Monday, February 23, 2015

Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner, Part 1

So, after taking a hiatus from game blogging for the past seven weeks, I am working my way back. Writing takes a fair amount out of me (in time, among other things), and it's difficult for me to focus on two somewhat disparate categories at once. But I'm going to make a try at doing so. The next three posts will be a bridge. They aren't about gaming, per se, but I think they will be of interest to many gamers. Because of the religious and political angles (more in evidence in parts 2 and 3) they will be cross-posted on my religious/political blog Mahound's Paradise.

I was first exposed to Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner when I saw a re-run of the show on English television in 1983-84 while I was an undergraduate in London. When I returned to the States I became an evangelist for the show among my friends. I loved The Prisoner (which originally ran in 1967-68) and still think it is one of the finest series television has produced. At the time I was also a newbie "libertarian" and hung out on the fringes of the Libertarian Alliance folks associated with the Alternative Bookshop (closed long ago) in London. One of the LA founders, Chris Tame, wrote a paper called "Different Values" where he identified The Prisoner as quintessentially libertarian and individualist (which is sort of an obvious point, but it's wonderful essay) and cited McGoohan for playing other great individualist characters such as the title character of Ibsen's Brand on the London stage in 1959 (also videotaped by the BBC and available on DVD as well as YouTube) and John Drake in Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), 1960-62, 64-68, the forerunner of The Prisoner. McGoohan quickly became one of my heroes.

For the fun of it, here's the famous three-minute opening sequence. Absolutely brilliant:

I didn't know McGoohan's formal politics (if he had any). I did remember seeing an interview with him as a grumpy old man where he made grumpy old man snarks at Ronald Reagan. (In checking into it, I discovered that the interview I saw was made in 1985, when he was only 57 or 58. It's available on YouTube in two parts here and here). So I always imagined that the actor's politics were at least vaguely leftist.

And I still don't know precisely what his formal politics were (McGoohan passed away in 2009). And do be honest I didn't care then and I don't care now. But today (sort of randomly), I found out something fascinating that I never knew.

McGoohan was a devout Catholic.

On that tantalizing note, I'm going to leave things here. This will be a three part series of posts (this one is the first). The second part will discuss McGoohan's Catholic Faith and how it influenced his acting career. The last will discuss the individualism expressed by The Prisoner as well as by McGoohan himself in his acting choices. Is it necessarily libertarian? Can it be Catholic (presumably McGoohan thought so)? And what of the relation between libertarianism and Catholicism. Are they opposed? Can they be reconciled? I think this will be fun. But for now

Be seeing you...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"My Heart is Broken, Oakes" - A Love Story

I'm not a big Facebook person. I have 108 friends. They're all either old school chums that have friended me out of nostalgia, a few current actual friends and coworkers, friends and family of my wife and for the last few months, a growing number of Traditional Catholics that I talk Catholicism with. Recently I have linked to my new "political" blog, and I sometimes get one or two "likes" or generic comments, but in general no one argues or argues politics.

A few days ago an old friend from Cambridge--a senior citizen mother (who is a lefty) of a school chum--got into a brief argument about violence vs. pacifism with a new Catholic virtual friend (who I presume is a righty). My lefty friend graciously ended the brief exchange by saying that "debate was good."  And then I stepped in to say I valued them both. That was the end of that. 

A few months ago, Andy Action-Markham asked to "friend" me. He was a gamer guy that I knew from Google Plus and his name was familiar to me because his avatar often graced discussions linked to my gaming blog and/or about the game I published. So I accepted his "friend" invitation.

Little did I know...

Fast forward a few weeks or months. In that time Andy and I had had a few exchanges about gaming, and he'd also written a few neutral or favorable comments on Google Plus and Blogger about by new "political" blog, Mahound's Paradise, that I had started in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The blog is anti-Islam (as should be obvious from the name) but it also has a focus on discussing Jewish and Catholic issues. Anytime you criticize Islam you're going to get people calling you a "racist", "bigot" and worse, but Andy seemed to have no problem with that.

Fast forward a week. It's 3 AM and I'm randomly looking at my Facebook feed in a bored way. Indeed, scanning Facebook had always been for me a pretty intermittent and rare occurrence--something to do when bored. I might find some random thing and write a goofy comment to some school chum I hadn't seen in thirty-five years, or "like" a picture of a baby from my in-laws, etc.

So in scrolling my feed I see this:

It was from Andy, but it could just as well been from one of my lefty school chums or current friends. Now, it just so happens that another one of my Facebook friends is a gay guy who I met at the Miami Marathon a few years back. He lives in California, is a member of George Takei's LGBT running team and had some funny and good things to say about Takei. It also happens that, as some people know, I love Star Trek. So in the spirit of bleary-eyed 3 AM Facebook comradeship I decided to write something friendly. I believe I wrote something like this (I say believe because I deleted the comment and Andy claims not to have it):
Though I cannot completely support the politics, George Takei is a fellow runner and a good man. Long live Captain Sulu!
Was this the high-point of Spalding's wit, charm and precise prose? Of course not. It was a silly 3 AM Facebook comment. I went to sleep.

I woke up a few hours later and, because I stress about these things, I started to think that perhaps I shouldn't have written that comment. After all, the post seemed to be one of those Facebook moments where everyone celebrates a particular thing together. And even though I intended my post to be friendly, the "though I cannot completely support the politics" part might have annoyed some people. It's Andy's thing (or his friends' thing) and who am I to intrude into it? (Though I wasn't sure Andy or anyone else would really care.) It's not about me and my friendship with a gay runner who knew Takei or my love of Star Trek or whatever. It's about a bunch of people getting enjoyment out of mutually supporting some cause--in this case gay-marriage and related issues--together.

So I deleted the post.

Too late.

I noticed this in my email:

Or rather, that was the actual Facebook version of it. Andy's comment is on top because I had deleted my comment. So, hoping that I hadn't offended my new gaming Facebook friend I wrote him an instant message. Here is the full exchange:
That's it.

Now. Andy has recently implied that I have been inundating social media with anti-gay hate. The above deleted comment and our subsequent private exchange are the only places on Google or Facebook where I have taken a position one way or another on any issues related to gay marriage or gay issues (I think). So, therefore:

Andy Action-Markham is nothing but a psychotic liar.

Regarding the initial message, Andy has implied that I started "it" by making some sort of trollish "God Hates Fags" drive-by on his Facebook page that I then deleted to cover my tracks or whatever.

That's a lie as well, although obviously I can't prove it since I deleted it.

But if I had said something even remotely resembling that, why would Andy have behaved the way he did after I messaged him?
"God hates fags!  
"My heart is broken Oakes, but of course we can still be friends" (followed by additional cordial conversations).

Now, of course I am against gay-marriage. But for various reasons (some obvious, some not) I have chosen not to make an issue of it on social media. I know some of my Catholic friends would say that's cowardly. Perhaps it is.

Let's pause here. If simply knowing that Oakes Spalding is against gay marriage makes you feel that Spalding is therefore a "spewer of hate", or a "gay-hater" or a "homophobe", if, in other words, you feel that opposing gay marriage is only one step away from "God hates fags", if you believe that anyone opposed to gay marriage, even if never publicly expressing that opinion, should be, among other things blacklisted from the RPG industry, then I want you to stop reading right now. "Uncircle me" or whatever and go away. I don't want your friendship, association or business. I think you are nothing but an intolerant almost certainly anti-Christian, bigoted slime ball.

Is that because I disagree with you on the gay-marriage issue? No. Actually, it's almost the opposite. It's because you can't tolerate disagreement on it.

If you can tolerate disagreement on it, then in this context I couldn't care less whether you agree with me or not on the issue.


Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's continue.

Back to Andy for a moment. Along with the homophobe thing he's now hitting on the Islamophobe thing. I spew hate against Muslims because I'm a racist bigot, etc., etc. Okay, what's the most offensive thing one might imagine an Islamophobe saying? How about comparing Mohammad--the founder of that lovely religion--with Cthulhu--that hundred-meter tall alien monster, and implicitly (so it might be argued) comparing Muslims with Cthulhu Mythos cultists?

Yes I did that. Pretty potentially offensive right?

Well, here's Andy, commenting on the link to that post in Facebook, looking like he's digging it (with some qualifications):

The "like" is from me. I'm that kind of guy.

(By the way, that's Cthulhu on the right. The fellow on the left is not actually that Mohammad. Seriously it isn't. It's a painting of some Egyptian guy named "Mohammad Somethingorother" that I mistakenly took off of Google. What do you think I have, a death wish?)

Now, actually, I don't think Andy is any particular friend of Islam, or has any real problem with people who don't like it. That's because, as some sort of agnostic or atheist, Andy prides himself on hating all religions. So the new "let's ban Spalding because he's an Islamophobe" thing is nothing but a pose. (Again, see above.) But as we'll see in a moment and as can be somewhat seen above, Andy hates Christians so much that if you don't like Islam and you are a Christian, that crosses the line.

Or maybe it's just if you are a Christian.

The story is almost over.

In the next week or so I made some more links to my blog on Facebook and Google Plus. Andy and I had no private or public exchanges. I made no comments about gay issues. And my blog was just as "Islamophobic" as always, though more than half the posts were about free-speech, the new anti-Semitism in Europe or wonky Traditionalist Catholic issues that no one outside that circle would probably care about either way.

But Andy started to make comments on Facebook and Google that grew more and more annoying and hostile. I actually think he was on a mission to prove that I was a hypocrite (or whatever) for choosing one religion over another. Here was the first that I left up:

The above were comments on a link where I told my Catholic friends that they might think my blog was offensive (because I approvingly quoted atheists like Bill Maher) among other things. (Steve Skojec is a well-known Catholic blogger who I like a lot. We banter around from time to time and I was trying to get his favorable attention for my blog.)

Note the contrast between my sensitivity in "intruding" on Andy's page by making an overall friendly and complimentary comment about George Takei (and then deleting it out of the same sensitivity) with Andy's insistence to "get in my face" whenever I put something up on my page. And of course, he was the only "outsider" among my "friends", but he had to pre-empt every other post to my friends with some snark on me, other Christians (at least half of my "friends") or Christianity.

So, Andy wrote three more snarky comments on Facebook and Google Plus. I left the one up on Google Plus because the vibe there is different. But the Facebook ones were annoying and (I found out later) were irritating my Catholic friends.
How "Christian" of you! 
So, help me understand Oakes - you're not a fan of this Pope, obviously. Do you think that he is illegitimate? (This sounds sort of innocuous, but in context of what he was commenting on it was inappropriate and hostile) 
So, what is your end goal with your current "hate Islam all the time" blog? Muslims should convert? Muslims should die? Muslims should come to their senses? Just want us all to know that you really, really hate Islam? We get it - you just don't like them. So what?
Again, contrast the one time where I wrote anything on his page:
I'm against gay marriage. I tried to be complementary about Takei but I shouldn't have intruded on the post. I just deleted the comment. Thanks for supporting my new blog, Andy. Take care.

I deleted the last two comments (silently) without commenting or attacking Andy, thinking he would just get the message. He didn't. When he did it again I unfriended him from Facebook, again silently, without commenting or attacking him. That of course led to this:

And then, of course, calling him "obnoxious" led to this:

At that point it became clear to me that Andy Action-Markham was dishonest, spiteful, and a sort of borderline psychotic. I had no idea how serious he was or how many people he knew in the RPG industry. But given current trends in the industry, I took the threat seriously and realized that it could have harmful results. So, I decided to (in the words of our current Pope) punch Andy back.

Andy never publicly said any of the bad stuff (that I'm a racist hate-monger who should be shunned in the RPG community) until I silently "unfriended" him on Facebook (and then responded to his frantic and more and more angry messages by curtly calling his behavior obnoxious). But perhaps he felt that way all along and was simply lying about wanting to remain friends despite our differences and laughing along with me about Mohammad being compared to Cthulhu, etc. Maybe it was all an insincere ploy to gather "evidence", as it were, on my awfulness, to later present to the RPG tribunal, or whatever.

Though, in that case, it's odd that he would so strongly feel that he had a "right" to be on my Facebook page--the lone spy, as it were among my school chums and Catholic friends.

That's my side of the love story.

And that's all about Andy (well almost all). Tomorrow we'll talk about free-speech, tolerance and hate, in general, and the curious inconsistencies regarding these that many (though by no means all) on the political "left" seem to have.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

After Being "Unfriended" On Facebook, Man Vows Former "Friend" Will be Blacklisted in the RPG Community

Alternate longer title: Man Content to Read Post After Post on Facebook Containing "Hate Speech", But When Man Is Quietly "Unfriended" by the "Hate Speech" Person, He Vows to Ruin Him in the RPG Industry.

Well, these are actual screenshots, of course. (The one's above follow the one's below.) But the following dialogue, recorded earlier this morning, comes from a source that for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous. It's a conversation between Andy Action-Markham and an unidentified woman at Starbucks:

Andy Action-Markham: So, this Spalding guy just unfriended me on Facebook.
Woman (feigning mild-interest): That's nice, honey.
Action: But you don't understand. We were "friends" and then he "unfriended" me. I can't believe he did that.
Woman: What did he say?
Action: That's the whole point. He didn't say ANYTHING. I was wondering why I wasn't seeing his posts anymore. And then this morning I decided to check. I checked his friends list and then with mounting disbelief, I checked it again. I wasn't on it.
Woman: But don't people do that all the time? Perhaps you're spending too many hours online. Haven't we talked about this before?
Action: But, but, Spalding was like, Mr. pro-free speech guy. Don't you see, that makes him a total hypocrite!
Woman: If you say so, dear.
Action: Also, he was using Facebook and Google Plus to engage in hate speech.
Woman (continuing to feign mild interest): What a jerk. But in that case, why did you stay friends with him?
Action: Well, I kept up the link on Facebook because I wanted to read what he had to say. Also when he put up a post for his chums I liked to occasionally write a snarky comment at the beginning. You know, hate speech needs to be resisted.
Woman: Then why were you surprised when he "unfriended" you?
Action: It's the principle of the thing.
Woman: Obviously.
Action: Anyway, even though he had unfriended me, I managed to figure out how to send him an Instant Message. Here, take a look, and then check out his response. He actually called me obnoxious. Can you believe it?
Woman: You don't want me to answer that, dear. I thought you earlier said you wrote comments on more than one post?
Action: Well, okay, it was four comments, but still.
Woman: What are you going to do now?
Action: Well, I sent three messages back to him.
Woman: And?
Action: He DIDN'T EVEN ANSWER THEM. Even when I called him a bigot he didn't respond. Can you believe that? He DENIED me the right to converse with him through Instant Messaging.
Woman: I see.
Action: But I'll fix him. In my final message I said I would use all my connections in the RPG community to make sure everyone is aware that Spalding engages in hate speech. He will have a very very hard time working with anyone in the community again.
Woman: Andy?
Action: Yes?
Woman: If you want my honest opinion, I think all this is because he hurt your feelings. Despite all that stuff about "hate speech" and such, it was all fine until he unfriended you. You liked him and wanted his respect. When you realized you didn't have it, you had a sort of hissy fit. We've talked about this before.
Action: Do you think if I send him another message with an apology, he'll be my friend again?
Woman: I doubt it.
Action: Well, you're my friend, aren't you? And we're still on for tonight, right?
Woman: Of course I'm your friend, Andy. But I have to wash my hair tonight. Why don't you go play on Facebook.