Faerie Queene? Give me 30 seconds

Don’t fret. The old English language, haughty and portentous style, in combination with the straightforward and painfully obvious allusions and metaphorical characters is bound to confuse any sensible reader. How could a book with such seemingly confusing language be so surprisingly simple in plot and depth?

Spenser’s Faerie Queene is impossible to describe. It is it’s own level of simplicity disguised in a shell of complexity and falsely hailed as the second coming of English literature. This book initially seems to be difficult to describe to any person, and this would be true, but I feel if I were to attempt to describe Faerie Queene to an IT professional or other mathematically wired brains I would be pleasantly surprised at how easy this task would prove to be. Faerie Queene is not only a predictable story but also the morals and lessons to be taken for the story are interlaced throughout the story in a manner one would expect from a children’s storybook. There is no creative element to such a regimented book and once one can understand the pattern there is nothing more to discover from a book written in such style. The book is so blatantly planned that I would compare it to an algorithm. By describing Faerie Queene as a program that at certain points must reinforce Christian morals and beliefs while denouncing the sins of the world, all the while attempting to mask this with confusing language (complicated programming interface), then I think an IT professional could grasp Faerie Queene with surprising speed.

 

By Aneel Henry

Social Suicide

“Are you serious?” I nodded; preparing myself for the inevitable onslaught that was to ensue. And, predictably, it came. “Worlds of Wordcraft? You are such a nerd. You realize everyone’s going to judge you for this class and yada yada yada.”

I got this response from everyone after telling him or her my English seminar class choice. To be honest, I didn’t really understand why I wanted to take the course. I had stopped playing videogames after freshman year (aside from the occasional super smash bros. on N64) and I really had no burning desire to learn about gaming. The nagging doubts persisting in the depths my mind shut up long enough for me to finalize my decision and send in my course request form.

I walked in to the first day of class apprehensive, but excited. The room was pretty much what I expected, two large screens, lots of wire, laptops out and powered on, being controlled by normal kids who had a guilty pleasure for gaming and knew it. My slightly embarrassed classmates took sheepish glances around the room, attempting to figure out who else was brave enough to sign up for this class and commit the social suicide we all were convinced would be the inevitable result. I smiled and grimaced at the same time, sat down, and accepted my decision, suddenly optimistic about the rest of the semester.

The class, unlike the people in it, was not at all what I expected to find. Rather than focusing on videogames, the class has proven to be a useful way to integrate the future of professional and academic communication with good writing practice and stimulating class discussions. Videogames seem to be solely supplemental to the class and I find there to be much more to the class than MMORPG gaming. Instead of spending copious amouts of free time in an attempt to level up for the class, I have discovered how to use Microsoft Office Live, Bootcamp my computer, use a Windows operating system, relate qualities inherent in creating a game to real life, and more than I ever want to know about Lord of the Rings. I would venture to say that he videogames I have played as a result of the class have enriched my social life. I now analyze the concepts behind game design for everything I play and as a result, I understand gamers better and can relate to them better than I could before. Rather than look down on gamers, I have broadened my perspective and can now see the world through their eyes and understand them. Plus, I get to play videogames for a class, who can argue with that?

By Aneel Henry

Back to Books

The fog rolled across the desolate fields, consuming everything in its path. It brought with it the smell of burnt flesh, gunpowder, and sweat. The screams could be heard through the mist, familiar screams of humans in pain, dying, mixed with the screams of the aliens, their bloodcurdling hoots ricocheting off the eardrums with a sharp pang. His heartbeat quickened, and the blood began to course through his veins as he approached the cacophony of misery that was the fog. He steeled his nerves, kissed the cross hanging from his neck, and sprinted in.

Am I the only one who wants to know what happens next and what was happening in the first place? The narrative is the ultimate captivating medium to transmit a story.  Reading is universally fascinating (specifically fiction) because it essentially introduces a whole new world to the reader. The reader is introduced to the story but not spoon-fed the details, enabling the reader to engage his/her imagination. This engagement of imagination translates into a captivation with the world that the mind inevitably creates when reading. This imaginary sanctuary takes the mind on new adventures allowing him/her to truly immerse his/her self in the hybrid book/imagination world that has been created.

Videogames and movies are much less effective in engaging and holding the observer. The observer is shown what the world looks like and who the characters are. This diluted version of a book disengages the imagination and helps cultivate a mind accustomed to reduced stimulation.  This is not the way to develop creators, thinker, writers, and other members of the creative community, yet the trend in society seems to be heading towards a lower level brain function at an alarming rate.

Reading cultivates the mind and I hope that it does not die out, to be replaced by the likes of movies and videogames as substitutes. Although they have their place, there is nothing that cultivates the mind better than a good book.

By Aneel Henry

Goddamn Foreigners

By Aneel Henry

“What the @#$% happened to my tires?” The tires square shape looked unnatural in the fading sunlight. “The tires are slashed that’s what happened you goddamn foreigner.” Two large white guys, both middle aged, far past their physical prime,  and with mullets long enough to pass for rope, walked out from behind a raised red pickup truck. The floodlights on the pickup truck pointed at the car, it’s slashed tires evident in the now ample light. “I think you need to go back to your country.” The man just stood there, accepting their jeers and taunts as they continued to make racial slur after racial slur. The hicks finally tired of the teasing and with one last biting comment about the man’s mother, they left in a roar of over-tuned engine and Kenny Chesney. My father surveyed the damage, calculated the average cost for four tires, and silently drove home, never to speak a word of the incident for another twenty years.

I personally have never had such an intense experience with racism but my father and my mother have experienced horror-story grade racism. The 1970’s and 1980’s are thought of as much more backwards and racially intolerant times in comparison to our current society but the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson begs to differ. Throughout Snow Crash, the characters run into numerous occasions where racism and racial stereotypes are overtly discussed and maliciously used as if it is the norm to do so. This would not be uncommon had the novel been set in the 1960’s or later but the novel is set far into the future, a future in which mankind and the society created by them was supposed to have evolved. After reading this novel, I was shocked to find that Neal Stephenson predicted racism would not only increase but blow up as time progressed. I was not offended by the use of racism in the novel but rather impressed by the biting social commentary Stephenson put forward in his novel. His novel is a satirical look at the future of mankind, and one of his major points in the novel was that racism is not going to go away.  Stephenson attempts to change that by ridiculing the racism present in this novel, an action that greatly impressed me as a reader. I do not consider myself particularly conscious or sensitive about racism but, being a minority, I found myself pondering why I am not more sensitive or worried about my perception/others perceptions of me. The society I live in today is overflowing with racism, racism that is swept under the proverbial rug. Racism in modern society is kept under wraps and because I have not experienced such overt and obviously malignant experiences, I used to feel as if racism was nonexistent. Now I realize that my hunky-dory childhood was really a naïve take on society. Society is not as accepting as it seems, the racism is just expressed much more subtly than I first believed. I think that after reading Snow Crash, I can only hope to remain more aware of my surroundings and become more in touch with my cultural side so as to truly determine the extent of racism present in my day-to-day life.

And then it shut down

“I was going to go to school, but then it shut down, but then it shut down. I was going to turn in my work, but then it shut down but then it shut down. I was going to work on a paper but then…” (to the tune of Because I Got High by Afroman). Technology is about as reliable an aid in the daily tasks of life as cannabis seems to be for Afroman in his quest for productivity. Computer’s are always catching bugs, programs are always malfunctioning, printers are always not printitng, and projectors are always overheating. Technology may at times be a lifesaver because of the conveniences it has provided but it’s reliability is a sorry excuse for convenience if you ask me.

In this day and age, modern technology(in the form of computers, cellhpones, etc.) has become an integral part of life, especially for those of us living in first world countries. It is essential for instant communication, information exchange, and overall heightened convenience. As a whole, modern tehcnology has had a positive impact on the quality of living. But it’s not all smiles when it comes to figuring out how work these new-fangled contraptions. The world is advancing at an incredible speed and it can be hard to keep up with the thousands of technological advances developed each year. This poses a problem for those attempting to live in the technological world. Every new program I learn is outdated within 2-3 years and I’m right back at square one. Every piece of technology has a specific method of operation that must be determined before using it. It takes so long to figure out how to change from the Macintosh operating system to Windows that I feel like I should just give up.This never-ending cycle of learning provides little reward to the victims (example:me) of this new age of accelerated development.

The only solution that I have found to make it through life without throwing my computer out a window (or taking my printer and going office-space on it) is to try to do things at my own pace. The world is creating, evolving, and generating at an alarming rate and if I can’t figure it out now, I can’t wait until ten years from now. Instead of trying to problem-shoot every new program that comes out, I wait, see how useful each program is, and once I have discerned it is worth the time, I sit myself down and slowly learn how to use it. To say that I will be able to simply not rely on technology is to live in the past. I would rather move forward at a cautious pace,keeping in mind that at least I’m putting forth effort and not out getting high.

Aneel Henry

Risk over Halo anyday

By Aneel Henry

8 cans of Red Bull, 10 cookies, 6 treaties and 2 broken friendships later the game of risk ends in world domination. The winner runs around the table in a sort of victory ritual, hooting in excitement and beating his hands on his chest to clearly display his newly earned alpha male status.

I’m sure that most who have ever played an extended board game (like Risk or Monopoly) have witnessed a natural phenomenon much like the one I just described. The victory against the opponent, the conquering of the planet, and the complete and utter genocide committed upon all who stand in the victors way culminate in an immense rush of accomplishment and ecstasy for the victor. This degree of emotional investment is critical in creating a successful game. It is not the map design, or the quality of the pieces, or the rolling of die that makes board games like Risk fun. It is the intense competition that springs from direct person-to-person relations that make Risk and Monopoly universally appealing.

Unlike board games, console and online games are not direct interactions with other human beings but interpersonal competition reproduced through a medium (the TV or computer screen). Although this competition can be just as intense, it is much harder for a video game to produce the level of personal interaction achieved while playing a board game. Many companies have tried and succeeded in stimulating personalized competition with inventions like Xbox live, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). These games link each unique avatar directly to a person, thereby stimulating intense competition that admittedly has the capacity to equal or surpass that of board games.

Despite attempts at recreating the intimacy of board games, I feel video games have not captured the universal human spirit of competition. Although many love video games, there is a large percentage of the population that finds the medium through which the competition is stimulated (TV, PC, etc) too confusing or not engaging enough to capture their attention. There is no equivalent to a board game. In a video game, it is impossible to fully personalize an opponent to the degree a board game achieves. There is nothing like watching the excitement melt off of your opponents face as your army wipes him off the map. Or just watching a player truly debate over the best strategy to win, concentrating so hard that you can practically see the gears turning in his/her head. Although video games, to some extent, have captured the competitive spirit of a select group of people, they have not been able to emotionally engage the player as board games have successfully done.

Harry Potter A Scam!

By Aneel Henry

A goofy group of friends, seemingly useless to the plot line,  surprises the viewer throughout the tale with bouts of extreme luck and surprising wit.   A “Chosen One”, an all-powerful child, holds the fate of the world in his/her hands for some inexplicable reason. An elderly mentor figure that guides this Chosen One along their path but provides minimal help. An all-powerful evil lord who fights to regain power, using his army to exert his will over the general public. Which story am I describing? Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? I can’t tell either.

Despite the incredible response to the Harry Potter series in the form of monetary reward for all involved in the production of this new age fantasy series, I have personally seen very little criticism as to the legitimacy and originality of the series. The striking similarities between the Harry Potter plot line and character development and the Lord of the Rings plot line and character development shocked me into a surprising epiphany. J. K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, followed a formula (derived from Lord of the Rings) to create the hallowed tween fantasy hit of our generation. She captivates the audience and personalizes generic fantasy, applying modern elements to an old plot line thereby appealing to every human’s inherent desire for adventure. After my realization of the fraudulent origins of the Harry Potter series, the fantastical world created in those books lost its aura of mystery and wonder that had held me captive throughout my initial reading of her series. Rowling, and indirectly other fantasy writers, take advantage of the one desire common to every human from early childhood on, escape. Be it through religion, drinking, friends, vacations, or even work, humans have an inherent desire to find something more in their lives and the Harry Potter series brings alive this childish fascination. Hers and other fantasy writer’s blatant exploitation insulted my pride and intelligence. I was being played for a simple-minded fool. But once I felt my fascination with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other fantasy begin to fade, I felt just as cheated by the loss of such an enjoyable pastime. This led to my second and decidedly final epiphany. I promptly determined to forget my first recollection and enjoy the simple pleasure that escape provides, rather than attack fantasy writers for exploiting my childhood dreams. Rowling may have my money and my heart in the palm of her hand, but you know what, I don’t care.