What’s up with the new Ghostbusters?

The New Ghostbusters crew
* not to be confused with The New Ghostbusters.

So there’s a shot of the new Ghostbusters* over on Polygon and there’s a lot of backlash that I’m going to classify under three categories:

  1. Don’t mess with my nostalgia!
  2. Stop being a social justice warrior by having them all be women!
  3. Why is there another fucking reboot?

I’m a self-proclaimed SJW, and I wear that badge proudly. I’m a firm believer in that things aren’t better because that’s the way they have been traditionally, and exposing the fallacy of that argument is important. Women are half (or slightly over half) of the world’s population, and they’re still often considered second rate to men. I like that Hollywood is doing its part in giving us female leads that aren’t just damsels in distress or love interests.

I like that Melissa McCarthy isn’t in movies to be made fun of. She’s there doing funny things, but it’s never cheap shots at her weight. I like that Fantastic Four — sorry, I mean Fant4stic — is bringing in an African-American to play Johnny Storm. Using a larger cross-section of America in your movies is a great thing, and I’m really excited that there’s a movie about transsexual hookers coming out today that doesn’t need to explain itself. It just drops you in on the action, shows us people with an interesting story and let us fill in the blanks as we see fit.

The Ghostbusters was a great story, and the brand has a history of diversity across different mediums. I mean, shit, how many shows can you name that featured a cast which had a person of color, a woman, and someone in a wheelchair?

Leading characters from Extreme Ghostbusters
I can name only one show… Extreme Ghostbusters.

I think that’s my major problem with all these reboots. We can’t just go back and remake movies every 20-30 years because technology is better and we can slap better special effects on them — just ask George Lucas — and we shouldn’t reboot franchises to cash grab because they’re known entities to retell the story because we think we have a better angle on it.

Total Recall and Robocop are perfect examples of what makes me weary of Ghostbusters. They were remade with better graphics, but they cut out all of the things that made the originals special. Let’s hold the hand of the audience and tell them what to think instead of leaving the ending open for interpretation. Let’s take all the dark sarcasm about voyeurism in society and instead turn it into a mockery of opinionated talk shows…

If you’re adamant about showing us a new vision of a story, why do you cling to so many of the design cues of the original? We don’t need a casting director to go out and find four people to fit the mold of the guys in the 80’s movie.

“Okay, here’s the ‘normal’ one, the tall black one, the chubby one, and the quirky science nerd. We’re ready to start principal filming!”

At least if these were kids of the original characters, it’d make some sense why they look the way they do. I can see how some people are saying that it feels like a “checkbox, politically correct reboot.” I also think that’s the easy way out, but I can see why they’d reach that conclusion.

I know I shouldn’t judge it before I see it, but I’m suffering from a major movie meltdown that’s been building up. I’m fucking burnt out on all the reboots, origin story movies, and the lowest common denominator action flicks. I want to see something new. I want stories that are interesting.

Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters (2016)
Why are the new Ghostbusters using a car that looks just like the original one if it wants to be its own movie?

Maybe Ghostbusters will be charming and pique my interest, but I doubt it. Nearly every re-envisioning I’ve seen of a movie I liked has let me down. I don’t need cheap ploys, like nods to the original, or better effects on the proton beams to draw me in.

I predominantly watch documentaries now, and yes there are junkers out there. At least they’re telling unique stories, not some rewritten movie that occupies the same exact space, mere decades later.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t “hate” my birthday.

To claim that I despise my birthday is a misnomer; I’m actually quite grateful that my parents had sex, that zygote me was formed and gestated nearly successfully, and that Dr. Jacobs was able to facilitate an emergency c-section at Albany Med to get me out of Ma, and give my heart its first few pumps when my body didn’t get the fucking hint.

I appreciate all of the complications. I understand how fragile life is, even under great conditions. I grasp how the day I tepidly exited the womb was the day that led to fostering relationships with me later on in their lives, and how they’d want to celebrate that. I get it. What I continually fail to grasp is the annual, uncomfortable discussion, about how it’s my birthday, and I can do whatever I want to — so long as the plans coincide with theirs.

“Sooooooo, I’m coming over and we’re spending the night together?”

The body language and tone of voice says that I’m being coy and they’re in on it. They know exactly what I really want. I’m sure the intentions are pure, and I can see how they would supplant my desires with their vision of a perfect birthday. There’s just never any semblance of acceptance that I’m the exact opposite of that. My perfect birthday is a day like any other, without any hullabaloo.

“But we had fun last year!” You’re right, we played a ton of Mario Kart and it was a good time once I got through my unease about it being my birthday. I’m already bad enough at fulfilling your wishes on your special days. I’d like to not have to stress out about another day that’s supposedly mine to begin with.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve gone through an awkward surprise party when every instinct was to run away from it. I’ve done small gatherings, and I’ve made big parties to try them out to see if I had weird hiccups about my family being 1,300 miles away. I’ve done decent-sized dinners at fancy restaurants, and I’ve even (very poorly) tolerated smoke detectors going off when I didn’t want people in the house.

Being alone isn’t a punishment, and asking to be left alone isn’t an affront to our relationship. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate you, or that I don’t love the fact that you care about me.

The way we interact all year long gives me that feeling of love and companionship. I don’t need a culmination of it on one specific day because I was born on it 32 years ago. What I’m comfortable with is just going through the day like the rest of them. If you want to tack on a “Happy birthday, I love you,” with a text about some random thing we’d talk about anyway, go for it.

I’d welcome that above anything else. At some point I’ll have kids and their birthday will have a more special meaning to me than anything else I’ve experienced. Then you can shift excitement onto their days and continue to leave me alone on mine. 🙂

Pokémon Shuffle is annoying.

When Pokémon Shuffle was announced I was interested because I love matching  games like Bejeweled, but I had reserved expectations because it was a freemium game. Freemium games were introduced on mobile platforms, where the game is released for free, but there are restrictions to game play that can be bypassed in two ways:

  1. Waiting through a “cooldown” period between actions, or
  2. Purchasing “boosts” that exchange real-world currency for additional play time. (Boosts can also make the game easier, by giving you upgraded stats for short period of time.)

In Shuffle, the trick is you get five hearts to play five stages every two and a half hours. You can also trade in jewels (which are awards after certain key battles, every 100 Streetpasses of other Shuffle players, or purchased through the e-shop) to get more hearts. Additionally, the jewels have the option of becoming coins for power-ups before stages begin, or exchanged for five more moves at the end of a round.

The problem with this type of game is that there is a significant amount of frustration from artificial difficulty. The game is developed to push you into making purchases to facilitate additional play, so you’ll often find yourself in a position where there are no skill-based moves to advance, and you’re doomed to hope for the best.

Case in point, the Mega-Glalie battle:

Here, the enemy boss uses two different disruptions — attacks that hinder your Pokémon from being used effectively — to utterly stifle gameplay. It’s a prime example of what drives me crazy about this game.

Very infrequently, you’ll get a nice level where there are consistent patterns to help you out. On Flareon’s fight, you’re able to do two moves to clear all of the disruptions from the stage and open up normal play:

I wish there was more of this “learn and clear” mechanic in the game.

Doing a level ten to fifteen times to defeat and capture a Pokémon isn’t terrible, because I’m used to the grind of seeking a specific Pokémon in the regular games. I enjoy that aspect, and wouldn’t change it.

Infuriating stage without patterns to help you win.
Infuriating stage without patterns to help you win.

I’m just getting frustrated by the stages without patterns, the obstructive disruptions, and blatantly poor suggested moves (that you cannot turn off), which are implemented to hold you back and coerce you into paying.

An example of a poor move, suggested by Pokemon Shuffle
This is not the best move on the board, but it’s the one the game wanted me to make.

I understand game developers are trying to find a way to further monetize their games, like getting you to double-dip on each title, a la DLC, but freemium is a broken paradigm. There’s just enough of an illusion of success that convinces you that patience is a viable strategy. You think that you can play the game just as well as the people spending money, but being stubborn and thinking you’ll outwit the developers pigeonholes your experience. If I wasn’t in a lull between major releases that I’m looking forward to, I’d be very done with this game.

I guess I’m part of the problem, because I’ll just keep playing ten minutes every few hours until something better comes along. To be fair, I’ll probably wind up with about twenty hours of gameplay in this free game. I expect about an hour per dollar I spend on a title, so this is more than I could have hoped for.

PS: I just wanted to point out a rant I published over on Medium two years ago. It’s my complaints about Transformers Legends, a game I was playing on my phone at the time. The issues line up so well with those I have with Pokémon Shuffle.

Apparently it’s difficult being a baseball fan and an atheist.

I had another horrible encounter with someone that couldn’t just let me sit through God Bless America at the ballgame tonight. I remarked earlier in the year about my increasing disdain for GBA, and as a person that goes to 45+ live baseball games a year, I knew I was going to have my hands full this summer. Since the encounter I vented about in 2012, I’ve begrudgingly stood (without removing my cap) in an attempt to alleviate those types of interactions.

In short-season A ball, there’s 38 games a season (barring playoffs), so we get our fair share of poor renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner. The performer tonight was especially lousy — he was off-key, and dragged out every syllable of every word — and he came out during the seventh inning stretch to do GBA. For some reason, the ValleyCats have been playing the song multiple times during each homestand this year.

I’ve been taking bathroom breaks during the song this summer, but I didn’t need to go tonight. I figured he was going to be horrendous as a singer, and it’s a song I already dislike, so I’d be extra miserable through it. Thankfully, Punk was with me, and when I noticed she wasn’t getting up for it, I latched on to her inactivity (which I’d now label as courage) and stayed firmly lodged in my seat. The dude lived up to my expectations, singing the long version of GBA and taking his sweet fucking time with it. I sat the entire duration, catching up on my Wordfeud matches.

If I was someone that believed in karma, I’d say that I earned a free pass for standing so many times over the last two years, but since there isn’t karma I didn’t catch a break. During the final refrain, the comments started up from behind me, and for the next two innings we were berated:

“Wow, how rude! Sitting through that!”

“Some people are just so disrespectful, I can’t believe it!”

“What ignorance!”

“I worry about the world as this generation of self-centered assholes takes over.”

“People like that hate the country!”

“You just can’t fix stupid!”

That’s when I made the mocking mouth movement gesticulation, and yelled out, “Yap, yap, yap! Shut up and let us enjoy the game!”

“I bet they sit through the anthem too!”

That was the final straw. The exact problem I pointed out back in April was spit out to me in person. These fucking morons equate GBA to the anthem and it drives me mad. I spun around to make eye-contact and retorted, “no, because that song actually stands for something!”

“Whelp, ya just can’t fix stupid!”

At this point, my sister was getting pissed, and as the dumb broad went back to the “so rude and disrespectful” comment, she spun around and asked how it’s rude that we don’t believe in god and don’t want to stand up for the song.

“It has nothing to do with that! It’s for the troops!”

Excuse me? The song says it’s a prayer, so presumably the person being goaded into standing beside and guiding America is god, right? Maybe I’m missing something? Regardless, we again attempted to focus on the game and move on.

“They deserve each other. What a pair.”

“They should drop dead!”

“You’re a real piece of shit!”

“What a bullshit attitude!”

“Get out of the fucking country if you hate it so much!”

With increasing fervor, I requested that she leave us alone. She didn’t, so we went to the ushers for help. They didn’t do a fucking thing. I’ve had season tickets for four years, and before that my father and I had partial season-tickets. It amounted to absolutely no support, even though they espouse a “no tolerance policy” for profane, sexist, racist, or otherwise abusive remarks.

Guess that doesn’t cover scumbag atheists, huh? Good to know where we stand. This happened around 9:00 pm, I sent an email to the fan relations person at the ValleyCats around 12:30 am, and I’m typing this at 4:00 am. I’m still perturbed by the experience, so I’m going to try and close with a few funny observations.

  1. She kept calling us rude and disrespectful. I guess harassing the living shit out of two other people isn’t rude?
  2. She repeated the, “You can’t fix stupid” line at least fifteen times. Apparently we’re incredibly stupid and beyond repair, but she can’t formulate more than one phrase to keep repeating.
  3. Sitting through GBA is offensive. (How offensive is it?) So offensive that the only suitable punishments are dropping dead or leaving the country.
    1. Whether she likes it or not, the troops are fighting for me and my sister too. It’s the first fucking amendment to the Constitution. Amazing how dudes in the 1700s knew this was going to be a problem and wanted to protect us from it, isn’t it?
  4. My sister and I have matured greatly over the last two years. The remarkable level of restraint we exhibited would have been unprecedented to our younger selves.
  5. I’m leery of another altercation tomorrow. We both have season tickets, so I’m fully expecting a remark shortly before, during, or after the anthem about me rising for that.
  6. The season’s almost over. This asshole has been riding the umpires about every single call she didn’t agree with all season long. We’ve drowned her out with cheering, and never confronted her about how obnoxious she is. With two regular season games left, it finally boiled over. Awesome.

The real tragedy in all of this is that I want to avoid her now. In her mind, that’s saying she’s right and I’m hiding like a dog that just ate cat shit and spilled litter all over the floor.  I was already experiencing consternation regarding the renewal my season tickets before this, and the way I was treated tonight is really pushing me over the edge on skipping out on them next year.

I’ve tried to have a “live and let be” mindset, where you do your thing, and I’ll do mine. People like this make it really fucking hard to not engage with that militant atheist urge.

Fucking hell, man. Seriously. Fucking hell.

Happy (almost) Independence Day!

While it’s nicely said in this whimsical cartoon, I much prefer the somber, stern tone the Newsroom took with the statistics.

So well done, wasn’t it? As eluded to in the clip, there’s a large amount of people that blindly think we’re the best at everything. Convincing them that there’s problems that need addressing is difficult, because they’re focused on the wrong, trivial things…

I’m not an isolationist, and I believe that there are times where intervention around the world is necessary. I just feel that it would be nice to turn our focus — along with the trillions of dollars invested in failed democratization — stateside for a while. Let’s invest in infrastructure: better sources of energy, modernizing and future-proofing our cables and distribution networks, high-speed mass transit, healthcare, education…

It’s hard, but it’s important to tackle this shit and get it under control. Being blissfully ignorant isn’t good enough. I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t see how maintaining the current course of action is sustainable as the rest of the world advances.