Weekly Download Vol. II No. 5

Creep by Scala & Kolacny Brothers.  This is a cover of the quite famous Radiohead song.  Scala & Kolacny Brothers are a Belgian Girls Choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny.  “Scala” can mean any of the spiral cavities present in the cochlea; La Scala is an opera house in Milan; and Fettucini La Scala is my favorite dish at Papa Gjogjo’s Restuarant in Ada, Oklahoma (it’s phenomenal).

Sometimes I really enjoy these types of choral/classical covers of popular music.  Sometimes they’re garbage.  This one tends toward the former.  In fact, I find it to be hauntingly fantastic. The choir has just the faintest touch of, I assume, a Belgian accent and it’s enchanting.  When I eventually do the post about funeral songs, I feel this has a moderate chance to break into the top ten.  Lord willing you will all be there to critique my ultimate choices and you have my promise I will do the same for yours.

Regardless of all of that, I chose this song for the sole reason that it was played on a trailer I saw for The Social Network.  Two things: (1) I’ll cop to being quick on the draw with movie recommendations.  At times, upon reflection, I wish I could retract at least a portion of the praise I gave a particular movie or at least the adamancy with which I implored someone to watch it (e.g. Jackie Brown21 GramsA Prophet, and Home Alone (kidding, unreal)).  But I predict I won’t have that emotion with this movie.  It’s truly spectacular; and (2) This film was almost preternaturally crafted in such a way and by such individuals that it was a virtual shoo-in to the Matt’s-going-to-like-it camp.

Non-exhaustive reasons list: (1) Written by Aaron Sorkin.  For my money, right now, the best in the business.  He’s reached a level that whatever he does, I mindlessly go see it and expect greatness.  Normally, I’m not disappointed.  He wrote this which everyone knows and this which is the greatest monologue and might be one of the greatest scenes in the history of television.  He’s a powerful and talented writer.  I admire him greatly; (2) Directed by David Fincher.  He’s not my favorite going right now, but he’s close.  He had some missteps, probably Panic Room and I just couldn’t see Benjamin Button as anything more than an overly dramatic Gump with sort of a creepy pedophiliac twist.  But when the first line of your resume is Fight Club, Se7en and Zodiac (way underrated by the way, check it out), you’ve got some equity built up with me; (3) Timberlake (Oscar); (4) I now have some sort of built in bias against Facebook, specifically, that I really wanted this movie to affirm (it didn’t); and (5) I believed it would also tackle a subject that fascinates me.  Succinctly, the specific chasm the internet created between my (our?) generation and the one immediately following it and the chasms the internet creates between people under the auspices of “bringing them together” or creating a “social network”. (Admittedly, no one movie could tackle both of these or maybe even fully address either.  This movie doesn’t but I don’t think, after viewing, it attempted it. So to say it failed would be inaccurate.  It does, however, recognize them (the chasms) and essentially creates and examines a perfectly structured anti-hero as an extension of them. (That kid better win the Oscar.)

All that was missing from The Social Network in a making-it-more-of-a-sure-thing-Matt-was-going-to-like-it-sense was (1) Clooney (like a boss)(If you’ve seen it, imagine him as one of the attorneys.  He’d a been brilliant.); (2) an invasion band with a prominent place on the soundtrack (I was thinking Season of the Witch or Sympathy for the Devil (although that seems a bit much) playing over the final scene) (N.B. and now, after double checking my work (which I do), the song Baby, You’re a Rich Man by The Beatles (the ultimate invasion band) does play over the closing scene. I had forgotten. Fucking Perfect)); (3) a brief Alec Baldwin narration; and (4) Bruce Willis sacrificing himself to save the planet.  I tell you all to this say, see this movie.  It’s that good.

I spent the weekend of October 21st in Anaheim, California.  I was there as a favor to my dad (which, for the most part, one can’t refuse).  He was there to make good on a promise to my younger brother.  The promise was to take him and a buddy to BlizzCon.  I won’t (yes I will) get into all the specifics (primarily because I still don’t fully understand them and secondarily because I don’t want you all to assume that I actually went to the convention and didn’t just hang out in the hotel and/or Palm Springs. (However, in retrospect, I wish I had gone to the convention solely for the opportunity to observe and report on a well-defined segment of society that I don’t think any of “us” (me and you, humble readers) really even know exists.)).  The BlizzCon convention is hosted (conducted? thrown? I’m unsure of the proper verb) by Blizzard Entertainment (Parent Company: Activision Blizzard, Inc. NASDAQ: ATVI; Revenue $4.28 Billion (with a “B”) FY 2009.)  Blizzard Entertainment (“BE”) specializes in MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) (if there is a colloquial or even jargonistic way to prounounce MMORPG, I couldn’t find it.  However, in my mind, it sounds as “hmmm-porg.” Although “morp-gee” is probably more accurate. In the interests of brevity (ha) I will hereinafter refer to them as Big Games, BGs).  The BGs that BE has made a fortune off of are World of Warcraft (“WoW”), Starcraft and Diablo.  A player purchases these games for “normal video game” price of  ~$50.00, then pays a monthly subscription fee of ~$15.00 to access their servers and interact with everyone else.  As of October 2010 WoW had 12 million subscribers (think Pennsylvania).  Kiddos, that’s $180M a month in subscription fees. Now that’s not even the same fucking sport as Wal-Mart, Exxon and Microsoft are playing.  But it’s a lot of fucking money.

So what you do, is you buy WoW, you create an account, select a character (avatar), enter into some sort of subscription agreement, log on, and begin to “play.” The character you select resolves many of the initial dilemmas as to what your “role” in the “game” will be.  “Playing” entails such things as “questing” or “raiding” with other players.  From what I can tell, the ultimate “goal” is “powering up” your avatar as much as possible with success in the quests and/or raids.  At this point, none of this seems exceptionally weird to me.  I’ve played a lot of video games (although they are now something completely absent from my life (not counting Skee-Ball on Iphone)) and this is a fairly common structure.  I can even see paying a monthly fee to be able to play against other people.  But that’s not what this is.  This is a world (I guess hence the name, WoW), a platform, created for subscribers (I refuse to call them dorks although that’s my instinct, but it’s careless. Maybe “players” is good enough) to interact on many social levels.  This is the world where many of these players live.  Not eat and breath, Tron style, but where they receive the stimulus that I would argue humans need for mental-survival  For many of them their self-social-worth (made up psychological-sounding term) is determined by their status in this game.  I don’t have any real empirical evidence to support this.  I just feel it.

The players, have a look (I guess in the real world).  Predominately (although not as much as you’d assume) white male; Mid-20s to Mid-40s; facial hair, tattoos and piercings are ubiquitous (given that I have two of these three, please don’t generalize.) Pasty white skin (from being in their parents’ basements, no doubt, boom! (OK, I had to get one in.)) Dark T-shirts with slogans on them like “Download This!” or “Level 10 Mage” or “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” (which apparently is some classic video game misprint that they love.); and necklaces of many different types, weird crosses, and jump drives and dog-tags.

The players I’ve just described, get totally geeked up about this shit.  It felt like (and this is just in the hotel, mind you) I was in a different country.  But not a different country like a foreign land, more like the demographics of the country I knew had changed where these guys, the pasty-white necklace wearing virgins (you knew it was coming) dominated and we, the non-players, had to squeeze out an existence of sports and dick jokes and whiskey only in the space they would allow. Case in point:  My father (whose reaction to all of it was soberingly similar to my own) and I sat on Friday night, in a packed hotel bar.  The San Francisco Giants were one win away from the World Series.  The game was on.  It was muted and he and I were the only ones watching it.  In the background I heard a cacophony of conversations with phrases like “I had upgraded my talent level to blacksmith and had been accepted into the Wisp Guild (a guild is the primary social group in which players travel.  I like to think of them as the equivalent of a college fraternity)” or “So I was on a Kill Quest with a bunch of Orcs” or “You should totally move over to the Eastern Kingdom server.”  No one cared, or even really knew, that the home state Giants were about to make the series.  The entire episode was……eye opening.

I could never get a true sense about what actually went on at the convention.  And because of that I feel both like I’ve missed something crucial but also I feel like maybe the players didn’t really want me to know.  I did everything but waterboard my little brother prying him for information.  He was stolid, with responses like “cool stuff” or “codes and shit” or “schwag bags.”  Then I got a little creeped out by the whole thing (my imagination taking full control). Thankfully and finally my brother’s response to continued probing was at “there’ll be a lot of hot Asian chicks there.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there are probably a lot hot Asian chicks at many places that don’t require a flight and a hotel stay.  But I hope they had fun.

My response to this entire social landscape I had no clue existed is two-fold (1) I’m cool with it.  To each their own.  If this is how the players want to get their rocks off socially, power to them.  You and I and a lot of people can call them dorks (they call themselves that) but en masse (which is how I experienced them at the Anaheim Convention Mariott) they are a force and they are friends and they are at ease.  And everyone deserves that kind of comfort; and (2) anyone who think these BGs and their players are that much different from Facebook/Twitter/Myspace (“FB”) adherents (I’m talking constant updaters here or anyone whose FB account is one of their true outlets to the world) are, in my opinion, kidding themselves in the worst kind of way.

(N.B. Now this is where you all think I’m trying to seem superior because I don’t “do” Facebook.  I’m not.  Trust me. Because I feel the attraction, the need to feel “connected” with everyone.  The fear of “losing connection” with anyone.  I’ve got a twitter account so it’s not like I’m sitting home pouting, wishing I was being interacted with.  I’ve got a few reasons for not “Facebooking” most of which can be reduced to two things (1) “Post-Family-Law-Attorney-Paranoia” (2) stubbornness.)

What has stuck in my craw, is that both (FB and WoW) are “you” representing yourself in the way that you wish yourself actually was (or is) (OK for clarity going forward: you = actual, living, breathing you, my friends; and yourself = FB/WoW you).  My head spins at the circular nature of this.  Would you rather be you or yourself?  What is the difference? Is there a difference.  Is yourself who you wished you were or who you want me (generally) to think you are?  Are you the collections of photographs and witty aphorisms or that yourself?  Is yourself’s status “single” or is the status of you really just lonely. Are you a meek pip-squeek afraid to speak to anyone let alone girls or are you Rage, a Level 10 Destroyer? or is that yourself?  Should you be entitled to be yourself? or are you in some sense both?  I think myself into knots about this.  Maybe, in the end, all that it comes to is FB adherents want their “yourselfs” to be this or this and WoW players want their “yourselfs” to look this with a touch of this.  But all are assuredly, even if it is a question of degree, partially removed from what they (you) actual are.  Because you and yourself will never, can never, equate.

And to me, the irony in this is that the “failure to equate” the “impossibility of equating” is what the Internet/FB/WoW has both given to us and taken from us. I guess that makes me both happy and sad. It’s why something that can bring us together can also be so surgical at keeping us apart.  And now that all seems really deep for a fucking weekly music download (sighs).

To sum up, I don’t see it, my lack of Facebook, changing anytime soon.  So, call me (OK and leave a message, I confess) let’s have a beer.  We can watch each other get messy and make idiotic pronouncements or tell each other things we don’t know and enter into pseudo-intellectual debates or bring your kids to see me (that sounds creepy, but you know what I mean) or invite me over.  ’cause I like you and don’t care much about yourself and I want to hang out with you and not yourself and I’m not going to post that on your board or update my status or tweet it or go on a quest with you.  I’m just going to tell you.  So this me telling you.  Enjoy.

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