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Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Stand my ground, I won't give in. No more denying, I gotta face it…"

Wow.  A whole month I've been stagnating on this.  Sure, I've been busy with school.  I just had my AP US History exam on Friday.  It's also the end of the year, and teachers are piling on the work like it's going out of style.  But, I've also been occupied with other things.  Namely, after being clean since last October, I dragged myself back into playing Minecraft.  And most of my free time has been spent playing on one server, Battle for Eldaran. Short version: it's a role-playing server in which some factions are competing to control Eldaran, others are just trying to get by.
A new player showed up a few days ago: qwerty200708, or ollieatsburgers as he's known on the Minecraft and server forums, or Jex as he's known in-game.  He and I got into a…discussion within five minutes of meeting each other. He wants to start a faction on the server called Tradia.  It's a trading kingdom.  Sounds good, no?  Well, from what I could gather during the discussion, he wants to use trade to make all the factions his friends, then he wants to overthrow Iordo, the most powerful faction on the server.  From there, he plans to have Tradia be the main faction.  I tried calling him out on some of the faulty logic in his plans, but he wasn't having it.  So, the pissing match spilled over onto the server website.  He started a thread that was the "blueprint" for tradia.  He and I (and even several other people) have been at it there ever since.  Since you need an account to view the thread, and just posting blocks of text would be dull and confusing, I'll just post screenshots of the thread.

He edited that post.  The original text was, "Combat is punishable by death," and, "Bribery is punishable by death," among other things.

A refute to his plans and what he told me.  I know it's melodramatic, but I do that sometimes.

An apology so I don't sound like a contrary asshole.

And an APUSH-inspired rebuttal to several things he's said.  (I honestly never thought that class would come in handy so soon.)

As you can see, he's upset and confused several people, including a couple administrators.  While I don't profess to be of flawless logic and reason in all this (the statement about SOPA is rife with personal viewpoint), I'm just going to stand my ground, concede where necessary, and point out all the ways this guy's an idiot.  His refusal to use weapons is insulting.  Like it or not, we humans fight for what we want.  And that fighting tends to involve weapons when what we want is a physical item.  Occasionally, we'll fight with weapons over intangible things too. To think that a simulated environment like Minecraft can change that is…deluded.  Participants of MMOs like EVE, Shores of Hazeron, and others are proof that, if you hand someone a gun and a player-run economy, they're going to use it to get what they want, despite the fact that it has no bearing on the real world.  I doubt this is going to turn out any different.  

"Well you can't buy me love
But I'll kick your ass for free
So why don't you take a vacation
And shut the fuck up?"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Can't we all just get along?"

With today being Easter and all, I think it's time I talk about religious fundamentalism.  For those of you who don't know what that means, fundamentalism is a type of religious style where practitioners see only their views as true.  To them, if you don't agree with them, you are wrong.  End of story.  As you can probably guess, these people don't have the most sound arguments to back up their constant thrashing of other beliefs.  This can range from fallacy-riddled statements to them just not knowing anything about the religion they're trying to propagate.  If you need an example, here's an interesting one from a YouTube video.

In November of 2011, the symphonic rock group Globus released its second album, Break From this World.  The final track, "Elegy," is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.  It's a song about the virtuous life about a person who recently died.  To quote the song directly, "An altruistic dynamo."  The last two lines of the third verse, "God has let you down / God has let you down," sparked a flame war in the comments section of the above video.  In one corner, you have the Christian fundamentalists, calling Globus blasphemers and saying that they refuse to listen to the song because of those two lines, among other things.  In the other corner, you have the atheists and agnostics, some whom are not as dim-witted as their counterparts, but their debating could use work all the same.

Now, I'm a pluralist to the core.  I am of the opinion that all religions are true, with some obvious exceptions.  My whole family is Catholic.  That environment, and other factors caused by it, ended up causing me to stop practicing, mostly due to the over-saturation of headscratchers I had to deal with.  Now, I hold no ill will towards the Catholic Church.  I deem it a perfectly viable belief system for those who want to accept it.  If it works for you, you won't hear a word out of my mouth.  That is, until you start trying to jam the doctrine down my throat.  When you do, that's when I start taking offense.  Not to the religion, but the person spewing it like a sick infant does with its undigested food.

I'm an agnostic.  I do believe that there is something out there that is greater than us.  I just don't have a name or face to put to it.  Some people do.  It's been called God/Allah/Jehovah/Yahweh.  It's been called Zeus/Jupiter.  It's been called Odin.  It's been called Brahman.  It's been called names that have been lost to the sands of time.  But, they're just names, strings of sounds used to identify and distinguish between all the different perspectives we have on that one silent force, that one ultimate power that we attribute our existence to.  
Take my fictional, just-for-argumentative-purposes friend Steven Joseph Smith, Jr., here.  His dad calls him "Junior."  His grandmother calls him "Deary." His uncle calls him "Sport."  I call him "Steve."  His butler calls him "Master Steven."  His younger sister calls him "Pighead."  Is his uncle talking to a different person than I talk to?  No.  We're both talking to the same Steven Joseph Smith, Jr.  However, we're speaking to a different aspect of him.  I'm talking to him as a friend; my contemporary and comrade to whom I can be a total dickwad and have us both laugh at it.  His uncle, on the other hand, is talking to his brother's son, a young man from the next generation of the family, and the supposed heir to his father's place in his heart.  We each choose to refer to him in a way that reflects how we want to see him.   I'm not going to berate his uncle for not seeing Steve as a close friend like I do.  He's not going to get on my case about not seeing Steve as a younger version of his brother.  
Why, then, do we treat religion differently?  It's just different reasons for the same thing, different masks for the same power.  What makes one reason, one mask wrong, and another right?  Is your religious text irrefutable historical proof that the world happened the way you believe it did?  Can you prove that it is indeed true with concrete fact?  Can that proof disprove the validity of other beliefs?  If you answered yes to all those questions, and most people would agree with you, then congratulations, you have found a religion based on fact, not years of mythos.  If not, then you can still believe it.  Just don't expect everyone to believe it alongside you.  Hell, even if your religion is completely factual, don't expect everyone to believe it alongside you.  

We live in a different world than the one that existed 2,000, 6,000, or even 10,000 years ago.  We are no longer isolated civilizations connected by trade caravans.  We humans are connected by instant communication, supersonic travel, and slowly dissolving cultural barriers.  Fundamentalism may have worked in the dark ages, when totalitarian rule could go unobstructed by outside powers, when cultures were homogenous and one person's world consisted solely of the land they could see from their house.  Now, we have the world at our fingertips, generations and millennia of opinions, beliefs, and ideas swirling around in this digital age, all readily available if someone is willing to listen.  Sitting down and blindly rejecting and belittling everything and everyone who disagrees with what you think will not earn you respect like it did all those years ago.  It does not show honor or the ability to stick to your guns.  It shows that you are a bigot, that you are unable to accept anything new.  You are not the herald of tomorrow.  You are the mourner of yesterday.  This world is changing.  Religion needs to change with it.  And that means putting pride six feet under and acknowledging that someone who is of a different opinion might be onto something.  And most religions have.  Pope John Paul II openly advocated pluralism for the doctrine of the Catholic Church, reducing centuries of animosity towards the Protestants, the Muslims, the Jews, and most anyone else.  Eastern religions like Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism have been pluralist and open to all views since their creation.  The Crusades and the Inquisition are over.  It's time for all the "hardcore" religious people out there to wake up.  Wake up, and smell the ashes.  

Killing, fighting
Dying trying.
All seems right in the name of a god
Hopeless hundreds,
Sad and lonesome
When someone laughs, the other one cries.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

'bout time…

Thank the fucking gods that Spring Break starts tomorrow.  Between…well, a lot of stuff (lack of sleep, lots of tests, increasingly nagging parents, personal issues, general whatthefuckery, etc.), I'm being worn incredibly thin.  If this keeps up any longer, something's going to give, and that something will probably be me.  Dunno what the straw that breaks the mule's back would be, but I don't like the projected outcome.  Luckily, I now have a week and a half to rest and recuperate.  Sure, it means I need to put up with my family for almost the whole time, and I'm going to be separated from my friends the whole time, but at least I can get back all the sleep I've lost in the past month, get myself sorted, and what have you.

Easter should be interesting.  From the looks of it, the entire California branch of my family is going to be showing up. I just hope I'll be allowed to float around on my own instead of being dragged into conversations that have no bearing on my life.  With a little luck, I'll be able to just slap on the studio headphones and listen to "Mighty Rivers Run" most of the day.  Remember kids, "anti-social through circumstance" is not your fault.

Wonder what it's like to be in a coma…

Saturday, March 31, 2012


I know it's been a week, but there really hasn't been much to report.  School's been kinda "meh," and I've been playing a lot of Fallout: New Vegas lately, and I am loving every minute (even if the DLC enemies tend to be a bit OP sometimes).

But, not everything is smooth sailing as I head into spring break.  I have a real close friend who is in need of serious help.  His depression is just getting worse and I am, unfortunately, in no position to do anything but sit at my computer and try to tell him the "final solution" isn't the answer to his problems.  I just hate being so fucking helpless in a situation like this.  He's been there every goddamn time I needed him, and yet all I can do for him when he needs something is feed him the same cliché, unhelpful bullshit he could get at a hotline.  Best I'm able to do is try to engage him in banter to distract him, but even his wit is going, so the effects are minimal at best.  I just don't want him to go.  Not yet.  Not like this.  He deserves more than this.  He's always been a decent sort to me.  Made my Sophomore year the best year of my life.  In my book, that's a debt that can never be indemnified.  And I can't even afford to make the minimum payments on it.

I've always had the nagging feeling that my number is coming up soon.  And up until this started, I was going to just take it in stride, because it happens to everyone.  Now, good ol' Death is going to have to drag me kicking and screaming if he wants me to go before my friend pulls himself together.  Because with God, Zeus, Odin, or whoever is out there as my witness, I'm not going down without a fight if my friends are in trouble.  Because they're all I've got.

"If we must die…[let it be] like men…pressed to the wall…but fighting back" -- Claude McKay

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thought you might find this interesting…

I was digging through some of my old documents and found an old story idea I've long since abandoned.  Figured you might get a kick out of it.

            There are bad people in this world.  It’s a fact of life.  Some people are more than happy to screw over their fellow man for the sake of their own status.  It happens, because humans are capable of a lot more than doing the right thing.  That’s why we have police forces, to hunt down these people and get them to make reparations.  Of course, criminals don’t want that.  So they run.  The mediocre ones flee to another state.  The smart ones flee to another country.  The really smart ones disappear completely.  And wherever they go, authorities try to follow, with varying success.  But even international organizations like INTERPOL have their limits.  If they’re chasing ghosts or trying to rush someone heavily entrenched in local bureaucracy, there’s only so much they can do without crossing a line.  That’s when they call the best in the business: the N’zhee Garna’an.
             The N’zhee have made a name for themselves as bounty hunters of the highest caliber.  Scumbag on the run?  Ne’er-do-well jumping parole?  Give them a call.  The guy will turn up handcuffed outside your office.  End of story; no ifs, ands, or buts.  So long as the charges are good, that is.  If you’re a dirty cop trying to get an innocent man arrested, it’ll be your ass hanging from the streetlamp, not his.  And don’t try to fight the allegations, either.  They have connections.  Lots of them.  If you did it, you’re never getting off the hook with them on your tail.  For the N’zhee, no job is too big or too small.  From generating scandals to performing assassinations, if it’s for the good of society, they’ll get you the results you want.  They’ve existed throughout history, living generation after generation in the shadows, known only in rumor to all but the highest powers.  Though their names are many throughout the ages, today they are known by only one.  They are known simply as the Longcoats.
            Meet Verel Ingram, the FNG for the Longcoats’ Pacific Northwest chapter.  He was an investigative journalist for the Pacifica Tribune until his editor fired him for digging too hard.  The Longcoats, intrigued by his tenacity, picked him up off the rebound.  With a service pistol in one hand and an investigation license in the other, they sent him to assist in manhunts, allowing him to work freelance in between.  However, he’s about to learn that there’s more to crime than just bad people. 

Certain plot elements and character designs have seeped into other works I have going at present, and writing different universes with the near-identical characters is tacky, in my opinion.  Thought I might turn it into a video game if I ever get the hardware and resources. Or, if push comes to shove, I could always build it into a tabletop RPG.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Still Comforted by the Spirit…

So, tonight's Junior Prom.  [Sitcom cheers]  Yeah, it's great.  Almost Senior year now, which will range from great to an absolute stressed-out clusterfuck.  Y'wanna know something else?  I'm not going.  Yeah, no joke, I'm stuck at home tonight.  "Why?" I hear you ask.  Small technicality the school has in its eligibility requirements for dances and co-curricular activities: community service.

The Christian Community Service Hours program was instituted I believe to meet the criteria of the sponsor organization for our school, though I have to double-check.  Basically, you need to clock 80 hours of community service by beginning of the second semester of your Senior year, at 20 hours per year.  You don't do that, you don't graduate. Plain and simple.  Even if you've got more than enough units (I'll be fifteen units over the minimum requirement come the end of my Senior year), you don't do your CCS requirement, you can't leave.  So, alright, you've made it a chore alongside the course load; good going, administration.  If that wasn't enough, they added an extra caveat to the program: You don't complete the previous year's hours by the beginning of the next year, you can't participate in co-curricular activities.  Clubs?  No.  Sports?  Nuh-uh.  Dances?  Not a prayer.  The only way you can get yourself off the ban list is to turn in said hours.  Sure, those things are all privileges that the administration can freely take away, and not completing a part of your graduation requirement is an excuse for them to do so.  But a system that relies on negative reinforcement to ensure people follow it is, in my opinion, not the best idea.  So, I propose a new idea:
As I stated a few days ago, we need to take 3 semester-long theology classes in our upper-division years.  As I also stated, you can't get through that without having two of the most disliked teachers in the whole school.  So, instead of taking those classes, you can substitute any upper-division theology class with community service.  You just complete hours equal to the number of hours you would spend in the class by the end of the semester and you're done.  You get your units for the pass/fail course, you complete a requirement, you do good for the community, and you get avoid homicidal impulses altogether.  Everyone wins.  And you can do this for as many or as few of the 3 classes as you would like.
Now, I haven't done the math on this, but I'm fairly certain that you'd be completing more than 20 hours in half the time.  Still, it's a class you don't have to study for, so that opens your schedule a bit.  Not to mention I could get 30 hours in a little under a month if I really felt like it.  Problem is, I don't.  My idea, however off-base and unfeasible it may or may not turn out to be, at least offers an incentive for doing community service: you can avoid a teacher you don't like.

I know you're tired of hearing me bitch for almost a week straight, so I'll shift gears a bit now.

I'm not particularly social.  I don't find solitude a bad thing.  However, when I'm pretty much a recluse through circumstance, getting out of the house and away from my family and having a good time is a necessity every once in a while.  That's why I'm not really against going to school dances.  I don't go to listen to the DJ blast the same songs that I hate over and over.  I don't go to watch people I don't know get their freak on while I sip punch casually in a corner.  I go to just hang out with friends in an atmosphere that has no problems with cutting loose.  I go to have a good time without my parents monitoring everything I say and do and who I'm with.  Even if it means I need to watch some of the most clichéd parts of high school relationships everywhere I look.

My sister will be out watching The Hunger Games tonight, and my parents will probably start keeping to themselves sometime after 8 in the evening.

So, tonight I'm going to kick back with a 2-liter of cola (Pepsi this time), some Fallout 3, some Robotech, and 30 hours' worth of music.  That's company enough for me.  Because, after all, when you've got your music,
"There is magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers,
Undemanding contact in your happy solitude."

If music is the new crack, then I'm going to need some serious rehab.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

All's Fair in Love, War, and Politics

This post was supposed to be up yesterday, but I was up until 2 a.m. last night editing that damn video (Which is officially completed.  We're presenting on Monday.  Still wanna tell Mr. Grrr to shove a video camera up his ass, though).

So, yesterday the school ate up a collaboration period for speeches from the Associated Student Body Council candidates for next year.  [waves hands above head] Yay democracy! Whoo! [/looking like a moron].  Anyway, to kick things off, the Assistant Principal of Campus Life went on a short tangent on how great the democratic process is and how lucky we are to have it in this country and in this school.  I have no beef with democracy and voting.  I think having the chance to have the all damns I give be reflected in policy is a cause worth fighting for, truth be told.  The problem is, in most cases, be it in a school of a few heads shy of a thousand or a country of over 311 million, the damn you give is not going to be the one reflected in policy unless it's popular opinion; that's just the way this works.  Now, in no way am I advocating catering to the minority.  If we made policies to agree with every dissenter, every person with even the tiniest discrepancy in opinion, we'd have 311 million wheels each trying to pull the car in a different direction.  We'd be going nowhere fast.  The only reason democracy has worked for as long as it has is because most of the minorities learn to suck it up and deal until next vote.  While rallies, demonstrations, and speeches are a good way to pick up enough people to push into the majority, there's one very important thing to remember: don't make yourself look like an idiot.  Yes, lighting cars on fire, looting buildings, smashing windows, starting riots, shutting down economic thoroughfares (coughcoughportofoaklandcough), protesting funerals (coughcoughwestborobaptistchurchcough), while these things get you attention, the part of this country that is actually intelligent (which I hope is larger than I think it is) isn't going to jump in.  They're going to laugh at you.  They're going to tell you all the reasons why you're a moron and your demonstrations are during more harm than good.  "It's the thought that counts" only applies to gifts.  When it comes to trying to promote change, you better have more than a thought.  You better have more than two thoughts.  And no, they shouldn't involve any part or combination of "Eating," "Sleeping," and "Sex."

Ok, I'm rambling, but you get the point.  I believe that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America gives us the right to freedom of speech and assembly.  It gives us the right to speak our minds (I'll get to expected limits of decency on that another time).  Last time I checked, it didn't protect the right to be heard.  Or to destroy property.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Slow day

Nothing of any interest really happened today.  Just lectures and busy-work in my classes.  Suppose I should be thankful, what with that blasted video project consuming a fair chunk of the (admittedly copious) free time I have.  I'm just going to knock the editing for that out as best I can with what I have between now and Thursday morning.  If we're lucky, which there's an 80% we will be, we won't have to present until next Monday (Though, since all my luck has inexplicably been conscripted to the "Avoid Personal Injury Corps.", that probability is likely reduced).  That said, I'm not touching that thing this weekend without a damn good reason.

Just so you have something to look at, I made this:

I should probably start doing "Slow Day Anecdotes" or something on days like this so I have something to post.  Because I know that, if I start skipping days, I'm going to fall off the horse again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Let's start this off with a rant

Yes, you read right. I'm not rebooting this with some heart-felt bit of prose or a philosophical monologue. No, I'm getting straight to the nitty-gritty. So, let's get to it.

So, I go to a Catholic high school in my town.  For our Theology graduation requirement, we have to take three classes in our Junior and Senior years, one falling into each of the following categories: Spiritual (Major Religions of the World, Christian Spirituality), Scriptural (Bible as Literature, Prophesy and Apocalyptic Literature), and Social Justice (Catholic Social Teaching, Peace and Conflict Studies). The latter two categories are each monopolized by one teacher respectively.  I'm going to withhold their names, mostly to preserve my own anonymity as opposed to theirs (believe me, I'd give you their full names and even the classrooms they teach in if I could get away with it). Therefore, I will refer to them as Mr. Grrr (Scripture) and Ms. Ditz (Social Justice).  Both have their popularity ratings in an upside-down bell-curve. Students either love them or hate them; rarely is there any middle ground.  I happen to be on the far left extreme for both.  I'm just too good at keeping my nose clean for them to realize it.

I'm currently in Mr. Grrr's Bible as Literature class.  Why?  Well, I figured if I was going to have to suffer through this shitstorm, I might as well take a class on something I can make cynical and bastardly remarks on.  I was raised having Catholicism shoved down my throat by my parents, sent to CCD classes twice a week for seven years, being dragged to church every Sunday, and even a brief two-year stint in a Catholic elementary school (I'll get to that in another post).  Needless to say, I'm not especially Catholic.  I'm more agnostic than anything.  Still, I have an excuse to rip on the world's best-selling book, having had it practically tied to me most of my life.

I've heard many a tale from my friends who have had Mr. Grrr as a teacher about his…interesting grading system.  All of them are true.  For a guy who's whole personality schtick is, "It's cool.  I'm chill.", he's very anal-retentive about having all his students produce 100% original work.  Alright, that doesn't sound so bad, does it?  Teaches us to do things for ourselves, right?  Well, if you even adapt something that isn't yours for your assignment (short of quotes), even if you cite it up-front where everyone can see it, you get a zero on the assignment.  End of story.  If you're lucky, he'll let you redo the assignment.  If you're not, well, you've got that zero to contend with as well as that black-eye on his opinion of you.  Some of you reading may see him as just combatting laziness and schlock-job work, but it gets better.  These classes are only a semester long each.  So he's rushing through it to make sure he finishes whatever it is he wants to do.  However, he doesn't skimp on the projects.  The big projects.  And he gives us two weeks, tops. OK, technically we have three weeks to a month, but the guy just keeps flappin' his trap for so long, it takes him almost a week to explain the criteria and get groups together.  But the due date remains the same.  Grating on you yet?  Just wait, it gets even better.  If you turn in exceptional and professional-quality work, he's notorious for having a zero waiting for you.  One of my friends is an absolute genius at 3D modeling.  Guy's got his entire art school tuition paid for from grants and scholarships.  He decided to set the bar in his ApocaLit class by presenting his little masterpieces for a project.  Four times.  He got zeroes on the first three.  Now, between appeals to administration, department chairs, and direct intervention from his parents, he was able to overturn the three zeroes.  For as much flak as I can confirm that man has caught, I can't figure out why Mr. Grrr hasn't been handed a pink slip yet.

At last we get to the whole point of this exercise.  Right now, we are working on a project for Bible as Lit, where we need to do a video re-enactment of one of the Prophetic books of the Bible.  No big deal, right? Just get some bedsheets, wear them like togas, grab a point-and-shoot still-cam, set it to video, and just make a quick home film.  Well…no, not at all.  He wants, and I quote, "Something worthy of the Sundance Film Festival," with full sets, costumes, memorized and convincing dialogue, and perfect editing.  This is due Thursday.  We got our groups on Friday, March 9th. We didn't have time to decide on our book until the following Tuesday, March 13th.  And he wants this on the 22nd.  Naturally, this has pissed a lot of students off.  With no budget and no time, we are not going to be able to produce a professional-quality short film like he wants.  Any of you with a grain common sense can understand that.  In my opinion, he's either not grasping or ignoring the fact that we are not professionals.  Movie-making is not our passion or life goal.  It is not what we base our lives around.  Right now, we're just worried about making it through the next year and a half, and all the classes it entails, without tripping over grades.  Why he doesn't take this into account is beyond me.  I'll treat you all to the delusions in grandeur that are my plans on how to get through that granite skull of his another time.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some voiceovers to do.

Back in the saddle…I think.

Greetings, Internet. Yes, it's been a while. Well over a year, in fact.  In case any of you are wondering why I've been dormant for that long, that can be summed up in four simple words: I'm a lazy bastard.  Well, lazy and forgetful, but that's not really the point.  I plan to start doing this regularly again, now that I have a bit more fuel for the fire. It'll likely be a lot of me bitching about X or Y (because that's the kind of mood I've been in lately. Don't ask me why.  I don't know), but I might have a few things that might be meaningful or useful to the community at large if I'm having that kind of day.

I plan to start doing text reviews for various media and general crap I've collected up to this point.  Music, movies, TV shows, video games, maybe a few books. While they will primarily be things I've enjoyed (which means not a lot of railing on them for comedic value), I will drag up a few things here and there that I'm…not so fond of.

In any case, here's hoping I can go without neglecting this for a year this time.