This article is strictly the views of the writer, and not the views of the blog as a whole.
Would it be too obvious and pretentious to quote The Beatles here? Yes? Fine then.
I’m not sure if this blog has “readers” so much as it has “people who stumble here from Google by pure chance”, but for what it’s worth: You might have noticed that the updates from me have been trickling slower lately, and given that I’ve been the only remotely consistent presence on this blog since it started, my lack of interest has basically ground this zombie to a halt. And this time, there’s a good chance it won’t reanimate.
Likes to Ramble began back in 2009 on a whim by Ryan. He thought it would be cute if he registered this domain name and then gave people personalized blogs using subdomains (using ryan.likestoramble.com for his blog, etc). But since I was apparently the only person he knew at the time who could be bothered writing, my blog was the only one that really updated. After a few months, when it became clear that no one could be bothered turning “likestoramble” into some kind of LiveJournal-esque blogosphere social network, I asked Ryan if it might not be better to recycle the domain name into one super-blog and allow that to have multiple writers. That’s how this site started, and why it has such a bizarre name.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the sixth game in the Grand Theft Auto series, originally released on October 26, 2004 in North America (a day after Grand Theft Auto Advance). Developed by Rockstar North, the game follows the logical progression from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City by setting itself in the third city from the original game, except this time the city has been expanded into an entire state with three cities inspired by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, along with the accompanying countryside and an approximation of the Nevada desert.
Currently, San Andreas is the most ambitious title in the Grand Theft Auto series. While the games that have come after it have brought a finer level of polish to individual elements, San Andreas is still usually regarded as the game that tried to do the most at the same time. Whether it’s better than the latest game in the series, GTA IV, is hotly contested amongst fans; understandably so, as San Andreas, in its rush to be bigger and better than ever before, does contain an anomalous number of flaws. But did the developers truly bite off more than they could chew, or does the final product make up for the evident mistakes?
Five years ago, Carl Johnson moved to Liberty City to run away from the murder of his brother Brian. Born to a life of crime, however, he does not recognize an opportunity to do anything different with his life, as shown clearly in a half-hour DVD short called The Introduction which was included with copies of the game’s soundtrack. Instead of starting a new life, he continues living the way he always did, running away from his home and his problems. As the game begins, he receives a phone call telling him that his mom has also been killed, and reluctantly returns to his home in Los Santos to attend the funeral and take the abuse he knows is coming from his remaining family members.
This is where the gameplay starts, in the glorious wonder years of… the early 90s. 1992, to be specific. Carl decides to stick around in San Andreas to help rebuild his old home and make amends for running away, and the story from there takes a lot of twists and goes off in directions you would never expect from the relatively humble origins. That’s both good and bad: while the story at the beginning and end of the game is inspired by and tries to address the types of issues brought up by gangster films such as Boyz n the Hood, which could have been a great idea, these messages are not done justice by the game’s mediocre writing. When the increasingly ridiculous plot points start to pop up, it’s actually a breath of fresh air; the best parts of the story are when the game stops pretending to have a point and just goes insane. Even though this is less satisfying than actually having a good story, I’m glad that the bad stuff didn’t have to drag the entire game down.
The story as it progresses makes no real sense: the first quarter of the game simply takes gangsta rap at face value and wallows in it with no subtext whatsoever; the second quarter — which is incidentally the only time that grand theft auto has actually been integral to a Grand Theft Auto plot, since you run a chop shop — is completely uninteresting and almost seems like an entirely different game just started with nothing but scattered references to the first quarter; the third quarter is so crazy that you forget what the story was even about, and the tiny attempts to remind you only serve to undermine everything that’s supposed to be “serious” even more so; the last quarter makes a slight attempt to actually tie all the mess together, and does make some admirable stabs at it, but eventually it also boils down to blindly glorifying crime with no real point.
People like to claim that the story is meant to be satire, and certainly many of the individual jokes are satirical in nature, but the game as a whole really has nothing at all to say about Los Angeles in the 1990s. In fact, the sheer force with which the writers missed the point almost crosses the boundary of being sort of offensive. According to this game, gangsters are so badass and so capable of utterly destroying all competition, that it seems like the infamous police brutality and racism simply didn’t exist, because black people really were evil and deserved everything they got. That’s not what they were trying to say, but the real message is done so poorly at the expense of making the gameplay fun, it really draws attention to just how much this story didn’t fit the gameplay at all. The main characters are a thousand times worse than the bad guy could ever be.
Yes, making the game fun is more important; I’m not saying they should have toned down the gameplay to make it fit the story, I’m saying they should have made a story that actually fit in the first place. In Vice City, the overwrought machismo of 1980s crime movies (mostly Scarface) fit the GTA style like a glove. Vice City didn’t pretend that its main characters were sympathetic. San Andreas has the worst story of any GTA game — although it’s technically more interesting than the bland paint-by-numbers story of GTA III and the practically-nonexistent stories of the first few games, the contrast between what the storytellers try to do in cutscenes and what the game actually lets you do is greater than it ever has been in other games.
It’s more disappointing than actually annoying, thankfully. A boring, meandering story with a couple of memorable parts and plenty of genuinely funny jokes, but no point to it at all and a lot of bad implications. A definite step down from Vice City, but nothing to absolutely ruin the game in my opinion.
The Social Network is a 2010 biographical film about the creation of Facebook, its creator Mark Zuckerberg, and the lawsuits that dogged him during the early years of the website. Taken on its own, the movie is pretty good. It’s well-directed, well-written, well-acted, and has probably one of the best conclusions of any film made in the past decade. However, the film’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, has openly admitted that his only motivation in writing the screenplay was to tell a good story, and that the facts weren’t important to him at all. As a result, the movie, while being critically acclaimed, is also widely criticized for its gross inaccuracies and heavily biased portrayal of its subject matter.
Biographical films usually fit into one of two categories: the first contains movies like Kinsey and Nixon, where the primary purpose of the movie is to examine the main character and impart information to the audience. Events can still be changed slightly by the filmmakers to make them more fitting to the medium, and of course the movie can still have a message and conclusion as long as it fits reality, but the overall film is, at its core, a biography. The second category contains movies like Ed Wood and Boys Don’t Cry, where the main character is used more as an icon than an actual human; in this case the reason that the main character is developed is just to increase the empathy felt by the audience, not because the actual character is in itself important. Of course, in either case the film is character-driven and imparts information about its subject, but the latter type is less analytical of the actual person and more about what they represent.
Zuckerberg is in his late 20s, and obviously making an analysis of his life as it is now would make little sense, so The Social Network tries to fit into the second category. However, while the movie does a great job conveying its messages, they aren’t actually the messages that it should have had. In fact, Sorkin has stated that he doesn’t actually use Facebook at all and barely does anything with modern social technology other than email his relatives, which couldn’t be more obvious while watching the movie. Zuckerberg is solely used as an icon of someone who thinks that getting power will cause him to be socially accepted, even though that’s purely conjecture, and the most cursory of glances at the man’s history would reveal a number of definitely accurate angles that the filmmakers could have taken instead.
The screenplay may be technically proficient, but it can’t make up for the fact that the writer doesn’t understand the subject matter. For a movie supposedly about a social network, it has nothing at all to say about social networks, or even the impact of technology in general. Nor does it have much to say about programming or sociology, which were Zuckerberg’s majors in Harvard and the fields that define the portion of his life that the movie is about. Instead, it relies on lazily using Zuckerberg as the Hollywood edition of a nerd — a well-written portrayal, yes, but not a unique one or one that has any relevancy to the subject matter. Even if it does want to be entirely about Zuckerberg’s personal life, it never actually has a real portrayal of Zuckerberg in it at all, just the stereotyped strawman version. Whether it’s true or not, the impression left is that the filmmakers had a personal vendetta against the subject — and that makes the entire thing seem reprehensible.
Minor alteration of the true story is fine, and it would have been okay for the writer to ignore the fact that the real Zuckerberg is currently married to the same girl he was dating before he created Facebook, if he was going to use that plotline to illustrate the character’s isolation and the consequences of his misguided ambition. Except that a lot of the real Zuckerberg’s friends — and even people who the film portrays as enemies — have stated that the “misguided ambition” doesn’t actually exist anyway. That’s a double whammy of dishonest screenwriting, and it isn’t the only example in the film. The entire thing is built upon (and littered with) factual errors.
In my opinion, biography is the one genre of film in which the filmmakers absolutely have to have integrity with the facts; and in this case, as Sorkin admits, they had as much integrity as a paper bag in a hurricane. If they wanted to simply make a good movie, they shouldn’t have made a good movie that pretended to be a true story. Especially if they’re going to pretend the movie is about someone who’s still alive and at the height of his career: that’s called being an asshole.
I’m not necessarily saying that Zuckerberg is a really nice person — with all the non-disclosure agreements and out-of-court settlements, it’s impossible to really tell at this point in time — but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly acceptable to make an entire movie just to sling mud at him. The film completely ignores any impact Zuckerberg had on the world itself, as if none of that mattered and the real story is just some kid being a jerk. Maybe that makes for a compelling story, but it has almost nothing to do with the social network the movie is named after. Are they just focusing on the creator’s personal relationships to make him look unequivocally bad, even though the majority of it is at best conjecture anyway, so they can avoid actually making a point about the current issue the movie should have been about?
If it stuck to reality without inventing all sorts of nonsense seemingly for the sole purpose of insulting Mark Zuckerberg, it could have had some short-term relevancy on top of its timeless messages about ambition and friendship. It wouldn’t have been incredible, but it still would’ve been good. Instead, it’s a movie that pretends to be about something current while actually just using the current things as a platform for mudslinging. It never has anything insightful to say about its current issues, it just uses timeless messages and didacticism so it can be praised by stodgy film critics. And that’s lame, mean-spirited filmmaking at its worst.
If you can ignore the fact that it’s supposed to be a biopic and just take it for what it is, you’ll probably enjoy The Social Network. It’s a good movie. It’s just a terrible biography, and a lot less insightful than it’s cracked up to be.
Dan Soucy, a 19-year-old Canadian socialist, has been stirring up trouble on the web lately with mean, scandalous posts about our Lord and other central pillars of the good Christian web. Worst of all, Soucy has also recently taken to mocking the famous Caiden Cowger, accusing him of being a homosexual.
We should not allow this blasphemy to continue uncontrolled. His argument is grounded on the premise that the only people who would ever talk about gay love are people to whom gay love is very tempting — so tempting that, with societal restrictions removed, Caiden Cowger and supple blond Dan Soucy, would give in to it. But such an argument in itself is self-defeating, is it not? In order to think about such a thing in the first place, Soucy himself would have to admit the truth.
Dan Soucy: you are gay.
Here’s the thing: sodomy is not remotely interesting to a heterosexual Christian. The only way your argument makes internal sense is if the person making it is, himself, a sinner. Unless you’re seriously suggesting that a God-serving heterosexual male would be interested in the affairs of a homosexual? What possible motivation would he have to care about equality and issues of basic human dignity, if he’s already guaranteed his own paradise by doing nothing?
Does this mean you will forever lust after poor Caiden and suffer eternity in Hell? Yes. But you should torture yourself first, just in case God decides to forgive you. Your decisions are still yours to make: marry a wife, have several children, and take them to church every Sunday without ever seeing a naked man. You may be miserable for the rest of your life, but serving God isn’t about being happy; it’s about constant subservience to a greater power and the overwhelming knowledge that you will never be good enough.
That is, after all, why we teach our convictions to children. Sure, there is a chance that our children will be straight, white men without our intervention, but often we are not so lucky. Many unfortunate Christians have gotten blessings from God that were touched by Satan, or even worse, were female or disabled. But with a little love and horrific bedtime stories about Hell, we can ensure that our children are scared into being just like us, so everything can stay the same. Forever.
I apologize for how depressing and personal this post is going to be. I know it’s outside of my usual style, but I’ve been going through some stuff lately and I need a place to turn to.
I’ve always been a bit of a joker. For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been the guy with a funny one-liner. Did it get me into trouble? You bet your ass it did — but it made me feel better, less insecure. In high school, I had great friends who would put up with my bullshit. We would always blow off classes to be involved in anything was going on, and instead of studying, we would spend entire nights together, just wandering around, doing whatever.
Despite being a pretty bad student, I graduated from high school two years ago. Since then, I’ve felt lost, going from job to menial job, trying to survive. Sometimes I think maybe if I had tried to get better grades, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I really thought I could make it on my own, but I ended up back in my parents’ house.