Category Archives: Serious Time

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.

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

Beat it!Going to say this upfront: I am barely going to be talking about videogames today. Random stuff is going on in Real Goggle Bob land, and I feel like using a little writing therapy to mentally work through it. So, advance warning, this one is going to be autobiographical to the max. Hell, I might delete this post out of sheer embarrassment within 24 hours. I don’t know. I just have to get these (ugh) feelings out of my head, so… I guess stick around if you feel like it.

So I’m 34 years old. I’m also a single heterosexual (mostly, I mean, I’m a little bit bi if we include Cillian Murphy and the entire cast of The Good Place [and that might just be because Kristen Bell and Ted Danson create a sort of “sex singularity” that throws off all my readings]) male. I understand people get more and more okay with such a thing every year, but there is a not insignificant portion of the population that believes being single and 34 is some sign of being a giant weirdo. And I am a giant weirdo! I once compared Sonic the Hedgehog to my first love! I have Vocaloid and Bioshock posters in my office! I’m moderately certain I once screamed out, “Play it loud!” during sex! I am not a normal guy, but that’s not why I’m single. I’m single because my parents are divorced.

Okay, I’m gonna let me finish, but I have to make a brief aside about that statement. My parents are divorced, but this isn’t some Uncle Ben-esque secret origin that explains all of my myriad quirks. No, the reason my parents’ divorce had such an impact on my psyche is that my parents got divorced for seven years. Never one to tear an adhesive strip off quickly (side note: I also spent most of my childhood wrapped up like a mummy), my parents had a “will they/won’t they” thing going on for most of my youth. On one hand, this kind of worked out for me from a parental-attendance perspective, as a combination of love and rivalry caused my parents to be separate, but practically omnipresent in my life. Unfortunately, the flipside of that equation was that every time things inevitably blew up, I got to hear both parents privately complain about the other parent ad nauseam. I’m pretty sure neither of my parents were/are good at having friends (my mother makes friends with everybody, but they seem to be shallow friendships; my father has one friend, and he sees him once a decade whether he needs to or not), so complaining to the local ten year old that just wants to go downstairs and play videogames must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh, and fun fact, both of my parents have told me that they “made every effort” to not insult the other parent while I was growing up, which proves they have the self-awareness of your average 45th President.

This is to distract you from realityAnd, while it’s not like I blame my parents for all my problems (lie), I do blame them for my singlehood. I grew up seeing the absolute worst of love. While others were listening to love songs and watching The Princess Bride, I was watching a pair of people that had loved each other for a solid couple of decades falling apart and tearing into each other like rabid wolverines at a dhampir bar mitzvah. My two best childhood friends had parents that were divorced or lived in a continual state of mutual self-loathing, so no role models there. Looking back, I realize that it wasn’t until my teenage years that I even met someone that I respected and was also in a long, loving relationship. To be concise, I basically learned from a young age that love didn’t lead to bliss, it led to calling a lawyer every other day so you could properly establish custody of a coatrack (this actually happened).

But, by the time I was in college, I kind of learned to live with my own biases. While I spent most of my teenage years claiming “love is stupid” like some manner of world-weary, wizened sage (that happened to shop at Hot Topic), I did eventually come to the conclusion that love, long-term commitment, and marriage were all possible. While I personally ended a few of my own relationships because of (if I’m being honest) that previously mentioned disdain for commitment, a number of my friends have been getting married since roughly our collective twenties, and I’ve been genuinely happy for them. I realize I would sound like a monster to say otherwise, but, come on, in many cases, I was around to see these people meet, see them happy together, and, ultimately, see a future where they could be together forever. Again, can’t stress this enough: not for me. I’m broken. I piss all over the seat, like, every time. But these people, these people have a future as one happy unit.

So, suffice it to say, I kind of took it personally when two of these “ideal” couples, two distinct sets of friends, announced things were headed toward divorce. And, since I was notified of these developments involving two different couples within two days of each other, I took it all… poorly.

(Because this is all about me, and, technically, you, gentle reader, only actually “know” and care about me, I want to be clear that “taking it poorly” did not involve any Hangover-esque shenanigans, photocopying my butt for Debra in accounting, or willingly eating Hot Pocket Bites or something. I’m not cool enough to have a nervous breakdown in any interesting ways, so I mostly just had a headache for a couple of days. Oh, and then I wrote a blog post about it.)

EVERYBODY DANCENow, to be clear, I’m not some gentle flower that has never known a friend to get divorced before. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know a couple of people that wound up divorced before senior prom, but all of those situations were… is “obvious failures” too precise a term? When D’avos the Molten Man of The Fire Pits of Crytuk married Cindi the Ice Elemental, we all had a pretty good idea of where that one was gonna go (to be clear: D’avos had a drinking problem). But the relationships that are currently causing me so much mental anguish are all couples that seemed content and joyful and I didn’t buy their wedding gift thinking “Wow, I better save the receipt on this one.” I know divorce is a modern day cliché, and I know I don’t believe in marriage as an institution (People change as they grow, to expect two people to change together in a complimentary manner is… Oh crap, I’m doing it again), but… I feel like I actually had some optimism in these relationships. Christ, I really thought these kids were going to be alright. I don’t believe in marriage, I’m not certain I could ever seriously consider marriage, but these are the people that gave me hope such a thing was possible. Now that hope is dashed against the rocks. The dream is dead.

And then there’s the Chumbawamba thing.

Another personal failing: I’m immune to nostalgia. I am a data hoarder. I am a hardcore data hoarder, and I have a fleet of USB hard drives to prove it. I have a hard drive backup buried in my backyard “just in case”. I recently saw Blade Runner 2049, and the scariest thing in this very human story about robots having sex with appliances was the suggestion that there was a universal EMP a few years back that wiped out all digital data. Such a thing would kill me. I have my entire life saved in JPGs, MP3s, and ROMs. I cherish terrible cell phone videos I took of my grandparents “just in case” (“just in case” they didn’t turn out to be immortals. Spoilers: good planning). Having my entire past just a double click away is always comforting, but it does reduce the odds of me ever feeling nostalgia. Earlier this year, I was excited to hear about the release of the SNES Classic. WeeeeeeAfter all, I thought, I haven’t played Super Metroid since… how long has it been… oh yes… I haven’t played that game since lunch.

This goes double for music. I’ve been listening to the same music since high school. Literally. The rise of the MP3 occurred concurrently with my high school years, so I have been listening to the same copy of a copy of a copy of Barenaked Ladies’ One Week since the advent of Napster. Since then, the delivery method may have gotten slightly more legal, but, if I liked an album, I ripped, itunes’ed, or just plain downloaded (thanks, Bandcamp!) the tracks immediately, and wedged it into my ever growing wad o’ music (evidently around 30 GB at the moment). My most recent acquisition was the Cuphead OST, and I know that, assuming current trends continue and we dodge nuclear war, I’ll likely be listening to Die House in a nursing home. So, one way or another, that means I don’t get a sudden rush of nostalgia when I hear Foo Fighters’ Monkey Wrench, it just means that my music player hit #2,146 on my playlist for the 2,146th time. And, since my playlist is so unwieldy immense, it’s a rarity that I listen to anything else for my musical pleasure. I have all my favorite songs right here, why should I downgrade to a radio that wants to sell me on the latest from Taylor Swift? Ain’t no commercials on this station!

And then I sat down to play Taiko Drum Master (oh snap, it’s the featured game!). Taiko Drum Master was a longshot of a title released by Namco back in 2004. It came with a drum and sticks… Uh… ROB… can we get that up on the site?

Beat along!

There we go. It was this big, silly drum peripheral that was meant to simulate the taiko (wadaiko?), a drum that is traditionally used in Japanese festivals. You know what you don’t see much in the United States, though? Japanese festivals. While playing Taiko Drum Master is fun in only the way that banging along on drums can ever be, it was a hard sell here in the states, as you’re just not going to get the same support for a plastic Japanese drum set as you are for a plastic guitar (or turntable?). Taiko Drum Master was always going to be a fun game, it’s just a fun game that had about as much Western appeal as Gundam vs. Sumo: Sports Festival in Osaka Rumble.

But there was a concession made to us filthy Americans and our gaijin drums. The track list for Taiko Drum Master is very Western. We’ve got the Jackson Five learning their ABCs. We’ve got Queen crooning about the imperceptible Killer Queen (got bad agility? What the hell?). The B-52s are taking a visit to the Love Shack. And we’ve got modern hits, too! Well, “modern” for 2004… and on a budget. Who could Namco afford? Well, my beloved, ska-era Mighty Mighty Bosstones are on there. Good Charlotte’s Girls and Boys made the cut. And here’s that one Counting Crows song that wound up in a Coke commercial. And let’s follow that all up with the smash hit of 1997, Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.

Tubthumping hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dance along!Tubthumping is difficult to explain to anyone that wasn’t around for 1997-1998. It was technically a UK-original protest song, but it quickly mutated into a sort of divisive party song. There’s a boy singing! And a girl! Something about Danny Boy? And a really sweet trumpet! And it played on the radio roughly continuously for a period of maybe ten million years. I loved that song, grew to hate it, and then, in due course, forgot all about it. When I first got into MP3 downloading roughly a year prior to Y2K, I had already forgotten about Chumbawamba. Give or take a Namco release or two, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world forgot about that band, too.

But, today (or last week), when I was in the middle of a seemingly interminable funk thanks to the collapse of the very institution of love, Tubthumping was there for me. To me, Tubthumping isn’t about love, or joy, or UK union rights, it’s about 1997. It’s about my early teen years, when everything seemed new and exciting and I hadn’t already had my heart broken repeatedly by the boneheaded decisions of myself and others. It was a simpler time, a time when, yes, I knew my parents were gradually poisoning me on the notion of a happy marriage, but also a time when I could still convince myself that love was not only possible, but probable. Even as a child of divorce, I did see myself at thirty (you have no idea how old that seemed at the time) with 2.5 children, a pair of cats, and maybe a white picket fence on where I might hang the corpses of my enemies (what? I always envied my Uncle Vlad and his exterior decorating skills). Tubthumping came from a simpler time for me, and, for the glorious couple of minutes I spent drumming along to whatever the hell is happening in that song, I didn’t have a care in the world.

And then we hit the original, American Shuki Levy version of the Dragon Ball Z theme, and I could barely stand up. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

DANCE!Look, I know I’m a jackass. I’m pretty sure I spent a solid three paragraphs up there claiming that my parents are the reason I’m not married, when, in fact, it might have more to do with how I have a tendency to give my lovers psychological disorders (“Baby, you know I love you, and I want to be with you, but I have to defeat seven more tonberries before I unlock this Guardian Force. You understand, right? We’ll get to your grandfather’s funeral, like, soon.”). And I know I’m making the divorce(s) of my friends all about me by claiming they were some ultimate expression of love that is all but impossible in this dying world of grime, suck, and republicans. Putting that kind of burden on people I consider friends is dreadful, and being less supportive by making it all about my own issues is an issue onto itself. I know that.

Actually, I only know that now, because sometimes it takes a piece of your past to remind you that it isn’t all bad, and maybe you should step out of your own head once in a while. Remember that things weren’t always bad. Remember that, despite how you’ve framed your past, one way or another, you weren’t always as jaded as you are now, and your current situation was never some “inevitability”. Remember that your friends aren’t concepts, but people, and they’re people that might need your love and support.

Basically, what I’m saying that Taiko Drum Master reminded me of one very important thing: I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never going to keep me down.

FGC #342 Taiko: Drum Master

  • System: Playstation 2. Did this peripheral ever resurface for any other games? No? Well, I guess that seems obvious in retrospect.
  • Number of players: Two! … Did… did anyone ever purchase two Taiko drum peripherals? I envy your resolve.
  • Favorite Song: You mean one not already mentioned in the article? Oh! Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls! My first live concert was Goo Goo Dolls, so there’s some more nostalgia there. Actually, my first concert was Weird Al, but he doesn’t count. GGD was my first live concert of an artist that I wouldn’t love for the rest of my life.
  • Also a choice: Anything from Katamari Damacy. Damn, I love that soundtrack.
  • WooooA weird thing happened: So Taiko March unlocked as I was playing (decided to forgo fishing out a memory card for this one, so no previously saved data). I’m pretty sure Taiko March reappeared in Smash Bros, because I somehow knew this song in my bones, and scored a nearly impossible 98% on a song I wouldn’t be able name without its title flashing on the screen. It was weirdly exhilarating, and I’m pretty sure it’s the closest I’ve ever been to being possessed by an angry ghost (that knows songs that are unfamiliar to me).
  • Did you know? The Japanese version includes We Will Rock You. We got robbed!
  • Would I play again: No. Taiko Drum Master helped me at a time when I needed it (just now), but that damn Taiko peripheral got nothing on my bongos.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates for NES! I swear I’ll just talk about videogames next time! Probably! Please look forward to it!

What is happening here?

Vote 2017: Still Broken

I’ve been… creatively constipated recently, and if I don’t get this out of my system, I won’t be able to move on. So, sorry, we’re talking politics today. FGC and Pilotwings Resort will return on Friday.

Also, trigger warning, every damn thing that has happened in the last year.

UghI feel like the 2016 election fundamentally broke… everything.

First, to be clear, I’m not talking about the obvious here. President Trump has been in office for a solid ten months as of this writing, and, yes, the world has become… unmoored as a result. It is crazy what has been normalized: we are literally currently in a situation wherein people are begging Twitter to deactivate the president’s account so as to prevent nuclear armageddon. That, somehow, is not an exaggeration. We also have Nazis that have been empowered by recent political dealings, a nigh-weekly fight to keep healthcare for our most in need, and, gosh, can we find a “cute” third thing? Oh yeah, the Vice President’s two main traits seem to be significant homophobia/misogyny and a tendency to be immediately offended by public performances. And, through it all, President Donald Trump has never stopped campaigning.

And it’s that last part that scares me.

At this point, I’ve only really been “awake” for three presidents: Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama. Before that, I was technically around for Bush Sr. and Reagan, but the concept of “president” was about as serious as “daddy’s boss” or “guy in the Big Bird costume” (note: I assume that any given president was not, at any point, my father’s boss or Big Bird). But I came to be politically aware in the midst of White Water and white stains on dresses, and I was most “involved” in politics during the Bush Jr. days, when I was pretty convinced the entire world had gone crazy. We were at war! With… some random country that was at least tangentially related to a terrorist sect that attacked us? That… still comes off as peculiar, and the fact that it was unanimously supported at the time made me feel like the country was beyond my understanding. Actually, no, I take that back. We were a country fueled by vengeance against anybody, and I can completely understand how a group of people reeling from a significant slight would rail against anyone they even perceived as a threat. I don’t condone it, but I fundamentally understand it. But then we had Obama, seemingly the answer to those war-torn times, who… okay, the war never ended, but at least it seemed like that wasn’t the focus of the administration. Sure, Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for the accomplishment of not being W., but the important thing was that Obama was more intellectual than warmonger, and there was a very real feeling that he’d at least try to heal the world with words instead of bombs.

Still UghAnd you know who I don’t remember being mentioned at all during those administrations? Bob Dole. Al Gore. Mitt Romney. John McCain. … I just had to look up John Kerry because I forgot who even ran against Bush in 2004. Occasionally, you’ll still hear a name or two from the loser patrol because they’re promoting some crazy thing like abolishing healthcare or actual science, but, by and large, post election, the presidential loser was done, banished forever to the annals of Washington DC apocrypha, and that was that. End of story. Let’s move on with our lives.

So it’s vaguely disconcerting that Donald Trump is still talking about his “opponent” Hilary Clinton, a woman who lost the election nearly a full year ago. And, since Trump is talking about it, the media has to talk about it. And since the media is talking about it, we have to talk about it, and that means that somehow I still have to hear from neanderthals that her handling of Puerto Rico would be, “Just as bad.”

This frightens me.

We’re all 100% aware that the 2016 election was terrible. Full disclosure? I was planning on having an “election” themed video FGC article, with two well known games campaigning against each other for “best”. You know the drill: both games starting out with “here’s why you should vote for me” followed by a descent into mudslinging and maybe one game would be revealed to have been involved in some scandal. Hoary old clichés all around. I scripted out the early bits, but by the time it would have been relevant, I was… tired. I was tired of the mudslinging. I was tired of the press reporting on every time Donald insulted the handicapped or bragged about how rape was fun. I was tired of the Republican Party repeatedly denouncing Trump before lining up to kiss his ring. And, most of all, I was just plain tired of the ubiquitousness of it all; that it felt all-encompassing, from my radio to my television to my Facebook feed.

Though one of these things is not like the others: turns out my Facebook feed may have been compromised.

UGHIt’s becoming more and more obvious that Russia had a significant hand in the 2016 election. As has been confirmed by the big F itself, Facebook generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from ads about the American election that just happened to have been submitted from Mother Яussia. What’s more, it now appears that these ads infiltrated other sites, such as Twitter, Google (Ads), and, for anybody that really cares about pictures of dogs, Instagram. And the ads weren’t simply “Vote Trump” or “Make America Great Again”, these were ads that were deliberately targeted to sway swing voters that may have voted for Clinton. The basic gist of it is pretty familiar: “they’re both just as bad” so may as well stay home and hope rural Pennsylvania makes the right choice. And the kicker is that it worked: statistically, more democrats stayed home than republicans, and, even though Trump got 3K less votes than Obama in 2012 (and, uh, 3k less votes than Clinton), he became president because he got more republican votes in more specific states. Gosh, sure would be significant if those states were intentionally targeted by foreign countries.

In fact, that’s the scary thing. I can’t fault Facebook, Google, or Twitter for taking money from foreign powers in order to distinctly influence our government, because we’ve created these monsters, it seems gauche to ask them to stop murdering the villagers now. It’s capitalism, baby, and if Russia wants to pay for Trump to gain power, let ‘em, their rubles are always good here. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing we can do to stop such a thing. Pumping cash into foreign governments and businesses is nothing new, just go ahead and ask Central America about North America’s policy on international interference.

No, what truly seems bothersome about this event is that we so completely fell for it.

Look, I know Russia didn’t invent bipartisan politics. And I know we’re all team players, so it is easy to fall into an “us against them” mentality that completely deadlocks discussion and useful debate. I know all of that is human behavior to a T, and stoking the flames of that already raging fire is about as difficult as getting racist Uncle Jerry to use the n-word (“… What did he just call his hash browns? Is that prejudiced?”). But the specific methods used, the specificity of “hate this woman that is running for president” has somehow lingered like the no doubt pungent odor of our current president in his soiled khakis. It might not have worked on everybody, but enough people took the bait, and now we still have to hear from a commander in chief that is begging for “equal time” a year after the election ended.

UGHAnd the kicker is that is that it’s going to keep happening. Facebook, Google, and all the rest have added one new thing to the formula: they’re global. No more can we count on radio or television ads to have at least been produced by America-based companies that have a vested interest in seeing our country not literally explode. No, now we have other countries that can group together a couple of part timers, crank out some memes, and, Goggle Bob’s your uncle, ~emails~ becomes the scariest word in the English language. This doesn’t take much, and the same budget and techniques that will get you to drink sugar water daily can now get you to elect a president that comes off as more senile than the last fetishized republican president that was also an actor. And we have no defense against this kind of advertising! If we think information is coming from a “trusted source”, we trust it implicitly. Think I’m crazy? Just go ahead and tell that to any McDonald’s employee that had to live through Szechwan Sauce Wars. Thousands of perfectly well adjusted nerds transformed into screaming lunatics because a funny cartoon man told them that a corn syrup package from twenty years back was somehow worthwhile. The nerds trusted the funny cartoon man! They drove hours to honor his luscious sugary juices! You better believe the same kind of thinking applies to real issues like gun control (“They’ll take away our guns!”), healthcare (“Obamacare is bad for some reason!”), and general race relations (“Uppitiness is happening on the football field!”). We are a nation of suckers, and Trump is living proof of such a fact.

And that’s why I feel like we’re just… broken. Nothing is going to change that. We can call our senators, we can protest in the streets, we can take a knee whenever possible, but it’s still going to pale to the sheer inertial force of an advertising campaign that stopped being relevant a year ago. They’re still chanting “lock her up”, they’re still talking about Clinton like she’s some kind of rival to the president, and they’re still posting every damn “wow shocking if true” story that comes down the pipe. A nation that basically lives by the philosophy “if I can’t be skinny, then please make my friends fat” did its best to sneak cookies into our nutritious boxed lunches, and now nobody wants to go to the gym anymore. We can still fight! We can absolutely fight! But… I don’t think this is going to get better. Our politics are national, our commerce is international, and now the overlap is biting us all in the ass. And “change” is such a three letter word, we can’t even get away from friggin’ coal, so our prospects look dim. And, oh yeah, an idiot is in charge, so that can’t really help anybody.

And… that’s it? I don’t know, I mean, I really want there to a moral here. I want to be able to say “go call your senators” and affect some meaningful change or… something. But, no, that honestly feels like a lie. What’s broken here is broken, and nothing that has happened in the last two years gives me any sort of hope that we could even identify the problem fast enough to solve it. A foreign power set us against each other, and we’re still continuing that same useless bickering to this very day. I guess… be better?

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Be better. Do better. Ask yourself why you’re doing something, and if the answer is a response to something you saw on Facebook, maybe don’t do it. Consider what you’re doing, consider why you’re doing it, and… just be considerate. Be better, and maybe things will get better.

And maybe, one day, what is broken can be fixed.

Vote 2016 Part 2: One Week Later

I’m not a Democrat. I’m certainly not a Republican. I consider myself politically independent, because I’m a precious little snowflake with completely unique views on all the issues. I take the time during every election to sit down and research every candidate, and then I make my pick based entirely on the facts, using cold, emotionless reason to make my choices. I am a voting machine, almost literally.

So it was unusual when, last week, I voted for every single Democratic candidate, and not a single Republican. I did this because I plainly could not bring myself to vote for the same party that even marginally supported Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s national campaign of hate for 99% of the world’s population was a bit too much for me, and I could not in any way support the institution that sat back and said, “Yes, this is fine. Please do this more.” Yes there were Republicans that chastised Trump for… grabbing pussy? They were okay with everything else? Especially the “Mexicans are rapists” crap? That got the man fired from NBC, but, no, the Republicans were pretty extraordinarily cool with that. I was not, and I could not in good conscious vote for any institution that was.

But I was evidently the minority. Okay, that isn’t true, Clinton did win the popular vote, but it didn’t help. Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America, and, God help us all, he will be our sitting President for the next four years.

And, in trying to discern how we got to this point, I remembered my own brief political career.

This will surprise absolutely no one, but I was kind of a nerd in high school. I was the morning DJ for our in-house television network, a member of the computer club, and I fooled around in the school play my senior year. But before all that, the club I joined before I even technically attended high school (they start early!) was marching band. I had been in “band” since fourth grade (I was a nerdy middleschooler, too!), and despite some of my friends dropping out of the activity to pursue “cool” endeavors like track or basketball, I was going to stick with marching band. It was a lot of effort for very little fame or recognition, but I’ve got my trumpet, I’m going to blow my horn on that football field like a champ!

Only problem was that I wasn’t very good at it.

I wasn’t terrible. I’ve got quick fingers (for some reason), and the ability to move in time with other marchers, but, ultimately, I don’t think I ever had the lips for it. Or the rhythm. Or the endurance. Or the ability to memorize music. Or the attention span to ever practice for more than five minutes. In retrospect, I probably could have been the best little trumpeter in the history of trumpeting, but I’d rather be playing Final Fantasy 7 (released opposite my first marching band season), and I was pretty much just in the band to hang out with my (predominantly extra nerdy) peer group. I was never going to be first trumpet, drum major, or even a remotely good role model for the incoming freshman, so I basically just resigned myself to being a marching band “body” in the formation.

But I did realize where I might be able to make a difference: band management.

My sophomore year, I ran for band vice president. I ran on a platform of electing me, an underclassman, as vice president now, so I could learn the ropes, and then make big changes when I was inevitably president the following year (and I’d be a Junior President, not a Senior, which would mean I’d actually care about the band because I wasn’t about to graduate out in a year). I ran on a platform of issues within the band that I’d make it my purpose to reform, and I did my best to appeal to the valuable freshman vote, because I figured they’d have the most reason to support an underclassman with their interests at heart.

I lost.

I… wasn’t terribly surprised.

The following year, my friend Toni decided to run for band president. Toni was not a political person, and only volunteered for candidacy because the graduating seniors thought she would be a good president. Toni was not super popular, she was simply that kind of person that fails to exist in teen movies: well-liked, generally personable, but not ever going to be prom queen or class president. Her greatest accomplishment was not offending practically anyone. Suffice it to say, she was not exactly a shoe-in for band president, but she chose me as her running mate. She remembered my campaign from the previous year, and basically said, “Hey, wanna be my VP? Nobody else wants to do it.” She… might have literally said that.

So I agreed, and we had a week to prepare for the “election”, which would take place after everyone running for office presented a short speech on “why you should vote for me (us)”. We did nothing during that week. We didn’t canvass the voters, we didn’t try to grease the gears of democracy, and I don’t think we even actually saw each other. We kind of ran in different social circles, so, meh, we’ll throw something together on Election Day.

And throw something together we did. In the fifteen minutes before practice started, Toni and I worked out a kick-ass speech, mostly written by yours truly. It had slogans. It had audience participation. It involved a random conscripted dude (who I’m pretty sure had a crush on Toni) tossing a tennis ball on stage so she could prove she’d “catch” any incoming problems. It was a thing of beauty, and, to this day, one of my greatest regrets is that it was not recorded or in any way transcribed, because it was one of those rare occasions in my life where I can safely say I went from zero to hero inside of a half hour.

And we won. Despite running against some of the most popular kids in the marching band (Ha! Oxymoron!), we achieved victory. When I canvassed the band geeks about my (surprising) victory a little later, the most common response was, “Well, I voted for you because you put the most effort into your campaign.” That was, as I’ve said, complete bullshit, but it was bullshit no one recognized. We won on a platform of a complete lie, and I’m still proud of such an achievement.

Now, I obviously want to draw a comparison between my own stupid little marching band campaign and that of the woefully under qualified and already-backpedaling President Elect, but there’s a coda to my story…

Unlike my losing sophomore run, my victorious junior Vice Presidency was predicated on a platform of “hey, why not”. Toni and I had no real “plan” for the band, and the following year… Uh… Well, sorry to say, but I don’t think there was a band student government. I remember showing up for one meeting in the Fall, and past that… No, I think we literally did nothing. Toni and I straight up failed the band geeks, and I want to say the reason the Class of 2001 Band Trip was “nowhere” was entirely on us. We went to California in 1999! 2001? Nothing. The following year, there were no band government elections, and the director simply chose the smelly kid to be president by right of “she’ll probably actually do something”. As a result, I felt as bad as a teenager could possibly feel about marching band student government, which isn’t really that much. Does this impact how often I make out with my girlfriend? No? Okay then.

But it’s that feeling that I want to talk about. It’s that feeling that made President Trump.

Look, that stuff earlier about not being a Democrat? It’s bullshit, I know I’m a Democrat. About 90% of my beliefs align with Democratic Philosophy, and much of the Republican platform makes me downright ill. Right off the top of my head, I don’t think I could ever vote for a party that so vehemently indicts a woman’s right to choose (and it doesn’t matter to me whether that’s because of a genuine belief, or a desperate need for the evangelical vote). And, as I’ve been reminded in recent days, I have a lot of friends and family with similar beliefs. Even the people that seem to be just generally in my orbit (local business owner I’m kinda friends with, retired secretary from a job I had fifteen years ago, ex-mistress of a dude I used to be in a band with) all seem to vaguely Democratic, and it makes me think that these people are my friends and support group because we share similar temperaments and beliefs. It’s a stereotype, but the archetypical “all bluster” Republican is not the kind of guy (inevitably guy) that I can deal with on a frequent basis, so people with those tendencies have fallen by the wayside as I’ve aged. It’s almost entirely by accident, but I surround myself by likeminded people, and they’re mostly all Democrats (or at least, evidently, very anti-Trump).

And, honestly, I feel like a great problem with my social circle is that we’re all a bunch of weenies.

Yes, we talk a big game. Yes, we post those dank memes about our favorite candidates. But, when you get down to it, I think I have exactly one (1) friend on my entire buddy list that is active about actually getting off her ass and going to political rallies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of my friends hold up a protest sign for anything but eating meat, and I can very safely say not a single one of my friends has ever stood up to law enforcement for any reason (because I know my friends, and if it happened to a single one of them, they’d never stop talking about it, ever). We’re not fighters, but again, I feel like my social circle breaks that way is because I don’t like fighting. Who needs the aggravation?

And I keep coming back to that stupid marching band election. I keep coming back to how thrilled I was to win, and then how useless I was as an actual politician. That was just on the meager level of a high school marching band (here’s a tip, a high school marching band has never dramatically impacted international politics), but it’s still an event that sticks in my mind. There, at the age of sixteen (or so?), I had already determined that I might be a great showman, but I’m a terrible leader. Or vice-leader. Whatever. Point is that I could use theatrics to win a position I’m not trained for, but that wouldn’t make my qualifications any less insubstantial, and, ultimately, the people that voted for me would suffer. I’m certain I’m not the only one of my friends, not the only Democrat, with this experience, and I’m sure there are a million Democrats out there that are fit for public office, but don’t want to descend into that “dog and pony show” sphere that Is the current political arena. Any of these Democrats could make a killing in the political field, but who wants to be subject to the circus that is modern day politics?

Well, maybe someone would like to step up and be the next “Democrat version of Trump”. Here’s a fun fact: a Democratic Trump might be a crazy misrepresentation of his or her party, but they couldn’t be nearly as racist as the Trump campaign! And that’s important!

Look, we all know the world we live in today. I spent months making that Bohemian Rhapsody video for the #200 entry, but I know that I could get about twelve times more hits if I just posted a video of my mother’s cats chasing a laser pointer. They’re such silly kitties! How many people here have ever posted a link to Youtube, and added the qualifier, “oh, wait for it, it gets good after fifteen seconds”? Think about that. Think about what it means that you have to convince someone to wait fifteen seconds to get to a good part, and think about what it means that you know most people won’t even bother to do that. We all know we live in the information age, and, if, you know where to look, you could literally download every song that has ever existed, right now, for free, and be listening to the entire playlist by dinnertime. You could be playing the entire NES library right now, for free, and the only reason you’re not is because you have other things to do with your time. And that’s the crux of it, with so many avenues available, we no longer have to worry about being bored ever.

So why do we think a “boring” candidate is ever going to work again? Why did Clinton campaign on policy and facts when her opponent could literally deny what he said seconds earlier midway through a sentence? Why, in the age of hundred word tweets dictating the course of popularity did we ever think winning five hours of live debates would mean anything? How many people actually watched the debates? And how many people actually voted? The answer is ten million less Democrats than voted for the audacity of hope. Let’s face the music, people, politics is entertainment now, and the American public is going to vote for the best entertainer. Trump might wind up being the worst President in the history of the nation, but, dammit, he’s funny to watch. And that’s enough for a lot of people. That’s enough for sixty million people.

And if you want to claim there were a pile of other reasons to vote for Trump, consider how many of those reasons come down to his ability to properly articulate his position and project his own beliefs. He’s a great businessman? No, Paris Hilton was able to grow her inheritance at a better rate than a guy who did nothing but try to please his daddy for decades. He cares about the little guy? No, his long history of business ventures tells the story of a man who absolutely will not pay for anything unless legally forced, and that includes paying small businesses and craftsmen. He’s going to get jobs? Sanction foreign powers? Build a wall? How? He never presented a worthwhile answer to any of those important questions. And, probably his biggest plus, he “feels the pain” of the disenfranchised, he knows the plight of forgotten Middle America, and he’s going to make America the great nation it once was… Except, come on, guys, he’s a wealthy New York City trust fund brat. He’s a “Washington outsider”, yes, but only because no other political party would touch his odious ass over the last seventy years.

But none of that matters, because Trump presented himself as a genuine man who would fight for your rights. Even after… everything… that happened during the last year, he still denied every last allegation, and never wavered on his own belief in himself. I said all along that Trump wasn’t running for President, he was running for Trump, a position that had to be Trump at all times. What I didn’t expect was that so many people wanted Trump to be Trump, and that’s all it takes to become President. People gobbled up Trump hook, line, and sinker, and now we’re all on the sushi table.

I know I’m defeating my own point by throwing 3,000 words at “we need to start thinking like punchy little youtubbers” (Christ, I can’t even think of a concise way to say that), but this is what the world needs right now. Yes, I mean “the world”. Trump is going to be bad for everybody: for proof, just ask Mexico how their market is looking right now after merely the promise of Trump taking power. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I’m not worried about Trump nuking the whole of humanity… and the fact that such a thing is even on the table now is striking. One way or another, Trump is going to be the end of a lot of things, and whether or not these are things that you care about, he’s going to have an impact on the rest of Western society.

And it all wouldn’t have happened if the Democrats hadn’t run, in short, a nerd.

People want their cat videos. People want their ten second memes. People want a candidate that says one thing, and says it over and over again. People want the showman. The Democrats ignored this, and we’re all worse for it. We, every single Democrat, ignored this simple truth. It might have been for the right reasons, but “the right reasons” aren’t going to keep the polar ice caps from melting, or from children growing up in a world filled with racism/misogyny/homophobia. Yes, we’re all afraid of being that ineffectual band vice president (or that might just be me), but it’s time to get out there and do something, and posting nonsense on Facebook isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Run the clown. Join the circus. We literally cannot do any worse than the man that was just elected.

Make Democrats great again.