Aug 292014
 

While I still play video games and enjoy them a great deal, I don’t consider myself steeped in “gamer” culture. I peruse gaming websites to learn about what’s new and what’s good, but I don’t have strong opinions on the latest World of Warcraft expansion or the merits of playing as a Monk versus a Barbarian in Diablo III. Gamer culture seems to require a certain amount of obsessive attention to detail that—if I ever possessed it—has faded away in my dotage. Gamer culture also has a tendency to become mired in bro-centric toxicity; a tendency that became depressingly obvious this week when feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian released the latest YouTube video in her Tropes vs. Women series.

Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women series examines how video games portray women as ornamental objects, damsels in distress, and other stereotypical gender roles. The series has been ongoing for a couple years and Sarkeesian offers compelling evidence of persistent misogyny in games. Here’s the latest video, which is worth watching if you have any interest in games or feminist theory:

Sarkeesian’s critiques have provoked the kinds of responses you might expect from gamer bros: plenty of vitriol sprinkled liberally with rape and death threats. Sarkeesian had to leave her home this week after receiving specific death threats directed against her and her parents.

Gamer culture, like a lot of subcultures that flourish on the Internet, can be insular and exclusionary. That may partially explain the ferocity of the attacks; gaming has long been seen as a fringe activity that hasn’t received the same kind of critical analysis that is applied to film, books, and other media. But gaming is now a mainstream activity that has gained ample visibility in our culture. With the spread of mobile devices, nearly everyone has some contact with games. Why shouldn’t games be the subject of criticism? And not the kind of criticism that determines whether a game is fun to play, but the kind of criticism that examines games as a reflection of our values and mores. In other words, the kind of criticism that adults debate and discuss.

Unfortunately, some gamers don’t have much patience for critical theory. They perceive criticism as a trespass on their dominion and worthy of vicious retribution, particularly when the source of that criticism is a woman. They don’t want to see their favorite pastime grow up, which is exactly what will happen because of the efforts of Sarkeesian and other smart people. The attacks on her will certainly continue and they will be as ugly and brutal as ever, but they will eventually be seen as the death throes of a particularly toxic subculture that deserves no memorial.

 

Aug 282014
 

Earlier this summer, my mom made some worried comments about the violence in Ukraine. I told her that things would calm down soon because Putin would realize that further intervention wasn’t worth the risk of tougher sanctions. Silly me. Putin has been far craftier with his Ukrainian strategy, engaging in a kind of slow-motion invasion that has has sown confusion and hesitancy among Western leaders. I still doubt that a shooting war will erupt between NATO and Russia, but tensions could easily escalate if either side misread’s the other’s intentions.

World affairs have been something of a horror show this summer and it would be nice if the human race could spend the rest of the year not bearing witness to a slowly unfolding global crisis.

Aug 152014
 

My family was in town this week for a low-key reunion, so posting has been particularly light. But here are a few stray thoughts for a Friday:

  • The news of Robin Williams’ death was a terrible shock. I loved his manic form of comedy that sometimes became a deluge of pop culture references. His humor channeled the Internet before the Internet was a thing. But I was also saddened by the harassment inflicted upon his daughter Zelda after she posted a tribute to her father on social media. I understand that even sociopaths have the right to express themselves, but it should be far easier to mute their toxic chatter on timelines and newsfeeds. The Internet is supposed to be a self-regulating platform, but that regulation seems to be lacking even as we become more dependent on the platform.
  • On a lighter note, I’m thoroughly enjoying Divinity: Original Sin. It’s a throwback to the isometric role-playing games of the 90′s such as Fallout and Baldur’s Gate, which are among my favorite titles. Divinity doesn’t offer much hand-holding, but I appreciate the opportunity to figure out things for myself. Between this and the forthcoming release of similar games like Pillars of Eternity, my gaming calendar should be booked through the winter.
Aug 072014
 

Governor Dayton is pushing state agencies to hire more people with disabilities through a recently signed executive order. It establishes a goal of having people with disabilities represent 7% of the state workforce by 2018 (up from the current figure of 3.2%). The Strib article notes that Minnesota has fallen behind neighboring states and the federal government in the hiring of people with disabilities.

This executive order signals good intentions from the Dayton administration, although I’m hesitant to predict what its real impact will be. People with disabilities continue to face myriad obstacles to employment including difficulties accessing transportation, job training, and health care. Any initiative to increase employment of people with disabilities must at least recognize these challenges and offer strategies for shaping appropriate accommodations.

The state has been a good employer to me. It has provided me the flexibility I need while giving me the opportunity to have a career and enjoy financial independence. I’m hopeful that this executive order will give other people with disabilities similar opportunities to realize their potential.

Aug 012014
 

Fellow gimp Ben Mattlin wrote a thoughtful Times op-ed piece about Justin Bieber, perceptions of disability, and playing the disability card. He notes that Bieber was recently photographed using a wheelchair at Disney World and suggests that this may be a sign that visible disabilities are losing some of their stigma. He then reminisces about the special treatment he received as a child because of his disability, like getting into movies for free. It’s a common life experience for those of us who grew up with a disability and like Mattlin, I now look back on those experiences with a degree of ambivalence. I definitely exploited my disability for my own ends as I was growing up, but I probably reinforced stereotypes about disability in the process.

I like to think that I’m a more enlightened person now; one who demands equal treatment and steadfastly refuses any preferential treatment rooted in pity or condescension. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that I might slip on occasion. I might accept a seat upgrade at a concert or the opportunity to avoid a line at an amusement park. Because sometimes a crip just wants a better sightline that isn’t full of legs and asses. Or because I just won’t feel like being SuperCrip, Defender of Virtuous Principles, at that particular moment.

Jul 282014
 

Movie trailers are notorious for overpromising the entertainment value of the final product, so I’m hesitant to make too much of this new trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road:

But it looks really good. The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2, for the Aussies and purists out there) is one of my favorite movies and one that I can watch numerous times and still thoroughly enjoy. This trailer seems to capture the choreographed mayhem and post-apocalyptic punk sensibilities of that movie. The fact that director George Miller minimized the use of digital effects for his action sequences also nudges the needle of my internal Pop Culture Anticipation Gauge from WARY to EXTREMELY CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC BECAUSE IT COULD STILL SUCK.

Like I said, the movie could turn out to be a complete mess. But Fury Road is now one of my more eagerly anticipated blockbusters of 2015 (alongside the Avengers sequel).

 

Jul 232014
 

41. The number doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I’m happy to be here. Yesterday, a lovely young woman complemented me on my curly hair, so decrepitude hasn’t completely set in yet. Let’s hope I can keep it at bay for a while longer.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. And now I must call my attorney to ensure he remains on call this evening.

Jul 182014
 

Cranes have become a prominent feature of the downtown Minneapolis skyline over the last few months. My neighborhood is now a hub of construction activity that includes the new Vikings stadium, the Downtown East development, and various apartment buildings. It’s good to see so much revitalization in downtown after several years of stagnation. Minneapolis has finally realized that you can either have a bustling city center or acres of surface parking lots, but not both.

But this new enthusiasm for density is accompanied by rapid gentrification. There are precious few affordable housing options in downtown and I doubt that will change anytime soon. I’m excited at the prospect of living a denser and more lively downtown, but I’d also like the opportunity to mingle with other people who aren’t white middle-class professionals.

Look, three blog entries in a row! This might become a habit if I’m not careful.

Jul 172014
 

The news today is particularly awful, so let’s focus on something less miserable. I’ve blogged previously about Jillian Mercado, the fashion blogger with a disability who was featured in a Diesel ad campaign. Mercado may have to start referring to herself as a model/blogger because she’s now mugging for the Nordstrom catalog. It’s thrilling to see someone with a disability enjoy this kind of professional success, particularly in an industry that has is typically obsessed with traditional notions of beauty. I look forward to seeing her on a billboard in the near future.

And I love the boots, Jillian.

Jillian Mercado Nordstorm.jpg

Jul 162014
 

After much waiting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, I drove home in my new Honda Odyssey earlier this week. Automotive technology has advanced considerably since 1999. My Caravan’s engine always made its presence known with a steady rumble, but I can barely hear the Odyssey’s engine. Everything is very sleek and digital and unobtrusive. It’s like commuting via the starship Enterprise. Even the modifications have a futuristic feel. With a single button on the key fob, the sliding door opens and the ramp deploys. The ramp is stowed within the van’s floor, so I no longer have to listen to it rattle beside me.

I’m on vacation next week. I believe I will spend it driving around the lakes and inviting random attractive women to join me.

Pictures will be forthcoming. Of the van, not the women. Unless they’re into that sort of thing.