Once in a Lifetime

 

I’ve never made friends quickly. You all should know that by now. At my previous job, my boss told me that I seemed to have put up a shell around myself. That’s not entirely true, but he meant well. I heard recently that he walked out of the store he’d been transferred to because the district manager is a total bitch. I flatter myself that I might have started a bit of a trend by walking out when I did. I wasn’t the first person to walk out, but still. They started a dangerous precedent by pushing good people out, and anyway, I didn’t come here to gloat. I’ve learned by now that what they say about living well being the best revenge is true. It doesn’t mean that the bad guy always gets his comeuppance. Oftentimes, they kinda just drift away. Most of the time, they never learn their lesson. They go on being shitty, and the most you can hope for is that the people around them realize what shits they are and keep their distance. But they don’t ever just go away.

It was a big decision when I decided to be a blogger instead of a vlogger or whatever. I have a very animated speaking style and a rather distinctive voice, but I would prefer not to go on camera. I don’t like having my picture taken. Sometimes I think I might have fit right in in one of those cultures where they believe that having your picture taken robs you of your soul or something like that. Then again, maybe not. I’m not a Luddite (it’s actually a common myth that the Luddites were anti-technology, but never mind); I just try to resist the temptation of going with trends. That’s why I’ve always felt so out of my own time. I know that we all like to think of ourselves as special snowflakes, and that’s great. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as ordinary who, to my eyes, appear rather conventional. I don’t believe that’s entirely subjective. I think that most people are boring, and that interesting people come in all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing wrong with being boring, I suppose. It’s all in what you want out of life.

cybermenIt’s frustrating, working in a medium that doesn’t provide you with any immediate gauge as to what people think. Actually, I think that might be a strength. Facebook has the “like” button, and actually, so does this blog. But it’s not like there are message boards where people discuss my stuff at length. If they did, I probably wouldn’t read it because I need my headspace. That’s the problem with the internet: it’s all just nerds with opinions. I still don’t understand why so many Whovians hate “Nightmare in Silver” so much. I remain convinced that it’s the best Cybermen storyline since “Earthshock”, not that the competition is particularly steep. It’s definitely overstuffed and yeah, the kids are kind of annoying, but it also has some arresting visuals, a great performance by Matt Smith, and some of the snappiest dialogue the show ever produced. (“I trust the Doctor.” “Are you saying he knows what he’s doing?” “I’m not sure I’d go that far.”) For once, the Cybermen act like Cybermen (sort of proto-Borg, although I don’t know if there’s any truth to the rumor that they inspired the Borg) rather than substitute Daleks. Go Gaiman.

There’s nobody I agree with 100% of the time. This leads me to believe that nobody is right 100% of the time except for me. But seriously, I do believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. I believe in subjectivity as well; I just think that while most human beings might, on some level, be more or less the same, that doesn’t mean you have to get along with everyone, and it’s okay to think somebody’s a shithead if they’ve wronged you. I guarantee that there are folks out there who think I’m a shithead, although I think most of them are shitheads too, so I guess it kind of evens out. There’s no bigger waste of time, in my opinion, than trying to make friends with everyone. A lot of my idols probably wouldn’t have much to say to me if they met me. Then again, maybe they would and I just need to get a little bit better at making overtures.

I’ve always believed that endings aren’t bad so long as you get to end things on your own terms. I talked to an asshole on an online dating site just now who couldn’t believe that I choose to work in retail and customer service jobs despite having degrees from two of the best universities in the world. Well, I am a smart motherfucker. Right now, I need my headspace, that’s all. You can’t get back at everyone who has hurt you. Robert, the near-sociopath who screwed me out of my living situation about two years ago, is probably living quite comfortably now. Whether or not he’s happy is debatable. I’m not very happy, but it’s all in how you define happiness, isn’t it?

In case it’s not obvious, I’m signing off here. I’ve cranked out these last few posts in what could be considered a binge (albeit the tamest binge in the entire history of the word) because sometimes, you just want to get it over with. Oh no, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m glad I did this shit. I used to think that you needed to have all your shit figured out before you ended something, but it turns out you don’t. Is death the only part where that happens? I don’t know. But it’s not as scary as it looks. Not that I plan on doing it anytime soon.

I’ll leave you with something silly. I’m still kind of a funnyman despite spending most of my time here sharing Deep Thoughts. See ya around.

The Inner Light

I feel that we need to have a discussion about sexism in nerdland. See, if you’re a woman, you have to put up with all manner of douchebags telling you that you’re just a poser, and not really a nerd. John Scalzi called those people the “gatekeepers”, and it’s not a term of endearment. Ultimately, it shouldn’t really matter if you meet somebody else’s arbitrary standards as to what constitutes a proper nerd. But the fact remains that the stereotypical nerd with poor hygiene who lives in his mother’s basement, spends all day arguing about whether Deep Space Nine or TNG is the best Star Trek (DS9, obviously), and has never touched a breast is, like a lot of stereotypes, at least somewhat based in truth. Oh, they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule, but I have met one or two, and believe me, the rest of us nerds view them in much the same way that most Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church. They are insecure, lonely, and want nothing more than to create an enclosed world in which only their like-minded friends are welcome. If some female wanders into that, they feel threatened, whether she actually belongs or not.

I should add, before I go any further, that this, like a lot of things, cuts both ways. There are some women out there who will throw on a Batman T-shirt and waltz into a sci-fi convention just because they like the attention. A lot of nerds are socially awkward, and thus will gravitate towards anyone who shows the least bit of interest in what they have been told is weird and geeky. But those women are few and far between. Much more common are women who are every bit as into D&D and Doctor Who as any man, but face nonstop harassment because some dumbshit chauvinists can’t face the possibility that yes, she really does know what she’s talking about. I have friends who have dealt with this. Even if they can convince the men that they belong there, they’ll get a condescending remark about how they’re “one of the good ones”. Fuck. Off.

doctor who

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s stagnation. That’s why I have such a contentious relationship with technology. I’ll concede that the internet is cool, but I refuse to own a smartphone or a tablet. I can see the use of a Kindle if you don’t have the space to store books (and ebooks are cheaper anyway), but honestly, what is a tablet good for? I see people watching movies on their iPads while on the treadmill at the gym, but so what? An automobile is an amazing thing. The invention is over 100 years old, and even now, the thought that I can hop in a giant metal box that is powered by explosions and can go faster than any horse is amazing. That I can buy a small, handheld device that allows me to play games and watch movies and shit is cool, but that’s about it. Telephones are amazing. Computers are amazing. Smartphones are…neat.

What does this have to do with geekdom? Simple: People like to isolate themselves from whatever makes them feel uncomfortable. Geeks (and I am conflating nerds and geeks, even though the two are not quite the same) have always felt a little bit different, and for some, that alienation makes them feel special. They like to believe that they are somehow better or more thoughtful and cultured than those who don’t read comics or like science fiction, so they associate only with people who are exactly like them. Except the barriers are crumbling. Football players watch Doctor Who, Whovians play football, and people with vaginas can enjoy both if that’s what they’re into.

Part of the problem is rape culture. Read this article, if you’ve got a minute. I admit that I haven’t played the games it talks about, so maybe I’m unqualified to discuss it, but then again, I think not. The most shocking thing about it to me is the comments section. Here’s my favorite:

I’m rather disturbed by the claim that rape is the “most horrifying thing that can happen to a woman.” Just so we’re VERY clear on the implications at stake, are you suggesting that my vagina is worth more than my life or my children? I lost my virginity to rape when I was 12 and while it was the most horrifying experience of my life, I could list twenty things right now that would be FAR more horrible!

Wait, go back to the part where you said that getting raped was the worst thing that ever happened to you. If your leg has just been sawed off, I really don’t think the guy in the next bed who lost both of them has any business telling you to shut up. Yes, I suppose that getting raped to death, eaten, and having your skin sewn to Reavers’ clothing would technically be worse than just getting raped, but only in the sense that having $1,000,000,001 is better than having $1,000,000,000. It boggles my mind that out of all the things in the article, this is the one that the female commenter is most worked up about. There are complications and shades of gray even in cases of sexism, but that doesn’t mean the sexism is nonexistent. Bigotry is a lot more nuanced than people care to acknowledge. But it’s still wrong.

My father has been giving me grief lately about looking for a more high-paying job. See, he’s happy that I got a job with the coffee shop (especially considering that he suggested it to me), but since he’s thinking of moving out soon, he’s worried that I might have to find something that will pay enough that I’ll be able to find my own place. At least, that’s what he says he’s worried about. I think he just doesn’t like the way that I do everything he asks me to. I’m not a very difficult person to live with. Mostly, I just go along with whatever my roommate needs. But sometimes, you need to push back. You need to let people know that you’re quite content with things as they are, and they have no business changing them. It is a give-and-take, after all. And with that, I’ll leave you with one final question: Do Sherlock and Watson have the best bromance ever, or what?

Shade

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“A Day at the Library: An Intellectual Adventure would be to spend the day at the ancient library of Alexandria and exchange ideas with the venerable scholars. We would confer the cosmos as I rummaged through early scrolls of knowledge. Before departing, I would instruct them on how to construct a fire extinguisher.” –Madeline K., Grade 6, Indiana

I’m in a really good mood as I write this. I’m kidding, of course. Who blogs when they’re in a good mood?

See, I’ve been living without a working computer for two-and-a-half weeks now. My mp3 player has a web browser on it (it’s a bit like a smartphone without the phone part), so I can watch YouTube videos and shit when I get bored, but if I want to do anything more involved, I have to go to the library. If you read this blog regularly, you know this already. You also know that I’ve been thinking of getting a new computer since I can’t get the current one to start working. Well, I contacted the I.T. people and asked if they could help me. They said I should come in this Friday morning to talk about installing the new operating system. I work Fridays, so I asked my boss if I could take time off of my job to do that, and she said yes. Then I went down to I.T. and found that they were closed. So now I have to go back in on Monday. At this point, I’m thinking of buying a new computer anyway out of spite. In fact, I’ve already got one picked out.

What’s really been driving me up the wall about this whole ordeal (too strong of a word? Eh, who cares?) is that I have a life to live. I have a job interview next week and am planning to look at a few apartments in Brooklyn this weekend. This whole computer thing reminds me of my housing problems last year and the year before, in which I wanted nothing more than a reasonably priced abode in a convenient location with roommates/housemates who weren’t total shitbags. That took a really long time to find. A really, really, really long time to find. A really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really…look, the point is that getting a degree from an Ivy League school is stressful enough when you don’t have to worry that you’ll be sleeping on a park bench that night, okay?

See, I kind of think that I’ve put enough time and money into this thing already. The disc for the new operating system cost almost $100. And I’ve spent hours trying to get the computer to work again, but since it can’t even start up properly, I can’t install the new operating system. But the I.T. people assure me I don’t need a new computer. If I did, I could fucking order one. And I’m not in love with the current one anyway. So excuse me if I’m getting a little impatient. My mp3 player can’t stream Netflix.

I never learned how to change a flat tire. Of course, I don’t own a car, but knowledge might have come in handy when I drove my parents’ car in high school. It never did, I’m just tired of not knowing how the technology I depend on works. It’s not like I haven’t tried to figure it out, but bringing a sick computer in to I.T. is like going to the doctor, and who likes that?

I’m not on Twitter, by the way. Or Instagram. Or Vine. And I don’t have a YouTube channel. Because I don’t really care about any of that. See, I can commit to only a handful of things at a time. I don’t have that many friends, have never been to a music festival or smoked weed, and in general, don’t do a lot of the things that people my age are supposed to do. Why? Because I believe in finishing what you start, and there’s nothing I hate more than somebody saying, “I’ll call you and we’ll hang out” when they clearly have no intention of ever hanging out with you. You can stand in the sun or you can stand in the shade, but while the shade might be comforting, it will last only as long as the sun holds still. A writer at one of my favorite sites said that misery is comforting, but happiness takes work. He’s wrong about some things, but he was right about that. I’m in my mid-twenties, for fuck’s sake. Do I look like a guy with all the time in the world?

I have no use for people who say that you’ll hate yourself less if you get off your ass and do something. I think it’s the other way around. They might mean well, but the people who say that aren’t saying what they seem to think they’re saying. I was hoping that by the end of today, I might at least have a clearer idea as to what the fuck was going on with my computer, but as always, I have to keep waiting. Just don’t expect me to hold still. I have way too much shit to do.

This is quite moving.

Why I Don’t Play Video Games Anymore

I used to play them obsessively. As a child, they were my reason for getting up in the morning and what I thought about as I went to bed that night. When I got angry at them, my parents told me to do something else. As if it were that simple. The next time your mother or father complains about their job, tell them to find a new one and see how that goes over. To children, our hobbies are our jobs. We don’t really have much else to live for. That’s why it’s never helpful to tell a young person that what is consuming their life is petty. To you, it might look that way. To them, it’s their whole world.

Whenever I hear gamers talk about the state of gaming, there is a weariness in their tone. It sounds like gaming has regressed as they’ve grown older. Still, the women in games are sexualized to the point of offensiveness, and like Hollywood, the gaming industry seems to have internalized the prejudice that every protagonist (or at least, the vast majority) must be a square-jawed, straight white man. There are games that have pushed the envelope of what can be done in their medium. Bioshock, in addition to being a fun shooter, was a critique of objectivism. Then again, is that really necessary? I stopped playing about halfway through. It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t grab me the way that, say, Zelda did. I’ll probably return to it someday. All I know is that modern games, to my ancient twentysomething eyes, all look the same. I haven’t played that many, but based on the screenshots, I couldn’t possibly tell them apart. And if all of the complaints I’ve heard about DRM are true, it’s getting harder and harder to feel like you actually own the game. Why go through that much trouble to play something that you fucking paid for? I’d play the classics, except that they don’t run on this computer. I’m really up shit creek.

Video games find themselves straddling a widening gap. On one hand, they have to work harder to please the people who think the medium should be “art”. I do not view games as an art form. To me, they are a hybrid of sports and entertainment that do occasionally contain elements (good music, a well-written cutscene) that can be considered art. Did Super Mario 3 concern itself with deep, immersive storytelling? It was bright, fun, and addictive. Nobody wanted to know more about Mario’s backstory. He never even spoke. Yet there are people who insist that games should be evaluated the same way as books, films, and the like, and who get very defensive when somebody implies otherwise. I really can’t say that I understand their feelings. Their arguments seem almost self-defeating. David Wong, a writer I respect (and whose novel John Dies at the End is a breezy horror-comedy that I heartily recommend), complains that games, despite being around for 40 years, still haven’t progressed to the level of storytelling that movies had by this point in their development. Could the problem be that games aren’t meant to be a storytelling medium? A game without a story is still a game. But a game with only cutscenes is a movie. There is nothing demeaning about saying that games are not art. Chess is not art, but it is still beautiful. I greatly enjoy gymnastics, yet I doubt any of the athletes I admire (and, if I’m completely honest, masturbate to) would call themselves artists. I love games, yet I genuinely do not understand why gamers are so angered at hearing that games are not art.

Maybe the problem is the stigmatization that comes with game-playing. Growing up, I got picked on a lot. I liked Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons and made no effort whatsoever to hide it. Even though nerdiness is becoming mainstream, what with the current superhero movie craze and everything, it’s still a rare thing to find a kindred spirit. I bitch and moan a lot about how fans of the new Doctor Who series have no appreciation for or curiosity about the classic series, and while that’s true, it’s only a symptom of a much more pervasive illness. We all know Captain Kirk. Most of us know Captain Picard. What can any of you tell me about Sisko? Some of you probably have watched Deep Space Nine. That’s great. If you haven’t, that’s fine too. My beef is with people who just want to feel like they’re a part of something. Games used to be more of a specialty interest. Now, they’ve gone mainstream. Call me a prick, but if you only play games because you like shooting at stuff, maybe you should go outside. You’ll leave more room for me, Jaheira, and Khalid.

Entitlement

Sometimes I really hate being a nerd. It used to mean loving something that everyone else dismissed, but these days, everyone likes to think of themselves as nerds. I am here to tell those people that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Liking Star Wars does not make you a nerd. Knowing the name of the woman who briefs the Rebel pilots on the defense system of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi (Mon Mothma, by the way)? Maybe. I’m not doing this to compare my knowledge of obscure trivia with other sexually frustrated geeks. For one thing, this is the Internet, and no matter how antisocial you are, someone out there has even more free time. For another thing, I talk about my knowledge of esoteric sci-fi/fantasy because I do know more than the average fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for anyone’s approval. I have said before that it is curiosity rather than knowledge that defines a true connoisseur, and by that standard, the nerd community is seriously lacking.

Roger Ebert wrote a blog post a couple years ago in which he argued that video games are not art. In response to this, the gaming community went ballistic, and one of my favorite websites posted an article in which the author, David Wong, grossly distorts Ebert’s opinion into claiming that games are worthless. He did nothing of the sort. In his blog post, Ebert makes it explicitly clear that while he is not a gamer, he sees nothing wrong with pursuing it as a hobby or passion. He merely wonders why gamers are so intent that their interest be thought of in the same category as books, music, films, and the like. I’ve read plenty of books, seen lots of movies, listened to music, attended ballet and opera, visited art galleries, and even watched recordings of Japanese kabuki, and I have never played a game that makes me feel the same way that any of those did. Yes, I respect a game that can tell a good story. I’ve even been moved by the cutscenes in some of my favorites. But games, to me, are still a hybrid of sports and art, existing between the two mediums and not squarely in either one. If you took the cutscenes out of Knights of the Old Republic, you’d still have a game, but if you took everything except the cutscenes, you’d have a movie. Thus, games are not an art form.

I know people who disagree with that statement. That’s fine. In all fairness to Wong, it is a little presumptuous of Ebert to talk about something that he admits to not knowing very much about. But to take that as a personal insult is nothing short of idiotic. Reading the comments under Wong’s article, I see people trashing the greatest film critic since Pauline Kael and one of the finest nonfiction writers I have ever read simply because he dared to voice a contrary opinion. Somehow, I don’t think Ebert would be as angry if Sid Meier claimed that movies are not art. I think he’d shrug and go on his way. But try explaining that to the folks over at Cracked.

Ebert has backed down from one or two of the things he said in that blog, but one point that he stands firm on is his rebuking of people who claim that if he just plays, say, Bioshock or Shadow of the Colossus, he’ll get it. What if he plays those games and maintains that games are not art? Will he have to play Braid? World of Warcraft? There is no way to satisfy those people. Like an adult telling a child that they’re too young to understand, they will always hold their superior knowledge over his head. Why? Because it’s easier than having their opinions challenged.

Anyone who knows me knows I love Doctor Who. And as with anything I love, I hold it to a high standard and have very strong and particular opinions as to how it should be done. I spend a great deal of time butting heads with fans of the New Series, who, to put it bluntly, don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. This wouldn’t be so annoying if it weren’t for their insistence that they do. They think that “Blink” is one of the all-time great episodes and the Weeping Angels are as good as any Classic Who villain. To these fans I say: Fuck off. Do you know what the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Master all have in common? None of them would work as villains on any other show. Batman could not fight the Cybermen, the Master wouldn’t last too long against Buffy, and the Daleks simply could not exist in the same universe as the U.S.S. Enterprise. But the Weeping Angels could. They could, with a little tweaking, appear on The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Star Trek, or, if Joss Whedon were more interested in time travel, one of his series. That fans hold up “Blink” as proof that the New Series is keeping the spirit of Doctor Who alive speaks volumes to their ignorance. Seriously, if you are one of those people, shut the fuck up. You have no idea how much I hate you.

I’m not going to spend all of this post ranting about the New Series. For one thing, we’d be here all day, and for another, I just don’t have the energy. Maybe you think the byzantine complexity of Steven Moffat’s storylines is fascinating rather than pointless. Perhaps you think Russell T. Davies’ belief that every season finale must be bigger and louder than a Michael Bay movie is stirring rather than enervating. Maybe you like Martha Jones. I’m not going to argue with any of that. I’m not even going to tell you that I’m somehow a better Whovian just because I am familiar with all eleven Doctors and can rank them from best to worst. But as a Whovian, how are you not possessed by the desire to know everything there is to know about your passion? Why should I have to tell you to seek out grainy old serials from the 1960s so that you can see how it all began? Why should I have to tell you that if you go to BigFinish.com, you can download radio plays starring (most of) your favorite Doctors and hear how the franchise translates to a different medium (pretty well, I’d say)? Watching Torchwood doesn’t count, not that I have anything against that (well, maybe a little.) Hell, even watching the serials from the 1960s and ranking the Doctors from one to eleven doesn’t count. I don’t want people to agree with everything I say and know the things I know. I just want them to think.

I can’t stop ranting. Not until everyone who claims to be into the same things that I am is at least ready, if not willing, to engage in a spirited debate about them. I can’t stop obsessing. I just can’t. I think about Doctor Who more than anything else besides sex. The only thing I need to keep my sanity is the notion that somebody is listening. Thankfully, a few people are. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. Never stop asking questions, people. Never stop taking risks. If you do, you’ll do what people who stereotype nerds accuse us of doing. That is, you’ll die a virgin.