net neutrality pros and cons

How the Internet is the Great Equalizer

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Internet, Politics

These days, it seems that net neutrality is in its death spiral. Polls indicate that support for the measure is only at 52% for all voters (down from 60% in June), and unlike most political issues, 55% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans support the regulations. This is mostly because net neutrality pros and cons are poorly understood among most voters. While the benefits of net neutrality are clear (no ‘Internet fast lanes’) there are consumer advantages to repealing net neutrality.

These benefits are mostly reflected in zero-rating. This practice, which involves companies allowing consumers to pay a fee to speed up or get an unlimited amount of data, can in theory be beneficial to the consumer. The internet example that has been floating around about Portugal net neutrality simply allows people to pay more for better access, although not necessarily faster. For example, if you want to use more Netflix on your mobile data, you can pay to have that data treated differently (or even made unlimited) on your mobile plan. In terms of net neutrality pros and cons, that’s a pretty big win-win for consumers and ISPs. However, consumer advocates believe it’s incredibly unlikely that ISPs will stick to those guidelines, as a promise is nothing but that.

This is why many feel that deregulation of the internet ignores a key fact. Access to the internet is not a consumer choice, it’s a right. As Caldera Labs founder Christie Chirinos notes,

A true net neutrality advocate sees the internet as a colossal equalizing force. It is a never-ending library and a publishing house of low barrier to entry. Net neutrality advocates do not see the internet like much of the world sees it – a tool for consumption of games, social media, etc

In other words, the internet is an information library that primarily benefits those who have less power, both financially and politically. It isn’t just a place to binge watch TV and YouTube videos, or check updates on social media. For many, it’s actually a place to learn stuff. This is why the internet is the great equalizer, much more than a modern day college education.

There are currently over 6,000 MOOCs (massive open online courses) from 600+ universities around the world. That’s not to mention sites like Coursea and Udemy, which offer highly affordable courses for the fraction of a college class. Beyond that even, there are thousands and thousands of tutorials on YouTube where you can learn everything from WordPress development to fixing your kitchen sink. That isn’t to say the internet is a replacement for a formal education. But with the rising costs of college tuition, college really isn’t an option for everyone. But up until now, the internet has done its best to solve this discrepancy between the need for an education and the way to get it.

That’s why looking at the function of the internet as purely capitalistic and consumerist misses the point. The internet provides information — and shifts class power dynamics — in the way that socialists of other eras could only dream of. Information is power, and the internet provides this in spades.

This is exactly why the debate between net neutrality pros and cons will never end. This debates mirrors class struggles, and as we know, both Democrats and Republicans are not immune to these notions. It’s the reason we’ve been having this debate since before the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act in 2012. In effect, this question will never lie.

The question we should be asking ourselves is this: How free and open do we really want the internet be? For most of us, only as much as we believe all members of society should have equal access to opportunity. Or at the very least, the illusion of it.

 

blogging motivation

How Getting Less Traffic Has Motivated Me to Blog Less (But Write More)

Posted 9 CommentsPosted in Marketing, Writing

For the last nine months, this blog has been my creative outlet. Since March of 2016, I’ve written more than 50 posts about travel, culture, pop culture and everything in between. But lately, I’ve found it hard to summon the blogging motivation to keeping up with regular content. The truth is, I’ve been pretty busy. Last month I spent the whole month in Seoul, and this month I’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand

But beyond that, my blog traffic is in the toilet  — and frankly I don’t know what to do about it. Typically, my posts have garnered 300 or more views on average, with a handful of posts taking off to well over 1,000 views.  I even had one post go a bit viral with over 6.8k views. With those kind of metrics, my average post views for my first 8 months of blogging is around 3k per month.

That’s really great, and a huge accomplishment for a personal blog. It kept my blogging motivation quite high and got me writing regularly. But this month, I’ve taken quite a beating traffic-wise. And it’s mostly due to how I’ve typically received traffic. While keyword research has always been a major part of my blogging strategy, I’ve mostly relied on social media for traffic. Facebook and Reddit in particular have been great sources, especially Facebook groups and niche subreddits.

However, both Facebook and Reddit have been cutting down on the organic reach.What this has really affected is self-promotional content, like my own blog. The goal for them is for you to pay for ads to promote this type of content. But given that I don’t monetize my blog, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend money on ads like these.

This has left me in a bit of a predicament. I could invest more money in promoting my blog and start to monetize, or I could accept that my traffic is never going to be what it once was using the same tactics. In truth, I didn’t like when my blog was getting too much traffic either. I want to make sure that people reading have some connection to me — even if not personal at least in thoughts and ideas.

That’s why the less I’ve been blogging, the more I’ve actually been writing creatively. No, I’m not working on any new projects at the moment. But what I have been doing is retooling the script for my upcoming graphic novel, Lord of the Twin Lands. My artist partner in crime, Rich Perotta, is a longtime veteran of Marvel, and is performing art duties. I wrote this project while in college, and at the time didn’t know if it would realistically see the light of day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But now, as you can see in the slideshow above, there’s quite a few pages complete. In fact, this is just a sampling of what we have created, as we’re already over 75 pages in. As a result of this, I’ve been having to make on-the-fly rewrites to make sure that Lord of the Twin Lands holds well to its novelistic structure, while also being a comic book. In other words, we’re making a real graphic novel here, of the literary variety. Think of it like 300 meets The Last Temptation of Christ, but with a real focus on the birth of monotheism as understand it today.

Anyway, I’ll delve more into this book as it comes closer to completion. But working on this, along with my dwindling traffic numbers, have made my blogging motivation go way down. I’ve realized that my blog is starting to become a creative quagmire that drains me as opposed to something that invigorates me.

As such, I think I’m going to take a backseat from blogging. In the past, I had been writing between 7-8 posts a month, mostly short-form and highly targeted at cultural or political events, or even keywords that were relevant to my interests. But now, I’m going to make things more personal. That may continue to bring my traffic numbers down, but I think going for a few pieces a month will be far more fulfilling to me at this stage. This will hopefully bring my blogging motivation up and allow me to continue to write the kind of content I want to read.

After all, what’s the point of a personal blog if not to get you to write more?

chex quest

Chex Quest: A 20 Years Later Retrospective on a Cereal-Based Game

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Video Games

Marketing just doesn’t get me anymore. But back then – back in 1996 – I was only six years old. And a six year old tends to be susceptible to all kinds of advertising, especially when it came to the ‘Get N or Get Out’ N64 advertisement. Never before that – and never after that really, was I so susceptible to the feeling of being ‘out.’ Being outside of the cool kids club was unthinkable to me, so of course I got an N64 as soon as I could convince my parents to buy me one.

But before N64 – at least for me, there was Chex Quest. It’s clear to me now that the game is just one giant Doom mod with the express purpose of selling more cereal. But then, it was different. Really, it was my first look at science fiction – the green snot-looking Flemoids were my first encounter with the other kind. Now, I understand that the Flemoids were no more harmful to the Chex Warrior than the common cold. But back then it seemed real, as scary as a horror movie for someone who didn’t know the genre conventions.

Just like the above intro – entirely straight with its ridiculousness – the stakes seemed real; the fact that everyone had a Chex body and human heads and appendages went entirely unquestioned. A Five Star General shaped like a Cheerio? I couldn’t be helped to even question the absurdity of it.

But what was happening – what seemed imminent to me – was the fall of Bazoik, the home planet of the Chex Warrior. The General Mills cereal scientists had lost communication two days ago, and who better to restore contact and peacefully relocate the Flemoids than a six year old controlling the mighty Chex Warrior?

Except I don’t think I quite understood the peaceful part. In my impressionable young mind, it didn’t seem like you were just teleporting the Flemoids back to their own dimension.
Armed with the ‘Zorcher’ – something that looks like what a golden age sci-fi writer imagined TV remotes would look like in the 21st century, the Chex Warrior and I braved hordes of Flemoids, zapping them out of existence – or at least it seemed. Their muted screams of agony and the glimmering sound of the teleportation didn’t help much – it just made me think that I was sending those mucus-y monsters to an early grave.

Was I traumatized? Far from it. I enjoyed it. Like the Chex Warrior between level loading screens, I felt as though I was wiping slimy green mucus off the bottom of my boot. The Flemoids were my enemies – and I, the Chex Warrior – was the bane of their existence.

Should a six year old be thinking this way? Maybe. Or maybe not. But even more ridiculous is the very existence of Chex Quest itself. To create what is supposed to be a wholly nonviolent experience out of Doom, the most violent of the early era of video games, doesn’t just seem ridiculous but totally absurdist. It’s the kind of risk a brand wouldn’t take today, but it somehow propelled Chex into the forefront of many six year olds’ minds.

But while Chex Quest may have violent roots, it made Chex – not just as a cereal, but as a substantial and material product, cool. Unlike other promotional tie-ins of the era like Sneak King or Cool Spot, it didn’t feel like it was selling me a product, but rather an experience. The experience of saving the galaxy, of being the absurd Chex Warrior – with his falsetto masculine voice and the bravado to match – of not just being a brand, but being a savior.
Of course, nowadays I understand what Chex Quest is: a marketing gimmick designed to sell more cereal. But as a six year old, blissfully unaware of the game’s origins, or for the most part, the medium at large, it seemed like it was nothing short of revolutionary.

To think Chex Quest got me into its fantastical world – not just its own universe, but the universe of games at large. All because of a CD in cereal box.

productivity hacks are stupid

Here’s Why I Don’t Follow Productivity Hacks

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career

These days, productivity hacks are all the professional rage. Just put the term into Google and you’ll see articles from Inc, Lifehack and most other business focused publications. But for me (and most of the workforce) productivity hacks are stupid. They aren’t a real way to work in your professional life. Of course, most people wish that they were a bit more productive when working. It’d be much easier to do more in less time. But the truth is, unless you are a business owner, your time isn’t money. Your time is somebody else’s money.

In that context, working hard — or at least more efficiently, isn’t actually all that smart. When you’re in an office, nobody cares how quickly you finish your project. You’ll just be given another one. But when you work remotely and own your time, productivity can matter. After all, you can spend more time on the leisure activities you’d like to if you aren’t working. But that doesn’t mean that things don’t come up. There’s always going to be a crisis to be averted — especially if managing client expectations at work are outside of your control.

For most people,  that means that their productivity is dictated by others. There’s no hack for that. You can’t make something more efficient that you didn’t design yourself. Because of this, most workers need to follow the processes they were assigned. And most workplaces are not looking for innovation — even if they think they are. In fact, they are often looking for the opposite. You can reinvent the wheel, but its function is still to move you forward.

These tried-and-true methods to work is why productivity hacks are stupid. For the majority of us — who aren’t innovators, workplace productivity is a non-factor. If you’re a cashier at a grocery store, you’re not thinking about how quickly you can get the next customer through. You’re just trying to keep your head down and do your job. And that’s the vast majority of the workforce right there — just doing their jobs.

Only those at the top of the workforce, or at least who are highly specialized, get to innovate. That’s why I think productivity hacks are stupid. They don’t apply to almost everyone who has to work to be a part of capitalism. Work is not something that is enjoyed for most. Work is a part of life, yes, but it isn’t the purpose of life. You can enjoy your career, of course — but only if you make it that way. Productivity hacks can be a part of that, but they aren’t going to help you in a default work setting. In fact, they could be detrimental if they start to make you question the entire process altogether.

Ultimately, productivity comes from your approach. You can procrastinate all you want, but you know it won’t change your workload. Instead, the best thing to focus on is your own relationship with work. If you’re using productivity hacks just to get through your work day, then maybe your productivity isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s your relationship with your job — and that might mean it’s time for a change in perspective.

you can't travel to find yourself

You Can’t Travel to Find Yourself: Why There’s No Meaning in Travel

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in Culture, Travel

I’m a firm believer in travel as a lifestyle choice. But it certainly isn’t going to make you happier. In fact, for many people travel becomes escapism. If you think that travel is the antidote to a bad breakup or to find meaning in your life, you’re probably wrong. In my experience, you can’t travel to find yourself any more than you can buy happiness. It just doesn’t work.

What idealists don’t seem to understand is that traveling is an isolating experience. It’s challenging and rewarding, but at its core you are cutting yourself off from your own culture. Once you have done that, you can only begin to connect with the culture you’ve immersed yourself in. But even then it will only be superficial. You’ll never understand the politics and cultural nuances of another culture like you do your own. The best you can do is a get a sense of how another part of the world operates, and then consider those cultures within your own experience.

It’s one thing to go to vacation on a tropical island. There you’re just being served. But to travel long-term is to accept that you are going to be judged for travelling — often by the people you least expect it from. You can’t even talk about those experiences once you begin the process of moving back home after living abroad. It just comes off as bragging about travel, and nobody is interested in that. Even if you do want to talk about your travels, country collecting usually only matters in the expat community. And even then, it’s only in a way that is performative happiness — it’s impossible to just have positive and enlightening experiences while traveling. And the longer you travel, the more you recognize that.

But while you can’t travel to find yourself, you can travel to get a better sense of the world. To realize the world is both bigger and smaller than you imagine. It opens your mind up to a lot of different ideas of how the world can work and what the world can be. In other words, Donald Trump may seem shitty, but he’s no Rodrigo Duterte. But beyond political differences are the culture ones. What you can get from traveling is understanding and embracing that all cultures just do it differently than your own. Almost every culture has a more robust history than the United States — and it’s fascinating to see how that plays out.

When living in Seoul last month, it played out in the ultra-nationalism in context of the ongoing conflict with North Korea. In Southeast Asia, it plays out like a performative dance of smiles and courtesies. But this is exactly why you can’t travel to find yourself.  There really is no meaning to it — at least not in the traditional sense. It doesn’t make you more enlightened or interesting to travel. In fact, oftentimes it makes you less so. But your conception of the world changes. If you’ve seen the the Pyramids of Giza, they could theoretically be around the corner. They’re clear in your mind, and are a real thing you experienced.

The more you travel, the less the world becomes abstract. It’s a tangible place — each region having different cultures and sensibilities. And while I’ll always maintain that you can’t travel to find yourself, I do think that you can find yourself in the cultural conceptions you gain from travel. Just not in the way you think. I love to travel, but I don’t think it makes your life better. Only you can make your life better — and if travel can aid that, then it’s a worthwhile experience.

a month in Seoul

What I Learned and Experienced in a Month in Seoul

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Culture, Travel

Seoul is a huge city but quite intimate. Each district feels like a neighborhood, a small ward in a city of nearly 10 million. There’s always a new sight to see or a new place to eat. But what a month in Seoul gives you is more than that. It’s not just experiential. There’s a veneer to the city – one marked by the Korean War. There are things we don’t know about the Korean War in America. Despite our involvement – or in some instances, because of it. With that in mind, I’m going to break a month in Seoul into two sections: What I Learned, and What I Experienced.

What I Learned

Seoul Korean War

Korea has a long history, although almost never as a united country. Like the city of Seoul, its lands have always been mapped out in a way that feels intimate, but also at odds with each other. It’s had empires rise and fall that are barely understandable to any Westerner. Unlike China (and Japan after a certain period), Korea never had a unified identity. They had the Joseon Dynasty, but they were only effective in how behind they were, in how corrupt they were.

A month in Seoul taught me that that culture attitudes haven’t changed – but circumstances have. The Korean War ravaged both South Korean and North Korea. And much like West Berlin and East Berlin, the nation was carved up by the US and USSR, like a modern day Berlin Conference.

Both South Korea and North Korea are planned nations, and the Korean War did nothing to change that. In the war, there was plenty of back and forth. North Korea invaded with the backing of Russia and China. South Korea barely held out. The UN (aka US forces backed by allies), intervened, and pushed back North Korean forces. They then marshaled forward into North Korea and took Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, pushing for unification. And then, unexpectedly, China intervened. Yes, America fought China directly. And they didn’t exactly win either.

I’m not expert on the Korean War, of course, but a month in Seoul showed just how present the conflict still is. The circumstances are obviously still ongoing, but it’s also affected Korean society in their constant strive for greatness. It’s also affected American’s ego – we don’t teach the Korean War in schools. It shows why America has viewed China as a looming threat to this day, as the US and Russia never fought a formal conflict.

But for South Korea, the effects of the Korean War were more than psychological. They were physical, with rebuilding efforts being the backbone of modern day South Korea. That ethos, of never being destroyed or defeated again, made South Korea the nation it is today. Today, South Korea is a technological powerhouse. But a lot happened to get them there – most of it not positive. They had human rights abuses and culture clashes. But now they’re a G20 nation. They’re hosting the Winter Olympics. They’re a placed to be envied, which brings me to the experiential side of a month in Seoul.

What I Experienced

a month in Seoul

The truth is, there’s too much to do to spend just a month in Seoul. Every district has its own flavor, every dish has its own flavor as well. But knowing the history of South Korea is essential to enjoying it. Every museum, foodstuff, and activity is lacquered with the effects of the Korean War, so you need to know about it to understand what you are seeing, eating, and doing.

There are certain activities – like visiting the DMZ between South Korea and North Korea, that almost defy this logic while still being contained by it. Despite what you may think in the news with Kim Jong Un and Trump,the DMZ is treated almost irreverently by South Korea. The whole thing is treated a sideshow, and not in the way that Auschwitz is set up. It’s not a performative sadness as much as a whimsical look at the superiority of South Korea – all from the perspective of South Koreans. We must Never Forget – no, not the Holocaust, but that South Korea contained North Korea.

The truth is far more complicated than that. But the attractions at ‘DMZ Land’ want you to believe that reunification is just a half-step away. This is made most evident when you take a monorail down into a tunnel built by North Korea in order to burrow into Seoul in the 70’s. While touring the underground tunnel,  you’re shown where the North Koreans attempted to blow holes with dynamite. And failed. This point is made clear, over and over in humorous tones. The North Koreans failed here, and they’ll fail again and again until we unify.

 

Here’s an example: just over the way there is North Korea. The North Korean village plays propaganda on their speakers, presumably to embolden their citizens and encourage defection. But to drown them out, the South Koreans play American pop music from the 80’s and 90’s. But that music is its own form of propaganda, if you think about it.There’s no better representation of the relationship between capitalism and South Korea as fueled by the divide in the Korean War. I wonder who chooses the playlist.

There’s a lot more to do in a month in Seoul than the DMZ. There’s Itaewon, the foreign district where you can get everything from South African food to Mexican/Korean fusion. It feels as distinctly multicultural as New York City, with a Korean flair. There’s the Bukhansan National Park, which seamlessly blends ecology, culture, and history, particularly with its tall mountain peaks. You can hike up these if you’re brave (or stupid, like me). It’s also lined with close to 100 active Buddhist temples, with the chanting making accidentally hiking in the dark even more eerie. And there are many palaces and more museums than you could possibly see in a month in Seoul.

But most importantly, Seoul represents how humans are obsessed with their past, yet constantly strive to subvert it. That crisis in identity is key to understanding countries with a much more varied history than America – one marked by isolationism rather than multiculturalism. For me, a month in Seoul represented all of these things. About how we rewrite our narratives to fit our current situation, and how we allow ourselves to believe these narratives. If South Korea can do it, and American exceptionalism can do it too, then so can we on an individual basis.

But not man is a nation onto himself, so the best we can do is be honest about our experiences and failures while travelling. We can process what we experience, and let it change our mode of thinking, but it will never be us. Events like the Korean War can be given meaning – they can even be used to build a society around. But that’s only after the fact. In the here and now, we only have ourselves and our own experiences to live.

 

daisy fitzroy

Daisy Fitzroy: The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Video Games

About halfway through Booker DeWitt’s sprawling adventures through Columbia , Bioshock Infinite takes a controversial narrative thrust, one that defines its Infinite moniker. Multiple timelines open up, fragmenting how events transpire within the game world. Not only does this create innumerable parallel universes, but it also directly affects the game’s storyline and radically changes the actions and personalities of various characters.

But perhaps no character is more changed by the timeline disruption than Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox Populi and the only significant, named person of color in the entire cast. After Booker is transported to an alternate reality, where he has become a martyr for the Vox Populi cause, he encounters Fitzroy’s forces, who are in open warfare with Columbia’s Founders. This universe’s Daisy Fitzroy believes that the existence of the main universe Booker undermines Booker’s sacrifice in this reality, and that his very existence weakens the cause of the Vox Populi. Using revolution logic, Daisy Fitzroy turns the Vox Populi against Booker, the very man that sacrificed himself for their cause.

But it wasn’t our Booker that bit the dust; it was an alternate Booker. Just as Booker comes to represent different things in infinite realities, Fitzroy in the ‘”all-out war” reality is a revolutionary terrorist rather than a freedom fighter. In fact, her character change is best described by a quote from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. 

“Battle not with monsters lest you become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”

Fitzroy directly confronts the monsters that are Columbia’s Founders, gazing into the abyss of righteous zeal and racism. And by taking the fight to the streets, Fitzroy becomes all that the Founders represent, her zeal and racism overpowering the intelligence and charisma that she displays in the main timeline.

When Booker confronts Fitzroy, attempting to help her see reason – to help her gaze into the abyss and see what she’s become – Fitzroy instead murders Jeremiah Fink, the sly opportunist businessman, who may be the richest man in all of Columbia. To Fitzroy, Fink represents all that is wrong with the floating city in the sky. His greed, arrogance and guile have subjugated Fitzroy and her socioeconomic and racial brethren; and to Fitzroy, enough is enough. The main universe’s version of Fitzroy is brutal, yes – but she is more freedom fighter than bloody revolutionary.

Maybe this is because she wasn’t given the opportunity to murder Fink. At least in the main timeline, Fink was the one that initially brought Fitzroy to Columbia, selling Fitzroy into slavery to Lady Comstock. Or, perhaps, the “all-out war” Fitzroy is just far more brutal than her mainline counterpart ever could be. Still though, killing Fink – as he meekly pleads for his life – allows Fitzroy a sense of release, and what we see next all but confirms that she’s become a monster.

Manic and in a state of utter bliss, high from the murder of Fink – justified to the player by Fink’s past actions against Booker – Fitzroy smears his blood on her face, looking at Booker through a glass window, gazing at him through the abyss.

Blood smeared on the glass, Fitzroy calmly orders Booker’s death – as though it were no different than ordering a sandwich.

“Kill the impostors; burn their bodies when you’re done.”

Booker, ever the resourceful man, quickly dispatches the Vox Populi troops, murdering them with a ferocity that not even Daisy Fitzroy could muster.

The lyric “the killer in me is the killer in you,” from The  Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm,has never been so accurate – nor so full of irony.

Booker returns to Fitzroy. She is still standing behind the glass window. If blood is smeared across Fitzroy’s face, then Booker is covered head to toe. He stares into the abyss, seeing a monster, but does not recognize the own monstrosity that inhabits his own body. He does not think, only judge; and, before long, execute.

As Booker approaches, Elizabeth is frenetically pounding on the glass window, pleading with Fitzroy, who is obscured in shadow. She is up to something sinister, but we don’t know what yet.

Daisy Fitzroy walks forward, a young white child slung under her forceful grip, a pistol pointed at its temple. Whether this is the offspring of Barton Fink is unknown; for the sake of dramatic argument, let’s say it is.

Elizabeth turns to her savior, Booker; the murderer, Booker.

“We have to act – we have to get in there!”

Booker doesn’t murder children, just anyone that gets in his way; but Fitzroy has gone too far. Fink’s death was justified – as much as any murder in Columbia can be – but this child is an innocent. Pure and protected from the harsh realities of the outside world, this small boy, representative of the innocence of childhood and so-called angelical ‘whiteness,’ is an object of scorn for Fitzroy. He represents a privileged life she could never have, an existence that she can never hope to attain. And for that, in her view, he deserves to die.

But to Booker – and by extension, the player – this child needs saving. And Booker is just the man – the only man – to do it.

Booker can’t get to Fitzroy through the abyss of the glass window, but he can boost Elizabeth up into a nearby vent: which he does, without question. He then goes to the window and confronts Fitzroy, her murderous intention now more clear than ever before.

Booker knocks on the glass loudly, a smug sound in his voice as he speaks.

“Is this it? Is this your movement, Daisy?”

Daisy turns around. Booker now gets a clear look at her, blood spattered on her face like a tribal warlord.

“You see, the Founder’s ain’t nothin’ but weeds. Cut ’em down and they just grow back!”

Fitzroy raises her gun up in the air, in what to her, seems to be a triumphant moment.

“If you wanna get rid of the weed, you gotta pull it up from the root.”

And just like that, in the middle of her so-called ‘bad guy speech,’ Fitzroy is stabbed from behind by Elizabeth.

She lays dying at Elizabeth’s feet, blood gurgling out of her mouth. Finally, the last trace of life escapes her body. The “all-out war” Fitzroy is dead, and the boy is saved. But is this really the triumphant moment that it seems?

No, of course not; Elizabeth is now a murderer as well. Fitzroy is dead, her corpse lying on the floor between Booker and Elizabeth – between the abyss that separates them. The glass window opens, revealing murder begetting murder, showing Elizabeth’s full loss of innocence; she is now guilty of murdering a woman that she greatly admired in the main timeline.

Booker rushes to comfort Elizabeth, but it’s useless. She runs from his advances, spurns his identification as a fellow murderer. Behind closed doors, Elizabeth changes, both mentally and physically. Not just from her murder, but from the realization that what she had done might have actually been wrong, that even an alternative timeline version of Daisy Fitzroy, however brutal she was, did not deserve to die.

And this is why Fitzroy’s death is such a powerful moment in Bioshock Infinite; for the way that it blends perceptions of murder, race, and classism into one scene – filled to the brim with character development and depth. It takes the idea of death and loss of innocence, and brings it forward a step further – by telling us that no one is truly blameless in Columbia.

Not even Barton Fink’s son.

 

when a writer gets too big

The Story of Milo Yiannopoulos and a Sarah Lawrence Alumni

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Culture, Journalism, Politics, Writing

By now, most of you have read the Buzzfeed report regarding Milo Yiannopoulos getting stories for Brietbart from sympathetic liberal journalists. Specifically, one of these journalists was a Sarah Lawrence alumni that graduated around the same time I did. Predictably, he’s been fired from his position (as he deserved to be), but the heat has mostly been on him. There are, of course, other journalists who emailed Milo. But most of them are veterans whose work does not relate to feminism, and have probably noted that journalism has become undervalued. In their own way, they’re raging at the system that screwed their careers. Still, this is what happens when a writer gets too big too quickly. They get full of themselves and think they’re invincible.

But the issue with what this particular Sarah Lawrence alumni did is that they took advantage of their position. They touted certain values as a semi-public figure, but had other ones in private. That’s not to say that’s unprecedented (do you think Trump believes everything he says?) but it’s bad if you set yourself up as a moral authority. It’s even worse if you represent marginalized groups, and try to give voices to the voiceless through your writing.

As a writer, this can be an incredibly difficult line to walk. Writing is frustrating for most writers, and the biggest way to gain traffic online is to generate controversy. That’s true whether you’re blogging or writing for The New York Times. But that doesn’t mean that making friends with someone’s values you profess to hate publicly is okay. He isn’t the first journalist to be cajoled by Milo — and he sure as shit won’t be the last. But you’d imagine having Sarah Lawrence education would make you less susceptible to that.

Then again, when a writer gets too big, they don’t see it that way. They see themselves as bigger than the culture wars surrounding them.  I’ve never been a big writer myself — although I was a video game journalisthave written for some big publications, and have a graphic novel coming out next year. But I do know that not experiencing a meteoric rise has kept me grounded. I don’t think about my writing career in terms of a ladder, but in terms of a path that I’m always walking.

As my mentor at Sarah Lawrence told me, “a writer is someone who writes.” That doesn’t mean that a writer can’t or shouldn’t have aspirations. But it does show that when a writer gets too big, they’ll quickly turn on their own values. Or even worse, they’ll co-opt values in order to get bigger and bigger bylines. And with that kind of social climbing, you’re bound to fall clear off the ladder.

watching movies on planes

Why I Love Watching Movies on Planes

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Culture, Movies, Travel

Since I started travelling full-time, I’ve been on a lot of flights. In fact, for the past year and a half, I’ve been on an average of one flight a month. While I don’t really mind flying in general, what really makes the experience worthwhile to me is watching movies on planes. With that attitude, you’d think the movie Planes would be the perfect flick for me, but as anyone has seen it knows, it’s terrible.

Still — there is a certain pleasure in watching movies on planes. Most international airlines have a huge selection of the latest Hollywood flicks. And the truth is there’s pretty much nothing better you can do while on a plane. On the most recent flight I took from New York to the Philippines, I watched five different movies. These only took up half the flight. Still, I enjoyed them more mostly because I was really watching them. I took the time to actually think about that were saying.

While at home, I rarely pay attention to a movie that I’m watching. It may be on, but I’m likely doing something else as well. I could be on my laptop or my phone, or even just thinking about something else. But when watching movies on planes, I fully appreciate them. I watch them because there’s no better use of my time — but I also watch them because I love them. For me, movies and the culture around them are my lifeblood. I consume media at a more consistent rate than most people I know. And because I’ve stopped binge watching TV, I make sure that when I consume media, I make an effort to absorb it.

I really do care about the type of media I consume. Whether it’s movies, television, or books, media is what shapes your worldview. It’s the reason the political culture wars exists right now. Our media diet is largely what defines us, so I like to use the opportunity when flying by watching movies on planes and catching up on what I’ve missed. This can, of course, have the reverse effect. If you use your downtime to solely consume garbage media, the garbage is going to fill your head and spill out the side of your skull.

But luckily planes always have movies like Moonlight, Arrival, and Silence. They are Hollywood movies for sure, but they make you think and question the culture around you. And for me, there’s no better place to watch films like these then when practically sitting arm-in-arm with other sweaty men who are also physically too big for their coach seats. Otherwise you might just have to contemplatively stare out the window for 10 hours at a time – or try to read a book while having someone’s seat leaned back into your knees.

 

metrosexual

Is the Word ‘Metrosexual’ Offensive — or is it Just the Term?

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Culture, Politics

Most people probably only vaguely recall the word metrosexual. According to the dictonary, a metrosexual is defined as “a usually urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes.” That’s a pretty straightforward definition if I’ve ever seen one. In fact, the word itself is a blend of metro (urban) and sexual. While metrosexual has been used to describe gay or bisexual men, it’s commonly used to describe a straight man that isn’t so interested in the negative confines of masculinity but embraces the positives.

David Beckham is the archetypal example. To many, he’s a sports hero. But to many others, he’s a fashion icon and a role model. That’s not say that David Beckham is perfect – he’s had his share of incidents after all, but to say he hasn’t had an influence on the ideas surrounding masculinity is misleading at best. There’s a reason that Tommy Hilfiger called him the underwear model of the century (despite the fact that we’re less than 25% through).

Still, it’s important to put this in perspective. David Beckham is a symptom of meterosexuality’s effect on culture, not a cause. That may be his authentic sense of self, but it’s not as though David Beckham personally pioneered the metrosexual movement. The TV sitcom also had a strong hand in it. Sitcoms present characters – like Phil Dunphy on Modern Family and Marshall Eriksen on How I Met Your Mother, who are straight and good male role models but are also in touch with their feminine side. They may not be inherently masculine figures, but they are also not metrosexual. This is how masculinity has been challenged in the past few years – through the power of pop culture.

But does that mean the term and concept of metrosexual is effectively dead? According to an Allure and GQ study (which is inherently liberal), 93% of people seem to think so. But it’s not as though there’s a better term to replace it. Synonyms include: dooddandyfop, and masher – not inherently inoffensive terms themselves. In fact, most (including me) would argue that these terms shouldn’t be used in conversation. And it’s pretty inagurable that they’re more dated words than metrosexual.

While language should evolve with the times, the term metrosexual hasn’t. We now just don’t have a neutral word to describe a man like David Beckham. And while I agree we could come up with a better word than metrosexual (or even no label at all), the political culture wars have demanded that we haven’t. In essence, talking about male body image issues is more trouble than it’s worth.

These days, an article like this that is discussing the formation and evolution of language is inherently political. That’s true whether I want it to be or not. But just because we deem the word meterosexual offensive doesn’t mean that the men it describes cease to exist. And for me personally, I find the erasure of language like this more harmful than the term metrosexual.