Last time, we dove straight into some of the most esoteric corners of Dark Souls lore without any kind of primer or overview. If that seems completely backwards to you…well, you’re right. Things just worked out that way—I happened to have the last post written already, and since I’ve been sitting on it for…
The Undead Curse: one of the most enduring mysteries in the Dark Souls universe. Even long after the end of the trilogy, we’re still struggling to figure out where it came from and exactly how it functions. If you think about it, that’s pretty amazing in the internet age, where our ability to pool…
To look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Feanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower. Gandalf, The Two Towers If you’ve read only the Lord of the Rings trilogy and not…
Between the rapidly approaching holidays and the political insanity in this country over the last couple months, I’ve once again managed to not finish the second Picard post, which has gotten…let’s say, unwieldy in its current form. Instead, what with the various Mass Effect-related announcements that recently dropped, it seems as good a time as any to discuss the main villain of that trilogy: the Reapers.
While you’re waiting for Part 2 of the Star Trek: Picard analysis, I thought I’d throw down another original piece of writing. This one is a brief, and I hope sufficiently scathing, response to M. John Harrison’s rambling 2007 post, “very afraid,” wherein he absolutely savages the concept of worldbuilding, calling it not only “technically unnecessary,” but socially dangerous, a “smallish and contributory subset” of corporate, religious, and political branding campaigns and propaganda.
Watching Star Trek: Picard was an emotional rollercoaster for me, not necessarily because it’s good (it has great moments; it has many more stupid ones), but because of my history with the world and character. I grew up watching The Next Generation, and many of the Picard-centric episodes (e.g. “Sarek,” “Darmok,” “The Inner Light”) stand among the greatest. “The Inner Light” in particular remains one of the best episodes of television ever written, not only deeply moving but somehow able to convey the weight of passing decades in a mere 45 minutes, an astonishing feat of writing and pacing.
Games that question the violence they revel in are nothing new, but I first became aware of them back in 2012, which saw the release of Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3. I played the hell out of the latter while barely touching the former, and the reason for that perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of this subtype of the shooter genre. You have to make the violence feel good, feel fun, which pretty much by definition undercuts your entire thematic structure. Far Cry 3 was smooth, responsive, and satisfying; Spec Ops felt clumsy and dull. Worse, both games throw all kinds of shade at the player for enjoying the combat, a brand of moralizing that rings particularly hollow coming from games that give you no other way to interact with their worlds.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) is the latest entry in this tradition, and it may very well be the worst…
Around two years ago, Donald Trump ordered two U.S. Navy ships to bombard a Syrian airfield. During MSNBC’s coverage of the attack, Brian Williams infamously said, as footage of Tomahawk missiles launching into the night sky ran in the background,
“I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons,’ and they are beautiful pictures pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over this airfield.”
Right…so, that’s not great. However, I want to acknowledge the grain of truth here before I lay into him, because we have to recognize the terrible beauty that war can possess, even for those who have experienced it firsthand. In his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges describes the high of combat, the sharpness of your sensory experience, the rush of adrenaline, and how immediate and alive everything feels. In The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien says precisely the same thing of his experience in Vietnam. Both starkly illustrate war’s seductive (and, perhaps, ultimately fatal) allure for our species.
Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s talk about that, and some modifications I’m making to the site.
First of all, unless you’re reading this literally minutes after its publication, you’ll have seen the new background image. Actually, it’s the same as the header image, but blown way up, blurred, and desaturated a bit. I’ve been meaning to do something like this from the beginning, but ran into some (in retrospect, easily solvable) issues that stopped me dead at the time, so that’s why it’s taken so damn long. While I’m not head-over-heels in love with the effect (the harsh border between the header image and the body of the site is a bit of an eyesore, for example), I like it a hell of a lot more than the solid off-white color that was there before. Thus, this is what we’re going with for the foreseeable future. I’ve made sure it looks okay at a variety of screen resolutions and levels of scaling, so no matter what size screen you’re on, it should be pretty much jank-free at this point.
This seems as good a time as any for a confession: I’m decidedly a leftist, not a liberal. If that label comes loaded with too much baggage for your comfort (understandable, given the confusing and bloody history of the last 250-odd years), then maybe “anticapitalist” would serve better—anticapitalist in the vein of a Chris Hedges, Mike Duncan, or Jenny Odell, to be specific. If you read my post on social responsibility in storytelling, you may have picked up on this already, what with the potshots it takes at The Marketplace, as filtered through the publishing industry.
I want to come right out and say it, however, because although what follows is absolutely for everyone everywhere, I think those of us who stand opposed to the capitalist system are feeling particularly demoralized right now.