Penny Arcade & Love Lost

Many of you have never heard of Penny Arcade. As far as webcomics go, it was the original success story, the ur-two-guys-on-a-couch video game afición strip-styled deal. The popularity of the comic helped the writer and the artist build a significant business, running gaming conventions, charities, and so on.

They’re still doing their thing, but outside of “gaming” (the bro subculture, not video game playing as a whole field), who has heard of them? They’ve hit the wall.

Two factors limit their success – the existence of gamergate and the “dickwolf” controversy.

Gamergate poisoned all things gamer, actually succeeding at their primary goal. Gamergate’s social terrorism was so vast it gained international media attention and told the world that gaming is an off-limits hostile place, ruled by miscreants that are best left alone. Congrats! You kept out the normies!

I’m not going to explain the dickwolf controversy and subsequent flare-up involving transphobia (because of course it did), even though they’re less well-known than gamergate. Long story short – they aligned themselves culturally with gamergate, with regressive gaming, by having mean-spirited blow-ups at mild criticism.

The dickwolf controversy aligned them with gamergate, no matter what they’ve said on the subject since, and gamergate relegated the culture of gaming to the sewer of human civilization.

I was thinking about that, about love lost. I used to follow the comic for a chuckle and dropped it like a rock back then. How many trans women and progressive-inclined people in general felt they weren’t safe engaging with the comic, with its fans, with the conventions they sponsored? How much love did they lose forever by being reactionary dickwolves?

And here we are – online atheism. The background is different, but the end result is the same. We were founded on islamophobia, so we were rotten at the core. A lot of us may have been socially progressive on a few issues, enough to feel good about ourselves, even then.

But collectively we were reactionary. When an opportunity for a movement-wide misogynist freakout came, it showed that we were stacked to the rafters with villains.

Many of us left the movement and culture altogether, I have no doubt. And of those who remained, the scum outweigh the rest of us by an order of magnitude. Maybe not in actual population (though I bet they do), but certainly in terms of will, of money, of resources, of cultural impact in the form of web presence, on social media and youtube.

Atheism aligned itself with evil and lost love. Where could we be without “elevatorgate”? Without the years of feeding the right wing islamophobia war machine?

It’s gone and it’s never coming back. I had a slow moment and considered opening up Penny Arcade’s website to see if I could have a chuckle. But no, I really profoundly don’t want to. They betrayed the vulnerable people in their audience – a fucking lot of us – and I’m not about forgiveness.

And no one is obligated to forgive us either. Organized atheism is a sewer. We can do things, we can be together, we can fight the good fight as much as possible. But what more could we be right now? How much love was lost?

Feels like all of it.


It’s a Simple Choice, Deferring it is Deadly

Abe at Oceanoxia has a post up about oil industry lying for money – looting while the world burns. Mano has a post about about heartless CEOs and the lack of reasonable basic careers in the job market. Both of these posts are about the effects of under-regulated capitalism and hint at the consequences – ecological disaster and economic collapse.

They get me thinking about The Beast Itself – Capitalism. About this system of unofficial aristocracy, where the hyper-wealthy have bought and sold every national government in the world, where the basic drive to take care of one’s own has combined with corruption to produce a situation where no one imagines they are accountable, no one can see their little part in the lies that will kill us all as important. Hey, I recycle and donate to WWF in my niece’s name, it was only one little law I helped draft to weaken environmental protections, no biggy.

And so we race toward extinction like the movie Speed, but the only Keanu is that fucking dracula dating Grimes, and he has the useless power of daydreams instead of action boy muscles. No one here gets out alive. How many seconds was it to Mars? Only thirty? Easy-peasy!

Anyhow, we love us some rich people. Can’t live without this system. It’s the only one that’s realistic for human nature. Blah blah blah. And I’ll take that. With regards to the CEOs in Mano’s link, and the way they want to get away with never providing any proles an actual living wage, want to watch everyone but a tiny cadre of techslaves shrivel and scrape in the streets? I am perfectly OK with that, on one condition.

The government needs to actually provide for its people. Freeze all rent rates, give everyone not just a universal basic income, but a living wage to where employment is only for people ambitious enough to want nicer things in life, not a condition of survival.

Too much? Don’t think we can scrap all militaries and do exactly that, for every country in the world? Shucks. Guess employers will have to actually fucking pay us mendicants enough to live on.

What? Can’t afford the same rates you paid previous generations? Not even a fraction? No one except robot science mutants is allowed a living wage? Back to the first thing. The government has to care for us.

This ball is in play, and the longer the corporations and the governments play hot potato with it, we all get closer to social collapse. Mad Max shit. Your doubloons devaluing to where we put ’em in teeth again. Assuming anybody survives at all. If the atmosphere gets anoxic zones like the ocean is getting? That’s a rolling holocaust of biblical proportions. Nothing can save anyone.

Simple choice. Someone needs to provide for the people. Is it the government, or businesses? Because if it’s neither – if the people have to provide for themselves – you are not going to like what that fucking looks like.


Why Gamers Should Hate Valve

IDGAF about gaming, honestly. I play very few vidya games. Never had a computer or system as a child, so my go-to entertainments are elsewhere. But I almost entered the video game industry in the Seattle area, came close enough to learn a lot about how it works, and I catch some information about it from the gamer in my life.

Valve is the company that runs Steam – the biggest video game web platform in the world. People use its servers to play shooters and the like. More importantly, people can use Steam to buy and download games with no need of a disk. This is a big deal. Eventually all disk media is going bye-bye, because it’s unnecessary overhead for companies. The next time there’s a big enough collapse in the game market – and there will most definitely be one – the disks won’t pull through.

So in order to sell video games online, you need a storefront for people to peruse. And this is where Steam fails dramatically, where Valve fails as a company. There’s zero oversight of the storefront. They let anybody sell games there, which means literally thousands of people are selling literally fake video games.

What’s a fake video game look like? The scammers get a program for making games, like Unreal Engine or Unity, and they save out a crude template of a “game” populated with stock or purchased assets. These things can look like an army of clones with different names slapped on them, can be chock full of bugs, lack anything resembling game play, and in some cases crash while trying to load at all, or crash and even damage your computer. In some cases, there isn’t even a game in the downloaded package – no executable file to run.

And even without scams, you get class projects from junior high kids across the planet, half-baked vanity projects from twisted megalomaniacs who threaten customers, and you get games with plots like “protect the pedophile anime art from evil nazi muslims.” Steam’s storefront – Valve’s main interface with the world – is an ocean of shit.

This is why gamers should hate Valve: You know what it would take to fix the whole store, easily? Hiring ONE SOLITARY FUCKING EMPLOYEE. You’d think, hey, thousands of games go up on Steam every year. How would one person handle it? Trust me. When you see one of the fake games? You know it. They could eliminate the garbage in swathes by banning companies that put up fake games, leaving them time to deal with issues that require more thought, like how extreme of an ideology are you willing to see promoted in your store? One person could do this. Just one.

For years now, people have been dancing around the mulberry bush with Valve, suggesting this, asking for that, getting pat replies, half-assed actions, and ultimately it’s always the same shit. They try to rely on algorithms to filter the bad games, try to foist the work on some useless robot, because they aren’t willing to hire ONE PERSON, ONE SINGLE HUMAN PERSON to look at the shit, to make the call. To push the button.

It’s libertarian techbro philosophy in a nutshell. Am I losing a ton of money a year from people giving my service the finger? OK, but am I making any money at all? Cool. Then fuck quality, fuck customers, fuck the humans. A tech company should be a server farm that runs itself with zero oversight and occasionally shits out a dollar for the shareholders. Good enough!

I’m not a fan of gamers though. Some individuals are fine, I’m sure, but collectively? Seems like the level of respect they deserve. Libertarian bootlicks for the new robber barons, enjoy the taste my dudes. Lap it up.


Hot Take from Sean McElwee

I don’t know who he is, but this tweet was hella righteous:


Sean McElwee on Twitter:

“every republican who wins an election meaningfully increases the chance that you or someone you love will die. from guns, from war, from pollution, from childbirth, from lack of health insurance, from a militarized police state. the republican party is a party of death.”

Seems like McElwee is a kind of journalist I can’t handle on the daily. He often speaks in mantras and laments that “no one cares” about this or that important progressive issue. It’s guilt tripping and I feel bad enough just living through this political climate without someone hammering my frayed nerves.

But other than that, word to my brother. Fight on, dude. This was a perfect encapsulation of where we’re at, what’s going wrong with the world. A lot of centrists and moderates just seem to have no earthly idea why things are going so badly.

Politics is just about opinions, maaan, and you should be nicer to your Aunt Sally! No, politics has direct impact on lives, and every position the GOP holds most dear is deadly as fuck.

Anyhow, Fuck any and all conservatives everywhere forever. Long live the fighters.

Agents of Shield Wimps Out

OK, the status quo of the MCU is a bad joke between Infinity War and the next one, but it’s a joke that should be affecting the plots of Agents and all those Nutflex shows and so on. Agents of Shield should’ve disintegrated half the cast. It didn’t do that to a single one of them.

No big deal tho, right? If I was in the position of creating one of those shows, I wouldn’t want to kowtow to silly world-wrecking ideas implemented on other people’s projects. But I see in this a big missed opportunity.

See, Coulson was revealed to be terminally ill this season, definitely gonna die. If, as in my last post, we suppose Thanos’s victims enter the soul gem, then this could’ve been a real slick way to cross over again. See, the movies have been ignoring Agents because they saw Coulson’s death as dramatically complete, no need to fuck with it.

But if Coulson showed up in the Soul Gem (because he got disintegrated right before he died naturally) the movie could’ve played it off like he was there because any dead person could be, and never have to acknowledge his life on the TV series. And in reverse, if the series wanted him back in full health, they could have him escape the soul gem by the same means as Dr. Strange and the others.

If they’re at all serious about keeping the crossover with the series as an idea, I know how they’ll write it off. Whatever mulligan happens in Infinity Boogaloo will cause the lost to be restored as if nothing happened, and with no knowledge they had been lost in the first place. Ipso facto yadda yadda, their adventures will not seem to have been affected by the event at all. The end.

I just think that’s Dullsville. If they were gonna go big like this, they should’ve had the huevos to stick with it and make the disintegrations happen everywhere. Raspberries to you, Marvel. Raspberries.


John Woo on Netflix

Manhunt! New John Woo joint on Nutflex. Extremely poorly reviewed. I watched it. Don’t feel up for a full review, but here’s the short version:

The plot’s too complicated, the melodrama sometimes seems to be channeling Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and there are a million and one glaring technical issues with the filmmaking. Sometimes it seems like they didn’t have all the footage they needed so there’s a jarring cut or failure of the action filmmaking – which is what you come to John Woo for in the first place. The Japanese / Chinese cast used strained English as a common language and that was hard on the ears. And I’m not used to the look of ultra-high-def high frame rate digital action movies yet. It looked better on my little monitor than my big TV.

All that said, it wasn’t just a sad ghost of John Woo’s old talent. This was the first thing I’ve seen in ages that looked like he was able to put some of that spirit into it. I’m not sure what he needs to take it all the way home. More producer interference? Less? A trusted assistant with strong chops? A better editor?

The good news: For the first time in a while it feels possible to get the old John Woo back. I hope whatever went wrong here can get fixed next time out.


Spoiled Infinity Yak

I saw Avengers: Infinity War, and agree with Scalzi and others who found the drama of the big character deaths extremely weakened by the knowledge they’re gonna get a mulligan. There wasn’t even a hint of a moment of feeling shocked or bad about the deaths. There would have been more feeling if in the film we spent more time with the survivors, got to feel their reactions, but they didn’t do that. It made sense in terms of pacing to skip that – the deaths came super late in the film. But it still fell flat as drama.

A movie that’s an obvious two parter should leave you wanting and wondering about the second, but not because the first ended feeling a bit like a bad joke. Nonetheless, I do think it was competently done, gratifying explodey action 5eva. Just not as good of quality in storytelling as many other MCU joints.

Anyhow, if you wanna talk about the movie with someone without fear of spoiling, I put the word Spoiled in the title, so feel free to be completely open here.

What else do I wanna say? OH YEAH. The stuff from the trailers that didn’t end up in the movie at all! The Hulk running in Wakanda. An entire Thanos speech (one doesn’t consider fun when balancing the cosmos…). That shit feels reeeeally weird. Like we were lied to about the movie. Just a strange experience.

Also, the reason the Hulk wasn’t running in Wakanda – Banner couldn’t hulk out in the movie and I could think of zero reason why except for budget. Was he literally left in a cage to make way for Purple Man Group? If so, W the earthly F?

Also watching Agents of Shield with its half-assed tie-in moments, and shit isn’t adding up there. Thanos attack was supposed to be what precipitated actions leading to the destruction of the Earth, but Thanos wasn’t about destroying the earth, leaving the idea as a depressing wacky temporal comedy of errors.

The season has been hella weak by comparison to the last few, the aliens feel like B movie versions of the Guardians movies aliens, which puts them on a continuum of bad towards the Inhumans show. Yikes. And the show has no choice but to have half the cast members disintegrate, because its finale airs long before we discover the method of Mulligan in the movies.

Then there’s the Netflix shows. They try to tie in but that’s also feeling pretty flimsy at this point. None of those characters got to be in the movies, even in the background. And how will they deform their plots to account for where the movie ‘verse has been left hanging? They just can’t. It’d be ridiculous.

Ant Man and the Wasp has the advantage of being able to bump their plot back in time farther than Agents of Shield can, but I’d like to see the end credit scene be the entire cast disintegrating, just as a way to keep the goof going. Why not?

Mmm, sequel thoughts. I’d love to see a few long conversations between Nebula and Tony Stark, with them stranded on a distant world, tragedy all around and nothin’ to do. That would be an interesting bit of drama. I’d like the dead to stay dead for a good chunk of the beginning.

So how does the Mulligan work? I knew even before I watched the movie what they were going to pull, so I thought maybe they could give the reality stone to the Scarlet Witch and have her pull an Avengers Disassembled or non-mutants-referring House of M style plot. MCU Scarlet Witch hasn’t been shown to have powers on the level she did in the comic, but getting an infinity stone could make the difference. But they killed her, so that’s out.

In the original Infinity Gauntlet story, if I recall, the souls of the dead are, in a sense, inside the Soul Gem. Adam Warlock leads Gamora and Drax back to the land of the living (along with another character who hasn’t appeared yet, and if I’m remembering this right – it was years ago & I don’t feel like researching). If the movie verse is similar, Dr. Strange could take that role. And it would make sense of his action of giving the time stone to Thanos. Like, why would he ever have done that, especially to spare fucking Tony Stark? Only if he was counting on dying to get a peep inside the gem and come up with a better plan.

Lastly, reiterate what I said at Nate’s, they removed Thanos’s original motive — pining for the embodiment of death itself, killing half of everything to impress her. That’s especially weird, given the end credit scene of the first Avengers heavily implied that was his still his thang. Also, it just made a LOT more sense as a motive than this half-assed overpopulation is bad gimmick.

So bad move, and also one that shows the MCU is willing to throw its own foreshadowing in the garbage. The end of Guardians 2 foreshadowed the birth of Adam Warlock, but they might never use him, and certainly it would be weird for him to show up new in the next Avengers joint.

The deaths of Spiderman, Black Panther, and the Guardians means they can’t make any movies for those guys until after the next Avengers movie, so I really don’t know quite what to expect here. It’s a silly state of affairs. I guess we can have fun with it. Oh noes, I’m ded. x_x


Cobra Kai ARGGGGGH

I haven’t given a shit about the Karate Kid franchise since I was six, and I still don’t. That said, Cobra Kai looks fucking amazeballs. The martial arts genre is elementally appealing to our bad selves. The main character has a problem, gets their ass beat, and has to overcome through rigorous training montages and lots of cool-looking fights.

This show has all that stuff, and the original movie gives it a depth of a backstory you can feel in an unexpectedly cool way. Plus the setting is real. Aside from the bougie Californiana aspects, it’s the world as I know it – strip malls and TV installation and shitty convenience stores. It looks and feels EXACTLY like the real American martial arts story I’ve wanted to see for years.

Now for the Argh factor. Right from the first episode, we get the ableism and appeals to conservative horseshit. They’re pretty softball examples of that, but any at all is more than I should have to deal with in my life, in my entertainment. As my new category says, fuck any and all conservatives everywhere forever.

The ableism takes the form of a cliche so crusty it’s like baklava – a dude throwing away someone’s asthma inhaler, calling the condition made up. They immediately have a guy say, “that’s nonsense, that’s a real health problem,” but it’s just a half-assed lampshade because we never see the kid need the inhaler after that.

The big question – what do the show’s producers believe? Would I want those people to have my money? I can do the free trial of Youtube Red, but then I’m giving google my credit card information and gotta be johnny-on-the-spot canceling or get dinged. Hassle.

I don’t know. I watched the free episodes, except as noted I’m liking what I’m seeing, but should I bite? I’m genuinely looking for opinions and input on this one. Crudlords, if you’re seeing this, tell me if you liked it, so I can skip it. I’ll skim my trash filter for a few days to see if you’re there. The rest of whoever, comment below.

EDIT:
I can skip the show! In the comments on a review elsewhere, there was this gem. Thanks, “jbrisby”! You are everything wrong with the human species and your kind will be our extinction, but you helped me avoid wasting an assload of time on cultural sewage.

jbrisby:
“Finally, an unapologetically sympathetic portrayal of a conservative point of view. This is the show Roseanne promised, but never delivered. This is going to be a huge smash, because as we saw with Trump, there’s a massive untapped audience who is sick to death of our pansy-ass modern culture, that cloaks itself in tolerance but is in fact tremendously repressive and saps us of our real strength. This show, like Trump, works because people are fundamentally fed up. And the best part is, I haven’t seen a single liberal reviewer who gets it. It really slips in under their radar! They love it…but they don’t know why!”


Novel Things

I made my goals for Camp Nanowrimo! I have about 51,000 words up on my fiction writing blog. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to finish the story, but I’m close.  I might have it done pretty soon, and you’ll be able to read it there when I do.

Caveats:  The sections it’s broken into now are arbitrary, not sensible chapter breaks.  It’s a first draft and I’m open to critique.  And the thing I put at the start of every post there: My main character is a Filipina trans woman and I am not, so if you want to complain about that or have any advice on how to write it better, let me know.

Thoughts on writing a character who is not me:  I’m tired of seeing cishet white people as the main characters of everything in the world, and while the ideal is to get more non-cishet non-white people writing, does that mean I’m not allowed to write?

In a sense, yes.  If there was someone in a good position to take my place, I’m down with some affirmative action.  On the other hand, no, I want to write.  This isn’t about who’s getting book deals because no one is ever going to publish me.  I’m not taking a resource from anyone else by writing and I deserve a creative outlet, as a human with needs.  If you have a choice between my book and one by an actual Filipina trans woman, buy hers.  Your choice.

Anyway, as a white writer, I’m in that position to make some odd calls.  I’m a white pansexual genderqueer masc-ish dude-esque person, and I’ve written a gay black cis male character, and now a Filipina pansexual trans lady.

Writing the black cis gay character was done in third person, and it helped.  I thought of the character as more different from who I am, so he became more of a character than an experience for me.  I like to think he was pretty charming.  I hope to get that one edited and self-published later this year, maybe the current thing as well?

I’ve written the newer character in first person.  I chose her ethnicity based on people I was familiar with who seemed most similar to the white people I know, so the perspective wouldn’t be too far off.  I’m sure there are some big differences in their experience of life, but Filipino Americans seem culturally pretty similar to poor-to-middle class white people.  I asked a coworker from the Philippines what he thought American cousins were like, and to him they seemed fully American in values and personality.

That’s not to say they’re totally the same.  That would be absurd.  Just a little easier for me, as a writer to bridge the gap in my head.  I could take my voice and try to imagine the differences from there, understanding more these days than I used to about the effects of transmisogyny, objectification, fetishization of Asian women, and the way dark skinned Asians get that combined with worse classist and colonialist mentality.  Starting with a middle class AMAB character meant starting with a voice I was more familiar with, then I’d pull in other elements as needed.

Writing a trans woman felt pretty easy to me because I’ve had a lot of experience seeing gender dysphoria in other people around me, and because in a different world, 5% this way or that, it could be me.  The only reason I don’t present more trans now is because I don’t have dysphoria pushing me to have no other choice, and if a person has the luxury of staying in the closet on this planet of motherfuckers, it’s a safer place to be.

Most important:  I don’t claim to have done this perfectly.  I don’t know all the facts and more importantly don’t have all the experiences that inform a character like the one I chose.  Wide open to criticism.  Say what you like.  Of course, as with my usual moderation, people acting in bad faith or revealing regressive values will get mothafuckin’ nuked.  Not a problem for most of you.