Open Mic

Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Puerto Penasco, Mexico
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
Jenner, CA
Jenner, CA

I am not a professional photographer by any stretch. These and everything I have ever taken were taken with a camera that was a step above a point’n’shoot. However, I still enjoy photography. One thing that I enjoy as subjects are broken or worn down subjects. I find it cool to capture the decay of time, I think it is an interesting thing to see. I am not going to try and get all artistic here and compare the decay of time to the inevitability of death here, but it is kind of an interesting thought. Things that were once schoolhouses, docks, and ships, are now shells of themselves. I think it is an interesting subject base, and I hope that you enjoy them too! It really has been a great semester, and I have loved writing for you all. Maybe I will keep using this blog, who knows? In any case, thank you for reading, and I hope you have enjoyed our time together as much as I have.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Games

Hello everyone! So, this week’s subject is one near and dear to my heart: video games. I should say that I would not call myself a “gamer”, because I am far from making a lifestyle out of it. I play single-player stories, and that is about it, save for occasionally playing computer games with friends of mine. However, they also play an important role in my life these days. When I am at home, it is my Xbox 360, when I am up here in Arcata, it is my computer because I can’t bring my console here due to a lack of a TV. So, I guess the best place to start is probably just why I enjoy spending so much of my time playing random games.

I honestly play about everything. Puzzle games like Portal, adventure games like Far Cry, shooters like Call of Duty (though I should mention that I don’t like them all that much), RPGs like Mass Effect, weird indie games, about everything depending on my mood. The only games I find boring are most sports games and most driving games, with the exception of Burnout, because wrecking cars for rewards is fun. However, that can easily just be boiled down to that driving games and sports games don’t usually have stories, and I am a sucker for story. The gameplay of a game can be great, but if the story doesn’t interest, I will not play it. It is part of the reason why I can bear to play the CoD games sometimes yet don’t do multiplayer, because I don’t play games to play games, I usually play them for the story. It is part of the reason why I love games like Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed so much. However, I know that many have different views and that story isn’t the most important to them.

There are a few schools of thought as to why people play video games. The first are the ones like me, who enjoy the stories, there isn’t much to explain there. The second are the prestige players, who are usually the multiplayer people, that play to get up their killcounts and get recognition from others. This is the group that is most often targeted by the “videogames promote violence and being a bad person” people. The third are the gameplay/visual people, who play it purely because they think the game is cool or that it is pretty. There are then of course the people who don’t really care and just do whatever they want. There is often a lot of interlap between the groups as well. I myself, while mostly a story player, have been pulled into games for how it looked, like many indie games, or played, like Portal, as well.

However, in this day and age, video games are becoming more than just ways to waste time. As Slate’s article “Death From Above” talked about, games like America’s Army exist, the serve as both training for real world situations and also a recruitment tool for the army. Major League Gaming is actually a thing with a pretty huge following, moving from small venues to full theatres in the past few years. Let’s Play videos have taken over Youtube, with the number one Youtuber being Pewdiepie, someone who exclusively just plays video games on his channel for people to watch. There are studies being done on if video games promote violence in children. They have kind of taken over, and have been doing so for years now. I personally don’t have a problem with it, but to those who do, calm down. Just because you aren’t part of it doesn’t mean you have to hate it. I think I am going to go and play something right now. Until next time, have a good break!

Documentaries

Hello everyone! The internet is still bad, so I hope that it lets me actually post this. This week’s subject was documentaries. I will preface this by saying that I really am not experienced in documentaries. This is not out of any sort of dislike for them, because I do enjoy some, I just don’t find myself laying around and thinking “Man, you know what I could really go for right now? A documentary.” However, I like them. Don’t worry, I don’t get it either. However, I do remember some of them. One of these is the infamous Super Size Me. I was not at all surprised to see that it was brought up this week, because it is up there with An Inconvenient Truth in famous documentaries, though Super Size Me is only ranked 20 on the Box Office Mojo rankings. I never saw An Inconvenient Truth, but I did see Super Size Me, so I will be talking about that.

I find myself agreeing with the critics of this movie as well as the people who supported it. One hand, it is very much a gimmick, as was brought up in one of the things we had to read to this week. He imposed rules on himself that he had to eat everything on the menu and could never say no to an offer for a super size. He was making meals out of multiple burgers and supersized fries, and ate like this for every meal of every day. As McDonald’s said, the movie was about him eating 5,000 calories a day. Now, where as I am sure there are people who do consume that much, that is not how normal people eat. They do not eat at McDonald’s for every meal, they do not make an effort to eat until they feel sick, they basically just do not do what he does in this movie. What he did is kind of like saying that water is bad because if you drink too much of it, it makes you feel sick. Everything is terrible in excess, and that was all the movie was, an illustration of excess with a background of McDonald’s. He was trying to make a point, and he did, but it cannot be taken as irrefutable proof of anything.

Now, this isn’t to say that I am defending McDonald’s, because I am not. The food there is far from nutritious, though they have gotten better through the years, and the point he was making of it being bad for you is very much true. I will readily admit that after seeing Super Size Me, I did not eat at McDonald’s for awhile because the scare tactics worked. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how staged and ridiculous his experiment was. This is not to say that it didn’t have its effects though. A few months after the movie, the super size option was removed from McDonald’s. If you go to one now, you will find options like fruit for the Happy Meals. It did kind of “clean up” McDonald’s, and certainly brought a lot of awareness to the issue of malnutrition, unhealthiness, and disease caused by ingesting bad food. My point is simply that it should be taken with a grain of salt. Until next week, everyone!

Colbert and Stewart: Comedy or Something More?

Hello everyone! Finally recovered from Arizona last week, I am ready to do this again! This week’s subject was comedy news like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart and its role in the modern world. I should preface by saying that I am quite a fan of comedy news. I have actually gotten much of my current understanding of world issues from John Oliver, because his videos are all over Youtube and come up in my Suggested and on my Facebook wall quite often. I am not ashamed to admit that I haven’t watched a “legitimate news source” for years. However, what is “legitimate news”? I find that oftentimes, the comedy news is less biased than the so-called “real coverage”, which is actually somewhat sad now that I think about it. Though, when you have a platform that allows you report on things without always being serious opens up a lot more possibility for coverage. There is only so far you can go with the “proper” way of “This happened, it happened here, news to come.”, not that there is a problem with that. I am rambling, so I will just get to the point. My experience with comedy news is a very positive one, and it teaches me about events going on in the world while not boring me to tears. I put a lot of value in it, as offensive as it might be to some who don’t get the joke and think that Stephen Colbert is actually a super right-wing Fox anchor-like being. This brings me to the main point of this whole post, and that is asking if it truly holds value.

Rachael Sotos says so. In her words, “The fake news is not only — in its own way — more true to the facts, it’s closer to the cutting edge of new possibilities for political participation.” She also argues that it is closer to what the Founders themselves would have done, because she says they put value in comedy and thought it had political importance. As well as that, she thinks that in this modern day of the internet and young voters being important, a way to get news across that is more palpable by using comedy is important. This makes it so that politics becomes more user friendly, even if you don’t have explicit interest in it. She goes as far as to call comedy new “the fifth estate”, which is bold considering the last thing that got called that was Wikileaks. I agree with her. The so-called “fake news” is important, and I know from experience with myself and friends that it makes everything much more palpable, leading to a more informed world as a whole.

One of the most notable examples of this “fake news” is Stephen Colbert. To those who cannot see he is acting, he is a right-wing pundit, but to those who get the joke, that is just his “character”. Despite some of his actions being ridiculous, he has made extremely important points, especially towards immigration reform. If one watches his “Fallback Posistion” where he becomes a farm worker, he is in full character, asking things like why they don’t just take down the “Help Wanted” sign at the border if they don’t want people coming through. However, he later would go on to speak to the Immigration Subcommitee to fight for migrant worker’s rights. This an example of what Soto talks about, because whereas he is being ridiculous, he is using his position as a pundit and as a comedian to bring attention to an important issue like migrant workers’ rights and make political change while still entertaining using comedy.

So, as I have not shyed from in this post, I think that comedy news is extremely important, especially in today’s world. I never would know about politics if it weren’t for them, and they have made notable change in people’s attitudes as well as political progress. I am of course biased, and I accept this, because I came in thinking they were important, but I hope I have legitimized by claim enough in this, despite being a bit tired from dealing with bad internet. Until next week, goodbye everone! I hope you enjoyed the post.

Reality TV

Hello everyone! I am actually working on a haunt in Arizona right now, so this post might be a bit rushed. So very busy this season! So, this week’s subject was reality TV. I admit that I don’t watch much of that genre, so I might not be the best source on it, but I am going to try. Specifically, I am talking about Honey Boo Boo, a show that I honestly don’t understand the appeal of anymore than I understand the appeal of Toddlers and Tiaras, the show Honey Boo Boo came from. I will try to keep my own opinions out of this though, and focus on the idea of the show instead of my feelings on it.

Jennifer Pozner’s description of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo “TLC’s poverty voyeurism comedy tour”, while a bit mean, is one of the best summarizing I have seen as to why it is as popular as it is. It is exactly that. It is a voyeuristic look into the daily life of a low-income family, and they are funny in how they deal with it. However, that is not to say that I think that it a good form of comedy. In fact, it strikes me as a certain degree of Schadenfreude, also known as taking enjoyment from others’ misfortune. Most of them are very unhealthy, they eat terribly, they obviously don’t live in a very good house, and they are all kind of ridiculous people. The way South Park portrayed them, while mean, was oddly accurate as to the show. However, as much as I don’t like to say it, I cannot say that it is not without value.

The mother truly does care for her children, even if she does feed Honey Boo Boo terrible things like ‘sketti and butter and her infamous Go-Go Juice, which was Mountain Dew and Red Bull being fed to a six year old. The reason why they don’t live in a fancy house is because the money that is made from the show goes to a trust fund for Honey Boo Boo. Finally, one of the most important things and the reason why I cannot say their life is bad is that, despite all of that, they are happy. I do not think that one can truly say someone’s life is “bad” if they are fine with it. Along with that, some even say that there is are important lessons taught on the show, though I don’t completely get that one. So, I believe that this is a factor in the phenomenon as well.

So, where does this all fall in reality TV as a whole? Exactly in the center of it. The voyeurism aspect is a basic one in the reality TV concept, from Survivor to The Bachleor. People enjoy watching other people doing things that they themselves are not/could not. I admit, I sometimes enjoy the singing shows, but that is partially because I am a singer and I enjoy hearing the good ones and the bad ones. That brings me to the other point, that people want to see things that they aren’t. Part of the appeal of Honey Boo Boo is that it is a view of people that viewers don’t typically get. The same applies with Survivor, because very few people can relate to being stuck on an island. It becomes less about the real people that are part of it and more becomes like watching a fictional show, and that is what keeps it going, that thought that these are indeed real people doing ridiculous things. Do I get it? Yeah, kind of, however, I don’t really do reality shows, as I said, so I cannot really advocate for them all that much.

Cartoons

Hello again everyone! It feels like awhile since I have talked to you all, a week without posting really does make a difference! Anyway, this week’s subject was cartoons, namely adult ones like The Simpsons and Family Guy. So, I figured I might as well watch both by watching their crossover episode “The Simpsons Guy”, which aired on September 28th of this year. This particular episode features the Griffins having to escape Quahog due to Peter writing a misogynistic comic in the newspaper then having their car stolen, leaving them in Springfield, meeting Homer after he buys them donuts. It is mostly based upon character interaction and gags from the respective shows rather than any sort of plot, unlike most of the episodes of both shows, but it is still an interesting thing. Seeing the Family Guy humor applied to The Simpson world is rather strange, and that is kind of the joke in this episode. There is even a shot where they blatantly equate the characters to each other, with Carl and Cleveland sitting together as the two African American characters, Krusty and Mort sitting together as the two Jews, and the mayors from both towns sitting next to each other. However, it also manages to tell a full story, full of relateable subjects.

So, this begs the a question of adult animation. First, can it actually be used for anything other than fluff, or is it just deadminded funny pictures on a screen? And if this is so, can we actually learn from it?

I would say yes to this. As Jennifer L. McMahon discusses in depth in her piece “The Function Of Fiction: The Heuristic Value of Homer”, cartoons are not mindless fluff, they can explore issues that live action shows cannot fully while also being relateable despite not being real people on a screen. In the case of “The Simpsons Guy”, it tackles a few issues, such as friendship and self-worth along with more silly things like conflicts over preferred beers. The most notable one in this one however is Lisa Simpson teaching Meg Griffin about self worth, which if you don’t watch Family Guy, Meg has none of because her entire character joke is that nobody likes her. Lisa spends the episode trying to find something she is good at, but when she finally finds it, she downgrades it because Lisa felt belittled about Meg being better at it than her. This is a very relatable thing, because I know that I have gone into that Meg mode of feeling like I am not good at anything, and am desperate to find something. I also get Lisa, because I have done the thing of introducing friends to a hobby only to have them be better than me at it, and one cannot help being a little bitter when that happens. I like to believe that other people know how that is. This episode also deals with friendship, namely between Bart and Stewie, and Stewie’s subsequent loss of Bart because Stewie freaked him out. Though he had very good reason in context, I would say that everyone knows what it is like to lose a friend, and they touched on that. Along with that, they also joked about how crossovers were only for money, and also took random shots at the other shows on Fox, the station they are both on, joking about the commercialism of it all. Basically, despite this episode being made up of gags and jokes, it is also very indicative of culture.

Along with that, cartoons are often rather educational when it comes to modern events and even just basic values. I have learned more about modern events from the Internet and shows like South Park than I have from the news itself. I couldn’t name specific examples if I tried, because I cannot really make a difference between where I learned what anymore, but it happens. Shows like the Boondocks gave me a view into a severly parodied version of black culture. Along with that, at risk of sounding cheesy, cartoons played a big part in forming my values with shows that integrated lessons into their entertaining stories. Though I don’t watch many anymore, I still respect cartoons as a medium, and do not think that they should be considered simple fluff.

Rockin’ It From The Delta to the DMZ

In the spirit of this being the week we talk about radio, it is only appropriate that I talk about a movie relating to radio, in this case Good Morning Vietnam. Rest in peace, Robin Williams. One of the last thing said in the movie is General Taylor talking to the appropriately named Sgt. Major Dickerson, telling him “Dick, I’ve covered for you a lot of times ’cause I thought you were a little crazy. But you’re not crazy, you’re mean. And this is just radio.” However, after watching that movie where radio plays such an important part, I don’t think it can be considered “just radio”. Throughout this movie, it is shown just how big of a deal radio was in the field during Vietnam, and how much it could raise spirits and cause problems. I will readily admit to not having an extensive knowledge of Vietnam, so I never really thought about how they censored the news that was aired to keep the soldiers from knowing too much, even censoring the music. In the words of my friend, “When the Beach Boys are controversial, there is a problem.” There is a part of me that wonders if the censorship was indeed that bad, but considering what I do know of Vietnam, I don’t doubt it. Overall, I think it was a very good depiction of the impact of radio during the Vietnam War, and just how important keeping the spirits high in the face of explosions and Viet Cong attacks was. The comedy was of course off-color at parts, but that just makes sense considering the culture of the time and how military people joke, and I feel like that actually added to the realism of the movie. If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest watching it, if not just to hear Robin Williams essentially do standup for a good portion of the movie, but also to see just how important radio was.