In South Korea is it called Ready Player Won?

After all of my protestations over buying a new phone, I kind of love it. Now that it’s encased in a gummy purple shell, it’s damn near perfect. Its cool aluminium body no longer slips out of my clumsy mitts. The case deftly creates small alcoves for the buttons. The on/off button is immensely satisfying to push. It’s not bulky or heavy, plus it has the desired aesthetic of a seven year old. It’s outfitted with a screen cover, so I can’t even smudge it with my greasy fingers. The battery rocks my fucking socks, I can even get a whole day out of it without charging. It’s exceeded my expectations something fierce. It even does creepily helpful shit like knowing I’m going to London in a week and suggesting I download the maps for offline use. I trust my phone as far as I can throw it (and yes, there’s an event for that), but you know what? I did what it told me to do. Because I’m meek, weak willed and want to curry favour with my inevitable robot overlords.

Speaking of robot overlords and exceeding expectations, I got to try real VR for the first time the other day. Since I was a kid, the novelty of VR has never ceased exciting me. On the other hand, the reality of VR was virtually always disappointing. I get motion sickness, and most rigs lacked a widened depth of field option. So ten minutes of VR often meant a few hours of feeling violently ill. My friend had the Playstation VR equipment, which was way more high end than I’m used to. He suggested I try out Archangel VR which was basically Battletech/Mechwarrior. I didn’t expect it’d be half as immersive as it was. There we were in his lounge, he was making coffee and asking how I wanted it. At the same time, I was in another reality, riding in a convoy as my young son showed me a wargame he’d programmed. If it wasn’t for him asking me about coffee, I would’ve entirely forgotten I was in a lounge.

The scale was remarkable. There was this great moment when I arrived at the foot of my mech. I had to crane my neck to take the whole thing in. The controls were simple, but felt very intuitive. I could reach out and punch things with my massive arms, fire my machine gun or missiles. I had shields mounted on each arm and had to block in a directional capacity. I likely played for around 20 minutes, but for those 20 minutes I was absorbed utterly. If this is the future of gaming, it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Speaking of a wild ride, it’s time to go back to Chinatown to get a refund. They sold me a “Fast Charger” which is just an ordinary charger. If I don’t have the time to properly charge my phone, I certainly don’t have the time for that brand of bullshit.

Onwards to the future!

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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.

Stop tone policing me.

I had it all planned out. I was so keen to talk about my new friend-dating project “I Have My Dates”, because I went on my first one. Then I got distracted by impassioned thoughts on gun control protests. Then I had a super busy workday and blabbed on about that. It’s been an active week. No complaints.

So instead of circling back and talking about how wonderful my friend date was (and it really was. I’m so excited to find more ways to date my friends. I’ve got a double-date coming up this Sunday evening), I’m gonna delve into something incidental that happened while on my friend date: I dropped my phone.

It’s dead. 100% fucked. The screen cracked, but in a manner that left basically the entire screen unresponsive (except the area where the number “4” shows up, oddly enough). It’s a total write off and I need a new phone. Buying a phone is weird, specifically because I’m very adamant about the type of phone I’m looking for. I don’t want a top of the line phone, because I don’t use my phone for anything that requires advanced specs. I use Facebook, Reddit, Google Maps. Occasionally I’ll email or write into the notepad while on holiday (so I can keep bringing y’all this fine content, naturally). Maybe once a week I’ll eat gamjatang at a Koreatown restaurant and watch Magic the Gathering cube draft videos while periodically peeking over my phone at the screen displaying an endless reel of Kpop videos with oversaturated colour palettes and curiously adventurous camerawork.

None of this takes a lot of processing power. If my old Moto G wasn’t stuck on a constant restart loop (and honestly, I think the phone is actually in perfect working order. There are supposed to be ways to boot into a recovery screen, I’m just incompetent enough that I can’t make them happen), it would still be able to do all of those at a level that was adequate for my needs. It’s weird when I say this to people, because they clearly have a different relationship with their phones than I do. They’ll recommend all these high quality models, $700+ phones, y’know? Some of them get oddly adamant that I upgrade, buy a new phone. Like my decision for deliberate low-tech infuriates them. It’s this strange application of their own values over mine. I’m not shitty or defensive about it, it just strikes me as peculiar. If I can get all of my cellphone needs serviced by a $300 phone, why would I pay twice that?

What it all boils down to, is that I don’t really care about phones very much. I was basically made to get a cellphone back in the early 2000s and adamantly didn’t want one. I liked just saying I was gonna be somewhere, then being there. I didn’t want to carry something else in my pockets. The thought that anyone could get a hold of me at any time was far from comforting. Sometimes it was nice to be left alone. The convenience factor didn’t add enough to my life in order to justify what felt like a psychic weight. Not on your sole, but on your soul, etc etc etc. Something about the quality of merci? This metaphor is getting strained.

Blessedly, many things about me have changed since I was 16. I’ve discovered that my distaste for phones hasn’t. For the past three days, I’ve been considerably less stressed. I practically only need my phone for commutes. I never got a signal at work, so that didn’t matter. Plus when I’m at work/home I’m plugged into my computer at most every moment. Don’t take any of this like I’m technologically avoidant, I like technology plenty. I’m just not convinced phones are a technology that do a lot for me. It’s nice to be present so much of the time. Nothing shits me more than when I’m spending time in the company of friends and they’re constantly on their phones. Look, if you want so badly to be somewhere else, go there. It’s fine, I take no offence. I notice that when I have a phone, my attention gets flighty. If I’ve got more than 30 seconds I have to fill, I’ll turn on Facebook or Reddit. But why? Why would I need to fill that teensy amount of time instead of just taking things slower?

Unfortunately the rational part of my brain knows that not having a phone would create more emotional labour for the people in my life. They’d have to work hard to track me down and I don’t want to put that burden on them. Oddly enough, me disentangling from the web would make their lives harder and that’s a shitty thing to do to loved ones. Plus any vacation is made immensely easier with the aid of Google Maps and notepad.

So I guess I need to figure out how to buy phones in Canada. Or how to reboot my Moto G…

Losing my edge would cut me like a knife.

I have consumed a quantity of coffee that has transported me outside of liminal time. I’m not sure when I am, so I figure I might as well roll with whatever flashes through my noggin. When should I start?

I once saw a woman sitting on a bench holding a small dog in one hand and a chandelier in another. I had no context for the encounter. Equally, I’ve got no desire to find out what led to that moment. It feels like it’d ruin the magic. I’m choosing to believe that she’d not only vanished between liminal time, but space. Any logic of this situation could only be parsed by quantum mechanics and frankly, I don’t have time or space for that. I guess you could say she seemed… quarky? I sense a phase shift coming on.

Spike Jonze just put out this advert and I think it’s all kinds of nifty. Look, I find intrusive and clumsy advertising as annoying as the rest of you do. That being said, it’s rare for me to tire of gushing over the great advertising I grew up with. Adverts in NZ were sarcastic, clever and really delivered on their objectives. Good advertising is effective, tells a story and makes your customer wonder why they don’t already have the product in their lives. In this case, maybe it delivers? I’m not 100% sure, but it’s sure as hell pretty as fuck. All music videos are advertisements anyway, right? It just so happens that in this one you’ve got Anderson .Paak’s gorgeously smooth vocals, FKA Twigs dancing up a storm of interpretive dance, the wonderfully imaginative visual stylings of Jonze and it’s all wrapped up in a tidy four minute clip. I was never gonna be the target market for a Smart Home device, but I’m sure if you were, the idea of being served an ideal soundtrack at will would be enough to sell you on it. Speaking of which, let’s jump back a week or so.

I was in Austin chatting with friends. We were talking specifically about these home devices, algorithmic learning and soundtracks. I was saying how on a personal level, I have an innate fear of this technology. Fear might be a bit strong, but it makes me feel uneasy. In my head it goes to a place where we no longer take an active role in choosing what we consume. There’s maybe a chip or something inside of us that just knows what we’ll enjoy. I’m sure the technology will get accurate enough to make it a reality. There’s a non-insignificant part of my identity that’s tied up in what I consume.

When something hits all the right beats for me, it feels like it’s added to my life. Whether this is music or a great narrative. Part of the satisfaction that comes from accessing those highs is going through the lows for contrast. Great music shines so brightly because terrible music exists. I can get bowled over completely by everything about Janelle Monáe’s new track “Make Me Feel” in part because in 1998 Shaun Mullins released his misguided tyre fire “Lullaby”. Seriously that song is so excruciating it becomes a physical sensation. “Make Me Feel“, on the other hand feels like a reward for endurance. If everything was perfect, then nothing would transcend. It’d all just be wallpaper. One of my most gratifying recurrent experiences is recommending something to a friend based on how well I know them. I’ll take their personality and preferences into account. I’ll factor their sensibilities, brand of humour and capacity for certain types of content to figure out whether or not they’ll jive with my suggestion. I’m not shooting 100% here, but having a friend come back to me thanking me for sharing is such a wonderful sensation. It tells me that I know them well enough to understand what they’re looking for, but also points to a growth in our kinship, that we both resonated with the same content in some fashion. I feel closer to them for having had that experience.

If a machine is gonna come and take that away from me, what do I have left? I’ll just be here caffeinating myself out of the timeline.

It’s probably just a racier version of Lawnmower Man. Who needs that?

Do you remember dot matrix printers? We had one when I was a kid and I thought it was the coolest. It might be from before your time. The paper was different. Odd, even. Wait, did I just use “odd, even” as a complete sentence? Rock solid! Anyway, I remember thinking the paper looked all futuristic, but really it was archaic. Reams of these blue and white lined sheets. The borders were tearable and covered in holes. I’d frequently pull off part of a border by accident and feel like I had to tear the rest off to compensate. Wait, why not practice show don’t tell? My favourite thing by far about this printer (apart from the nifty noise it made) was that I could use it to print out cool birthday cards. There was one with a robot, there were others, I think. I guess? I dunno, once I had the capacity to print robo-cards I had no interest in printing anything else. Who wouldn’t enjoy birthday salutations from a robot? A monster, that’s who. Come to think of it, monster cards would’ve been rad too. Actually, it was the 90s, they would’ve been “radical” instead.

There was a bunch of technology I grew up with that seems a lifetime away now. It makes sense when you put it into perspective. I was born in ’87, so even though I’m 30, this is the fourth decade I’ve experienced. That’s a significant period of technological development. When I was a child, I had a My First Sony Walkman. Cordless home phones were frivolous rich people toys. Now it’s gotten to the point where people listen to music on their portable phones and landlines are pointless. It’s been about eight years since I last owned a TV and likely longer than that since I seriously used one. I’m not complaining, gloating or anything in between, I just think it’s interesting. This is what ageing is, finding the tools of your youth fading into irrelevance. It’s a fine and natural part of growing up.

This article encapsulates it pretty well. I may sound wistful, but I’m generally a fan of new and emerging technology. I’m may not be a gadgets person (my phone upgrade strategy is accurately expressed in this classic XKCD comic), I am however delighted by finding cool and efficient ways of doing things. The one way in which I am a curmudgeon is when we get unnecessary developments in order to drive consumer interest. Do we really need to be driven to upgrade so often? New iPhone models seem increasingly Malibu Stacey in their benefits.

I wonder though, how long before I’m aged out of progress? I got a non-standard cardboard VR headset (it was a work promo) the other day and I can’t get it to work properly. My headset didn’t have the QR code where it was supposed to, so I used a Google one, figured out my phone’s DPI and input the details. Yes, I have an old phone, but I thought I’d configured everything correctly. The demo worked, blurry as it was. When I tried to use other sources (porn, he’s talking about porn), I got audio without video. It wasn’t ASMR, so where’s the fun in that? For some reason my girlfriend’s phone (many years newer than mine) wasn’t compatible at all, so we’re shit out of luck. Of course we were both curious. Who wouldn’t be?

Of course I felt entitled to it. I was lucky enough to have the internet kick into my life with puberty. I never had to forage in local parks for encrusted magazines or try to hack free cable. I had it easy. Now there’s a form of porn that’s out of reach and that feels strangely unjust. I don’t want to upgrade my technology or shell out for a better headset just to watch. It seems so unnecessary and mercenary. Who knows if it’s even good? 3D movies turned out to be a shitty money grab. Why would porn be any better?

On that note, I wonder if Leisure Suit Larry will ever go VR…

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.

Do androids post clickbait for electric sheep?

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.

So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.

So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.

She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.

So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.

I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?

I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.

As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.

Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.

I kinda want to watch this film again…