Jun 152011
 

It's real because I say so.

June 15, 2011

Careful readers may have noted how I tend to knock on people who hold outrageous beliefs for the sake of tradition or comfort. Think gays are committing a sin by loving and existing because the Bible says so? Do you think that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles despite the Bible being entirely opposite to what the Bill of Rights guarantees?

Guess what? You’re a moron for ignoring reality.

On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.

And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?

Well, I got to thinking…


Tempting fate by ~jsings on deviantART

How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.

Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.

I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.

Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.

I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.


love is chaos by ~parasite3 on deviantART

I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.

There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”

Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!


Old school gaming by ~Kiaaaa on deviantART

And now, for your viweing pleasure, links.

  • And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.

Nov 012010
 

Death, be not proud...

November 1, 2010

Most of you celebrated Halloween yesterday. Or maybe this Saturday or Friday. You dressed up, went out, had fun, probably got drunk, and called it a night. Good. I did pretty much the same thing, but I have something else in mind for tomorrow.

Tomorrow (and today for some people) is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The smell of marigolds will attract the spirits of the dead, sugar skulls will serve as decoration snacks, and millions of people will pause to remember family and friends.

In Mexico, and for many living in the United States having emigrated from Mexico, these two days are a time to remember the dead, to celebrate their lives and pay homage to those who have come before. Many families will go to cemeteries and have picnics. Others will build altars with photographs, candies, food, and liquor to remember family and friends.


day of the dead mask by ~eesss on deviantART

And I know that, to many of you, this seems like a morbid, depressing ritual.

Oh, how you have much to learn.

In Mexico, death is not something ominous, something that comes for you at the end of your life. Death is a part of life. We don’t shy away from eating every part of an animal, or even from cooking with the animal’s blood. We accept the animal’s death as part of the feast. Likewise death is a regular part of the news cycle south of the border.

We are just accustomed to death. We name it. Some worship an aspect of it called la Santa Muerte. It is not a love of death so much as a respect for it. This is not something that is widespread, and in fact in many more modernized areas of the country, this is frowned upon as witchcraft or dark magic.

Me? I like to think of death as something that is just always there.

In a way, I don’t fear death. I just know it will be there. And this is not, I believe, a morbid point of view.


The rose and Death by ~Trixis on deviantART

In fact, it’s a beautiful way to look at the world. What makes things precious? We value that which is rare or unique. If there exists only a single copy of something, we will not even give it an amount. We just call it priceless.

What is more valuable than a life? Each person, animal, and plant will exist in one form for a single life in all of the history of the universe. I will only exist once. The Beatles existed only once. My family, my friends, and every person I’ve ever met will live but one life and then leave. With 6.7 billion people on the planet, some would say this is inconsequential. Surely we can have someone who is similar. Surely the death of one individual has no effect on the history of the world unless that individual is famous or contributes to society…

And yet that’s the exact opposite of what I believe.


Dia de los muertos III 2009 by ~SaveTheDonuts on deviantART

Seeing death, knowing it will come, knowing it may happen at any time, makes life beautiful. It makes you appreciate every moment. If makes aware of the value of every day. The average life expectancy is 75 years. That means I have 588 months left, on average.

I know that number is even less for others, but that doesn’t take into account accidents, disease, meteors, and zombies that could take us at any time.

And when we do leave this world…

That’s the beauty. To the dead we owe the truth. Oddly enough, it’s one of the contradictions of death that it tells us more about the living than anything else. Funerals are not about the dead. They are there to comfort and give closure to the living.

I often wonder about the people who have come before. All of us will meet death. Every. One. Of us. To remember this is to want to make a mark on the world. Maybe you’ll teach. Maybe you’ll focus on raising your children to be the best they can. Perhaps you’ll decide to be an artist.

Death is not something to fear. It is what drives us to be better and make sure that, when we go, people remember who we are. It is the limit we have to beat if we hope to achieve everything possible. Death is a constant companion, not an enemy.


Dia de Los Muertos by ~Teddy-is-dead on deviantART

Tomorrow, I’ll remember these things more than usual. I’ll remember family that’s gone, some recently, some in the last few years. I encourage you to do the same, but don’t mourn the fact that they are gone. Remember the things they left behind, the memories they gave you, and the things that made them unique. No one like them will ever exist.

Rejoice.

With that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems: Holy Sonnet X by John Donne. Enjoy, and jump down below the video for the links.

Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.

Link time, boys and girls!

  • If you recommend a teacher for this group, you get a case of wine… But does the teacher get a case of wine!? We deserve it more!
  • Looks like the new Batman movie will be called The Dark Knight Rises. Word from Nolan is that there will be NO Riddler, which is good, I think. That would be a difficult villain to Nolanize. I once heard the argument that the third Batman film should not even have a main villain… just THE MOB. Make it completely character driven, in other words. Thoughts?
  • And finally, as much as people deck out their houses for Christmas, this Halloween-themed light-show is amazing. The footage is a bit old, but it’s still really cool. See you tomorrow!

Sep 292010
 

Yup. It needs to roll over and die. Yuppers.

September 29, 2010

America is dying.

Listen to the furor on the right. This nation has been changing, little by little, until it is almost unrecognizable by the hard-working average American. Health care, gay rights, secularism, and a host of other problems are taking this country and changing into something our own parents won’t recognize in a few years.

Good.

Progress is not evil. “Progressivism” is not an evil term. I am not a Marxist. I do not condone genocide. And as much as I cannot stand Beck and the Fox noise machine, I don’t want them censored. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I am a naturalized citizen. I wasn’t born here, so it scares me when I a) can writer better than the “patriots” in the Tea Party, b) understand American history and government better than the voice of the people, Fox News, and c) must explain to people the difference between liberalism, progressivism, Nazism, and communism and that we don’t believe in government handouts.


bleeding heart liberal by *aNg76 on deviantART

What is progress?

Let’s take the evolutionary viewpoint. Everything that lives must adapt to its environment, to different conditions. If it gets too cold, those creatures that could withstand a little more cold will thrive. If food becomes scarce, the more efficient hunters will survive.

Likewise, our country’s changed. In the last twenty years, the internet, television, and mass media have brought us all together. Whether we like it or not, we are living in a global community. What happens in China affects us in America. Drug violence in Mexico stirs up political movements in the Southwest. These connections always existed, but now each one of us can participate. This site alone has readers in the North America, Australia, and a few other places.

With zero advertising budget.

Imagine the kind of impact actual world-shattering events create.

This multiculturalism and melting pot of ideas is the new environment for our country. Like an animal in the wild, we find ourselves in a world filled with new creatures, new neighbors, and limited resources. We have to adapt, learn from others, or else risk sinking into stagnation. There are already signs the United States is losing ground in the global stage.

Of course, the fear that America will change hinges on one basic premise: the United States of America cannot be better than what it already has become.

I’m calling crap.


Miss America by *mbreitweiser on deviantART

Anything can be made better. Anything. Your mom’s cooking? Could use more salt. That perfect date? There were no fireworks. Your favorite movie? Wasn’t narrated by Christopher Walken.

My point is that America can be better than it is. In fact, it can be better than our Founders intended.

What!!? The Founders were WRONG?!

Well, that assumes they all agreed. They didn’t. The biggest mistake we can make is thinking America has a destiny. It doesn’t America isn’t a government. Government is people. Americans come from dozens, hundreds of backgrounds. We came from different countries, spoke many languages, and today we live together and believe very basic principles. We may disagree on how to get there, but if we’re not trying to make this country better, what are we doing?

Every person who says we need to go back to the way things were is dangerous. They’re dangerous because they wish to relieve the mistakes of the past based on some vague sense of duty to the intentions of our Founding Fathers. They want us to just have faith that, somehow, the work we did getting here was a mistake and everything will somehow right itself.

No faith.

Faith is blind. Trust goes both ways.


Blind faith by *ValentinaKallias on deviantART

I can’t trust the Founding Fathers since I’ve never and will never meet them. The only thing I can do is rely on years of education, common sense, and the observations of tangible reality all around me.

Oh noes!

And what do these observations tell me?

We can do better. We can always do better. So next time someone tells you that we need to go back the way things were, or that we’re not doing what the Founders wanted… Tell them that the Founders aren’t here, they were men, flawed men, and that if they know of a way to stop the social inertia of hundreds of millions of people, go right ahead.

If the America of today dies, ask yourself what part of it is dying. Is it the part that clings to outdated ideas, beliefs based on emotion and gut-feelings instead of reason and observation, and a need to fight against the “other”?

Then yes, let it die. In fact, take it outside and shoot it.


New American by ~Chrislore on deviantART

And now on to the links.

  • Ever flown and picked up a Sky Mall magazine? The things in there are neat, sometimes, but sometimes I see something that just… no one needs crap like this. No one!
  • Justin Beiber recently said he was this generation’s Kurt Cobain. There are SOME similarities. Apparently someone took offence and noted the many ways Mister Beiber and Mister Cobain are different.
  • I’m sure most people have heard by now, but Katy Perry was kicked off Sesame Street because she apparently provided a little more boob for the sketch than the kids had seen since breastfeeding. Oh well.
  • Dark Archivist is a blog run by a good friend of mine. She’s got some really good posts, but this one on the Tea Party is one of my favorites so far.
  • Who exactly is fighting the legalization of marijuana in California? As it turns out… it’s the alcohol industry. Guess no one likes competition, huh?
  • And finally, Priest will be coming out in a few months. I’m kind of excited for Karl Urban and Maggie Q, but I understand the movie bears no resemblance to the comic. Oh well. Looks like it might be a decent splatterfest.