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MY FIRST RANT IN FIVE YEARS ON THE WEB
(STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING!)
Surprisingly, the Barn Runner games actually generate fan mail. Based on the ratio of downloads versus the number of e-mails I receive, most people just play the game and I never hear a peep out of them. That's fine. I just hope they enjoyed the game. A few write nice e-mails, and I treasure each and every one of those letters like an adorable puppy I found in my sock drawer. The rest of the letters are complaints. Well, at least they took a moment out of their day to let me know I suck.
Most of the complaints are very brief, along the lines of "Your game sucked balls." or "Your game was really short. What a waste of time." (Well, at least I didn't waste much of their time!)
But shortly after the re-release of The Ejection Rejection, I got a long (I mean War and Peace long!) rambling, venomous e-mail from someone truly, utterly offended by my very existence. Two more incoherent missives followed within 24 hours from the same author (the second very short, the third almost as long as the first and twice as repetitive!). Then silence followed.
For various reasons, I missed my August 2007 update (for long time visitors to this site, missing updates is really par for the course here). Within just a few days, I received another, middling length rant from the same person taking credit for my missing the update and to gloat about my presumably having fled the internet for all time, such was my shame. At this point, I slapped his hotmail account into my spam filter and haven't heard anything from him since. (Seriously, hotmail? Hotmail?!?)
I considered the strange and hateful conclusions "My Number One Fan" as I've taken to a calling him (hereafter MNOF) had arrived at, and his reasons for doing so (claimed to be a "he" so I'll assume he is). I thought about posting the e-mails here but I don't want to give the asshole a forum. I was kind of pissed about it at first, mostly because he had so widely missed the mark about me, but after a while I saw the humor in it, since he has based his entire manifesto on one piece of evidence, from which all his subsequent theories were derived.
MNOF had deduced my political agenda, my desire for the return of slavery (with myself ensconced securely in the ruling class, natch), my hatred of minorities, exposed my apparently inbred family line, my fear of women (leaving me somehow both a virgin and a rapist, and let's not forget my impotence), my secret and shameful life as a closeted homosexual, and lastly my fetish for Asian women (well, even a broken clock is right twice a day).
How did MNOF deduce these horrible and simultaneously contradictory revelations about me?
The whole thing started when MNOF unlocked one of the secret endings to the game (but not the super secret ending, as he believed. That's what I get for hyping the existence of such an ending when I released the game). See, if you find the secret level (the always exciting Blue Grass Containment Zone) and shoot the roof off the log cabin while you're there, this will trigger an additional cutscene following the end credits. A yokel, who looks suspiciously familiar (a variation of this guy appears somewhere in every game that features the BGCZ, sometimes hidden, sometimes not) sits outside his ruined shack, having escaped with both his life and his most precious possessions: booze, smokes, his shotgun, and his girlie mags. Look closely at the girl on the cover of the girlie mag.
It's actually the girl from this pic, which a buddy of mine was using as wallpaper on his laptop as I was finishing up the game.
I liked the picture and decided to use it for the cover of the mag rather than draw something myself just to shrink it down for a tiny pic in the corner of the screen. I chose it because I like the loose, scribbley style. Also, I like the subject matter. Most importantly of all, I was really pressed for time and needed a sexy pic for a girlie mag. It was a perfect fit.
It's too small in my game to really get anything more than an impression of it, but it's obviously a woman and the style blends well with my background, so I used it in the game. I'm doing the same thing in The Forever Friday, to fill in newspaper vending machine art, bookstore posters, and the like. I thought it would be a neat little Easter Egg for anyone who knew the work of "Oleg Volt" (more on that in a second) and a sexy little background filler for everyone else. I've stuck in Azumanga Daioh pics, Germaine from "Foamy the Squirrel", even a screencap from the old Gary Coleman cartoon in various background Easter Eggs in my games over the years, so the precedent to swipe somebody's work as an "homage" and to save myself some time was already there.
Turns out that the name is Oleg Volk, not "Volt," (I swear that looks like a "t" to me) and he's a photographer, not a cartoonist. So why is his name on the pic instead of the artist? I'm not sure, really, but it turns out the real artist is a guy named Chris Muir (which explains so much of that e-mail).
That one piece of evidence told MNOF all he needed to know about me.
I did a little research and discovered that Chris Muir is a political cartoonist (more on that in a minute) and that pinup is part of a series he drew of that girl (named "Sam" by the way) as a related project for his cartoon strip.
I didn't know bupkiss about his strip (the web is filled with things I know nothing about) but I can appreciate a guy who references one of his characters doing a pin up calendar and then draws the pinups from the calendar! That's customer appreciation, baby!
Turns out Muir draws a strip called Day By Day (not the most original title, I suppose, but I bet he has to deal with a lot fewer "Why the hell did you choose that title" questions than I have.)
His strip strikes me as sort of a conservative Doonesbury meets Playboy. Lots of political references, most of which lean pretty far to the right, mixed with cheesecake art.
I have no idea who "Christenson" is, but I get the gist of the joke. However, I only noticed the punch line as I was putting this page together.
I must admit, I saw the strip this way the first few times I read it.
Muir is clearly a fan of the female form and works it in where ever he can. I'm not a big fan of his over reliance on the "gradient fill = background" approach, but I only became aware of the background of that picture over time, so that's only a minor quibble.
Such a fan of the jiggly parts is he, that I'm convinced if his strip didn't lean so far right, Playboy might well put his strip in their magazine (Full Disclosure: I'm a longtime subscriber to Playboy. Love those big, airbrushed articles!).
Turns out Muir has a lot of detractors on the web (eagle-eyed MNOF amongst them, apparently). Apparently, some think he's the most vile thing to hit the web since tubgirl (*shudder*). I browsed his archives to get various pics for this rant, and I have to say, he is pretty consistently to the right. Moreover, he's a political wonk (which makes sense if you're going to be a political cartoonist), and some of his jokes requires setups I don't get because I don't know who the hell he's talking about. Fortunately, those strips often have boobies in them, so I don't mind.
To be fair, however, some of his strips DO take shots at the right.
I found this one to be pretty funny.
After all the smoke has cleared, faux moral crusaders like Senator Larry Craig help no one, hurt lots of people, and the whole "I didn't know what 'guilty' meant when I plead guilty to trying to hook up for man-sex in a restroom stall" deserves all the ridicule that can be heaped upon that dumbass who, by the way, is absolutely, positively, not gay. He's just the sort of pillar of the community that likes anonymous man-sex in the men's room while decrying men who like man-sex anywhere but the men's room (cause man sex anywhere but a bathroom stall makes you gay, y'know!).
This next one I "got"... Karl Rove, mind control, etc. But it's a little too "insider" for me. However, that chick is also hot. Turns out she's "Jan," the token liberal in the strip and shacked up with the dude on the phone, "Damon."
I hope she has pin ups out there too. Chicks with glasses are hot. I'm also wondering: is that guy wearing tiny sunglasses or are his eyes cybernetic triangular implants of some sort?
This one is an example of a typical Day By Day strip so "insider" I have no idea what the hell is going on.
No clue. Simply no clue at all. But this guy is syndicated in newspapers, so it must mean something to people who follow the happenings in D.C. like some sort of tragic soap opera. (I usually have the same response whenever Doonesbury has buildings talking, so it must be me.)
This is one that borders on "insider" but I like the message of it.
We are losing way too many freedoms these days (losing a freedom "just a little" is just a baby step from losing it altogether) but more on that later. Notice again, another strip attacking the Right. Granted, this runs against the grain of his usual offerings, but there are quite a few like this in his archives.
And lastly, this one. Sam (again) and her husband "Zed" (really, Zed? I've never known a Zed in my whole life, and I've traveled quite a bit. Maybe they're all in Montana. I've never been to Montana, and so I'm not sure that I believe it exists) are shopping for Halloween costumes.
These sort of "slice of life" strips make up a fair amount of the strip's bulk and are my favorite ones. This is the sort of stuff I read comics for, generally speaking. For any man who's negotiated to get his woman to wear something sexy for him that exceeds her comfort zone, you know that it always comes with a price attached that will take you weeks (if not years) before she's satisfied you've paid off the debt. This is the sort of stuff I wish he did more of, as I like the characters, I just can't get into the intricate politics of the world. Of course, I feel the same way about Trudeau's long running strip. I always wanted more Zonker and less Reagan (though I loved the Max Headroom way in which the Gipper was presented). (Unrelated: I really dig the funky pumpkins that fill in the background.)
So what was the point of all these words and imbedded images? Well, there are a couple of points, really.
First, in the future, I should probably do a bit of research before before incorporating images into my backgrounds. Might wind up using something from one of those whackjob sites like FuhrerChan by accident that way.
Second, I was able to find, with almost no effort, quite a few examples of Muir's work that was something other than talking points from the Bush Administration. Which leads me, more or less, to my real point:
Why the fuck is everything so politicized these days? Why have we become so comfortable making assumptions with little to no evidence to support them, around which we'll base our worldview?
I use one pic from (unbeknownst to me) a political cartoonist who was doing a "guns and girls" pinup based on the work of some photographer whose signature I can't read clearly, and suddenly for MNOF all the pieces fall into place and all the hidden messages of my game leap into focus, revealing my love of authoritarian government, my advocacy of the oppression of women and minorities, demands for isolationism on the world stage, and, most clearly, my own repressed homosexuality.
All that from one pic?
ONE FUCKING PICTURE?
What the hell is the world coming to?
For the record:
I worry about Authoritarianism. I don't endorse it.
The last few administrations have made steps towards a more centralized, less accountable government and that scares the hell out of me. Too many people seem to support over-reaching politicians, so long as it's their party who is doing the over-reaching. The Right was always shouting about Clinton's abuses of power (Waco, Ruby Ridge, his anti-terrorism proposals) without much help from the Left. Then the scales tipped in the other direction, and the Left was howling about Bush's abuses of power (do I really need to list them?) and few on the Right are willing to say a damned thing about it because it's okay now, it's one of their guys. And everyone knows you can trust one of your own guys, right?
Government never gives back power it acquires. Never. Just because it's your guy asking for it, doesn't mean giving it up is a good idea. Any powers you give to "your guy" today will be in the hands of the "other guy" when the next election cycle goes in their favor.
If you wouldn't give up a freedom (in whatever amount) to the party you don't endorse, DON'T GIVE IT TO THE GUY YOU DO ENDORSE! He won't be in that office forever!
I think everyone should be free. Oppression sucks.
Fuck, I can't believe I had to type that.
How exactly anyone could say the women in Barn Runner are a misogynist's fantasy of what women should be is beyond me. Prick works for The Chief, a woman who is "all business." No matter that Prick pines for her, as he does almost every woman in his life, she is hardly "kept under his thumb." She's his fucking boss, for fuck's sake! She tells him what to do, not the other way around. She will never, ever sleep with him (he's not her type, but more on that in a minute). Oh yeah, Spoiler Alert for any of you who were hoping that would happen at some point.
Sgt. Sauer (aka Debbie) is another professional woman whom Prick longs for. Like The Chief, she is NOT interested in him. She does her job in a city where very few people can make that claim. And she's a minority (though no mention is made of that in the game because, really, why should it matter what color she is?).
Dr. Norkio Rokujochigusa-Imaidegawa (the flight instructor from the game that inspired those angry letters) is also immune to Prick's dubious charms. She is unmoved by his attempts at flirting and simply wants to finish his flight evaluation and get back to her real job (designing AutoDynes -- she is a scientist, after all). Notice that she's also a minority, but so what? Being Asian hardly makes her "the typical white male fantasy of the servile Asian woman." Hell, she ejects Prick over the Ash Wastes when he tries to put his arm around her. In fact the only time she "submits to his authority" is when he, in fact, does have the authority to give her an order. At every other point in the game, he has to do what she tells him, not as a commentary on the power politics of gender roles, but instead because she is the fucking flight instructor! She's telling the player how to complete the next level! Isn't that a better game device than just a generic menu screen saying "You must hit 12 Target Drones to complete the next stage. Click OK to begin level"?
Hell, even Kelly, the girl at "Stuff on a Stick" (from The Armageddon Eclair), seemed to the be the only person in the food court happy to do her job well. Everyone else was either disinterested or dangerous to their customers.
If anything, I would argue I've depicted women more charitably than I have the men in my stories. I can't say I intended it that way, but now that I look at it...
And the robots do not represent a "return to slavery [I] probably have wet dreams about." The robots are put upon, no doubt. They are treated like shit, no doubt. But Prick only chases and kills the ones that kill humans (by direct action or through direct assistance). All the others who are just fed up and leave, Prick couldn't give a shit about. Just try to get him to shoot the robot at "Stuff on a Stick" or the one acting as Men's Room Attendant -- he won't do it.
I won't get into what message I'm trying to send with the whole robot angle because it becomes the real crux of the story by the end of the series and I don't want to give anything away yet.
Isolationists are crazy. It's a big world now. Deal with it.
Enough said on that.
I am not gay. So what if I was?
Be as gay as you like. I don't give a fuck. But in that same vein, what sort of person accuses me of being a fag (17 times), a cocksucker (8 times), and a queerbait (1 time) in just one of the e-mails (I didn't count the usages in the others), all the while saying that it's wrong to be intolerant of gay people? What kind of person uses those sort of words as cutting insults while arguing that only bad people use those words? And why was it so important to him to make the point to label me as such over and over and over?
In the world of Barn Runner, some people are gay. Most aren't. Just like the real world. But since there have been no romantic sub-plots to the story (thus far), who knows (or cares) who's doing who? How exactly can anyone come to the conclusion about my opinions of gay people since no one has had sex with anyone in the game (that you know of).
The truth is, one of the main characters is gay. I was going to reveal it in a later game, but it's an Easter Egg in The Ejection Rejection if you get the perfect ending. Which, it's worth pointing out, this fucktard did not.
If you want to find out who's gay (and who's a little bi-curious, click the link below). Trust me, I'm not giving away much. The "perfect ending" shows even more than that.
I shouldn't have to say any of this.
But that's the world we live in I suppose. Witch hunts and the like are human nature. That's why we have to codify "Innocent until Proven Guilty" into our law books, because it's an ideal that's not in our nature.
To clear things up once and for all, the first election in which I was old enough to vote, I voted for Bill Clinton. He wasn't the man I was hoping he would be, but he was certainly not the man who tried to destroy America, as some make him out to be. And I've voted Republican too. Hell, I still have my "Governator" shirt from when I helped vote Ah-nuld into office (the Terminator was my governor before I left California. That's like the American Dream, man!). I've got a few gay friends and I know for a fact that "teh gay" isn't some kind of airborne cootie. They're gay, good for them. (I wish more men were gay, then there would be more women for me. But that doesn't make me anti-woman, cause it's a fucking joke!)
We've losing our sense of humor about things. Jon Stewart must hate America, Bill O'Reilly the "Culture Warrior" says so (between his sexual harassment suits, it seems). Fake (and practically on life support) Cowboy Don Imus says something of staggering stupidity and Al Sharpton is calling for his head, as though the good reverend is a paragon of virtue with no skeletons in his closet.
I'm just trying to make some games to amuse me (and hopefully some of you). Truth be told, the world of Barn Runner is really me making fun of myself. I'm more than a bit on the libertarian side, but some of the people in my camp are really and truly batshit crazy. The lines the old man spouts in The Prick Who Came In From The Cold really came about from me sort of taking the piss out of some of my own beliefs. More than anything else, I just want to be left alone. I don't like people who don't know me trying to tell me what's best for me. I dislike the notion of politicians who know nothing of people in my tax bracket telling me they're going to do something to me, for me, as though I can't be trusted to make my own decisions. I get nervous whenever I see a politician trying to hustle me into some program "for the children" or "for the poor" or "for America" or "for my own good" when the reach of the program extends far beyond whatever problem it's intended to address. Remember when you weren't supposed to give your Social Security number to anyone except someone from that agency? Now I register for classes or sign up for satellite television and they already have my number and they need me to confirm the last four digits for them! How the hell did that happen? It seems like soon enough the "system" will decide things for us without any input from us at all! (Just like the city in Barn Runner! See what I did there?)
But I'm also smart enough to realize that a "Libertarian Paradise" would eventually become a Wild West free-for-all like (surprise, surprise) the Blue Grass Containment Zone, where everyone is out for themselves, and unfortunate people fall between the cracks too easily. (See what I did there? There it is again!)
And that, more than anything else, was my point. No one party, no one philosophy, no one person has the answers. It takes all of us to make the world spin. It seems to me that too many of us are losing sight of that and we're living in an increasingly polarized world as a result. We're stressed, trying to cope with changes (many of which we don't like), and often spoiling for a fight, for an opportunity to express ourselves, to define ourselves, to show somebody that we exist, that we matter. Witness the explosion of the alternative media. Blogs are everywhere and everyone has an opinion to share. Media figures like Rush Limbaugh pull in millions of dollars a year while somehow refusing to label themselves as part of the "Mainstream Media." The irony in all of these things is heavy enough to sink the QE II.
I think many of us just want to be heard. I think most of us are surrounded by such a whirlwind of noise and dissent and confusion and we're looking for voices that agree with us. And that makes us quick to attack (anonymously, of course) any voice that we don't like. We jump to conclusions because our attention spans are dwindling by the day. We fall for almost anything because critical thinking is a thing of the past. Tell us what to believe and we'll believe it, provided you say it with Authority.
And that's why I went to all that work to defend the works of Chris Muir, a guy I had never heard of until that first e-mail from MNOF landed in my box: The real thrust of this rant was not to defend him, or even myself, but rather to put things into perspective. You don't like his politics? Well, maybe his beliefs are not as cut and dry as you think they are. Even if they are, it doesn't make him evil. It just means he has a different opinion than yours.
And that's okay, damn it.
Hell, it might do all of us some good to expose ourselves to opinions other than our own. Sure there's a lot of crazy shit out there, and a lot of anonymous shitheads saying terrible things. But when has it ever been otherwise? Dig around the net. Find a site you wouldn't normally go to. See what they have to say about an issue you care about. Maybe things aren't as black and white as you're comfortable believing they are. Hell, you might even find something entertaining. Most of Muir's politics aren't really my cup of tea. But the arc about the 40 year olds running off for a Vegas wedding was funny (I won't ever get married unless Elvis performs the ceremony, so that one really made me chuckle). The outspoken liberal sister-in-law looking our for her pregnant centrist sibling and driving the conservative husband crazy landed a few good, funny jabs against the Right as well and might bring a smile to anyone who has ever had to "grin and bear it" when the in-laws visit. If you look past the politics, there are other punch lines there. Don't let the distate for one ruin the appreciation for the other.
I would have never discovered this comic otherwise. And, while I can't say I'll make that site a daily visit, I can certainly see it being one of those sites I check in with about once a week. That way, I can skip to the "slice of life" bits I like and sail past the "insider" stuff I don't care about.
Just to get you started on your journey, here are a few of my favorite web comics. Many of you are probably familiar with the big names like PvP or Penny Arcade, so here are a couple you might not know about. Maybe you'll like them. I do.
(Just click the picture to visit the website)
Mark Stanley's Freefall
My favorite web comic, hands down. It's been on the net forever, but I'm amazed at how many people have never heard of it. It's embraced by a lot of "furry" fans, but don't let that put you off, there's only one anthropomorphic character in the story. I'm continually amazed at how educational this comic can be -- I think it's the best "hard science" strip out there. More importantly, the strip is funny (quite absurd at times). The stalwart yet unscrupulous crew of the Savage Chicken always make me smile. Best of all, because it's been around so long, there are piles and piles of back stories to go through, which should keep you busy for a while. Come to think of it, why haven't I worked Helix the robot into one of my games yet?
Adrian Ramos' Count Your Sheep
This strip, about a young, widowed mother, her eccentric daughter, and the imaginary friend passed down from one to the other, is absolutely charming. It can be a bit too sugary sometimes, but most of the time, the author hits the note just right.
Bernie Hou's Alien Loves Predator
Why does it have to be Alien versus Predator? Couldn't they be room mates instead? And couldn't Jesus pitch for the New York Yankees? And couldn't Bill Clinton live down the block and help them score chicks? Hands down, the strangest strip in my bookmarks but always worth a visit.
Jonathan Ian Mathers' Neurotically Yours
A ongoing series of flash cartoons following the exploits of Foamy, a common grey squirrel bent on starting his own cult, and his friend Germaine, a misanthropic, insecure goth who feels no one takes her poetry seriously, as they share an apartment together, fight tech support, try to get online, and search for meaning in the world while complaining about how much they hate soulless corporations like Star Schmucks. Between rants, they wait endlessly in line for another cup of coffee at the neighborhood Star Schmucks (because they do have really good coffee).
Chris Muir's Day By Day
The strip that started this whole rant. At this point, there's not much I can say about it that I haven't already. I chose this one as an example for three reasons. 1) Muir wrote it while he was an embedded journalist in Iraq, so I can admire that he puts his money where his mouth is about his stance on the war. 2) This one really represents the "slice of life" aspect I wish he would do more of. 3) I brush my teeth in the shower and it's good to know I'm not alone in that.
Well, that wraps it up for my rant. I never wanted to get political on this site and I'm still not sure that this was the right thing to do. But, I feel better having said it. I feel like it was something I've been wanting to say for a long time. And since I don't blog, I guess this was the only place I could say it. Sorry if it offended anyone, but maybe that was the point.
And in case you noticed that the little TWI icon that sits in the address bar has changed into a tiny American flag for this page, the reason is that MNOF said that idiots like me make him ashamed to be American. People, there are a lot of dumbasses out there. None of them are reason to be ashamed of where you're from. Place your own identity and self-worth over the opinions of any dumbass, no matter how stupid or determined they are. Volume doesn't make them right, it just keeps their opponents from being heard. Also, it often keeps them from hearing themselves.
Thanks for reading.
Hug your babies and all that shit,
"There's only one rule that I know of... God damn it, you've got to be kind."
- Kurt Vonnegut
CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO THE BARN RUNNER WEBSITE
Essay © Scott LeGere, 2007.
And for the record, while Doonesbury is past its prime, it probably the best political cartoon still in print and Trudeau still has his moments. But my favorite political cartoon of all time was Bloom County. Breathed may have lost a step over the years, but this is my favorite "message" toon of all time. (Nothing beats Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes though.)