Childish Things

Hearing this week’s song of the week today brought to mind a discussion I had with another writer on Facebook a few weeks ago. The release of World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion was nigh and, as many of you know, it was introducing the pandaren as a playable race. The pandaren are basically kung-fu pandas, mystical shaolin-style monks, and their homeland is based heavily in eastern cultural tropes. (They also predate the Kung-Fu Panda movies by several years).

Now, I haven’t played WoW in many years, but my son still does occasionally, and I’d watched him play some of this content during its beta testing. It was fun stuff. the pandaren had a lot of charm and character, their abilities were clever and different than the stock WoW fare, and the world-building for their lands was gorgeous and epic in its scope.

Anyway, this writer snorted derisively at any grown-ups out there who were actually looking forward to playing panda warriors. Why? Because pandas are cute, naturally, and only children could conceivably want to play such cute creatures. I challenged him on it, because not only do I see the pandaren as neither more nor less intrinsically ridiculous than elves, dwarves, gnomes, or any of the other fantasy races you can play in WoW and similar games, but I think a fantasist attacking other people’s fantasies rather unbecoming. This writer makes his living writing face-to-face roleplaying games in which the players pretend to be monsters (as indeed I used to when I was a writer for White Wolf Games). Quite a few people would consider that sort of thing childish.

I wrote:

I just have an innate negative reaction to arguments that denigrate the tastes of others in ways like calling them “childish,” when as far as I’m concerned pretending to be a kung-fu panda is no more ridiculous or childish than pretending to be a stalwart shaman cow. Or a magical mystical mummy, for that matter.

He wrote:

I *completely* accept that the pandaren might be considered cool by players of a given age range, those of commensurately immature taste, and those who engage them as part of spending time with their kids, and I hope you’re right that those folks enjoy playing the hell out of it. But it’s not for me, play-wise, nor for the adults with whom I game on the regular…Pretending to be a bouncing anime panda-person may not be more ridiculous than pretending to be a shambling mummy, but it *is* more childish, and there’s just no way around that.

Note the pointless zealotry, the refusal to accept that any mature adult might be able to enjoy playing these fantasy creatures, while playing other fantasy creatures is presumably quite adult. Pandaren might be enjoyed by players “of a given age range” or “commensurately immature taste” or those playing alongside their children. He couldn’t just take a reasonable step back and think, “Maybe an adult might enjoy this simply because it’s fun and they get a kick out of it.” He had to insist that an adult who liked this sort of thing was not the proper sort of adult at all.

I replied:

To personalize it, I think the pandaren are cool, and were I still playing WoW I’d be looking forward to playing one. To therefore say that only people of a certain age range or “commensurately immature taste” can find them cool is insulting. I seriously doubt my tastes are any less mature than yours, and in fact the tendency to argue the “maturity” of such things seems to me an immature one.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

But, to be agreeable, I’ll cede your point that making believe you’re a scary monster is much more grown up than making believe that you’re a panda-esque warrior. Because what the hell.

Don’t try too hard to be a grown-up, folks. It’s something that happens naturally in its course, and it has nothing to do with whether you can still have fun or not.

Here’s James McMurty with our song of the week…

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Raise Hell (Song of the Week, 9/14/2012)

If you’ve been with me a while, you know I’m a HUGE fan of singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. She’s got a new album out called Bear Creek, and, because I am a nice guy, I am sharing one of the songs from it for you to thrill to.

Play it loud.

When I Leave Berlin (Song of the Week, 8/23/2012)

Bruce Springsteen recently played to a crowd of 55,000 in Berlin, which was his second biggest crowd there ever. The biggest was in 1998, with the largest crowd the band has ever played for, and it had historic import beyond its size:

Berlin, largely a working class city, has been a special place for Springsteen since his July 1988 concert behind the old Iron Curtain in East Berlin.

Watched by 160,000 people, or about 1 percent of then Communist East Germany’s population, it was the biggest rock show in East German history, and The Boss boldly spoke out against the ‘barriers’ keeping East Germans in their portion of the city.

Some historians have said the concert fed into a movement gaining moment at the time that contributed to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall 16 months later in November 1989.

‘Once in a while you play a place, a show that ends up staying inside of you, living with you for the rest of your life,’ he told the crowd on Wednesday after being handed a poster from a fan thanking him for the 1988 concert. ‘East Berlin in 1988 was certainly one of them.‘” (REUTERS)

As a special treat for the Berliners this time, Bruce and the E Streeters debuted a rousing cover of the song “When I Leave Berlin” by British folk musician Wizz Jones, and that is our song of the week. Enjoy.

Bein’ Green

Tim Byrd
8:00am (about an hour ago)

Start drinkin’ and fightin’. Dance like you’re stompin’ a swarm of bugs. Eat some cabbage. Write some genius poetry. Have freckles and a burn instead of a tan. Keep drinkin’. Wonder where the feckin’ snakes went.

In honor of St. Paddy’s today and the fact that I get to see Springsteen tomorrow (Bruce was nice enough to come to town expressly for my birthday)…

Safe & Sound (Song of the Week, 2/20/2012)

Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars present this hauntingly lovely ballad that seems straight out of old-time Appalachia. It’s the theme song from the upcoming Hunger Games movie, but very much to the makers’ credit the melancholy and beautiful video avoids resorting to film footage.

For the record, I’m a big fan of Suzanne Collins’s series of books and am really looking forward to seeing the film.

More Malone

 

Michelle Malone

In a short back n forth with Michelle after I posted my last post, I told her “All blogs need more Malone.”

Realizing I’d spoken (or, typed actually) a great truth, I decided to try to get my own blog up to code.

Watch, revel, then go get some.

Here’s an engaging and funny performance from 2008:

And here she is reunited with her band from back in the day, Drag the River:

And here she performs with the Indigo Girls: Continue reading