Mr. E Answers Your Mail #1: The Awkward Phase

Dear Mr E,

I would like to be more evil, but I can’t seem to get the hang of it.

I feel silly when I laugh maniacally at things no sane person would

find funny, and sometimes I even find myself saying ‘please’ after

asking my minions to do something. How do you get past the initial

awkward phase when entering upon a course of world domination?

 

Sincerely,

A Confused Evildoer

Dear Confused Evildoer,

Let’s back up for a second, my Anglo friend (I know this because you omit the “full stop” after “Mr.”), and examine your use of language. The way we use language is at least half of what makes us the kind of people we are. For example, have you ever noticed that, when you have this or that foe restrained and ready for the kill, you may talk at length and in (retrospectively) embarrassing detail about your plans? And have you noticed that superheroes can speak in full, properly punctuated paragraphs while punching multiple mutant shark-men into the next county? These are the kinds of language quirks that come with the territory, and that you just have to accept.

What I really would like to address is your use of the word “evil.” You seem to have a weird hang-up about your villainy, so I doubt it’s much of a stretch to guess that you were raised Catholic, or possibly even Anglican, which is, in itself enough to make one want to burn the world to its rims. But you need to let go of that baggage. Evil is, as all great villains know, relative. Is implanting obedience chips in people’s brains evil? Is ruling over a brainwashed populace evil? Maybe to some it is, but is it more evil than a chaotic world full of senseless violence and bloodshed? I think not.

Moreover, evil is a state of mind. You say that you have minions, and if that is in fact true, you are evil enough. It may seem awkward at first, especially if you find yourself being polite when you’d really rather whip and bludgeon and rule with an iron fist. But, some of history’s greatest villains have been polite. If you like, think of it as the calm before the storm: a little civility before the big betrayal. Still, remember what I said before about making peace with your own brand of evil. If evil is what you are, then evil you will always be, the rest is just style. My style involves insane super-science, electric alligators, and mutated shark-men, but if your style is more in the area of planting bombs in orphanages, you need to own that. Make it yours! Carpe diem!

Sincerely,

Mystery Mister E

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Efficiency

The Best Thing Since the Wheel

I once made an argument that the rifled gun barrel was the most important invention in human history since the wheel. Granted, it was somewhat facetious, but still well researched. Unfortunately, since a computer crash ages ago took out many old files, I no longer have the original text, but I will try to piece together the argument and evidence as well as I can from memory. The first thing I am usually asked—before I can even get to it, you impatient bastards—is, “What about the Internet?” And my reply has always been, “Shut your yap. I’m getting there.” (The second thing I’m asked is usually, “Why are you doing this to me?” To which I reply, “Just stop struggling, or I won’t be able to make a clean cut.”)

pictured: cheap suit

Anyhoo, one cannot look at the progression of technology as simply a beneficial agent in the evolution of humanity. To gauge something’s importance we must look at it through the other things it helps bring about. Unfortunately, that puts us in sort of a quandary: where do we start? One might argue that we should start at the invention of gunpowder, clearly a game changer, and certainly the beginning of a new era of human evolution. Counterpoint to that, though, is the notion that gunpowder was around for a couple hundred years before someone figured out a better, more efficient way of killing. While gunpowder certainly made killing easier, it wasn’t necessarily more efficient, and it didn’t particularly change the way people did battle or lived their lives—it was simply a bigger badder version of what was already out there. Soldiers still maneuvered in neat columns, met on prearranged fields, and, when they ran out of shot, they still did much of their battle hand-to-hand. People still lived in more or less closed communities, and while they knew almost everything about a twenty-five-mile-radius circle of the world, events beyond the horizon were often irrelevant. Efficiency, rather than a step up the ladder, was a lateral move that opened up room for much more upward technological movement.

At some point, it became necessary to stop unnecessarily wasting lives by lining men up in fields and having them shred each other with increasingly large weapons. Someone figured out that if you could stand a mile away and shoot the guys operating the man-shredding artillery, you could then just have the rest of your guys walk over and take the territory with a lot less hassle. The other guys, understandably irked by this trend, would develop (or steal) these rifles and then try and shoot the guys who were shooting their artillerymen and officers. And thus was born the sniper: a man separate from the line of battle, who would shoot important targets and other snipers in order to disrupt the enemy lines. This also allowed, in normal life, people to hunt for food over much longer and safer distances than before, with accuracy and killing power that made providing food much easier and much less risky.

Back in battle, though, we now see fewer open columns on open fields, and we see front lines growing farther and farther apart as the range and accuracy of standard infantry weaponry increases. We also see the standardization and mass production (efficiency again!) of ammunition, which allows for such innovations as the machinegun.

Cover is more important if the enemy can hit you easily from several hundred yards away, or can spray hundreds of bullets a minute at you when you get close. In order to flush men out from cover and make them vulnerable to the more accurate rifles and machineguns, artillery adopts the rifled barrel, increasing accuracy and range. But then the enemy starts shielding their locations with new building materials and techniques, some of which have applications in the civilian sector, improving the quality of life for the home base. To penetrate these shielded locations, bigger payloads must be used, which means innovations in explosives technology and in manufacturing and machine building.

With men and equipment spread over a wide area, quick, efficient communication becomes increasingly important. The horse messenger gives way to the telegraph, but since telegraph lines historically follow the railroads, they are a little easy to find and cut. Telephone lines can be put up wherever, and are great until they, too, are cut. Radio is easy, and, as time and technology move on, the equipment for it becomes smaller, lighter, and easy to carry. The main drawback is that anyone can listen to radio signals, so coding has to become a very serious art. Finding a less breakable code becomes more and more important, but there is only so much that a human coder can do in a given amount of time, so we start building machines that can do the calculating and coding for us.

Between wars, these inventions make their way into the public sector, improving the quality of infrastructure, manufacturing, transportation, shipping, medicine, and agriculture. And as a natural extension of the one original change toward efficiency, people finally created the machines that gave rise to the Internet.

None of these creature comforts change human nature, of course, and when we’re back to the job of killing, we’ve got airplanes and rockets, then jets and computerized guided missiles, and then satellites and ICMBs. Battle lines cease to exist, and killing becomes global—because it’s more efficient that way. Losing tens or even hundreds of thousands of men in a single bloody battle may have been the order of the day a couple hundred years ago, when gunpowder was relatively new and running someone through with a sword was the tried and true method of killing, but now, losing a few thousand people over the course of a couple of years is considered a disaster.

Promises, Promises

My pledge to you is that I will bring an end to the needless killing. My innovation is, like the rifled barrel, is a lateral step to a ladder with no top rung. The obedience chip will revolutionize the human race, and if you’ll have me (which you will, gladly, once the chip is installed), I will be its leader.

And, yes, I will put dolphins in your Internet. It’s about damn time.

Story vs. Flash

Today, I would like to talk a little about visual storytelling.

Rehashing what has Already Been Said

Most of you, I’m sure, would agree with the idea that a story isn’t a story without someone to tell it, and that a great story requires a great storyteller. I, for example, could relate to you my trip to the supermarket—in fact, I will.

My manservant and I took the supersonic stealth jet for a jaunt to Super Edwin’s Grocery Emporium because, for some reason, he felt that I would not let him have a moment’s peace until I had ready access to sweet, multicolored cereals, which I could consume while huddling under blankets and watching cartoons. I reminded him, with the aid of a sharp slap to his face, that I am considered a supervillain to many, and that, above all things, I desire order, not peace. Anyway, as I sat in the shopping trolley and he pushed me from aisle to aisle, we encountered Good Brains, a NeoBrain Acolyte™ who had recently undergone some kind of epiphany and had begun a new life as a self-styled superhero. Well, right as I had my Laser o’ Death centered between his eyes, he reminded me that Super Edwin’s is a no-combat zone. So as I traded insults with that pompous little ass, my manservant wheeled me into the cereal aisle, where I pointed out which ones I wanted, Good Brains critiquing each one in turn. The little worm even followed us into the checkout line and made a snide remark about how I wasn’t a real supervillain if I had to pay with coupons. I didn’t retort, though it chafed. I just let him go on and on, until finally in the parking lot, I pulled out my Laser o’ Death and reduced him to ashes. I don’t have to use coupons. I choose to.

 

pictured: sweet revenge

 

Now, that is not a particularly well-told story. The characters are one-dimensional, their motivations are based on a random encounter, and the ending is simplistic. And it is still better than any of the Star Wars prequels. I know that picking on these movies is like punching out a one-legged, cancer-stricken child, so I will not dwell too long here. I will simply point out that their failure, and the failure of many new films has to do with the emphasis of visuals over story. Of course, these films can do well in terms of revenue, because as any supervillain knows, it can be surprisingly easy to distract people with shiny baubles and flashes of color. Culturally and artistically, however, they are as dead as Good Brains.

This kind of critique may seem odd, coming from a man who typically will not inflict such disappointment on himself by seeing such movies. But why go and see Skyline when it was obviously going to be a terrible mistake? When friends would come back from it with horror stories, I felt powerfully psychic, like Doctor Mental. Why go see Tron: Legacy when all I understood from the trailers was that it has colors against a black background? Again, friends came back from it and were initially moderately excited, but now, a couple weeks later, can only seem to muster a defensive “meh.”

Even Avatar, a film I did watch, was just so-so. It got much acclaim for its innovative special effects and its lush visual world. And it also helped spur interest in and sales of 3D televisions, which in my book is marked in the “cons” column, but that topic is for another time. The movie also made big bucks, so it wasn’t a totally bad movie. Let’s look at the story and characters to see why it was only so-so. Because what people do for a living doesn’t necessarily define their characters, I’ll describe some of the characters in Avatar without describing their jobs. Our main character has a physical injury, which he overcomes with technology at the price of betraying a race of people. He also has psychological problems, which he overcomes by trying—too late, some would say—to save those people once his deception has been made public. Our love interest is a young woman with a rebellious streak. Our main bad guy is a guy with no moral center or redeeming qualities: he’s racist to the core, viciously greedy, and unquestioning in the face of a lot of really important questions, such as, “Could the conduct I’m supporting be considered evil?” Our lesser bad guy is also a guy with no moral center or redeeming qualities: he’s racist to the core, viciously brutal, and unquestioning in the face of a lot of really important questions, such as, “Has any historical figure ever been allowed to kill enemy and friend alike with reckless abandon and not, in the end, been hanged, shot, beheaded, assassinated, or forced to commit suicide?” I guess in comparison to these guys, our protagonist really does look like a saint, even after fucking over an entire race of people. Thanks, moral relativism!

Honestly, summing up the characters in that way seems like a cheap shot, but if I can make those kinds of comparisons, maybe the characters are flawed, and not in a narratively interesting kind of way. As I demonstrated in my own tale, above, it’s hard to tell a good story with flat characters. You can make them look as 3D as you want, but one-note characters are still uninteresting.

That is, until you make them into an internet porn sensation.

Junk TV 101: Winter Wipeout

When I started this online diary, I set out not just to give you the latest news from my secret delusional base in the mountains of my psychosis, but also to chronicle some—and I do stress the word “some”—of the wonders of bad television. By bad TV, I do not mean the unwatchable schlock that airs during the day, though watchability is not necessarily a limiting factor, overall. What I’m talking about here is the fast food of the TV world.

One of my guilty pleasures is the ABC show Wipeout. A cross between America’s Funniest Home Videos, Takeshi’s Castle (known briefly in the US as MXC), and Ninja Warrior, Wipeout is an enormous obstacle course on which contestants face largely impossible jumping puzzles, and are thus continually battered and brutalized by giant padded robotic arms. As viewers, we simply turn our brains off and bask in glorious schadenfreude for an hour.

The obstacle course is run in three stages, in which the number of contestants is whittled down to three, and concludes with the Wipeout Zone, which I will discuss in more detail later. Keeping in mind that I am reporting on the second episode of the new season, and that the course changes somewhat from episode to episode, the following is a basic idea of how the game works.

Stage One

The first stage is the O Chem of the show, weeding out all obvious non-hackers, and is more of an excuse to see a bunch of half-formed humans flail around in the water after being bent in half and juiced like obese lemons. In this iteration of the show, Winter Wipeout, round one has some new obstacles. First is Mogul Madness, a zip line that carries the contestant through a series of whirling and undulating bars and horseshoe-shaped contraptions, all designed to separate the contestants from the handlebars, forcing them to swim to the next obstacle.

pictured: Mogul Madness

As always, the second obstacle is the show’s trademark, the Big Balls: four big red, nylon-covered yoga balls on posts sticking about twelve feet out of the water; think four giant red Tootsie Pops all in a row, and you get the idea. Also, from now on, I’d like you just to assume that everything is about twelve feet high. The idea is simple: jump across from one to the next and reach the other side. Unfortunately, the Big Balls are quite bouncy, and tend to get slick after several waterlogged contestants attempt to cross them. This means that contestants, again, end up swimming. (Let it be known that the hosts, John Anderson and John Henson, make all the Big Ball jokes, and since there are none left, I will not attempt to make more.)

stairway to heaven

The next obstacle, the Snowplow Sweeper, consists of a semicircle of about eight or ten two-foot diameter pads spaced about three feet apart. In the middle of the semicircle is a cross of sweeper arms that rotate counter clockwise, and will catch the contestants in the small of the back if they are not fast enough. For this device, think of one of those lawn sprinklers you attach to a hose, but about fifty times bigger. This one is actually my favorite because it reminds me of a classic Mario Bros-style jumping puzzle.

harder in real life

The last obstacle, the Yule Log Jam is, as in almost every other episode of Wipeout, pretty much impossible. In the previous episode, it consisted of two giant, randomly tilting planks, separated by a cross of sweeper arms rotating clockwise so that the arms come down on the contestants as they try in vain to jump from one bucking platform to the next. In this episode, they added yellow, U-shaped, freely pivoting buckles to the middle of each plank, so that, as the platform bucks mechanically, the big yellow bars come snapping down on the contestants like a mousetrap.

As I said before, the purpose of this first course is to eliminate half of about 24 contestants by timing them and taking those with the top twelve times to the next level. It is also the stage in which those contestants get nicknames.

The Contestants

I still, after having watched a lot of this show, cannot figure out if the contestants’ professions or personal stories are real, but once people make it to the second round, those attributes become their identity on the show. When they give someone a decent nickname, you know, that person is going to succeed at least partially. So here are the contestants that made it through this time, starting with the nicknamed folks.

“Stinky Bachelor” David Sego (said he once went two weeks without bathing)

“Master Bowler” Eric Granados (a bowler)

“Unbreakable” Elise Schuetz (when asked by the show’s third host, Jill Wagner, why she wanted to be on Wipeout, she replied, “I kinda wanna know what it feels like to be punched in the face.” And took some of the hardest hits, to boot.)

“Kiddie Party” Katie Fierro (party clown)

“Cool Dad” Steve Brant (because he’s an old-guy dad and crazy manic)

“Latin Lover” Marcos Bellet (pronounced with a rolling R because he’s from Spain, you see)

Jason “Six Toe” Ondo (six toes)

“Broadway Babe” Tiffany Saenz (musical choreographer and director)

Tracy Klein

Ryan Graber

Tony Ruiz

Cheryl Ripp

And here’s what bugs me about this episode: they not only left four contestants un-nicknamed, but didn’t even name a couple of them when they got eliminated in the second round. Can you guess who they are? If I’m going to watch junk TV, I want the people making it to care about and put effort into it. Otherwise, it does become total schlock. It’d be like watching a soap opera in which there aren’t constantly murders, mistaken identities, forbidden love affairs, and characters coming back from the dead, meeting their own clones, and dating their own siblings because they were separated at birth by a mad scientist … which gives me an idea for a weekend project.

Round 2

As you may have guessed, the goal of the second round is to cut the field in half again, this time quickly. So far, in the winter version of Wipeout, this round is the Dastardly Ski Lift, a circle of twelve two-foot diameter platforms that rotate around a central axis. Contestants stand on these platforms and hold onto handlebars that dangle from a cord above and are part of the same rotating system. As the wheel of contestants rotates counterclockwise, two sets of big padded bars, which cut through the vertical area between the pads and the handlebars, rotate counterclockwise, knocking the contestants off the pads. In order to stay in the game, the contestants must hold onto their handles, endure the battering of the mechanically whirling arms, and swing like crazed pendulums without letting go and falling into the water below.

Without actually watching the show, one can imagine that this is very much like dangling people in front of a giant cat, which bats at them until they are all dislodged. The last six to fall into the water move on to round three, and the last one standing gets a thousand dollars, which I assume helps pays for rotator cuff surgery after the show.

With the exception of contestants—Unbreakable Elise being most memorable—getting hurled crotch-first into part of the Ski Lift mechanism, this particular round does not provide the kind of excitement found in previous seasons, mostly because the people are not doing anything other than dangling from the ends of ropes.

So, cutting to the chase, moving on were:

Unbreakable Elise

Latin Lover Marcos

Cool Dad Steve

Broadway Babe Tiffany

Six Toe Ondo

and Master Bowler Erick (whose name apparently gained a “k” after the second round).

Round 3

This is actually a pretty fun obstacle to watch. Called the Seven Letter Word, it is the word “WIPEOUT” suspended a few feet above the water, each letter of which has a different property, starting out easy and progressing in difficulty. The main difficulty contestants seem to have with this is making the three-foot jump from letter to letter while waterlogged, and especially as the letters become slick with water and whatever goo the show staff fires at them from pressurized cannons.

The breaking point in the obstacle is the O, which is a quickly spinning square with rounded corners and waist-high posts on each corner. Even if one can make it onto the O without being clocked by one of the posts, there is still centripetal force that will fling the slippery contestant into the water. It is marvelous to watch as a contestant madly hangs onto a post while their body is projected out horizontally like the cord on a weed whacker.

I was surprised to witness a selfless act in this round, when contestants are so close to the end that occasionally they will jostle or even climb right over each other. Broadway Babe was one of those weed whacker contestants on the O, but Six Toe Ondo jumped on and had his balance in the center. Tiffany asked if he’d giver her a hand, and he crouched down and pulled her up. She jumped to the U—which is a device that simply punches contestants in the face, stomach and crotch as they try to navigate it—and went on to place first that round. Fortunately for ol’ Six Toes, he did finish the course and proceed to the final Wipeout Zone, followed by the Master Bowler.

The Wipeout Zone

The Wipeout Zone is the final course and is, like the opening round, timed. In previous seasons, four contestants would come into the Zone, but it looks like that has been reduced to three for some reason. In any event, the fastest person takes the prize.

The Zone also consists of four general themes. The first one of these is the start, in which the contestant is launched into the water near the first obstacle so that all contestants start out wet. In this version, it’s the Bobsled Blastoff, and behaves kind of like an aircraft carrier’s catapult.

The second is usually a climbing puzzle on a moving object or set of objects. This Zone’s climbing puzzle is the Icy Stairway from Hell, three sets of ascending stairs, a middle plateau, and three sets of descending stairs, the lowest point of which is about twelve feet above the water. Each set tilts about ten degrees and is slick with either actual ice or something roughly approximating ice, which still makes them only half as treacherous as any outdoor stairway in Boston during the winter. Contestants have had universal difficulty with the stairs, and in this episode, it chews up a lot of time.

amateur hour

The next obstacle is a spinning obstacle, usually something that requires the contestant to navigate a platform that spins in one direction while obstacles rotate at them from the opposite direction. In this case, it’s the Frostbite, in which contestants must cross a platform that rotates counterclockwise around a central vertical axis, while dodging vertically hanging bars attached to spokes that rotate clockwise on the same axis. This has been the easiest of all obstacles this season, in contrast to the spinning puzzles in the first three seasons, which usually made or broke people’s chances to win.

The last obstacle is a timing puzzle, this season the Sinister Snowflakes, and consists of two rounded hexagons, one next to the other, that spin clockwise like wheels and have a peg (each about as long as a human is wide) protruding horizontally from each vertex. The idea is that the contestant jumps onto one peg, rides it over the top of the arc, jumps onto a peg on the next wheel, and rides it to the finish platform. Tired and slick, players tend to have a little bit of trouble with this, but nothing that they can’t figure out after a few tries. Broadway Babe Tiffany had no trouble with this, but had such a hard time on the stairs that she finished with a time of 19:13. Master Bowler had trouble on the stairs, too, but was too fatigued to navigate the snowflakes in time, and was eliminated. Six Toe Ondo, had a little trouble on the stairs, but blew through the course, figured out the snowflake after a few go ‘rounds and won, cutting Tiffany’s time in half.

Final Thoughts

You may be asking yourself, “Why is he simply reporting this? Why is this twice as long as his other posts? Who the fuck cares?”

My answers, in order, are: because I’m chronicling junk TV, because I needed to set out the general setup of the game so future posts on this show can be shorter, and no one. Did you actually read this far?

Frivolities

Normally, before I jump into the topic of the day, I like to give the news in brief from My Secret Mountain Hideaway, but today I’m jumping right in because there are some ideas that are occupying too much space in the collective consciousness. Instead of paying attention to my impending takeover, people are obsessing over these trivial bits of thought candy.

Pay attention!

1. The World is Coming to an End in 2012

Unless you have somehow replaced your brain with the actual stone Mayan calendar upon which so much hype has been based, you know that this is simply silliness. You will spend the end of 2012 getting drunk and dancing to Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” probably while wearing ironic sunglasses to shield your eyes from the massive solar flares. And you will wake up in 2013 on a cold operating table with a brand new behavior chip implanted in the base of your skull.

I don’t mean to telegraph my evildoings, but my top scientists assure me that unless you are Doctor Mental or any of his NeoBrain Acolytes™ (fabulous party last weekend, by the way), your attention span is so short that, even now, you may not remember why you are reading this. But fret not, my future minions: those same scientists are currently developing an app for that. Free behavior chip included!

Anyway, the banality of this whole apocalypse thing disturbs my sensibilities, but I feel the need to prove a point, which is this: just because the stone calendar of a doomed culture stops at a certain time, does not mean that the end of the world follows. My computer clock’s maximum range is December 31, 2037, but unless I use one of the several doomsday machines I have lying around here (New Year’s Resolution: keep better track of doomsday machines), the world will keep spinning into 2038.

There must be a deeper meaning to this!

Just about every culture has its end-of-the-world scenarios, and every few years, someone finds some combination of numbers that look pretty. It’s enough to make even the maddest of scientists wonder why people have such a desire for the end of the world. Sure, we create machines to bring it about, but honestly, they’re mainly decorative.

Also, if Ashton Kutcher is making any pronouncements about, well, anything, it is definitely benign.

2. Movie A Beats Movie B in the Box Office

This just in from the news ticker: True Grit beat out Little Fockers in the weekend box office rankings this weekend. While I struggle to contain my impulse toward a sarcastic remark, I will allow you a moment to do the same.

I know, I'm shocked, too.

Ready? Good. Without saying anything too heady or judgmental about either film, let’s pretend that these two movies are runners in a race. (A race to where? Who the hell knows.) Runner A is seasoned and trained, relatively speaking, but runner B is fresh and new to the scene, and has the advantage of having swallowed a fistful of steroids and pep pills that morning. The starting gun fires, and they take off. Runner B shoots ahead, with runner A trailing close behind. Unfortunately, runner B is not a trained athlete, and soon starts to lag, runner A soon takes the lead, and wins the race, while runner B staggers off to the side of the track to vomit up the performance-enhancing drugs it had gulped down just to make it to the race. When the results of runner B’s blood test comes back from the lab, it shows that runner B should have died before reaching the track, and that his blood was so corrosive that it ate through the lab bench, melted the floor, and killed three of the cafeteria staff in the basement.

These two movies aside, the argument can be made that good writing and filmmaking will tend to triumph over obvious schlock. This argument, of course, is completely invalid in the summer blockbuster season, when black becomes white, up becomes down, and I occasionally do community service work. Pro Tip: zombies only last so long before rotting; if you can’t use them effectively before their expiration date, use them to gain misplaced admiration from the general populace.

3. ________ is Gay

This one is short, because it consists of one idea. If you have enough time and mental space to focus on who is and is not gay, unless you are noting that for a future dating idea, you really need a hobby. In fact, several positions just opened up in my workforce. Email me if you are interested and don’t mind having a behavior modification chip installed in your skull.

If, however, you would like to wait until the chips become mandatory, keep on making everyone else’s business your own, but know that in the future, you won’t care.

Get a head start on it now, if you like. It will make the transition smoother.

Let’s Get This Over With

Jumping onto the Tail End of the Bandwagon

So I had a weird supervillain dream again. My arch nemesis asked me, as I slowly lowered him into the pit of electric alligators, what I thought of WikiLeaks and the debate surrounding it. This was clearly a pathetic stalling technique, but somehow it worked. I stopped just long enough to tell him that his pathetic stalling techniques wouldn’t work on me—which apparently was the precise amount of time he required to make his escape, using what I can only describe as unconventional shoes. I shall not make that mistake again.

As I lay curled in the fetal position and wrapped in my silken duvet, bemoaning my defeat, I could think only of the secret agent’s parting taunt: “Until next time, my oldest foe!” I had my late manservant wheel in the video communicator and situate it next to the bed, so I could call my colleague, Heavy Shark. It comes as no surprise, I suppose, that Mr. Shark was not much help in this matter, having just suffered his second defeat at the hands of The Brick Shithouse, a relative minor league defender of truth, justice, blah, blah, blah. He did offer me one helpful piece of advice. “You gotta have a readymade answer for all that shit, man,” he said. “That’s how I beat The King and his Pawns of Virtue. God, what a buncha smartasses.”

So, mister secret agent, know that from henceforth, you must choose your pathetic stalling techniques wisely, or suffer horribly! In the meantime, if you were at all interested in my actual response, I do have something to say, which you cannot interrupt with your various insidious articles of clothing.

WikiLeaks is and always was benign. That is to say, it is neither a force for good or for evil: it is basically a service provider. Much like the Internet on which it exists, it provides a vault of information for which, in earlier times, a person would have had to do some serious digging. Its accessibility in a single virtual place doesn’t change the fact that the information would be out there, regardless. There has been much ado over the notion that journalists have published some of the documents found on WikiLeaks—documents, it should be noted, that were deemed more or less innocuous. In the past, a journalist would have had to physically obtain such documents from a person who was just itching to leak them, and then digitize them for print. Or have that person email the documents. In either case, there would then be a copy somewhere out in cyberspace.

In any organization, governmental or commercial, there has never been a shortage of people dissatisfied or disturbed by reality of the business. Neither has there been a lack of people looking for revenge, momentary fame, or a quick buck. And then there are the do-gooders, the pubescent know-it-alls masquerading as adults, who feel the need to point out your every minor fault to the entire world. Sure, maybe you killed a few civilians through reckless negligence, or because maybe you just don’t give a rip, but who doesn’t nowadays? And, yes, maybe it rattles the sensitivities of a fragile few, but seriously, what are they going to do, charge you with war crimes? How quaint.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter: most of the documents on Wikileaks are either dated, relatively unimportant, or are already common knowledge. If spies were being outed and intelligence operations were being interrupted, I wouldn’t have to feed secret agents to sharks on a regular basis, because they (the agents, and consequently, the sharks) would have better things to do. So who, exactly, is being harmed here? Since it seems that roughly three quarters of government is keeping up appearances, I’d have to say that the PR people are the ones who suffer. Sure, some other country might try to get some leverage on you by calling you a bunch of baby killers, but that’s amateur hour compared to your election process. So don’t worry too much. Embarrassment is merely that. As long as you say you’re sorry, everything will be all right.

Someone, not me, once said that the secret is only as good as the person keeping it. If you’re still worried about the security of your state secrets, try getting better people. Failing that, impose greater restrictions on information that you actually care about, and heftier penalties for releasing said information. If that, too, fails, you can restrict the movements and discourse of your general population so they wouldn’t know how to leak a secret if they knew they had one. And if even that fails, you can do what I do and occasionally throw random lackeys into a volcano because they “looked at you funny.”

Fear is a powerful motivator, but if you’re still finding leaks, I’m selling some really great obedience chips.

I’m practically giving them away.