made to be broken, so no song. Here's four minutes of Mr. McDuffie talking about the challenges of writing in the comic book industry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eldritch Contract Law.

I've been reading a lot of Dresden Files recently and it got me to thinking, between sunbathing with John Rawls and sips of prosecco, that there exists a number of differences in fae contract law that are exploited repeatedly.

Also: Fae can be spelled fey. Or! Fey can be spelled fae, apparently. Additionally: If any readers are left, bravo. Contract law and fairies. If you keep going, you might deserve a Medal of Honor from the internet.

Point is. Fey (fae?) contract law (at least in Dresden Files) is almost exclusively oral, with few written components and most, if not all of the important terms and consequences knowingly obscured by murky language. It's like a deal with the devil. Except the devil is usually female, totally hot and has a court of labyrinthine motivations and aims to keep track of.

And, of course, this court of incredible, accessible power runs on misery, most of the time or at least an intractable web of lies, deceit and half-truths, lorded over by appallingly pretty women with petty worries and apocalyptic schemes. (Makes me wonder who wrote these stories and why.) Wayward, bumbling humans are the the gasoline on which this society runs, and through cunning use of incredibly high stakes and verbal trickery, this position is maintained.

(This is, in case there was ever any question, the opposite of the way any agreement should work.)

Fey bargaining is based, I think, on a loose system of "if I get you to say something when you're bent over a barrel, you're totally liable and I'm in the clear, I just offered you a deal," which we can shorten to bullshit. But supposing we can't shorten it to bullshit, the fae (yes, I'm going back and forth with the names) when pressed will say something to the effect of we had a deal, to which there is an obligation and a tie to that obligation.

Rawls, of course, says that that obligation and that tie presupposes just institutions, or institutions that are as just as can be, given the situation. But, even if we ignore the fey society, there's still one foundational point on contract law that the fae are missing: Informed consent.

Informed consent is basically what the fae contract law runs away screaming from. It means that basically meant to show that all parties agreeing have a minimum understanding of what the terms, consequences and facts are in the agreement, which has never historically been a strong point for fey bargaining. But informed consent is also a goddamned standard of any agreement ever, the basic point that people who are making agreements, need to know, on a deep level, what they are getting into, what they are giving up and what they are getting, which is a standard the fae don't tend to meet.

So: At least on earth, or an agreement signed to here, one would hope our laws apply and not theirs. And if our laws apply, well, their deals might be something you don't have an obligation to keep.

Thus: Here are some ways you can avoid fairy trickery.

1) Don't make deals.
2) No, seriously. Don't.
3) Repeat.
4) Vocalize, explicitly, using the most unequivocal words possible that you want to know exactly what you get and what you give up. And if they don't want to do that, you might know that you have a bad deal. (That said, few people make good deals with the fey.)
5) If you have already made a bargain with the fae, I'm sorry. You're deep in the hole. Try telling them your consent wasn't informed and force the issue. They're a stickler for rules. Maybe this'll help.

If you're reading this and you're involved with fey, then you might not want them reading over your shoulder. I'm not sure about all fae, but hardcore punk seems like it would be a little abrasive for them. Thus, This Is Hell's cover of 108's When Death Closes Your Eyes. Throw that in with some straightforward lyrics about hiding behind words, and well, I'm pretty sure they'll leave you alone. Good luck.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Late! Crazy Late!

I suppose this is as good a time as any to announce Subsidized Sincerity is going to a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule. I'm still going to think of it as Monday, Wednesday, Friday but there's less, say noise, on the internet Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so I hope it will sit better in the immediate future.

I've been rough on the Dresden Files recently. Admittedly, the third book (Grave Peril) seemed to lean hard on the “darkness is bad, light is good” that's kind of simplistic. There was a guy from the Church (Michael) who has 2.5 kids, works as a carpenter, who carries a sword that may be a nail in the cross of Jesus and a priest that's old, reliable and apparently, churches are safe havens for the people suffering from vampire or demon attacks.

And yes, I'm going to contrast it again with the most recent book by China Mieville that I read. It's called King Rat and apparently, it was his first. It shows. He uses the word impossible too much in describing the titular characters abilities, but what stood out to me was how both books looked at darkness.

In the Dresden Files, the darkness is something to feared. Vampires or fairies or whatever lurk there. In King Rat, the darkness is sheltering. The darkness is useful. The darkness is home.

In the Dresden Files, purity is a thing from which power can be drawn and is spoken well of. There's pure white flame which Michael calls on to battle the dark, dangerous vampires. (At one point, a vampiress, in order to flirt with Michael, touches his arm. She erupts into a “white flame,” and is thrown off of him.) In King Rat, purity is abhorrent. “Purity is a negative state, and contrary to nature.”

I've read four five six Dresden Files books in rapid succession. Mieville's work, less so. Bottom line: Mieville is fucking complicated. Butcher is not. And that's only a partial knock against Butcher. I've laughed far more often at what Butcher puts in front of me.

In Summer Knight alone, we're talking about a book where the police lieutenant takes a chainsaw to the back of a troll's knee (an old Chicago tradition) and then to the head of a plant monster, a book where the day is saved by tiny pixies with box cutters flying out of a vase screaming “In the Name of the Pizza Lord, Charge!”, a book where Harry Dresden throws a cup of cold water on his erection to break out of Fey trickery, it's a book where, here a neutral party to the character describes how everyone else sees the character and it's fucking funny because more of it is true than false.

I love that moment.

I resent Butcher's attempts at epic because I like the magic PI story and I dislike conventionally epic storylines, a three way violent orgy between wizards and fairies and vampires. I like Mieville's attempts at epic because, motherfucker, they feel epic. You've got goddamn squid gods fighting mortals for control of reality using their imaginations as their weapons.

Now that's what I call epic.

Tonight it's Ballots/Stones by Hostage Calm. The recurring lyric is this, and it's a doozy: "Did you cast your ballot or a stone?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fear and Trembling.

I remember seeing a song called Kill My Compass somewhere. I think it's by Daytrader (ex-Crime In Stereo), but who wrote is less important than that its existence, at least for this piece.

The title, Kill My Compass, unpacked, is about destroying a guiding mechanism. I took to that, and a particular issue of Secret Warriors and thought "fuck it." So I made a list of all the things I thought I needed or convinced myself I needed and decided I wasn't going near them for a week.

The first to go was Facebook. Not difficult, but really just a matter of not logging in when I typed in the URL. I missed an opportunity to go out with a class of mine but that was about it. I didn't miss out on any important communication not paying attention to it.

Next was alcohol. Much harder, and reinforced, repeatedly, by a pretty up and down week. I got thrown a beer by John Henry from Darkest Hour and then plain old emotional turmoil. But. I decided, at once, one night, that I was taking the bottle of Baileys out of the fridge and giving it to someone else. I decided I would stick to it for the week. Not a drop. I stuck to it.

Oddly enough, it wasn't hard to say no to alcohol offered to me so much as not reaching for it on my own.

But this week is the iPod. The portable music device I've had strapped to my pocket for literally six years. With it, I've run through multiple continents, most airports, scary places I've never wanted to see again, St. Peter's and also Brooklyn. Going out to buy milk from the corner store made me twitch and I hadn't even left the room.

I shook as I went down the stairs and started chattering, nervously, about an issue over which I have no control the minute I left the building. I tried not to think about the constant stimulation my brain was getting for the last say, half-decade and the feeling of nudity and... to suddenly be without it. I needed, or at least felt that incredibly strong desire to have something in my ears, something to chew up the time.

(Which is the wrong way to think about it, of course. Bolano's mediocre poet in By Night In Chile wrote a book called As Life Passes Me By.)

It occurred to me, talking at a mile a minute, I was talking not because I needed to figure something out, but that I desperately needed some noise for my head. I was scared. Terrified, so I let my anger just run wild with my tongue. I'm sure the people thought I was crazy.

Walking down to the grocery store itself just took longer and felt annoying. The Fray's "How To Save A Life" coming on in the grocery store didn't exactly help. It's an earworm, which makes plain just how much like math making a hit is. Walking up the hill without music wasn't so bad. Getting out the door was the hard part, so going back up was, slow, because of the 6,000 ml of milk in my backpack, but I didn't have quite the same nervousness and anxiety of walking down the hill.

I smiled as I hunkered down in my room, putting the milk in the fridge. I'd did it. Today, after classes, I'm taking a ride on the bus to get gelato.

Also, I stepped in dog turd. This seems to be a theme. Hopefully, by this time tonight, I will not have stepped in dog turd.

"I'm not afraid of the price I pay." Of course I am, but that's why I choose Face To Face's I Won't Lie Down, because at the moment, it's aspirational. Plus, its opening sounds a lot like Jimmy Eat World's opening to Big Casino. But! Turn loud and do what you have to.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Since Always, Love Frankenstein

I finally, finally got to the point in the book where Frankenstein's monster returns to his maker and tells his story. What's remarkable to me is just how quickly, through a couple months of observation, that creature is able to pick up on human customs, and it's been not even a year since Frankenstein created the creature he is synonymous with, when Frankenstein finds himself face to face with his creature on a sheet of ice, so adrift and so cold, I can feel the chill and the rage in Frankenstein's bones. (Either one.)

Even more remarkable than that is how quickly the monster we are calling Frankenstein (hereafter referred to as Not-Frankenstein, for purposes of making readers cringe) grasps sarcasm and humor, using one of the best comebacks I've heard, ever: You accuse me of murder and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!

Or, somehow manages to capture one of the most brutal, direct and frank maxims of life in language, that well, here: [L]ife, although it may only be an accumulation of tragedy, is dear to me and I will defend it. I just stare at that sentence, sometimes, after I read it on the bus, desperately trying to find my way to Darkest Hour's gig.

There are three reasons why I like it.

First, the use of the phrase “an accumulation of tragedy” is at once both sage and reductive. You have to be thoroughly depressed to look at only the bad sides of life, but there is some truth in the choice of the word accumulation to describe life. The longer we live, the more things multiply and the more things add to each other or compound or play off of what's already there or what will come.

Second, “and I will defend it.” Note: Not-Frankenstein does not use the word kill. Or murder. He wants to protect it, but he/it hasn't expressed the willingness to go beyond that instinct.

Third, the way the whole phrase sounds, phonetically. I like the qualification in the middle and the use of commas. Each successive idea adds another wrinkle to the sentence, which at its finality, it hits like a bomb. It might suck, but it is meaningful enough on its own merits to guard.

Plus, there's love. It's a bigger subject than I can encompass.

Today being Valentine's Day, you probably shouldn't be sitting here and reading me talking about Frankenstein and Not-Frankenstein. You should (yes, I'm being prescriptive) go talk to girls. Or boys. Or both. Or those aren't that sure. It's up to you and this futile blog isn't going anywhere.

I'll see you Wednesday and if you have a partner, I had better not see you later tonight and if you don't, person, remember: more will come, so go find something to celebrate, and though this might be selfish, lift something in honor of Frankenstein. Well, Not-Frankenstein. But you get my point. Lift something. Kiss someone. Etc.

One of the tracks from Defeater's forthcoming 14-song release Empty Days and Sleepless Nights. It's two records, a 10 song hardcore punk disc called Empty Days and a 4 song acoustic EP called Sleepless Nights. This one's from Sleepless Nights, called “I Don't Mind.” It's adorable and simple.

“Did I forget to tell you how pretty you looked in that dress? And, the first time that I saw you you cleaned the mess from my head?”

Friday, February 11, 2011

By Night In Rome

Bolano's books are chock full of loneliness and despair, punctured by moments of insight. By Night has a number of these. Arguably, the whole book is one such moment, as the framing device is the deathbed ramblings of a Chilean priest and minor critic, to it sounds like, whomever's in the room. But, there's also the moments where the Chilean priest interacts with people who have left their marks on history, like Neruda and he merely looks and finds nothing.

There was a bit of a mirror in my own life. I came back on public transpotration from seeing Darkest Hour on Wednesday night (which explains the rushed feel of the post) and, because public transportation was not working so well, I missed every single one of my stops.

See, the venue is a 15 minute walk from a train station, which isn't bad and having walked up and down the way the last time I went to the venue in November, I thought I would know where to get off. Ha!

The first time I missed a stop it was because I was didn't know where I was. Owing to upgrading the train system, buses run along the metro lines from 9:30 till midnight, and would occasionally drop off the person a block or so away, which I didn't realize until I was pot committed to getting my butt on a bus.

So: I miss my stop and get to the end of the line. I find my way back to the stop on the bus going the opposite direction, run to the venue and Darkest Hour hasn't played yet. Phew.

Going back, I miss my connecting stop and end up 13 blocks from where I want to be in a part of the city I've never seen before at 2:30 a.m. So, to keep myself company, I turn on my iPod and get walking as best I can remember back to the connecting stop for the final leg of the trip. I arrive at the stop, balls of my feet aching and I wait, shaking in the chill.

And wait.

And wait.

It takes enough time that I'm tired of listening to music. I'm far enough down a main drag that I can see the lights of the vehicles long before they come within blocks of me. The reflections of the lights against my dirty glasses disorients me and nothing comes.

I wait and I look. Two people in 30 minutes leave a bar. Vespas and motorcycles come slowly past me. I get colder. (For the record, cold in this case is I am wearing a tshirt and hoodie when I really should just be wearing a jacket. This is Rome.) I can't imagine listening to anything but Darkest Hour, but I've worn out the two records I have on my iPod (Undoing Ruin and Deliver Us) tonight, so I pace.

I begin talking out loud as a concerted effort not to fall asleep. I talk about anything for the first couple minutes, how cold it is, how good Darkest Hour was, how cold it is and those really basic fundamental things. Within a couple minutes, I ended up talking about girls about specific ones. I just kept talking, muttering, whatever, just to keep something going and my eyes fixed on the road and I started saying things that I believed that I wanted, had to say, but never came out.

No bus.

Lights keep whizzing past.

I don't lean on the asphalt light box, I don't look down at the dark, a little dirty streets or at the sides of the buildings with the graffiti, as days go by revealing its meaning to me. I keep talking. I must.

At this point, I'm going a mile a minute, speaking as if every word, slowly brings me closer to how I feel about somebody about something about the feeling of jesus fuck its cold but I swear I just need warmth just a little something between the regrets that I keep in my head and the feeling that if I want to right now I can disappear and not come up for air or people for the next couple months and

that's when it hits me. I'm as alone as I want to be. Whatever I think about the people that I've found myself attached to or need to hear from, the ugly truth is that I can. I can just not go on facebook or update twitter. It's not like I have a phone number that people know or that my phone even works...fucking cold and look there's something with its lights out and a sign up top coming towards me

The bus! The bus!

And it takes me away. I have to walk a little more once I'm dropped off, but even with Frankenstein in my back pocket, jutting out like a lost Bruce Springsteen bandanna, I feel ten times better and about a billion times lighter.

The title track from Deliver Us by Darkest Hour. Pay special attention to the chorus: And to think we created this monster crawling in and walking out on us...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Great Cold Cave Is Alive

I try not to talk about music as the main focuses of these things as:
  1. I write a lot about music.

  2. I could just keep going and not write anything out of my wheelhouse.

But, I'm going to break that guideline to talk about Cold Cave's new song, The Great Pan Is Dead. Cold Cave is Wesley Eisold, vocalist of American Nightmare and post-legal battle, Give Up The Ghost. Dude has always wanted to write love songs at high volume, energized with the hardcore punk car battery, and that's what distinguished American Nightmare from its peers. This is a guy that wrote, literally, I believe that when I'm gone, my love will live in song, in a song called am/pm.

The band broke up, but not before the legend of American Nightmare had taken hold. What was left in the debris were three full length records, and errata of some of the most straightforward discs about loss and love that the group could come up with. And I'll admit, the first time I saw American Nightmare lyrics I nearly cried. This was, for the record, in a computer science class and I probably was supposed to be paying attention to the professor.


I liked it so much, I ended up using an American Nightmare lyric in every Overkill piece I did, a couple years ago, in addition to scratching the lyrics into a desk during English class, but enough talk.

The Great Pan Is Dead does it, realizes Eisold's desire to marry the most earnest love lyrics he is capable of writing with the right kind of accompaniment, the soaring, shimmering electronics of the 80's, fed through a post-Sleigh Bells Kill Everyone Within Earshot volume. Of course, it's undeniably Eisold's lyrics, his themes carry over. There's two lovers set against a world gone dim.

All I see in you and me

is a light in the dark of humanity. (AN's Farewell)

I've seen people with no substance

filling themselves with substances,

but honey child:

There's us.

There still is. (Cold Cave-The Great Pan Is Dead)

There's a hardcore punk style promise that whatever holds the singer back will be overcome.

I will come running,

gunning through the years

hunting heart

crushing fear...(Cold Cave-The Great Pan Is Dead)

What seals it for me is the promise that friends will be seen again, somehow.

And if not above,

i'll see you below.

I'm off to see Darkest Hour. The gig starts at 9:30, there's one opener, but I know Italians and if that gig starts before 10, I'll eat my hat. Bye!

I would be terrible if I didn't give you the song, right? Here's the song. Play loud. Obv.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Justice, On A Timeline.

Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

A friend of mine has that tattooed on his arm and it's a cool idea. I'm for it. It's French, right? And it means something, yes? How much does it mean, though, when the country lets in dictators, like, recent ones. Mubarak is just the latest, yes? (Of course America engages in the same behavior. Wanted to make that clear.) I guess liberty must apply to former strongmen as well, just seems so at odds with the motto of the country.

Of course: Every country is like that. Every country has its nasty secret, the things that undermine its greatest ambitions, the things that hold it back and the little deals made to keep it going. America's are obvious. Look at the history of the CIA and the little things agreed to in the name of the people of democracy become clear.

It's in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, though that Rawls tries to tie into A Theory of Justice, saying that the liberty parallel is obvious, equality under the law and fraternity in the difference principle. And liberty for all, I guess, really means liberty for all, unless, say, you're Muslim and want to wear a hijab, but didn't these dictators kind of...say, by virtue of killing a lot of people, get their personhood card revoked? That's a thing.

And yet we're still treating them as people. Why? Because of what we're still doing now. Mubarak was an ally in the War On Terror. Camus didn't just die of a car crash, but a broken heart. Eastern Europe, I guess, is ocassionally happy to have our political prisoners to torture until they confess to murdering Santa Claus, or whatever their hosts want to hear them say. Eastern Europe tortured our prisoners so we could keep our hands clean. And probably still does.

And yet, even after reading Rucka's Private Wars, that has an intense scene about just this (and also about justice, later on, kind of), a recent book, I can still sit here and type about any kind of justice without laughing.

It would give Bolano something else to write about, if he wasn't already dead. Funnily enough, I finished By Night In Chile and it made me angry. I'll write about it for Friday.

Why Fall Out Boy's Grand Theft Autumn? None worth giving. I wanted to hear it again. I'm not sure what to make of the bits with the girl. I'm not quite sure of the politics. If you have a better idea than I do, comment!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Penny-Arcade Dickwolves. (NSFW, TRIGGER, ETC.)

First things first: TRIGGER WARNING. Hello. TRIGGER WARNING. Consider this the bright, flashing red light telling you these things might set something off. This post will talk about the Penny-Arcade Dickwolves stuff, which you might imagine to be NSFW, but also if you are triggered by discussions of, a monster with penises for limbs who'se purpose is let's say, sinister, skip this one.

The background to the issue what appears to be full is available here and will only take five minutes of your time, so don't bother reading any further until you get through that page.

Don't worry, I'll wait.


Back? Great.

Let's get my positions out into the open first:

  1. Penny-Arcade (for now, Jerry and Mike) was wrong to make the shirts and compounded that bad decision by letting those sleeping dogs lie.

  2. Then, when they did talk about it, it was done haphazardly by Mike, who is no one's idea of a subtle instrument.

  3. Which stoked the fire even more.

  4. By the time Jerry weighed in (the member of the two who'se words carry rhetorical weight) and said “Maybe I'm wrong,” it was too late.

Rape is a pretty big blindspot for gamers. Why will take me off-track and I'll discuss it further down. And here goes my Ill Doctrine hat-tip: I'm less concerned if Penny-Arcade are rape-apologists in their hearts, I'm far more concerned that they responded this badly to an idea that's pretty clearly out of their depth. What Penny-Arcade did was make t-shirts out of a fictional monstrosity whose only purpose is rape. That was a bad idea. What Penny-Arcade is, though, is different. Rape, pretty obviously now, is their blindspot. Humans have them. You do. Shit, I do. When you add to that their poor handling of the issue, which I can understand quite easily, it compounded the problem, which was never really something they understood to begin with.

But calling them names and yelling insults at anybody within earshot doesn't fucking help the case. I think people get further keeping the focus on what they did, not what they are.

The hope is that Penny-Arcade learns from this experience, because, and let's be clear: They're not going anywhere. They're also the best of the webcomics and their work for the gaming community has paid incredible dividends. They're pretty obviously sincere in their desire to do good.

So far, they haven't acknowledged what I believe to be the core issue, and appear to believe the comic was the issue. The issue, as I see it and explained elsewhere as: "[Mike] was an asshole to people who have every right to be offended by jokes about violence that affects them every day of their lives. He doesn’t have the right to tell them otherwise. No one does."

The comic was not the issue. That's not the criticism. The problem, Jerry (if I can pretend to speak to him directly), was trying to merchandise a fictional monstrosity whose only purpose is rape (which he doesn't acknowledge) and then abdicating your responsibility to communicate (which he does.) He neatly avoid acknowledging that intent doesn't matter, once an idea is in the wild, it has a life of its own, the variety of which would surprise its author.

Jerry and Mike will get another bite at the apple on Friday, next Monday, next Wednesday and however long they choose to keep publishing. Yes, they fucked up, but this is not their only time at the plate. That's the nature of serial publishing. Make the next ones better, guys. Be more careful in the future.

(Also: I don't think I need to explicitly explain why making a tshirt out of a fictional entity whose only purpose is rape is bad.)

I think bitmob put it best when they ask for people to not wear their Dickwolves shirts at the Penny-Arcade Expo, so I'll quote them and be done:

We don't...get to decide whether someone else’s issues are valid or not. If someone says to us “Seeing these t-shirts triggers me into horrible PTSD and causes me substantial amounts of distress,” our choice is to either respect those feelings and seek not to cause that distress, or tell them “Sorry, our right to wear these shirts is more important than your not having panic attacks while walking the halls of this event you would otherwise attend.”

I listened to this song (and maybe even this version) last night approximately 30 times in a row. It's by former Bikini Kill member Kathleen Hanna (who has had a number of other projects that are far more successful, but that's the one I'm choosing) and is called I Wish I Was Him.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Right In The Killzone

There's a video of Killzone 3 that's dedicated to the highest res version of brutal melee kills they can program, linked below and I thought, the hole time I was watching it, aside from marveling at the details in the graphics and the clarity of the presentation that, Man: you want to know why videogames are ghettoized? This is why.

I was fashionably disgusted. I say fashionably because there's a part of me which much admit, damn, that looked cool. But, that moment didn't interest me as much as I felt like it pushed me away. I understand that somewhere, there is a check being cut to a developer to make a more convincing, more shocking melee kill. It is a large check. Irrational (the guys who made Bioshock), bemoan the fact that there's not a market for a mid-level game anymore. You're either indie or you're a 20+, 30+ million dollar investment.

There's so much technology being spent on choking, slicing and stabbing a digital foe, to make it looks as gruesomely awesome as possible, so it appeals to a certain demographic that wants it gritty. Make no mistake, Killzone 3 is a game for the hardcore. And what is the hardcore? Dudes. Dudes my age who want a real experience. I am the target demographic. (I want to make that the title of a record.) Being that target demographic makes me feel hyper-aware of my purchasing power.

Speaking of my purchasing power, I bought the first Killzone and really enjoyed it. It's a very well polished shooter with its own ideas about weight and movement with exceptional level design.

But that's not what I want in a videogame, at least any more. I mean, if I want gory brutality, I can always read 2666. HEY-O! Okay, but seriously. It's millions of dollars spent to make a minor distinction between it and hundreds of games in the genre. And maybe the rest of entertainment is like that, but on a smaller scale, but it's the scale, here, that gets to me. Not that the money could be better spent elsewhere (it could, very easily, but that's a point that's been beaten to death) but that it's so much money spent on a so particular demographic that I feel connected to, whether it's apocryphal or not.

We're appealed to via millions of dollars spent on a throat slicing animation that will feel real, but anyone who'se done it will know its inauthentic. It's disappointing. But I enjoyed it when I saw it and responded to the thrill.

Enough pathos.

Luckily, Emmy Dee is going to be back and (hopefully) talking about videogames, from the perspective of a girl that's trying to live with a Warcraft kid. Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity to pick her brain about what she thinks of when she thinks of the hardcore videogames., given that she's a party to them in an adversarial way. Apparently, she really likes Plants Vs. Zombies, as I do.

In short: How an uninterested party look at the shootydudes genre? This is all if I can talk her into it, of course.

In summation! Killzone 3 will probably be an immaculately produced game that will have value to the hardcore gamer by virtue of well designed levels, guns and challenges. It will satisfy the need to be exciting by shooting evil people. Cheap thrills, right? At millions of dollars? I guess those thrills aren't so cheap anymore.

Anyway. Here's one person's songs, interpreted by somebody else. Diplo, a guy I have heard of, doing Sleigh Bells' Tell Em, another band I heard of. It feels huge but not heavy. Anyway. Crank loud and smile.

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