Tag Archives: smartphone

Midnight at the Pier

Friends,

This story was inspired by the following prompt from r/writingprompts. Enjoy!

Times are tough and the world is not what it used to be. You have no choice but to become an illegal pokemon trader.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Midnight at the Pier

Mirko stood on the dock watching as the crane loaded the last seacan onto the ship. The dull boom it made as it was set down was met with his cathartic sigh. They wouldn’t be out of the woods until they were in international waters but Mirko always felt better when the loading was done. It meant the worst was behind them; the deed had been done and now they just had to slip out undetected. As the crane pulled away and the deckhands started strapping down the last of the cargo, he texted his client:

“LOADED. DEPART IN 5”

He allowed a smile and pulled a pack of Marlboros out of the left pocket of his leather jacket, withdrew a cigarette with his lips and pulled out a lighter from his right pocket while his left hand returned the pack. He lit the cigarette with his left hand covering the flame and took a long inhale, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs and waited for the head rush and euphoria to hit before exhaling through his nose.

It seemed to be a another routine shipment. This was good. This was expected. They had bribed the right officials. They had operated at night and they had acquired their merchandise without incident.

Well, mostly without incident. There had been that one Lopunny a few days ago. It’s trainer had come home just as his men had finished bagging it. Luckily the sentry by the door had been able to knock him out with a pistol just as he pulled out a pokeball which contained a Charmeleon. In the early days they would have taken the Charmeleon too, but the years had shown that to clientele of more …discerning tastes, Pokemon had value beyond just battling. They were willing to pay a higher price for Pokemon which were less of a liability to transport, less of a liability to own, and less of a liability to keep as…pets. Mirko willfully abandoned this train of thought as quickly as he had set upon it. He preferred not to think about what his clientele did with their acquisitions. To him it was all business and he used that rationale to stay detached.

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Pokemon #428: Lopunny

“They should have killed him” he thought to himself dispassionately of the Lopunny’s trainer. From a strictly pragmatic perspective it made sense. Stealing from trainers was certainly a more consistent means of acquiring merchandise than trying to capture in the wild, but it also carried the risk of trainers tracking them down and coming to retrieve their property in force. One of the reasons Team Rocket had collapsed was because it grew too big, got too caught up in its own notoriety and made too many enemies. Sure, they had procured some of the strongest Pokemon, but they were so flagrant about it that the most powerful trainers put aside fierce rivalries and united to stop them. Giovanni had tried to play both sides: he wanted to be the bad guy and the legitimate gym leader. At one point he had even tried to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood of sorts.

“Doesn’t work that way though. You are what you are. Piss enough people off and one day there’ll be no peace for you anywhere in this world. Better to operate this way” Mirko thought, “No making a name, no uniforms, no trying to go legit. Better to be shadowy, amorphous and adaptable….like a Ditto.” He chuckled at this last observation, but  this drew him back to a train of thought he didn’t enjoy as much.

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Pokemon #132: Ditto

“Christ! There’s even a Ditto in the manifest,” he reflected. “Seems that some clientele are more discerning than others in their tastes.”

The most in-demand merchandise he dealt in were the small, furry and more feminine mammals; Vulpix, Lopunny, Eevee, etc. And while he found those predilections distasteful he could at least understand the interest on some level. He’d gotten to know some of his clientele and they seemed well-adjusted (by eccentric millionaire standards) so maybe it was some faulty wiring; who was he to judge? Even Ponytas and Rattatas he could understand when push came to shove. But Ditto just seemed bizarre to him. Sure it could turn into whatever the client wanted, provided they already had one on hand, in which case it was a moot point. But its cost was so prohibitive that it made more sense to just buy one or more of the desired species.

“Unless the client has a taste for a pink gelatinous blob” he thought. His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of one of his men.

“We work while you stand and smoke, is that it?” the man asked in a jovial, familiar way.

“Ah but Zdravco there is a visible labor and an invisible labor, and just this moment I am thinking,” Mirko replied.

“Please enlighten me as to what a two-bit smuggler philosophizes about” Zdravco asked while reaching out his hand for a smoke.

Mirko reached into his pocket for the pack of Marlboros and extended it toward Zdravco as he smiled and leaned in close. Zdravco grabbed a cigarette but Mirko waited for him to lean in as well before he spoke.

“Would you fuck a Ditto?”

Zdravco responded without missing a beat: “Not even with your dick.” Then, “You have a light?”

Mirko chuckled while retrieving his lighter and lit Zdravco’s cigarette.

“Are we ready to disembark?”

Zdravco took a long inhale and sighed a large volume of smoke while going over the clipboard he carried. The smoke lingered above and between the two men for a few long seconds before dissipating into the chill night air.

“Yes….”

“But?”

Zdravco gulped slightly.

“Miro should have been here by now with a Jynx, but he is late and not responding to my calls.” Mirko pondered this. Miro had with them for only a few months and didn’t know too much about the operation, but he had proven himself reliable. Still, they had a deadline.

“Miro will have to catch up with us elsewhere. Tell everyone to get aboard. We leave in 2 minutes.”

As Zdravco began barking out orders over his walkie, Mirko saw a quickening of activity in the floodlit darkness, and he smiled at this. All of these men he commanded were “Pokemon Masters” in their own right. They had, as a minimum, obtained all of the badges in one league or more. Some of them had even beaten the Elite 4. Imagine their surprise then when they had had achieved such status only to discover that it didn’t amount to much. With so many trainers, gyms, and upstart leagues popping up over the last 20 years, the profession of “Pokemon Trainer” had lost some of its lustre. Now every bro with a backwards hat and a SILPH muscle-T claimed to a trainer. And the so-called masters? They were no longer those who had won league play but instead became those who could market themselves best on instagram and youtube.

This state of affairs might be lamentable if not for the opportunities it afforded a man of vision. Mirko considered himself just such a man. He never owned a Pokemon himself nor got caught up in the associated culture, but he had seen how others obsessed and decided to capitalize on their obsession and lack of opportunities. He tapped some of his boyhood friends first, those who had gotten starry-eyed about becoming trainers and ultimately been unable to build a life for themselves. He employed them to train Pokemon as pets for those with neither the time or inclination to go down the ruinous career-path of Pokemon Master. As his client base grew he started getting odd requests for specific Pokemon, usually the small, furry ones, to be trained in …particular ways. These requests typically carried an offer to pay more, sometimes double, the market rate. Initially these peculiar requests were a source of lucrative amusement, but as 10% then 25% of Mirko’s staff began specializing in this kind of training…this, pleasure training, he realized that this was the market he should focus on.

He had done well over the last ten years.

“I’ve built an army. An army with allegiance to no nation. An army which rivals that of most countries. The enlistment numbers of a superpower and the dynamic fluidity of a guerrilla band. Highly organized and responsive to my commands.” This thought brought a smile to his face. He took a last drag of his Marlboro and threw the half-smoked cigarette into the filthy harbour water below.

He walked up the gangplank and into his quarters.

The whore was waiting for him naked on his bed as he had requested. A big-titted, anorexic slut from Prague bent over wearing nothing but heels. She was laying face-down, ass-up, fingering both of her holes with curious hands.

“Fuck me, Niantic!” the whore moaned emphatically as he entered.

“What!?” Mirko demanded, “I didn’t hear you, slut!”

“Ooooh…fuck me, Niantic!” The whore repeated in her thick Czech accent as her body convulsed due to the work of her hands. Mirko could tell she had no idea what she was saying but she had learned perfectly the three words which she had been paid to learn. Mirko smiled. He was a practical and disciplined man with few indulgences, but one thing he liked was fucking Czech sluts while they called him by his underworld name.

He unzipped his fly and grabbed the whore’s forearms while entering her.

“Say it again, bitch!”

“Fuck me, Niantic!”

“AGAIN!”

“FUCK ME, NIANTIC!”

He smiled from ear-to-ear as he used up this young girl: “If everyone wants to be a well-known pokemon master, better to be an unknown ‘master of masters.’

THE END

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Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

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Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

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Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

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For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

IMG_1609
Fuck the P0-lice!

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The iPocalypse

Friends,

In the last few years smartphones have become ubiquitous in society.  Walking down the street its impossible not to see people wearing ear-buds.  Sitting on public transit you would be blind not to notice that everyone around you has their eyes glued to whatever viral video or vine is popular at the moment.  Well, either blind or immersed in that same video on your own phone.

These typical bland & innocuous observations out of the way I want to dig a little deeper than your average observational blogger might be wont to do.  Now I gotta qualify what I say by pointing out that I tend to be a bit contrary and I will argue any position even if its to point out that the person I am arguing with hasn’t thought deeply enough about their point of view even if I share their point of view. Whatever, I’m a dick like that I guess.  That said, the anti-smartphone sentiment has become fairly common Facebook bitching-fodder, and by default I am suspicious of any view which becomes the common man’s claim to intellectual discourse (see: atheism).  

So, without any further ado…

The Zombie Apocalypse Redefined
One of the most common criticisms levied at smartphone zombies is that they are in fact the zombies slated to take over the world in the imminent zombie apocalypse.

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Now I actually have a little bit of sympathy for this view, but only insofar as smartphone obsession is treated as an aspect of materialism and conspicuous consumption.  This view was of course explored in Goerge A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (1978), although I confess I have never watched it the full way through and thus such observations on my part are only hearsay.

Dawn_of_the_dead

However, when this zombie comparison is postulated reductively to suggest that anyone immersed in the virtual world is a zombie, I begin to take a bit of an issue.  In a limited sense I agree: People being oblivious to what is going on around them can open them up to many hazards, but at the same time many of these hazards already exist even without smartphones.  Take for example walking into traffic and getting hit by a car: There’s a lot of variables present in that event, including but not limited to, the amount of traffic, the condition of the vehicle, the speed of travel, the disposition/distraction level of the driver, the awareness and agility of the pedestrian, etc…  But the witch-hunt for oblivious smartphone zombies assumes that someone on a smartphone is the prime cause for such an event.  Taken more broadly, this seems to be the latest permutation of our society’s fascination and preoccupation with foisting all responsibility for a complex occurrence, inevitably brought about as a result of a multitude of factors,  upon a single individual for expediency’s (and legal liability’s) sake.  Taking a systems approach and looking at the broad range of causality is simply not done because it would force us to ask difficult questions about our obsolete infrastructure and the lunacy of manually-operated cars and trucks when safe, automated operation is a technological reality.
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However, potential hazards notwithstanding, can an individual immersed in smartphone reality be accused of being a zombie?  Not always.
You see, that way I figure it, a smartphone zombie is distinct from you average couch potato in two important regards: One is visibility.  Whereas the couch potato immerses himself in his vice largely in private, the smartphone zombie engages in his smartphonery for all the world to see.  Hence, in my opinion, the popular backlash.

zombies3

The other distinction is that the smartphone zombie’s obsession is mitigated by the fact that his experience is not passive.  Certainly its not active in the same way punching someone in the dick or having sex is active, but its certainly interactive.  Even if its something as malignant as flaming a cancer patient’s support page, there is still more effort and thought being put into the endeavour than simply receiving a message.  Hell, the greatest part about the internet, aside from access to the entire world, is the ability to leave your indelible mark on that world.  And, with all those possibilities at someone’s fingertips suddenly me bitching about my day doesn’t seem all that interesting as a topic of discussion.  Which brings me to my next point…

It Hurts to be Ignored
We’ve all hung out with someone who could not put their phone away for five seconds.  It’s one of those things that becomes more insulting the more you dwell on it.  You roll your eyes whenever their attention wanders from you to their phone or groan audibly whenever their phone beeps or vibrates.  The feelings of rejection and unimportance inspired by occurrences like this are very real and are not diminished because you are being brushed aside for an object rather than a person.
Typically, I don’t get upset by stuff like this anymore because I try to keep two rules in mind:

Rule #1: “The responsibility for being understood belongs to the speaker; the responsibility for understanding belongs to the listener
Let’s call this the prime directive of communication; obviously you can only influence your own actions in any direct, meaningful way, and since you play both the listener and the speaker in any given exchange, the responsibility for understanding is always yours.  The upshot is that if you can’t communicate with someone who is absorbed with their smartphone then you are not coming at them effectively.  Don’t waste time fretting about how “unnatural” a form of communication it is because you can’t reach them with your words.  That’s like a guy talking about how sex is a really superficial and lame way to bond with people because he has erectile dysfunction.  Bottom line: reach out to people on their level and work to bring them to your level.  Don’t start on your level then become bitter when they don’t respond to you  There’s a reason why my French teachers taught us French class in English.  If they came into a classroom of English-speaking 10-year-olds and started spouting off in frog-speak my notebook would probably have been filled with dick drawings instead of conjugated verbs…
…and French impressionist dick paintings, graphite on paper.

Rule #2: “Don’t have conversations with distracted people.”
I learned this little gem from a book called, “How to be a Pick-Up Artist” by Wayne “Juggler” Elise.  I believe the lesson here is really two-fold:
First, and the more immediately pragmatic of the two aspects, if you persist in talking with someone whose attention is elsewhere, some part of the message is going to get lost.  It’s like, don’t give me directions while I’m on the phone getting the results of a medical exam.  There’s a chance I might not remember the finer points of your instructions if my own mortality is first and foremost on my mind.  To take this kind of example to a less extreme level, sometimes my girlfriend wants to tell me about what so and so said at the gym.  While this information is not incredibly essential to my continued existence I am happy to digest it, even if it is occasionally uninteresting, if only to strengthen the bond between me and her.  However, if she begins sharing said story while I am typing away furiously on something as profound and consequential to my existence as, say…this blog post, and then simply to fill the silence, then I might look at her incredulously and slightly annoyed.  That is not effective communication.
The second aspect in this rule is that you should have a little more self-respect; if someone is ignoring what you’re saying because they are too wrapped up in other things, but you keep talking in an attempt to win them over, then you are demonstrating lower value.  You are implicitly telling this person that you are worthy of only a fraction of their attention by co-signing their inattentiveness with your continued engagement.  Stop doing this.  Also, it need not be adversarial; simply tell them politely that you will let them finish what they are doing and then talk to them.  9 times out of 10 they will put aside whatever occupies their attention (smartphone in this case) and give you their rapt attention.  If they brush your polite concern aside and insist that they can concentrate on you and their phone at the same time, remain firm in your polite refusal to have conversations with a distracted person.  They will eventually come around and respect you the more for it at a sub-conscious level.  Or, they will stop hanging out with you.  But in this latter case, if they don’t have it in them to ever give you complete attention then they probably aren’t worth your friendship.

To these two rules I might add a third: If you are going to insist on having someone’s complete attention, at least have some interesting shit to say.

I think that if these two (3) rules are followed and really adhered to then we wouldn’t have the current backlash against smartphones that currently exists.  It all comes down to communication; if you’re a good communicator with interesting shit to say, no technology is going to stand in your way.  If you suck at communication and you talk about banal shit …well, no amount of pining for the good old days of probing, intellectual discourse while sitting in well-worn leather chairs in front of a fire while swirling brandy in snifters is going to cover for the fact that you talk like a faggot and your shit’s all retarded.

This unfortunately does not bring me to my last point in any artful way, so apologies if my argument seems disjointed, but here goes.

Motherfuckers Love Them Some ‘Takin’ Shit Out of Context”
Consider the following image

images

What do you thing Einstein meant when he said this?  What do you really think he meant by saying this in the first part of the 20th century when the possibilities for inter-continental communications were being initially being explored and promised to bring all people closer together?
Do you think he meant:
A: “We must be careful not to lose our humanity and critical mind in an age of mechanization and automation which promises to alleviate many of the burdens now placed upon us” …or something to that effect (This is my own personal interpretation BTW)
or…
B: “Fuck cell phones and anyone who uses them!” (Not an actual Einstein quotation…at least I don’t think so)

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a way in which a solid quotation can have empirical value than transcends the context in which it was initially delivered, but we really gotta be more selective about the piecemeal way in which we apply broad ideas and concepts to issues of marginal importance.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure.
I’m all for deconstructing what I feel is a popular backlash against smartphone technology, but that is not to say I see no problems whatsoever with the use/misuse of them or any other technology.  I guess more than anything my point is a variation of what it always is: look at the bigger picture, place things in a broader context and question everything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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