January 4th, 2013


How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Yes, the hoary classic of self-help books from 1936. Grandpa gave me the book a few years ago, and I finally got around to it. Grandpa inscribed mine, "Fifty four years ago I took the Dale Carnegie Course in San Diego Cal. This book was and still is a part of that course. I have read it many times and have always found it to be a valuable tool for solving daily problems and dealing with people." This, alas(?), is the revised 1981 edition, which eliminates the section of Seven Rules For Making Your Home Life Happier. It also includes some other quotes and examples from the late 1970s that, strangely enough, make the book sound more dated than the examples from the 19th century.
On the whole, it's chock full of good plain common sense of how to deal with people in business settings. I'm not sure that *doing* these things up to 11 will improve your lot in life, but if you happen to be doing the opposite of them, I'm not surprised you're in need of some self-help. One drawback is that many of the illustrations just seem far too good to be true, and they also have the sound of those stories from chain letters...
Mr. E.M. Nesbitt of Poughkeepsie, NY, a general manager for a thriving aluminum bolt concern, found that his secretary's blowjobs had fallen off in quality. After yelling at her for some time, the blowjobs worsened. However, after taking my course, he took the time to compliment her on her hair-ribbon, and the fellatio almost immediately changed from perfunctory to mind-blowing.

Now my example is unfair, but only in being crude. One of the actual examples is something like, "Bob never landed that big account, until that time he went to the client's office and, instead of harping on his product, complimented the wood-panelling. The client agreed, and noted that he sometimes forgot how great his office was, but then waxed rhapsodic about it, pointing out his favorite details for an hour (in something that was only supposed to be a five minute meeting) and at the end, he indicated he would place a gigantic order with Bob." I mean, even supposing the story is true, it at least requires a sign that says "your results may vary". But like I say, there is plenty of good advice in here, and if you're a blundering, unsubtle, jerk with no concept that other people have mental states, you could really learn a lot from it. If you're polishing off those rough edges, working toward some subtlety in interpersonal communication, there are still some good pointers here and there.

Far Cry 3

On the surface, Far Cry 3 is a well-executed first person shooter with a world and plot that are carelessly stereotypical, troubling, and idiotic. But if you look deep, you'll find that it is a well-executed first person shooter with a world and plot that is carefully stereotypical, troubling, and idiotic.

Gameplay is a lot of fun with enough variation to keep you happy.
The island itself is beautiful, if geologically improbable. I would like to single out their vehicle physics as being, not really realistic, but fun, and with some nice audio/tactile feedback for slipping on sandy/gravelly paths.
I had been sold on the idea that the game allowed different strategies, from sneaky to Rambo. It's not as true as I'd hoped, but certainly offers some opportunities. There is nothing better than sneaking unseen into an outpost, finding that the bad guys have (for some reason) trapped a tiger or a bear in a cage, letting it loose, and watching it eat all the bad guys. One animal literally did all my work for me. I should mention, too, that the most dangerous things in the game are wild animals and cliffs. Guys with flamethrowers and machine guns are no match for a tiger, and many's the hill I thought I could slide down that instead killed me. That was annoying. Another annoyance is that the game is very pesky about where you have to stand to loot a dead body or a treasure box.

And then there's the story. You and a few of your SoCal pals go off to a South Pacific island for vacation, and then get kidnapped. You escape and set about trying to rescue your friends. To do this, you need to learn how to kill people more better. Fortunately, the locals have the magic knowledge of killing people, and they teach you, so that you may overthrow the bad guys. Now, a lot of people have declared this racist, and... it more or less is. If the locals know all these wicked combo moves, why are they waiting for your sorry white ass to liberate their island?
One of the natives is a bad guy, and when someone mentions that I should go see his sister, who's on the good side, my extremely-lazy writer faculty immediately said, "I bet she's hot and we fuck." Extremely-lazy writer faculty 1, subtlety 0. (Though I confess I did like the way the drug-fueled visionquest melted into fucking. I won't say it was subtle, or promoted positive more-than-1-dimensional roles for women in videogames, but it was at least visualized cleverly.)

Now the designer has given several interviews in which he defends the game, saying that all this was some sort of postmodern meta-comment about gaming. It makes me want to punch him, and advise all my friends in the video game industry to never hire him. Not because he's racist and sexist. But because he's an idiot. It's tempting to say that his interviews are merely after-the-fact rationalizations to explain his racist, sexist game, but I think he did have some half-baked idea of.... something.... going in. It's just really poorly conceived and executed, and even he can't coherently explain it.