Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I find the commercials for "Toddlers and Tiaras" so completely disturbing... I'm not sure I have words. I just cannot get my mind around the mentality that says "I have a toddler... you know what a brilliant idea is? To hyper-sexualize my child, dress her up in leather and chains, and have her act seductive for an audience!"

I'm reading Lolita for the first time right now. How "Lolita" has come to be understood as a seductive young girl, I do not understand, either. It's pretty clear to me, at over halfway through the novel, that Humbert Humbert is a horrible monster and that Lolita is very clearly the victim of a sick, sick man who lies, manipulates, abuses, and molests her at every turn. It seems to me that it'd be like reading, say, "Johnny Got His Gun" and coming away thinking "Yeah! War is awesome! Everyone should join the military and blow stuff up!" Missing the point for $1,000, Alex?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Read on another site:

British poster says: "When your house is on fire the fire department doesn't ask if you have insurance, do they? [If they do that system is a fucking disgrace]. And if they don't, why is a house considered something the Government is duty bound to safeguard but not the health of its country's citizens?"

Why, indeed?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shooting zombies in the face with a side order of racism and sexism, please.

A couple of months ago a friend of mine picked me up a copy of Left 4 Dead for my birthday. Given my love of video games, and the fact that I loathe the undead, it seemed like a perfect match. As far as the game itself goes, I think it's pretty solid. It's a lot of fun most of the time, despite a few bugs and the controversy around the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2.

For those unfamiliar with the game:
Left 4 Dead is presented as being sort of a cinematic experience. You play a campaign in 5 acts. The AI controlling enemy behavior and item drops is called the Director. The game takes cues from film in the way that it alerts players to changing events--when a mob of zombies is about to come running onto the scene you get specific "zombie mob" cue music. When there are boss zombies around, they have special theme music alerting you to their presence. That kind of thing.

Every campaign follows the same four survivors trying to go from Point A to point B in an effort to escape to a safe zone free of zombie infection. They do so by traveling from safe-house to safe-house. The game does a very good job of creating atmosphere and mood--the safe-houses are filled with the scrawled graffiti of past survivors, and you sometimes come across the bodies of former survivors who died trying to escape, or houses/buildings where survivors attempted to make a stand but fled.

The game is generally pretty light on story, being mostly focused on presenting an engaging multiplayer experience, so we don't get a whole lot of backstory about the survivors, except through the things they say to each other, or the dialogue they have throughout the game. Zoey, Francis, Bill, and Louis.

I have a few groups of people that I usually end up playing with, and most of the time, if I limit myself to those people, it's fine. But if I start playing with random groups, I get treated to constant bickering about Zoey and Louis. See, Zoey is a woman, and Louis is a black man.

Louis gets pounced by a zombie? Oh, it's because he's black.
Louis wanders off alone? Yeah, he's black.
Louis makes a comment about finding weapons in another room? Of course he did... he's black.

A male player plays Zoey? "I always knew you were really a girl."
Zoey gets attacked by the smoker? "Even the zombies want to rape Zoey!" Yeah. For real.

It's at the point where I refuse to play on random servers because I just cannot stomach the level of hate and bigotry on display. The other day I was treated to ten minutes of listening to a back and forth about how gay various players were, before I finally quit. I've tried calling people on it, but, it doesn't seem to help.

Mostly this is just a rant, because I'm fed up with it. It's too bad, because if you get rid of all the complete assholes, L4D is a pretty fun co-op game. When you pull of a really well coordinated attack, or fight through a particularly tough episode as the survivors, it's a ton of fun. Unfortunately, you always risk the complete assholes.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Regarding Shadow of the Colossus...

Tycho, at Penny Arcade, had this to say:

The dread starts at the very beginning, simmering in your gut, and it never gets better ever - hour upon hour. You know immediately that you are engaged in something like evil, if not evil itself, but our appetites as players demand that we seek objectives and conquer them - and the game scourges us for this dereliction of conscience. The technology at work often obscured the game itself, but the emotional wavelength has resounded years after the fact. At this late hour, I can recall no camera foibles or performance valleys. All I can recall now is the black bargain, and concentric waves of anguish.

And that's exactly why people like me point to that game as an example of how games can become art.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Deadliest Warrior

Sometimes I find myself watching shows and I think to myself "Oh, dear lord, this show is so clearly aimed at dudes, why am I enjoying this?" And yet, Deadliest Warrior has totally sucked me in, because it's exactly the sort of stupid geeky debate that guys like me had when we were in our teens. Except that now they've got "experts" and a computer program (named Slytherin!) to try to determine the "real" winner. It's ridiculous and stupid, and yet I can't stop watching it if I come across it on the tv. I didn't even know I wanted to know who would win in a fight between the Green Barrets and the Spetsnaz, but once the show started, I had to find out.

It's like Mythbusters meets History Channel meets teen boy "who would win a fight" debates.

I want to see them pit Amazons against someone, though. I know that the Amazons are one of those groups where there's less fact than fiction to the myth, but, hell, they put ninjas vs. Spartans up, and ninjas are completely fictitious in the way they showed them, so why not pit the Amazons against someone?

I also find it interesting to note who I end up liking and disliking in this show. During the Green Barret vs. Spetsnaz episode, I ended up finding the Spetsnaz guy sort of humorous and likable, even though, you know, he's a trained killer. The Green Barret guys just came across as overly macho assholes, and I found myself rooting against them. Which is weird to me, because it's not like either group lacked testosterone. If there was any more chest beating or posturing, they'd have had to pull their dicks out to compare. Which I'm pretty sure would have made it no longer Spike TV material.

This fits into a larger conversation that I've been having and thinking about for a while, but I'm still sort of working out and fleshing out, about violence and the media. Here's a show that airs at 3 in the afternoon on Saturdays, where they spend the whole time talking about and demonstrating how deadly various weapons are. They test the weapons on pig corpses, impale test dummies, and then, at the end, they have a simulation of a battle, and one guy/team dies at the end. It's a pretty violent show (as if the title alone wasn't indication enough). On the one hand, as I've already stated, I find it fascinating. On the other, it does seem a little fucked up that it's presented as regular old Saturday afternoon entertainment. Like "Hey, let's watch dudes kill each other, and find out which of these two guys is the more deadly fighter!" And, honestly, I found a couple of the matchups a little... I don't know...

Taliban vs. IRA? Maybe not super cool. I don't think that many people have an actual investment in Spartan vs. Ninja or Pirate vs. Knight, but there are people alive today who've lost friends and relatives to the activities of the IRA and the Taliban. It just seems insensitive, at the very least.

Anyway, welcome to my new guilty pleasure: a show on Spike TV of all things.

And, since I finally watched Funny Games, I hope to eventually get a post up about the violence thing, in more depth. Eventually.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I don't even know what to make of this story...

So... this is a weird and disturbing story The short version: A guy in Meshchovsk, Russia, tried to rob a hair salon at gunpoint. As he was collecting the money, the owner knocked him down, tied him up with a cord, and then locked him in a closet. Instead of calling the police, she told him to drop his pants or she'd turn him over to the police. After that, she spent three days feeding him viagra and raping him, before letting him go and telling him to get out of her sight. He ended up going to the police, and now they're both probably going to jail.

I'm sort of sitting her slack-jawed at the story. Like... what the hell?

On the one hand, I feel like it's good that he went to the police and that his claim was taken seriously... but, on the other, it's not so good that he was trying to rob someone at gunpoint.

I'm also glad that the story calls it rape, even though the headline makes it sound more like he was going to rob her but they decided to get into some S&M play instead.

Honestly, I'm still trying to decide if the story is real or not. It's so... bizarre.

I looked for verification, but, sadly, I mostly found the sorts of comments I'd expect from a story like this. Lots of variations of, "Oh, what a lucky robber!/That's hot/I wish my hair dresser would handcuff me and 'rape' me", and lots of "A woman can't rape a man/I can't believe he went to the police/he must be gay to complain about it".

And since this happened in Russia, there's the obligatory anti-Russian sentiment as well.

Anyway, I don't really know what to say about it, and I should be working on homework anyway, but I thought that it was such a weird story, that I'd go ahead and share it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Regional differences?

So, I picked up Wii Fit last week, and only got around to using it this week. I'm very surprised by it. I don't expect that it will get me in the best shape ever or anything like that, but I've heard from several people that it helped them stay on a routine and that it was good as a warm-up or as a supplement to working out, or for days when their regular workouts weren't going to cut it.

So, moment of truth: I'm in *terrible* shape. I haven't worked out regularly since... uh... how long ago did I have to take gym class, again? Seventh grade? I went through a phase in undergrad where I was working out semi-regularly, but mostly running and stair climbing. And the reality is that I'm getting older, my diet has been pretty consistantly crap for the last few years (for a variety of reasons), and I've gone from working a retail job where I was doing a lot of lifting boxes and climbing stairs and generally being active for 7 hours a day 5 days a week, to holding desk jobs and being a grad student who plays more video games than he should.

So, to say that I'm not in the best shape of my life is, in reality, laughable. I'm clearly in the worst shape I've ever been in. And I know that my weight is not indicative of my health, and I try to remind myself that it doesn't matter how big my waistline is, as long as I'm healthy. Of course, that would carry more weight (no pun intended, actually) if I was actually healthy. Which I think it's safe to say that I'm not.

Anyway, the point is that I picked up Wii Fit because I'm trying to make a commitment to getting healthier. I'm also giving up soda and chips (two of my MAJOR weaknesses, thank you very much. I've gone from multiple cans/bottles of soda a day to only one bottle of soda in the last week. Unless you count seltzer, which I don't, since it has no sugar or chemicals in it, and doesn't actually taste very good).

The first time you turn on Wii Fit, it goes through this whole process of figuring out how healthy you are and setting up goals and all that fun stuff. I selected my Mii character (the little character you make on the Wii that represents you). I put in my age and my height, and then I stepped on the magic board to, I assume, get weighed. Then it spit out my BMI.

Now, I fully recognize the problems with BMI, but as noted above, I already know I'm not healthy, so when it told me that I was seriously overweight, almost at obese, I was not actually surprised. What I was surprised by was when it took my little Mii guy and blew him up like a balloon to show me how fat I am!

He looked very unhappy at the process, by the way.

And then, when I started doing exercises, if I didn't do them very well, it would sort of give me this passive aggressive or outright mean remarks. Not like "Come on you lazy fuck, hold the pose!" But, on one of the balance exercises, I was having trouble keeping my center of gravity where it wanted me to. So, after the exercise, while it's showing me my results, it says something like "Wow, you had trouble with that one. Do you often find yourself tripping over your own feet?"


As it happens, I don't.

Anyway, I started thinking about it, and I realized that there was another game that exhibited this kind of blatantly hostile attitude towards players when you wouldn't expect it... Animal Crossing, back on the Gamecube. You'd move into this cute little town, filled with cute anthropomorphic creatures living in cute little houses. You dig up shells, you buy cute furniture for your house, and you're supposed write letters to the other townscreatures or do errands for them. The thing is, you go up to them to say "hi" and they greet you with things like "Oh my goodness! I was scared. I thought you were a monster, but then I realized you're just wearing an ugly outfit!" They're just plain mean to you, the whole time. They tell you you're funny looking, they tell you how much better other people are at writing letters, and they insult your intelligence and your taste in art/furniture/clothes/etc.

It's weird.
It's got me wondering if there's some weird translation thing happening, where they increase the a-hole quotient when they translate the game for American audiences. Or maybe I'm just interpretting the interactions differently than other people?

I don't know, but it's very curious to me.

In Animal Crossing it made me write them really nasty, mean letters. Which was funny, until the other people who were playing the same town with me started to complain because the animals would brag about what a great letter they got from me, and it would be a letter telling them that I was going to burn down their house.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long time no see...

Warning: Long, navel gazing, meta post about posting ahead.

So, I've largely been lurking on other people's blogs for the last year or so, and, in the process, I've been seriously neglecting this little corner of the intertubes. I've been meaning to update or write about a million different things at different times, and I just can't seem to get around to it, which is actually a meme that has cropped up in different areas of my personal life, too. But that's for another post.

The reasons I've largely stopped commenting and writing are myriad, and probably uninteresting to anyone but me, but I'm going for openness here. One major thing that I've learned about myself is that I find the internet really exhausting. I find it emotionally and mentally draining. I really started noticing this about a year and a half ago. I spend way too much time online and I spend most of that time reading and responding to blogs and participating in forum discussions, and I realized "Holy shit, this is really starting to take a toll on me." I just felt like I didn't have the energy to keep at it, in some ways. Honestly, I don't know how people do it. Some people post almost every day, about serious topics, providing real analysis and engaging with commenters (how is that not a "real" word yet?). And they do it while holding full time jobs, social lives, school, and the like. I really don't know how they do it, because it was really burning me out, and making me a hostile and unhappy person. I found myself increasingly sarcastic, increasingly bitter, and just really miserable.

Despite this, I'm really attracted to blogging, and I think that the internet does provide a really great opportunity to converse with people that you wouldn't normally get to meet.

So, right now I'm in the process of thinking about what I want to do differently with my second go-round with this little space. I'd really like to cultivate this space, but I want to avoid falling into the same routines that were burning me out before. If it's true that you can sort of build your own spaces on the internet, then I'd like to carve out something a little different here. At least, different from what it's been. If there's anyone still around, you're part of this little experiment too. After all, if you're still checking here despite my posting, like, eight times in twelve months, then you must have some interest in what I've got to say, right? So, what is it that you're looking for when you check back here, despite the utter lack of real substantive updates in, like... forever? What kinds of things do you find really great about blogs that you think should be pursued? What do you hate?

My own perspective: I think that my writing became really too focused on negativity. I think that I need to make sure that I'm posting about positive things sometimes. I need to do so in order to prevent myself from sinking into emotional pits. And, quite frankly, I think that the positive doesn't get enough press anyway. Just like in the evening news, it's a reality that bad news is blog business. People--myself included--love to get a good outrage on. But, I'm not sure that it's emotionally healthy to spend so much of my time swimming in piss and shit. I think that there are times when I really want to get excited about good things. Obviously, I'm not going to spend all of my time pretending that the world is nothing but sunshine and rainbows and happy unicorns, but I don't have the energy or desire to spend 90% of my time being angry and shouting down people anymore.

I think that another thing that I want--and this post, as meandering as it is, is a part of this--is to have a much clearer idea of what this space is. I don't necessarily mean that it needs to have a narrow focus--although, maybe it does? But, I think that I need to have a very clear idea what this space is supposed to be, and treat it like that. Is this my personal blog? Is this a blog about feminism? Activism in general? About a male perspective on feminism? Is it just about my life?

So, I've already decided that on a few things. First of all, I think that I need to make it clearer that I don't see myself as The Voice of anything. I don't want to be The Voice of anything, except myself. If I say something smart and people like it, that's cool, but, ultimately, I'm just a no-longer-twenty-something guy who likes to argue with smart people, and who would like to see people treat each other better. I'd like to discuss my relationship to the world a more, and some people have, in the past, said that they were hoping I'd talk more about (and I'm paraphrasing here) what it's like to be a guy, and I think that's not a bad idea. I won't pretend to speak for every guy or that my personal experiences are anything more than anecdote, but I can, and I think should, write about what I know.

Second, I don't think that I want to write about other people's blogs unless I have something nice to say. I'm not suggesting that other people shouldn't do so, but for me, it's just really fucking toxic. I don't feel good about it, and I don't feel good about the ways that it's easier for me to say really horrible things about people or to make really mean assumptions about other people on the web. It's like, someone says something that I strongly disagree with, and suddenly their entire body of work and their entire history is assumed from that post? I think that, in some ways, this is unavoidable online. I don't think that the internet makes us completely anonymous in the way that some people will argue, but I think ti does make things really impersonal in some ways. You can't really see the sincerity in a person's actions, or read the emotion in their words the way you can when you talk face-to-face (not that those interactions always go well, either).

It's Paradox of the Personal on the internet, for me. Because I feel strongly about the things that I'm writing about, I'm more likely to feel the slings and arrows personally, but because of the anonymity of the internet, I'm less likely to recognize the personal investment other people have in their work.

Which is just... well... shitty.

So, as of right now, I'm thinking:

  • More positive posts.

  • More posts about my direct personal experiences.

  • Less/no posting angry missives about other people's blogs/posts.

I think that what I'd really like to see is more of a conversation happening, in some ways. I think that the posts that tend to be the best, from my perspective, are not the ones where I go off on something in great detail and tear it down with sarcasm and snark, but the posts where I post about something that I've found really interesting and have questions about, and I can engage with other people and learn from them.

So, consider this a transition and a work in progress. I expect that, given that I'm in grad school, there will be posts about books and things I'm reading for my studies, and I'd definitely like to post more discussions about movies and video games.

Anyway, this is s ridiculously long winded post just to say "I might be back, and I'm thinking of changing things up a bit".

Sorry if you actually read all that.
Next post?
Probably thoughts about what kind of commenting policy I should have. Feel free to offer suggestions. My general policy, thus far, has been to only delete spam, but I figure it's a good idea, as long as I'm rethinking how I post, to come up with a more explicit comment policy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thought of the day...

Women of color and queer women are women. We are women. Our issues are women’s issues. They are inextricable from our womanhood. They are part of our feminism, and part of we want feminism to pay attention to, because these things are women’s issues. Your version posits that there’s regular women, who just do feminism, and then there’s those allies who drag those regular women in the trap of paying attention and giving energy to other causes–like the concerns of the women next to them who are brown, trans, and queer.

via Little Light, in a comment at Feministe

Not a ton of analysis on my part, except that it's a pretty clear explanation of why the issues of all women matter, and it was a "Hell yes" moment for me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thank you everyone...

I'm still having trouble talking about this, so please excuse if the language/structure seems... formal? Stilted? I just... this is very hard to talk about, otherwise.

So, about a week after my last post, I got a phone call from my mother, back in Michigan, at about 11:00 at night. I was elbow deep in washing dishes at the moment, so I didn't pick up the phone when it rang or see who it was, but after I'd dried off and saw that it was my mother, I knew that something was wrong. I'm quite used to getting calls from my family, as we're pretty close. I'm not used to getting calls at 11:00 at night, though. That's not how we do.

I immediately called her back, and I could tell by her voice that something very bad had happened. She informed me that my little brother had had another seizure, and had fallen and hit his head. That's all she could say. I knew this meant that he was either in a coma in the hospital, or worse. Finally, I asked, "Is there any chance he's going to be okay?"

"No. No, he isn't going to be okay."

I don't know how long we sat on the phone, and I don't really remember if we said much else. I know I said "I'm coming home" several times, but everything is sort of a haze. I remember feeling really numb, and thinking that I'd literally just talked to him a week or so earlier. We'd been making plans to play a game.

I learned later that it wasn't the fall that killed my brother, but that he probably had two seizures in rapid succession, and his heart stopped. None of us knew you could die from a seizure. I mean, we knew you could get hurt--he'd broken a bone once during a fall from a seizure. But that it could stop your hurt or lungs? I didn't know that.

I have a lot of things to say about the situation, but, like I said, it's really hard to talk about. And, honestly, I don't know how much else I have to say on here about that, anyway.

What I did want to do, openly, is thank everyone who helped me through this really difficult time. When I got that call, I gathered together a handful of clothes, and drove back to Michigan to be with my family, not knowing what I was going to do once I got there. I'm in school, and I was basically living paycheck to paycheck to get by. Originally, I'd been hoping to work full time during the winter break to build up a little bit of a cushion again. But, once I got back to Michigan, I just needed to be with my family.

Had it not been for the amazingly generous donations of a lot of people, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I've tried to thank everyone personally, but I wanted to make a public thank you, too. I don't know if people want their names named, so I won't unless they say otherwise, but I want to say that it meant the world to me that I was able to spend December with my family, and that it was mostly because of the generosity of the online community. People that I've never had the pleasure of meeting offline heard about what happened to my brother, and they sent donations to make sure that I could spend time with my family.

I know that money is really tight for a lot of people right now, and I know that there are probably lots of other ways that people could have spent their money, but... well, thank you all.