Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

From Minecraft to Fortnite: The Common Language of Video Games

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I grew up between the United States and Nicaragua – the school year in the U.S. and summers in Nicaragua. In the 80s, I would bring my cousins packs of blank tapes and a selection of my favorite tapes so that we could make mix tapes. I would also bring old toys, such as my Intellivision game system with all it’s games (where it got an extra 6+ years of play).

I recall one summer leaving The Who’s “The Kids Are All Right” tape because one of my younger cousins – Oscar absolutely loved it. When I returned the next summer, Oscar could sin every song on that tape perfectly. I was floored! Oscar was young as he was born in 1976 and this is the mid 80s – sometime between 1984 and 1987, so at most he was 11 years old (I am five years older than Oscar). He had never taken an English class and yet, there he was signing perfect renditions of “My Generation,” “Happy Jack” and “Pinball Wizard“. Oscar has never lived in an English speaking country and he never attended an English speaking school, however today his English is amongst the strongest of those cousins who have remained in Nicaragua. For nearly a century now, popular culture has been a bridge amongst people divided by distance. Oscar and I continued for years asking one another what we are listening to and playing upon seeing each other. Music and video games are a common language that we share.

In 2015, I travelled to Nicaragua with my 7 year old – Iggy as my mom wanted to spend Christmas and New Years in her native country amongst her siblings. I have spoken in Spanish to Iggy since day one, but I have not forced him to use it – a big mistake. He understands Spanish very well, but he is not comfortable speaking it. Although Iggy has many second cousins in Nicaragua who are bilingual, the one cousin that is the same age, does not attend a bilingual school and does not speak English, so I wondered how they would get along. Of course, they are kids and speak the universal language of play, so after a brief awkward period of silence and observation they engage. They both play soccer and and are competitive about it. The ball and the grass were instantly a common space as was a mutual admiration for Messi, Barcelona and La Liga.

Tired and sweaty they sought reprieve from the sun indoors where I discovered another common space – Minecraft. This I did not expect. I knew that Minecraft was huge amongst 7 year olds in the States, but I did not consider its global reach. Once I set my kid’s device to my cousin’s wifi, it only took them a minute to start playing together on a local area network. And there they were, sitting next to one another, interfacing through a screen, laughing, teaching each other skills, trading devices, building structures, killing zombies and doing whatever else one does in Minecraft. Eventually, they needed to be cut off, but common languages and happy bonds were established.

A couple weeks later, we all went to see “The Force Awakens” and another common bond was established. As the boys went on and on about the movie, my cousin and I recalled our mutual love for “Return of the Jedi” – another soundtrack that I had left with him back in the early 80s. We both loved that celebratory Ewok “Yub Nub” song!

It is summer 2018 and due to the murders committed by Ortega and his regime following April protests against the pilfering of Nicaragua’s social security by the Ortegas, many of my cousins’ kids are States-side. Once again my son Iggy, now 10 years old was about to meet two cousins who do not speak English – the twins Franco and Diego who are 12 years old. And again, I wondered how they’d communicate and get along. A brief awkward period of observation and listening soon became play.

My son had just received a drone from his grandmother for his birthday. He pulled it out, walked his cousins through the interface and they took turns flying the drone around the living room. As the adults sat at the table in conversation, the twins’ mother lamented about how many hours she allows them to play video games as she doesn’t have a car or is comfortable using public transportation. Then Franco chimed in on how much they love Fortnite and immediately Iggy started telling them about what level he’s at, his favorite weapons, number of kills and favorite dances… Soon the three were sharing two devices and playing as a team. And yes, they needed to be cut off and pulled away from the devices, but the ice was broken and they spent the rest of the day playing and interacting device free.

It’s been over 35 years since I taught my cousins how to use the Intellivision controllers and play games like Pitfall, Nightstalker and Utopia. Today the interfaces are much more intuitive and it’s pointless to make any comparison regarding the graphics, but video games are a global language amongst children and it’s always surprising to me how some titles cross all cultural differences to establish common environments of virtual play and exchange.

Written by ricardo

August 5th, 2018 at 10:48 pm

On “The Shape of Water”

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Eliza and Giles with Pie Guy at Dixie Doug Pie Shop

After watching The Shape of Water, one particular scene kept resonating. It was a minor scene, not even necessary for the plot, but a timely scene. The scene occurs in the Dixie Doug Pie shop (not the scene pictured above, but a later scene).

Giles played by Richard Jenkins sits next to the proprietor of the shop at the counter, enjoying a slice of pie when a black couple walk in seeking to be served. The store owner tells them – “take out only” and the couple protest that the pie shop is empty – why can’t they sit and the owner responds that they must leave. Just before the couple walks in, Giles reacts to the store owner telling him that he is good at his role of chatting with customers by holding the owners hands. The store owner jumps off his stool and basically refers to Giles as a dirty old man. After telling the black couple to leave, the store owner (originally from Ottawa, Canada with a fake southern accent) tells Giles that he should do the same and leave. Giles takes his napkin to his tongue, trying to clean the pie out of his mouth (has Eliza had done earlier with the green pie), tosses the napkin on his plate and exits the pie shop.

Part of the beauty of The Shape of Water is in the nuances; the attention to details that later resonate with the viewer. If one considers many of these details, the film is an anti-capitalist gesture. Early into the film the pie guy explains that his store is part of a franchise and that franchising is the future. Many other elements in the movie represent the future or a changing society in which there is no place for intimacy and oddity. Instead the future is mass produced, sleak, fake and hostile. And tied to the future is commodification and materialism.

We see this alienating future throughout the film. Giles an illustrator, hand paints magazine advertisements. Eventually he finds himself without a job due to the adoption of photography in advertisement. The hand-made has been replaced by the mechanized image that is fast and precise.

Regarding Giles’s Rockwell-like depiction of an ecstatic nuclear family enjoying jello – there is the detail of the color green. Giles originally paints the jello red, but he is told that it must be green. The color green becomes a reoccurring element in the film. The slice of pie that Eliza finds disgusting and must remove from her tongue using a napkin is bright green. To Strickland, the antagonist, the sleek new Cadillac is green. Whether it is the jello, the pie or the car, green is used as the color of artificial products – products that represent the future. Simple associations to the color green are of course envy, greed and money – all elements of capitalism in its purest form that is to generate capital for the sake of greater capital, regardless of any human toll.

As with the green pie which is disgusting to Eliza, the beautiful green Cadillac is scarred by the hand-painted van filled with misfits. In the end, Strickland, the man of the future is defeated and the promise of the future falls short to the monster, the mute and the homosexual.

Written by ricardo

February 18th, 2018 at 11:56 am

Trump Administration Fantasy League

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Donald Trump Paul Ryan Jared Kushner

I don’t play fantasy sports, not because I wouldn’t enjoy it, but more so because I’m not enough of a sports fan. I am however a measured political junky, so when I learned about the Trump Administration Fantasy League, I discovered a fantasy sport that I could find the time and interest to join! Join the Trump Administration Fantasy League by using the site’s random number generator to draft seven unique players from Trump’s administration that includes a selection of 29 players. Then track the league news via Twitter and see your players gain points! The creator of the site Matt McCaleb has been closely monitoring the latest news on the Trump administration to maintain up to date player stats!

Currently former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is at the top of the score board at 100 points. Devin Nunes is a far second at 65 points. Trump needs to up his game as he’s only fourth at 35 points. If he launches a war against North Korea, I’m certain he’d win hands down (although I don’t see launching a war as a possible stat). The stats used to measure the value of the players include:

  • Arrested / Arrests another player 100
  • Dies / Kills another player 100
  • Resigns / Is fired 75
  • Flees jurisdiction 75
  • Turns state evidence 75
  • Prosecuted for a crime / Prosecutes another player for a crime 75

There are many more stats and some that I question the low value of such as “Fabricates information/Reveals another player’s fabrication of information” as only 10 points. The fabrication of information can of course lead to overwhelming consequences, so I feel it should be worth more. Or perhaps in the new world order, information fabrication is far too normalized to be worth much…

It’s tough to select a team, do you go for the most outspoken that may be out of the game sooner than later such as Bannon or the sleazier ones that may play the long game such as Devin Nunes? And why are Eric and Donald Jr Trump one figure?

With the current 29 players, I would select the following seven:

  1. Steve Bannon
  2. Kellyanne Conway
  3. Devin Nunes
  4. Jared Kushner
  5. Rex Tillerson
  6. Vladimir Putin
  7. and Donald Trump himself

Peaches Strikes At Gender Norms & Ageism

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Peaches has been making music for over two decades and over that time has not reached the popularity that she is enjoying today. With her 2015 “Rub” album she is receiving the recognition long deserved as she puts herself front and center in the current Culture Wars. “I Mean Something” strikes at ageism and “Rub” obliterates any body and gender norms. Peaches work is as timely as ever; perhaps popular culture has finally begun to catch up with her. As Cameron Cook of Pitchfork puts it “Peaches may be the only female pop musician working today who sings about sex while firmly and intentionally diverting the objectifying male gaze.”

In Peaches music videos women are the heroes and they are sexualized, but not as figures servicing men, instead they enjoy one another and reflect self-empowerment.


Peaches – I Mean Something (featuring Feist)

Peaches – Rub (Uncensored) from Peaches on Vimeo.

It’s also pretty great how Peaches has chosen to work with past punk icons Iggy Pop and more recently Kim Gordon.

Written by ricardo

October 7th, 2016 at 5:27 am

Star Trek into Darkness SUCKS!

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I just watched Star Trek Into Darkness and I’m sooo angry. It was boring and everything antithetical to the Trekkie code and I’ve never been a Trekkie, but I do respect them for their pseudoscience. J.J. Abrams is boring, has no imagination and should have never been hired to do this. It was nothing more than a chatty action flick. It lacked any sense of mystery. It’s like NASA reduced to out of atmosphere trips for the very rich.

Worst of all it’s a Khan redo. And even worse Ricardo Montalban isn’t around to do a decent Khan, instead we get the very pale and boring Benedict Cumberbatch, whom I don’t understand why he’s hired to be a scary villain when he lacks any consequence. He’s boring and like Abrams, has no depth. It’s shallow bullshit and for most Hollywood flick, it’s expected, but this is Star Trek and it’s sad, upsetting.

The 80’s movies are so much more interesting. The 60’s was farther ahead of time, this current movie extracts all the innovative qualities of the TV series and the following movies. Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on this movie. It lacks imagination.

Written by ricardo

May 17th, 2013 at 9:38 pm