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Archive for November, 2008

I really should have seen this the first time. (Spoilers for Quantum of Solace below.)

The Palio di Siena

The Palio di Siena (source)

Having watched Quantum of Solace for the second time today, it seems so obvious to me. Hindsight, of course. The first big action sequence–Bond’s chase after traitorous MI6 agent Mitchell–is intercut against shots of a horse race. I noticed this the first time I watched the movie, and was amused by it: juxtaposing the exciting chase against an obviously artificial game expressly set up for the entertainment of the masses (and repeatedly showing us those masses as well as the actual racers). One way to read it is a contrast, life-and-death against a game, but of course it’s the opposite: it’s a reminder that we, too, are watching something constructed purely for our entertainment. Right from the start, Quantum of Solace seems to be saying: remember that this is a movie meant for your entertainment.

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A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (Robert A. Heinlein)

Who are the pinnacle of modern Western society? Our political leaders, variously despised and mistrusted? Our philosophers, who don’t exist in the minds of a majority? Our artists, ignored if they don’t produce carefully constructed entertainment to numb the pain of living our lives of quiet desperation? I think a strong argument could be made that the pinnacle of modern Western society, from the view of modern Western society itself, in terms of those paid the most and getting the most media coverage (easily argued, I think, to be the two primary definitions of status for modern Western society), are professional sports players. (“Most of them don’t make that much and aren’t known”, yeah, yeah. Same goes for all the other aforementioned categories, and everything in general.)

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A new plan of attack involves more shorter posts, so that there aren’t months without anything. I stayed away from that here before because I keep really short thoughts to Facebook status updates (would be Twitters if I had any friends on Twitter, but I don’t), but there’s a place between rambling essays and one sentence thoughts that I hope I can use to good effect in the future. In the meantime, a few quick shots:

  • Pushing Daisies be dead. Terrible, horrible, depressing, expected. On the very minor positive side, Bryan Fuller may well end up running Heroes and perhaps save it from the abysmal joke it’s become. (During Heroes’ second season, the first time I watched the show as it aired, I repeatedly took it to task for ugly sexism until I eventually concluded it was just lazy writing, not actual misogyny, and gave up. This is still the case, and still one of the few things I actively despise about the show. Please save it, Bryan Fuller. Make it whimsy and fun!)
  • Far Cry 2 is a great game, but I’ve barely played it (or any other games) since I started Letters from Africa. As a result, I haven’t updated that particular project since then. I hope to get around to it eventually, but at this point I kind of just want to play the game. I also bought Overlord during its 75% price reduction on Steam and played it for an hour or two. It’s cute.
  • I’m a terrible DM. Not really, of course, but not a very good one, anyway. I don’t intend to continue the campaign log, although I do intend to keep the wiki updated with shorter summaries and to post some thoughts on DM-ing (and how much I suck at it). Seriously, it’s hard (especially when the online campaign I’m playing in is so well-designed. Here’s to you, stabs!) I almost want to start something new next semester (with a month of preparation over break), but I think the players would prefer to continue, because they don’t have as much of a problem with what I do as I do (and that’s what’s important, anyway)–and there are still some (hopefully) really interesting moments to get to.
  • Quantum of Solace is a conundrum to me. I’m planning on writing some more thorough thoughts (and I’ve thought a lot about what those will be) but I’m waiting until I probably see it again this weekend.

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My face is not my own

I hate being home. It’s not my family–though they are little more than familiar strangers to me, people whom I lived with for so long but have never really known, or allowed myself to know, or allowed to know me. I suppose it is, then, at least a corollary of that. It’s that, when I’m home, I feel–alone. Overwhelmed. This is the place in which I destroyed myself, over and over. This is the place in which I wallowed, decadent, lay for hours on end, night after night, devoured by my own depression. This is the place which I left so desperately hoping to start anew, and I did, sort-of, maybe.

But every time I come home I am devoured anew, trapped by the prison I created and continue to create, because I can’t let go and say, it is just a building. I should leave, walk about this town that used to be mine, and sometimes I do, but I have nowhere to go. I used to go the park and admire–the people, nature, whatever; but it’s too cold now. I used to walk two hours one way to the nearest movie theater, and then come back, six hours gone, because it was better than being here.

The worst part is that I see myself. I never look in mirrors except at home, and here, they are everywhere. I get up in the morning and look into a mirror and I think–not, I wish I was someone else; not even, that is not me; but simply, who is that? Because I do not know. It is a foreign face, a foreign body–gaunt and pale and scarred and so very, very tired.

I used to tell people that I didn’t care about my appearance because I didn’t have to look at it. It wasn’t true, of course–while certainly there is less care involved, I do consider what clothes I’m wearing on what day and why. I would be impressed by someone who has endured modern American society’s conditioning and can avoid that. But it was true, somehow, that I dissociated myself from my own image, not from the clothes but from my physical body itself; somehow I mentally divorced myself from my own embodiment, became a floating brain, always fascinated but ultimately confused and distanced by the way my hands move, tendons twisting on bones beneath the skin, the way my leg steps forward with such instinctual confidence, the way my eyes glisten and contract and stare without comprehension.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/lettersfromafrica/

What’s at the convergence of video games, social commentary, and hyperconnectivity? Here’s one suggestion, perhaps. Hopefully it becomes interesting.

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