Das Bootiful

If you’ve not seen it yet I’m going to spoil this film for you, and don’t be all “ooh, I’m not going to watch it anyway so I can read this, you’re not my MOOOAAAWWWMMMM.” you’re not going to get anything out of that kind of rebellious attitude. So go to your room and watch Das Boot!

If you didn’t figure it out, I’m going to review Das Boot, because I saw it on netflix. That’s right, expensive TV. It’s the highly lauded movie about claustrophobia awareness raising professional murderers in the 194Os. The numerical keys are starting to break on my budget laptop, please excuse me.

So on to the spoilage. This movie left me crying like a soggy pineapple in a sinking submarine. This keyboard is just getting worse. Now the escape and DELETE keys are broken. As I was writing, this is the movie that makes people weep for dead Nazi’s. #tearsforfascists. the film perfectly portrays the life of people who do rapid vessel disassembly as a profession. By perfectly I mean entertainingly and by vessel I mean boat. It’s all in the title; “Das” meaning “the” and “Boot” meaning “boat-shoes.”

The characters are lovable, including the Boot, and then they get killed at the end like its nothing. This is why I don’t believe in the vigilante punching of Nazi’s. Not even to get on TV.

The broken keyboard has won. See the movie.

-W

p.s. That polly was right, submarines really are the spaceships of the ocean.

 

Hug a Nerd. Save Society.

‘Ooh, a Stan Grant piece. I wonder what the comments are like?’

We’ve all been there. We’ve all watched some interesting Youtube video or read a particularly thought-provoking article, and thought, ‘I wonder what other people think of this – oh, there’s a comment section, let’s see what peopl- oh God, oh dear God, what is wrong with everyone?’ We’ve all read comments that make us wonder how anyone with any semblance of an education could possibly be so stupid, and make us lose a little more faith in humanity. Many of us have trained ourselves not to read online comments because of how sad it makes us. Yeah, it gets pretty bad.

For many, especially those who participate in online communities, the natural line of thought following this is that society is doomed. And at first, it’s hard to argue with them – why are there so many examples of ‘Whether or not homosexuality is a disorder is a question I have a right to ask’ or the classic ‘muslims arent a rase so im not rasist u retart learn some fkn english’? I have literally seen a thread made by a person who was sexually assaulted (physically, for all you ‘hooting is not a crime lol xd’ people out there) where someone made a joke at her expense, was reprimanded, and people were demanding an apology from the reprimanders. And their comments are frequently the most upvoted, they have the most support from fellow posters, their detractors are told unflattering descriptions of their mothers, etc. Saying these people are a ‘bit’ worrying sounds about as accurate as saying our offshore processing policies are a ‘bit’ immoral. So why are we hugging nerds? Let me explain.

See, what you need to realise is that online comments are not perfect reflections of the general population. This should be obvious but perhaps we need reminding. Everyone knows someone who isn’t techno-savvy and could barely open an email, let alone comment on a Youtube video, but they’re not common in this day and age and I’m not going to concentrate on them. See, there’s a middle ground between the techno-phobe and the techno-savvy – that is to say, the normal people. The reality of this hit me when I noticed my roommate, who’s a big user of Youtube, didn’t have an account on it and therefore never left comments. It got me thinking. And it led to a rather interesting question.

What sort of people actually comment on the internet?

To answer this question, let’s think about why someone would join a forum.

  1. They must be passionate. But not just passionate about one topic. For them to be bothered to comment prolifically, they must have a set opinion on everything. This implies a belief that the world, and its issues, are simple, which in turn implies that the commenter is either young, or fairly closed-minded.
  2. They must be internet-savvy. As we discussed, not just able to use a computer, but to be familiar, to feel at home, online. They must spend hours a day on the computer to be familiar with everything, and to feel confident typing things that are almost without exception quite insensitive. Which leads us to the next point.
  3. They must be confident, not just in their computer skills, but in their views. They must feel at least a little entitled to an opinion, to say the things they say. I hate to bring out the PC-hater’s dream strawman, but yes, they are probably men. And again, young. Not many people manage to hold on to their confidence after spending any significant amount of time outside of high school.

Now, let’s think – in our society, where do we find young closed-minded males spending hours a day on a computer, and who are stupidly ‘passionate’ about everything? Some of you might know what I’m getting at here. I’ll give you a hint … remember GamerGate?

This revelation hit me quite hard, since I’m a male gamer that does indeed spend a significant amount of time on internet forums thinking and occasionally telling people how wrong they are. I guess that means you’ll have to take this blog with a grain of salt. But the more I look at internet comments, whether it be articles, Youtube, even large Facebook groups, the more this explanation makes sense. Every now and then, you can see a gaming reference or in-joke, and it gets an absurd number of upvotes. It’s gamers. All the goddamn comments are made and upvoted by gamers.

So it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief, right? They’re just gamers, not a majority by any stretch, so who cares, right? No. For one thing, far more people play games than you might expect. Esports looks on track to overtake regular sports as the most watched spectator sport. But there’s a bigger problem. I, and now you, might know about this demographic, but no one else seems to have cottoned on yet. Online comments are starting to be taken seriously. More and more outsiders, with spectacles and a copy of The Guardian, are looking at the internet and saying, ‘you know, they’re just expressing an opinion; it’s no different to a debate at the pub’. Good on them for keeping an open mind, but, no, this is a worry. What if one of these people is a politician? They’re going to think these sorts of arguments are normal. Gamers’ voices are drowning out the normals.

So what do we do? We could go to these sites and start commenting, but it’s not a long term solution. We need to get to the heart of the problem – gamers themselves. What makes a person become a gamer? What makes them spend hours a day at a computer, replacing human interaction with (more) acne, losing touch with the real world in the process? I’ll tell you what. It’s because they have nothing better to do. They’ve forgotten how much fun a social life, meeting people, and all the other things associated with normals, can be. So we need to remind them what they’ve been missing out on. Meet them. Talk to them.

Give them a hug.

-Z

For Those In the Know

You’re having a conversation. Someone says something which you know is factually incorrect. What do you do?

long necked turtle

Eastern Long-Necked Turtle. image taken from flickr.com

A couple of days ago, for instance, I was taking a walk with a few people, taking in the health benefits of sunburn and sweat collection. We chanced upon some long-necked turtles in an artificial, desperately-trying-to-look-natural lake and, naturally, started discussing them. One of our group identified them as terrapins. For those who didn’t know, I live in Australia, which would make this quite an extraordinary find. Doing my duty as a Biology graduate, I pointed out their long necks, the fact that they were larger, the fact that they were swimming more slowly, and, of course, the fact that we were a little far away from their home by mere tens of thousands of kilometres.

terrapin

Terrapin. image taken from ct.gov

“No, I’m pretty sure they’re terrapins.”

What does one do at this point? I’ll tell you what I did. As a trained non-jerk, I sat there silently, as I had taught myself to do many years before, listening to him talk knowledgeably about terrapins, how they sat at the bottom of the lake with their mouths open waiting for fish, whilst I slowly imploded. Physicists are currently perplexed as to how black holes, like the one I’ve become, can have the sentient thought required to write blogs. I, however, am still wondering how someone can manage to incorporate three different species of turtle into one painfully stupid explanation. As an animal lover, my dad’s explanation later that this guy had most likely never seen turtles outside the dinner table and probably thought they were all the same did not help.

alligator snapping turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle. image taken from wikipedia.org

Non-biology-inclined readers will probably be wondering at this point why I care so much. I will admit, perhaps this time I was a little biased; that same person had, only hours before, said my dad’s house reeked of cat piss, quite matter-of-factly, in those words. But there is a wider point to all of this. Everyone’s had that conversation where someone who clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about, through dumb luck, obtained the mic. My dad, for instance, has many similar experiences in conversations about power tools. “Mate, you paid too much for that drill, I got mine for X, and all it cost me was that lithium battery…” happens quite often, to which he apparently walks off, laughs, and cries, all in one action. My mum (a Chinese historian), upon my question as to whether Chinese wives not taking their husbands’ surnames indicated less societal sexism, unleashed a tirade about my naivety so vehement I try not to ask her about Chinese history at all now.

This sort of thing is especially noticeable in a political conversation. For instance, I think that Reclaim Australia is factually a bunch of racists cunningly disguised as slightly less racist racists, so if someone talks about them with so much as a tone of sympathy, I treat them with the same derision as I did Mr Alligator-Snapping-Long-Necked Terrapin. For me, and I suspect far more others than the vocal few realise, these conversations end with my sitting there silently, pretending to be defeated so as to kill the conversation as quickly as possible, all the while becoming an even denser black hole.

Groan-man-statue.fw_

What can you do but sit there and bear it? image taken from johnparkerlive.com

So, people say stupid things. What do we do about it? Well, most of you will probably tell me to suck it up, and who knows, you’re probably right. But it’s not being on the receiving end of mind-numbingly incorrect statements that worries me (well, I guess it worries me a little). What if I end up being the guy giving those statements? What if I thought I was discussing Neoliberalism when I was actually talking about bunny rabbits? Everyone would, like me, be too awkward to say anything, and I’d never know I’d made an ass of myself. Hell, I’ve probably already been Turtle Man without realising. Clearly, societal change is needed. I need people to start calling out my stupidity, and to do the same to others, or else Turtle Men will continue to plague conversation and the resulting implosion-generated black holes will destroy our planet. This is big, people!

But, you know, you do it, not me. I don’t want to be a jerk or anything.

Happy new year guys.

-Z