I Love the New Ghostbusters, and I Hate the Internet.

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So last weekend, I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie with my wife. If you know me, then you know that I love the original movies. I loved the cartoon. I bought the toys. I even dressed up as Ghostbuster for Halloween for 3 years in a row. And I also loved this reboot.

In fact, I think it’s the perfect reboot. It wasn’t just faithful to the idea of Ghostbusters, it explored aspects of the story that the original just didn’t have time for. What about those academic careers they left behind? How did the Ghostbusters meet each other in first place?How did they come up with that gear? While there are references and plenty of cameos by the original cast, the new Ghostbusters are absolutely their own characters with their own histories, conflicts, and comedy schticks.

I also love how the story was updated for the anxieties of our era. The original dealt with Reagan-era paranoia about government over-reach into small business, but this new movie dealt with our overall skepticism in the Internet age and the ongoing debate about what real science is. I loved, loved, loved the new characters, the new actors, the new gear and the new jokes. This also makes me mad as hell at the Internet.

The trailer for the 2016 film was the most disliked video on Youtube. Leslie Jones, one of the actresses, was basically chased off Twitter for a while after the premier by tornado of racist comments. I was also really disappointed in James Rolfe of Angry Video Game Nerd fame when he produced a video about how he was not going to see the new film. I don’t think he knew he was doing it at the time, but he normalized the behaviour of all those idiots. Soon my Youtube page was awash with videos with titles like “WHITE MAN REFUSES TO SEE MOVIE! WHAT NOW, SJWs?”. Gross. This campaign has gone on to the point that when I was leaving the theatre, I found that people were genuinely surprised that the movie was actually good.

Now that I’ve seen the movie and liked it, I have a problem. A screen accurate proton pack is on my cosplay bucket list, but now I can’t decide whether I want a 1984 model or a 2016 model. I’m leaning towards 2016, considering I look kind of like a dumpy Chris Hemsworth. Does this mean I’m going to get the stink-eye at conventions from people who consider themselves “true” Ghostbuster fans?

The new Ghostbusters movie showed me something that was missing from these mainstream blockbuster tentpole movies. It felt different to see 4 women in the title roles of an established special effects movie, and in a good way. The world felt a little larger somehow. See, representation is not about chasing lofty social Justice goals. it’s also about keeping our movies from all looking at the same. If every protagonist has to be a white guy, it’s not just racist or misogynist, it’s boring and unrealistic. It also allows us to get comfortable with people who are different from we are. I know I’m not going to convince anyone who is determined to hate this film, but if you are on the fence, take my word for it. More Ghostbusters is good and this movie is definitely more Ghostbusters

Thoughts on Pokemon Go

Image used with permssion from Kimidori

Image courtesy of Kimidori

When I see the huge age range of all the people playing Pokémon Go, I’m reminded of just how huge of a cultural impact this franchise made back in the late 90’s. Pro-tip: If you get the chance, play this game with the young child. I played this game with my son in parks and hotels while on vacation, and the experience of shared wonder is nothing short of magical.

The original Pokémon video game and anime series came out when I was a teenager. I was too busy with more “adult” shows like Evangelion or Macross Plus to pay attention to this new show that was essentially for kids. I didn’t realize that for a lot of people this was their first exposure to anime. That meant seeing a cartoon that could have long and sprawling story arcs, and there were some episodes that were more about emotional relationships than hunting down the latest Pokémon. When you come from a cartoon landscape that resets the storyline every episode, you start to build a relationship with these characters and stories that lasts a lifetime, or at least until you’re tramping through a park trying to catch a poliwag on your phone.

Another thing that I love about Pokémon Go is that it is such a classically Nintendo product, even if the game was created by a separate company. It takes off-the-shelf technology, and packages it in such a way that makes the technology so much more effective than it was before. I call this technology off-the-shelf because it uses a game engine called Unity, a technology that I’ve worked with before. The closest I ever got created my own Pokémon go was causing a cube to appear in front of an iPhone 3GS’ camera and having the game blast out Europe’s The Final Countdown. This was all for an augmented reality venture that never went anywhere.

With Pokémon Go, you see a brand stretching back 20 years combining with extremely refined technical know-how to create a product that is almost changing society. The app launched in the middle of terrifying stories of mass shootings, and in parks across America, Pokemon Go players were holding an impromptu “Take back the night” vigil.

At this point in my life, I only have the time and inclination to stand on the shores of that ocean that is Pokémon, but wherever the ocean leads, I like where it’s going.

 

Charisma: It’s not just a dump stat

Social skills have always posed a puzzle for me. While I’m not exactly a shut-in, a lot of setbacks in my life, or so I’m told, can be traced back to my lack of social skills. Whether it’s a job interview that didn’t go well, or a sale that failed to happened, I’m often left asking why, and people tell me that I just need the gift of gab or the ability to sell ice to eskimos, or whatever that means. Even the smallest social situations I’ve always been envious of people who could hold a room with their stories or who never have to deal with those awkward moments of dead air. Thanks to what I’ve learned in Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth, I don’t have to.

We think Charisma is a natural gift because when someone does it well, we experience the results in our unconscious emotional mind. It turns out that charisma, the ability to read people and react appropriately, can be learned just like programming or playing the guitar.

Developing your charisma involves training your brain to control your body language. We have known for a long time that social skills depend on body language, but only recently have we found that all those ticks and micro-expressions on our outside depends a lot on how we treat our insides. There’s a lot of talk in the book about mindfulness and meditation. Naturally, these practices will increase your confidence, but this is different from a lot of confidence techniques that I’ve heard of in the past.

Instead of just focusing on your strengths and good qualities, the mindful approach to charisma requires that you take into account all aspects of your being, even ones that you don’t like. The way I have interpreted this is that while you may not be the best in the world at anything, maybe the best person in the room to do many other things. This especially works for me if I’m the only person in the room.

A technique I was able to use immediately was a habit of waiting two seconds before responding to anybody. If you are in a conversation and someone is talking to you, just say mississippi in your head twice before giving a response. Another technique I liked was diving into sensation. If you focus on the sensations in your extremities, you can take your focus away from your current anxieties and back to reading the current social situation.

Doing was like opening up a third eye for me. Through most of my life, I have been so focused on crafting the right response to whatever I was listening to that I was just not listening at all. For instance, if I was in one of my old tech support jobs, I might try and act contrite if the customer was mad at me. According to the charisma myth, this is not only detrimental to the control of your body language, but It can even escalate things by telegraphing to your conversation partner that they are hurting you and that they are wrong. If you have a negative expression crawl across your face at any point, people don’t think it’s you, they think it’s them.

Reading this book has made me much more comfortable in my own skin. I am much better at small talk. Even though I don’t have a script for most social situations, I at least have a stance I can take so I can observe the situation and not make a fool of myself. I still wouldn’t call myself an expert. I don’t have a daily meditation ritual, and my ability can be limited by my mood and how much sleep I’ve had. At least now I have a direction to go if I want to improve.

It sounds like magic, but it’s not. The Charisma Myth debunked a lot of ideas that I had about active listening and positive thinking. If you go the book’s website there are a few exercises you can try out. You can get better results from the actual book, but try it out and tell me know how things work out.

Hey, do you feel that?

That knot in your stomach, that pressing feeling in your chest, the lump in your throat. If you follow the news, you’ve probably felt like that a lot in the past few weeks. You might feel as though the world is coming apart at the seems, but it’s not. It is coming alive.

We are witnessing the latest stage of a process that has been happening ever since the first novels were printed. The trend continued with pamphlets, magazines, film, and colour television. Every time we get a new piece of media technology we see ourselves as who we really are, and often we don’t like what we see.

I’d like to tell you that it’s going to get better, but in some ways it’s not. Every death is going to get more painful as we have access to the backstories and grieving families of the victims. We can’t see them as statistics as well as we used to.

Yes, the Internet makes it so we can’t ignore these problems anymore. And that’s a good thing. No one really wants the status quo anymore. It is going to take a lot of work, but I am seeing hearts change out there.

If you care about a having a more equal society, and you are not in any hurry to prove people wrong, you can really do a lot of good out there. You may have to grit your teeth and listen to your friends repeat facts to you that you know are wrong, but the true inaccuracies fall apart against the most basic questions. If you find yourself worn out, by all means, take a rest and give yourself the strength to fight, but keep that pain close to you. It will come in handy when it’s time to act. I believe that we are on the right path. It’s a painful one, but it is one that leads to justice.

Are We Spamming You?

What is the etiquette on personal marketing? How many times to you have to post on Facebook or Twitter before people know you are doing a thing they might want to check out? At what point does it become annoying? These questions have been bothering me lately, not because I’ve got something to promote (yet), but it seems as though I’m the last to know when my friends are doing something creative, like a webcomic, a music album, or home business.

Of course, I could just ask people what they’re doing through private messaging, but that just sounds rude. You might catch them at the exact moment of their life when circumstance stands to rip away all of their artistic dreams and toss them into the ether. Or you might remind them that they haven’t worked on their thing in ages, and that their big chance might have slipped away.

Now, if you’ve already made a thing, how do you get the kind of feedback you need to get better? Your only option there is to solicit comments and criticism privately, but then, there is always that shadow of a doubt that you might be terrible and everyone is just too polite to say anything.

As someone with delusions of creativity, I want to see my internet feeds full of people trying new things. I want to see that first painting as much as I want to see that advanced cosplay prop photographed with a new lighting rig. Art is such a personal kind of communication. It increases our collective self-knowledge in a way that’s different from the kind of social media overshare that we’re all afraid of. There are some squicky aspects to it, but I’m just be generous with my likes and comments until we figure them out.