So long, farewell, I'm slow to say goodbye

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Hey, hello, greetings, and hiya to all those dearly beloved and anonymous folk who have intermittently stumbled into this dusty little corner of the Internets. Now goodbye.

Just kidding! I'm not actually leaving. I have, however, stepped down from my position as GameSpot Master Mod. (The title still looks very impressive, with all those caps. ;) ) Alas, my job is just taking too much time. Plus I'm trying to date an awesome girl who happens to live two hours away.

Anyway, rather than reiterating what's already been said, I will simply re-post (in relevant part) my letter of resignation. Bottom line: I'm still here in spirit, I'm grateful for the time I spent as a mod, and I hope to remain a GameSpot denizen for a long time to come.

I am writing to bid you all Adieu. It's been a long time coming. I've resisting resigning until now because you guys probably wouldn't believe how much fun and camraderie I've enjoyed on the mod team over the years. [JodyR] and Bethany--and Synthia too in recent times--have been great leaders.

[ . . .] I just can't find the time like I used to. The workplace becomes a lifestyle. Given how I've treasured my time on the team, I feel even more keenly that I shouldn't occupy a position which someone else could use and enjoy more productively.

Please accept my reluctant resignation, and far more importantly, please accept my thanks for the years I've enjoyed as a GameSpot moderator. You guys are awesome; you have an awesome team; I hope you don't forget that.

I'm sure I'll still see you all around. Elraptor

Trial by fire

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I've been a criminal defense attorney for about 16 months. On Monday, I have my first jury trial. Most of the details are off-limits (duty of confidentiality etc.), but it's no secret that I am a little nervous. I'm not as nervous as I thought I would be, though. I've worked on the case for months, pretty intensively the last few weeks, and I haven't felt the butterflies until today. On the other hand, I haven't slept well for the last few weeks. I think I prefer the queasy stomach; insomnia just sucks the life out of me.

I wish I could be more specific about the case. There's nothing especially dramatic about the facts. It's just a mid-level felony case. I've handled probably over 100 of those at pretrial stages. But I've never had a real jury trial of any sort. I hope I'm ready. I still need to practice everything a bit more. Oh well, wish me luck!

Seven long years

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As of September 9th, I've been a member of GameSpot for seven years. That's far from a record, of course; I think we have users who have been here from practically the beginning (mid to late 90s). However, it's long enough to have taken me from high school, through college and law school, and into my current career.

I have to keep this entry short because my time on GameSpot, these days, is limited to early morning and late evenings. I'm still here quite consistently, but not for long stretches. The days of posting for hours are pretty far behind me. In a way, I miss that, but once a person enters the work force full-time, those daily hours of surfing or gaming just aren't available anymore. Still, I'm making time for a few observations about the site, the forum, and my role in the latter.

The site has changed tremendously over the years, both in appearance and content. The general trend is towards growth and improvement, in my opinion. I still use GS as my primary source of gaming news, previews, and reviews. I don't see that changing any time soon. The site has a great editorial team, and despite the occasional rash of glitches, I think the developers work hard to bring us a technically excellent experience every time we browse the site.

As for the forums, god, I could probably spend those hours I don't have anymore, just blabbering on and on. The forums have had ups and downs, but more of the former than the latter. I don't feel like I know the current userbase as well as I used to, but that's probably the inevitable result of turnover and my own limited time resources. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of great old users still around, and a steady supply of great new users as well. And there is still so much to talk about, from gaming (of course) to off-topic and beyond.

I can't talk about my own experience on the forums without touching at least briefly on my time as a moderator (several years now). I still moderate on a daily basis, just not nearly as much as before. I hope the quality of my work is still decent, if not the quantity. :P There may come a time when I can no longer justify taking up a space on the team, but for now I have no plans to step down (unless asked, lol). We have a great team of moderators, and much of what I said about the userbase applies here as well: lots of vets still around, plenty of great "newcomers" too.

That's about all the time I have. Folks, some of you have been friends or acquaintances for longer than most of my current friends and aquaintances in real life. I mean that as a compliment to you, not a commentary on my atrophied social skills. ;) I look forward to another seven years at GameSpot. May they be as memorable as the last.

In memoriam: death of a chopper

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I dedicate this blog entry to the memory of a moment in Battlefield: Bad Company 2's multiplayer, wherein a fully loaded Blackhawk helicopter attempted to deliver a squad of enemy paratroopers to my M-com station; whereupon I, crouching next to said station, didst stand and fling a block of C4 into the air just as the monster disgorged its human bowels above me; whereupon I detonated said C4; whereupon all four enemy paratroopers were slain, the Blackhawk exploded, and the pilot and gunners perished alike in the wreckage. Amen.

Carlito's Way

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Don't worry, this entry is not a full-fledged review, just a mini rant. I wanted to say how much I hate movies that end ambiguously. SPOILERS AHEAD!

I'm pretty sure that we're supposed to infer that Carlito dies. He even says something about how no amount of stitches would be enough to patch him up. But because I've gotten a grubby little streak of romanticism in my cold black heart, I really wanted to know for sure. The possibility that he and his lady love would live happily ever after was just too tantalizing to ignore, but it would have been better to stamp out that idea completely than to leave it lingering in the air like a faint cloud of perfume . . . or an untraceable fart--whichever simile you prefer. The movie is otherwise quite good, which only underscores the flawed ending.

By the way, it just occurred to me that another great (but newer) movie is also an offender in this regard--Inception. For some reason it didn't bother me quite as much, however, possibly because the protagonist had no viable romantic entanglements left by the end of the film (Ellen Page = totally wasted opportunity).

Rant over. Elraptor out.

Toy Story 3 and the Intractability of Evil

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For those of who you had the energy to start this blog entry but not to finish it, here's the moral of the story: don't drink and watch Pixar movies at the same time.

Got it? Good. Those of you who wish to read on are welcome to do so; the rest of you can sink back into the aimless miasma of modern entertainment.

*Spoiler alert*

_____________________

I've secretly doubted the power of redemption for years, but only in real life. "Real life" is what we have to face, day in and day out. It's the gritty medium of the present. It's dirty, unpleasant, and--thank god--compartmentalized from the rest of life. It's not the rose-tinted Past, and it certainly isn't the carrot-shaped Future. It has no place in fiction, fantasy, or the boundless realms of hope. These places matter so much more than real life, because if we had to rely on real life alone for motivation, most of us would probably find the nearest mud patch and just wallow for the rest of our short and meaningless lives. In contrast, the sanctums of the imagination permit us to believe that we can better ourselves, that most of us are equal parts tarnished and redeemable.

And that brings me to Toy Story 3.

I saw it for the first time this evening. I liked it--truly. It engaged me visually, emotionally, and intellectually. That's pretty much every way I could enjoy an animated film, except sexually. (Though now that I think of it . . . oh never mind.)

It was also dead inside. Did you notice? I'm not referring to the painful, but ultimately heartwarming, separation of Woody and Co. from their beloved owner, Andy. That part was quite positive, really. Andy's departure for college pulls a hearstring or twelve, but before leaving he ushers his faithful toys into a new era of loving "playtime" with the vacuous but adorable Bonnie. Sunrise, sunset. Boy becomes man, but the archetype of innocence lives on through a new generation of children.

No, when I said "dead inside," I was referring to the toys. After all, this is "Toy Story" we're talking about. The human characters provide some narrative cohesion but otherwise might as well be ambulatory backdrops. The toys care about Andy, but we care about the toys. And in Toy Story 3, those toys, ironically, become exactly what toys in real life are: husks.

I didn't want to see that, but how else to describe them? Sure, protagonist Woody is still a dyed-in-the-stuffing good guy, but we've sort of come to expect that. He's got just one mode, and it starts to ring hollow. No one is that way all the time or even most of the time, and in the end he devolves into a trite puppet for showroom morality. But Woody is not the worst of it.

The best-developed character in the film was Lotso-Huggin' Bear ("Lotso"). He was the best because he had the richest texture, and I'm not referring to his faded plush fabric. Lotso had gone through love and abandonment. He'd felt despair and mastered it, turning the cancerous pain of his past into something useful. That's closer to reality than Woody ever came, and our eventual empathy with Lotso is probably more sincere as a result. Sadly, Lotso's fate reveals the intractability of evil.

When we're introduced to him, Lotso has a brief moment of false benevolence, but he quickly betrays Woody and Co. into torturous servitude. He then traps them in a dumpster after they attempt to escape, and finally leaves them to burn even though they'd just saved his life (the incinerator scene is incredibly poignant by the way; Schindler's List couldn't hold a candle). Lotso never has his moment of redemption, not so much as a token post-credits flicker. Yes, I watched for that especially.

You could argue quite successfully that redemption itself is trite. How can I complain that Woody is hollow because he's too good, but then criticize Lotso's character development? The answer is that each character becomes a shallow reflection of the other. Once good, always good; once evil, always evil. Well, that's not what I want from my fiction. The first is boring and the second depressing.

In real life, each and every day, I deal with people who seem intractably bad. I only avoid the term "evil" here because it's a little too melodramatic for real life. They may not be all bad all the time, but it's a pretty ****ing consistent pattern of behavior for too many altogether.

I can handle the notion of intractably evil human beings. That's just life, and the whole process of growing up prepares us to accept our selfish tawdry core. But the world of animated feel-good fiction ought to be different. Pixar, for the love of god, next time you craft another gloriously stylized adventure, don't turn a teddy bear into a monster.

Dance with delight

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Dance with Dragons! I don't know how long this announcement has been out, and I realize some publishers have jumped the gun in the past, but I was incredibly excited to see that the next entry in the definitive modern fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is scheduled for release! Now here's hoping the release date isn't pushed back for the umpteenth time, lol. Well, admittedly, Borders doesn't even list a release date--just a preorder date, but that has to mean that Martin has finally confirmed a final draft. Or so I dearly, dearly hope.

By now, I've probably read and re-read every book in the series at least four times each, and I enjoyed every bit of the ride. I'm one of countless fans, sure, and chances are a big chunk of GS users number themselves among the series' admirers. I trust, therefore, that I don't have to convince any of you that this announcement is newsworthy indeed. Can't wait! :)

Your Assistance Is Ineffective

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Ineffective assistance of counsel is the bugbear of a criminal defense attorney's imagination, almost every time he or she looks back on a case and second-guesses a decision. These two cases, on their way to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), deal with ineffective assistance and the appropriate remedy. In our state, trial-level attorneys speak of being "PCR'd" (from the procedural term "post-conviction relief") when a higher state court reviews their effectiveness. These cases, of course, have gone far beyond an intermediate state appellate court to the highest Court of the land. Both cases present questions arising in the context of guilty pleas. Because most defense attorneys preside over far more guilty pleas than jury trials, these questions strike particularly close to home in that sense.

In addition, one of the two cases is also "close to home" in a literal sense (those who know roughly where I live can guess which; the rest of you have to comb my older blog entries or profile info :P). No, I am not the attorney whose performance was arguably ineffective. I don't even know the unlucky fellow personally. I am, however, employed by the same state agency. We don't work in the same office or even the same region, and there are hundreds of us scattered across the state. But like him, I'm a new professional trying to deal with a rising caseload and problems I've never encountered before. I know something of how he must feel.

Criminal defense attorneys might dream of SCOTUS hearing one of their cases, but any dream involving ineffective assistance is more nightmare than fantasy. In our (little?) corner of the legal profession, I would guess it's like being branded for the rest of your life. Even though your name may never come up in the text of the pending SCOTUS opinion, people in your profession would know. They would know, and they would feel sorry for you, and their sympathy would burn more than an equivalent measure of scorn.

Anyway, these are sobering thoughts for me. I realize the issues here are a bit technical and probably confusing for anyone who works in a field unrelated to law. Yet I have always found you--my irregular band of readers--to be an understanding audience, even when my rambling must have defied comprehension. :P Normally I might express these ideas to my co-workers, but for the same reasons that this case feels so personal, I'm not sure anyone of us want to talk about it openly. Thus I (re)turn to my faithful, sadly neglected blog. As always, thanks for reading.