October 27th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
Experiencing media in this generation is rife with peril. Thanks to the communication power of the internet, we must tread softly through our favorite news and social hubs to avoid the ruining of plot twists or first impressions. When did entertainment become a stressful chore?
While some geeks are hyper-sensitive to spoilers, I’m more relaxed…though not completely immune. I believe that there are degrees of spoiling; some instances more forgivable than others. To illustrate, I’ve put together a Spoiler Scale using an iconic movie that–if you were alive during the 1980s or for any time under a rock until now–has a variety of points to spoil for those who haven’t yet seen it: The Empire Strikes Back.
Grade F Spoilers (aka, Basically the Movie Poster):
- “They’re making a second Star Wars movie!”
- “Darth Vader survived!”
- “This movie’s going to have a snow planet, a swamp planet, and a sky city.”
Grade D Spoilers (aka, Trailer Spoilers):
- “Billy D. Williams is going to be in The Empire Strikes Back!”
- “Leia makes out with Luke!” (Note: This is before Return of the Jedi spoilers exist.)
- “Obi-Wan’s a ghost!”
Grade C Spoilers (aka, Creates a Wedge Between Good Friends):
- “The Empire Strikes Back will finally show what the Emporer looks like!”
- “Fuckin’ Lando sells everyone out!”
- “Threepio gets blowed up!”
Grade B Spoilers (aka, Criminal Offenses):
- “Han Solo gets frozen at the end and might be dead!”
- “They hid in a cave, but it wasn’t a cave!”
- “It looks like they’re going to make a third movie.”
Grade A Spoilers (aka, Grounds to End a Marriage):
- “Yoda’s the little green dude.”
- “Luke gets his hand all chopped off!”
- “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!”
Grade SS Spoilers (aka, Some Studio Intern’s Getting Fired)
- “When Yoda says ‘There is another,’ he means Leia is Luke’s twin.”
August 18th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
As I struggle with my weight, I often fall jealous of my slender peers. Their ability to subscribe to the same or worse eating habits than I is discouraging. But then I also see the other health issues they must dance with every day and I recognize the balance.
I believe there’s a cosmic game at play where we’re all dealt different cards. In my family’s genetic hand, obesity is literally our burden. We’re built like tanks: Resistant to disease with a high tolerance for injury and intoxication…and also hulks of living mass.
I’m beginning to believe that our flab isn’t as much fat cells as it is just where our immune system banishes disease. We collect the cancers, infections, and other biological villains; detain them, and use them as armor.
The trade off is that while many branches of my family tree (I am such a limb) isn’t as opportune to bear fruit, it’s very good seed to sow. That’s not to say that we’re ghoulish or repulsive–we can be very attractive people–it’s just that our robustness has a tight, uncomfortable fit in the superficial world.
Of course, my excess weight doesn’t rest on my genetics’ shoulders alone; I’m as much to blame. I have one or two cousins who’ve managed to beat the odds and maintained a slim, fit form. This supports the theory that if I was much more active, I might achieve similar results. It’s a sound theory I’d love to test once I get beyond the psychological heaps that make my physical goals such an uphill battle.
July 29th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
I’m a penny-pinching luddite–I refuse to pay exorbitant monthly charges for unsatisfactory goods. This is why my home theater is an absurd Rube Goldberg machine of adapters and proxy devices. In theory, I’m saving money, though I’ve made no actual calculations.
It’s true that when you go cheap, things become more expensive in the long run, but the deviant thrill of gaming the system adds value. There’s empowerment in grasping the reigns from our corporate masters and taking true ownership of one’s equipment. I may have a jury-rigged monstrosity, but it’s mine.
My efforts do bear fruit: I’m getting only the media I desire through the most comfortable position of consumption (my living room couch) at the cost of minor inconvenience. The machine works (typically) and when it fails, I needn’t contact some remote, outsourced service agent–I’m right there to fix it immediately.
I believe that it’s less a question of why and more a question of “Y”. It appears to be a dude thing. Men may have an exclusive gene to tinker and tweak to the point of impracticality. Anyone can be an engineer, but the average man is more likely to monkey with a device, if for no other reason than to see what it looks like broken.
Women–strangers–are visibly embarrassed when I describe my designs to them. Their immediate reaction is, “Why don’t you just buy one? It’s simple and it works better.” Their words are wise and true. We tend to get lost in a fog; more engrossed in the challenge than true accomplishment. Our capacity to resist defeat is vast and silly.
Here’s my current setup:
For broadcast television, I only have a $15 digital antenna…cuz the only shows I may watch over the air are Judge Judy and People’s Court.
Along with being my Netflix receiver, my PlayStation 3 works in tandem with my desktop PC to bring me the lion’s share of my entertainment. Through PS3 Media Server, I can play most media files from my PC. I also subscribe to PlayOn, which delivers just about any streaming video service to my TV, including my favorite channels on Blip.tv.
The PlayStation 3 has Hulu Plus built in, but it’s an inferior product to the free web-based service. It may carry more episodes, but a fraction of the titles. Again, I rely on PlayOn to catch up on Hell’s Kitchen, Community, and 30 Rock.
I recently installed a new video card for my desktop with two DVI ports, so I’ve connected the second output to my TV. Now all forms of media are unlocked to me! I’ll be able to enjoy my PC games from my couch soon, once I work out controllers, keyboard, etc, that will reach.
The pattern is unending. I may be case for convergence, though I stand firm on my position of component hardware, à la carte programming, and cheap shortcuts.
July 22nd, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
I’ve been told hundreds of jokes. Good jokes, bad jokes, dirty jokes… If someone begins, “Tell me if you’ve heard this one…” I know very quickly into the story if I have (and often let them finish anyway). But ask me to tell a joke and you’ll get a blank stare.
I’m noticing that my memory is in bad shape; specifically my recall. It’s impairing my ability to join in conversation with friends. I’ll catch the references they make but I’m unable to reciprocate. Imagine you’re dropped into a country where you can read and comprehend the language fluently, but are dumb to it. You’re now in the same cognitive prison I am.
My experiences worry me the most. I had “parents and stuff“. And even though I was mostly a latchkey kid growing up, I had plenty of adventures. I just struggle plucking them to share.
It’s not the details of the experience, either; it’s remembering that they happened. I have a lifetime near-encyclopedic knowledge of various (however trivial) topics, but it’s all been misplaced. If something manages to trigger the memory, I’m able to recount the complete story. But I must first overcome the broken circuit that informs my consciousness that there’s a relevant memory to be pulled.
This is most likely the result of decades of poor mental habits. I’m deeply wired to consume mass quantities of media thanks to my latchkey years. My ability to recall and apply what I’ve absorbed is lame. It’s withered and atrophied, taken a heavy toll on my personality.
On the plus side, it’s made me an incredible listener! Most of my peers have told me that they appreciate my Guinanian knack. In that, I take pride, though wonder if my talent exceeds much farther than any house pet.
I also blame my decade-long LiveJournal habit. I misused the service; treating it as external memory storage rather than a chronicle backup.
Regardless, this handicap has reached a point where I need treatment. Professional mental health care is in order, but is just so goddamned expensive. I may need to start a fund, but in the meantime I’ll pray to Server for answers and perhaps harvest some exercises for getting my mind back in shape.
July 5th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
One of the Internet’s new vernacular gems has grown on me. That term is “butthurt”. Partially because its heavy on the hard consonants, but also–let’s be real here–I like butt jokes.
However, I’m struggling to steady the wheel on how I personally use this term. The popular use of “butthurt” invokes imagery of rape; an image I’m not entirely comfortable using for metaphor. There are few reactions that accurately come close to the violation of rape. Less in hyperbole; even fewer in jest.
When I use the term, I intend to express deep regret. That is, someone who consensually enters into something (no ironic innuendo intended) but it ends up being painfully disappointing an costing them more in the long run. Kinda like someone overexerting themselves in a workout, which feels great at the time, but then they’re body is rendered sore and useless in the days following. Maybe a sense of betrayal, but no violation. Hoist by one’s own petard.
For example, my most recent visit to Play N Trade, a local GameStop alternative. I’d received coupons from them offering an additional 30% credit on game trade-ins and a $7 gift credit, valid one day only. My mission was to take in three PS3 games for trade (Street Fighter IV, Super Street Fighter IV, and Fallout 3) and the coupon to pick up the disc release of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.
I’d guessed that at worst, I’d be offered $15 credit for the games, plus the 30%. The actual offer, after the boost, was $12. I begrudgingly accepted, factoring that the $7 coupon would bump my return up to my expectation. This was my second mistake.
My first mistake became clear after the transaction had completed when I chose then to ask if SSF4:AE was even in stock. The truth is that they never got it in to begin with, nor do they expect new copies to arrive.
Now I feel butthurt.
The new plan (or rather, task) is to buy SSF4:AE at full retail elsewhere and also find something at Play N Trade to spend my meager credits. Luckily Amazon is offering the game for about $10 less and with free shipping.
I hope that illustrates my purpose for butthurt. The theory of “rape culture” notwithstanding, I do with great effort wield my language appropriately to communicate my ideas and emotional effects. And I support butt jokes.
June 1st, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
I may be one of the last of my peers to still enjoy going to anime conventions. Most of them have grown exhausted by the immaturity of typical anime fans taxing their patience. I, on the other hand, revel in it.
You won’t find me joining in on meme-inspired antics, nor have I estranged my shower. It’s the well of positive energy that I savor. I sail through the convention halls like a ramscoop, collecting every joyous resonance from the chorus of echoes. So many kindred spirits gathered in one place, all having fun, and I’m there in it.
This year’s Animazement was no different. I don’t think I’ve ever been so active for so long without rest and unwilling to rest. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that my body could take no more and collapsed. Yet in the days following, as my body rebuilt itself from crude, useless matter, part of me is eager to do it all again.
Kevin and I will give our full report on our convention experience in the podcast soon, but I do have a few personal notes about the con I wanted to address.
There was a sad lack of panels at this Animazement. That is to say, worth a damn. There was only one panel this year that caught my attention, but only because I was hosting it.
In recent memory, I’ve sat myself in at least one or two panels per day that genuinely contributed to the history, industry, and culture of anime. This year, nearly all the approved panels were more like live performances of gimmicky blog posts.
This year’s selection included “OMG…Shoes!” and “Emo-Off 2011″. I was tempted to attend “Different Body Types for Cosplay”, if only to see how long it would take to be offensive.
If there was one panel I’d protest, it’s the one for Monty Python. It has no place in an anime convention; it is just another geeky thing. I’ve given the annual MST3K panels a pass since there’s a good chance at seeing a Japanese rubber monster somewhere in the presentation. But selling that “the humor of Monty Python is right at home with the humor of contemporary Japan” is the script of desperate hucksters.
Quite a few panels were approved by staff, despite being duplicates of other panels. There were two Star Wars panels, two for Sailor Moon’s anniversary, two cooking shows… If you missed one version Friday, you could catch its doppelganger on Sunday. Though, supposedly, there was a panel very similar to our own going on at the exact same time.
The one event that I regret missing featured my favorite Satoshi Kon movie, Tokyo Godfathers, co-hosted by his widow, Kyoko Kon. It was an opportunity I may never see again, but then I never regret going out to dinner in the company of good friends.
If we do another panel next year, it will be more substantial. I’m proud of the response we received, but I acknowledge that our topic came stock with training wheels. We have several months to prepare for Animazement 2012, so I’ll take advantage of this refractory period to recuperate before brainstorming ideas.
And I will be counting down the days…till my next fix…
May 17th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
I love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, though this only establishes that I am a living mammal. However, there’s one part that’s always been to me that annoying bit of grit in otherwise cinematic ambrosia. It’s Kirk’s eulogy for Spock.
I know, blasphemy, guilty as charged… That speech is often cited as one of the movie’s most memorable moments; to some a guaranteed tear-jerker. But I cannot forgive the signature line, “Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”
I found this to be completely disrespectful to Spock. Kirk, having been such a close friend for so many years, knew that Spock had embraced his Vulcan heritage in spite of being half human. Spock never denied that he was half human, but he abandoned his humanity to live as a vulcan. And to vulcans, humanity represents the irrational, emotional, primitive culture they once had that almost destroyed them.
Had I been in attendance, my gaze would have shot immediately to Savvik’s reaction after those words in anticipation of a well-deserved stink eye. It would be like if Spock was the one black friend in the Enterprise gang and Kirk said, “He was, and always shall be…my nigga.” Meanwhile, Spock’s other black friend from work is standing right there! You don’t do that!
To prove my point, I refer you to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where Kirk and Spock have the following exchange:
Kirk: Don’t crucify yourself. It wasn’t your fault.
Spock: I was responsible.
Kirk: For no actions but your own.
Spock: That is not what you said at your trial.
Kirk: That was as Captain of a ship. Human beings–
Spock: But, Captain, we both know that I am not human.
Kirk: Spock, you want to know something? Everybody’s human.
Spock: I find that remark…insulting.
Kirk meant well; laying his friend to rest. His intent was to express how much heart and heroism Spock carried within him. As a narcissistic race, we humans attribute all the best moral attributes to ourselves. Had Kirk said that, to him, Spock was “the most vulcan”, that might have been taken as a jab, assuming most of the Enterprise’s crew is human.
To everyone but vulcan attendants, that might have been misconstrued as claiming Spock was cold, calculating, and disconnected. It would be an unconscious reminder that Spock was an alien; among us, yet not one of us. It would be received as comparing Spock to an animal, as if he were “the most squid” or “the most lemur”.
But Kirk’s words were unfortunate in this context. Maybe what he meant to say was “humanitarian”; a word that applies more to the compassion of one’s character than ethnicity. If Kirk chose his words with any tact, this casts an ugly light on our fictional future. Perhaps bigotry isn’t nearly as extinct in the 23rd Century as Roddenberry would have us believe.
April 22nd, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
Just a quick update to keep this blog vital…
The biggest news for me this summer is that I won’t be moving. At least, not until January. My girlfriend got accepted into the closest of her grad school options. It will still be a bit of a drive for us to see each other, but I intend to move to somewhere around Durham, Hillsborough, or Chapel Hill to bridge that gap a bit while staying close to my job. I’ll also have lived in my current apartment for over 8 years and due for a change of scenery.
The panel we’re doing for Animazement 2011 is coming together nicely. It’s working title is “What The…?!? Moments In Anime”, though I’m lobbying to have it adjusted to “…of Anime’s Past”. Supposedly, we’ll know for sure if we have a panel to rename by the end of this month, at the graces of con staff approval.
Dustin and I have been putting or heads together on the presentation. I’m trying to incorporate some kind of audience participation so that they’re engaged and we don’t come off like some boring lecture that people sit in just to rest their feet. I think I’m more nervous about the technical side of the panel than our performance. We almost have enough clips at the ready. If you have any suggestions of complete batshit crazy anime moments, please send them in!
The podcast may actually miss a week in May. Kevin and I have a handful of side projects that’s keeping us busy. Plus we’re dealing with some personal hangups; i.e., my car’s been needing a lot of work this past month. I may try to put something together as filler for that week, depending on time, since I always like to have something up for listeners to enjoy every week. Skype with a guest co-host? Do a solo podcast? I could lazily throw something together, letting the surprise be that week’s fun… Stay tuned.
March 31st, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
I can’t make excuses for Scott Adams and his recent brawl with feminism…but I can forgive him. Again, if my White Male Privilege is just going to be dismissed anyway, don’t waste your time reading on.
While reading his original blog post, I was able to pick up on what he was putting down. I understood that the overall message was to debunk the Men’s Rights Movement as insecure wieners who lacked real problems. Unfortunately, he packaged this message with baseless opinions and misogynist jabs. He dug himself deeper by failing to clearly communicate that the article was tailored for the target audience of his blog, instead of appearing to suggest his subscribers were an elite membership of the illuminated.
Whether you “got” it or not, he said some pretty dumb things. Above all else, I want us to agree on that.
What piques my interest in this story is that it became such a story. I’ve heard far more offensive comments from people whom I hold more admiration. I have to assume that the reason why his words make it to the Twitter trends is because he’s The Scott Adams. The Dilbert Guy said some things about how good the ladies got it. We expect better of him because writes best-selling books and draws that comic strip everyone finds so funny.
He brings up at least one solid point that reminded me of Jerry Holkins’ [much better written] address to the Penny Arcade “Dickwolves” debacle. That point is that emotional reaction will take the reigns over reason every time. If something touches a nerve (the intention is irrelevant), it can affect someone personally and the impulsive response is a powerful drive that doesn’t surrender. Because of this, true communication breaks down, impairing our ability to come together in the end.
I’m still a fan of Scott Adams and consider him a genius. But be clear that I don’t idolize him, nor do I erroneously synonymize genius with perfection. By coincidence, I’d started re-reading his books a couple weeks before this controversy erupted and noticed misogynous remarks within their pages as well. Puzzling over whether they were meant to be tongue-in-cheek hasn’t discouraged me from finishing my read.
As far as I can tell, these are the symptoms of progressive growing pains. We’re growing more aware of our culture’s ills and I’ve seen incredible movement to correct them. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pain and animus from past crimes causing us to lash out at each other. Hammers who only see nails; many doing more harm to the cause than good. But we’ll never defeat the true enemy if we’re at each other’s throats…
March 25th, 2011 by The Grey Ghost
It’s near-impossible for me to discuss my opinions on gender-related issues without immediately being shot as a bigot or dismissed because of my social privilege. But I still try.
I believe that a person should be judged by their character. I believe that a person’s vocation should be mostly determined by their capability and talent. I also believe that in our culture, we waste too much energy grasping to control every element of our lives, right down to our biological makeup. That often results in fighting each other over how we’re perceived.
I see life like a card game: In the beginning, we’re all dealt a different, random hand. It’s then up to us to play that hand to the best of our ability, and against those of the other players. The favorability of our hands may seem unfair, but that’s the character of chance. What makes it fair is that we’re all included to play in the game.
If any of what follows upsets you, please re-read the above paragraphs. Or just stop reading.
Discrimination is a very handy evolutionary tool. It’s a trait of a learning species. For example: If I need to hire a bodyguard–I do browse the classifieds for them whenever I write pieces like this–I’m going to hire the 6ft black guy with tats and scars over the underweight white guy in the wheelchair. It’s a decision made in bigotry, but it’s also sensible.
I do also understand that most people are wired with less refined prejudice. They discriminate based on ignorance, fear, or vanity. Yes, we can agree they are jerks. They are what make discrimination ugly.
The dense presence of that discrimination, I find, causes we as a society to do very silly things. A recent example was an article I read about some transgender folks suing to amend the sex on their birth certificates to match their current identity.
My position on this is that no matter how strongly you identify yourself, you can’t alter history. Changing one’s driver’s license or social security cards make sense to me because they are tokens of who you are. Our identities are fluid that way.
But when you’re documenting a specific moment in your life, you gotta keep the facts straight, no pun intended. When you were born, your doctor made a judgment call based on your stock anatomy. Unless you’d developed ambiguous genitalia, doctors don’t need to exercise much beyond the fundamentals of their expertise to check which box applies to you. Though I think most modern doctors will agree that it’s also a condition that’s not considered permanent.
This is getting dangerously close to a rant; one inspired by people that probably not related to the article’s story. If I have any frustration over the subject, it’s because of the eccentric folks that insist on tailoring their existence to the point of retcon.
I do understand why these folks are fighting so hard, believe it or not. It’s that perverse discrimination against their unusual circumstances that’s kept a normal life just out of their reach. Most people see their mismatched ID information and are quick to mock and reject them. It’s especially unfortunate when all they want to do is travel or apply for a job.
If they are successful in their lawsuit, it will only treat the symptom of their struggle; not the cause. I do understand that it’s still progress, and because of that I do hope they succeed. I also don’t want to lose sight of the big picture; that it’s the discrimination that we need to weed out so that, in the future, conflicts like these are handled as unnecessary nonsense.