27 Jul 2013
If you spend enough time experiencing your own take on reality, you come to believe that what works for you might actually be a universal truth. Marketing plus psychology might equal science, it seems.
The rise of “personal science” strikes me as one of the most dangerous aspects of contemporary society.1 The notion that having opinions is somehow equal to having knowledge has become all too common. Global warming is an obvious example, but such “reasoning” has spread to almost every field and topic. Debate is hardly possible anymore as there is can be no equal footing from which to stand when one side has an evidence-based worldview and the other is entirely opinion-based. There are parallels here between the conflict of science and faith, but few would claim that anyone contemporary is mirroring the suffering of Galileo Galilei. But even worse than these two opposing philosophies is when opinion and faith come into conflict with each other wearing the facade of fact. The fury that people come to when their “I Believe“‘s are not aligned… There can be no measured arguments, no agreements to disagree
I blame Wikipedia. Maybe encyclopaedias too.↩
17 Jul 2013
[Gabe] also does not understand pinball. I mean, he understands that there is a silver ball and that you can’t let it go down through the hole; he doesn’t understand why I find them beautiful. I tried to find a word to describe how I feel about them that wasn’t the word beautiful, but I couldn’t do that and be honest. They’re playable sculptures; I don’t know what you want from me.
For some it was Street Fighter II or Final Fight, for others it was Contra or Gauntlet. I myself have fond memories of Konami’s X-Men (and even foolishly bought it for my iPad) and my brother and I spent far too much money on both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and The Simpsons Arcade Game, but I have always had a fondness for pinball cabinets. A well played nudge; the long row of dibs quarters; and replays long into the night. No worries about having to compete with joystick watchers, no frustrating time limits announced with cries of “Red Wizard needs food badly”. Just my flippers and I against the world.
To those who can’t understand the appeal of pinball I have a simple reply, “how can you not?”. Playable sculptures indeed.
16 Jul 2013
Once the mantle of Superman is assumed, the character is not becoming, he has become, and at that point the burden is on the writers – he is the figure who finds the other way, who makes the right choice.
Eric’s piece explains one of the popular frustrations with Man of Steel and he does it through the use of archetypes, ectypes1, and Myth Criticism. This is a counterpoint to my previous post about the film, but Eric is quick to state that this is why the character does not work for him. This is the key.
Eric is erudite and does not shy away from his academic background. It may be why I am so fond of his writing. This is his definition of the concept: “Failed attempts to get to the archetypes are ectypes. Ectypes have elements of the archetypical, but fail to achieve that zenith.”↩
15 Jul 2013
Superman stories have no unified properties – not even Superman himself as protagonist1 – so it is somewhat ridiculous to claim that Man of Steel fails to live up to some ideal version of the hero that exists on the Wikipedia page and in Mark Waid’s mind.2 This movie explores the narrative of a Superman, just as Smallville did, just as Superman Returns did, just as Lois & Clark did. The question, as it always ends up being, is whether the film succeeds in crafting a character and story that you find appealing. Debates over absolutist versions of Superman are nonsense. While harder to argue about, it is actually worthwhile to have debates over whether Snyder and Goyer succeeded in meeting your own personal visions.
I have always seen Superman as a better version of ourselves. It may be that he is from some other planet but there was a time when the Americas were equally alien to my ancestors, when the people therein and their ways were just as strange. He is one of us, whatever that may mean and whoever we may be, and with that is the capacity for both kindness and harm, greatness and dread, good and ill. His heroics are a reminder of what we could be, if only we dared to reach. His powers fill us with fear, because great heights can come with equally great falls. We fear him because we fear each other. We fear him because we fear ourselves.
It is perfectly reasonable not to enjoy Man of Steel – it is, after all, a piece of art – but I think that some of the complaints about the lack of authenticity in the portrayal have more to do with our fear of ourselves than with a failure on the parts of Synder and Goyer. The problem with this Superman, to contradict Quentin Tarantino3, is that he is entirely too human, that he is is not super enough. He is, as the rest of us are, flawed. And that is a good thing, because perfection makes for a lousy narrative.
See: World Without Superman, Luthor, Death of Superman, Last Days of Krypton.↩
Not that I intend on belittling Mark’s thoughts on the matter. Birthright was great and he has had a number of other interesting runs; the cast he has collected to craft and maintain Thrillbent is impressive; and he also happens to be a fantastic writer outside of graphic novels. But he is also the first to admit that he is not an unbiased observer when it comes to Superman: “there are not rivers or coastlines on this planet long enough to measure just how much I wanted to love this movie”.↩
BILL Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… He’s unsure of himself… He’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.
This is a game about relationships, and how everything we do affects everyone around us. It’s about how trying to do the right thing can be as monstrous as starting with ill intentions. It’s about how we can hate those we love, and love those we hate.
Video-games have fallen off my plate lately – we can blame Ulysses and The Human Condition I suppose – but I made an exception during the release week of Bioshock Infinite. There are many thoughts that have been tumbling around my notebooks about this game, though I may not get around to turning those into coherence. While Ben’s thoughts are decidedly less philosophical than mine would be, he also points his readers towards an article by Mytheos Holt for The Blaze that examines some of the more interesting political concerns about the game:
Is Bioshock Infinite anti-Tea Party? No. If anything, given that it takes place in 1912, it’s much more an attack on the sort of jingoistic sentiments that motivated Americans at the turn of the 20th century, and that caused writers such as Sinclair Lewis to openly fret about America itself going fascist.
Ignore the fact that it was written for Glenn Beck’s website and most definitely ignore the comments section. If you manage to do both of those, you will find that that Mytheos has crafted a thoughtful exploration of the populist libertarianism current that runs through the narrative of Bioshock Infinite.1 Personally, I am more impressed that video-games are starting these kinds of conversations in mainstream discussions.
It is about time.
20 Jun 2013
Ulysses has outlived its critics, just as it has outlived the banning … Nor is it only because it has proved a wonderful store for the academic-criticism industry, spawning innumerable Ph D theses. It may indeed be a book more studied than read, but it has also been read with delight by several generations now, even if not always read through.
On the off chance that anyone was wondering what it is that I have been wasting away my time with in between political philosophers, I supplemented Gandhi, Nietzsche, and Heidegger with a course on ethics and modernist literature.1 The professor put Thomas Pynchon, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce onto my reading list, because I clearly have infinite time and it makes sense to include three incredibly difficult and wordy authors in addition to my already gruelling workload.
Beckett’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone meurt, and L’innommable) is an amazing set of novels and my reading of it marks one of the few times that I have wished for a working knowledge of the French language – to enjoy the clever wordplay.2 To quote Beckett himself, “there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be”. It is a set of stories that, in the teller, are both brought closer and made more distant. I thoroughly appreciated the tidal pull of these novels.
Ulysses, though, was a trudge through wind and hail. It parallels Homer’s Odyssey, which is to say that intelligent people have told me that it parallels Homer’s Odyssey and I believe them because I do not know enough to claim otherwise. It was not until I was finished with the novel that I started to develop any sort of appreciation for it. Ulysses concludes beautifully. Despite the madness, unintelligibility, and difficulty. Despite the times that I wondered at what Joyce was doing and whether I was comprehending anything that I was reading. Despite everything, I am glad to have tried my hand at Joyce.
And Conrad, and Beckett, and Pynchon. Modernist literature might primarily exist for the satisfaction of academics – I do not rightly know – but the rejection of old and established ways is always worth the attempt, even if it is limited in both sense and reach. Writers make for lousy astronauts. We lack the totalizing dedication to the pursuit of the heavenly bodies that is demanded of the contemporary Icarus. We have an elsewhere gaze, but we too raise our fingers to the sky to trace and map the spaces between the stars. We may not fly, but our hands are stained with ink, and our knuckles are sore from typewriters and pens. These are our V-2’s and Apollo’s. With them we likewise seek to reinvent the human being – or, sometimes, reinvent what it means to be at all.
I make no claims that Ulysses is the best novel to have ever been written – if only because I have not read them all and can make no such claim, though I would likewise not suggest that it is the best novel that I have ever read. What Joyce has done with Ulysses is crafted something new and different, a novel in all the definitions of that word. He broke with form. He broke with narrative. He broke with structure and character and technique, all in an attempt at bringing about newness into the world. And, in doing so, he made something that has lasted and endured beyond him.
15 Jun 2013
As a writer, I knew that storytelling was an isolated affair that involved ruthlessly stealing ideas from friends, family, and anyone else that happened upon my path, but Dungeons & Dragons is the antithesis of such selfishness and best understood as a method of crafting a communal narrative. Just as the limitations of genre, form, and style bind written stories, so too are there rules in D&D that confine what is possible, but role-playing removes the absolute authorial control that comes with solitary storytelling.
Take a look glance at the brief piece I wrote for Dave Morris’ “resource for the thoughtful improvisor”. It is just a few thoughts tracing a path through my history as a storyteller and while you are there you may as well read a few other pieces – I particularly enjoyed Ryan Miller’s “Loving Your Mistakes”.
11 Jun 2013
It’s too early to tell whether iTunes Radio will be a hit or miss, but surely Fanboys and hipsters alike will be raving about the service soon as it’s available for listeners to try out. We’ll soon find out one way or another.
In an otherwise well written and interesting article, Mellisa ends with this nonsense. I have never read SiliconAngle before, but their claim of focusing on “where computer science intersects [with] social science” is undermined when their writers decide to throw casual insults instead of thoughtfully concluding their articles.
I do not, necessarily, take umbrage with the terms “Fanboy”1 or “hipster”2 as descriptors, but the stereotype of the raving Apple fan is tired and insulting. Not to mention that we are well beyond Apple products being primarily utilized by a vocal minority. My mother might try out Apple Radio before I have a chance to. The product is interesting and it is going to be available in the wild in a few months. And it is more likely that Mellisa and the other tech journalists are going to be declaring it a hit or miss long before us “Fanboys and hipsters” have an opportunity to try it out.
Except, of course, as gendered terminology. That is as good a reason as any for us to stop using it. And, while on the topic, why do people insist on capitalizing “fanboy” – particularly when writing about Apple?↩
I have not read his work, but I have been told that Mark Greif has done some interesting work with the notion of the hipster. At some point, I will read his New York Magazine piece that includes the line, “It would be too limited, however, to understand the contemporary hipster as simply someone concerned with a priori knowledge as a means of social dominance”. Knowledge bombs everywhere.↩
01 Jun 2013
In between surviving multiple point-blank-range assassination attempts and a failed kidnapping in which he emerged alive from the burning wreckage of a battleship his own air force had just bombed, Pibulsongkram decided that Thailand needed noodles.
The history of a food dish told as a government propaganda story. “Freedom Fries” is amateur hour compared to Pad Thai – in both the complexity of the meal and the narrative. It seems fitting that a snack as basic as deep fried potatoes would hardly serve up as interesting a story as the preparation of the Saen Chan noodle. Even the names of the ingredients are more worthy of a grand tale.
31 May 2013
The beauty of the Web is that it belongs to you, and me, and to each of us, individually. What are other people doing on the Internet? Who the hell cares? I’ll just find people who like doing what I’m doing and talk to them.
I first came to the Internet to escape what was popular in favor of my own interests. Now I eschew the Internet as a variation on that theme. This sounds a bit like the groupie that hates that their favorite band has “gone mainstream”, but you will have to trust that I am not lamenting the bygone pre-digital era. It is just that I used to believe that the Internet was a space where people could retreat from the tyranny of the majority opinion – “here’s to the crazy ones” and all that.
There might not be a point to this rambling. If people want to engage in the popular who am I to delegitimize it? Nor am I entirely certain that I am on the right side with my thoughts on the current state of the web. Maybe Facebook is what we should be doing with the Internet.
I sure hope not though.