Tag: rant

The Disney Cycle

Disney Princesses.jpg
Quick! Someone re-imagine them as something stupid.

Recently, I asked my wife to make me roasted pecans. She doesn’t make them very often, you see, so I thought it might be a nice change of pace. As they were cooking, though, I realized that they didn’t smell quite like I wanted them to. And that’s when things started to go wrong.

I mean, sure, they smelled like they were supposed to – warm and cinnamon-y. But that wasn’t really how I envisioned them. I was thinking more of a light vanilla scent maybe. Seriously. How hard is it for her to make a slightly less accurate version of the thing I wanted, based entirely on my incorrect preconceptions of what it was supposed to be?

Then she changed them. A little. Just to get rid of the things that most irritated me. Frankly, I think that made the final product a lot worse, but I stand by my meddling.

Anyway, long story short, she made them and I just didn’t eat them. Yuck. I mean, I realize that I was the one who asked for them in the first place and all. But surely enough other people will enjoy them to ensure she makes more in the future even after my non-stop complaining.

It’s just so unfair! The one time she makes this thing for me and wasn’t exactly what I wanted, even though she followed the recipe perfectly! So, yeah. Long story short, I’m already asking her to make them again, but better this time. I’m sure she has lots of other things to cook that people have requested. Still, I think the best use of her time is to make something for me that I’ve already shown her I’m not likely to touch.

The previous four paragraphs brought to you by “Satire” (TM) – catch the fever!

But yeah, that’s pretty much every single Disney movie these days. My wife’s roasted pecans are, for the record, amazing. And if I were eating some by the time this article was finished, that would actually be pretty great…just saying.

So here’s about how it goes.

1) One culture or minority group or another is outraged they don’t have their own Disney Princess. Yes, this is an actual thing that actually happens. Apparently the bar for outrage is currently set so low that we’re getting angry at Christmas-themed cups and not-Christmas-enough-themed cups. So why not Disney movies?

Now, I’m all for inclusivity, but this often leads to a few problems. The first is that, well, there are just a lot of ethnic groups. Have you ever heard about ethnic Iraqi Kurds complaining that they didn’t have a movie about them? Of course not, because those people have real problems to deal with.

The second, as much as I hate to say it, is that some cultures have really lame stories. For reasons that will be abundantly clear in a bit, Disney doesn’t want to take too many liberties with these stories. So when they’re researching Ukraine’s ethnic Tatar population (sorry to single you guys out – I’m sure you’re very cool) and find out their best folktale is about an invisible spirit who wears red dresses and pulls women’s hair to warn them of abusive husbands, you’ll understand why Disney gets a bit nervous.

(Yes, that’s a real Tatar folk legend. And it’s a totally real thing. Look it “Bichura.” I’m not kidding.)

2) Outrage eventually reaches the point that Disney is forced to placate one of these groups or else face the mobilized rage of white college students with nothing better to protest. I don’t know how they make the final choice on what group’s folk legends they use. I like to think they just throw darts at a globe.

Which would explain why they made not one but two movies about Atlantis.

3a) Disney researches the culture more than most people living in it and yet, somehow, always gets it wrong. Now, when I say “wrong,” I don’t mean “inaccurate.” If anything, the problem is that they’re usually too correct.

There was a lot of outrage over the cast of “Frozen” being white, despite the actual culture they were referencing being mostly white. Why? Because a bunch of college students with a Sami great-grandmother (allegedly) got upset that the characters in the film were white when real ethnic Sami were…also white.

This is where the issue with preconceptions comes in. The issue isn’t that Disney is mangling the truth. It’s that people have certain assumptions about things without the benefit of any evidence that “feel” correct. It would be like Disney making a movie about a culture that was made up entirely of overweight people with bad breath. Inevitably, cultures appreciate the truth about as far as your dinner date does – it’s only a good thing as long as you’ve got nice things to say about them.

3b) Disney’s accurate historical portrayal of minorities is viewed as racist because reasons. As much as people don’t like to admit it, minorities traditionally had it pretty bad until very recently. (Not to mention the ones still getting the shaft.) So people shouldn’t be surprised when the plucky young Gypsy is hated by the local townsfolk. Or the black girl is literally a slave.

Look. I want to be perfectly clear. I’m not condoning these things in any way, shape or form. (Read by people who want to be angry at me as: “I like being racist and white people are super awesome.”) But these things also happened. Hey. Nobody wants the black girl to overcome adversity and become President of the United States in the early 1800s more than me. As long as we all realize that it’s a total fantasy.

4) Disney makes token changes to their movie’s plot that make the movie historically less accurate and less true to the folklore. A vocal minority (as in, a group of protesters – not the ethnic kind) is often harder to ignore than a happy and quiet majority. So despite most people having no issues with what they see in the previews, changes are made.

The best example I can think of here is Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” Originally, she was a servant who cooked for a wealthy family. Racist? Absolutely. Racist in the early 20th century? Still absolutely.

But, sadly, not an uncommon living situation for a black girl with no living relatives who would have probably just been trying to get by.

Since people couldn’t stomach this, they protested until she was given a job as a chef. Is it impossible to conceive that this could’ve happened? Absolutely not. The issue isn’t so much that either occupation was unrealistic as it was that people just didn’t like one and had to change it to the other. But consider this. If she’d started out as a chef and been demoted to cook, the Internet would’ve collectively emptied its bowels in rage.

The question, in the end, is whether it’s better to white-wash the unpleasantness out of history than it is to be a bit of a bummer. And the truth is, I don’t know.

5) The same people pushing for the movie in the first place, now outraged at the movie portraying them accurately, boycott the film. Not all of them do, mind you. But enough that it seems sort of trivial in the end.

I remember one of my friends, a black mother of three girls, complaining after the release of “The Princess and the Frog.” “So, I want my girls to think the best they can do in life is cook? No, thank you.” She then proceeded to say that she’d wait for the next Disney movie and hope it had a better black role model for her daughters. Which given the time it took them to do that movie and then have you crap on it because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, should be any day now, right?

6) And…repeat. What’s that? We’re already bitching about “Moana” because the giant demigod doesn’t have the physique you wanted? Oh, good. I was afraid we were starting to get upset about totally reasonable things.

Do people automatically have to like Disney Princess with skin like theirs? Of course not. But discounting a movie because it wasn’t exactly what you wanted or because they were “too mean” to someone of your culture or any other nitpicking reason is just silly. Especially when some of these people are on social media the next day wondering as to why their particular group is so underrepresented in media.

Judging by the number of hedging statements I had to use in this article just to avoid looking like a racist (and still probably coming off that way to some people anyway) should be all you need to see to understand why some companies just don’t bother with the controversy.

And, if it helps, I personally most identify with Mulan, who was a tough-as-nails girl who saved her family by kicking ass. I know, right? Her skin is different than mine. How is that possible?

It’s almost as if we could find heroes and role models without them looking exactly like us.

Staying the Course on the Switch

nintendo-switch

I remember a time, years ago, when I looked down on my Wii and its three enjoyable games in disgust. And I said, “If the next system doesn’t have any games, I’ll just stick with whatever Playstation we’re up to by then.”

I remember a time shortly thereafter, when the Wii U was first announced. And even before it failed to attract third-party developers in the exact same way as its predecessor, I looked at the gimmicky concept and said, “I’ve seen April Fool’s announcements that would make better systems than this.”

I remember a time after its launch, when I seemed to be quite correct, when a friend finally convinced me to try playing it. “How can you judge something you’ve never even played before?” I played it. It was even worse than I thought.

I then argued that he should eat a handful of dry leaves from the ground. He said he didn’t want to. I asked how he knew he wouldn’t like them if he’d never tried them.

I remember a time before the “Nintendo NX” was even a thing, when I said that if the next system was gimmicky or had no games or both, it would fail. I remember when the rumors started coming in and most of them sounded terrible. The worst ones, I thought, were the ones that described it as a system that could swap in and out of multiple modes to be played on the television or on the go or with friends.

Then I saw the announcement trailer for the newly-dubbed “Nintendo Switch.” And in that moment, I realized that it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.

And rest assured, if I happen to see someone who’s been wrong, I’ll be sure to tell him.

The Switch seems like a novel concept, but nothing in the commercial really swayed me. To me, it’s just another example of how willfully out of touch Nintendo has become with people who actually play video games. I mean, sure, we have sweet rooftop parties and bring our portable gaming systems and are all millennial. All the time. But everything else in that commercial was way off the mark.

I’m particularly surprised at how easily the “no more gimmicks” crowd was swayed. After the trailer I saw a number of people who’d been spewing the most venomous anti-Nintendo comments for months do an immediate about-face. I’m not sure why, mind you, since a portable/not portable hybrid with detachable controllers seems like the very definition of a gimmick. But, well, here we are.

Obviously, people are allowed to change their mind. What confuses me, though, is that the conversation effectively went thusly. “I refuse to buy another gimmicky Nintendo console. I just want a regular game system,” the fans said.

“Well, good news,” Nintendo replied. “This one is also gimmicky.”

“Is it a gimmick that changes the way we play games, like virtual reality?” the fans asked.

“No. But it does change the places you play. Like, at home. Or next to a basketball court. Or maybe at a rooftop party or something,” Nintendo said. “You know, like the Wii U’s portable second screen. Only instead of that, exactly that.”

“Okay. I’ll take ten.”

This sort of short-sighted changing of opinions reminds me a lot of how people thought of M. Night Shyamalan movies. “The Sixth Sense” was pretty good, so they went to see the follow-up, “Signs.” And when that was pretty terrible, they decided his first movie was just a fluke. Then, his next movie started getting attention and next thing you know, they had to go see that one, too. Years later, we’re stuck at one good movie followed by nine or ten awful ones. Yet, more likely than not, whenever his next movie is announced, people are going to forget all about his failures and focus on the one good thing he ever did.

In the end, I may be wrong. After all, there do seem to be a lot of companies pledging third-party support for the system. And when it really gets down to it, the games are going to be what matters – not gimmicks or transforming consoles or a bunch of hipsters on a rooftop somewhere, drinking non-GMO wine and playing “Mario Kart Switch.”

millennials
“Damn. This is as awesome as it is realistic. Oh, and nice short-sleeve turtleneck.”

But frankly, pledges aren’t software contracts, so I’ll believe it when I see it. Or not, as the situation may be.

The truth is, I got burned with the Wii and I never really got over it. And since nothing has really changed I haven’t seen point in changing my mind. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Wii U.

Review – Fall Flavors IV

How are your arteries? I mean, they’re good, right? Because realistically, if you have a heart condition or high cholesterol, you shouldn’t even be reading this review.

Fried Twinkies.jpg

Hostess Deep Fried Twinkies. Depending on your perspective, this review is either dated or really, really dated by now. Fried Twinkies have been part of American fair culture for at least a decade or so now. And even the boxed version is at least a few months old, meaning it isn’t technically a new flavor limited specifically to Fall. But I’m giving it a pass. First, because nothing screams “Fall” like taking something that’s already ninety percent butter and deep-frying it. In butter.

And secondly, well, I accidentally ate some brown rice the other day and I don’t want my body to feel like I’m coddling it.

These come in two flavors – regular and chocolate-filled. I opted to go for the regular because I wanted a more authentic experience. Besides, if I wanted chocolate deep-fried I would eat – and have eaten – fried Oreo’s or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

But first, to address the elephant (or at least the very overweight guy) in the room.

Since Facebook started putting ads every other post in my news feed, I’ve been seeing a lot of advertisements for this product. And since people can comment on these ads, well, has commenting ever made anything better?

I don’t have any odd notions that my taste buds were the first – the archetype from which all human taste buds were created. People eat things all the time and hate them despite my liking them, and vice versa. And that’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. Or, in my case, probably just many more strokes because I put terrible, terrible things into my body.

What irked me, though, was that out of about thirty negative comments I read about this product, only two had actually eaten them. And sure, I get it. These obviously aren’t health food by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if you put this into a salad, they’ll just cancel eat other out and vanish with a loud popping sound.

But c’mon. If you’re going to say that something makes you throw up, the least you can do is actually try it. It’s one thing to say that it sounds so horrible for you that you don’t think you could actually process it as food and digest it. It’s another thing entirely to say that it puts you on a toilet for three days when you’ve never been closer to the product than the distance between your computer screen and a picture of the box.

It was a weird situation where idiots forced me to actually feel bad for Wal-Mart customer service, who was fielding all these complaints by asking what was wrong and if they’d like a refund. Only to have the person reply, “Well, I’ve never had these, but aren’t Americans fat enough already?”

Surely you could see why they were confused after saying these gave you diarrhea.

All right. Enough of that, though. Rant off. Feedbag on.

I rarely gush about foods in the way that I’d like to gush about fried Twinkies in a box. Simply put, these transported me to a realm of pure ecstasy. Which is probably a good thing, since I couldn’t move after I ate two and count being transported as exercise.

This is probably in my top five desserts of all time. And when I added a little strawberry syrup for dipping, I was more than happy to bump it up to my top three. If you’ve been following my eating career (or just been watching me eat from across the room and shaking your head for the past few years), you’ll know that I’ve eaten some pretty wild desserts. This had some real competition from things like fried cheesecake.

I don’t know how they got the outside to taste and crunch like freshly-fried dough right out of the hot grease. Maybe I don’t want to know. My point is, these are good. Damn good. Damn good-er than they really have any right to be.

This isn’t just a faithful recreation of the real thing – it’s better.

Now, just for the sake of completion, though, I will add a few notes. Don’t try to cook these in the microwave. You can wait the eight minutes it’ll take to cook them in the oven, especially since you’ll be eating a flimsy moist mess otherwise. Or at least, you would, if these things didn’t explode in the microwave.

Most importantly, eat only one of these at a time. I repeat. One. At. A. Time.

I get it. You think you’re a big man. You can eat mouthfuls of the really hot peppers and not even break a sweat. Sour candy? What sour candy? This isn’t like that, okay? This is the real thing. And if you try to eat more than one at once, you’re putting your life into your own hands. I’m relatively sure that’s the reason they put seven in a box – so you didn’t try to eat them in three sittings of two apiece.

If you can follow those two rules, though, you’ll have a full belly of warm, contented goodness.

No Man’s Buy

No Mans Sky.jpg

No Man’s Buy. See what I did there? Eh? Eh? Next time I see you in person, remind me to elbow you suggestively. That’ll really drive the pun home.

I should start this by saying, no. Mercifully, I didn’t end up buying “No Man’s Sky.” As someone who buys games on day one maybe once or twice a year, I tend to put a lot of research into my decisions. The truth is, I was really excited about it from the very first announcement trailer. It was only in the week or three prior to launch that I started seeing a lot of red flags that suggested I might find it more exciting to put $60 into a long-term savings bond.

And post-launch, it’s gotten considerably worse.

If you’ve been listening to the rumblings online (or plan to finish this sentence), you’ll know that most major retailers are offering unrestricted refunds for those dissatisfied with their purchase. That’s the sort of response generally reserved for games that launched with massive bugs that made it unplayable for one or more consoles. It only gets worse when you realize that it does happen to be buggy, in addition to just very disappointing.

So, how did we get here exactly? How could such an ambitious project end up disappointing everyone? And how could exploring an infinite Universe end up so tragically boring?

The real question is, how could it not end up disappointing and boring?

Consider this lesson on expectation. If I walked up to you and said that I was about to dragon kick you in the stomach and then run off, I doubt you’d be disappointed. Well, I mean, you’d be understandably upset, sure. Nobody likes kicks to the stomach. But after you got up and brushed yourself off, you’d probably very grudgingly agree that, yes, I delivered everything I promised. I might even get a decent Yelp review.

(Assuming people still use Yelp?)

My long, rambly and dragon-kick-y point is, it’s very easy to meet low expectations. Despite being a very small developer, Hello Games tried to downplay that aspect. Instead, they emphasized exploring a huge galaxy that would take longer than your feeble existence to explore even a small part of, with new discoveries around every corner, rich environments and deep, engaging gameplay….yada yada yada. You get my point.

That game was never going to happen. Very likely, that game never will happen. Because if it did, not only would it be the last game you’d ever need to buy (which isn’t good for video game profits down the line) but it would be a significantly better alternative to your everyday life (which isn’t good for humanity as a species).

Given this is the case, all that’s left is a boring slog through a painfully limitless Universe. Think about it. Would you rather have a small but exciting game set entirely in the automotive section of a K-Mart? Or a dull, repetitive one set in a 1:1 scale version of the real Universe?

In fact, it’s strange how a lack of interesting gameplay makes slogans meant to promote the game sound more like torture. “Explore a limitless Universe with fun, engaging gameplay! It never ends!” Versus, “Explore a limitless Universe collecting the same things over and over! It never ends. EVER.”

“Now give us the access codes!”

That being said, I’m not necessarily blaming players for having high expectations. (It’s sort of what we players do.) In all likelihood, Hello Games (the developer) is going to have to eat its share of the blame pie. Players can have, like, a thin slice. But don’t fill up on blame pie. You’ll spoil your dinner.

The thing is, though, is that I don’t think the developers did bad work. I’ll limit their failure to creating more hype than they could deliver on and a failure to understand that a large scale exacerbates problems with repetitive gameplay rather than helping. But I love that they tried. Because while the game they delivered feels like a tech demo rather than a full game, it’s admittedly the seed of a very interesting idea or two or fifty.

Imagine a huge Universe (albeit one smaller than the one in “No Man’s Sky,” so people could actually explore it all in a human lifespan) with a meaningful plot, epic space battles, interesting gameplay beyond just resource collection, different factions (perhaps including a huge, unstoppable evil force threatening to consume it all), real customization, rare items to find, so on and so forth. Or…you know…like, all that, but in a really good Star Wars game.

So, yeah. Pretty much, I’m saying they need to sell off to Disney immediately. And then I can explore an enormous Star Wars Universe with my lovable crew of misfits.

When my savings bond matures I would so buy that game…

A Bunch of Hacks

PizzaHack

The original title of this article was “Life Hacks are a Load of Garbage and if You Like Them, So are You.” But brevity is the soul of wit, I suppose.

Even if that title was a remarkably straightforward explanation of my true feelings on the subject.

It isn’t entirely clear who coined the term “life hacks,” or when. Many facts about the Internet era are muddied by multiple people claiming credit for the same meme or tiny scrap of Internet fame. It doesn’t help that I didn’t bother looking it up either.

If it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m not a fan. The exact reasons why vary based on the specific hack. A lot of them simply don’t work. Others were pranks intended to make your life worse somehow. Others still offer no appreciably different results one way or another. And a few will just straight-up give you second-degree burns even when you do them right. But you don’t know which are which until you try, so…good luck with that.

And ideally, keep a fire extinguisher handy. Yes, even for the one about amplifying your iPod headphones with a roll of toilet paper. You never know…

What people don’t realize is that we’ve had something very much like life hacks for more than a thousand years now. They’re called “old wives’ tales.” And their aim is to offer you secret techniques to make your life better. You know, unless they do nothing.

The only difference now is that the Internet has allowed every idiot who could paw at a keyboard to offer their own two cents. So I feel like life hacks skew a lot more towards just not working. Add to that the people outright hoping people will drink bleach to make their toilet fresher in just two weeks, and it’s sort of a nightmare scenario. I’d go as far as saying that maybe one out of every ten life hacks actually works as intended, with another one of ten leaving you rolling your eyes at a shattered pickle jar and saying, “I guess?”

I could probably go into a whole article as to what’s wrong with each kind of life hack – and I eventually might – but for now, here are some of the key problems:

Not everyone knows about the secret menus – even people working at the restaurants. Secret menus are a thing, but only kind of. They are in that they exist and some people might even know what you’re talking about if you order a “McGangbang” (and yes, that’s a real fake item). But if you have to explain what it is to 95% of cashiers anyway, how is this making things easier for anyone involved?

The food service industry is made of mostly underpaid and angry people who have no time for your nonsense. Ordering an item off a secret menu is only one degree better than ordering spaghetti at McDonalds or a hamburger at Taco Bell. There’s really only one surefire restaurant hack, and it’s how to make people spit in your food by being annoying.

Also, stop talking about the one about ordering two kinds of meat at Chipotle to get 10% more meat than usual like it’s the second coming of Jesus Christ and Ecto Cooler combined.

Food hacks are often harder and cost more than the original. I have a little rule in cooking. If I can’t make something either much better or much cheaper by buying the individual ingredients and making it myself, I’ll buy the store version. Why wouldn’t I? It’s exactly the reason I make my own sandwiches instead of paying $7 at Subway, and why I buy jar tomato sauce because it costs $1.

The best example of this is that one about making your own ice cream sandwiches by baking your own cookies and then cutting a slice out of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The minimum cost of that is maybe $7, and while it’s true that you could make more than one, is it really worth all that extra time, energy and money? Not to mention that many ice cream cookie sandwiches are less than a buck fifty in the freezer case. That’s not a life hack. That’s a moral victory. At best.

You want a real “food hack?” Make a pound of a spaghetti at once. You’ll want more later anyway, and that way you don’t have to keep boiling water. You’re welcome.

A lot of the kitchen hacks seem like they were made my people who’ve never been in a kitchen before. That little hole in the pot handle isn’t for holding a wooden spoon. It’s for hanging it up. And pouring Capri Sun into a glass doesn’t make you a visionary. It makes you history’s greatest monster.

Oh. And that one about turning a Chinese takeout box into a plate? Good idea. Let’s turn our container that holds noodles and liquid perfectly fine into a flat sheet that does none of those things for no reason.

But fear not. I’m sure there’s some life hack about getting out soy sauce stains by rubbing aloe on it or something. Which leads me to…

Some life hacks seem like they were something that worked for someone one time and they lost their mind over it. I don’t even think the majority of life hacks are meant to be malicious or cruel. I honestly think there was a guy who once microwaved his pizza with a glass of water and it came out crispy. Of course, this makes about as much logical sense as drying out a wet shirt by peeing on it. But one guy got lucky and decided to share his secret with the world.

About the pizza and water, I mean – not the pee shirt.

And lastly, people need to stop claiming credit for common knowledge. Fold the end of a roll of tape to make the next piece easier to get. Put a sponge below a leaky faucet to stop the noise. Freeze wine into cubes to cool your wine because you have a problem.

We’re about one day from people telling us to reuse old water bottles by filling them with tap water for a tasty summertime treat.

Anyway, I’ve said my piece. And I’m still pretty irritated. So there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing about this topic again.