Bagged & Boarded: In Real Life

inreallife In Real Life
by Cory Doctorow (story) and Jen Wang (illustration)
[Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads | Comixology]
Length: 196 pages
Release date: October 14, 2014
Rating: 2/5 stars

A digital ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

tl;dr: Teenage Anda is a girl gamer who gets caught up in Coarsegold, her favorite MMO, where she feels invincible, powerful, and wanted — until she meets Raymond, a poor Chinese teen who also loves Corasegold, and discovers things are not all that they seem. Raymond, it turns out, works illegally within the game to make money on the outside to survive. Lines between right and wrong get blurred pretty quick while Anda balances what she thinks can be done and what the reality actually is. The graphic novel is supposed to address class, ethnicity, and gender struggles within a 196 page format and do it well.

It fails. Horribly, horribly fails.

(By the by, as a book with massive subtext about the wrongs of Chinese factory workers, isn’t it just HILARIOUS the graphic novel itself is being printed in China?)

Review: Our story begins on the morning of Anda’s birthday, where our attention is drawn to that Anda’s family have recently moved to a new city and Anda is the new kid in school. She’s looking for a place to fit in, hence why later she gets so into online gaming. One would think as this is addressed in the beginning, the theme of “belonging” would be central to the story, but surprise! It’s not.

(Interestingly, since this was the setup, imagine the surprise to find Anda hanging out with the geek kids playing D&D during lunch times and after school. Either she’s a loner or she’s not. You need to make up your mind.)

Later that same day in one of Anda’s classes, a random speaker shows up whose sole purpose is to recruit people for MMOs. Now I have questions: Why is Liza the Organiza invited to speak to a high school class? What’s her purpose here? Since when do MMO organizers go to classrooms to recruit players? Especially ones under age who do no thave access to credit card accounts to pay for such things. The only connections why this wouldn’t be weird is a few panels back shows Anda programming in Python — so I guess this is one of her computer classes having a random speaker show up for class? I guess?

The Liza the Organiza starts her organizing — she wants to know how many of the girls in the class game and then how many of them game as girls? Which of course, none of the aforementioned girls who raised their hands in admittance of gaming, raise their hands to admit they game as girls. We already know the long, long history of what happens to girls who game as themselves in the gaming world. So Liza the Organiza puts to them a special deal: Come to this MMO she is a part of, game as a girl avatar, and after a three month trial, you can be part of her EREET SPECIAL GIRL FORCES. FUCK YEAH, BOOBS!

Just so we’re clear: You’re going to entice teenage girls who do not feel safe in general in this online space, but they should put themselves in danger ANYWAY so they can join your guild, without addressing any kind of safe space for them? Are you joking?

And this ends the entirety of the discussion of women in gaming and gender disparity in the gaming world in In Real Life.

(And I’m only up to page 26. Between the front matter, Mr. Doctorow’s 6 pageish ramble on the economics of gaming (which he also was thoughtful to discuss what MMO and other acronyms meant), the graphic novel didn’t start until page 16.)

Anda gets into the game, gets bedazzled by the popularity she receives within the MMO world and then meets Raymond. The storyline limps along, dragging the reader to point out white people should stop being saviors to all the other non-white folk because you know, we keep fucking their world up.

The ending, with all the faux tension being built, was kind of anticlimactic. Like, yay? And oh yeah, Liza reappears again for some strange reason to grant her approval on how things turned out. Liza, you were a pointless character. You should have been axed.

In addition to the massive problems with the storyline, apparently First Second couldn’t hire a continuity editor? After Anda has been grounded from using “recreational Internet,” there is a panel with her watching TV with her laptop on her lap when she gets a IM from one of her MMO buddies for a video chat. Next panel shows Anda in the laundry room video chatting and then she’s like, I TOTES HAVE TO GET BACK ON COARSEGOLD.

Does our heroine just log into the game in the privacy of the laundry room? OF COURSE NOT. SHE GOES TO AN INTERNET CAFE. I mean, honestly? How the fuck do you think video chats work? Through ESP? Seriously! This is a big graff — how could this have been missed through the editing process?

I also have additional problems with the book – like for example, Sarge, Anda’s mentor, walks her through the type of players she’s supposed to kill — who are all Asian. “If they don’t speak English, kill them!” Sarge orders. And the avatars of the Asians they are sent out to kill are all drawn like stereotypes of  Asian farm workers. It’s — a bit bizarre considering one of the purported arcs of this book is about whites colonizing anyone not assumed white within the game, so I suppose you could argue this is why all Asians were drawn to be near identical to the other to prove some kind of racist point? (In fact, to kind of build on this, Anda often gets “confused” on who her buddy Raymond is as she searches for him in the game because — the avatars all look alike, If that is not some white people racist bullshit, I don’t know what is.).

And if the borderline racist attitude isn’t enough, the language did not give the impression of a teenagers figuring shit out and the language didn’t sound like something teenagers say. How can a book that is supposed to capture essence of teens yet sound like it written by a 40 year old man who is far on the wrong side of teenage years? Because it was, that’s why!

The only reason why I gave this dreck two stars was Jen Wang’s art is glorious. If anything, at least the book is pretty to look at.

Lastly, let’s take a real look at the economics of this book — based on the glowing reviews on GoodReads AND based on Doctorow’s reputation as a RIGHTING THE WRONGS HELLRAISER, even with all of obvious problems with this book, it’s going to be a big seller. In the end, is anyone really getting the message Doctorow is badly articulating and selling or do we just care we’re supporting someone who makes the noises to CHANGE THE WORLD while writing things that don’t really support that ideology?


This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 1999

daily walk: pineapple on plinths

Dear Internet,

Consider the pineapple.

In Michigan, where pineapple is definitely not a native fruit, you may think seeing pineapples on plinths at the end of driveways and walkways would seem weird and out of place. So why on earth would those in ye olden days use pineapples decoratively? Why the pineapple and not say a banana, or an apple, or grapes?

Glad you asked!

While the past is a bit murky and conflicting of when pineapples were introduced into the western world, what is clear is that the social history of the pineapple exploded during the Georgian era, as due to their rarity, pineapples were considered luxurious and heavily desired goods. Having access to a pineapple, either by renting it or owning it, cemented the pineapple’s owner of their high status in society. The same pineapple would often appear at numerous dinners, to be admired and never eaten, until the fruit itself went to rot and then the process would start all over again.

England is not the warmest of countries so special techniques were formulated to successfully grow pineapples in English soil in special greenhouses called pinerys.  This of course raised their value even more as only the wealthiest could afford the time and the money to build and maintain what the pinery required.

So how does this connect with pineapple on plinths at the end of a walkway in good old Grand Rapids?


Distance: 1.12 miles
Walk time: 23:20 minutes
Pace: 20:71/mile

Well, it could be a couple of things.

The first is as most of the houses in my neighborhood date back to the mid 1800s, it’s not a leap to imagine a local captain of industry and his family made various Grand Tours to the continent. The wife (or hell, even the husband) saw pineapples used decoratively as they travelled – pineapple as a motif was seen in paintings, china, wallpaper, building design and more. What up and coming Grand Rapids socialite wouldn’t want to be considered the height of European fashion by having her own pineapple plinths?

The second, and probably the most probable, is several social historians suggest that Carib peoples, native to Guadalupe, would put pineapples at the entrance of their village to let visitors know they were welcome at anytime. When Columbus and his dudes took the fruit back to the continent, this same practice started appearing at the entrance European homes. It was also apparently a huge todo here in the colonies to have replica of pineapples built at the entrance of your home to indicate to all that entered  would be given the utmost in friendliness and hospitality.

We’ll never really know the story of the pineapple on plinths for this particular sliver of land in my neighborhood. As the historic register requires all modifications and rebuilds to be period specific to the origin of the house, when a home has been destroyed and cannot be rebuilt for whatever reason, the land becomes  small parks.

And this particular place, all that is left of that once stately home, and the history that once surrounded it, is a pair of pineapples on plinths.


This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 1999

daily walk: pleasant park

Dear Internet,

I am a dilly-dallier.

When my alarm goes off in the morning, there is usually a minimum of two snoozes (18 minutes), then I check the weather to suss out the days outfit. At that point, I should get out of bed, do the walk, and then start the rest of my day. But then I need to figure out my route because I change it up everyday. Then I need to do a hundred different things and instead of getting in a walk at 730AM, it is now 9AM.

Pleasant Park - coming July 14 near you.
Pleasant Park – coming July 14 near you.

Distance: 1.54 miles
Walk time: 31:19 minutes
Pace: 20:25/mile

Pleasant Park is located down the block from Throbbing Manor. It is a city initiative to turn an old parking lot into a 2 acre green space. The project has been plagued with financial problems from the start, since this started before we moved here in January 2011.

Last year we took to the polls to approve a $500 per property owner tax in the adjacent neighborhood, levied over 10 years, to pick up the financial slack. Because of all the setbacks, the park that was to open last year is finally opening this month. We hope. But right now, it doesn’t look like much.

Because of the problems I had yesterday with everything crashing and my phone had been sluggish as hell as of late, I did a restore last night which seemed to have cleared whatever problem was ailing it. I also figured out the sequence of which apps to run when so everything works harmoniously.

Until I got home and saw the Walkmeter recorded my time, but definitely did not record pace or milage.  There was a lot of, “Are you fucking kidding me?” as I stood in frame of the front door.

At least I know how to use a calculator.

When I had my arthritis surgery a few years ago, they cut the fascia of my right tendon in my calf (warning: not for the squeamish) to lengthen it because I was having problems with cramps and locking up when I was doing couch to 5K plans. So now my right calf is like, “I CAN WALK FOREVER,” while my left calf is, “BITCH, PLEASE.”

Thus, when I sorted out two walks this morning figuring I would choose the one at the split on how I was feeling with my left calf. I thought the shorter walk was barely a mile, while the extra few blocks would push me more towards the 1.25 mile. Nope, I was wrong — the first walk was 1.25 while the additional blocks pushed me closer to 1.5 miles. About half way in, the tightness of my left calk was getting pretty unbearable, there was a few times I almost cut the walk short, but after a few more blocks, the pain started to lessen so when I came to the split, I opted for the long way. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw how far I had walked today – – profanity in front of my house of a piece of shit app notwithstanding.

Hey! Looks like the latest Fitbit app update now does the same thing. Sorry, Walkmeter. I am going to have to quit you.


This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2010