Welcome Home to the Wasteland

Forgive me, WordPress, for I did not run.

This week, for those wholly removed from the video game community, Bethesda’s fourth iteration of the post-apocalyptic series came out for PC, PS4 and XBone. Fallout 4 is a huge game, a huge nerd-cultural event, and the reason I didn’t run this past Thursday night.

I’d pre-ordered a special edition of the game, but opted not to shell out for the two-day shipping from Gamestop. It had finally arrived, and I was finally going to play it. We have a road trip planned, so I also had to pack and make dinner before I could play. And also squeeze in a run.

Then it started to rain. Honestly, I just needed the excuse.

For anyone still unconvinced, let me expound a little further on why this game release is so packed with excitement for me. I first encountered the series in middle school, playing with a friend late into the night. Fallout, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics were early, turn-based RPGs. A different style, made with the same black humor about the apocalypse. Man had created the bomb, man destroyed the world, and man had to live with the consequences–sometimes, these were funny.

Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas (which I played in reverse order) continued that tradition in a very different style. Closer to a First-person shooter, I was initially totally opposed, until I actually tried them and found them addictive and engrossing.

Then I started to hear rumors that the fourth installment would be set in my home city, Boston.

Not only would I get another trip to the wasteland, I could check in on how my home town fared in the apocalypse (spoiler alert, not well). Not only would this be one of the biggest and most advanced Fallout games so far, it would feel the most familiar. IT would be filled with places I knew.

I will be going around searching for all of my old apartments (and as the town I grew up in is pretty close to Concord, we’ll see if I can find it too). I’ll be checking out my favorite spots and old stomping grounds. All with my trusty dog sidekick, Dogmeat.

What I’m really saying is: Sorry, not sorry.

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Getting Enough Pizza For Everyone

I refuse to link to any of the coverage of the stupid Starbucks coffee cup, because I refuse to give anyone ad revenue for the awful, useless non-story that it really is. I further refuse to acknowledge any point of view that isn’t “this is a vapid, useless thing to get worked up about” or “The guy who got everyone all worked up about these is a con-man.”

Really, I just want to stop hearing and talking about it. So, let’s stop.

You tell ’em, dumpster divers.

What I want to talk about instead is political correctness: that invisible social contract oft-lamented by those who feel they’re unable to live up to it. That feeling that you have to walk on eggshells in order to not offend someone you’ve never met before. [I think there is another side to this discussion that I’ll likely explore in a later post, but for now, this one goes out to people who whine about everyone being “too PC”]

I fully understand, it is hard to acknowledge that you have made a mistake. Continue reading

The Hippest Miner

One of the things I forgot about running after Daylight Savings Time is that my favorite spot, the reservoir, has no lights around its track. While it’s generally fairly clear, I’d really rather not take the track without some way to see what’s around me–I’d really rather not go swimming in this weather.

I can solve this with a head lamp, which I strapped on over my headphones and handkerchief–now less to soak up sweat and more to keep my head warm. Combined with the gloves, which I wound up not needing, I got the distinct impression that I looked like a really hip miner.

Undeterred by the fact that I would, technically, be appearing in public so dressed, I set off. I had been sick all last week, so this was my first trip out in several days. Ever since I ran out of C25k programs, I’ve been doing roughly the same half-hour program each week, and I fully expected to fail this time because of the time off. Even altered my route slightly, so it would be a little shorter. I was a little surprised to complete the full half-hour, just a bit slower than usual.

That is, I was surprised until later that evening when my bladder woke me up. It was a long walk to the bathroom on sore stems…

Procedural Cop Drama

Let’s start with the controversial statement: Black Lives Matter.

Yes, we can also acknowledge that they aren’t the only ones that do. The reason those lives in particular are significant right now, is that they’re the ones being killed disproportionately right now, often by police.

Let’s also acknowledge that it’s not all cops: There are good cops, and there are bad ones. One bad apple does not actually spoil the bunch (except in your crisper drawer, although I think we can all agree this is not where the majority of news happens).

The Sci-fi version of the adage goes: one alien worm can infect the whole ship.

It’s always been particularly jarring for me to see bad cops coming to the fore when I consider the police officers I have worked with in the past: During my time as a journalist, I worked in a handful of towns and with the local law enforcement in each one. One of the departments in particular, as I got to know them best in nearly 2 years working with them, really impressed me with their openness to the press and to the people who would wander in. I spent a good couple of hours copying police blotter items from a public terminal behind the front desk in the station, and overheard a number of people come in with any number of complaints (none of which I recall or ever recorded for the paper).

My sense is that the Chief of Police in that town affected the department. He came to all of the discussions hosted by the town’s governing about installing an automated license plate readers on a couple of their vehicles. The Chief of Police attended several of the town’s Board of Selectmen meetings, listened not only to the arguments the Selectmen made, but to the townspeople who were concerned about the technology’s potential to invade privacy of ordinary citizens. Leadership can make a huge difference.

The discussion ultimately ran long enough that a potential grant the local PD could have used to purchase the technology ran out. The department said they might explore other grants in future and would try to develop a better policy for the future. Since leaving the town, news coverage there has been a bit spottier, but I couldn’t really dig up anything more recent than my articles about the topic, so it may have died there three years ago (I lost track of the story and could be wrong, though).

It’s anecdotal evidence that doesn’t at all exonerate police officers who are not upholding the laws evenly to all people. Your mileage may vary. While the counter-refrain that “All lives matter” is not an incorrect statement, it’s mostly associated with either serious misunderstandings, or outright lies about Black Lives Matter as a movement and as a slogan. The cops who are out there, and are actually trying to do good work certainly deserve our praise. Those who are committing atrocities in our name deserve to be called out and stopped.

My point is this: We’re hearing about bad cops and not good ones because there is a bias against those positive stories, but it’s not the bias the right-wing “news” machine is constantly banging on about. It may actually be a bias that Rupert Murdoch created: the bias to sensationalism. Another observation from my admittedly short years as a journalist was about the types of content that did well. The stories that I loved, poured my heart and soul into, and spent my time chasing down were invariably the ones that got a quarter of the reach of the stories I kind of hated and copied from police-provided materials: the police blotter from that public terminal and the arrest logs (which were handed to me with personal details redacted).

I’ll admit, I’m not an expert and this is a partially researched idea, so I may not be able to lie the blame at the feet of Fox and Murdoch, but I do know what the end result looks like: It looks like stories that fit into a prevailing narrative getting more attention. It looks like news outlets taking a relatively minor kerfuffle over Starbucks making their coffee cups minimalist, and plopping it on your Facebook feed, so you can mock the ‘War on Christmas’ crowd. They in turn will see our mockery and take that as clear signs of a liberal conspiracy, and it’ll feed up through their news-based echo chambers. Both sides will make a huge ado about cups we ultimately toss in the trash, and the people writing the articles will rake in the ad revenue.

What I’m saying is this: If you want the news to be better, start reading better. Stop sharing articles that aggregate three or four tweets into a news story Look for stories that get to the heart of the matter. Do you want to see less of a media firestorm about random crap? Find stories about things you’re actually interested in, share those instead. Do engage in the Facebook-based whack-a-mole that is unfollowing crappy viral “news” outlets. I encourage you to challenge yourself by trying to find stories that challenge your understanding of a narrative, even if that may not be for everyone–if you are going to do it, though, stick to sources you recognize and trust.

And this is how you unfollow a news source.