The 90s Disease and The Global Star Wars on Terror

This is the first of two editorials tangential to political things including 9/11, the Global War on Terror, and how much of a cunt George Lucas is.  I have written this particular piece while in a rather spirited mood.  There is offensive content here and its payload has been calibrated to maximize its potential.

I was in a World History class, freshman year of High School when it happened.

This is one class I will not forget, though I don’t know it at the time.  It will teach me far more than I expect.  We are to be taking a short test on some material we recently covered.  I wasn’t worried, my memory always did serve me well in areas like history.  Twenty-five questions, and then a new lesson.  Twenty-five questions on the origins of Islam.  The strange mechanisms of the world already winking at my future self through a multiple-choice pop quiz.

When the television went on I saw the towers burning.  They still stood over New York, then.  At first the world thought “Tragic Accident”.  Then the second plane hits.  At first the news thought the towers couldn’t fall.  Then they did.  We all watched them fall.  We all watched them die.  Many of my classmates had family working in the Pentagon.  DC is very much a company town.  I’d never been to New York.  I knew people there, the internet had permeated my life in a Very Big Way already, and through IRC I knew people who lived and worked there.  My mind was too dumbstruck to register that they might be in danger.

The reactions of the students were telling.  Mine was that of pain and rage.  None of us had known the horrors of the Cold War, the grim sword of damocles that was Mutually Assured Destruction was foreign to us.  War was something other people made.  We were observers, all, and none of us knew that our world had just been swapped for some new monstrosity, a warped mirror that reflected all the wrong parts of ourselves.  I knew there would be a war.  I knew whoever had done this would feel the unchained rage of an empire.  I knew we would feel the same rage.  And I knew that rage would always be more dangerous to us than it ever would to our enemies.

There is no image I can think of that is so primal, so repulsive to the very core of one’s humanity, and so mortally terrifying than that of a mushroom cloud.  Nuclear annihilation.  As I said we were the first generation removed from the Cold War.  We didn’t know the same fears.  A mushroom cloud, the modern face of death itself, was now all that I could see.  I saw the towers fall, I saw the fires and deaths, the jumpers, the secondary collapses.  I saw them and I thought “Yes.”  I saw mushroom clouds rising over some foreign land.  I thought that death by nuclear fire would be too kind a fate for those responsible.  For the first and only time in my life I was posessed of a terrible notion: We Must Kill Them All.  No exceptions, no hesitation, no remorse.  The world would never before or again see a more fearsome reprisal.  This would never happen again.  Not while We stood upon the bridge.

Some of the students, however, watched, riveted to their seats.  I realized something awful.  They were actually being entertained by this.  Whether the sheer magnitude of this was too much for their feeble minds to grasp I do not know, I do know that there was more than one person that I previously thought was smart who actually commented on how “cool” this was.  And everyone knew why this was getting people off.  I’d seen such destruction before, we all had.  We all paid for it at the movie theatres in the summers.  We lined up to eat popcorn and watch aliens or asteroids or some Other destroy us, only to be vanquished by the might, ingenuity, and wisdom of Humanity.  The 1990s was the Great American Victory Lap and it showed in all our media.  We’re All So Fucking Great, because we survived the Cold War.  If we could avoid annihilating ourselves, we could truly overcome any obstacle the universe would send our way.  The 1990s are why George W. Bush would later challenge the terrorists to “Bring it on”.  The threat to us in the 1990s seemed to never be human.  We had conquered our demons, we were masters of our domain.  Without nuclear war to worry about we could build fantastic new wonders like the Internet, cure diseases, bring the world together, throw down tyranny and lift humanity into a brighter future.  We were building a space station, we were mapping the cosmos, the whole world seemed to peek its head out into the blinding light from a dark cave, just for a moment.  We thought everything was going to be okay, soon.  What could this new millenium bring other than the triumphant dawn of mankind?  And, admittedly it was understandable, justified even.

Star Wars should have taught us differently.  Episode One, specifically.  At the ass end of the ’90s the most sacred of our pop culture icons was going to return with all the majesty of modern CGI and budgets greater than the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa.  A great big fucking fireworks show to cap our cultural bender.  It didn’t even occur to us that it would be remotely possible for Star Wars to be Bad.  Try and remember that time.   The time when Star Wars was always going to be good.  The time when its only blemishes were written off as a minor misstep by the visionary Lucas.  Its important to remember the time when Star Wars couldn’t possibly be fucked up, even if  spasticated rhesus monkeys suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, smoking crystal meth wrote the screenplay in the AIDS-infested mongoloid spunk of the aborted baby Jesus.  Star Wars was perfect.  Then, Episode One came out.  It was a fuckfest of legendary proportions, childhoods were retroactively ruined, and the insult would only seem to get worse with time.

Why was Star Wars bad?  Why, when the first film was made at the end of the Vietnam War, and the series improved to its crescendo in the last great arms race under Reagan, why was this new Star Wars, forged over years in the victorious, pre-utopian 90s, so bad?  Well, the problem was that Star Wars was perfect.  Only someone who no one thinks can do wrong would or could fuck up Star Wars that badly.  People around this man should have slapped the shit out of Lucas, the studios should have detonated his script.  And it was the ultimate 90s script, no tremendous conflict, just a small backwater trade dispute, some political maneuvering, you know, easy shit.  Shit that normal humans deal with all the time, nevermind Jedi.  Shit that Yoda should have sorted out in five minutes.  The whole of Industrial Light and Magic blackout drunk with money, and the entire production in a dissociative trance of denial, with no one challenging the fever-dream bullshit spewing from George Lucas.

A New Hope was made in the fucking desert with props that constantly broke, never-before-tried effects techniques, a veritable shoestring budget, and more problems than anyone knew could happen on a movie.  Everyone thought the movie was going to be horrible!  It was the exact opposite of The Phantom Menace in almost every way.  The script was chopped, cut, tightened, until it was lean and unrelenting.  Comedy and drama in balance, the Hero’s Journey updated for the modern era, and most importantly: Good Triumphs Over Evil.  Not an ultimate triumph.  Significant, but ultimately just another battle.  It was exactly what it needed to be in that time, in that place in 1977.  Star Wars made everyone remember “Hey, we’re the good guys.  We can do this!”  The Phantom Menace made us ask “Hey, you’re supposed to be the good guys, are you sure you can do this?”.

In its own way TPM is also exactly what it needed to be in its time, which is to say an overproduced monstrosity.  A monument to excess.  We let it happen.  We were so busy telling George Lucas how great Star Wars was that he forgot the adversity that gave it a soul.  In the 1990s, we were all in the business of buying our own bullshit and confirming ever so politely to each other that our shit did not in fact stink.  The Millenial Generation had arrived and the Baby Boomers were going to kick back and get nice and fucked up with the hottest new drug for them: Unlimited Power.  How could America possibly get punched in the dick by the Actual Sand People from Tatooine?  Even if that happened, how could America so fuck up their response as to get bogged down in not one but fully two Vietnam-grade quagmires?  We learned that lesson!  We won, remember?  We’re the good guys!  We can do this! What are a bunch of irritable brown people going to do to us, nothing, because we’re America and we’re so fucking Perfect.

In the 1990s the US Economy boomed thanks to the Internet, we had the largest budget surplus in history, and our biggest problems according to the news were blowjobs and sharks.  We gathered all that money, and all that confidence, and when we were attacked we hit back with our own great big Phantom Menace.  An obnoxious, showy, over-budgeted, over-produced foreign-policy Hindenburg called the “Global War on Terror”.  We named our enemy.  The “Axis of Evil” ooh, scary, very Sith Lords, love it.  For Iraq we even got our own Attack of the Clones complete with equally farcical justifications for a war!

The best thing about those movies, the prequel trilogy is that for all its flaws it does one thing incredibly right:  From start to finish, episode one title crawl to episode three credits, the good guys manage to give the bad guys exactly what they want.  The Jedi, through arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence fuck absolutely everything up.  The bad guys play them like a fiddle and achieve almost every aim.  The only thing that stops them from winning completely is that at the eleventh hour, a couple of people get their shit together just long enough to set the stage for the next generation to fix everything they broke, if they can, maybe.

And America did the same.  We gave the bad guys exactly what they wanted, first we got good and scared.  Then, we got good and angry.  We started a war with too much confidence and rage and no decent plan.  We alienated potential allies with our rhetoric.  After 9/11 even Iran was chomping at the bit to help us.  And why not?  They’re fairly modern, certainly when compared to their neighbors.  They’ve got just as much an interest in making sure the Taliban and Al Qaeda quiet down as we do.  We were on the way towards real dialogue when President Lucas threw it all away by naming them to the axis of evil.  And we got distracted, went off podracing in Iraq.  We give radical groups decades worth of justification for their agenda in places where they were as welcome as syphillis.  Now the western economy has tanked, and what did we get for all of this?  We managed to get our shit together just long enough to shoot the guy responsible in the eye.

This is a tough one.  And now, like it or not, its up to my generation to fix everything the grey-hairs broke.

If we can.

Maybe.

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How to Beat World of Warcraft

Every week I hear a new studio talking about how Licensed MMO X will topple World of Warcraft and ascend to the throne of MMO supremacy.

They’re all fucking morons and 100% wrong. They know it, too. Most of these people will be ecstatic should they breach 1 million subscribers.

World of Warcraft is far from an unassailable tower, provided you hit it from the proper direction. So far, studios have lined up to make Generic Fantasy Mummorpurgers before the gates of Mordor, marching proudly with their gleaming swords and armor, only to toss all that crap aside at release and ritualistically disembowel themselves, gut-shitting a final product of intestines and bodily fluids into retail (see: Vanguard).

Here’s a simple guide to would-be developers as to how to unseat the King, or at least become one yourself.

  1. Do not make games based on nothing. This should be obvious. World of Warcraft built upon the storyline of the Warcraft RTS games, which themselves stole liberally from Games Workshop, who stole liberally from fantasy writers X, Y, and Z. No one gives two shits about Everquest Lady and with good reason. Have something to build on.
  2. Do not make licensed MMOs. Same problem in the opposite direction. Here you are trying to build your empire in the middle of someone else’s larger, more profitable empire. No doubt you’ll be forced to put Han and Chewie into the starting area just to appease the suits. This is one of the reasons Age of Conan and Warhammer Online will fail: They’ve got too much baggage. Warcraft had three successful games plus expansions.
  3. For fuck’s sake don’t make a fantasy game. It’s been done. They own fantasy. Make a fantasy game and you’re setting yourself up for failure. Everyone who wants to play a fantasy MMO is playing World of Warcraft or one of the stragglers around the periphery that hasn’t been crushed by Blizzard’s massive dick.
  4. Limit yourself to blatantly stealing only one thing from WoW at a time. I suggest the interface, they did it about as well as you can do it, and left the community to fill in the gaps. The interface is accessible and functional up until the final levels, when they’ve already got you smoking their crack. At that point, you’re hardcore enough to go out and customize it on your own. For many interface customization in WoW is a meta-game, try to make the sleekest interface, so you can post it on forums to enhance your e-peen.
  5. Make a Sci-Fi MMO. This is the only strong point from which you can take on Blizzard, and believe me this window won’t be open for long. Blizzard is no doubt already making plans for a Starcraft MMO. There are many properties in gaming that would be conducive to a sci-fi MMO. Halo. Get to work, Microsoft.
  6. Failing that, don’t make it an RPG. MMOFPS has been attempted, albeit ham-fistedly. With a compelling enough storyline an MMOFPS could work. MMORTS is far dicier, given the non-personal nature of RTS units versus player-characters.
  7. Make it for consoles and not PC!  It’s a gambit but one that will work out some time.
  8. Above all else: Stop saying that you are making a “WoW Killer”.  Its like a “Halo Killer” or an “iPod Killer”.  You can’t beat a product that has ascended into the cultural lexicon so completely that it becomes the measure for success.  You can beat a product, you can’t beat culture, unless you’re the Chinese Government.

You’re welcome, game designers.  Now I gotta go farm primals to pay for my epic flyer.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

The past few weeks I’ve been dealing with a lot.  Lot of bullshit.  I’ve gone into turtle mode, really, and because of it my writing has suffered.  Anyway, I’m going to try to make the effort to write some more here, maybe pump a bit more life into this dead husk of a blag.  I’ve got some thoughts percolating on modern medicine, the political ramifications of the Sino-American partnership, the Olympics, Grand Theft Auto IV, and life itself.

Here’s a preview:

Doctors increasingly don’t know what they’re doing, and yet they increasingly think they know what they’re doing.  I’m not anti-science by any stretch, but the mind and its processes are the one thing that modern medicine is nowhere close to mastery over.  The increasing cultural drive to paint sadness as a medical condition that must be cured is doing more harm than good, especially on Prozac Kids like me.  In a month, it will be the first time since I was eight years old that my brain has not been addled by psychiatric drugs.

China and the United States have found a brilliant way to wage a weaponless cold war.  China, by and large seen as a nascent superpower, will host the Olympics, an irrelevant exercise by all definitions, but by doing so they are drawing massive protest from all corners of the globe, except of course Washington D.C.  America has sold itself to China in exchange for cheap consumer goods, and China has sold itself to America in exchange for a means of rapid industrialization and economic growth.  If one leaves the partnership, both fall apart.  The economic form of Mutually Assured Destruction, and the most brilliant political accident in history.

Grand Theft Auto IV is amazing, and I have been no fan of the series nor its creators.  More on that once I actually beat it.

And life?  Well, this seems to be the time of revitalization in all forms of life.  Mating season for the mammals, trees and flowers bloom, kids flock into the parks and streets to play.  But how does that vitality reach one so inneured in The Matrix, as it were?  The answer is chemical, and the response is a full-frontal assault against my drive to mate.  More at 11.

Til’ next time, this is Andrew Zimmer, not dead yet.

I’m a liar

(note: This post contains wildly harsh language, in quotation. For all my love of the word Fuck, this shit shouldn’t be taken as my own opinion. Consider yourself warned)

I’ve not updated in forever, and honestly it’s because the world is so infuriating at a base level right now that I’m barely staying coherent.

Personal stuff aside, here’s one of the more infuriating facets of the world of late: The 2008 Presidential Campaign. Specifically, the increasingly bitter and hateful primary of my own party, the party I’ve known for tolerance, if not ability to win elections.

Once again they’ve proven to me that if anyone knows how to fuck a sure thing up, its the Democratic National Party. They are the world’s greatest losers. Here we have two of the best political minds of our generation all but killing each other on the campaign trail, their supporters so entrenched that I’ve seen things so absurd that they’re challenging my faith in humanity as a whole.

Clinton supporters talking about the “worthless nigger” Obama.

Obama supporters talking about the “stupid cunt” Clinton.

Putting aside my own political allegiances, this is the most shameful behavior I’ve ever seen, on either side of the aisle. I expect this bullshit from Republicans, that’s why I’m a Democrat. But to see the people themselves so bitterly divided, when they agree on just about everything is nothing short of tragic.

When did people start having, no pun intended, dick-measuring contests over what -ism was worse? Discussions between Obama and Clinton supporters, people who by all rights shouldn’t even be fighting, inevitably turn into “Well you’re a racist, and racism is worse than sexism!” versus “Well you’re a sexist, and sexism is far worse than racism!” ad infinitum.

There are no winners.

If Hillary wins the nomination, and let me be clear, I think she’d be a great president, she does so at the expense of the party. By all accounts she’d have to steal the convention with the superdelegates to come away victorious.

If Obama wins the nomination, and I happen to think he already has, he does so at the cost of a great deal of female support, support he needs.

A compromise ticket is impossible, the divisions run too deep, any ticket with both candidates on it will alienate twice as many people as either one by themselves.

You know the most psychotic thing about it all? This election should be a walk for the Dems. No incumbent party has ever, EVER won re-election to the White House during a recession. Ever! It shouldn’t even be a factor, McCain might as well be a sack of sand, he’s got about the same chance! Or at least he should have, now the Democrats are beating the shit out of one another in some twisted Rovian wet-dream, a nightmare that even the most cynical mind couldn’t have thought up.

I’m a very political guy. I’m political despite my cynicism. I’m political because I think the only way to improve the world is to work with it, not against it. I believe in the essential goodness of humanity, the enduring virtue of survival and ingenuity that cannot be undone by our own machinations. I base everything on the assumption that people are good, misguided at times, but good.

The more I live, though, the harder it is to keep believing in that.

So the US Navy test-fired their railgun today…

The project is to create a ship-mounted railgun that can fire a projectile over 200 nautical miles with precision.  The pure aluminum slug was fired with ten megajoules of energy, part of its casing vaporizing on launch.  No explosives were involved in the test.  Pretty cool, but I’ve got one better.

The weapon of the future?  Nuclear-powered ballistic catapults.  The Catapults would be nailed to the decks of ships, powered by nuclear reactors and capable of launching ICBRs anywhere in the world.  That is to say, Intercontinental Ballistic Rocks.  They will rain boulders upon enemies with laser precision.  The MIRV Trebuchet is still under wraps, but promises to be even more amazing.

You’re welcome.

5 AM Blues

Anyone else nocturnal?  I am.

Not all the time, mind you, it tends to cycle back and forth.  Insomnia combined with a vast abundance of “nothing to do” is a powerful thing, or lack thereof, as it were.  At first it made me very distraught, not being able to get practical things done, until I figured out that I really can get practical things done at odd hours, I just hadn’t tried before.  Over a period of months, years perhaps, I adapted, learned how to operate when the rest of the world sleeps.

And then it hit me.

There’s no one to fucking talk to on this planet at 5 AM!  Leastwise no one I’d really want to talk to, all my friends are depressingly “normal” when it comes to sleeping habits.  Habits!  They have habits!  The sheer gall of it astounds me.

You can go walk the streets that would normally pulverize you with noise and be completely undisturbed.  Meditative, even.  Walk for miles without seeing another pedestrian, disturbed only by the occasional whir of a passing car.  Depressing!

There’s a time and place for introspection, and it is rightfully placed during the nighttime hours, but as a general rule you’re not supposed to be up to engage in it this often.  Knowing too much about yourself is just damned unhealthy, I think.  And there’s no one to talk to!

There used to be a time when I’d cram an IRC channel or two into my life as an emotional tampon for my perpetually-menstruating inner-pussy, but as one could imagine it got old rather quickly for those selfish pricks who didn’t want to be ranted at for umpteen odd-hours.  These days, I process most of the menses internally, to take the metaphor way, way too far.

So the 5 AM blues strike me again tonight, no one to talk to but the great question mark in front of my Tubian pulpit, an audience known only by the nameless numbers on the wordpress control panel.

I had 753 of you last month.

Hooray, Tubes!

Conundrumn of a Twenty Year Old and Other Related Musings

I’ve recently realized that I am at the absolute worst possible year in regards to expanding my social horizons, pursuing relationships with women, and the like.

Twenty years old.

There’s no longer the forced-socialization of public school.  The old peer groups have dissolved, most have moved away, and many of the women (and men, but I’m not exactly interested in having lots and lots of sex with them) are psychotic enough to get married.  I’ll get back to that particular  issue later.

The people I’m most likely to connect with, intelligent urbanites who may or may not be attending college, are in short supply.  They’re in especially short supply as far as I’m concerned because my age has another critical limit to it.

Alcohol. Continue reading