the aspidistra

Friday, March 30, 2007

Breaking In April

Amigos: Why blog? Right now, I can't answer that question for myself. I've been coasting here, relying on inertia. My posts this month have been half-assed at best. Maybe I'm moody, but Aspy has become a burden.

I like having a voice, no matter how quiet, in the webby free-for-all. I like the idea of sharing the things I care about. But I've become unsure. Why share this? Why link to that? Those are good questions that I can't answer right now.

So I self-prescribe a blog break of one month. I'll post again on May 1st. I hope I'll return with a backlog of posts to entertain tha peeps. But maybe the break won't matter, and then I'll be sad, because I'll be coming back to say good-bye.



Friday, March 23, 2007

Videogames: Metaphors For Your Life?

The new post-9/11 drama Reign Over Me is getting decent reviews, but what has caught my eye about the movie is that reviewers are mentioning that Adam Sandler's isolated character is wrapped up in Shadow of the Colossus, one of my most favoritest games.

Sayeth Anthony Lane in the New Yorker:

For kicks, [Charlie] likes to sit in his apartment and play a video game, “Shadow of the Colossus,” on a huge screen. Over time, we discover the colossus in whose shadow Charlie lurks and mumbles to himself. He lost a wife and three daughters on September 11, 2001, and then he lost the capacity to admit that he had a wife and three daughters in the first place.
And Scott Foundas in the Village Voice:
Five years on, Charlie Fineman is still in a state of shock and awe, which we know not just because his grooming and social skills have gone to pot, but because he can't seem to stop renovating and re-renovating his kitchen—part of an unfulfilled promise to his late wife—and because he spends copious hours in front of a video game called Shadow of the Colossus, in which he can repeatedly lay waste to the evil forces he was powerless to defeat in life.
Hmmm. What does it say about me that this is a game that I also hold dear? I certainly enjoyed the lonely, melancholic atmosphere of the game. From what I've read about the movie, such loneliness seems to be a central feature of Charlie's life. I can't think that I have any colossi looming over me, though.

Still, it is nice to see games used in movies as emblems of something other than juvenile self-absorption, even though it would appear that SotC is presented as a substitute for Charlie's real life. Can any readers think of other movies in which games were used to illustrate important elements of a character?


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Detroit Dying

I remember stories from my grandmother about a now-vanished Detroit of streetcars and downtown department stores. I've alway held a crazy hope that my hometown will one day bounce back to some of it's former glory. Experience should have taught me otherwise--once, as a teen, I saw a man lying in the middle of Woodward Avenue downtown and I and everyone else ignored him--but like all dreams mine is irrational.

A story in today's Detroit Free Press further diminishes my dreams: Wayne county lost more residents (89,000) between 2000 and 2006 than any other county in the country except hurricane-battered Orleans parish.

Is it any wonder that houses are cheaper than new cars in Detroit?


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Joel Stein Really Hates Baby Pictures

Joel Stein is easy to dislike. He’s got a big head. When it comes to funny, he’s got a bad case of trying-too-hard. I don’t read him regularly, but every once in a while he manages to say something silly enough to generate wide web reverberations that I do notice. Recently, he seems to have launched an attempt to be the surliest columnist in a major paper. For example, he doesn’t want to read emails from readers, so he writes a column about it.

Now he’s on to the not-very-original complaint about baby pictures: they all look roughly similar and parents love to send them to other people. Stein’s not having it! (registration may be required) But not only that, Old Man Grumpus doesn’t even want to see pictures of his friends’ babies!

I know something wonderful has happened to you, and you want to share it with the world, but you've got to be more disciplined about the bragging.

My feelings on this are obviously colored by the fact that a 24-week old fetus is now kicking away in my wife’s belly. I was elated to send sonograms around to friends. I also get excited to see sonograms from pregnant friends. And baby pictures. Sure, being a parent-to-be plays into it, but overriding that is that fact that I love my friends and care about their lives. I like to both learn about them and share with them.

Stein’s problem, as noted in his email column, is that his big head likes things to flow one-way: straight out. Want to listen? Fine, but don’t think he gives a shit about listening to you. (Friends now included, unless they are giving him dinner, apparently.) The guy’s a columnist, so some of that self-absorbed braying is to be expected.

All that’s on record, at least. But I wonder if there isn’t some envy and defensiveness at work in the baby picture example, too. At the Obscure Store, where I first read this, the discussion has degenerated into a breeder/non-breeder brouhaha. Many childless people say they are happy with their choice. I have no reason to doubt them. But Stein sees sharing baby pictures as “bragging,” and that position seems so unreasonable that I can’t help but wonder at the psychology behind it. Why care about “bragging” (and he equates babies with 100K salaries, too) unless you are envious?

I don’t know if Stein has kids. I did some Stein-ian levels of research myself for this post (I looked at his webpage) and read he is married. But he doesn’t have to envy friends' kids for my argument to stand, only their happiness. I actually suspect it is all an act, but such is that type of columnist’s job.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Take This Job And Shove It... I Kid, I Kid.

Jeffrey Dinsmore links to the very funny website of loseractor, a grumpy, self-deprecating part-time actor and (until recently) conflicted denizen of the Cubicle Zone. I spent a good hour reading through loseractor’s witty posts upon first encountering them, which I would call a pretty enthralled response from this easily distracted web surfer. Anyone who’s tried to come to peace with or find a balance between their unrealized dreams and plain ol’ daily life will probably recognize something of themselves here. A taste:

It was a bad omen. The subway doors opened at 18th St on a large group of kids encouraging a fat girl pulling another fat girl face-down along the subway platform by her hair, like she was vacuuming, except she would occasionally punch the vacuum cleaner in the head. Yaay! School had just let out, and I guess the kids were just letting off a little steam, much in the same way I used to when I was a tween. But instead of watching Inspector Gadget and riding bikes around the neighborhood, they were holding a “bitch fight” on a crowded subway platform.
What I would give to go back to middle school! Not a care in the world, save for a bully lady tossing me by my weave in front of a moving train.
The occasion for Jeff’s post is a goodbye email from loseractor to the test-writing company for which he toiled. Jeff, a very entertaining wit himself, posts his own goodbye email to people at the same company (this is how Jeff knows loseractor). I could never write one of these because I just don’t have the skill to appropriately cover the bile with joking. People would just have hurt feelings and be mad at me.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Got Some Dumb Ideas? Make A Wiki!

In the comment section over at Pharyngula (and in his own post at Unscrewing the Inscrutable), Jim Downey points to one of the recent examples of creationist idiocy: the CreationWiki. Downey calls it a “self-organizing black hole of stupid.” No one can deny that the know-nothings in the creationist crowd are passionate about their never-ending battle with reality (see also Conservapedia).

I’m just too busy to have the energy to fight these fools. That’s a bad sign, because the science on this issue is settled, so we have a lot of ammunition on our side. This is a political fight that must be fought, but recently I’ve wanted no part of it. I just hope my energy returns.

If your fighting spirit needs a little pick me up, try this gem from CreationWiki’s first page on for size:

The theory of evolution (or general theory of evolution) is a philosophical perspective that stems from an atheistic worldview.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gamers ≠ Losers

The stereotype certainly exists, but I would have hoped that as those that grew up playing games became adults, the image of the loser gamer would disappear. Alas, my beloved hobby has a persistent image problem.

Just a silly little note in my really busy week: Leafing through this week's US Weekly (cover date March 5, 2007), I see a quote from sorta-famous person Gabrielle Union in the Loose Talk section. Sayeth Union:

I don't understand men that find much time for PlayStation. If you have bad credit but a great Madden score, clearly there are some priority issues.
It doesn't take a logician to see that someone who makes time for games is not the same as someone who can't be responsible for themselves or their personal finances, as Union implies.

Here's my retort, custom fit for the glossy set: I don't understand women that find that much time for primping. If you can't discuss the state of the modern American novel but have blindingly white teeth, clearly there are some priority issues.