A brief, weird little story

On my way in to work, late last week, I drove by a sign on the side of the road. I didn’t get that long of a look at it, obviously, because I was driving and I wasn’t expecting to suddenly encounter something interesting, but it looked permanent– it wasn’t, like, attached to a light pole or something like that. Somebody had dug holes and poured concrete for this thing.

It was advertising a local business, and had the following instructions on it under the name of the business: STRAIGHT AHEAD, ON THE RIGHT.

And underneath those instructions, an arrow. Pointing to the left.

I very nearly stopped the car and turned around to get a picture of the sign, but again: driving to work, and my margins for “arrive on time” and “perilously late” are, uh, thin, on the best of days. So I resolved to get a picture of it the next day, because obviously I need to put this sign on my blog.

And the next day, the fucker was gone. I have been looking for this sign for a week, assuming that I just didn’t remember where it was or something, and it’s no longer there, and it hasn’t been replaced by anything, either, because surely I would have noticed that. And so I’m left wondering if I just imagined the damn thing, or badly misread it, or what, and I can’t confirm my own memory, and that’s really annoying.

Slightly related, at least according to how my brain works: I live in northern Indiana, maybe a 25-30 minute drive from Michigan. This area is generally known as “Michiana,”(*) and that word is pronounced like you think it is, especially once you realize that the “-ana” part comes from Indiana, a word that is generally pronounced only one way. To be obnoxiously clear about it, that penultimate A is pronounced like the penultimate A in banana or Havana or bat. And I have lived here for more or less my entire life and I have never heard anyone pronounce it incorrectly.

There is a local radio ad that I keep hearing all the Goddamned time for a used car company, and the person reading the ad repeatedly– at least a dozen times in the ad, since the word is part of the car company’s name– mispronounces “Michiana” as “Michi-onna,” like the last o sound in Pokemon. And it drives me into a killing fucking rage every time I hear it, because not only is it wrong and stupid but it offends me on a deep and fundamental level that somebody from the company that paid for this ad listened to it and went yeah, okay, that’s fine, and didn’t immediately demand that the ad be re-recorded because of the constant mispronunciation of the name of their business.

I hate it. I hate it so much.

The end.

(*) I believe I have brought this up in this space before, or at least on Twitter, but Indiana also features Kentuckiana and Illiana, although I do not know if either Indihio or Ohiana, both of which strike me as linguistic abominations, are places. Do other states do this with their border regions? I know there’s a place called Texarkana which, oh, Christ, is in something called the Ark-La-Tex region, but beyond that is it a thing? Is there a Califoregon out there, or a Pennsylvaryland? Michiconsin? Colobraska? Help me out.

In which I am evolving, or something …

Yes, I know, I really need to vacuum the God damned ottoman and get the cat hair off. Shut up, we’re freaking out about something entirely different in this post.

I bought those shoes yesterday, with the typical attendant anxiety bullshit that happens every single fucking time I need to buy shoes. I wanted something with some damn color; every pair of shoes I’ve bought in the last three or four years has been black and I wanted some summer-weight shoes that didn’t look like something I’d wear to work. Those caught my eye two or three times before I dared to grab a box and try them on, and then my whole entire brain went nuts because everyone was looking at me except they weren’t and no one cares and also– and this was what made me nut up and buy the damned things– I literally have an entire shirt that exact color, and I assure you that when I’m wearing that thing I’m visible from Mars.

So, yeah, you can see my feet in the dark now. The punch line to all this is it’s possible I bought them in slightly too small of a size, because the aforementioned anxiety issues kept me from giving them a full test in the store. I think they’re within the “they’ll break in fine” range, though, so we’ll cross our fingers.

There is something going on with my sense of personal style lately. I’ve been ordering rings and bracelets– bracelets, for God’s sake, although I haven’t found one that I like enough to wear regularly yet– and I’ve gone to work with three rings on more than once recently. I have a hat coming in the mail tomorrow that was shipped from Ireland and I suspect if I like it I’m going to own two or three more by the time my birthday rolls around in July.

If I end up spending a few thousand bucks on an arm sleeve this summer, will somebody do me a favor and stage an intervention?

In which this is not okay

You see that? You see that skeptical-ass look on my homegirl Aloy’s face? That’s where I’m at right now. You may be aware of my YouTube channel, where I spend much time playing the video games for your entertainment and edification. Are you following me yet? You should be following me. Go follow me right now. You don’t use YouTube? You’re not interested in video game videos? That’s okay. Do it anyway.

I just finished up a series on the recent expansion for Horizon Forbidden West, known as The Burning Shores. You don’t really need a ton of background information here, but I’ll give you what you need:

  1. Aloy, who is the redhead up there, is probably my favorite video game character of all time, not just because she’s a supreme badass (she is) but because of how well-realized a character she is. She’s an asshole. She has absolutely earned the right to be the precise kind of asshole she is. She has absolutely no time for anyone’s bullshit and I love that about her. I have almost ordered this statue a million times and if you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket you should get it for me. After you follow me on YouTube.
  2. Aloy has, in the two LARGE games she has starred in, not had a whisper of a romantic life until this expansion.
  3. In this expansion, at the very end, you get the chance to have her kiss a girl if you want to. You can choose not to, either because you’re a giant bigot (unacceptable) or you don’t think Aloy would even pretend to have time for a relationship (still annoying, but justifiable within the story).
  4. You should have Aloy kiss the girl.

The game has taken the usual-and-sadly-expected amount of review bombing and soulless abusive bullshit from shithead chuds who are mad because the fictional video game lady won’t fuck them, and I hate those people a whole lot but that’s not what this post is about.

Let’s back up a bit. Early on in the expansion you come across Otosu and Lan, two side characters. The details don’t matter; Lan needs rescuing so you go rescue him. The thing is, Otosu and Lan are super queer-coded, especially Lan, who comes across as a bit of an obnoxious queen. But the game never admits it. Otosu is super worried about Lan when he sends you to go rescue him but he never says anything that explicitly acknowledges them as a couple even though their every interaction makes it really clear that that’s what they are. I was fully expecting a “bury your gays” situation here, which, to the devs’ credit, didn’t happen, but the fact that they never even dropped a “my partner” into the dialogue was annoying. It’s almost worse in 2023 to have a clearly gay couple and never acknowledge it than to have no queer representation at all.(*)

So anyway. It’s the end of the game. Aloy and her love interest have more or less done the impossible together and defeated the bad guy and all that. Seyka, the love interest, asks Aloy to meet her where they first met. (“Meet me here” as a way to distinguish one mission from another gets kind of annoying in this game; never more than here.) They meet. Seyka confesses feelings. They kiss. Because Aloy deserves some God damn happiness, damn your eyes, so you’d better have made them kiss and the kiss had better end up canonical.

And do you know what the fuck happens next?

Aloy leaves. “I hope I’ll see you again,” and she bounces, because– and this is almost justifiable given the character– Aloy has Shit to Do, and that third game is coming, and the stakes are higher in the third game than they’ve ever been before.

So she’s gotta leave now???


I was not pleased with this decision. And the worst thing is, again, I can justify it with the character. And she is going to have to leave, as the Burning Shores expansion takes place in a different location than the other two games and she’s got to go back home. But … now? Right fucking now? This minute? You don’t have time to let the game end with the two of them sitting on the beach and watching the sun set together and maybe tomorrow morning she goes back home?

Like, writing all this out now, especially given the number of words I had to burn to get here, part of me feels like I’m overreacting, and in general if you’re pissed about the story in a video game enough to complain about it on the Internet you probably are overreacting to some degree or another, but this really ended the game on a sour note to me. I was pissed. I still am; it’s the next day and I’m writing about it. Why the hell would you go to the trouble to set up a romance, doomed or otherwise, between these two characters and then literally give them one kiss and Aloy has to leave immediately? Because that’s bullshit. This is a fictional story. Y’all coulda faded to black or given her a day or shown them having a picnic together or some fucking thing. And somehow you’ve managed to make a game with two different gay couples in it and an onscreen gay kiss and still managed to come off weirdly homophobic, and that there is a fucking achievement.

Or a trophy, I guess. It’s a PS5 game after all.

(*) At least to me, the straight cis guy. Maybe my opinion should be disregarded here; I dunno. Let me know if you disagree with this.

On cultural memory

Interesting discovery earlier this week: I do a trivia question for my kids every week, right? Usually something connected to history, but not always. It’s completely optional and not for a grade; the people who get it right get a piece of candy on Friday and that’s really it. Just a little fun thing.

This month’s questions have all been about women, since it’s Women’s History Month, and this week’s was Who is the highest-selling woman author in the world? I was pretty certain I knew the answer, but I needed to double-check it before posting the question, because if I was wrong and it turned out to be She Who Shall Not Be Named, I was going to have to come up with a different question.

And I found a list— not perfect, Wikipedia admits– of the top-selling authors of all time. And it’s shocking, because of the number of authors on it that I have never heard of. Now, granted, people have been writing books for a long time, and I can’t read or know about all of them, but given how much of my life I have dedicated to reading and books, even given that several of them aren’t close to being in my genre, the fact that I haven’t ever heard of half of the top ten– half!— frankly blows my mind. Here’s the list:

  1. William Shakespeare. And, okay, yeah. I feel like there’s an argument to be made that Shakespeare doesn’t belong on the same list as the rest of these people, since he was a playwright and not a novelist or actual prose author, but I’m not going to make that argument right now. At any rate, I’ve heard of and read Shakespeare.
  2. Agatha Christie, meaning that my guess about the best-selling woman author was correct. Somewhere between two and four billion books sold. I have read three of them.
  3. Barbara Cartland, who I have never heard of in my entire life despite the fact that she has written seven hundred and twenty-three books and sold a billion copies of those books. I don’t read romance, granted! But how the hell have I never heard of her??
  4. Danielle Steel. Wouldn’t have guessed that she was this big-time, but okay. I haven’t read anything by her but at least I’m familiar with her.
  5. Harold Robbins. No idea. 23 books, American, around 750 million sales. Never heard of him.
  6. Georges Simenon. I’ll cut myself a bit of slack because he wrote in French and is Belgian, but there are 700 million copies of his 570 books out there and I’ve never seen one in translation? Fucking seriously? HOW??
  7. She Who Shall Not Be Named. Whatever.
  8. Enid Blyton. I think that maybe if you’d asked me who Enid Blyton was before I saw this list I might have been able to say she was an author. Maybe. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to provide more detail than that, and I’m willing to toss her on the “never heard of” pile.
  9. Sidney Sheldon. Between 370 and 600 million books sold. A suspense author, so his(?) books are probably much more aligned to my tastes. No clue.
  10. Eiichiro Oda. I’ll call him a .5, because I’ve never heard his name, but he’s the One Piece guy and I’ve heard of One Piece.

I have also never heard of #11, Gilbert Patten, #13, Akira Toriyama, but see Oda because it’s a similar situation, or #15, a Spaniard named Corin Tellado who supposedly has written four thousand books. Weirdly, after that, you have to roll through a couple dozen before I hit someone I’m unfamiliar with, and there are no American or English authors on the rest of the list who I’ve never heard of.

(Also, I just went and checked dates, and there are only three in the top 10 whose lives didn’t overlap with mine: Shakespeare, of course; Blyton, who died in 1964, and, ironically, Christie, who died six months before I was born. These are not nineteenth-century authors or anything, with the obvious exception of Shakespeare. They are all relatively modern.)

How the hell do you sell a billion books and you leave so small (or so specific) a cultural footprint that I, a person who has been reading constantly for his entire life, have never heard of you? I know I’m edging toward– if not trampling on– the idea that Nothing I Haven’t Heard Of Is Important, which I don’t believe, but books are kind of my thing, and the notion that I don’t know half of the top 10 writers who ever lived is weird, right? And not weird in a “something is wrong with me” type of way, but in a “something’s going on here” sort of way? Is romance that sequestered from every other genre of writing that this is normal?

I dunno. How many of these ten authors have you heard of? Is there anybody reading this who knows all ten of them?

On pointless venting

Sent the following text to my wife:

Post-Covid, we really don’t go out much any more. Maybe once a month at best. I don’t think anyone’s necessarily worried about catching something from going to dinner at this point, but however fucking many years it’s been since the Goddamned world ended have more or less permanently altered our dining habits. But I was twitching to get out of the house and go do something, and dinner would be easy, so we went to dinner.

The where doesn’t really matter and the details don’t really matter. The place was busier than I’ve ever seen them before– there was a fucking tour bus in a nearby parking lot, and I strongly suspect (though I’m quite confused as to why, for a number of reasons) that the people who had rented that tour bus were in the restaurant.(*) And we got shit service. I spent the entire meal watching the waitress I could see, who was not our waitress, hustling and working her ass off while multiple people either ignored or forgot about simple requests, depending on how charitable you’re being, and by the end of the meal I wanted to tip her.

The thing is, I think of myself as a reasonable person, or at least I like to, and I also think of myself as someone who doesn’t fuck with service workers, which is a rule I won’t break. The problem with that is that when I genuinely do encounter bullshit in public, I’m not great about, like, speaking up for myself. And so I spent the whole fucking meal sitting there and stewing about stupid nonsense like how many motherfuckers do I have to ask before a side of sour cream shows up at my table and, similarly, why is it so fucking hard to get a glass of water in this place?

Like, neither of these things are actually problems. They are minor annoyances at best, but … well, I have been minorly annoyed, apparently, so now I’m venting about it to you.

The best part? I made a comment to my wife as we were waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for her to come pick up the check that I wanted to tip the other waitress, the one who had been working the section my seat was facing and was, again, obviously hustling. This caught my son’s ear and he asked about how tipping worked, which meant that even if I was the kind of guy to short-tip a waitress for bad service, even when I could justify it, I wasn’t about to look like an asshole in front of my kid, so she got 20%.

And then that same kid shut the door in my fucking face as we were walking into the house from the garage, and now I’m mad at everybody, and I’m complaining on the internet.

The end.

(*) Along with, inexplicably, three girls who appeared to be dressed for prom. It’s not prom season– the end of February isn’t anything season– this is not the place you go before prom anyway, and while it’s not as weird as it used to be that there were no guys with them, it was still kinda weird. And since I’m already busy being mad at society for preventing me from unleashing my id in public, I may as well rage against the societal constraint that random strange men don’t get to ask teenage girls why they’re dressed the way that they are, because dammit I wanted to know and why can’t I have everything I want??????