The first four Alien movies.

I’ve got to be avoiding some sort of deep dark abyss opening inside myself or in the world. That’s the only explanation for how much I’ve been watching television and movies lately.

I guess there’s a way to deal with these existential things bubbling under the surface in a healthy way, or I could try to find answers by watching all four of the original Alien movies over the course of 3 or 4 days.

Alien (1979) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray :

Ridley Scott made this masterpiece of space horror that every other space horror or serious sci-fi action movie has tried to emulate on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. You can see hints of both in the scene when Tom Skeritt is talking to MU-TH-UR (Mother) in a blinky-light room, punching away at a black screen with green letters. Star Wars borrowed from 2001 (I’m assuming) all of those white hallways. Alien borrowed form 2001 and Star Wars the same thing, but added in the freight business. 70s-type dialog where people talk over each other and cut each other off, jump-scares, good special effects. This movie holds up except for a few moments when the alien definitely looks like a puppet. The chest bursting scene is terrifying, but the way the chest burster peeps his head around is a little too sock-puppetty. I watched this movie with my friend who is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, meaning she was sheltered and hasn’t seen the films we all grew up with. But she also hasn’t been under a rock so she new the major plot points. The biggest shock for her was the reveal of Ian Holm being an android. That scene definitely is still so bizarre- who tries to kill someone by stuffing a magazine down their throat? And the weird noise Ian Holm emits while whirling around before Yaphet Kotto smashes his head off is uncanny and freaky. And Yaphet Kotto is the best in this movie. Probably my favorite acting performance in the whole film.

Aliens (1986) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

James Cameron, pre- Terminator 2, and pre- Titanic. This movie goes more for action movie than horror. I think it’s fair to say that it coined a lot of things that are cultural staples. Bill Paxton yelling “Game over, man!” Sigourney Weaver yelling “Get away from her, you bitch!” I was seven years old when this movie came out and my brother and I watched it repeatedly. Of the four original movies, it’s definitely the one that will appeal to 12 year old heterosexual white males the most. It’s still a good romp, but the tone changed drastically from the first movie. The first Alien movie was about claustrophobia and survival. It was about encountering an unknown thing in the midst of your routine life and finding out that the company you work for is actually out to screw you over, royally, and doesn’t give a crap about you. Aliens is about paranoia and the fight of a woman trying to get a bunch of dudes to listen to her. She’s talking sense and is getting condescended to left and right. There are claustrophobic moments, but Aliens is more about guns, sets, space ships, and kicking ass. There’s more humor and mugging for the camera. Sigourney gets into a freight suit thing that I’m pretty sure they made specifically for this movie, and stomps around in it a bit, while the camera follows each movement. “Where do you want it?” She says to the marine dudes. It’s clearly a sly moment for the audience and it felt a little silly. The special effects didn’t hold up as well as the first movie. The flying spaceship moments look kind of like Crayola on cardboard, somehow. The Aliens are frightening, though. The introduction of the queen Xenomorph is genius. Although the getting sucked out into space thing to kill it- that just felt way too familiar. I was surprised at how this one wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being.

Alien 3 (1992) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray: 

David Fincher directs this weirdly paced and overly long movie. It has some really good moments, though. A way younger Charles Dance, before he played the maniac Lannister on Game of Thrones is actually really good. The prison setting worked for me, too. A lot of this movie is Ellen Ripley trying to figure out the prison scenario and also play detective, of sorts. You think Charles Dance is going to be a huge part of the whole movie, until he’s killed by an Alien right after revealing some deep dark secrets of his past to Ripley. And I was with the movie up until around this point. It kind of felt like 12 Monkeys, in a way. Weird British dudes in this run down future, trying to stay alive. Disgusting lice-ridden dead oxen, other bugs clogging up pipes, and molten metal bubbling in the basement. It was pretty cool. But right around the point when Charles Dance gets killed, the movie sort of loses its way. We learn Ripley’s got a chest burster inside of her and she’s suicidal. Dance’s character is gone, so the other heavy lifting for acting goes to Charles S. Dutton, who is really really good, but he can’t quite shoulder the whole burden himself. The scenes of the inmates trying to shut doors and lead the Alien-dog-oxen thing into a piston room goes on way too long. There’s a fisheye shot from the Alien’s perspective that they keep coming back to. It goes on a long time. The wide shots of the Alien are just too phony- the CGI has a weird glow around the Alien against the “real” foreground. It’s just not that great. Overall, this movie was sort of disappointing.

Alien Resurrection (1997) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

This movie had a lot going for it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this- I’m surprised at how many of my friends hadn’t seen City of Lost Children or Micmacs, but they recognized his name from Amelie. The movie was written by a pre-Firefly and pre-Avengers Joss Whedon. You can definitely see the beginnings of Firefly formula in the rag-tag bunch of mercenaries. Winona Rider and Sigourney are great. The Aliens look fantastic. There’s virtually no “ugh, that looks dated” reactions until we get to the final morphed Alien, which is a strange human-Xenomorph hybrid. It has eyes, it has a weird nub of a nose, it’s kinda pasty and jaundiced looking. We’re made to feel bad for it and also despise it. At least Jean-Pierre put a spin on the air-lock death by having it be sucked through a tiny window. It screams pathetically while we watch its guts get deposited into space. Then the ending is also kind of a thud. They land on Earth, Winona and Sigourney exchange a few words, the camera pans out to show a demolished Paris. My friend I was watching this with had never seen it. “Wait, are the humans all dead?” She asked. I have no idea. Ron Perlman is great in this movie. Raymond Cruz, young and way before his role as Tuco on Breaking Bad is great- manic, likable, and just generally calm mixed with bursts of crazy (like Tuco). Dominique Pinon is so damn likable as the wheel-chair bound mercenary. Brad Dourif conjures his creepy doctor vibe yet again. There are so many good things about this movie, it’s a shame the weird Alien baby thing at the end had to happen in it.

I’m sure there are misspellings all over the place. I need to edit more.

I’m sick. So here’s what I’m watching.

I’m working on the second day of being sick- a head cold- the dog’s helping, of course. He’s laying on the couch in front of a space heater, and nudging me to take him out on walks. I’m Google Hangout-ing into my work meetings and keeping my microphone on mute so they can’t hear me hack and they can’t hear me talking to the dog as he’s pestering me.

When you’re sick, it’s the best time to binge watch TV. That’s definitely what I’ve been doing.

Community – Last part of season 1: 

My friend dog-sits for me and lets me use her Hulu account. I log in and see the “Shows You Watch” category. We have clear differences in what we like. You can pick them out: Hers- Kardashian things, Grey’s Anatomy, uh… actually I have no idea what else is on there because they all seem like variations of those two things. Mine: Community, Seinfeld, Adventure Time, Stephen Universe, Samurai Jack.

Community is finally getting good. I’ve heard friends say how they love the show because it plays with the format of the sit com itself, but I hadn’t gotten to that part until now. The first part of season 1 is kind of mood-setting, treating the characters as you would in any sit com: the weird one, the shy one, the cool one, etc etc. But after a certain point in season one they start being self-referential. It’s starting to get good. I dose up and… oh great my ADD or cold meds are kicking in. Here’s what else I’m watching-

Hell On Wheels : 

Cheesy at parts, but then it redeems itself with some beautifully screwed up racial politics and dynamics. It’s like Deadwood-light. With less likable characters.

Batman: Year One : 

I’m sure I watched this before at some point, but I can’t remember. This is the adaptation of the comic that began my love of Batman and gritty comics. It’s a faithful retelling of the comic book story. The best part is Bryan Cranston as Gordon. Oh and you wouldn’t know it from listening to her, but it’s Katee Sackhoff as Ellis. Or is it Ennis? I’m still on cold meds. I can’t wait for The Killing Joke to be released next month, even if Rotten Tomatoes did rate it pretty harshly.

Sleepy Hollow (the Tim Burton movie) : 

I rated this on one of my blogs a couple of years ago and I think I was more disturbed by it back then as opposed to now. It’s a good movie. Bloody as hell but that’s part of the fun. It’s cool to see Christopher Walken have no lines in the movie and yell like a madman. Netflix informed me that Big Eyes was also directed by Tim Burton, and I’ve yet to see that so I suppose that’ll be coming up soon in my sick-watch list.

Soundbreaking (PBS series): 

It looks like George Martin (Not R.R.) helped fund this cool series about music that’s kind of divided up into weird sections. Voice, electronic music, producers- each episode takes a different facet of each of those and then lets the pros in the field do the talking. There’s no voice over narrator. It’s great zoning-out TV, with a parade of all these people from every musical genre talking about how they make music. It made me plug in my guitar and pedals and start noodling around on it. My dog woke up and gave me the stink eye for a bit so I stopped.

Spotlight:

Holy shit, this movie is fantastic. (No pun intended there.) It’s along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein uncovering stuff, but it’s great and if you’re like me and despise organized religion, this will just get your ire up even more. I love watching Michael Keaton act in just about anything (maybe Mr. Mom is an exception). It’s appalling how many priests got away with molesting kids and how the Catholic church covered it up. The movie making is kind of on the dull side, as my friend Bill pointed out when I texted him about how great this movie was. He’s right, but I think it works for this narrative. There’s also only one black guy in the whole movie. Hey if we’re making a movie I think it’s okay to cast against type and race every once in a while. Just try that more, Hollywood. Okay?

I’m sure there’s more but I can’t remember them. Didn’t John Donne keep some kind of diary about when he was surviving the plague? I’m sure if he had Netflix, he’d be much happier. Did he have a dog? He needed one of those, too.

(Forgive all the misspellings in this post. I’m not 100% with it.)

Bob Mould show in Minneapolis. 

   
  
I had this draft in my phone from a while back. This was from a Bob Mould show earlier in the year. Looks like all I got into the blog post were some pictures before the actual concert. 

It was a fun night. I went with Merlin. It was loud as hell. I bought a cool poster that I have yet to hang up. 

  
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

Writer’s block, the election, and When the Emperor was Divine.

I’ve got this paper due tomorrow and I’m not sure where to start. As you can see, I’ve got the necessary elements there – coffee (decaf, yes it’s almost 9pm.), computer, dog, book that I’m supposed to review propped up next to me.

Look, I’m even technically writing SOMETHING. I’ve got to buckle down on this thing.

It’s an essay for class comparing Julie Otsuka’s book When the Emperor was Divine with the current state of affairs. Comparing? That’s not exactly right. It’s about the current election and how Trump was elected president and the xenophobia that he’s been spouting.

Julie Otsuka’s book When the Emperor was Divine is about the Japanese internment camps during World War II. It’s told from the perspective of the mother, then the daughter, then the son, and finishes with the father who was taken away from his family and returns by the end of the novel. It’s not overtly about the politics behind the interment camps. It doesn’t tell the story from a policy perspective. It’s a small book about small things. That’s not a slam against it. It inhabits a small world about specifics and emotions- how the mother needed to put the dog down and get most of their things out of the house before they left for the camp. It’s about the little rituals and magical thinking that the boy does when he’s in the camp, like keeping his father’s shoes and putting his hands in them to see if he can still smell his father who’s been taken away to another camp. It’s about the normalcy the daughter is looking for. She’ll earn a nickel at bingo just to buy her brother a coke. She’ll make friends and disappear with them for a while to hang out as young kids do and come back to their small barrack.

Because Otsuka’s book is about specifics, in some ways it’s hard to link to the election and present state of politics. Big things are happening, not small things. Donald Trump won the election but lost the popular vote. Was it the electoral college is what allowed him to win, or maybe it was that he appealed to poor white voters who didn’t vote in other elections, or maybe it was because the Democratic party splintered their base by having insider tactics to help ensure Hillary Clinton got the nomination?  We’re still too close to when it all happened. Absentee votes were still being tallied a week after the Tuesday of the main election. And I admit to being out of my depth as far as analyzing how and why an election was won. I’m one of the millions of Americans who clicks on stories they see on Facebook, which inherently skews the bias toward whatever the Facebook algorithm thinks will appeal most to the specific reader. What is actually true?

Otsuka deals with this idea of truth with relation to the camps. The final monolog by the father includes him telling his interrogators what they want to hear. Yes, he’s the enemy, the sniper, the saboteur, the houseboy, the cook, and the gardener. They’re all lies, ultimately. And in this part in particular, Otsuka illustrates the fallacy of extracting truth from torture. It’s not said outright but it’s implied in this chapter.

What Otsuka captures through intimate scenes is absurdity and dread. Conversations between characters feel like something out of a Samuel Beckett play where a question is asked but the answer is slightly askew from any sort of normal response. The daughter throws a lemon out the window of a moving train for no reason. The son puts loose strands of his father’s hair in an envelope and places it under the floor boards, pledging not to look at them because if he doesn’t, then his father will be okay.

This absurdity rings true for our time in light of the election. America elected a president who has had no political experience whatsoever. He’s been bankrupt several times over. He blatantly flaunted to the media that he didn’t pay taxes. He called Mexicans rapists and murderers. In a time when every politicians’ words are scrutinized, he doubled down on making the worst gaffs in history. But at the same time, Trump contradicted himself at every turn. When journalists held his feet to the fire for something he said, Trump just denied it.

There’s the obvious connection between the current Islamophobia and what happened to the Japanese at the internment camps. My Facebook feed is full of headlines stating that Japanese internment is setting the precedent for deporting Muslims and creating a registry. If that happened, Otsuka’s book can give us a perspective on how a Muslim family might feel going through it all.

But there’s a difference between our time and theirs, during World War II. Julie Otsuka said that there was no public or organized protest at the time, at least judging from the research she did while writing this novel. We don’t see much of the neighbor’s response in the book, but we get a glimpse at the tacit approval of what’s happened to the Japanese family. I don’t see how that situation would occur in our current climate. We are all interconnected through social media, television, and radio. Self-publishing thanks to the internet allows word to get out in a way that wasn’t possible during World War II. The fact that our nation has such a loud voice and is so contentious I think, I hope, would prevent the situation from getting anywhere near as bad as it was for the Japanese Americans in Julie’s book.

Hey this accomplished what I wanted it to- I actually got most of my paper written.

Now to shower and maybe drink the rest of this beer. Golden Monkey.

 

Review: Music from Mr. Lucky by Henry Mancini (Vinyl, 1959)

Henry Mancini – Music from Mr. Lucky (Vinyl) 1959

When I was a kid, my dad had the cassette for this album somewhere. I must have thought in my adult life that Mancini and Brubeck were the same person, or at least produced the same types of music. Maybe it’s the theme from the Pink Panther that I pictured when I bought this album on vinyl. For that matter, maybe I pictured listening to this cassette when I was younger, and that it had the same sort of moody vibe the Pink Panther did, but there’s no way on earth that was the case. 

The cover for the album is the best part- it’s moody and dark, but with class. The font says “Hey, this is going to be a fun ride”, but the cartoon cat winking out at you through fuzzy white paint splotches and the dice on the bottom say “Hey man, this is going to be very cool. Very, very, cool.”  

What it is, is the soundtrack to some 1960 mod- or Gogo Boots type show. It sounds like light kooky music with flute refrains and jaunty Elephant-walk-type goofy melodies. It’s a mood that I seldom am searching for, and one I dislike for the most part. 

But then again there are some genuinely good trumpet lines in here mixed in with some candy-coated xylophone work. And this might be the best type of music to listen to on a Saturday afternoon, slightly hung over, after getting four hours or less of sleep the night before because you had to scramble around in your kitchen and try to trap or kill a mouse that eventually evaded you, but you still pack your dog up in your car and drive to Walgreens and buy Junior Mints (because you deserve something for dragging your anxiety-riddled ass out of the house at 3:35 a.m. in the fucking morning), some generic Walgreens- brand Brillo pads (because you read that mice hate steel wool but low and behold the next day the unopened box will still be sitting uselessly on the kitchen table) and these white plasticky mouse traps (guaranteed to kill them quick without you having to look at the pathetic thing’s body when the spring loaded mechanism makes a quick death of it), and then you return back home bleary eyed at 3:55 am, and you’re shoving bath towels under the door cracks to your bedroom, bathroom, and guest room so that the arena of war between you and Mickey who decided to invade and make you scream like Wile E. Coyote (mixing Warner Brothers and Disney metaphors) at this early in morning is just limited to kitchen, living room, and tiny hallway. 

So give it a listen. Drink a dirty martini when you do.  

Rating: Okay.

Blue Apron Empanadas de Picadillo as told by a guy who still doesn’t quite know how to cook.

Empanadas de Picadillo with Tomato-Cucumber Salad & Lime Crema

This was the last of my 3 meals that came in my first Blue Apron order. Although something I should say right off the bat: I made this meal probably 10 days after the box arrived. The cucumber was kinda shriveled on part of it, and I had to rummage through my fridge to figure out where I put all of the ingredients.

I think this points to a problem with Blue Apron and the guys like me: we’re bad at planning meals to the point that even if the ingredients are there and laid out for us, we’ll still be bad about making them. I swear I had to convince myself to get amped up to chop all of these veggies after work. I seriously contemplated ordering a General Tso’s Chicken combo meal from the place right here on my block. (They recognize my voice when I call in. I don’t even have to say what my name is.)

Another thing I should say before we get started is that I’m writing this a day after I cooked it. I know, I know, where’s the urgency? It went completely into watching the remaining two episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix (a fantastic homage to the two Stephens- King and Spielberg. Seriously, go watch it) and the latest episode of Preacher on AMC (Oh man, this show is so good. It’s brutal and horrific and funny).

Okay with all of that said, let’s jump into it. You can follow along here if you want.

Step 1:


This step was mostly easy with the exception of chopping the tomato. I swear I’ve done this before even though it didn’t seem like I had. Tacos were a meal my brother and I, latch-key kids, used to make when our dad was working one of his two jobs. Despite that, I sort of felt the same way about this that I did about cutting chicken. My trusty huge bread knife probably wasn’t suave enough to do this step justice, so I wound up getting a lot of tomato schmutz everywhere.

This step asks you to medium slice one half of the tomato, and small dice one half. Listen, Blue Apron, we are not people who do this regularly. You’ve gotta say things like: “Dice one half of the tomato into 1 inch squares, and the other into half-inch squares.” Give me measurements, not these ambiguous descriptors.

Scallions were easy. I tackled those bad boys in the previous meals.

Why did they ask me to leave alternating strips of cucumber intact when I chopped it up? I don’t get it. I diced it up like it told me to, but it still left me scratching my head. (I washed my hands after.) 

Okay, I really didn’t do what it told me to for creating the lime zest. I had a peeler and tried about two flimsy pieces of it, but then the description they had just totally baffled me. I looked up “how to create lime zest” on Youtube and got this video from someone named Mayet’s Kitchen. I think her method of using this grater tool is way easier than putzing around with chopping things up like a schmuck. My lime was kinda weird colored in some spots. I avoided zestifying those.  Thus there’s no way I had enough zest for two table spoons, but I got by.

My chopped up ingredients. I used lids and containers from my Chinese food take-out because I’m not fancy and don’t have those magic glass bowls.


That crema was super tasty. It was basically some form of sour cream. I’m going to add lime and salt to my sour cream every damn time now.

Step 2:


Every bachelor knows how to do this step. Well, usually I don’t add olive oil before I brown ground beef, but other than that, this was super easy.

Step 3:


This step was pretty straightforward, too. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Again, don’t tell us to cook it until it’s “fragrant”. That’s super unclear.) I added the bits of veggies like they told me to.

Step 4:


Before I jump into step 4, I should say that Blue Apron thinks everyone is a speed demon when it comes to chopping things up and preparing things. They tell you to preheat the oven in step 1. No way, don’t do that. Preheat the oven in this step. I remember how rushed I was in the other meals when I started boiling things way too soon. Nope, just preheat your oven in this step and you’ll be fine.

Filling the empanadas was pretty easy. I was careful not to overstuff them. Again, if you’re a bachelor, then chances are you’ve made yourself soft tacos before. As a kid, I’d shove as much as I could into those shells and wound up eating 70 percent of the filling off of my plate. So I was pretty conscious about making a pretty looking empanada. I think they came out as they should have. Even the one that looked wonky before it went into the oven came out looking great.

Step 5:


You do exactly what it says. This is a step even I can follow.

See? Not bad, huh?
Step 6:


I combined my salad just like it said. Actually I left out the olive oil. The veggies alone were tasty enough. (Why do cooking shows and recipes like the word “drizzle” so much? “Drip” works fine. So does “put”. It’s just one of those words I hate. “Drizzle.” Yech.)

There was not nearly enough of that lime crema stuff to go around. I ate leftovers today and ad-hoc’d some greek yogurt and pickle juice. So many of you are going to scoff at this, but I’m telling you it was pretty damn good.

Okay, so here’s my end result:


Compare to theirs:


Final thoughts about Blue Apron after a week:

I still can’t get over how much packaging is involved in this. I know that you can send the stuff back to them to get it recycled, but that would mean an extra trip to the post office for me. I live in an apartment and can’t easily leave large packages like that for my mailman.

I really like their instructions despite my kind of making fun of them here. They do a good job of explaining things to people who don’t cook and I like that each meal has a corresponding web page with a few videos for things that are tricky.

I dislike having to subscribe at all to this service. If I could just perpetually put this on hold, and then select one or two meals whenever I want it, then this might work. As it is, I’m finding it difficult to do this level of cooking for one person three times a week.

The price point is a little steep, also. It’s 20 bucks per meal. I liked the meals okay, but I think I’d be willing to pay more like $15 per meal.

This would probably be way more beneficial for a cohabiting couple. Then you wouldn’t have to worry so much about planning things or getting your personal food plans derailed by dates and outings to go hang out with your friends. I’d recommend you try it. You’re probably less stingy than I am.

I think I’ll hunt down some other free meal trials and review those. There were a couple of you weirdos out there who said you actually read these things, so I’ll try to do more.

Pokémon Go, Police, & Black Lives Matter

I don’t follow the news much other than what pops up on my Facebook feed, what I see on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, or what happens to be on NPR on the occasion that I’m not listening to Spotify in the car.

But lots of things are happening lately – Alton Sterling, a black man, was murdered by the police. He was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was caught on video. The next day, Philando Castile, also a black man, was murdered right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was stopped for having a tail light out. He told the officers that he had a conceal and carry permit and that he was going to get his wallet out of the glove compartment (I probably don’t have all the specifics right). Right after that, his wife or girlfriend started to use Facebook Live to stream what was happening to him. He was dying in the front seat from a shot while his daughter was in the back seat. A white police officer shot a man and we had the ability to broadcast it live thanks to social media.

The day after that (I think. It might’ve been two days later), a man shot many Dallas police officers at a peaceful protest. He was a sniper on a rooftop and was picking off police officers. They had no line of sight, so they sent a bomb-defusing robot up and attached an explosive to it. They killed the sniper rather than detain him for due processing. They were protecting lives but also they could’ve used a flash bang of some sort. I admittedly don’t have all of the information about police procedure, but it seems like some steps were skipped.

In the wake of so much racial tension throughout the U.S. people on the internet are posting things like #blacklivesmatter which often get the retort of #bluelivesmatter. The problem there is that this puts it as an us vs. them thing. Is it black versus blue? Blue isn’t even a race? Or is the point that these officers’ lives are at stake so to say “black lives matter” is making light of the risks they take? I know that there are non-racist folks who say “blue lives matter”, but I also know that the slope from “blue lives matter” to “the black man deserved it” is pretty fucking slippery

We can’t live our lives in a complete state of anxiety. It’s unsustainable. You can’t completely focus on how negative things are, even if you want to. At least, I can’t. Anxiety and stress take a toll on us and we have to do things that relieve that tension. You need to go for walks and play games, for example.

Shortly on the heels of the police killings and the killings by the police comes a new app for smart phones. A company that made a GPS locator game called Ingress teamed up with the Pokemon Company to make a GPS-based phone app- Pokemon Go – that allows you to wander in the great (real) wide world and play the newest iteration of the 20-something year old game on your phone, in real time, with “enhanced reality” and collect digital creatures.

This comes with lots of cool benefits- it gets “gamers” out into the open. I work on a college campus and I’ve seen so many people out on their phones wandering around looking for Pokemon that they haven’t captured yet. They’re talking to each other and traveling in packs. I played the game for the past 3 or 4 days and went Pokemon collecting with a fellow dude friend from my roller derby team. (Masculine cisgendered white nerd dudes often have trouble getting together to just bullshit and talk about things. This happens with my friends from back home, too. If we don’t have Gears of War 3 to play, it’s not like we’ll skype with one another. I’m a social being, like we all are, and we need this interaction. Sometimes this needs a little help and and structure like playing a game.) Would we have hung out if not for this app? Maybe, but probably not in the same way. We wandered around Lake Nakomis with my dog and played this game. We talked to random people we spotted playing the game. Black, white, female, male, old and young people. We’d overhear them saying that a Pokemon was nearby and we’d say we caught it already. Or we’d overhear them talking about a Pokestop that had given them superballs. It’s an app that created a social movement, which is awesome.

What’s not as awesome for me is that there’s no end in sight. The game just goes on and on. There are 150 (I think) Pokemon that you can catch, and some are not likely to be seen in normal places. This is a game that wants to keep you playing indefinitely. Keep overtaking gyms and losing them. Keep collecting Pokemon and wandering. I’m really glad at the extra exercise but thinking about playing this game indefinitely fills me with existential dread. “WHAT’S THE POINT?” The cost here is attention and energy. If we’re doing this what else AREN’T we doing? That’s a tough thing to think about all the time, but it keeps me up at night. I’m a guy who gets distracted by new things. I want to try this stuff out, but I wish there was a point to it all. I wish I could reasonably achieve the goal that was put to me and move on to the next thing. I want bite- and meal-sized interactions with games. I don’t want a career in the form of a game.

The other not-so-awesome point with Pokemon Go, is how the heck is this super in-depth game free? I’m not sure what the revenue stream is, but the app asks you to authenticate through your Google account. If you’re like me, you just authorized it to use your main Google account so that you don’t have to go fishing around for the passwords of your other 10 or 15 accounts. The downer is that the app, right now, has full access to your Google account. I know that they’ve apologized for this, and they’re working on fixing it. That means it can read all of your emails, see all of your documents in Drive, and know who all of your contacts are. Not to mention whatever it wants on your device. Browsing history, searches, what iOS your phone is rocking- all of that. (For now.) I saw a statistic that says Google complied with 78% of requests for information. It all makes me a little uneasy.

What about non-information and Pokemon Go? What about our desires and motivation? There’s a lot of good will and energy to do altruistic things. People want to make a difference. People want to get healthy and interact. People want to express themselves and be heard. But I think these impulses and altruistic desires that previously lead to jobs or more creative outlets (playing a sport, writing for a magazine, joining a nonprofit) are easily swallowed up by things that are dead ends. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ll probably write this and post it on my Tumblr or WordPress instead of shopping around for a place to publish this. Sure, it’ll feel really good if I get some follows and likes and comments on social media. But if I don’t focus my energy spending time getting outside of where it’s easiest to publish, that’s where it’ll die.

So back to Pokemon Go-  it harnesses the energy of people to wander around and collect creatures. They’re interacting, which is great, and as a result new friendships might spawn from that, but what else? Is this the case of the easiest way to do a thing preying on our good intentions?

And here’s an argument that I’m not the biggest fan of, but it needs to be said: are we getting distracted from bigger issues to keep us complacent? Playing these types of games keeps us happy, but are they just feeder pellets? Is it some kind of treat to keep us distracted from the police beating the hell out of and eradicating people of color? I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means. I don’t think the creators of Pokemon Go are collaborating with the police to keep us numb to the interactions. I do think that this could be a perfect storm of sorts. We’ll literally be out in the world but unable to see what’s going on around us because of an unreality.

I don’t know what the answer is.

I had to stop playing that game. I want to be less reliant on my phone, not more. But I do find myself wanting to play a finite GPS type game that will encourage me go to places I’ve never seen before and earn badges… wait, isn’t that what Foursquare did like 8 years ago?