Category Archives: Serious Time

Goggle Smart Kid

Photo credit: guessThe most dangerous thing I ever read in middle school was Harrison Bergeron.

For anyone that hasn’t read the story and doesn’t have time for a short story that you can google in six seconds and would probably be a better use of your time than this essay, Harrison Bergeron is a 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut. It tells the story of a dystopian future where every American has been “averaged”. If someone is beautiful, they are forced to wear an ugly mask. If someone is athletic, they are tied to heavy weights. And if someone is smart, they are equipped with a helmet that randomly dispenses blaring, concentration-destroying sounds. This “averagefication” of America is legally mandated, and this short story tells the tale of one intelligent, athletic Harrison Bergeron, and his short, easily stymied revolution to bring extraordinary back to America. Spoilers, Harrison is shot and killed almost instantly, and his parents, an idiot mother and an intelligent father forced into a thought disruptor, barely register the tragedy thanks to their handicaps. Looks like the Bergeroniverse is going to stick to its “average” existence.

And that scared the hell out of me.

Identity is always important. I’m not certain at what age such thinking starts, but I know nine-year-olds and fifty somethings that both seem to be in the same boat: they want to know who they are. But it seems like the nine-year-olds have an easier time of it, as they more readily accept the descriptors assigned by their peers and/or adults. Tell me, were you ever described as the fast kid? The fat kid? The smelly kid? The cute kid? The kid that can eat eleven tacos in one sitting? The sports kid? The smart kid? Who assigned you that moniker? Was it a parent? Grandparent? Teacher? Sibling? Friend? Bully? And, regardless of source, when did you start to internalize that description of yourself? You are the fat kid, and no matter how much weight you lose, you still see that pudgy face in the mirror. You are the fast kid, even though you haven’t run more than three feet in the last decade. Maybe you’re still convinced you have a skin condition you got over in college, or maybe you’ve been happily married for ten years, but still think no one on Earth would ever date you. These descriptions we internalize, they can last whole lifetimes, and sometimes they just originate with a random, careless comment that was forgotten by the commenter as quickly as it was said.

Photo credit: guess

Me? I was the smart kid, and it wasn’t hard to understand why. I don’t have any siblings, and I was raised by a very attentive pair of parents, and 3 out of 4 grandparents (my paternal grandfather died the year before I was born). And everyone in my family, one way or another, was very educated. Since I didn’t have much of a peer group 90% of my time (no siblings or cousins around to play Ninja Turtles with), I mostly conversed with my parents. I want to say they dumbed down the conversation a bit for my young ears, but they never lowered their vocabularies or talked down to me (my father actually has a distinct loathing for “baby talk”, which likely explains why he couldn’t stand it when I flipped on Rugrats). This is why, when I was a wee lad of about eleven years old, my friend’s mother asked me, “Why do you talk like a forty year old?” I took it as a compliment. Regardless, whether or not I have ever been smart, I have always sounded smart, and so I happily adopted the “smart kid” identity. I liked school! I did my homework! I could always spout “fun facts” and lecture my friends on the application of metaphors! I used phrases like “the application of metaphors”! And, looking back, I have no idea if it was because I enjoyed doing such a thing, or if the act of committing to the “smart kid” persona just properly tickled the pleasure centers of my brain. See! I’m the smart kid! And I’m doing smart stuff! Me so smart!

So I wound up in the Gifted & Talented Program, and, one day in sixth grade (or thereabouts), we read Harrison Bergeron. And I liked the story, naturally, because it was funny, quick, and absurd. If that wasn’t already the entire base of what I look for in entertainment, it would become such in the coming years. And we discussed the story in class (Gifted & Talented was a forty minute “elective” class containing like ten students. While we were discussing Vonnegut, the kids in “normal” class were, I don’t know, learning how to entice termites onto sticks or something). I seem to recall the girls found the story sad, while the boys were busy chuckling about some dumbass getting his brains blown out. We talked about the ludicrousness of an entirely “averaged” society, and then we moved on to the next topic at hand (which if memory serves, was Flatland, for some reason). In a way, that should have been it. I can’t distinctly recall the thoughts “around” most anything else we read in Gifted and Talented, and Harrison Bergeron should have been no different.

Photo credit: guess

But some time not much later, a thought started to creep into my head, and I’d argue that it never left. That thought was rather simple, and it irrevocably changed my life:

They want to make you stupid. They want to make you stupid, just like them.

Before we go any further: I want to plainly state that, as an adult, I see Harrison Bergeron as nothing more than some light satire about what would eventually be identified as “politically correct” culture. It’s a silly story that is meant to highlight the ridiculous potential endpoint of homogenizing the human race. It’s not a manifesto, it’s a farce. As an adult, I understand that.

But as a kid? At the age of twelve? I want to say it was the hormones. I want to say that, at that age, with my kind of mentality, practically anything could have set me off. It’s like having your sexual awakening while watching Rescue Rangers, right? You were going to be get turned on by something, it could have been MTV’s The Grind, or it could have been Gadget Hackwrench. Best not to think too hard about such a thing. But, source or no, somehow Harrison Bergeron radicalized my own thinking. It was no longer enough to be “the smart kid”, now I had to defend that position, and keep my precious brain safe from all those that would attempt to bring me down to their level. I’m the smart kid, dammit, and you damn normies aren’t going to catch me unaware! Going to a hockey game this Wednesday? Ha! That’s clearly a trick! I’m going to stay home, and read books! That’ll show ya! My galactic brain will stomp out your brain, which is clearly as dull and lifeless as your hair. Ain’t nothing gonna bring me down!

And I thank God every day that I had great friends, activities, and teachers during that time, because if I didn’t? I’m pretty sure I would have been a danger to the world.

I’m a white male living in The United States of America. Statistically, that means there is likely something wrong with me. According to all available data, there are good odds that, more than the women and “minorities” in my school, I could have been a danger to myself and others. This isn’t some self-depreciating statement, this is a simple fact proven over the last few decades since Columbine (which, incidentally, occurred while I was in high school). I am well aware of this fact, and, every time there’s a shooting (which is depressingly often), I think about how such a thing could happen, and if such a thing could have ever happened to me. And, no, I don’t think about if I could have been shot while in high school, I think about whether I could have been the shooter.

Photo credit: guess

And, deep in my heart, I hope that I could never have been that person. I’m not violent by nature, and I think I’ve been in exactly two fights my entire life. I traditionally see violence as an absolute last resort, and it’s a rarity that I even consider hitting someone, left alone jumping down the long series of philosophical hoops that would lead to me wanting to see someone dead. I can barely bring myself to stomp out a spider! They serve a valuable purpose! But I also think about being a teenager, and how every little kiss and breakup and math quiz was the most important thing that had ever happened in the history of mankind. I think about how quickly those emotions could be amplified into something terrible. And I think about what I was thinking about at that time, and who I was.

And I was the smart kid.

When I was twelve, I determined that the world would try to drag me down to average. It never did. I kept my ears open, I kept my nose to the grindstone (book stone?), and I scoffed at obvious attempts to lower my IQ (a fear that alcohol is the “new” opiate of the masses may explain why I have a distaste for beer to this day. Ditto on drugs in general… which may literally be opiates…), and, thankfully, I made it out of my teenage years with my brain intact. My identity, who I considered myself as a person, was never truly threatened. The Harrison Bergeron World was not one that ever intersected with our dimension, and I was safe in my little smart kid bubble. I am the smart kid, and I would continue to be the smart kid.

But I feel that only proves that I’m lucky.

I never really chose to be the smart kid. At some point, I made it an integral part of my identity, but the things that made people identify me as such, the things that made me “the smart kid” were all just random bits of fate predominantly inspired by parents. I understand it’s like a kōan to ask something like “who would you be if you were born an entirely different person”, but the point is that the identity I clung to like a security blanket for so long was less my own doing, and more of an identity thrust upon me. I wasn’t “smart” because I was the most studious second grader in South Jersey, I was smart because I sounded smart next to my friends that were still aping Ren & Stimpy. Adults told me I was smart, I told myself I was smart, I studied to prove I was smart, and then I defended my smartness through smart activities. Would you like to see my high school yearbook again? I think that would prove my nerdity once and for all.

So, in a way, I can’t imagine being a different random white boy with a different defining personality trait. And, more importantly than that, I can’t imagine having a different “Harrison Bergeron”. It’s only through deep meditation and reflection (re: got bored while watching Jessica Jones) that I came to the realization that one simple story impacted my life in significant and subtle ways. So if I barely know myself, I can’t imagine we are even capable of discovering the “trigger” for the white boys that actually decide to kill others. And, in a way, that’s to be expected. We are, by nature, selfish creatures that look out for our own interests. We are capable of empathy, but considering we barely admit our own motives to ourselves, it really is nearly impossible to truly know and understand what someone else is thinking.

Photo credit: guess

And why do I bring this up at all? Because it doesn’t matter.

I was never violent, but my own thinking was radicalized by a humorous short story. Similar things may have happened to other children. It may not have been Vonnegut, but it could certainly have been a television show, movie, or videogame. It could have been a random comment by a commentator on Westminster Dog Show. It could be anything. And that’s important, because we could outlaw all media except for Sesame Street, and someone could still get the idea for a murder spree by misunderstanding Grover. And that’s just addressing “media” as a radicalizing agent, let’s not even considering what kids say to each other. Kids are mean, and someone just trying to be funny could leave permanent scars on a psyche. And some scars never go away, and simply fester and ooze until they control a life, steering it directly into something that is going to require “thoughts and prayers”.

And how do you deal with that? You don’t.

I’m not saying that people cannot be healed. I’m certainly not saying that someone cannot be convinced to, ya know, not be a mass murdering terrorist. There are good, wonderful people out there that help people with these scars, and there are people that have been pulled back from the brink by even the tiniest glimmer of kindness. But can we rely on that happening? Can we say we can eliminate every radical stimulus, and thus live in a perfect, terrorism free world? Hell no. The idea that we could “nice” away violent behavior is absurd, and, frankly, right up there with “your spouse won’t hit you if you are just nicer” or “stop wearing that dress, you’re asking to be raped.” It doesn’t truly address the problem, and it hoists the blame onto the victim, not the perpetrator. The thought of being pleasant all the time is insane to begin with (you are allowed to be sad, irritated, or angry, boys and girls), but the idea that you must be a smiler, else it “set somebody off”, is downright dangerous. Someone hurting people is not your fault any more than it is Vonnegut’s fault that I was a dick to anyone I deemed unworthy of my intelligence.

So if someone tells you the solution so school shootings is to be nice to the goth kid, go ahead and tell ‘em they’re on the wrong track. White males are allowed to have their ridiculous identity issues, but, as long as we present the solution to those issues as violence, we’re going to keep seeing violence. “Proving yourself as a man” is horribly ingrained in our society, and how many deaths can we attribute to the boys that internalize that message? How many times are we going to see someone “solve a problem” with an assault rifle? How many people have to die before we change not how we interact with each other, but what we allow to define our society every minute of every day? “Being nice” was never going to be the answer, and we need to change so much more than our social circles to stop this problem once and for all.

Anyone can be radicalized by anything, but the overarching “morals” of our society too often present violence as the answer to solving problems. People are going to keep identifying themselves with simple characteristics, and when those assumptions are threatened, they will lash out. It’s up to us to limit the methods by which someone may lash out. It’s up to us to save lives.

Getting rid of guns would be a good start.

Hey, it would have saved Harrison Bergeron.

Photo credit: guess

Goggle Zombie

NERDS!Let’s talk about being a stupid teenager, and how that almost got me killed.

My freshman year of college, I fell in with the wrong crowd. While other students were joining fraternities and making lifelong friends/drinking buddies, I joined a different kind of club. I joined the Medieval Society. In case that name isn’t descriptive enough for you, I joined a club that was theoretically supposed to study/celebrate medieval society… but mostly just played Dungeons and Dragons. That’s… like the same thing, right? Look, we were supposed to have a “living” chess game in the quad one time, but organizing things is hard, and… We tried, okay!? But, yes, the point is that we were a big group of nerds, so I fit in almost immediately. I was welcomed with open arms! And I had a Dreamcast!

And, if I’m being completely honest, there were a number of “adventures” with that gang that could have led to… grievous bodily harm. Don’t tell my mom, but I’m pretty sure I was sealed in a cardboard box, and then rode around campus on the roof of a car. That… somehow seemed like a good idea at the time. “Bopper Weapons” were constructed crudely, and tetanus shots may have been required. We weren’t allowed on the roof for a very good reason, but windows were fair game, and… Oh man, the more I think about it, the more I’m surprised I lived to see 20.

And then there was the time I really almost died.

It was a crisp December morning. Actually, scratch that, I just remember it as “morning” because it was my freshman year of college, and “morning” was defined as “any time before 3 PM”. Regardless, it was a nice enough day, and I was filming a zombie movie with my friends. Jim (real names used because I don’t have enough foresight or consistency to use the pseudonym “Tim”) was part of the film program at our school, and he wanted to create a sort of Romero-pastiche. Please note that this was a million years ago, and well before zombies were trendy. Just want to be clear on the simple fact that we were never cool. Anyway, because of my movie star good looks (Alan Alda is a movie star), I was chosen as the star of the piece, or at least the one remaining human. The rest of my fellow cast members were zombies, and I was the lone survivor who would, in the end, blow his brains out rather than join the hordes of the undead. This act of final defiance would, of course, require a prop gun.

And that simple prop gun nearly sealed my fate.

Unrelated EventLet’s set the scene a little further, as I don’t want there to be any questions about what was happening here. First of all, we were filming this movie on campus, and we had done so the week before without incident. Jim, our director and filmmaker, had a permit, and permission to film his school project on school grounds. It was a Saturday, and this was predominantly a commuter college, so campus was fairly deserted. And, again, I can’t stress this enough: with the exception of myself and a few camera caddies (including the aforementioned Jim), everyone was in tattered clothes and zombie makeup. Granted, the tattered clothing could have been typical college chic, but it was rare a group of people could coordinate such a look on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and, yes, as mentioned, there were people with video cameras, which, given the epoch/school funding, were not the tiny, “cute” cameras of today, but something more akin to one of April O’Neil’s gigantic accessories.

Point is that, even from a distance, a layman should have been able to identify that something “fantasy” was happening here, and not, say, a mysteriously very quiet shooting.

But one campus security guard apparently did not get the memo, and drew a gun on me while demanding that I freeze.

And I’d be lying if I said I never think about that very specific moment. I was filming a movie with my friends. These friends, it should be noted, were not the most serious people in the world. After all, after we were done with this bit of “business”, we were probably going to hit the school cafeteria and see how many dessert toppings we could pile on a waffle (scientific answer: ∞). We were a generally optimistic, lighthearted group of people, and took very little seriously. This was bound to change over the years, but we were all fresh-faced, and practically teenagers. Actually, scratch that, the majority of us were teenagers. I think only one of us was old enough to (legally) drink. We were stupid teenagers, and, while we might have also claimed to understand all of the secrets of the universe… we were also pretty likely to puke week old sushi and tequila because we somehow thought eating week old sushi and tequila would end in anything other than tears. So with these (soon to be) life-long friends by my side, I felt pretty safe and… Funny? That was the general mood, ultimately, things were fun.

So you’ll forgive me if I reveal that my first impulse was to use my fake gun to challenge campus security to an Old West-style duel.

To be clear, I did not do that! But it was my first impulse. My absolute first thought was that this was a “fake” situation, and this could not possibly be a real life person training a real life weapon on my fragile, fleshy body. My brain could literally not comprehend that I had just gone from “a fun afternoon with friends” to “literal mortal danger”. That’s the thing about guns: they kill. They are designed to kill. Once a gun is introduced to a situation, someone could plainly die. In this case, had I made the wrong move, I would have died, right there, a corpse bleeding out on campus grass.

And I want to say that this security guard was a kind, level-headed fellow who immediately realized his error. But the reality is that I dropped the gun and held up my hands (still not really believing this was happening), and the guard, who could not have been any older than 25, proceeded to call us “retards” for brandishing a fake gun. Again, we had a permit, it was already a secluded section of campus, and, unless a zombie cult had started up in the last few months, it was pretty clear these cameras weren’t here to film a documentary. But, regardless of all obvious evidence, Big Hero Security Guard was going to save the day from 100 lb. kid with a fake gun, because think of the carnage that could be caused with that apparently very, very quiet gun. That’s certainly worth someone losing their life!

So, if you’re curious about the zombie shoot, we were “politely asked” to leave campus for further filming adventures, and we wound up relocating to a friend’s surprisingly post-apocalyptic backyard for further video hijinks. I mimed blowing my brains out, and my friends dined on raw liver that you were meant to believe dribbled out of my skull. It took all freaking day, and was a comedy of errors our director still recounts to this day, but it did wind up actually, ya know, ending.

But one thing hasn’t ended, and that’s the gun control debate. I like to think my feelings on the subject are pretty clear, but I hope this story makes one thing obvious: kids are stupid. In a life or death situation, there are roughly 50/50 odds that someone will make the right decision on a good day. In what was once a safe, peaceful environment, it is very easy to misread the situation, make the wrong call, and be killed for your mistake. I absolutely know this from experience, and it is nothing short of a miracle that I survived being a dumb teenager with a fake gun. But there would never have been the threat of death without a real gun in the mix.

Keep guns out of our schools.

Period.

Post script: And the other obvious statement is that I survived because I was/am white. We’ll talk about that more on Friday…

FGC #400.1 State of the Website Address

Just random unused GIFsI have an announcement to make regarding the site and its future:

The FGC will be ending with entry #555.

And now I shall explain myself.

This is not my first website. This is not my first website intended for “global” consumption. This isn’t even my first website that is primarily based on talking about videogames. Like many millennials (apparently I am one), I tried my hand at a few other personal “web projects” over the years, and all of them crashed and burned. Actually, that’s overly dramatic, in this case “crashed and burned” means “I lost interest”. It’s true! After a while, I just sort of gave up, and proceeded to field a bunch of emails about “when are you updating again?” or “please come back, Goggle Bob, we need you.” Ha ha, that was another lie, that never happened. Best I ever saw was a random friend saying, “hey, didn’t you used to have a website?” And that was it. End of story, end of website.

And I don’t say this to be self-effacing, I say it because it is simply what happened. And it’s what I expected to happen again with the FGC. I built this website for the express purpose of having somewhere to stick my Kingdom Hearts nonsense, and the FGC was more or less an excuse to generate new content. My initial plan was to start with a “three articles a week” schedule, see how that goes, and then either add or subtract updates as I realized my own time constraints. The Kingdom Hearts articles would trickle in (after some editing and screen caps) on weekends, and that would be that. I’d probably get bored by article #50, and then I’d give up the ghost (posting). At least the site would be “there” anytime someone wanted to learn about the horrors of Fester’s Quest.

But two things happened that I didn’t expect.

And both of them happened around FGC #10.

Just fun to look atI was just sitting on my couch, trying frantically to wrench some kind of meaning out of Ice Climber, a game predominately about clubbing seals until you can club a bird. In a fit of desperation, I just kind of figured I’d try to “see from Popo’s perspective” in a sort of stream of consciousness exercise. Maybe that would give me a few ideas. And then, about 1,200 words later, I had apparently written a short story containing “Ice Climber Fanfiction”. And… that was kind of amazing. This was absolutely not something I had ever intended to do, and was certainly not my “plan” when I started the website. I thought I might do a few “weird” articles here and there, but Ice Climber Fanfic was not ever on the menu. So, when it just kind of happened, and it was actually decent, I was fairly ecstatic. If that could come from Ice Climber, then just imagine what could happen when “reviewing” a good game?

And the second thing that happened is that people actually liked the article. I’m not saying anyone threw me a parade (there’s still time, guys!), but people were actively stating out loud how much they enjoyed reading this gibberish about Nana and Popo. As someone who is naturally slow to grant a “like” or simple “good job”, I took this as nothing but the highest praise. I was getting positive feedback! For something I wrote! That didn’t happen before!

So, before I go any further, I want to thank all of my fans. If you just read one article, or have been here from the beginning, thank you very much. There literally would not be this site without you. Metal Man Master? You’re the best, even if I rarely reply to your comments (because I am lazy). JP Friction? I remembered you exist this time, and please see that as a good thing. BEAT, always a pleasure any time you have participated. And, for that matter, anyone that has ever contributed to an article, whether through something I carelessly failed to acknowledge, or if you’re arguably responsible for the article itself, thank you. Again, can’t stress this enough, I wouldn’t have ever gotten this far without you. All of you.

That said, all things must come to an end.

Even if it is currently a pretty far off end.

Bebop!As you may recall, I’ve only been pulling from my own gargantuan collection of videogames for this project. And, since I have a tendency to buy a videogame for damn near any reason (“Oh! Look! That game comes with a sticker!”), I have way too many games. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I consider it a “library of games” and not a monument to my OCD. With that in mind, there are a number of games in my collection that are just crap, and, more importantly, they are games that I have always identified as crap. And that’s not good for the site, because, while I might be able to pull an interesting story out of Mighty Bomb Jack, I’m actively afraid of missing a forest for the trees. Basically, if I’m not very familiar with a videogame, and I play it under the time constraints of “I need to write something about this game and two other games this week,” I’m afraid I’m going to miss something important that I might have discovered if more time was available. What I am saying is that, basically, I want to be fair to Bubsy. If every game is worthy of an article, but I do not play that game for longer than a half hour, then is that article really the best that could come out of that game? Do I really want to play a subpar game to produce a subpar article? Bah! You deserve better!

So I decided to look at my inventory, sit down, and really consider which games I would actually be interested in writing about. My criteria were simply that:

  1. They be games I haven’t already written about in one way or another (there are certainly some games that kind of… muscled into other articles)
  2. Games that aren’t already basically covered by their sequels. Aka I don’t need to talk about every Darkstalkers.
  3. Games that I’ve played a bunch, or at least I could return to to play a bunch.
  4. Games that are inspirational in at least some way. So basically no “arcade” style titles that are little more than one screen.
  5. Not every SNES game ever, because somehow the previous criteria fit about 80% of the titles on that system.

And, after applying this kind of thinking to the entire collection, I came up with a remaining… approximately 125 games. Geez. I thought it was going to be like thirty.

WeeeeeSo, from now on, Random ROB is only going to pick from that list of a little over 125 games. While that isn’t going to get me all the way to 555, I figure there will be some new releases or other “featured” games in the meanwhile to pick up the slack. After all, if you look at the last fifty entries, you see a quite a few that literally didn’t exist fifty entries before that, left alone back when the site started. And even if that doesn’t happen, I can probably squeeze an extra thirty out of the ol’ inventory.

And why exactly 555? Well, my original plan was, assuming I didn’t lose interest first, to end at 255. After all, why would I bother to talk about more than 255 games? But, as I got closer to that number, I realized there were still plenty of games I wanted to cover… so maybe I’ll hit a few more… maybe just a little bit…

And an extra three hundred over my original goal? That doesn’t sound so bad.

So here’s to the next/last 155 FGC articles!

Let’s hope the random robot can hold out that long…

Sex and Lies and Life

Trigger Warning: We’re going to be talking about some heady stuff today. Mostly to do with the rampant sexual harassment occurring on the national stage right now. So, ya know, if that’s not your bag, completely understandable. We’ll get back to the light stuff on Wednesday, but for now, I want to get this down while it’s still raw and honest.

So I wrote the first draft of this a day after the revelation that Louis C.K. had apparently been sexually abusing women, and then using his position in the industry to intimidate said women into keeping silent. This is a reprehensible act, and hours after the allegations came to light, HBO rightfully dropped C.K. from all of their programming. FX followed suit in short order, and, as if the show was really still happening anyway, we should kiss Louie, Louis C.K.’s original, semi-autobiographical series, good-bye.

And my first thought, god dammit, was, “Damn, I’m going to miss that show.”

And that absolutely makes me feel like a horrible person.

What must have been twelve billion years ago, my mother helped found a local abused women shelter. A short few billion years later, I was born, and shortly thereafter, my parents got divorced. My parents were both very eager to be present parents, and, as a result, I spent a lot of one-on-one time with both of them. This is an elaborate way of saying that I was raised by a pretty vocal feminist and -is there a concise word for this?- a woman who was very outspoken about sexual abuse. And, while I haven’t always had the best relationship with my mother (fun fact: when you’re a teenager, your parents have this tendency to become the most horrible people on the planet. They got better after a few years, though, so good on them) I’ve always internalized her lessons on what is right and wrong when interacting with women. The idea of hitting a woman revolts me, and the concept of even unintentionally sexually harassing someone fills me with a deep disgust. It’s part of how I was raised, and, honestly, I owe a debt to my mother for instilling in me lessons that so obviously missed the majority of my gender.

Oh, and my mother and I? We’re both huge Woody Allen fans.

The two of us spoke about this a couple of weeks ago when the Weinstein information came to light (incidentally, exposed by Woody Allen’s son/brother-in-law), and we both came to the same conclusion: we’re horrible people. Ever seen Midnight in Paris? It is a well-written, funny meditation on art and idols and the constant generational supposition that everything was perfect fifty years ago going back infinitely to the dawn of time. It’s also a movie made by a sexually abusive man that has used his wealth and fame to be untouchable. Talking about it with my mother, how merely enjoying that movie is in some way enabling this monster, we unanimously came to the conclusion that we won’t defend Woody Allen or what he’s done, we just agree that his movies are funny and speak to people with our generally neurotic personality types (shocking fact: I am mentally similar to the woman that raised me). And our problematic like is “justified” by the fact that everything we do is horrible. Sure, we’re giving money to a ghastly person, but my mother also just got a new computer for all of $300, and electronics are only that cheap because of borderline slave labor available in impoverished areas of Asia. In short, we’re going with a sort of “but there are children starving in Africa” approach to media consumption, and, while we acknowledge that we are supporting something terrible, at least everything is terrible. Can’t even see Lego Batman without accidentally backing the damn Trump administration!

Look, it’s not ideal, but it helps us sleep at night.

But Louis C.K.? That’s my burden to bear, and it’s a little different. If I’m going to claim that my mother wound up being a sort of moral compass for my own dealings with these issues, I also have to admit that I use her as a sort of excuse. I like Woody Allen, but she does, too! It’s okay! See! I understand women! I have wives and daughters (no I don’t)! But, no, my mother unfortunately has no opinions one way or another about Louis C.K. (okay, she probably does now), so I’m stuck going it alone on this moral quandary.

Actually, no, let me rephrase that. There is no moral quandary here. Louis C.K. did some rotten things (you know what? I hate articles where the writer dances around some obvious truth and never seems to actually make eye contact with the issue at hand. Let’s say it out loud: Louis C.K., unsolicited, got naked, whipped out his lil’ Louie, and masturbated in front of five different women on separate occasions. There. Got that out of my system), and the first people we should be considering right now are the women who have a long, difficult trail ahead of them. As we’ve seen time and time again, it is no fun accusing a powerful man (despite the “poor schlub” bits of his act, anyone that has their own production company clearly has enough power to create or kill an entire career) of sexual misconduct. The media and blogosphere and twitter are all very supportive now, but, when you consider your average court case takes years, not days, it’s pretty safe to say that the overt support will die down well before this is finished. HBO shows its support for the victims!… Has it been long enough now? Can we stop it with the moralizing and get back to promoting the final season of Game of Thrones now? And, in the meanwhile, there are lawyers, cross examinations, and every malcontent in the world that wants to spit in the victims’ collective faces because they were really looking forward to that one standup special. Oh, and this is ignoring everything these brave women had to go through in the first place, ie watching a private screening of Life with Louie and then being threatened with “repercussions” should they ever try to do something to curb this vile behavior. Could you just take a moment to consider being in that situation? Watching your rapist (unwanted sexual events don’t require penetration, and I’d say if a dick is out and proud, we’re in rape country) grow more and more popular, gaining awards and accolades for his “honest” showmanship and “woke” persona of a an approachable, understanding celebrity, and knowing all the while that he’s a complete shit that once threatened your livelihood for daring to defy the narrative of this “sympathetic” individual? I don’t know how these victims have the strength to get up in the morning, left alone finally reveal the truth. I become a despondent mess when I knock over a salt shaker! (In my defense, it was a salt shaker I really liked.)

But I suppose that whole “personable celebrity” thing is part of the problem here. Why did the victims not come forward sooner? Aside from the obvious (“the obvious” in any case like this doesn’t need to be restated in another paragraph), Louis C.K.’s general persona seems to naturally repel any and all contradictions to his carefully cultivated identity. Sure, he loves fart jokes, but he’s also a guy that gave over an episode of his series to the difference between the joys of being a fat man versus the dreads of being a fat woman. Horace and Pete was a triumph of fundraising, shattering the Hollywood elite production methods, and spent time showcasing the horrors of modern mental healthcare. He was “that nice guy” on Parks and Recreation, Brandon’s Dad on Home Movies, and the surprisingly sympathetic Horrifying Sweaty One-Armed Monstrosity on Gravity Falls. On camera and off, Louis C.K. seemed to be vulgar, yes, but also a genuinely pleasant guy who understood his own failings and did his best to do right by people he may have wronged. He wasn’t perfect, and he was likely to call your mom a fart monster, but he did his best.

And, yeah, going to go ahead and say that’s how I see myself.

Look, I’m an abrasive person. I try to be civil, I try to be polite, but I do like a good fart joke. If you’ve put on a few pounds, I’m probably going to make a crack about your jeans screaming in pain. I’ll regret it later (hell, I will probably regret it immediately), but it’s kind of how I’m wired. That mother of mine that I mentioned help found an abused women’s shelter? She’s also sarcastic and cynical as hell, and my father isn’t any different. It’s in my DNA to show affection through “gentle ribbing”, and, naturally, when I encounter another personality that does the same thing, I’m understanding. Much of Louis C.K.’s humor appeals to me on a personal level because, yes, I’m right there with you with loving my family but maybe acknowledging they’re driving me nuts. And, similar to my own thinking, Louis C.K. always seemed to be one of those “good” celebrities that wound up using his wealth and fame to make the world a better place. He might not be giving all of his earnings to charity, but the ways he has advanced national discourse through his own productions has been commendable. That’s how I would like to see myself were I that level of successful. I know that earning an assload of cash could easily lead to me lounging around my solid gold mansion in solid gold sweatpants all day, but I like to imagine that I’d use a weekly, half-hour program to progress discussion on difficult topics like war or the amazing world outside our country. In short, more than any celebrity that has recently been accused of sexual misconduct, Louis C.K. seemed more like someone that could be my friend. Or someone that could even be me.

And that scares the hell out of me.

Full disclosure: I was a shitty teenager. To be absolutely clear given the subject matter, I never masturbated in front of anyone, never raped anybody, or committed some other similar transgression. Aside from a little bit of reckless driving and maybe underage drinking (not at the same time, though), I’m technically rather clean of committing any crimes during that time. However, I was absolutely an asshole. Was there a girl I liked that I absolutely “nice guy”’d into oblivion? God yes. Did I ignore completely wonderful women in my life because I when I said I wanted “a girl to play Mario Kart with” I meant “a girl to play Mario Kart with… who has a nice ass”? Obviously. And when I did actually date someone, was I an emotionally manipulative shit? Yes. And I’m sorry. I’ve apologized to the people involved, and I’ve apologized to people in my general orbit from that time. And I know it’s popular to claim you were “a different person then” but what scares me is that I’m not a different person. I’m still me. I knew I was doing something wrong at the time, didn’t care, and let my wang lead me along. There was a time I would have told a woman I was the living reincarnation of Jesus if I thought she would believe it and I could cop like one more feel. Again, I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway, because I was able to mentally justify that you’re only young once, you’re never going to see these “other kids” again after high school/college/whatever, and what’s the harm? I’m not doing anything illegal, and it’s her own damn fault if she believes my ridiculous lie. It’s a victimless crime!

And, while I feel like I’m “better now”… I should have been better then. And it scares me to think of what would have happened if I had a little more power. It still scares me if such a thing were to happen to me today. Look, I’ve never exactly wanted for love, but there are certainly women I’ve met that would rather lick a cactus than see me naked. And that’s fine! I know plenty of people that, for one reason or another, I am amazed people find attractive. Ben Affleck? Literally have never seen the appeal, and, celebrity or no, if he propositioned me for some reason, I would have to say no. Never mind that we’re both straight and tend to run in different social circles, I’m just plainly stating that I understand some things are never going to happen. But it’s hard to acknowledge that when you’re wealthy, because roughly 90% of our media promotes the hypothesis that if you’re rich and powerful, you can have anything you want, including people. And it’s very easy to surround yourself with yes men and believe your own bullshit to the point that you actually act on such a belief. Yes, what I’m saying is that I find it repugnant, but I completely understand why President Trump thinks it is okay to “grab ‘em by the pussy”. Power is seductive, and when you’ve got it, you want to use it. When you know the law and every male in the immediate area is never going to stop you, all you’ve got is your conscience.

And I guess that’s the crux of this: I thought someone I admired might have a conscience. I thought that someone who seems so apologetic and nice might actually not have five prominent skeletons in his closet. I thought that someone who is like me in a position of power might have that all-important conscience. And I hope that if I ever wind up “at the top”, that I will still have a conscience. It genuinely frightens me to even think of such a thing, but, I mean, if someone I venerate can be so easily tempted, what prayer do I have? As the mightiest of bosstones once said, I’ve never had to knock on wood…

I’m going to miss watching Louie, I’m going to miss enjoying Horace & Pete, and I’m going to miss listening to C.K.’s standup. I’m going to miss all of that. But it’s going to be easy for me to disregard the man behind it all. It’s going to be easy for me to sit in judgment of a celebrity I’ll likely never meet in favor of victims that will likely spend the rest of their lives being derided by lawyers and talk show hosts. It’s easy to say, “Louis bad man” and be done with it. It’s not wrong. Boycotting C.K. is the right thing to do, but it’s also easy.

It’s harder to be a better person, though. It’s harder to acknowledge you are similar to this shitheel, and you could be such a shitheel given the right circumstances. It’s harder to have that thought in your head, and realize that you have to live the rest of your life full well knowing that a random bout of horny could make you literally ruin people’s lives. It’s hard to acknowledge that you’re even capable of doing such a thing, but it must be recognized, because we’re all capable of hurting other people, and we’re all capable of being terrible.

To everyone reading this: be a better person. It’s hard, but be better. Be better than that man, be better than all of these men, and genuinely care for each other.

It’s an excellent way to not be a horrible person.