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Liberal elites and “right-wing populists”

“I think right-wing populists hate the ‘liberal elite’ more than economic elites because they’ve grabbed all the jobs where you get paid to do something that isn’t just for the money – the pursuit of art, or truth, or charity”, notes David Graeber, an anthropologist whose ideas helped shape the Occupy movement. “All they can do if they want to do something bigger than themselves and still get paid is join the army.”

― Sarah Kendzior, The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior

Something about this quote doesn’t sit right with me. I highlighted it when I read The View From Flyover Country a few years ago and I can’t remember why. Maybe I thought it made sense at the time, but from a 2021 perspective, it comes across as insulting. Maybe I just don’t know enough about politics.

I don’t think “right-wing populists” hate liberal elites because they supposedly have a monopoly on certain jobs. There are conservatives that are financially successful who don’t like liberal elites. There are conservatives who are artists, or work in some art adjacent position, and that contribute to charity. I’m not even sure what job is being referred to when Graeber mentions the pursuit of truth. What is that? Journalists? Most journalists aren’t even journalists anymore. They’re entertainers.

What’s being overlooked here is that conservatives aren’t being excluded from these fields due to a lack of ability but rather because of the good old boy system. Getting jobs at higher levels is more about who you know than what you know and once a certain number of people in a position to welcome you into that circle of good old boys are adherents to specific ideology, then of course most of the people that they add to their ranks are going to follow that same ideology.

People want to be comfortable. They don’t want to surround themselves with people who challenge their point of view or outlook on the world. So, it makes sense that certain professions and institutions would be dominated by people with the same outlook.

Graeber’s comment about right-wing populists only being able to join the military makes it seem as if all conservatives are poor and have no options in life, and it implies that the military is full of low achievers, which isn’t the case. Clearly. America may fall behind in a lot of metrics, but we’re really good at blowing up other countries because we have the best military in the world.

It’s more likely that right-wing populists dislike liberal elites because liberal elites say things like this quote by Graeber. Liberal elites infantilize and talk down to conservatives. They constantly insult conservatives and try to sideline or minimize their existence.

An old missing cat poster I created in Singapore

We were looking through old photos on my wife’s old laptop a few days ago and we found this poster that I made when we lived in Singapore.

10 years ago, I posted this missing cat poster around Pasir Ris in Singapore. We had been feeding this cat below an HDB there for a few months and, one day, she suddenly went missing. We did eventually find her. One day, she just showed back up under the building.

I still wonder what she was doing during the week or so that she was missing. We were in contact with other people in the area that were caring for her and we knew she had already been spayed, so it wasn’t that.

Maybe she was exploring? Or had a bad encounter and was hiding out?

I like to think that someone else had decided to adopt her but then saw that other people were concerned for her and let her back out. It’s nice to think that there are a lot of people who care about animal welfare.

Anyway, this cat isn’t really “Mini” anymore. She’s about 11 now and she lives in Manhattan, New York City, with my Mom. We brought her with us when we moved.

I guess she’s pretty spoiled now. She eats shrimp, steak, and other table scraps in addition to her regular food. She has an apartment and a balcony to herself as well. No other cats to compete with.

Marble, living the big life in the city.

What an official absentee ballot for Bronx County, US looked like for the Nov 2020 General Election

Just in case anyone was curious, this is what an official absentee military ballot looked like for residents of Bronx County, New York City, for the 2020 general election.

I wound up not using it. I went to the polling station and voted in person. I was doing some house cleaning, found it, and thought it might be useful to someone in the future.

PDF available below:

Birthday Card from NYC Relief – a volunteer service organization

I received this card from the people at New York City Relief for my birthday. It was a nice gesture that I appreciated. New York City Relief is an organization that tries to connect people in need with essential services.

I spent some time volunteering with them in late 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic really set in, when they used to provide services out of the Bowery Mission. I don’t see the location listed on their calendar anymore.

It was a valuable experience and I’d like to continue, but I’m waiting for the pandemic to die down first. It’s kind of a shame, but we don’t live in a country with a universal healthcare system, and I want to minimize my risk of getting sick with something that is likely to lead to hospitalization. The city is getting busy again, but I think that’s more the result of lockdown fatigue than an actual improvement in the situation.

Trying out Fallout 76

(Somewhat) fresh out the Vault.

I got burned out playing Destiny 2. I hit the wall when they had the power weapons requirement as part of the last Iron Banner quest. It forces people to abandon the game mode and fight over a power weapon ammo spawn that happens once every few minutes instead, 3-4 times a match, tops. It just stopped being fun.

A few days later I noticed that they had auto completed that step in the questline for all players, but by that point I had already stopped to consider whether I was even having fun with Destiny 2 anymore and the answer was no, not really.

I used to love Destiny 2 for the PvP, but now there are so many hackers in PvP matches now that the game mode just isn’t worth playing anymore. It’s ironic that you can’t play Destiny 2 on Linux because of their anti-cheat implementation when that implementation doesn’t catch or prevent any cheating. They seem to rely heavily on user reports, but I’ve never even received a response to a report, so I doubt that it’s effective.

I guess I could do the non-PvP content, but it gets repetitive. The Glykon is interesting, but it’s just too much in one go. If I could load back into it where I left off it would have been better, but the first time through took a few hours and subsequent runs are also a little time intensive considering that you can’t step away and finish it up later.

Also, there really isn’t a core story backbone with Destiny 2 that you can fall back on. There’s no solid lore or narrative. The way the game has been managed with content vaulting and being able to do multiple expansion storylines at the same time, there’s no clear sense of progression through a narrative. At least with most MMOs, you’re experiencing a coherent storyline so even when the content gets a little stale you have something to think about and look forward to, but that doesn’t exist with Destiny 2, so I started looking at other games.

I really love the Elder Scrolls and I really love The Elder Scrolls online, or at least the idea of it, but I hate the combat system. It seems to be completely depending on stacking damage over time attacks and it doesn’t seem well put together. So, as much as I want to play it, I just can’t. I want to enjoy a fight, not sit and watch timers to make sure I’ve reapplied skills. Instead, I figured I’d try another franchise by Bethesda: Fallout, and in particular, Fallout 76, the online multiplayer game.

It just so happens that it’s available on Xbox Game Pass so I can play it for “free”. So far, I’m really enjoying the game’s aesthetic. I love post-apocalyptic shows and stories, so post-nuclear Red Scare America is a wonderful world to explore. The items in the game all have a weird 50s / 60s look.

The learning curve is pretty steep, and I feel like there could be more explanation for certain game mechanics like the hunger/thirst system, C.A.M.P. building, and how setting up your Perk cards works, but I’m figuring things out as I go along.

I’m hoping that when I finish the storyline there will be plenty of engaging things to do still and there are a lot of menu items and modes that suggest that will be the case, but I don’t want to ruin the game for myself looking up strategy guides, min/max builds, etc., so I’m just going to play through it and see where it goes.

I’m not even sure what that is supposed to be. Some sort of mutant dolphin?

Sugar, sugar

I remember watching this as a kid. In “The Big Bang Theory”, the guys always make fun of Archie comics but I don’t really remember much about them anymore except that they used to be on the shelf by the registers in grocery stores. If I can find some older comics for free I guess I’ll take a look just to refresh my memory.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch makes a guest appearance in this video. That stood out to me because of the recent Netflix series. The first season was pretty good, but the second season fell flat and we never got beyond the second episode.

Google Stadia test run with Destiny 2

At this point, the challenges of finding gaming hardware is pretty common knowledge, whether it be consoles or graphics cards. Last year, people were having issues finding the Nintendo Switch in stock. Now, you can’t find an Xbox Series X or PS5 to save your life. A graphics card either. At least, not at MSRP. There are plenty being sold for 3-4x the price on reseller sites, which is obscene.

Anyway, I didn’t realize how bad things were but I figured I’d make the best of the situation and give Stadia a whirl. It streams games to your computer screen, TV, or phone, and it’s supposed to be high quality so I thought it might be a nice alternative. Maybe even something to stick with when hardware shortages end, even.

Signing up for Stadia was pretty quick. Since it’s a Google product I just ran through a few screens linking my Google account to my Stadia account, chose what to share and what not to share on the platform (games/achievements/online status/etc), linked my Bungie account and Stadia account, hit play on Destiny 2 and there I was.

A few quick things I noticed are:

  • The video quality is surprisingly poor. My GeForce 970M renders the graphics better.
  • The controls are better than I expected but I can feel the latency drag.
  • I couldn’t access in-game chat in Destiny 2 or see anyone on my Clan Roster except for one guy, so I’m thinking there’s a weird hang-up where Clan interaction is platform specific. I still had my Clan banner and received Clan bonuses, though.
  • The actual Stadia interface and enabling a livestream are not difficult to use, but the menus aren’t very intuitive either.
  • Stadia will work in Microsoft Edge, but it doesn’t perform well.
  • When you open Stadia in Chrome, look for a + icon in the address bar. You can turn the website into a web app and pin it to your taskbar.

Here are two videos I created of Destiny 2 gameplay on Stadia:

Stadia gameplay footage of a Vanguard Strike called The Shadow Keep
Completing a public event on Europa

Connection

Connection speeds are pretty important with something like Stadia. I have a 300/30 connection with low latency. We regularly watch 4k on a 53″ UHD TV with no problems. So, I can’t imagine that negatively impacted my experience.

Summary

Long story short, I can’t see myself paying for games with missing functionality (like the in-game chat) that I probably already own on Steam to stream them at lower quality than my laptop can produce. I don’t actually need to game on my phone that badly.

With a $9.99 per month fee for Pro, which doesn’t seem to offer anything worthwhile at this point (the free monthly games are all low quality except maybe Hitman and a Tomb Raider title), I can’t see keeping Stadia past the free trial. I’m not really clear on the pricing, but some games are tagged “Pro”, so it makes me think I have to pay for the sub and still pay for the game and if I cancel my sub I lose the game?

For Stadia to be worthwhile, the library of available games would have to be bigger. For the subscription to work, it would have to be like Netflix. Bump up the price a bit and allow people to play what they want as much as they want. Right now, if you catch games on sale on Steam you can build your library at a reasonable price and not have to worry about the technical issues that can come with streaming games.

Stadia right now feels like something you would use in an emergency if your regular gaming system broke and you needed some time to get new parts or a new console.

“If Man-Bat dressed up as a man to fight crime, would he be Man-Batman?”

“The Big Bang Theory” Season 9, episode 21. In the comic book store:

Sheldon: I have a question about Batman. Batman is a man who dresses up like a bat. Man-bat is a part man, part bat hybrid. Now, if Man-Bat dressed up as a man to fight crime, would he be Man-Batman?

Leonard: No, he’d be Bat-Man-Bat.

Raj: But wouldn’t Man-Batman just be a Batman that was bitten by a radioactive man?

Howard: But Batman is a man. You’re talking about a man who would have the powers of a man. That’s just Man-Man.

Sheldon: Well, isn’t Man-Man just Man?

Leonard: But what if Man-Man dressed as a bat?

Raj: Well, that’s just Batman.

Leonard: No, if a man dresses as a bat, that’s Batman, but if Man-Man dresses as a bat, that’s Batman-Man.

Howard: So does that answer your question?

Sheldon: Oh, I haven’t asked it yet.

If Batman is a man dressed like a bat, then wouldn’t a Man-bat dressed like a man actually be Manman-bat?

Gratitude 1/28/2021

Just thinking about how great life is when you can wake up surrounded by family and pets and good food and options for entertainment and personal enrichment that most people in the world only dream about.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in perspective, but even things I often take for granted are luxuries depending on where a person might be in the world.