Staring Into Oblivion, With You

Banksy, art, street art, graffiti, Mobile Lovers

“Mobile Lovers” by Banksy

The brilliant orange sun is setting behind the distant, jagged lavender mountains to the west. The last rays of light reflect off the emerald ocean waves, as massive ships carry containers to distant corners of the world and ferries shuttle people and cars to and fro. Birds cast impossibly acrobatic silhouettes against any and all lit surfaces as the light from the sun fades and shadows become increasingly elogated. It is such a breathtaking sight I witness out the window of my bus… And no one else sees it because they are looking at their fucking phones.

bus, train, commute, gif,

Source: @1041uuu on Ello.

No, I’m not a Luddite by any means. I love technology. Probably too much. Having all the knowledge of humanity right in our pockets is a thing we had previously only dreamed of. It is glorious. But put into perspective, we’re really not curing cancer or anything so noble with our newfound power. Instead, we’ve all become Narcisuss from Greek mythology, but instead of drowning in water, we drown ourselves in the world wide web in our own palms. Honestly, it’s really starting to creep me out. Look up from whatever you are doing on your smartphone and watch other people on the bus or in the movie theater. We’ve unwittingly become zombies. Observe the phenomena for a few minutes and tell me it doesn’t creep you out as well.

Religion and television were both labeled the “opiate of the masses” in their days, but they could only hope to be as complete and effective as that little phone in your hand. It has become our sole window to an argumentatively disturbing virtual reality which has quickly taken over our daily lives. We happily allow multiple apps to track our every move and collect massive amounts of data about us and our friends. Why does something as seemingly simple as ordering a pizza or buying movie tickets subject us to yet another new app being pushed at us? And most of us just smile and click “accept” without even thinking about it. Our expectations of liberty and privacy have been forsaken for convenience.

Instead of bringing us closer together, social networks seem to be anything but social. Antisocial, in fact. We are slowly being fractured into evermore divided little factions by the day. We vehemently attack and shame anyone with opposing points of view. Online crusades call for censorship of any dissenting opinions. There are no longer “gray” areas and lively, constructive discussion. We deal in extremisms. The tool that promised to free all speech has instead turned on us and put us in very real conflict, shackles, and gags. Civility has been forsaken. Even an actual phone conversation seems taboo now. What used to be a thirty second phone call has somehow morphed into ten minutes of texts–just to decide where we should meet up!

I say, “Enough!” For months I’ve been trying to wean myself from certain aspects of the internet. It has been tough. I’ve given up entire social networks. I turn my phone off when I’m out with friends. It feels quite similar to kicking an addictive chemical habit, and quite frankly, that is exactly what it is. People love those likes, retweets, and comments more than they realize. Such approval and validation releases endorphins into our biological systems. Social networks actively experiment on users without shame or remorse. That factor scares the hell out of me and only strengthens my resolve. I want to live in the moment and savor it. I want to watch the band play a live set, instead of taking a bunch of crumby photos or shaky video (in portrait mode) while trying in vain to document the moment. I want to have real, organic, deep conversations with people without one of us checking our phone. I want to notice and savor that sunset outside my bus window. You should too. You could even start today. Live in the here and now. Please. I miss the feeling of seeing other people not staring at a screen. I’ll be looking for you. You’ll be easy to find, as will I.

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Filed under My writing, Rants

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Marching into senilityI’ve been noticing it quite a lot lately, but tonight it really hit hard–I am old now. It crept in sneakily with stray gray hairs. An inexplicable little silver streak shot down one side of my beard almost overnight, before starting to gentrify the entire neighborhood. Nagging little aches and pains plague me more and more. I sense a gradual shift to an ever more curmudgeonly outlook on stuff and things. I am strangely at peace with it. I’d even go as far as to say that I’m happy about it.

Many people seem to try delay aging as much as possible. Hair dyes, expensive moisturizers, fad diets, mid-life crisis sports cars, boner pills, or even plastic surgery… It’s really no wonder why. We are constantly fed an endless stream of celebrities who never seem to age. Instead of viewing that scenario as the sad, hellish, and transparently desperate limbo for which it is, for some reason we seek to emulate it. “To hell with that,” I say.

Honestly, I never thought I would live past the ripe old age of 27. I tried my hardest to make it so. When that didn’t work, I doubled down to no avail. Believe me, I really gave it my best (or worst, upon reflection). I have actually been clinically dead for extended periods on two separate occasions. It shames me deeply to admit that fact, but it is what it is, and I am a stronger person now because of it. Mercifully, I’m quite glad that the stupidity of my youth did not compromise my then future, and today present. As a society, we seem to elevate people who died young to some mythical, reverent status. That notion seems completely backwards. We should be celebrating the ass-kickers who stuck it out and just got better with age.

So why do people seem so ashamed to age? I really see no shame in it whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve more than earned every single one of my gray hairs. Every new line on your face should not be cause for a cringe, but a badge of honor. The knowledge we accumulate over our lives lets us constantly reevaluate the world in an ever more nuanced and sophisticated manner. That is a beautiful thing. As our understanding and view of the world expands, books, movies, music, art, and so much more seems to reveal previously hidden layers. In many ways, aging is vastly empowering. It is the difference between seeing the world in black-and-white or in color.

That said, by no means should we abandon everything we loved when we were young. Many people seem to fall into this trap. I still shamelessly love bike rides, comic books, video games, cartoons, and laying flat on my back in the grass while looking up into the sky as my imagination runs wild. At times, simply enjoying such undignified things earns a degree of contempt or pity from certain people I know. Ironically, I really worry about some of them in return. Some seem to be living the exact inverse of my life. It has made it difficult to maintain some relationships as I age. Maybe I’m just immature, but if your entire existence revolves around social or vocational climbing, trying to keep an underwater mortgage afloat, or the endless pursuit of material things, I pity you in a way. But I still love and respect you. I expect the same in return. Age gracefully and live life to the fullest. Old. New. Balance. Maybe come lay in the grass and look to the sky with me when you have time. Let’s compare notes.

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I Hate That I Like Football

HawksMemeGuyI have a strange relationship with football. At its core, I hate everything football stands for: the spectacle of neo-gladiators distracting the masses from vital issues, a system that has repeatedly been accused of exploiting unpaid collegiate athletes and their likenesses for profit, the NFL somehow having a tax-exempt status (REALLY?!) as it rakes in astounding sums of revenue, egocentric millionaire owners bilking taxpayers of vital funds to build ridiculously expensive stadiums, the looming risks to players who suffer severe injuries and concussions, the gross commercialization (do we REALLY need THAT many television advertisements for pickup trucks?), insufferable diva coaches and players, the woefully uninsightful pundits asking the same tired questions ad nauseam, inconsistent regulation from the league in regard to player misconduct, always controversial (and at times downright incompetent) refereeing, the fabricated drama, the relentless media coverage, meaningless stats with stupid qualifiers,  asshole fans (looking at you in particular SF, PHI, PIT, and DAL), the Washington Redslurs (it just boggles the mind that they still have such a fucking racist name in this day and age)… Need I go on?

Despite all of those factors, for some reason I still enjoy football–as do nearly half of all U.S. citizens. It’s no wonder our nation is in decline. If only people played such close attention to how their elected representatives were voting while, ahem, supposedly “representing” the interests of their constituents. Yay us! But I digress…

This weekend, the “Emerald City” of Seattle is hosting a coveted NFL home playoff game. It happened here last year as well. The Seahawks even managed to win it all, gracing the city with its first ever Superb Owl victory. I’ll admit, it was pretty awe-inspiring to see so many passionate fans visiting our fair city and supporting local businesses. There were some negative aspects, but the good far outweighed the bad. I’d never seen anything quite like it to be honest.

Up until that point, Seattle had been a pretty dismal city as far as sports went. Yeah, the departed Sonics franchise were champs way back in ‘79, but fans here were starved for the sweet, sweet civic validation that apparently comes with winning a national championship (from a real sport–not any of the recent pseudo “pansy” MLS or WNBA titles which, for some reason, were ignored by the citizenry for the most part).

So after the Seahawks won the Owl, of course fans responded in a classy, graceful manner befitting of long-suffering underdogs with something to prove to the world. By that I mean: they became completely fucking insufferable. Don’t believe me? Go look on any internet message board or comment thread. “The 12th Man” is collectively despised and renowned as copycat, shitposting, bandwagon fans all throughout the internet. Success breeds contempt, but many of the ‘Hawks new fans take it way too far at times. One must wonder where all these fans were when our home games were blacked out on local television due to poor attendance in the “bad old days” of which we must never speak? Yes, it is great to finally have a brilliant football team, but ferfucksakes, can “12s” at least make an effort express their joy while reining the unchecked trolling in just a bit? I like to believe that citizens of our fine region are above such petty displays.

Anyhoo, what I’m trying to get at is as follows:

–Please, be kind hosts (and your usual pleasant, passive-aggressive selves) to the Panthers fans from out of town this weekend.

–Try not to be caught vomiting or defecating in public view–especially where I might have to witness it.

–Throw Skittles at everyone like they are Mardi Gras beads.

 –Remember, the police here apparently don’t give a shit about what football fans do, so show those damn liberal hippie protesters how civil disobedience is done, you magnificent, drunken, rowdy, suburban bastards paying $60 for parking.

–Also, GO HAWKS!

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Filed under Editorials and Rants, Seattle

Things We Heard Too Often in 2013 That I Never Want to Hear Again, Ever

stop sign2013 can’t end soon enough. The continuing rise of 24-hour news cycles, government partisanship and ineptitude, celebrity worship, and blind consumerism has run rampant. Just switching on the news most mornings makes me want to go drown myself in the toilet—before I’ve even had coffee. The decline of western civilization continues to accelerate unabated. I’ve come to begrudgingly accept that. Certain stories and phrases quickly went from overexposed, to downright abused ad nauseam.  Below is an incomplete list of stories and phrases that can promptly fuck right off and go burn in Hell (but I know they won’t). I hope we never have to hear about or read them EVER again. Feel free to add YOUR most loathed stories and phrases in the comments below. Please, have a safe and Happy New Year!

fireworks animated gif

debt ceiling
fiscal cliff
transvaginal ultrasound
legitimate rape
job creators
Super PAC
Tea Party
Rand Paul
Rush Limbaugh
Sara Palin
Michelle Bachman
legitimate rape (again)
Muslim Brotherhood
tax haven
war on Chritianity
war on Christmas
Black Friday
Duck Dynasty
stand your ground
stop and frisk

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PAX Prime 2013 Mayhem!

PAXLogoEvery summer, video game companies and gamers from around the world descend upon Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX Prime). PAX Prime is the largest nerdy convention to take place in Seattle. The event not only occupies all the space at the Washington State Convention Center, it also manages to branch out to other local venues like the Paramount Theater and Benaroya Hall. Elaborate industry parties take place every night around town before, during, and after the event. The entire thing is just a massive spectacle that one has to witness firsthand to fully appreciate.

Securing passes to PAX is a clusterfuck of the highest order. In past years ticket servers have crashed leading to mass anger and confusion. Months ago, badges for PAX Prime 2013 went on sale and promptly sold out in an hour flat. As they went on sale during the middle of the day on a weekday, many people (such as myself) who happened to be at work had no chance to buy tickets directly. Scalpers start posting badges for sale on the internet for three to four times their face value almost instantly. This year I was fortunate enough to secure a Friday badge from a friend at face value the morning of the event, won another one on Ebay for face value, and actually scored another day’s badge for $5.08.

On short noticed I arrived at the Washington State Convention Center Friday morning to meet my friend and pick up my badge. My hair was still wet from a hasty shower and my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. Slightly panicked that it was so loud she couldn’t hear me on the phone, and I in turn couldn’t hear her, we nonetheless finally managed to meet up. She had been waiting in line since an ungodly for the doors to open and be one of the first people in. To complicate matters, no banks were open yet, and I of course didn’t have correct change. She had left her purse back in the queue, so she told me to just follow her back there and we’d sort it all out. This was easier said than done. Convention Center staff would not allow her to go back in, citing new rules this year and instructing her to go to the back of the line. I felt horrible. The entire incident played out like some twisted comedy sketch. Every staff member instructed her to speak with a different staff member three feet away. After speaking to a dozen different people in about two minutes, they started telling her to talk to the original person who had set this whole chain of events in motion. The entire thing had a very “Who’s on first?” vibe to it. Finally a nice gentleman agreed to escort us to her place in line, but warned that if her bag wasn’t there he’d escort us right back out. Thankfully everything worked out in the end.

PAX 2013 statue

With five minutes until the doors opened (and because I’m a horrible person) I just stayed in this prime spot in line. Nervous staff members reminded everyone not to run when we were allowed inside. Camera crews jockeyed for position to capture the mayhem. The “do not cross” tape was lifted and the mad scramble began. The writhing mass of humanity surged forward like a tsunami. I heard screams from behind me and looked back just in time to see multiple people fall and be trampled. “Those poor bastards,” I thought. Nothing could be done to help them at that point. I comforted myself with the thought that they’d surely respawn in a couple of minutes.

So why the insane push and uncivilized behavior? Sure, some people were eager to get their hands on the games. Many others were more interested in making sure they got their “con swag.” Con swag loosely translates to free, first-come-first-served trinkets which are given away by the different companies. There’s usually nothing very special about these trinkets besides the fact they are “PAX Prime exclusives” and you can only get them here. Within hours these items would begin appearing on Ebay. Nearly all of the items are little more than an attempt by developers and publishers to make sure attendees remember their products once they get away from the shock-and-awe of the show floor. Most attendees will not think twice about cutting ANY motherfucker that stands between them and the opportunity to get free stuff. Consider yourself warned and exercise the proper level of caution.

The first half an hour of PAX is the most pleasant time of the entire day. You can actually get your hands on quite a few games without waiting in ridiculous lines. If you want to play any games, the majority of your time at PAX is going to be spent waiting in lines to do so. Expect to wait anywhere from 15 minutes up to 2 hours in exchange for 5 minutes of actual gaming. I’m pretty sure some of the lines even have lines. It can be confusing. I highly recommend asking someone who is working the event which line goes to what, or you could easily end up waiting in the wrong line. At least most of the lines were set up in a manner which doesn’t impede foot traffic (attendees pushing and shoving or staring blankly at their phones took care of that).

I tried to get hands-on time with as many PS4 and  Xbox One games as I could. Obviously, neither system has been released yet, so PAX offered me my very first opportunity to check out the next generation of console gaming. I liked what I saw quite a bit. While higher frame rates and advanced particle physics lays the foundation for what we can expect from next gen consoles, the new games don’t completely blow current games out of the water quite yet. There’s a definite polish to the new graphics, but they aren’t as dramatically superior as one might expect. On the PS4 I played demos of: Killzone Shadow Fall, DriveClub, Blacklight: Retribution, and (I can’t believe I have to type this) Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Xbox One games I played included: Battlefield 4, Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct, and Forza Motorsport 5.

Some of the other biggest, most highly-anticipated games were also in attendance, but not for hands-on demos. The very first game I rushed to see upon entering the expo was Sucker Punch’s inFamous: Second Son. As a huge fan of this series, I’m elated that the next installment is set in a police state controlled virtual Seattle. About 14 other people and I were ushered into an enclosed booth with a large screen and metal benches. What we saw was about one minute of new footage, followed by a live play-through of the demo which looked identical to footage that came out months ago at E3. It was so close it could have been the exact same footage with someone sitting in the room with a controller pretending to play, and I would have been none the wiser. I couldn’t even inspect the tech at the front-left corner of the room to determine if this demo was actually running on a PS4 or was still running on a PC build equivalent. Nonetheless, I still remain excited to play the game. Con swag was pressed into our hands as the demo came to a close, the door opened, and we returned to the show floor. Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had similar setups (but with the opportunity to dress up like a pirate for a photo op in the case of the latter).

Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag PAX booth

The PAX Prime show floor is truly awe-inspiring. Gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the world, and judging from how elaborate the presentations were, business is booming. Giant screens, massive statues, and concert quality lighting rigs lend the entire scene a surreal Vegas-like atmosphere. Explosions boom out of powerful audio setups from every direction. Even at 10:30 in the morning, the overpowering scent of gin and vodka hangs heavily on a surprising number of attendees. You get the impression that many people won’t get much sleep throughout the entire expo. Ironically, the PlayStation and Xbox areas were set up directly across from each other. I imagined all the fanboy internet flame wars coming to a bloody head right here in one giant Battle Royale. I tried to snap a couple of pictures in the Xbox section and was quickly approached by one of their reps and asked politely not to. I raised an eyebrow, looked over at multiple people with their phones out recording videos of the demos, and responded with, “Sure. No problem.” Bethesda’s set up stretched the entire length of the eastern wall of the expo. Elder Scrolls Online ran on dozens of screens. It looked amazing. Bored looking “booth babes” handed out swag and looked like they’d rather be anywhere else.

PAX 2013 statue

A couple of hours into the convention I had started thinking about all the germ-laden hands touching all those controllers, mice, and keyboards. The thought of all those sweaty heads putting on those headsets made me shudder. Surely it was unavoidable that I was going to contract some nasty form of SARS or ebola. I promptly went out to buy some Purell in a feeble effort to avoid “con crud.” By the first night my throat was already scratchy. By Sunday my voice was little more than a pathetic croak.

It would take me an entire novel to detail all of the awesome things I saw at PAX Prime 2013. This post was just meant to offer a general overview, and hopefully make you smile in a couple of parts. There were droves of journalists in attendance again this year. (And not just lowly people like me sitting at a computer and writing. “Real” journalists, live up on stages, wearing tons of makeup and mugging it up for the cameras). I’m not sure how much actual news is going to come out of this year’s PAX, but it was a fun and exhausting event nonetheless. My friend, Dan Morrill, has posted a bunch of great event and cosplay photos over on his Studio5Graphics site. Be sure to check them out. Got any funny PAX stories or random commentary? Feel free to share them below. As always, thank you for reading and your continued support. I’m off to drink some lemon tea and rest.

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Filed under Nerdy Stuff, Seattle, Video games