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Things I liked in 2011 (Part 1 of ?) December 26, 2011

Filed under: Video Games — Micah Griffin @ 20:28
Tags: , , ,

This blog totally skews negative because the world is full of stupid people that do stupid things. What’s more so is that a lot of people don’t really discuss some of the stupid things people do and why they’re stupid. I’m not great at it, but I try. This post, and probably one or two more are just dedicated to stuff I loved this year. This isn’t exactly a best of 2011. Let’s be honest, to do a full on best of 2011 in a lot of categories requires a lot of time and a lot of money. Playing all the video games, listening to all the music, reading all the books, watching all the tv and movies; it’s an endeavor. There’s money and time involved that I don’t have. So this list are things that are just new to me this year.

I’ll knock the easiest one out of the way first. The thing that has taken the biggest hit for me due to school and work is Video Games. I do not have nearly the time that I use to for playing them, nor the $60 it costs to buy the mainstream popular ones. On the digital front $15 seems to have become the standard price for bigger indie games, and that’s a bit steep for how short or unfinished some game are. I understand that long doesn’t necessarily mean better, but the game has to be DAMN good for me to pay $15 for something I’m done with in an hour two. It just doesn’t work in my life. That said, let’s do this! Also, these are not in any order. I’m not devoting energy to that.

Video Game I liked 1

Don't fight that Bear, it will kill you

Skyrim, cause it’s fresh in my mind. I’ve only had it for about a month, but I’m absolutely in love with it. It’s an adventure game’s adventure game. It works kind of like this; You create a character then run away from a dragon. From there, do whatever (*not really. When gamers talk about freedom in most games they really mean the ability to kill or not to kill when you feel like it) you want. You can kill the person guarding you or follow them to a town to get some quests. You can steal things and fight people or buy things. You can learn to smith, cook, forge, smelt, talk, and other things. All of this in an attempt to make it easier for you to kill/not kill things. What I love about the game is how big it is. The map is huge, it takes hours to walk across it on foot. (Honestly, takes almost as long on horse back). I love the surprises the game has for you. The main story is traditional fantasy bullshit, but there are secrets hidden about that are kinda cool. There are books with riddles and puzzles, there are dungeons with sleeping people and wolf fighting rings, and vampires and werewolves, mages, wizards, fire demon looking thingies, conjurers, zombie type fighting skeletons, and necromancers. The outside world has bears that will kill you (no really, don’t fight the bears), Sabertooth Tigers,  ice trolls that hate you, Giants that will wreck your shit, and Dragons. Lots of Dragons that aren’t as hard to kill as they maybe should be, but whatevs. They’re still fun. Mostly, I just love the ability to get kind of lost in this world where there isn’t a terrible story forced down my throat in bad cut-scenes (it’s kinda forced with talky bits and people with only four different accents). I make up the story for myself as I go along. It’s totally fan fic in my head the entire time and it is GREAT!!

Video Game I like 2

CAVE STORY WII

I'm Curly Brace!

See, this is totally cheating, because I played cave story when it first came out for free in English. But, this time around I played it on the Wii as Curly Brace! It makes it into a totally different game. And by that I mean Curly actually has lines of dialogue where Quote didn’t say anything. This game is good. It’s kind of like Metroid, but different. So it’s good. This game is about mad scientists turning cute little bunny creatures into angry evil fighting mad bunny creatures and you having to stop them. It’s an old school style exploration shooter game. I like the soundtrack a lot, the actual shooting mechanics are fairly great and the way Curly jumps doesn’t make me want to kill things. The real star for this (as it should be, and is for comparable titles like metroid and post symphony of the night castlevania games) is the level design. It’s all put together well. It encourages exploration and hides it’s secrets well. I feel like you can find everything the game has to offer if you just look closely. Nothing is super obscure. Some of the secret items require you to do tricky things you wouldn’t do on purpose your first time around most likely, but that’s fine in a game like this. The cool weapons you’re allowed to get for putting up with the higher difficulty of trying to do weird things is worth it to me. It’s just an absolute blast to go through.

It’s free on the PC, but you can buy Cave Story on the Wii for like $10 or whatever. Or you can buy it on the 3DS for like $40 or something (I wouldn’t, but you can), or you can get it on Steam or something like that (I got it on Humble Bundle 4? or 3?) for like $not much.

Those are the ebst new games to me in 2011. The other games I played and really enjoyed this year were old stand byes. I love Pokemon and played quite a bit of gold/silver again this year as well as went back in on Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS. Both are games I’m quite fond of. I played through the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker again this year and started Metroid Prime 1 (which may be my favorite gamecube game of all of them). So yeah, not much new this year. It may change next year as there are a couple of games I’ve purchased in the past few months through the humble bundle or cheap steam sales that will definitely get played cause I’m not buying any more games.

Or I could play skyrim for sixty more hours and not play anything else. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Doing it right (A quick note on historical fiction and not failing miserably)

So I’m reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” and I was struck by something very early on in this book. It doesn’t suck. (Editor’s note: I’m now 40% in and it’s still doing alright). The story is yet another telling of the King Arthur Legend, because there totally aren’t enough of those. The differentiating feature of this one is that it’s told through the eyes of the female characters in the legend. I don’t think I’ve ever read a version that did this so I was interested. The thing I didn’t know is if Marion Zimmer Bradley would be any better at dealing with historical sexism in her fictional book than anyone else did. You would think that someone focusing on having female leads would be better, but anyone who reads a lot of books absolutely knows that books with female leads can be just as sexist themselves.

Turns out, this book is pretty good. It firmly establishes itself in British History, and manages to show that , yes, this society was fucked up. Not good at all. What this doesn’t do is indulge in that stupidity. It’s not perfect (it has awesome cliches being held by characters like having a “monthly curse.”), but it’s better. So much better than some other books I’ve been reading lately. I really enjoy it. Basically what it does is look at the society of the time and works within it to tell the story without bowing down completely to it. Characters rebuke a lot of the sexist notions during their inner monologues. When some characters speak in private they openly mock societal positions for women. Some characters openly rebel against societal constraints against them.  Some characters go along with it and defend the patriarchy (just as a lot of people defend it now) and some people move along and just don’t question how things are.  It works for me. It’s just not terrible. It’s amazing how much easier sections of this book are to read than other books set in similar time frames, and mostly all just because I’m not pissed off at lazy writing.

Like I said, I’m just a quarter of the way though, but it’s just enjoyable to read a book without having to read hundreds of pages of “well, you know how women are. They just can’t help themselves but to be womens. lawl”

 

A small note on poor black kids December 16, 2011

Filed under: Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 20:12
Tags: , , ,

Gene something or another, some middle age white dude who writes terrible articles for forbes, wrote an article titled “If I Was a Poor Black Kid.” It’s awful. It’s filled to the brim with racism. It gives some lip service to the idea of privilege then spends two pages talking about how privilege doesn’t exist. It also posits the idea that the system that helps keep poor black kids from succeeding societally is fine because if you’re super exceptional then you can find the cracks and get through it. The article just out and says if he, a middle age white man, were a poor black kid with no history in academics, would be beyond an exceptional human being and do things that his children would never even have to consider doing. It also is written from such a place of privilege and has every coincidence possible. It’s bullshit. You can read it for yourself.

The thing no one is really talking about that really informs all you need to know about this Gene guy is that it is awfully written. It is a poorly written article. I feel like (and this is giving this guy all the benefits ever) he may have been going for writing it like he was a six year old, but it’s inconsistent. The parts where he, presumably, would be writing as himself are written poorly. The sentence structure is absolutely mundane. The cadence will lull you to sleep. It’s worse than the stereotypical “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” paper/speech children are or aren’t forced to do at the beginning of each year in grade school. It is so bad that it makes everything the man is saying come off even more condescending and stupid.

For the record

Racism: Still not dead.

Some absolutely excellent things have come out of this. Baratunde Thurston wrote a nice reply here and there’s funny twitter and tumblr accounts. The replies are good. It made this woeful article useful for something. That’s an unintended consequence of Gene’s awful article. I’ll take it though. It’s better than having a bunch of people rave about how America is a Meritocracy and this article only speaks the truth. It’s a little hopeful.

 

Halfway Through Well of Ascension (Spoiler Party) December 14, 2011

This is all spoilers all the time.

So Vin is a character I thought was super well done in the first Mistborn novel. This time around it’s not going so well for me.

She keeps claiming that Elend Venture is a good man and he loves her. This is what she says over and over again, and yet she refuses to talk to him about her problems. She’s always being told not to trust people in her head, and the one person she should have the most faith in, she doesn’t. Then some dude comes along out of nowhere and she believes every word he says and lets him manipulate her without fight and without struggle. Her internal dialogue is always “Don’t trust anyone, don’t trust anyone” and she doesn’t. Then some person she doesn’t know comes along, working for the enemy, clearly with the goal to manipulate and distract her, and she falls for it. This isn’t the case of well defined character traits being exploited, this is just maneuvering characters to a position where they can be duped and feel guilty for it later. I already see it coming and I’m not amused. It wouldn’t be bad if there was an explanation I bought. Here’s the problem I have.

Elend Venture is fucking great. Like, really fucking cool. So fucking cool. He’s a good guy. He’s the best man Vin knows. I understand, and to some level empathise with the idea that Vin doesn’t believe that she is worthy of being with Elend. That makes sense with all of her insecurity issues. What doesn’t make sense is that she never talks about it with anyone. The other problem with this is that we’re suppose to buy that Vin may actually choose to go with this other guy instead of Elend. If this made any sense to me, I’d still not want to follow Vin anymore because that would make her a pretty awful person. It’s not that her choosing to hurt Elend’s feelings would make her bad if she was pursuing her own happiness. That’s not it. It is the idea that he makes her happy and he is willing to do what he can to make her happy. She loves him, and her reasons for leaving are selfish and self defeating. She won’t be happy with Zane for a hundred reasons described to us between the first book and the first half of this book. She knows this, and the only reason she would be doing it is because she doesn’t want to talk to her boyfriend about how she feels insecure and he can be like, don’t be dumb, and then things can move on. (Note: Since writing this post I’ve finished the book. This is basically what happens.)

I understand that Zane is using magic on her to some degree. I get that, but Vin is good. Vin would be rolling copper hard around someone she doesn’t really know. There should have been some sort of internal dialogue when she wasn’t around him where she thought about the inconsistency in feelings she has around him. Maybe I’m wrong, but nowhere does it mention that she puts up walls of copper to prevent herself from being manipulated by Zane. This is just a stupid move. I don’t buy that someone as skittish as her would make this oversight.

The final thing is this. Fuck Sanderson’s ideas of gender roles and shit. It’s really freaking frustrating to have to sit through a bunch of “I’m not a lady cause ladies do this.” This is especially frustrating when there are women who did exactly what vin is doing. It’s also stupid to have to hear a bunch of “well you just know how teenage girls are. They’re all fucked up.” and also, “Man, all women are weird, but this one especially so.” Just seriously stop this. There’s no need.  The book is also majorly heteronormative. The only time we get references to teenage boys acting odd it’s in reference to how women make them feel. And before you come in with some bullshit about “he’s being accurate to a time period”, he’s not. He has no need to make his society like this at all. Refer to the last post I wrote actually. I don’t want to rehash to much of this, but he’s made an entirely different society and an entirely new world. Why import our society’s sexism?

 

No, that’s actually just a terrible excuse December 8, 2011

Filed under: Books,comics,Movies,Social Commentary — Micah Griffin @ 16:24

There’s this thing that happens where people love to excuse all the bad isms in things. I’m currently reading a book, a second in a series, that has a bit of problem with ideas on female agency and what it means for the males around them. Often times we get this “getting beat by a gurl is so degrading” shtick. This stinks, it’s just something dumb and unnecessary. It hardly needs stating that this sentiment just reaffirms the ideas we have that women are lesser beings and that men being topped by them in any regard is unseemly.

The excuse given for this from people; It’s the setting. We love writing these faux regency fantasy books where so much is absolutely different than regent times but we have to stick to the same ideas of gender and race that we have today. We can’t progress that any because it wouldn’t be authentic. Authentic like fucking magic and shit. Dragons and special swords and shit. That’s cool, but progressive ideas of gender and race are just too far away.

Here’s the thing, everything is fake. We don’t do authentic fiction. It’s fake to begin with. Especially these fantasy novels. There’s no excuse for it other than you hold these ideas yourself. If you’re reading this and you defend it you’re just saying that you think there’s nothing at all wrong with that stuff. When you’re like “it’s authentic that there’s no one but white dudes who do anything in these societies” you’re just supporting a busted system. Also, you’re wrong.

There’s a fundamental lack of historical understanding when it comes to statements like this. It’s only historically accurate in the sense that the people who write European history are elite white men, and it’s been proven over time that they don’t have any reason to think about the other people in society, their existence or their importance. Did stupid ideas like that exist? Absolutely. Those ideas exist right now. Does that mean everyone thinks like that? Does that mean we need to continue pushing this idea? Again, absolutely not. We do it because we’re lazy. We do it because we’re sexist and racist and ablist and homophobic and every other bad thing society teaches us to be.

This is the kicker. We spend hours and hours and hours trying to figure out different things to put into our fictional societies. So much time figuring out governments, classes, magic systems, mythical creatures, different societies, types of city state (well, this less often. normally we see one small sliver of a world), and the little parts, except the social constraints we hold dear. We super stress gender binaries. We handle race in one of three fashions, by making a culture where we claim there’s lots of different colors of people who all act the same because there is no racism and then we focus on our core of white people, by keeping them strictly separated without much thought or reason and allowing one or two different colors of people to bleed in, or we ignore it all together (surprisingly this is somehow still the #1 choice of fantasy writers). Hard to see gays and we never see trans characters. Usually at the most we go LG..b. . . . . .and yeah. We will put in our societies a distaste for people who are not able bodied, but most characters aren’t physically disabled in any way. As far as mental things go we just butcher mental illness. It’s soo soo bad. I don’t think anyone knows medical definitions of insanity, asperger’s, sociopath, autism, psychopath, or schizophrenia. When these characters show up you’re in for a show. They’re often aloof geniuses or murderers. It’s so bad.

Why is it like this though? We’re making everything else from scratch, why do we have to hold to the absolute dumbest parts of these old societies that weren’t any good?

This got away from me. Basically what I’m saying is this. “It’s of the time” is bullsiht. It’s not of that time. Even if parts of it were, that’s not why it’s being included. It’s included because we want it there. We still think that these are right and proper ideas. We think women are weak, non white people don’t exist or are super exotic, the gays are gross, Tqqia don’t exist at all, non able bodied people are a problem, and neurologically atypical people are quirky smart murderers. This is what we think of the world and we are all too lazy to do anything about it so we rest on bullshit excuses.