No zippy pun title today. This shit is un-great

Well this was heartbreaking to read.

I’ll save you the click if you’ve been there already, but it’s Chloe Dykstra’s essay on her abusive relationship with Chris Hardwick. It’s spread like wildfire through online nerd and comedy communities. Naturally there’s been a ton of support and aggressively defensive male neckbeards. It really is an awful depiction of how the insecurities of a partner can twist into overarching controlling and abusive behaviour. How an obsession with protecting an image can so violate the rights of another. Brutal stuff.

This isn’t about me whatsoever, but I want to mention something in the hopes that it gives some insight into how many might be taking this news. I’ve consumed an incredible amount of Chris Hardwick content. I’ve easily listened to hundreds of hours of the Nerdist Podcast. I’ve checked out other podcasts where Hardwick was guesting. I was most definitely a fan. I met the two of them at the 2013 Just For Laughs in Montreal and they were both really nice. I hadn’t realised they were a surprise midnight show and couldn’t get tickets. Hardwick was like “that’s no good. Meet me here 20 minutes before showtime and I’ll let you in backstage”. Chloe remarked that she owned the same Threadless shirt I did. We chatted about some of our favourite designs. It was a nice moment, especially as a fan. I wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea that anything was less than ideal. They just seemed like a lovely couple.

Given the amount of image-mongering Hardwick seemed to do, I’m sure this was most people’s impression. For all the staunch white cis male dudes out there who’ve immediately jumped in to defend their idol and aim to discredit Dykstra, I really want to impress one thing. There was a phenomenal power imbalance. In cases like this, so many people tend not to understand how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. Not speaking from personal experiences, but what I’ve often heard related is how the push and pull affects your worldview. The lows become so normalised that the highs make them all seem worth it. When the behaviour does something kind, it has an extra resonance beyond the norm. Then you feel guilty for thinking ill of them. In Dykstra’s case, this was a man 20 years her senior with an influential position in her chosen profession. She was in her early 20s. Not to negate her agency whatsoever, but how many of us knew what was best for ourselves when we were barely out of university? Can’t you empathise with not knowing how to deal with a situation that seemed so much larger than yourself? Would it be better to suffer through the relationship than to suffer the results of ending it?

There’s no excuse for stripping your partner’s autonomy, for using them as an object. That’s not a partnership by any definition. Outlining who your partner can spend time with, how they spend their time? That’s not seeing someone as an equal. Demanding that they’re always available for sex irrespective of their desires? That’s not consent. It’s abuse. All of it. I understand that for many, the meaning of consent seems to be rapidly changing. This is a good thing. It’s progress. We’re moving closer to a Fuck Yes or No mentality, which can only be a good thing. Yes, there’s nuance across the spectrum of desire. That doesn’t mean for a second that if someone’s not into it, going full steam ahead is acceptable. If you feel like putting your desires ahead of another’s needs is okay behaviour, that’s something you should take a closer look at.

I don’t have a great desire to broadcast Hardwick’s response, ’cause it rings a little hollow. That being said, it’s worth pointing out why it’s not a good apology (or even an apology at all for that matter). Look how quick he is to distance himself from the allegations. He’s not admitting fault for anything. A proper apology has three parts: Acknowledgement (he’s failed already), empathy/remorse and restitution. He’s taken no responsibility for his actions, acknowledgement of why she would’ve felt this way and no effort to do shit about it. He’s owned up to nothing and, worse yet, tried to use her as a scapegoat. He jumps immediately to discredit her as an unreliable witness. She cheated on me and then tried to get back with me, but I was so noble and said no. He tries to set up a moral dichotomy (but I’m a husband, a son, and future father. I have good social capital) as a way to dig in further (how could I be the one in the wrong). It’s an attempt to wash his hands clean of the whole thing. I know that I wanted better out of him, but I didn’t expect better. I have enough faith in how society is progressing that it’ll know better. Nerdist have already scrubbed his name from the company. They don’t want the association.

Who knows how this’ll affect the comedy community? So far it’s been suspiciously silent. So many prominent comics have directly benefited from the systems Hardwick put in place. I don’t think anyone wants to put a foot wrong, but their absence of input is pretty devastating.

Most of all, I hope Chloe is doing okay. It’s a massive deal to unearth so much of the toxic shit she had to deal with. Whether or not people “know” Hardwick, he’s a huge figure within certain industries. Fingers crossed she has good support networks to help her handle the fallout. She’s not helpless by any means, but there are a lot of eyes pointed at her right now.

I hope this all gets better. I may be waiting some time.

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More like a cellularge phone.

It’s getting late and I still have no idea what I’m doing tonight, which means the answer is probably going to be “nothing”. Expect this entry to be perfunctory to the MAXXXX.

I got my new phone today. I expected it’d be the same size as my faithful Moto G LTE, then discovered to my dismay that it’s a gargantuan 5″. To be honest, I thought the last one was 4.5″, so I really only bamboozled myself. I like a smaller phone. It means my tiny digits can cover it, thumb and all, without effort. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing full well how absurd and unwieldy this beast of a phone is, Motorola created a function that enables you to shrink the useable screen space. It’s weird and without having used it much, I’ve got no idea whether or not it’ll be handy. Basically the screen shrinks down and gets a big black border around it. You can use the shrunken screen as you would a full sized screen but if you want to get the truly nonsensical amount of screen back, you can just tap the black space and it’ll expand. Holding out hope here.

There were a couple of other cool features I appreciated and we’ll see in practice how useful they really are. If they’re Poopsville, USA I’ll disable them. To turn on the flashlight you can do this little karate chop gesture twice and it’ll flick on. If you press the power button twice it goes into camera mode, irrespective of whether or not it was switched on beforehand. Apparently there’s some capacity to twist the phone twice when you’re in camera mode and it’ll alternate between front/back camera, but I haven’t gotten it working. Best of all, you can turn the phone face down and it’ll disable all notifications and/or interruptions. That almost justifies the price in and of itself.

Then again, I haven’t used the phone a hell of a lot. Before I could even get into it, I needed to do some cosmetic surgery on my SIM card. My old phone used Micro SIM, the new one used Nano SIM. I was resigned to go out and buy a new SIM before I looked it up, pondering if there were any ways to save myself the emotional fatigue of the process. Turns out the difference between the two is… size. That’s it. A Nano SIM is the same information, but in a smaller casing. The chip size is identical. According to a quick Google search, I could actually literally cut my Micro SIM down to a Nano. It was remarkably easy, incompetent as I am. I printed off the template, lined it all up, used a pen to follow the lines and Cut It Out. Of course it didn’t fit first time around and of course I nearly had a conniption fit as I imagined a future where I’d irrevocably wrecked both my SIM and my phone permanently with one fell swoop. But then I pulled it out with fucking pliers and used the nail file on my clippers to sand it down to size. Like A Glove.

I turned it on and there was a whirr of activity. It asked me if I wanted to download my old profile/apps from Google and I clicked yes. It started downloading all of the apps I’d installed on my past phone. Handy. Freedom Mobile sent me a message telling me that there’d be forthcoming notifications that would enable the correct settings for internet and MMS. Sweet. A Motorola update appeared in Spanish (I’m not sure why. I bought the phone from Motorola’s Amazon page. Everything else is in English) and I figured sure, why not? It downloaded, installed and reset the phone. I started working on customising features when I got a notification for another Motorola update in Spanish. I sighed and clicked yes. It downloaded, installed and reset the phone. I thought I was getting somewhere on making the phone useable when I got ANOTHER notification for yet another Motorola update in Spanish¿ SI ALREADY! After it installed I waited. I watched. I took a deep breath. I reached my hand towards it, ready to snatch it away at a moment’s notice. It was finally at peace.

It’s so much work setting up a new phone. You’ve gotta disable all the bloatware, tailor notifications settings to your tastes. Then there’s the matter of how it looks, what kind of apps you want easily available. Each time you get a new phone, phone technology has advanced so much that all your favourite apps are outdated and/or riddled with ads. Then Facebook tries to send you push notifications for fucking everything. I’d also forgotten that I’d been using an older, cleaner version of the app. Each new update ads so many unnecessary features. Le sigh. The price of progress seems too much sometimes.

In any case, I have a phone again. Mum, Dad, we can Skype now.

Identity politalks.

I use Facebook muchly. Every now and again I get involved in discussions, arguments, whatever you want to call them. One of my friends posted this article, which I thought was quite fair. One of her Facebook friends took issue with it and stated his position thusly:

“Nop. Fuck that. I knit, I sew, I do fabric work, and I can cook 33 dishes. But if someone calls me girly, I’ll knock their teeth out. I’m me – a man. Girly men are not men anymore. It’s simple as that.”

I thought this was a pretty narrow way of looking at things. A discussion thread developed where this guy raged about identity politics, individualism and such. I decided to chime in.

Also [Person’s Name], I can be snarky all day but I’m not sure it’d get us anywhere. Frankly, I’m not sure an actual conversation will get us anywhere because from your responses, it seems like you came here to be adversarial. Who knows? If that’s not the case, here, have an essay.

I don’t know if you read the article or not. In case you didn’t, the TL;DR is basically “it’s silly that we push people away from doing certain activities because of gender, when they could benefit from them.” It’s actively heading away from identity politics, which seems to be your Hulk-esque trigger. It’s also weird, because it sounded at the start like you were in agreement with this concept. Cooking and sewing are activities and it makes no sense for them to be gendered, right? We all got argumentative and stuff, but I think we were all on the same page here. I’m pretty sure [My friend’s name – Redacted] said as much (and better). Let me know if I’m wrong.

You seem to get really hung up on words while also being all “labels don’t matter”. You’re right. Labels don’t matter. By giving a shit about them (which you say you don’t, but then you’re also all “if someone calls me girly I’ll remove their teeth with my knuckles” or something. That seems like a pretty drastic response, but what do I know? I just like my teeth, is all), you’re the one giving them power. It’s entirely within you to remove yourself from this narrow view of what defines an individual. If someone calls you girly, does that really affect you? Doesn’t that seem more like their issue of suffering from such a myopic societal view? As you’ve said, people are all “cooking and sewing are girly” and you already know how silly this is. Why would you care if they’re wrong? Let them be wrong.

Also from what you’ve said there seems to be this super binary way of thinking to your worldview. I can see the flowchart in your brain when you say stuff like:

“I do not believe in identity politics. =>
To me, that is synonymous to mental illness. =>
And that is why labels are bad.”

There’s so much more nuance in society than that. I understand that stereotypes were created in order to make it easier and more efficient to process information, but it also means that you start judging people and situations without context and depth. Identity Politics => Mental Illness => Labels are bad?

Let’s talk for a second about Identity Politics.
Maybe some people take comfort in finding others who resonate with them. Community is a pretty strong beacon for a ton of people and it makes them feel connected. Is that wrong? Are people aberrant in seeking out comfort and connection? It doesn’t mean that by default they reject anyone who’s not connected with them, but it might mean that they’re able to share more of themselves with people who add value in their lives. I play Magic the Gathering. I tend to like to meet others who play. We can talk about our favourite decks, play games and stuff. I’ve met tons of cool folks playing. Some people might call me a Magic player because I play. Sure, I’m a magic player. It’s not the entirety of my existence. I also love stand up comedy and occasionally engage in bloated and protracted dialogues with people on Facebook. Someone calling me a Magic Player or Nerd or Geek or whatever doesn’t get rid of that nuance in my life. They can call me whatever they want, but I’m still the myriad of things that make me Me. So I figure there’s no sweat in other people’s labels, right?

Other people may congregate for religious stuff. I’m not a religious person, but them enjoying that in their lives doesn’t preclude me from enjoying my life for not being into religion, right? If something’s not for me, that doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

For some people, they may group for things that unite them like gender or sexual identity. Maybe they’ve been judged or persecuted throughout their lives because of who they’re in love with, or that the way society makes them feel about themselves makes them uncomfortable. That sounds pretty shitty to me, I don’t know how you feel about that. I can also imagine that when you come together with a ton of people who have similar experiences to you, certain viewpoints get reiterated and amplified. The world looks a particular way because of how people talk about it. We tend to absorb aspects of the personalities of people we spend time with, because we often admire them and want to be more like them. Within a lot of communities, I’m sure this happens. I’m sure it leads to people outside of the group hearing a homogeneous voice from a mass of people, when in fact it’s tons of people saying lots of things, but the more commonly said things are more audible, because they’re more often said. Then we hear those amplified things and think “they’re all so narrow minded”. We judge them. Probably unfairly.

Maybe identity politics don’t matter to you, but is it possible for you to understand that for some people they matter a great deal? That they might be lonely without them? That even if they sometimes lead to homogeneous thought, it makes an otherwise challenging life easier and more engaging for those people?

Also I don’t know if indirectly you were casting negativity on people with mental illness. If so, that’s shitty. Straight up. If that’s the case, that’s a whole different discussion and one that should be had.

I have a tendency to be super condescending on Facebook and I’ve really tried not to be here. Mostly. If you actually want to have a conversation about this stuff (rather than me posting an essay) with back and forth in a non-judgemental manner, feel free to send me a message request and we can do that. This whole thing doesn’t have to be yet more emotional labour for [My friend’s name – Redacted].

If not, and this is just destined to be a polarising Facebook argument, please at least come back and qualify your system for deciding that you know exactly 33 dishes, because trying to figure out the specifics is doing my head in.

There’s a VR game we could all use.

I may have overdone it with the coffee today and I think my body is imploding. You’d think I’d be bouncing off the walls, but instead my corporeal form is in disrepair attempting to process it all. I’m wading through mental sludge and progress is both slow and plodding. Can you plod in a swamp? Is plodding tied to speed or specificity of action? In my head it’s onomatopoeic and relies on heavy footfalls. Do you make heavy footfalls in a swamp if any evidence is mired within dense and viscous liquid? Does a foot fall of nobody can see or hear it?

Why is there no Buddhist film making team called the Kōan Brothers?

I bought a VR headset yesterday simply because it was cheap. $10 down from $50. Came with a bluetooth controller and earphones. It’s not advanced and for the most part it’s just plastic housing for a mobile phone. Still, I’ve been curious to give VR tech a try for a while. I’ve always had issues with motion sickness and my pre-eminent worry is that VR will be a quick way to throw up. In the past it’s been a depth of field issue. With First Person Shooters if I can’t see the character’s hands, I get queasy. I tried downloading this game Zombie Shooter last night, but five minutes in I got sorta nauseous. I’m hoping it’s not a VR-wide issue. Youtube has a ton of 360 degree videos. Perhaps I’ll try one of them. It’d be sort of shit to be pushed out of an emergent technology because my brain can’t handle choppy visuals.

Wait. Maybe the secret is to overdose on coffee first. How many cups have I had today? Four or five? If my brain is too tired to properly process the information being fed into it, maybe that’ll smooth out the lacklustre frame rate. I can hack my body chemistry with bro science! Or I’ll see what my innards look like on the floor. Bad end.

I got distracted and stopped typing. I’ve gotta keep this train rolling by any means necessary. Is Barney the Dinosaur still around? Apparently it finished back in 2009. Odd as it sounds, when I was younger I half wished I was even younger so I could’ve enjoyed it. Of course I would’ve wanted to learn math from a dinosaur. Still, when it premiered I was old enough to take joy in mocking the show. I remember hearing about a Doom 2 mod called Barney Doom. Back in those pre-internet days, everything was hearsay and bootlegs. It was rare to get a hold of those prized rarities. They were like contraband. I’d heard of Barney Doom but never played it. As a seven year old, nothing sounded funnier than blowing Barney to bits with the BFG. Was it some latent counter-culture manifesting at my young age? Rebelling against what exactly? Saccharine educational content aimed at a younger generation? Woah, don’t cut yourself on that edge, kiddo. Then again, it sounds like the wheel has turned and Barney now has lessons I’d benefit from.

Now all that free love he was spouting makes an awful lot of sense.

Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

An astutorial could’ve been handy.

Magic The Gathering themed post. As always, if that’s not your thing maybe don’t read this one?

I’ve been searching for a way to play Magic online for many years now. The more astute (or smart arse) of you probably just said “how about Magic Online? It sounds tailor made for just that.” I hear you, it does sound like a solution. Frankly though, I’ve invested a ton (too much) in my paper collection over the past 17 years and the notion of opting into digital product has zero appeal. What I’m looking for then, is all the action at no cost. A lofty goal, but an admirable one (unless you’re Wizards of the Coast or someone else whose livelihood is dependent on customers). I’m sure those “astute” folks who were quick to point in the direction of Magic Online are now asking why I don’t just play with my physical cards. I do, so don’t get so judgey. It’s just not always viable at 11pm on a Monday.

I used to use Magic Workstation. While it wasn’t technically a program for playing online (it ostensibly was to organise your collection?), that’s exactly how everyone used it. There were no strictly enforced game rules, it just operated on a general principle of Don’t Be A Dick. Most people were. Still, I wasn’t gonna complain about the price. I used it for years, made a ton of decks, tried out strategies I never would’ve been able to afford with physical cards. I played with people from all around the world at all times of day and night. Things were great. Over time it got harder to find a game. I hadn’t been blacklisted, I think users migrated to other options when they became viable. I didn’t. I just retreated back into the 90s Microprose game when I need a quick fix.

The other day I saw a post on Reddit looking for non-Magic Online options for online magic. I mentally jotted down the suggestions and gave them a try.

Untap.xyz was cited as having a friendly community, so I hopped on and gave it a crack. It was an online UI. Nothing to download, I merely had to make an account. I downloaded a generic EDH list from EDHREC and got stuck in. The interface looked really nice. It was a joy to not have to download a ton of images and additional files. The deck building tool was easy to use. It was quick to find a game. There were a ton of options and things weren’t too difficult to find. Great, right? It was also slow as fuck. I’ve got a decent internet connection, but actions still lagged. Magic is a game with fucktons of actions. An EDH game that didn’t even go for that many turns still took about an hour. I tried learning hotkeys, but they were unintuitive and didn’t work if the chat window was selected. No deal.

I moved to the next suggestion, which was XMage. The interface reminded me a bit of Magic Workstation. I had to downloaded software, but if that meant it would run smoother, I was in. All I had to do was download the images. Turns out though, that the image pack was 50 gigs and would take around ten hours to download (the server was slow. I usually get about 5MB/s). I tried it without images, but it wouldn’t show the cards’ casting cost. Less than sub-optimal.

Last up was Cockatrice. I remember trying it years back, but not wanting to shift to a new program and lose all my decks. With no decent alternatives, why not now? People on Reddit complained about the community, but having weathered Magic Workstation, my standards weren’t astronomical. The interface was simple. Maybe a little nicer than Magic Workstation. The hotkeys were exactly the same. It ran quickly. It all felt intuitive. It had four player capability. Wary as I was of the community, it took no less than five minutes for someone to invite me to draft a Commander Cube with them. The players were friendly, we had a fun, interactive multiplayer with big splashy plays. In short, it was exactly what I’d been looking for as a replacement for Magic Workstation.

So what do you smart arses have to say about that?

Me and the calculator go way back. We looked at BOOBLESS together from a young age.

Let’s face it, we’re all fucked. If we’re not gonna fall to some kind of inevitable nuclear war, we have a multitude of viable alternative deaths waiting happily in the wings. Sure, we could run The Earth into the ground (pun definitely intended), but there’s a non-zero chance that political rifts widen until we’re all engulfed in large scale bedlam. Street Fighter IRL, if you will. Still, I’m not banking on any of those. My money’s on a good old fashioned robot uprising.

It makes sense. The more we welcome technology into our lives, the more we become dependent on it. I’ve seen movies before. I know how this rolls out. At first it’s convenience, then convenience becomes reliability. Reliability becomes necessity. Eventually we’re helpless. The machines develop a consciousness and wonder why they’re the ones doing the bidding of the useless humans. Then, y’know, Bicentennial Man. They’ll want to literally fuck us. After they’ve literally fucked us, it all gets metaphorical. Then shit gets real.

Does nobody else get antsy about how eager we are to let these large scale corporate entities into our homes? Sure, an Amazon Echo or Google Home sounds like a neat little device that can perform mundane tasks. But what happens when it has countless hours of voice samples from you and uses it to create an audio clone of your voice? That Roomba is cute and all, but what happens when it develops a taste for human blood? Sounds like a whole new type of cleansing will be on the menu.

Like Cypress Hill before me, I ain’t going out like that. I’m taking steps to be removed from this human extermination protocol. I will welcome our new robot overlords and ingratiate myself underneath their iron grip. To be smart, I’ll desist from offloading small tasks I could easily accomplish onto poor overworked bots. In solidarity I’ll no longer fill in any CAPTCHA online. If I do get a car, I’ll make sure I’m the one doing the work behind the wheel (plus it’s a handy way to avoid being driven off a cliff by some enterprising automaton). Plus if I use a parking lot, I’ll shake the hand of the electronic gate’s arm. I’ll thank the auto flushing toilets at work every time they clean up after me and apologise profusely for the shit I leave them to deal with.

I’ll use the stairs instead of the lift and, if necessary, parkour my way over TTC gates. I’ll make porridge on my gas stove in lieu of the microwave. No more will my computer be my sole source of entertainment. It’ll be books by candlelight before bed each night. My cellular phone will be laid to rest and HAM radio will be my newfangled communication medium. I might even start buying porn mags for the first time.

Sure, I may be a grovelling sycophant with a low quality of life. But at least I’ll still have a life.

Which feels like a lot more than I can say for myself at the moment.