Games of the Year

Ah, video games. I love them and hate them. They seem like childish wastes of time one minute, and they’re engrossing adventures the next. I believe I’ve sworn myself off of gaming as often as I’ve come back to them. I hate the checklist-addiction  that many modern games substitute for fun now, and yet, I still think new games have smarter, more efficient design than old ones.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to go over the top five games that I enjoyed best this year. Keep in mind that only two of them actually came out in 2014, but if they’re on this list, it’s because they’re timeless.

#5, The Sims 4: A lot of folks complained about The Sims 4 when it came out. They bemoaned the divided neighborhoods, the load times involved in moving between lots, the lack of toddlers, etc. As someone who’s played The Sims since its first incarnation in 2000, I wasn’t surprised at this strip-down; every new game in the series cut out features that were added in expansions for the previous game. That sounds like it might suck, but every game introduced original concepts that made up for the loss, and I think The Sims 4 adds some meaningful new ideas that make it worth ditching The Sims 3 for.

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First of all, creating characters and building homes, two activities that felt a little too much like work in the past, is much more intuitive in 4 than in previous Sims games. You just grab what you want to change with your cursor and pull. It’s quick and it’s fun, which means that you can get to playing sooner. Live Mode has been overhauled; Sims generally move and respond more rapidly than they did in previous games, they can perform multiple actions at once, and the retooled UI is sleek and lovely. Maxis has finally succeeded in moving Needs to the back burner, too. Emotions are what matter now, and it’s a lot of fun to see the differences in your Sims’ demeanor as their moods shift. Depending on how they’re feeling, they’ll move, talk, gesture, and generally carry themselves in unique ways. Emotions also affect what they feel like doing, and what they enjoy. There are tons of surprising, emotion-based actions to find, as well. Sims who are feeling Flirty can bake heart-shaped cookies. Playful Sims can paint cartoon characters. Confident Sims can “Pee like a Champion,” and more.

I like that Maxis scaled things back a bit, and returned the game’s focus to the dynamics of the household. My only complaint is that if you get addicted to it, as I did, it might feel like the well of surprises dries out quickly. Sometimes I felt myself struggling to come up with new ideas for my Sims to play out. Still, I find it tough to stop playing it whenever I start, so it’s earned a place on this list.

#4, Soviet Strike: Boy, am I glad I kept my PlayStation 2, because it turns out there are tons of fun and fascinating PlayStation 1 games that I simply overlooked during the system’s heyday. Soviet Strike is one of them.

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Back in the 16-bit era, I read a lot about the Strike series of games for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive (for simplicity’s sake, I’ll call it the Genedrive). I dismissed them because I completely misunderstood them: from the pictures, I expected them to be serious flight sims with complicated controls and slow-paced gameplay.

Man, was I wrong. Turns out they’re cousins to one of my favorite NES games, Solar Jetman. You pilot an assault chopper around massive battlefields, rescuing POWs, collecting fuel and ammunition, and blowing up everything else. The 16-bit games were still kind of slow, though. The explosions were weak-looking and poorly animated, the maps had few distinguishing landmarks, and there was no music during gameplay, so flying from one point to the next felt desolate. Even worse, the games had no HUD: you had to pause in order to check vital stats like armor, fuel and ammo. Not cool. When I first played Desert Strike on the Genedrive, I shook my head in disappointment. It was so close to greatness, and yet so far.

Soviet Strike, the first Strike game on the PSX, is something else though. The gameplay backbone was carried over, but improvements were made in several areas. The controls are more responsive than in the 16-bit games, your weapons have better aim, and the explosions look terrific. There are two camera settings, so you can play with the viewpoint centered behind your chopper now. There’s a HUD with all the important stats, but if it gets in the way, you can toggle it with a button press. And there’s music during gameplay now! When I started playing Soviet Strike, I couldn’t stop until I’d cleared every possible mission on the map. Then I wanted to jump into the next one. This game is the closest thing I’ve found to a Solar Jetman sequel, and that’s a big deal to me.

#3, Street Fighter Alpha 2: I grew up during the fighting game craze, so yeah, I’ve played this one before. Still, I never recognized just how gosh-darned good it is until this year. While all the one-on-one fighters around it made significant missteps, Alpha 2 just got everything right.

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Alpha 2 is a Capcom standard bearer. It has bright, eye-popping graphics (cleverly animated to maintain timing), catchy musical themes (none of the bland techno stuff like in Alpha 3), hefty sound effects (I still don’t know why Capcom stopped using those sweet smacking punches), and a variety of unique abilities that are always at your disposal (no ISMs or single Super Arts). I’m no expert at the game, and I can’t work a super move into a combo for the life of me, but I can just feel it when things are going right. The game is consistent enough that you can shift between planning and improvising, pressing the attack and breaking away in a flash. It’s not so crazy that you can’t tell what’s going on, and it’s not so advanced that newcomers won’t stand a chance at it. My only complaint is that the AI can be a complete cheap-ass. Still, when I want a quick gaming fix, Alpha 2 is the game I’ve been going to this year, so it makes the list.

#2, Diablo III Reaper of Souls: Like The Sims 4, D3 took a lot of flak from gamers for “dumbing down” the series. I don’t really understand this. Diablo was never a very smart game to begin with. You click monsters, monsters die. What’s to dumb down? The most common complaints I hear are that it takes too long to get unique items, the monsters are too easy, and that move choices are too limited early on in the game. “Too much action,” they said, “not enough RPG!”

I find it tough to care about these things, though, when the action looks and feels this good.

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That’s a typical scene from D3. There’s more shit blowing up and bodies flying around here than in most first-person shooters. Complainers say it’s all just so much bluster, but hey, I love bluster. Explosions, particles, rag dolls…I can’t get enough of it. That there’s a solid Action RPG beneath it, with fast-flowing combat, customizable moves, and endless randomized quests just sells me further. I’m very happy with the direction Diablo has taken, and if Blizzard keeps adding new features via patches, I can see myself playing it for yet another hundred hours. Still, as much as I love it, I can’t say it’s my favorite game of 2014.

#1, Medal of Honor: No, not the reboot. I mean the original on the PlayStation 1. The one that set the standard for World War II shooters with its objective-based gameplay, authentic weaponry, and superlative sound design.

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It looks pretty crappy by today’s standards, but Medal of Honor has an atmosphere that keeps it engaging. The starry nights, the clattering guns, the distant blasts and gunfire, they all just wrap around you and pull you into them. The “war room” menus are also quite cool. The game just does a terrific job of putting you amid the agony and intrigue of WWII Europe. The action is tense and methodical, but never frustrating or cumbersome. The controls are surprisingly modern, too; it’s built to play with a Dual Shock, and there’s a setting to play using the familiar move/look control setup we all know and love.

Medal of Honor walks the line between the exploration-based design of Doom and the scripted spectacle of Call of Duty, and I love it. In fact, I find this “middle ground” philosophy to be quite common among PSX games, and I really enjoy it. The PSX carried the soul of the 16-bit era that came before it, even while it tried on some of the trappings of the oncoming future. We got big, crazy games with detailed 3D worlds, but none of the obsessive-compulsive, subscription-based, online-only, multiplayer-focused, on-disc DLC, micro-transacted bullshit we have to deal with today. I think I’ll dig a little deeper into the PSX library to see what other gems I missed. Who knows? Maybe my whole top five for 2015 will be made up of what I find!

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

“Mike Teavee…” by Roald Dahl

Mr. Dahl and I share similar opinions on television!

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Twelve Answered Prayers

Day Twelve, The Letter-Writing Campaign: I’d like to preface this post by warning that it might sound crazy to you. It sounds a little crazy to me, too, but I insist that it is absolutely true.

I was an atheist for most of my life, but I wasn’t one of those arrogant, fedora-wearing pricks who take joy in deconstructing people’s beliefs. No, I was just a man who, having learned of the atrocities, iniquities, and warped values of humanity, decided that there couldn’t possibly be a God. The lives we lead are completely out of balance: we work ourselves to death or coma-like states, we ignore the suffering of others, and we spend our earnings to emulate and worship those who exploit us. I could reach no other conclusion but this: there is no plan here. Nobody really knows what he’s doing. Life is a meaningless parade of lunacies. We are cosmic accidents, burning our precious lives away on a Mobius strip in the unforgiving dark of space.

That’s what I used to believe. That changed this summer. I was kneeling over the edge of bathtub filled with hot water, holding the edge of a chef knife to my wrist, when I realized that I couldn’t afford to think this way anymore.

It started with a comedian. Doesn’t it always? I listened to the audiobook Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black. In particular, I listened to the chapter titled The Psychic. I had never believed in psychics before. I figured they were all charlatans out to make a buck off of the bereaved, but something about Black’s story touched me. If he could be made to believe that something could be watching us, the evidence must have been overwhelming. Perhaps there was a way I could find proof of that sort.

According to Black, the psychic Michael Bodine explained that he no real “superpowers,” as it were; he simply could see and talk to people that most of us couldn’t. These people, called guides, or angels, or whatever name you like best, were the ones who brought him knowledge of the future, or possible futures. Bodine was just a messenger.

I did some research on these “guides.” Different psychics have different ideas about what they actually are, and I suspect that none of them really know for sure. What they agree on, however, is that they are intelligent, helpful beings who can be communicated with.

So how do you communicate with one? Again, the methods differ depending on who you ask. Some say you can just talk aloud to them. Others say you can have a mental conversation with them if you meditate and clear your mind properly. Still others recommend writing letters to them, leaving them out for them to read.

I kind of liked this last idea, so when my long dark night came, I got out a sheet of paper and a pen, and wrote. I wrote a brief but desperate plea for help, to whoever might have been watching. I didn’t care who it was, if it was God, or my guardian angel, or whatever. I closed with, “I am open to you now,” and I stuck the finished letter to my bulletin board.

Not long after, things started to change. I kept on going, leaving letters out everyday, to “whoever might be watching.” I wrote about the worries and problems I had, and one by one, they were solved, often within a day or two of my writing.

I got in touch with my counselor, whom I hadn’t seen in months, and she offered to continue my therapy at a reduced rate.

My physician agreed to help me get on state disability while I worked my problems out.

I reconnected with an ex-girlfriend with whom I shared a long relationship and a hostile breakup. We were able to reconcile after years without contact.

I had to leave my apartment before my lease was up, and my landlord warned me that she hadn’t had any interested renters in months. Still, I couldn’t afford to stay there. I figured if I had to ruin my credit, that’s the way it had to be. I moved out, and less than week later, my apartment was taken. I was even able to get my deposit back.

Daylight crept back into my life. The biggest question remained, however. I needed to know what my path was. After years of decisions that continually brought me to the brink of suicide, I had to recognize what I wanted for myself. What is my dream? We all know the answer to this question, but we make mistakes, we make excuses, we make compromises, and years later, our dreams are buried so far beneath the layers of stupid bullshit that we can barely remember them.

I did remember mine, but I never believed I was good enough to make it come true. It was always there, though, that desire to make my own cartoons. I wanted to be like Jim Henson and share my characters, my stories, my imagination, with the world. I just never had the confidence. I always considered my artwork to be pretty weak and crude compared to what some of the kids are doing with Photoshop and Illustrator these days. I never believed I could measure up, so I pushed my old dream into a closet and locked it away. Still, the other paths weren’t working. I wrote a long letter asking for guidance to the one that was right.

That’s when I got the request to make a commission, and I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, I was good enough.

I know how this all sounds. I know. I could be subconsciously pouring effort into solving these problems, and then giving credit to something supernatural. It’s a possibility, but the resolution of these troubles always seemed to involve something outside my control. Perhaps this was just a series of crazy coincidences, but all in my favor?

No, it seems, or rather, it feels like communication is happening. Carlos Castaneda said that to find your true path, you have to stop listening to your thoughts, and start listening to the world around you. Only then will the answers will reveal themselves. I have much to learn, but this part seems to be true. I still don’t know what God is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure He, or She, or It, wants me to succeed, to say and do what I feel is right, and most of all, be the person I was born to be.

I believe that profound growth isn’t possible without some pain and tribulation. All the challenges I faced this year were for a purpose. I think I needed to recognize and accept that there is indeed a force greater than ourselves, one that is actually involved in our lives. My misery, and the miseries that I described in my past eleven entries, did not happen because this force allowed them, they happened because we rejected it. I don’t completely understand its nature, but I can no longer deny its existence.

Knowing this gives me some peace, and I hope that 2015 will see a personal renaissance in not just myself, but in all of the people who’ve undergone significant trouble this year. I can’t change the problems in the world, but I can change my views on them. The hope, the reality, the truth, is in how we look at things. Everything in the world has its place, and every event has its meaning, even if we can’t discern them from the TV news. I refuse to accept the falsehoods from the glass boxes as true and then use them to make myself feel bad. Instead, I will find the truth within myself, where God put it at the very beginning. I came to the edge of death, but I didn’t fall. I am alive. I am here, and even though I nearly lost everything, I can still see, hear, and feel the precious miracles that surround me everyday.

I’ve got a chance to change, and I will not be the man I was. I’ll begin again, I’ll rebuild my life. I will live to know that I’ve fulfilled my life. I’ll begin today, throw away the past, and the future I build will be something that will last. I will take the time I have left to live, and I will give it all that I have left to give. I will live my days for my fellow men, and I’ll live in praise of that moment when I was able to begin again. I will start anew, I will make amends. I will make quite certain that the story ends on a note of hope, on a strong Amen, and I’ll thank the world and remember when I was able to begin again.

God, whatever it is, showed belief in me by answering my call. I don’t know why, but I will use this chance to find out. Likewise, God gave you the power to make this holiday, this world, this life, as shitty or as lovely as you want it. Why would you want it to be bad?

The world is indeed lovely, and full of possibilities. Choose the good ones. Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, make it a Merry Christmas.

Eleventh Hour Desperation

Day Eleven, Depression and Friends: All these things that I’ve been talking about, these things that made this year so lousy, they fucking sucked. They disrupted, ruined, or flat out ended lives. I was very fortunate, however, in that none of them directly affected me. I was insulated, viewing them comfortably through the filter of a computer screen. I’m just a little fellow, in a wide world, after all. Sadly, knowing this doesn’t make my problems feel any smaller.

Just a few months ago, my life was very different from what it is now. I had a full-time job and my own apartment. I was doing pretty well. I had lived that way for four years before the relapse. When the depression struck me, it struck hard. I lost my will to work, and worse, my will to do anything. I lost all interest in life. It didn’t help that it seemed like my peers were doing great, building families and buying houses.

Getting degrees.

Depression and panic attacks first visited upon me when I moved to USC in 1997. They immobilized me and made it impossible for me to leave my dorm, let alone succeed in class. I had to withdraw, and give up a substantial scholarship.

I’ve since developed an indelible fear of college that’s left me scrabbling for dead-end jobs, and I had trouble keeping those. As for a social life, forget it; I had no foundation, no sense of who I was, and I shrank from the friendly faces that approached me. I finally thought I had a sturdy handle on things in 2008, when I got a fine job that I got pretty damned good at. The company was well-run, successful even in the dark days of the recession, and my supervisors treated me like a prince. Before long, I had enough money to finally get out of my parents’ house again, and live on a modest budget. I started going to parties, making pals, dating girls. Life was looking up, and I was grateful.

But I overreached. Lost sight of the sunny spot I was in. I became afraid of looking lazy, or unambitious, and I requested more responsibility. I got it, and it turned out to be a heavier weight than I could bear. I became tense, and then stressed, and then miserable. I stopped socializing. I stopped drawing. I stopped doing anything, really. As soon as I got home, I fell into bed. The days smeared into a dreary, gray blur of work, sleep, work, and sleep. I requested my old job back, only to find that it wasn’t available, at least not in full-time. There was nothing for it. I had to leave.

I found another job, but it paid less than my old job did, and my budget was crunched. I found yet another job, and it paid more than my old job did, but by then the panic attacks were in full swing, and I couldn’t bring myself to go there.

I was in a spot. I had already been living hand-to-mouth before the depression hit. Now I was too crippled to bring anything home. I burned through what little money I had saved. I had to give up the apartment and move back in with my folks. For the third time. Not long before, life looked like a shining skyline of upward mobility and romance. Now it was a bleak flatland of counseling and disability claims.

Turned out I wasn’t the only one in the house having a hard time. My father was fighting a long, tiresome battle against his former employers and insurance companies for workman’s compensation. He needed back surgery for years, and it looked like it was finally going to happen. My mother knew that he’d need help once the operation was through, so she struggled with the idea of retiring. She’d been at her job for over twenty years, and it paid a tidy sum that she was loth to give up. Still, she decided to take the plunge for the sake of my dad and I.

Meanwhile, my grandmother was ailing terribly. She was suffering with congestive heart failure, a condition that made it a challenge for her to simply walk across a room. It was clear she was going to need open-heart surgery. At eighty years old. As this was in the wake of Joan Rivers’s death, my whole family was on edge.

This year has felt like the final act of a very long movie, where everything is at stake, the tension is at its height, and long-running threads converge and, for better or for worse, resolve.

I thought about resolving them for good many, many times.

My saving grace was recognizing that I had support. I’ve known for years that I could count on my parents, for they are good people who help others in need. However, I also know that they are still just people, and can only give so much before they break, and my guilt often overwhelms me. What I only recently discovered, when I was so deep in the jungles of despair that I thought I’d never get out, was that my parents weren’t the only ones looking out for me. Someone, or something I can’t explain, was waiting for me to call out to it, too.

Ten Feet of Snow

Day Ten, Winter Storms: I know not everyone agrees with me, but I consider myself pretty lucky to live in California. We have our problems in this state, especially with water, budgeting, and taxation, but at least we don’t have trouble with the weather. In fact, the weather round here is pretty damn rad. It’s raining as I type this, but that’s all it is, rain. No subzero temperatures, no skin-cracking wind, no street-clogging snow.

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So it’s hard for me to imagine how much life sucked for folks in the South and the East Coast during this past February. Snowstorms battered these areas for nearly a week, and I don’t care what they may say, the cold fucking bothered a LOT of people. Over a million buildings lost electricity, and they didn’t get it back for days. One lady actually froze to death in her house because she had no heat. Others had to exhume their homes and vehicles from mountains of snow. Icy traffic accidents claimed several lives, and all told, the death toll reached twenty-two.

Twenty-two! That’s a massacre. It’s unbelievable. I remember reading about the pilgrims and pioneers who died from exposure back in the 18th century. I thought to myself, “Goodness, that must have been horrible. Thank Heaven we have insulation and heaters now, so that will never happen again.”

ap_buffalo_winter_snow_1_wy_141119_3x2_1600Sadly, it did happen again, later in the same year. In November, Mother Nature decided she wasn’t through with the East Coast yet, and stabbed it with a Knife. A snowy cyclone rolled in from the Pacific Northwest and dumped its gargantuan load all over Buffalo, NY. We’re talking seven feet of snow here! Houses were crushed. Motorists were trapped on highways. Fourteen people died, most of them from heart attacks caused by desperately digging their way out of their homes. Governor Andrew Cuomo called it a State of Emergency, and good people from the Fire Department and National Guard came together to clear things up.

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What an awful situation. Death by weather. Who wants to go that way? In this day and age, when the entirety of human knowledge can be accessed through a device the size of an index card, we still have people freezing to death. For all our technological advancement, for all the wilderness we’ve exploited and conquered, weather remains the force that will not be tamed. The worst part is, there’s no rational explanation for it, no one to blame. How could this happen? Why did it happen? It’s Mother Nature, man, probably giving us a little reminder of who’s really in charge. You better respect.

I like to think, or at least, hope, that bad things like this occur because better things are on the way.

9/11 Part Deux

Day Nine, The Sony Hack: When I first watched Freaks and Geeks on NBC several years ago, I never expected that two of its stars would be at the center of a threatened terrorist attack. Behold, the faces of an international incident:

The-Interview2James Franco is a tremendous actor with endless charm and surprising depth. Seth Rogen is a born straight man who’s funniest when he’s bemused, and who does deadpan like no one else. They, along with the whole cast of Freaks, could have gone on to amazing careers. Stoner comedies must have been where the money was, though, because now here we are.

Sony Pictures’ The Interview was going to be a screwball comedy with a political twist, like something out of South Park or American Dad. Franco’s and Rogen’s characters travel to North Korea for a rare chitchat with the Great Leader Kim Jong Un. Before they head out, though, the US government sees an opportunity in these two numbskulls, and tasks them with assassinating the dictator. Wacky hijinks ensue.

Turns out North Korea’s government didn’t much care for this premise, so they apparently hired a hacker group called the Guardians of Peace to punish Sony for their misdeed. These Sneaky Petes broke into the studio’s computer network and grabbed almost everything they could find, from business and financial documents to personal emails, and scattered their plunder across the internet. In their calling card, the hackers warned Sony not to release The Interview in theaters, or else…something. The writers were pretty vague, and obviously didn’t speak English well, but they were savvy enough to invoke the holy date of September 11, 2001, and that’s a surefire way to put Americans off their eggs. Meanwhile, tabloids and TV news programs whooped with joy, and exacerbated the problem by further spreading the stupid gossipy stuff.

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Sony Pictures was in a jam. What could they do? Should they can the movie, which would make them look like spineless cowards, and worse, eat the costs of production? Or should they thumb their noses at these would-be terrorists, release the film, and risk the bad press of slaughtered movie-goers?

Well, Sony capitulated. They announced the film’s cancellation, and that they had no plans to release it at any point in the future. Free speech advocates across the nation were outraged. Even the president shook his head. It seemed that North Korea had won.

Now we can only wonder what would have happened if Sony had stood firm. My guess? Nothing much. Probably the worst  would have been the release of more juicy Sony secrets, but I can’t imagine that being of much interest to the general public.

I really, really doubt that North Korea would have the cheek to start a war with the US over a stupid movie, but…who knows, maybe they would. North Koreans do seem fanatical enough; what if they blew up a theater full of people in response to this movie? Right now the consensus is that Sony was cowardly to give in to the hackers’ threats, but if innocent Americans actually got killed over this, what would we say then? That maybe it wasn’t worth releasing the film? That Sony was reckless? Would we question whether the freedom of speech, as expressed in a dopey comedy movie, was worth dying over?

I hope not.

I think that, if North Korea started some shit with the US, and tried to tell us what’s what, Americans would get pissed, and line up for the chance to silence the annoying little nut-balls. And for once, I’d be behind the government in whatever retaliation it planned, because nobody is going to tell me what I can and cannot see or say in this country. Just so long as the incoming administration doesn’t hijack the campaign, and turn it into an excuse to invade China. If they do…well…Canada’s a pretty nice place to live, right?