When I started my YouTube channel a few months back I struggled with what name I should use to represent myself and the channel in general. The logical choice would have been to continue with the moniker NeoLoki, which was the name I had been using for the last decade on the Internet for everything from email, forums, comments, usernames, etc. The idea for the name came from my cat Loki. He was large, fast and intelligent. My wife and I commonly referred to him as JediLoki. You basically took your life in your hands when playing with him. He shot his paws at you like a flash of lightning and you were left with a bloody mitt thinking what the fuck just happened. Anyway, I named him after the Norse trickster God in 1999, so the comic book villain was not in the equation. The Neo prefix of the name came into being around 2005 or so, in part, I was thinking of things like neoclassicism or neoexpressionism. Neo generally means new and works as a distinction for something that has already existed but is being reinvented or approached in a different manner. Neo worked especially since the whole social internet media was a very young concept: A new unknown chaotic force that had far-reaching implications into how we acted with ourselves and towards other people; the social relevance of the Internet. Unfortunately, Loki having reached the grand age of 17, had been diagnosed with Kidney Disease at the beginning of this year. It was very traumatic. The whole process from diagnosis to death was a miasma of messy emotions. It is still hard for me to even write about it. I was closer to that cat than I had been to most people in my life. So the idea of creating something new was very appealing, when it came time to name my channel and blog.
I created a video some weeks ago loosely based on how Bloodborne encourages players to create their own unique narrative through interaction with the games environment. Unique in the sense that the way one plays the game and assimilates information it’s entirely possible to create an independent narrative within Bloodbornes storytelling method. This is exactly what seems to have happened when countless players started committing suicide in front of an NPC called the Plain Doll.
During the first few months of the games release, players were traveling in droves to the Abandoned Workshop to kill themselves. Standing in front of the Plain Doll they acted out elaborate death scenes using a variety of costumes and gestures. The ground at times literally bubbled like lava at her feet. Why were, and still are but to a lesser degree, all these people taking the time out of their game in order to kill themselves? Considering all the bitching surrounding the lengths of loading screens when Bloodborne came out, and the many deaths one suffers in the natural course of the game, going to a relatively secluded area for the sole purpose of dying is no small commitment. Making the assumption that most people who sacrifice their character to the Doll are simply copying the actions of others or are just curious to see if something special happens when you die, I doubt there is any consequential meaning in their intention. However, meaning is not dependent on the intention of a person. Meaning is created through the interpretation of an action and that meaning is always subjective to the interpreter. Any given experience can be translated in a variety of ways with differing conclusions predicated on the viewers countenance. The accuracy of the interpretation isn’t necessarily relevant. I can say the world is flat and that definition of the world will shape my thoughts and who I am, making its meaning true for me; as such meaning becomes subjective to the observation of experience. We see this idea reinforced everyday in political and religious debates. Politicians debate the existence of global warming in the face of damning evidence that our polar icecaps are melting. Bloodbornes method of storytelling adheres to these ideas and not only encourages us to be creative in our interpretations but gives us room to actively pursue our own narratives. Continue reading
Interactive confusion on
A dark surface, fast,
With regard to her
Wishes it was only
Pressure, swinging in
The dark, fast
& light sensitive.
This is an essay on the audiobook version of Pierce Browns ‘Red Rising’.
Red Rising is set in the distant future when mankind has colonized the solar system. Darrow, our protagonist, is a slave miner on Mars. He is told that his work, and that of all the miners, is to set the foundation for future habitation by terra-forming the surface of Mars. He has no idea he, his wife and family are slaves. The surface of Mars and that of many other planets and asteroids have already been colonized. He believes they are doing important work for the future of Earth and it’s people. Darrow and his fellow miners are called Reds. They form the lowest common denominator in society. At the top of the social triangle are the Golds. The golds are the elite. They are beautiful, intelligent and powerful. The Golds have been genetically modified for perfection. We gradually learn of the other colors that complete the social triangle: Pinks are bred for sensual entertainment, Grey’s are warriors, Blue’s are scientists, etc. Darrow’s wife, Eo, who learns of the lie being told to the Reds, the lie that is making her people slaves to the Golds, is executed for singing an illegal song during a state sponsored punishment event. Darrow’s grief is exploited by a rebel group and he submits to be surgically and genetically altered as a means to infiltrate an elite school for the Golds. Thus Pierce Brown sets the social stage for conflict in Red Rising.
Hierarchy of colors
There are many different ways in which we judge good from great in our cultural preferences. Even the complications that arise from distinguishing acceptable and bad can’t easily be differentiated. Especially when one is reduced to using a system relegated by stars or numerical values. My own tastes have a wide variety of sub-categories when identifying the best books I’ve read. There is the high literature that shaped my youth thus making it personal in my adoration: from Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night to Rimbaud’s poetry and the counter culture genius of William Burroughs. Nothing can quite touch those books that formed the consciousness I now live in. Then comes the literature that isn’t as personnel but nevertheless peerless in its craft and cultural impact: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Nabikov’s Lolita even Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil. However, at this point in life what I look for is not a read or listen that will shake my critical socks, so to speak, but something I can enjoy, something that can transport me out of my middle age existential malaise, something that will make me smile and maybe raise the hairs on the back of my neck. Mostly, it is fantasy or science fiction that I reach for. The Dark Tower and The First Law being the pinnacle and not because King and Abercrombie are the most skilled writers or that either book is without flaws but they strike a vibration that seems to harmonize with my sensibilities. That’s how most of us form our opinions. Certain types of stories move us due to characterization, pacing, mood, language and most importantly narrative identity. It’s completely subjective. Regardless of my meager opinion or where exactly I would place Red Rising on my list of favorites, this is a stellar book that works on so many different levels: from the excellent narration to the allegory of class struggle to the wholly entertaining narrative of a young hero sacrificing his future for the betterment of his family, his people and the memory of his lost love.
Video games have always held a special fascination for me. As a kid my uncles introduced me to D&D and it set off a spark in my imagination. Here was a new way to experience the fantasy adventure books I was so in love with and D&D gave me the ability make my own hero. I could contribute to what he was and how he acted. His decisions were my decisions. His victories were my victories and his death was my death. It brought an immediacy to the wonderful adventures in Tolkien, Herbert, Brooks and Lewis.
Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels is a truly profound, moving and personal book written as a fictionalized account of the 3 day battle at Gettysburg during The Civil War. I am hesitant to use the word ‘fictionalized’ seeing as he spent 7 years assimilating the historical documentation surrounding the events and personal exploits of the figures who participated in Gettysburg. However, The Killer Angels is presented as a novel where we get the personal thoughts and perspectives of monumental historical figures like Robert E. Lee, Longstreet and Chamberlain. This account of Gettysburg is historically accurate in every detail but what gives The Killer Angels it’s extraordinary impact is the access we have into the intimate thoughts of the men who created the theater of this epic battle. Hearing the rebel General Longstreet’s personal feelings against slavery or Robert Lee’s fear of his growing weakness due to heart disease and Chamberlains’ disbelief he had, in the heat of the battle, used his young brother to fill a hole in the line, putting his life at great risk, these are the moments that elevate what could have been an ordinary historical account into a deeply intimate study into the psychology of the leaders that comprised this unique moment in history.
I have no idea. Well, that’s not completely true. I actually feel I know myself as well as anyone can, but as I’ve grown older I’ve found the question to be of less and less importance. Allowing yourself to change, understanding impermanence, having the strength to question your convictions and look squarely in the face of your basic truths to see if maybe they have grown stale and outdated becomes the true test of understanding who we are. At least in the context of the life we find ourselves living.