The Agent on The Florida Shooting and Gun Control (AGAIN)

I’m getting really sick of having to look at this same image every few months in this country.
Source: New York Times

Well, here we go again.

I know I already made my statement on where I stand on gun control some time ago… multiple times, as a matter of fact. But given how the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida is one of the most lethal in recent history, I feel we need to bring it up again.

Yes, I understand that this is still a very recent tragedy and that the emotional wounds are still raw. However, I honestly believe that we owe it to the 17 innocent kids from Florida and the hundreds of others in our country that have been brutally cut down in a hail of gunfire in recent years to have this talk to protect future lives.

As I’ve made clear in the past, I’m not for gun bans – I’m for gun CONTROL. The gun, especially the modern assault firearm, is a very useful tool that has the unfortunate capacity to claim multiple lives in a near instant. The incident at Stoneman Douglas High School is just the most recent example of how we have too many people who lack too little empathy to be trusted with such a massive responsibility.

I feel I can safely say that I have yet to hear a sound argument against tighter gun laws.

“But places with strict gun laws have higher homicide rates.”

Yes, some of them do because of factors like economic status and general education levels. But this isn’t about stopping murders altogether because that would be logistically impossible. This is about denying those with an inclination to kill a means of doing so more efficiently. I think we can all agree that stopping a single victim knife-murderer is both easier and more preferable than a shooter with an AR-15 that destroys lives numbering into the double digits before anyone can respond.

“But Switzerland has mandatory gun laws and they never have mass shootings.”

Not true on multiple counts. Firstly, guns are only mandatory with military service; you have to have served first before they hand you a firearm. Otherwise, you must obtain a ‘weapon acquisition permit’ that requires a valid ID, a residence address, and a clean criminal record no older than three months. And even then, automatic firearms are still prohibited.

As for gun violence, despite having much lower gun death rates than the U.S., Switzerland still struggles with its gun culture. Much like us, Swiss historians believe that it was an armed citizenry that discouraged direct attacks during World War II. But they are struggling to keep track of military-issued weapons which contributes to gun violence in the country.

“But owning a gun is an American right.”

Yes, and that’s what we’re arguing about. You think it’s an inalienable right, I think it’s an earned privilege. And if someone abuses that privilege or are inclined to abuse that privilege, they should have it taken away for the safety of those who know how to handle that kind of power properly. It’s a simple system that every movie geek like myself is familiar with – “Bust a deal; Face the wheel.”

Look, I get that gun culture is a proud American tradition. But the thing about traditions is that they grow stale and outdated as time passes and our understanding of the world changes. As such, it’s our duty to call traditions – major and minor alike – into question when they can be used to the detriment of another. Remember; public executions and slave ownership used to be traditions.

So, while you all heal from this latest tragedy, I hope you continue to find the strength to make your voices heard – to stop the violence for the memory of those lost and the future of those we don’t want to lose.

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The Agent Reviews a Game: Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack

This blank, boring promo offend ALL of my senses as a graphic designer. But as for the game…
Source: Google Play

Well, color me surprised. Here I am, hunting for the ONE good mobile I can enjoy, and it was hiding right in front of me.

In my defense, everything about Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack screamed, “don’t play this; it’s garbage and we REALLY didn’t care about it beyond a paycheck.” Every piece of promotional material attached to this game is some of the most bland-looking, generic marketing wank I’ve ever seen. Even the title is so generic, I had to review and analyze screenshots like they were courtroom evidence just to make sure I wasn’t looking at footage from a different, equally generic looking game.

That said, when I actually got to playing it, I was surprised at how well it held up.

As the title ham-fistedly tells us, Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack is a space-themed shooter. You may recall my frothing at the mouth rage towards the last mobile shooter I played. Well, I was able to detect a trace of enjoyability through my fury-blurred vision and decided to look for other shooters to try in the hope that they would correct the mistakes of Fastlane. And, for the most part, Space Shooter nailed it.

The controls are AMAZINGLY responsive. My main problem with  Fastlane was that it didn’t actually track your finger which led to a lot of easily avoidable deaths. Space Shooter wins by default by having your ship lock to where ever you tap your finger, allowing for tight maneuvers and rapid response to threats.

And by god are their threats to be had. This game is just shy of a Touhou Project level bullet hell shooter – especially when you get to the boss fights and SUPER ESPECIALLY in Boss Fight Mode when they get amped up to eleven.

Oh yeah, there are multiple modes to play. There’s a ‘story mode’ (in the loosest sense as there is no plot) with three difficulty levels -Normal, Elite and Veteran. Boss Fight Mode has you rechallenging the bosses in the story with new ridiculous firing patterns that put your skills to the test, the Arena and Trial Modes give you a chance at snagging glory on a global leaderboard, and Endless Mode gives you a chance to grind some coin out of the alien menace to upgrade your ships.

Honestly, speaking of Endless Mode, that may be my only hang up with this game so far. Endless mode is WAY too easy. With a fully powered-up ship, I can cruise through over 200 waves while barely even touching the screen to steer. It’s pretty obvious that it exists only for level grinding.

Really, the thing you’re going to want to play this game for is the PvP. Yeah, this has a competitive multiplayer mode where you and a friendly rando from around world race against the clock to snatch the highest score. I thought it was totally mindless at first, but there’s actually a fair amount of strategy involved. What the fastest way to clear this wave to pull ahead of your opponent? Do you stick with your favorite ship to clear waves faster or grab the ship change power-up for a quick point boost?

As for the ads and pay-to-win shenaniganry I railed against in my Fastlane review, they are all completely optional here. Yes, there are buttons urging you to buy other games everytime you die, but they’re incorporated into the game over screen directly so as to be as unintrusive as possible. And if there ARE long video ads to watch, the game gives you the option to ignore them if the promise of extra coins or reviving your ship doesn’t appeal to you. Even the prices in the in-game store were more than fair; the starter pack is a steal at 99 cents.

This isn’t the sort of game that will hold me for long periods of time and it doesn’t compare to the big budget or even indie PC games I prefer to spend my time on. That said, I can’t state enough just how amazed I was that this seemingly hokey game that looked like it was made just to rake in a quick buck turned out so good. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good mobile game to hold you on a long road trip or waiting room visit.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that the ol’ chestnut of ‘less is more’ really does hold true in the mobile gaming market.

Archive News: Buy Me A Cup O’ Ko-Fi!

Sorry, field operatives. It seems I’ve hit a bit of a creative slump this week in terms of writing. I knew I shouldn’t have wasted all my creative energy on making that HUGE ground sirloin burger stuffed with mozzarella and bacon and topped with fried pastrami, a parmesan cheese crisp, and pickles.

To be fair though, it WAS an intensely delicious burger.

That said, I DID vow that I was going to try to find new ways to grow and expand this little project of mine while better supporting myself. And by gum, I’m making progress.

See, I’ve been wanting to set up a way for readers to support my writings for some time without having to strongarm them into a subscription service or forcing me into a rigid schedule – both directly opposing my laissez-faire approach to business practices.

So, I’ve finally decided to go a different route; you can just buy me a coffee!

Ko-Fi is, in essence, a digital tip jar. If you enjoy reading my brain droppings every week, you can go to my Ko-Fi page at ko-fi.com/awkwardagent to leave some scratch to show your appreciation. You can give as much or as little as you feel my weekly thought dumps are worth (in three dollar increments) as often as you deem appropriate. No subscriptions, no hassling, just direct support for the kind of semi-serious, occasionally geeky, thought-provoking writing you enjoy reading and I enjoy writing.

We’ll be back on schedule next week. In the meantime, please give my other articles a look-see. Last week’s offering on the horrible misunderstanding between the drag and transgender communities got a lot of love, so I encourage you to give that a look. And if you enjoyed that and other articles, please consider donating to my Ko-Fi page to support more good stuff.

Thank you all for your continued support!

The Agent on Trans-Visability, Drag, and a Horrible Misunderstanding

In the words of the photographer, my home state is primarily, “…covered bridges and drag queens.” (Side note: the model’s name is Porcia J. Chanel and she is gorgeous)
Source: American Society of Picture Professionals

So, you want to know something that’s been eating me alive for the past week or so?

I have a lot of very close friends in the transgender community. Like, A LOT of very close friends. They made up some of my most trusted confidants in college, one of them is an amazing teacher/writer, and I still try to keep them close even after graduation made us part ways. I would break myself to do anything for them if they asked me personally.

I also have close ties with the drag scene. I got started in early college doing drag for charity for the American Cancer Society (you speak to a two-time Mz. Relay winner, for the record). It then carried over into a later college acting career where my role in the dinner theatre mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the bubbly maidservant Ruby Pinkbottom was widely regarded as my best work ever. It allowed me to acknowledge the fluidity of my identity as well as a repressed feminine side of myself that, if I can be honest with you all, I feel I’ve been neglecting the last few years and really want to get back into the show.

So, considering my undying affection for these two factions of people, you can imagine how hurt I was to be told that drag shows hurt trans-visibility by delegitimizing transgender issues.

I won’t lie; when I first heard that, I had an existential crisis. I broke down crying because I cared so much about both of these aspects of myself that seemed to be at odds with each other in the eyes of those I cared for.

But, after a few days of rest and a daily regiment of herbal stress relievers and vitamin D supplements, I was able to sort out the information and I think (keyword: THINK) I understand where the confusion lies.

On a quick glance, I will grant you that the average drag show does look like a bunch of straight cis-gender dudes imitating and, by extension, mocking the trans community to someone viewing the action with no context. But thinking like this disregards the hefty number of transgender women that comprise a large section of the drag community. To demonize drag in this way is to throw many of the very same transgender folks you’re defending under the bus.

And even if there were absolutely no overlap between drag and trans, you still have to consider the number of non-binary and gender fluid people that use drag as a means of truly free self-expression – non-binary performers like the incomparable Jinkx Monsoon and gender fluid people like, you know, ME.

Drag should always be about inclusiveness regardless of how you identify yourself. To me at least, it’s about separating femininity/masculinity from gender identity and viewing it as something wholly beautiful and even artistic. That’s why there’s a big hullabaloo about whether or not cis-gender women should be allowed to perform in drag shows (I’m personally for it, even though I feel it’s a bit redundant).

And before anyone says anything, yes; I’m well aware that the queen of queens RuPaul said some rather dishearting things about transgender people claiming that the only thing that separates them from drag is, “about twenty-five thousand dollars and a good surgeon,” – a statement that totally insults the trans folks that can’t afford hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgery. But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here; Ru is NOT a good role model for either community. She’s a shock jock that says horrible things and throws shade at everyone because she knows it will keep her in the spotlight for a little while longer and stave off the effects of being an outdated antique in the drag world. You hear me, Ru – you are the Daniel ‘Keemstar’ Keem of drag queens and you’re making the rest of us look bad by association.

So, in closing, no – drag is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a slanderous statement against trans-people and if something should happen in the future to change its meaning for the worse, I will burn my dresses, throw away my makeup, and flush my nail polish down the drain never to return. Until then, let us all take pride – not in who we are – but in who our brothers and sisters are. For we are all works of art that we have spent years crafting through the torturous trials that life uses to impede the creation of our magnum masterpiece and we need to take the time to appreciate each other’s amazing artistry.

Be proud, be fabulous, and #GodBlessTheFreaks.

Why Ed, Edd, n Eddy‘s Rolf May Be One of My Favorite Characters In Fiction

… Not that I want to do a few bars of ‘That’s My Horse’ or anything, but still…
Source: Know Your Meme

So, I’ve been reanalyzing and reevaluating some long-neglected mementos of entertainment media from my childhood.

… which is the Double D way of saying, “I’ve been rewatching old cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s with a heavy focus on Ed, Edd, n Eddy.

But in all seriousness, every time I look back at these old shows, I’m always surprised how much the stories and characters imprinted on me as a child. Even more surprising though are WHICH characters contributed to the formation of my psyche.

Case in point, I was amazed at how relevant to my life the token strange foreign kid Rolf was and still is.

There was so much to love about this bizarre son of a shepherd from an undisclosed old world country (more on that later) and so much that I never realized influenced me as a child. But now that I’m older, I can truly appreciate how…

Rolf had an AMAZING work ethic

If a pig got into my chicken coop, I’d be a bit miffed too.
Source: book-o-scams.tumblr.com

One of the things Rolf and I have in common was that we both came from farming families that found their way into suburban settings. And like Rolf’s parents, mine were quick to impart the value of hard work.

You don’t often see kids like Rolf in media these days. It’s not to say that the modern office drone doesn’t labor vigorously in their own right, but it’s much easier to convey the idea of ‘hard work’ when you can see the sweat they put into it.

All of this taught him to respect the effort that went into producing something as well as the person providing it – a certain level of common decency that any retail worker will tell you is sadly absent today.

Rolf believes in cultural exchange

It ain’t easy to become a ‘man of the world.’
Source: Gfycat

As mentioned, Rolf is an immigrant child from a place only described as “The Old Country.” This is a big deal as series creator Danny Antonucci is a child of Italian immigrants and based Rolf’s actions and interactions on his life growing up (Side note: he kept Rolf’s nationality intentionally vague so as not to offend anyone).

Rolf struggles to integrate into his new home but still tries to regardless. To make the transition easier, he still maintains his own traditions and actively shares them with the other neighborhood kids who – despite being weirded out most of the time – still love him and enjoy having him around. In fact, they seem to enjoy his traditions most of the time.

Which brings me to…

Rolf’s just a really friendly and courteous guy

It’s the thought that counts.
Source: Imgur

Despite his many missteps in learning the culture of… whatever country the city of Peach Creek is in (I suspect Canada given the show’s production), Rolf is deeply respected among the neighborhood kids. That’s because, at the end of the day, he genuinely cares for them, helps them whenever he can, contributes to the neighborhood as a whole (remember, he leads the Boy Scout-esque Urban Rangers) and celebrates their achievements alongside them even if he doesn’t quite understand the significance.

Of course, like any healthy human being, Rolf can only take “the burden of hospitality” for so long without recompense. And when that happens…

Rolf had some of the best one-liners and insults EVER

Even when you don’t get it, it still hurts.
Source: pi-la.tumblr.com

One of the inspirations Danny Antonucci took from growing up with immigrant parents while making Rolf was the heavy use of proverb in their speech. Almost every line where he’s putting down an offending person or offering sage advice to another is steeped in metaphor. It then becomes a game of wit and intellect to decipher.

This results in one-liners and insults that not only cut deep but bewilder the minds of opponents; Which is what you want when you throw shade at someone. After all, the worst way you can follow up an insult is to be too taken aback to respond.

I would dare say that Rolf’s insult game is borderline Shakespearian. And before any of you try to tell me that Shakespeare would never write a line of dialog where someone tells another that, “your garden is overgrown and your cucumbers are soft,” (no translation needed, I hope) go back and read/watch The Taming of The Shrew and you may find out why Katherina was so insulted by Petruchio’s talk of tongues and tails. Or consider that Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus may have been the deliverer of the world’s first ‘Yo Mama’ joke.

Rolf basically taught me how to appreciate ‘the gentle stab’ when it comes to snarky put-downs.

In conclusion, the reason why I love Rolf is this: with his rich family tradition, well-meaning heart, and sharp tongue, he’s basically a kid-friendly version of Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls.

A New Year’s Self-Reflection: Three Things About Myself That I’d Like To Change in 2018

I’m pretty sure it’s required by law that any article on self-reflection requires a picture of a mirror at this point.
Source: Her Campus

Now that we’re well into 2018, I, like many people, am taking the time to look back at myself and my actions and attempt to do some self-improvement.

Of course, most people focus on the purely physical – exercising more, eating well, quitting smoking, etc. I don’t hear a whole lot about people resolving to fix perceived emotional or personality flaws. Which is why I’m identifying three things about my personality that I want to improve or completely fix by this time next year. Let’s start with what I feel is my biggest problem…

I’m too nice for my own good

I admit that I have a habit of letting people push me around and use me as a tool to get their work done. Honestly, I don’t mind helping and I actually enjoy it most days.

But the key word there is HELP. As in, to render assistance and aid to another. NOT, as many seem to think, shoulder the responsibility by my lonesome.

Let me put this in context; When I’m not writing every week (a strenuous mental practice as is), I work a 40-hour-a-week overnight job as a custodian at a highway rest stop. I care for both sides of the highway, do a lot of heavy lifting and cover 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) on foot nightly (thanks for the info, Fitbit). What’s more, I often forgo breaks just so I have enough time to get everything done right and the third shift schedule that works me on weekends keeps me from being with the people I care about.

Long story short, I am a very tired, extremely stressed out man who doesn’t have the time or energy to do all of your bull**** for you.

The good news is that I am getting better in this regard and calling out lazy people that just want me to work for them with no recompense. Like I said, I WANT to help; You just need to meet me halfway.

I don’t trust people who smile a lot

I’d like to think I’m not some miserable guy who harbors resentment against happy people. But, when I think about the state of the world, I often find myself thinking, “you can’t be THAT happy in THIS state and be a healthy, functioning human.”

Obviously, that’s not true and on a practical level, I know that. But when I see someone who seems to have a permanent ear-to-ear, Chesire Cat grin on their face, my first instinct is to assume that they A) have some kind of ulterior motive or B) have never had a real problem in their lives and completely devoid of critical thought.

See, I’m one of those people who wears his emotions on his sleeve. I don’t like to smile or laugh unless it’s something REALLY worth being happy about because my mind to busy being flood by other, more important thoughts. Call it the “Daria Morgendorffer school” of thought.

Basically, I need to teach myself that there is stuff worth being happy about and force myself to see it and let myself enjoy it once in a while. In the meantime, I’ll be content with kicking Markiplier’s ass in those Try Not To Laugh challenges of his (Note to self: using sarcasm self-deprecating humor to mask my joyless nature probably isn’t healthy either).

I overwhelm myself far too easily

If I’m being honest with myself, I have a quite the knack for both taking on multiple large projects and not being happy until I’ve finely detailed them to nigh perfection.

Now, some would argue that over-ambitiousness and perfectionism are admirable problems to have. But that doesn’t change the fact that they ARE problems. I stress myself out until I need to quit because I work something until I break (If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve seen me take stress leave on this blog quite a few times). I also put off doing some things because they aren’t EXACTLY like I want them to be (THAT would be the main reason why I haven’t started doing videos like I wanted to).

I need to force myself to only take things one-at-a-time and accept that some of them won’t be perfect immediately.

What I’m trying to say is that I want to cut down on the downtime this year and really push to get part of my evergrowing to-do list off the ground.

The Agent on The Unforgivably Poor Judgement of Logan Paul

“Gaze in wonder at my ignorance and immaturity!”
Source: Kotaku

Well, this is a hell of a way to start off the New Year…

For those blissfully not-in-the-know, Logan Paul is a YouTube personality who is most well-known for his vlogs and rap tracks who fancies himself to be a rebel (you know, like every OTHER YouTuber that I don’t give two s***s about until they f*** up).

Though, starting this year, he’ll be known for something far worse.

Logan had just gotten finished with a set of vlogs of his tour through Japan in which he does just about everything in his power to make an absolute ass of himself (and, by extension, fellow Americans) in a foreign land. He plays up Japanese stereotypes in public and pesters and annoys strangers just trying to go about their day in a multitude of ways.

But, probably most egregious of all, Logan filmed himself in the infamous Aokigahara “Suicide Forest” where many good people have ended their own lives. He then proceeded to film and post the video containing the ACTUAL body of a man who hung himself to death.

Let’s be clear about something here; Part of why this is so terrible is that Logan would have been hated and ostracised for all of these actions IN HIS OWN COUNTRY. The fact that he thought he could get away with this behavior in a foreign land – in someone else’s home – displays a horrifying level cultural insensitivity and lack of basic social etiquette.

But the fact that Logan did do this in another country makes matters SO much worse. Whether you like to admit it or not, most people HATE Americans; they see us a rude, boorish, uneducated, clod-hoppers that care only about themselves. Hell, even OTHER AMERICANS hate Americans.

The second you set foot outside of your territory, you become an involuntary representative of your country. To that end, it behooves you to understand the laws and customs of the land and respect them and the people who follow them. By doing otherwise, Logan has made it so that those that were sickened by his antics – which is most, if not all, of Japan – now have their views of Americans tarnished, making opening a meaningful dialog between the two of us even more difficult to the chagrin of those who’ve been working towards open exchange all their lives. Don’t believe me? Just look at fellow YouTuber Gaijin Goombah, who spent YEARS living with a Japanese family with the goal of cultural exchange, get nearly tear-jerkingly wrathful at how Logan acted.

Of course, it’s not just cultural sensitivity that’s on the plate; it’s also making light of suicide. Take it from Boogie2988 who has actually struggled with suicidal depression. Hell, take it from ME who has shared his own experience on the subject multiple times.

Logan has apologized for his actions and the Aokigahara footage has been removed, but the fact that his other Japan vlogs still remain seems to show that he doesn’t truly grasp just how far he stepped over the line. So, I want to conclude by shifting gears from an only semi-serious rant to a VERY serious open letter to Logan Paul about what he did.

Logan – Mister Paul. What you have done not only made you and your fellow Americans look like even bigger laughing stocks but hurt countless others around the world. I truly want to believe that you meant no harm, but your history and choice of words and actions refuse to let me believe that you were actually thinking about the greater good when you made those videos. You have made life infinitely more difficult for those coping with suicide and suicidal depression, for our friends in other countries, for those of us looking to connect with and aid both of them, and for your fellow YouTube Personalities.

I know you’re taking time off from your vlogs to reflect on all this and I hope you can find some form understanding in that time. If you need to reach out to someone to discuss this, I hope you find the courage to do so because some of us want to see you get through this and become a better person for your experiences. I hope you understand that being a celebrity of sorts – even a minor one as compared to those outside of YouTube – comes with an obligation to use your charisma and cult of personality to unite people and guide them towards a better future together.

Please don’t let this be the end, Logan; prove to this world that you can learn from and rise above your mistakes.