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Stray Thoughts: Ethical Capitalism

👔 I Owe My Soul to the Company Store... There's a phrase that gets bandied about in center-left socioeconomic discourse: "There is no ethical consumption under Capitalism." It's an expression of frustration--and often outright dismissal--at one's inability to make sound ethical consumer decisions due to a lack of choices provided by the market. It's a popular enough sentiment that the better part of the third season of The Good Place  was dedicated to it. And it stems from a real dilemma. Most people are basically good most of the time, but we live in a society that inhibits us from acting on our goodness. Nobody goes to the store thinking "Imma exploit me some Indonesian child labor!" We just want a good deal on tennis shoes. So with this essay I would like to explore some of the mechanisms behind this dilemma and relate it to our current political climate and perhaps point out some very obvious solutions. First a little groundwork. The term "
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Memory Leaks: Left 4 Dead 2

🧟 In your head, in your head... Left 4 Dead 2  is a co-op 4-player first-person-shooter released for PC and consoles by Valve in 2009, a sequel to their 2008 game Left 4 Dead , and further proof that Valve can release timely sequels so long as they don't have the number "3" in them. How I Remember It... My friend group played a lot of Left 4 Dead . This was in the halcyon days of the late aughts when grim-and-gritty shooters were king and we as a culture weren't completely burned out on zombies yet. In that game you are one of four survivors of a zombie apocalypse fighting your way through the dynamically-populated city to try to get to safety. The aesthetic is "cheesy horror movie" as evidenced by the movie posters on the load screens and the ending credits after a campaign. There are always four protagonists in play--any not covered by players will be played by bots--and you have to work together to prevent being overrun. Left 4 Dead 2  is, honestly, not

So Long and Thanks for all the Tweets

🦤 Take These Broken Wings... I'm writing this post on Thursday, and it's kind of an even bet as to whether or not Twitter will still exist by the time this goes live on Friday. In the two weeks since Elon Musk took it over, the site has become a multi-car train wreck, a flaming shit-show of unimaginable proportions. A lot of doomsayers predicted that this would be the end of the Blue Bird, but I don't think anyone  could have predicted just how fast that end would come. So I thought it would be interesting to talk about how we got here and why. Over the last few years, Twitter has actually gotten pretty good. They've taken a stronger stance on content moderation--not a flawless one by any stretch of the imagination, but incremental improvements. The platform was stable and bringing in new features (such as the long-awaited "edit" button). The timeline algorithm, though people complained, made it possible to stumble upon new weird content. It was my go-to plac

Memory Leaks: Donkey Kong Country

🍌 Take Your Stinking Paws Off Me You Damned Dirty Ape... Donkey Kong Country  was a 2D platformer for the Super Nintendo released in 1994 by Rare. It served as a reboot of the Donkey Kong  franchise that had been languishing for a decade. It featured a new gameplay paradigm, a completely re-designed Kong, and the introduction of new characters like Diddy Kong and Funky Kong. How I Remember It... It's kind of bonkers how out-of-the-blue this game was. Just two years prior Super Mario Kart  had included Donkey Kong Jr as a driver, a character built on the old DK design in a first-party title. And then with DKC  not only is Junior out of the picture entirely, these apes have a brand new look. And not only was it good , it quickly became one of the must-haves for the system. The DNA of this game feels like it owes something to Super Mario Bros. , what with it's two-player semi-coop, it's mix of land and underwater levels, its enemies you defeat by jumping on them, and its many

Stray Thoughts: What is the Point of THE RINGS OF POWER?

💍 ... Comes Great Responsibility... I'm a more-ardent-than-average Tolkien fan. I've read The Silmarillion . I've read Lord of the Rings  multiple times--and in fact am in the middle of yet another re-read. I've pondered the lore, studied the weird details like what happened to the other palantíri or why Aragorn is heir to both Gonder and Arnor. I'm not like a Stephen Colbert level of Tolkien nerd, but I'm up there. So I want you to keep that in mind as I ask the following question: Why does The Rings of Power  exist? I don't mean from a storytelling perspective. That's easy. Does it need to exist? Of course not. Does Amazon have the rights to the source material that would be necessary to tell the story properly? Hellz no. But is it nonetheless attached to a widely-beloved property and people will watch it anyway just so they can participate in the discourse? Certainly. And does it offer new filmmakers and artists a chance to offer a compelling and un

Memory Leaks: Monument Valley

🐦 Into the Light of a Dark Black Night... Monument Valley  is an indie puzzle game for phones and tablets published by Ustwo Games in 2014. You guide Princess Ida through a series of mazes and puzzles that use optical illusions and shifts in perspective to unlock new paths and solutions. If the perspective shifts so that two separate platforms appear to be next to each other, Ida can now move across them. How I Remember It... This game is a delight. It's atmospheric, mournful, and utterly charming, and on top of all of that it sports solid gameplay using a fairly original mechanic. Just like Portal  was able to take a simple unique gameplay conceit and spin it out into now two full games, Monument Valley  takes an Escher-inspired landscape and teases out a series of increasingly intricate puzzles for you to navigate. The game does a great job of balancing its elements. It knows when to lean on gameplay and when to streamline that in order to let the story have a moment to shine. T

Stray Thoughts: You're Wrong About IDIOCRACY

🧠 I Am So Smart, S-M-R-T... Idiocracy  is a 2006 film by Mike Judge, the first movie he'd directed since 1999's cult classic Office Space . It tells the story of Joe, a perfectly average, er... man... chosen to participate in a human hibernation experiment that went wrong, leaving him stranded 500 years in the future. In this horrific future, intelligence has been bred out of humanity and the world is on the brink of collapse, and now Joe is the smartest person on the planet. Can he evade capture? (spoiler: no) Can he help heal the world? (spoiler: kinda) Hijinks ensue! Idiocracy  has become something of a cultural touchstone, frequently name-checked as a scathing satire of the dumbing down of society, a film that shines the light on our cultural milieu and just eviscerates it. And it's an accolade that I don't think is completely justified. This is a thought that's been niggling at the back of my brain for a while now. You see, over the years I've heard people