OP-ED: Don’t Ban Things Just Because You Don’t Like Them

This post has been on my mind for a few months now. Like others, it’s being written in advance for posting. But in a way I’m glad, because I’ve already written it once and retooled it. After some consideration, I think the best way to go with this post is to be short and sweet.

There’s been a real rash in the last decade or so of folks seeking to “remove” what they don’t like from the public sphere. Various methods are being used, from twitter mobs that go after creators to try and get them removed or banned from communities or positions, to the latest incarnation, which is to use politicians and laws to block or remove things simply because one disagrees with them.

I wish I were joking. Kentucky just passed a law that, as I understand it, gives state politicians ultimate say over all public library funds and what they go toward. The implication made by the supporters of the bill is that it will allow them to examine what books are on public library shelves or requested by readers and then block all library funding until the “problematic” titles are removed. A similar bill is being pushed in Idaho that would launch an investigation into public libraries of that state to find “problematic material” and remove it from the library (likely, from what I’ve gathered, along with punishments to the library and staff for offering such “problematic” literature).

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Things I Miss from Covid

I realize that title sounds a bit strange, or maybe even upsetting. Just bear with me for a moment. There were good things about the Covid-year, by which I mean 2020.

Yes, I know that Covid-19 isn’t gone yet. It’s still sweeping through places—even my hometown—leaving pain and sadness in its wake. We’re still not through this. Not entirely.

But a lot of people are content to pretend that we are. And while there are good reasons for the pandemic to be over … there are bad ones as well.

Yesterday, I was out for a bike ride. Long-time readers know that I’m a regular bike rider. I live near a river trail that runs through a good chunk of the city I live in, and it’s a great way to get some fresh air and exercise.

But I noticed something as I was shooting along this trail. Something that took my brain back to some comments I’d made during 2020, at the height of lockdown. See, this trail takes its course past several very nice parks, each of which has playground equipment such as swings and slides.

And I noticed, with a bit of sadness, that a decent amount of this equipment was, in the early evening, unused.

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The Halo TV Show Embraces Everything Wrong with Hollywood Adaptations

Or, how I got my site canceled by CBS (that, if you’ve not heard, is a jab at CBS issuing takedown demands at Youtube reviews for their new show that were, shall we say, less than glowing).

Hollywood has a long, and shall we say, storied reputation when it comes to adaptive works. Particularly when it comes to adapting properties from the medium of video games. While there have been success stories they’ve both been few and far between as well as confined to the last few years (and often outside of Hollywood’s clutching grasp), leading to … Well, let’s just say I’ve had theories on how Hollywood has managed to take again and again something that seems like a sure bet and screw it up in a way that seems too inept to be anything but deliberate.

Now, with Paramount+’s (already a real fount of originality there) new Halo series, I must once again note that my theory seems more accurate than ever.

I’ll be open up front: This show is a mess.


Actually, let me start with something before that, simply to stave off CBS’s most common current defense, which has been ‘people just don’t like it because they’re desperate fanboys who can’t handle something not being 100% faithful to the original.’

Yes, I grew up playing video games (parents attempts otherwise notwithstanding). Halo came out when I was in high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it in college and to date still have the Master Chief Collection installed on my PC. I put a ton of time into Halo 5, put my thoughts on Halo Inifinite right here on the site, and so yes, I’ve been a fan of the series for a long time.

However, I am also an author, and no stranger to the rule that yes, you do need to make some concessions when adapting things from one medium to another. I have no “demand” that video game adaptations in film or shows be one-to-one with their counterparts. For example, one of my favorite video game movies to date is Sonic the Hedgehog, which admittedly did have to roll back their utterly horrifying design, but after they did so delivered a great, fun film that was full of heart and laughs while also still being true to the series elements that spawned it. Where there changes? Yes. But those changes worked and we designed in conjunction with the elements that were kept in order to make both come together to a harmonious whole.

Detective Pikachu is another movie that handled this well, staying very true to the elements of Pokemon that could be put on the big screen, while telling a slightly different—but no less fun—plot from most of the games.

Point being, I know sometimes you need to change things to make a story work in a new medium. I also know that there are plenty of time people get their hands on something and change it just to try and make it their own, without regard for whether or not those changes enhance or detract from the final product.

In other words, I’m more than willing to set aside devotion to a “core” setting and embrace changes for a new medium provided those changes are for the betterment of what the audience recieve.

And the Halo show? Hoo boy … This … This is not that. The Halo show is full of changes, and none of them are good. In fact, they’re more on par with “narrative disaster” than anything else. These wholly feel about “change for the sake of change” with no thought or regard to even the show’s own setting and the impact the changes have on it. The end result is a mess of show full of poor direction, plot holes, narrative inconsistency, and changes to the plot that are frankly boggling in their foolishness.

Buckle up and hit the jump, because this is going to be rough.

But at least it won’t be as rough as actually watching an episode of this show.

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OP-ED: Merit and Accountability in the American Workplace

This post has been a while in coming, and I mean that to a degree most of you likely won’t expect. This, right here, these words you see before you, account for the third time I have written out my thoughts on this subject, the prior postings either being too disorganized or too negative and downbeat to ultimately find their way to the site.

Yet the topic kept circling back. Whether it was because of the constant barrage of, to put it kindly, angry or entitled posts I would see on social media from a particular group, or because I was in the opposing group those type of posts regularly attacked while also knowing (and seeing) firsthand what things were actually like, the topic kept coming back in my head. Though arguably, it also likely has much to do with firsthand experience I’ve had working at various jobs, seeing directly for myself how abysmal things have gotten … as well as how doggedly those who benefit from the current status quo fight to defend it.

Which I think is perhaps where things went wrong. Both the prior attempts to write out this post contained example after example, all first-hand, of how working in the US has become, well … awful. The problem was is that the post didn’t do anything constructive. It aired a litany of sins, pointed fingers … and then that was it. Not exactly great content. So after the second post had been a dud (which was last night), I stepped back and analyzed this latest attempt, and decided to come at things from a very different angle. Yes, I could throw stones, and there’s more than enough ammo to go around. But that won’t fix anything, because those who understand already know what’s gone wrong, while those who should understand have already insulated themselves from the issue and are often living a lifestyle dependent on never admitting the issue in the first place.

Ultimately then, there’s little reason to writing yet another post that airs the problems that are already there, whether or not they’re acknowledged. But a post that’s about the constructive, a post that is to those who will, slowly but surely, taking those same positions encouraging them to not dive into the same self-serving behavior and discussing how the US economy is harmed by such self-centered mindsets? Well … maybe that can do something. Just maybe.

So let’s talk about the idea of merit, the concept of accountability, and how both are vital to the US economy … despite being something that’s been largely ejected from the modern job market.

And look, I know there will be plenty of those that have, as noted above, insulated themselves from the reality of what’s going on out there. They’ll come at this post with torches and pitchforks, ignore most of it or attempt to leave a comment that’s effectively a giant strawman, or something else.

To all those posters: Tough. You’re welcome to go shout at your personal echo chambers about why “merit doesn’t matter” or “merit matters, but everyone else is just inferior” or whatever other cockamamie excuse you feel works. Knock yourself out. But don’t expect to be taken seriously here, or given a soap box to shout. Fair warning.

For the rest of you, let’s talk about merit.

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OP-ED: Not Every Popular Thing Goes with Every Other Thing – Or Why We Should Stop Shoving Dark Souls into Everything

This piece is going to aggravate a few people. I’ll state that up front because I know it’s going to aggravate them because I’ve already expressed this opinion elsewhere and had some people express very much that they disagreed with it.

But it’s a pretty straightforward opinion, and I’ll back it up as best I can. It basically boils down to a recent gaming experience (a rare reminder of one of my hobbies) that could be best summed up as “Stop shoving Dark Souls into everything, especially where it doesn’t fit!”

If you’re not familiar with the title offered there, I’m going to note that I don’t have a problem with the game itself. Dark Souls is a series (as well as a style) of game developed by FromSoftware that’s built around a very punishing, precise, methodical style of play. Your character is not agile and limber, but stiff and committed, unable to break free from an action they’ve committed to. Enemies are tough and on equal or better footing to the player. The result is a gameplay style where you must make very concise, clear, methodical choices—usually about when to roll, block, or strike—with a very limited window for error and even less leeway for actually making an error.

Effectively, every enemy is a sort of “trial and error” experience of learning when to strike and when to roll out of the way, with the message “you died” being a frequent companion to the player. You learn to watch every enemy’s tells, and you learn precisely when to counter, dodge roll for i-frames, or attack … or you’ll die. Again and again.

Here’s the thing: FromSoftware has devoted a lot of time to making this punishing, methodical style of gameplay work. It’s a game style that lends itself to a lot of rough edges, from cheap shots to badly designed combat encounters. And I make this bit clear: FromSoftware has worked very hard to make these rough edges as smooth as possible, taking out cheap shots, making sure enemies fall victim to the same physics that the player does, etc. The result has been a very successful series, to the point that a lot of players who are fans of it consider it the “original” hard game (to which those of us who played something like Ninja Gaiden Black just chuckle and roll our eyes). If you’ve heard anyone talking lately about Elden Ring, well that’s because it’s FromSoftware’s newest release in the market, and it’s tearing up the charts as it is a very well-realized evolution on the formula that’s made them such a success. Millions and millions of copies sold, the latest in a line of popular stylized combat games.

Now, I’ll state something up front before diving into the meat of this discussion: I don’t mind that these games exist. Dark Souls and the like are certainly not my cup of tea, with their slow, plodding combat, i-frame design (a practice I’ve never liked in almost any game I’ve played) and the design of being locked in whatever action you most recently set out to do. But I don’t mind that others enjoy the polished experience that FromSoftware provides. That’s fine. You play Dark Souls. I’ll play the liquid smooth, tough-as-nails Ninja Gaiden Black instead.

What I do have a problem with is every other developer out there going “Hey, this game is really popular. Why don’t we shove that gameplay into a game that has no reason to have it? It’s popular, right?”

It stinks of executive meddling or developers not understanding their own game, and I hate it.

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OP-ED: Labor and Ownership

Hello there readers! I’m taking a bit of a momentary break from Starforge editing to write this post and give myself a bit of time to decompress (though don’t worry, I’ll be back at Starforge shortly). This is a topic that’s been on my mind, coalescing, for several months now as shortages, particularly of the “worker” variety, have continued to make the news day after day.

Today’s particular musing comes from an actual—if short—conversation I had the other day with an individual who was very angry about the “worker shortage.”

A little bit of background for you; basically what they offered to me: This individual owned a local small coffee shop/kiosk, and was very angry about their current inability to have someone staff/work it. Apparently it was small enough that it could be run by just one worker, but they currently couldn’t find that worker. No one wanted to work for them.

Wait, it gets better. See, their little rant volunteered the information that they considered the job “minimum wage.” After all, they explained, it’s ‘just a coffee shop. No one should be making a lot of money from that. But now,’ they continued, ‘thanks to the laziness of entitled workers who think they should earn more, I’m not making my money from the coffee shop!’

As this was a group discussion, several people quickly asked questions which led to more information being offered—though based on the reactions that occurred, I believe this individual thought things were going to go very differently. Among this information we were given the following:

  • The owner made quite a bit more per hour just owning the shop than the lone worker did. In fact, they seemed to consider it a large portion—based on their wording, I’d guess at least half—of their yearly income, which was again, from their words, at least six digits.
  • Despite this, they refused to work in the shop itself, to the point that they would rather have the shop closed and be losing all that income than go work the position themselves because ‘it’s a low-tier position, I can’t be expected to degrade myself with that.’ It was also suggested among their words that they didn’t know how to do the job either: They’d just bought the setup and expected someone else to do it.
  • The owner themselves had no interaction with the shop other than paying the bills, the paycheck, and collecting the majority of the money.
  • They used the phrase ‘unAmerican’ to describe the concept of having to work at their own shop, and used the specific phrase of ‘it’s my right‘ to describe their relationship with employees and not being required to labor with the business.

After volunteering this information, they were both shocked and a little offended when few took their side. Instead of pity—though a few like minds did offer that—they instead found themselves challenged. My own voice was one of them calling out to the contrary to their claims, and I made a very pointed statement: Was it not entitled to own a store that they believed should only pay minimum level wage, that they themselves refused to work at, yet demand more than a minimum level wage for in essence, doing nothing other than throwing money at the place to start existing? I compared this to the concept of “The world owes me a living,” as this business owner believed it “beneath them” to be the one working the store, and yet wanted the majority of the reward for someone else doing that work.

I never got a response. The owner just left, apparently realizing that the particular audience they’d found was not sympathetic to his desire to be, in effect, the lazy grasshopper from The Ant and the Grasshopper.

But something they’d declared did stay with me. Not because I think it’s correct, but because I think it does serve as a source of so many of the problems facing the United Stated (and, by cultural extension, a lot of other countries). This concept that simply having “ownership” of a thing means that one is “owed” everything that comes from it … even if they’re not at all willing to put in any of the work or requisite knowledge.

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You Might Want to Read … Bullshit Jobs

So this post isn’t quite a “Why You Should Read …” but at the same time, I did want to throw this book out for consideration.

You might have hear of it. Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber is the eventual path taken by an essay written in the early 2010s that you might have heard of. Specifically because it set the internet on fire for a time, prompting everyone from national news chains to CEOs and middle managers everywhere (unsurprisingly, given the context) to descend upon the small web-host that carried it, crashing it numerous times.

You can still read the original essay on that same site, in fact, and it’s reproduced in the opening chapter of the book. And it still argues the same thing: That many of the jobs embraced by modern America are, in fact (and understand I’m using the author’s terms here), bullshit. They’re pointless jobs that serve no real purpose, to the degree that if those “working” them were to secretly vanish, no one would notice.

Surprised? Well, the author actually posts several examples of people doing just that, including one “highly important” individual who, after the company attempted to give them an award for not missing a day in eight years of work, was discovered to have not even shown up at the building nor done any work in over six years, and in fact was out of the country on yet another vacation, collecting a paycheck for a pointless job with no other requirement than “make the people above you feel important.”

Which in short is the entire phenomenon the book examines. It doesn’t present a theory that these jobs exist: Rather it demonstrates that they do exist, are a staggeringly large part of the American working world, and then asks the question “Why?” Positing that a job might be pointless is fairly subjective. Proving that one is pointless is very doable. Bullshit Jobs points out that they do exist, and in large numbers, something acknowledged both by those working them and the companies employing those positions themselves. It then goes on to ask “Why?”

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OP-ED: The Limping Engines

If you’ve been in any stores lately, or tried to buy something, or even just listened to the news, you’ve probably heard the term “supply shortage” thrown around. The supply shortage has dominated much of the public sphere lately, much in a manner similar to the fictitious “worker shortage.” People on the news won’t shut up about it, fingers are pointing every which way, and the average person listening to those sources will probably have an opinion about what the true cause of the supply shortage is.

We have facts. We know that hundreds of container ships are backed up outside US ports. We know that there’s a complicated system (in hand changes) that this cargo must go through, from longshoreman, to truckers, to railway workers.

But it isn’t. And a lot of people are wondering “Why?” as every step of that chain does its best to point fingers at the other. The Port of LA says that the truckers, the railways, the laws, and the ships are at fault. The truckers say that the railway, the port, the ships, and the laws are at fault. The railways say … eh, you get the idea.

Increasingly, people are coming up with their own theories and ideas on “Why?” Just this week, in a conversation that inspired this post, someone told me that they believed the whole thing was a conspiracy. By who they weren’t sure (or they didn’t want to say), but their logic behind such a determination I found quite interesting. They stated the following: ‘Well, it worked before. Why isn’t it working now?’

The answer, which I wasn’t given the chance to give them, is complex. But it boils down to this simple summation: It didn’t work before. It hasn’t for years. What we were seeing was the result of momentum from when it did work, slowly grinding to a halt as each error accumulation built up. So that when a big error came along and finally brought the whole system to a start, we discovered that it was too broken to start again.

Hit the jump. We’re going in.

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OP-ED: A Matter of No Consequence

WARNING: This is not a happy post.

Wow. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen a post like this one on the site, hasn’t it? But hey, Starforge‘s draft is now complete, so we can see stuff like this again. My mind feels free.

So, what are we talking about today? Well, to start with, I bounced between quite a few titles when I was thinking on this one. “America: Land of No Free.” “Freedom from Responsibility.” “Land of Freedom from Accountability.”

Among others. I think you get the picture. And a few of you are probably wondering what this is going to be about. Well … if you’re making guesses, there’s a good chance you’re on the right track. So I’ll dive in.

When I was young and being raised, one of the things that was constantly taught and reinforced, everywhere from my parents to (some of) my education was the concept that “actions have consequences.” It’s a basic principle of life: You’re free to choose (or should be) but you cannot choose the consequences. This leads to a sense of accountability and responsibility, a sort of social construct along the longs of “for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction.” For example, if you work a job, working harder at said job—producing better quality work, spending more time at it, more effort—should come with the reaction of greater reward for the additional work. One plus one equals two, so one plus two should equal three.

Here’s the problem: Should. Because as those of us that have worked in the United States can attest, rare is the job where working harder sees any sort of reward for your efforts. More often than not, what happens instead is punishment via cutting. “Oh, you were able to do that job in three hours when it takes everyone else five? We’ve assigned you additional work to fill out that five hours. No, we’re still paying you the same as everyone else. Whine about it and you’ll lose your job.”

It’s a problem of consequence. Do your job well, and you’ll receive no reward for doing such. In fact, you’ll be punished. Do your job poorly, but not poorly enough to be punished? You’ll trundle along. Why risk working hard or even well when you’ll only suffer for it?

But this is just an appendage, a symptom really, of the greater problem at the root, of something that affects the entire United States. I would contend it’s the cause of the current sexual assaults problems in so many video-game companies (Activison-Blizzard is facing a lawsuit right now over, among other things, management sexually harassing and employee so badly she committed suicide, all of which was covered up), complete lack of ethics shown by food companies (Tyson Meats is currently appealing a lawsuit over their management forcing employees to work during Covid-19 lockdowns and then management making bets on how many employees would die in each department), and the source of the cruelty evidenced by shipping companies (such as one shipping warehouse forcing employees to work around the body of an employee who had suffered a heart-attack from heat exhaustion).

All of these? There’s a common root cause among them. It’s the same cause that allows CEOs, Board Members, and managers to be pulling down incomes that let them buy a new house a year while the employees right under them work 70 hours a week and yet have to be on state welfare because they’re paid so little. It’s the same cause that allows for forty employees to have twenty managers, most of which just sit in an empty office and talk with the “good old boys club” while two of those employees do all their work on top of their own because said manager doesn’t actually know how … he’s just good friends with the manager above him and that’s why he has the job. It’s the same cause that allows for a manager to run a division into the ground through manglement, ruining a company and destroying hundreds of jobs … only for that same manager to receive a bonus for their “hard work” and go on to do the same thing at another company.

No. Consequences. No accountability. No responsibility.

Why? Because these people have convinced others that they deserve to be above consequences, dangling in front of them the carrot of “If you let me do it, one day you might be able to do it too.”

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Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites

Hey readers! Really quick, before I get started on this post, don’t forget that if you’re a Patreon Supporter, there’s a poll going right now to determine the name of a new arms manufacturer in Starforge! Go vote!

Okay, now that you’ve done that … So yesterday someone upon encountering my work for the first time asked a question that I’ve heard before, which goes a bit like this: “Hey, is any of your work on any of those episodic release writing websites where I can just read a chapter a day/week for free?” For those of you who’ve never looked at or for such a thing, yes, these places exist.

And no. None of my work is on any of them (and if it is, it’s been stolen). Nor do I plan on having my work on any of them.

Now, some of you might be asking “Why?” and that’s a fair question. I had one individual (not a writer, imagine that) suggest that all the “real” writers were on Royalroad because that was “where the money was” and if I was ‘serious” about this writing thing, I should look at going there.

Well, they were correct about one thing. That’s where the money is. Just … not for the creator.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with services like RoyalRoad or the newly-arriving Vella (Amazon’s service which they’ve several times begged me to join) they’re basically a serialized story service. Think of the basic setup a bit like a fanfiction site (though with a lot more money at stake) in terms of delivering readers categorized content, easy to search and find.

But now take it one step further. Rather than one-off stories or completed work, the goal here is to hook readers on serialized content that’s produced as rapidly as possible. So a reader comes to the site and finds, for example, a romance story that updates with a new chapter every day or every week. The goal of the site is to get that reader coming back every day or every week and reading the new chapter, which triggers their ad revenue. Or better yet, said reader can become a premium reader and pay a little bit each day to read ahead, as the story itself is usually a couple chapters ahead. As long as the reader is willing to pay a fee (a buck or two, usually) for that story each week, they can read the next chapter “before” the rest of the world.

And when you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem that bad. Not from the reader’s perspective. They can log in, read their new chapter each day on their phone, confirm that they’re paying for it, and come back again the next day.

But here’s the thing … If I wanted to do that system … I could do it right here on my website. In fact, I did, except that it was free entirely, with no fees or ads, with Fireteam Freelance. Of course, it wasn’t identical. People had to load my webpage rather than an app to check the latest chapters, and there was no way to become a “premium” reader and pay money to look ahead.

Outside of me being able to set up the same process on my website, however, there’s another reason you’ll never see me on sites like RoyalRoad or Vella.

They’re made to bleed money to the siteholders. Not to authors/creators.

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