Wednesday, 10 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 10/02/2016


First up this week is "Killing Strangers" by Marilyn Manson from his newest album THE PALE EMPEROR. Basically the only reason I picked this song was because I had a pretty epic movie night double-feature with a friend with weekend which consisted of John Wick and Mad Max: Fury Road (probably my 2 favourite action movies of the past 7 years) back-to-back. As you can expect, it was an awesome night, but "Killing Strangers" was really sticking in my mind afterwards due to its main drum/bass rhythm.

This also got me thinking about my history with Marilyn Manson as an artist. As a kid growing up in an evangelical household, my only exposure to Manson was stories about how messed up he apparently was. For example, I heard that he took out a rib so that he could suck his own dick, and that he apparently tore up a puppy on stage once. As a result, I was under the impression that he was a satanist and that his music was vile, despite never having actually heard more than snippets of it. Of course, now that I'm older and wiser, I now realize that his strange persona and reputation was all tried and tested "shock rocker" marketing tactics, already perfected long before by Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. Despite that, his shtick seems less cynical to me and more artistically genuine, as he put forth an interestingly androgynous look and his songs tend to have some impactful messages behind them. Having heard more of his music now, I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan, but I have enjoyed most of what I have heard.


Secondly we have "Raining Blood" by Slayer from their album Reign in Blood. Slayer's one of those essential metal bands which I find myself in the unfortunate position of not really liking all that much. Back in university I was really getting into Metallica and figured I'd expand further into thrash metal via Slayer. However, I soon found that I didn't really care for their music all that much, with their faux-blasphemous style not endearing them to me all that much either. I probably need to give them another chance, but as it stands their only song I really enjoy is by far their most popular track, "Raining Blood". This song used to be the bane of my existence in Guitar Hero III, which people seemed to always overlook in favour of the (admittedly brutal) "Through the Fire and the Flames" (which will probably be a future playlist pick).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 03/02/2016

We have a couple updates this week before we get into the playlist selections. First of all, Countless Thousands' Kickstarter is live and already funded. However, it got there through (at this point) only 36 backers, which is a crime considering how good this band is as far as I'm concerned. Check out their Kickstarter page, if only to read through it - a lot of love has obviously gone into crafting this campaign, and it shows because it is absolutely hilarious from start to finish.

Secondly, we're getting awfully close to a year of the IC2S Playlist now - we're now 11 weeks away from our 1 year anniversary, at which point I'm going to be making updates far more infrequent. We're also over the 7 hour point now, although I imagine I can get it over 9 or 10 by the time we hit the end (I've been eyeing a pair of 18 minute songs for a while now).


Anyway, onto this week's first selection, "Screwtape" by Living Sacrifice from the album Ghost Thief. I really enjoy the slow start to this song, it contrasts really well with Bruce Fitzhugh's thunderous vocals. If I'm being honest, I have no idea what this song is about, but it sounds really cool and has some great musicianship on display... and there's not much else to say but that. Enjoy it.


Next up we have "New Year's Day " by U2 from their album, War. The fact that I didn't use this song to kick off 2016 was a major missed opportunity on my part. My favourite U2 song has changed many times over the years, but lately it seems to have settled on this track from War. For many years, I had only heard the radio edit version, which cuts out a good minute and a half of great guitar work and reduces "New Year's Day" to a good, but unspectacular, song as far as I'm concerned. However, the full album version is just so much better, providing me with yet another reason why radio stations (particularly pop radio stations) suck.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Rebuttal: #MinifigLivesMatter

Oh looky, it's time for another installment of The Rebuttal. What sort of dumbassery made its way into my Facebook feed this week? A friend of mine (we'll call him Johnny) has an MRA/egalitarian friend, who made a ridiculous post this weekend. Johnny passed this post on to another friend of mine (we'll call him Atlas), who then passed it on to me, knowing I'd enjoy it. Check it out:


Hoo boy... I'm not even going to bother going into his spurious claim that SJWs have "ruined" video games, STEM fields and have somehow destroyed every tech company... actually, wait, what the feth? Where the hell did he get that idea from? I assume that's some sort of MRA talking-point, but for those of us not drinking the same Kool-Aid, the idea that SJWs are destroying tech companies sounds absolutely ridiculous. I didn't really look into this very comprehensively, in part because it sounds like utter garbage, but the only site that I could find that was pushing this view was a damn pickup artist's blog. Considering that I was searching for "women destroying tech companies", you think that there would have been more results about women actually destroying the tech industry (in fact, most results showed how the tech industry is destroying itself via ridiculously long work hours... and by not hiring more women).


Anyway, getting back on track, I hadn't heard any sort of SJW-types complaining about lack of diversity in LEGO, so I was curious if this was yet another case where a handful of complaints are conflated into a whole movement's viewpoints. As a result, I came across this article which explains that LEGO decided to release their first wheelchair-bound minifig in an effort for more diversity. That is a fantastic move on LEGO's part which has made many kids very happy, and has generally gotten a very positive reception. How can you possibly see this as a bad thing?

Let's be charitable though. The original post alludes to Johnny's friend not knowing the details of the situation, but just being annoyed by SJWs ruining everything. We all make those sorts of declarations without the full story. I mean, he's not going to seriously advocate giving children with disabilities the middle finger, right...? Well, I wasn't expecting this, but Atlas decided to sent Johnny the news article, which prompted Johnny to grill his friend for being overly-dramatic. His friend, unfortunately, doubled-down on his comments:


Sigh... First of all, he is relying heavily on the slippery slope logical fallacy* to try to make this seem like such a bad thing, but even then he's on thin ice. So what if LEGO makes armless, trans (ooh, potential transphobia, nice!) or wolfkin minifigs? How is that going to "ruin" LEGO? Furthermore, it's not like people can't make armless, trans or even freaking literal werewolf LEGO characters already, so I'm not so sure that they'd even bother to acknowledge them. Either way though, this is the whole reason why LEGO is so amazing to begin with - it's a blank slate which promotes creativity. Giving a paraplegic child an avatar with which to live out his fantasies as a hero with a disability is both empowering and absolutely awesome. LEGO is all about giving people the ability to live out their fantasy worlds, and I say the more people we can bring in under that umbrella, the better.

As usual, the real issue is that Johnny's friend is deep in an ideological framework and the world is completely filtered through that lens (which is made worse by the fact that he subscribes to news sources which fuel this world view). He thinks that SJW-types have ruined all forms of entertainment (they simply haven't, full-stop), or that "not being a prick" is not only self-censorship, but a truly henious thing. For an idea of why he thinks this, it's worth mentioning that he is also seriously under the delusion that the disadvantaged have leveraged their status and supplanted white men as the real power within society.

Oh, and by the way, Johnny's friend considers himself to be an "egalitarian"... which should more-or-less put to bed the argument that "feminists should try being more egalitarian!" Egalitarianism as a movement has been co-opted by MRAs and various other hateful organizations which have become deluded enough to believe that they have become the truly disadvantaged group within society. From that particular mindset, this is a reasonable view, but to anyone else... well, egalitarianism my ass. To all those who are stuck in such a mindset, I can only hope that you can one day you acquire the ability to take a step back and maybe admit that you were wrong.


To finish up, I've been ignoring the Taken reference this whole time because it is just your typical Internet tough guy, dick-wagging bullshit. Oh, you're going to troll and debunk all of us SJW-types with your "egalitarian" knowledge? Well there's only one thing I can say to that...

Good luck.

Somehow I think it's going to work out better for me than it did for Marco from Tropoja though.

*Normally I hate throwing around accusations of logical fallacies when arguing with someone as they are often used the way "check your privilege" is, as a tactic to shut down an opponents' argument without actually having to address it. However, in our one previous confrontation, Johnny's friend was slinging logical fallacy accusations at me, so I figure that he more or less has it coming. Not to mention that his logical fallacy accusations were very strenuous (eg, he claimed that saying that I thought that most feminists would agree with me on something was a "No True Scotsman" claim, which it clearly is not, as I didn't say "those who disagree with me are not true feminists"... and then he claimed that Reddit MRAs are not true MRAs and tried to explain that such a view was not a No True Scotsman fallacy... yeah).

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

IC2S Playlist Update 27/01/2016


First up this week is "Fickle" by Countless Thousands, yet another song from their debut album We're Just Really Excited to Be Here. I really enjoy this song because it's just so enthusiastic, but that's not the only reason I chose it for this week's playlist entry - Countless Thousands are also launching their first Kickstarter campaign this week! As you can probably tell, I really love their music and am definitely going to be backing this one as soon as I can. I will post a link to the campaign on the blog sometime after it goes live (probably at the start of next week's playlist update).


Secondly, we have "The Sound of Failure / It's Dark... Is It Always This Dark??" by The Flaming Lips from their album At War With the Mystics. The Flaming Lips have a real talent for making really unorthodox songs sound awesome, and "The Sound of Failure" is one of my favourites. It's also one of their longer songs, which naturally draws me towards it a little more. It's also one of their more depressing songs - The Flaming Lips tend to be rather quirky and optimistic, but At War With the Mystics was definitely more of a depressing album (eg, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song", "Mr. Ambulence Driver", "Vein of Stars", etc).

...and with that, the IC2S Playlist now has over 7 hours of music! Wow, it's hard to believe that I've managed to take it that long in less than a year, but that's how it is. I have no idea if anyone other than myself has actually listened to it, but either way I enjoy throwing it on shuffle at work every once in a while.

Monday, 25 January 2016

#OscarsSoWhite: Why We Need to Learn to Pick Our Battles

If you've read even a couple of my posts on this blog, then you're probably aware that I'm a staunchly left-leaning "SJW"-type person. However, with that in mind, I am absolutely sick of the "#OscarsSoWhite" controversy which has been dominating the news cycle for the last week. Initially I was fine with it - it is certainly odd that we haven't had a non-white acting nominee in 2 straight years now, which is a situation which is certainly ripe for discussion. However, my problem is that the prevailing discussion soon turned towards the Academy itself being racist by not choosing any black actors, which is really straining things as far as I'm concerned. Thankfully, Mark Gollom posted this very good article on CBC which covers all of the things I have been pointing out since this story first broke. In light of this, I think it's finally time for me to throw in my hat as well on this story.


First of all, it has to be said that the real "objective" importance of the Oscars is ridiculously overstated. It is certainly the most visible stage for film appraisal, but not winning or getting nominated is only really important for the financial incentives and exposure it provides. The "best" movies or actors in a given year is an incredibly subjective question, and I'm certain that the average moviegoer's list would look absolutely nothing like what the Academy comes up with most years. The fact that Mad Max: Fury Road made the shortlist this year is nothing short of a minor miracle, as it doesn't fit the "Oscar-bait" mold which most nominees must adhere to in order to stand a chance.

Furthermore, many deserving actors get snubbed every year and it always causes some kind of backlash. Will Smith and Michael B Jordan didn't really have a lot of buzz going their way, especially in comparison to the actors who did make the extremely-limited slate. Furthermore, Idris Elba was never going to get nominated, and that is down to film-making politics - Beasts of No Nation is breaking the "established rules" of film distribution, so like TRON's visual effects snub, it was never going to be recognized by the Academy. Compared to last year, these aren't shocking at all, unlike the lack of major recognition for Selma, which left me absolutely flabbergasted, especially considering that it had some of the most positive buzz going into the awards (not to mention that most of the Oscar-bait from that year totally floundered).


#OscarsSoWhite activists need to start looking at the bigger picture if they want to solve this issue. They can start by directing their criticisms at Hollywood's movie studios, which is where I would argue this whole Oscars racism issue stems from. Think about it - we have a severe lack of non-white actors because Hollywood studios think that there will be financial repercussions if they cast a minority in any major roles. This isn't some sort of conspiracy, it's just an attitude which has created some major inequality throughout the entire industry. At this point, it's so obvious that it is basically a no-brainer. From not casting black actors in lead roles because "foreign people are racist and it'll affect our bottom-line", to the disgustingly frequent practice of white-washing characters because studios refuse to finance a movie without a bankable cast. Furthermore, it is believed that Selma was overlooked, not because of Academy racism and favouritism, but because of a lack of promotion:
"Selma’s studio, Paramount, had mailed free DVD screeners to Oscar voters — but not to guild voters. Which raises the possibility that, with Selma having opened so late in the season, maybe not enough voters have seen it yet."
This is just another look behind the curtain at the subjective nature of the Oscars. How the heck did Paramount not think that Selma was a legitimate Best Picture contender?

The final big issue here is that Will Smith and Michael B Jordan's "snubbed" performances are in the Best Actor category, which is widely regarded as being one of the most competitive categories in the entire awards ceremony. Due to traditional wisdom in Hollywood favouring male leads, there are basically always going to be tons of Best Actor candidates. Furthermore, with Hollywood preferring white male leads in general, we end up with less bankable non-white actors, meaning that it's significantly harder for an actor to get to the status of being competitive enough to actually stand a chance of getting a Best Actor nomination. In general, this sort of systemic favouritism of white males not only screws minorities throughout their entire careers, but it also is a prime factor for why women have a harder time making it in Hollywood as well.


In general, I think that #OscarsSoWhite is on the right track - there is certainly some very obvious cases of systemic racism within the film industry. However, by directing their efforts at the Academy, activists are missing out on the real root of the problem. We need to see studios and agents more willing to take risks on non-white actors, more diverse screenplays and casting, and more of a concerted effort to actually tell the stories of other people. Furthermore, we as the public need to continue to support films which do try to take these sorts of risks - Hollywood might finally be starting to understand, but it is going to take a very long time before a strong stable of talent is fostered instead of getting passed over.

Unfortunately, due to the current public discourse, all people are going to remember of this incident was that black people were playing the "race card" again to try to get ahead, even though there were legitimate issues to discuss. This is why I'm always telling us SJW-types to "pick your battles" intelligently, because the causes that we choose to fight for are arguably just as important as the actual messages in terms of public perception. If we want more people to sympathize with our causes, then they need to realize that what we're saying is correct, rather than give them some dumbed-down talking point that any troglodite can disprove.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Retrospective: Metal Gear Afterthoughts & Greatest Moments

AFTERTHOUGHTS
This has been quite a journey that we have embarked on. It literally took me months to complete all of the games in the franchise and, at times, felt like I had taken on a second job, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience which has given me a new appreciation of the franchise. Seeing how the gameplay has evolved and gotten more complex was very interesting, and actually improved the original Metal Gear Solid in quite a few ways for me (especially the key cards and backtracking which I found annoying in my first playthrough, but which are refreshing compared to previous games in the franchise). I also got to experience a few games that I had wanted to play but never actually got around to - namely, Metal Gear, Solid Snake and Rising.

It was also interesting to get a better look at the Metal Gear story. The franchise is notorious for having a supposedly "incomprehensible" story, but I have always found this to be a ridiculous assertion. The series' overarching narrative is certainly extremely complex, convoluted and doesn't make a lot of sense at times, but it isn't all that hard to follow in each game. Also, considering that the overarching story was made up from game-to-game, it's nothing short of a minor miracle that the story is as satisfying and reasonably coherent as it is, especially with the numerous retcons which have occurred in each new installment.

If I have time at some point in the future, I might also do a bonus review for the two Metal Gear Ac!d games, as they were both very fun and unique experiences. Other than those two games, Ghost Babel for the Game Boy Advance and Portable Ops Plus for the PSP are both ripe for a potential bonus retrospective... hell, maybe even Snake's Revenge for the NES as well if I'm feeling extremely masochistic. We'll see if any of these entries actually happen (I'm long overdue for an entry for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for that franchise's retrospective series), but perhaps one day. I'll try not to say "Kept you waiting, huh?" though.




Friday, 22 January 2016

The Rebuttal: Telekinetic Rape!

We're starting up a new column here on IC2S (to go along with Quick Fixes, Retrospectives and Reviews) which I have decided to call "The Rebuttal". I get a lot of stupid bullshit in my Facebook feed; I'm sure that you do as well. Sometimes however, we get something that is a new level of stupid though which can't just be ignored - it needs to be corrected. That is where The Rebuttal comes in. Here, I will attempt to give a reasoned analysis of the post in question and hopefully dispel some of the ignorance it was fostering. Got it? Okay, let's get started...

Oh look, feminism! Who would have guessed?


This was posted on a parody Facebook page called "Meninists" (sigh), and shared by a friend who thought that the 4chan reply was funny. Honestly, on a certain level the snarkiness of the reply is kind of funny, but that is only the case because of what the feminist wrote. Personally, I think that this is a great example of the issue of "not explaining yourself" and "picking your battles poorly" which I have suggested that fellow feminists should be careful of if they want to have a better public perception. Saying that "men can rape without laying a hand on a woman" isn't one of those things that is going to get you to say "oh shit, maybe I do need feminism!", but rather it's going to raise a lot of eyebrows. At worst, it's hyperbolic and trivializes "real" case of sexual violence. At best, it's a poorly worded argument and weakens the definition of what constitutes "rape". Personally I'm feeling that she tried to come up with something that would sound profound and compelling, but ended up wording things really poorly which made her look somewhat ridiculous.