Divergence

ImageI’ve been occupied with a bunch of miscellany since my last post about the Interstellar trailer. I built a new -awesome- desktop with an i5 and -finally- a legitimate copy of Microsoft’s Windows 8-1. MS won me over with their promise of seamless integration via OneDrive. All I need now is a Windows phone, but that likely won’t happen, because I’ve spent so much time on customizing my Android phone, and I use my phone (with an unlimited data plan) for Internet access.

Aside from the new desktop, I got myself set up with a Raspberry Pi. It’s been somewhat of a g.d-send. It has given me a rather oblique way to pursue programming. While I wish I was writing poetry instead of code, it helps that there is a free Pi version of MineCraft. So, I have been trying to punch trees with code.

The next part is more of a mimetic exercise, but doing this stuff does help me focus more. Thanks, Sarah, for directing me to the OP.

1) What are you working on?
I’m trying to learn Python, a coding language. But I still have designs for my hybrid novel Fabrications.

2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Fabrications is a cyberpunk story; a lot of it has been solidified via various tropes. The story differs in that it uses -serious- neuroscience to inform consciousness. This is a difficult matter to deal with, considering I don’t have, for example, a PET machine readily available…

3) Why do you write?
I write poetry and fiction, because, simply, I need the exercise. It gives me space; it gives me freedom. I need those things for any activity, but writing stands out because it is strictly driven by rules. Without the rules, I’d be lost.

4) How does your writing process work?
My writing process is too sporadic to distill into a process, but I think there are some trends I follow. When I write, I break it down. I always give myself an objective to my writing, then consider what formal constraints I wish to apply for that idea.

BTW: the above image is from Steins;Gate, a brilliant franchise from Japan that has enraptured me with both an anime and visual novel (one I am still working through).

-MT

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Ghost in the Shell: Arise – an Innocent Origin Story at Best

innocenceProps go out, in part, to the SF Meetup group that helped make seeing the first two episodes of GITS:Arise last week possible via TUGG. Overall, it was worth seeing, but, hardly comparable to what I’ve seen from the franchise in the past, well before crowd-funding sites. I mean, I saw Innocence for a CLASS at Vanderbilt in 2004. And that took no funding, just us showing up to see it at the local Nashville indie theater. Not so much luck in SF, I guess?

That stuff aside, Arise wasn’t terrible. It had the fantastic animation I’ve come to expect from the studio, and the translation (when I could READ IT) was good. But, it isn’t a spoiler to say I expected more. GITS has wowed me with films and mind-bending tv series, but Arise felt forcefully convoluted. I followed it fine, but it was more tropey than not, and not in a good-tropey way. It didn’t really innovate. It used what was safe, lodging character consciousnesses into other consciousnesses in some maze that seems philosophical, but, really, hardly could be called a Garden of Forking Paths.

Even so, it was amazing seeing an origin story for Motoko. She’s such a strong character, and I can excuse SOME narrative issues because I like her. However, I didn’t like how she ran around for large portions of screen time in her underwear, as those segments did nothing to help the narrative, which, to me, was pretty sparse to begin with. But, I’m sure people seeing Arise had no such complaints.

Arise is great, but only if it’s approached as being longish tv episodes. It is not Innocence, by any means, and it’s not good enough to stand on its own, in my opinion. If you’re a GITS fan, you’ll get it, but not otherwise.

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Interstellar – It Will Happen

INTERSTELLAR

I was sick last Friday, which left me absent from seeing the latest Kaiju film, Godzilla, and while I’ve been told from co-workers it is quite good, I would have just been satisfied to see the accompanying Interstellar trailer in a theater. I’ve probably re-watched it over two-dozen times since it was released, and I’m totally willing to fall for Nolan’s Interstellar marketing techniques.

After seeing the first Interstellar trailer, I decided to compare it to the first Inception trailer; I wasn’t surprised at the coy way Nolan unveils things to his potential audience. The first Inception trailer suffices on ideas of “a single idea” and “theft” while being juxtaposed with revolutionary imagery. The ONLY hint we have to the true nature of Inception is when Ellie/Ellen Page screams “‘WAKE ME UP!'” With Interstellar, it’s mostly similar in the approach.
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Giraffes, Water Slides, & Trading Cards – A Recipe for Mobile Games

Hey readers. As the month of March comes to a close, I thought I’d do a round-up of games I played this month, with a bit of commentary aimed at exploring gameplay elements that make particular games sticky. This is far from exhaustive, as gamers differ in taste, but maybe there is a recipe in all this that can help devs. I dunno.

None of these games are staggeringly new; I got bored of Threes before the other rip-offs arrived. These are long-lasters for me, which is Kind-of-a-Big-Deal. I wrote Best Apps Market Reviews for all but the last one, which, being Guild Wars 2, I decided to review in the style we do at BAM.
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Seattle: cool. AWP: meh.

“Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?”
-Plath, Elm.

No. Sure, AWP was very disappointing, but Seattle was perfectly fine, and I enjoyed my time there. Maybe I am dissatisfied about AWP. Maybe I am hesitant to say that all the AWP presenters I saw gave content that I already knew plenty about, and that I ended up hearing authors with more money, better book deals, talking about stuff I already knew.

While I don’t mind that, I wanted to show them stories they’d never seen, because, well, they’re sheltered authors, and some of us actually did screw up, and have stories that might not sell a ton, but will entertain. Besides, I figure AWP isn’t interested in anything but their brand of writing, so, it makes sense for me to say that writing serves purposes aside from their stale RHETORIC.

For future reference:
If  you know something about writing but have no connections, AWP is a waste of money. Networking is a joke and you have to smash people’s faces into tables in order to convince them you don’t care about Journal X. You also have to pay money to listen to authors that write trash that explains how they made that trash, which is marginally useful, but you’d be better off exploring the city you’re in, because AWP is a stale bureaucracy that will die out sooner or later, and, as someone working at a startup, I welcome it, because I’m going to do something for them that is better than they could even imagine.

So, please, just die.

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Deep Down Ingrained Sexism, Games, and Whining

I Flipped through an article on February 17 by Brenna Hillier that had a catchy title, but decided to relegate it to my “stuff to address later” project. Here’s where I try to unpack Ms. Hillier’s arguments, then comment on them. For tl;dr readers: Hillier’s complaints overlook the fact that games are entertainment, which should never be -reasonably- sanctioned.
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Why EA’s Mobile Dungeon Keeper Ironically Succeeds

Last week, after a protracted time of testing, Electronic Arts opened the flood-gates and let the rest of the world play a mobile rendition of a franchise they bought from properties created by Peter Molyneux called Dungeon Keeper. As it happened, on 01-30-14, I did my job and played, rated and reviewed the game for the Fetch app-discovery app, saying:
 
Recruit minions and carve out a sinister underground empire by harvesting resources and laying devious dungeon traps to painfully foil your enemies! EA did a great job bringing a PC classic to mobile devices.

I rated the game 9/10 (4.5), so imagine my surprise when I see a bunch of posts from other reviewers of games critically saying Dungeon Keeper is an example of everything wrong with mobile games, and that EA essentially raped the franchise because purchasing virtual currency is practically required to enjoy the game.

Well, I thought about refining my review to reflect recent trends, but instead opted to respond–I want to provide background to my reviewing processes and metrics, and, why EA was able to pull a well-planned fast-one that pissed off everyone. Essentially: EA orchestrated this as a blow to free-to-play, and it might be a good thing for mobile games…

I sat tapping through the tutorial of Dungeon Keeper with little surprise. I figured EA would turn Dungeon Keeper into a free-to-play game the second I saw it soft-released. As expected, the demonic guide talked down to me and encouraged me to pursue tasks that would take gems to complete quickly, like, surprise, Clash of Clans, or any other derivative. I tolerated it and took it in stride.

The tutorial was annoying, but compared to other games I’d played on Android, above-average, so I kept tapping through things until I found the point where I could break the MANDATORY tutorial. I assessed what I saw and rated everything in the game accordingly. I then un-installed Dungeon Keeper because I was disgusted, which, in retrospect, I think was intentional. EA did this to show the ridiculous nature of profiting in the mobile gaming sphere, and I’m forced to agree with them: you can’t adopt new payment methods to emulate traditional gameplay mechanics for mobile without pissing people off.

I stand behind my rating and review because the Dungeon Keeper gameplay exists, but is behind a pay-wall for those that want immediate gratification. EA engineered this to TRAP the media and with the hope that that would benefit them in the long run, because they’ve just used a cult game to make people find reason to hate freemium mobile games even more.

As a mobile games review editor, I don’t like what EA has done. EA has taken a wonderful PC game and commodified it to fit current mobile gaming trends. But, I don’t disapprove of their tactics either.

All that being said, when I rated the game, I figured Dungeon Keeper’s score in light of what you’d either be willing to pay or wait for, and not how upset you’d be at either junction. So, take that as you will.

-MT

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Shia LeBeouf’s Unsurprising Logical Fallacy

“The ‘copy’ is the scapegoat for the immense and apparently unsolvable problems that mimesis, as a basic constituent of our position, poses for us.”…“No doubt, it is symptomatic of the decadence of contemporary society, where the ability to produce a certain appearance situationally is more valuable than the slow development of substantive skills.”
-In Praise of Copying, Marcus Boon, 2010.

I really tried to not give attention to the -at times amusing- LaBeouf morass. I really did. Seeing the web explode, then continue to feed a fire was so entertaining, was reason enough for me not to say anything until I stumbled upon a 01/20/14 article titled “#stopcreating” that was authored by SHIA LABEOUF on the Hi-Lo-Brow site I have nothing against, “The New Inquiry.” Given the thrust of his article, I can’t excuse LaBeouf from anything, and I wouldn’t want to, because he’s wrong, and here’s why.

I opened this entry with a reference to Marcus Boon’s In Praise of Copying for good reason, one which Mr. LeBeouf, who’s supposedly a professor, doesn’t once mention in his laborious defense of, bluntly, ripping-off someone else’s story, and profiting as a result.

LaBeouf speaks of an explosion of writers employing strategies of copying and appropriation over the past few years, with the computer encouraging writers to mimic its workings. He equates this, then, as being “integral” “to the writing process;” that it would be mad to imagine that writers wouldn’t exploit these functions in extreme ways that weren’t intended by their creators.

I expected more from a “professor,” than what could be easily excused as a fallacy of “exclusive premises,” but, that’s all he opens his article with, and spends the rest of his time trying to say copying is okay by not citing the people he needed to be citing, like, oh, David Shields or Marcus Boon. Instead, he cites popular NYC media artists and whines about being chastised by a poet of a prominent university for being, frankly, a dick, and then saying something potentially-insightful: that we are in the same boat as to how we form our own meaning in the context of new questions concerning authorship. Hardly insightful. Clearly LaBeouf doesn’t like “academia,” whatever that means.

Mr. LaBeouf, you’re not helping anyone with your “writing,” because you basically used your status to make copying seem okay, like, you were re-framing something, but, really, your mimesis is not something I want to follow, considering you encourage us with logical fallacies.

People, keep doing your own thing, but, please, attribute. It seems like that is the only way some of us will manage.

I’m a poet, so I am not worried about people taking my writing…well, not yet. And when I say “taking my writing,” I really want to be able to see how things that I write might change over time.

LaBeouf thinks machines, or, the creators of those machines (engineers I deeply respect), might best me, or, poets, in the near future…but his whole article was an imploding attempt at seeming critical that failed to mention even the most common authors that a graduate student might find in an MFA program.

I don’t know why his writing was both accepted and acknowledged by The New Inquiry, because it doesn’t drive the kind of traffic TNI purports to curate; there are few resources to explore the argument. But, the internet is rife with back-patting and more egregious kinds of mutual satisfaction than I care to worry about.

I just hope that TNI, will, in the future, use editors that really care about what is posted on their site, because, frankly, they failed this time, by letting something so stupid as LaBeouf’s garbage get any exposure beyond his utter social media failure.

-MT

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No history is so hard to write as that of our own times

“No history is so hard to write as that of our own times. Few, if any, can free themselves from the fashions of thought and opinion which control the daily life of their neighbors, and every one inhales to some extent the vapors and miasms floating in the air he hourly breathes.”
-William Walker, March 1st, 1860.

One of my holiday gifts was a memoir a very, very distant relative wrote. You might, or might not have heard of him: William Walker. He was a doctor, lawyer, editor for a counter-culture newspaper Walt Whitman wrote for, and, well, such a terrible military leader that his clout and charisma lead him and his troops to briefly conquer Nicaragua. Steel magnates like Vanderbilt (ironically, I went to that university) eventually hired mercenaries that captured and killed him by firing squad. But that’s all history. What matters isn’t the corpus of his memoir or life, but how he’s prefaced it with the above quote. It says something we overlook today.

How many of us think about our writings as meaningful artifacts? Beyond that, how many of us make the effort to remove that writing from the “fashions of thought and opinion which control” our lives? Is a hit-seeking list you get paid for writing going to really matter? Is anything aside from what YOU want to write actually valuable, or just derivative and confined by “fashions of thought?” Most of writing today on the Internet is just reinforcing “vapors and miasms” that we constantly breathe.

This isn’t to say that good writing doesn’t get done, just that many of those writers are bound by some external interest or another that dulls the authenticity of their writings. But, no one said writing was easy, and writing, frankly, about our time, must be the most difficult, as it’s packed with post-modern garbage, capitalism, promises of all kinds via The Singularity or the Next Big App.

I know there are people sharing real struggles and giving better pictures of our age than more popular media platforms. Tumblr has lots of honest micro-blogs about suffering from mental illness, for instance. But where are the people willing to really, critically write about the 21st century? Not just for 20-somethings, but for everyone!

I know William Walker would have made an app instead of trying to conquer Nicaragua, and it’d probably fail miserably, but at least he’d have the willingness to preface his memoir today the same way he did almost 1.5 centuries ago.

-MT

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2013 – a Lyric, Datum, & Anecdote Laced with Irony.

Image-Jenny Boully, The Body: An Essay, 2002

It wasn’t an easy year, but it was a fun one. Many websites tout the ineptitude and bleak perspective of 20-somethings because 20-somethings are somewhat of an Internet majority. Well, I won’t entertain that idea, and will instead say being a 20-something in 2013 was awesome. For every stupid thing Thought Catalog‘s writers “composed,” I had something alternatively cool happen in my life (however small this or that thing might have been in comparison).

Entirely out of order, here is what made being a 20-something in 2013 great:

1) Pacific Rim: next to Gravity and Blue is the Warmest Colour, Del Toro’s homage to anime and mecha took me back to growing up in the 80s. It’s somewhat campy, but everything about it screams quality production. I’m listening to the soundtrack right now, and if you want to get pumped up, there’s nothing better than Pacific Rim to start your (work) day.

2) BAASICS: the Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Sessions might have a ridiculously clumsy acronym, but their May 6 session, The Deep End, blew me away. A blend of science, art and personal presentation, this event made me realize that people in the Bay Area are thinking about greater things than how to make the new big app or whine about public transit, and that people don’t suffer from “mental illness,” but are, simply neuro-diverse. It also showed me that 20-somethings care enough to START something like this, rather than make a hit-seeking blog. So, good job.

3) Gravity: another movie, but considering that I see maybe five films in theaters a year, it’s significant. I wrote a blog post about what makes this movie great, and stand by it. It’s emotionally deep, visually breath-taking, and short. It’s the best movie of the 21st century, imo. Also, being a 20-something, I was able to appreciate references from older films like 2001 that inevitably had to be there.

4) Humble Bundle: you let me buy so many games with your sales, and I’ve only played, probably, two of them. Still, you made pay-what-you-want awesome, and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it without…

5) Android: you’re Google’s attempt to prevent Apple dominance, and while things didn’t pan out as expected, I appreciate the sentiment, considering I work for an Android start-up (Fetch). The platform has really accelerated, and, while the games still suck, NVIDIA has ideas that will likely change things up.

6) Being me: let’s just skip over my age, because your opportunities are partially derived from your social and familial connections. This is why so many NYC people write for Thought Catalog: they were given the chance because of their social connections, not because of their writing ability. Getting socially connected matters for people my age, and, unsurprisingly, that factored into me finding a job, improving my life, and living to write this really narcissistic post instead of asking for pennies at the BART station.

7) Poetry: nothing approaches poetry in terms of representing human consciousness, and it saved my life this year, and, I’m going to AWP in February in Seattle, so, awesome. Reading poetry is reading code, but writing poetry is composing a kind of consciousness in a code that only the human brain can read. That makes me want to write, write poems, compose stories of all kinds, and try to get others to focus on learning writing. 2013 showed me that writing, not technical capability, got me here, and I want people to know that expression via writing is the closest thing to spell-crafting you can get. Also, Beth Bachmann, ’nuff said.

Oh, I could say more, but let’s just crack the bottle open and get on with the end of 2013! I’ve got plans and resolutions, but let’s enjoy what we have now: media, drinks, friends, whatever. Also, 20-somethings, make 2014 the year we don’t seem like our lives are so bleak. DO STUFF. ENJOY LIFE. GIVE AND RECEIVE. Don’t expect; don’t compare. DO, and Love. Learning to love seems to help. Stop searching and start BEING. Be alive, and stop this stupid search people tell you every 20-something experiences, because that’s hardly the case.

-MT

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