Saturday, July 22, 2017

Men Are Better than Roger Ebert

"Help me, you tear down my reason
Help me, it's your sex I can smell
Help me, you make me *per-fect*
Help me become somebody else"

NIN - Closer

Have you heard?
Women are better than men.
- or so Roger Ebert informed us as a last public service the year before dying.

Though their heyday mostly comprised the late '80s and nineties, many of you might've seen the film critics Siskel and Ebert doing their thing, or if you're not old enough might still have seen them parodied as emblems of their profession. Many have since attempted to copy the perceived key to their success, with two commentators of divergent personalities meeting halfway so that their famous "two thumbs up" represented not only an accumulation of scored points but an intersection of desirable qualities. Gene Siskel was the more coldly cerebral and critical of the two, leaving it to limbic Ebert to like the nice things, goodness aside. While I could stomach the dyspeptic Siskel to some extent, Ebert's jowly bonhomie always aroused an instinctive wariness in me. While reading The Fountainhead I semi-consciously appended his face to Rand's subversive, underhandedly scheming villain Ellsworth Toohey, and until now I thought I was being unfair.

The article, in a nutshell: he watched a piece of feminist propaganda, gave it nine thumbs up a la Homer Simpson, and decided to pile on with his own diatribe proclaiming the evils of y-chromosomes and his abject devotion before the manipulative sex. Supposedly, in the movie, a mixed Christian / Muslim village in Lebanon stands on the brink of sectarian violence. It's not the fault of religion of course but of those stupid, evil, brutish, primitive men (of course) and of course it's up to the elevated, pristine, angelic women to rule and civilize their lowly counterparts. Granted I've never seen the flick but, cinematography, directing and other technical aptitude aside, I'm pretty sure I could swallow the same chauvinistic garbage in any Lifetime Channel movie of the week.

I don't normally indulge in the forum war line-by-line quote dissection routine, but I guess I can make an exception for dead film critics.

In Ebert's words:
"The women [...]conspire to distract the men from their foolish chest-beating. They stage fake miracles. They sneak hashish into their diets. In a bold masterstroke, they import a troupe of exotic Ukrainian dancers who are touring Lebanon.
Enough about the movie, except for this simple mind experiment: Can you imagine a movie in which Muslim and Christian women start fighting with religion as their excuse, and the men band together to import go-go boys? Not easily."

True, I can't. Mostly, I can't imagine that movie being made because no movie studio would subject itself to feminist lynch mobs by even the most lighthearted criticism of femininity. We'd also need a new plot, since (as Mr. Ebert had apparently not noticed in his seven decades on the Flying Spaghetti Monster's green earth) men and women don't value sex in the same way. Yes, when it comes to strictly sexual jealousy, men are more apt to mate-guard, to beat other males away with a stick.

However, if you're asking whether I can imagine a world in which men subvert their own desires to feed women's own power-games between each other, then yes. I can imagine men paying for and sitting through tedious social events just so their wives can display their social status to each other. I can conceive of a world in which men torture themselves by legally-enforced monogamy and work to pay for oversized houses for their wives to play out their nesting instincts, in which men subvert their sexual instincts and mentally torture themselves their entire lives trying to fit themselves to female romantic ideals, to unending displays of devotion, to providing and protecting. None of this will of course make for a very novel Sundance movie plot, because we're already living it. Bo-oo-riiiiing.

More striking than his basic premise however were some of grandpa Ebert's smattering of supporting arguments and side comments, like:

"[Women] are far less involved in violent crimes, and crime of all sorts."

Does "less involved" include "less likely to profit from" or are women simply better at pushing men into risk while grabbing the spoils and maintaining deniability? Do mafia wives not share their husbands' mansions? How many ex-wives and sugar babies is every cut-throat corporate climber financing? How much of a convenience store robber's take goes to supporting his baby-momma?

"I believe that a great many things can be explained by the process of evolution, and differences in the sexes are certainly included. We are the descendants of primitive hunting and gathering societies. Men are better are hunting, and women are better at gathering. Men are taller, heavier, stronger. They're not in the child-rearing business."

Well, I guess that shows what movie critics understand about evolution.
Actually, mammalian males have a tendency to devote more energy to their offspring than most of the animal kingdom, and even among mammals human males show an astounding amount of parental investment. This stems from the debilitating effects of our long infancy and goes hand-in-hand with another weird-ass quirk we acquired somewhere between "homo" and "habilis": our females actually compete with each other for mates-as-providers. Not nearly to the extent that males compete for females-as-breeders, but that it happens at all would shock the mores of any self-respecting hen or doe. Thus, while a woman might tolerate a stripper shaking her tits in her husband's face... as long as she then quickly exits, stage whicheverway... they'll still scratch each others' eyes out if they perceive the slightest long-term encroachment, and it's men who get drafted and weaponized in women's turf wars, not the other way around. While women compete for men's service, men compete much more fiercely to be condescendingly permitted to serve women. Men are taller, heavier, stronger, largely so they can play their role as proxies, as a woman's muscle.

"One obvious reason for larger breasts, therefore, is to send a signal to prospective mates that they are promising candidates for motherhood. You may not realize this when you see a crowd of half-loaded guys in a lap-dance joint, but in some primeval sense they're looking for mothers--perhaps their own."

Jesus fuck, that has got to be the most half-assed pop-psych I've seen in years. Is it not obviously self-defeating? Do we even need to get into all the signals men send as high-quality workhorses, providers of resources for women? How many $3000 suits did Ebert own, I wonder? And if those men are looking for mothers, then how much more obvious is it that a woman looking for a dependable lifelong mate to interpose between herself and the world, she's also looking for a daddy figure to take care of her? What he says next though is a lot more interesting:

"Women know things like that. Dogs understand humans by closely observing us. They follow our eyeliners, and discover what interests us. Women understand men in the same way. They observe the whole man, while men tend to focus more on secondary sexual characteristics and signals of availability. This is why a woman is more willing to marry an ugly man than a man is to marry an ugly woman. The woman is looking for reliability, responsibility, bread-winning. The man is looking for boobs."

This one paragraph encompasses so much of our nature, as individuals, as a society, as an instinct-driven species. Women observe men the better to manipulate them. Men avoid acquiring the same understanding, the better to be manipulated by women. Men who delve into self-serving motivations of women are less likely to let themselves become trapped, less likely to be permitted by women to pass on their genetic material. They become less represented in the gene pool. The men who embrace their sacrificial role give their offspring a better chance at the social status which ensures continuation of the bloodline, at being rich enough to dodge the draft. We inherit male slavishness at the same time we inherit female control. Thus, among other mental afflictions, we hear this same willfully ignorant refrain in every corner of our society: that female instinct is somehow less instinctual than male instinct, that the mindless instinctive drive to ensnare a bread-winner is somehow more elevated than the mindless instinctive drive for boobs.

"Consider the role of the sexes in modern times. Men no longer need to be powerful and violent in order to hunt bison, walk behind a plow, tote that barge or lift that bale. In a society where the hunting and gathering is done by corporations, they need to be smart and work well with others.[...]
These are areas in which men are not necessarily better equipped than women. A great deal of male drive is fueled by testosterone. A man wants to defeat other men and become the leader of the pack.[...]
Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the financial industry. Investment bankers do nor sow, and neither do they reap. They make nothing but profits. They create those profits through the stock ownership of companies that do make and sell things, but at their level they hardly care if they're making tractors or dildos."
In the same breath, Ebert lambastes men for being ill-suited to polite modern society and blames men for polite modern society, ignoring the sheer femininity of the system he describes. The corporate world is one of hiding behind legal fictions, taking no direct action, unable to meet one's competitors in direct conflict, prevented from taking individual public recognition for one's victories. Every corporate profiteer, male or female, is a scheming, manipulative trophy wife hiding behind a towering steel-and-glass husband of an office building protecting her from repercussions and providing her with social status. No matter how much men overcompensate, there's nothing in the methodology of the investment circle-jerk to give Conan the Barbarian a hard-on! It's rather what happens when men try to adopt indirect, communal, manipulative feminine tactics.

I'd think someone as observant of cultural trends as Mr. Ebert should have spotted the glaring archetypal mismatch there, but then this is not a matter of true ignorance but willful ignorance. Neither am I accusing him of being some sort of fanatical ideologue. He did not create the system, and I doubt he gave his article half the thought I've given this attack on it. He was, however, emblematic. For over twenty years, his show occupied a spot at the very center of American pop culture. His job as not king or knight but high priest of the celluloid temple was to tell others what to think. Ebert imbibed zeitgiest by the reel, day in and day out for his entire career, and when he regurgitated it, little wonder it turned out to be our society's "egalitarian" feminist consensus: man bad, woman good; men should shut up and serve women. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.

What you have to ask yourself now is how many articles like Ebert's you've absorbed during your life. If it had been titled "men are better than women" ... well, Ebert's name would've been Hitlerized in a second. Yet any bullshit you care to spew, no matter how un-analyzed, no matter how blatantly abusive, receives a chorus of applause so long as it's abusive toward men. From the cradle on, through film critics and awards speeches, overinflated statistics and political pandering to the female vote, on every channel, in every pop song, in every general education college course, we've absorbed the absolute dogma of male original sin, the aching need to genuflect before primitive she-ape entitlement.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Legendary Fail

"You said someday you'll change
But even a fool will tell you
Someday never comes"

Brandi Carlile - Someday Never Comes

Partial list of bugged features I've personally experienced in The Secret World: Legends :

stuck animations
switching instances to join your group splits groups
ground targeting will not function while queued after another ability
cone AoE hitting even when off-target, at infinite range
invisible ground AOE (many, many examples)
stuck "in combat" for several seconds after fights
tankless groups created by groupfinder algorithm
pvp health rebalancing will only feign working if you swap gear
inventory items flickering in and out of existence
mobs killing through walls while unreachable
mobs going into infinite regeneration mid-fight (no, not evading)
instance bosses misfiring their skills and insta-gibbing the whole group
instance boss running out of the playable area
a different instance boss running out of another playable area
mission item permanently unobtainable if your inventory was full when you clicked it
mission item only activates AFTER the player relogs and re-does most of a mission
"walk through portal" final step of a multi-hour mission chain teleported me to a wrong location and therefore refused to complete

Add to this the fact that TSWL managed to BSOD my computer, a feat even games officially in Beta or Alpha can't usually attain, plus many many other freezes, CTDs and other flavors of fail. Hilariously, most of the bugs in Legends aren't new. They just haven't been fixed since TSW's launch five years ago. Legends simply duplicated and propagated existing problems and piled on with more serious crashes.

I filed a bug petition.
A week later a GM finally replied, apologizing for the delay.
Delay? Fifteen minutes is a reasonable timeframe. Half an hour to an hour is a serious delay. "Delayed" overnight is already pushing the boundaries of the term.
Putting your customers on hold for a solid week means you've capitulated running the show. You are now the joke.

At this point, I'm half in this for trainwreck appeal. This ain't opening night we're talking about, either. Nearly a month after Funcom's big re-launch of a five year old product, the bugs only seem to be multiplying. Hilariously, even that timeframe confuses new players. I've run into three starry-eyed young novices so far who've made comments like "wow, this game looks really good for having come out in 2002/2004/2007!" The very speed with which TSW rendered itself obsolete seems implausible and puts it barely a step above vaporware. When you hear of a re-launch, you picture something at least a decade old.

So what about the relaunch itself? Out with the old, in with the... old, again. As I recollect, soon after its 2003 launch, EVE-Online scandalized its players by rolling back server and character data about a week. It was seen as a shameful display of incompetence. Funcom has now pulled a five-year rollback, dragging all its most faithful customers through the same inane instance-farming marathon all over again. Pragmatically, this serves the function of reconnecting a minute (and continually dwindling) playerbase fragmented by their relative positions on the years-long WoW-clone MMO iterative gear-accumulation treadmill. Just don't expect Funcom to admit that openly. Also don't expect them to admit to purposely slashing benefits for subscribers (and lifers) in favor of aggressively pushing their new pay-to-win cash shop currency "aurum."

The best that can be said of Legends is that it at long last resolved TSW's woefully unbalanced, redundant chore of a skill system, and in all fairness the new interface is much smoother, more intuitive and responsive. Unfortunately, Legends achieves this end by throwing out most of TSW's leeway for player choice, skill variety and synergy. Weapons' effects no longer interact with each other and with target-lock removed from the interface, combat resolves to hitting whatever's in front of you - literally. While it's easier to get into, it's also more dumbed down than ever.

As for new content, there is none. There may be, in the future. Honestly, seeing how bugged the new old content is, I'd love to see them try to implement some new-new zones and instances just for the faceplant comedy value. While considering what tone I'd take with this post I at first thought I'd praise the development team for actually putting an impressive amount of work into Legends. The new tutorial works flawlessly, I must admit. Then, bugs aside (many, many bugs aside) I remembered my own complaints on this blog from three, even four years ago that TSW's updates had quickly diminished to plain text, a trend only partly interrupted by the two Tokyo expansions. While Legends might look impressive in one glance, it represents years of absent balancing or content updates, years of TSW trying to drown its customers in mindlessly repetitive timesinks (AEGIS upgrades, scenarios, the Museum of the Occult) while never addressing its gameplay issues.

When these long-overdue fixes to their shoddy work finally came, they came bundled with renewed demands that players pay into the cash shop for a "new" re-branded product which so far amounts to even less than the old. But hey, their loyal customers are still rushing to create third-party interface cheats to make up for the game's inadequacies, because as previously noted, it's entirely possible to be both incompetent and crooked in the game industry yet still draw a crowd of enthusiastic slaves from gamers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

C Larsen; C Larsen Run

"Oceans slowly rise
Time to fly"

Syntax - Time to Fly

Isn't it funny that a trillion tons of ice riding the ocean currents count as just one tiny datum in the overwhelming berg of evidence as to how irreparably fucked we are? And still, the glut of apes thickens. Just little caplets of ice poking above the flood of idiocy in our "news" media, floating out of sight, out of mind. We've got bigger fish to fry.
Until we don't.

Run, monkeys, run.