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…

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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…

When we evolve beyond words, that’s when I’m calling life quits.

New old phone! I’ve got a new phone which happens to be my girlfriend’s old phone. Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! I feel like the living embodiment of the recycling Möbius triangle. I now get to acclimate to the idiosyncrasies of a device that my girlfriend has well worn in. Am I excited? Well, that’s not the right word for it, but it’s gonna be a step up (2: The Streets or 4: Miami? I can’t decide).

It’s always an adjustment. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a super smooth transition. No matter how technology progresses, shit seems to get left behind. Maybe in the end though, it’s me who’s getting left behind. My ritual with each subsequent phone upgrade has been to reach back for all of the same apps. It’s very possible that everything I use is outmoded. Of course the apps get upgraded, but there are probably far more efficient ways to do the same thing. They were top of the line back when I got my Samsung Galaxy SII, but that was waaaay back in 2011. The world has evolved in the past six years. What kind of apps am I talking about anyway?

  • GO SMS: I’ve always liked this little texting app. It’s got a bunch of useful functions that I rarely use. You can blacklist numbers, have a private password protected text area (neither of which I’ve needed). The prime function that I’ve always loved was scheduled texts. You can set the date and time and it’ll automatically send the text off then.
  • GO Launcher: It’s basically a super customisable launch screen. I use possibly 2% of the functionality, but now it’s so familiar that I find it hard to operate without it. I could, if I were that inclined, mess around with screen transitions, custom icons, widgets, etc. Instead I keep it so simple I should probably avoid the app altogether.
  • Alarm Clock Plus: Hugely customisable. I like being able to set multiple alarms that trigger at certain times on certain days. The gently rising alarm is a blessing on rough mornings (though the first vibration is normally enough to rouse me). It’s got all kinds of neat features like making you solve a math equation before it’ll turn off. There are a ton of variations on snooze (which I disable. No snooze for me).
  • Swipe Pad: It sets up any number of hot spots around your screen’s periphery. I use the top left hand corner. When you activate these hot spots, a customised menu of apps, etc pops up. The best part is you can activate it no matter what you’re doing. Say you’re scrolling through Facebook, you can activate your hotspot then cut to a notepad. Then say you see something silly, you can switch to camera, all without having to revert to your launch screen. It’s all kinds of neat.
  • 1 Weather: It’s a weather app, no doubt like any other. If you’re going on holiday it’s pretty nifty to be able to create a bunch of zones to check out how the everyday weather is over that side of the world. It sits permanently at the top of your screen to give an indication of temperature and launching the app has a host of useful functions. Forecast, UV index, precipitation levels, sunrise and sunset. It’s often pretty accurate.
  • ES File Explorer: It used to be a handy file directory system. Now in its quest to Swiss army knife directory functions, I feel like it’s become the epitome of bloatware. It has a space saver/analyser, all kinds of subsidiary apps and probably an anti-virus thrown in there. It also may be a virus on its own.
  • Swift Key: GBoard has taken some decent strides in recent years, but it still has nothing on Swift Key. By simply giving up your right to privacy and letting it read your emails/Facebook, etc, it’ll analyse how you write and offer helpful suggestions for your next word. While I spend most of my time in GBoard deleting its predictions of my swyping, Swift Key is accurate and quick. It’s one of the few paid apps I’d say is well worth the money.

So in case you were wondering what apps were the height of fashion and functionality in 2011, I’m happy to have delivered. My Nexus 4 will now feel as good as old.

I did knot expect to tie that all together.

I’ve been procrastinating about starting this. The Internet has been far too alluring. So to make up for it, I’m gonna let you in on what I’ve been reading. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Sorry, messed up the word order there. Meant to say That doesn’t sound exciting!

Let’s begin.

I watched the trailer for Ready Player One. I enjoyed the book. It was a silly wish fulfilment narrative. The lead characters weren’t terribly well carved out. The whole thing was pandering stacked upon pandering. It was also a lot of fun, and even if it felt like the evocation of something my friends and I used to play called The Anythink Game. The premise was simple, you could be anyone and do anything you could think of. We used to play it on a trampoline. We’d be Transformers one minute and Ninja Turtles the next. I don’t know if we ever played as everyone’s favourite female Street Shark, but that was obviously a missed opportunity. Ready Player One felt in the same spirit and as such, it was a neat world to slip into. If I’d read it at age 13, I can guarantee you it would’ve been my favourite book of all time. I have no idea how Spielberg’s team is legally gonna get a hold of all that copyrighted material, but they’re the real heroes of the film. The scale of the idea makes sense on the big screen and in watching the trailer you can already see how specifically tailored to 3D they’ve made it. A big dumb film perfectly fit for a cheap Tuesday.

I had forgotten how cringeworthy a bunch of it was though.

I bought a new keyboard. I’m so tired of having to write on my phone while in transit. The Swype keyboard sure speeds things up, but it also gets overworked pretty easily. My poor Moto G can’t keep up with my fingers. I’d been considering buying a tablet or laptop, but if a keyboard can fix all my issues, why not go with the simplest solution? I realised the other day how I still haven’t adjusted to Bluetooth as a technology that exists. I’m a curmudgeon who’s already been made technologically obsolete. I was at the park the other day, marvelling at my friend’s rugged and robust bluetooth speaker. In my head, if it’s not hard-wired, it won’t work. I guess I’ve acclimated to the understanding that I often buy technology that’s behind the curve. Since my gear’s never top of the line, I just assume that all technology is as shitty as mine. The last time I bought something cutting edge was my beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. Even when it was dated, it still worked great. Stupid different Canadian networks not working with my pride and joy.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to constantly carrying a heavy work-around everywhere I go.

Lastly, T.J. Miller. I always thought of him as a provocative performance artist in the vein of Father John Misty. If that’s what he’s going for, judging by this interview he overshot the moon and ended up in another galaxy. Ugh, he comes off as a totally snarky, condescending prick. Just an unrepentant asshole. It’s a pity, his live performance at JFL42 2015 stands as one of my all time favourite comedy experiences. Densely interwoven meta commentary that was both flashy and subtle. He’s always walked that line for me, but if he’s trying so hard to present an unlikable persona, I’m fine accepting him as thus. Bummer. I hope he gets hoisted on his own petard and comes back to earth.

By the time he does, I might even have my own Bluetooth keyboard on which to write about it.

Maybe it’ll be after seeing him in Ready Player One.

No man is an I LAN.

Are LAN parties dead? A relic of 56K modems? Left in the dust by Steam’s handy functionality? X-Box Live supplanting the need for proximity co-op gaming? Do we sound the keening bell in lament of fond memories? Of late nights and tired eyes? Of Red Bulls and caffeine pills? Of companionship born out of necessity? All laid to rest at the altar of a new age.

Without sarcasm, I can say that LAN parties were some of the highlights of my teen years. I’d pack my bulky desktop computer and CRT screen into a large rubbermaid and bug my parents for a lift to a friend’s place. Typically their parents would be out of town. While other kids would be conducting Risky Business, we’d get hopped up on sugar and play video games until our eyes bled.

It was the natural evolution of sleep overs, but with added ixnay on the sleeping. You’d maybe catch a couple of hours if you were lucky, optimal downtime to leech video games, movies, music and anime off others. If your computer was gonna be out of use for three hours, why not let yourself recover? Much like sleepovers, LANs offered the optimal outlet for a good D&M (Deep and Meaningful chat) about who you had the hots for, typical teenage gloating and all sorts of angsty shit. Unless a game was in progress, of course.

What games? Whatever was in the nerdcore zeitgeist, in as much as we could all run it. We tended to cater to whoever had the lower spec’d rig (usually me). Starcraft was a common favourite, making sure we evenly divided skill level across teams. A few years later Warcraft 3 was Le Jeu Du Jour. We’d mess around on Heroes 3, Counterstrike (NO FUCKING AWP CAMPERS) or if I begged enough we’d give the much maligned Ricochet a try (I mainly loved the death sound). Star Wars: Jedi Knight was awesome. While we began by tearing apart one another with guns, eventually we learned how much fun it was to go HAM at one another with lightsabers and force push/pull. You could deflect bullets and turn opponents’ attacks back on themselves. Who wouldn’t want to play a recurring game of stop hitting yourself?

Aliens vs Predator 2 was possibly one of the best multiplayer experiences I ever had, primarily because one of my friends Lost His Shit Constantly. We’d play survival mode, in which we started out with one xenomorph and everyone else was human. Whenever you died, you became a xenomorph and hunted down the humans in a pack. Our friend would constantly be in a palpable state of terror, literally screaming and borderline hyperventilating. I think he enjoyed it, though clearly not as much as we did.

As we aged, contraband got folded into the equation. Someone would always have an older brother or lax parent. LAN parties continued to help us unwind, while also resembling very real parties. We’d trade silly Newgrounds videos and obscure internet phenomena. If someone was temporarily absent, we’d go through their computers in search of their hidden porn stash. Or anything else equally incriminating. There was rarely any bullying, but friendly ribbing was a mainstay. Functionally it allowed a bunch of us to spend a large block of time together without having to part ways.

I don’t know what modern experience would emulate LAN parties. Do kids these days hang out with tablets? Does Nintendo Switch fill the void? Or do they get their kicks at their respective homes all playing Overwatch? As an adult, this seems like a hard sell. People enjoy going home to their beds and pets. Friendships seem emotionally closer, but less time intensive. Would people want to spend that long in a basement, huddled around computers? Or does that remind us too much of being at work?

Time will tell as it did in the past.

March 12th 2010. Within the first couple of rows at Vector Arena rocking along to The Pixies. I mean, I was getting into it, but tepidly. According to Setlist.fm they were just finishing up their fourth track, “Manta Ray” from their Complete ‘B’ Sides collection. In short, I didn’t know it so my enthusiasm was more manufactured than authentic. Didn’t matter, I was seeing THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. They finished up, we all clapped and from the stage I heard the opening chords of “Debaser”. Involuntarily, my fist launched straight into the air. Unfortunately, the fist of the dude next to me did too, but at an angle that sped straight for my watch. The strap-holder snapped and my watch fell to the ground. I picked it up, forlorn, then crammed it in my pocket and went back to having a transcendent time at THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. Later in the night my boss pissed on a tree then shook my hands without washing his. Clearly karma was in full force.

I tried fixing the watch. I took it to a jewellery store who glued it all up and put a new pin in. A month or two later the pin fell out. They put another pin in. Then the watch strap-holder cracked again. I wondered whether it was worth repairing again if its destruction was inevitable, or if I should settle for a new watch? I asked a friend of mine. “What about not getting a watch?” He asked. “At this point, having a watch is a fashion decision. You work at a computer. You carry a cellphone with you everywhere. The chances of you not having the time when you need it are relegated to those moments you’re trapped on a desert island and even then you can just whip up a handy dandy sundial.”

He was right. That day I stopped wearing a watch and I’ve never looked back.

The other day my iPod Classic broke. I thought my headphones were buggered, because that’s a thing that happens with alarming regularity. I grumbled and looked for solutions. Friends chipped in with some good ones (like this glorious idea to relieve tension). Then I did the logical thing and tried a different pair of headphones. Once again, my iPod shat the bed. I think that was my third or fourth iPod. It’s the fourth to ultimately die to the same issue. The bloody headphone jack. The right audio channel on my first iPod died. My previous one had issues skipping, pausing and playing through the jack. Then after that was fixed, it suffered the same fate as my first. This most recent one has also faced the same audio channel issue. I could spend $50 to repair it. Now I need to decide what place an iPod has in my life.

The last time I was having this discussion, Spotify wasn’t a viable alternative. If I did skip the iPod for streamable music, I’d be paying $10 a month. Keep in mind I use Spotify at work and home too and enjoy the service. However, I was just about to dump it because I didn’t use it enough. There are alternative services (sadly my beloved Grooveshark is no more) I could use, but not without ads. That’d save me $120+ a year though. Not chump change. Given my shitty phone internet and limited hard drive space, if I went with the phone I’d have to rely on intentionality. I could download a few albums when I was on WiFi and listen to those until I got to another WiFi spot. The iPod on the other hand has an absurdly large catalogue that’s available at a scroll. I can switch it up without having to worry about limited inventory. Spotify does have a huge library, but I’d need to be selective, choosing what I desired for that particular day. The iPod is better for the gym and running, but I’d a) need to pay to get it fixed (with a 6 month guarantee) and remain a two device asshole (looks really dumb on the bus clutching a phone in one hand and scrolling with the other. Hands that is, not cheeks).

Do I stubbornly hold onto something that works, knowing that it’s not a viable option forever? Do I wait until technology catches up (e.g, internet speeds and phone hard drive capacity) to my needs and jump ship then? Or do I thrust my fist blindly into the air knowing that it could hurt in the short term, but work out in the long run?

Guess you’ll have to watch and see…