Instead of working or sleeping, I got sidetracked watching an outstanding video essay on YouTube comparing and contrasting Tim Heidecker's comedy special (which I have never seen) to Rob Schneider's web series (which I have never seen). The video's creator struggled to find an ending, however, and she asked viewers to comment with their own conclusions. OK, the video is over two years old, but it’s never too late to write a good ending! I lost my nerve before actually posting. Still, here's what I typed out:
I’m bad at writing conclusions, but... I really agree with you about Heidecker’s role in Us; I thought he was the ensemble’s mvp. It shouldn’t have been so shocking to me, since all of his comedy is a type of ‘character work’ I guess, and much of his comedy is indeed unnerving or uncanny, a type of horror. I’ve never enjoyed Tim & Eric, but I’ve also never interrogated why—and I’m realizing it’s because I was in extreme physical discomfort and struggled, at the time, to really sit with that discomfort. If I’d reframed the show for myself as ‘horror’ I think I would’ve liked it!
I appreciate a wink and a nod—the Colbert Report always felt ‘safe’ because of Colbert’s knowing, impish grin, a reminder that we’re all in on the same joke—but I always admire when men are willing to dive to dark places, without a trace of irony, to be unlikable and even scary when it’s in service of the writer or director’s commentary about patriarchal norms. Here I’m really thinking of Ike Barinholtz—who, incidentally, has also collaborated with Jordan Peele in playing an explicitly dangerous person (Twilight Zone)—and who has really mined and explored this hostile guy’s psyche elsewhere, sometimes compassionately.
I spent all morning thinking about Waku Waku 7, a 1996 SNK fighting game that I played only for the first time a couple of days ago. I'd launched the game with genuinely no idea what I was in for and, the whole time I played, I kept shrieking with delight, like a kid. The game parodies well-trodden tropes and is more ✨whimsical✨ than any fighting game I've played (which, speaking as a relative fan of Darkstalkers/Guilty Gear/Blazblue, is saying something).
I'm not a ‘true’ fighting game fan, partly because I don’t really care for the ‘storylines.’ Fighting game storylines tend toward the epic, with long, melodramatic arcs. As I am with TV and especially with anime, I find it too effortful, cognitively and emotionally, to keep track of what is supposed to be happening. And when people do try to explain long episodic arcs to me, all I hear is Succession actor Brian Cox in that Tekken 8 preview video (”The Story So Far”), rattling off names, describing who is in the lead at any given moment, hilariously garbled. One of my Russian literature professors would often repeat to his students “What is ‘epic’? It is LONG, and BORINKg”—he was a famous epic poet himself, which made his refrain much funnier—and this same professor once called me up front, held up my Blue Book, asked me if I wanted a second try and maybe include ANY character names. I grimly shook my head no: although I could describe the plot and motifs of Anna Karenina in excruciating detail, I could only remember ONE character's name (you know which one). With a flourish, he wrote “A-” across my Blue Book and circled the minus, and handed it back to me, still quizzical. I just can't remember names! It isn't my strength! It's fine! I am fine.
on spatial attention, situational awareness, and the terror of being perceived
official Alan Wake II desktop wallpaper
Yesterday I was still adding to my third Twitter thread of the night—every tweet about Alan Wake II!—when I finally stumbled upon a series of thoughts that isn’t appropriate for an essay, or even for verbally processing out in the anarchic wilderness of a microblogging platform. So I will plant them here, off the main thoroughfare, right in my own little corner of a community garden.
This post is haunted by: ptsd & fibromyalgia (–), agoraphobia/vestibular dysfunction/spatial attention (–), chronic illness (–), simulated violence (+), religion (~), therapy (+), legal psychedelic usage (++); but is also spoiler-free.
This morning, Ted praised my Alan Wake II skills: “Now you’re just Normal-bad at Alan Wake, like a regular person!” I cheered—“yaaay”—glumly. Then Ted frowned. “There’s still some room for you to improve, though. Your situational awareness is really just…! Okay. It has to do with how you enter a room. Let me teach you how to—”
“STOPP,” I said, laughing. “I am traumatized. I enter rooms like I enter any room I’m scared of! Like a feral cat, trying to sneak all the way across a party to get to the bathroom. Watch, I’ll demonstrate.”
I left the room. Then I slid back into the room, but sideways now. I looked for the nearest corner. It was to my left. Then I slid along the wall until I’d successfully backed into my target corner. “Like I’m picking a seat at a restaurant,” I explained. That was it, the whole process, but Ted’s perfectly blank expression (and sad eyes) were communicating to me that he just wasn’t getting it. Perhaps I needed to slide more slowly?
“Wait, I’m not done,” I said. I searched for the next closest corner, and I slid along the wall to reach it. Then I zipped, fast, to a piece of furniture, and I hugged it with both arms, trying to disappear into it. “See? It’s constantly looking for the next safe haven until, eventually, you’ve zig-zagged all the way across the room. It’s playing tag! Home base. Dredge rewarded this exact style of play, which is probably why I loved it so much. It’s actually how you navigate space for most of Dredge, zipping from harbor to harbor, barely escaping death. Until the endgame, when you’re powerful enough to sail the full ocean at night… mighty enough to finally confront your horrors.” I patted my bicep, trying to illustrate my adequacy.
“I’m the real horror on these seas!” Ted said, in-character as Dredge’s protagonist.
I slapped a tiny invisible man—the protagonist—down with my giant right hand, flat into the palm of my left. “No. You’re not,” I said in my best Strongbad voice, grinding the little man down, one twist per syllable, with the heel of my palm.
That made Ted laugh. “Okay,” he said, suddenly seeming very serious—because I had not managed to trick him into forgetting his current mission—“but it has to do with your situational awareness. I’m going to show you how the Marines navigate spaces, to assess for threat.” (Ugh. Let me interject here that my situational awareness is at the maximum human level; I do, however, struggle with low spatial attention .)