Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm Not Done Writing

So I just wrote like 3 pages but I'm not done yet.  So I am going to write some more.  This is good though.  I've been writing more fiction recently.  Nothing coherent mostly stuff  on scratch paper on my lunch breaks to get me into the groove of fiction writing again.  National Novel Writing Month is around the corner and I want to participate this year.

I thought I had an idea of a novel all planned out and ready to go.  This is something I wanted to do and I was ready to do it.  Then all the sudden a couple of weeks ago I was like, "but what if I don't".  What if I write something else?  So I've been planning for that.  I want to do a noir style book where a guy starts with a normal happy every day life and then it all gets flipped upside down and by the end of it he's in thick with the wrong crowd but he decides to stay.  Part Black Lagoon, part Sin City, part Fatale, part American Tabloid, part Cold in July, and a dash of creativity.  I hope I like it.  I've decided to write it in the first person.

One of my favorite authors, James Ellroy, once said, "If you don't have an interesting perspective then don't bother with the 1st person.  Just stick to 3rd".  That's always stuck with me and as a result all of my novels and stories have been in the third person,  When he said that he was eluding to White Jazz which is the one book that people seem to hate the most.  It is very different than his other works but man it just drew me in and took me along for the ride.  I loved every page of it and yeah he's right.  If you aren't going to get in your character's head and I mean really get into it then don't fucking bother.  Stick to third person.  I've been trying out various characters in first person and it is a hell of a ride.  Here's an extended quote.  To give you the set up the main character is trying to track down a murderer and set up a prostitution sting operation to help find someone who might know the killer.

"Bluesuits out in force: popping tricks, impounding trick cars.
Prostie vans behind Cooper's Donuts; Vice bulls bagging IDs. Men stationed southbound and northbound- hot to foil sex prowlers hot to rabbit.
My perch: Cooper's roof.  Ordnance: binoculars, a bullhorn.
Dig the panic:
Johns soliciting whores-cops grabbing them.  Vehicles impounded, van detainment- fourteen fis bagged so far, prelim Q&A:
"You married?"
"You on parole or probation"
"You like it white or colored?  Sign this waiver, we might cut you loose at the station."
No Lucille K.
Some clown tried to run- a rookie plugged his back tires.
Epidemic boo-hoo- "DON'T TELL MY WIFE!" Leg-shackle clangs-the prostie vans shook.
Luck-whores mixed fifty-fifty: white gils, coons.  Fourteen tricks arrested- all Caucasian.
Panic down below: Shriners bagged en masse.  Five men, fez hats flying- a whore grabbe one and pranced.
I hit the bullhorn: "We've got nineteen! Let's close it down!"

This along with the description of Catch-22, just before the execution of  Colonel Aureliano Buendia, and a certain passage out of Nightwood make up my pantheon of favorite literary moments.  Anyway you see what I mean by making first person work and I mean really work.  It isn't worth it unless you get into someone's head.  Someone who think and acts differently than you.  I'm not going to go quite that far.  I am going to use him as kind of an unreliable narrator.  He is also going to undergo some signifigant changes.  If I take the time to do it right the style of writing would be different from the first and second half of the book but it is NaNoWriMo so what will more than likely happen is that I'll just be frenzily hammering out the plot.  Speaking of the plot I have the beginning and the end pretty well thought out and part of the first part of the middle.  So I am actually pretty excited about this novel.  I hope it turns out well.  Last years novel was fun but easy.  I set it in an rpg universe and while I had a blast writing it and it turned out surprisingly well it wasn't challenging.  It was the most complex plot I've ever tackled but still it all clicked together a little to well.  That said I do very much want to edit it up and do something with it.  This one I am really looking forwards to.

They say not to compare yourself to others and just do your own thing but Gérard de Villiers wrote 3 novels a year for most of his life.  Granted they aren't very good but they certainly are fun to read which is all he wanted really.  It gives you pause to think.  Anywho the self comparison always inspired me to do better and reach for more and not be to self satisfied which is something I am prone to.  However, I have fits of depression that make getting out of bed and not being cruel to people and unbelievably difficult task so sometimes I earn it.

I don't want to dwell here lets move on.

I am going to get an ebook reader in November.  I am getting a Kindle.  I could just order it now.  Right now.  I have Amazon open in a tab because I needed to look up the spelling of Gérard de Villiers's name and it has an add for the kindle.  I could one click order that shit.  However, I am waiting till black friday/cyber monday in hopes of a good sale on the things.  Whenever I mention my Kindle quest people always say, "printed books are awesome" and they are right.  I am with these people 100% but damnit I am out of room for books.  I have books everywhere.  I have shelves of books.  I could sell them at a used book store but I have a rather "distinctive" taste in books.  Most of my prefered books aren't even carried by Barns a Million let alone a used book store so giving them a milk crate of books in exchange for 5 bucks credit doesn't do me any good.  That and a lot of books I want to read are political in nature and those books have a shelf life of maybe 5 years before the information is out dated and needs updating.  These books are a third of the price digitally.  Mostly though it is the space issue.  It is just a pain in the ass.

The thing is though is that the Kindle or the idea of the Kindle is quaint.  I've put off getting an ebook reader for awhile.  Me?  I hate reading off the computer screen.  There is something about it that sends my reading comprehension into the shitter.  Even when I unplug from the internet and my book is the only thing on the screen my comprehension goes in the shitter.  Don't know why.  The reason I say the idea of the Kindle is quaint though is because it is a dedicated electronic device and those are going the way of the dinosaur.

Back in the day a computer with a net connection was your gateway to the world.  Then it was if you had a lap top you could take your world anywhere.  Now?  Now people hold the internet in the palm of their hands.  Cellphones have procession power that wasn't even dreamed of 20 years ago let alone in the palm of your hand.  Kindles are quaint in the same way desktop computers are quaint.  The vast majority of the things most people do with a desktop pc can be done on a cell phone or a tablet.  Heck with Skype, Facetime, and Facebook messenger you almost don't need a cell plan anymore.  So why get a dedicated device when for the same amount of money I could get a phone, internet browser, mini multimedia station?  The plain and simple answer is that the Kindle's screen is better for reading than a cell phone one.  That's all and I am willing to overpay for a nice screen and cheaper books that won't clutter up my house but would break my heart to throw away.  Perhaps there is somewhere I could donate them.  It is strange though.  I had a baby laptop and I loved it until it died.  I mostly interneted and wrote on it.  If I hadn't decided to use my PC as a gaming platform I prolly would of just invested in another baby laptop and a stream box for my tv.  One day having a desktop PC will be completely outdated.  I don't know what the work space will look like but I do know I'll still need a keyboard to type on.

I just can't seem to organize my thoughts as well when I use text to type.  I can also type faster than I can talk so there's that.  I just think it is a little funny.  All my life I've had a desktop PC in one form or another in my house from the ancient commador 64 to my custom built gaming rig.  It just seems odd that in the next 20 years they might not even be a thing any more.  It is also odd to think of me living 20 more years but that's a different topic for another time.

I keep seeing more and more about how we are addicted to technology and it is rewiring our brains and blah blah blah.  Me?  I think that most of it is a load of crap.  I think that blaming our problems on technology is a convenient way of putting the chicken before the egg.  People claim we are now more isolated than ever before but we have 50 thousand different ways to fucking talk to each other so I don't see the problem.  There is that endless meme of the people all sitting near each other on their phones instead of having conversations with each other but let me tell you before we all had cell phones we all didn't live in some mystical fucking fantasy land were we all sat around and talked to each other for hours on end.  That never happened.  The only time that happens is when you are in a bar because that's part of what being in a bar is all about.

People aren't addicted to technology they are addicted to themselves.  Hell they aren't even addicted to themselves they are addicted to things that validate themselves.  That's what the whole gamer's gate thing is self validation of some stupid identity that doesn't matter.  That is what the like button on facebook is.  It is a non verbal one click way for you to validate other people's posts.  It lets you say, "I support this message" without actually typing the words.  It is also why you are a chode when you like your own posts.  Communication over facebook is secondary to the idea of self validation.  The comercialization of the internet just made it easier for groups of like minded people to gather and exchange idea that they already agree on.  The reason why this happens is because people like to talk to people they already agree with.  So why not monetize it.  This is why certain tumbler groups get really weird.  Or why forums become overly policed so everyone stays on message.  This policing can be either formal or informal.  It is also why some people talk in memes.

The other day at work Cory and I were discussing Gamer's Gate and he made the comment that the Chans are the most horrible thing to come out of the internet.  I disagree.  Other than the specifically illeagal stuff like child pornography I kind of accept the Chans.  I've met a lot of people over the course of my life and as a result I've gained an understanding of the chans.  I don't like them but like most internet communities if you leave them alone they are happy to exist in a self perpetuating circle jerk.  No the worst thing to come out of the internet is the meme.  The picture with the white words.  This picture can then be shared over and over again without any thought from the person who shares it.  People can then "like" it and even optionally share it again.  Memes intrinsically have no value.  Oftentimes they only require a modicum of creativity and effort to make and distribute.  That's okay though because in general people spend a minimum amount of time processing the information within the meme, usually in the form of retension and then they move on.  Meme's are essentially short hand for thought proceeses but what is horrible about them is that because of the way they are distributed they are perfectly preserved.  A meme can be shared hundreds or millions of times.  I can go viral and when that happens it penetrates the national consciousness and everyone knows what this meme is and yet it is perfectly preserved the entire time.

Things need to change in order to improve.  Sometimes they change for the worst.  Sometimes they change for the best.  The point is that things need to change.  If things remain static that is just what they are.  Static.  Static thoughts are the worst and that is exactly what a meme is.  For the most part they are fun, like grumpy cat.  But more and more they are being used to boil down complex issues into easily digestable and believable facts.  On large comment threads on facebook, after a certain point it degrades into people tagging their friends and people posting pictures of Michael Jackson eating popcorn.  When people want to make charged statements they pull out that fucking Willy Wonka picture instead of just saying what they think and lord if you ever feel like taking a trip down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole one day the comment threads are littered with pictures that have words on them.  Memes are an actual honest to god horror.  Sure in moderation they are fun but I've listened to multiple groups of people have entire conversations in memes in real life for hours.

Why?  Well Memes are a quick and simple nugget of thought.  You can throw one up and quickly get validation as to whether or not people agree with it.  If they do then score you can post related memes and it is cruise control for having a thought process.  The more meme's you know the easier it is to fit in with other people who know their memes.  After awhile it allows people to talk in shorthand.  Jargon laden specialties in acedemia lets you do the same thing.  The difference is that jargon lets you expand ideas quickly while memes preserve ideas indefinitly.  When people talk in memes they aren't really talking to each other but instead it is like a preverse call and responce.

This is a topic I'd like to revisit another time however.  It is 1:30 in the morning and I've been writing since like 9ish.  I'd also like to bring in some literary theory to this dicussion.  Marxists are usually technophobic which is ironic because currently technology has out paced the means of production in many areas.  However, the meme plays directly into a lot of their fears specfically the fears of Walter Benjamin so I want to reread one of his essays and use that to frame my thoughts.

This was good thought I got a nice rough draft of what I wanna say right here.

Something Else

It has been a very long month.  When my pay check came in the mail and I saw that I had 10 hours of overtime on it I got physical proof that I was tired because I'd been working a lot and not because I'd become some tremendous sissy in the past couple of years.  My relief was tangible so much so that it caused a gentle rain to grace a drought stricken land.  It wasn't enough of a rain to do anyone any good.  It just made some mud which got tracked into a house and caused a fight which spun out of control.  The police got involved.  But I am sure in the end it will work out alright.  The lesson here is that I very much need to take some time off and I will!

That is not what I wanted to write about though.  I just wanted a little bit to warm up.  However, seeing as how I haven't picked a topic yet I'm just going to go through things  that are on my surface thoughts.  I have at least 4.

1)  Sometimes when I come up across a thing I don't understand I don't research the solution to said problem.  Instead I keep it in the back of my mind, mull it over, and try to unravel it for myself.  I know full well that the solution to my problem is a well asked question away or in most cases 45 minutes with google but sometimes it is best to put your problem solving skills to work especially when they are big concept problems that greatly affect our every day lives.  I am ashamed to admit that this particular problem took my a couple of years to unravel.  Now granted I didn't spend several years in a row puzzling over it.  In fact I went for months without thinking about it.  However, it is one of those things that should of been much simpler to solve and it wasn't due to my fundamental lack of understanding of how our monetary system works.  This pisses me off a little bit but that's a different topic.

The problem was, "Why did President Clinton merge investment banking and personal banking?".  See before Clinton a law was passed by someone, I don't remember who and I don't feel like looking it up.  The law stated that there would be a separation of investment and personal banking.  Personal banking is what you use when you want  a loan, a savings account and a checking account.  The bank is supposed to take part of your savings account, turn them into safe loans.  This keeps your money in the community and offers up some safe guards against financial crisis.  An investment bank does all the crazy fucking stockmarket shit.

So why on god's green earth would we merge the two.  During the great depression people lost everything when the banks folded.  We have institutions which are to big to fail.  By the by our pathetic excuse for a media organization has been using that phrase wrong.  To big to fail means that should the institution fail it would take enough of our ecconomy with it that the results would be catastrophic.  They are a thing that legally shouldn't excist and yet there they are.

Anyway the reason for the merge is simple.  Like bloody simple.  One most of us belong to national bank chains like Bank of America, or Wells Fargo or something similar.  So it isn't like our savings and loan comes from and goes to local sources anyway.  Two money in a savings account is, ecconmically speaking, useless.  It might as well be shoved under a mattress, buried in your back yard, or even burned.  Money that doesn't circulate has no purpose.  It has to move through the system in order to grow.  By opening our savings accounts to the risks of investment banking now all that money we tuck away for a rainy day is free to circulate around the ecconomy which helps stimulate growth.

I am unable to verify this, because I lack the research material but I am willing to bet there are links to the explosion of the financial markets and this law.  Has it been a bad law?  Well that's still up for debate but I am leaning no but until I can explain it I can't really have an opinion.  Oh well.  That is something I can't just magically figure out for myself.  I'd need to do some heavy reading and it is a question that is still being answered to this day.  Is it a good law or not?  Oh well.  Yeah I am nerd.  But whatever nerds are in.

2) I was doing the same process with the problem of minimum wage being 15 monies an hour.  I figured both of these problems out in the same week!  YAY!  I may be tired and have most of the joy sucked out of me but damnit I am thinking about shit.  WOO!  *removes top* *then gets shy and puts top back on and sits back down a little red faced*.  Anyway yeah some people want the minimum wage to be 15 monies.  They keep siting the law that states the minimum wage should provide a working wage.

Now opponents to this have mostly been really dismissive and nasty.  Basically you are poor and you work a shitty job so go fuck yourselves.  Or less agressivley, "Well why don't you hire a lawyer and...OH WAIT we don't pay you enough to do that HA!  Fuckers".  If I had the energy I'd go find a quote from the CEO of Applebee's I never really ate their because their food is a bunch of bland overpriced piles of shit but holy crap did that man  make an ass of himself during the passing of the Affordable Care Act.  I've hated him ever since.

Back to the topic at hand as a poor worker, I and the people around me would benefit greatly from a 15 dollar per hour pay check but it is a bad idea and I finally fucking figured out why.  This one only took a could of months.  Okay so here's the skinny.  The minimum wage was started in 1938 and back then the world was a very different place than it is today.  Hell the world back in the 50's was a different place that it is today.  When manufacturing was America's major source of jobs the American economy was a very different place than it is today.  The main reason being is that just about everyone who was working was working for their lives.  By that I mean these folks worked while they were either in high school or immediately after in factories, stores, farms, salesmen, for the rest of their lives.  Summer break still existed so kids could help out on the farm or get a job to help their family raise money to get through the winter.  College was reserved for those who were already rich and planned on entering into business or law.  It was also the year Superman made his first appearance.  The specter of WW2 loomed writ large though no one really knew it yet.  Most families subsisted off of a single income provided by the man while the woman stayed at home to take care of the house and children.  This point is important because our work force was 51% smaller as a result.

Things are very different now.  Hell things are different now then they were ten years ago.  NOW there are kids who get a job in high school because they are bored and they just want some spending money.  There are people who are getting jobs as a form of recreation I can't fucking fathom what is wrong with people like that but they are out there.  I've met them.  There are kids who get jobs because their parents believe that having a job will help teach them responsibility.  College is something that everyone can now go to.  Granted the student debt thing is fucked and something to be tackled latter but the point is that you can at least get in the door.  Women are part of our workforce now and they are holding more and more positions of power every year.  Good on them I say.

The point being is that 15 dollars an hour for a minimum wage is silly because not every person in the workforce is working for their lives.  Some of them are just passing through.  Do they need 15 bucks an hour to pay for school?  Yeah absolutely but lets not muddy the waters here.  Lets stick to two basic things.  One in 1938 when people entered into the workforce they were generally there for good.  Today that is not so much the case.

By setting our wages to 15 dollars an hour it kills our ability to negotiate and there.  Right motherfucking there is the problem.  I got it.  See 10 bucks an hour is a pretty reasonable minimum wage.  I've yet to see an actual job that doesn't deserve 10 bucks an hour.  It also still allows employers to hire on people at 12-15 and more marginally skilled positions without melting the budget.

Lets be very clear when you are paid the minimum wage it is because that is the least amount they are legally allowed to pay you.  If they could get away with less they most likely would and in the past they did.  The minimum wage wasn't enough to protect workers.  That's why they formed unions.  This way workers of similar jobs could band together in a large enough group to force their employers to do horrible things like pay them a living wage or have better working conditions.  I hate to put it this way but people don't want a 15 dollar minimum wage.  What they want is the ability to negotiate their wages in a legal way that avoids retaliation on the behalf of the employers.  Let's use me as an example.  I make X amount of money.  Because of the next sentence I can't say the exact amount.  Now lets say my friend Corey makes X+2 amounts of money.  Corey got hired after me and was made full time almost immediately while my boss dicked me around instead of making me full time.

Had I put down the actual amounts of money we make and it got back to my bosses I could be fired.  Hell I could be reprimanded for talking about the full time situation.  What this does is that it shields my bosses from having to pay us fairly.  To be clear I am not talking about Chef, or the head of Culinary I am talking about their corporate overlords.  They don't have to worry about pus organizing because they can auto fire us for discussing our wages.  This is true for every job.  If the retail workforce were to unionize in a big way they'd have to undertake a serious risk.  Most of us are way to poor and have people who rely on us so we can't afford to take risks.  Our corporate overlords know this.  They know they have us between a rock and a hard place.  They know the one hard worker who is worth the three shit workers will work for the same meger pay as the shit workers so why bother giving anyone merit based raises and yeah that's that son.

The 15 dollar and hour minimum wage is an attempt to circumnavigate this and it isn't a bad one.  Unions have had to fight for their existence for a long time.  They are portrayed as the bad guys and they've had their fair share of problems but they are important for keeping their employers in check.  But they come with a risk.

So what's the solution?  Well it isn't the 15 buck minimum wage.  As much as I'd like it it would slaughter small to mid sized businesses along with some small to mid sized corporations.  It is easy to look at the 1% and say, "Well just give us part of that" but that is a very small population getting a very big piece of pie.  The 15 min wage would fuck everyone over except them and the poor who got to keep their jobs.  At the same time there needs to be a better format for dealing with our bosses than unions.  Unions are the right idea but the wrong methodology.  I can't prove that but it feels right.  We can't use the legal system because, well, it is to slow and to expensive.  Workers do need a better outside arbitration system to quickly and safely air their concerns it needs to happen outside the corporate structure and possibly anonymously but yeah.

I get the problem though.  I understand the feeling but we can't loose sight of the bigger picture.

Well that's enough for one night.  There did something productive.  Imma gonna go eat candy now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


So I've been writing more, and reading more, and generally doing more and it is working out pretty well. Sadly I haven't been writing more in my actual blog which is silly so I am going to do that now. I was thinking of tackling the christian persecution complex but seriously that is a really big issue that is worthy of a book not a Saturday night blog post where I have a headache. So instead we are going to talk about movies because I LIKE movies and I wanna.

In the past week I've seen an unusually large number of movies mostly because an unusually large number of amazing movies came out and it is one of those things where if you don't see them you are going to miss them. Then to add to it I watched some more movies at home because I guess that is the thing to do this week. To start off with I want to talk about God's Pocket.

God's Pocket is one of those extremely rare pitch black comedies that flutters into my life like some glorious bird and takes roost in my heart. It is a simple movie about poor people living in a run down part of some nameless city. In all likelihood it is Boston but it really could be anywhere. Where it is isn't important. The movie is narrated by a columnist for the local paper who's life is quickly spiraling out of control due to alcoholism and a crushing loneliness. There is a line in the movie that goes something like, “The one thing no one from God's Pocket can forgive is no being from God's Pocket”. That is where we get our main character played by Hoffman, an outsider, small time mafia goon, who is in love with a wife he can't please.

It is a sad strange little movie. Centered around the murder of a boy who is by all accounts an asshole who was heading for disaster one way or another. The subsequent coverup of the murder and Hoffman's attempts to pay for a funeral he can't afford. I found it engaging and more than a little sweet but sad at the same time. It is a surprisingly slippery movie. It is less a sequential story told with pictures and more of a series of moods, emotions and memories. It transcends the, “and this happened then this happened plot” and instead it drifts about almost as a surreal slice of life. I understand why it isn't very well received. It is a strange movie on par with Only God Forgives or Cosmopolis but it doesn't look, sound or feel strange. It just creeps up on you and then there is this conflagration of events cascading to disaster and while you know how we got there you can't help but think, “jesus this is such a strange movie”. It ends on a sad not then a bittersweet one. It also ends in Florida. I liked it very much and months from now when I watch it again I feel like I will be continued to be mystified by its mix of banality and disaster. Good times.

I also watched Walk Among the Tombstones. This movie is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. By the end of this movie my back cramped up and I had to wheeled out an a stretcher because I was in a perpetual cringe. The movie made me feel gross. Like honest to god gross. My soul needed a shower. Best movie I've seen of its kind since 8mm. I can hear the question now, “What about A Serbian Film” and it is actually a good question. What sets 8mm and Tombstone apart is the distinct lack of onscreen violence. Tombstones is a movie about two men who stalk, kidnap, then mutilate women for fun and profit. There is this moment where one guy plans on using a garrote to sever a woman's breast and yet they don't show it. The level on onscreen violence for Tombstones is about zero. The amount of blood spilled is miniscule. The deathtoll is low even when you consider the entire career of the two killers and yet the movie itself was absolutely chilling. It did this by letting the viewer's imagination do the heavy lifting. It cuts away just in time but you can hear the screams. The two actors who play the killers do so with absolute perfection and we watch with dread as the killers stalk a new victim while somewhere far to far away Liam Nieson does his best to unravel the mystery of the killer's identity and you know deep down inside that he is to far away to catch them in time.

The moive exudes a deep breathless air. One of details I love about the movie is that Nieson isn't this island of a man who talks to no one, has no friends, and does everything by himself. It isn't true. He is friends with the waitress at the diner. He goes to AA meetings which is how the plot of this particular movie gets started. He befriends a homeless black boy halfway through. People are his main source of information. He doesn't just blunder into information, or he doesn't just have that one friend in the fbi who owes him a favor and he grudgingly cashes it in to move the damn plot along. No. Instead we are treated to a competently written procedural as our hero tries to get information for people he doesn't like.

When the movie ends it doesn't feel like it is over so much as it feels like you are being released from its clutches so that you may go home and be thankful that you aren't any of the characters in this movie. It is a damn good and I am sad more people aren't going to go see it.

Lets contrast it with the Equalizer. Man was the Equalizer a terrible movie and what's worse is that I am predisposed to like the Equalizer. I love movies about people who try to escape from their previous lives but their lives catch up to them either because of circumstance or they just get drawn back in. History of Violence is my penultimate example of the genera but there are many others as well. Including the Equalizer. The problem is that the movie had no focus. The trailers made it look like he was going to save a young girl from a life of prostitution. That means PIMPS! I love Pimps as movie villains no matter what happens to them I don't feel bad at all. Instead it is the Russian mafia. That's cool I guess. Russian mafia is in. Still pimps I still hate them but when the whole situation resolved itself within the first half hour I was a little confused. Then he did this thing with some dirty cops. Then there was this bad ass Russian troubleshooter who spent an HOUR investigating to find out who our main character was. Predictably he was ex CIA. Not the CIA who spend most of their time reading files and using other people to get information for them. No this guy was the one man army CIA. The type of CIA man that makes you wonder why we even bother with an army when we can apparently just make one man killing machines. I don't know I do know I was relieved when the movie finally ended because I was so crushingly bored by the uninteresting action scenes that I couldn't care less.

Women have been speaking up about their portrayals in movies a lot lately because they are tired of being the people who are put into danger, or get mutilated, or raped, or killed, so that the main character can have a reason to go do the plot. Die Hard, John Mclain needs to go save his wife. Die Hard 2 he does it again. Die Hard 4 he is saving his daughter this time WHAT A TWIST. The examples go on and on. The idea is that a dead chick equals instant drama. This is a complex issue that is worthy of its own post so lets set that aside and refocus on the Equalizer because this is a bad example of what a movie looks like when the character has a no clear motivations for his actions. Plot wise the Equalizer is a combination of Die Hard 2 (because the movie isn't very good) and Die Hard 3. Yes he saves the girl from a life of prostration. She is then promptly and fucking improbably never heard from again until the end of the movie. The movie then shifts to Die Hard 3 as there is a man after Washington trying to kill him for the actions he committed in Die Hard 2. The problem is that this is all happening in the same movie and if you think this paragraph is a train wreck then it is nothing compared to the mishmash of things that happen in The Equalizer.

Going back to the girl thing movies seem to be moving away from the “girl in danger” plot point. Out of the Furnace has Patrick Bateman looking for his missing brother. John Wick goes forth on a murder spree because someone was dumb enough to kill his puppy. With the Equalizer it is a minor point and not the main thrust of the movie. Moreover it is becoming more noticeable when it is clumsy and lazily implemented like in Homefront or The Purge. It is a trend that I am more than okay with. And yeah I don't really have anything to add.

The general ineptness of The Equalizer was made all the more apparent due to the fact that I watched it in close proximity to superior movies. It isn't so much that it was bad but rather that it was lazy. All the parts that made Walk Among the Tombstones so enjoyable for me, the procedure of seeking and getting information is hand waved away in The Equlizer, and replaced with meaningless stuff. There was a vain attempt to make the villain seem like he might be an actual threat to Washington but the villain never got close. Not really. Our hero was always at least one step ahead. The hostages were freed long before we could be worried that they were in any real danger and the final conflict was just sad. Also I am done writing for tonight so TA!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Just before I sat down to write this I, on a whim, looked at my other subscribed blogs.  Just about all of them stopped 4 years ago like some mysterious force swept across the land leaving only a few scattered survivors in its wake.

I have annihilation fantasies.  It is one of those things.

So that Fergison thing is happening.  I've wanted to write about it ever since the first night of protests but I couldn't quite grapple onto what I wanted to say.  After all it would be easy to just go the, "pigs bad.  toys bad. capitalization and proper punctuation bad. lootars bad. everything bad."  But that's not what I do.  Well okay I do that sometimes but it isn't something I wanted to do right now.  To be honest I still want to write about the topic and yet I don't.  Well not really.  Instead I want to pull the camera back and take a look at the broader picture cause that's where its at.

Mostly though I want to talk about the problems with the police.  There are certain things that once you see them you remain effected by them for the rest of your life.  For me that is the French film La Haine which is about the day after a race riot in Paris and three unusually racially divers friends living out their day.  The movie has a lot of messages in it but the biggest one is the utterly unbalanced power relation between people, particularly poor people, and the police.  The other big issue is what to do about that power imbalance.  The movie doesn't give out any easy answers on everything and as the years roll by I find that the movie itself remains distressingly relavant.  I'm going to get back to this.

I'd like to pull back even further and talk about the Police's role in society.  Were I to ask that question to the class someone would shoot up their hand and say, "To serve and protect".  That's not really their role in society though.  That is how they achieve their role in society.  There is a difference between the two.  Their actual role in society is to preserve the order of that society.  That may seem strange but I'll break it down a bit.

The idea behind the police is that they will act as a neutral third party for when you've been wronged and they are the first step in the process of making it right.  So if I were to get robbed the police would dedicate resources to finding my stuff, returning it to me, and punishing the wrongdoer.  This work on all levels from robbery up to murder.  It is the comfort that there are people out there who possess the resources and the training to help me so I don't "have to take matters into my own hands".  We may give cops a lot of shit, hell even to much shit if that will make you feel better, but a cops response is almost universally better than taking matters into your own hands.  Look up the Hatsfields and McCoys feud that went on for years and caused a lot of death all because outsiders couldn't maintain order.  Or there is this wonderful man.  The point I would like to emphasize in this article is that he shot them while they were trying to flee.  They were running he was in no danger.  The woman surrendered and he decided to shoot her anyway.  Speaking of which to find this news story I googled man kills thief.  I had plenty of stories to choose from.

This is why we need the police.

The police may do some crazy shit.  But it isn't anything nearly as bad as what we would do to each other without them.  The interesting thing about the police is that we don't seem to need that many of them  On average we only have 17 police per 10,000 residents.  That's mostly for larger cities for smaller ones the ratio is even lower.  If we were to all violently rise up the cops would be fucked.  Even if we were to half assedly kinda rise up but not very violently we get things like Fergison.  However, in general we like our order.  It brings us comfort and security and the police are supposed to be here to help maintain comfort and security.  When things like Rodney King, The Zoot Suit Riots, Fergison happen it is because there is no longer any faith that order can be maintained.  When this happens it is a result of a cascade failure on the officers to do their job properly.  They have one job.  To maintain civil society.  To aid in the maintenance of civil society they both serve the citizens and they protect them.

So why does it go so fucking wrong?

I have opinions on answers!  YAY!

Lets do the easiest one first.  We need to stop using Police Officers as nannies.  This is a pro police officer point!  I wanted to start with it because it think it is the most critical.  Police Officers joined the force to uphold the law.  Yet they spend most of their time sitting around writing speeding tickets, checking for seat belts, telling kids to turn their damn music down, shuffling around drunks, and parking tickets.  This helps no one.  It doesn't help the public because it means that the public will be subjected to a parade to tiny annoyances that are going to fester until it turns into "fuck the police".  Our very own Gulf Breeze brags about how they gleefully pull over people going less than 5 miles over the legal limit and you know what?  Everyone hates them and their asshole cops.  Cause lets face it officers went through about two years of training.  They are men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for us.  They will try their damndest to keep us safe and sitting around doing shit work isn't one of those things.

It eats at you.  Worst it eats at us.  After enough traffic stops, trumped up moving violations, or someone tut tutting us because our tags are expired we can't help but think that cops are not here to serve and protect but instead to harass and annoy.  Our respect for them wanes.  There are any number of ways to deal with this problem everything from a separate force akin to meter maids to a probationary period that officers go through before becoming full fledged officers.  The point being is that the people who enforce silly bs nanny laws can't be the same people who will be showing up to domestic disputes, helping car accident victims, et cetera et cetera.  These people are supposed to be professionals give them the respect they reserve and maybe they won't feel the need to take their frustrations out on us.

NEXT! I just flipped a coin and we got the brotherhood of silence thing that cops do.  The vast majority of cops are good people who are good at their jobs...even if you are black.  There is a long history in this country of cops abusing their power and these cops in particular have always been.  Nothing new.  Even if you were to take my above example you'd still get the bad eggs.  However, cops are hesitant to rat out other cops.  This is for two reasons.  One good one bad.  The bad reason is that it makes other officers not be able to trust you yadda yadda yadda I shouldn't have to spell it out.  The good reason is because officers are under an unreasonable amount of regulations.  Those regulations don't fit reality.  They don't even come close and hey sometimes shit gets a little bit to real and you gotta take actions that don't exactly fit within the regulations.  Me?  I'm a dishwasher at a corporate owned retirement home.  There are all sorts of silly rules that I should follow that I don't.  The difference is that officers literally make life and grievous bodily harm and possibly death choices.  They do so quickly and being raked over the coals for doing so sucks.

However, there is a cynic in me and I can't help but think that the "brother hood of silence" thing is mostly pushed by shit cops.  Just a gut feeling.  It also doesn't help that cops have no incentive to tell the truth.  Traditionally it comes down to the officer's word versus mine and he's been entrusted with the authority to maintain the peace soooo why would he lie?  It is his job not to!  Officers need a better way of reporting misconduct and police departments need more tools available to keep cops in line.

There is the training issue but I don't feel like going into that.  Police need to be trained better.  They need to be evaluated more often, and blah blah blah.  The media has latched onto this point you don't need me for it.

Lastly, there are quite a few cops out there who need a fucking attitude adjustment.   Do what I say and you don't get hurt is what a mugger say to a victim.  Also he "gaurntees that we will come out alright but it might involve some forced cavity searches.  Cause you know forced cavity searches.  I could go on with the butt stuff (which is sad) but the point is that this is not something an officer should say to a citizen.  It is time for Cops to relearn that they are not the boss of us.  We are allowed to film you no matter how much you may not like it.  You are not allowed to search my bag, my car, my house, or me without a warrant.  If we aren't breaking any laws and I mean real laws then back off and go do something important.  It is not up to us to just curl up in a ball and take it so that we can go through the proper channels later because it is your sole job to make sure that this doesn't happen in the first place.  It is not my job to placate cops with attitude problems.

Most officers are good people who do a good job.  However, sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they are thrust into situations that they are under trained to handle, and sometimes they look the other way while their co-workers commit monstrous injustices.  When I originally was going to write this blog I was going to say if you look the other way while something horrible happens you are no better than a nazi but that's a rather pathetic take on a complex issue.  None of us know how we'd react until we are in that situation.  That said they need to do better because the buck stops with them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Let's Switch Gears Pathfinder time!

Originally when I was going to write this post I was going to write about something serious like depression, suicide, Gaza, the flood of refugees hitting our boarders and how we are still calling them immigrants, how frustrated I am with President Obama, or racism.  Then I realized deep down that I didn't really want to write about any of these topics and so I am going to switch to Pathfinder.

I've been into roleplaying games in one form or another my entire life though it wasn't until middle school that I got to take my first hesitant steps into running a game.  I've both run and played games on and off ever since.  I'll be perfectly honest I haven't run as many games as I liked and I certainly haven't played as much as I want to but it is hard when most of the people my age still don't work 9 to 5 jobs, myself included.  One of the most important things for a roleplaying game to work is everyone being on a set schedual so you can reliably tell who is going to show up.  I understand that life happens but god damn.  So there is it.  Currently I am running nothing.  I was preparing to run a Pathfinder game when a friend of mine declared that he is okay with running it and so I rolled up an alchemist and I find myself very much looking forwards to game night Friday.

It still doesn't stop me from coming up with campaign ideas some of which I am gleefully still kicking around.  I kinda want to start writing up rpg materials and start selling it for "what you think it is worth".  That thought has lead me to start writing again in this blog because I need the practice.

Anyway one of the things that I love about Pathfinder is that it seizes my imagination.  When I look at 4th edition it does nothing for me.  I see stale stat blocks and characters that slot together with little independent choice for the end user.  It just doesn't strike up my imagination.  Whatever this is old territory and I wanted to write about the stuff I had kicking around for the current game.

One is a Crusader Kings style courtly maneuvering.  Crusader Kings has provided just about everyone in my play group with a crash course in medieval politics.  What a duchy is, cassius belle, getting claims killing children you know the deal.  Throw some monsters, magic, gods, and player characters into the mix and you got the potential for a pretty rocking campaign.  The obvious parallel is Game of Thrones but this game would have fewer wars and more boarder skirmishes IE high crown authority.  However, the vassles could be plotting to get the crown authority reduced and should that happen all hell would break loose.  I really like that idea it would suit a group of rouges and bards really well.

On a similar tangent either the players themselves or the Player's duke have all recently served with distinction in a war that struck deep into foreign lands.  The king to show his gratitude forms a new dutchy with either the players of their duke in charge depending of the level we settle on.  Of course in Crusader Kings terms this is the equivalent of taking Jeruselem in a crusade while you are playing Spain and you dump off one of your least favorite vassals in the foreign land grant him independence and watch his ass get eaten.  I've done that before and it is fun.

On a similar vein but not quite.  The idea that a new continent has been discovered!  A ship got blown off course, and stumbled upon a landmass of indeterminate size.  Everyone from the great wizard colleges, to the various kingdoms want to explore the strange new island and learn its secrets.  This would give the players a chance to play honest to god explorers.  Not only would they be forging new paths and making bold new discoveries but they would also be helping to build up the settlement, fending off the natives, and generally being important.  It would be less "Heart of Darkness" and more Alan Quatermain/Indiana Jones.  I think that would be super fun.  There would be a little bit tensions like when they have to save clerics from being chucked into a volcano but in general I want it be more of a grand adventure than post colonial finger waving.

Going back to Crusader Kings and medieval politics I find it interesting that there is so much hand waving that happens with that stuff in most games, mine included.  The idea that the players just kinda get randomly hauled before the king who then tells them to go do something is kinda silly.  It is romantic in a, "Are you bad enough to rid the hills of goblins and save my daughter" kind of way but realistically the King is busy doing other things.   And there is plenty of time for swords and sorcery.  Like in order to get a claim on a neighboring country the players need to explore an ancient crypt and recover an amulet once thought to be lost but whose previous owner is the rightful air to the county and thus they go to war.  Hell the orcs could stand in for the norsemen and I mean damn there is just so much that can be done with the setting and a small dose of complexity of the government.  For example the possessed trait could take on a whole new meaning and a witches coven with a little bit of access could seriously fuck some things up.  Like one of the witches has access to the King's son due to his penchant for "ladies" who aren't his wife.

The last idea I was kicking around was SPAAAAAAACE.  A proper space sourcebook for pathfinder is coming out next month.  Until then to get reading the world the players would be playing on would be getting ready for something call the bazzar of wonders.  Once every 300 years their planet gets visited by the bazzar.  The people of the players planet have the opportunity to trade away their crafts and treasures for great secrets, powerful items, or exotic pets.  The bazaar is a grand event felt the world over.  During that time no war is allowed and even the Orcs and the barbarian tribes hold true to this tradition because the bazzar's wrath is something no one wants to behold again.  For one month Drow walk among their elven kin, Drugar with the Dwarves.  The great dragons of the world awaken from their slumber and liches from their studies.  All are welcome at the bazaar, assuming they do no harm to anyone else during the course of the week.  Dwarven kings spend decades on crafts, Elves create incredible works of arts, Dragons bring their most valued treasures, and humans innovate at a breakneck and reckless speeds.  That isn't to say that just before the bazaar there isn't some old fashioned score settling and hey sometimes tensions boil over.  The idea is that the players do something to distinguish themselves during the bazaar and they are offered passage on the ship and are allowed to see the stars.  I think that could get awesome real quick.

I have other ideas too but those are the main ones and my hour is up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing, Superman, and wanderings.

Today Robin Williams died a city is rioting over the questionable death of black youth at the hands of a police officer, someone somewhere is falling in love and I've decicded while taking a shower that it is high time I start writing in my blog again. Much like Amilie on that fateful day temporarily blackened by the death of Lady Di but with less drama, I've decided to change my life. Here it goes.

The idea is to dedicate an hour of my time before I go to sleep to writing at least on the days where I am not doing anything like a game night. I don't know if I will publish every night. Maybe I'll select the “best of the week” and publish it all over the weekend. Maybe I'll publish everything. Publishing isn't the important part. The writing is.

In all honesty this is being caused by a couple of things. The desire to run a roleplaying game, the excitement of being able to play in one, the proximity to NaNoWriMo, and some other stuff that is harder to put a specific name on. I've been thinking a lot about NaNo, what I want to write about and stuff like that. The current front runner is a sequal to what I wrote last year which I never published but whatever. It is set in the Eclipse Phase universe and it is actually my second favorite thing I've ever written. It also feels a bit like cheating. I like to try to do something different every year, to exparament. NaNo is by and large a judgement free excersice for me so I feel like if I am not trying something new and different I am wasting the opportunity. My first novel blended aspects of magical realism, Twin Peaks, and melocholic reflection and it turned out great. It remains my favorite thing I've written. The year after I wrote about a support group of people who tried to end the world at the turning of the milenium, failed, and now are adrift in a world that is not supposed to still be here. This book still has potential and I want to redo it. As is it didn't turn out all that great. The lone female character feels tacked on, the ending was forced, and some other things. It was my first time writing using a large group of people and it turned out strangely. I'd also like to talk about how dour and grey America became after 9/11. It isn't so much that we've gone mad. We are America we've always been a little bit crazy. It is just that after 9/11 we started to let the crazy off the leash and that's a bad thing.

Trying to recapture my previous glory I decided to write a sequal to the first book I wrote. The first book ended in the main character's suicide cause that was always gonna happen. As soon as I hit 50k words he was gonna pull out a gun and off himself. I was kinda hoping he'd be just walking down the street or something but no he was in the middle of an epic battle. It still worked and it even looked a little bit like I planned it. Go me! The sequal was going to be about the characters getting on with their lives. It was horrible. I want to rewrite it. I really do but not this year.

Last year my book was about a guy who everyone in power hates but he's to dangerous to kill and to useful to cut loose. He is the enemy that the keep closer and the only man for the job. He's old, mean, and haunted by his past. Trying to make up for his mistakes he joined Firewall to do good but he keeps ending up on their bad side. I loved it. It was actually a very plotty novel. Most of my otherones have a lot of navel gazing which is code for, “I have a daily word count to meet and I have no idea what to do next so we are going to stand around and think about life”. I really like doing things like that so it doesn't bother me.

It is nice to remember what you wrote. All my characters are very much outsiders, like myself. Sometimes they have a tight knit group of confidants. Sometimes they are utterly alone. Sometimes they struggle to be alone and sometimes they just struggle. Go with what you know I suppose. The thing I currently have on the burner is something that is very much along the same lines of what I've done before. The idea is that a small group of American teenagers have turned into people with low level super powers. There is a secret family of assasins who have sworn to protect such people but they can't operate in America because, well, America sees and hears to much and this group is supposed to be invisable. One of the group sets off to guard these kids anyway even though the partiarch of the family has ordered their deaths. He's alone, he's one of the most dangerous men in the world even amongst his family, and he's gotta keep these kids alive, out of the hands of the military, and away from the various groups who might want to capitalize on them. It came from the idea of, “Just because you can life and throw a car doesn't mean you can fight”. It has been knocking around in my head for a very long time. Originally I wanted it to be part of a serialized fiction thing I was going to do but it never got off the ground. However, I kinda want to do something different this year. Something new.

I'd like to write something about someone who is comfortable with his otherness. They know they are different and they are okay with it. Think of Superman without Clark Kent. Kent is more than just a secret identiy. It is a security blanket or if I am feeling uncharitable it is a type of madness. Here is a person who in modern comics could cure every disease on the planet, create and infinite clean powersource that could power the planet forever, to give us interstellar travel and to introduce us to the multitudes of alien life out there and instead he runs around Metropolis getting into trouble and pretending to be a bumbling do gooder from Kansas. Clark is Superman's insistance that he is human. That he belongs on our planet, that he thinks, feels, and looses just like the rest of us do. The crazy thing is that it works. He needs Clark to be Superman. Without him he is something differen. Something other. I find that it is this distinction that causes people to not understand the recent Man of Steel movie. That is what Superman looks like without Clark. He still loves his mom but he is torn between his Kryptonian heritage and the life built on earth. As the movie went on he piece by piece lost his connection with Kypton until there was nothing left but he and Zod. I think that even at the end Zod would of accepted him if he submitted to his will and let Krypton be rebuilt. Instead he chose us and at the very end of the movie we saw the half joking mischevious man of steel we know and love from his best comics. It was a very subtle journey. Sublety isn't something the internet is capable of.

I want someone with a confidence to be different. The modern day retelling of Sherlock on BBC is a good example. The big thing is less the character but what are they going to do? One of the most brilliant things I've ever read on the nature of heroism is, “Only villians try to change the world...” I wanted the exact quote but I couldn't find it. It is in the Runaways somewhere after they defeated the Pride. I don't need a whole lot of excuses to reread it I'll find it later. The point is that just about all my character's have ridden the line between heroism and villiany. I am okay with that I did it on purpose most of the time time especially with my first and last books. I don't know. I do know that I want to do something different this year. Maybe something truly reflective. Like a magically realistic memior. Actually that sounds really good. I might do that. The completely true story of my life. It would be more emotional than literal. Actually that wouldn't be very happy so I'd use my life like a model. Take some things fictionalize others and create something new. I like this. Imma do that. There is a 99% chance that it will turn out horribly. However, it has been an hour and I need to sleep.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pet Politics

Today I was reading around the internet and I came across this gem, "Today I was reading and I came across this, "The group, alarmed by a resurgence of the GOP establishment in recent primaries and what activists view as a softened message, drafted demands to be shared with senior lawmakers calling on the party to “recommit” to bedrock principles.  Some of those principles laid out in the new document — strict opposition to illegal immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion"

It is in this article here.  I  like the Washington Post.  They do a pretty good job of getting information across.  And they are my "go to" starting point for learning about American politics.  In all honesty I hate following American politics.  They are so petty and mean and sometimes when I watching them try to deal with things like Bengazi or the Snowden revelations I can't help but think they are way out of their depths.  The sad thing is that ultimately same-sex marriage isn't important.  In terms of nation building, giving Americans the ability to put food on the tables, to come up with a better solution than just putting everyone in jail, to keep our infrastructure well maintained, to head off problems before they happen these are the things congress should be focusing on.  The problem is that they aren't sexy.  They don't grab headlines.  They don't sell.  So instead congress spends its time on idiot distractions like same-sex marriage while our roads fall apart and our education system crumbles around us.  Yes thank you for focusing on the important issues.  

I am fresh off of watching a pile of Ted talks.  I saw the CEO of Google's hopeful vision of the future.  I learned about the art of asking, about the importance of reclaiming yourself from your surroundings in any way you can, to new studies on how to help diagnose autism.  On the one hand we have Google wanting to launch balloons that will help spread the internet to every corner of the earth and on the other we have a young man in Seoul who decides to make the perfect bow as a way to deal with modern urbanized society.  Over 1700 talks on over a hundred subjects all about how we could become better.  It is always a little inspiring to go there.

Then I come back to the portion of out congress who is obsessed on issues that are little more than distractions.  For every minute people spend needlessly dicking around with same-sex marriage is another minute that actual important work isn't getting done.  For every minute we spend haggling over what women can or can't do with their bodies is another minute we aren't spending on dealing with the fact that we still haven't properly reformed our financial sector or that we haven't broken down the to big to fail problem.  By the way it turns out no one knows what "to big to fail" means.  "To big to fail" doesn't indicate that the institution is invincible but rather that if the institution does fail it will cause a cascading effect through out our economy that would be far more devastating than the housing collapse.  Nope none of this is more important than preventing gay people from getting gay married.  

Setting my temper tantrum aside it is funny because Marriage is one of those things that is important to our country and there are some pretty important institutional reasons as to why our government rewards people for getting straight married.  See much of our countries ability to function relies on producing good functioning workers.  We need two types of workers.  We need people to haul garbage, wash dishes (me!), and do various shitwork.  We also need people who can innovate, create, and teach.  Every day highly skilled workers leave the workforce due to retirement and every day new people need to replace them.  But new people can't replace them right away because there is no replacement for experience.

So yeah people have got it into their heads that straight marriages will produce stable healthy new workers into the workforce.  Gay marriages can't do that.  Cause they can't make new things.  Abortion can't do that either cause there is no more baby.  So by upholding traditional marriage values we ensure that there will always be enough people to fill up jobs and pay taxes because our country is really isolated and no one wants to move here.  Yep no one.  It is up to straight married people to replenish our workforce because...

Oh people against gay marriage you're so stupid.  I can respect both sides of the debate about abortion and illeagal immigration is a crazy complex issue mostly because we were really short sighted and didn't build cheap housing for lower income families and made the only way to get to work be a metal machine that just sucks money away at over 30 bucks a week but gay marriage come on.  

Problems are hard.  

This is a logical stopping point but I'd like to a new post.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Change Comes Slowly

So I've been changing thing around about how I live my life and stuff like that.  I do this from time to time.  Hell most times I don't go more than 6 months without trying to change something.  I've come to learn that big dramatic gestures don't work.  Oh they'll work for a bit but eventually I just go back to the way I was.  Other times I would drastically upset my routine for awhile just to see what would happen.  Usually nothing.   For a time I was satisfied by this but I'm not anymore.  So I tried to change little things and see what comes out of it.  So far I've had the most success with it.  Currently I am of the like mind that I need to take better care of myself.  Not for any specific reason but simply because I am getting older and I am entering into the "use it or lose it" phase of my life.  It is nothing to be afraid of unless you ignore it.

So this means exercise.  This is the thing I want to do the least.  It is also something I've realized that most people have a ludicrously unhealthy relationship with.  Exercise regimens swing wildly between super intense boot camps that try to cram years worth of work into a couple of weeks to fat burning simple workouts that claim to just take minutes a day.  I see so little about just general health and doing things because they are good for you.  Overwhelmingly the message is loose weight!  Look better!  Be better!  Rawr.  I do my best to not let the vulgarities of the capitalistic society that I live in get me down but sometimes it is very difficult.  Our health has been commercialized.  Oh well.

I set out to make three small changes, drink less soda, start waking up earlier, and daily streaches.  So far I've done all three which is kinda astounding to me.  I was expecting maybe one of three, two at best but the fact that I've been doing all three for awhile now is surprising.  Not only that but I've made progress.  I can now bend at the waist and touch my toes for the first time in my life and this blog is the product of waking up earlier.  Waking up earlier is more of a means to an end rather than something that will make me healthier.  For exercise I've settled on Yoga.  It can be done without equipment, it uses the body as resistance, it builds flexibility, which are all the things I want.  For awhile I got it into my head that I would just be doing these things after work but that's simply not happening.  It hasn't happened yet and I don't have faith that it will happen any time in the future near or far.  So I decided to wake up earlier and I decided that instead of just playing video games that I will do productive things with my mornings, for the most part, from now on.  Before I start in on yoga I do have to clean up my house quite a bit.  I kinda need to clean up my house anyway but you know how it is.  Once I do that I can begin in earnest.  Which is nice.  I plan on using my mornings for other things too, writing here for example and....well that's it at the moment.  I figure between writing and cleaning up the house and starting yoga I'll have my work cut out for me.  Not that I'm afraid of this mind you but it is something that needs to be done.  It is the next step towards a better future.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


There are certain things that Forgein Affairs, as a publication, just does badly.  One of them is issues about technology.  The articles are either to basic, explaining concepts that I already understand, or just dull.  Just a couple of issues ago there was a coverstory about the rise of big data.  Big data is really boring.  This issue is devoted to technology articles and some were better than the average.  However, I've already read the whole thing and I still have a month to go so I had to shlep out of Barns and Noble to pick up another Journal so I'd have something to read during lunch.  The alternative is un-fucking-aceptable.  I decided on the Journal of International Affairs.  This quater's issue is about the gender issue which is a clever play on words cause this is an issue of a...yeah never mind.

I haven't read anything from it yet but all the other choices were about regions of the world I'm not particularly interested in.  Then again I am not particularly interested in the gender issue either.  The issue of gender is one of those things that is so needlessly over complex that I find myself baffled as to how we could of possibly of gotten this way.  I can already tell that the journal doesn't even attempt to integrate trans issues and that might be for the best.  I mean there are people out there who still believe it is their god given right to beat their wives.  There is just so much baggage wrapped up in women's issues and so much of it doesn't matter.

So lets keep this Amerocentric because that's where I am and I am going to talk about a few things.  In no particular order.

Man: Will you sleep with me?
Woman: No.
Man: You are a slut

Variations of this exchange keep happening and it is one of those things that deeply upsets me.  It isn't just because the exchange itself makes no god damned sense but it still happens.  However, it has less to do with actual gender and more to do with stupid pride.  To explain.  Since the guy just got turned down he's hurt and prolly more than a little embarassed especially if his friends are around.  So he says something hurtful.  He doesn't go full bore by saying cunt because that might make matters much worse for him.  Instead he opts for a middle of the road gender specific insult.  The fact that his insult doesn't make any sense is irrelevant.  All that matters is that he needs to snap back, maintain pride and walk away.

Does this make it any less hurtful?  No.  Does this excuse his behavior?  Actually it makes his behavior even worse.  To just offhandly snap back at someone who turns you down is the behavior of a poorly raised child.  Instead of exercising self control and conducting ones self with a little bit of dignity the man just says something offensive even if it is, linguisticly speaking, gibberish, it still has the intended effect of keeping himself feeling good at the expense of someone else.  The problem is that this response demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the woman to begin with.  It is the, "I am willing to be marginally nice to get what I want and then we are done".  The woman represents a potential for physical satisfaction and little else.   Which is why she is so easily discarded.

It is also hurtful because she is the one who is approached and then is essentially thrust into a no win situation.  She is provided with two options that she may or may not have been asking for.  She could of just been minding her own business which ends in unwanted attention.

Unwanted attention is actually the thing that made me realize that I could never ever properly be a feminist.  There are things that I take for granted.  Simple things that are regularly denied women.  Take sovereignty over one's physical space.  It is a simple matter for a guy to not deal with unwanted physical contact.  After all for the most part it simply doesn't happen.  When a man wants people to back off it generally happens. The most frequent argument I hear about not wanting to go to a gay club is, "I don't want some dude to hit on me".  Essentially they don't want to be treated the way they treat women and I mean I don't blame them.  Who would want that.  As I watched women receive unwanted attention time and time again I realize that if it we me I could just shout "fuck off" and it would work.  Most women aren't so lucky.  Most of the women I've talked to about this topic tend to just brush it off.  Just like I take my physical sovereignty for granted most of them believe that being pestered constantly is just the part of being in the world.   As a result I can be at most a male dissident.

When I first heard the term it pissed me off to no end.  He it still does.  Male Dissident makes me sound like a second class citizen in a movement about equality.  I mean how fucked up is that?  The truth is that it is fucked up.  However, part of making the world a better place is to recognize where the problems are and just not pretending that everything is fine.  No I can not nor will I ever truly be able to understand what it is like to be a woman.  At best I can make an educated guess and that guess is so narrow that it is all but useless.  Women are a gender.  The take up a little bit more than half of the population.  Any number of them will react in different ways to any number of things.  They all have different priorities, wants, needs, goals, problems, and their own versions of solutions.  Coor it is almost like they was people yeah?  See that's the problem with things like Women's Studies writing about gender, and discussing the topic in general.  The human mind's ability to reduce complex problems into manageable parts is astonishing.  However, this isn't always a good thing.  It is how we get conspiracy theories after all.  It is also how we loose a lot of detail.  The problem with women's issue is that the details are the most important part.  The more we reduce the worse our arguments get but we can't make arguments without reduction and around and around it goes.  Part of it an inherent flaw in the essay format.  Part of it is an inherent flaw in the way we think.

Over the years I've solved most of my moral/ethical quandaries by putting the people first.  If I have a friend in front of me who needs help with something then I am going to help my friend before I spit my beliefs in their face.  The individual is more important than a series of abstract ideals.  Let's take trans folk because they always get left out of gender conversations because as I said earlier there is a fanatical need to reduce the complexity of ideas.  I meet a guy they prefer to be refered to as she...well why the fuck not?  I mean it costs me literally nothing to change their gender pronoun and it makes them happy and more comfortable to be themselves.  There is no reason not to do it other than, "It is weird..." however, does that mean that you should prioritize your discomfort over their's?    To me the answer is overwhelmingly no.  I am not religious.  But I do know that I was not put here on this earth to make it a worse place for other people.  With that as a core belief I move forwards and I let it dictate my actions.  When it counts I am kind, even to those who don't deserve it.  And if I need to do something simple like change a pronoun to make someone happy then I am more than willing to do it.

I want to touch on the pay gap really quick before eating frosted flakes and watching star trek.  The pay gap is a hold over from our bosses screwing us over.  At work, at any work talking about pay is a firerable offense and rightly so.  After all then the corporate structure doesn't have to fess up to the massivily shitty way they treat their employees.  This is something that crosses gender lines however, the gender pay gap is what brought the issue to light.  I know that there are people who have been hired years after me who make as much or more than I do.  However, I can't call my bosses on it because if I did then it would demonstrate that I've been discussing pay which is a firable offense.  See how that works?  It gets much nastier on the lower end of the scale like retail jobs where raises are mostly just cost of living adjustments and nothing more.  Taking down our bosses is a discussion for another time though.  I think I am finally hungry.  Fuck body get an eating schedule.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holy Ghost People

I still have the aborted topic of Christianity's culture war to deal with but I think I am going to let that simmer for just one more day before I dive back into it.  Part of the problem is that I wanted to do two things at the same time.  Talk about Holy Ghost people as a movie and talk about Christianity's culture war.  One can lead into the other and ultimately this is going to be part one and the culture war post is going to be part two.  Or something like that.  Anyway for those looking for a review go see Holy Ghost people it is pretty fucking fantastic.

Holy Ghost people takes place in an economically depressed area and up on the hill there is a group of people who make their own laws and it is a place were there police don't go.  It is a set up we've seen before in Winter's Bone and Out of the Furnace.  To a lesser degree Gummo shares the same setting but none of the same themes.  These are movies are examine the developing 3rd world that is happening in our nation and that we are doing fuck all to stop it.  These are people that are being relentlessly left behind.  Some turn to lives of crime and others to religion.  It is an interesting setting.  These movies all feature the desperate and fucked.  Holy Ghost People does so in particular.  The main character explains that the easiest way to find help is to find someone worse off than you are.  It didn't seem like she had to look that hard.

What's interesting is that the Church was a place of joy, laugture, and well it was an island of hope in a sea of utter disrepair.  Down in the city everything was falling apart.  The whole world looked like it was crubling but up on sugar mountain it looked more charmingly rustic than ruined.  These people made a life for themselves.  It is a weird life that involves them handing poisonous snakes every evening while singing hymns but a life nonetheless.  Taking a page from "Tod Browning's Freaks" notebook right up until the end of the movie the church was actually a really cool place.  The gentleman she brought with her for help got converted and not in a stupid fake way either.  His conversion was gradual and it felt right.  More than that though is that when the shit comes to light and hits the fan his anger is the anger of being betrayed.  He is a man who wanted to believe and  is instead let down...but not out.

The ending is interesting.  There is a mild firefight.  The preacher's muscle is killed.  The preacher kills himself.  The man takes the young girl who dragged him up to this damn church and another girl who is his blossiming love interest, puts them in a car and sends them away.  He could of easily of gotten into the car with them but he stayed with the other church folk.  I'm not sure what to do with this information really, no man is the center of the church and I imagine that a snake handling church has a relatively high turnover rate for preachers so maybe he'll be able to stay and live happily ever after.  Or not.  Characterization is one of the movie's great strengths and I can't help but care about the people who I spent the last 88 minutes with.

One of the youtube comments I read for the trailed expressed disappointment that there is yet another movie where Christians are the bad guys.  Yet I don't think it's so easy to make that distinction with Holy Ghost People.  Alright it is easy to write the preacher off as a villainous cult leader and the people of the church as a bunch of psychopaths.  It is super easy the last thing we see them do is tie a young woman to a post and they are about to stone her to death.  We know she isn't the first one, or the second.  However, as the camera pans over the crowd there is a lot of indecision as to what they are doing and if it is correct.  To break this moment down into bad guys and good guys is a gross oversimplification that may be convenient but it doesn't particularly capture what's going on.  The people going to this church aren't evil.  This isn't the Kill List.  Oh god that movie fucked me up for days.  However, well, guess there is no dancing around it but lets face it group think will fuck people up and religion can cause normal people who have all sorts of common sense to believe the stupidest things.  If anything the movie is a warning about letting your priest run away with the congregation and less about the condemnation of Christianity as a whole.  Heck the movie wasn't even interested in larger Christian themes it's just that the snake handling sect of Christianity makes for a sexy topic for a movie.

I'd even go so far as to say that the Preacher wasn't evil either, but he was lost.  Shortly before he tried to have the girl stoned to death he married her.  It is revealed that the same thing happened to her sister in the same order.  The marriage didn't seem like the end result was consummation (SEX) but rather it was a direct seguway into her stoning.  Previously when the preacher mentions his wife and her death he does so with sadness, and a bit of wistfulness.  Yes he lies but he lies just enough to keep things going and he only lied to the outsiders.  There is a great scene where the preacher gets called out for being a small man who is caught up on a power trip and his response is so down to earth and well adjusted that I'm still sold on it.  Even after I've found out that he had several girls tied to a stake and stoned to death.  The man they got to play the preacher has some powerful god damned charisma to him.  I'll give him that.  However, the movie also gives his character space and time to develop.  He's a complex man with a past that we don't get to learn in its entirety.  He could of been a great man and a true leader to those people and instead he lead them to ruin, simply because he didn't know any better.  His story is a majestically tragic one.

Why?  Religion makes people do some zany shit.  Religion has both its good sides and its bad but lets face it, it makes people do some strange things.  Things that they consider normal.  Things that become normal but when we get to the outside world they aren't normal at all.  They are horrible.  Imma stop here because I am staring to get into the culture war which is good!  But I want that to thoroughly be its own post.  DONE!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ramblings of the Day!

I should by trying again on the blog post I wrote last night but I don't feel like it.  I am feeling pretty groovy and I am in no mood to visit the past.  So onwards and upwards.  The problem is that I am having a hard time coming up with a subject for a long post.  So I think I'll just write a bunch of little things until I am happy.

     I realized at some point today that my disapointment with the movie Bag Man stemmed from my own desire to watch another David Lynch movie or show rather than any actual problem with the movie itself.  The movie starts weird and it has the potential to get weirder.  I wanted it to go all out and to show that the world we know is just a scab over an infected wound and when we pick at it just a bit all sorts of crazy shit starts to happen.  The whole set up doesn't make sense.  Cussack has a bag and he has to go to the hotel to protect said bag.  Then for whatever reason it seems like everyone and their mother know all about the fucking bag and they are trying to take it from him.  Everyone from the creepy hotel owner, to the tall black man and his Russian midget friend, to some fake FBI agents, to the local insane cops.  Everything from the way the movie is shot, to its bizzarre lighting, to the case showcases a situation that defies any sort of sense whatsoever.  Best of all Cussack's character realizes this and he's facted with the constant question of what the fuck is going on.  Interspersed will all this is his menacing boss slowly but surely making his way towards the hotel.  To what end?  Who knows?
    However, as the movie goes on everything gets explained, and not in some stupid hand wavey fashion either but actually explained.  Best of all is that they don't hand hold you through the explanation.  For awhile I couldn't figure out the motivation of the girl.  The girl, like David's Prometheus, had all the information as to what was going on but didn't want to share it.  Then right as I was about to go home I figgured out her endgame.  It is a damn clever movie that will only be seen by like 10 people and appreciated by maybe 4.  It isn't quite at the level of Way of the Gun but it is pretty close.

     I still want a new David Lynch movie or at least someone trying to rip off his style.  Fuck.

     I like to kick around board game design sometimes.  It never really goes anywhere but it is a type of creativity I don't get to use very often and it is a fun and interesting challange.  I like to write out a list of goals and then institute designs in order to meet them.  Currently I am kicking around a post apocalyptic base building game.  It is worker placement but closer to the style of Eclipse or Twilight Imperium than say Agricola.  Each player will have a base and some nearby reasources that they can gather.  However, in order to progress they are going to have to venture out into the wilderness where they can discover lost technology, better sources of goods, specialists to help them build things, and whathave you.  I want the whole thing to be card based because it is easy to break cards out and it is easy to make components for card games.

So each player will have a starting hand of cards that has stuff that is specific to their faction.  There will also be other decks of basic cards that everyone can build such as warehouses, farms, houses, that sort of thing.  However, if they want to get their economy going they are going to have to explore the wasteland which will be in the form of a deck in the center.  The center deck will have things like, NPCs that you can trade with, permentate resource gathering spots, special artifacts or technology, skilled workers, essentially a mix of permenate wasteland features and temporary ones.  It will take fuel to get to the wasteland and to get home again.  Making trips to the wasteland will be the main source of victory points for the players.

However, there will be overlapping victory conditions because I want combat to be a thing.  The way I want combat to work is first the player needs to move a raiding force into the wastelands.  Since most wastelands cards will have some sort of combat involved this isn't in of itself suspicious everyone will have to do it.  However, then once the raiding force is in the wastelands it can then target another player.  It will take one turn to get to the wasteland and another turn to get to the other player's base and the target of the raid has to be announced a turn ahead of time.  This will give the defending player one turn to prepare.  This represents the defending player's scouts and whatnot.

The thing is that I am having a hard time deciding what sort of combat I want.  Initially I was just going to go with attack total +modifiers vs defense total +modifers= number of d6's rolled 5's and 6's are successes and whomever wins gets stuff.

However towards the end of my lunch break I was thinking that maybe instead I might wanna make combat a bit of an event.  Something that involves a hand of lets say 3 rock paper scissor like cards and three special cards unique to every faction.   I am thinking I like this better because I want every faction to play radically differently from each other and having more stuff that the other guy doesn't have will help this out.

The basic design goals of the game were to allow the players to feel like they are building a little settlement.  To have it seat anywhere from 2-6 players.  To be asymmetrical.  The be expandable in all sorts of different and exciting ways.

Currently it is at the minimum on the heavier side of things and it is staring to resemble more Clash of Cultures, Merchants and Mauraders, Eclipse in terms of game play style.  Considering that the original concept was a deck building game we've made quite a drastic shift.  Like I said I want to keep it wholely card based because they are easier to transport.  I am still in the vauge concept phase now but I think I'm going to start hammering out fine details.  If I get to that point I'll ask for help.

Alright I am satisfied with the amount I've written time for Minecraft!

The Culture War and Christianity

Recently, I watched this movie called Holy Ghost people which is a fantastic little low budget indie film that manages to pack a hell of a lot into its 88 minute run time.  When I went to go post a link to the trailer on my facebook wall so that my friends would look it up and possibly watch it my eyes unwillingly flicked to the comment section where I saw things like:

"just another movie to make Christian people look bad and blaspheme God. What a shame!" -chazbo34
"Oh, Christians are the bad guys again while satanism promoted by Gaga, Katy Perry, Jay Z, Marilyn Manson is good..." ImmortalCataphract

"Making vampires, demons, ghosts look fun & cool. Also, making churches, religion look bad and anti social, that's the weird, evil, satanic hollywood's plan now, too obvious." -~ Bright Romeo ~  (this one is my favorite)

Here is the trailer for those to lazy to look it up themselves:

Normally I laugh off the contents of the youtube comment area but this struck me.  Holy Ghost people is a low budget independent movie that you would only hear of if you follow an indie movie news feed like twitch or something like that.  How these people, who have no interest in the movie, heard of it I will never know.  I am curious though.  Anyway though out my work day it stuck with me.  Since I wanted to write more here in this blog I figure this would be a good time.  

So lets begin shall we?  This movie isn't unique in putting Christianity in a bad light.  There is Red State which is a direct slam against the Westero god hates fags assholes, Jesus Camp, But I'm a Cheerleader, the last season of Big Love, and all that's just off the top of my head.  Christians like to talk about persecution.  I think it is mostly because they are afraid of actually experiencing it rather than experiencing it proper but what do I know.

As an outsider looking in, yes there is indeed a conflict of culture going on.  It is also one that Christians aren't doing to well in.  The problem is that it is mostly their fault and they don't like to hear that but come on it is really easy.  Setting aside Westero Baptist, the fact that christianity has been stolen by the tea party, the kkk, and any other group of nuts that want to justify whatever fucked up thing they are up to.  Heck we can even set aside the occasional abortion clinic bombing or its really fucked up history in America.  Taking all that and setting it aside we are left with two culturally problematic pieces of resistance.

1) They have little to no interest in policing themselves as a religion as a whole.

2) Is that a large number of Christians are dead set on everyone else following their code of morality no matter if they like it or not.

Before I go further I'd like to say that most Christians are nice, mentally balanced, well rounded people, who have a mix of wisdom and compassion.  When I say most I fucking mean it.  I don't mean most of my friends so in case one of them read it they know I am not talking about them because they should know that already.  I mean MOST OF THEM in America as a whole are pretty decent god damn people.  However, that doesn't matter because of point 1.  See a lot of people have a superficial view of Christianity and lets face it for a religion that talks so much about flocks and shepherds they don't do dick when it comes to policing each other.  Let's set aside the Westboro fuckwads and focus on the local scene.  Churches form a community within the church themselves but most churches are isolated from each other.  I've been a to a fuckton of churches over the years and I haven't seen very much in interchurch events, churches banding together in times of crisis to help the needy, churches working as a team to tackle social issues.  No for the most part churches are in of themselves insular.  As a result some churches end up weird.  Really weird I went to an honest to god cult meeting once dressed up like it was a normal run of the mill 1st Baptist Church.  There are some large Christian organizations but they aren't doing enough to undo the damage that some of their lost flock members are off causing.  As a result their overall perception suffers.  For those local to Pensacola Father Nathan Monk is a bit of a local hero and rightly so.  He's a good guy and if more people stood up like him against the tyranny of the terrible flock members then Christianity could get some serious legs under it again.  Unfortunately to many Christians just give the extremists a pass.

I don't know or really care how this is supposed to come to pass.  I am not a Christian nor do I plan to become one.  However, if Christianity is everything it is supposed to be then it is the most important thing those people are going to do on this earth and they can't really get some good going if they are going to allow the behavior of their extremists to continue unchecked.

Part of the problem that comes with checking the extremists is the conflict of, "Well they are right...we just don't agree with their methods".  Harking back to Westboro, "Does god hate?" yeah well sure and since a lot of Christians don't agree with the homosexual lifestyle then what do you do?  Tell them to please not be so mean about it?  To have some tact?  How do you tell someone to shut up when you agree with them?  It is a tough question to answer but then again I don't have a problem with homosexuality so it is a lot easier for me.

This brings me neatly to point two.  For the first point I focused heavily on Westboro but they aren't the real problem.  They are a problem.  But it is something that could be easily solved is the Christian community got together and told those people to shut the fuck up or at least if the Christian community banned together to say we condemn these people and pray that they come back to the light.  There should be a constant prayer circle in front of their church trying to help them.  However, they are, at most, a side show.  A cartoon that this there for the amusement of the news and nothing else.  All they do is ruin the days of the people whoes lives they affect.  The bigger problem is that Christianity demands that everyone needs to believe what they believe.  Gay marriage needs to remain illegal because the bible says so.  Not because of any demonstrable danger to society and not to protect individuals from hurting themselves or others.  Nope just because they believe, with no actual evidence to back it up.

Abortion is even worse.  If they wanted less abortions.  I mean REALLY wanted less abortions then they would set up an interchurch foster care system, they would pay women to bring their children to term and they would take care of them.  They would offer women who bring their children to term support and a home.  They would go out of their way to give women as many alternatives to abortion as possible.  Instead we have the call for laws and protests.  The laws are a particular brand of fucked up because they don't actually stop the abortions they just make sure that women get punished. We've all heard this shit before moving on.

Then there is the evolution debacle.  Holy shit when Christians wanna get weird about something they go all out.  These people are actually building a fucking ark.  Millions of dollars have gone into this completely useless testament that Noah's Ark happened and that evolution is shit.  Over 30 million dollars have been raised to build this stupid thing.  Imagine all the good these people could of done instead of spending 30 million on a boat?

As an outsider I see all these things and I see a drive to force non Christians to conform to Christian law if we like it or not and that's messed up.  As an outsider I don't like it.  No one likes it really except the Christians who are to wrapped up in themselves to see reality.  So on the one hand we have Christians complaining about the lack of faith in the millennial generation and how the country is slipping further away from Christian beleifs.  Then on the other hand we have, God hates fags, giant boats, abortion clinic protests, and  Christians who feel the need to walk up and pester you while you are reading. I called it a culture war in my title not because it is the rest of the world versus the Christians though it may feel like that from time to time.

The worst enemy of Christianity is Christianity.  For every 100 amazing Christians there is one lunatic.  The problem is that the lunatic is 100 times louder than all the good Christians and that's what we see.  We see a group of people who want to pass ineffective laws so they can feel smug in their own morality, and who want to push their beliefs on us and it doesn't work.  I don't hate the religion any more than I hate its practitioners.  I recognize that it is a vast religion with people from all walks of life.  But when they let the lunatics stand at the forefront then it becomes much easier to see why people don't like them very much.  Failure to deal with the internal problems will rip the religion apart.  Oh well.