Hey guys! We’ve got a short one this week, but don’t worry, because it’s bad enough for 3 chapters. No need to worry about a dearth of material here!
When my friend Will read my blog post for the last chapter, he bet me that there was no way they’d get to Amsterdam before Chapter 11. Green would drag it out much longer than that, because he has no idea how pacing works.
I desperately wish I could say he lost that bet.
Well, if we’re not going to Europe, what are we doing? Not much, it turns out.
The day before we left for Amsterdam, I went back to Support Group for the first time since meeting Augustus.
One sentence in and I can already tell that we could’ve skipped this chapter and missed nothing of value.
It’s been a while since she’d gone, so tragically some people have left the group. Sunshine responds to this news with her usual generosity of spirit:
Twelve-year-old leukemic Michael had passed away. He’d fought hard, Lida told me, as if there were another way to fight. Everyone else was still around. Ken was NEC after radiation. Lucas had relapsed, and she said it with a sad smile and a little shrug, the way you might say an alcoholic had relapsed.
Yep. That’s all we get from her. And this “I don’t care about anyone whose bones I don’t want to jump” attitude gets really irritating in this scene. Even more so than usual, I mean, which is no small feat.
At least Isaac is there, so she can pretend to have compassion for others:
He wore sunglasses and clung to his mom’s arm with one hand, a cane in the other.
“Support Group Hazel not Monica,” I said when he got close enough
Seriously, what was the point of reminding him of the girl who recently dumped him? It can’t have been that long since “the night of the broken trophies,” as she refers to it, and there’s no reason to believe that Monica would be at the Support Group, so what was the point of bringing it up?
But Sunshine can’t go too long without once again talking about herself, so we learn nothing about Isaac’s painful emotional and physical recovery. Who cares, right?
“Okay. Glad to be home, I guess. Gus told me you were in the ICU?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Sucks,” he said.
“I’m a lot better now,” I said. “I’m going to Amsterdam tomorrow with Gus.”
This exchange is kind of hilarious to me, because it illustrates exactly how stupid going on this trip so soon after being in the hospital is. If you’d missed the last several chapters,
you’d be extremely lucky it would have to be a bit of a shock to go from “I almost died” to “lol it’s okay time for a vacation!!!!” in 2 lines of dialogue.
“I know. I’m pretty well up-to-date on your life, because Gus never. Talks. About. Anything. Else.”
Well, that’s convenient. Now they don’t have to actually talk to each other. Isn’t it nice when the plot smooths over every single rough spot for you, allowing you to sail through without expending any effort?
But now we’re at the part that makes me froth at the mouth with pure rage: Support Group itself.
I fell into the routine of Support Group: communicating through sighs with Isaac, feeling sorry for everyone in the room and also everyone outside of it, zoning out of the conversation to focus on my breathlessness and the aching.
Okay, it’s time for some real talk here. As much as you guys might think I’m perfect and amazing in literally every way —
— I actually go to a weekly therapy group for sufferers of depression, anxiety, and general low-self-esteem-sad-feelings. I’m a huge proponent of group therapy, and some of the most profound moments of my life have been in that small, overheated room with not enough windows, listening to a group of girls share their greatest fears, emotions they don’t know how to handle, and all sorts of other painful crap you don’t want to experience.
And it’s absolutely beautiful because you know you’re not alone.
The essential element of any support group is the feeling that you can trust the people you’re with not to judge you, and to listen and care about the struggles you’re going through. That’s the entire point of support groups, and the fact that Sunshine here so blatantly disrespects the other members is sickening.
Let me be clear, for those of you who aren’t sufficiently pissed off at Hazel’s behavior: If you cannot listen with compassion and respect to the other people in a therapy group, YOU DO NOT BELONG IN THAT GROUP. You are hurting the people there who do need the support, you’re hurting yourself by not engaging with your emotions, and no one is winning. Just get out, and for goodness’ sake don’t expect us to applaud your smug self-absorption and lack of kindness!
Sorry, that’s just really infuriating. But don’t worry — it gets worse!
It was Lida the Strong. Lida in remission. Blond, healthy, stout Lida, who swam on her high school swim team. Lida, missing only her appendix, saying my name, saying, “Hazel is such an inspiration to me; she really is. She just keeps fighting the battle, waking up every morning and going to war without complaint. She’s so strong. She’s so much stronger than I am. I just wish I had her strength.”
“Hazel?” Patrick asked. “How does that make you feel?”
I shrugged and looked over at Lida. “I’ll give you my strength if I can have your remission.” I felt guilty as soon as I said it.
“I don’t think that’s what Lida meant,” Patrick said. “I think she . . .” But I’d stopped listening.
Are you kidding me?! Instead of being shocked or moved that someone who seems so strong really isn’t, allowing for a moment of empathy or even humility, Sunshine is a disgusting human being. I don’t know why I expected anything different, but Lida’s speech is a genuinely powerful one, and this is our heroine’s response?
And don’t even try with that pathetic little “I felt guilty” nonsense, Green. If she actually felt sorry, she’d apologize, or at least listen to the reasons why she’s wrong, but noooooo, she’s too arrogant to even entertain the possibility that someone as wishy-washy as a counselor could have something to share with her brilliance, and instead zones out because learning is only important for lesser beings who don’t already know everything.
Like I said, sickening.
After the prayers for the living and the endless litany of the dead (with Michael tacked on to the end)
Would you at least try to care? Just a little bit?
Lida immediately rushed up to me full of apology and explanation, and I said, “No, no, it’s really fine,” waving her off
Considering you’re the one who ought to apologize, that was a pretty ungracious response. I’ve only seen Lida for 5 seconds and I already like her more than you.
Though, to be fair, Sunshine has some charitable feeling towards the mortals who infest her life:
I felt bad for him [Isaac]. Even though I hated the sympathy people felt toward me, I couldn’t help but feel it toward him.
Ugh, what a weak attempt to justify her nastiness. Another little tip, Green: telling us she feels things means nothing if it doesn’t result in actions corresponding to said emotions. Otherwise you’re just spouting crap without any evidence to back it up, which is, as they say in the science world, “totes stupid.”
Show, don’t tell. There’s a reason English teachers always say that.
Anyway, she goes to Isaac’s house to “play” a “video game.” No, those aren’t quotation marks implying anything untoward; I just don’t think what they do qualifies as gaming, because as I’ve mentioned before, Green doesn’t really get how video games work.
So he asked for the remote. I gave it to him, and he turned on the TV and then a computer attached to it. The TV screen stayed black, but after a few seconds a deep voice spoke from it.
“Deception,” the voice said. “One player or two?”
“Two,” Isaac said. “Pause.”
You see, it’s an entirely voice-based game, requiring no controller or anything, which I would assume takes any semblance of fun right out of it, except if other people came in to try and mess with your voice commands.
I literally can’t imagine any non-trolling reasons why anyone would want to play this, but since I’m far from a serious gamer, I thought I’d ask one of my friends to give me a hand with explain why this is a very stupid game.
Remember Will, of the Amsterdam bet?
Turns out he had quite a few thoughts about why this part of the chapter is so stupid. You can read everything he had to say here, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to include some of my favorite parts.
[NOTE: Will’s comments will be in bold to differentiate from myself or Green.]
Let’s do this!
“Unpause,” Isaac said.
“Player one, identify yourself.”
“This is player one’s sexy sexy voice,” Isaac said.
“Player two, identify yourself.”
“I would be player two, I guess,” I said.
Right off the bat, any game dev, programmer, or really anyone who thinks about how things work will be asking questions such as “what if the two people sound similar, like siblings?” or “can it really identify a voice from seven words?” or “why am I doing this to myself?” But it’s easy enough to push those niggling doubts aside for now and keep reading.
Will might be willing (hah, pun) to let stuff like that go, but nitpicking is the order of business here at The Drunk Librarian, so I’m more than happy to declare this stupid.
And here we get to the good stuff: Isaac points to the TV, Tickle Me Hazel asks it if there’s a light switch and it just says “No.”
So, here’s the thing about computers: they’re pretty bad at parsing natural languages (e.g. English.) You can take a look at old text-based adventure games like Zork, some of the first games for personal computers. In it, you’d get a similar situation than Gunnery Sergeant Jose Chaos and Corporal Ronaldo Roberts have gotten themselves into. However, this is what the interaction looked like:
Sure, you can type “I enter the window,” but the game just ignores “I” and “the.” If you want to do anything complex, you’re pretty out of luck, and asking it questions is like giving a child Finnegans Wake. A programmer would have to either code something in that says “if someone says ‘is there a light switch?’ say no,” or they would have to come up with this ridiculous text-parser that figures out whether the sentence contained “light switch,” whether it was a question, and whether the question was whether it exists. In short, it’s either the fifth circle of hell for programmers, or it’s pathetically easy to trip incorrectly (e.g. “Man, I wish there was a light switch.” “No.” “What?”)
But Sunshine and Isaac stumbling their way through a terribly-coded game that kept accidentally killing them or getting them lost or whatever wouldn’t be very entertaining. Wait, no, that would be hilarious. Why didn’t Green just do that instead?
The two of them play for an hour, feeling their way through their Ukrainian prison cave “more than a mile beneath the ground.” They’re led forward by river sound effects and the sounds of people talking, but the screen remains black. This might sound fun on first blush, but how the hell do you mix up feeling around a cave for an hour when it’s controlled only by your voice? There’s no controller to speak of, and no visuals to go off of, so it’s not like they can encounter a jumping puzzle or anything like that. They’re gonna spend sixty minutes listening to this game tell them the wall they’re touching feels cold and hard, and that it sounds like there’s some water in the distance.
Soooo . . . basically they’re playing Myst?
But finally the monotony is broken by the cries of a prisoner.
“Pause,” Isaac said. “This is when Gus always insists on finding the prisoner, even though that keeps you from winning the game, and the only way to actually free the prisoner is to win the game.”
“Yeah, he takes video games too seriously,” I said. “He’s a bit too enamored with metaphor.”
. . . What?
How do either of those things match what Isaac described? If it’s apparently as cut and dry as Isaac makes it out to be, then it sounds like Gus isn’t taking it too seriously at all, unless he thinks he’s going to skip the majority of the game (I hope the game is longer than an hour, or else that’s a mighty waste of money) and find them. And about him being too enamored with metaphor, again, it sounds like the complete opposite is happening. He’s locked into some ridiculous linear reasoning that says if he can hear the prisoner, he MUST be savable. If he cared about metaphor, he’d understand that maybe the cries are symbolic of an ultimate goal.
What my buddy here doesn’t understand is that the point of this line isn’t to make any logical sense, but to illustrate once again how perfect Mr. Psycho is. He cares so much about the lives of others that he has to save even digital ones, despite it defying common sense! His heart is just too big!
They have a brief chat about Sunshine being afraid to hurt Gus, but it’s nothing we haven’t already heard 3 or 4 times, so we’ll close with Sunshine’s final words of the chapter:
“To be fair to Monica,” I said, “what you did to her wasn’t very nice either.”
“What’d I do to her?” he asked, defensive.
“You know, going blind and everything.”
“But that’s not my fault,” Isaac said.
“I’m not saying it was your fault. I’m saying it wasn’t nice.”
No, we don’t blame Isaac for going blind, we blame him for expecting his girlfriend to stay true to a hormonal promise they made in high school, and believing that true love means demanding people to do what you want them to! As much as I appreciate someone telling Isaac he’s being a jerk, you kind of missed the point. Besides, it’s only been a few days; you couldn’t have waited to say this until the wound wasn’t quite so raw?
Phew! Didn’t I tell you we’d have a lot to talk about, even though the chapter is so short? Always trust Green to deliver, kids.
See you next week, when we’ll finally make it to the airport! YAAAAAAAY!