OM349 - Magic Eye

This week, Ken and John talk about:

John getting an Oculus headset for Christmas (OM349)

John got a newfangled Oculus virtual reality headset for Christmas. He cleared all of the Barbie houses out of the center of the room and did his moves, but he is not a gamer and a lot of the VR stuff comes from gamer culture. He loves being in a virtual environment, but there is not enough content he understands. He doesn’t want to passively fly over Iceland, he is not that much of a grandma, and he never got into killing zombies.

Ken never had a VR headset, but he put his phone in the Google cardboard thing that came with the New York Times and there would be an app that would put you on Mars, at Niagara Falls, or on a Rollercoaster, like a 1950s Cinerama movie. It was eye-popping that you could do this with just cardboard and the tech you already had. Something about our brain makes us suckers for things happening in 3 dimensions. John’s problem is that he is easily overwhelmed and super-happy to do boring things.

John was trying a game that puts you in a weightless environment where you are throwing frisbees as a form of combat. He was excited watching the training video where they were teaching him how to throw a frisbee through a hoop, but the fact that he was also weightless made him a little seasick and he kept floating over here, which was hard. Realizing that this was just the training video and he was then supposed to enter into a game where other people were going to be was not for him. He just wanted to sit here and cast his fly fishing rod and fish for virtual Trout.

What will keep Ken from being a gamer is that it is now just a multiplayer thing where 10-year olds scream the N-word at you, the stressful adage why he quit his office job. It was the worst! Why did he work at Mel Gibson’s sweat shop?

John thinks that VR and AR are the future and he sees a lot of potential in AR, in the same way that he saw a lot of potential in the Internet 20 years ago. Just imagine what it could be! John keeps waiting for Google Glass to actually be a thing that is not stupid-looking, but it keeps being tantalizingly out of reach. VR feels like it is almost a thing! Maybe it will just be confusing when we don’t know anymore what is real or not? If talking to people without seeing their faces already broke everybody’s sense of social boundaries and grace, imagine what it is going to do when you are actually seeing things in real life and you don’t know what they look like?

John has thought about this a lot. In the future of AR you can make yourself into your own Avatar and - depending on how much you pay - the people that are looking at you in AR are going to see your super-tricked-out self. It is just like in real life where all the very attractive people are also wealthy and they are going to look amazing. You can really be your best Furry self!

Atari 2600 vs IntelliVision vs playing at the arcade (OM349)

In 1978 John did not have an Atari 2600 because his parents didn’t love him as much as Ken’s did. Peter and Chad, two brothers who lived across the street from him had a 2600 and he would go over there and play it, but although he was invited in and was allowed to play he couldn’t just do what he wanted and he wasn’t in charge of what they did next.

By 1980 when the arcades happened John didn’t have enough quarters. Some of the other kids got really good at Defender, but how many quarters would that cost? Half of the Tastee-Freez up on the corner had turned into an arcade. In the 1970s there wasn’t anything in there, not even a pinball machine, and all they could do there was to suck on chili dogs (reference to the lyrics of Jack and Dine by John ”Cougar” Mellencamp). John would go there every day after school and watch the kids play Defender and some of them were truly gifted, but John only had a certain amount of quarters, some of which he would save for a soft-serve ice cream cone.

Both of those things are ephemeral in a way, but they both leave something with you. The soft serve left John with 15 extra pounds that he has been carrying his whole life, but he was actually pretty good at Zaxxon. As the cherry on top his dad bought him an IntelliVision. Ken was always jealous of the IntelliVision kids, they seemed like the knowledgable elite with better graphics, it was the Betamax of video games and was supposedly way better, but the little disc controller would make your thumb bleed if you got serious about it and it was not as ergonomic as the Atari 2600 joystick.

A roll of quarters was $10 and that was a fortune in 1981 and you had to get good at the games. Maybe in a latchkey childhood you would have to pay the neighbor-lady $10 anyway and you could just give it to the kid and have them come home from the arcade at dinner time. He got his Goody Comb in his back pocket, his baseball hat on sideways, and he got a roll of quarters down at the Tastee-Freez.

Ken not being into the Nintendo or into The Sims (OM349)

By the time Nintendo came out Ken was still a kid. For John it felt like stepping back into childhood a little bit, although if he had been a die-hard gamer already he would have been excited about it. It was definitely a thing that your pot dealer had and John at age 19 was struggling mightily not to become a pot dealer. He never got in.

Ken was a little too old when Sims came out. They might have had the very fist Sims on their Apple II (surely not as it came out in 2000 for Windows) or Atari ST (no!) and that game did mystify him. Why was he sitting there, watching this happen, when they had TV where he could put on Perfect Strangers and there would be a big laugh ever 8-15 seconds because Balki is going to do something silly. His Sims were not going to do anything silly! As a TV-raised kid Ken was very skeptical of this kind of passive entertainment.

Minecraft (OM349)

Ken’s daughter is currently playing Minecraft obsessively on the competitive game mode (Survival Mode). He wants to build a house, but she doesn’t have enough of this and has to kill more of these to get to this before she can build the doors he wants in the house, and Ken thinks she should just switch to the dumb LEGO mode (Creative Mode), but for her that is too easy because she needs the adversity in her life.

John doesn’t understand Minecraft as a phenomenon because it just seems like playing with LEGO. Even Myst has better graphics! Go play with LEGO instead! For some there might be an appeal just by the fact that it is in a virtual world. LEGO sit on the carpet, which is cool in a tactile way, but it is also boring because everything sits on a carpet and only your Minecraft house sits on your Minecraft island.

Predator and prey animals (OM349)

Seeing things in 3 dimensions is better than seeing them in 2. It is what put us on top of the food chain. There are two kinds of animals: Predators and prey and the way to tell prey is that their eyes are on the side of their head, looking left and looking right independently. Ken has never seen a horse do this, but maybe there needs to be two of us: You stand on one side of the horse and Ken will stand on the other side and they will yell at each other if the eye goes left or right.

John has been reading Moby Dick recently and it only occurred to him in the descriptions of the whale that a whale’s one eye is 15 feet from the other eye. Their field of vision doesn’t even overlap! The reason prey animals do this is to have a more broader arc vision, they can see all the way from behind them to in front of them. But you can’t just stand in front of Moby Dick and think he can’t see you.

Ken having a much better vision than John (OM349)

Ken has 20/10 fighter pilot vision while John is just a creaky old retired predator who is still wearing the kingly ropes. His lioness brings him food and drags him a carcass every night and brings him a puppy and drops it in his lap. She just brought him a mug of coffee. His depth perception is a little bit flawed and when he reads a book at night he always closes one eye. Ken can see around corners!

Crossing your eyes (OM349)

Ken would go walleyed when adults would yell at him as a kid, make his eyes look in opposite directions to make two of them, make two of the teacher and just drift off. At 4-5 years old he did it to his mom when she was yelling at him and she said: ”Don’t you do that! Don’t you make two of me! I used to do that to my mom and I am not letting you get away with it!” Mom-powers!

Ken is not good at crossing his eyes, he has to look at his nose or something. John can cross his eyes and taught it to his daughter. She is an eye-crossing superstar. Maybe she was sitting too close to the TV and now her eyes have independent motion and she will never be able to be a fighter pilot anymore.

John’s first LSD experience in Girdwood Alaska (OM349)

The first ever time John took LSD he was at a party in an A-Frame cabin in Girdwood Alaska owned by the Fink family where the patriarch (Tom Fink) was one of the mayors of Anchorage. John went alone into some back room that had a wallpaper with a repeating pattern and those patterns were moving and crawling and undulating, which tricked his depth perception and the wall appeared much further away than it was.

Ken’s equivalent was seeing a dolphin in a Magic Eye poster in the early 1990s. His brain was creating something that was not there! John was never able to see the dolphin. He stared at these freaking things, but he could not find anything in there and he felt stupid and excluded. He could only see the fad.

Music that wows you on first listen (OM349)

What is better: The song that is amazing on first listen or the movie that wows you the first time you see it, but is not relistenable or rewatchable, or the song and the novel that grow over the years? John is not susceptible to songs that are only good on first listen. It is part of his training. He does love Bubblegum Pop, but only the stuff that endures. He will still listen to The Romantics - What I Like About You, which is the most bubblegummy Pop there is, it is still great.

Ken always assumed that this was bad art, while that good art would seem difficult at first, but the more time you watch the Michelangelo Antonioni movie and listen to the Bach Partita it would emerge like a blossom. Now he is not sure if he agrees with that anymore. There is so much content now and it is okay if a super-catchy chorus only hooks you for a week because there will be a new one next week. John doesn’t get tired of a super-catchy chorus because he really wants to know more about those that are super-catchy.

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