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About Damian

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  1. We are in agreement, yes. I just wanted to make it clear that the book stands on its own without needing to be attached to a "real life story". But hey, the last thing I want to do is argue with a fellow Bolaño reader!
  2. I don't think that the power of 2666 comes from the fact that the city, and the problems, are real. I learned that afterward, and the power of the novel was clear without it. I chose Bolaño for exactly that reason - he does a similar thing to what games are accused of, but he does it well, and his literature is undeniably high and important art.
  3. Hi, I watched the latest Anita Sarkeesian last night, and have since forwarded it to various people I know, non-gamer or gamer, female or not, as I think both that specific video, and the series, highlights an important aspect of video game culture that has largely been overlooked until recently. I will say that I was shocked when I watched the snippet taken from God of War 3. Shocked. I don't play AAA games generally, and had no idea that such things existed inside them. Whether contextless or not, there is no way that the scene with the half-naked princess could ever be considered okay. It was brutal and horrific, and the achievement served to give weight to the idea that what had happened was an inherently good thing, something to be charmed by, or humoured by, or pleased by. Horrific - I honestly had no idea that mainstream games had such things in them. The most compelling aspect of Sarkeesian's video was, for me, the discussion where she mentioned that the princess in a Mario game (and from that extrapolating to all such thematically similar games) is the ball with which the protagonist and antagonist play their game, and that the dead/maimed women in other games didn't even rise to the level of a ball (these poses and such also horrified me, as I had not come across this before in a game either). I think the metaphor of "game" and "ball" is an extremely valuable one in order to easily and quickly convey the subtleties of normalised minimisation of women in games. When the metaphor is used it becomes immediately clear exactly what is trying to be conveyed as an idea, and forms an excellent base from which to delve further into the concept. On the idea of violence against women in video games, I would say (and Anita does say this) that violence against women (or anyone) can be an effective tool for... well, anything. I would point everyone toward the great Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño's masterpiece 2666 as an example where violence, and in this specific case, violence against women, can be used to achieve a higher artistic goal without succumbing to the temptation to relish in the violence itself. Briefly, 2666 has a roughly 400page section which outlines in clinical, police-report-style language the brutal rape and murder of hundreds of women in a Mexican city over a decade. This section is harrowing and difficult to read, but the most overwhelming part of it is the administrative evil of the murders. The murder of these women become normalised within the mind of the city, and though some people remain vigilant in trying to find the killer/s, most everybody simply adjusts to it as the "new normal" (particularly the police), and once something has become sufficiently ingrained as "part of what the city is", then it becomes virtually impossible to stop it. This evil - and it is unequivocally presented as evil - eventually pervades every aspect of the novel until it feels while reading that one is gazing into an impenetrable, endless abyss inside which is contained the worst and most horrible of man's deeds. Anyway, back to games. I appreciate the idea that some people have that they don't want their daughters to grow up playing games where women are only (primarily) the ball and never the participant, but I think that doesn't quite hit the mark. I don't want to play games like that. I have women in my life with whom I have the utmost respect and whom I admire for qualities that they possess that are sometimes similar to mine and sometimes utterly different, and I don't want to participate in activities where women are reduced to balls, or to artfully arranged dead things, or to naked breasts. Abstracting things out to a "daughter" or "wife" or friend releases some level of responsibility to the person making that statement, and I will have none of that. It's not good enough now, it's not good enough to participate in such things, and I will not do it.
  4. Divinity: Original Sin

    I bought this game over the weekend. I rationalised by saying that if I don't support RPGs at full price, then they are less likely to come out in the future. Normally I wait for a bundle/holiday steam sale, but there you go. I greatly enjoyed naming the male and female protagonists after myself and my wife, and enjoyed more encouraging romance (and also bickering). So far - and I am not very far - I have enjoyed it, and my brain has started exploding with the potential depth that has been hinted at all of the side areas, and benefits of exploring, and the possibilities inherent in the systems that I have been introduced to. I don't know yet how well this will correspond to the actual depth of the game, but thus far - impressed.
  5. Books, books, books...

    I am currently reading Dorothea Dieckmann's Guantanamo, which is a fictional account of a young German/India who is kidnapped in the middle of the night by American troops and taken to Guantanamo. The book goes through the harrowing details of his days (Similar to Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), but the language here is raw, uncluttered, unambiguous, immediate, effective. Highly recommended. Dieckmann is an amazing writer in terms of sheer kinetic power, and I think that this book will be one that enters into literary history as truly exploring the horrors of America's prison camp.
  6. Peter Watson seems to have made his career as a historian writing exactly the kind of books you are looking for. For a more ideas-based book, and one that is better than Watson's, I strongly recommend (everyone) read Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence, which traces Western thought from 1500 - 2000. He wrote it when he was in his 90s, and it came after a lifetime of writing and thinking about history and philosophy.