October 19th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Underslept, Quicktakes

Had a harder than usual time wanting to sleep today and a dinner date, which has rendered me unlike to say anything useful, let alone profound or educational, of my own. Reading that, all my regulars can predict the next sentence: you get QuickTakes.

"Fear and Loathing in Paragon City." Only people who know both their gonzo journalism and hipster poetry and the City of Heroes and the City of Villains will get the references in this. But a group of players with time on their hands (waiting for today's Halloween annual event to begin, or waiting for the next update to get off of the test server probably) starting going through Hunter S. Thompson's classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When they ran out of inspiration on that (ran out of Inspirations during that?), someone else started in on Alan Ginsberg's "Howl." For example:
We had two Emp Defenders, seventy-five Prestige, five Presents left over from the last Christmas event, a Jump Pack half-full of Time Remaining, and a whole multi-colored collection of Lucks, Sturdies, Insights, Ranges... Also, a Ribosome, a Microfilament, a Nucleolus, a L52 Endoplasm, and two dozen Lysosomes. Not that we needed all that for the Quarterfield TF, but once you get into a serious powergaming SG, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the AR Blaster. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of a Trip Mine binge, and I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
I saw the best archetypes of my generation destroyed by the nerf-bat, looking for respecs,
dragging themselves through bump-mapped streets looking for mobs,
horn-headed hipsters with forked tails and shoulder-cats, burning with auras that cause fear not aggro,
who tired and debt-ridden climbed the tops of Kings Row tenements contemplating powerleveling ...
Paper Moai, Paper Moai, Sitting on the Dashboard of My Car: I had the weird urge to google "papercraft tiki" a while back, and found something of a jackpot if you've got a color printer that can handle card stock, an x-acto knife, a glue pen, and the patience. Not only does Canon give away print-your-own-and-assemble kits of the famous Easter Island statues, but just an amazingly long list of artistic and architectural models, from Mont-Saint-Michel to a Dutch windmill, from the Trojan Horse to the Taj Majal, from a Viking longboat to the Great Buddha of Todaiji. Check it out!

More Examples: Capitalists Making Capitalism Look Bad. Would you have expected one of the protesters, and not just any protester but one of the leading intellectual leaders, who were the victims of China's Tienanmen Square slaughter, someone who spent years of hard labor in a Communist re-education camp, to come back and sincerely say that what China needs is a stronger central government? But that's exactly what Wang Hui, the leader of what most Chinese intellectuals are calling the "New Left" faction, is doing. You see, the Chinese government at the time was in the middle of, well, the same experiment we've done here since 1980: appointing more and more corporate executives and wealthy investors to government positions. So he ended up being "re-educated" on what free market capitalism looks like, and in the filthy, polluted, half-wrecked rural city they forced him to labor in, what global capitalism looks like to him is like letting people accumulate unlimited wealth and use that wealth to corrupt political officials, and using those corrupt political officials to steal from the public and then kill the public. Even going back to his early years, he points out that a significant portion of what many of the Tienanmen protesters were begging for, were putting their lives on the line for, was begging the Chinese central government, the Communist Party and the Supreme Court, to intervene on the side of the law in local and regional corruption cases and local and regional pollution cases. (See Pankaj Mishra, "China's New Leftist," New York Times, October 15th.) Nor is Wang Hui the only one to notice that giving business leaders and investors more influence in government has had horrific results in China. An anti-pollution charity and think-tank called the Blacksmith Institute just released a list of ten of the most deadly polluted places in the world. And when they got to China, they said that rather than repeat themselves over and over again, they're letting one city, Linfen, stand in for the problems that have come from letting businesses make their own rules. In the footnotes, they note that a World Health Organization study of the world's most polluted cities reports that 16 of the world's 20 more dangerously, most murderously polluted cities are in China. (See Blacksmith Institute, "World's Most Polluted Places: Linfen, Shanxi Province, China.")

So much for the benevolence of The New Capitalist Man. I'm a big believer in entrepreneurial capitalism, but these last few decades have been one long lesson, repeated all around the globe, reminding us that unregulated capitalism really does contain the seeds of its own destruction, because it lets greedy and corrupt individuals worm their way into places where they can do just as thorough a job of discrediting capitalism as similarly greedy and corrupt individuals, when allowed access to similar sized concentrations of power, managed to discredit Catholic rule in Europe and Communist rule in Russia.