All These Things I’ve Done

If you focus hard enough on something, you can set it on fire with your mind. True fact.

March 28, 2011

The past week has been, to put it mildly, one of the more stressful of my life. Hell, the last six months have been filled with funerals, finances, and everything under the sun. There have been good times (getting engaged would be in this list), but everything also feels like it’s balancing and just waiting to fall on one side or another.

And yet, despite holding on  the people and thing I love with the fervor of someone fleeing a house fire, I have a sort of Zen-like calm about the whole thing.

I’m doing everything I can to make things work. The people in my life know how I feel about them. I type and stay up as long as I have to in order to do what I need to do. I go to bed, tired, but the kind of tired you get after a good workout or after a show-stopping performance. It’s the kind of tired you get from working on something you believe. It’s the kind of tied you get after running a marathon.

I can feel myself moving forward. I know I’m doing everything possible.


Stress by ~robingoosen on deviantART

As bad as things may have gotten these last several months, as much as the stress piled on and I popped tension headache pills like they were grapes, I think I’ve reached a point where I’ve finally realized that it’s not the amount of work I do to get to my goals that’s killing me. It’s the quality of my work.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love this site and all my readers. I love the way Charcoal Streets is coming out. I appreciate every link you share and every fan on Facebook.

I could do better, though.

As I edit Charcoal Street stories I haven’t seen in months, I find mistakes and clichés I should not have written. I look through the site and see little things I should have noticed. I look through my art and see the errors that should not have escaped me.

In short, I’ve become more aware that while my production has increased in the last year, my quality is not where I want it to be.


The Writer by ~LunaLove-Hero on deviantART

I’ve deleted my games on Facebook. I have set plans for the week. I’m going to devote specific times to my work. I’m going to focus as much as I can, and then I’ll break, and after I put everything back together again, I’m going to keep going.

That’s how you get through the day. I saw an episode of Criminal minds where one of the profilers has been having nightmares and another, senior profiler tells him that the best they can hope for is to make the nightmares bearable.

Crap.

I’m going to tell my nightmares to get stuffed. This is my life. I didn’t invite them.


The Lost Writer by ~NinjaTasticAgentM on deviantART

It’s time for some Monday links. Let’s get going!

  • I watch Peter Coffin’s videos on Youtube once in a while, and he’s always come off as a bit of a D-bag, but if this post is true, he’s an ever bigger dick than I thought.
  • Did you know God had a wife? Apparently, research shows that early versions of several books in the Bible made mention to a goddess worshiped alongside God. She was taken out, it seems. It sounds very Dan Brown, but I’m keeping an eye on this story.
  • And finally, here’s the first teaser for The Three Musketeers. I’m REALLY weary of the 3D gimmick, but it’s got Mila Jovovich and Ray Stevenson, so it might just be fun.

Love the Teacher, Hate the Job

Just TRY to find anyone willing to stand in front of twenty or thirty children and speak for 8 hours a day.

March 23, 2011

Teachers have been getting a bad rap for years. I’ve already outlined how educators don’t get the kind of pay people think they do, but there’s another reason it’s easy to blame teachers for failing education and make them scapegoats for everything from union trouble to state budgets.

We’ve set up a system where teachers are unfairly judged and given expectations no person could possibly match.

Let me give you a few examples.


Police state by ~AlanCPhotography on deviantART

If police were held to the standards of teachers, we would fire them after five years if their respective districts didn’t lower crime. Fresh out of the academy, these police would be required to make sure crime dropped by significant levels. Their tools to make sure communities don’t eat each other?

Drills. They would teach people what to do in an emergency, so, when the time comes, they know a few options that are limited to standard responses. Police would not really patrol or investigate. They would go around and make sure everyone knew the drills and, if anyone didn’t, that citizen would be arrested for endangering the community.

Police would host seminars and workshops to make sure everyone knows the proper responses to fire, shootings, and car accidents and that’s it. People would complain that there are many more emergencies than these and a set of general, adaptive skills would be more beneficial than just practicing the equivalent of stage directions, but the police would have none of that.

Teachers have to teach students in order to pass mandated testing. The mandated curriculum leaves little for actual critical thinking skills, questions, or improvisation. This is what people mean when they say “teaching to the test.”

How long did you remember the information in a test after you took it?


doctor cat postcard 2 by ~dalia on deviantART

If doctors were held to the standards of teachers, every doctor would be mandated to treat twenty to forty patients a day. Doctors would have one year to make sure each patient met certain guidelines: cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure. These doctors would have to make sure their patients all had the appropriate levels of these three things, and we would declare said patients healthy at the end of that year.

But, the doctors would cry out, these are not proper indicators of health! There are so many other variables that must be taken into consideration-

And they would be hushed because, say the hospital administrators, after that year, that patient is no longer your responsibility. These are the standards we’ll use, and you will stick to them.

The doctors would cry out that the patients have red meat, smoke, drink, and don’t exercise and only really work at health and act healthy during check-ups. And the hospital administrators would get after the doctors for the health habits of patients at home.

Teachers can teach as much as they want, give homework and encouragement, but students are ultimately responsible for studying and preparing themselves. It’s a two-way street. Teachers “give bad grades” like doctors give “negative prognoses.”


.: Segwey Army :. by *Time-Clown on deviantART

If the military were held to the same standard as teachers, they would be given a very specific timetable for all major operations. Wars would last no more than a few months and, at the end of that time, whether done or not, the military would pull out of a foreign country. All goals would have to be achieved, and if the military failed, they would be reprimanded and defunded until they got it right or were all fired and replaced with fresh new recruits.

And, in order to balance the budget, soldiers would have to buy their own ammunition. Sailors would need to purchase their own life jackets. Marines would need to buy scopes for their own sniper rifles.

Teachers face penalties if they don’t live up to expectations, but the penalties schools receive for unsatisfactory testing end up crippling the school and make it harder to teach as classes swell and funding disappears. Many educators have to buy their own supplies, out of pocket, to have a proper class.


teacher by ~drFrazer on deviantART

Am I saying teachers are not to blame for any of the educational problems in this country? Of course not. Teachers have to live up to their end of the bargain. But as we cut benefits, pay, time, and force teachers to become little more than machines to spit out test answers for students in a curriculum that bears no relation to real life, we have to ask ourselves…

If we think of teachers as nothing but babysitters, why do we heap all these duties and responsibilities on them? And if they’re not teachers, but mentors and guides, why do we make it so hard for them to do their job?


We don’t need no education by ~Silviaa92 on deviantART

Link time!

  • This looks really gimmicky, but damn if I don’t want to at least try vampire wine.
  • Ladies and gentlemen… lesbians. That is all. You may go about your day now.
  • Now, I’m not a video gamer, although I play Wii with friends once in a while, but I can’t imagine ever being so obsessed over a game that I do this and land in the hospital.
  • And finally, just because I really need something so utterly cute that it will make this week feel better, I give you a puppy dancing salsa. See you Friday!

The Last Lesson My Grandfather Taught Me

March 19, 2011

My grandfather died, peacefully, in his sleep.

The last week was filled with tears, laughs, and family. My grandfather was fortunate enough to see his children, his grandchildren, and his great-granddaughter before finally closing his eyes for the last time.

But I won’t remember him as the man lying in bed for the last ten months. This past week, as bittersweet as it was to finally see him at peace, with no pain, will not be the memory I carry with me.

On Sunday, before the ambulance arrived to take him, I had a few moments and I gathered enough strength to say, “Papi, gracias por todo. Te quiero mucho.”

Papi, thank you for everything. I love you very much.

He looked up, and it was one of the few times I’ve ever seen him even tear up. He looked at me and said, “Todo eso fue de amor… Haz lo mismo en tu vida, y nos veremos despues.”

All of it was out of love… Do the same in your life, and we’ll meet again afterwards.


Margarita by ~EloyMR on deviantART

Love…

My grandfather was one of the toughest men I’ve ever known. I don’t mean that in hyperbole. He helped build the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California, a bridge we always called “Papi’s Bridge” when we saw it. We still call it that if we see it in a movie.

He helped raise four children who went on to become teachers, businessmen, and who in turn have grandchildren who have gone on to travel the world, learn a total of five languages, work in film, government, education, public service, and business. Several years ago, though, Papi came home and told us he’d gotten his GED. We didn’t even know he’d been preparing for it. He was retired. He told us, matter-of-factly, that he did it to show all of us that nothing stood between us and achieving our dreams. If he could do it, we could do it


Azucena by ~scalybur on deviantART

Papi was a cook. He could make carne asada so good we asked for it on special occasions. He knew a recipe for a chocolate cake that even people who didn’t like chocolate liked. If Aristotle is right and everything is a shadow of a perfect form, one perfect version of that thing, then my grandfather’s carne asada and his chocolate cake are the form of every other piece of meat and dessert.

My grandfather didn’t plan things so much as he just did them. I don’t mean he was impulse. Far from it, but when he set his mind to it, he could do anything. The first time he bowled, my cousins and I invited him to join us. We kids were having a blast when Papi went up and knocked over every pin. When he did it a second time, we accused him of having secretly played for years. Confused, he just said, “El chiste es que lanso la pelota y tumbo los pinos, verdad? Eso es lo que estoy haciendo.”

The point is to throw the ball and knock over the pins, right? That’s what I’m doing.

To him, there was no such thing as failure. “Pedro” is the Spanish form of “Peter,” which is usually translated as “rock.” My grandfather was one of the toughest, strongest men I’ve ever known. The doctor told him he had five months to live. That was eleven months ago. This week, the doctor said he had maybe three days. He stuck around for six, I’m sure just to show the doctor he was an idiot.

Despite his skill and roughness, he was first a family man.


Lilly- by ~dragy88 on deviantART

When my sister and I were younger, we would get up early to watch cartoons. My grandfather always used to sit in a big recliner. It was his chair, his throne, and my sister and I got to sit on the armrests with him on Saturday mornings as we all watched Bugs Bunny cartoons. This man who worked with steel and could intimidate anyone if need be… watched cartoons with us on Saturday mornings.

Though he rarely said he loved anyone, everything he did, even his cold demeanor, was to teach us something. It was to teach us respect, to teach us how to stand up for ourselves, to show us that life goes on.

In the end, I heard him say, “Los quiero mucho.”

I love you all so much…

But we always knew. Being humble is not thinking less of yourself. Being humble means thinking of yourself less, and that’s what my grandfather did. Like he said, everything he did was for his family, out of love, and God help anyone who stood in this man’s way.


stone-shaped heart by ~CatchMe-22 on deviantART

Nietzsche once said that anything done out of love is beyond good and evil. My grandfather was not particularly religious, though he was a man of strong faith in people and what they could do. He lived his life to give others the chance to achieve something greater than he ever could. His legacy lives in his family and the morals and drive he instilled in us. He was more than a superman. He was and will remain the standard by which we judge our own actions.

He taught me the meaning of love. He wished my fiancé and me a happy life together. Then, last night, before he took one final morphine nap, he asked my grandmother, “Ya ví a todos?”

Did I see everyone already?

My grandmother told him he had, and he smiled, just barely, and said, “Ya me voy a componer.”

I’ll be better soon, now.


San Pedro Sunrise by *bssc on deviantART

Six hours later, with my grandmother at his side, he quietly passed. He held on, despite almost no lung capacity and a weak heart, just to make sure his family could see him one more time as they traveled over half the continent to get here.

He did it out of love.

Pedro Ramirez was a father, grandfather, friend, and the patriarch for my family. He’s lost a son, become an American, and argued until the last day. To me, he will always be Papi, a strong, gruff man who, despite his upbringing and tough life, used to laugh at Bugs Bunny with me.

I’m not sad for him, but I’ll miss him terribly.

Adios, Papi.

Michael Bay Admits He Sucks?

March 11, 2011

If you know me, you know I love me a good bad movie. Cheap horror, cheap effects, and bad acting, and a plot so nonsensical it makes an Escher painting look like a freaking math equation…

And yet I hate Michael Bay movies.

The new trailer for the Transformers sequel, Transformers: Dark of the Moon left me asking a lot of questions. Can we create a formula to figure out how much money a Bay movie can make and still suck? Does Michael Bay realize we can see light in dusty conditions because dust floats in the atmosphere and the moon, well, doesn’t have one?

With the exception of The Rock, his movies are… well, let’s say you stuck your head in a dishwasher filled with C4 and soft-core porn and didn’t die from the explosion. The ensuing chaos of shrapnel, fire, and breasts would be a rough approximation of the chaos that is a Michael Bay-directed movie.

They actually suck the fun out of giant explosions.

Now, in a plot twist M. Night Shyamalan himself could not have written, Bay actually came out and admitted that Transformers 2 actually sucked.

No joke. Just look at the stories here and here.

The thing is… Bay says it’s the fault of the script. Really, Mike? The script? That was the ONLY problem? I’ll give Bay credit for admitting the movie sucked, but I don’t think it was all the script’s fault…


Lil Formers – More Movie by *MattMoylan on deviantART

BOOM = PLOT!

Bay has an uncanny ability to make explosions, fire, and destroyed infrastructure uncool. Every single one of his movies has to have some shot or sequence wherein the heroes are caught in an Apocalypse Now-style carpet bombing.

In Bad Boys 2, an entire mansion exploded from about ten pounds of explosive as though someone had set off a thermobaric charge in the living room. Transformers 2 had an entire five hours of explosions. I was sick of fire by the end. I literally wished humanity had never learned to harness its power.

Slow Motion = Drama

It doesn’t. I could film someone eating cake and play it in slow motion with loud, chorus-filled music, but it wouldn’t be drama. It would be a guy eating cake. I don’t want a guy eating cake. I want drama. I want tension. Even the “tense” scenes in Transformers 2, like the so-called hostage situation at the end, had people screaming, the camera moving around like it was manned by an epileptic mid-seizure, and we had no time to process the threat. There was no intimidating moment, just more screaming, more fire, and more movement.

I think I actually got seasick at one point.


Lil Formers – Transformers 2 by *MattMoylan on deviantART

Humping the Camera = Cinematography

The camera is a tool. CGI is a tool. Lighting is a tool.

We, the audience, want to see the movie, not be RIGHT in the middle of things ALL THE TIME. Sure, it might add drama to be right in the thick of things once in a while, but not when the camera’s spinning and shaking like a detoxing crack addict.

These robots are some of the most advanced and time-consuming special effects ever made, over 140 terabytes of memory for this movie’s digital effects. I believe that’s the same amount of memory used on a single Windows install disc.

Could Bay do ILM a favor and give us, the audience, time to process these images instead of zooming in so we can see the chipped paint? We want to see these mechanical monstrosities in their full glory, but we don’t need to be close enough to smell the oil.

They Want Plot? I’ll GIVE them PLOT!

Even after all this, after the stupid action sequences that left me deaf in my seat, it’s still possible to, perhaps, save this movie. Aside from a lot going on at the same time, the story has so many subplots and characters that it makes the Lord of the Rings trilogy look like Waiting for Godot.

More is not better. Just because Bay gave us three McGuffins does not mean the movie is three times better than the last one. Just because he added ten extra Decepticons at the very end, and brought back an old one from the first movie just to kill it off in thirty seconds, does not mean he’s created plot.

These are just things happening. Things are not plot. A plot is made up of a series of interconnected events and characters.

And yet, if you took a butcher’s knife to the final cut and sliced off maybe an hour or so, you’d have a better film. Not a great film, perhaps not even a good film. But a film. This may be the first time that a Director’s Cut would need to trim the movie down in order to actually make something watchable.


Megatron pwns Bay’s Megatron by *khaamar on deviantART

Michael Bay can blame the script all he wants. But he directed and produced the last monstrosity to rape my childhood, and I’ll be damned if he weasels out of the blame.

So, Michael Bay, thanks for admitting you made a crappy movie.

And screw you for trying to shift all the blame on someone else.

I grew up with Transformers. They are a part of my childhood that I cherish along with Bugs Bunny and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Things were simple. Big giant robots fight, good guys win, Earth is saved. Did I mention they were giant frikin’ robots?! When you’re five and someone tells you, “Hey, you see that truck over there? Well, it can turn into a giant armored robot that can tear tanks apart with his bare hands,” that is the coolest thing in the WORLD. You’ve taken a piece of my childhood and given it the same treatment as a Top 40 rap video.

It’s loud, flashy, and there are girls, but in the end I’m just wondering what I saw and why I didn’t stop watching.


Michael Bay is AWESOME by ~shibamura-prime on deviantART

And now for the mind-cleansing links…

High-Class Racism

It's offensive because brown people do it.

March 9, 2011

Ann Coulter may laugh when someone brings up racism since she believes racism no longer exists. It’s possible to say that we’ve cleared away a lot of the old racism, but racism is still here. Yes, we elected a black president, but that gets rid of racism much like going to college means you develop common sense.

It just doesn’t happen.

The wave of Islamophobia moving across the country, everything from the Park51 project, to the vandalized mosques across the country, and even to the new “high birther” comments from Mike “Selective Outrage” Huckabee, show that racism is alive and well. We once targeted Catholics, the Irish, and Jews, and blamed the country’s problems on minority groups with little to no representation or way to get their message out.

And if you think Islamophobia is just a legitimate concern over real terrorism, then please explain this video.

In case you skipped it, we now have video of two state representatives saying, among other things, that they would be willing to let Muslims go to paradise by force (do I have to spell it out) and that they were proud of the protestors.

Yes, I can see how you would be proud of protestors heckling and shouting insults at women and children a worthy cause.

Women and children… This was a fundraiser to build a women’s shelter and help the poor. Now, granted, one of the speakers was linked to the 1993 WTC bombings and has some anti-Semitic viewpoints, but does that taint the entire group?

I know Mexicans who would love to invade Texas. Does that make me dangerous radical because I too hail from the land of tequila?


Mexican Death by ~AidaDisguise on deviantART

Of course not. My anarcho-humanist tendencies and the fact that I know how to build an A-bomb with smoke detectors is what makes me dangerous.

And for the twelve federal agencies monitoring internet content, that last line was a joke.

Watch that video again. Multiculturalism is bad. Islam is bad. Muslims all support terrorism. Muslim men beat their wives. Muslims are pedophiles. Death is the only solution.

This is the mentality of the Far Right, but it’s only because the Far Right doesn’t mind being exposed. It doesn’t care what others think of it. There are people who espouse similar beliefs and cloak them under the guise of academics and logic.

Representative King’s congressional inquiries into the Muslim community are one such case of “high class” racism. It’s the same old, bigoted arguments in a new cloak. Make no mistake. These are two sides of the same coin.

Racism is alive and well. It just got a new suit and got elected on the Tea Party ticket.


Racism .. by ~HAZEMSHEHAB on deviantART

Let’s get some links to wash the taste of dumbass out of your mouth.

Conservative Translations 2

And so the battle continues!

March 4, 2011

It’s time for another round of Conservative Translations. I think I’ll make this a regular feature, something to let some steam off without having to address the nuances of political debate. In other words, I get to bitch and make fun of people.

It’s common sense! Why CAN’T YOU use your basic common sense and see that I’m right?

Translation: I have no real understanding of this topic beyond party talking points and I would appreciate it if you stopped using logic to undermine my basic gut reaction.

Unions are bleeding us dry.

Translation: I had a bad experience with a union once and/ or am parroting the Republican talking points.


UNIONS – United We Stand by ~Activists on deviantART

Planned Parenthood funds abortions and kills babies, which is why we must stop funding them.

Translation: Poor women shouldn’t have access to affordable health care even though abortions are only one part of Planned Parenthood’s services.

Socialism is going to take over our country.

Translation: I can’t grasp the concept that fire and police departments are socialist and I have a narrow, one-dimensional view regarding the concepts of socialism and communism.

Sharia Law is dangerous and we must stop it.

Translation: I have zero understanding of the Muslim faith and am engaged in knee-jerk reactions much like conservatives have railed against Catholics, blacks, and the Irish in our nation’s past.


Attach of the Racist Post Its by ~violetisnotpurple on deviantART

Of course Fox News is telling the truth. They couldn’t stay on the air of they lied, right?

Translation: If I see it on television, it must be real, right? Like reality television, 24, and Gilligan’s Island.

The revolutions in the Middle East are bad because Muslims can’t handle democracy.

Translation: I am a bigot who thinks brown people can’t think for themselves and need the assistance of a white man.

There is a lot of evidence against the unions, communists, and if you don’t listen to me, the world will end as the Anti-Christ finally arrives.

Translation: I listen to Glenn Beck.

Why don’t you listen to my argument?!

Translation: I’m Glenn Beck.

Some Men Just Want To Watch The World Burn
see more Political Pictures

And now, some happy for the weekend.

  • Looks like a Christian author has been accused of heresy for his new book. I wonder if Charcoal Streets will merit the same response when it comes out in ebooks and print?
  • It looks like Tennessee wants to ban Islam. Either the lawmakers who drafted the legislation don’t know what they said, or they’re really scared of the brown people.
  • And finally, here are a few more reasons Mike Nelson and the rest of the MST3K cast are geniuses.

Juarez, Numa Numa, and the Return of Doug Funny

And you smell like Funyuns!

March 2, 2011

Nothing beats strapping on that AK-47, getting in the Kevlar-lined car, and driving down the street while gunning down a few dozen people for points, right?

Of course, it changes when it’s actual people gunning down innocent bystanders in one of the most violent cities in the world. And it becomes very personal for me when said city is in my home country and is, in many ways, the best evidence in the world against drug prohibition.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel is already drawing sharp criticism in Mexico and here in the US. Very few details have been released regarding the game. All we know is that the city of Juarez will play a central role and cartels will be involved, but that alone is so offensive that Mexican legislators are looking to ban the game.

Why the outburst, you ask? After all, the Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and other franchises have used glorified violence before right? Sex and violence sells, and this will be just another entry into a market filled with genocidal aliens, mobsters, and terrorists.

So what exactly is Ciudad Juarez?


Juarez by =Robowan on deviantART

Well, it’s one of the most violent cities in the world if you don’t count official war zones. Last month, the city averaged eight homicides a day. In 2010, the city had more than 3,000 homicides, more than double what it had two years before. A series of female disappearances and sexual murders totaling between 400 and 5,000 have rocked the city for years. The Juarez Cartel, also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is brutal to the point that it makes the deaths in Saw look like a Disney Channel movie of the week.

Short version? Ciudad Juarez and the cartel wars are a bloody, constant nightmare for millions of people.

I know people who have been kidnapped, not necessarily by the Juarez Cartel, but kidnapped nonetheless. I’ve walked the streets of Mexico as soldiers patrol in jeeps armed with fifty-cal machine guns. I’ve seen my beautiful Mexico reduced to a police state just to maintain some semblance of stability…

And I’m fine with this game getting released.


juarez by ~juanjosee on deviantART

Don’t get me wrong. No one knows as of this writing whether or not the players will play as cops, cartel members, or just unaligned badasses on the warpath. The very idea that someone thinks the violence in Ciudad Juarez is appropriate for a video game frankly sickens me.

But I’m all for Ubisoft releasing this game.

Will it influence people to join gangs? No more than Grand Theft Auto increased the stealing of cars or Mortal Kombat increased fights to the death. Medal of Honor didn’t make people join the military in waves. The only people who would be swayed to join the drug war on the side of the cartels because of this game are the people who are already sure they want to do it and are looking for a flimsy excuse.

I’ll tell people who play the game just what it’s based on. I’ll make sure they know that real people die those situations in the game. I’ll make sure people understand the drug trade is responsible for hundreds of thousands of ruined lives.

But I won’t call to ban it.

Let’s face it. What is one video game going to do that decades of the Drug War and heavily armed paramilitary cartels who decapitate their victims can’t do?


You Are Supposed To Protect Us by ~blackophelia on deviantART

  • I’m not sure how I feel about Nickelodeon making new episodes of shows like Doug, Rugrats, and other classics. Maybe they’ll be good, but I doubt it. They’ll have to fit them to today’s audience. and, let’s face it, my generation has different tastes. Speaking of which, when are they going to release Pete and Pete on DVD?
  • And finally, I hope this is a real movie, or at least a short film. Imagine every meme you ever watched on Youtube… in one movie.