George Will Versus the Modern Conservative Frankenstein’s Monster

George Will, who never met a toupee he didn’t like, is one of a few old white men that I would really enjoy not having to listen to or read. Why can’t he be like his compatriot Thomas Sowell, and just go away already? I mean, I wouldn’t mind him showing up, in his ridiculous toupee and pomposity, in a Ken Burns documentary, hashing out warmed-over historical facts or baseball nonsense.

As a pundit George Will hasn’t been relevant in decades, yet for some reason, since he’s been a beltway insider for those same decades, he’s foisted up on some “republican intellectual” pedestal along with resident ghoul Charles Krauthammer and evangelical clown Cal Thomas.

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All of these beltway intellectuals weren’t the biggest Trump supporters, and don’t look to change their minds any time soon. But there is a reason for this disconnect, and not only because they’re out of touch with society at large. George Will surmises this reason is because “real” conservatism was “[…]soiled by scowling primitives whose irritable gestures lack mental ingredients.” He also calls them “vulgarians”, my stars!

Curiously, he then adds that conservatism was “susceptible” to hijacking. Which is odd considering the previous sentence in which conservatism was “soiled” by said primitive vulgarians? This may just be a semantic quibble on my part, but it’s worth noting, nonetheless.

Though it is worth noting that he didn’t imply that Republicanism was soiled or hijacked, merely conservatism.

It is after the opening condemnation of modern conservatism that Mr. Will dusts of the corpse of William F. Buckley for a history lesson on the founding of “modern” conservatism.
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But what’s odd in this retelling is that you soon realize how little conservatism and the Republican political beast have changed in the near seven decades since Buckley’s grand gift of conservatism.

To say that modern conservatism has been “soiled” by primitives and vulgarians is absurd. They are merely the latest, most recent chaff that was scooped up to keep the Republican Party relevant in the modern era. Last time it was TEA Party-er’s, Evangelicals, Religious Right, White People…wait this list is redundant. This has been the same lot of wedge issue voters that has been tapped, and yet now it is seen as unpleasant?

George Will need not look very far within his own sphere to see that the vast majority of the conservative pundits were more concerned with “winning” no matter the cost than actually believing the ideology taking hold and sprouting grand political fortunes. I’ve yet to read that Trump shook the United States to its core with the core principles of conservatism and that is what led him to victory. No, it was the tired whore of populism that won him the day. The ennui laden pendulum of the electorate wearily mumbling “Well, we gave a Democrat a turn at the wheel, why not the Republican”. How many election campaigns have been run on the notion of changing how things are run in Washington D.C. or making America great again? This is not a new concept by far.

To Will, Buckley infused “[…] conservatism with brio, bringing elegance to its advocacy and altering the nation’s trajectory while having a grand time.” Which is where conservatism has largely stayed in the past seventy years? Fox News is essentially just that quote writ large.
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Along with that brio came the eventually dimming of the bulb as “Buckley’s conservatism” tried to impart the greatness of the robber baron ideology to the unwashed, under-educated masses. How can George Will then be surprised that in the constant grasp of populism and shoveling of a smaller and smaller pile of political chaff wouldn’t lead to the rise of Trump and the primitive vulgarians?

This is more amusing when you realize that Will played a part in the hastening of this rise with his support for Ronald Reagan, who approaches sainthood status amongst conservatives on a near constant basis. Who better represents the conservative populism more than the Reagan administration?

To say nothing of the tenants of “Buckley’s conservatism” that has remained unchanged since their inception. Will wants to act as though the ideology has moved on from some of the more…problematic…elements, but that would be false. Modern conservatism is still just a racist, nationalistic, sectarian and puritanical as it was when it was infused with Buckley’s hot tightrope walk between elitism and populism. Which is where I supposed George Will thinks himself to be as well? To cool to be called a racist? He’s pondering on the greater thoughts of the day?

Are these faux conservatives that have soiled and hijacked conservatism any less because they tore of the mask of populism and elitism and just let the core tenants hang out in the open? Why mask your hatred with stuffy words and philosophizing on the current state of things? How many ways can you say that “the other” is taking and taking from them and then be upset when they connect the dots then do something about it come election time. For good or ill, it doesn’t matter to the vast Republican Party, they just want to win, and ideology be damned.

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Funnily, Will has plenty of blame to throw around, even going so far as to credit a Buckley autobiographer Whittaker Chambers, for using the book to infuse conservatism “[…]with a sour, whiney, complaining, crybaby populism. It is the screechy and dominant tone of the loutish faux conservatism.

Doesn’t George Will’s entire column read like that though? Pissing and moaning like a giant baby about Buckley’s conservatism’s loss of innocence to a puerile orange political monster that he helped create? That if only modern conservatives were high-minded we wouldn’t be in this situation.

This article reads more like a conclusion came to in search of reasons as to the “Why?” when it is so readily apparent how modern conservatism go to this point. At the very least it is an example of the failure of the ideology’s supposed intellectuals, like George Will, to disseminate the virtues of Buckley conservatism. But instead, the ideology is lost to the notion of winning at all costs, so don’t expect a return to that “infectious cheerfulness and unapologetic embrace of high culture” that Will kept alluding to.

George Will Versus the Modern Conservative Frankenstein’s Monster

Get Your “Politics” Out of My Games

On a recent Sunday evening, I’m reading my latest edition of Game Informer, in my glorious porcelain library, and I come across the “opinion” section of the magazine. What’s great about this section is the apparent “hot take” on display that’s been sitting on the snail mail timetable windowsill that is a physical magazine these days.

What’s more, these “opinions” are largely from the same Jim Sterling-esque grab bag of topics that have rolled around in the video games culture since…probably the early 90’s? And oddly enough, there’s still this refrain that “video games (and gamers) need to “grow up?” Why? We still haven’t settled the dispute if girls can actually be gamers?!

Elise Favis, as punishment for being recently hired I guess, pens the June issues “opinion” article “Get Your Politics Into My Games”. Oddly, the title of the article was changed to “Video Games Should Embrace Politics” when it was published online, the authoritarian title does the following text no favors.

If you’ve been a gamer for any length of time, you know what this article is about without even reading it. You know that there’s at least one BioShock reference, and a heavy leaning on social justices favorite game of 2016: Mafia III, as some sort of “politics” being in games, and how that’s good. Really really good!

It’s why I’ve been backing away from the “games are art” nonsense over the last few years. I don’t even believe in the notion that “Art is politics” as quoted by Firewatch writer Sean Vanaman.

To be fair, according to the definition of art, anything that is expressed IS, in fact, art. Which is why it’s being bludgeoned to death by social justice ideological blowhards in video games culture? It goes hand-in-hand with this continuing notion that “gamers must grow up”, but why?

Far be it for me to actually research this, but has any other medium had to deal with a small clique of assholes constantly demanding that it do something akin to growth or…else? Were there people in the early 20th century demanding these talkies “grow up” and start having something to say? Alternatively, some powdered wig sect of French assholes telling composers to put more politics in to their music so that it could maintain some form legitimacy as an art form?

Why do video games seem to be so besieged by such ridiculousness?

It may be more telling that the “gamers need to grow up” fascination is coming from older “gamers” who may be feeling the sting of being in to a hobby largely aimed at and sold to children.

This idea came to me in the wake of Ian Bogost’s think piece about games not needing stories and the cries and fierce faintings from vapors that besieged the self-proclaimed video games press “intelligentsia”…like our good friends over at Waypoint.

You’d think a topic like “storytelling in games” would be right up the alley of the “intellectual” and “cerebral” denizens of a site like Waypoint. This is, after all, supposed to be their sole function in a crowded field of similarly minded shaved apes that react to flashing colors and loud noises known as the modern games press. These apes can wear clothes and bi-focals, they’ve read books recently.

Maybe because he’s writing a young-adult novel, Austin Walker took maximum umbrage with notion that the best storytelling video games have on offer is nigh YA at best. Even going so far as to call Mr. Bogost a “gadfly” for his click bait article trying to pass as philosophically tinged think piece on the strengths and weaknesses inherent to video games as a storytelling medium. What’s next, breaking out the powdered gloves and slapping each other about the face with them hurling insults at one another till one cries?

Mr. Bogost was on to something, another branch of this “gamers must grow up” tree, if it were. Video games are wholly known for their interactive nature, why then are they chasing Hollywood in terms of production? Why is there this graphical arms race for games that look so good, when repeatedly what really sells is gameplay?

He even mocks the notion that every time a “great story” and “video game” share a sentence it’s with the same tired fistful of examples. Chief among them is always BioShock, which wouldn’t you know Elise Favis namedrops in her “opinion” piece.

Look, BioShock is a great game…because of its gameplay…the story…it’s okay. What makes BioShock great is everything BUT its story. Which is somewhat how it should be when it comes to games? You want a great story, there are near endless ways of getting it elsewhere without the need to learn how to grapple with the various mechanics of a video game. What BioShock did so awesomely was weave a core mechanic of the game, completing mission objectives, into its plot of mindlessly doing as told without ever questioning as to the “Why?” The Ayn Rand bullshit…it’s in there, but as a tent pole for world building, atmosphere and slightly jabbing at her notions, but gameplay is what’s the order of the day.

Ms. Favis goes on to trot out last years Mafia III and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided as games that tried to put politics in to their games. For some reason Mankind Divided is given the cudgel for not trying hard enough with it’s politics, when it could easily be argued that Mafia III does the same thing.

I’ll never understand the social justice obsession with Mafia III and its “politically charged” narrative from last year. You can see how much impact it actually had when you peruse the end of year lists from various games press outlets. Very few, if any, felt compelled to hold Mafia III high in the air as some sort of game changing piece of art. Sure, the story was mildly political, but that is largely dropped about a fourth of the way into the game as it becomes yet another also ran Grand Theft Auto clone.

Nevertheless, don’t let that stop assholes like Ms. Favis from painting some grand picture of what playing Mafia III is like, “As you roam though the world of Mafia III, you are constantly aware of the color of Lincoln Clay’s skin.” Well, yeah…he’s black. “Walking down the street, people stare at him warily,” Perhaps this is anecdotal, but I didn’t really get much of that in my play through of the game. I don’t have a giant television, so maybe some of that nuance was lost on me. “Upon entering segregated stores, shop owners order him to leave.” This too happened maybe once in my playthough, but for me it wasn’t a store, but a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. There’s really no need to go in to any stores, gameplay wise…aside from robbing it for tiny amounts of money, and even then the shop owner runs off, wasn’t present or in one case pulled a shotgun on me. Foolish! I shot him immediately…and the cops never showed up.

There are mechanics in Mafia III that lend to this idea of what it’s apparently like to be a black man in the late 1960’s south. When the cops get near you see a blue reticule pop up. They’re totally watching you. In the uppity white people part of town, there’s more dialogue about Lincoln being a black…but that’s it, and if you’ve played ANY open world game, the background vocals kind of blend in to ALL the noise, so you don’t really make out anything being said. You have to try really hard to find the stuff that Ms. Favis is getting on about. Because, again, it doesn’t really matter. It’s background elements, nothing more, nothing less.

None of this really matters because Ms. Favis has a tired thesis to propel. “The industry is quickly maturing along with the medium, and it’s time we did too.” To which I do the tired The Internets thing of saying “citation needed”!

If politics has taught us anything over the last few months…or ever, is that it’s a horrible signifier of what maturation is. If anything, it’s more a parallel to what people like Ms. Favis think gaming and gamers are, what with a Republican debate last year couching various people’s dick sizes. These were supposedly adult men, and yet even they were found to be base enough to vaguely note that they indeed had a larger dick than the other guy on the debate stage.

It’s frustrating that on top of this need for video games to “grow up” there are never any solutions, just vague examples and the constant propulsion of the desperate need to do so. For the sake of what exactly? That video games can be viewed as a legitimate art form?

If that’s the case, then I return to my constant refrain that the games press does not possess the capability of being critics of the medium. They lack the intelligence and nuance to be critical about an artistic expression, regardless of their protestations otherwise.

Ms. Favis argues that the idea of video games remaining superficial and shying away from political themes is ludicrous is itself ludicrous. She argues it’s because the two are always interconnected. Which beggars the question of just how far back she’s talking, because video games and politics have not always been interconnected? At least, how she’s phrasing it.

I don’t wholly disagree with what Ms. Favis is trying to get at; I’ve never been one to argue that discussing social issues is forbidden in any realm. However, it has to be done intelligently, and that has yet to occur in video games culture. Too often, you have social justice ideologues desperately trying to root out messages in video games with which to yank at and scream about from the highest of soapboxes. As if some profound element of a video games story will legitimize what they do for a living, or make it seem to the outside world they do something other than just play video games all day.

Sadly, there’s still a stigma to being a gamer, and trotting one of the few topics in the grab bag of tired topics to push against for the nth time isn’t expediting anything. Video games will mature in its own time, or maybe it won’t. Hell, it’s been around for many decades doing its video game thing, and nothing but the cold hard smell of money has driven it any real direction. Admonishing gamers to do something beyond their control isn’t going to lead to a maturation of the culture.

Get Your “Politics” Out of My Games

Clicks: What a Troll Wants, What a Troll Needs

In a recent episode of Rebel FM, co-host Arthur Gies discussed how he has anxiety every single time he posts a review. Knowing the consequences of his actions if he should be found wanting. This was all couched in the further ludicrous notion that his employer, Polygon, pays him to essentially live on social media and have to contend, daily, with the slings and arrows of trolls and haters. Because he also uses social media to keep in contact with friends and colleagues, he literally has not other choice.

To which I say: Good. The anxiety part. I don’t really care that Mr. Gies has an addiction to being triggered on social media over the stupid things he writers.

One of the great things to happen in the gaming community over the recent years is the audience not falling line and doing as told when it comes to the games press. I love that there is now push-back to stupid notions that wander in to a review or preview that have no real place there. That games punditry, for good for ill, is taking hold with more and more games press standing up and speaking for themselves, not hiding behind some authoritarian “we” nonsense.

With all of that newfound freedom, should also be a generous dose of fear of a mass audience rejecting opinions and notions laid bare before it. Mr. Gies has long been a profiteer of click bait reviews with slip sliding scores, hamfisted editorials, and a ridiculous Twitter feed full of hyperbolic nonsense that has to be seen to be believed.

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It’s in that spirit that we turn our attention to the recent “controversy” of everyone’s favorite “consumer advocate” Jim Sterling giving The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a 7!

It’s been a while since I’ve covered “consumer advocate” Jim Sterling, mostly because I don’t want to turn in to a Jim Sterling type: doggedly covering the same four topics repeatedly, ad nauseum with an occasional “controversy” being stirred up so he can get attention. You’d think with all of his lawsuit shenanigans he’d learn to take a break from all the attention whoring, but a girls got to eat I suppose.

You notice I didn’t say “clicks” because Jim Sterling loves to state that he is a pure “consumer advocate” and doesn’t make any money from ads on YouTube or his website! Which is true, and all well and good, but that’s not the real point here. He does LOVE the attention and it sure as shit didn’t hurt his Patreon numbers, garnering him a lot more donation money for his continued “advocacy”.

If the giving Breath of the Wild a 7 and inducing nerd rage sounds a bit stale and familiar you’re not wrong. Something similar happened when Jim Sterling reviewed No Man’s Sky last year and pretty much the same thing happened. Except, No Man’s Sky was indeed an average game deserving of it’s 5/10, in a review that read like a game that was a 5/10.

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Breath of the Wild, well, not so much. Unlike a fair amount of Nintendo fanboys that raged so hard at Jim Sterling, I in fact read the review to see what all the fuss was about. That proved to be a bit of a problem as his website had been toppled by a pure Zelda nerd hate fueled rampage. Nevertheless, with time, I was able to read it and really look to see if the text matched the score, as you’re wont to do in these situations.

Because far be it to notice that the review was coming in close to two weeks after the game was released. Before the dark times wrought by the 7/10, Breath of the Wild’s Metacritic score was a glorious 98 and all was well with the world with near universal acclaim. This was predominantly because he didn’t have a copy of the game to review, Nintendo having stopped working with him long ago due to his constant need to badger and provoke Nintendo fanboys. More probably, because he’s Jim Sterling…why would anyone work with him?

But whom are we kidding here; this is what Jim Sterling really does for a living: he trolls gamers and video game culture for clicks and views. The only differentiating factor between him and your run-of-the-mill YouTube whore is that he has a foot in a games press past. However, he has always behaved this way. Drumming up “controversy” and driving traffic to whatever website decided to avail his “consumer advocate” services in the past.

Now, I don’t expect readers to be familiar with the Sterlingverse, but on his podcast, the gag inducing titled “Podquisition”, it was readily apparent in the wake of Breath of the Wild’s release that he was leaning on whatever his co-host Laura K was saying about the game and immediately had a visceral reaction to the weapon degradation elements. This is on top of his open derision to anything open world related, with the Ubisoftification of open world games being a prime target. Already, things weren’t looking good for Breath of the Wild getting a stellar review from Jim Sterling.

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The thing is, the world would’ve have kept turning had Jim Sterling not even bothered to review the game. Nothing in his review would lead anyone to believe he played enough of it to fully form an opinion outside of the one he had long before ever getting his hands on it. In fact, the review reads more like a firm 8/10. The review takes a turn at the end as if he, or someone helping him edit the review, noticed that it didn’t read like a 7/10 or more sinisterly, that an 8/10 wouldn’t lower the Metacritic score, but a 7/10 would.

So insert a bunch of paragraphs knocking the game for nonsense that Jim Sterling personally doesn’t care for, but aren’t actually issues with the game proper and some facsimile of a 7/10 review score appears. Additionally, what glorious trolling it would be to lambaste this most perfect Zelda game ever created? The Nintendo fanboys would lose their fucking minds! And up went the review.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to even bother defending Nintendo fanboys and legitimize what they said and did in the wake of Jim Sterling’s review. Those people are monsters of the first order, something even I wouldn’t have believed until a few months ago.

In the lead up to the Nintendo Switch launch, I found myself watching videos on YouTube by some of the most ardent Nintendo fans lavishing love and adulation for the company and everything they did. I had heard legend of these fanboys, and how voracious they could be. In fact, to this day they are still giving Jeff Gerstmann shit for his review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, awarding it with an “8.8”. Yeah, that’s not a bad score at all. Yet Nintendo fanboys are still up his ass about it over a decade later!

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Jim Sterling is no stranger to this Nintendo fanboy rage either, yet he seems to keep drawing their ire. To the point of wondering why someone would keep fucking a beehive then complain about being stung?  He’s gleefully done this for clicks and attention for years, yet he expects they will just grouse on social media and forums and leave him be?

There is no sympathy to be found for Jim Sterling because he knew what he was doing. He knew that giving Breath of the Wild a 7/10 was going to enrage Nintendo fanboys and that they were going to come for him. Now, is this mob attack mentality gross? Of course, it is, but as will all things The Interents, there is a teachable moment to the people who use to make a living. You don’t stick your dick in a beehive.

As the video games culture grows and moves ever more mainstream, the hope is that these self-appointed pundits will actually have something of value to offer new gamers. The sad old whoring days of purposely giving a stellar game a low score for attention should be derided for the pathetic gesture it is. Regardless of fanboy malfeasance, gamers must move past those of the games press that hold on to a antiquated view of gaming culture and lack due respect for their audience and their intelligence. No matter how lacking it may appear at times.

Clicks: What a Troll Wants, What a Troll Needs

Movie Review: Logan

Just how low is the bar for comic book movies when something like Logan comes along and is lauded as some great and wonderful thing, when it’s just as turgid and banal as most of the X-Men movies its pretending not to be?

Logan eschews the Wolverine moniker that’s been stapled to these Hugh Jackman led films about the titular hero and his mutant rage induced deeds across time. I guess this is a nod in the change of “tone”, the hard “R” rating that allows to show all that glorious Wolverine carnage and allow actors to say “Fuck!” or “Shit!”. Yep, pretty much it. Oh, and a lady shows her boobs in a scene. Hooray…and totally worth it.

20th Century Fox looked to give Logan a wide a berth possible by just calling the film Logan. If it fails, then it won’t do much to the stellar X-Men film franchise. But if it does succeed, we can now go on to this heretofore unknown realm of a “R-rated” superhero films? If they are as boring, bland and cliché ridden as this film, then I’ll pass.

Logan has peak and valley pacing that makes itself quickly apparent, on top of it’s trope-addled script and hamfisted nostalgia boner churning you’d come to expect from a comic book movie.

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The cliché train barely pulls out of the station as we’re introduced to Wolverine, now just Logan I guess, visibly older and riddled with movie cancer (coughing up blood every two minutes). Apparently his sweet adamantium covered bones are poisoning him and since he’s older now, can’t quite heal fast enough. But that’s cool, he wants to die anyways.

In the mean time though, he’ll be a chauffer.

It is during one of these driving gigs he is accosted by a woman who wants to enlist Logan’s help. What’s that help you ask? Well, she wants Logan to take a feral little girl named “Laura” (Dafne Keen) to some place called Eden. Meanwhile, a bad guy with a robot arm (Boyd Holbrook) wants Laura returned to the evil scientists or the bigger bad more like. Basically the same old X-Men story we’ve seen again and again, and then Logan adds in clichés and tropes from other movies, cobbling together something different, but not altogether good.

Not that liberally borrowing tone and pacing from other films is necessarily a bad thing. But it becomes tedious when viewing Logan, the quiet moments are there for some sort of resonance that is never earned. Putting a like-minded little girl in a film doesn’t suddenly make Wolverine more relatable. Making them father/daughter less so. Adding some sort of old man wisdom fueled all knowing “familial love is the best” subtext with having Professor X (Patrick Stewart) be some sort of father figure to Logan and also this sheppard of “Logan is actually a good guy” doesn’t cement that notion anymore.

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More damningly is that Logan resides in this meta-universe where X-Men comics are a thing, and that the movie is basically ripping off the classic western Shane. Some would say “quoting” or “referencing”, but I get the idea that the filmmakers thought the comic book nerds and young people would have no real reference so “quote” away! Logan leans heavily on this “last of his type””part of a dying breed” trope so hard, that the notion that an old man and a little girl can “fix him what right” so absurd in the first place.

It’s where I start chaffing with the whole kid and old man element of the film. Perhaps I’ve just grown too cynical and I am beyond tired of comic book movies no matter what they try to stand apart from others in the “genre”. I preferred the direction the last Wolverine film, The Wolverine, over this one.

Director James Mangold mistakes slow and turgid with expansive and engaging. Thinking that if he just holds the camera in tight on an emotional scene with swelling orchestral music that that somehow deepens the film on something it never earned to begin with.

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The “R”-rating allowed visceral elements of Logan get washed away by their utter frequency and sameness. This is doubly so if you’ve been following the X-Men film franchise, wherein Wolverine is wedged in to every one of them to…well…Wolverine his way through a scene. Seeing blood spatter and limbs fly is effective once, but over and over and over…on top of adding a young clone Wolverine and “Laura” a little girl Wolverine type to the mix, just makes it tedious. Then add gun fights and children with super powers being chased by men in black fatigues and body armor, you got yourself a classic, boring ass X-Men movie!

This has been a problem 20th Century Fox has had with it’s comic book movies, they’ve been safe. Even the much lauded Deadpool was mired in telling an origin story and added a lover interest to make the character…more relatable? This “R” rating has done nothing to elevate either Logan or Deadpool. It’s allowed a freedom of sorts, but the most part its been squandered adding more blood and potty mouthed characters.

What’s even more alarming is that the Metacirtic user score for Logan is 9.0.…what the shit? Well, I guess the masses have spoken.

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Logan doesn’t transcend the comic book movie in to real movie excellence, regardless of its efforts to the contrary. The film is well acted, and shot beautifully, but that’s about the extent of it. The films up and down pace grows tiring after the second fight scene in to third quiet driving scene shows up. The grounded film making only works if the character on study is worth investing in. Wolverine as a character in the comic has plenty of that to draw readers in, the film version of him does not. There appears to be a purposeful drawing away from X-Men references to ground the film in realism, so there’s one Jean Grey reference, but no real reference to the last film and the things Logan went through in that one…let alone X:Men Origins and the other twelve times Wolverine showed up some where.

Just giving Wolverine “movie cancer”, lifting plots of classic westerns and tasking him to takecare of an old man and a kid just isn’t enough. Having him learn a life lesson just as he’s about to die isn’t either. That being said, it isn’t the worst of the X-Men film franchise and I wait with breathless anticipation for a new actor to be cast as Wolverine and the eventual relinquishment of rights back to Marvel so they can just reboot the whole damn thing.

Movie Review: Logan

It’s Real Time For Bill Maher To Move On

For years, I have been sitting on an article about the continuing erosion of Bill Maher’s relevance in politics and pop culture in general. On the right-wing liberal boogeyman Mt. Rushmore his face resides amongst Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Jimmy Carter…wait this analogy is getting out of hand…still, Maher is that “Go-To” Liberal that conservatives love to hate. Boo-hiss and all that!

It wasn’t until The AV Club published the article “Bill Maher isn’t just politically incorrect — he’s politically irrelevant”  that elucidated my newfound notion and this post too outlines much of what I think as well. Bill Maher is white knuckling his relevancy in the face of old age and being sent packing.

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At 61 years old, Maher will soon be hearing more and more people suggest he hit the dusty trail along with his other late night compatriots David Letterman and Jay Leno, both of whom fucked off from the late night grind at around six decades on this earth. Unlike Leno and Letterman, however, Maher hasn’t had nearly the platform or impact that I assume he thinks he deserves and increasingly is trying to raise his profile to justify HBO keeping him on the air for a few more years.

There is plenty of younger, more relevant comedians champing at the bit to host a show not too dissimilar to Real Time, and would have no issues filling seats for the panel. It’s not as if any of Maher’s guests are “big gets’ and it took him Obama’s entire presidency to get him to do a sit down interview. He gave the man a million dollars in his 2008 re-election bid and Obama couldn’t even bother to cast a shadow on the Real Time set? Maher had to truck to D.C. and do some ball washing, limp interview that clearly wasn’t worth the million dollars.

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Funnily enough the current season of Real Time has been given a new overall, new set and new intro song with the salvo of “We’re still here.” said smugly by a smirking Bill Maher mugging the camera/audience for a laugh break. Which is another current issue with Real Time: the forced laughter?

You could just set a laugh track from Maher’s opening monologue, and the viewer at home wouldn’t know a difference. Better yet, it would mask the bevy of bombs that seem to inhabit the stale opening moments of the show where Maher insists on the antiquated “hot takes of the week” monologue. Last weeks episode included a bomb so heavy that Bill Maher insisted “Laugh.” after the punch line died of loneliness. His next guest, Republican Darrel Issa, even made a joke about it (at 4m14s) in his segment.

AND he got to fire off another topical Caitlyn Jenner punchline! Hooray! At least it wasn’t a Sarah Palin joke…so relevant!

This antiquated “Late Night” comedic vibe is what makes the show such a nonstarter anymore. A nearly an hour the show is a ten pound bag of shit trying to squeeze in to a five pound bag. If there ever are a panel of quests that start having a compelling conversation on the weeks topic, it is most assuredly ground down so that Maher can insert a dick joke or move on to a bit that is essentially “Republicans are dumb!” or “Religion is dumb!”

The AV Club talks a bit about Maher giving right-wing firebrands a platform with which to spew their frothy shit with little pushback, and that is indeed the case for the most part. He recently had to admonish his audience to “be nice” when introducing Ann Coulter recently, so she could crow about calling the Trump presidency, on top of a bunch of other racist bullshit that Maher just didn’t even bother pushing back on. This rhetorical trick of letting “sunshine be the best disinfectant” only works if your audience is smart enough to understand how ridiculous people like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos are!

To conservatives, they see those two on a platform such as Real Time and that legitimizes the crazy bullshit that froth out of them. If they weren’t full of baloney, why would they be allowed such a “great” platform as Bill Maher offers?

This idea of “sunlight is the best disinfectant” only works if any sun actually shows up. In these kid glove interviews, Maher essentially takes a back seat and states that the person is indeed crazy, but so much fun o have on and offers no real push-back to anything. That the bulk of right-wing ideologues never grace the panel stage is proof enough to this. Why get contested on your silly bullshit when you can have ten minutes (or so) of uninterrupted frothing bullshit lies masked as truth and facts while Maher preens and mugs to the audience?

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The panel segment itself isn’t so bad when the right alchemy of guests is there, but for the most part, it never is. Moreover, why should there be compelling guests and discussion when they’re hurried through so many topics that wind up with one or two panelists trying their damnedest to spew political rhetoric and not actually discuss the issues. There was a sliver of a time where Maher would do post-show fact checks of the more erroneous guests, then quickly realized that the bulk of his republican guests were just making shit up. You cannot bring them back on if you call them out, so it was quietly dropped.

This to me is endemic of the more galling nature of Real Time not really offering of substance to a viewer; sure, if you’re a young college liberal atheist, then there is plenty on offer for you. Nevertheless, as one surely ages and gains real ideological knowledge, Bill Maher loses a lot of his liberal folksy charm. He offers no real solutions outside the purview of what Maher is really in to: weed, no religion…Caitlyn Jenner?

Maher’s problem is more a general problem that has ensnared the left wing in the nigh decade of cool president Obama. Liberals just got lazy, and since they couldn’t rail against the president for fear of looking uncool…or racist…they let shit slide and stop worrying about facts, graphs and figures and started leaning on emotional arguments masked as “common sense solutions” to problems that demanded much more nuance and thought than that.

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I don’t agree that Maher is being reckless with his platform, as the AV Club and others suggest, he’s just trying to stay relevant in a time that has already left him behind. Perhaps it’s time he rolls one last fatty in the Real Time studio and say his goodbyes while he’s still smugly self appointedly on top.

It’s Real Time For Bill Maher To Move On

Mediocracy: How the Democratization of The Internets is Ruining Entertainment

If I ever get a hold of a time machine, the first thing I’m going to do…or more like near the top of my list of “’Things To Do’(if I get a hold of a time machine)” is go back to 2007. I will find and slap that me who thought that the democratization of The Internets was going to be a great thing. Then tell 2007 Me to start a YouTube channel. It doesn’t have to be of any quality, just know that in a decade I will be able to make a living off it.

I would return to present day and make thrones of all the YouTube cash!

I didn’t start treating YouTube like an entertainment vehicle until very recently. I started in earnest back in 2014, in the wake of #gamergate, when this seemed to be one of the few outlets where you could find any real information on the topic. Sure, you could read what had floated up to the mainstream: a bunch of sad, lonely, neck bearded goony men were harassing women, or you could browse a few YouTube videos that broke down the real reasons, and perhaps a little guiding light as to what to do next.

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As it is well known, #gamergate became a punch line and shorthand in the games press, and “we” all moved on.

The YouTubers I started following changed course or discovered, as I had, that there was a lot more going on outside of the games realm when it came to social justice. To say nothing of how the games press was failing to do its job, it then proffered the notion that the mainstream press itself wasn’t doing anything either! Instead of investigating something like a #gamergate, the mainstream press looked to the games press and just copy/pasted their words and moved on.

With The Internets being a content machine that constantly needs to be fed, of course these YouTubers I was following weren’t going to cut it. Doubly, you can only listen to the same rhetoric of “Look at these silly SJWs” before you move on. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the YouTuber. No, unlike other media, internet based entertainers aren’t given the heave-ho when their numbers start lagging. Sure, there is less ad revenue, should they choose to partake, and that may lead them to find greener pastures. However, for a LOT of them, it’s a hobby or a side project. For a few, it’s a living that they procure from crowd funding, which is where the current problem is bubbling up.

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There was time, not so long ago, and maybe it is still true, that not every single person gets to follow their dreams. The world couldn’t handle so many ballerinas! But now that modern society has allowed adolescence to extend in to the late 20’s…we’re seeing a lot of people still out there trying to hash a dream out of being a YouTube star!

In my “research” for this article, I’ve just been scrapping the bottom or YouTube and iTunes trying to find hidden nuggets and gems of entertainment. Like a lot of you, I’ve become tired of the same grip of people sitting around “ranting” or “critiquing” the content of others. The “Hot Take” culture fits certain things well: sports, news, and entertainment. However, “Hot Takes” do not work so well for video games and fellow YouTubers. I’m sure some of the internet drama that crops up on YouTube rings that lizard brain bell need for “entertainment”, but it is not nearly as compelling as a finely crafted and edited reality show. That these internets beefs can stretch on for years is amazing to behold.

However, my problem doesn’t really lie in that. It’s the dreamers that need to get a job and stop clogging YouTube with their bullshit that have my ire.

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It’s times like the news of PewDiePie being “literally a Nazi” that the dark underside of YouTube rears up. That so many “content creators” suddenly felt compelled to lodge a PiewDiePie in to their video titles and deliver their staid “Hot Take” on it. Just how many of those are actually a unique take on the subject? Very few, sadly.

YouTube fosters a cult of personality complex in people that really shouldn’t be anywhere near it. People that actively proclaim to have social anxiety and other mental health issues somehow find comfort in participating in a digital striptease for the few voyeurs curious enough to click on a picture and a link. They will then try to leverage a fan base via crowd funding to further some goal that needn’t be bothered with, especially considering how little support they often wind up with.

The cult of personality eventual tickles out those who hide behind “characters”. Oftentimes, I enjoy just a static image and someone just talking over it about a topic I like. In fact, a lot YouTubers do something along those lines, then one day…they hit a threshold or come to some understanding and then *BAM* I click on a video and get to watch a fat neck beards chins flap around as they stare blankly in to a the camera and do their thing.

Some people just don’t need to be seen!

Better yet…why? Even when a homunculus shrinks themselves down in to a corner of the frame, it’s still ridiculous to watch them bloviate over a static image of their topic. In a video that runs over ten minutes! Boring!

Perhaps treating YouTube like an educational entertainment channel isn’t the best mind set, but more often than not, I’ve found myself pining for the days of yore when we had a few gatekeepers that we trusted and nothing more. Sure, you had that one guy that would be your go-to for whatever they specialized in. For example, I’m the “movie guy” at work and amongst friends. But now every single one of those guys has this compulsion to plaster their nasty asses in front of green screen and jiggle over whether a piece of pop culture is shit or not.

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They don’t even have to be subjectively “good” at their “jobs” either! At least in ye olden days there was some level of expertise and knowledge within a critical circle. Thanks to the democratization of The Internets, some fan boy carries just as much “intellectual” heft, and he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about outside whether a movie gave him a chubby or not. Every single bit of his output is a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of critical analysis.

In fact, a lot of depth and nuance is being lost to YouTubers and The Internets collective hyper-attention deficit. This goes further with the thumbs “up” and “down” system of I suppose letting the content producer know how a particular video is doing? YouTube doesn’t seem to care one way or the other, as they can sells ads on every single bit of content on its service, which in turn facilitates people who should have no business doing so making content for “entertainment”.

To be fair, this “entertainment” isn’t being foisted on to me. I am punishing myself by scraping this said barrel and trying to discover the secret sauce as to why someone would go through the hassle of trying to hack it at the business of being a marginal YouTube celebrity. Maybe that’s it, those vaunted fifteen minutes of fame, but on somewhat your “own terms” of not leaving your house.

Perhaps the day will come when equilibrium of sorts will take hold and the vaunted gatekeepers of yore will reappear much like the four horseman of the apocalypse and lay waste to these less than charlatans that disguise themselves as critics. I’m highly doubtful, but doesn’t something have to give a some point?

Mediocracy: How the Democratization of The Internets is Ruining Entertainment

The Worst of 2016

According to whom you talk to, 2016 was literally the worst! “This is the darkest timeline!” kind of stuff. However, there was a lot worse out there that may have gone unnoticed and for that I bring back the tradition of highlighting a few things I found to be subjectively the worst about 2016.

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Ghostbusters “Think Pieces”

Ghostbusters (2016)(heaven forefend anyone actually get a good and bad Ghostbusters films mixed up) was a mediocre movie, in a summer full of movies (see below) that wasn’t very good. However, before all that even happened, people started filling The Internets with “think pieces” about what Ghostbusters, with an all female cast, would mean for women…and science? How about the film being shouldered with the awesome responsibility of “proving Hollywood wrong” by anchoring the film with four leading ladies to show that that is nearly enough to fill seats with more female butts, thereby supplanting the dudebro iron grasp on butts in seats during summer movies?

I’m sorry that teenage boys tend to “muck up” the summer movie season. It’s either go see some banal movie with loud noises for hours at a time, or sit at home harassing women all day on The Internets.

It wouldn’t be so bad, had so many social justice websites not spent all their time leading up to the movies release being “exhausted” about the supposed nature of a film that they hadn’t even seen. Then take people (read: men) to task for hating on the horrible trailer, then the second horrible trailer that addressed certain aspects of the first trailer, flinging around accusations of racism and misogyny for no real reason other than it was apparently the perfect springboard to  finally cross the streams of nerd culture and social justice as critique. This would legitimize the entire enterprise I guess? Substantiating the need for the form?

What happens when the movie is mediocre? Silence. Snow falling on a winter’s night silence. Even social justice minded “movie critics” had to contort themselves in to liking the movie, because if you don’t like, then you’re a misogynist and racist and on and on and on. Better yet, where are all the “think pieces” on the Ghostbusters “think pieces”? The art form of critique cannot get better if there is never any self-reflection.

Or better yet, maybe next time social justice warriors pick their battles better.

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Amy Schumer

2016 was a pretty good year to be Amy Schumer. Your stock is never higher, you’re in a lot  more commercials, you are everywhere. Then the inevitable backlash as fans turn on you. First, there’s accusations of joke theft (a cardinal sin in the joke world), then a shitty fourth season of Inside Amy Schumer comes and goes, one of the shows writers, Kurt Metzger goes on a Facebook “supposed rape apologist” tirade that she gets dragged in to amid an internets shit spiral, then a horrible parody of a Beyonce video sends The Internets in to another shit spiral. What a great year to be Amy Schumer!

I wanted to preface this entry with a whole “I’ve been a big fan of Amy Schumer for long time, but…” and it’s true, I have been a fan of her work for a long time. When Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo came out last year, I felt something shift. The jokes weren’t that good; it was lower grade material than what I had seen from her in recent times. It quickly became apparent that after three seasons of a TV show and a movie, that maybe the Amy Schumer joke barrel was nearing the bottom.

But it’s not even that, Amy Schumer’s success has unleashed this monster of a person that’s not even remotely relatable anymore. Better yet, she has come to resemble what the olds think of the “millennial generation”, along with her compatriots Kim Kardashian and Lena Dunham. Why do we give a shit when any of them fart on a napkin and post it to social media? Why is it news that Amy Schumer isn’t ashamed of her body? Who gives a shit? It’s been a part of her “act” for over a decade.

As an aside, Amy Schumer got on this list mostly because one episode of her show featured a “sociopath” named M.E. Thomas.

I read her book Confessions of a Sociopath and it is the most insipid, boring, grating, gross book I have ever read. M.E. is one of those people that has grown up and resided in a bubble their entire life. Being raised hyper-religiously in the Mormon sect, the book reads of some sheltered girl “pushing the boundaries” of…being a dick to everyone and little else. It’s reading a girl learn “How to Woman to Succeed” with the kind of results you expect from a selfish asshole: Nothing’s ever her fault and she’s always the winner.

The beginning of the book even has a doctor’s note saying that M.E. is a clinical sociopath, but if you read the note carefully, you see that M.E. has apparently been shopping around for this diagnosis and knows how to finagle diagnostic tests to get the results she wants. So much for being a sociopath, huh?

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Summer Movies 2016

Goddamn what a shitty summer for movies! It was so bad that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was my favorite movie of the summer. That movie wasn’t very good, mind you. To its favor, it lessened the Megan Fox presence, added Bebop and Rocksteady…and Casey Jones, it has to commended for that…even if the plot was nonsensical and clearly globe trotted for tax write-offs.

Even movies I thought would be great like Kubo and the Two Strings were just “Meh. Maybe the source material didn‘t speak to me, the film is beautiful to look at and what Laika manages to do with CGI and Stop-Motion Animation is astounding. Nevertheless, the film is overlong, boring and the voice acting is miscast. Now You See Me 2 possessed none of the charm of the first film and Lizzy Caplan continues to be an actor that cannot seem to adapt to a scene. I can always tell she’s acting, I don’t see any characterization, I just see Lizzy Caplan being snarky and sardonic in everything she does. She’s like an uncharismatic female Seth Rogen.

I mean most of the filler of “Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016” is the vast bulk of these summer 2016’s movies! This goes even further when you look at just how lazy some of the movies were, with their banal-ass bad guy(s) sitting around some giant world destroying hole in the middle of a major city. This is mostly a holdover from a lot summer movies past! Nothing from this summer stuck out…in a good way…and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend that summer starts at the beginning of May and laud Captain America: Civil War for not being a hot garbage fire!

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Waypoint/Vice

When any new site dedicated to video games pops up, I tend to get a little excited. For every one of those that pop up in a calendar year, there’s the inevitable two or three other sites closing down. Which leads to a free agency of sorts of the same faces you know and love/hate from other sites doing work hither and yon for the few that remain. Vice hiring Austin Walker for a new video game themed venture seemed like a good idea. And there was a time everyone thought that Polygon was a great idea too.

Austin Walker has done some great work, the things he writes about pop culture and gaming are insightful in a way without being too stuffy and “try hard”. He critiques on the video game industry, and by extension, the games press, leads one to believe that if given the opportunity his new website could be the shift towards better.

You begin to wonder why social justice types complain about diversity of thought and person and the like in the video games industry, when given the opportunity to be “game changing” they stick with their version of “status quo”. This is what Waypoint represents in the fullest.

Filled to the brim with people of dubious ethical integrity, such as Patrick Klepek and Danielle Riendeau, Waypoint states that it’s the future of games writing, but has the hot stale breath of an aging whore, who’s seen a few things, tried a few things, and BOY does her breath stink of sameness! I get the notion of hiring two “veterans” of the games press: access, after all, is golden. But those two specifically have proven to be less than worthy of serious journalistic and ethical merit for some time now.

In the sites infancy when it was just another “blog style site” about video games, I emailed Vice/Waypoint and asked if they were going to have someone like me on the site to be the consumer advocate type. Gaming is expensive, I stated, lots of us daisy chain trade-ins and use sales to stay current in gaming. I feel we’re being left behind. To his credit, and several months later, Austin Walker got back to me.

He agreed that there should be sites for that “everyday consumer” but thankfully, “dozens” of those sites exist. Did he give examples? Hell, no! However, he did go on to mention that Waypoint firmly established their direction and voice. But this was well after I sent my email. I visited nigh daily and was aghast at how little the site spoke to actual gamers. Who was this site for? He also continued that it was much more important for the site to focus on what they do and do it well.

This point is odd because, again, what is Waypoint doing and doing well? Even in it’s infancy it was little more than a concern troll Kotakuesque blog about racist aspects of Mafia III, deep diving on God Hand making the writer feel icky because it’s Japanese as fuck, and other articles that you surely couldn’t find anywhere else, like say a Polygon or Kotaku…or The Mary Sue?

Even now, with it’s voice and direction firmly established, what is Waypoint doing that supposes this is a future trend in games coverage? Do we have to endure another E3 where Austin Walker looks sad and frustrated at a trailer that “triggers” him? Patrick Klepek’s social anthropology experiment of watching gamers “oggle” the breasts of a video game character and then be disgusted to be a white male?

The site design is awful, and though there is daily content, there’s nothing of real value here. Unless you like scrolling down an article about something as “insightful” and “intelligent” as yet another BioShock think piece, and getting slapped in the face with a Taco Bell ad!

It’s an odd marriage, a site dedicated to critically thinking about video games and the Vice brand. Though they share that “academic try-hard douche bag” DNA, there’s an air of venture capitalist money demanding Vice add more verticals to their brand, and it just so happened to be video games’ turn. Waypoint is the video games press at its most self-indulgent and hedonistic, masking itself as insightful and cerebral. I don’t foresee it being around for too long when there are dozens of other sites out there that do this kind of stuff better.

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The Witness

Well, I got one game on here. The Witness is an overpriced iOS game with a $35 Jonathan Blow tax slapped on it. I tend to look at the $40 I wasted on this game as an investment in to future Jonathan Blow games, and that maybe the next one will speak to me more.

I wanted to like The Witness, I put a good few hours in, solved a bunch of puzzles, but learned nothing. I even looked up a little map to get some “direction”. I was punished for brute forcing puzzles and not learning the “correct way” of things. And while I was dazzled by some of the deeper elements I encountered, I was left deflated by what was on offer and my brain hurt.

As it stands, The Witness is a boring, pretentious, overly designed asshole of a game that is not worth buying at any price.

The Worst of 2016