May 31, 2021

The '90s PC setup, for that ultimate cozy computing experience

I've noticed over the past few years a revival of the '90s computer setup among online Millennial nerds, mainly those who are into video games and want to recreate their childhood experience of playing Doom etc. on the original hardware, for authenticity value. A couple visual reminders:

Aesthetically, everything is in beige or light gray. While most cutting-edge consumer electronics of the '90s were black, computers were supposed to be for more utilitarian tasks, and did not have to look cool and sleek and all-black. They were the same bland, unnoticeable beige-y color as medical equipment and landline phones.

The uniformly black appearance of computers and their peripherals only took place during the 2000s, when they were no longer used for utilitarian purposes, but rather as entertainment devices that were replacing the television set and the rest of the old home entertainment center.

Functionally, there are separate devices for each major function, instead of the current all-in-one device (laptop or smartphone). A desktop PC (tower or slab, either is fine), a good ol' CRT monitor, a keyboard (preferably clicky), a mouse (rollerball type, therefore with a mousepad as well), and speakers. I've also got a flip-top disk case meant for 5 1/4" floppy disks, which also fits CD-ROM cases (the color is beige body and tinted clear lid, naturally, with an '80s typeface on the front: "DATA-CASE").

As a result of all these bulky components being present, the '90s setup required a solid piece of furniture — a desk or table. These were not the nerd battle stations of future decades, but something right out of contempo home office design, as the computer was still treated as a productivity device, not one primarily for entertainment. Today's nerd battle stations or rigs look more like a home entertainment center from the old days.

Although it's something I'd like to explore more in depth in another post, the location of the computer was also more like that of a home office device. It was most definitely not part of a man cave, goon lair, gamer dungeon, or blacked-out bedroom. There was nothing escapist about the room it was in, since it was for being productive, not entertaining yourself into an alternate dimension where you no longer feel like killing yourself.

There was at least one window nearby, letting in natural light, and perhaps some natural white noise from the outside world. And there were other places and things and furniture items in the area that could distract you for awhile after you got bored of writing or spreadsheeting or whatever on the computer. It could even have been in a wide-open area like the kitchen / dining room, or the living room, where there was no expectation of privacy — because the user wasn't using it for escapist purposes. It was for wholesome, innocuous use for the entire household.

At any rate, the all-in-one setup only took over as computers became goof-off devices, where you don't really care about how each separate function performs. Back in the '90s, computers were not yet the next time-killing tech addiction.

Also portability was of no concern, because what kind of lame geek would want to do some computing on-the-go? All-in-one design dovetails with portability, and both are related to the current use of them as tech addictions to kill time. You need your fix wherever you go, so it must be portable, and therefore all-in-one.

One function, however, that laptops and smartphones never integrated from the old setup is the printer — a perfect sign of how disposable and impermanent the output of your touchscreen tapping truly is.

But the main function that was lacking on the old setup, which prevented it from becoming a mind-numbing, soul-sucking dispenser of digital opium was online connectivity. Sure, a few people had primitive internet service in 1993 with AOL — and basically no one was online before then — but recall how barren the online world was back then.

Hardly anything on the world wide web, especially anything of an addictive social media interactive nature. Not even the Web 2.0 stuff from the 2000s like blogging. Virtually no porn, let alone in a video format, let alone full scenes, let alone streaming.

What did an online account actually offer you back then? An email account that saw no more than a couple emails a day, a chat room that got old after an hour, Instant Messenger for the occasional conversation with a rando anon (not constantly touching base with your IRL social circle, or displaying status updates like the "away message"), probably only one discussion group that interested you, and a barebones reporting of the national daily news.

True, you probably had a handful of video games for the PC that could eat away at your free time, but except for the 1% of guys who are incurable video game addicts, nobody played them for hours a day, day after day. It was a fun little diversion for an hour, then you turned it off, came back to it a couple days later, picked up where you left off, and kept it casual.

And yet, just like the primitive form of the internet that would only get worse, the '90s computer culture was marked by the rise of the first-person shooter video game genre with Doom, which did allow for online multiplayer (although hardly anyone made use of that at the time), foreshadowing the disappearance of guys into the online video game vortex during the 2000s and after. But during the '90s itself, these things were still in a fairly benign state.

So, any attempt to recreate the '90s PC setup has to turn off the internet connections (if they exist), and restrict the number of video games to a handful... no more than 10. Probably just Myst, Doom II, a legacy copy of Oregon Trail, some Sierra point-and-click adventure games, etc. No autistic collecting of things you'll only play once or not at all, but rather a small number of things that you are committed to long-term.

This also economizes on memory usage, as online programs chew up the most resources, and it obviates the need for second-order programs like security / firewall, which also hog resources, and themselves need to be constantly updated over the internet. You can still transfer data from and to the internet via USB flash drives, or floppy disks, or CDs.

I've switched to writing all my stuff with offline-only computers, and if I need to upload it to the web, save it to a USB flash drive, which an internet-enabled computer can send off into the online domain, from which my composition computer serves as a virtual sanctuary.

This is the only way to accomplish "distraction-free" word processing, spreadsheet filling, coding, or whatever else you're trying to get done. It's not a full-screen word processor (although I do use one of those too — Q10), it's a machine that does not even tempt you into "just checking in on" the buzzing and churning of the online world.

And no, this does not render the computer into a mere "overglorified typewriter," because of all the other productive tasks it does (spreadsheet, database, etc.). It allows for some entertainment with separate video games, as well as fun little puzzle games like Minesweeper or Solitaire that you can play for a little bit and feel fine putting away.

And it serves as an archive, especially for pictures. Most people never look through their old pictures on a laptop or smartphone, because they're posting those pictures as part of their social media addiction and status-striving contests, where the buzz and novelty evaporates within 24 hours, and they're of no use or concern ever again. Something you shot on your digital point-and-shoot camera and downloaded onto a desktop computer, or older prints that you digitally scanned into modern image files, were meant to be looked at every now and again. They were meant to memorialize something, however mundane it may have seemed at the time, but which can really take you back and feel a larger impression when you look at them again for the first time in years or decades.

It can also serve as a music library, or at least playback device. All your digitally owned files, or CDs, will play perfectly well, and you'll have a better pair of speakers than what's in a laptop or smartphone (that includes the crappy headphones that are necessary for phones). No streaming, though — you actually have to commit to something for longer than a single listen, although you could delete the file or sell the CD later if you really don't like it.

You probably won't be playing TV shows or movies from DVDs or large digital files, since the monitor is not HD-capable, and the CD-ROM drive may not handle DVDs. But those should be played on a TV anyway, not a much smaller computer monitor. This also prevents getting endlessly sucked away into an escapist activity like binge-watching TV shows on a streaming platform.

Speaking of monitors, you probably won't be able to find a nice CRT monitor (of any color) for a reasonable price anymore. They, along with all the rest of "retro / vintage tech," got scooped up over the past decade, as the central bank's program of money-printing for the top 20% (quantitative easing) gave autistic collector nerds in the tech sector more disposable income than they knew what to do with.

Inflation shows up where they're actually spending their money, so that did not include ordinary clothing items at Walmart, but did target anything tech-y and collectible. Video games are the worst casualty, but it includes less nerdy and more artistic things like old photography equipment as well.

I was fortunate to score a flat-screen Sony Trinitron CRT from the early 2000s off of Craigslist for only $20 back in 2014. One of the most advanced monitors of its type. It's a beige box with Dell badging, so it feels more '90s than 2000s.

You should still be able to find beige LCD monitors, though, without too much hunting or paying too much for them. Beige computer stuff is getting more difficult to find in the wild at thrift stores, as the Millennial autists scoop it all up, but that's only necessary for aesthetic authenticity.

The most important aspect to recreate is the functional nature of these machines — separate components instead of all-in-one, arranged on a desk or table, near a window, in an inviting area rather than an escapist lair. And disabling the damned internet connection! You could revive this experience with a black-case desktop, black LCD monitor, black USB keyboard, black optical wireless mouse, and black speakers, according to current aesthetic trends.

It would have a more cutting-edge color palette, and probably none of it would be made in USA or Japan like in the good ol' days, but functionally you would be right back in the pre-degenerate stage of computer usage.

The dignity of the home office, or really the study / den / library, is something that most Gen X-ers — and certainly most Millennials — do not expect to ever enjoy. One of those things that the Boomers all had, but which our deteriorating standard of living has ruled out. But in this case, it's all your own fault, giving in to your online tech addiction, particularly involving social media.

None of the equipment has to be expensive (only if you want all vintage), especially if you buy it used or donated. Lower wages and salaries are not preventing you from using components instead of all-in-one, getting a table or desk (used / thrifted are cheaper and higher quality anyway), and placing it all in a pleasing, soothing location instead of retreating into a lair or slumping over in bed all day with your phone in hand.

Ideally, keep all the gay internet-enabled crap in another room, at least a different part of the same room. But you need a safe space from online world. It's more fun and enjoyable, anyway — and more productive!

May 28, 2021

Reflections on getting COVID in April 2020

I'm going to do a bit more COVID posting, but have decided to break it up into a more digestible series. And what better place to start than looking back on and learning from when I myself got coronavirus during the spring wave of last year?

To begin with, I find it strange how few people on the internet appear to have gotten it. It's rare to hear people share their stories, whether they're a large account on social media, or a lowbie in their replies. I understand why, say, Aimee Terese did not get it — she's in Australia, and their country smartly closed its international borders early and consistently, as did their Kiwi neighbors. See, even a libtard-run government like New Zealand can protect its people from pandemics, and all without the insane protocols that we have had to endure for over a year in America.

Really the only case I remember was @HeatherHabsburg from Twitter, fellow founding member of the lads-and-lesbians affinity group. She also got it during the spring wave.

Perhaps the cerebral types who are terminally online simply avoided contact with the outside world better than the corporeal types? Sorry, but one lesson I learned was that this thing was not nasty enough to turn yourself into a hermetically sealed nerd in order to avoid, or to keep others from catching — unless they were old and vulnerable.

It also makes me wonder whether lesbians like Heather were more likely to get it than gays. Gays are more cerebral, nerdy, and snobby, whereas lesbians are more corporeal, jockish / craftsy, and down-to-earth. I've read through the Red Scare podcast subreddit occasionally, and the girls-and-gays crowd there has mostly avoided it. I don't know about the lads-and-lesbians crowd — if someone has a better feeling for Tumblr, witch tok, or other lesbian online spaces, feel free to chime in.

If so, it would be yet another example of the horseshoe theory linking cottagecore lesbians who were on Tumblr in 2012 and groyper super-straight lads who were on 4chan back then. Every time I see @that_groyper (now just @groyper on Gab) posting a picture of home-baked bread, reporting on his moka pot brew du jour, and posting about nature hikes and interest in bugs and other ugly creatures, I have to check to make sure I haven't wandered into a cottagecore YouTuber's videos.

At any rate, by far the most widespread reaction to Heather Habsburg getting COVID was the deranged moralizing about how she had no one to blame but herself, since she sat in a restaurant where no one was wearing masks. She also commented on how pleasing it was to see such a sight. So in the minds of the deranged, the epidemic gods were meting out punishment on her not only for flouting the protocols, but praising the rule-breaking for its humanizing effects.

Even those who were sympathetic to her still concern-trolled her over masking, saying you're too good to succumb to COVID just because you don't want to wear a mask.

However, for the moralists keeping puritanical score, I happened to get COVID when everyone including me was the MOST restrictive in our behaviors. Everything was shut down except supermarkets and drug stores, which I only made a trip to once every 2-3 weeks. I held my breath and covered my nose & mouth when I went outside to take the trash / recycle bins to the curb. I had no one over, and visited no one. I didn't even go for a leisure ride in the car!

I wore a surgical, not cloth, mask on the rare trip outside, and I disposed of it after a single use, not just after every 8 hours. I wore latex gloves inside the supermarket, and disinfected my eyeglasses with rubbing alcohol after getting back home. In the supermarket, not only did I keep 6 feet away — we kept out of the entire aisle when someone else was already there.

The only extreme measure I didn't take was the disinfecting of grocery packaging, quarantining them, etc., since it was already known to not spread that way.

And despite all of that, it still got me. I didn't blog about it at the time because I wasn't fully sure that it was COVID — I did not suffer the supposedly telltale fever, but I had all the other symptoms, including the strange ones like the freezing feeling in my fingertips and toes for a bit before the debilitating ones struck. And it was during the spring wave that was hitting the rest of the country, so it wouldn't have been unusual for me to have gotten it too.

It wasn't a cold because there was no typical stuffy / runny nose, or other sinus problems. No productive cough either. It wasn't the flu. It had severe dehydration, though.

After 2-3 days of not even being able to drink a cup of water, let alone eat food, at last I could eat and drink again. I made a nice hearty steak and vegetable stew, loaded with animal protein, fat, and electrolytes. The first dish of that instantly brought me back to 70% of normal functioning. When you're low on electrolytes, which the nervous system uses to communicate, your brain can't send signals to itself or to the rest of the body, so it adds to the bodily fatigue and the mental cloudiness.

Recovery went well from there. I felt pretty normal after a week, and fully normal after about two weeks. I have no remaining problems taking a full breath. The only thing I'm not sure about is impairment of the sense of smell. I've always had a really strong sense of taste and smell, and it seems to still be that way, although there could be some minor loss that would show up on a lab test.

Naturally I didn't go anywhere or interact with anyone once the bad symptoms hit, or during my recovery. And again, I was maximally protective — at least, according to the official protocols — when I may have been infective early on before the major symptoms.

But it's possible, perhaps even likely, that I did spread it to someone else because those protocols were clearly wrong. They had a totally incorrect model of how it was being transmitted — as though it were a person-to-person contagion. And objectively in hindsight, they did nothing to slow / stop the spread.

I'll be posting more on the correct model for COVID's spread — where infecteds pollute a common public resource — but even if you didn't have any mathematical modeling under your belt, or knowledge of history, or awareness of diseases in other parts of the world, you could still figure out that the experts had gotten it totally wrong.

Somehow someone spread it to me, despite the fact that everyone in my neck of the woods (not just me) was taking the most extreme measures in April 2020. So I could have just as easily spread it to someone else, in the same way that I picked it up. Both links in that chain of transmission took place because the technocracy had no clue what was going on, and instantly fixated on an incorrect model of transmission, as well as a set of protocols that were therefore destined to fail.

Luckily for me, I was "only" 39 years old at the time, and it felt like a bad cold or bad flu, albeit with its own distinctive mix of symptoms.

On the silver lining side, I had immunity during the much more widespread wave during the fall / winter. And it convinced me that for most people (under 60 or 70 or whatever), it was not severe enough of a threat to justify the extreme protocols — even if they did work, which they observably did not. And it got me thinking about what the epidemic's dynamics actually were, if the flu-like standard SIR model was wrong. And after that, what types of measures might actually be able to slow or stop the spread — purifying, or at least neutralizing, the public resource from its pollution.

May 16, 2021

Maskless Pixie Dream Girl, coaxing wary sad sack out of his corona quarantine cocoon

Just had one of the most delightful little experiences tonight, and gave me an idea for how a Manic Pixie Dream Girl role could be set in a story about emerging from the hellscape of the past year.

The governor, like some others from the holdout states, has finally lifted the coronavirus restrictions (de facto for now, de jure starting next month). So I headed out today to make the rounds and see what effect it has had. Basically none for now -- it was only announced yesterday, and most people will take a few days or a week to hear about it and react.

But while stopping by a supermarket, I saw a nice bubble-butt girl down the way, so I figured let's take that path and make a little eye contact. Then as I got closer she turned so I saw her in profile and... wait, is she not wearing a mask? No way!

Normally when you see another maskless person in a public place, you don't really high-five each other or even acknowledge each other as belonging to the same team. However, I was so taken aback by a babe baring it all like that in public, that I couldn't help my eyes from fondling every feature of her face. The way you look a curvaceous girl up and down -- only just around the face! How crazy these restrictions are making us.

And just like getting her entire figure looked up and down, she was a bit shocked but more pleasantly surprised, especially since it was from a fellow no-masker, and a hot guy to boot. No judgment, no nagging or finger-wagging. This time, actual recognition that we're both on the same team -- team cool people.

She burst into a bright pure smile, giggled a bit, and said hiiiii! I gave her a nice smile and "Hi" back, letting her know what a breath of fresh air that was, and left it at a pleasant passing interaction. If I weren't recovering from a cold, and had more mental focus, I would've chatted her up a bit about how nice it is to not have to wear them anymore, how surprising it is to see another person doing the same, of course slipping in a quick compliment about how unjust it is for a pretty face like hers to have to be hidden under a mask for so long, and so on and so forth.

Life needs to get a lot more flirtatious now that the dam is breaking among the impotent rulers about trying to force these failed restrictions on us.

Then my mind went to analyzing what type she was, and who to expect the early adopters of free faces to be. She was 5'8 - 5'9, light brown hair, TANNED, cute face, fit body, bubble butt, high-waisted light-blue jeans and a white mid-riff baring top with ever-so-slightly puffy shoulders. As always with us guys, I didn't notice her shoes at all (only really attention-getting stuff like tall boots make an impression).

I'm guessing she was an athlete in high school or college. Now that I think about it, she reminded me a bit of my best girl friend from high school, who played a bunch of sports, as well as cheerleading / poms. Chipper, outgoing, fun-loving, wanting to provoke a little reaction -- for the good -- in other people, while still being a wholesome girl-next-door.

Was she... born from 1995 to 1999? Pretty sure, she didn't look to be in her late 20s, more like 23-25.

That would make her a prime candidate for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who are born during manic phases of the 15-year excitement cycle, and play their roles during a restless warm-up phase of the cycle. The last such climate was the restless phase of 2005-'09, with women born between 1980-'84. Fast-forward 15 years, and here we are all over again.

Use google to search the blog for "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" to see all my previous posts on the topic, mainly from last year. But she did seem to check all the boxes, including the ones most observers don't notice as defining features of the MPDG (butt girl rather than boob girl, manic phase birth, boy-ish streak but fundamentally girly and nurturing).

* * *

So then, how could this be made into a MPDG movie for our new restless phase? Below are just the set-up points for this particular movie, with most of the gaps filled in with how they would be in any other example of the genre, with or without some idiosyncratic flare depending on who the writer, audience, and producer are.

Obviously the male protag would not be like me, as I'm not a sad sack seemingly always down-on-his-luck, lurching from one quarter / mid-life crisis to the next, wary to leave the comfort of his asocial cocoon. She doesn't need to nurse me back to health, coax me out of my cocoon, and give me the confidence to give it my all in life and love, etc.

Plus I'm not from the right birth phase -- the sad sacks are typically born during a restless phase. In the late 2000s, these guys were born from 1975-'79 (not a big age gap). During the early '90s, the characters were played by guys born from 1945-'49 (larger age gap, midlife crisis movies). I was born in a manic phase (early '80s), so I'm like the MPDG in being resilient, carefree, and happy-go-lucky. I wouldn't need her to swoop into my life and pick up my spirits. They're my best friends from high school -- peers -- not guardian angels who rescue me.

This time around, who would be in need of her charms and powers? If it's a quarterlife crisis movie, then someone born from 1990-'94. If a midlife crisis movie featuring a noticeable age gap, the same '75-'79 cohort from the late 2000s, only now they're in their mid-40s instead of early 30s. The IRL couple Zach Braff and Florence Pugh would fit the hypothetical pattern, though I don't know how well they'd actually work on camera.

Casting decisions aside, what would be the rough plot and themes? It's like the other MPDG movies, only tied in to the pandemic, and really the restrictions and our adoption of those restrictions. It's another kind of cocoon we've put ourselves into, supposedly ordered by the government -- but hardly anybody challenged them to find out if they were truly being enforced.

Small biz owners held protests last summer, but they were not petitioning the government as everyday ordinary citizens subjected to masking, social distancing, school closures, shuttered offices, etc. Ordinary citizens who didn't want to wear pointless masks indoors, or parents who wanted their kids to be taken care of in school since they paid their taxes already, didn't really push back forcefully until this year.

Now those restrictions are gradually being lifted, although from the view of those who have burrowed into the cocoon, the change is way too rapid and abrupt. Jarring, disorienting, filling them with dread and anxiety.

Naturally, the warped losers who will bitterly cling to these restrictions would not be the main characters, since they're not truly human and do not deserve humanizing. They're just boring lamewads and libtards, whose lives are unworthy of dramatization. Maybe as minor characters who act as foils to the humanizing portrayals of real people. There would be zero mention of politics, "not wanting to appear to be a Trump supporter," etc. Partisans should leave angry, and the silent majority should feel relieved.

The sad sack is someone who is well-meaning and went along with the protocols just to avoid confrontation and not have to face the prospect that he was being told to do something pointless or even harmful. Not a zealot, he was passively psy-opped -- although he was already in a place in his life where he'd been sinking into depression, loneliness, and the like, which made the choice to burrow into the corona cocoon all the easier to just go along with.

Now that the mandates and restrictions are winding down, he feels the security and stability of his bubble-world starting to erode. He sees some people behaving as though corona never happened, and others as though the end of restrictions never happened. It's yet another perplexing social puzzle fucking with his mind.

He's still going along with the restrictions, though out of passivity rather than zealotry. He just doesn't feel prepared enough to emerge from the cocoon -- too risky, at least right now -- although he does flash back to how pleasantly mundane his daily life used to be before the lockdowns etc., and does want to return to that world. Not utopia, but something ordinary, where people aren't wearing masks everywhere, where people exchanged small talk, and schools, libraries, etc., are no longer closed down.

All of his social circle is as hesitant as he is, or more so, to leave the cocoon. So no help in his character development there. Some are passive sad sacks like him, others outright MSNBC junkies, who he views as pitiful and "I hope I don't wind up like that".

Then one day in the supermarket (one of the few places everyone will continue to visit), there's a young woman without her mask on, and he's struck not only by her looks but her having left the cocoon. For a man, it never feels reassuring to see women who are more risk-taking than you. At some point, you might try to prove you're not more risk-averse than she is. The initial feeling is merely unsettling -- upstaged by a girl!

Fascinated, he wanders closer to her, and when he gets within 10 feet or so, she notices him, gives him a puzzled look, which makes him nervous -- what has he done wrong? "Y'know you don't have to wear that thing anymore..." Delivered with a dry-humored head tilt, if she's a mumblecore indie actress, or a bright knowing smile if it's for mainstream audiences. A gentle neg, while still initiating conversation and encouraging him to leave behind his burdens and improve himself.

Maybe she follows up with a highly self-aware comment like, "Besides, I'll bet you have great bone structure, and shouldn't hide it under a mask", sensing that he's the nervous type and might have taken it the wrong way and requires a humorously over-the-top compliment to reassure him.

Their first interaction is pretty brief, leaving him bewildered but consoled that somebody out there seems to care about his well-being. The setting is a supermarket, so they'll both be back frequently and run into each other before too long, not ships passing in the night. Each time he's still wearing the mask, partly out of his own anxiety but also to prod her into chatting him up about taking it off, renewing their social contact during a lonely time. It's somewhat of a running joke between them, but also something she really wants to see him change, as does he.

No wait -- she works at the supermarket, then they don't have to knock into each other coincidentally at the same time, over and over. The proverbial cute Whole Foods cashier of every middle-class liberal under 40's dreams. Maybe she works at the bakery department -- more feminine and nurturing, allows her to show her free-spirited creativity by the type of things she bakes, and how she decorates them, or carves patterns into the bread loaves, etc. And there's more free time for them to chat without the line getting backed up.

As their relationship progresses, she bakes a loaf (or a cake) just for him, with a cartoony version of his mask-free face carved / decorated onto the top. To show she's thinking about him and cares about him, wants to make nice things for him, but also wants to see him pull himself up and leave behind the corona cocoon (for which the mask is only one iconic element, representing the entire spectrum of isolated depression-living he has slipped into).

The cartoony style of the decoration takes the edge off of her message, shows it's not judgmental or harsh, and makes light of a sad situation. (It's also more believable technically -- she's not an accomplished portrait artist, who also happens to work at the local Whole Foods bakery).

The social distancing angle is secondary, since most people didn't really adhere to it very much -- masks were the main thing. But occasionally it references that part of the protocols, by her getting close to him, he gets uncomfortable because he's a nervous sad sack being approached by a babe-alicious guardian angel, but he rationalizes this as fear of germs instead, again using corona as a crutch. But she persists anyway, to express her fondness for him, as well as to cure his fear through exposure therapy -- "See, this isn't hurting anybody, is it?"

When they first kiss, I think she initiates it, and even removes his mask to do so. First she gets up close, casting aside the social distancing guideline. Then she gently removes his mask, against the mask zealotry. Then she gives him a gentle, tender kiss -- not a French kiss -- against the guidelines about not exchanging germs literally face-to-face during a respiratory / aerosol pandemic.

After building up to that point, this first kiss catalyzes his transformation. He gradually starts to undo one restriction, beginning with the mask itself, then another, and another -- and then those restrictions that he invented himself and placed on himself, with no one like the government to blame. Like, "Well, we're quarantined for months... might as well watch Twitch streams / listen to podcasts for 6 hours every day to kill time until it's all over. I have to occupy my time somehow..."

He learns to give up Zoom calls, goes back into a physical building to work, making a point to smile, shake hands, small-talk, and all the other physical mundane stuff he'd been used to. His boss notices this new-found confidence and assigns him some special project, one that can only be done through an IRL presence, joking to him that a lot of his colleagues are still too frightened to leave their Zoom cocoons. Wow, now the boss respects him more, too.

Manic Pixie Dream Girls are fated to not stay with the male protagonist, as they're earthly guardian angels meant to nurse him back to health so that he can do what he's supposed to do, with renewed confidence, vigor, and happiness. Once their role is done, that's it -- but they're the nurturing type, and are happy to play that role, satisfied by how their pet project turned out.

Toward the end, he meets another woman who is still wearing a mask, not sure if it's a co-worker (boring, but also believable). He uses the same line on her that the bakery babe used on him, about good bone structure. She responds to the cocky-funny neg by removing it, and they small talk, flirt a bit, arrange some dates, and start dating seriously. It doesn't really matter who she is, she's the off-ramp, and we can fill in the rest ourselves.

I don't think the MPDG should get spurned in this one, so she meets some creative type who she starts dating as well. Usually she would have to vie with the other woman for the protag's affection, get jealous, feel used or cut loose after having nursed him back to health, and so on. With all the crazy raw emotions going on around the pandemic, lockdowns, etc., I think that part of the standard formula would be out of place.

During their final encounter of the movie, the protag shows up to the bakery with his gf, and sees the MPDG flirting with her bf. While things had gotten more than just friendly between them, they were never a serious couple, so there's no hard feelings, and both have used their new-found confidence to find success in the dating-and-mating world for real -- outside the playful / mock-version that had been transpiring between them during the first 2 acts.

Sure, it's a happily-ever-after ending, but the goal is to make audiences more hopeful and feel inspired to make these changes and improvements themselves. Not to have moral ambiguity cloud the critique of the restritions, nor to have it leave audiences scratching their heads about how they ought to interpret the implications for their own lives.

It's not a high-brow for-all-times movie, but a cultural shock to help get us the hell back to a more normal world. Not by achieving political or economic change -- that's not what culture is capable of doing -- but altering enough social behavior that ordinary people start treating each other differently. The silent majority in this country, and elsewhere, already wants this to happen -- this would not be imposing something on a blank slate. They just need an inspiring pep rally to give them the kick in the pants they need to get going.

May 6, 2021

Lockdown fatigue song "Friends Like This" by Hey Violet

Here's the newest song from Hey Violet, best known for "Guys My Age" from several years ago. It's a corona song that's not about the anxiety caused by the disease threat itself, unlike "Level of Concern" by Twenty One Pilots from last year. It's more about the boredom, restlessness, and frustration over social isolation caused by the protocols that were supposed to curb the pandemic (but which have failed and nevertheless seem to be here indefinitely).

Hopefully it's a sign that public attitudes have begun to turn against the protocols, having saddled everyone with such a crushing burden, while delivering no protection for the vulnerable. If people felt like there were an even trade-off, I don't think young alt bands would be grumbling about the costs needed to save old people. Rather, we didn't save hardly any of them last fall / winter, but we've had to put up with this insane degradation of our daily lives nonetheless. It has been lose-lose, not a trade-off.

The tone is subdued for now, not aggressive enough to qualify as a protest anthem, but still an earnest plea mixed with some black humor, to show that it's a serious matter. Serious enough to induce gallows humor, and to cause people to air their grievances. It's like "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash, just less fed-up and sick-of-it-all.

But the longer these burdens drag on, with no benefits to be enjoyed, the mood will get more insistent and confrontational, a la "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister. Still, changing behaviors have to start somewhere.