What Borderlands 2 Can Teach Us About Our Future

In 2009 Gearbox Software released Borderlands, an off-beat RPG-FPS game that quickly developed a following due to it’s quality game-play, cell-shaded graphics, and solid story.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s a short one:  your character is an intergalactic mercenary who has come to a planet called Pandora looking for a vault that is suspected to be filled with alien technology that will make its finder ridiculously wealthy.  And since the game made money, a sequel was pretty much guaranteed.  In September 2012 said sequel, imaginatively titled Borderlands 2, was released to near-universal acclaim.

Makes me want to stop writing this and go play.

Oh cool, I still have some DLC on this one to finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of your tasks as you move through this world is picking up personal recordings left behind by various NPCs.  These recording will help you to solve quests, grant you deeper insights into the characters, and provide exposition that explains why Pandora is the lawless wasteland it is. And, like all good science fiction, this filler content reveals a great deal about our society and our pessimism about our future.

Robots with artificial intelligence are everywhere in this game, from the barely intelligent loaders to the incredibly sophisticated programming of Claptrap, your annoying sidekick. This doesn’t even begin to to cover the spacescaft, advanced weaponry, and genetic engineering that is commonplace in the Borderlands universe.

The line between matter and energy has been crossed, and one can be turned into another with consummate ease. This is amply demonstrated by the vending machines that sell corrosive pistols, rocket launchers, and teleporting hand grenades.

Drugstores and Armories What more do humans really want?.

 

And if you get killed?  Don’t worry, because Hyperion corporation has terminals that can digitally construct you a new body complete with recent memories. As recent as your last appearance at a Hyperion  respawn point, that is!

Internet. Serious business.

Star Trek transporters re-rigged to just generate a new body anytime the previous one is destroyed. Theoretical immortality since you can spawn a new version of yourself from any point in the New U system database. And if Hyperion doesn’t want that, their motto is “You don’t die until we say you do!”

Scientists are working on these technologies right now as I’m writing this. And I believe that this video game franchise is a pretty clear idea of one possible outcome of this research.

The universe should be a paradise where anyone can grow up to be anything and everyone can prosper with no hardship to anyone. Instead, it is a nihilistic dystopia where scarcity of resources exists only through artificial means. Jobs are completely unnecessary as literally any human function can be done by a computer system, and energy limits have been overcome as evidenced by the ease with which machines and people can be digitally constructed.

And while it is easy to dismiss the idea because it came from a video game, it really wasn’t.

The Many Faces of MLK Day

Here’s a random sampling of how various websites are honoring Dr. King’s memory. They’ve been inserted in no particular order.

The Snooty Set

The New Yorker gives us a music playlist so we can have a soundtrack for Dr. King’s dream.  Since it’s the New Yorker don’t expect to find Rage Against the Machine, although I was surprised to find Public Enemy’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona” on the list.  Also, the track list is a bit smaller than I would have expected, only seven artists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LgtvwqqeEKc

Meanwhile, over at The Guardian UK we find Glenn Greenwald reminding us of MLK’s antiwar stance.  It’s a great read, and an important one since little about US foreign policy has changed in the past 5 decades.

MLK

Eat your heart out, Billy Dee.

 

 The Snotty Set

 

 

Limbaugh_Rush_397

We’ were going to take the high road and skip the easy jokes about Rush. Which meant you would have just gotten a picture, no caption.

Over on Alternet they are using this day to kick one of their favorite dogs, Rush Limbaugh.  Not that I can blame them, really, he kinda deserves anything he gets. Especially since the article is 3 goddamn pages long.

While you’re there.,check out this editorial they have reminding everyone that Dr. King was fiercely opposed to certain policies and practices of the US government.  Namely, most of them.

Allies or Adversaries?  That's the real question.

Allies or Adversaries? That’s the real question.

And there’s this piece filled with trivia about Dr. King that some may have heard before.

One thing I noticed while scouting the web this morning:  not many headlines about Dr. King today.  Which, if I’m not mistaken, is MLK Day.  It’s seems like everyone did their blog entries and news articles about him last week, then moved on.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they will be posted later, after all it’s only 2 pm on the East Coast.  Still plenty of time for those stories to be filed.

The Legend of Spiderbro

If you are on the Internet then you must have accidentally heard about Anonymous, the hacktivist collective.  If you have heard of 4chan, you likely have an opinion one way or another about them, and I am not going to try and change it.  They have loyal supporters, bitter enemies, and detached observers such as myself who simply watch as they evolve.  I watch them because  4Chan is one of the great innovators of the Internet, for good and ill.

There is a lot going on out there on the Web, and there are sites that are household names because they are used on the TV (social networking sites, usually) but most of what is really happening out on the web happens in places like NewGrounds, FunnyOrDie, and SomethingAwful, then disseminates from there.  A lot of what happens on 4Chan is hidden by the name “Anonymous” so you never really know who posted what.  And right now that is kinda sad, because I’m going to share an image with you that I think exemplifies the kind of creativity that 4Chan is capable of.

Spiderbro

Ignore the bad grammar, it’s clear that the person who wrote this wasn’t trying to get an “A” from their English teacher, they were trying to tell a story in a place not known for a great attention span.   Whether you like Anonymous or not, read the post, it’s not too long and (going by Internet standards) not badly written.

Anyone can take a picture of a kitten or a puppy and add badly spelled one-liners to make the viewer subconsciously think of children.  Puppies and kittens are cute by design, you have to be a soulless monster to not acknowledge that.  Now make them “talk” like human babies and BAM! you got us right where Evolution has us hardwired to say “awwww, that’s cute!”

It takes brilliance to create a meme like Spiderbro:  a naturally creepy, scary as fuck monster like a spider and then turn the situation on it’s ear by making this scary creature your friend.  Sort of like Stan Lee did back in the day…

Now, where can a gal spin a web around here?

Isn’t that a life lesson we can all learn?  Not to judge others based on prejudices, but by the content of their character?  Not all spiders are harmful pests.  In fact, spiders are often called “the farmers best friend.”  (And yes, while I know the source cited says “African” please believe me when I tell you that I first heard the phrase in a book I read as a kid here in America.  And yes, the book was written in English.  And no, the story wasn’t set in Africa.  Can we get back to Spiderbro now?  Okay, thank you.)  Is that knowledge going to stop you from throwing a shoe at something that looks like the little lady pictured below?

Hey, stud!

Maybe one day we will be able to overcome our fears, triumph over our insecurities, and extend the hand of friendship to others not because they look like us, but in spite of that.

Spiderbro.  NEVER FORGET.

World War Zzzzz: Why I’m Not Excited About the New Brad Pitt Movie

So, recently I did a thing about the movies of 2013.  And on that list, I said I would return to World War Z at a later time to elaborate on the comments I made.  I think now is a good time to do that so if it turns out I am right I can add 2 paragraphs to this column and rerun it when the movie comes out.  That’s called “advanced planning” kids, even if it is sometimes confused with “laziness.”

WWZ

Man I wish I hadn’t eaten that bran muffin an hour ago.

The picture above is the fade-in on the trailer for World War Z.  Please take note of how thick the traffic is, because that will be kind of important in a minute.

WWZ 3

:28 seconds in, Pretty Boy. You DO know this is a Zombie flick, right?

 

WWZ 2

Ooooh, photo op!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is :25 into the trailer, and as you can see the side-view mirror of the car is missing as a police motorcycle just clipped it as the cop rode in-between the tightly packed cars you saw in the first shot, and can sorta see in this second one.

 

WWZ 4

Did anyone get the number?

No, but we know it was from PWD.

No, but we know it was from PWD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another cop comes along, this one on foot, to tell Brad Pitt to “Move along, you Lookie Lou!” when he gets plowed into by a goddamn runaway garbage truck.  A garbage truck that is nowhere to be seen in that opening shot of bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretches a mile or more in either direction.  Further, it isn’t slowed down in the slightest by all of the vehicles it had to have collided with on it’s way to the unfortunate police officer up there.  And of course, there is no indication that this nightmare is coming because it is apparently being stealthy as it plows through traffic on it’s way to killing the cop.

Then, about 1:15 into the trailer everyone who somehow managed to never hear about this book learns that it is about zombies when they see this shot.

Live for the SWARM!

Live for the SWARM!

I wish I could have gotten a cleaner screenshot for you, but I assure you, watch that trailer, you’ll see it.  Instead of just hiring human extras, they decided to CGI in some zombies, and guess what?  It looks like they decided to CGI in some zombies instead of hiring actors to do it.

WWZ  7

King of the Hill!

And it is even more apparent in this scene, although I will freely admit it is a little more forgivable due to the sheer number of people involved.  Not because of cost, but because of the possibility of someone getting seriously hurt.  Which, in the early days of Hollywood, was never a concern at all.  Which is why so many older movies are so much more awesome than what you see today.

I don’t want to discount the movie too soon, but the bad CGI and the silliness of the garbage truck scene do not really make me all that confident that this one isn’t going to be a Ghost Rider.

 

 

The End of Comedy

The first few weeks of a new year are always a little weird, we are always rehashing the previous year while we wait for some fresh event to capture our attention.  So you find a lot of websites are still reviewing the previous year until at least the 2nd week of January, which is how I ended up with this YouTube video.  It’s from The Green Room with Paul Provenza. The panelists were  Russell Peters, Colin Quinn, Caroline Rhea,  Lizz Winstead, and Bill Burr.

 

The clip was from 2011, but it relates well to a trend that I noticed occurring in 2012:  the censure of stand-up comics.  I am going to say that 2012 was one of the most controversial years for stand-up comics that I’ve ever seen.  Comedians in 2012 were getting slammed left and right for doing what they’ve been doing forever:  making people laugh by going too far.

I was going to do a retrospective on the year in comedy and controversial comedians, but when I tried to do a preliminary Google search on that subject, the first page was all about Daniel Tosh.  So, why not start with him?

In case you have either forgotten, or don’t like comedy so you didn’t hear about this, Tosh was in a night club when a female in the audience heckled him.  As I understand it, he said something about rape and she yells “rape is never funny.”  Thinking on his feet, as is his job, Tosh immediately responds “Wouldn’t it be funny if she got raped right now?  If like, five guys just jumped out and started raping her?”

Funny?  In this context, I would say “Yes, it is a little humorous.”  Outside the context of a rapid-fire exchange with a heckler?  No, not really.  What I most definitely would not call it, however, was a threat of gang rape.  Bassist would have us believe that Daniel Tosh travels with a crew that, presumably, has standing orders to gang rape anyone he orders them too.  In that Young Turks video I linked to, at about 2:24 seconds the young lady in the video actually alludes to that.

Then, Louis C.K. sees Tosh’s name trending on Twitter or whatever, so he sends out a message giving him a high-five as it were.  Which, since this was right in the beginning of the controversy, makes Louis a “rape apologist.”  I am not making that up.  Oh, and he is also an enemy of feminists.

I’m not making that up either.

Now, the source of the source of the Feminist Enemy argument is what is really getting on my nerves.  Here is the clip of the “controversial statement” that proves Louis C.K. is an Anti-Feminist:

 

 

 

The fuse is lit around 2:40 into the interview when Louis says “Comedians and feminists are natural enemies.” and explodes about 5 seconds later when he says “stereotypically speaking feminists have no sense of humor.”  And the audience boos him.  The genius, however, is that Louis C.K. is able to think on his feet, so he immediately responds “See?”

That is what comedy is all about.  The ability to be funny, not just with careful preparation and rehearsal, but funny when you need to be.  It is not what you say, it is when and how you say it.

I’m not advocating for jokes against women, or minorities,  or religious groups but I do think that we are getting a little too sensitive and way too repressive.  Free speech is under constant assault from those who seek to control your thoughts and don’t want you exposed to radical ideas.

It is not content so much as it is context, and it is about time we stopped ignoring that idea.  Comedy is what it is, and you have to accept that sometimes a joke is only funny in the moment.  And sometimes, it’s just not funny.

Either way, you won’t know until you try.