RANGER AGAINST WAR: Buying the Farm <

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Buying the Farm

Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.

Land spreadin' out so far and wide

Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

--Green Acres
, Vic Mizzy

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie

-- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth
-- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic
--John F. Kennedy

Turning Japanese

I think I'm turning Japanese

I really think so

--Turning Japanese
, the Vapors

FarmVille.com's come-on is, "Grow delicious fruits and vegetables and raise adorable animals on your very own farm!" Except it isn't your farm -- it's a virtual farm in the ether.

But if you buy into it, you will fritter away precious hours harvesting those ersatz blueberries in your futile quest for money and satisfaction. Strawberries grow in four hours; eggplant, two days. So unless you buy into the Perelandra paradigm, real life this ain't.

FarmVille is currently the most popular Facebook application, with over 60 million subscribers. In a real life nostalgic for the ideal, Washington farmer
Donna Schoonover says of her particpation in the simulacra farming, "This was a way to remind myself of the mythology of farming, and why I started farming in the first place" (To Harvest Squash, Click Here.) Farm Town, MyFarm and Farm Life are other, less popular, online farming games.

Self-described "Hardcore player" Becky Roberts, 49, plaintively says "they will die if you don’t tend to them," which is why she "sometimes set[s] her clock at night to make sure she tends to high-maintenance plants at two-hour intervals"
(Facebook's 11 Million Farmers.)

Adam Nash on his site Psychohistory plots out the game dynamics in,
The Personal Economics of FarmVille. He says most people play for coins, but a few are playing for experience points, which he ignores in his tabulations, obviously a lesser goal.

The Pet Rock was a wonderful spoof of the self-absorption of the Me Decade, which hadn't the time for such trivialities as tending to the needs of others. Ditto the Chia Pet, which did however require some sporadic watering (but little else).

In 1996 the Tamagotchi
pet was introduced -- really, a brightly colored plastic egg with three buttons which would allow the owner to feed, play, clean, or ascertain its "age, discipline, hunger, happiness and other statistics." With neglect, your Tamagotchi would die, a source of deep shame.

AIBO (Artificial Intelligence robot, homonymous with pal in Japanese) was introduced by Sony in 1999, but discontinued in 2006. It was a brief venture into AI in which the AIBO owner could "teach" the robotic dog certain commands, without having the inconvenience of feeding or scooping poop. As with a Tamagotchi, if one got bored, AIBO could be switched off and banished to a corner.

So why the fascination with virtual pets and plants? It's a beautiful day, and I can't wait to go out. Is it that people do not want to dirty their hands? Do they yearn for connection, but not so much so that they are willing to take on all that true commitment requires?

Do they they feel they will fail, and there is less grieving involved in the death of a Tamagotchi? The burial -- an unceremonious toss on the rubbish heap, is certainly easier and less costly and time-consuming than the real thing.
After all, a new and updated model awaits.

Why would one connect with the simulacrum when the real awaits?

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you already alluded to the "why" of all this weird virtual childish play. It's another boredom alleviating phantasy for the soft, spoiled, immature, empty headed bourgoise that comprise a considerable proportion of our population; more heavily weighted toward the urban/suburban centers.

These people sit in dreary cubicles/offices all day then return home to white picket fence subdivisions and the kids' soccer games. Their heads and spirits are empty; just waiting to be filled by some politically correct nonsense from the news media, or a sportscaster or some virtual something or another than can be indulged in (and quit) on a whim from climate controlled comfort....

....it's all about being decent sheep, being good members of the herd, staying clean and cozy and safe and being accepted socially. And about coddling the ego.

They are told what to think and do and they parrot this. They recognize and accept each other based on the parroted messages. This is how they like it.

These sheep fear the realities of life and readily consume whatever opiate - actual or methaphorical - that shelters them from it.

Real farming will kick your ass. As you know, real animals will present real ugly problems. Dummy foal? I've put some down; a heart breaker each time. I've helped dice up some contracted foals to get them out of the mare. Blood splatter everywhere.....in breaking two years olds I've been thrown, kicked, bitten and otherwise just plain hurt.

I spent all day yesterday mucking out stalls. Today mending fences before the freeze sets in. In Upstate New York keeping the horses healthy and in reasonable condition throughout the winter is an epic struggle at times. Not complaining, nor boasting. Just stating facts.

Real farming means really moving the focus from one's one little ego comfort needs to the greater needs of crops and and animals. It also means consistently being a decent honest person in interactions with neighbors and fellow farmers; again, putting one's self aside to help others even if inconvenient - not playing at it, but actually doing it - because no one can make it on their own in the farming business. There is - must be - true communal reliance. All of this is beyond the character capacity of the typical college educated puke raised on the new American myth.

Wow......felt good to get that off my chest. Didn't really know it was there. Thanks.


Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 2:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Lisa,
What a concept! I never knew such a thing cyber-existed. If only we could get the Pentagon to become hooked on Warville, maybe we could end the PWOT and pull this country out of its tailspin.


Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 7:29:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Not sure but whether we talked about this one, Lisa, this strange replacement for real life that seems to have spread throughout so much of the cyberworld seems to be connected directly to what Avedis was saying about real farming.

Farming takes brains, guts and heart. It's tough, demanding work that provides real rewards for the life you put into it.

Most of us sit inside and make paper words into a paper world, a secondhand sort of self-referential world that lacks almost everything - good and ill, rough and smooth - that the land and its creatures bring with them.

So perhaps that's the point behind this silly cyberfarming. The idea of producing something other than reams of paper bumf. The notion that the entire enterprise is even less real than the office work the "farmers" are fleeing appears to be getting lost in translation.

Just finished a piece of genre fiction where one of the characters comments how the people of his - our - world seem to be increasingly unable to simply live their lives; everything is self-observed, everything has a sort of secondhand quality. Even for that, I agree that this nonsense pushes the bounds of nonsense.

Good post.

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 12:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for telling us the truth, as you live it. Interdependence, and the need for subordinating the greedy whims of the self to the needs of the whole, is what makes for a successful enterprise. Too many today seem to thrive on selfish and trivial pursuits, and lack for fellow feeling. They are soft and empty, and a marketer's dream.

Are you familiar with Verlyn Kilnkenborg ("The Rural Life")? He writes essays for the NYT which I often enjoy.


Interesting observation on people being "unable to simply live their lives." In our Dilbert world, we have become so removed from the actuality, the referent, that we strive to create its facsimile, in the process becoming ever more remote and unmoored.

It would seem the people willing to trade time on FarmVille value that more than real interaction with real plants or people. I wonder how it impacts their actual relationships?

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 4:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


WarVille -- oh that it were so. Guess it's more interesting to send actual G. I. Joes off the Risk board.

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 4:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa, no, I'm not familiar with Verlyn Kilnkenborg, but I will see if I can find the book you suggested.

BTW, that comment about college "pukes", was meant to refer to subset. Obviously there are decent folks that are well educated. I myself hold a masters degree in economics and I have worked in some of those offices in the healthcare insurance sector.


Monday, November 9, 2009 at 6:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger sheerahkahn said...

heh, the only online game I like that has any resemblence to real life is Pandemic II.
Now that is a game which could be expanded out to be an excellent teaching too.

evolutionary biology my friends, natures form of biological warfare.

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 6:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Right-on, Sheerah. I may develop this idea.

From ScienceDaily, on biologist Rafe Sagarin's analogy of pathogenic behavior to terrorist threats:

"Sagarin is also the editor of 'Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World' (University of California Press, 2008), which convened a national committee of experts from related fields like biology, anthropology, and virology, as well as security, psychology, and math to think about ways that Homeland Security could act more like an immune system and less like a tough-talking Texas sheriff."


Klinkenborg writes illuminating essays on farm life.

Your comment on college pukes was well-taken.

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 7:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll be the devil's advocate. i think what we might be seeing is too many people that have been non/mis-educated and basically are finding themselves more and more useless everyday. while i understand people being "i've been farming for 20 years and i do this and that and these "people" just sit around all day and shit" (trust me, i understand how you feel), what do you do in reality for people who have been brought up to do presently useless things in a world that has been set-up for uselessness and waste (where waste can no longer be tolerated)? what happens to these individuals psychologically. Basically, we're taking a few million city/cubicle "5th ave" folk and trying to turn them into scientist and farmers and nurses. this is gonna be tuff. ahhh, video games!!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 9:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon devil's advocate, I think you make a good point. What to do with all these people? I really don't know.......

I wan't raised to be a corperate paper pusher. Uncle Sam offered me the education and I was interested in the course of study. Then I thought I could use the education and live with a foot in both worlds (corporate and farming). I tried for many years to make this work for me and my family. Aside from the constant intense time/energy demands, in the long term I couldn't make it work because the corporate culture inexorably tried to suck the soul out of me and I wearied of the battle to prevent this.

I did however gain useful insights into the psychology of life long office folks. I am very certain that, for several important reasons, most people of that genre cannot be re-tooled to work in a radically different sector of the economy.

So what to do..........? The current generation is probably lost and video games and reality TV and Prozac will have to suffice. Their children? We will have to indoctrinate them into the myth of the perpetual war and hope they all volunteer to become soldiers of the empire.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 5:22:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Lincoln said we would be lost if educated men forewent the use of their hands in meaningful work.

In praise of farming in particular he said,

"This leads to the further reflection, that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so
pleasant to the mind, as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable -- nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 2:33:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Well as someone who milks 50 cows in a tie stall barn twice a day 6 days a week I have to say that sounds a lot easier on the knees, hips and back. But it doesn't sound like it makes very good ice cream.

I was bow-beated into joining FaceBook back in the spring/summer and some of my friends on there got me into that fake farming thing. Heaven knows why! Anyway last I looked the potatoes had all rotted. I don't know if I had anything else planted but it's gone by by now. And if I had animals I'm afraid they all starved and I'm likely to have an arrest warrant there for animal negligence.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 8:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you to you, and Avedis, and all the real farmers for the hard work you do.

I just can't dig why people would want to sit in front of the screen and "farm". Almost every town's got a community garden -- some place you can actually get your hands in the soil, if that's what you'd like to do. This computer stuff seems beyond laughable, and a bit pathetic.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 9:31:00 PM GMT-5  

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