Why Star Wars Sucks

In honor of the posting of the new Star Wars 7 trailer, I pointed out on Facebook that Star Wars, in fact, sucks.  I got yelled at, a lot, of course, so I felt a certain need to expand upon my argument.  Since Facebook is a poor medium for explaining anything that takes more than three sentences, I brought my argument here:

Why Star Wars Sucks…

For purposes of this argument, I’m going to ignore that Episodes 1,2, and 3 exist, simply because even Star Wars fanatics admit they are somewhat problematic, and so their inclusion seems dangerously close to strawman, or at the very least, like bringing a baseball bat to beat up an eighth grader.  I’d rather not pile on.

Star Wars, A New Hope is actually a decent fantasy flick.  That it is fantasy and not science fiction has been well argued, so I won’t go into that.  It has a strong simple plot (farm boy is accidentally pulled into an intergalatic war, and becomes a hero), fun tidbits in the Force and lightsabers, and an Empire sufficiently evil to root against (blowing up a planet just to prove a point? That’s not the Diet Coke of Evil).

Recent information, in the form of Dark Horse comics and deleted scenes show that its likely that Star Wars only works because George Lucas didn’t have the money or the power to screw it up, even though he tried (and tried again, with the special edition shit).  But he didn’t, so he didn’t, and Star Wars ends up being a pretty enjoyable blockbuster.

That is, until The Empire Strikes Back shows up to screw everything up.  Most people think it’s the best of the bunch, and as a movie, they are probably right.  The dialogue is a bit less laborious, the characters and tone are more realistic and human, and the directing is much crisper and more professional.  But, in terms of what it does to the overall story, it sucks.  And worst of all, the “realistic downer” ending isn’t really an ending at all – just a trend setter for the “setting up the sequel” ending that has become a de rigueur for big budget movies.

In the first movie, lightsabers and the Force are these egalitarian weapons and, well, magic, that are available to anyone willing to believe and study hard (Luke has no special access to the Force beyond a suggested affinity and an available teacher).  Luke’s place as the unlikely hero from the first movie is revealed to be a sort of inherent destiny due to his parentage.  It becomes obvious that Obi Wan hung around near Luke because Luke was genetically pre-disposed to being the hero.  So much for the rest of us growing up to save the universe…

Moreover, the mythos around being a Jedi Knight takes a major beating.  In the first movie, being a Jedi is hinted being a lifelong calling.  But all it takes to become a Jedi is a matter of days, hanging out in the jungle with an angry green oven mitt.  Seriously, why does Yoda complain about Luke so much?  As far as Yoda is concerned, Luke is literally his last option for passing on his religion, and its work that can be done in a matter of days.  But he’s a cute oven mitt, and Luke is sort of a brat (I guess people forget he’s all of 17 at this point because the actor looks 40…), so people give him a pass.

And that brings us to Return of the Jedi.  Where should I start?  Maybe with the teddy bears that can bring down the Empire (weren’t these the guys that used to be able to blow up planets?)?  Maybe the crime lord who runs his operations out of the ass end of the universe? (Seriously, what mafia boss would set up operations in the middle of nowhere? It’s like the Yakuza operating out of Ogallala, Nebraska)* But the bit that gets me the most is the bit with Luke and Leia being siblings.  It is so obviously tacked on that it reveals that the rest of the trilogy was put together with bailing wire and prayer.  People mention the two kissing in Empire as problematic, but for me, the bigger problem is that Vader is about to sense Luke as his son after a few minutes together, but after days of holding Leia captive, he couldn’t figure out she was his daughter…  I guess the Force is buggy.

I recognize that this is the picking of nits.  And yes, they are fun, silly movies, and shouldn’t deserve this much scrutiny.  Which is part of my point.  Three well-remembered movies from the late seventies and early eighties would be fine.  But when they inspired billions in product tie-ins, three (soon to be six) extra movies, TV shows, comics, books, and the like, that’s when it started to bother me that these movies weren’t better.  Do these really deserve to be the biggest franchise ever produced?  Should they really be worth billions?  Should George Lucas really get a museum?

Until Firefly gets a tenth part of the time and money dedicated to Star Wars, I’m going to vote no…


On How I Met Your Mother

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.” -The Rolling Stones
Endings are hard, so it’s no surprise that some people who be disappointed by the ending of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). But the sheer vitriol and magnitude of the negative response has to be somewhat surprising. How I Met Your Mother was, at its best, as good as any sitcom ever made, and on the whole, much better than most of what was or is on TV.

But the negative response of the ending… it just showed that, in the end, the show was never about The Mother. But that was obvious from the beginning. The twist at the end of the pilot could be written off as a way to get attention, but as the show continued to focus on Ted and Robin throughout the first season, it showed that Bays and Thomas were going after something other than a meet-cute story.

No, HIMYM was never about The Mother. Nor was it really about Ted and Robin, or about any specific plot. It was about that time in your 20s when the future stops being a world of infinite possibilities, and the real choices about who we are have to be made. It was about how we don’t always get what we want, don’t always want what we get, don’t always know what we want, and have to decide between those things we think we want and what we really want.

In the end, the major perceived failings of the finale had nothing to do with the finale itself, and more to do with the last two seasons of the show. However, while HIMYM might have done a better job with the episode requirements they were given, the economic demands of broadcast television required that the show be stretched on too long. Most shows that make it to 100 episodes are forced to limp on to 200, whether it makes narrative sense or not. Once HIMYM pulled itself off the cancellation bubble with the two minute date, it was destined to flail for storylines in the last few seasons. That, however, was CBS’s fault, not HIMYM’s.

Given that, there was a sense that the show forced us to invest in the Barney and Robin relationship, which is true, but only to a point. While their final courtship lasted two years of real time, it was really only a few months of the characters lives. The objection that the show spent two years investing us in that relationship, only to see it torn apart in twenty minute neglects that, in show time, the investment was 2 months, and the teardown was three years.  Besides, what were we really investing in if we were investing in Barney?

Barney was always going to be the most problematic character in the show, and that was a fault of casting, not execution. NPH, as incredible as he was, was miscast for the role of Barney. You can see in the early episodes that the character was written for a Charlie Sheen type of actor, with the character being a sort of comic relief, an unrestrained id to act as a counterpoint to the evolving other characters. It was only through Neil Patrick Harris’s inherent charm that Barney became something more.

The problem, though, was that the show always coasted on NPH’s charm, rather than invest in Barney’s character. Barney’s evolution never felt real because NPH always wore the Barney character as a kind of suit, and so that we always saw the good guy NPH under the Barney character. So when the show spent time hinting that the Barney/Robin coupling would not work out (the locket, Barney’s continued duplicity, Ted’s story paralleling Robin’s story during Ted’s engagement to Stella), no one was inclined to believe it, partly because of narrative convention, and partly because NPH would allow some of himself to shine through and reassure everyone.

Barney was often considered the best part of the show, but for the story that HIMYM wanted to tell, he was the worst. If NPH had played Barney more like the way he played “himself” in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, no one would have rooted for a Barney/Robin happily ever after, nor been surprised when it failed.

In the end, Barney didn’t get what he wanted, or what he thought he wanted.  But no one did – that was the point…

Marshall starts the series wanting to be an environmental lawyer, married to Lily. Over the course of the series, he has to choose to delay the first desire to have the second, when he chooses to work for GNB to pay for, among other things, his wedding. Later on, he’s able to return to his dream, only to learn that it was something less than he expected. But he gets a new dream – being a judge – that he has to then let go for his wife. He gets all the things he wants, in the end, but there is no chance that the 27-year old Marshall at the beginning of the series would’ve chosen the route taken.

Lily wanted to be an artist. The first time she pursues art, however, forces her to give up the other thing she wants – Marshall. Eventually she has to accept the compromise of being an art buyer, and again it puts her marriage in jeopardy.

Robin wanted to be famous, and she wanted to travel the world. She also wanted Ted, but she couldn’t have both. Later, after giving up on being with Ted, she still wants the close community of her friends, but finds that doesn’t fit with a life that takes her all over the world. You can easily interpret that Barney was a compromise for Robin – a way to take part of her community with her around the world by settling for the one member of the group that would be willing to go with her, and wouldn’t be giving up their own dreams to do so.

And ver the years, Ted’s pursuit of what he thought he wanted – a romanticized, movie-ish type of love story that ended in two kids and domestic bliss – prevented him from getting what he really wanted or seeing what he really had. In the end, Ted got what he wanted, the architecture career, the great love, the kids, but only after he stopped chasing them. And then, like the rest, the version of what he wanted is never what he would have guessed. At no point did he think his happily ever after would only last ten years.

So in the end, for everyone, it was never about happily ever after as much as happy ever after. None got a perfect future, but they all got futures in keeping with their true desires. That’s very different than the normal sitcom ending. But it is a truthful one.

Some other (random) points:

1. One person noted that Robin was willing to invest in her 5 dogs, but not Barney – The dogs (along with Luke’s comment that Aunt Robin comes over for dinner fairly regularly) are meant to indicate that Robin’s itinerant days are over.

2. If the show ends with Ted meeting the Mother, then what is the point? If it really is about him meeting the Mother, then the story no longer makes any sense for him to start with meeting Robin. It would, at best, start with him finding the yellow umbrella, or him starting at Columbia.

3. There seems to be a misunderstanding about Ted pulling a trick on us. Ted really did think the story was about how he met Tracy. But Ted has never been a reliable narrator, nor a character fully in tune with his actions. He may have thought he was telling a story about the Mother, but it was obvious he had Robin too much on his mind.

4. Many commentators noted that Ted’s kids reaction to their mother’s death was callous. This seems to miss the point, which is that they, of course, knew their mother was dead before the story started. They’ve had 6 years to come to terms with that. And they’ve been subjected to a story that has nothing to do with their mother. Our emotional discovery isn’t theirs, so there should be no expectation that they would be choked up by the same things that might get us as viewers.

5. Everything else aside, Carter and Bays deserve some kudos for picking two perfect songs for their final scenes.  Everything But the Girl’s “Downtown Train” and The Walkman’s “Heaven” were both melodically and lyrically perfect fits for meeting the Mother and chasing Robin.

6. A much-smarter-than-me-friend also posted on the finale: http://crypticphilosopher.com/2014/04/how-i-met-your-mother-finale/

32 Things…

Through a friend, I stumbled upon “32 Things Every Man Should Do”  Reading through it, I found myself repeatedly agreeing with the headline of most items, followed by mild revulsion as to the author’s reasoning why.  So I decided to go through his list, and under the mantra of “the right thing for the right reasons” decided to edit the whys into something reasonable.  It felt like the best way to get the grime off.

My list should not be construed as a list for “real men” since what the hell is a “real man” anyway?  I prefer to think of it as a list of (mostly) good ideas.

1) Physically build something
…or paint something, or write something, or sculpt something. Creating things, regardless of how they come out, is good for the soul.

2) Build a business

 Starting a business is sort of like having children. Its exhausting, exhilarating, painful, rewarding and not for everyone. But, if you are inclined towards it, I can say that, succeed or fail, there is no education quite like it.

3) Take privacy seriously

Yours and others. Never put on the web that which you wouldn’t want to have to explain to your Grandma. And let others choose what they’ll share – don’t choose for them.

4) Own his own online name 

Sorry, I got nothing for this one. I can’t tell if this was product placement or hubris. I fail to see the point, really.

5) Lift weights 

Weight lifting has been shown to have positive benefits as part of a workout program for anyone, including preserving muscle and bone health, body mechanics, disease prevention, and boosting energy levels and mood. How can you argue against something that will make you feel good and is good for you at the same time?

6) Eat meat 

Meat is tasty. So enjoy it in moderation. Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan. Then don’t. People choose what they eat for lots of conscious and unconscious reasons. Choose to be thoughtful in what you eat, and then you won’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks about it.  Remember, we once thought feeding people lobsters was cruel and unusual punishment.

7) Dress for success

Like it or not, clothing acts as a set of symbols, displaying to the world who we are and how we expect to interact with it.  That doesn’t mean you have to wear suits and dresses all the time, simply that dressing for the occasion doesn’t mean sublimating who you are as much as it means respecting the people who are around you.

8) Wet Shave 

I don’t do this often (hell, I don’t shave that often in general) – but I will admit – it is a rather relaxing indulgence when I do.

9) Shake hands 

Shake hands with business partners and when meeting new people, unless you are in a culture that prefers something else. Hug friends and family in greeting. Kiss cheeks, fist bump, high five, whatever. Just get out and interact with people and put yourself in situations where you need to go through some form of greeting ritual in general.

10) Follow the 30 Days of Discipline bootcamp for winners 

I don’t know what this bootcamp is, but I do agree that discipline and focus are key to achieving what you want. I usually meditate to increase my focus and mental discipline. Find something that works for you and do it when you find yourself adrift. Unless you want to be adrift – sometimes that’s fun and rewarding in its own right.

 11) Keep a Positive Mental Attitude 

Stay positive, but don’t feel bad when it’s hard or you can’t do it. Happy, sad, angry, embarrassed, tired, joyful … emotions are the key to human experience, and all of them are valid.

12) Own you car outright – Debt is slavery 

Debt is slavery is a tad excessive. There are a lot of times when debt, managed smartly and consciously, is beneficial. Instead, be thoughtful in your spending, and when you do go into debt for something, think through the full measure of why and what you get (and add up all the payments – see what you are really paying!)

13) Be loyal to blood 

Yup. But remember, all humans have the same blood flowing through our veins.

14) Stop watching porn 

Far more thoughtful people than me have written many better things than I can on both sides of this debate. Read them if you want to make a decision about this.

15) Never supplicate to women 

I’m afraid there is no reason I can give to support such misogynistic bullshit, so I won’t try…

16) Just say no – Forget the excuses after you say “no”.

We all have the right to say no to things. Sometimes we get overwhelmed, have other obligations, and the like. And sometimes we say yes anyway, because we love and care about other people and want to help, even when it’s hard. Especially because it’s hard.

17) Seek out adventure 

By whatever means you define adventure, whether it is to climb Mt. Everest or simply to attend a party that has a lot of people you don’t know. Find and push your own boundaries. 

18) Take cold showers 

The occasional cold shower or polar bear dip has been shown to increase white blood cell count, help fight off disease, and be invigorating. That said, most mornings, I turn my shower firmly towards H.

19) Don’t talk too much 

…because it gets in the way of listening to others. There is not enough time in our lifespans to experience everything we want, meet everyone, or go everywhere. But when others share their experiences with us, we get to see beyond our own horizons.

20) Know how to throw a punch 

If you want to punch things – and I emphasize the word things there – I’d learn how to do it properly. A poorly thrown punch is likely to break your hand.

And, of course, if you don’t want to punch things, then don’t. That’s okay too.

21) Stay out of debt – Debt is prison.

Dude’s repeating himself. We already covered this.

22) Subscribe to the BOLD & DETERMINED email updates –

Taking a note from #16, I’ll go with NO. I can get misogynistic douchewaddery in plenty of places on the internet. I don’t need it delivered to me.

23) Never rely on anyone else for your income 

Warren Buffet said it better – never rely on a single source of income. Diversify, invest, and reap the rewards.

24) Be proud 

Pride is what we feel about ourselves. Bragging is what we want others to thing of us. Protect your pride, let others think of you what they will.

25) Be fit – 
Largely just reiterating what was said in 5 & 6.

26) Never argue with idiots

I keep wondering if this is a pre-emptive request for people not to criticize his list. I’m going to go ahead and assume yes.

27) Not spend all day on social networking sites

I like Facebook; it’s like getting year-round Christmas card updates from people you’d otherwise fall out of touch with. I like Twitter; it’s a way to have conversations with a lot of people you’d otherwise never meet. But a few minutes a day while riding the bus or waiting in line is usually enough. Don’t let it get in the way of interacting with actual humans.

28) Hold yourself accountable 

The only thing you can control is yourself, and even then, you don’t have complete control. But if you are going to start change anywhere, the best place to look first is within yourself.

29) Give 110% at all times 

Let’s ignore the cliched mathematical impossibility and think of this in slightly different terms – there is a thread of thought in Taoism, Zen and others that has been backed by psychological research that shows that people who are fully present in the moment, rather than multitasking across a variety of tasks and thoughts, tend to be happier and more at peace. Or, to paraphrase Zen: “If you spend your time washing the dishes thinking of the ice cream you will eat, what will you be thinking about instead of enjoying your ice cream?”

30) Live Like a Spartan 

I feel like this has already been covered. Since he capitalized it, I guess he means actual Spartans – either from Sparta or USC, and not just spartan. So I guess he’s either asking you to violate NCAA regulations or maintain oddly progressive attitudes towards women (unlikely from his earlier item) while holding largely regressive attitudes towards citizenship as a whole. Or there is no real coherent thought behind this one, other than, “That movie ‘300’ was pretty cool – and didn’t Gerard Butler yell in really cool ways?”

31) Like, retweet, or share this post!
Dude has stopped repeating himself and is now contradicting himself (#27). I’m running out of energy myself. 32 items is a lot when you have nothing interesting to say.

32) BE BOLD.
Sure, whatever. Be yourself.  If that’s bold, then fine.

Source Code Reviewed

This review is intended for someone who has already seen Source Code.  I’m not going to pepper my comments with spoiler alerts.  The whole thing can be considered a spoiler alert.

Okay, for those of you still here…

I want to talk about the ending of Source Code, and what it means for the rest of the story.   On Coulter’s last ‘jump’ (I have no better word for it) there is a freeze frame at the moment of his death.  This is, to me, the natural end of the movie, and if it had ended there, it would have been a beautiful, elegant and elegiac.  The movie would have become about the need to make the most of every moment we have in life – a carpe diem movie – an overused theme, to be sure, but one that is well executed.

But, of course, the movie does not end there, and the implication is that Coulter now gets to live out his life in this last jump.  While this might be a happier ending, it has some ugly implications for everything that has come before.  First off, it becomes apparent that Coulter is no longer reliving some dead person’s memories, but instead jumping into parallel realities.  That is how he’s able to see and go to parts of the universe that would not be part of the dead man’s memories: to see the van parked at the Glenwood station, to leave the train and go into the bathroom, to see the inside of the conductor’s room.  The teacher, Sean, would have no memories of these places, so he’d have nothing for which they could build a recreation.

The troubling implications of this are two-fold:  first, when Coulter gets to live on at the end of his jump – what happens to Sean?  Obviously, Sean went somewhere when Coulter takes his body.  Where is that?  Into Coulter’s body, to die?  By committing suicide, did Coulter actually commit murder?  And, less importantly – how long is he going to be able to fake Sean’s life before it catches up with him that he knows no one and nothing from this new world?

Secondly, throughout the movie, Coulter jumps into multiple realities – in each one, he is told that saving people is a waste, since they are already dead.  But, of course, they are not.  And since he has the power to save them, and doesn’t, he allows hundreds of people across many realities to die.  This is not his fault, really, since he doesn’t figure it out until the end, but it is the fault of the military program that is running things.  They must obviously know that they are sending him across realities, since they are asking him to take an active investigative role.  So they are willingly allowing murder in the name of investigation.

Since the movie asks us to support Coulter and the military in their mission, it is asking us to be complicit in the choice.  So I am left feeling somewhat used by the whole movie, simply in the name of a ‘happy’ ending. What a shame.  I was so ready to support a movie that puts a Dunkin Donuts in Metra cars…


Wherein My Friend Destroys Ratatouille for Me

I live in a food loving family.  My wife is in the restaurant business, and she and my son relax over big steaming pots on the stove, fresh bread baked in the oven and pouring over cookbooks.  It goes without saying then that Ratatouille has always been one of our favorite movies.

That is, until dmcallum came along.

I mentioned, in mid-sequitur, about my love of the movie and he pointed out something – if rats are sentient in the movie’s universe, what does that mean for the food that Remy cooks?

Think about it – for anyone who is reasonably thoughtful about food and eating, the concept of eating meat has to be occasionally troubling (one thinks here of  “Consider the Lobster”) if not outright impossible.  But it’s something altogether worse to think of a sentient creature choosing to cook and serve another sentient creature to, what is basically, an enemy.

I am assuming here, of course, that rats are not the only sentient creatures in the movie.  We don’t see evidence otherwise, but there is no logical reason to believe that rats are intelligent, creative and social, but no other animal is.

Now, Remy’s signature dish turns out to be vegetable-based, but at no point is it explicitly stated that Remy restricts himself to meat-free cooking.  I believe that they do serve cuttlefish at some point in the movie, and a cursory check of the tie-in material for the movie lists a Filet Mignon recipe.

So we must assume that Remy is, at some point, serving up some of his cuddly compatriots for the patron’s pleasure.  And in accepting that, as well as reveling in, or at least recognizing Remy’s gustatory pleasures, we must again face our own meat eating.  In the fictional universe, Remy is committing a sort of pseudo-cannibalism for our eating pleasure (or, maybe worse, for his own pleasure in creating).  At what point does the creepiness of such an act bleed over into our real life, where our animals aren’t necessarily as intelligent as Remy, but are certainly as cuddly? And what does it mean that I (and almost everyone else) do not notice this immediately upon watching the movie?  Is it that our own moral blind spot (for us meat-eaters at least) is so large?

Or maybe ‘moral’ blind-spot is the wrong modifier.  I find nothing inherently amoral about eating meat.  But I have two dogs, and I often have to wonder why I find the concept of someone eating dogs to be repugnant, while I myself will willingly eat pigs.  Because, really, what is the difference ? After all, pigs are smarter and cleaner, and are as capable of forming emotional bonds with humans.  If you think about it long enough, you realize there is no difference beyond cultural programming.  And when you realize that there are cultures that eat dogs, that eat people even, then you seriously need to question, what, really is the difference between their culture and your own.

I can reconcile the eating of meat in general, but not in specific – namely, for myself.  If I choose, like Remy, to be deeply conscious of food, then that awareness forces me to see eating Orange Chicken to be fungible with eating, say, my dogs.  And while I still see nothing morally wrong with that – I certainly can’t do it.  Not anymore.  Remy can cook his friends, but I can’t eat mine.

Vegetarianism, here I come (and pray I don’t accidentally watch a Veggie Tales movie).

Can Video Games be Art?

(Or, wherein I beat a dead horse…)

I reread Maus this weekend.  One of the things that struck me, upon reading it again after so many years, is how it would have failed in other media.  The Nazis as Cats, Jews as Mice metaphor works beautifully in cartoon panels.  But I can’t see it working as a movie.  In animation or CGI, there would have been something horribly cheesy or heavy-handed about the visual.  Nor, do I think, would it have worked as a literary metaphor – the constant mental translation it would have created for the reader would have prevented any sort of immersion in the story.

This idea of a serious, intelligent, emotionally arresting and gratifying story being best presented in a medium that was classically considered frivolous brought me around to another idea – Roger Ebert’s now classic assertion that video games can never be art.

Part of this connection was probably due to my recent reading of Brian Moriarty’s post supporting Ebert’s position.  Moriarty and Ebert are both much smarter and well-versed in their respective subjects than I am in ANY subject, so its hard for me to say this – but they failed to convince me.  And Maus is the reason why.  If a comic book can become high-art (Maus won the Pulitzer Prize), then doesn’t that mean a video game might some day too?

Before I should go any farther, I should say that I am not much of a video game player.  I play casually at best, mostly the occasional game with my son.  I used to play video games quite a bit as a kid, but gave up on them years ago.  And up until recently, I would have agreed with Ebert.

But something struck me about Moriarty’s argument, which I would distill thusly: a video game cannot be a work of art in the same way that chess and go cannot be art.  And what struck me was the idea that games, inherently, cannot draw from the narrative tradition – that is, the game part of ‘video game’ is the salient part.

This is part of Ebert’s argument as well – that the malleability of narrative in a video game makes it incapable of communicating to its participants the way that a directed narrative can.  In other words – “Romeo & Juliet” would lack its power, and therefore its ability to be art, if it were a video game, because then you could save Juliet.

This point made me remember Final Fantasy VII.  Final Fantasy VII is beautiful, but it’s not art.  However, there is a moment in the game that makes me think that a video game could someday transcend the medium and become art.  About midway through the game, a player character – Aeris, dies.  Death is, of course, a constant part of video games, and for the most part, lacks in dramatic potential because the character can always load a saved game, come back to life, and start over.

What made Aeris’ death interesting, however, was the inability of the player to stop it.  Many people tried.  But they only way to prevent Aeris death was to stall – to wander aimlessly, preventing the narrative from going forward.  But many players were unwilling to let Aeris die, even if it was a required step to complete the game, because through building the character, they had become emotionally invested in her.

That moment led me to believe there are real narrative possibilities to video games and, more importantly, there are narrative possibilities that exist in the medium that don’t exist elsewhere (or wouldn’t be as effective).  In this, I am reminded of The Godfather, the book, vs. The Godfather, the movie.  The book is pulp, but the movie is transcendent.  Our investment in Aeris is due to the fact that the game requires us to expend energy in her development – to actively engage in her success.  No other medium can create that kind of engagement with its characters – movies and TV are entirely passive.  Reading is active, but nowhere near on the same level.  Theater is the only medium that seems close.

So, for me anyway, the next question is what kind of story would work better as a video game than anything else.  Video games have a few advantages over something like, say, a movie:  people are willing to spend 40 to 60 on a video game.   They can play with interesting questions of fate vs. freewill (could you create a Romeo & Juliet game where Juliet’s salvation seems possible, but never truly is?).   They can play with multiple interweaving narratives, as well as multiple endings.

Finally, then, if it is possible for games to be art, why hasn’t there been a game that can rightfully be considered art today?  My thought here is that video games are a very new medium – only 35 or so years old.  It was 70-some years between the first comic books and the publication of Maus.  Novels took hundreds of years.  Movies took forty-some years.  It’s not that a video game cannot be art – it’s that no video game has become art yet.

Sounds like a challenge.


The Five Types of Avatars

I recently started looking at Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn again, largely to see if I was missing anything.  I’m not.  But, while looking for people I knew, I noticed something about the pictures that people pick for themselves – they all fall into 5 major types – 4 of which are useless:

  1. The too-close up:  This is the one where all you can see of a person’s face are one eye, part of the nose, and a little bit of forehead or cheek.  This is obviously because the person doesn’t like some part of their face.  But its also useless if you are trying to see if you remember the person – “oh yeah, I remember that eyeball.”
  2. The kid picture: Sure, yeah, I get it – you like your kids.  They are the focus of your life.  But if I want to see your kids, then I’ll do so after I friend you and call look at your profile.   Besides, are you really saying there is nothing to you except your kid?
  3. The ironically posed photo: This is the one where the person obviously posed and think they look really good, but its okay, because they are knowingly putting an overly posed photo on their profile, so its obviously done ironically, wink wink. So its all okay.  In the interest of full disclosure, this is the photo type that I chose.  Because at least it lets people know who I am.
  4. The group photo that may or may not be cropped: We get it, you are really popular and your photo reflects that you are to busy being social for all this social media. But which one of the many people in your tiny picture is you?
  5. The “stuff you like” avatar:  Mad men and the Simpsons and Star Wars and Charlie Sheen are all great – but I can’t really use a Simpsonized version of you to really tell if you are the guy I went to high school or not.  Its been fifteen years, I don’t really remember your stance on the Simpsons – I am barely sure of your last name.