Children’s Entertainment

You know, when I was a kid, Saturday morning television was the high point of my week.  That sounds terrible now that I’ve said it, but it’s actually the truth.  Saturday morning television has always hosted the strange visions of creators and entertainers whose ideas never really made it to mainstream appeal; that’s where science fiction used to go to die, out of sight and out of mind of the regular populace.  Who would have known the appeal that both science fiction and high fantasy would accrue in our present day?  Makes me almost sick to think about.  You people are always miles behind, but because you’re the only runners you can see, you presume that you, as a collective, are first.  Anyways, there was a lot of Babylon V, a good deal of Space: Above and Beyond, and cartoons beyond numbering, but what I liked most about them, and it was a facet of most entertainment at the time that thrilled me, is that they were all violent despite varying levels of embracing that violence.  Good luck finding any more of that in entertainment fit for children nowadays, what with hovering parents having become the norm among those wealthy enough to be heard complaining about it.

Once upon a time, there weren’t big standing armies protecting you from babbling foreigners.  There weren’t silos filled with nuclear weapons ready to rend the world asunder.  There weren’t even police forces really.  What the state had to rely upon–and really utterly–was the citizen, who filled both the role of police officer and soldier, who was raised from a relatively young age in the application of his father’s or grandfather’s arms, and when he was old enough drilled with the men in the mustering yard for the day when their little slice of the world would need them.  The state didn’t want fawning adult children raised by parents too terrified to possibly discomfort their child.  The nation required men that were familiar with violence from a very young age and socialized appropriately on when to apply it and apply it brutally.

Hard making a comparison between the hoplites of the city states and 20th Century television entertainment; I’ll give you that, but I would like to point out a slide, and it is only a slide that has occurred since the Second World War, away from making men out of our manpower, and popular entertainment is a facet of that.  Play, in a lot of different mechanisms, is the means by which the young learn about the universe.  It’s a built in bit of hardware that makes our curiosity sometimes so overwhelming.  What we play, we prepare for in adulthood.

It’s dangerous to even have passive entertainment vacuous of what we’ll be required as adults.  These civilizations weren’t built by love and good intentions.  They were built by sweat, blood, and tears–and iron.

Talk about tangents.

I Was Going to Name this “Social Media Isn’t Social”

It’s easy to work with that premise.  If you’ve ever been on Facebook, you’ll note that the majority of the platform is about moving advertiser product and providing what seems a safe and protective bubble of congeniality for those that consume it.  Long story short, Facebook isn’t really about communication; there are no great manifestos being published and widely disseminated on the medium; indeed, those that are attempting are almost undoubtedly being deliberately censored.  It isn’t a forum for the free exchange and critique of ideas.  Simply, people use it as a means to make mostly ephemeral communications with people they already know in meatspace, and they otherwise treat it as a time sink replete with advertising, cute kittens, advertising, puns, and yet more fucking advertising.  Twitter isn’t any better; if anything, it’s worse what with its widespread and extremely obvious political censorship.  But the major social media is like this.  They want to entice with the opportunities such a platform could present before you’re so deeply invested in the platform that you can see all its unsightly sores that admittedly corrupt the entire medium.

Thing is, is real life social?  I mean, a great deal of the social rituals I’ve been taught since I was a kid consider the initial exchange of greetings and thereafter all the systems required to avoid offending your conversation partner.  And if you’ve found a good friend, one who isn’t off put by the ramifications of what you might say, that’s a wondrous thing, but perhaps that’s the very terrible point.  These social rituals exist because humans generally cannot get along with each other, and as such they prefer to wax and wane about the weather and the white-picket fence rather than endure the terrible shame of possibly having fucking offended someone.  But offense has been in the past and in the present a reason for most often unnecessary violence.  You can see where good manners comes from, keeps the barbarians from chopping each other to bits all the time, but it also prevents us from exchanging what we’re really thinking.

But perhaps we just know ourselves too well, and subconsciously we know that if we feel one way about other people then they certainly feel a certain way about us.  In all actuality, we aren’t one humanity.  We aren’t even a collection of nations or a federation of clans; we’re nothing but bits and pieces of a thousand different broken puzzles that occasionally brush against each other in the dark.

As such, we live constantly with bad faith.  When we smile and offer the right, we know it is because it is the right we fear.

Pour my Beer in the Sink I’ve Got More in the Trunk

The mental exhaustion can be so palpable in creative endeavors.  I would write something meaningful, but I literally can’t conceive the words.

Things are going well.  There’s so many of them, but they seem to be going well.  I hope to have something for you guys by the day after Thanksgiving alongside a bevy of additional content that didn’t make the cut.  Whether or not I’ll be able to hit that deadline is a matter of some debate.  You see, I need to be marketing the book for about three months in advance, which means that if the book isn’t altogether completed shortly, that’s simply not going to happen.  That said, I’m not going to release a functionally unfinished book merely to hit release dates.

So what’s it about?  Originally I had wanted to release another entry in the Goliath Thunder series, but as I was running through the content I’ve already completed, I started getting excited about this little collection of interrelated short stories that I never ended up publishing.  Seemed like something easy to fix and finish.  Of course, as I began running through the text, I had all these ideas and shortly I was considering an altogether rewrite.  And that’s where we are now.  I’d call it dark fiction, and some people might label it as Urban Fantasy, but that’s not really the term.  Imagine a sort of film noir investigation drama in which protagonist is thrust into a universe comorbid with our own but at only rare points intersecting, operating by different rules and principles and possessing altogether different powers.  Just wants to find out what really happened to his wife.

Pic unrelated.

Staring into the Abrased Vestigia of Wednesday

I marvel sometimes at how little I know.  I should be comfortable that I’ve so comfortably surpassed mount stupid, but it’s not a terribly comforting feeling is it, the altogether realization of one’s utter worthlessness, absence of personal infrastructure?  This just happened to me yesterday, but for the rest of you it will have been some different yesterday, because god knows when this will ever see the light of day.

I was staring into the shells of my septfurcated pillbox one evening asking myself, “What day is it–or rather what day was it, for the hour had already passed midnight,” running my eyes across whatever traces remained of the abridged characters that indicated the dosage for the day, when I began thinking about the labors of several hours before.  You see, I am not a wealthy man.  That’s a strange thing to say at this juncture, isn’t it?  Anyways, I’m not a wealthy man, and as such I’m not willing to spend a good deal of a new laptop.  That’s another strange thing to say, it seems.  You see, laptops are constantly breaking, and investing many hundreds or even several thousands of dollars into a laptop is like throwing that money away, for repairs of this nature are never easy, as they generally require the dismantling and horrific reassembling of the entire chassis.  It’s for this reason that most of my work is completed through a tower desktop, for which maintenance is of the highest ease.  Anyways, this cheap laptop I possess came equipped not only with Windows 10 but also a solid state hard disk that had approximately thirty gigabytes of space on the drive.  On the one hand, there’s not a lot of moving parts in solid state, meaning they’re a good deal more durable than the traditional; on the other hand, they’re also very expensive.  So I had a tiny one, tiny in terms of space not actual physical volume.  Problem is when you install Windows 10 on a less than mediocre system like this is that it eats almost all the hard disk space and consumes almost all the random access memory while running, meaning you can’t actually do anything with the computer.

So, I got a Linux build, put it on a flash drive, reformated the drive and installed a new operating system.  Saved me a load of hard disk space whilst simultaneously freeing up massive amounts of memory.

But the problem is that I did a load of programming in grade school, high school, and university before I washed out of Physics because I hadn’t yet developed my drinking problem.

Seems like I forgot all of it.  Shell commands were to me a mystery.  Good lord I do not know why Linux adamantly refuses to implement executable installers.

So anyways, I was trying to install the drivers for this wireless adapter.  The one I’d been using was sort of bulky, and I was constantly (and accidentally) slapping my hands against it.  As such, I spent some money to acquire a very tiny alternative, too minute to likely bang my simian mitts against

But now the problem was that the Linux build didn’t have any standard drivers that would run the new adapter.  On the bright side, the machine came with a disk that actually contained drivers for Linux operating systems.  Problem was that this laptop didn’t have an optical drive and I didn’t have an exterior drive that could be plugged into USB.  Managed to download the drivers from the manufacturer’s website.

I was hopeless at trying to compile and bash and chop or whatever the damn files.  Probably did more damage than anything else.

This led me to a flurry of backing up any files that might possibly not have been backed up yet, on several different platforms.

Anyways, I was musing that I could read Greek and Latin with great proficiency, had a masterful knowledge of composition, knowledge of comparative mythology, American common law, could perform triple integrals and occasionally even impress my parents.

And yet I can’t install a set of drivers intended for use by little babies.

Then I remembered it was Wednesday.  Rather, it had been Wednesday about an hour and a half before.

As I hit the bed and attempted to claw in a few more pages of Paradise Lost before my soul sunk once again into Erebus, I marveled that it required people who were very intelligent to create this sort of software, software used predominantly by people who don’t even understand it in theory.  And then I mused that those that made it, most of all, were more tolerant of difficulty in their pedagogy of programming, and so they achieved higher knowledge by their hard work and diligence, which might as well be a primary compartment of intelligence.  In some time, there may be no-one left alive who understands the work necessary to keep this civilization afloat.

And then I thought that the ancient Roman villa had a slave chosen specifically to guard the door.  That was his only job.  And he usually had a dog, which frankly did most of his job for him.

The Fall of Bioware

If you’re like me, born in the eighties or perhaps early nineties, you may remember a time where Role Playing Games, aside those of the tabletop variety, were both extremely popular and extremely Japanese, whether on home consoles or even the PC.  That turn-based, spread-sheet style of gameplay might have become the dominant format, infecting titles to this very day, if not for a little company called “Bioware,” which released the RPG title “Baldur’s Gate” when I was still a source of constant agony and occasional amusement to my parents.  Since that time, up to 2012, I have purchased and played to boredom every title Bioware has released, save for three, which you could probably quite easily guess.

There just wasn’t anyone else releasing the kind of content they were working on, a unique style of Western RPG that would ultimately prove highly influential, which typically molded turn-based mechanics with a real-time presentation.  Made the games feel a great deal less stiff, and many of these titles were incredibly nonlinear, very notably the original Baldur’s Gate.  People talk about sandbox environments in our contemporary titles, but nearly out the door you could fuck up straight down the southern edge of the sword coast and get kissed to death by bleeding fucking nymphs.  I’d say it was something of a beginner’s trap, but the game was filled with potential instant deaths, being faithful to its D&D source material.

So what went wrong?  How did Bioware go from the Baldur’s Gate series, which is one of the most respected in video game history, all the way down to the punch-out ending of Mass Effect Three and whatever the bloody hell all the titles of Dragon Age were supposed to be?  The particulars have most assuredly be answered by people more knowledgeable than I, but I do want to add a few little words of wisdom.  No-one buys a videogame expecting to be lectured on their political orthodoxy.  They don’t buy entertainment expecting it to be art either; they expect it to be entertaining.  If it can do both, that’s marvelous, but an entertainer should never lose sight of his essential objective, and those predominantly concerned with the injection of political invective need to go join the legacy media before the whole shebang utterly collapses.

I Bet You Slobs Would Like an Update

Well fuck you!  I’ve got better things to do more typically involving the dangerous libation than the wasting of my time with the three subhumans that will actually ever see this.

Anyways.  Stuff.  Is.  Happening.  Not that you’d know, you fruit.  Get out of my house.  You and your mother.

You ask why?  You should be complaining “When?”

You disgust me.

You and your mother.

Like all women.

Get out of my house.

Berserk

A joy to some and utterly unknown to many, Berserk can be considered a facet of what are sometimes either erroneously or mockingly called “Chinese Cartoons,” in this case a manga [basically a comic book] of 37+ volumes in production since the late eighties that has since then spawned several television and movie adaptations and video games beside.  It has been exceedingly successful, and yet even within its home country of Japan, it’s far from being a household name, but I have a sense that fans of Grimdark fiction in probably any country would be familiar with the series at least by reputation.

Imagine a medieval, fantastical universe in which the gods do indeed exist but in which they are similarly a genuine reflection of the human psyche which contains hordes more misery and woe than the few precious gems of genuine joy it has rudely hewn from the rock in anger.  In theory, that should be all the description you’d need, but it’s so far from elucidating a picture of the action.  The protagonist is a character called “Guts,” or “Gats,” depending on the romanization, who was born the product of a dead woman, inducted at infancy into a mercenary regiment, and suffered as the stings and arrows that sort of pedagogy would provide, including the usual physical abuse and several notable instances of rape.  With the accidental slaughter of his adoptive father, he flees their company in the fear of his life, somehow surviving naked and alone in wilderness, some time after which he grows into a fine young man more than a little accustomed to the hefting of blades that more and more resemble the entire weight of a motor vehicle.  Shenanigans accrue, and in a short time he’s missing an eye and his arm in the aftermath of something I’ll only call the “Eclipse,” and he’s out for revenge against the fantastical monstrosities he never should have survived in the first place.

This series is so replete with rape, murder, and mayhem, that I suffered an existential shock that burned me for years after completing as many volumes as I then had available.  The only optimism is the result of hard work–the strength of arms that separates a living man from a corpse.  Nothing is given.  I realized, and it burned my heart for years, that the only thing separating another man’s dagger from my heart are his good intentions and the strength of the justice system to prevent and punish him.  I was deeply affected.  I couldn’t just move on.  I became comfortable becoming a recluse.  It would be hard work to overcome this miserable epiphany, which I maintain still to this day.  It didn’t help that I had a history of paranoia.  I just can’t think of much art that can do that to me.  Made me realize that the persona we present to the universe is really a sailing vessel floating aboard an ocean of tears.  In calm seas, it’s easy to maintain the facade, but sometimes you can’t even hide from yourself.

Now I’m going to be honest.  I absolutely love this series.  It’s one of the few influences in my writing I’d actually list from anything like a comic book, which usually bore me with their Mary Sue, overpowered protagonists.  The list otherwise contains such names as Homer, Ovid, Nietzsche, Gogol–list goes on.

Now for a few general comments:

Kentaro Miura, the creator of the series, is very good at using the medium to its fullest.  What’s the point of great text bubbles that consume the entirety of the frame?  If you wanted to write a book, why did you draw a comic instead?  On the contrary Miura is a very talented artist, with an exceptional understanding of weight and proportion–which is increasingly a dying art, unfortunately–and most of what needs to be communicated in frame can be done easily with the illustration alone.

And speaking of powerful opponents, even if Guts is capable of hefting around a sword that in all probability would weight about two tons, against the sort of enemies he’s regularly pitted, he’s constantly an underdog.  And I like that sort of thing.  Powerful characters need more powerful opponents.  Pitting superman against virtually any opponent bears as easy a resolution as “Let there be light.”

Pricing in the Competition

I must have been in fifth grade.  I think that’s about right.  I was over at a friend’s house, a friend I visited frequently, older by me than a year.  He had younger brother and sister, although he and his brother fought like tomcats.  Good lord.  Anyways, both the parents were out.  Father worked a lot for a living and the mother had some sort of superactive social life that implied she was seeing people on the side–frequently–and as such there was a sitter over, whom I’d met before frequently.  She was a friend of a family friend, which is how I met my own friend incidentally.  Anyways, she said they were occupied and that I’d find my comrades downstairs.  So I ambled down into the dungeons to join them.  It was normally a sort of ramshackle affair with an abused pool table that mutated into a ping-pong table–children’s toys lying and lingering ubiquitously about and several closets from which they’d been robbed.  There was a proper cellar for the boiler room and the like immediately beside the stairwell, but I never spent much time in there.  Anyways, they had the ping pong table put away and were instead presenting a host of hand-painted styrofoam rocks and several miniature fake trees, present a rather rustic setting and upon it were these 28mm miniatures of little space men and silly looking space goblins playing about as a sort of table-top turn-based strategy.  I couldn’t remember who was winning.  Probably the older brother.  He wouldn’t give the younger the opportunity, even if he had to cheat his little mind out.

Anyways, turns out this was my induction to “Warhammer 40,000,” a fascination I maintained for years afterwards, cultivating and painstakingly painting many armies of miniature men and only infrequently actually warring with them owing to the dearth of friends I had that would actually bother with what was even at that time a fairly expensive hobby.  From where I’m currently sitting, if I look to my seven o clock, I can see several Space Wolf Scouts and an Imperial Knight, which I’ve yet to actually finish.  Maybe one day I’ll get the time.

I admit my enthusiasm for the hobby has seriously waned ever since I first entered university.  I didn’t really have the time, and I certainly didn’t have the space, but I nevertheless tried here and there to complete the occasional detachment of fantasy dwarves and the like.  Ever since I came out of the educational system, ever since I presumably have had the time, the inclination remained waned.  They’re just so fucking expensive.  I mean, back when I was a kid they were expensive, but these things have frequently doubled or tripled in price.  I have to pay the bills; I have to eat; I have to pay for this website.  It’s like not I’m going to shave off the precious time needed to paint and play with these things if the company selling them has done everything in its power for the last decade to price me out of their audience.

And that’s really what I don’t understand.  Most of the people I know who ever enjoyed the hobby would tell you the same thing or something similar.  They can’t afford to.  And if you take those that can’t who also are familiar with the costs of competing lines of miniatures–well–you’d find they’d be offended.  Games Workshop has seriously artificially inflated the costs of their miniatures, and with the rise of competing lines that are both cheaper and frankly more beautiful in cut and posture, well it’s obvious that GW is only running on the quality of their name and their IP and in nowise upon their quality.

Update: Week of June 4th, 2017

I occasionally have something interesting to say.

So I’ve been sitting on this collection of short stories, similar subject matter and a handful of recurring characters, but I’ve never really been able to figure out what to do with them.  Never really seemed finished, and I could never think of a suitable title.  I was recently watching Jordan Peterson talking about frogs and the underworld, and a whole host of different ideas came to me, and the entire matter resolved itself in my mind.  It’s going to take some more work to finish, but I’ve a strong idea of what it will look like when finished.