Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How we find motivation in Life as in Games ft. 'Game Frame' by Aaron Dignan

Being a dilettante I've always wondered about motivations. I know I'm a fan of novelty, It's why I enjoy travel and have skimmed through several hobbies. I've dabbled with parkour, BJJ and dragon boat racing among others.
Most recently I've been big into board games. A component of that scene is perpetually trying out new games. I know almost immediately whether I'll enjoy a game in the first few stages of play. I don't find worker placement (aka action drafting) as engaging as social deduction (aka bluffing) games. I struggle as it is finding value in amassing wealth and resources in real life. Simulating such in a game only sets off an existential crisis. Deception games on the other hand play into my fascination with social interaction and charisma. The imperative to survive and not lose face in front of friends and strangers is a compelling one. As a fan of politics & pro-wrestling and an avid watcher of 'Survivor', this genre has given me a taste of that world in a fun setting.

I have a preference for casual games and was starting to wonder why. I realised that if I could ascertain what it was I liked in board games, I could better understand my wiring and thus inform my approach to career and other pursuits. 'Game Frame' by Aaron Dignan illuminates the appeal of games through behavioral psychology. Here he explains the two conditions we face when embarking on a new challenge:
'Game Frame' by Aaron Dignan 
Game Frame Using: Games as a Strategy for Success
Lack of Volition. Volition is the will to do something; the motivation and internal drive to see it through. Any kind of proactive or ambitious behavior is evidence of strong volition. People who lack volition feel lost, bored, or disconnected from the task at hand. They can't see why an activity or behavior is worthwhile. A lack of volition is defined by disinterest, low involvement, and arrested development. An individual lacking volition says, "I'm not going to do that. Why would I? What's in it for me?"

Lack of Faculty. Faculty is the belief that we have the skills and tools to handle the challenges we're facing; that we know how to begin and have the confidence to pursue our goals. People who lack faculty in a particular situation may feel that it's too hard, or that it's unclear what they need to do to succeed. A lack of faculty is defined by anxiety, submission, and ultimately, despair. An individual lacking faculty says, "I can't do this. I'm not prepared. I don't know how."
Its a straightforward summation of the dichotomy we face when trying something new. Hitting the point home with a Joseph Campbell reference, Dignan illustrates the edge games have over ordinary life.
One of the reasons we love games is because they instantly place us on our own hero's journey, and from the comfort (and safety) of our living room. There's something tremendously satisfying about playing out an archetypal struggle in which each of us, for the duration of the game at least, is the chosen one. Unlike so many other settings where seemingly meaningless and repetitive tasks frustrate us, in games we are at one with our story... Being part of a story, and one in which we know we're expected to prevail, plays to our sense of volition and faculty beautifully. We come to desire the victory that story presupposes, and we simply must find a way to win.
Games' afoot in Houston
This blog is on the analogy that Life is one big video game, that we do live in the "Matrix". It seems through board games I've just found an analog version of the simulation echo.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weezer, The Get Up Kids and Morrissey: On the right to be alone

Some of my oldest band tees include a shirt from 'The Get Up Kids', picked up at the second gig I ever went to and a Pinkerton 'Weezer' shirt. Craig Schuftan in his book detailing the hidden roots of Rock & Roll references both bands to describe why some unwittingly remain alone.
'Hey, Nietzsche! Leave them kids alone' (2009)
by Craig Schuftan
Hey, Nietzsche! Leave them kids alone: The Romantic movement, rock and roll, and the end of civilisation as we know it
In 'Why Bother?' the singer thinks about finding a girlfriend, but finds insufficient grounds for action. It's like a super-pessimistic version of Wham!'s 'Last Christmas'. Before he's even picked up the phone he's reasoned his way to the following summer, when she'll no doubt dump him and break his heart. So he remains alone. The singer has proved his intelligence while ensuring that he remains miserable. This line of thinking leads to greater and greater inertia -- taken to its logical conclusion, the singer must renounce the search for happiness entirely and derive whatever kicks he can from monkish self-denial...

The Get Up Kids are one of the scores of bands who followed the example of Pinkerton, exploring the lonely landscape Weezer had discovered long after Cuomo himself had moved on. In the Get Up Kids' 'I'm a Loner, Dottie, a Rebel', the hero tells us that last night he was in love, and that the possibility is still there. But sitting by the girl's bedside in the morning, he reasons his way out of whatever future they might have together. 'I'm afraid to try,' he admits, 'I'll keep my hands by my side.' A real man, a natural man (a jock, a Limp Bizkit fan) would do something. But for the Get Up Kids and their fans, this kind of 'action' is deeply suspect... the heroes of the scene tend to be of the static, intellectual type.

Morrissey, in his songs, demands the right to be miserable and alone. This doesn't sound like too much to ask -- but the world keeps telling him he has to cheer up and get over it... And since he steadfastly refuses to do this, his position has, over the years, become more and more entrenched. What started out as a polite request has turned into a war of attrition... The world has refused to accept his personality. No wonder he's determined not to give up the fight. In this war, what's at stake is nothing less than the human soul. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Marc Maron in conversation with Jason Segel: On discontent when things couldn't possibly be better

VIDEO: WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: Episode 623 - Jason Segel

Actor Jason Segel in conversation with Comedian Marc Maron discusses the persistent feeling of discontent even when things are going as good as they could be. Particularly poignant as Jason quietly battled alcoholism whilst seemingly hitting his stride in Hollywood. Similarly Marc Maron built a career as a Comic's comic who never found mainstream success. The early episodes of his now seminal WTF podcast highlighting his struggle with having close "famous" friends, craving recognition whilst having a perpetually peripheral experience of success. Over 300+ episodes it has tracked Marc's conversion from frustrated marginal genius to arguably the Godfather of modern Comedy, recently being the first to record a full podcast with a sitting American President.

Jason Segel describes the affinity he shared with author David Foster Wallace who he plays in his latest movie 'End of the Tour' (2015), as well as the interviewer he plays against David Lipsky as embodied by Jesse Eisenberg.
WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: Episode 623 - Jason Segel
SEGEL: The themes of the movie really resonated with me. Its a lot about what we're talking about, outside the comedy about actually being the person. What happens when things are going as well as they possibly can and you still feel the same? This movie ['The End of the Tour'] takes place over the last 4 days, its about David Foster Wallace. Its the last 4 days of the 'Infinite Jest' book tour, its called the voice of a generation, it came out and did as well it could do. He didn't feel better...
VIDEO: 'The End of the Tour' trailer (2015)

On what we're looking for
JESSE EISENBERG: (1h 06m 25s) That was the lens I saw it through, a guy talking to himself on the beginning end of a tunnel. Lipsky is looking up at David Foster Wallace saying "God it must be great to be you? You must feel great? You must feel terrific? What's it like to be so famous?" and David Foster Wallace looking back at him saying "Kid, be careful what you wish for. If you get to where I am you're not going to feel better
MARC MARON: And that's sad
SEGEL: Yeah its sad but its very real and I actually think that one of the reasons David Foster Wallace resonates with people is that he's a man who had the vocabulary to express something that we all feel and maybe are too scared to talk about openly
MARON: Which is? The existential loneliness that persists
SEGEL: Yeeeeah, you're promised by our culture that if you achieve X, Y or Z of if you obtain X, Y or Z or watch this marathon of 'Real Housewives' that you're going to feel better and it turns out that its not true and people are really operating on that assumption and get to that destination and find out its vacant
MARON: But its rare that a person can investigate that loneliness like he did, sadly most people percolate along with a mild feeling of dissatisfaction and anxiety that they can't pinpoint but he decided to explore the underpinnings of existence in relation to these expectations and the onslaught of sensations available 
On Life imitating art
MARC MARON: (1h) ... This character, how close to your experience was it?
JASON SEGEL: At this point in my life, it felt like kismet... I had gotten sober 2 and a half years ago. I'm a year and a half sober at that point, my TV show was coming to an end and I was in a real moment of "What do I do now?". There's a line in the movie that is kinda verbatim from what David Foster Wallace said in this interview - "I have to face the reality now of being 34 years old alone in a room with a piece of paper" and that's what I felt at this point. My safety net was gone. The fact I had a financial safety net didn't really apply to what I felt.
MARON: It doesn't, does it?
SEGEL: No, of course not. Well not "of course not". I suppose from looking outside of it you would think "Of course it does".
MARON: It actually makes it [worse], for a lot of people "What are you complaining about?". But the truth of the matter is, the sad thing when you're in that position is that you do have that and you have these feelings and they're almost compounded. Then you're like "WTF is wrong with me? I can eat wherever I want and I can buy that car if I want to".
SEGEL: This is what the movie is to me, in my opinion. What the movie is, its basically a transcript of this interview that a guy called David Lipsky did with David Foster Wallace where 'Rolling Stone' sent him out to spend the last 4 days of the book tour with him.
MARON: What I noticed about this movie in retrospect is, who is this movie really about?...
SEGEL: I actually think its about a feeling that if you treat yourself (and listen to a speech that David Foster Wallace gave called 'This is Water', its a Kenyon Commencement Speech). It is addressing the exact thing we're talking about in this interview which is Where do you place your value and what is going to address this itch that we keep trying to scratch that's telling us we're not there? That we're not enough. If its success, you'll never be successful enough. If its money, you'll never have enough money. If its talent, you'll never be adored enough. You have to find something else and I just really related to that.
We all go through it no matter how big you are
SEGEL: (1h 17m 30s) No matter how well you're doing, you're going to have feelings about not being enough. You're going to have feelings of dissatisfaction and its tough to find people to talk about that with if, People are all the same if you basically sound like you're whining.
MARON: Or you're seen as the guy who should have everything. You have to have real friends is basically what it is.
SEGEL: Its codified in myth since the beginning of time, this is a Universal feeling. The King feels the same way
MARON: And who's going to feel bad for the king? F*ck that guy. He's the King!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

They've gone from 'Kids' to 'Juno' and I'm Greenberg. The 'Gang of Youths' Sydney show.

The 'Gang of Youths' Sydney show.

As we approached the man who was about to slap us with green wristbands, security muttered something to him. "What did he say?" my friend asked. We both thought it might have been "border". Maybe it was "water" I wondered, our other friend did get asked to confiscate her bottle. We carried on into the gig as the second support played their last few songs.

We sensed the wristbands meant the show was All-ages. As the room filled there was a dawning realisation the crowd were overwhelmingly kids. The band we came to see were 'Gang of Youths' so we were genuinely pleased by the poetry of being encircled by just that. I spotted a teenager next to me wearing a 'Freaks and Geeks shirt and smirked at how sophisticated her taste was. I drafted my optimal dating profile: I taped every episode of 'Freaks and Geeks'**.
It proudly tipped my age and cool, being borderline smug about it. I asked her where she got it from, I figured it'd be homemade. She got it at a Comic convention.

A short curly-haired girl with a 3-panel cap walked by, I thought to myself "these kids are reeeeeally cool". But I meant it in a patronising, threatened way. A few beats after passing us, my friend whipped towards me and we locked eyes. "Wait! Did you just give me that look cuz that girl was strikingly cool?". She nodded.

I started thinking about my age. I imagined that this would be a terrible place to be high, I'd be paranoid I was swarmed by adolescents with judging eyes. I relayed these concerns, my friend remarked "It's already happening".
That morning I had listened to a podcast where Director Harmony Korine talked about his feelings towards his landmark movie 'Kids' (1995) 20 years on. It was basically checking in on a punk teen once you aged them with life.

VIDEO: 'Greenberg' (2010) party scene

The kids are all right but those around me didn't seem to have the reckless innocence of that classic coming-of-age movie. Kids be 'Juno' (2007) now. They knew too much or at least more than me at that age.
That's what I felt at that moment, like Greenberg at the party. When Ben Stiller's 40 year old character admonished the kids - "You're so sincere and interested in things. There's a confidence in you guys that's horrifying". This was tonight's theme.

VIDEO: 'Greenberg' Official Trailer

I came to the show because my good friend insisted but I didn't really know the band. I
knew a few songs from the radio, I didn't expect to get hit by this sudden identity crisis but it was cool nonetheless. I spent the first half of the gig drafting everything you're reading now in my head.

Then they played this song and I lost my shit.

VIDEO: Gang of Youths cover LCD Soundsystem 
'All My Friends' for Like A Version

Gang of Youths did a Like a Version for LCD Soundsystem's 'All my friends'. I knew it only as the song that scored the trailer for 'Greenberg', one of my favorite movies. Now it underscored everything.

A few songs before I had realised what might have been said as we came into the venue. The bouncer had just carded us and he was giving the OK to his colleague giving out wristbands for the Bar - "Older" he was saying assuringly.

** Channel 9 aired 'Freaks and Geeks' in 1999. I saw Samm Levine on the Martin Short show and was charmed by him, he plays Neal on 'Freaks and Geeks'. From that daytime appearance I decided to tape the Pilot airing soon after.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pete Holmes and Ali Waller talking about being "our best selves"

Comedian Pete Holmes talks to writer Ali Waller about our Adventurous selves vs our Cautious selves
'You Made it Weird' with Pete Holmes: Episode 268 - Ali Waller
ALI WALLER: (19m 20s) I think its always better to have the experience, have the relationship, make the weird mistake than to not. Even though I suffer for that. "Why did I ask that person out, he wasn't into me"...
PETE HOLMES: You're looking like, there's two us-es. There are so many us-es I feel like. There's that guy who's like "I'm gonna talk to strangers on a plane!"
WALLER: That guy.
HOLMES: I can't be that guy. Very, very rarely. Every once in a while I'm in that place where I feel like talking to people. I feel like meeting people. I feel like being my best self. I feel like helping people be their best self and what I try to do is make plans when I'm him and hope that he shows up again when the plan is happening but sometimes its not him and its the other guy...
and further on - 'will'
PETE HOLMES: (35m 05s) I'm fascinated with manufacturing will, like if you could sell a will pill. A pill that could give you the will to do things. I think that's what we're really after...  and that's one of the big struggles of life...
Notebooks, books. Certainly for me books. The potential to do something, we love these investments in this pretend future
As always when this line of thinking gets brought up on YMIW, Woody Allen's 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008) gets a mention. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) as our reserved self and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) representing our impulsive alter ego.

VIDEO: Let's fly to Oviedo

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Henry Rollins speaks to Pete Holmes about the possibility of "death by misadventure" - the thrill and threats of travel

Henry Rollins not versus the World
Henry Rollins explains to not-so-adventurous Pete how he travels and why he enjoys it:
'You Made it Weird' with Pete Holmes: Episode 243 - Henry Rollins
HENRY ROLLINS: (1h 43m 20s)... You'll be introduced but you wait. You don't go (gregariously) "Hey I'm Henry" . You don't mean any harm and they know you don't but [they'd think] "It's really not how it rolls here". So just know where you are.
And talk to the men "Hey what are you doing?" and if they speak some [English] they'll bend over backwards to show you what they're doing. And I've been invited to homes for tea and fruit and coffee and met the kids who thought the tattoos were hilarious and I've done this all over the world with great success cause I lead with my curiosity not with my (obnoxiously) "I'm gonna go here cuz I'm a tough guy". Cause I'm not. I'm not a tough guy nor am I brave. I'm neither, I'm just curious. And if you get your head cut off in one of these places well that's how that went. At least you died doing what you wanted instead of people who spend many years in a place that they don't like but they kind of learn to accept the gut punch that the job gives them and they tough it out. And one day I'm gonna retire.
So you're basically living for the cessation of the work but not the work itself?... I have found that a lot of people as [Black] Sabbath used to say "Kill themselves to live" and so if I get slaughtered in one of these places with death by misadventure. I don't wanna. I'm not looking to get hurt like that but if it happens.
Eh! Was it worth it? Yeah, definitely. I definitely would rather die on the streets of "name the place" cause I shouldn't have gone there than...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tim and Eric on Marc Maron's WTF podcast talk about Irony, awkwardness and being in on the joke

VIDEO: Tim And Eric, It's Not Jackie Chan (Original)
WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: Episode 536 - Tim and Eric
MARC MARON: (23m) It was essentially that. It was the lameness that was hilarious. Intentional lameness.
TIM HEIDECKER: Intentional stupidity that you have to be on the same page with the idea that I'm not really suggesting that as a name
MARON: Of course and he got that immediately and history is made
HEIDECKER: Irony, that's the word. You all have to be on the same page that we're all f*cked and most things are garbage. Most products, whether its movies or TV shows or books are mostly garbage and mostly patronising to us
I've been in trouble the last few weeks with group emails. You create a shorthand with people where there's an understood context in how to interpret each other. You take things with a grain of salt and don't accept everything at face value. It's an invisible language between friends. When you expand the circle like you do with Group emails, sometimes it gets lost. The two people who seem most at odds get the code but everyone else takes it seriously. The tone shifts, it gets weird.