Author Archives: ahfeminella

In Defense of Video Games

So since I started my short series of posts with a defense, I think I’ll close with one.

As I was doing my daily news speed reading, because seriously if I didn’t skim, I’d never make it off the Starbucks stool, I came across some new developments in the Norway massacre trial. Apparently the murdering psychopath, I mean alleged murdering psychopath, has said that he played Modern Warfare 2 as a way to practice his shooting technique. As you can probably imagine, this will most likely open a can of worms where extremists will argue the malicious intent of violent video games, and the gamers will have to get off the couch long enough to roll their eyes at the ridiculousness of this argument. Perhaps gamers might take to the internet as means of a counter-strike, but ultimately they will shortly find it safe enough to return to their game and extend their kill streak.

In short, absent a new rating system for those violent, violent video games, the world will remain unchanged even in the face of this disturbing development. So, let’s go ahead and nip this in the bud. Shall we?

Now, let me be clear: I am not a gamer. In fact, I have the coordination of a bat without sonar capability. That being said, I have had a year of video game glory. It involved Mario-Kart, the Nintendo 64, and a banana peel: I was invincible, perhaps even an assassin. I’ve also had some prideful moments on Golden Eye, and I’m not talking about the one for Super Nintendo. The point is while I’ve had some experience, I’ve had nothing that could compare to the craziness of Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and Modern-Gears of Duty-Portal-Bio-Battlefield of Destruction-Half-Warfare whatever.

With all of this in mind, I might just be a neutral party, and as such I’m going to propose my opinion. It is as follows:

Using Modern Warfare 2 as shooting practice? Really? How does that qualify as shooting practice? You don’t actually get a gun, you get a controller. So, at most, playing a lot of Modern Warfare 2, might make you very good at pushing a button, which could be dangerous. However, let’s give credit where credit’s due. If the definition of a violent video game is the ability for it to be used as a means of shooting practice, well then the most violent video game mankind has ever been exposed to would be Duck Hunt. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, you actually get a gun in Duck Hunt, a brightly colored gun whose only purpose was to bring those damn, cocky ducks down.

Logically speaking, if Duck Hunt is supposed to train you to be a crack-shot with a gun, I’ve put in enough hours to be a sniper. Unfortunately for me, I cannot in good faith add sniper to my list of resume skills. My aim is terrible. I couldn’t hit the broad side of a building if my life depended on it, granted that confession probably means that no one will stand with me in case of zombie apocalypse, but I digress. Duck Hunt has not improved my shot. My gun sensor may have been off, or I may have been that bad, but in either case, the ducks knew to rest easy when I was behind the trigger.

Now, some dissenters may say that Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t need a gun to help people kill people. They might argue that the game improves the reflexes needed to kill mass amounts of people, and that alone is enough to crucify the simulation. However, I would have to respond that any game could improve reflexes, let’s not limit it to just the violent ones. Rock Band improves dexterity and reaction time, maybe not enough to play an actual instrument or anything, but still. How about improving reflexes for the whole body? I’m looking at you Dance, Dance Revolution. Maybe it’s so dangerous that it has the ability to train a young army for a real revolution (not a positive one of course, it is a video game after all).

All of this sounds ridiculous, because it is. Video games don’t make crazies, crazies make crazies. Maybe we are a little desensitized (graphic wars, graphic language, Tosh.O in general), but let me point out that my Texan grandmother can snap a chicken’s neck with a fair amount of brutal efficiency. I’m still not desensitized enough to do that. However, if I keep playing video games, maybe there’s still time for me to get there.

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Cate the Great

When one of your life-long friends dies, it’s hard to know how to digest it.

I feel that I’m handling it considerably better than I did on Friday, but today, I’m left thinking where I go next.

Maybe I’m deep in limbo in the stages of grief. Acceptance can’t come this soon, but I’m mentally spent on being upset. I don’t advise anyone trying it. It’s exhausting.

So, once again, I’m going to use this blog for my own selfish reasons. I going to write about her, because I haven’t been able to. To be clear, when I say her, I mean Cate, not Cate’s death. The details of her death are not important, they are not a reflection of her, they are not who she was.

Cate was… the coolest person I knew. She was only a few months older than me, but she was light-years ahead.

I don’t know when I first met Cate, but I do know why. Our fathers were best friends. They got their PhD’s together, and every year we would visit Cate and her family on our way to visit relatives in New York. Cate was always impossibly sweet and kind, but there was something about her that was very grown-up and infectious. Even when I was small, I realized that she knew more, did more, and was more worldly than I would ever be. I hung on her every word, and throughout childhood, we built a friendship on companionship and advice.

When I was six, Cate decided that I would look better without bangs. I happily agreed (Look at the picture above. It’s obvious that we made the right decision). Normally, I would have asked my mother for a haircut, but luckily for me, Cate had a pair of scissors. She cut and cut, until my bangs did not exist. She practically cut them at the root. Now gentlemen, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but if you don’t want to have bangs anymore, that’s not the most ideal way to go about it. The best part of the story is that my father, in all of his male thickness, did not notice my bizarre new look. However, when I saw my mother, she was… less understanding. She immediately demanded to know who had scalped me, and I quickly insisted that I had done it to myself. Unfortunately, I was about as transparent and sturdy as saran-a-wrap at the time, so my mother knew it was Cate. As a result, she instituted a rule that I was never allowed to let my friends cut my hair. Much to her displeasure, it is a rule I seldom follow.

The great thing about this story was that even years later, Cate still swore that my haircut looked great. There are no pictures to back up her claim, but Cate was never one to back down.

Besides my mother, Cate was the first person I let cut my hair. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Cate was a lot of my firsts. Cate made me ride my first roller coaster. I was terrified, but she insisted. Together, we rode up front, and I can still remember crushing her hand as I looked over the rail. Cate was the first person to tell me about the entrepreneurial benefits of collecting Beanie Babies. She had a collector’s book and at least a hundred of the carefully-chosen stuffed toys. I remember being so envious of her. She was so smart, and as she meticulously explained the importance of tag protectors, I remember thinking how I wanted to be like her, to have everything so figured out. Cate was the first person to tell me what boys and girls did behind closed doors. She told me all the gory details, all the mechanics behind something I had never thought of before. I didn’t believe her; I should have. Cate was the first person to be honest with me about anything I wanted to know, even herself.

When Cate was a teenager, she stole chapstick on purpose from a Walmart. I was too chicken. When Cate started smoking cigarettes, she surprisingly told me to stay chicken. “It’s not you, and I like that” she said. Cate made her life an open book for me, a road map advising me on every direction, every milestone, because Cate always got there first. She never judged my naive questions, and I looked to her for a long time.

She was my friend. Now she’s dead, and since Friday, I’ve given some thought to what that means. She will never call me again. I will never get a call about an engagement, a wedding, a baby, a dream job. She will never get to do any of those things. While this thought deeply upsets me, what I can’t wrap my mind around is the fact that, in all likelihood, I will be the first to do those things.

And at this point, I’m chicken.

I can’t be the first. Where is my road map? Who will unabashedly tell me the truth about things that are outside my understanding? Who will force my bubble, make me experience things I never would have otherwise? Without her, there would be no roller coasters.

Today I feel stunted and cheated in the white space that used to be my road map. I’ve been told that eventually I’ll feel better about this; that writing about her will make me feel better. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s worse. I wrote this entry earlier today and lost my internet connection when I hit ‘publish.’ When the page refreshed, everything was gone. I think I stared at the blank screen for twenty minutes. I got angry, I collected myself, and I started typing everything over. It’s worse the second time, it’s worse today.

But today I’m going to the Botanical Gardens in a dress Cate would have worn, and I’m going to sit on a bench and pretend that I can see the Beanie Babies that Cate swore escaped at night. She said that at night, her valued toys would take off their tag protectors and roam free in her backyard. I like to think that’s what happened.

So today, I’ll sit and remember what I loved most about Cate:

She was unbridled and adventurous.

She loved animals and, on an unrelated note, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

She would give anything to anyone who asked.

Her parents loved her more than any parent has ever loved their only child.

And I’m going to have to stop here. Sorry Cate the Great, you were a lot stronger than me, and you would know how to end a blog post about you.

I don’t

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Thank you so much!

Perhaps this is not post-worthy, but it has recently been brought to my attention that I’m entirely too polite. Yes, you heard right, apparently there’s a limit to how many thank-you’s is socially appropriate.

My older brother visited earlier this week, and I, being an accommodating host, took him out for a night on the town. We went to a few different places downtown, and at the end of our evening, my brother graciously pointed out that I had a problem with politeness. Our conversation went a little something like this:

“Andrea, quit being so polite.”

“I’m sorry- what?”

“Seriously, you’ve said ‘thank you so much’ to our server five times in the last hour.”

“And that’s bad because… ”

“It’s weird. You’re weirding people out, and it’s distracting. And fake. You can’t be that grateful our server bought us our food. That’s her job, Andrea.”

I have to say that I was a little caught off guard with my brother’s gripe. We were both raised in the South, where politeness is supposed to be a valued trait. Maybe the value only goes so far. Should please and thank you be used sparingly, and does their value depreciate the more times you use them?

Perhaps my excessive politeness is a product of my PTSID (Post Traumatic Service Industry Disorder). Over time, I believe I have come to model my behavior from the customers I have appreciated the most. I can always tell if I have a customer that at one point in time was service industry. They are polite, maybe too polite. The “thank you so much” ‘s come as easily as the “whenever you get a second” ‘s. As service industry, I feel that we add the politeness, because we understand that one of our brothers and sisters in arms may be struggling during the course of their shift. We value any amount of good service, because a lot of times, the world does not. Sure, it may be part of the job description, but how can appreciation of one’s actions be unappreciated?

It has always been my understanding that you can catch more flies with honey, but now I worry that my brother is right, and it is possible to throw out so much honey, you drown the flies.

For more insight into this disturbing scenario, look to the Politeness Theory (yes, it does exist, ask Wikipedia). It basically breaks down the interaction of politeness into four basic strategies. I won’t go into them, for fear of furthering my cynicism, but it literally blows my mind that politeness can be turned into something that is not polite. I believe the University of Oregon sums it up best at the beginning of their own entry on the Politeness Theory:

“In everyday conversation, there are ways to go about getting the things we want.”

Maybe I should have had this epiphany earlier. It’s kind of obvious now. At face value Southern politeness is revered, but what is Southern politeness exactly? I like to think about it like this: sure I’m smiling, but that smile is probably as fake as the Sweet-n-Low in my tea.

…….That sounds awful. Like I’m a worse person for having written it. There’s something about this whole sentiment that feels intrinsically diametric to my soul. Can’t we just be nice? Can’t we just be polite and respectful for the sake of being polite and respectful? And what about if I actually want to express my appreciation for someone, will I always run the risk of seeming disingenuous?

This has happened recently where I sent an email thanking a person for going above and beyond to help me. To give you a little background, this person is in a position where my emails would normally be considered spam, or something lower than spam. Yet, this person took time to answer my questions and even scheduled a meeting with me. Now, these actions may be considered small potatoes to this person, but to me it was everything. So I sent this person an email, thanking them profusely for their graciousness and help. Immediately, I got a reply email from this person saying that I had given them “entirely too much credit.” The comment may have been a humbling response, but now I wonder if I once again drowned the flies.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is that I don’t know if I should tone down my politeness, but honestly, I don’t think I will. In fact, I might say it more often. If I mean every one of my “thank you”‘s, why should I limit my gratitude to fit in with a world full of opportunists? Just because you might not hear appreciation often enough, doesn’t make a “thanks” fake, or weird, or off-putting. Hopefully everyone who hears me say “thank you so much” knows that I mean it. I would never be able to get anything done or go anywhere without the help of someone else. I like to think my Mom raised me right, so thanks guys!

And to my astute older brother, hopefully you don’t get a call from Mom when she reads this post. You probably won’t be thanking me for that one.

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Institutional Man

I think that there is a reason that I joined the class blog. When you start a blog, the first question you must answer is what do you want your blog to be about. Food? TV? Music? Hobbies? News Events? Your ridiculous elderly neighbor who has a collection of lawn gnomes and dispenses advice that sounds strikingly similar to a lot of 80’s song lyrics? Now while I could wax poetic about how love is in fact a battlefield, I just don’t think I could do it consistently enough. One or two entries sure, but as a central theme? Maybe I’m not passionate enough about anything or I don’t have the attention span or I’m simply creatively spent as a writer (which if that’s the case, they need to create a more serious sad-face emoticon I can put in here). But in all honesty the why doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that from here on out I’m just going to use this themeless class blog as in outlet for my unfocused brain.

So get ready for a post that has nothing to do with the class material!

I had dinner with a friend of mine recently, and though I hadn’t seen him in years, his attitude was strikingly similar to what I remembered.

He was the bartender at the bar I used to work at and had been bartending for close to a decade. As his thirtieth birthday neared, he had what I call a “service industry crisis.” He saw into his future as a 60 year-old bartender and did a mental freak out. So he quit his job and got what all people in the service industry dream of.

A 9 to 5.

A job with set hours, set salary,…. benefits. I think I’m salivating over it right now as I type. The dream that needs no field or passion or description, simply security.

To this day, three years later, I don’t know what he does. All I know is that he has to wear a suit and he hates everything about his job.

Our dinner consisted of us reminiscing about the old days of slinging drinks and going home at 6AM.

“The good old days,” he called it. I was shocked. All this time he spent getting out of an industry he couldn’t stand, and all he could talk about was how much he missed it. How he wishes he could go back. How things were “simpler,” “easier.” How he wants to be good at something again, like he was back then.

Honestly I don’t blame him. He had gone from the ultimate position of power in downtown Athens to a clog in a corporate machine that I couldn’t even identify. But still, was my friend experiencing second thoughts about his job, or had he actually wanted to return to the bar where he was so unhappy for so long?

The answer, I think, is that my friend had become an institutional man.

An institutional man is a phrase that the Shawshank Redemption made famous. According to the awesome Morgan Freeman, an institutional man was one that had been in prison for so long that eventually he became convinced that he couldn’t exist outside of the prison walls. He was institutionalized. Now if we completely ignore the fact that Morgan Freeman is obviously always right, we can still observe this phenomenon at work. I am 25, I have been a waitress since I was 14, and there are times when I wonder if I can make it on the outside. Even if I get that 9 to 5, I feel that I would be a fraud. Like I’d be wearing a mask, waiting for the time when my employer figures out that who he has actually hired is only a waitress pretending to be corporate employee.

The thoughts are absurd of course, but the self doubt will always be there. I’m institutionalized. And if you think that idea is crazy, hopefully you’re not one of the members of my class whose only job experience comes from the inside of a classroom. Without theoretical framework and AP/APA/MLA style, can you make it on the outside? Practical jobs, for the most part, are not built on the ability to churn out academic papers and presentations. However, after so many consecutive years of schooling, can the average student transition to the real world? Or will we all find ourselves yearning for days of stressing over papers and classes and projects?

In ending this post, I refer to the great and powerful Morgan Freeman, who is obviously always right:

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In Defense of Amateurs… and Youtube

 

At first, I was unsure of what my first blog post would be about. Perhaps something about Google’s controversial new privacy settings, or the EU’s venture into solving its own volatile economy, or maybe Taco Bell’s laughable yet well researched breakfast menu experiment.

All good candidates.

However, after listening to the required Gregory Mantell You tube video, I would like to personally thank Andrew Keen for inspiring what is hopefully not “adolescents farting on video and finding that amusing.”

Seriously? Drawing attention to the dredge of You Tube society is how you open a dialogue of amateurs vs. professionals? Hopefully the upper crust knows that You tube is more than a 30 minute Tosh.O segment, but if not, allow me to share some of the ways I use You Tube:

  • For music videos/ concert footage
  • For firsthand civilian accounts during crises, like the earthquake in Haiti and the London riots
  • For instructional videos. Ex: the Yoga I can’t afford, the statistics explanations I wouldn’t passed without, the new Gmail icons I don’t understand, plus everything to do with Photoshop, oh and Spanish pronunciations (you don’t want to know how I’d do in Mexico. Hint: not well)

Now, perhaps the reason You Tube is targeted as an example of the “kids” being in charge is that’s it’s easy to do. You Tube is free and without gatekeepers, so everything that Andrew Keen is saying is true, but I hate to think that this medium is “the convicts running the asylum” (Insert eye roll here). Accepting that extreme metaphor means that you degrade any content that comes from You Tube as being less or not as good for human society simply because it comes from You Tube.

If you want to run with that logic, than you can also say that the Gutenberg Printing Press is another example of the “convicts running the asylum.” The Gutenberg Printing Press revolutionized printing so that it wasn’t as expensive to print and more people could afford books. Some of the publishing “gatekeepers” were eliminated, and as a result, books changed. Books were no longer a privilege just for the rich, and more types of books could be published. Books could be about leisure or politics or any other topic publishers thought people would buy. People could write responses to books, and so books began to start a dialogue more representative of society than they were before.

Think of books today. Anyone can write. I’m writing right now. I have the technology where, if I choose to, I can write a book. I can then take this book to a publisher, or I can post it online, or I make it available for free download for Kindles or other E-readers. Now my book may not be Shakespeare, but I have a way to write down my thoughts and feelings and then make it available for others to read, if they chose to. According to Keen, this is bad because without gatekeepers there is “anarchy.” Now, I’ll admit that without gatekeepers, there are more books for me to wade through. Some of them are trashy, simple, or not to my liking. There are enough cliched mystery novels to fill up a million Law and Order episodes, but they still don’t detract from the awesomeness of Agatha Christie. Want someone newer? How about Steig Larsson, a reporter; Margaret Edson, a kindergarten teacher; Suzanne Collins, a television writer; or JK Rowling, an English teacher? These famous authors may not have gotten their works published if there had been a few more Keen’s “gatekeepers.”

I understand that there is a difference between some gatekeepers and none, but people like Keen must see the positive in what You tube has to bring. All of the aforementioned professional authors were amateurs in their first works, and for the most part, their first works were pretty spectacular. You tube has value in wading through the trash, regardless of who posts it.

And Andrew Keen? Sir, I consider myself media literate, and honestly the weight of the information I consume depresses me to no end. So when I find myself disgusted with the world and everyone in it, I watch something like this:

It’s a crow sledding for fun, and it’s life affirming. If a crow can enjoy life in Russia, surely the world’s OK after all.

Thanks You tube! Obviously Andrew Keen has not seen the crow sledding, otherwise he would find the function in amateurs too.

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