"How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he's my son? A lot."
The New Yorker has posted a long piece based on six interviews with Peter Lanza, whose son Adam killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
Peter Lanza, who until now had avoided the news media, talks at length about the emotions he feels — "Peter declared that he wished Adam had never been born," The New Yorker says — and the life his son led.
Much of the piece is about the way Peter Lanza and his ex-wife, Nancy Lanza, tried to deal with their son's problems. It's a subject that's been delved into before by other news outlets, including PBS-TV's Frontline.
Nancy Lanza, with whom Adam lived, would be the young man's first victim on that awful day. He killed her before going to the school. Adam's rampage at the school ended when he shot and killed himself.
In The New Yorker, writer Andrew Solomon reports that:
— "All parenting involves choosing between the day (why have another argument at dinner?) and the years (the child must learn to eat vegetables). Nancy's error seems to have been that she always focused on the day, in a ceaseless quest to keep peace in the home she shared with the hypersensitive, controlling, increasingly hostile stranger who was her son."
— "Peter gets annoyed when people speculate that Asperger's was the cause of Adam's rampage. 'Asperger's makes people unusual, but it doesn't make people like this,' he said."
— The last time Peter Lanza saw his son was in September, 2010. After that, Adam Lanza refused to have any contact and Nancy Lanza rebuffed Peter Lanza's suggestions that they meet. Peter Lanza believes his son no longer had any affection for him: "With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he'd had the chance."
— He "constantly thinks about what he could have done differently and wishes he had pushed harder to see Adam. 'Any variation on what I did and how my relationship was had to be good, because no outcome could be worse,' he said."
— His feeling that it would have been better if Adam hadn't been born, "didn't come right away. That's not a natural thing, when you're thinking about your kid. But, God, there's no question."
"You can't get any more evil," Peter Lanza says of what his son did.
Solomon was on NBC-TV's The Today Show this morning to talk about his reporting:
"He's haunted," Solomon said about Peter Lanza. "He wishes he could go back in time and fix what went wrong. He's a kind, decent man, and he's horrified that his own child could've caused this destruction."
Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the Civil Rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent, resistance from segregationists.
Historian Peniel Joseph has written a new biography of Carmichael titled "Stokely: A Life", which shows that for a time, the Trinidad-born New Yorker was everywhere that counted in the South, a real-life Zelig: "He is an organizer who had his hand in every major demonstration and event that occurs between 1960-1965."
Joseph, a professor at Tufts University, says Carmichael was ever-present in what he considers "the second half of the Civil Rights movement's heroic period." (After the Montgomery Bus Boycott and before the attempts to integrate the North.)
Photographs from the time show him walking down dusty highways with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Mississippi, chatting easily with farmers in Lowndes County, Ala., listening to elderly black ladies who plied him with sweet tea on their front porches while he (often successfully) charmed them into joining him in organizing their neighbors. Joseph says, "he had amazing charisma."
A Call For Black Power
Carmichael spent the early '60s firmly embracing nonviolent protest: sit-ins, marches, assemblies. But the soaring victories of the late '50s and early '60s seemed to bog down after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Joseph says Carmichael began to wonder if new methods needed to be considered.
In 1966, he used the phrase "black power" at a rally in Mississippi. It caught the nation's attention, but it meant different things to different people.
Many whites who heard the phrase were uneasy, Joseph says. "They assumed that black power meant being anti-white, and really sort of violent, foreboding."
Black listeners, on the other hand, heard a call "for cultural political and economic self-determination," Joseph says. He adds the phrase resonated powerfully for a people who'd long been measured by arbitrarily-set white standards and aesthetics, and found wanting.
"We have to stop being ashamed of being black!" was the first point in a four-part manifesto he often used in his speeches. Black, Carmichael told his audiences, was survivor-strong. It was resourceful. And beautiful.
Tall and thin, with limpid eyes and a dazzling smile that contrasted with his deeply brown skin, Carmichael walked like he thought he was a good-looking guy—in an era when for many blacks, lighter was better.
"That was really one of his most important legacies," Joseph says. "He was really defiant in declaring Black is Beautiful well before that became popular in the late 60s." In other words, Carmichael was black and proud years before James Brown turned the concept into a best-selling R&B hit.
"The United States Has No Conscience"
He was also rethinking the practicality of nonviolence in an environment where black life was often viewed as disposable.
The 1964 murders of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner in Neshoba County, Miss., the assassination of Malcolm X and the crushing government response the urban unrest that had blazed through several cities by the late 60s caused Carmichael to rethink his beliefs.
King (who regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the movement's most promising leaders) believed in the concept of "redemptive suffering," and thought that the sight of protestors accepting beatings, dog bites and fire-hosing would soften America's heart and inspire the country reject segregation. But after seeing so many of his comrades maimed and killed, Carmichael no longer shared that belief.
Dr. King had gotten a lot right, Carmichael said, but in betting on nonviolence, "he only made one fallacious assumption: in order for nonviolence to work, your opponent has to have a conscience. The United States has no conscience."
And it was becoming increasingly hard for him to live in the United States. Hounded by the FBI at home, tracked by the CIA when he went abroad, Carmichael had had enough. He changed his name to Kwame Ture, in homage to two African heroes, his friend Kwame Nkrumah (the first president of independent Ghana) and Sékou Touré, the president of Guinea, the country that had welcomed the former civil rights worker as an honored citizen.
Ture would live for another three decades, and visited the United States frequently as he traveled the globe preaching the merits of pan-Africanism and scientific socialism. People listened—but not in the same numbers as they had in the early days. Ture, with his modest lifestyle and reminders of communal responsibility seemed... quaint. "It interesting," biographer Joseph notes; "times changed, but Stokely didn't."
The former civil rights warrior died in Guinea in 1998 at age 57, of prostate cancer. And while he's no longer a household name in most places, Peniel Joseph says Stokely Carmichael's legacy is the very notion of Black Power, "which was enormously successful in redefining the contours of African American identity, but also race relations in the United States—and globally."
World of Warcraft is trying to reduce racial inequality. Don't worry, this isn't about racial disparities between black, Latino and Asian players — we're talking about gnomes and trolls and orcs here.
Last week, Blizzard Entertainment, the developers behind the hugely popular role-playing game, tweaked some of the racial attributes in World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor, the game's latest expansion. With the new changes, night elves have gotten quicker and humans are less adept with maces. There's a whole lot more, but the upshot is that almost every race in the game is now more versatile than they were before — making for more equal geek opportunity, if not exactly equal geek outcomes.
WoW's millions of online subscribers interact in a shared, ever-expanding world. Players can make the characters they create farm or hunt or team up on missions and raids. But before you do any of that, you have to pick a race.
Because I'm not too familiar with WoW, I reached out to some former diehard players to help me work through what this all might mean.
Mink Choi is a book publisher for Thought Catalog. She lives in Astoria. Guillermo Hernandez Martinez works in the photo department at Sports Illustrated in New York City. Alex Schelldorf works here at NPR in the marketing department.
Our conversation was edited for clarity.
DEMBY: First things first. In your experience. How does the way race operates in the real world affect the way race plays out in WoW?
SCHELLDORF: It's all about identity, I think. I relate it to being sort of an innate thing. When you first boot up WoW, you're given the option of good versus evil (Alliance v. Horde), and then given the option of what character class/type you want to be. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's a gut choice. Walking into WoW for the first time, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but once I read the descriptions of being given the choice of nobility versus committing potentially heinous acts, I totally wanted to commit heinous acts. If you identify with 'zombie culture', there's an option to be an Undead. If you want to be a Hunter/Gatherer, you can do that as well - but you can either do it as a Human, Troll, Draenei, Night Elf, etc, Tauren, etc.
HERNANDEZ: I think once you start spending more and more time in the game you can start seeing repetitive stereotypes, both positive and negative, among racial factions that sometimes may mirror real world stereotypes, which I guess is not all that surprising.
There are also reflections of real-world attitudes that you can see in the game, like the lack of darker-skinned human characters. There are a wide range of skin tones available in character creation, but you always tend to see the lighter shades in-game.
CHOI: I never thought of it in that context, but now I'm questioning why, when I first started playing, I chose a blue female Draenei instead of a human. But I think it's probably because being Korean-American, I'd have felt misrepresented by a female human character without having the option of really changing her facial features/skin tone/etc. And maybe it also means I felt closer to a cloven-hooved, goat-like character?
SCHELLDORF: You know, that's an excellent point. Now, when I look back at it, I rarely saw darker skin types. Even when I was a Troll, I tried to be the 'least green' or brown possible. But I think that also speaks to the graphics of the game - Like, it's more difficult to see facial features of certain races because of how dark certain tones are in the game.
DEMBY: Which races in the game are loose stereotypes of real-world racial groups?
SCHELLDORF: There's a sect called the Sen'jin that HAS to be the stereotypical Jamaican. The vocal patterns/inflections are similar, the garb is very colorful (a la the Jamaican flag), etc.
CHOI: Adding onto what Alex said, the races also have different accents that sort of identify what "region" they could possibly be from in the real world. To be completely honest, I don't know what Blizzard was thinking when they announced the new Pandaren race and having them be known for their "Art of Acupressure"? Laughable.
HERNANDEZ: With the sheer number of quests, storylines and non-playable characters Blizzard had to create, they used pretty much every pop-culture/movie/historical/music reference they could think of, among them being stuff like the Jamaican trolls mentioned by Alex. Old English and Irish stereotypes are also pretty alive in the Dwarves, and I'm sure there are a lot more out there I can't remember.
SCHELLDORF: Yeah, I totally forgot about those! The Gnomes! I didn't ever play that class because they're treated like a total joke.
HERNANDEZ: Ugh, I just remembered there was a human character with a sarape and a sombrero who was really irritating. I wish I could remember the name and look him up.
DEMBY: Wait, really? Giant Panda warriors that are good at aupressure?
SCHELLDORF: I haven't played the latest expansion (Mists of Pandaria), but this doesn't surprise me at all. The game can be very macho at times. Look at the Warrior class. It's, in so many words and excuse my French, something of a pissing contest at times.
CHOI: Yes, giant pandas that belong to clans with Chinese-sounding names and lands filled with "Asian" architecture.
DEMBY: That's kind of hilarious. But you still played it pretty hardcore, Mink — which speaks to how complicated fandom can be.
SCHELLDORF: For me, I wasn't really 'offended' by the inclusion of the Pandaren, until I learned more about what they wanted to do with it. There's a completely different WoW rip-off in China, and I'm not sure if this was ever explored in their version of the game. I think it was somehow Blizzard's twisted way of paying homage to the goldfarmers in Asia.
CHOI: Haha, I was just thinking that Alex. Like what was Blizzard trying to do?? Get MORE Asians to play the game? Trying to make them feel at home with pandas? By the way, my account was hacked by a goldfarmer — sold all my stuff, but when I got my account back, I had 115k gold or something.
And Gene, I only leveled a panda to 15, and then felt so ridiculous playing it, I gave up. Also, I'm pretend planning my trip to the WoW theme park in China, but shhh, we're not supposed to say it's based off WoW.
DEMBY: So this is a total n00b question, but can you design the look of your individual elf/gnome/orc character, or are they sort of templated?
SCHELLDORF: Mostly templated, but there's plenty of variables. Like you can change their tone, their hair, their ears, certain facial features, etc. You can also customize what they wear in game.
CHOI: I'd spend way too much time on changing how my toon looked...hairstyle, earrings or no earrings? How many earrings and where? What about face tattoos for my druid nightelf? Okay, I'm done.
DEMBY: So just how big a deal are the new racial traits to the mechanics of the gameplay?
HERNANDEZ: Racial traits are pretty important, particularly in the end game where you may need that 1% of extra critical chance of Arcane Acuity, or the 5% of Mana given by Expansive Mind. Which traits are most convenient to you depends on the class and role you're playing.
SCHELLDORF: It's of the utmost importance, because like Guillermo said, you have to be very forward thinking in your approach. A complete newbie to WoW will no doubt be overwhelmed — I was. ESPECIALLY considering how many expansions are out there now. I had the benefit of following along right from the second expansion, but in doing so, I felt like I missed out on a lot of the fun of 'Vanilla' (or O.G.) WoW. There was so much I had missed.
DEMBY: So do the new racial traits change which characters you would have played with if you were a newbie today?
SCHELLDORF: I played a Troll Hunter, and I would have been seriously pissed off at the Dead Eye removal. Hunters are a purely damage-driven class, and they're constantly getting "nerfed" — major changes made in the sake of "parity."
HERNANDEZ: I played a Dwarf hunter, and would be pissed off by the removal of Crack Shot, but the addition of Might of the Mountain would have more than made up for it. If you play for a long time you end up getting used to the constant tweaking and changing of stats. The best part of the game for me was always playing with the different numbers in order to get the maximum amount of damage out of my character, and every tweak/nerf/whatever meant being able to work around it and still top the charts.
DEMBY: I was doing some reading to get up to speed on this and found a message board with of pro/con list for different races. One of the cons for the Drainei was that they're the subjects of racism from human-raced characters. ("Your numbers are very few, and for some reason you're the target of racism by humans despite humans being, y'know, open to other races," the poster wrote.) Wait, word? "Racism"? Is that a thing?
SCHELLDORF: There is an incredibly deep backstory to WoW. We're talking thousands of years of lore, which is the basis for all of the quests in game. To level up, you have to do the tedious thing and 'grind' — You have to gather certain flowers for quests, kill a certain number of minions, etc. Some of these quests are very mundane and just designed to boost the amount of experience you gather to get to the next level. However, the quests that progress the story of your race or class are the ones that really make the game stand out. They play intensely on the emotions of your character: themes of betrayal, love, death, even sex. Many players completely ignore these stories. I know that at times, I did as well — I couldn't understand exactly why I needed to go retrieve an emblem from this tomb that had a bunch of baddies in it, but I did it because I wanted the sweet gear that came from the reward of doing so. The allure of doing these quests is different for each player. Hilariously (to me, anyway), there are Roleplay specific-realms, wherein players who know the backstory and history and lore interact with each other in this way, continuing the story or forging their own. It's almost like in-game fan fiction.
HERNANDEZ: I've forgotten a lot of the lore already, but, as Alex said, through thousands of years deep conflicts between races have developed for some reason or another. The Draenei, for example, were almost completely eliminated by neighboring Orcs and had to flee in order to survive. Like Alex said, a lot of players role-play within the context of this history, and that's where your link seems to be coming from.
CHOI: I'm not well-versed enough in the lore to even attempt to answer this question, but I played a Draenei hunter from day 1 in Burning Crusade and I remember the beginning story being a bit devastating. And there being a lot of destruction, wreckage. Clearly a ruined race trying to recover.
SCHELLDORF: Look at the story of Cataclysm. It was a complete overhaul of the world, pretty much the first of its kind in an expansion. New areas were made, entire swaths of the map outside Orgrimmar (home base for the Horde) were completely destroyed. Before the release of the game, players visited certain areas that were announced to be imminently destroyed. It was emotional because some of those areas were the starter areas for different classes of the Horde.
DEMBY: So the people who do roleplay are adopting the fictive racial divides in the game?
SCHELLDORF: Yeah, in a way. I can't speak to those RP-specific realms because I was more interested in taming rare beasts as a hunter than I was in why Deathwing had come back from her multi-thousand year slumber to destroy the land (the Cataclysm, as it were). But there are those type of people — the same type that love and follow comic books and are able to call out errors or harken back to a bygone era wherein such-and-such did whatever, and that doesn't mesh with the new direction of the yadda yadda yadda.
Truth be told, I didn't pay attention to a lot of the story, but there were moments that were jarring and made me want to pay attention to the storyline. The themes of slavery throughout the game were really terrifying.
HERNANDEZ: I played the rts Warcraft games when I was younger, so I was familiar with some of the lore beforehand. When I leveled my Hunter I actually paid attention to the lore behind the class and race quests so I always had a fair understanding of stuff, but I could never RP without feeling lost in the knowledge of everyone else.
SCHELLDORF: See, that's what I missed. I wish I could have caught up on more of what the game was meant to accomplish story-wise, but I was too busy sometimes hooked in the experience grind to notice what was going on around me. Often times, I wouldn't even look at what was being asked of me, sort of zombie-like in my quests to gather, etc.
HERNANDEZ: When I was a n00b I would read every single quest, but then you get to find out which ones are just farming quests and which ones you actually should pay attention to. I thought it was super cool to find the quirky quests like Harrison Jones and others, and then the stuff that actually mattered to Dwarves.
Going back to Gene's question, a lot of people do adopt the conflicts between in-game races pretty seriously, but in my experience it was only when they were in character. They would have a completely different set of hatred when they were in another character.
DEMBY: That's fascinating.
SCHELLDORF: Agreed on reading every single quest originally — but when you play through either as the same character class or the same side (Alliance/Horde), a lot of the quests overlap and you tune them out. Plus it became incredibly repetitive: Go this area, slay some swine, collect their hides, don't let a more powerful character merk you. Finished with that? Cool, go to this water area, fish some until you've gotten enough of this certain type of fish, turn those in, move on, etc.
Harrison Jones quests were my jam. Those were so much fun. Blizzard was always SO good at incorporating pop culture into their quests. The random references to movies, music, etc., always made me smile as someone who enjoys trivia.
HERNANDEZ: Yeah! They have references for everyone, you're very likely to find some of your favorite things involved in a quest. My absolute favorite was Hemet Nesingwary, so much that I wasn't bothered by the wholesale killing of fauna!
DEMBY: Does race in the real world or in-game affect the way guilds are formed? (Guilds are real-world groups that organize, formally and informally, to complete some kind of in-game task. They can communicate via text in the game or by voice over headsets.)
SCHELLDORF: I don't think it does directly, but there might be something to be said about classism, and the personality types of people. It might be more subversive than an overt decision to not include certain "races" in the guild. I think it extends more to their character class than it does to the race. The hive mind of the guild is to achieve a certain goal: If they like raiding, it's that, if they want to run through achievements, that's something different. But because you can't have both Horde and Alliance in a guild (They can't communicate to each other in game, either), I don't think there's the level of racism that you might be trying to identify.
CHOI: Agreed. It was more about finding the specific class that was needed for whatever raids. But the guild I played with for 2 years was a hodgepodge of people from different backgrounds. Guild leader was Korean-American, and then we had a mix of everything else.
HERNANDEZ: I actually had pretty bad experiences joining guilds with my friends. We are all Mexican and had really strong accents. One of my friends couldn't quite speak much English at all. We got a lot of bad responses from guilds and got kicked out or resigned because of reactions to our accents and stuff like that. Eventually we found one that was really awesome about it and we would even feel comfortable talking to each other in Spanish during raids in order to not distract anyone else.
DEMBY: So there were no, like, guilds full of young Latino kids?
SCHELLDORF: I never met a single person with a "Hispanic-sounding" accent on the game. But I can say that those who sounded Asian or black were less welcomed.
CHOI: I ran into guilds that were all Portuguese players — couldn't ever play with them because they didn't speak English that well. But I remember one of them trying to be super helpful during some quest (but that might have been because he assumed I was a female gamer). I dunno, Alex, we had an awesome player that was very clearly Chinese (thick accent)—his skills in game outweighed anything else.
SCHELLDORF: Might have just been my realm. Could also have been the direct influence of my friend, who was a known racist (to me, anyway) being uncomfortable with having anyone who didn't speak English in the guild. God, these are some rough memories.
HERNANDEZ: I wish I had found a Latino guild! It would have made things way easier. A friend actually joined an Australian guild one time on accident, so there are definitely some guilds with national or racial identity out there. For us it was about finding a good raiding guild, and eventually a good raiding guild that didn't hate on our accent.
DEMBY: Guillermo...Easier how? And Mink...what was it ike to be a owman in that space? The stereotype is that it's all lonely, nerdy dudes. (Uh, no offense to Alex and Guillermo.)
HERNANDEZ: As I said before, we had a hard time joining guild because of our strong accents, so I think finding a Latino guild would have decreased the terrible responses we got from some guilds.
CHOI: Sometimes it was funny, most of the time it was annoying. Receiving whispers from guys like, "Do you have bewbs?" I mean, come on, have some tact at least. The worst was when I would join a channel on Ventrilo and say one word to the immediate response of "OMG GIRL IS IN VENT." Great for female gamers who love that sort of attention, but I'm not about receiving favoritism because I have a vagina. Also, it was just automatically assumed that I sucked at the game and was only invited to raids because, girl.
SCHELLDORF: I can concur with this. Female players had to prove themselves WAY more than male players to be accepted to raid, and they were treated/disciplined like children when they messed up.
HERNANDEZ: My guild leader was a Texas woman who was always great at telling people in raids to be more respectful towards her and other female players. It was always disconcerting when she would be the only voice for reason and have five different guys shout her down on vent. Fortunately those experiences were not super often since you end up learning which guilds have douchebags in them.
SCHELLDORF: Women were revered in our guild. They were treated like gold. Every single person wanted to help them. And if you PLAYED a female character, you were treated better. It was astounding.
CHOI: Alex, I strongly want to tell you to shut up (because what you say IS true), but I'm laughing at your response. [SCHELLDORF: thanks for clarifying :)]
SCHELLDORF: Hey, I played as a female Night Elf to see how much better I would be received in-game, and it was terrifying how much other people wanted to help me. but I can totally understand the level of sexism in the game in that aspect — the anonymity, as everyone knows with YouTube comments, was the equalizer. Like alcohol for social lubricant.
CHOI: "Terrifying" is the proper word there.
SCHELLDORF: I will say this: I very very rarely ran into douchebag players. It's just like in real life- the bad eggs are more memorable. Tons of people in-game were more than willing to help me. Complete strangers trying to help me along to achieve a common goal. Sure, there were assholes who wouldn't stop ganking lower level players, but more often than not, it was a friendly experience PRE-raiding. Raiders take on a different, more mature, more 'professional' (at times) persona. They get all uber-serious because they want to see the end-game cinematics or gear up or w/e. Pissing contest. Those were not my people, which is why it was hard for me to want to raid more.
HERNANDEZ: I agree, I never had a problem with the super hardcore raiding guilds. They wanted you to do the job and then they'd go on to the next raid. During raids they wouldn't be quite friendly, if they saw you were incompetent they would just kick you out and that was that, but outside of the raiding environment they would actually be really helpful and nice. In general I agree with Alex, most people are willing to either ignore you or help you. Outright douchebags are rare.
SCHELLDORF: All of this WoW talk is making me want to play again, lol.
HERNANDEZ: lol, I'm glad I can't afford it anymore or I wouldn't have a life.
SCHELLDORF: Also, I want you guys to know that I listened to the entire Lich King soundtrack while we did this chat.
CHOI: Judging you Alex.
SCHELLDORF: Whatever dude, Lich King 4e. You can't sit there and tell me that the Stormwind theme doesn't still give you goosebumps.
HERNANDEZ: I grew so tired of the music in the cities. Being in front of the training dummy for so long made it really repetitive.
CHOI: Haha. I don't remember what it sounds like! Also, I played Burning Crusade more regularly than I did Lich King.
SCHELLDORF: YouTube it. I remember going through the portal to BC the first time and like... almost legitimately tearing up. It was insane, and I'm embarrassed to admit that.
HERNANDEZ: It was so epic, finally making it to 70 after having to level up all over again and going through the new areas was beautiful.
SCHELLDORF: And flying for the first time?! Shut up. Shut it down. It was incredible.
HERNANDEZ: I went on an obsessive hunt for all the flying mounts. I got so much joy out of flying over lower level people...
CHOI: What was your favorite raid? I miss SSC the most.
HERNANDEZ: Ugh, I love/hate ZG. I went every week to try to get the stupid tiger mount and it never dropped for me. Onyxia was a sentimental favorite because it was the first one I could solo.
SCHELLDORF: Ulduar. I never got to see a lot of the BC content because by the time I was raiding, LK was already out. But some of the visuals in Ulduar... wow.
HERNANDEZ: Ulduar was so cool! The relief when you actually get to finish it is awesome.
SCHELLDORF: Agreed. Finally battle with Arthas was sick too.
HERNANDEZ: I only made it once and we wiped :/ never beat the stupid Lich King. My glory days were definitely BC.
SCHELLDORF: OMG, I just read that a Triceratops is a new pet for Hunters in Mists. I'm re-upping when I get home.
HERNANDEZ: That's so cool. I would never betray my spotted leopard though.
CHOI: I've been playing Diablo only recently. New xpac comes out on 3/25...
SCHELLDORF: I've been playing a LOT of Hearthstone. It's so much fun and not nearly as time-consuming (in theory).
CHOI: I keep hearing good things about Hearthstone.
SCHELLDORF: I can't say enough good about it. But it gets stale rather quickly. They won't be able to keep up with expansions, but I'm glad I got in on the ground floor so I can say "Back in my beta days..."
HERNANDEZ: I wonder how many people from vanilla are still playing WoW.
SCHELLDORF: I'm reading right now about Guardian Druids who can SOLO Karazhan. That's so freakin' wild to me.
HERNANDEZ: I used to solo stuff with my Hunter. I could do most raids from vanilla at 80, and was working my way into BC content. It was hard to convince my raids and parties that I really needed that tank gear though.
CHOI: I miss Kara.
DEMBY: Um. Y'all are speaking another language right now. Before we go, I wanted to ask you about how long you were playing, and what made you decide to stop. You each mentioned that it eventually got to be too much; Mink, you even wrote about how it took over your life to the point where you dropped out of college. (Stony Brook! I went to Hofstra, btw.)
SCHELLDORF: I played twice for a period of 2 ½ (or so) months at a time, once in the period after the release of Burning Crusade and before Rise of the Lich King, then again in the month prior to the release of Cataclysm, and for about 2 months after its release. I was convinced to play by co-workers, and then continued to play even when they weren't on. Or, if we are having an argument, I'd go play on a completely different realm. I gave it all up when I recognized that it wasn't a constructive aspect of my life. I was dumping money into the games, expansions, the subscription fee, upgrades to my computer, and for what? It cost me some social time, but not nearly as much as others. I don't regret it, because there were moments in those games that easily rival my favorite movies and books. There were so many unforgettable moments, and I felt like I was able to accomplish a lot of what I wanted in terms of constructing a character. But it's a time-suck. In my opinion, I don't think there's such a thing as a casual WoW player. I can say I'm a casual Hearthstone player because I don't log on every night, and because it's free. But WoW is a different beast entirely.
CHOI: I played from 2007-2009 — playing almost every day for a 6-month period during that time. Never went to class, didn't sleep that much, had 16-17 hour gaming sessions. So I dropped out of Stony Brook (before they kicked me out) and gave up WoW to get my life back on track, but reinstalled the game shortly thereafter (I'm weak!). I stopped playing altogether more than a year ago. I think I could go back to playing now without being so crazy addicted to it (I think). [Gene, I could have gone to Hofstra on a golf scholarship :)]
HERNANDEZ: I quit for the first time in my sophomore year of college, in 2009. I started back up in 2010 and the last time I played was in 2011 I think. I don't even remember exactly when I started playing — freshman year in high school?
I originally quit because I needed to not fail out of college, and raiding 4 or 5 nights a week was kind of not helping me out academically. A year later a friend offered me about a year of free playing time so of course I couldn't say no and got hooked again. I eventually gave it up to focus on actual life. I agree with Alex that the money and time spent was probably excessive looking back, but I loved it and made me keep in contact with some of my friends in Mexico that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. Unlike Mink, I think if I started playing again I would be just as intense and consumed by it as I always was so now I stay far far away from it. I actually see a lot of parallels to my cigarette addiction. It's hard quitting something you really enjoy doing, you know?
CHOI: Agreed, Guillermo. I will say, though, when I tried to go back and play again, none of my old guildies were still playing so it was like starting an entirely new game that was a lot less fun.
HERNANDEZ: Yeah I had a lot of trouble finding a new guild that fit my raiding schedule, it was a drag at first but eventually I would just get invited by people who remembered me from previous raids.
SCHELLDORF: If I had the proper gaming rig right now, I think I might play it again. Thankfully, I don't.
CHOI: Have we been talking about WoW for an hour and a half?
SCHELLDORF: Yup. And Guillermo, I'm totally on board with that. I loved WoW in the same way that I loved another human who was completely wrong and bad for me. But rediscovering her would be so easy and treacherous. (In a related story, I'm seeing that human this weekend. Haha.)
[This piece contains a detailed discussion of Sunday night's True Detective finale. If you haven't see it and you plan to see it and you don't want to know what happens, stop reading.]
[Seriously, information ahoy.]
Spoiler alert: The dirty-faced, crazy-talking, disheveled impoverished guy did it.
Because we are talking about True Detective, this tells you very little, since Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) spent most of these eight episodes moving through a landscape of desperately poor, semi-coherent, literally unwashed people who might or might not be monsters. And in the end, one of them was. And after an almost comically lengthy sequence in which Rust, gun at the ready, tracked him through a labyrinthine maze of increasingly intricate wooden structures, he knifed Russ, put a hatchet in Marty, and then got shot in the head. The bad guy died, and the good guys lived.
Marty's wife and daughters returned to him, and he and Rust lived to share a lovely talk about near-death experiences in which Rust essentially ended (once you made out what the heck that last line even was) on a vaguely positive note.
There was a lot to admire about True Detective: As many before me have stated, it contained two of the best performances television's celebrated "golden age" has offered from Harrelson and McConaughey, and its tone and aesthetic were often gorgeously realized, as in a stunning shot of a road weaving through an array of forked white trees.
Creator Nic Pizzolatto knew exactly what he was going for when it comes to tone, and he went for it consistently, skillfully and inventively. The car chats between Rust and Marty, in which Rust was allowed to echo the great philosophers and Marty was allowed, at times, to put a pin in his grandiose blather, were fantastic from the start, and they kept being fantastic right through the reunion of the two in the 2012 scenes. (I particularly enjoyed Rust's self-consciously poetic reference to humanity as "sentient meat," followed by Marty's puzzled, "What's scented meat?" Indeed, Marty. Indeed.) He's an enormously stylish writer and, together with director Cary Fukunaga, he created a gorgeously immersive universe.
But True Detective is still a detective show, and it devoted a lot of real estate to its central mystery, which ultimately led to little more than "a monster in the woods did it." Little things that seemed like clues — the repetitions of five figures standing in a circle, the now infamous "yellow king" business, the mystical chattering from various witnesses — just sort of turned out to mean "a bunch of crazy people used to do crazy, monstrous stuff out in the woods." Certainly, the false resolution to the case in 1995 allowed for a couple of critical character moments, particularly Rust saving Marty from being prosecuted for blowing a guy's head off in anger. But an awful lot of time was spent mucking around with some pretty cliched visions of drug dealers who sort of had nothing to do with anything.
I don't think Pizzolatto cared at all about the drug stuff in the early-middle part of the show, which is why those episodes got so slack and dull. The personal stories at that time weren't at their best, either; they were focused on Marty's affair and his violent beating of a guy who made the mistake of being with a woman Marty believed he owned. Other than the infamous long take at the end of the fourth episode that wound its way through the disastrous undercover operation, the show didn't really make a lot of headway between the end of the pilot and the fifth episode, at which point it became more about the complicated interplay between Marty and Rust, and thus became instantly more interesting. In the end, it was gripping in the pilot, slow in episodes 2 to 4, terrific in episodes 5 to 7, and very ordinary in the finale.
What True Detective felt, in the end, was unedited. It felt like it needed another pass, where someone could have told Pizzolatto when Rust was tipping over from an intriguing portrait into a caricature, and when there needed to be a little more story in the story.
Pizzolatto told Alan Sepinwall after the finale that to believe Rust is full of it is to believe Nietzsche is full of it:
For people who thought Cohle's philosophy was simply hogwash, be aware that you're calling Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche hogwash. Just be aware of that. That is not, in fact, a college freshman stoned eating a pizza talking about life; that's Arthur Schopenhauer's thoughts on life.
With all due respect to Pizzolatto's commitment to great philosophers, college freshmen have, in fact, been known to get stoned, eat pizza, quite correctly quote Nietzsche, and still be utterly full of patoot. The issue was never whether the substance of Rust's philosophy was invalid; it was whether Rust's way of talking about it felt more sophisticated or more affected — more like a philosopher or more like a dialogue writer. The very long "time is a flat circle" conversation, for instance, amounted to a very long interpretation of the idea of history repeating itself, which, without more, isn't something one necessarily needs to hear a character explain in great detail while the show surrounds it with indicators of portent.
Kept in perspective, as a very uneven but ultimately highly creative passion project that features some of the best acting you'll see on any screen of any size this year, True Detective is entirely successful. What it isn't is great. To make great television is to understand its episodic structure and to pace it properly. To make a great mystery is to make the conclusion seem like a culmination of the work that has gone into the solution rather than a sense that time expired, so the monster on the hook at the time the music stops is as good a solution to the mystery as any other.
We'd be lucky to have more showrunners as ambitious as Pizzolatto was about trying to say something about good and evil and philosophy, and certainly to have directors as skilled as Fukunaga at creating memorable visuals. But there turned out to be less here than sometimes met the eye, and in the end, a lot of evidentiary traps were set and never sprung.
Recent rains have brought wet relief to parched sections of California, a state Gov. Jerry Brown declared to be in a drought emergency in January. The problem is far from solved — but the fresh water is a welcome addition to reservoirs.
The rains led member station KQED's Mark Andrew Boyer to take a look at reservoirs in northern Marin County. One example of what he found is above; there are more at the KQED website.
"After a few weeks of rain, much of the Bay Area looks like it might during any other winter," Boyer reports, "never mind that we just came through the driest 13 months since people began keeping precipitation records in this part of the world."
The recent rains helped in some of the areas that needed it most. As a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor shows, recent measurements show that California's percentage of land in "extreme" drought as of March 4 fell to nearly 66 percent from nearly 74 percent the week before. The area in "exceptional" drought fell to 22 percent from 26 percent.
But those drought levels are still worryingly high. "With reservoirs still well below average and the end of the rainy season approaching, the [Marin Municipal Water District] cautions customers they're not out of the drought 'danger zone' yet," Boyer says.
A week or two of rain won't change that. As a farmer in California's Central Valley recently told NPR's Kirk Siegler on All Things Considered, "we are going to need rain in the Biblical proportion" to help the state's crops.
For another look at the drought's impact, you can check out our recent post on two images taken of Northern California's Folsom Lake, which stood at only 17 percent of capacity in January.