Letter to the Editor: The PFD and Alaskans Refusing to Face the Truth

(I submitted this to the Anchorage Daily News, but they wouldn’t publish it.  No surprise why.  This is something that entertains disrespectful notions and actually challenges people to do what’s right in the face of having to do what is difficult in the fact of an ugly situation.  You can’t preach that to stupid-ass America, and especially not stupid-ass Alaska)

Are you tired about hearing about the PFD? Wouldn’t be surprised if you are. It’s the talk of the state, and every state news channel and talking head has their own opinions on it. The current governor won his entire campaign with that as the focal point, and nothing else.

The big debate right now is the amount of the PFD.  It’s what’s holding up the state budget, which threatens to put state workers like myself in lay-off status until a budget gets passed. One side of the debate wants a $3,000 PFD. It’s what Gov. Dunleavy promised during the last election cycle. The other half wants a PFD that is more modest, and doesn’t dip into the state emergency revenue.

You know, the emergency revenue for things like natural disasters. Could have sworn we just had one of those.  Something about a huge earthquake?  Was working at the Atwood Building, so didn’t notice it over all the shaking and people scared and hiding under their desks.

The PFD and the fight over it are a microcosm of the current state of America. Alaska has a problem – the recession finally found us. What the rest of the country had to deal with back in 2009. Alaska weathered it the way we did because the oil industry was booming at the time.  Basing your state’s economy on a finite resource, however, can be a bit of a dilemma when that resource starts drying up.

Alaska’s financial hole is too big to get out of by cuts alone. Unless you want to put all of the state out of employment (there are plenty of people who think we do nothing but spin in our chairs all day) and then shut every service in the state off, it is literally impossible to get the state’s budget under control with cuts. Something the conservative element of this state simply cannot understand.

So, what does that mean?  What has to happen?  It’s pretty simple – revenue has to increase.  Which means talking about a dirty word that no one wants to talk about.  Taxes. Here’s where all the “no more taxes!” people get to have their moment of righteous indignation over the very mention of it.  But the truth is that reality doesn’t conform to the way you want it to be.  You can have your own opinions all day, not your own facts.

What taxes are we talking about here?  For starters, close all the loopholes the oil companies use. That line about how they would leave is a lie that has been going around since my generation was in diapers, and it’s just as wrong now as it was then. Not while they’re money to be made.

Second, we need to bring back the state income tax. Nobody wants to hear this.  Those who think that anyone in this state wants to hear this are foolish. But it needs to happen. So few Alaskans will even qualify for it given how poor this state is, but the richest will, and do we really feel bad about making them pay?  Migrant fishing workers who come from out of state would be the biggest. They make a fortune each fishing season, and don’t collect the PFD.  They would still go home with a fortune.

Third, the city of Anchorage needs a sales tax.  It’s the most populated (and grimiest) city in Alaska. A sales tax would bring massive income spikes to the state. Granted, with all of President Trump’s tariff’s spiking the cost of everything at the grocery store, this will hurt. No one said weathering a recession would be easy.

Finally, we need to increase the gas tax.  Yeah, you might have to pay ten to twenty cents more at the pump, but that’s the situation we’re in.  It isn’t pretty, but we’re all in this together.

The comments of this article will be a litany of vehement denial and yelling about why this shows how ignorant (insert political ideology) is about things in Alaska. That’s why this issue is a microcosm of what’s happening all over America. We have a problem, and the solutions to it aren’t pretty. We’d all be hurting for a while. But you don’t fail to act just because it will make people mad.

When you look back through history, great leaders were defined by how they took charge in a situation that was grim. When they told people what they didn’t want to hear.  That’s what’s needed now. Because the cruel truth is – if we don’t act now, then soon, the argument won’t be if we can fully-fund a PFD.  It will be if the PFD will exist at all.

Until next time, a quote,

“You can’t sell smart to the American people.” – Toby Ziegler, The West Wing

Peace out,

Maverick

Video Games are for Everyone (A response to Gavin McInnes)

You know what I hate – stupid people who have no connection to a medium, but choose to judge it anyway.  For example – I have NO interest in My Little Pony.  None.  None whatsoever.  Adults who are into that make no sense at all.  But I don’t go out of my way to make a point of telling all the adults who like that about how I see their hobby and why I may find it disagreeable.  Same deal with furries.  I may get a laugh out of articles about Tumbles the Stair-Dragon as much as anyone, but aside from some amusement, I don’t harbor any need to impose my beliefs on the people who are into that.  Whatever makes them happy, right?  And they aren’t hurting anyone with their activities.  That’s my defense to all the people who are about to call foul because of my open and visceral disdain for SJWs and their belief system.  What they are into looks to curtail what other people do.  That’s the difference.

So, when I hear someone say that video games are for kids, and adults shouldn’t be playing them, I find it very annoying.  Let’s look at a guy who decided that he was going to talk about how adults who game suck, and should be ashamed.

Naturally, this asshole, like every other asshole, thinks that it’s only guys who are gamers.  Shit, I may end up sounding like I’m using SJW talking points.  But the reality is that they take the time to ignore this fact too, arguing that video games don’t want women.  Well, to both of these people – you’re idiots.  There are plenty of women who game and develop games.  Your ignorance of this isn’t something you should earn stars for.

Then comes the big talking point – video games are for little kids.  Wow.  Just…wow.  I guess then, Disney films are only for children.  So are comic book heroes, right?  In fact, all fantasy and magical stuff is only for children.  Then how do we explain Game of Thrones?  Weird.  His first supporting argument is that the latest Arkham game is rated M.  It’s not rated AO (adults only).  It’s rated M.  If this friend of his thinks that his kids can handle it, that’s great.  It’s really not that dark of a game.  You don’t see any gore or anything.  But the ESRB has strange standards.  So yeah, what a shitty argument.  Then he goes into this rant about how adults who play these games want to claim that they’re Batman.  He also makes fun of a guy in a Wolverine shirt.  So I guess he would agree about comic book heroes.

I’ve got a question – what is the line between where something is for grown-ups and where it is for kids?  No joke, I want to know the answer.  Where is the definitive line in the sand where these things break off?  At what point does a medium or form of artistic expression stop being for children?  Because this man’s argument just seems to boil down to – I don’t like video games and I think gamers are stupid nerds!  Never mind the fucking ugly-ass beard on that nerdy face.  I don’t know if that is deliberately ironic or lacking self-awareness.  I’d buy either one.

Next, he says that adults who read comics are mentally disabled.  Wow.  Just…wow.  What a rude thing to say.  I’m not going all SJW here.  That is unnecessarily rude.  So what if someone likes to read comics?  So what if they like games?  How does it harm you and your opinionated-ass life?  Not able to see how, from where I am.  If you like this stuff, you are mentally handicapped.  That’s the argument.  What a prick.  The supporting argument he has is how people shit-talk each other in online gaming.  That proves…what, exactly?  For real, not seeing a single connection.  Does it prove that some people say stupid shit online?  I guess, but we don’t need gaming to know that.  Just go to 4chan and you’ll figure that out pretty quick.  No offense to the people at 4chan.  I love you guys.  After Allah Quackbar, you all are just tops, to me.  But that site has a lot of crazy and stupid shit on there too.  Same with Reddit.  Hell, go on to the Twitter page of your local SJW and you’ll see the madness.  If your metric for someone being mentally-handicapped is because they shit-talk other people, then doesn’t that make you “special” too?  Gee, I wonder how long Gavin’s been living in his mother’s basement.

Finally, we get into his argument about what constitutes an adult.  It’s supposed to be…knowing how to fix a fridge?  Knowing how to build a table?  What…?  I can and have changed the tires on my car.  I can and have changed the oil in my car.  I am not a car person, but I can do a fair amount of stuff in that regard.  I don’t know how to build a table, but I know how to run a website.  You’re looking at this article on here right now.  Does that count for something?  I know how to work at my job.  Does that count as an adulthood quality?  Where is that line, you sanctimonious cocksucker?  Where is it?  I want to know.  And just to prove what a pretentious dick he is, this guy has to make a point – he doesn’t read fiction.  Right, because escapism is stupid.  It’s for kids.  It’s for people who are “special.”

You know what, Gavin – fuck you.  Fuck your hipster beard.  Fuck your hipster glasses.  Fuck your hipster tie.  Fuck your hipster suspenders.  Fuck your arrogant-ass attitude.  You’re free to have your opinion.  And I’m free to call you an asshole, who thinks that what makes an adult is being some boring adult who reads Machiavelli and takes a break with a little Nietzsche.  Fuck that.  Life sucks.  I’ll take some good fiction any day of the week, over your “adult” world.  I work.  I earn money.  I get by.  How I spend my free time is on me.  He even says that watching shows is a vice.  What’s a virtue then, asshole?!  What’s a good thing?  Do you actually do what I said?  Are you sitting on your most-likely vegan ass and learning the views of Proust and Chaucer?  I bet.  And on your throne most high, you look down on people like myself, assured of your belief that you are so wonderful.

Put down the attitude, you sad, pathetic wanna-be hipster.  It’s making you a dick.

Until next time, a quote,

“Can you see Texas all the way up on your high horse?” – Martin Hart, True Detective

Peace out,

Maverick

Change Is Inevitable. Can’t Change That (A response to Tech Raptor)

The other day, I did a rather gnashing response to a man named Dave Cook, who wrote an article talking about his experience in the gaming media, and how he saw things now.  I was unrelenting. The truth is, it wasn’t Cook that I was angry at, so much as the media itself.  Journalism in this country is broken.  That fact cannot be denied. Is it broken beyond repair  That’s hard to say.  There may be hope.  Part of that hope is sites like Tech Raptor, and the one I write for – Gambitcon.  These sites do journalism the old fashioned way – finding stories and talking about them.  Not having big game companies drop stories at their door, like some other sites I can name.  They also don’t have an ideological axe to grind when they report on games and do reviews, unlike some OTHER sites I can think of.

Today, on Tech Raptor’s YouTube page, they posted an opinion video that got my attention.  It was something that got me thinking about the current state of the industry, and what can be done to fix it.  If anything, at this point.  It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it might be broken beyond repair.  I suppose we’ll see. But let’s talk about the video first.

You start off addressing PR.  It isn’t the most fun subject.  Part of the problem with games journalism is that it’s become an extension of PR.  Internet Aristocrat did a great job showing that in some of his videos about the early days of GamerGate.  Collusion is part of what got us here.  The line between who is reporting and who is advertising got blurred,  It’s a problem that still exists.  Look at some of the things that have come out about the IGF, and how the Indie scene is all about back-scratching.  PR is a part of society, and I admit that it has a place, but the truth is, its place might be getting a little bit murky.

Then, you bring up Titan Souls, and the media blitz surrounding that, after Total Biscuit made a rather innocuous comment about how he does not find the game appealing.  This brings you into something I wanted to touch on – how video games have become a battleground for social ideas, and you not liking this.

Video games are an art form.  That’s a fact.  Let the over-paid intellectual douchebags argue all day long, it’s an art form.  Part of being an art form that is coming into its own is that people are going to talk about it.  People are going to have opinions.  Now, it can’t be denied that video games in their modern form have become tangled up in the political ideologies that are at war today.  And you know what, I get why that would be disconcerting, for some.  But the fact is – this is how it was inevitably going to be.  Jack Thompson wasn’t the first, and Anita Sarkeesian won’t be the last.  Video games being part of the political space is just the way things are, right now.

Your point about how the political divisions can absolutely hurt a game is well-met.  I agree with you, 100%.  I have done everything I can to not be a part of that.  I think that Phil Fish is a terrible person.  That can’t be denied.  But FEZ is an awesome game.  I think that Brianna Wu is a terrible person, but that didn’t factor in when I did a post on the reveal trailer for her game.  Her politics didn’t tell me that that will be a terrible game.  The god-awful voice acting alone assured me of that.  For real, I have never heard worse voice acting, in anything.  But you know, I will say that the politics is hurting her too.  For example – when she went out to coffee with someone that her crowd didn’t agree with, they turned on her, and her game got so much ugly social media coverage that it wasn’t funny.  Like one guy who said that he was glad that he didn’t have to pretend to like her anymore, and that her game looked terrible.  The politics is a part of how people view games now, and on a lot of levels, I am with you.  It can be frightening.

One point that I have to contend with you on is the loss of the childish mystique that gaming once held.  Dude, gamers are grown up.  The average age of a gamer, according to the ESA report for 2015, is 35.  When you have a medium that is being made by grown-ups, for grown-ups, then the maturity that we see in games like The Last of Us and A Wolf Among Us is to be expected.  This is the nature of the medium that we live in.  If you want that childish mystique, go talk to Nintendo.  Part of the reason that their company isn’t doing so well these days is because they haven’t been able to let that mystique go.  They kept believing that the audience for their games is children, and haven’t let their company grow up.  I’m sure one of their apologists will find this post and say that I’m so awful and how awesome Nintendo is.  Nintendo is making a lot of mistakes.  I wrote an article on that for Gambitcon (linked here).  The companies that haven’t been able to change with the times are falling away.  Nintendo will be the next to fall.  It’s good to enjoy a game that’s tongue and cheek or cutesy and fun.  But the nature of the medium and the audience it has dictates that things are changing.  That can’t be stopped, no matter how much you want things to stay the same.

Next, you bring up how the individual is becoming a huge part of the conversation.  I agree with you on that.  As Total Biscuit also pointed out, too much of the discussion we are having is focused on a person, instead of their ideas.  That’s something I figured out while going after Dave Cook’s article.  I was mean, unnecessarily so, because it wasn’t Cook that I was mad at.  It’s the games media industry.  I have seen how broken it is.  GamerGate has exposed the industry for how collusive it is.  And that’s a problem, for sure.  Journalism as a whole seems to be in bad need of repair.  My mean-spirited response to Dave Cook was just misdirected anger, which should have gone where it is needed.

I find it weird that you condemn how we want a face behind our mediums.  That’s always been the case.  For real, take any art form, from film to painting to sculpture, and what do you have?  You have the people who represent it.  I can watch a great film and be amazed at it, but I also find the elements the director used, and why him/her used them interesting too.  Why did Akira Kirosawa use geometric shapes characters in his films?  Why does David Fincher not like doing hand-held shots?  These are questions that people ask.  This idea of having a medium without face involved is crazy.  For the same reason as I can appreciate a game, regardless of who made it, I still find it interesting when I learn about why certain things were done in it.

You talk about how ideas can come into the press at times, but you don’t want to commit to that thought.  Ideas have been a part of the press for ages.  Look at hit-pieces like what ABC did with GamerGate.  They even admitted that that whole deal was click-bait.  By their own admission, they sold good journalism out for clicks.  That’s what the media has become, now.  Click-bait.  And you know what brings in clicks – controversial opinions.  Something I have worked long and hard to avoid is click-bait.  I could have titled this article “Your Views of Gaming Are So Stupid! (A response to Teach Raptor), and you can bet that I would get a lot more clicks.  But I didn’t.  I gave it a fair title, so that I could talk with you in  a respectful way.  Because I do respect you, Tech Raptor.  Even though I don’t totally agree with this video, I still respect it because it is done with an open mind and without feeling the need to get ugly.  The press is so utterly guilty of what has been done here that it can’t be argued.

Another disagreement – the work does not, and should not speak for the person.  I can separate the work from the creator, if the creator and I have ideological differences, but the work does not speak for them.  Does “Ender’s Game” speak for the fact that Orson Scott Card is a virulent homophobe?  Does Revolution 60 speak for the fact that Brianna Wu exploited the death of Amber Lynn Schraw to sell her victimhood, even though she wasn’t remotely connected to GamerGate?  The work and the person should be separate, but don’t go thinking that the work and the person should be taken as one thing.  That is wrong.

The last point I want to make is that the mob mentality has always been.  Always.  Well before video games, the mob opinion has been a force of nature.  The mob mentality got Ronald Reagan elected, because the mob liked him.  He was an actor.  He talked about “morning in America.”  Whereas Jimmy Carter talked about how we needed to change and do things different.  The mob didn’t want to hear that.  The mob still doesn’t!  If you are unwilling to accept that the mob mentality is going to govern how people spend their money and how video games grow, then you are in the wrong species, my friend.

Video games are changing.  The media and the entire culture surrounding it is changing as well.  I get that part of those changes may not sit well with you, but here’s the thing – you can’t avoid it.  It is the inevitable part of any culture.  Nothing stays the same forever.  That child-like love that we had for new games and new ideas wasn’t going to last.  We all had to grow up.  We grew up, and it’s harder to impress us.  We grew up and we got opinions about stuff that will color everything we perceived.  I may think that her ideas are anti-women and anti-lesbian and bisexual women, but I still see what Anita Sarkeesian says as part of a culture that is larger than herself.  She wasn’t the first to get on her bandwagon.  Once her con has played out, someone else will eventually arise too.  Sarkeesian’s time in the spotlight is coming to an end, sooner or later.  And when it does, she’ll be on the shelf (in view but not interacted with), just like Movie Bob.  The cycle repeats endlessly.  A cycle that goes back long before gaming or film.  From when society was anything at all.  That’s just what it is. You adapt and become part of that culture, or you do as Cook did and extricate yourself from it.  No way is correct.  We’re all just trying to get by.  Do with that what you will.

Until next time, a quote,

“It is said that what is called ‘the spirit of an age’ is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.”  -Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai

Peace out,

Maverick