A Discussion on Men’s Fashion (or “Shut Up About Rompers”)

Shown here: happy, confident men. Not shown: judgment from me.
Source: upgruv.com

Okay, let’s make this one quick so I can get back to more important (read: ‘entertaining’) matters.

Apparently, the latest fad among us digital natives is the mainstream use by man of a piece of fashion once the exclusive domain of women. Yes, we’re talking about the romper meme.

For those who are just as fashion blind as me a mere few hours ago, rompers are, in essence, a one-piece jumpsuit that was worn primarily by women until some dude discovered that they actually do a damn good job of showing off his glutes and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to advertise that he doesn’t skip leg day at the gym.

Of course, that’s not entirely true; men have ALWAYS rocked jumpers like this. It’s just that it’s a big deal now because the speed of information via the internet makes things seem much bigger than they actually are. My earliest experience was in the 1964 movie Goldfinger when the debonair James Bond rocked a stylish, baby blue terry cloth onesie while parading about a swank resort. And I think we can all agree that if it’s good enough for Sean Connery, it’s good enough for anyone.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Men have always come under fire for doing things that someone thought were ‘femme’ or ‘girly.’ From shaving body hair to wearing utility kilts to the use of make-up, there’s always some d-bag that can’t handle minor, easily ignored changes and dedicates themselves to making others feel bad about it. All this talk we’re hearing now is the same thing we’ve been hearing since the first millennial man realized that the hair bun was actually a convenient way of wearing long hair.

So, you got all that: It doesn’t matter if you personally think that rompers look awful because YOU DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THEM. And if you’re offended that you have to look at guys in them – TOUGH TITTY. I don’t care for them either, but I can at least respect that it’s the wearer’s call to make and their choice has no effect on me and how I live my own life.

Besides, let’s not lose sight of the REAL fashion criminals; those a-holes at Gucci that charge upwards of $600 to dress up in something that I could make for one-eighth of the price to cosplay at an anime convention.

Why I Simultaneously Love And Hate Fidget Spinners

So… This is a thing now, I guess…
Source: Learning Express Toys

Part of my duty as a social and cultural commentator is to follow trends and fads so that I may analyze their significance and greater meaning in society.

Of course, this often means that I find myself taking an unnecessarily fine lens to some of the seemingly smallest pieces of fluff. Case it point: fidget spinners.

Also known as hand spinners – my preferred nomenclature (more into that later), these little plastic doo-dads have become a runaway sensation lately. They’ve already spawned collectors, customizers, and – you guessed it – dedicated YouTube channels. So, why so much buzz of such a simple toy.

Well, that simplicity may be at its core. Fidget spinners are essentially just three or four small wheel bearings from a skateboard placed together in such a way as to make a tiny toy that can be spun in a number of different ways. It’s so simple, you can actually build one yourself from home. In fact, a light search reveals that almost everyone has a different method of constructing them that gives them a unique flair.

That uniqueness lends itself quite nicely to their collectability. When every single one has a different feel and look to it, you naturally want to try them all.

Then there’s the ‘fidget’ part of the name. In defiance of everything we were told by frustrated parents and teachers, fidgeting is actually good for you. Small, frequent movements help keep your blood flowing smoothly and often provide a release for stress and anxiety that improves focus.

Unfortunately, the fact that people are starting to realize that leads into my problems with them. Now that certain people are aware that this little trinket can have some mild benefit, their first instinct is to do anything they can to make a quick buck from it. They churn out these cheap, mass-produced bits of plastic and charge way too much for them. No joke, I’ve seen these things that can be built for free at home sold in gas stations for $10 a pop!

And how do they convince people to pay a ridiculous amount for something they used to get for free? By preying on their insecurities and making them feel bad for fidgeting. Little things like twitching, foot tapping and the like aren’t seen as socially acceptable. So, they push overpriced plastic on people to give them a way to do something that’s perfectly normal that they won’t be judged for… you know, sort of like how the Health & Beauty industry sells make-up and fad diets.

Of course, when you denormalize something like fidgeting, you end up making people self-conscious which only contributes to stress. This is why I prefer the name “hand spinner.” It takes the fidgeting element out of it and makes it normal for everyone to enjoy.

So, yeah – I don’t mind that people are getting into hand spinners. What I mind are the people trying to use them to make cash through predatory manipulation. So, if you must keep them spinning, learn to make them yourself and join the global community of artists (yes, I’m pretentious enough to call hand spinners an artform).

And to send us out on a happy note, an appropriate musical interlude. Play us out, Three 6 Mafia.

The Agent Reviews A Game: Hyper Heroes

Hurrah for generic title screens…
Source: Google Play

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of more introspective philosophical pieces here lately. And while it’s good to do some soul searching every now and again, I’m sure you need a break from that as much as I do. So let’s get back to a topic I don’t touch as often as I used to; video games.

When I last reviewed a mobile game, I made it clear that I wasn’t sold on mobile games as a whole but remained hopeful that one could change my mood. I still feel that way, but I think that Hyper Heroes may have helped me to single out my issues with the mobile market. But first, let’s talk about the game.

Hyper Heroes markets itself as a, “marble-like RPG,” and that description seems to fit quite well. You select a team of up to four heroes and do battle with your standard high fantasy monsters by click-and-dragging to literally throw them at the baddies until they drop.

It’s marginally more complex than that description makes it seem. Obviously, there’s the RPG trope of level grinding (more on that later), physics-based tactics requiring you plot your angle of attack and memorize how far each hero can travel, and probably the best mechanic in the game; the various attack styles of the heroes.

There are three styles; bounce, penetrate and stick. Bounce will ricochet off enemies making for complex strikes, penetrate can move through enemy lines while dealing damage to reach priority targets, and stick with stop dead on the first enemy struck for precise setups – especially useful for tank characters to draw fire away from frail heroes.

There’s also a promotion system where, as heroes collect required gear, they can be promoted and gain up to four skills; a ‘Unique’ skill that can be activated after building up a rage meter, a ‘Combo’ skill that activated when another hero crosses over them in battle, a ‘Finish’ skill that triggers at the end of their turn, and a ‘Passive’ skill that grants general buffs consistently.

So, a lot of interesting stuff to work with. But, alas, there are some things in design that just irk me and that I can’t shake off whenever I notice them. And I think they may be a the root of why I haven’t embraced mobile gaming completely yet.

For example, it feels VERY cheaply made. I know that it’s a free-to-play game and I shouldn’t expect much from it, but I expect a level of quality even from budget titles. If you can’t afford to do something right, you find workarounds – not half-assed solutions. Case in point; the voice acting SUCKS. The actors are totally phoning it in for a paycheck and it’s painfully clear that most of them just aren’t comfortable speaking English. Those misdirected, disinterested squeals are an assault on my ears and my own enthusiasm – how can I care about the game if they don’t?

Secondly, the writing is distracting. It felt like the crew helming this project knew they couldn’t fit an epic story into a tiny mobile game, so they relied on humor… humor that tries insultingly hard to get me to laugh and fails miserably. the cringe-worthy comedy ranges from dated references (Seriously, Pyro Monk? A reference to Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” 15 years after the single dropped?), pervy non-jokes (Why is the cute deer-centaur druid asking me not to look at her tail?), and just generally bad writing decisions (I’m sure none of my fellow feminists will be bothered by the sexy female fire mage being called Flame Dame).

And finally, we have game mechanics designed to drain time and money. Remember when I said I’d discuss the level grinding? Well, the grind is so slow when simply battling monsters that you have to rely almost exclusively on EXP potions that you can either collect or – more unfairly – buy with real world cash. Now, I’m no stranger to in-game purchases, but they’re meant to sell convenience; not power. When I need to stock my kitchen with EXP potions and fill my wardrobe with rare gear just to have a fair shake in the PvP arena, there’s a balance problem.

The only alternative is to play every day to get the cumulative daily sign-in bonuses and I’ve only just started to learn how much I hate a game that tells me that I HAVE to play it. Once the game puts me on a schedule, it doesn’t feel like a game anymore; it feels like a second job. And unlike a real job, I don’t get sick days. Instead, I get punished by losing by benefits and have to start building them up again from square one… Oh, and I don’t get paid for coming in either.

Still, there is some merit to Hyper Heroes. There is a germ of a good idea in here and I’m hopeful that a more competent studio attempts something similar in the future. If you can get pass the uglier parts of the game, there’s a well-made puzzle-RPG with cute character designs and unique gameplay that can hold your interest.

The Agent’s Secret to Maintaining Positivity

You call it, “overwhelming negativity.” I call it, “thousands of chances for self-fulfillment.”
Source: Zone of Success

Well, my news feed has gotten depressing again.

Threats are being slung back and forth by every which country, the president has failed on every aspect of his 100-day plan and may actually be clinically insane, YouTube’s struggle with advertisers threatens to hurt the careers of many young creatives (thank god for Patreon), and I’m currently living in that weird ‘Seasonal Depression’ Limbo where color and light are returning to the land but rain and allergies prevent me from enjoying them. Long story short: total crap-sack.

Whenever I get like this, I can always count on a bunch of friends and family to send me a bevy of links to pages talking about how to stay happy and positive. And while I do appreciate how much those people do for me in that regard and love them for it, it’s ultimately unnecessary. I’ve spent over 25 years fighting depression, I’ve gotten REALLY good at it, and I’d like to see people take care of themselves instead of babying my big, hairy backside.

So, what’s my secret? Well, as I hinted at in a previous article, I’m a proponent of Albert Camus’s philosophy of ‘The Absurd Hero’ and the idea that life is just a chaotic, meaningless, hot mess that’s structurally shaped to have no purpose other than that which we choose to make for ourselves. It’s a pessimistic – maybe even nihilistic worldview, but it’s one that has the power to release you from your own self-imposed constraints. Once you stop freaking out about how devoid of anything your life is by default, you start to realize just how much of your own meaning you can fill it with. It’s a blank canvas for you to create your LITERAL life’s work.

For example, I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook. One day, a very sweet girl, posted pictures of her new outfit and make-up. Me, being the huge nerd I am, geeked out telling her cool I thought she looked because her thin but athletic frame made her look like Envy from Full Metal Alchemist. It was only long after I posted it that my ‘normie-filter’ switched back on and said, “you just compared a really cute girl to a shapeshifting, gender-fluid, boy in a skirt, you clod.” But, much to my relief, it turned out that she identified as androgynous and that was the highest compliment anyone had ever paid her. The fact that she was so happy after that lifted me up with her. That’s the meaning – the purpose – I prescribe to my life; to lift others up to heights above me that I can bask in their joy.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that happiness is not an eternal reward like we’re often taught it is. Instead, it’s a constant struggle to shape the nothing of your chaotic life into something you can love. I expect positivity to fade with time. And, in an odd way, it needs to in order to remind us to appreciate the joy we have.

As for all of the negativity we experience, that’s just the struggle of other people trying to shape their own purposeful lives bleeding into ours and the sabre-rattling of people trying to reconcile their differences of purpose. It sucks, but that’s why my, “it’s my job to make as many people happy as I can,” goal is so important to me; because it enriches my life as much as it does theirs.I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone. And that’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be.

I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone and I can certainly spread that peace of mind to as many people as I can. That’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be to get the job done. And when it is done, well, it’s time for some rest before moving on to the next one.

Struggle and fulfillment. Dark and light. Negative and positive. Life isn’t a box of chocolates, Forrest. It’s a two-stroke combustion engine; the day you give up on your struggle is the day you stop gassing it up.

3 Generally Awesome YouTube Channels

You know what, I’m still reeling from illness and haven’t talked about anything positive for a while. So, let’s shout out some talented people.

The last time I had something nice to say about YouTube was when I shared a trio of channels for the artsy DIYer. Today, I just want to go off on three channels that had nothing in common other than just being a lot of fun and offering something nice and/or useful to the viewer. So, let’s just get happy and celebrate some cool people.

The Obscure

The tongue-in-cheek review has been a staple of internet entertainment for as long as most of us can remember the internet. However, they’ve almost always come from a stance of crapping on old media for laughs.

The Obscure stands out from the horde of angry reviewers by demonstrating genuine nostalgia for the things of the past that mirrors the fond memories that we have for our favorites-gone-by; offered through the character of someone with all the enthusiasm of someone who probably shouldn’t have dropped the brown acid at Woodstock.

While the goofy comedy is the primary draw, The Obscure does occasionally drop some insight on us; showing how these things long-forgotten helped shape popular consciousness today.

AvE

Here’s a little something special for the handymen in the audience.

AvE may be a little to foul-mouthed and rough around the edges for some, but for me, he more than makes up for it with his knowledge of tools and machining.

AvE combines his experience as an engineer with his glorious and uniquely Canadian sense of humor (“skookum as frig,” has become one of my favorite phrases) to teach us the nuts and bolts of making your way around a DIYer’s workshop. In amongst his workshop tricks, he also works on his series, ‘Bored Of Lame Tool Reviews’ (BOLTR for short) where he disassembles and analyzes everyday tools and appliances to determine if they’re actually worth your money.

CGP Grey

An American-born teacher living in England, CGP Grey is the kind of person you want to run an educational YouTube channel; someone you genuinely enjoys teaching and believes that knowledge can change the world.

CGP Grey covers a broad swath of topics including modern technology, civics, politics, and geography while explaining in clear terms why these things are so important to know and how they affect us. Overall, he’s very good at making you care about what he’s saying with a calm, mellow, and charismatic voice.

He also has a podcast with his friend Brady at Numberphile if you need more knowledge dropped on you by people WAY smarter than I could ever hope to be.

Why You Should Care About Journalism (And How To Not Get Bamboozled By Bad Stories)

It can all be a little overwhelming at times, can’t it.
Source: CaptureYourInfo.com

So, there’s been a lot of crappy news coming down the pipelines lately and 2017 looks set to go down in history books as, “The Age of Excrement: The Year Everything Went To S***.” It’s become so bad that I had to take last week off from writing to recover from sensory overload and was giving real consideration to giving up entirely.

That is to say, I was until I went to work that night and explained my plight to a co-worker. To wit, she responded with, “I don’t ever bother listening to news ever.”

It was then that I learned something about myself that I never knew about myself; I am legitimately disgusted when people say they don’t listen to the news.

I mean, REALLY? How do you function in society if you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world? How do you contribute to improving your city, your state, your country, and your planet if you don’t know where and what the problems are?

Look, I get it; the constant stream of news media is overwhelming. You occasionally need to remove yourself from the chaos and politics so you can just be you and live your life. That’s LITERALLY the definition of a ‘Safe Space.’ But, if you actually want any of those problems to improve, you have to step out of the safe space and engage with news and politics to fight for a better world.

And if your issue is that, “so many media outlets lie, I can’t trust any of them,” then, sad to say, the problem isn’t just the media; it’s you.

The amount of information available to us in an Information Age society requires each of us to do a little legwork to filter out misinformation and fluff stories. And while I like to believe were getting better about it, the simple fact is that some of us could stand to be more critical of what we read, hear, and watch.

It’s actually surprisingly easy to fact check news stories; so much so that it’s kind of insulting when independent comedy news sources like Nash Bozard at Radio Dead Air are better at it than the big budget ones playing it straight. Here, I’ll speed through some of the easiest ways to smell bulls*** from a mile away.

Look at the URL: Most credible news sources have a .com or .org address to their names. Anyone else is likely not a professional news source and should be questioned. It’s also worth noting that us WordPress bloggers can be equally dubious. Hence why I make it clear that this is an Opinion/Editorial blog dedicated to my personal reflections on the world and not proper news.

Judge the Headline: How much do you learn from the headline alone? Is it more interested in trying to shock you than inform you? If so, best to overlook it. They just want your attention because it gives them money. Don’t even share it with your friends as that will just spread the plague.

Know your satire from your news: The Onion, Buzzfeed, Cracked and similar sources are good for laughs; that’s what they specialize in. But, They aren’t actual news. They can occasionally lead to better information, but should never be your primary source.

Follow their sources: News sites will often link to or cite other news sources for their information. If they trace back to a questionable source like shown above or all cite the exact same article, they may just be the victim of a viral meme that damages their credibility.

Compare and contrast multiple sources: Most sources have a political leaning that skews facts in their favor. By putting them up against each other, you can identify the ‘he said/she said’ garbage easier.

Do your own research: My parents freaked out then they saw a video of soda supposedly reacting to the same kind of hydrochloric acid found in our stomachs. That is until I pointed them in the right direction and explained that a reaction that generates enough heat to create smoke would kill you if the volatile nature of the acid didn’t off you from birth. It was obviously a classic Sulfuric Acid/Sugar reaction made goopy by the water in the Cola. The hell of it is that I found this out via a light Google search for ‘Cola Stomach Acid.’

Stop the spread of false information: In addition to not sharing bogus stories, some social media networks have the option to report fake claims trying to pass themselves off as legitimate news.

So I beseech you, don’t just switch off the news. Be more critical and call bulls*** on bad journalism while learning from the real reporters. That way, we can be properly informed enough to make this place a comfortable place to live.

Archive News: Overwhelmed and Uninspired

God, I hope this isn’t going to become a monthly thing…

So, between butting heads at work over vacation time, recent news reports, and more drama over the lives of internet celebrities, I have a bit of a problem here. There’s a lot of information swarming around my head right now that’s kind of a mess to decipher right now. As for the things I want to talk about, they’re either things where the info is too murky to make any sort of accurate commentary on such as the recent gas attack in Syria or things that people have already commented on better than I could as is the case with new information regarding the now infamous JonTron v. Destiny debates.

The good news is that, after some discussion and fixing some miscommunication, I do have some vacation time coming up at work to clear my head and get back on a more, if not positive thinking, than at least constructive thinking path. So, just give me some time to sort this hot mess out and I’ll be back before you know it.