Day 8

Ed Zitron 6 min read

As I have now completed one week of "this bullshit,” I have become COVID Shrek - a lumbering, oafish, perpetually irritable ogre that simply wants people to stay out of his swamp quarantine. I am tired. I am achey. At this point, just about everybody I know who has had COVID (and several that I did not know had COVID) with advice, which is great, but also leads you to start over-reading every single thing that happens to you.

The best part is the people who have told me that any day I can suddenly get hit hard, out of nowhere, with terrifying symptoms, meaning that even if I feel better I should also be prepared to randomly feel worse which is great, because while you’re falling asleep, you also have this sense of dread, like you may not wake up in the morning.

But also, try and stay positive.

Cramming Certain Well-Wishes

One of the many frustrating parts of looking at social media through the lens of a COVID-haver is being keenly aware of which of your friends are assholes. For example, in a group DM I’m in, I told everyone I had COVID (because I’d just found out and I felt bad, and perhaps I wanted attention, I am only human), and one of the well-wishers said they were extremely sorry to hear that, and then posted several pictures of their family eating at a fucking restaurant. Or the friend who I see regularly dicking around on a boat with five or six of his dickhead friends, all unmasked, on Instagram. If you’re the people in question here and take offense at me substacking you (hey, that works!) - screw you! At least one of you is asymptomatic and spreading! This isn’t a god damn political thing, this is a “you got people sick” thing!

I should add I’m having this kind of reaction partially out of guilt for my previous internalized, quasi-subconscious “I’m different” attitude - I definitely was on some level thinking that with how careful I was, it was just not gonna happen. Well it happened, and the joke is on me.

I am doing all I can to not turn this into the most repetitive, dull Substack, with each newsletter another rant about how I got sick and I’m mad about it. It’s exhausting being cooped up - don’t I fuckin’ know it! - and people are getting antsy and want to return to their normal lives.

Luke O’Neil’s Substack-based thought process put it well, today:

There have been times when I’ve been close to saying fuck it I don’t care anymore myself I’m going back to the gym — which are open in Massachusetts because they cost money — or I think I’m gonna go and get the fuck out of here and go to like… Florida which is basically America’s Gym and pound shooters and eat fried conch with pink old men in pink shorts and then I think better of it because I don’t want to get sick or get anyone else sick but if I’m being honest it’s mostly because I don’t want my wife to get mad at me.

People are tired, and stir crazy, and want change from the repetition of being indoors and doing the same thing, but don’t do it because they have some person they respect who’s holding them back. Without that person, they turn to an authority, an authority who at present says it’s bad to go to inside a restaurant, but also it’s fine to do that in some states, it’s fine to go to a gym, but not if you’re in a particular county, but you must wear a mask, but also, if you don’t, well, that sucks, and you shouldn’t.

What’s funny is that I’ve seen plenty of criticism of this inconsistency from right wing people (or people who claim to be centrists but are actually conservatives) who are saying this inconsistency means that there should be less lockdowns. It’s weird how people who are so obsessed with saying the government is controlling them are only concerned with whether the government is being overly cautious, and not cautious enough. Who knows.

And now for something completely different…

Miles Morales

I beat Spider-Man: Miles Morales over the weekend, and I have to say…I was underwhelmed. Based on the way in which everyone wrote about this, this game would have a storyline tantamount to the nigh-on perfect Into The Spider-verse. What it turned out to be was a rushed storyline that relied heavily on people just assuming the content of relationships without building those relationships out.

Despite being cornerstones of the plot, Miles’ friendships with Ganke and Phin are barely fleshed out, making every dramatic beat involving them empty. Roxxon, the big energy corporation that has grown overnight, is bad because the CEO is…bad…and the energy? It’s bad. The Underground? They’re bad too, and they grew out of nowhere, uh, because uh. They got money somehow. Also they have these powers that are conveniently able to stop your powers. Great! Anyway, they’re bad, and the bad guy is bad, so uh, stop the bad guy.

This all would work fine if you were given much in the way of a run-up to their relationship - the game seems fully capable of pushing you into walk-around conversations with them to lead up to set-pieces, how about something about their lives together? How about some sort of situation where you work with Roxxon and see the way in which they’re ingratiating themselves in the community using money versus understanding the cultural history of Harlem? Every single plot point and remark that this game makes feels rushed, empty and hollow.

The irony of the game is that it makes a point about how corporate interests simply pick up and discard communities and culture as they see fit for their own gains while literally doing that itself. It’s a bunch of weakly-linked signifiers shoved together into something that makes people vaguely remember Into The Spider-verse, including the Prowler’s WERRRRRR sound occasionally playing (not when he’s on screen, which ays everything) and musical notes that sort of sound like it. The two main bad guys are paper-thin, and the game shies away from making the point about a rich white energy CEO guy taking advantage of minority communities, instead just having Troy Baker doing an impression of Nathan Fillion doing an impression of Steve Jobs. The leader of the Underground is a twist that has absolutely no weight, because it makes absolutely no sense.

Even the gameplay feels annoying. So often you’re facing enemies built on stopping you using the cool new powers you have. So often you’re stopped mid-combat because there’s a sniper enemy you have to go and swing over to awkwardly. So much of the game feels like it’s an interruption from being Spider-man. You have an app - a Spider-man app - that gives you missions to save people. You have electricity powers. You have holograms that fight for you. It doesn’t even feel like a Spider-man game half the time. You’re on computers, you’re throwing remote mines, you’re electrocuting people.

I dunno. Lots of people enjoy it, and I’m glad they do, and perhaps my brain is just broken. People say I over-criticize stuff. It is a gorgeous game, swinging around New York is beautiful and fluid, when the beats hit they hit hard, and there are moments where I was really impressed. But I feel like people are absolute suckers for a lot of the tricks that are pulled by this game - they want to celebrate a minority superhero, they loved Spider-verse, they want this to be a success, and it is, by and large, a success at what it tries to do.

But nobody seems to want to think about how big an injustice Miles Morales’ first outing is to the character. Social justice is diluted to “we must protect small businesses.” Cops are, well, cops. Miles has no issue with them. There’s no reckoning with white capitalism’s attempt to dominate Harlem, and the main problems the game has with him is that he’s too greedy, versus being safe and greedy. Miles’ mother is running for office throughout the game, yet we are never really told what she stands for, which seems very important to a story like this. It’s a two dimensional semiotic puppet show - you are meant to root for these characters because of what you vaguely think they stand for versus what they stand for, and the story very much hopes you do so, for its own sake.

Perhaps I’m asking too much, or I’m too negative, or whatever. I’ve got too much time to think about stuff.

Anyway, have a good week.

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