Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Sheesh, when it’s laid out like this then the parallels are just ridiculous:

– living five adults to a two room apartment

– being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

– ‘totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

– everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

– mandatory workplace political education

– productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

– deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

– networked computers exist but they’re really bad

– Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

– elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

– failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

– otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead

– the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

– the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

– the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

– the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

The Union Forever

When Britain and France Almost Merged Into One Country

I thought this was about the Angevin empire in the Middle Ages but nope, it was about a proposed Franco-British Union after the defeat at Dunkirk which was actually supported by Churchill and De Gaulle. I don’t know if it wouldn’t have fallen apart like 5 minutes after they signed the paperwork but kind of an interesting counterfactual to consider besides all the Nazi victory ones.

Delenda Toronto

There’s something fascinatingly morbid about this nuclear bombing simulator, which maps the effects of a nuking (fatalities, injuries, the maximum radius for getting houses flattened, etc) onto whatever location you select. You even get to pick the type of bomb and the height of the detonation.

Toronto nuking effects mapped out

Here’s Toronto getting a surface burst Fat Man bomb dropped right on the CN Tower – 34,200 dead, 69,550 injured, and radioactive fallout all down the western shore of Lake Ontario reaching as far as Oakville.  Or if that’s boring you can drop a 100 Megaton Tsar Bomba on the White House! Hours of fun for the whole family!

Sing, O Muse

DOOM's space marine protagonist fighting off an endless wave of demons

I had no idea that the Los Angeles Review of Books was covering video games but it seems obvious in hindsight. Games are texts in a literary theory sense, after all, as Wikipedia explains:

In literary theory, a text is any object that can be “read,” whether this object is a work of literature, a street sign, an arrangement of buildings on a city block, or styles of clothing. It is a coherent set of signs that transmits some kind of informative message. This set of symbols is considered in terms of the informative message’s content, rather than in terms of its physical form or the medium in which it is represented.

As texts, games are open to analysis like any other text. It was inevitable that their analysis would move out of the amateur space of student papers and personal blogs and into the formal world of published reviews after the generation that played video games was old enough to get PhDs in literature.

Anyway, the following article is an excellent analysis of the liberal democratic zeitgeist that’s valuable even if one has not played the video game being reviewed. It’s about the modern politics of rage as mediated through the 2016 reboot of the DOOM game franchise.

It’s all great, but here are some choice bits for the tl;dr brigade:

DOOMguy Knows How You Feel

The Union Aerospace Corporation [UAC] appeared as a futuristic defense contractor in the original game. In some not-too-distant, post-apocalyptic future, it has decided that the only path to a sustainable future for humanity is to literally mine energy from Hell. Shockingly, this path to prosperity goes horribly awry. It is up to the newest incarnation of doomguy to sort it out, mostly through destroying key objects, ignoring proffered advice, and murdering a dizzying assortment first of zombified ex- (post-?) UAC employees and then, well, the demonic legions of Hell itself . . .

Games are machines for producing affect, and the affect the public most fears in games is rage . . . The DOOM Emotion Machine pushes you to move beyond mere expression of rage, not just inchoate, unfathomable rage, not just rage at any old thing or the nearest narratively acceptable target, but to feel free to rage at the people who brought you here, rage at their apologists, rage at the idiocy of HR, rage at the plodding stupidity of looking for one more source of “dead labor” . . . Rage at Hell but rage at who brought you to Hell and why any of this is necessary at all . . .

DOOM wants you to consider that when “they go low,” you will scrape the pits of Inferno to go ever lower. DOOM wants you to feel more. But — and perhaps this is sheer, irrational hope on my part, a shard of redemption in a game of bleak glee — DOOM wants you to remember that it is all so stupid. That all of this is instrumental, that the only way out is through, but that this is brutalizing to the world and to yourself. In my most hopeful moment, I think DOOM has old Spinoza on the mind: learn to feel joy in the world again and yes, learn to feel joy in the pain of enemies but remember that it is just — in a measure of mere magnitude — a lesser joy than in the flourishing of friends.

This is some goddamn top shelf games writing. A thousand aggregated Metacritic scores could not encompass the informativeness of this review.

Also, if you’re keen to peruse the magazine’s other video game essays, I recommend Something is Rotten in the State of Lucis: On “Final Fantasy XV”, which analyses the political philosophy of Final Fantasy XV, with especial regard to Hamlet and Americana. I probably won’t ever get FFXV, but this review is well-written enough to give a non-player much to ruminate on.

Follow the White Rabbit

Man, I was so sure that there was a trailer for the original Nier scored to White Rabbit that I spent twenty minutes this morning looking for it. Turns out it was Lost Odyssey. Also, turns out that game wasn’t that good except for the story in the cutscenes, but those were written by an actual novelist. Anyway, at least we got an okay trailer out of it all.

How to sell out

From McSweeney’s:

NOAM CHOMSKY EXPLAINS WHY HIS LECTURE SERIES ON THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT’S HISTORY OF INTERVENTION IN CENTRAL AMERICA IS SPONSORED BY MICHELOB ULTRA

Some of you are asking yourselves, why is a lecture from Noam Chomsky, whom the New York Times once called “the most important intellectual alive,” sponsored by Michelob Ultra? The answer is simple: I need the cash because I bought a boat . . .

No, I am not, as some joker in the front row rudely shouted out, a “fucking sell out.” I’m 88 years old, for Christ’s sake. Let me have my boat! . . . I’m one of the founders of cognitive science, for crying out loud. If I have to hawk some booze to enjoy my twilight years in the Florida Keys, then so be it . . .

How dare you say this is the worst lecture of all time? I am Noam Fucking Chomsky — I could take a dump on stage and it’d be the most insightful political commentary you’ve ever seen.

Just read the whole thing already.

What hath God wrought?

You know, I could tell what I’ve been up to lately, but I think I’d rather just tell you about the greatest thing in the history of the universe, which is this Twitter account:

@fanfiction_txt - Real quotes from fanfiction/reviews. None edited, aside from length. [Account admin posts in brackets]

Just look at the material it highlights. This thing is gold. Gold!

  • Captain N: The Game Master Kevin and Lana are informed that Charles Manson has escaped from prison
  • Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts accidentally travels from their world to Afghanistan
  • Twilight acciedentlly cast’s a perminate spell that turns her in to a lb&sc railway class e2 tank engine
  • “Sometimes, I wonder where my life is headed, and all I see is this black hole of nothing.” Tails pauses, his shoulders shaking as he sobs.
  • Larry the Cable Guy was right. Communism is the only justice left in this dark age! Communism is the only way to save my country
  • Crazy Frog confuses everyone when he decides to join both the Bloods and the Crips.
  • Dane Cook and Disturbed frontman David Draiman find out they want each other…sex happens..duh
  • “Hi dad!”
    “Hi son! How was your day?”
    “Well, it’s pretty interesting. You’ve heard of Sonic the Hedgehog racing in NASCAR, right?”
    “Yeah
  • It’s up to the Powerpuff Girls to stop Obama
  • Donald Trump begins to panic after trapping a wasp under a cup

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve been working on the anime podcast project I mentioned before.

Welcome to the postmodern jungle

I just discovered Postmodern Jukebox and have been making my way through their videos. They take pop culture hits and reinterpret them as pieces from an older, classier age. Like Welcome to the Jungle imagined as some kind of jazzy orchestral thing accompanied by a concert harp and a cello.

I could easily imagine this playing in the background of a black and white noir film as a hard-boiled detective narrates something cynical and harsh in the foreground.

Or for something peppier, how about a soul version of Hey Ya! by Outkast? The guy behind this also did some arrangements for the alternate history game Bioshock Infinite like this blues version of Fortunate Son.  Really, there’s so much to discover in the back catalogue of this group.

The man behind Attack on Titan

Great interview with the Attack on Titan guy translated into English over here. Hajime Isayama sounds like a really cool dude to hang out with. He goes on about zombie flicks and Guillermo del Toro and stuff. It’s all interesting, but some interesting-er bits were that he’s a fan of Knights of Sidonia, was influenced by Muv-Luv Alternative (which was later spun off and adapted into the anime Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken), and modelled Captain Levi after Rorschach from Watchmen. I’m not into the manga, but now I’m looking forward even more to season 2 of the show.

Also, I gotta highlight this remark:

I thought it’d be awesome to actually be a battery for machines like in The Matrix.