Monday, May 30, 2011

Fly-By Update:

Borrowing internet again:

It's still crazy here, but we're pulling it together one day at a time. We're down to less than 40 missing people, and that has to be a blessing for the survivors still trying to find their loved ones. I'm trying to focus on positive stuff like that.

Still working lots of hours between work and volunteering, but I took a little bit to move most of my stuff into my new apartment. Yes, I got it. Yes, I feel a little bad for having a place handed to me on a silver platter while so many are homeless and have lost everything. I keep telling myself that I've had my application in for a month and shouldn't feel bad, but I do. It's not faceless strangers who are suffering here, ya know? It's people I see every day. People I know. People I work with.

Anyway, just wanted to put up another note so you all know I'm still kickin around the planet. I've located or talked to plenty of friends, but there are a few I'm still worried about. I keep hoping it'll all shake out in the end.

And I keep praying for everyone here. We're in this mess together, and that's how we'll get out of it.

...

But going through the disaster area every day is hard. I don't know how the search and rescue teams and the clean-up teams bear it. My heart goes out to them, and I thank them with everything in me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quickie Sidebar:

I've poached some internet to tell you guys that I'm alive and unharmed. We're a mess here, but we're digging out. Thank you for the prayers and support.

We totally need it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dear Charlie:

So, Gamer.

On the surface, this is a simple movie. It takes a universal fear -- that pesky fear of being controlled from outside, of not being able to act of your own volition or, worse, being forced to act against your own volition -- and turns it into pure action porn. I'm in.

But it's oh, so much more than that.

Scratch the surface of this flick, and you have yourself a philosophical debate on par with the first Matrix movie. Now, don't start sputtering: I'm not saying doctorate level peeps will be dissecting the moral and social implications of a movie only a few steps shy of a skin flick in places. I'm just saying that it goes a lot deeper than a murder-mart video game, mind control, and the disturbingly plastic and emotionless sex that happens in Society.

The basic set-up, for the folks at home, is that a seemingly philanthopic genius invents a nanotechnology that engenders mind control. This certifiable fruitcake turns this tech (originally intended to create an army of invincible, immortal supersoldiers, and hey, what harm could that do?) into a simulation game called Society. Think Sims, but with real people, actors, being controlled by real people, total perverts.

But Castle, this supposed philanthropist genius nutbar, isn't done yet.

With the prison system overflowing and the world economy teetering on the brink of collapse -- um... this is just a movie, right?? -- Castle introduces a new, even more successful game, SLAYERS. Yes, it has to be typed in all-caps.

Remember the recent remake of DeathRace? SLAYERS is kinda like that, but with the added creepiness of that mind-control thing. Take a bunch of lifers, suit 'em up with ammo and a bit of that nifty nanotech, and let the people paying ungodly sums of money to control them blow them all up.

Who wouldn't sign up for this? It's the ultimate video game experience, something neither X-box, PlayStation, nor the Wii can yet provide, thank God. You aren't controlling an incredibly realistic portrayal of a human in cyberspace. You're controlling an actual human being in a vacant city block somewhere.

You're killing an actual human being. Or using said human to kill another one.

See what I mean? Philosophical, dude.

As for that philanthropy part, Castle's new game generates a shit-ton of revenue that gets funnelled back into the prison systems and the economy, simultaneously getting everything back on track and clearing out superfluous death-row inmates to make room for new ones. Handy. He becomes something of a financial Savior to the people.

Plus, they, like, totally love playing the game.

But scratch a little deeper, and you see the real genius here. It's not just in the writing or the development, but in the acting and directing. I mentioned before how all the actors in Society look plastic and emotionless, and I meant it. These are actors being controlled by outside forces. They literally cannot not do whatever their player directs them to do.

One of the establishing shots shows a rollerblader plowing over this poor chick just standing there. The chick is physically injured, bleeding from a ridiculous amount of roadrash from the collision and fall, and yet... because the player thinks it's hilarious, this poor girl has to sit there laughing even while her body cries from the pain. The total asshole controlling her even makes her lick the blood from her destroyed arm.

Now, does that statement above make more sense? These people are not emotionally invested in whatever happens to them in Society. Their bodies are puppets... but puppets that can feel everything happening to them. That can emotionally respond, but not express. Sometimes, you can see their pain, their loss, in their eyes, but other times? Nothing. Vacant. Nothing there.

It's creepy as hell.

SLAYERS is worse, though. Spoiler alert: the main guy, Kable -- played to gut-wrenching perfection by the ever-talented Gerard Butler -- never actually killed anyone (outside of military combat, we can assume, though we're never told for sure other than that he was a perfect soldier before the film's events) when he was sent to death row for murder. But put him out on that battlefield, and he is an instrument of death. Because his player -- a 17-year-old kid, if you can dig it -- directs him to.

Though, Kable admits that, while someone else moves him around and positions him and aims, he's the only one pulling that trigger. Yes, he is infinitely capable of killing. I think we all are, when we have nothing else.

Philosophical.

At any rate, while the Society freaks force sexual encounters (though the pundits would debate the word "force", since these actors voluntarily agreed to act in Society and are being paid for their services; it's a job), the SLAYERS folks are forced to kill or be killed. Rape is one thing; murder, even in the name of survival, is another.

And the light at the end of the tunnel? If they survive -- not win; survive -- thirty sessions, they get a full pardon. They get to go free.

No one's survived more than ten.

Except Kable. He's on #27. Yes. He is a complete badass.

He doesn't want to kill, but he wants out. He left a wife and kid outside. He didn't voluntarily commit the murder he was tried and sentenced for. He's not a violent man, under normal circumstances.

But he wants out. And he'll do whatever he has to.

You really have to see this flick to get the feel of it. I can tell you about how amazing a job they did of making the SLAYERS footage look like an actual (but live-feed) video game. The MMORPG from Hell, maybe. I can tell you about the soulless looks on the faces of those Society people in all their robot-moving glory.

I can even tell you that Terry Crews -- yes! Cheeseburger Eddie! -- gets to run around psychotic and naked and covered with blood from a fresh kill that wasn't prompted by anything but his own creepiness.

But I can't tell you how you'll feel when you watch Kable's reaction to finding his wife stuck in a hellish, forced encounter with a fellow Society freak and to her subsequent inability to respond to him with anything other than her eyes as her player tries to grab his junk. I can't tell you how whacked out it is to watch a small army of zombie-looking toughs dance to a showtune while Castle pulls their mental strings in a pre-fight display of creepy power.

I can't tell you how disconcerting it is to realize that this 17-year-old manipulator of murder can't quite grasp the fact that he's using Kable as a weapon as truly as if he were holding the gun himself. When a particular prisoner that's been chummy with Kable dies right before his dismayed eyes in the game, this little punk has the audacity to casually remark, "Gibs."

Like gibblets. Pieces. Of human being.

And Kable's the death row convict? Riiiiiight.

Look, I'll admit it: the first time I watched it, I was all about the action. And the action is done frickin awesomely well. It looks both jerky and sleek in the battle scenes, which you'd think a live-action MMORPG would look. It looks hyper-real in Society, which is perfectly on-par with the surreal aspect of the whole idea. This is, by all means, a well-done movie.

But the more you watch it....

Yeah.

The more you watch it, the more you have to think about it. And it very quietly gives you plenty to think about. Would you have the brass cajones to buy yourself a convict to control? Would you get a thrill from directing your Society human robot to soullessly have raunchy, weird sex with a complete stranger?

Or, on the flip side, would you volunteer to be controlled? Could you allow your body to be used, either as a weapon or just plain used?

I'm a resounding NO to all of those questions. But I still watch, fascinated despite myself. Maybe I wouldn't be a participant in either simulation, but... dammit, I can't promise I wouldn't be one of the billions of spectators rooting Kable on.

Philosophical, dude. Philosophical.

Watch. The. Movie. I'm seriously. And think about it. I mean, what else do you have to do, now that the Rapture is indefinitely postponed?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Musing Sidebar:

Cool summer rain. God, I love that scent.

No, it's not quite summer yet, but it's been hot enough that this cooling, fresh-smelling rainfall has that same feeling. Welcome as glad news, refreshing as ice-cold tea in a porch swing on a summer evening, intoxicating as a kiss in the twilight.

I love the rain. I love the sound of it. And that scent.

Yes, I know we have nightmare flooding here in the middle. Yes, I know we don't need more rain. But....

Makes me want to curl up on the couch before an open window with a good book, lulled into another world with the hush of the fall. Makes me wanna write poetry or song lyrics. Makes me just plain want to breathe.

Breathe deep. Breathe long and slow. Breathe free.

I love it. I love the rain.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Dear Charlie:

Here, my good friends, is my personal State of the Union address.

Things might actually be looking up. Woot!

Okay, that was a little... short. And by the time I'm done, you'll probably be wishing I'd stopped there. *rimshot* Anyway, I just talked to the guy at the apartment complex I applied to, and while he can't guarantee anything, he said he could "practically guarantee" I'm in. He says he's seen tons of applications, but none as easy as mine, so while it's still up to the district manager, he doesn't see anything to worry about.

And he's already sent in the maintenance guys to clean the apartment he reserved for me. Woot! That sounds pretty positive, right?

It may still be a couple of weeks, but I'm hoping not. I don't like feeling like I'm just spinning my wheels. I like forward momentum. Once I get rolling, having to wait for something just chafes me. I'm usually a patient person, but once I'm in motion, inertia just takes over me. Heh.

Anyway, the new job is going awesome. I'm not completely into what I'll be doing because we're awaiting permissions from program sites, but I've been doing plenty of other stuff. Luckily, they're starting to realize that if they keep me busy, I'm happy. Even if it's drudgery. Just don't leave me sitting and twiddling my thumbs. I'm used to working at a furious pace, and I keep getting done with stuff sooner than they expect, but I just don't know any other way to work. It's balls to the wall all the time.

Inertia. Like I said.

I guess I'm like that even at home. If I'm just reading and watching movies or something, I have no desire to do anything else. But get me cleaning or organizing or writing -- basically anything productive -- and I'll work like a demon until it's done. It's really weird, but I guess it works well enough. Been doin it a long time now, anyway.

Anyway, just thought you peeps should know there's light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm almost certain it's not either a freight train or an alien ship full of proby things. Could be wrong.

But I'm tentatively hopeful. Sweeeeeeet.