Let There Be Light

He fled the light and the knowledge the light implied, and so came back to himself. Even so do the rest of us; even so the best of us.

Stephen King, The Gunslinger

I went on and read/listened to volume two of the Dark Tower saga, the Drawing of the Three. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the second volume, and I can’t recall a significant moment of the film purportedly based on the first book, which means I’ll have to go back and watch that movie again (Look for this to be updated then) in the meantime Stephen King’s afterword in the second volume, citing how this work was such a departure from his normal writing endeavors, made me pick up and start reading/listening to the Shining.

The one thing I noticed about the second volume of the Dark Tower saga that stuck (other than did-a-chick) was the references to the movie interpretation of the Shining that Stanley Kubrick graced the screens with back in 1980. Very little of what you saw on screen in that movie was even in the novel that Stephen King penned. No elevator full of blood, no encounters with the dead twin girls, no hunt through the hedge maze, no “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” repeated ad nauseum as a demonstration of the father’s madness. King’s tangential reference to that movie, as well as other movies of the time, leaves you thinking that King wasn’t very impressed with Kubrick’s vision of what the Shining was about.

It’s hard to translate the written word to the screen, even when what is written is written specifically to be filmed. Stephen King’s books are a lot like other novels that are worth reading. The language on the page draws images in your head, and those images will never be the exact same images that any other person has. The script writer/director/actor all have to agree on what the image on the screen should be, and they are all hampered in their ability to get their interpretation of the words onto the screen by the limitations of the technology that exists at that moment to realize the images.

When a book relies on the internal horror of the individual’s mind to advance the plot, every attempt to turn that into a movie is doomed to failure. It is doomed to failure because every single reader will come in expecting to see their mental pictures on the screen, and they aren’t going to see them there.

I take great pains to reserve judgement on a movie based on books that I’ve read. I try to set aside what I know about any given character that I’m watching on screen. Set aside what I know that isn’t in the movie I’m watching. This helped me get through all the Marvel movies based on characters that I’ve followed since childhood. Helped me watch the Harry Potter movies without demanding that this or that scene from the book just had to be in the movie.

There will be enough time to reflect on the whole achievement of the movie after the credits roll. Time to reflect, unless the movie lacks the hooks to make it relevant to your experiences outside the movie theater. That movie is soon forgotten. Does that make the movie a bad movie? Only a second viewing will answer that question.

Two Steps Forward

When this is over this country is going to need more than bandaids. It’s going to need fucking surgery. Things need to change and not go back to normal. Ctrl-Z us back to how we were in 2016 is simply not going to cut it, and honestly it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess, that we need universal healthcare and that workers need benefits, the right to organize and wages that reflect how essential they really are.

John Oliver – Apr 12, 2020
HBOCoronavirus IV: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Apr 12, 2020

How Corporations Got Rights

 …the first Supreme Court case on the rights of business corporations was decided in 1809. To put that in some perspective, the first Supreme Court cases on the rights of African Americans and the rights of women weren’t decided until 1857 and 1873, respectively. So a half-century earlier, corporations were in the Supreme Court seeking the protections of the Constitution.

Bank of the United States v. Deveaux, it really set the foundation for 200 years of Supreme Court cases expanding rights to corporations. The case involved the Bank of the United States, the most powerful corporation in America at the time, and it claimed the constitutional right to sue in federal court, even though the Constitution’s text only provides that right to citizens.

Adam Winkler

In the segment of this episode of On The Media embedded below. Posted on Tumblr two years ago and shared to Facebook.

On the Media – How Corporations Got Rights – April 13, 2018

Lean On Me

Rock & Roll Hall of FameBill Withers, Stevie Wonder, John Legend perform “Lean On Me” at the 2015 Induction Ceremony – Apr 3, 2020

I had to go looking to remind myself who it was that had written that great song that I loved. Who was it that the coronavirus killed the other day? That guy? That guy who sang a song about being there when someone needed you? Wasn’t that the song? I had to not only remind myself that his name was Bill Withers, but I had to then recognize the chorus line so that I would know the song title.

Lean on Me. Yes. That song. That guy. Bill Withers. Him too, then? One more grandfather we let die because we can’t be bothered to spend some of our precious treasure to make sure that there are procedures and tests and quarantine measures and hospital beds and whatever else that we need to invest in so that we can stop disease from spreading unchecked through our cityscapes. How many more will we lose? Will it be worse than AIDS this time? Will it hurt more this time than it hurt when Freddie Mercury died and I had to listen to friends spit on him and call him faggot?

I wonder. I really do wonder. Hat/tip to Billboard for being there when I needed someone to remind me of the things I had forgotten. I was reminded of this today because John Prine died today. I can’t name a single one of his songs that I know and love, but I know his name anyway. Ellis Marsalis I can remember too, and I can’t say that I’m a jazz fan. How about Adam Schlesinger? If you watch TV you probably know his work.

(Billboard’s list of musicians who have died to the Coronavirus)

Get ready. Get ready, because there is going to be a lot more of this kind of sadness going around before this tragedy is over.

Facebook – Jimmy Buffett

Supernurse

Artwork by Dr. Brack Cannes

TwitterSpreadshirt.fr – COVID Nurse

Here is the improved and colorized version of the t-shirt in support to the medical bodies the recommended color when…

Posted by 𝑫𝑹 𝑩𝑹𝑨𝑪𝑲 𝑪𝑨𝑵𝑵𝑬𝑺 on Friday, April 10, 2020
Facebook – Dr. Brack Cannes

The artist modified his original artwork because the rights holders to the stylized “S” in a shield that everyone knows is the mark of Superman objected to the symbol being used in this piece of art. I think that demand says everything you need to know about corporate America.

No wonder the nurse is crying.

Contagion. Pandemic. Outbreak. Because, Why Not?

I was inspired to go on a journey of epidemiological exploration by this segment of On The Media part of the show that aired on March 13, 2020.

On the Media – Rewatching “Contagion” During The Pandemic

This was the second or third podcast that featured an interview with Laurie Garrett, one of the scientific advisors on the film Contagion. She was in a segment of On The Media from a previous week, as well as being the subject of the Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Infectious Disease Edition episode of On the Media back in 2014.

Then there was this episode of Planet Money: The Disease Detectives or this segment from Morning Edition. It was beginning to look like everyone was talking about this movie. I remembered watching it, or at least starting to watch it. But I couldn’t remember more than the first few minutes of the film.

Contagion (2010) (Cinemax link)

Wesley Morris, writing for the New York Times, calls it an explanatory drama in his article. I think of it more as a detective story that understands why we might turn on a movie about a fictional pandemic while we are caught up in a very real pandemic all around us. We want answers, and by the end of the film we have those answers. The closing scenes alone are very rewarding, making the sometimes dry delivery of the film worth the wait, if any of you who watch it find that you feel like you are waiting.

I know why I didn’t remember watching the movie to the end the first time. When they start trepanning open the first victims skull and folding back her scalp, I’m pretty sure I bailed on the film. I almost did that again the second time, even knowing what it was I signed up to watch. We will be getting the most out of that frew week of Cinemax that got us access to the movie for free that first night.

After watching Contagion, I surfed over to check out the Netflix documentary that I had heard someone else talk about.

Pandemic (2020) Netflix

I wasn’t clear on whether this series was a documentary series or not until I tuned in to watch it. The first episode makes this very clear. It’s a documentary. All the episodes inter-relate, but there are different segments in each episode about the different facets of the problem of dealing with a pandemic in different countries. You come away with a pretty clear view of the problems we face dealing with any kind of healthcare crisis in the world, much less one as broad and crippling as the current coronavirus pandemic.

From doctors to anti-vaxxers and back again, the series gives you a broad but shallow look at healthcare in the world today. Since we all have a lot of time on our hands these days, and are probably curious about why we have a lot of time on our hands, this series should help you understand why that is.

Neither venture delivers the punch of an epic disaster movie, though.

Outbreak (1995) Netflix

Outbreak is just the kind of disaster movie you are probably looking for, if those two offerings aren’t to your taste. From devastating viral death rates to government cover-ups to an edge-of-your-seat ending, this film is everything the others are not. Including it being completely unbelievable to anyone with a shred of understand of how infections spread successfully or how government programs work. But it is a good popcorn movie with a rewarding ending. You can’t ask for much more in these times of stress and worry.

An Empty Heart

I’ve known a simple fact about MMO programmers for awhile now. They don’t understand why people have more than one toon to play in the first place. In their eyes, you play your one character and you only play that one character. You are, after all, only one person. One player.

As if any of us is really only one thing all the time.

They may understand a player wanting to be self-sufficient in gameplay, but it is their goal to keep you from being self-sufficient. They want you to trade with other characters directly or buy off the auction house. If you are a regular raider you will end up relying on your guildmates to help you because you will have no choice. The programmers and developers want it to be this way; and really, MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online. There is no point in dealing with strangers in a game if you can do everything yourself. If you can generate the food, potions, gear, gems and enchants all on your own then there is no working economy in the MMO, and the game will eventually die from a lack of players.

Getting beyond the simple desire to provide what you need to play without having to spend precious gold to do it, there are other reasons to play alternate characters (alts) than wanting to be able to max out all your professions and flood the auction house with goods that other players will have to buy from you. Sometimes you just want to be someone else in the game. And that someone else has to be capable of playing at the level that your other character plays at in order to be of any use to your friends that you have to rely on.

…and that observation brings me to the subject of this post. In the last World of Warcraft expansion, Legion, they introduced a new type of gear that was permanently equipped. It was called an artifact, and in Legion the artifact item was your weapon. You got that weapon at the beginning of the expansion and carried it to the end of the expansion, upgrading it as you went along. The linear nature of the item and the requirement that it had to be uniquely upgraded for each character essentially kept players from leveling any alt characters that could rival their first/main toons in power and ability in-game, without spending the exact same amount of time working on each and every alt that you wanted to level.

When Blizzard introduced Battle for Azeroth (BfA) they destroyed the special powers of our artifact weapons, rendering them useless aside from the ability to transmogrify their unique appearances onto our new weapons (I especially like the blue and cinnamon bear models for druids) and they introduced the new artifact that we would be using for the entire BfA expansion, the Heart of Azeroth. That artifact has a similar leveling system to the one that was in the weapons in Legion, without all the unique appearances that made leveling up your artifact in Legion something that you enjoyed doing.

Since there is no player reward for leveling the artifact, there has been a lot of complaining about the limitations that the Heart of Azeroth and the azerite system imposes on players, and the additional work that goes into leveling each and every alt through the exact same grind that each player has done on their main toon.

I skipped most of Legion, so I didn’t spend a lot of time working on and gaining abilities with my artifact weapons before they took them away from us. I also didn’t notice that the azerite system in the Heart of Azeroth was really any different than the grinding that was required to level weapons in Legion. I do miss my alternate characters and I haven’t taken the time to level alts in any real shape or form since Mists of Pandaria ended. Since Warlords of Draenor bored me into playing different games for over a year.

So this is me, dusting off my keyboard for a little bit of reflection on the subject of artificial limitations and the programmers that think we can’t see them out there setting limits on us.

Back in the day, I wrote quite a few pieces on this subject. I wrote one on endgame materials scarcity in Wrath of the Lich King. In Cataclysm I mused on the quandary of Murglesnout and marveled at the amount of materials it took to make a single trinket for my inscriptionatrix. During those brief span of years I managed to get myself kicked off the forums multiple times by moderators intent on maintaining the illusion that the game was fun, fun, fun! all the time.

I last ventured onto the forum during the great #NoFlyNoBuy revolt, where I penned a piece titled Flight Has Always Been a Perk; An Example of Confirmation Bias. After the end of Warlords of Draenor, as Legion was being rolled out, I got fed up with the design philosophy of the developers at Blizzard and decided to take a year off of World of Warcraft.

When I came back to the game at the end of Legion, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t take the game seriously anymore. I deleted half my characters in order to prove to myself that I was serious about not taking the game seriously. If the developers at Blizzard decided not to put flight into the game, well, that was the game I was playing when I signed up. If they decided that you had to work three hours a day, every day, just to keep up in the game, well, that was the game I was playing. Admittedly, I don’t spend more than my subscription fee to stay in the game anymore, so my gifts to Blizzard for their content has dropped off a bit since I first subscribed back at the end of Burning Crusade.

This is me, trying not to take the fun things in life seriously. But still, I think it bears mentioning that I would have a lot more fun in the game if I just could play my alts at the same level that my main toon can play without having to spend months of additional work building their artifacts up to the level that my main is at.

This week Blizzard introduced what they are calling the Echoes of Ny’alotha system into Battle for Azeroth, making it possible for players to purchase the essences they have earned on their mains for the (empty) Heart of Azeroth on their alts. The most common response to players who rebel at being asked to spend even more time in-game grinding on content is,

What? Do you want free gear then?

Now that you mention it, yes. Free gear would be nice. I really don’t see why we are required to re-level alt gear through several layers of endgame content just to be able to play with our friends. But wanting free gear is beside the point here. Essences for the Heart of Azeroth artifact are not gear. The Heart of Azeroth does take up a gear slot on your character (your necklace) but it is not gear in the normal sense of gameplay anymore than the Legion weapons were gear in the normal sense. Most of us have been working on leveling the Heart of Azeroth for two years. It isn’t something you can just replace with a better piece of gear when it happens to drop in dungeons or raids or quests.

Essences serve the same purpose that relics served in Legion weapons. Unlike Legion relics, essences are assembled through specific actions by the player and are a permanent part of the Heart of Azeroth. In other words, essences are not gear that drops and you can equip or replace them as you desire. They are more like talents that you can select after you have enabled them. For as long as World of Warcraft is called Battle for Azeroth, the essences will be part of your Heart of Azeroth.

Essences are the key to being able to do your job in a raid setting, and some of us want to raid on more than one toon. Asking people to work through content they have already done, on toons they no longer want to play, to get essences they’ve already earned once, is insulting. Blizzard should just make the damn things account wide. The way they should have been treated from the beginning of BfA.

If there is one reason I don’t play alts in BfA, this is it. This was true for Legion as I mentioned previously. I can’t just get on an alt and play when I want to play an alt. I have to grind through lower level content, or even more of the same content I’m already playing, in order to play the alt and do the other thing I wanted to do with it if that other thing requires that I be competitive.

Blizzard insists that their new currency system allows essences to be account-wide. There still aren’t account-wide essences if I have to buy them after working to get them on one toon. I can’t believe that real people are applauding this new currency system. If I have a 120 toon, all the essences I’ve earned on other toons should be available to that toon. Like pets are, like toys are, like mounts are and, oh yeah, like heirloom gear is! those things really are account-wide. Why should I have to work to gain the things again at all? I’ve already done it once.

I have other games I’d rather be playing, will be playing. I don’t need to be given more work to do in game in order to be able to play the parts of the game I want to play. If I’m starting over, then I have other games I am neglecting that I probably should start instead.

What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law

For any #MAGA out there. You know who you are.

Trumpconlaw is another podcast hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame. When the show first started, I started tweeting out my own version of promos for each episode. The series of them can be found under the tag TrumpConLaw on this blog. This post should appear as the header for that series of tweets. As a consequence of this, it will move forward in time as new episodes are released. Here is the introductory episode of the series.

StitcherIntro to What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – 06.07.17

Twitter

So we’re going to learn the constitution together. Because of Trump. Because I need something to hold onto, and the constitution is the liferaft that our forefathers gave us. And dammit, I’m going to learn how it works.

Roman Mars

On a tangential track (or set of tracks) I am slowly working my way through the 99% Invisible archive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it all the way through, but hope springs eternal. 99% Invisible is undoubtedly one of the best designed websites in existence. All Roman Mars podcasts and the podcasts that are presented through his distribution group, Radiotopia, are among the few podcasts out there that are easily shareable; easily shareable because the link to the hosting website is actually referenced in the feed address for the podcast you are listening to. I remain baffled as to why more podcasts do not design their feeds to be easily accessible in this way. In any case, give some of these podcasts a listen. It will take your mind off of the impending doom looming over the US today.


TED2015 Roman Mars Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

09/22/19. I added the link to the introduction episode, the inspirational tweet, and Roman’s quote from that episode. 04/13/20. Moved to March 19th subsequent to the last episode at the time.

Fallibility

At first I did blame him. You should say there is no loyalty if someone commits crime, but if someone didn’t, then you should not lie about people. Then one day I was so angry when they told me that a detainee lied about me. When I was tortured, I did not blame them anymore, because I was saying, “Wow. This is one way for Allah to show me that I am a weak person too.”

Mohamedou Slahi

Not weakness. Fallibility. Choosing life over death isn’t a weakness. He lied to save himself. He’s human.

Radiolab – The Other Latif: Episode 4 – February 25, 2020

This is episode four in a series from WNYC and Radiolab. Like most of my long-term listening podcasts, I’ve listened to every episode, even some that aren’t on the current podcast list. Since they don’t link the other episodes in the series, I will link them here.

If the only other person that had my name that I could find on Google had been a detainee at Guantanamo, I would have wanted to understand that RAnthony the way that Latif wants to understand this guy. There is a American football player who uses RAnthony the way I do. I wondered who that guy was who was more popular than me.

In the first four episodes we discover just how little evidence existed for why we took him prisoner in the first place. In episode five we go into the Upside Down (is it a movie reference instead of a Stranger Things reference? I wonder) and discover the other side of Abdul Latif Nassir. What did we do to him? What have we done to him in the eighteen years we have kept him locked up. Locked up without trial. Without charges. Without a justifiable reason other than that we wanted to hide away what we had done to him, and to the other detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

There will be an episode six as well.

Working in Pajamas

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

Stonekettle