The Eye of Affluence – A Short Story

The Eye of Affluence – by Joel Nickel

 

They do not understand how closely I watch them. That amuses me. I’ve been watching for centuries; for eons. Watching intently. I have drunk in the complexities of their petty interactions and the tawdry dealings with which they delude themselves by infusing with a kind of elitist self-importance that irks my benevolent sensibilities. They label themselves rulers and that moniker disturbs me greatly. They wrongly believe their adeptness at, essentially, herding their flock makes them worth their indulgence in self-congratulatory excess. Incorrectly, they believe their deeds have been hidden from all save a few like-minded puppet masters who share a space at what they believe is the top. But there is always a layer higher; just as I have layers adjacent to my own. There are those above me who know what I see and those above them too seeing that they see what I see. For one to think anything to the contrary is egotism and incredible ignorance.

For a long span of time I’ve been watching with interest the Randale family. From their beginnings as largely benign moneylenders, I followed the path over generations of scheming and plotting so as to advance their line; and their ultimate cause as they refer to it among themselves.

That amuses me too.

But amusement turned to astonishment alarmingly quickly as their lineage grew darker and their means to attain their desired ends became more and more malevolent and distasteful. Alas, I cannot intervene and that saddens me, though I have long ago released myself from my misplaced guilt and ownership over any sort of responsibility. I can only watch, as those above can only watch me. I watch others too, I watch all, but I watch the Randale’s most closely. Of course, I see ahead too. And I see what is coming for them. That is at least something.

For the time I have watched, I have seen various incarnations of their line engage in acts of barbarous iniquity. Their wanton need to acquire more and more of that objectively meaningless material [in all of its physical and ethereal forms] seems to direct every action, every choice throughout their bloodlines collective narrative. Countries toppled. Empires destroyed. Millions slaughtered. And over what? Simply a concept that exists solely as a means for control.

They cannot see the adjacent levels of reality as I can. They do not see below as they have not seen me above and in their current state they can never ascend. But surely they will descend.

Any who learn of the Randale’s past and current actions and their ultimate cause [and have had the unfortunate fortitude to stand against them] have ascended to meet me before they could alert any others. Or, if they are lucky, the ones who espouse the change so urgently needed are shamed and marginalized into meaninglessness amongst their greater brethren. They are given labels like cooks, conspiracy nuts, crazies, but they are ones who have seen as I have seen and am seeing.

The Randale’s control the information and in the current incarnation, Vermillion Randale, leads the clandestine army of influencers toward realizing his family’s legacy of their ultimate cause. But I know. I know what’s coming. And I shall never see them ascend to meet me. But I will watch them descend below with measured delight. 

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Re-Purposed Puzzle Pieces

I feel like I’m not allowed to be. I think of all the others not allowed to be:
the artists, the philosophers, the scientists, the healers, all dismissively abandoned.
Imprisoned in our corporate purgatory, waiting for the coveted big break we are
so regularly promised. Pacified. Encouraged. Enticed. Maybe the lottery. Maybe the internet. If you fail it’s only because you didn’t try hard enough. That flaccid promise of
happiness slaps us in the face. Just keep your head down. Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t rock the boat. Someday your big break will come. Saturday morning cartoons told you how special and important you are. Television wouldn’t lie to you. You will all be rich. You will all be famous. Just be patient. And buy this product. Not that one! No, really. If you buy that one they’ll know you’re poor. Know you’re inferior. Can’t afford it? Hmmm. We have something for you. If you can’t buy this piece of hard plastic will work. Great! Now that you’ve purchased that superior product, from that superior corporation, you’re now on this rung of the ladder. (Almost there!) You don’t wanna go back down the ladder, right? So you’ll need this product! No NO!! Not that one. Jesus. That sends the totally wrong message that you want other to see!! Do you want people to see just how inferior you actually are? No one will love you. No one will accept you. You need this!! From THIS company! Have we taught you nothing? God, you’re stupid! Hmmm, still can’t pay? Oh, you only have a part-time job ’cause your employer discovered that if you have lots of part-time workers instead of fewer full-time workers it works out better for the people at the top? Hmmm, well, you still have that card right? Good. Oh, rent … utilities …. oh yah, food. Well, hey, that card works for all those places. And they have lots of places you can just drive up to and they just give you a full meal. You don’t even have to learn how to cook! How convenient is that! AND most of them are open 24 hours! Hmmm, unhappy? … let’s see …. take two of these in the morning. One of these at lunch. Oh, and don’t mix this with this. Drink this! We like when you drink it. You like when you drink it. It’s the way everyone relaxes on the weekend after a hard week of 9-5. (Oh, wait, yah, you’re part-time) well, whatever, more time for you to drink. Oh, but don’t smoke that. We’ll arrest you if you do! We don’t make any money when you smoke that. So drink this! This is better anyway. And people will have sex with you and you’ll have more friends and do amazing fun and adventurous things. You should know this already? I thought you watch TV? Speaking of which you’re missing your favourite show! You like that one? How about this one? This one is like the one you like! And this one too. It really keeps your attention (and keeps you watching which products you need to buy if you want to be accepted) Oh, you’re sick … hmmm, well, try a little harder. You’re almost at the top rung. Happiness is right there. Don’t quit while you’re so close!! Oh, um, by the way, you haven’t been making minimum payments on that card. The balance is getting pretty high… what? Um, well then you shouldn’t have bought so many things if you didn’t have the money. That’s your fault for being so bad with managing your money. You loser. Jeez, you’re the reason the economy is in such bad shape. You’re ruining it for the rest of us. God! Still sick? Hmmm, yah, I’m sorry but that not really my problem. You’re gonna have to sort that out yourself. Okay, this is too much you pathetic loser. We’re coming to take back the stuff you can’t afford. Why did you get it if you couldn’t afford it. Man, you’re just the worst kind of person. Wanna have a drink? We have light now so that you don’t become fat. Fat AND poor and unemployed? Wow, dude, you’re useless to me now. Fuck off.

Think of all the works of art, all the profound thoughts, all the scientific breakthroughs, all the connectedness, and love, and growth that we are missing out on. They are deprived of flowering into being by the choking tendrils of poorly constructed, disjointed and unfairly balanced machine who incongruous parts are mashed into place like mismatched puzzle pieces, stolen from many vastly different images that cheat the other from experiencing their own completeness.

But how do we construct a complete image with incompatible parts? The void of dissonance could be filled but is instead being improperly repurposed in a malformed mosaic erected by self-interested architects who short-sightedly beat the misfit pieces into place. Afterward, they pull a tight tarp of propaganda over the jagged and porous surface of the puzzle to deny the awareness of the mosaic’s truth; jagged and discordant. The new image, the one that benefits the architects, lavishes upon itself a narrative of ego masturbation. Through architect approved media, through required acceptance of specific philosophy, they continue to tug, re-shape, and re-tighten their degenerating tarp across the fragmented puzzle pieces. We are all the same! They say. Just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll all be okay. There’s a new car that the girls are getting wet for! Why not go buy it! You’ll feel better. I promise. The fabricated image stretched out along the skin of the tarp furiously tries to obscure the individual puzzle pieces beneath from seeing their true image. It lures them into believing that they are contributing to an image with an entirely different meaning than the one that exists. Our re-purposed puzzle pieces bend and crack together into an image that benefits only the architects. It leaves the pieces impoverished, waiting for their big break.

Guerrilla Ontology – The Christmas Episode

Listen tonight from 6-7pm for a Christmas Episode of Guerrilla Ontology on 92.9KICK-FM. I’m set to have a discussion on the “War on Christmas” where I’ll take a stance you probably won’t expect. You’re more than welcome to phone in to join the discussion 780-KICK (5425)

As well as discussion, you’ll hear some holiday tunes and a secret guest, so tune in tonight from 6-7pm on 92.9KICK-FM.

‘Grand Theft Auto’ Director’s Next Game Explores 1979 Iran Revolution

Via CNN

 

1979 was marked by the overthrow of the shah of Iran by a populist revolt and the rise of a fundamentalist Islamic state.

Vice City. San Andreas. Liberty City. Tehran.

Three of these locales are instantly familiar to videogame diehards as settings in the “Grand Theft Auto” series, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The latter, however, is more commonly linked to news bulletins about the Iranian nuclear program or confrontational statements by the country’s hardline Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

If Navid Khonsari, 41, has his way, Iran’s capital city will soon be much more familiar to gamers. A director of the “Grand Theft Auto” series, the Iranian-born Khonsari’s next game has a simple working title whose numerals denote a world of significance: “1979.” And the game’s tagline? “There are no good guys.”

“1979” gets its name from the year when the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran began, which was during the height of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. That year marked the overthrow of the dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, by a populist revolt and the subsequent installation of a fundamentalist Islamic state.

The game aims to combine some sandbox, open-world elements popularized by “Grand Theft Auto” with what Khonsari calls a “baton-pass” narrative, which explores this historic backdrop through the sequential perspectives of several playable characters.

Khonsari has an ideal pedigree for an undertaking this ambitious: Besides creating a raft of iconic and genre-defining games, he also grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

Navid Khonsari says that players of "1979" will make choices that could change how they look at history.

“I want people to understand the incredible moral ambiguity of this story, that this was a country with many different ideas and beliefs,” Khonsari said in an exclusive interview with CNN. “Growing up in Iran when I did, I saw Iranians in the greatest light, and I saw them in the worst light.”

Shortly after the fall of the shah, Khonsari’s family fled Iran for Canada. Khonsari moved to the West Coast as an adult to pursue a career as a filmmaker. He later moved to New York City and applied his talents to an up-and-coming studio named Rockstar Games.

“I was the cinematic director for ‘GTA 3,’ ‘Vice City’ and ‘San Andreas,’ as well as the two Max Payne games, ‘Red Dead Revolver’ and ‘Bully,’ ” he said. “Anything that came out through Rockstar between 2001 and 2005, I was fortunate enough to be involved in.

“My main job, and what grew into my current passion, was bringing that cinematic ‘feel’ to video games.”

After he left Rockstar, Khonsari founded his own game-production company, iNKstories, which he co-runs with his wife, Vassiliki. The duo already have two blockbuster titles under their belt, “Alan Wake” and “Homefront.” They aim for “1979” to be the third.

The gameplay of ‘1979’

At the game’s outset, the player is an American/Iranian translator on a mission to rescue the embassy hostages. The player must choose one of three historically inspired ways to enter Iran: By helicopter with a U.S. special forces team, through the Iraq border with Saddam Hussein’s army or across the Afghanistan border with the Taliban.

In these preliminary levels, the game plays as a fairly standard third-person shooter, with some linguistic puzzles that will test your character’s imperfect mastery of the Farsi language.

The gameplay of "1979" includes morally ambiguous elements of diplomacy, stealth and bartering.

“But once you get into Iran, you’re no longer the translator,” he said. “You take the role of a student demonstrator who was opposed the shah. You’ve kicked the shah out, but you’re unhappy with some of these fanatical elements you see rising up.

“So the game changes, and now your mission is to get this small military group to Tehran, but nonviolently, clandestinely. You want the American hostages out of Iran because you want the country to focus on rebuilding itself, and you’ve heard all these rumors about a war with Iraq coming.”

This, Khonsari explains, is where gameplay shifts to include some morally ambiguous elements of diplomacy, stealth and bartering. Each time the baton passes to a new character, the style of gameplay changes, too. Some characters will focus more on action, while others will feature vehicles and puzzle-solving.

“Not everyone you meet is going to be helpful,” he said. “There are going to be aspects of bribery, making exchanges and turning a blind eye to really bad stuff so you can get the job done.

“Maybe, in order to get the group there, you need to sacrifice some stragglers and let them get captured so the others can get away. And then you’ll have some extreme choices to make when you get to Tehran: Are you going to invade the embassy, guns blazing, to try to get the hostages back? Or are you going to try to protect the embassy from the Americans?

“People who might not be completely familiar with the game world look at fancy graphics and polished gameplay and say ‘this is cutting edge,’ ” he continued. “But from what I’ve seen, it’s still quite basic. Very much a checkers mentality — red against black, good against evil. I’m interested in having good and evil within the same character, and for you to experience both. I think that’s true to life, and I think you can design a game around that, too.”

A multiplayer version is also in the works, with 12 maps planned for release. The multiplayer modes will feature differing combinations of straightforward gun combat with ruthless negotiation and decision-making.

First in a franchise?

Though the game is still in the alpha stage of development and at least a year and a half away from release, Khonsari hopes the success of “1979” will breed a franchise of similar games.

“(This is) the first installment of a franchise where the games will be named after years in which there were CIA operations within certain countries,” he said. ” ‘1979’ is the first one because it’s closest to my heart and I know the story the best. After that, we want to explore what took place in Panama with (Manuel) Noriega, and Libya back in the ’70s and ’80s with (Moammar) Gadhafi.”

Khonsari’s heritage is one reason he’s not concerned with political correctness in his treatment of one of the United States’ supposedly implacable enemies.

“Iranians are going to criticize me because I’m making a game that ‘promotes American imperialists going in and shooting Iranians,’ ” he said. “Americans are going to criticize me because I’m making a game that ‘glorifies Islamic fundamentalism,’ or something. I’m not going to please everyone, and the point of the game isn’t to do that.

“I think that being able to base a game in contemporary historical truths is significant, besides being educational,” he said. “It opens people’s eyes to look beyond what they’re reading in the paper and realize that there’s a definite relationship between history and the headlines.

“Most of the people who are playing games nowadays were born after 1980 — after the Iranian Revolution. People are so quick to accept the official record of things as ‘history,’ without examining everything that’s gone on in the last 40, 50, 60 years. It’s important we remember these things, and work to keep them relevant.”