Archive for the ‘General Flotsam’ Category
I wrote this thing which I think is the longest video game article ever written about how Shovel Knight near-perfectly blends retro and modern gameplay:
Vancouver Travel Guide (For New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, and the Less Important Americans In-Between)
Vancouver is very handsome and worryingly clean. This is problematic as I can’t be certain it’s a real place. Most of it seems not to have been lived in and I think it might actually be one giant film set kept pristine should an impromptu production break out—a theory backed by my happening to run into two film crews over the course of a few days.
WOMEN, ETC. All of the women in Vancouver are beautiful in the same way.1 Women on Vancouver’s streets are excited to see whomever they meet and can often be witnessed dashing into the arms of others for hugs more joyous than life regularly allows. At the times they are not doing this thing, women will instead be seen walking all over with boys dressed far too dapper. Passerby are more profane and contain more cigarettes than anticipated. Most of the conversations you hear will be false.
EATING OUT If you go out to eat in Vancouver, you will eat either sausages or Asian food. I won’t hear a word to the contrary re: this subject.
There is coffee and bundles of it. Much of it is very good, but the majority is housed in chains that you sneakily may not always be able to tell are chains. There are the Starbucks of course and in Vancouver they are grandiose amphitheaters, glorious monuments to mediocrity. Not counting these and the Tim Hortonses, there are three, perhaps more, coffee franchises yet. Can you find them all? (For each that you find, use your crayons to draw yourself a star on the back of this placemat.)
People in the food service industry are unrealistically jovial. They call you “Man” all the time. If you are used to, as I am, some hellish life zone like New York City, you are likely to take this as an affront. You are likely to feel such language should be confined to the beach and to atop a surf board.
A bartender tried to small talk with me. He first asked if I was all right, Man, and I became instantly worried he thought I was too drunk or on some of those very bad drugs. But I soon surmised that this was just his method of inciting the small talk. Once figuring this out, I tried to be jovial in return, but it was more than obvious I was a faulty person come from a faulty place, so he soon occupied his attention with a group of four (4) ladies who showed up shortly after I did and were good at smiling.
For all their nicety, I did at times experience the sensation that the Vancouverian food service workers found me a bit thick and tiresome. In a café principally designed for doing some of those very regular drugs, I asked the man for a baked good from the menu. He informed me the kitchen was closed. I asked if a smoothie was available. He paused a moment and then, as though communicating to a child dullard, said, “Yeah, pretty much what’s here is what’s available.” “Here” was a glass case full of dry brioches. I ate one and had a bad time.
GOING OUT Bars seem to play a lot of music from the nineties because no one told them any better. In one place I heard “You’re No Son of Mine” from when Phil Collins hijacked Genesis and the very next night I saw a group of three (3) youth cracking up while singing “I Can’t Dance.” I deserve an explanation.
Despite their ever-deepening irrelevance, Sugar Ray is still played. I thought this was dutifully done in support of some of the only music ever made by the country, guessing Mark McGrath and his funky bunch to be Canadian, but apparently this is not so, meaning there is no excuse. (I wrote this part in the bar I mentioned earlier and one of the bartenders just gave me a free pretzel. Like a medium-sized, warm, free pretzel. This parenthetical is my documenting of this phenomenon.) Regardless, I never heard any Nickelback and I can certainly appreciate this demonstration of restraint.
Drunken nights in Vancouver are somewhat atypical. Having observed it in multiple countries, I’ve grown accustomed to the standard of a weeping girl sat on a street curb being comforted by another girl. Not seeing this familiar site in Vancouver, I became frightened as hell.
The absence of this necessary event, however, received sufficient substitutes in, one, a yelling match between a small lady w/ skateboard and a man wherein the man shouted “If you’re gonna keep acting like this I’m fuckin’ done with you!” Better still was a fight between a big-bro and a tough-gal who kept on cursing each other out and needed friends to pull them away from each other. As they parted ways, big-bro summed up to his one friend the situation as follows: “I’ll fuckin’ slap that bitch!” Once the event had truly ended and all parties had tottered off, coppers showed up to prowl the area. Anger in Vancouver is considered a crime.
This one time, I saw a small Hispanic man trying to hoist up a sizeable dreadlocked lady. The cops discovered this matter and handled it very level-headedly, asking the man if he was able to get the woman home. “You’re gonna stay with her the whole way, right?” they asked.
I saw a completely innocuous bus, driving around bumping the Harlem Shake. And so I grew fearful.
STREET COLOR Everyone on the streets of New York City looks, to varying degrees, to have been beaten down by it as they trudge, sweat, and grumble. The homeless, too, look sad and tired.2 The ones on drugs are sad, tired, and on drugs.
In Vancouver, the homeless are performers. (Perhaps because everywhere it is a movie there.) I saw one guy for real walking along and playing the spoons. Some of the homeless I do not think are even actual homeless. Many appear to just be white kids who have found a spot they like on the street to hang out with their friends, do drugs, and play guitar. They have homeless signs but they are often very silly. Like a two-parter that on the top stated “HUG A COP” and on the bottom “FUCK POLICE.” I couldn’t understand. Did they even want money? Or just to vibe? A lengthy sign that two boys had set up shop with began, “My friend claims to be hungry…” I didn’t stop long enough to read the rest as I feared I then might have to acknowledge that I acknowledged it and I only like to do that for very serious homeless signs.
I have to admit that I actually found the Vancouverick homeless occasionally scarier than the homeless of New York. They were so much louder and so much more active. Like everyone else on the streets of New York, New York homeless are all downtrodden and keep rather to themselves. It is a terribly fearful thing to have to interact with anyone, let alone a homeless on those very bad drugs or a crazed homeless not on them fix-em-up drugs. One homeless stood bent with her hair draped down befront her, spastically sorting through it and periodically tearing from it the occasional violent strand. This is some Jacob’s Ladder shit, kids.
The headliner was without question an older woman in short-shorts who shouted, “Is my ass big!?”and then bent over and shook it (I believe to no one but the heavens, but happening to be in the way, I intercepted the shake). Continuing onward, her various cries continued to echo up and down the block. “Ka-ching! What’s for dinner tonight? A big fucking cheesecake!”
SHOPPING Vancouver loves you if you have money. New York hates you no matter what you do.
Vancouver can afford to have places that sell only expensive maple goods in vast quantities, a dessert restaurant, and a bakery for dogs. You can take a lil’ boat so adorable indeed you might puke to an island to wander an open market that your ma and pa will like with whole kiosks dedicated to a specific manner of salad bowl or peaches of the world or something like that.
POP OR SODA? They say “pop” here. Say “soda” anyway to impose your authority.
AH, WHAT A PLACE FOR ADVENTURE SEEKERS There are hostels in Vancouver and backpackers trundle about with loads of crapola on their backs. This seems weird because it is a place of highfalutin coffee and shops that specialize purely in chocolate ducks or whatever and not a place of filthy, sweaty mountains or bug-crawling noodles that give you the poops.
A BAKERY FOR DOGS Truly, Vancouver has earned its nickname “A Bakery for Dogs.”
CONCLUSION New York is filthy and awful and to that end so is the United States. I saw some graffiti in Vancouver, Canada which read “Smile.” Oh, come on.
It seems to me very important to live in fear of guns and then in fear that you won’t have the medical coverage necessary to sew up your hot gun wounds. It seems to me very important to have these things to fear because otherwise you have nothing else to do and then you have time to engage in small talk with strangers and homeless and to have pride in and keep clean your city. And where does that leave us? In Vancouver, Man.
Having spent a week in Vancouver, I do not believe in it. It is much too lovely there and if it exists no one should go.
If you found this guide helpful, check out the other books in our series, including China for Babies, Egypt and the Sand they Got, & Thailand’s Too Hot!
1This is not true. All of the women in Vancouver that are beautiful if they are beautiful are beautiful in one of two ways.
2As well they should! Being homeless is no picnic!
My mom found this cool note I wrote back when I was in college and happened to be home visiting. I wrote it around 4 or 5 in the morning, printed it out, and taped it to the wall at the bottom of the stairs where a parent would see it on his or her way down.
It is perhaps the best thing I have ever written. Click on it to have a look.
I sincerely believe that televised news, at least in these United States, is the strangest, most surreal goddamned thing out there. It is such a bizarre, rapid-fire clusterfuck of disconnected, disheartening shit with stories picked purely based on entertainment value with little to no regard as to how one piece might transition into the next.
The thing is, the news comes packaged with attractive people explaining to you what each story is about and why they’re showing it to you. So here’s what you do.
Mute the news and turn off captioning. This will remove all context for you leaving behind only a confusing barrage of imagery. You’ll see things like police crime scenes, followed by a smiling, pretty lady at a desk, followed by cute kittens in a shelter, with a ticker underneath all the while telling you sports scores and other assorted crap.
I really, truly recommend everybody do this. It is simultaneously enlightening, flummoxing, hilarious, and perfectly horrifying. This should work with most news programs any time of the day or night in any developed country. You’ll probably have a different experience in, for example, North Korea or China, but, hey!, you can’t be on this internet anyway, whaddya think you’re doin’! Why I oughta…
Now, you might argue that this is unfair to the news and that of course the juxtaposition of different stories is going to seem odd when there’s no context to orient you, but I argue that this surreality is specific to news. Other television programming is more thematically controlled (except for maybe American Horror Story) and, even without context, you’re more likely to be able to ground yourself to some extent. Like if you saw a show about ballet dancers, there’d be a lot of shots of them dancing and suiting up and being in one of those dancing rooms with the hardwood floors and the mirrors and you’d get it was a show about dancing and they were training and the dancing was important to them. You could tell if it was a serious show about dancing because the dancers would be generally quite severe or somber or, if it was comedic, people would be falling on their asses all the time.
The news is just cherry picking from life that which will garner the highest ratings. The “true-life” entertainment that the news provides a day-to-day sampling of is worth broadcasting if it’s tragic, elating, upsetting, adorable, frightening, dramatic, zany, etc. It doesn’t really matter so long as it technically or probably happened and it’s likely to elicit a strong emotional response of any kind. And this isn’t to say that life is just that slapdash and the news is just casting a spotlight on it because that’s bullshit. Life is typically far less thematically erratic. The news just televises the anomalies.
Today, while at the gym (which is where I get all my muted, local news), I saw some kind of extended promo of a sleek coffin that had a giant IPod-type system installed inside of it and a woman’s hand kept lovingly running along the coffin’s exterior. Then it went back to the newscasters, laughing.
It was the strangest thing I’d seen in a long time.
Something I continue to do again and again is put myself into situations that I expect to most likely not enjoy. One could argue that such behavior is masochistic, but I need to clarify that these situations are generally events and often they’re events that other, less morose individuals view as highlights in a year or, possibly, a life. In other words, I don’t like things that much and it’s become gradually clearer to me that I like things even less when they are engineered to be and labeled as things one is meant to enjoy. What I mean is that there are these planned occasions throughout life that are culturally hyped up so that, if you don’t at least try these things out, you start to feel like maybe you’re doing life all wrong. So when you do attend events of this ilk and do not find yourself having “the best time,” you are left wondering why life is not good enough for you. After all, it put all this time and effort into setting this event up for you and everybody else seems to like it okay, so what’s your damage?
Parties are a classic example of such an event. Parties, the real ones, are meant to be huge affairs that take a lot of planning, coordination, and a fair bit of cash to get together. You tell people about them a month or more in advance and they RSVP on Facebook or whatever and then you all look forward to that night when you’ll get together to drink too much and dance and have shouted conversations over too-loud music. By this definition, I do not like parties. I like some variations on the concept of the party, but I do not like huge, loud, inebriated party-parties. My attending a party-party quickly turns into a self-fulfilling tragedy because I am too aware that I am supposed to be appreciating the party since, hey guys, this is what it’s all been leading up to: a party! Therefore, since I do not appreciate what I am supposed to appreciate, I begin to feel like the societal expectation for me to love the party is an imposition and, being a rebel and all that, I resist this imposition, becoming all the more surly and anti-social at what is meant to be the most jubilant and social of environments.
Really, much of what we’re told is fun (at least when you have the youth to supposedly have the energy to do it) comes down to some form of party. Nights out on the town, seeing a famous band live, weddings — though the volume of the following factors are altered depending on the situation, these diversions all more or less boil down to getting a lot of people in one place, possibly feeding them some, getting most of them fucked up, and then having them move about to loudness. Now, it is imperative that I make evident that I am too old to be at that point in life that every socially unadjusted young person reaches in which he or she discovers they hate the things they’ve been told are a blast — such as going to clubs to get drunk and create friction between appendages — and so they therefore think, my gosh, there is nothing out there for me at all. They then think that there is no joy in this life; the closest we can achieve is some sort of dull existential ache. I do, in fact, believe in joy to be found in this life. I just feel it must be found in fleeting, horribly specific situations. The dull ache is so accessibly achievable as to be nearly ubiquitous, but the joy is there too. In spots.
However, learning that many of the events we deem “occasions” follow a tired party formula is a newer revelation for me. I suppose I could’ve made an educated guess at this, but I only truly realized how much I hated weddings when I attended one a month ago and recognized it as a thing of spectacle, noise, and drunken tomfoolery. My mind actually couldn’t help making comparisons to another underwhelming experience, Medieval Times (not the era, but the cheesy family venue), because both had emcees booming irritating nonsense at me through mics at unwise levels, I was served a set menu dinner, and at one point we were ushered from one room to another with a dance floor. And, again, the party elements were all there at both: noise, food, loudness, drinking.
So what I am leading up to here is this: If I am gradually discovering that those events that much of my culture has elected to serve me up unbridled joy are failing in their duties, then it follows that I must seek out alternative events. So here we are at Anime USA 2012.
So why Anime USA? I’ve been to other conventions. I’ve been to E3 twice and New York Comic Con once and I didn’t enjoy myself at either. So surely this would be no different, no? Well, yes and no.
I wasn’t crazy jonesed about going to the con to wax anime with assorted otaku. I’m not a big anime guy. I like — hell, I even love — some, but the list of anime I feel this way about is really very limited. However, a general disinterest in the core focus of the con does not necessarily a dealbreaker make, as I’m supposedly pretty darn into video games having played them from childhood, and yet I still managed to be thoroughly bored during my two visits to E3. My thinking on why AUSA could still result in a novel experience for me came down to the vast difference in attendees. NYCC and E3 are trade shows. They’re attended by both geeky fans as well as people who actually make up those industries the fans go bat-nanas for. A con like AUSA, on the other hand, is less about involving industry people and far more centered on fan on fan action. My feeling was that this sort of convention was a kind from the seventh circle of geekdom, a circle I had yet to explore. I was hugely doubtful I would have fun, but I anticipated the experience being, at the very least, unique and, as I think I’ve made evident, since I don’t truly have fun ever in commonly “fun” settings anyway, the least I can do is research some of humanity’s stranger sects’ version — a version many people complete life without ever having sampled — of fun.
More importantly — and this was the core requirement for my attendance at E3 and NYCC as well — I knew someone who could get me in for free.
In short, I had a terrible fucking time. I shared a room meant for four people at most with six giant nerds, who were nice people to be sure, but were also snorey and not all the most hygienic sorts. This, coupled with the fact that I was separated from the marijuana which regularly eases me, mother-like, to bed meant that I was underslept to a debilitating degree. I had, quite brilliantly, not even managed a proper amount of sleep the night before we left for the convention and I spent the next three days tired to the point of almost feeling ill, dazedly wandering the surreal hallways of DC’s Washington Marriott Wardman Park, a swanky motherfucking juggernaut of a building of flummoxing, serpentine corridors, endless meeting rooms, a huge show floor, and its own substantially-sized performance stage for Christ’s sake. This also marked the first convention I’d ever attended where, if you have a stronger will and more pocket money than I, you technically never have to leave the place (in fact, a poster in the elevator advertising the hotel’s various conveniences posed the ominous question, “Why leave?”).
I have very few real stories from the convention. I can’t say that much actually happened and I was rarely lucid enough to retain any of it regardless. But I can detail the impressions made on me over the course of this arduous ordeal.
It’s taken me the better part of my life to become (mostly) adjusted to society and able to accept and respond to others without sounding and feeling like a fucked anomaly. It has been a long time since I’ve felt alienated and too timid to express my opinions to others. Anime USA brought me back to that time in my life. Though it previously seemed to me I’d been shown by friends a substantial quadrant of the anime spectrum, I cannot stress enough how lost I was here. I didn’t run into anything I would say was unexpected, per se. I was prepared for cosplayers, I was prepared for hentai, I was prepared for topics I would not give a shit’s iota about. Still, I did not expect how it would affect me, how I would feel much like I have in a foreign country, where, even when one knows a bit of the language, it’s embarrassing to voice it for fear of revealing one’s limits.
I’ll admit that being stone dead tired wasn’t doing me any favors. I probably didn’t have the energy to muster up any real discussion, but it was the sense that I was so out of my element that felt most limiting. A fair point is that maybe I’d have had a better time at a convention based more around fans sharing ideas about stuff I do love, rather than stuff I have a tepid interest in at best. But the problem here is that the people who attend conventions are conventionally the blindest of a fandom. They’re the ones who have by and large stopped thinking critically about their favorite medium (if anime is a medium… which I don’t really think it is). In point of fact, the fans at this con were so familiar with so many different anime series that it was like they all had access to an archive of in-jokes. One could simply say a show’s title, enunciating it with a sarcastic twang (e.g., Naruto) and send a room into knowing hysterics. In other words, everyone knew these shows and everyone also knew they were bad and yet it seemed a lot of the people there, although in possession of this knowledge, watched the entirety of these shitty series all the same. I have stuff I am unabashedly in love with (e.g., Community) and, even then, I’m acutely aware of the times it’s failed to reach the standards I expect from it. Geeks don’t seem to be this way. They are aware of how flawed the thing they adore is, yet they revel in these flaws.
My social castration was furthered by how very liberated the geeks at this convention were and of course they were, with good cause. This was the one place they knew they could let their geek flags fly without fear of being mocked for it so every panel I attended featured an audience unafraid to call out their own jokes and observations. This noisy dialogue was encouraged and most interjections were met appreciatively with either laughter or cries of agreement. Though this, their natural environment, certainly allowed the geeks to flourish, it had the opposite effect on me and I felt sheepish about offering up even the few things I do know about anime, feeling as though, within this climate of shrieked references I had at best a shaky awareness of, the handful of shows I had knowledge of might be no longer considered even remotely topical.
Perhaps you geeks can take some pride in the fact that you made me feel the way I imagine many of you feel when called upon to operate inside the realm of normalcy. I do know you guys aren’t actually scary. I assume geeks on the whole to be timid sorts that can be pushed over, if necessary. Still, I was evidently rendered nervous enough to not be myself. That said, you should know that you have the power to strike true disconcertion in the hearts of those far removed from your circles. The greatest joy I took from this convention was clocking the few poor norms who’d found themselves caught up in this orgiastic gathering of social mishaps. These people were either hotel staff, people from this business convention that had unwisely booked the other half of the hotel for the weekend, or people who somehow just reserved a room on this coincidentally bizarre weekend. Invariably, such sorts would plant themselves against a wall or a column and watch, eyes wide with horror, the shockingly garbed procession before them. I overheard a finely-dressed man asking hotel staff member what this madness was all about and then the beginning of her awkward, stumbly explanation. All this was good stuff.
But let’s look further into this junk I just said, shall we? To reiterate, when there is a conglomeration of geeks, vocally declaring their geekiness both literally as well as through their attire, they make the normal people, the non-geeks, uncomfortable. So could one not argue that, under the proper conditions and in the right situations, the geeks, in fact, become the norms? Bullshit, you cry! Geeks are never normal! They are, in society, frequently reminded of their not being normal and there is no way for them to ever experience true normalcy. But, wait, there’s more!
Comprehensive evidence gathering at the convention revealed to me further truths, truths that proved quite resoundingly that, beneath your Hatsune Miku cosplay exterior and acne, you’re not much different from everybody else. For one thing, many of you like the same things normal people, people who go to the aforementioned parties, like. Both nights at Anime USA, there was a room in which a rave was held. Peeking in, I found there was always a decent sampling of skimpily attired geeks, dutifully flailing glow sticks around. Further, many geeks were holding parties in their rooms or in the halls, dashing about drunkenly. One geek got so drunk he puked. I also know some snuck marijuana onto the grounds. Oh, yes.
Furthermore, let’s focus directly on cosplay. Yes, there’s supposedly an argument about it being somehow different from normal Halloween festivities or a discombobulated evening of “fancy dress” for you UK folk, because with cosplay you’re apparently not just dressing up, you’re meant to be embodying the character somehow or some nonsense like that. But I’m afraid I must (mostly) declare balls to that. Like so many other situations in which costuming is involved, the original intent has been hijacked and warped into being largely about showing skin. This is not across the board true, but it was difficult, regardless of my location on the show floor, to glance in a direction and not be greeted with a set of thighs ascending toward a thong-constricted, but essentially bare ass. (One might argue that many anime characters happen to be huge-titted and lightly clothed, but still, then what attracts you to wanting to be like these characters?) Often this was a horrifying sight, but, not too infrequently either, it was awesome (though also frustrating).
And, to take a sidebar here, yes, geeks, you’re hot. Some of you are super fucking stunningly hot. I am not so kind as to tell you that are all beautiful because, y’know, it’s what’s on the inside and all that. I mean, if anything, I think I’ve made clear here that I didn’t care much for the bulk of your insides and what they look like when you’re feeling relaxed enough to let them outside. And I’m not going to say you all have something special that makes you physically beautiful and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, blah blah blah, because some of you are super fucking fat. Deplorably so. And the majority of you are just weird looking. You’ve got weird faces. Or you’ve got the unholy combo of fat and freaky. And the stereotype about geeks being fat and freaky isn’t entirely unfounded. It makes sense because our society celebrates beauty and shuns the funky-looking, but most people in the world are freaky. Very few people are not, to some extent, odd-looking. And so it does not only have to be physical appearance that alienates one or that causes one to find solace in an imaginary realm of wide-eyed, spiky-haired chumps and erratically animated cats.
Because there is, indeed, this notion that if you’re hot, you can’t possibly a geek. Usually, because this is such a male-dominated social group, this is leveled at women, but, I’m sure it irks mangeeks just as much when the media tries to sell us the idea that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is somehow a geek. And I cannot help but side with the geeks on this one. I don’t really think he is a geek. But this is because I don’t believe this quality to be only defined by looks. Being a hottie is certainly often a foot in the door of Club Normal, but, more importantly, a geek is obsessive, awkward, confused about who he or she is. I don’t buy the recent trend of attractive celebrities proudly dubbing themselves geeks just because they like Star Wars. Who the fuck doesn’t kind of like Star Wars (except me… Empire’s the only decent one)? I believe, if faced with the reality of being a geek, these celebrities would be horrified by what was expected of them. “I have to buy how many seasons of Battlestar Galactica on DVD?” they would ask in dismayed disbelief.
Being a geek is most especially about being socially misadjusted and obsessed with and possessive of the things you like. Famous people are, almost by definition, those who sought to get there by willingly and deliberately putting themselves in the public eye. They are hard-working performers and, considering merely voicing your order at McDonald’s in a clear, audible manner is a performance a geek must try several times before pulling off convincingly, I don’t think many true geeks make it to celebrity status.
So, yes, I saw a lot of beautiful women and handsome men, but true geeks still, at this thing, both often in costumes that required little fabric. I’d actually had about five seconds the night before the convention where I thought about how I’m basically socially adjusted, I can be witty in a pinch, I’m less than freakish in appearance, I bathe, I brush my teeth, I have a potbelly but I tend to keep that sucked in—HEY, I might actually clean house here (sexually). I’d be a king amongst geeks, having my pick of all the strange women. But I quickly shook my head back to reality and was violently grounded by it as soon as I set foot in the joint. I don’t get with women in regular settings even though I feel capable of competently communicating with them, but here? In this place? Where would I start? Good gravy, what would my opening line even be? “I like your costume, I don’t even know what it is. I only really like about five anime, these are them:”
Anyway, what I’m saying to you is this. Some of you are hot, some of you like to get fucked up, some of you like to dance, some of you like to show off your bodies, and you prove to be intimidating in big groups.
Guys, you’re normal. Completely, totally, horrifically normal.
But maybe being able to be normal in specific places surrounded by specific people doesn’t work for you as a definition of normal. Maybe you think, to be truly, unremittingly normal, you’d have to be allowed to use the term “magical girl” in public and not be greeted with blank stares in response. Okay, I get that, but I’d still argue you’ve reached some level of normalcy. Simply, you’ve carved out a counterculture for yourselves and cultures and countercultures always coexist. A culture is not running normally if it does not have countercultures operating within it. And to be a counterculture you must be recognized as not just a sampling of misfits, but, rather a substantial faction that needs its own land to flourish upon.
So, in the words of the Greendale Community College motto, you’re already accepted. A big-ass, swanky hotel let you basically take it over, let you have a giant party. And this sort of thing happens year after year at venues of varying sizes. Whether everyone is aware of your existence as geeks, as otakus, yet isn’t of huge concern. The fact of the matter is that businesses see you as fiscally worthwhile enough to let you dominate them for days at a time. And if you can, as a group, be bled of your cash, you strike me as a fairly formidable societal pillar.
Now if you continue to counter with the argument that if you were accepted, you wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to be as open about your fandom elsewhere as you are on sacred hotel con grounds and that this stereotype about you being weird or ugly or fat or socially awkward wouldn’t exist, you’re right… ish. But do think this through. What do you actually want? Do you truly, truly want a society in which everyone in your office knows what a Love Hina is? Or that that girl one cubicle over who has fashion sense and uses shampoo that makes her hair bouncy is just as much a fangirl as you are? Do you want your geek sanctuary taken away from you because geekiness has been spread freely and has thus rendered needless the restricting of it to specific times and venues?
I don’t think you do. There is the enticing notion that, perhaps, if geekdom were accepted universally that would mean you’d never get picked on since everyone would be understanding or at least tolerant of you, but I doubt very much that, at the stage in your life when you can independently make the choice to attend conventions, you’d give up having these events to look forward to. You maybe even see these events as the highlights of your year or, possibly, your life. And I don’t imagine you’d ever want to lose them.
Plus, I believe you wear your status as “geek” like a badge of honor now. (Hell, the way you get all huffy over attractive, famous people horning in on your culture effectively makes this a foregone conclusion.) Over the convention’s three days, I heard so many of you casually refer to yourselves as “geeks” or “nerds.” You have, in the way most minorities adapt, taken these words. You now openly identify yourself with them. You celebrate your shared strangeness. You have found a counterculture in which you can coexist. And finding a faction of people with whom you can merge is sensible. And very normal. I am, in fact, the freak here. I am the oddity. I’ll explain.
On the afternoon of the con’s second day, I felt oversaturated in terrible, terrible anime culture, so I escaped the hotel’s confines and wandered into a local bar. Almost immediately, I struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar and the bartendress about their degrees. They were both doing something political and boring, but I could still manage small talk with them about movies and travel. And it was then that I was struck with the sudden enlightened realization that I am not a geek. I’m a social glitch, yes (I’m usually more comfortable labeling myself a “dork,” which I define as being somehow socially retarded so a dork can be a geek, but a geek is always a dork, see?), but I’m not obsessive and I’m no longer anywhere near as awkward as a general sampling at the convention seemed to be. I’m technically closer to “normal,” it would seem, as I’d felt unequipped and nervous about even initiating a conversation my entire time at the con, but fell easily into a discussion with people who had not even caught a sweaty whiff of the existence of the geeksplosion erupting mere blocks away.
But I’m not normal either. I could talk to these people, but I was conscious of how boring and uninteresting I ultimately found them, too. The guy, admittedly still a student and some years my junior, at one point announced an apparently recent discovery: “Money is made up.” The bartender was pretty hot and may have been flirting with me (I never can be sure in these situations), but at some point, when I ordered a cranberry juice, asked me if I was on my period or something, confusing the hell out of me. She explained this was a reference to The Departed and, when I explained I hadn’t seen The Departed, she expressed shock saying, “What? You gotta see it.”
I talked to her sporadically and, if I were the sort of person who could continue to muster up the effort to entertain a conversation with someone I’d already decided kind of bugged me and if I hadn’t been as eternally tired as I was, I might’ve kept her talking to the inevitable sex-having, which I hear is something these human types often do.
But I’m not that person. And I was and am exhausted. And I might not be a socially awkward anime lover, but I’m not un-geeky enough to sustain casual conversations about things I don’t care about. If I’m a geek in any capacity, I’m a narrative geek. Or maybe a sociological geek. I want good stories and I want to talk to people not about the things they think they like or dislike, but the weird, underlying emotional and psychological reasons for why they feel the way they feel about those things. And this sort of dialogue is not outside of the realm of geek. In fact, many panels seemed to be essentially based exclusively on these sorts of topics. (But, again, I still question how critical you anime geeks truly are of the anime you love and, more than that, I can’t understand loving one genre or medium as much as you do. I mean, saying you love all or most anime is kind of like saying you only really like watching single-camera American television. That just encompasses so much that it makes no real sense.) But, anyway, on the other hand, most norms don’t wanna have these extensive conversations. They’ve got limited, surface opinions and have decided The Departed is so awesome that everyone has to see it (for reference, nobody actually has to see anything) and that countries like Bosnia are just “cool” (the guy said this) somehow without noticing such countries are concurrently really sad.
I’m caught in-between a geek and a norm place and, annoyingly, I want to have sex with loads of you from both sides. As the con went on and the opportunities to masturbate remained scant, I started to crave even the less svelte geeks. And, knowing that I had no real intent to approach any of them, as it turned night on that second day, I trudged back, like on my death march, like I was resigned, bored, assuming futility even as I continued onward, to the bar, thinking maybe, somehow, the bartender would still be there and maybe, somehow I’d get drunk enough to feel like talking to her and able to pretend to give a shit about The Departed. On the way, I witnessed a geek guy and a girl, lugging swag bags, having a really awful fight as they left the hotel, the guy loudly cursing the girl out and she then standing in place and refusing to follow him, to which he turned and screamed: “WHAT?” then proceeded to shout at her more. And I saw two girls, both decked out in some anime shit or other, sitting on a staircase outside of the hotel, one bawling and crying out: “I’m so immature!” and the other pleading with her: “Let me in!” and I, the detached, fucked-up observer laughed at this because I don’t deal with these dramas because I just so rarely truly deal with people. Because I can’t because so many of them do so little for me and mostly I’m just bored and tired and bored.
And I got to the bar and I looked through the glass door and of course the girl was not there and in her place was a fat, bald man. And so I made the journey back to the hotel to less-than-half-heartedly attend another panel I barely understood or cared about, on the way again spotting the dysfunctional geek couple, the guy striding ahead as the girl stayed several paces behind to demonstrate her displeasure. And I went again past the two drunk cosplayers crying and speaking melodramatically. And I was reminded of my time as a student in Leeds, seeing regular people, students, in stupid bunny and angel and penguin costumes stumbling about in the streets, drunk, crying, fighting, screaming.
I quickly lost count of how many times I heard someone at the convention make a slightly in poor taste joke, then crack up and go “Oh my God, we’re horrible people.” No. You’re not. Not even remotely. Normal people do that too. You’re just normal like them. And you can take this positively, being glad you have a group that accepts you, or negatively, feeling that perhaps my arguments chip away at that emblem of uniqueness you thought forever emblazoned upon your soul or whatever. (Or, of course, you can ignore me altogether and deem me full of shit.)
And though I am terrible and I reject you and I judge you perhaps as cruelly as those who picked on you when you were younger, I also sometimes feel I would love to enjoy things as much as you do. It would be nice to rabidly appreciate a thing and then to feel joy simply by being surrounded by others with the same appreciation. It would be nice to coexist. I simultaneously abhor and envy you, geeks. Because I don’t understand how you can like one thing so very much and I quite honestly think you must have some divide by zero error going on in your taste faculties. Still, at the same time, your ability to enjoy stuff as well as the company of others who too enjoy it is kind of beautiful.
Once, in one of the panels, someone asked “Who here has been picked on or bullied at some point in their lives?” Every single hand in the room went up, mine included. But, internally, I thought, “How nice this is for them to have a place like this to be able to go to.”
In the wake of Hurricane Doomlady, I have gone to see the supposed film Silent Hill: Revelation, which I think the official full title of is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D and everyone knows it bodes well for a film narratively when a qualifier like “3D” is tacked onto the end, like those fun films back in the day that were called things like Scary Death House w/ Rubber Rats that Fall on You from The Ceiling or, more recently, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Anyway, I fucked up and did not even see the movie in 3D because it was too hard to do. As it was, I had to drive across a sea of waterlogged homeless and my tires got gunked up good. I would’ve had to drive through Dead Pet Valley also to go to a 3D version and that would’ve been further bad for my sweet ride so, without the 3D, I probably missed all the movie’s subtext.
The first Silent Hill film is not very good and, upon subsequent viewings, seems to only get worse, but it is interesting in its badness because it is quite probably the most faithful video game movie adaptation out there and, as a result, it has a very odd, slow burning structure (though this gets completely destroyed about halfway through) and there are brief moments it comes close to some of the beauty/horror that the games achieve (though this gets thoroughly decimated whenever someone opens their mouths and says a line from the script). It’s not a good film, but I recommend it because it is an interesting experiment.
I recommend Silent Hill: Elevation U2 because it is not a film. It is a series of things that happen in consecutive order that are only marginally tangentially related. It’s a bunch of suckers trundling about a series of locations, witnessing a series of sights that are meant to be scary but never are, reciting lines that technically achieve the admittedly intimidating feat of having to connect each “scene” to the next, as with, for example, a new, lost high school student asking another, “Do you know where Math is?”
To echo my friend, Nicholas Katzban, who unwisely accompanied me to the thing: it’s not a movie. Rather, it’s something that looks like it got put together by someone who had explained to them what a movie was. Scenes introduce new information or even new characters that are dispensed with mere minutes later, and are then never mentioned or thought about again. On the other hand, stuff we saw early in the film and thought little of comes back later and we are evidently meant to accept it as important now simply by virtue of it being back again (as was the case with Backstreet).
Any time the protagonist (who very early in the film is already named Heather, Sharon, and Alessa and therefore might as well be Nobody) teams up with another human being, the film becomes Q&A Time with Nobody as she or they ask loads of questions about the film’s plot and then the opposing character dutifully answers them, though nothing of lasting pertinence is ever revealed.
At a few random points, someone remembered that films are meant to reflect human experience so people spout things about never giving up and the importance of… stuff… and we are ultimately left with life lessons that achieve the same level of effectiveness as homeopathy. The most consistent thing throughout is that the acting is uniformly bad, even from veterans like Malcolm McDowell who is all chained up in the movie and might have actually, in his senility, wandered onto the set, was recognized as essentially famous, and so was restrained and forced to recite madness.
Scares are almost all of the jump variety, again, almost completely betraying the nature of the horror of the original game series, not to mention failing to make anybody jump (thus achieving the antithesis of Kris Kross). At best, the horrific visuals are tasteless and gross, also, amazingly, in ways the good games of the series never were. At worst, you’re watching a giant 3D mannequin monster ball crawling around and shrieking adorably in your face. Aww.
Like the worst video game movies (and this honestly may now literally be the worst video game movie), SHRFU3D lifts character names and, broadly speaking, plot points from the game series and one is left questioning why they even bothered considering the important aspects — tone, progression, behavior of the lifted characters — completely and totally jars with the source material. Like everything else in the “movie,” imagery from the games is included in a box-checking kind of way — here is a scene with mannequins, here is a part with the sexy boob-nurses — and then never referenced again. The infamous Pyramid Head is brought into the “plot” in a way that completely castrates the original character and renders him thoroughly unmenacing. The very last moments also sloppily plant seeds for sequels that would potentially pilfer plotlines from three different games of the series (only one of which is any good) as though they just wanted to set them all up to cover their bases, because who knows what kind of budget they’re gonna get next time?
The movie is genuinely laughable and should be laughed at. It is worth seeing to the extent that I cannot remember another piece of media that I read or watched or heard and felt like, after experiencing all of it, I hadn’t experienced a thing. Each stupid bit resolves itself and is so disconnected to every other stupid self-resolving bit that, as Nick described it, it almost achieves neutrality. It is a fucking zero sum experience.
Near the end of thing, we’re suddenly asked to watch a ridiculous fight scene between two monstrositshits and it becomes clear the thing doesn’t really know if it’s a horror movie or an action movie or a kung-fucktastrophe and we care about none of it because we haven’t — not in the dialogue, the imagery, nor the tone — found anything to care about at any point before it.
Vapid Hill: Not One Revelation FuckD is written and directed by an idiot, full of sound and grossness, signifying nothing.
[Nicholas Katzban’s Tumblr is here(!!!): http://importantthingsyouown.tumblr.com]
This is a spec script (my first one ever for anything) that I wrote for this TV show called Community that I believe some people like.
If you’re interested, after the jump I’ve written a big, rambly postmortem sort of thing of the whole screenplay. Read the rest of this entry »
Here is proof Dan Harmon is a lovely sonofabitch:
However, I’m sure he is something of a network nightmare, evidently to the point they couldn’t even stomach him for one more mini-season. I’m only just really realizing that the finale last week was effectively the series finale as critics like Alan Sepinwall have noted: http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/can-community-work-without-dan-harmon
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a show that was so clearly driven by one person’s head get suddenly upended in such a way. It’s vastly different compared to something like The Simpsons which certainly had a golden age but has swapped writers constantly throughout its existence, its drop in quality more of a gradual deterioration based on just going on for way too long as it exhausted all its ideas and novelty. Probably the closest comparison I can think of to this Community debacle is Twin Peaks, which had big problems every time David Lynch left the room and was, in the second season, irreparably wounded by network interference that effectively forced the removal of all potential future dramatic heft and tension from the show in one fell swoop.
Of course, I haven’t actually yet seen what a Community without Harmon looks like, but I honestly can’t imagine how it won’t become completely crippled. I feel there’s something very creepy about this — a kinder, gentler, more budget-conscious, less challenging Community going through the motions, in no way ever attempting to overextend itself — because, even at the times it didn’t exactly work, that’s what Community did. Read the rest of this entry »
Rebecca Black and her “breakout” “hit,” “Friday” have now definitely received more than enough recognition to be considered a legitimate entry in pop culture history and she’ll totally get a segment devoted to her on VH1’s “I Love the 2010s.” But should this have happened? And why exactly did it? Huh? Well?
I would argue that Rebecca Black’s success(?) is a perfect example of the sad state of our culture: how the things we currently champion, idolize, and aspire to don’t deserve our adoration and how our dedication to admiring and emulating fame and the famous only further cheapens our culture and ourselves.
But before I get to that, let’s talk about this.
The Three Trials
Read the rest of this entry »
My name is Joe and I work as a writer when I’m allowed to. Otherwise, I just write on my own time and act like that’s being productive.
This page is likely to be a hovel for all my stories. I have few plans for it beyond that, but what better time for dreams to flourish than in a recession! After all, dreams are free, y’know!