“As long as we have a SINGLE homeless child…!”

You’ve heard this one, right?

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Horse. Shit.

I used to say stuff like this myself before I actually met some folks in my hometown who came the the USA as refugees from Afghanistan in the 1980’s (pretty sure it was Afghanistan, but don’t quote me on that). Now, their oldest son runs the Halal market started by his parents when they first came to the United States what seems like ages ago, and it really changed my tune because I was running personally into the fact that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees. Alaska, my home state, was largely settled by people who couldn’t make it anywhere else, or were running from something.

It’s easy to read about that stuff in history class and file it as a tidbit in your head, but quite another to find yourself face to face with the reality of that fact.
 
And Detroit? The former Motor City that fell apart in the 1960’s and 1970’s? It’s beginning to shine again. Who’s doing it? Muslim immigrants who weren’t wanted anywhere else, but saw the almost abandoned ruins of a former capital of industry and decided to make something of it. There is nothing more fucking American than that. That is the American Dream, the idea that people with nothing can make themselves and even their communities into something great. Maybe we don’t all get to be as rich as the Walton Family, but we can all be MORE than we started as, and our children can be more than what we finish as, and down the line that goes, propelling us further as long as we keep the Dream alive.
 
America was built by that attitude. And if immigrants and refugees want to bring that to my country and give us a shot in the arm of a powerful cocktail of new blood and a can-do attitude, then let them come. Bring them in by the barge-load. Because Trump is more right than he knows. This IS the time to Make America Great Again, and these brand new first and second generation Americans are going to be invaluable in that pursuit. Because nobody wants to build something new more than someone who has already lost everything.
 
Let them come. Let them have a fair shot at living the Dream. And if some of them want to start trouble? We’ll deal with them. But punishment comes after the crime, and we don’t prosecute the innocent along with the guilty.
As Captain America once said:
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So should we all.
I refuse to stand in the way of honest folks who just want a piece of that for their own families. I’ve no more right to it than they. No one has any more right to it than they.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Emma Lazarus

Vilkas doesn’t get out much

The best-worst thing about playing Skyrim after all this time is doing factions in a flow outside what the game intended. Like, it’s fairly obvious that the Companions were always meant to be the first faction you joined, which leads to some hilarious moments of idiot-ball-carrying if you DIDN’T join them straight away and… did stuff first.

I only joined them AFTER I already killed Alduin, exterminated Lord Harkon and his court, defeated Miraak, assassinated the Emperor, and singlehandedly won the Civil War, and so when I went to FINALLY join the Companions, Vilkas treated my Dragonborn to this little gem that suddenly becomes that much more hilarious: “But master, I’ve never even heard of this outsider.”

Meanwhile, I’m just standing there like “Really bro? Dragonborn? Vanquisher of Alduin World-Eater? Thane of the city you live in? Unifier of Skyrim? He who sacked the city you live in, and the City of Solitude and beheaded General Tullius? Exterminator of the vampire menace? They sing songs about me in every pub from here to High Rock. You haven’t heard of me at all, fam?”

And if you’re one of those who had already joined but have neglected the early quests, Skjor will simply keep saying “you still need to prove yourself, whelp.”

Not sure which is worse.

Judas the PlayStation 4 is finally dead!

It’s official.
My old PS4 is dead.
D. E. A. D.
Dead.

But honestly? After the damned thing cost me internet overages on no fewer than 18 separate billing cycles by unpausing my paused game update files at 4 in the morning while I slept and couldn’t stop it, I had already named it “Judas”. In a not so weird way, I’m glad the bitch is finally dead – I’d only tried booting it up at all to watch a blu-ray after leaving it unplugged for almost a year. Very not worth it to me to buy a new one. So tomorrow I’ll be holding a funeral for Judas the PlayStation.

It’ll be a viking funeral – I can’t wait to set this little motherfucker on fire!

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Just a crying shame I can’t take it out THIS way.

And before you bring up the obvious “solution” (turning off auto-updates), let me first be sarcastic at you: I’ve owned Judas since six months after the PS4’s launch. No, turning off auto-updates had never once fucking occurred to me.

I exhausted every option available to me in my multi-year quest to fix this damn thing. I did it all. Eventually, I even unsubscribed from PS+. Not for performance issues, mind, but because my online friends began to stop playing co-op with me altogether and simultaneous with these events, the free monthly games selection began to routinely suck ass.

But none of that appeased Judas.

Judas’ constant insatiable hunger for updates never stopped or slowed. If I ever agreed to download something, Judas wouldn’t rest until it was done, so I just unplugged it when I wasn’t using it (it would even turn itself back on –cold boot itself– otherwise!), and I eventually stopped using it completely. After that, it just sat in a closet corner with a sheet covering it like some horrible forgotten thing for the better part of 2016, only being awakened once during that span to blitz through Uncharted 4 (of which I am honestly not a fan, which I never thought I’d say about a Naughty Dog game).

Meanwhile, my PlayStation Vita has never once had betrayal on its mind, and my Xbox One has never lifted a metaphorical finger to do ANYTHING without my express permission in each instance. And so far, my PC has behaved itself, barring a crazy amount of updates after the initial startup, which honestly I’d expected to happen anyways.

Judas was just pure evil in console form, and after Sony botching the releases of their various Xperia phones in America during that long but critical period where people like me still cared about that brand, their MASSIVE customer service fuck up regarding my Vaio laptop some years before (they refused to repair it despite it being under warranty and made me send it to Best Buy, who broke it even worse. Twice in a fucking row.), and their willful abortion of the Vita before they’d even seriously tried to help it succeed (they gave up entirely after what, two years?), this string of betrayals by Judas was the thing that finally and fully axe-murdered my prior obsessive fanboyish love of Sony products beyond hope of redemption.

Sony done screwed up, and after all this time, I firmly believe they have no one to blame but themselves.

And Judas.

Fuck you very much, my old friend.

 

Quick notes on Framerates (for Gamer Arguments)

At the dawn of the 20th century, Thomas Edison and his company discovered that the human eye needed to see, at bare minimum, a framerate of what we would today call 10 FPS before our brains could become convinced that a single image was in fact moving and not just a fast slide show. 10 FPS is the baseline. Edison actually shot a few films at this framerate, including a short film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (beating Universal to the punch by two decades), but little of these films survived.

24 FPS was a standard of Old Hollywood, and games below this seem choppy and poorly animated to pretty much everyone. This low framerate is part of why restored versions of old films that feature a higher framerate seem so odd to watch, but it is only part of the reason.

30-45 FPS is the current Hollywood standard, and this is the range in which most console games fall, as developers consider it the “best of averages” balancing on screen details and framerate.

60 FPS is the up-coming standard of Hollywood — for instance, the Hobbit films were filmed with special 60 FPS cameras. This ended up making test audiences complain that the films felt “unnaturally smooth”, so in many theaters, the films were artificially brought back down to 45 FPS, which is how you probably saw them unless you saw them in IMAX. For PC gamers, this is often the minimum optimum framerate.

60+ FPS is the desired framerate for PC gaming, especially for games that require pixel-perfect reflex timing like serious e-sports. It will be a long while before Hollywood or consoles catches up to this.

Here endeth the lesson.

I hope you’re happy Gaben

Oh hey, two posts in one day! Both about nostalgia!
It’s like I’m on a roll or something.
Well, I may as well get to the point.

All these years later and I’m still mad that the Half-Life series killed the SiN franchise.
And now it looks like neither story will ever be finished. SiN Episodes: Emergence ends on a cliffhanger, and guess what? So does Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Ironic that the two franchises who set out to reinvent shooters forever will never actually tell the ends of their stories. While I have largely come to peace with the fact that Half-Life 2: Episode 3
and Half-Life 3 will never happen, I’m still furious that it had to take SiN Episodes down with it — it was fun as hell and seemed like it was building up to something epic, and the silly 90’s action hero cyberpunk angle of the SiN franchise was hard to beat, and still is impossible to find a decent surrogate for.

I hope you’re happy, Gaben.

You killed the most innovative shooters of our times.

Can we get a do-over?

In memory of an aborted but promising franchise taken from us too soon, have a trailer.

FUCK I’m mad about losing this series.

Goddamn I miss the 1.0 Internet

So I was touring the old Space Jam website (as I occasionally do) and reliving a whole bunch of childhood, when I stumble onto some missing bits that just dead end.

..No. I wanted to keep going, you monsters!

And while the nostalgia is utterly lost on people who were either too young or didn’t have internet at all in the 1990’s, well… web design kind of sucked by modern standards. But we made it work, and while the end results were about as pretty as the mugshot for the Frankenstein Creature, the fact that it worked at all was kind of sexy. These were the days of Geocities, Tripod, and Angelfire. MySpace wasn’t around to be a meme yet, and above all, America Online seemed like it ruled all. Furthermore, we ALL had dial up (Only folks like Bill Gates and co. could afford broadband in those days, or at least it seemed that way), which was accompanied by the most delightful noise to ever grace your eardrums. We didn’t have Facebook groups, we had fanlistings and fansites (most of which were hosted on the aforementioned Geocities, Tripod, or Angelfire), and you were a trailblazer if you had one. The opening of Friendster heralded the beginning of the Social Media Era, and all the cool kids were using it, and neither Apple nor Google had yet taken over the effing world. Indeed, Google was barely getting started by the close of the 1.0 era.

And I guess most importantly about the Internet 1.0 era was that it was, apparently, NOT “the internet” but “the world wide web”. Oh, and everything felt like it broke every half hour.

That too.

But despite all the troubles that came with it and the frustrations of the limitations of the technology, I miss it a lot.

Not because it was in any way better than what we have now (BY NO MEANS), but because it all still felt infinite, especially to those of us who were kids at the time, and like the best was yet to come.

Now, in more ways than one, it feels sort of like we’re rapidly approaching the end of the internet.

Not literally of course. But the wild west anything-is-possible feel of the digital frontier is now very greatly diminished, and I miss when we had it in abundance.

That’s all.

“Shudder” is a tragic miss for horror fans

Recently I completed my free trial for Shudder, a streaming service that aims to “kill Netflix” as far as selection of horror movies is concerned. As a small time Horror aficionado myself, I felt compelled to give it a try.
So does Shudder live up to its promises?

Kind of, but not in the ways that actually matter.

First, the Android App (the platform on which I tested Shudder) is impeccably well designed. It’s fast, smooth, well organized, and one of the most intuitive app experiences I’ve ever had. Design-wise, this may be one of the best apps presently on the Google Play store. However, a streaming service does not live by user interface design. It lives (and dies) by content.

So, as far as content goes, does Shudder kill Netflix? Sort of. They do have a decently sized selection. It is most definitely larger than Netflix’s horror films section. So in technical terms, they have a solid selling point here. It’s just a shame that so few of the films are any good.

Rarely do I see such a well designed app utterly unaccompanied by content worth starting it up for. The claim is that Shudder “kills Netflix on selection”, but true as this may be, it’s pointless if the selection is bad to begin with. 

More so than even Netflix, the service has tons of low budget films “like” the one you want to watch, but seldom do they have what you ACTUALLY want to watch — I certainly never found the things I wanted to see. Classic 70’s and 80’s slasher films, skeezy 90’s sex-horror, John Carpenter B-Movies, Hammer Horror, experimental 60’s fare, and even public domain 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s films are all conspicuous by their absence. Most of the selection is divided into 2 categories: Asian Horror films, and uber-low budget “shock-schlack”: stuff that flies in under the radar because no radar is respectable enough to display it. Most is of exceedingly low quality, with probably the only decent thing I found to watch being a super-campy 80’s film called “The Stuff” which with full honestly I can say I actually enjoyed, so thank God for that.

Unfortunately, I came for a laundry list of movies, not just one. There are still video rental stores in my city, and if I just wanted one film, I’d go to those. As a long-term subscription service Shudder unfortunately lacks value.

My advice? Plan out a camp-horror marathon weekend with some friends, get the free trial, and go to town. Just cancel the trial before they bill you. It’s simply not worth actual money with their current selection.

Maybe Shudder will get better with time. I hope it does. Most of what Netflix has is serious garbage, and Amazon Prime’s free movie streaming has one hell of a neutered selection. The day may come when Shudder rises to elevate itself above the sub-Sharknado quality selection it currently has, and takes its place among the pantheon of great streaming services.

All I know is that it is not this day.

Enjoy the free trial, but if you’re a serious horror fan, I’d advise you to keep looking.