Post-Modern Prognosticators: 27 Things I Learned From Watching Demolition Man

…I’m the enemy. Cause I like to think, I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind if guy who wants to sit in a greasy spoon and think, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter and buckets of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in a non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green Jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to. Okay, pal? I’ve seen the future, you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sittin’ around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake singing, “I’m an Oscar-Meyer Wiener.”
– Edgar Friendly, 2032

In 1993, the cinematic masterpiece, “Demolition Man” made some predictions about what life might be like in the future. It didn’t occur to 27-years-younger me just how accurate those predictions would be… without further adieu, here’s 27 things I learned from watching Demolition Man:

  1. If you’re short on toilet paper, just violate the verbal morality statue!
  2. If you live in a socialist utopia, homeless people will steal all your food
  3. Taco Bell will be the only restaurant to survive the Franchise Wars
  4. John Spartan doesn’t know how to use the Three Sea Shells (I could see where that might be confusing)
  5. Burning buildings are a good indicator that bad guys are nearby
  6. Police are no longer equipped to handle this level of violence

    Behind me is Simon Phoenix’s lair in what appears to be a mostly peaceful protest.
  7. We shouldn’t ask where the meat comes from…
  8. Rat burgers aren’t bad…
  9. In fact, you should be out there hunting rats instead of begging for vegan meat-alternatives (you can thank me later)
  10. Don’t face-time naked unless you’re sure you are calling the right number
  11. Commercials will infiltrate every popular media. Today you can pay to opt out, tomorrow it will be compulsory, and you’ll learn to like it!
  12. Social distancing stops the spread of STDs, the hunka-chunka and other recreational activities
  13. Sandra Bullock enjoys VR sex (presumably with hot anime girls, but will make an exception for John Spartan)
  14. In the future, all meetings will be video conference screens staring at other video conference screens
  15. Wait a minute, this is the future, where are all the phaser guns?
  16. Cars drive themselves (into walls, people and oncoming traffic)
  17. You are an incredibly sensitive man, who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you
  18. In the future, there is no more sarcasm
  19. Accusing the savior of your city of being in league with a multi-murder-death-killer is rude
  20. Sewers smell like biscuits ‘n gravy
  21. To catch a multiple murder-death-killer, you just wait around for him to kill another person so you’ll know exactly where to pounce!
  22. John Spartan likes the Chief’s plan
  23. Cocteau reminds Wesley Snipes of an Evil Mr. Rogers
  24. Sylvester Stallone is neither a blow-up-the-bad-guy-with-a-happy-grin-he-man type nor a moody-troubled-past-gunslinger-who-only-draws-when-he-must type
  25. I forgot to say, “Simon Says!”
  26. When you come out of cryo-prison, the first thing you’ll want to do is knit
  27. You can’t take away people’s right to be assholes!

…A Few More Words…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the anniversary of when it all went down.

There have been a lot of new and exciting changes in my life, things I’ve working for and toward for many years are starting to come to fruition. Success is something to be proud of, to enjoy, to look forward to. This seems (to me) to be the natural order of things but that just isn’t true for everyone.

Some people fear success – are terrified of it in fact. They don’t believe they deserve it, they don’t think they can hold on to it – it makes them feel vulnerable;  the more you have the more that can be taken away.

When he first told me about how he burned his school laptop in a bonfire, I assumed this was a triumphant middle finger to the establishment he’d grown disillusioned with. I never recognized it for what it really was – an offering to Damocles, and a cry for help…

“Take a puppy, abuse him, kick him, mistreat him – he’ll revert to feral carnivore. That his litter brother, pet him, talk to him, let him sleep with you, but train him – he’s a happy, well-behaved house pet.

Take another from the same litter, pet him on even days, kick him on odd days. You’ll have him so confused that he’ll be ruined for either role; he can’t survive as a wild animal and he doesn’t understand what is expected of a pet. Pretty soon he won’t eat, he won’t sleep, he can’t control his functions; he just cowers and shivers.”

– Robert Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy

I began writing this post over a year ago. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what happened to the friend I’d lost track of – all I knew was that he was in a bad place, and there was nothing more I could do to help him. I felt angry, bitter and betrayed. In fairness, he wasn’t the first person to make a fuck out of me… and probably won’t be the last – good-natured people are often taken advantage of.

###

In time, that anger gave way to reason. I reminded myself that mistakes are how we learn… or don’t. In any case, they give you pause for thought. It’s not my place to dictate to anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their life. Everyone has the right to go to hell in their own way. All one can do, all anyone can do, is the best they can.

“…Mate, go do what you gotta do.”
– Sassy the Sasquatch

I Remember

I remember when…

  • I learned that life wasn’t fair
  • I lived a rich life, in my own mind
  • Anything was possible (and nothing was possible)
  • My days were filled with adventure
  • My nights were filled with dreams of what might be
  • I had nothing, and neither realized it nor cared

I remember. I remember when…

  • I lived in a country without freedom of speech, religion or expression
  • I was asked if I spoke English
  • I was picked on for being the ‘American’ kid when I lived abroad
  • I was picked on for being the ‘Foreign’ kid when I came back to the US
  • I believed in God (and other fairy tales)
  • There was magic in the world

I remember! I remember when…

  • I stopped believing in God
  • Phones weren’t mobile
  • Pictures you took had to be developed before you could see them
  • I thumbed through ads for computers I lusted after (but couldn’t afford)
  • I dreamed of making video games for a living
  • I had heroes, and longed to be accepted by them

I remember! I remember when…

  • I swam in a cold river with Ducky
  • I rehearsed Shakespeare with my friend at midnight in the park
  • I was young, beautiful, and accepted (by an outcast rabble in the square)
  • I was hassled by the police for looking like a troublemaker
  • I got serious about my music
  • I did hard labor for a pittance, and dreamed of using my mind for a living

I still remember. I remember when…

  • I stopped believing in heroes
  • People were expected to have manners
  • All we had to protest was McDonalds Hot Mustard being discontinued
  • Racism wasn’t fashionable (or profitable)
  • Only villains demanded that people kneel
  • All lives mattered

I remember.

The Nature of the Scorpion

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s an old fable that tells of scorpion that begs a frog for a ride across the river. The frog replies, “if I give you a ride on my back, you’ll sting me!”

The scorpion assures him, “if I sting you, we’ll both drown!”

The frog accepts this as logical, and agrees to take him across the river on his back. About half way there, the frog feels a sharp pain, and his legs go numb – they both begin to sink.

“Why did you do it?” asked the frog, “Now we’ll both die!”

“I couldn’t help it,” replied the scorpion, “it’s in my nature!”

###

In other variations, the frog is replaced with a fox. Perhaps this was to illustrate that even a creature as clever and resourceful as a fox is not immune to the cruel indifference of nature.

A modern retelling has the fox place the scorpion on the end of his snout where he can keep an eye on him, flinging him off at the moment he raises his stinger. Interesting, but I think it misses the point (pun intended); The fox learns no lesson and instead, confirms only what he already knew to be true.

The last variation of the story replaces the scorpion’s fellow traveler with a tortoise. According Bidpai (as retold by Maude Barrows Dutton):

Halfway across he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the scorpion what he was doing.

“Doing?” answered the scorpion. “I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your hard shell.”

“Ungrateful friend,” responded the tortoise, “it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve.” And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the scorpion into the water.

###

The scorpion pretends to understand logic and can parrot reasoned arguments, but he is and will always be a slave to his nature. Is there any point to being upset at a scorpion for being a scorpion?

The lesson here (if there is one) is this: You can only trust a scorpion to be himself. And if you are going to try help him, you’d better have thick skin.

Black Adder

Naming my black rifle “Black Adder” for one my favorite sitcoms seems obvious when you think about it…It was either that, or Black-Helmet Hot Mustard Slinger, but that felt a bit too forced.

The Procrastinating

I’ve had this rifle for about 2.5 months now, and am just getting around to writing about it. I am blame the potatoes for my lack of initiative…

The Building

Putting the damn thing together wasn’t terrible. I watched a lot of assembly videos beforehand to get a good idea of what I needed to do, then got to work putting it together.

Compared to the AK, the AR is a far more complicated animal with lots of tiny springs, detents, roll pins and other fiddly bits to keep track of. All pieces of the build kit were labeled, which made identifying what went where much, much easier. Kudos to Palmetto State Armory taking the guesswork out of it!

A couple of times during assembly, a spring got loose and went flying across the room, but all in all, it worked out in the end.

The Lubing

I decided to go with Supertech Extreme Pressure Multi-Duty Complex Hi-Temp Grease (say that 3 times fast!):

You can find it in the automotive section of Wally World and other fine purveyors of industrial-strength lubricants. It runs about $4 or so for a 14oz can, which is more than enough to outlast both our new Chinese masters and the Robot Apocalypse combined, three times over!

If it’s good enough for a union of Polish AK operators, it should work just fine for Joe-Jim Q. Public!

The Completing

So here’s how he turned out:

Since the build came in at under $400, I decided to go ahead and splurge on couple of quality of life upgrades:

  • A decent sling (Ferro Concepts Slingster)
  • A couple of Magpul QD sling swivels
  • Magpul ASAP QD (which would also double as a single-point nut slapper)
  • Magpul Sling Mount (M-LOK)
  • Magpul Hand Stop (M-LOK)

The swollen testicle mag laying across the sling is Big Jim’s contribution to Project Black Adder, a Magpul D60 (60 round drum) – because ‘America!

The Feeling

The fit and finish is great for the price. No gap, no wobble, the whole thing feels nice and solid. The Magpul furniture adds a bit of weight, but if you’re used to the heftier AKM, this shouldn’t be an issue.

The grip is bit meatier than I’m used to, given that everything else I own uses the standard Comblock AKM variety…

The trigger is nice and crisp, so I’ll probably leave it as is.

The Shooting

We’ll see once I get a chance to take it out, but function tests using snap caps seem to indicate that it won’t have any issues. To be continued!

Revisiting the AR

In decades past, an entry-level AR would set you back some $800 whereas you could pick up a decent AK pattern rifle for around half that. As a consequence, I became an AK enthusiast. At the time, they were cheaper to own and cheaper shoot (~$.20 a round vs ~$.35 for the equivalent 5.56 ammunition).

Accessories for the AK developed into a cottage industry, and before long, many of the features that used to be exclusive the to AR became available for the AK (e.g. railed hand guards, telescoping buttstocks, optics, enhanced triggers, AR-style grips etc.).

Even so, the utilitarian nature of the AK lacked many of the quality of life features standard on all ARs (e.g. magazine wells, last-round bolt hold-open, easier safety selector, better ergonomics… etc.). Do any of these features inhibit your ability to send lead down range, or appreciate the simplicity and elegance of a proven platform that has continued to serve its purpose for 70 years? Not at all.

So why consider an AR now? For the same reason I bought my first AK’s: price!

Over the last 6 months, we’ve seen a 180° shift in the market. AK’s (and other mil-surp imports) that used to run $400-800 are now selling for $900-1,600+. AR’s which were manufactured during the election scare that were fetching as much as $700-800+ for a basic plain Jane AR can now be had for as little as $300 with a stripped lower and parts kit.

For that reason, I decided to look into buying one, here’s what I settled on:

  • Caliber: 5.56. Exotic uppers and ammunition get expensive and can come later (if ever).
  • Mid-Length Gas System: Carbine-length (from what little I know) is intended for shorter barrels (14.5″ and less). Rifle-length barrels start at 18″+, and since I’m building on a 16″ barrel, mid-length was optimal.
  • MOE Furniture: Magpul furniture is solid and comfortable. The basic MOE buttstock was designed to be light-weight and snag free. I was very happy with my last MOE lower, and they are still a good option today. While I used to like quad-rail hand guards, I found that I never used all that rail space, which most people would just end up covering with panels/covers anyway. If I wanted to mount a flash light, sling adapter, rail etc., that would still be an option.

The last AR I built was on a Palmetto State Armory complete lower, which cost me $300 in 2012, which I was very happy with but ultimately sold to buy Natasha, an SGL41. Boris, my Saiga 12 will only tolerate 3″ magnum shells…

Today, you can get the exact same complete lower for $160. I opted instead to buy a mid-length rifle kit for $330, and a $40 stripped lower. With a Magpul PMAG and shipping, my total cost was $399.58:

PSA AR-15 Lower Safe/Fire - 1728

What am I expecting for $400? An entry-level AR-15 that cycles reliably under normal operation and is reasonably accurate (at least no less accurate than my AKs). Is that realistic? Ask me again once it arrives! The stripped lower has already shipped whereas the kit might take a little longer. My hope is that I receive both by next weekend month, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

The Ultimate Secret to Happiness

Life is a series of lines in the sand; each represents a milestone, when achieved, will finally bring you happiness and contentment. I’ll be happy when…

  • I’ll be happy when I earn my degree
  • I’ll be happy when I land my first real job
  • I’ll be happy when I start making real money
  • I’ll be happy when I own my home
  • I’ll be happy when I buy my first new car
  • I’ll be happy when I lose 20 lbs
  • I’ll be happy when…

On and on it goes, ad infinitum. Each of these is a lie we tell ourselves for the hope of what tomorrow could bring. We all need something to look forward to, otherwise, what’s the point?

The truth is, happiness and contentment are mercurial. It can’t be captured in a bottle and preserved forever in your wine cellar – and even if you could, would you really want to?

Try to remember the great times you had…

  • I was happy when girls started to notice me
  • I was happy when I stayed up all night with my friends
  • I was happy when I quit a job I hated
  • I was happy when I impaled myself on the tree of knowledge
  • I was happy when I was a broke musician
  • I was happy when I was 12,012.83 km from my place of birth
  • I was happy when…

But don’t forget to take pleasure in the moment…

  • I enjoy paying myself $75/week to lose weight by bringing my lunch
  • I enjoy going for a 3-mile walk every night
  • I enjoy my first cup of coffee every day
  • I enjoy conversations with my friend Jim after work
  • I enjoy laughing to politically incorrect humor
  •  I enjoy talking to strangers
  • I enjoy making arbitrary lists…

We Need to Establish the Cetacean Nation

We need to establish the ‘Cetacean Nation’. I nominate myself to be the United Nations representative to the cetacean nation. Then we will force the white man to give back what he has taken from us.

It is both a philosophical and cultural imperative to perform the seaweed dance prior to making contact with the dolphin spirits. Otherwise, our bodies will be unprepared to receive their awesome powers.

I, for one, have been performing a daily ritual of deep, transcendental meditation, followed by exactly three jimmy flips, two half-berpies and a Krispy Kreme enema to sharpen my senses.

DOOMed

Note: This Article was written on January 15, 2016, then shelved. Now that the “new” DOOM has been released, I figured I’d cash in on the extra traffic.

Hah! Just kidding…as if I got cash for writing these…or traffic…

In the spring of 1994, I downloaded a Shareware copy of DOOM from a local BBS (Bulletin Board System…you know, that dial-up thing what people used before the interwebs).

At the time, my rig was a stock Packard Bell SX33 (33MHz) running MS-DOS 6.22/Windows 3.11, and no sound card. That last part made for an interesting experience as there was no background music, no sound effects (apart from the beeps of the PC speaker), just silence in the dark.

In a way, it was a lot more challenging to play that way as the DOOM engine used sound both to alert enemies of your presence, and to be able to hear their grunts, hisses and growls in the distance. While I couldn’t hear the later, the enemies could still hear me, so progression through the levels was a slow crawl, sneaking around and trying to pick off enemies one or two at a time.

Between pacing and exploring for secrets, I got a lot of mileage out of the game.

Later that year, we would buy an early Sound Blaster Pro ISA sound card which came bundled with a cheap, clunky and inconvenient single-speed caddy CD-ROM drive. A good thing too as I’d later buy a boxed copy* of DOOM II from Best Buy, which came on CD-ROM instead of 3.5″ floppies.

*For the youngin’s not in the know, DOOM (the first one) was only available by mail order. i.e. You couldn’t buy it in stores. So after beating the two Barons of Hell, the only taste of the next two episodes any of us got was this nifty teaser screen. Behold, a Great Orange Cyber Demon! I said, BEHOLD, DAMN YOU!

 

doom_teaser
Later still, I’d go on to upgrade it from 4MB to 8MB of RAM, and would cannibalize friend’s broken-down Packard Bell DX66’s Cirrus Logic on-board video card memory module for an additional 512KB of VRAM, giving me a total of 1MB!

I’d also upgrade the stock 40MB drive to 560MB (Ooooh, aaah!) and slap in a math co-processor that would upgrade the CPU to a whopping 100MHz clock speed!

Those were the days…it would be another 10 years before we’d see the next Chapter in DOOM’s history, and another 10 years after that, we’re now seeing DOOM’s 4th installment.

Looking back at the E3 footage, DOOM 4 (that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it is…) struck me as a first-person Mortal Kombat X, complete with finishing moves. They’ve brought back the HUD idea (originally conceived for the first DOOM), and modernized it to help with the suspension of disbelief for power-ups and the like.

They also seemed to have kept the generic, bland, featureless alien/mutant-esque look of demons (at least for the Imps and ‘Pinkys’)…

Joejim’s Redaction: They actually do have ‘pinky’ demons again, though sans smooth ass-crack, which is more disappointing than you’d think it would be. What I was actually looking at when I saw the demos was the ‘Hell Knights’, but since they ain’t got horns, or goat feet, they’re kinda bland lookin’ too.

pinky_ass
Whatever happened to the Satanic look of the Pinky’s, Barons of Hell/Hell Knights and so forth? There were bits and pieces of them in DOOM 3, but I never played it long enough to get that far, and it just wasn’t all that interested. It lacked character, personality…

Hark, hark! Another Redaction…kinda: They did break out a proper Baron of hell…kinda…well this one’s at least got the goat feet and the horns, but not the Adrian Carmackian (no relation) goat-skull lookin’ face – more of a squashed baby-face…does that make sense to anyone but me?

In any case, I’ve since bought DOOM 4 and have beaten the single-player campaign. The “arenas” aren’t anything new – just re-branded Left4Dead zombie rooms where the music speeds up and hordes come pouring out – only with demons… I guess that’s a throw back to Ye Olde Sandy Petersen Monster Closets. We have come full circle!

Come to think of it, DOOM 3 (and now 4) have more to do with the original Quake (not Quake II, mind you) than DOOM/DOOM II…

Think about it.

What was Quake if not a tech demo for John Carmack’s new (in 1996) true-3D engine? For Carmack, it was all about the tech and little else – sound familiar, no? Only the faintest hint a of story, and even that was mostly ripped from DOOM (YetAnotherSpaceMarine Fighting zombies/demons with teleporters to Hellish alternate dimensions).

This may have been why games built by IdTech licensees were often superior to those made by Id themselves. A sound enough business model, that was until Unreal came along…

Of course, [John] Carmack is the same guy who said, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”

For those that don’t speak Robutese, the phrase above roughly translates to,
“Fuck you, Tom.**”

You see, ‘J-Car P0’ didn’t just consort with the Robot kind, he was one! There were plenty of great porn stories out there, but they did not compute in his robot “hard” ware…

doom_bible

** SIDE NOTE: The DOOM Bible was a design document written by Tom Hall for DOOM, in response John Carmack’s demands for a seamless (read: no levels) environment. Ironically, Carmack later reversed this decision, and almost none of the original ideas put forth by Hall made it into the released version of DOOM. Further, Carmack would go on to de-emphasize Hall’s role, eventually forcing him out of the company altogether…

Having read that document cover-to-cover, it seems to me the two were on opposite extremes; on the one hand, the charm of DOOM were the ‘good bits’ Tom squeezed in (e.g. color-coded doors, teleporters, secret rooms etc.), which are what made the solo game fun/re-playable. On the other hand, the game is better for having left out some of the more extraneous features Hall suggested (e.g. multiple player characters, lives, some of the guns etc.).

What didn’t work for DOOM made Rise of the Triad interesting and fun, but that’s another story…

In any case, Hall didn’t stand a chance. Carmack was the developer of the engine – without  him, there was no DOOM. By comparison, Tom didn’t bring much to the team…

While the Tom Hall (and John Romero)  were respectable programmers and game developers in their own rights, neither had Carmack’s discipline or ingenuity – at best, all they could offer were ways to help Carmack exploit his technology.

I often wonder where Id would be today had they managed to hold things together. What would I have done as a 20-something overnight millionaire? Would I have acted nobly? Would you?

Well I’ll never know, and unless you were a millionaire in your 20’s in the early 90s, neither will you so back to my story :)…

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new_doom_spider_mm

Will today’s generation ever get to experience games like DOOM the way I remember them? Probably not…

I recall the download took about 11 hours to complete over my blazing fast 2400 BPS modem. Might have been quicker, but this was dial-up on a shared line, so every time somebody picked up the phone, transmission interrupted. Thank Bog for Z-Modem protocol (i.e. it continued where it left off instead of starting over).

Getting the game to download was only the beginning! Then there was  hours troubleshooting combinations of dip switches, jumper blocks and configuration strings to reach the magical invocation that would allow you connect two modems and play a Deathmatch!

Somehow I just can’t imagine kids today putting up with that to play a game…
I suppose generations before mine had the same thing to say about what things were like in their day (e.g. playing chess by mail)…

In any case, it only goes to show that now is all we have. For better or worse, time marches on, and things will be never the way they were when we first experienced them, emulators and DOSBox be damned.