December 20, 2011

Snowflake Logic

Good lord, it's been a while since I've managed to put a post up on this thing.  With work, holidays, AND the release of Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Awesome!), Skyrim (Awesomer!), and Star Wars: The Old Republic (Goodbye, social life; Hello, XP bar!) all piling up around me, there just wasn't a second leftover to finish this post.  But, as always, I've managed to scrounge together my thoughts into a coherent treatise (exaggeration) for you all to discuss as we enter the Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Who-Cares week. 

So then...the topic at hand.  I feel it is best summed up by a single dictum:

You are NOT special.

That's right, my gentle snowflakes; you are most assuredly not anything special.  With cards now hurled onto the table hard enough to break all the legs, let's back up a bit and get at the real issue here.  I'm not saying that no-one has something about them that they are good at; I'm not saying that everyone is identical.  I'm saying that there is nothing special about ANY of us, inherently or otherwise. 

As we discussed in my post "The Tail of the Bell", I mentioned that "Normal" is defined, not by the center of the curve where the majority dwell, but rather by the great diversity found in the totality of the curve.  The oddities often seen at the tail ends are simply the results of some greater degree of variation of "the norm".  Since I don't want to get too tangential about this, let me just remind you all that the other point made in that post was that we are all "Normal" as defined by the bell-curve of existence and so we should strive for inclusivity of any who show interest, regardless of their place on the spectrum.

With this in mind, let's return to our subject: You. 

No matter where you come from, what you think you are, what you want to be, you will always have qualities unique to you.  DNA, alone, proves the utter uniqueness of individual organisms in the scheme of life, as even identical twins mutate differently as a consequence of their environments.  BUT...and it's a very big but...this doesn't make you "Special". 

"Special" is one of those buzz words that organizations like to use to describe talented individuals (or, in the case of marketing, the consumer) in order to make them feel some sense of self esteem or worth that they might not otherwise feel for themselves.  Sounds noble, but look under the surface of this insidious practice and you'll quickly see that the results are not only bad, they are outright destructive; not just of the individual, but of the society they participate in.

We hear the word "special" applied most often to children in their early years.  "Oh, Johnny's so special! He knew how to build spaghetti bridges at the age of 3 months!"; "Oh Cindy is such a special girl! She knew the whole map of the United States in-utero!" or other such nonsense phrases get dumped on these poor children early and often.  I know it looks like innocent praise, and telling your child he/she/it is special seems like a good thing to do.  It'll help them feel "confident" or "sure of themseles" as they face the tribulations of life.  Unfortunately, all the "Special" formula yields is an entitled jerk who will become the very thing we all need to work around every day.  And, as if that weren't enough, they'll stop their own personal evolution in its tracks.

See, being "special" inherently carries baggage.  Special implies you're something magnificent; something unparalleled in the universe.  There's no bigger lie you could possibly tell yourself or anyone else.  Unfortunately, life's problem is best phrased as follows (thank you, Vergere): Some are faster, some are smarter, some are stronger, and NOTHING at your command will ever make you better than your gifts.  I said before that we all have something we're good at.  Something we're great at, even.  But we are not "special" for it.  Someone is better than you at it.  Someone will out-do you.  Someone is "more gifted" than you. Don't despair; there are also plenty in the world who are worse than we are.  For all the people in the world who can out-perform you at sports, or math, or writing, there are just as many who will never come close to you at philosophizing, painting, engineering, or whatever.  You are quite capable of being good; great even.  But never, ever, delude yourself into thinking you're The Best.  There is always someone better.

"Fine.  Someone is better; I'm not special.  Why is special harmful?"  I'd need a whole book to go into all the ways, but the short version is two-fold.  Let's deal with the Self first.  If you can't come to terms with being great but not the best at something, you're destined for disappointment at every turn.  In the same way that we must embrace our faults, we must also embrace our shortcomings.  We're not perfect, we're not untouchable, and we WILL fail at much we do in life.  If you can't find a way to process this and grow from it, all it will do is crush you with despair.  Being told "You're special" effectively sets you up to feel conflicted and frightened when you inevitably do fall short of your goal.  The school system (lookin' at you, Board of Education) makes this mistake constantly.  They confuse self esteem with self efficacy and tell all the children they're special as opposed to helping them discover what they are good and bad at.  

Children don't have self-esteem problems. Not at the core, anyway. They have problems understanding achievement.  The children I taught (an appropriately apt example of one's shortcomings and failures) came from very poor communities and often from families that were not kind or caring.  Turns out, children put in such environments end up thinking very highly of themselves. It's a defense against all the people who have told them they won't amount to anything.  It's inevitable and natural in such circumstances.  What they DID have a problem with, was recognizing when they had a chance to do something good for themselves.  They didn't understand that their actions determined anything. They didn't need to be told they were special.  They needed someone to tell them it's ok to fail, so long as you look for success.  Succeeding doesn't make you special.  What it can make you is confident in your ability to move forward.  No one is "special"; we all need to fail and succeed, and we all need to find something we love to succeed at. 

Coming around to the second problem, we have damage done to society by "special" people constantly. It actually flows quite naturally from the above problem.  Imagine one of these people who has been told they're "special".  They're afraid to fail, constantly trying to pass the buck (so they don't get seen as "failed"), and always think less of YOU.  Why wouldn't they?  You're not special; they are.  After all, we can't all be special. Just ONE of these people is already intolerable, isn't it?  Now imagine an entire culture full of these "special snowflakes" that all think less of the other and think too much of themselves. The result is a culture that CAN'T come together to achieve anything since everyone is convinced of the superiority "inherent" in themselves, and the inferiority "inherent" in everyone else.  No one can trust the other and nothing can be accomplished.  And to that end, look at the Board of Education, where all the children consider themselves superior to their teachers (who have experiences, and therefore are "Better" at life then they are by our earlier definition) and disrespect one another constantly.  This, ladies and gentleman, is what snowflake logic will create for as long as it persists.

We're running long now, so I'll close this out by saying this: we are ALL talented in some ways and miserably awful in others.  That's ok. That's the way it always has been and always will be.  Don't be special; just be "you".

I hope you look a little more carefully at the snowflakes this year; metaphorically and literally.  Don't judge or condemn, but just enjoy them for what they are.

Happy Holidays, all.

I'm Trevor, and that's my Frame of Mind.

November 10, 2011

Warts and All

First things first: How do you like the Banner?  Pretty shnazzy eh?  The designer is none other than our very own Isa "Little One" Velasquez; a wonderful Mantid and dear friend.  Thanks so much for your work, Little One!  I hope it makes you proud!

Now then...on to today's topic.

The Path to Inclusivity

I received some very positive feedback both in person and digitally on the subject of my last post, and one respondent pushed the topic further in my mind by asking me: "So?  Even if you're right, how do you fix a problem this colossal in scale?" Today I hope to do justice to that question by presenting you with what I believe to be the best answer.  It's by no means a complete answer and whole books are probably published on this very idea, but it's where I stand.  By the way, I won't rehash the initial post much, so if you're just joining us and have gotten lost, go read the article.  It's not that long and it's a good one. 

As far as I can tell, any major social change in the United States (or the rest of the world as far as I know) starts small and expands from there.  With this in mind, it seems logical to look to a small or neglected area of our life that can be changed or improved in order to start the ripples.  Thus, I submit to you my choice for the small, seemingly insignificant, oft-overlooked part of our lives that will be our pebble in the lake: the self.

"But, Trevor!" I hear you cry, eagerly awaiting my humiliation and resignation as you observe: "The self isn't neglected!  People are selfish, evil, greedy, jerks who think about themselves all the time! In fact, isn't that why they trample over people who are different to them in the first place?"  Yes and no.

I agree that the more selfish inward facing tendencies of humanity are certainly to blame for some of this, and I will even go so far as to say that this aspect of our lives receives a great deal of attention (at least in the US) most of the time.  BUT, I would also like to make it clear that, to my mind, those selfish tendencies are not the result of self-awareness. They are the result of self-ignorance.

Self awareness is at its heart about the understanding AND accepting of one's whole being.  It's easy (often) to recognize a particular flaw in your person.  Perhaps you know yourself to be short-tempered.  Some of you may know that you're prone to procrastination (Note: Tumblr may be an addictive substance but it's still on you...don't pull that excuse on me!). Some of you may even know you're racist, homophobic, heterophobic, misogynist, mishominist, etc.  Maybe you just hate "normal" people. So what?  It's great that you know that, but knowing something doesn't amount to much of anything.  Thinking about, believing in, and understanding yourself are all wonderful...and ultimately meaningless. Actions define us, and what's required of you in these situations is to do more than simply "know" thyself.  You must accept your self for what it is.

So what does this mean for inclusivity?  Well, in my experience, the biggest source of exclusive behaviors is the constant, unsettling, discomfort people have with their own quirks and flaws.  This is not to say that anyone is wrong to feel unsettled by themselves, but it is incredibly important to accept that you are a flawed and imperfect being.  I get the sense that everyone acknowledges this at some level, but acknowledgment and acceptance are NOT the same fact, it's this basic distinction that is the source of Us vs. Them.  I.e., "We acknowledge you exist....but we do not accept it." And, honestly, I get it.  Those people are clearly flawed.  They might look alright now, but once you dive in, there's all sorts of problems.  I understand this line of thinking...but I do NOT accept it.

See the problem isn't that they are's that you are, and can't deal with that. This, as far as I have seen, is the source of all these problems.  How is it even possible to accept someone else, warts and all, if you can't even do it for yourself?  We like to talk about our flaws as things to be excised from our being, or something that keeps us from reaching our true potential.  We frame the discussion as one of reaching to overcome your flaws and become a better person for them.  I suggest that this is both inappropriate and outright impossible.  Faults and flaws are not "the bad parts" of a human being.  They aren't anywhere as bad as either of those words would imply.

How do I know? Assume that they really are "bad parts".  What makes them that way?  What is it that's inherent to your qualities that makes them either good or bad?  After all, the bruised patch on your luscious peach isn't a "bad" part of the's just the one you like least.   It's a judgment placed from the outside that is by it's very nature a biased one.  The peach isn't good except for it's bruise.  Besides, without that's not the same peach.

Coming to terms with your flaws and faults may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it's arguably the most vital step in completing your personal evolution.  I liken it to the biological function of sleep, for we often frame sleep in the same way we frame our flaws.  We tell ourselves stories like "if we didn't need to sleep for so many hours, think of all the things we could accomplish" or "sleep just keeps you from doing the things you like to do or from getting your job done".  We don't do wonderful things in spite of the need to sleep.  Without sleep, our brain doesn't function right.  No, it's not that the brain is insufficiently powered...we don't know enough about the brain to make such a claim.  I posit that the brain is capable of the wonders it is because of what it's downtime allows it to do.  Besides, we have some powerful evidence to this effect: people DIE without sleep.   

Similarly, we are not doing well on this earth despite our flaws.  Our flaws are an integral part of our being and without them we would not be who we are.  Sure, those flaws aren't appealing, but that's not the point.  Every genius in history has probably also been crazy to the point of insanity.  Every talented artist on earth has had some bizarre quirk to their behavior that puts them on the border of madness.  Nothing is great without also carrying flaws.  It's not because things need to be balanced in some cosmic game. That's one of those flights of fancy we like to tell since it makes us feel like we know what's going on in the universe.  The real reason is that those "flaws" are what it takes to make you "you"; to make you great.

Returning to the topic of inclusivity (I swear this is almost done, now), think for a moment about what it would take to accept the other into your life?  That's right...they are like the peach.  You can't have it or them without it's flaws.  Their flaws, like yours, will bring magnificent things to your world if you simply allow them to.  But before you can do this, you must first accept your own "bruises".  They won't go away, no matter what anyone tells you.  You must learn to accept them as part of who you are.  Once you acknowledge these darker, more unpleasant aspects, you can learn to either love them, or change them...but first you MUST accept that they are you.  In an odd way, they may even represent the best things about you.

For the population at large to become more inclusive, the individuals comprising it must first claim responsibility for their small part in the change.  This is true of all movements or organizations that seek to change the popular mindset, so it should be just as true of this one.  In the name of acceptance and tolerance, we must each search our selves for that thing within us that we hate or fear the most...and embrace it gladly!

The Inclusivist Movement needs to start within each individual. Go forth, and accept thyself!

I'm Trevor, and that's my Frame of Mind.

October 29, 2011

The Tail of the Bell

Wow it's been a while since I've managed to post anything.  First it was simple laziness, then it was too little sleep, then it was Time Warner Cable of NYC screwing me over by accidentally disconnecting my internet for 3 days (I still have some withdrawl symptoms *twitch*) and finally it's my own personal illness.  It's been a rough couple of weeks...*sigh*.

Well, I'm back and I've got stuff in my brain that I have graciously decided to share with all of you.  Hold your applause, please, until the end.  I know it's tempting to just go on praising my huge genious mind for finally decending from upon Mount Olympus, but restraint is the hall mark of the enlightened. 

Yes, I'm aware of the hypocrisy...and ironically, I just don't care.

Right then...on to the topic at hand:

What I learned from NY ComiCon

It's obviously not a secret that I love conventions.  I've gone to DragonCon every year for the past 7, I've been to ACen 3 times, I've been to ComiCon twice now, and my dear sister and I are planning to go to that Harry Potter one (LeakyCon, apparently - don't worry, I'll mock them for that name in another post) when we get the chance/money/time.  But while I spend a lot of time praising these events as a glorious celebration of the universal weirdness of humanity as well as a place where different people can all feel included, I've given little attention to a disturbing trend that is permeating these events as well as Geek Culture in general: Us vs. Them.

As my post on DragonCon should have made obvious, I believe firmly in inclusivity over exclusivity in all things.  I've never known of any subject matter that has genuinely benefitted from true exclusivity for more than the very immediate short-term.  While I may address this subject more broadly in another post, suffice it to say that it is my firm belief that the practice of exclusionary behavior is both unnecessary and redundant.  If you commit to your ideals and your beliefs properly, people will proactively exclude themselves of their own accord.  It is not YOUR job to exclude people.  They'll do that all by themselves when they decide your "thing" just isn't right for them.  My fellow Mantids will recognize this practice as "The Trevor's Dorm" model of inclusivity as there was no one I can recall actively excluding from our little circle of friends who didn't just decide for themselves that our brand of fun wasn't to their liking.

Well, before we go down that path any deeper, let's return to the subject of my scrutiny again: ComiCon.  Like all conventions marketed towards the Geek Chic crowd, ComiCon attracts certain personalities.  It'd take too long to psychoanalyze that type so I won't bother, but you can probably take a rough stab at it from the name ComiCon.  See, the trouble is, one of the quirks associated with said personalities is the whole "we've finally got a place where the 'normal' people can't judge us" thing.  Now, don't get me wrong, I hate judgmentality, and as I said above I don't like it when one group decides that some other group is their inferior and uses that as justification for bullying/hate/dismissal etc., but this whole "WE are safe from THEM" thing must go away.

Too many people at ComiCon this year were saying such things as "normal people don't get to have this kind of fun" or "don't act so normal; you're at ComiCon".  Yes those were actually things I heard people say verbatim, and they're burned into my brain forever.  You see, the worst thing that ever happened to Geek Culture was the sudden popularization of all things geek (Comic Book superhero movies, the popularity of shows like Big Bang Theory, etc.).  Nothing's wrong with any of these individual pieces, but the effect it has had on the psyche of the geeks of the world is both detrimental and potentialy dangerous. I know what it's like to be discriminated against for liking certain things (Magic the Gathering, D&D, comic books, etc.), and you can bet that I've had more than a few "beat up the normal guys for being jerks" fantasies swimming around my aforementioned magnificent brain; but they must stay as fantasies. 

More than many demographics, it is the responsibility of geeks to practice some genuine inclusivity so as to avoid becoming the thing they claim to hate.  Their complaint is that "normal" people have spat on them for too long and kept them from feeling accepted and loved by the world at large.  So, naturally, when a ComiCon (or indeed, a DragonCon) comes around, many of them lash out against "normal" people in an attempt to balance the scales.And you can easily see why.  With their new-found strength in being part of the group that's "running the show", the sense of power is undeniable.  But the word for those who use their power to belittle others suddenly less powerful is "tyrant". This is exactly the kind of exclusionary behaviour I railed against in my childhood and it's the exact thing I condemned mere paragraphs ago.  The more immature among geeks have decided to label themselves such and then, as a means of self-agrandising, label anyone not of a similar mindset "normal" in order to justify an Us vs. Them mentality that allows them to feel superior.  This is perfectly acceptable behavior as a 5 year old or in a state of genuine oppression (slavery comes to mind), but it's just childish in any other context.

I've mentioned plenty of times that I "hate normality" myself, but this is not what I was talking about.  What I hate is that too many people have a similarly narrow view of what constitutes normal.  The irony of the duality just mentioned is that it effectively confirms that the "oppressive normals" are correct in setting the definition.  They're WRONG.  "Normal", as any good statistician will tell you, is based on a bell curve that describes a population.  The vast majority of the population will fit nder the big central part of the curve, but this doesn't make those people normal and the ones on the two tails abnormal.  This actually means that normal includes a variety of people and their various perspectives.  The tail ends of the bell curve are all part of the normal curve; they just have a greater degree of variation from the ones found under the main arc. 

We're runing long (again) so let me wrap this up.  No one is "normal", and no one is "geek" either.  We all exist within the variations of people.  Those words only ever describe a population and have no merit when levelled gainst an individual. Why do groups of people cluster together then?  Because they have some characteristics in common.  Think hard about the people you're closest to; I bet that you aren't identical and I also bet that you have a lot of things in common.  It is this duality that makes us individuals with the capacity to be a group, however great care must be taken not to make the false assumption that your group has any kind of inherent superiority over any other or any individual.  How does this "Us vs. Them" mindset really serve a community (or an individual, for that matter) in the long run?  What do you profit from excluding people?  Ask yourself these questions next time you start to question the merits of including someone in the thing you love.  Who knows? You may even discover that letting them in on your "thing" will improve it. By denying entry, you're simply stopping your own evolution as people in its tracks.

As my Ur-example of this phenomenon, I will point to my fellow Mantids once again.  Those of you who call yourself Mantid, ask yourself this: "Would I have made some of the friendships I did had we not all agreed to accept one another?".  I know I am a better person for having let such a diverse group of attitudes, opinions, and perspectives influence me, and I also know that very few of us would have ever even spoken to one another had we not all agreed to make our tribe as inclusive as it was.  We can only benefit from the inclusion of others.  Besides, the "bad ones" that everyone is afraid of letting in will just exclude long as you have the strength of character to understand yourself without judging others for making that same effort. 

I'm Trevor, and that's my Frame of Mind.

October 18, 2011

Everything New is New...Again.

So, not 48 hours after posting an advertisement for my blog via FaceBook (no strangers, you may NOT friend me), I went and changed a whole bunch of stuff.  We've got a new URL, a new background, a new-ish format, and a new title.

Welcome to One Frame of Mind!

With the focus of my blog being largely my opinions on large (and minor) social issues, I thought a new title was in order.  I had a great topic in mind for my inaugural post on the new blog format, but unfortunately it's too long so I'm still trimming it down to something manageable.  As such, consider this a place-holder. 

Don't despair though! With a new title comes new enthusiasm for the idea behind it, and now that I've decided to put myself on a schedule (which the astute among you will have noticed I'm not very good at sticking to) you can expect weekly content from me regarding whatever happens to come across my brain.

Before I close out on you though, I have a few quick announcements, and some of them are even interactive:

1) NYComiCon was excellent and my aforementioned inaugural post will cover the subject matter it inspired - come back next week for the final cut.

2) I already run a daily content list-host at my job called The Daily Dose and it covers (in a much, much smaller space) some of the stuff I hit on here, but it has an interactive aspect to it once a week where I pose questions meant to be answered by my readers.  As an example of this, a ways back I asked my readers at work "If they were the only options, would you rather be hated or ignored" and posted the results anonymously in the next e-mail.  My question for you this week: do you want me to include an interactive post of this open-ended nature?  How often?

And finally, 3) I call upon all of my artistic friends to lend me your talents! One Frame of Mind is the kind of title that lends itself to a cool logo or image banner rather than simple text in a font I find appealing.  So, in that spirit, I ask you to submit to me (at any images you can conjure up (must be original lest the copyright lawyers come knocking on my door) that reflects the title and tone of the site.  I'll pick the winner based solely on the image I find most appealing and it will become the title banner of the blog. 

Well that wraps up the new introduction. I look forward to your comments, and questions.  Feel free to let me know what you think of the new format and what you think works or doesn't work.  I really love posting content and talking (in person or digitally) about all the ideas we dredge up with these little exercises, so I want feedback to make it better and more interesting. 

Thanks, as always, to the Mantids for setting this up in the first place; I hope I can make you all proud.

Until next time,

I'm Trevor, and that's my Frame of Mind.

October 12, 2011

Out of Love

Ok, I've decided I no longer like the "lead with a question".  I've been thinking more about how to set this blog up, and I've decided that answering a single question just limits me and you in terms of responses.  Instead, I'm going start things of with a topic.  The topic will be drawn from the range of usual suspects for someone with my personality and disposition, but will not be phrased so as to limit the range of responses.  As before, I'll give my take on the matter at hand and you are free to respond to my words or just give your own thoughts on the matter.  Right then...that's out of the way; let's see how this goes.

Romance in Fiction

This is a subject I've brought up several times in conversation with family and friends and it always yields the same results: "We get that you don't like 'love stories'", "just cause you hate love doesn't mean there's anything wrong with stories about it".  Let me make something perfectly clear: I don't hate love stories.  In fact, I believe that all stories are inherently about love at some level.  I can't think of a single story that I've ever really enjoyed that didn't have a love story at its heart.  A well told story can only be made stronger through a solid portrayal and understanding of love.  It's an essential and beautiful part of the human condition that genuinely adds to a narrative when employed properly.  The problem with love stories is that, to my mind, they are rarerly employed properly.

The issues I have with romance stories in media (movies, books, tv, games, etc.) are threefold.  1) Not every story needs a love-interest plot to be overtly forced into the narrative, 2) not all love stories have to be about a union of two, and especially not just boy-girl, and 3) love stories in fiction need to flow from the over-arcing story.

Let me say in the interest of full disclosure, I am not a writer, I have no formal training in the construction of story-arcs for any medium, and I my statements herein represent only my opinion.  It's an opinion that grows from my own experience of these media and how they seem to operate, but just an opinion in the end.

On to it then.  Let's begin with my first problem: the crowbarring of love stories.  One of the reasons people start to think I hate love stories is that I complain about them nearly every time they crop up in my favorite movies or tv.  Of course, most of what I watch are sci-fi and fantasy features, and fantastical love stories are very much a part of that genre, but I do have a lot more of a problem with them in those genres.  This isn't because I have a problem in general (note that I don't complain about romantic comedies and their ilk having love stories in them - more on that in another post) but because too often the story they inject into the writing feels artificial and token. Too many of the love stories seem to be included in what I can only describe as a cynical attempt to make the story more marketable to more people.  Obviously some people love these kinds of stories, so someone in marketing made the decision to include a story-arc about boy-meets-girl or whatever in order to draw more people in to a film/book/what-have-you than they otherwise might. This is pretty obnoxious to me, as it inflates (needlessly) the time we spend in the story and makes at least two (if not all) our characters feel less real. But even if we assume this isn't the case, let's return to why crowbarring is a problem for me.

The life blood of sword-and-sorcery stuff is the suspension of disbelief.  This is true of all genres, but particularly of sci-fi/fantasy since they call upon us to accept things like dragons or Jedi; things that don't exist and never will (unless I wake up as God one day - and you'll know if I do).  As such, it becomes vital that the humanity of the story remain believable.  I can accept bravery in the face of a fire breathing winged lizard if my hero has some recognizable human flaws and characteristics.  It allows me to invest in him/her and makes the story all the more engaging.  Now, if in the midst of all this, our hero has to stop his/her heroism to have a romantic relationship with someone, that can work fine...if it's believable that the story would want them to.

Some stories just don't need romantic love of this sort in them.  There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but if it wouldn't add to or evlove from the story as a whole, why would it be needed? As a sort of absurdist example, imagine that there was an unspoken rule that said that every movie, book, and tv series had to incorporate at least one car-chase or stunt-driving moment.  This would be fine for genre movies like James Bond, or the Jason Borne book series, but would it really have added anything to Sense and Sensibility or Casablanca?  Of course not! Because those kinds of stories have nothing to do with car-chases.  Nothing a car chase contributes to its story would feel in line with the goals and ideals of either of the two works named, so their respective creators (wisely) chose not to include such a scene.

Since this is running long, I'm gonna have to cut some corners now, so let's move on to point number 2: Boy-meets-girl needs to go (more often, anyway).  I could go on about how boy and girl need-not be the only kind of romance we see in a day and age where gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more states, (and how non-traditional relationships have ALWAYS existed) but that's too cliche.  Besides, it would overlook the real issue: not all "true love" is between two people.  Since I'm all about sci-fi and fantasy, let's use Avatar to illustrate my point.  Whatever your feelings for the movie, it does one thing very right: it understood what the REAL love story in it's narrative was.  Jake Sully and Neytiri are the two individuals with whom we experience the love story in Avatar, but the story is about a love that's much bigger than boy and girl. Jake doesn't just fall for the pretty-blue-cat-lady, he falls for her whole world. 

While you could argue either way whether or not Neytiri is an object of desire, it's unquestionable that it's this planet and the culture of the Na'vi that Jake really loves.  Neytiri is just a convenient embodiment of all these aspects that allows both character and audience to see that love personified in a simple, but elegant form.  If it was really about Jake finding a pretty girl and wanting nothing but her, he also wouldn't have had as strong an attachment to his Avatar body.  Do not reach for your e-mail client to tell me otherwise; this is a story about love through a much more universal (literally, if the yogis are to be believed) understanding of that emotion.

The use of what I call "selfish-love" (which is not a judgment, just a differentiation between love of someone and love of something) as the central romance is over-played in too many things.  Love is a powerful and all-consuming passion and it has the capacity to do so much more than just put the spurs to the relentless pursuit of an individual.  In Death of a Salesman, a father's love of his two sons is powerful enough to push him to suicide for their betterment.  Why is it always written so as to limit it to the "thing that makes party A seek out party B and kiss"?  To me, this is demeaning of the emotion.  It confines it to what I consider its least impressive, if not most common, form.  Whole societies have been made and unmade because of the love of a few individuals for their people or culture. Empires are torn apart or established because of an unending patriotic love of one's country. It's the stuff civil rights movements are made of.  This is no trifling thing.  Why does so much of fiction treat it as so much smaller than it is?

To wrap up this over-long hate-speech (ha!), though, let's visit the idea that love stories need to flow from the over-arcing story.  To lead with an example, the love Han Solo and Leia Organa had made Star Wars a better work of art, but the "love" between Neo and Trinity didn't add much to the original Matrix since it really was just a plot device.  The difference being that while we see Han and Leia evlove as individuals who match each other, Trinity and Neo don't have any such evolution, and so her "love" of him is just in place to raise the stakes at the very end. She "loves" him because she was meant to "fall in love with the One", thus confirming his character arc rather than co-evolving with him.

Now, I love Star Wars and The Matrix as films as works of art and as expressions of the human condition, but this one aspect is the one (get it?) that The Matrix gets wrong (even wronger in its sequels...bleh).  In Star Wars, the characters of Han and Leia start off as antagonistic, but their circumstances lead them to understand one another and force them to work together.  In doing so, they come to understand one another in really meaningful ways, and ultimately, learn to love one another.  The wrapper on all this sweetness, though, is the story of that conflict (which I obviously don't need to's been over 30 years, people) which shapes the characters.  You'll notice that only Han and Leia have a romantic plot-arc in Star Wars, and that's because the story doesn't drive any other characters there (if you e-mail me about Anakin and Padme, you will receive an email-bomb with the words "You mean love has blinded you?" spray-painted on the box).  Only these two had stories that lead them to romance.

As an example of this bad habit pulled from the RomCom (romantic comedy for those not speaking the lingo) world, Crazy Stupid Love commits one such faux pas in the person of Julianne Moore's character. For those that haven't seen it, we're lead to understand that Stever Carrell's character (who's story is so lasting and dynamic that I've completely forgotten his name) will never love a woman like the one whom he married and recently divorced.  This sets up the central arc of the story, but there's a problem: we know almost nothing about Julianne Moore's character!  Why is this the woman he loves so dearly?  What do they have in common, apart from a background in slapstick comedy?  It's sweet and all, but it makes no damn sense?  Why should I feel for him if his one true love is a blank slate? Make no mistake, Crazy Stupid Love does a lot of things right for a RomCom (again, another post), so it's all the more glaring a flaw when something like this happens.

It's because of these problems in character development that I proclaim with certainty that the story itself must provide the reasons for the romance.  Great stories always make it the inevitable and natural progression for their characters - love becomes the only reasonable path.  Look at Pride and Prejudice or Romeo and Juliet and you'll know what I'm talking about.  Even if the intent was to start from "These two people will fall head-over-heels for one another" and work it out from there, they construct a setting where we don't just expect the characters to fall in love, we demand it.  It must happen for the story to feel complete.  That is what I would call well done romance.

This has run on for too long, so let me just conclude by inviting you to post your comments about your take on this rather critical issue in pop-media.  I'll happily re-visit this topic if it proves popular enough. 

Thank you for your time, and I'll be back next week.  I love you all.

October 2, 2011

Getting Medieval

Before we begin with what I hope will be a new and more effective format for these little cerebral exercises, I have two things I want to say while they are still topical and fresh in my mind

1) The Fort Tryon Park Medieval Festival was today, and it was a spectacular event.  Another wonderfully open-minded gathering of oddities and quirks that blend (almost) seamlessly together for the sake of the enjoyment of life.  I know that sounds wierd coming from me, but that really is the kind of stuff I live for: the simple open-minded enjoyment of life.  See my earlier post about DragonCon for more about this if you're interested.  Still, props to the Washington Heights crew for putting together another successful festival.  Keep up the good work, boys and girls.

2) Today was the last day of one of my most inspirational TV personalities (although he would never call himself such).  My tendancy to rant and rave about minor social hiccups or little stupidities of modern life have all had their roots, at some level, in his work.  His sense of humor, intelligence, wit, and mastery of the written and spoken word make him one of the best things to ever appear on TV.  Although he will not be gone from the show forever, the fact that I can no longer expect to see him when all the "serious" stuff is said and done makes the world just a bit less entertaining.  I speak of course, of the infamous Andy Rooney of CBS's 60 Minutes.  I salute his illustrious career and wish him well. 

Now then...the new format.

Since it's been suggested tht I offer questions explicitly, that's just what I'll do.  I'll begin these posts (with some probable exceptions) with a question.  It is this question that I hope you will all seek to answer with your comments, but the manner in which it is done (i.e. whether you want to address it vis-a-vis my own take on it or from a completely different perspective) is entirely up to you.  I'll obviously welcome commentary on my own perspective if you should feel inclined to offer, but don't feel limited by that.   So, on to the question at hand - it's a doozy. 

Why do we find violence so appealing?

Well, let's unpack that question just a bit by first asking "Do we find violence appealing?".  Short answer: Yes, as a spieces we seem to be drawn to acts of violence.  Long answer: Whether committing or simply witnessing violence, it seems wholly ingrained in us to find catharsis through violence.  Look at the vast majority of popular movies, tv, games, books, and sports and you'll find that they all somehow hinge on violent behavior.

Since these are short-form explorations of ideas and theories, I won't waste time providing examples (plus I'm pretty sure you can do that all on your own just by thinking for more than 2.5 seconds), and I'll cut to the chase.  I believe we find violence so appealing for two primary reasons: Simplicity and Certainty.  Keep in mind that these ideas all boil down to opinion and are, as previously stated, short-form so I won't be providing muc in the way of "hard evidence" for my claims, but I will try to bring my experience to bear on the subject matter. 

Let's start with Simplicity.  We live in an incredibly complicated universe.  How complicated?  We just found out that neutrinos can move faster than light and we'd previously believed nothing could move any faster.  Why we believed this is unimportant.  What is important is that this changes decades (if not centuries) of physics.  One little observation changes it all.  That's pretty complicated.  But complicating that is the fact that we have to communicate all this complexity within the comparatively primitive (but no less complex) medium of language. 

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.  Ever been struggling for the right words to explain a situation?  Did you ever say the wrong (or not) word and suddenly nobody knows what you're talking about anymore?  Language is a remarkable tool, but ultimately useless.  Those of you who have ever heard me say that "everything I tell you is a lie" will be familiar with this notion of words as inappropriate for commmunicating "truth" since no sound can convey all the reality of a thought properly.  As an example, when we speak of "happiness" we are trying to convey something that cannot be so hastily summed up in a few syllables.  The feeling's "truth" is in the multitude of its expressions, not in this meager collection of sounds forme in the throat.  It is not "happiness" anymore than the smile or the warmth of a hug is "happiness".  Language cannot convey meaning alone. 

How does this relate to violence, you ask?  Well, in a way, violence bypasses the inconvenience of inaccurate language.  Imagine this: You are trying to explain to someone why they should take a seat.  They refuse.  You try a new explanation using different and, presumably, better language.  They don't get it.  You try a third time to explain to them why taking a seat is the correct thing to do under the circumstances, and they continue to stand.  By now, your frustration, impotence, and even anger are building up a good head of steam.  It is at this point, where language has failed us completely, do we consider violence.  This is not to say "beating the person senseless", but simply taking them by the shoulders and forcing them into the seat.  Where language and the "civilized method" have failed, physical force has prevailed and give you what you want and them what they need.  Part of you might say "why didn't I just do that to begin with? That was so much easier!"  Of course it was simpler that way.  You got your message accross clearly, succinctly, and with no further confusion: "take a seat" as only physical force can communicate.

This then, brings me to my other point: Certainty.  We've already seen how language complicates matters, but the astute among you will no doubt have also realized that language leaves wiggle room where it might not intend.  Sometimes we choose our words so as to include room for interpretation.  Words like "sometime", "whatever", "something", etc. are deliberately used to convey a sense of fluidity of meaning that allows the listener to apply his/her own preference.  This is beneficial when it is part of the point, but more often than not, our language leaves us vulnerable to this interpretation without our desire or consent for it.  Did you ever try arranging something (meeting up, planning a weekend) and end up with one or more people involved doing something quite different from what you had expected?  Someone shows up late, someone else shows up at the wrong place/ know the drill.  This is the uncertainty of language at work.  Even with direct and blunt language, the room for interpretation remains.  Some people just don't use some words the same ways.  I, for one, take issue with the use of the words optimist and pessimist in pop culture as "people who see the best/worst in everything" since what they really are meant to convey is "people who assume this is the best/worst possible world".  Those two ideas are similar, but different in significant ways (which we'll discuss in another post - hold your thoughts). 

But where is the uncertainty in a quick shove ("move") or a slap on the wrist ("don't touch")?  There often isn't any.  Obviously the violence in question must be applied at the appropriate moment, but barring that possibility, there is less opportunity for uncertainty with physical force.  If we look at any major action movie, the final conflict always begins with a dialog in which the two combtatants (or more) come to the conclusion that there are no words that can change anything anymore.  The time for talk is over, and the time for action has begun.  Simple, clear, action now takes over the plot and the setting and we are allowed to simply "be in the moment" with our heroes (or villains - don't think I've ruled that possibility out!) as they settle their dispute in no uncertain terms.  How could they be uncertain...there are no terms.

This then, is the essence of why I believe we feel violence is cathartic.  We spend so much of our civilized life trying (often in vain) to find the right words, and the right expressions, only to find that we are still not understood.  This frustration builds slowly but surely and the result (I feel, anyway) is the need to relieve that tension.  For myself, games and movies do a great job.  I love violent games and movies for their ability to allow for comunication I don't usually have the opportunity to experience. 

This is not to say that I only love violence in my games or movies. Some of my favorite games and movies have nothing violent about them.  However, especially in the case of games, the ability to perform violent acts provides a sense of relief from the impotence that can be felt even by people who have real mastery of their language.  I don't think we'll ever be free of these desires, and I think it's naive to think humanity will ever "outgrow" this desire for physical conflict, but I do see why it needs to be controlled and chanelled properly.  Do not take this post as my endorcement of violent behavior.  I see nothing outright wrong with violence, but I also see why words are still superior.  After all, who wants to die over who gets the last piece of cake?  Not I, that's for sure. 

Well, I hope this little adventure into simplified complex thought has not left any of you with any surplus violence brewing within you.  If it is, I ask only that you find the words to express it in the comments.  I look forward to your thoughts....complex and uncertain though they might be. 

Until next week.

September 26, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

I think I've worked out the inherent problem with blogging now...tone. Having spent only the last few weeks actually doing any blogging I am unpracticed in composing a post in such a way as to convey my proper tone of voice (which any good writer will tell you they spend a great deal of time doing) in the composition. My last post received feedback only in one form: pity.  Now, perhaps I am reading the tone wrong, but so far the only feedback I have gotten comes off as a pat on the head and a hug becausee "the other boys and girls were mean to me".  While I'm deeply touched that people are willing to leap to my defense and give me such sincere reassurances, it was not my intention to draw them. 

Reading it over again with my feedback in mind, the post does read somewhat like a list of personal complaints regarding a perceived social slight directed at me, personally.  And to that end, I see why there would be either pity or "get over yourself" laced throughout the feedback.  This, however, was my failing as the author.  My purpose in these little rants is not to get personal feedback regarding my problems, but rather to draw attention to and begin discussions of larger issues that I find personally important.  I don't need to be reassured that I'm "ok" even though some people think I'm weird.  If I did, I could hardly leave my apartment in the morning, since I do very little to hide my oddities from those around me.  I don't feel ashamed of anything I do or think, nor do I feel personally slighted by the opinions of those who don't subscribe to my particular brand of thinking.  I actually feel the world is better off for it, since an entire planet consisting of people who think and act like myself would be both boring and really, REALLY, obnoxious.  But what this amonts to is that I would prefer not to go down a path of simple reinforcement of my own ideas.  My ego swells quite well all on its own. 

So going forward, I will do my best to compose these posts in a more "clinical" way (with a twist, as I'll discuss momentarily) so as to avoid this kind of coddling.  Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate that so many of you support my "me-ness", but it's not what I want this blog to be about.  Shameless self promotion makes up a good 75-80% of my daily activities anyway.  I want this blog to be a place to voice some concerns and ideas that I have and get some more discussions going about the role of those ideas/concerns in the big picture and at the level of our own lives. 

Which brings me nicely to the reason for the composition of my previous post (and the aforementioned twist): I don't believe it is possible to objectively deliver any statments with meaning.  Since objectivity requires us to be removed emotionally and experientially from the topic, I don't think it's reasonable to expect any complex issue to be truly objective (lookin' at you, TV pundits). So, I used myself as the example of my post to demonstrate this very principle.  The nature of escapist behavior requires us to put a great deal of subjective experience and value into something, so no discussion of escapism is really possible (to my way of thinking anyway) if you try to examine it from the outside.  Oh sure, you'll get a few interesing points about the kinds of behaviors typically associated with escapism, but you won't get to the meat of the issue by trying to remove yourself from the experience.  The whole point of escapism is to experience something outside of "objective reality" as "reality", so I used my own experiences to illustrate those points. 

Where I fell short, however, was in failing to realize that doing so can come off as a cry for help or acceptance on the part of the author.  I don't want to sound like I'm whining and I don't want my readers to feel like they need to console me whenever I talk about a large-scale social issue that affects me personally.  I had hoped to draw commentary related to the relationship other people have with their brand of escapism and to see if others had encountered these issues from other perspectives.  The world of ideas is only as good as its diversity, so I hope that going forward, we can continue this little think-tank discussions in a more academic and yet personal fashion.

As always, your comments are welcome; make 'em count.

September 16, 2011

In Defense of Escapism

Ok, so I'm supposed to go to sleep and get over the stomach virus that has been ravaging my god-and-gastric-juice forsaken digestive system, but I can't sleep.  So I thought I'd share some thoughts with you, my readers, that you might have something to think about. 

Having gotten some very supportive feedback about my rather indulgent manner of blogging, I thought I'd keep up it up and get to the point quickly this time:

Reality sucks.

I don't just mean it sucks in the sense that it's sometimes unpleasant.  I mean it sucks in that the situation of reality is, generally speaking, pretty damn grim.  Shall I list the reasons?  Our leaders tend to be self-obsessed idiots; our idols and pop-icons are usually morons with nothing substantive to contribute; no one has thought of a better, more reliable, less brutal system of economics than capitalism (don't even start, econ-people...I'm not willing to go into it now); and there are no dragons.  Yeah, you read that right: NO GODSDMAN DRAGONS.  Seriously...fuck this place.

This brings me nicely to the topic of my title: Escapism.  It's no secret that I love the realm of the fantastic.  Anyone who's spent more than a minute around me or in my apartment can instantly see that escapism is my drug of choice (more on that in a minute).  Since the reality of the world is so damn bleak, I turn to the realms of unreality to enjoy myself.  I do it with books, movies, tv, games, cosplay, and even just being in my apartment.  You see, I'm into this so deeply, that much of my life is spent narrating a sci/fi fantasy tale that I'm currently just enacting.  Chores like scrubbing my bathtub become much more tolerable when I tell myself I'm maintaining my rejuvination tank so that I can regrow my damaged technorganic components should they take damage while out on patrol.  See?  Doesn't that already sound more fun than the reality of scrubbing soap scum off of cheap porcelain?  Of course it does!  That's why escapism exists in the first place.

Quick caveat: I'm well aware that I have to live in reality...and I do.  I take my work seriously, I function in day to day life, and I don't talk to people like they're part of my fantasy.  But in the privacy of my own head, I can do as I damn well please. Right then, that's out of the way...back to the important part.

I encounter a lot of resistance to the world of escapism, both online and in person from people who claim that escapism is self-defeating or even delusional.  They say that people who devote so much time and energy to something that doesn't exist and never will are just wasting their lives and are missing out on the good things in life.  I have several problems with this line of thinking.  First off, it's definitely self-defeating and delusional if you're unable to leave the fantasy and join reality from time to time, so to that I can only respond: everything in moderation.  But that leads nicely into my real problem: What does moderation mean in this case?  Is it delusional to prefer to think of my winter coats as my Thermal Armor Shell?  Does it matter if that's how I choose to see it?  Or is it only delusional for me to express this out-loud? You'd probably never have known that if I didn't just reveal it. Where's the line? 

I don't insist that others follow my path in this regard.  I don't call someone else's coat Thermal Armor if I know they won't receive it well.  And even if I did, what's the big deal?  Isn't this sort of thing harmless? Children do this all the time and everyone thinks its cute.  Why isn't it cute (read: fun) once you cross some arbitrary line of "adulthood"?  Why do we stop playing pretend after a while?  I for one, never have.  You call it a TV; I call it my Primary View-Screen monitor.  You call it my computer; I call it The Hive Queen.  You say it's my cell phone; I call her Synapse, and she's my personal AI assistant who helps me manage my own personal network (think J.A.R.V.I.S. and Tony Stark), which I call the Hive Mind.  You know him as Tai, the Greeen Iguana; I know him as Tai the Perequian Tree Dragon (A combination of Peruvian and Equadorian - his pedigree by my best estimates). None of this is so "real" to me that I lose myself completely to the fantasy and stop functioning, but it makes the mundanity enjoyable.  As I said in my previous post, isn't enjoyment the whole damn point?  What is worth living for except the things you enjoy? 

The other argument I referenced earlier was one that says that these people "miss out" on the good things in life.  Well, if the reality they're framed in isn't good enough, why not spruce it up?  I'm just a little bit happier coming home to The Lair than I am to apartment 3A.  I don't think it's good to ignore reality, but that's a different thing from escapism.  Escapism is good for the soul.  It allows us to be and feel more than the plain truth of the situation would ever or could ever allow.  Ever daydream about winning the lotto, or getting to throw out the opening pitch, or move to Europe? Did you ever believe in Santa Claus? Escapism.  It gives us something to aspire to and something to be inspired by.  It doesn't even matter that it's not real.  I want to move one day, but I won't just move to a bigger place.  I'll be relocating my Hive Cluster to a new staging ground.  Why?  Because, with childlike abandon, I can.

And to those who would read all this and say "he needs to get a reality check and grow up", I will say only this: there's already a word for those that think escape is bad, dangerous, or undesirable - jailor. 

I was a happy child; I see no reason to stop being one.

As always, your comments are welcome.

End of Line.

September 10, 2011

For Love of the 'Con

Let me begin by saying that I suck at blogging.  I never really know what to say, I'm awful at making time to do these posts, and I'm not sure what kinds of things make good Blog-posts.  But, since this is my blog, I feel there's nothing wrong with a little indulgence, so on to the topic at hand: DragonCon.

I love DragonCon.  It's my favorite cultural event of the year and the only weekend I always look forward to. I love pretty much everything about it from the costumes, to the artists and panelists, to the merchant booths, but what I especially love about DragonCon is just how huge it has become.  I don't mean physically (although I admit that it's pretty cool to see it consuming more and more hotel real-estate each year), I mean how inclusive it has managed to be.  Being part of the "core audience" for DragonCon (sci-fi/fantasist with a soft spot for "geek culture") I fully expected to feel right at home at Con each year that I went.  With so many like-minded people around, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who feels outcast or isolated.  However, I'm always pleasantly surprised to see that there's actually an enormous diversity of mindsets at Con.  Not only that, but they all seem to get along anyway.

As an example of what I'm talking about, I'll share with you an example from this year's convention. I was sitting at a table in the food court, waiting for some panel or other, when I heard a conversation at the next table that fascinated me.  It took place between two Con-goers, one was a conservative, and very religious Southern Baptist in his mid-late 50's, and the other was an atheistic phsyics grad-student somwhere in his late 20's.  Ordinarily, you'd probably expect these two to be arguing to the death about something-or-other, and indeed they were; they were arguing about the best way to make Con more inclusive.
The baptist gentleman was making his case for why God wants everyone to love one another and how in particular there should be a sort of "mutual understanding" among geek culture that we're all the same regardless of specific interests.  The atheistic physicist was making a similar case, but was saying that rather than using same-ness, we simply acknowledge those differences as something to unify us; basically that we should use the "we're all different" obesrvation as the unifying principle.  Regardless of who's argument you personally find more appealing (and the joke of it is that their arguments were the same anyway), the fact that these two very different and often antagonistic kinds of people could sit together without any animosity having a discussion of how to make everyone feel loved is a truly remarkable thing. 

This then, is the essence of why I love DragonCon.  It is my firm belief that events like this have the capacity to do real good.  I've lately been having discussions of why sports-fans and "nerd" fans are really the same things applied to different source material, and places like DragonCon seem to further that point.  In the same weekend I saw people from Star Trek conversing with Link from the Legend of Zelda and the Sailor Scouts about Doctor Who.  This kind of diversity of fandoms is all built on the very universal human desire to have a good time doing things you like.  And before anyone brings it up, I also saw people in Braves jersies walking the convention halls with people in Jedi robes sharing their fondness for having a good time with nothing coming between them.

The people that say that their fandom is somehow better or that they like something for the "right reasons" are doing nothing but creating biggotry of an even more ridiculous type.  I love the things I love.  I love sharing my love of those things with anyone willing to listen.  I'm also willing to listen to someone explain their love of something to me.  I may never like or understand it, but that's no reason for condemnation.  In a world where a guy weilding a lightsaber can have a duel with a guy holding the Elder Wand, there's no room for those who would exclude others from something meant to be enjoyed. 

There is no wrong way to love something.  There's nothing that it is wrong to love.  Just enjoy and let enjoy.

As always, your comments are welcome. 

Take care, all.

August 28, 2011

Lessons from Hurricane Irene

Since it's the "grown up and mature" thing to do to learn from bad experiences, I thought It'd be fun to list the powerful moral lessons that my experience with Hurricane Irene has taught me over the last 36 hours.  In this case, I'm adding a special twist - I'm going to examine it through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins as my experience has taught me that each one applies rather well.  On to it then...

Sin #1: Lust - Yes, it turns out Hurricanes can teach us valuable moral lessons about the dangers of lust.  More specifically, I learned that Hurricane Irene (a female name, for those not paying attention) has many of the same qualities I tend to encounter in those "Psycho Girls" I'm famed to find attractive.  Shall we review? Makes me nervous - check; causes the people around me to be nervous - check; has a bad habit of causing problems I end up having to clean up after - check; seems to be enjoying manipulating what was otherwise a perfectly serviceable weekend plan into a self-indulgent (on the part of the Hurricane) sit-in where we do only what she wants us to do instead of sharing the fun - check-a-roony.  So all in all, we're perfect for one another.  I must confess, there were moments where I found myself wishing I could hang out with the Hurricane so I could take off my shirt and bask in her powerful billowing winds and feel the splash of her torrential rains dripping down know this is getting a bit personal. Moving on then...

Sin #2: Greed - Not one fuck-mothering ATM in my neighborhood had any cash yesterday so my ability to make sure I had money (you know, in case the Hurricane really was the end of the world and I needed to spend my last minutes on earth making one last purchase from or something) was severely hampered. I had to go buy stuff from the local supermarket in order to get Cash-Back from the register.  Even then, they only let me take 40 dollars so it was all somewhat underwhelming.  That said, the real lesson here, surprisingly, isn't "don't be greedy"; it's "be greedy earlier in the game you lazy sod". See the real inspiration for greed was water.  Never mind that it's literally falling from the sky like a curtain of misery; people feel that the solution to Hurricane conditions is to have as much water around as possible so as not to dehydrate during a tropical rain storm.  And I can see where they're coming from.  But unfortunately, since I can see where they're coming from, I left my house (I know, I know) to get some for myself when I discovered that the only "water" available was goddamn seltzer and Voss.  For those not "in the know", Voss is Norway's attempt to tea-bag us into spending $5-$10 a bottle ("but it's a glass bottle!" *slap*) on fucking water from the Frozen Mountains of Norway. 1) It's just fucking water; you don't get to charge more than 2 dollars a bottle, and 2) hell no, I'm not drinking fucking Voss during a hurricane.  So to wrap this up, with no water available anywhere, we leave with our seltzer and single bottle of Dross, er...Voss and head home wishing we'd all been more ambitious in our attempt to secure that most precious of natural resources.  Remember kids, be greedy early in the game.  It pays off.

Sin #3: Wrath - By now some of you may have surmised that I'm a wee bit angry as a result of all this Hurricane nonsense.  If you haven't surmised this yet... *snap* Oi!  Anyway, I'm actually going to talk about someone else's wrath in this paragraph (I have an entire Blog at my disposal to talk about mine, after all) since I think it's way funnier.  In this case it's the wrath that occurs when cookies and menstruation humor come between two otherwise amiable people.  In this case I speak of none-other than the infamous Jose Ortiz (M.D., Ph.D., Esquire, etc.) and his sudden and nigh-inexplicable dispute with my downstairs neighbor Allison.  See, for reasons hinted at above, these two began the night as quite friendly and ended on a note so sour it can't even be covered by the cast of Glee, and those kids managed to turn Rebecca Black's tripe into something half-way listenable. I won't recount the whole thing, but since the point is to learn lessons from natural disasters, the lesson I learned is this: Menstruation jokes inspire wrath in people that can only be cured by the consumption of cookies.  While this is endearing to me at so many levels, the fact that a single off-handed comment about someone's period (hint: it was Jose's) can spark a flame war made me wonder if there was any way to salvage the relationship.  So in conclusion: Oreo Cakesters (yes, that was the miracle) can be used as an healing balm for sore emotions...provided that you don't give the one you've touched while opening the package to the germ-a-phobe.  Oops. Guess the lesson here is "you're screwed, just eat the fucking cookie".  You know, I can actually get behind that.

Sin #4: Gluttony - I'm going to lead with the final lesson on this one:You do not need 5 pizzas, 30 buffalo wings, 2 hotdogs, 4 different (DIFFERENT, mind you) bags of oreos, 1 bag of Milanos, 2 bags of Cape Cod Potato Chips, 1 carton (not bag) of Goldfish, and a single box of Entenman's Chocolate Chip Cookies to survive a Hurricane shut-in.  No, I'm not exaggerating; and in fact, I've left out a few of the items we purchased for this absurd excuse for a disaster.  We ordered the pizzas/wings from two different locations (Fivos and Nova for those playing along) early on so we could "stock up" in case we were unable to get dinner later that day due to inclement weather.  "That's not a bad idea" I hear some of you say - yes it is.  I currently have enough pizza in my fridge to make the Ninja Turtles blush and so many cookies that I'm pretty sure my only recourse is to undo all the hard work I've put into losing those last 10 pounds before Dragon*Con.  I've exercised some restraint (but by no means actually exercised) by not eating all of it, but...they're cookies!  How much restraint am I really capable of in the face of those kinds of odds.  "But you didn't have to buy cookies to stock up for the evening, Trevor".  Now let's not get judgmental.

Sin #5: Sloth - All right, raise your hand if you saw this coming?  That's what I thought.  The inevitable consequence of that 1st world, gluttonous, smorgasbord I mentioned is that not one of us wanted to move an inch for most of the evening.  I made a bold effort to counteract this by firing up the Kinect and playing Fruit Ninja by flailing around like a chimpanzee in a tumble dryer full of bananas (well, I think it's an apt comparison...especially that "bananas" crack).  It worked pretty well, actually - for 10 minutes.  Then we realized we were all sweating oil and chocolate out of our pores and decided to take "a breather".  That breather involved watching 4 episodes of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show on the same console that mere moments ago was helping to keep us from looking like Mario.  So much for that plan.  My only other attempt at real activity was suggesting that we go out to Staples to buy a battery back-up early in the day.  Not only was Staples closed, but the consequence was that we went to Key Food and bought all the crap that led to our sloth-fest and inevitable diabetic comas. You know, sometimes I think there really is a God...and he loves making sure I don't do jack so as not to screw with his oh-so-carefully-crafted plan.

Sin #6: Envy - So what could make this whole event more obnoxious than it already was? Knowing that not 400 miles away, my mother and sister were enjoying a beautifully sunny day while helping the latter set up her first ever apartment in her last ever year of college ( creeps me out too).  Seriously.  I know it's hard work and all to set up an apartment, but at least they're not dealing with a panicked New York (the worst kind of New York, by the way) over what amounts to a pretty bad thunder storm with no thunder. I've moved into apartments in my life (see the paragraph on Lust for an idea of what that was like) and it's actually kind of fun.  I like being able to see my living space take shape around me.  I also like helping people move.  Even though you're all tired, and occasionally someone does something stupid like stack the TV on top of the stove while saying "But this way you can watch TV while you cook!", you can all still have a good time assembling and sorting.  And besides, at the end of it all, you get a whole apartment! How cool is that? When I was done sorting and ordering, I had a house full of inebriated guests, copious junk food, no consent about what movie to watch, and an argument about menstruation that couldn't even be solved by Oreos.  The lesson: The grass is not only greener on the other side, it's got a fucking amusement park with a water slide made of chocolate presided over by clones of Angelina Jolie.  Fuck my side of the fence.

Sin #7: Pride - At last. The big one.  This one is nice and simple.  They say "pride goeth before the fall".  I said: "It's not gonna amount to anything.  It's just gonna be some strong winds that'll make people nervous.  Really it's more of a bad storm than a full-on natural disaster. I know I'll miss helping Sasha, but that won't be so bad. I'll be able to spend some nice quiet time in my apartment for a few days. Really...what could happen? I mean, it's not like God will punish me for this little bit of hubris." The Lesson: Please note the preceding 6 lessons and extrapolate from there.

So in conclusion: Fuck this Hurricane.  Irene has mostly moved on as of the time of this post and now we're just left with the aftermath of one of Mother Nature's most unimpressive temper tantrums.  I know some people are without power, and my heart really does go out to them.  I can only imagine what the last evening would have been without power.  I don't really know but my best guess involves one or more of the sharp objects scattered throughout my house and a listing in the paper the next morning reading "Looking for Friends and a Plausible, Airtight, Alibi".

Well, that's all for now.  I hope you've enjoyed this little learning experience.  Tune in some other day in the near future when we'll be learning lessons on "surviving" a gloriously indulgent event that doesn't revolve around strong winds.  It revolves around Dungeons, Dragons, and everything in between.  And I do mean everything.

August 13, 2011

A Thousand Thanks

To all my fellow Mantids,

I can't thank you all enough for once again uniting to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It seems to be your specialty.  All the trappings of my still-overwhelming graduation party adorn my place and it makes me feel happy to see them. 

Now I can add this rather unusual tool of the future (yeah...I know) to my collection of Mantid-made icons of friendship.  I'm obviously new to the Blog-o-sphere so you'll have to forgive me for not being quite as skilled in using this tool as those of you who spend way to much time on LJ/Tumblr do.  Hopefully, you will be willing to contribute to my already impressive knowledge-base (If you thought I'd remain humble for more than 2 paragraphs, you obviously don't know me very well) by teaching me the tools of the trade - lookin' at you Sasha.

Well, I'm two paragraphs in to my first ever blog post, and I'm not really sure what to say.  I'm tempted to whine about the injustice of the world or start spewing my philosophical reasons for why video-games are the reason life is at all tolerable, but that would do such a disservice to warm and happy welcome you all gave me.  So, permit me to be both in and out of character for a moment to just say this:

For all my complaints about the world we live in, the fact that you all can find the time to contribute something this thoughtful to my life makes me take them all back (however briefly). It's this kind of friendship that makes me feel that any misery or hardship is worth it.  You have all played such an important part in my evolution as a human being, as a friend, and as a thinker, that I often wonder what would have become of me if none of you had come into my life.  I can only believe it would be a much darker, bleaker, and more miserable than one could even imagine. Fortunately, I do have you all in my life in one form or another so I don't even have to think about it.  Even though most of you are miles away at all times, I still have nothing but fond and happy memories of our times together, and I think of all of you and the love you all bring me whenever I'm feeling down. I'm indisputably a better person because of all you have brought to my existence.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  

I love you, all.  So very, very much. 

There is only passion,


I have every intention to make use of this wonderful little bulletin-board you've all given me.  After all, we used those junky white-boards for all manner of oddity. Expect it.

July 30, 2011