Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 5 Best and Worst of 2012

It may be apparent from this list that the top 5 worst things from 2012 will be from a human society perspective, and the top 5 good things will largely be from a personal perspective.  Why?  Well, because I think there was not a whole lot of good for human society as a whole this year.  Feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong.  These are all in ascending emphatic order.

The Top 5 Worst Things of 2012

5.  The End of the Twilight Saga:  Anyone who says that the Twilight Saga is "good cinema," is a teenage girl and/or a moron.  I have mixed feelings about this one because on one hand it's absolutely wonderful that this stain on artistic quality is finally over, but it's terrible because there had to be another movie in order for it to end.  I've long smashed the Twilight movie series for two reasons.  One: it's the worst writing coupled with the worst actors in recent memory.  Two: it was wildly successful at the box office.  It's a sad commentary on American society that such a horrific spectacle--a complete artistic failure on every level--did so well at the box office.

4.  NYC Nazis:  This one blows my mind because of how many people were actually supportive of it.  New York City Mayor Bloomberg championed the cause not of a curb in violence or better education for city kids . . . but of making sure that New Yorkers couldn't have too much soda when they go out to eat.  This is an affront to personal liberty on so many levels it makes my head hurt.  First of all, how the hell can the government tell a private business how big their serving cups can be?  Secondly, this just goes to prove that many government officials are tyrranical asshats that believe they have the power to make your decisions for you.  As if that wasn't enough, Bloomberg also thinks that new moms in NYC should be forced to breast feed because, you know, that's totally his business.

3.  The Aurora, CO Shooting:  Aside from the fact that it made me a little nervous to take my son with me to see The Dark Knight Rises on opening night, this was a complete nightmare for all involved, and for American society as a whole.  James Holmes killed 12ish people I think, one of whom was a child around 8 years old.  Of course, this raised the perennial question of "how could this have been prevented," and anyone with a brain answered "it can't."  James Holmes was a neuroscience PhD student with no history of mental illness, aggression, or violence.  For whatever reason, he snapped.  And of course, society snapped along with him.  Because of this, a movie-theater shoot-out scene was removed from the movie Gangbusters, because apparently it's too insensitve.  I'll leave you to ponder just how deeply idiotic and hypocritical that sounds coming from Hollywood.

What's funny is that Democrats think they
are the "winners."
2.  The Presidential Election:  It's not just the fact that Obama won that makes this close to the top: it's the fact that we were screwed no matter who won.  Romney or Obama: it's like choosing between a .357 revolver and a .45 USP to commit suicide with: either way, your brains are getting splattered on the wall behind you.  Aside from the fact that the Democrats are going to spend us into oblivion, the Republican Party was equally as terrible.  The RNC did everything in its power to stifle debate within the party.  They defrauded the Maine primary to screw over Ron Paul, they flat out changed the delegate rules so they could hand-pick delegates, and then they thought it'd be a great idea to adopt "pro-life without exception" as their official abortion platform.  Here's the problem with Democrats and Republicans: they're both becoming increasingly extreme.  Get.  A.  Clue.

1.  Sandyhook Elementary:  For me, this is easily the worst thing that happened this year.  An entire first-grade class was mercilessly slaughtered by psychopath Adam Lanza, who of course took his own life before he could be apprehended.  This event really crippled the soul of America.  Not only did it make a lot of parents feel uneasy about how safe their small children can be in such a horrifying world, but it re-ignited the gun control debate with a fiery ferocity.  This shooting is making the nation as crazy as Lanza.  To suggest that a complete psychopath is indicative of a larger societal problem is pretty ridiculous.  "Society is sick," so many people said.  No: the 1% of American population suffering from violent mental illness is sick.  I'm not sick.  Chances are that my readers are not sick.  But, in typical American fashion, since justice cannot be done upon Adam Lanza, we have to find an effigy to burn, a scapegoat to slaughter.  Gun ownership will take the fall for the crazies, the morons, and the criminals that make up a sliver of American society.

The Top 5 Best Things of 2012

My Great Library and Museum
5.  Minecraft:  Minecraft is a game that allows players to harvest 3 dimensional blocks and use them to build stuff.  It's been around for a lot longer than 2012, but it has been a great Minecraft year for me.  I play on a multiplayer server with some friends of mine, and many times over, I have successfully made their creative efforts look like the rambling iterations of small children.  "Go big or go home," is my motto.  It was a great time sink and the results were fairly breath-taking in my opinion.

4.  The Hobbit:  It's received mixed reviews from critics, but that's because they're morons.  A big complaint is that it "lacks the seriousness of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy."  Well, that's a "no shit Sherlock," moment right there, because the story of The Hobbit is not about the end times.  It's about a guy who is in way over his head, and he finds the courage to make the best of it.  It's also telling that most critics said that the first hour of the movie is "slow" and would be hard for children to sit through (facepalm if you get the irony of that).  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and I'm glad that the world of film criticism has been exposed for what it really is.  Those idiots are not concerned with judging a film for what it is, but rather they judge it on what they want it to be.

3.  The Avengers:  What an achievement.  Marvel Studios made it happen: they had four iconic comic book characters have their time in the sun with their own individual full-length feature films, and then brought them all together--big-name actors and all--for one epic film.  The movie is a lot of fun with thrilling action and amazing chemistry between the characters.  The best part is that Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man will have more sequels and there will be another Avengers film.  To those who scoff at this sort of thing, I cordially invite you to pull the stick out of your ass and allow yourself to have a bit of fun.  Super Hero worship isn't just for Philistines, and a "good movie" doesn't have to be about the boring, hum-drum every day of "real people."  Hipsters are terrible.

2.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I'm sure by now you're noticing a theme.  2012 has been a great year for entertainment.  It's about the only thing good about 2012.  This brings me to the movie that I thought was superior to The Avengers, the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman series.  The acting was superb--even Tom Hardy's Bane.  A lot of people said that he was forgettable because we could only see his eyes through the movie, but his eyes told a rich story.  The film was huge, every actor fit perfectly into their role (especially Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman) and the film ended the series on a grand note.  Can there be revolution in our time, or are the only revolutionaries that exist anymore just terrorists?  Despite Bane's brutality and violence against humanity, he was right about the corruption and the sickness of society.  In his final installment, Noaln continued to encapsulate the angst and the moral ambiguity swirling in the minds of Americans.  Also, it was a lot of fun!

1.  Anne Hathaway:  She was amazing as Catwoman--stole the show, in my opinion--but she was even more amazing as Fantine in the screen adaptation of the Broadway production of Les Miserables.  I will admit it to the world: I shed a man-tear at her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."  It was visceral, it was real, and it was gut wrenching.  Why is this the best thing of 2012?  Because Anne Hathaway proved that amongst the dung-heap of Hollywood and the deteriorating collective creative and artistic mind of American society, there can still be a performance truly worthy of the adjective "beautiful."  While we're told to believe that movies like Avatar  and the whole Twilight saga are somehow "great films," we still have actors who are willing to give their heart and soul to show us what real talent and a magnificent performance really are.  Pitting Anne Hathaway and Kristin Stewart against each other would be like taking a watermelon to a Gallagher routine.  Thank you, Anne Hathaway, for proving that the world is not totally hopeless.

So there you have it.  Please feel free to give me your own top 5 best and worst stuff of 2012 in the comments.  Happy "One Year Closer to Dying"!  Let's hope 2013 is not as bleak as 2012.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

NSFJ: Merry Christmas!!!

And what better way to celebrate than with God's greatest gift to man . . .


 
Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Tis the Reason for the Season, but not for Me

Despite what many detractors may say, Christmas is about Jesus.  It makes little difference that the date many associate with the birth of Christ is completely arbitrary and is likely not even close to his actual birthday.  It also makes little difference that December 25th was traditionally a Pagan holiday.

None of that matters, because ultimately, dates are meaningless until there is some meaning attatched to it.  So the atheists should just let Christians have their day and go on doing whatever.  Besides, how many atheists don't celebrate Christmas?  Who wants to be that guy who doesn't buy presents for his children and what not?

Be that as it may, Christmas has taken on some different meaning and nuance over time.  Yes, at its core it's about Jesus' birth.  But 2,000 years ago, December 25th was just December 25th (relatively speaking, since it took quite some time to shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar).  And today, December 25th is a time for people to praise their savior, but also a time for giving and togetherness.

I was in the shower this morning, contemplating how I will spend my day today.  Divorced, I usually don't have the kids on Christmas Eve.  I generally don't like hanging out with my family all that often, so I skip the Christmas Eve festivities, saving all of my holly, jolly spirit for Christmas Day.  Then a thought occurred to me: perhaps I should do the whole mass thing.  An image of sitting in the pews of my parish filled my thoughts, breathing in that "church smell" that you get whenever you walk into any Catholic church (the protestant ones smell differently, I've noticed).

And then as those things swirled around in my brain, another faint thought came to me that helped me to decide why I would not go.  It was not a thought that I forced--in fact, I sort of don't even consider it to be a thought because it just sort of happened.

It would be silly for me to go because, I thought, "I don't believe in God."

I'm not an atheist.  I can't say that I know, definitively, that God does not exist.  I suppose I could be called agnostic, but the term seems silly and pointless to me.  I truly hope that there is a God, really I do.  I hope against hope that there is something beyond this bleak, mortal coil.  In fact, I think there's a high probability that God exists.  How else did existence come into existence if there was not some impetus, some originating force that brought it all into being?  But none of those things necessitate "belief."  None of them give me any faith whatesoever.

For as long as I can remember, even back to my early adolescence, I've always had that nagging feeling in the back of my brain.  My dad's side of the family are all Protestant.  Some Presbyterians, many Baptists.  Along with my Catholic upbringing, I was exposed to the "other side" of Christianity.  I always found the Baptists to be fairly silly.  Putting their hands up in the air, shouting "praise Jesus," and of course the stereotypical, "can I get an amen?!"

"AMEN," they all shouted in unison, joy and elation on their faces.  It was somewhat similar to Catholics, who all uttered the same phrases in unison, but the difference was that the Baptists actually meant it.  You could see it on their faces--that stubborn faith that could never be shaken by science or trauma.  Of course, their fixation is not so much on God, but on Jesus: because he is their savior.  Somehow, God is extremely petty and required a sacrifice for us to enter into heaven.

What's funny about it all is that their faith in Jesus is so strong, that God himself could reveal himself to the world and tell everyone that Jesus was not the savior, but most Christians wouldn't believe it.  They would believe that it's some sort of Satan-trickery.

That's a faith and a conviction that I will never have.  As I watched them all being happy and content that someday they'd all be sitting on clouds chillin' with their bro Jesus, I knew in my own heart that I'd never feel that way.  Ever.  I figured this out when I was a teenager, probably about 16 or so.  To this day, I still don't feel it.

But I still celebrate Christmas, because it's a time of giving and togetherness.  I'm not a bad person because I don't believe in God.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that I am a far more compassionate and moral person than most Christians.  I just don't feel it.  I just don't believe it.  I'd rather go through life not kidding myself, or forcing myself to ignore the doubt.

But I hope to those that do believe that you have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of your savior (and I mean that).  You are lucky because you will have a spiritual fulfillment that I never will. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Political Realities: Gun Control Perspectives

Check me out on Political Realities today.  I figured that I should stop being such a slap-ass and actually contribute something worthwhile to Larry Jackson's wonderful piece of internet space.

In the article, I talk about how the word "defeatist" is being thrown around to describe me and others who feel the same as I do.

I think it's worth a read!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Cultural Ptomaine" by AHB

We're a sick people.  I think that's the gist.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So yeah, another lap of tragedies, another call for "real" gun control discussions, another round of dodging the real issue. The real issue is of course, the toxic elements in our culture. Pro-Gun, Anti-gun, undecided, I think we can all agree that guns are just a means to an end, and that people can be killed in large quantities very easily if one wished to do so. Keep the following in mind- if someone is willing to die to do harm to you, or others around you... the only recourse you have is to kill or fatally disable this person before they do whatever it is they set out to do. This goes for a gun, a knife, a sunday new-york times, an olive fork, some asshole with a bomb, whatever.

Let's focus on the mindset of someone who wishes to take a few down with themselves on their way out. Whatever it is that has driven someone to this point is 100% irreconcilable emotionally. This person is willing to destroy themselves to achieve something. No amount of talking, or negotiation, or bribes, or roadblocks that doesn't kill them, will stop them. Something as trivial as stealing a gun is ethical peanuts to pulling the trigger on children, innocents, or loved ones. There are many who claim that guns "make it easy" to kill people, and I agree.

A gun is an excellent machine to hurt people with if that is your intention. So is an atomic bomb. The difference between the gun and the atomic bomb is one is rather simplistic the other is very complicated. Someone going on a murder spree with a gun or guns is not a sophisticated or even rational person.

If the guns were a problem, why haven't I, as a owner of several firearms and access to hundreds, gone on a murderous rampage through the city? I mean, I have guns, and their sole purpose as machines is to spit metal at high velocities, my only motivation for having guns surely must be because I am stockpiling for my rampage.

What separates me from these madmen is not the tools, but the intentions. Power is nothing without the will and perception to use it. I have no intention of killing innocent people for any reason, now I do have an intention of keeping myself protected, and should the need arise that gun is going to give me a fighting chance of fulfilling my intention of staying alive, be that to kill game animals, or bipedal predators. I can assure you however, if I wanted to kill innocent people, the last resort would be my guns.

Now for the part no one wants to discuss: People are the problem. Sick, demented, tortured people are the problem, and our culture is having a nasty tendency of producing these people. You don't have to be out and about in America long to see that there are some stone cold assholes roaming our fair nation. Donald Trump defined Ethics as "what people think they can get away with" and it is true.

If someone wants to get over on you, and they believe they can get away with it, they typically have no second thought as to the right and wrong, they have already decided. Some lunatic who would go in and blow away his mother and little children has already made his decision as well. Take the gun out of the picture, and think of all the other ways, most of them MORE deadly, that he could have accomplished his intentions.

What if the asshole knifed his mother, and then waited for recess or the end of the school day and decided he was going to take a leisurely drive with his car through the sidewalks. What would prevent him from just offing a school bus driver and taking his newfound wards for a swim in the river? What if this guy was a schemer, and he waited until he had a job at the school where he could set up some elaborate plot and set it into motion?

Pointing the finger at the machine, the tool... is pointing the finger at something that has power, but no will or perception to act.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

America 2043: Not White

According to a prediction from the census people, non-hispanic whites will no longer constitute the majority of the American population by 2043.  I've got a lot of thoughts about this, so I'm going to try to compartmentalize them rather than create a sweeping narrative.

1.  Who really gives a shit?  I certainly don't.  It makes absolutely zero difference to me to know that I'm not the "majority" anymore.  I'm not racist, so it really doesn't bother me at all.  Now, I know that some people will be bothered by this, yet they don't consider themselves racists.  They might simply be afraid that they'll be repressed like people of color were before the Civil Rights movement (and still are in many ways today).  Perhaps not systematically repressed as they once were, but let's face facts: racism is not a "white" phenomenon.

Don't believe me?  I've heard plenty of hispanics drop the N-bomb when referring to black people.  I've heard many, many black people refer to Mexicans as "wet backs."  Not to mention, there are plenty of people of color (we'll abbreviate that to PoC) who absolutely despise white people.  That might have been justifiable 40 years ago, but why should they hate on me?  I've never done anything to ruin their lives or oppress them.  Hell, I worked with inner-city kids during the summers in college--most of whom were black.

So I can see how some white people might be afraid that they'll be discriminated against.  Actually, wouldn't it be sort of funny if a PoC in law enforcement racially profiled a white guy?  It'd be interesting to see how something like that would play out.

2.  White people will still be the majority.  "Jack, what the hell are you talking about?  You just said that white people won't be the majority anymore!"  I would like to point out the absolute ridiculous perception that somehow humanity is divided into colored and not-colored.  If you're not white, then you're somehow grouped into the larged category of People of Color.

Yes, I realized I used the term myself, but that was because I was speaking within the confines of the context of asshats.  It's a mind game.  You're either white, or you're not.  Somehow, blacks, asians, hispanics, and whatever the hell else there is, get lumped into one big category.  Nevermind the fact that they are all distinct racial groups (with the exception of hispanics, because they are technically caucasian--race is determined by facial structure, not skin color).

And nevermind the fact that there are some 31 flavors of Asians.  Asia is like a freaking Baskin Robins when you think of the fact that Indians, Arabs, Persians, ethnic Jews, Russians, Chinese, Mongolians, Koreans, Laotians, Japanese, Vietnamese, Pacific Islanders, are all technically Asians.  The point is that despite this wild diversity, society is still trying to operate on an "us vs. them" level.  As I said, you'r either white or you're not.

So sure, if we're morons and group every single non-white race into its own category then whites won't be the majority come 2043.  But, if we apply a little common sense and realize that these different racial and ethnic groups should not and cannot be lumped together, then you'll see that white caucasian will still comprise the majority of the American population.

More of this?  Yes please!!!

3.  This means more sexy exotic chicks.  I once told a friend of mine that I don't really have a "type" when it comes to women.  He retorted "of course you have a type.  It's anything-not-white."  I have a thing for exotic women.  It's not that I dislike or do not appreciate a beautiful white woman, but it's kind of just run-of-the-mill, you know?  This may sound chauvenistic and juvenile to some of my readers, but really we men benefit from this sort of thing.

I would probably give up one of my toes just to sleep with Beyonce, or Lucy Liu, or--God help me--Penelope Cruz.  I know I'm not the only white dude who feels that way about these women, so why not just look on the bright side of things?  If you're into non-white chicks, then this is a great thing.  This is like only having chicken noodle soup for 40 years, and then suddenly clam chowder (Manhattan and New England), vegetable soup, potato soup, and lobster bisque are made widely available.

So don't fret.  It won't make any damn bit of difference to anyone, anywhere that it won't be white people vs. the world anymore.  It's an antiquated mode of thinking that society needs to leave behind.  Maybe with more PoC, everyone will suddenly realize that there's a difference between a black guy and an Arab.

I'm not holding my breath on that one, though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Roll Out the Gun (Control) Nuts

A guy shoots up a mall in Oregon.  How do we stop this from ever happening again?  Ban gun ownership in America, of course!

But let's consider a few things before we start talking out of our asses about banning guns.  Let's say that tomorrow, owning and buying a gun is illegal.  Now, me being Mr. Law-Abiding-Citizen would probably just obey the law and not buy a gun.

But how about a guy like the mall shooting nut job?  Or the guy who went on a rampage at the theater in Colorodo?  Do we really think the law is going to stop them from buying a gun?  Probably not.  If you think about it, the law wasn't even enough to keep these guys from murdering human beings in cold blood.  Knowing that they don't even have a shred of regard for human life, what makes you think that they have any regard for less horrifying offenses like owning contraband?

Here's the answer: they will not give a shit.  They already don't give a shit.  "Owning a gun makes you more likely to use it."  Okay, just like owning a knife makes you more likely to use it?  How about a hammer?  How about some ammonia bleach and aluminum foil?  Just about anything can be used as a weapon, and it can be wielded easily.

"It's harder to kill with a knife than a gun."  Oh really?  Last I checked, a knife is more easily concealable.  It's quieter, so you could potentially kill a lot of people before anyone is even alerted to your misdeeds.  Think a knife is less threatening than a gun?  Well, just a few dudes with some knives were able to keep a bunch of plane passengers at bay (the 9/11 terrorists were only armed with knives).

So should we ban all knives as well?  That's the answer!  No more steak knives in America!

Hell, let's even look at the War on Drugs.  It's illegal to own crack cocaine in America, yet it's still here.  Mary Jane is illegal in 49 of 50 states, yet it's ubiquitous.  Manufacturing, distributing, and owning hard drugs all carry hefty penalties--production and distribution carry prison sentences--yet it still happens.  A lot.

The sad truth is that the law can only do so much.  You can ban every gun and bullet outside the police and military in America, and you will STILL see these crazy shootings happening.  In fact, it'd probably be worse because in this scenario, all firearms and ammo would go underground, and we wouldn't even be able to TRACK the sale of firearms and ammunition.  You wouldn't need to go through a background check or anything: you just have to know a guy who knows a guy and save up a little more money.

Ever hear the phrase "locks only stop honest men?"  Well, it's the same with the law: it only stops those who have some sensibility about them.

So to the Gun Control Nuts (see what I did there?): dream on.  You can control guns as much as you want, hell you can even ban them altogether.  It won't make a damn bit of difference, and if you think it will then you're living in a fantasy world.

Pro-tip: if only it was against the law for that guy to bring a gun into a mall, so many people could have been saved!  Oh wait . . . it IS against the law to bring a gun into a mall.

***By the way, I DO NOT own a gun.***

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"The Long Con" by the Anonymous Howard Beale


As usual, my personal friend whom I've dubbed the Anonymous Howard Beale (AHB) has some excellent commentary to make about American society.  (And, he has enabled me to be lazy by not writing my own material.

Enjoy!

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Have you ever wondered why we are divided as a society yet united as a people? From my perspective it really is a confidence game. You see you have our country which is dominated and controlled by the corporations and the wealthy, yet they actively tell people to hate corporations and the like. It is in their best interests to support democratic and left-wing ideologies in the media and in entertainment because it gives that side of the field traction and stability they otherwise would never have. The majority of people are either a Neo-Con nazi, or a bleeding heart Liberal... either way they got ya striker, and they are gonna get ya down, and down safe.

You may be thinking "Howie, if what you say is true, how can you claim that it is in the corporate interests to support the left?" It is really simple: Unless you work for yourself or have absolute control over what you earn and are valued at, you are a slave. You may not think you are a slave, but you are indeed a slave in a loose translation of the term, admittedly. Value of your dollars is determined by the market, and they control the market. So in essence you are playing a game of football where the refs are all paid off. Clearly that was a holding, clearly that was roughing the passer, clearly that was pass interference, clearly we need to reset the playclock to 2 minutes 1 second.

When people say "Quit sending jobs overseas" they don't realize that our way of life is dependent on the cheap labor of the 2nd and 3rd world. China in particular has paid a considerable amount of our debt. When the occupy hipsters had their cool Ipads, smartphones, and other gadgets they were slamming our government from, I got the sense their heart couldn't really have been in it, after all that ipad that costs 500 bucks by today's money would be more like 5,000 if it was made in this country. Don't believe me? look back to the 80s when a loaded IBM or Laser 386 cost 10,000 without breaking a sweat and was obsoleted within 18 months. First world labor, First world prices.

Also, when people bring up canada and their healthcare system, I start to get sleepy. Canada has the luxury of being the wife of the United States, if some misguided country dared to attack Canada they would get smacked so hard by the hammer of doom. Don't believe me again? Look no further than NORAD. NORAD's 2nd in command is always Canadian. So essentially your tax dollars go to protect Canada too. I bet if we didn't waste so much money on war, and instead focused on healthcare, we could do what Canada does no problem... but then how would we keep our fighting force fit and ready? Fighting wars and having an enemy is only boosting the military power of the United States, the more we fight, the stronger we get.

What can you do against this two-faced tyranny? Educate yourself. Educate yourself about the world. Take whatever bias you have and throw it away at the threshold of the door, then open your eyes to logic and reality. One of the easiest ways to get a true perspective of the world is get a shortwave radio, and listen to what people in Russia, Germany, France, Brazil, Iraq, etc really think about the united states. You might be surprised.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Art Is Not a Circle Jerk

I regularly read reviews of TV shows, games, and movies.  I often visit www.ign.com to see what they have to say about the media I like.

What I've been noticing--and with a lot of reviewers, not just at IGN--is that there are fewer and fewer reviewers these days who actually review a work of TV or film based on the actual work itself.  Many of them seem to review it based on what they thought it should have been.

They don't really review the meaning of the piece, they usually just trash it by saying that so-and-so character should have done X instead of Y.  Or that they wish the show would have gone in a completely different direction.  I read a little blurb about the movie Prometheus that said the movie was a giant let-down because it "left too many questions unanswered."

And so, because the work of art did not fully meet their expectations, the reviewers say that it was all "disappointing."  For example, I'm really into a show called Dexter.  It's about a forensic analyst who happens to be a serial killer.  He generaly kills criminals who slip through the cracks of the justice system.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Dexter is an adopted child, and it turns out that his "sister" discovers that she has romantic feelings for him.  A reviewer at IGN has been harping on this for the past year now, and how disgusting he thinks it is.  He goes on and on about how he hopes that the whole notion gets dropped, like it should never have happened in the first place.

Sure, it's okay to think that it's gross (even though they're not related by blood, at all), but to say that it should be dropped simply because it's disgusting and makes him feel uncomfortable?  Oh, so sorry that a TV show irked your fragile sensibilities.  The best part is that it's a show about a ruthless serial killer.  He's okay with the fact that the protagonist, Dexter, is a sociopath with a heart of gold, but his adoptive sister falling for him?  Outrageous!

**END SPOILER ALERT**

The asshats at IGN do the same thing with another show I love called Homeland.  The guy constantly trashes the show saying "Brody (the protagonist) should have done this," or "OMG the writers are so stupid for going in this direction!"

It's indicative of a larger problem in society.  People have grown so accustomed to having their every want and need met that they simply can't handle it when someone gives them anything less than their hearts' desire.

Newsflash assholes: The Rolling Stones were right, because you can't always get what you want.  Instead of wishing that a show turned out differently, how about we just ponder the implications of what actually happened.  If it turns out that a plot divice is total shit, then so be it.  But the key is to not judge something total shit simply because you think it should have been something else.

The problem is that we've been fed this horse-shit message that we're supposed to expect nothing less than all of our needs being met.  What we should be teaching people is that instead of being spoiled brats whenever we don't get everything we wanted for Christmas, perhaps we should find value in what we are given, regardless of whether or not we wanted it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: art is not meant to be entertainment.  The purpose of art is not, and should not, be to make you feel satisfied.  It's actually supposed to be the opposite of fulfillment.  It's supposed to leave you craving more, but not in the sense that you were disappointed and still lay in wait for your needs to be met.  It's supposed to give the much needed spark to your tinder, to energize your brain and to push you to explore untreaded territory.

Isn't that a novel idea?  Appreciating what we have instead of spurning it for not being what we expected?  I suspect that is a notion that will become fossilized in about twenty years.  People like me will fondly remember the good old days where we were challenged to think and remember that there is an entire world outside the narrow confines of our selfish desires.

Appreciate art for what it is, not for what you want it to be.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dumabss Idea of the Week: Hitman Absolution Review

Hot assassin chicks dressed up as dominatrix nuns?
Yes, please!
For those of you who don't know, Hitman is a PC game series that puts you in the shoes of, you guessed it, a Hitman.  His name is "Agent 47," and he's supposed to be the epitome of a human weapon.  He's strong, he's agile, and with you the player at the helm, he's incredibly cunning in the ways that he devises to kill his targets.

Before Hitman: Absolution came out a couple of weeks ago, the last entry in the series was Hitman: Bloodmoney.  It was a metric crap ton of fun.  Not only did they fix the game mechanics so you could blend in with the crowds more effectively by using disguises and the like, but the game actually gave you more ways to kill your target.  Sure, you could just use the traditional fiber wire approach, or just put a bullet in his brain.  But it was much more fun to stage an accident.

For example, there's a mission in which you have to kill an opera singer.  The opera singer is apparently into little boys and girls.  Anyway, the singer is rehearsing a scene in which his character is executed with a WWII mauser pistol.  Of course, the pistol has blanks but you can actually replace that pistol with a real WWII mauser with real rounds.  You can actually make the executioner unwittingly kill your target.

Or, you can replace the executioner guy yourself, walk up on stage in his full costume, and blow your target away while everyone is none the wiser.  By the time they figure out something is wrong, you're already walking out the door.

Or, you can simply snipe your target from the balcony and walk out.  You can actually complete that mission in under 5 minutes.

This is not entirely the case with Hitman: Absolution.  There are maybe two or three open world missions in which all you do is stalk your targets and rub 'em out.  Other than that, most of the missions focus on tactical stealth, avoiding your enemies in an action scenario.  That's not what Hitman is supposed to be.  I read something the other day that said that Hitman has always been about blending in with the world around you, rather than evading it altogether.

It just doesn't have that same, unique feel that made Hitman different from all the rest.  My guess is that the problem we're facing is that younger gamers these days are all about the action.  I don't think a whole lot of people have the patience required to tackle games like Hitman.  The key is trial and error.  It took me probably 30 attempts to pull off that opera singer hit in Hitman: Bloodmoney.  The same can be said for Absolution.  I played it on purist mode, which is the hardest setting, and I probably attempted each mission 30 times before I was able to successfully complete it.

Other than that, it's not a bad game.  The graphics are so intensive that with the settings at their highest, I was only able to get about 30 fps.  My PC is not exactly a punk rig.  I'm running a core i& 920, 6 gigs of OCZ Gold, and a GTX 570 for my GPU.  But with the settings on medium, I was getting a solid 55-60 fps the whole game, and it still looked pretty amazing.

The mechanics are improved from previous installments.  For example, if you are spotted or attack someone outright, the entire world won't become aware of your actions so long as you take care of the person before he is able to call for help.  This broke down a couple of times during my play, but it wasn't terribly egregious.

The only other thing that bothered me was the disguise system in general.  If you're wearing the same clothing as some other NPC, such as a police uniform, they'll notice that there's something off about you because they don't recognize you.  This is pretty ridiculous because you sit and wonder to yourself how one Chicago cop would somehow be so familiar with every single cop in Chicago that he'd be able to point you out as an impostor.

Also, there's a mission in which all your enemies are wearing masks.  I thought to myself, "thank God, I can mask myself and walk around unaccosted."  Wrong.  47 dons every part of the disguise EXCEPT the mask.  Somehow, we're supposed to believe that the greatest assassin ever wouldn't think to wear a mask to avoid detection--and we're not supposed to believe that such a decision was made on the part of the developers simply to make the mission more difficult.

Other than those gripes, the game was pretty okay.  This counts as the dumbass idea of the week because I sort of feel like I wasted a lot of my time failing every mission 40 times.  Is it a good game?  Yes.  Is it worth $60?  No.

I'd say it's worth about $40.00.  The graphics are great, and they fixed a lot of silly mechanics from previous installments.  But the $20.00 comes off when you consider that they also added some broken mechanics which counteract the ones they fixed, and I feel they made way too many concessions on mission design and overall game theme, likely to pander to the asshat kids these days who simply have to have all action, all the time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interesting Note on Voter Fraud

So I've been job coaching a client of mine at a place that does community activism for immigrants and refugees.  They help people reunite with their families, they aid them in the immigration process (which can take upwards of 10 years, by the way), and work with them on finding jobs and the like.  While my client was helping them sort out their budget, I overheard one of the attorneys talking to his client.

His client, who confirmed that he is not a U.S. citizen, informed the attorney that he registered to vote.  The attorney sounded flabbergasted.  "Are you a U.S. citizen?"

"No," the guy replied.  He was of some sort of Latin heritage.

"Well how were you even able to register if you couldn't prove your citizenship?"

"I don't know," he replied.  "I just filled out the card and then got something in the mail telling me where to vote."

I don't really know why this came up in their conversation, but it did.  The attorney was in awe that the guy was able to register to vote, and he was extremely worried because his client--if caught--could possibly be pinched for voter fraud.

Fortunately, his client said that he did not, in fact, go vote.  The client sounded really worried about it all, so I'll just err on the side of optimism and say that he was telling the truth.  Even though he didn't vote, what the hell does this say about the voter registration process?  There was a worry that non-citizens were voting--I think the worry being that they were voting under aliases or whatever--but this seems to be a bit more unsettling.

You don't even need an alias to commit voter fraud.  It would be very interesting to see just how this guy was able to register without any red flags going off.  What's more, if he had voted, who's to say he would have been caught?  Wht would prompt anyone to look at a registered voter's name--someone who is alive and proved his identity by the address he gave them (ha)--and just get an inkling that maybe he was not a U.S. citizen?

To Democrats: I know you all like to pretend that voter fraud doesn't happen, or doesn't happen on a meaningful scale, but let's be honest: if you thought the Republicans were committing voter fraud, you'd be allover it as well.  Many Democrats always point to the fact that there's not been many proven cases of voter fraud.  That's pretty laughable seeing as how the whole point of committing fraud is to get away with something without being caught

It's sort of like saying that just because we can't prove that mafia money is dirty, that must mean they don't have any dirty money, like we've never even heard of the concept of money laundering.

I know that many Democrats want to go on believing that their party is the party of honesty, justice, and all those other warm-and-fuzzy words.  But the truth of the matter is that a Democrat is just as dirty as a Republican.  If we could only expose their corruption to the light of day, I'm sure that many Blue Dogs would vomit uncontrollably for a couple of hours.

The takeaway from this should be that we should stop pretending like there are many--if any--politicians who are actual bastions of virtue and integrity.  I know of one so far, and he's retiring.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Big Game: The OSU-Michigan Rivalry

I was born and raised in Columbus.  I spent four years away while I was in the Navy, but I came back and I will likely reside in Columbus, OH for the rest of my life.  It's not a bad town.  It's pretty big, there are some great suburbian areas, and it's a wonderfully diverse place.  There's plenty to like about Columbus.

What I don't like, however, is the whole OSU-Michigan rivalry.

I'm a Michigan fan (GO BLUE!!!).  I don't know why, except that as a kid when I was forced to watch the OSU-Michigan game, I always rooted for Michigan because I liked the way their jerseys looked.  I probably continued to root for them even more after being ridiculed for liking them.  Yes, I was actually ridiculed.  I can't even use the phrase "was ridiculed," because I still catch flak for it to this day.  Let it be known that Buckeye fans are some of the worst, most obnoxious sports fans on the planet.

You want to talk about people who ignore reality and completely forget history?  Just talk to a Buckeye fan about OSU football.  It's the damndest thing you've ever seen.  Whenever I am told about how much better OSU is than Michigan, I always bring up the fact that the Michigan Wolverines are the all-time most-winningest team in college football.  They beat every single team on most games won, most national titles, and even in percentage of games won.  Hell, they even beat Ohio State on most Big Ten titles.

They loved shitting on me for seven years when Michigan was unable to beat OSU.  Every time I remind them of the Cooper years, they look at me as if I had just uttered a phrase in Sanskrit.  They look at me dumbfoundedly when I remind them that Coach Cooper only beat Michigan 3 or 4 times in his entire 12 years of coaching at OSU.  Then they remind me that all of that was in the past, and all that matters is the present.

Apparently, to a Buckeye fan the only past that actually does matter is all the times OSU beat Michigan--they have no problem reminding me about all of Michigan's losses to the Scarlet and Gray.

Now let me tell you about "Michigan Week."  It's a week of torture for anyone brave enough to love the Maize and Blue.  The week is filled with everyone talking about how much they hate Michigan.  They don't only hate the University of Michigan: for some reason, they all hate the entire state.  I honestly don't get why there's so much hatred towards the whole state, but for whatever reason it's enough hatred to compell them to sing "Don't Give a Damn About the Whole State of Michigan."

Now let's talk post-game.  If the Buckeye's lose, the whole town will be depressed for about a week.  It's actually kind of nice, because my family and friends will shut the hell up for a while.  But people will legit be depressed and upset.  You know how I will feel if UM loses?  I'll mostly dread the flood of "Go Bucks!" and "Michigan blows donkey balls," texts, but ultimately it won't mean much to me because Michigan's season was over after game 1.

That's because losing to Alabama meant Michigan would not have a shot at the national title this year.  I honestly don't give a shit about the big game, because all I want for my team is for them to go to the National Championship bowlgame.  OSU could lose every-single-game and Buckeye fans would still be happier than pigs in shit so long as they beat Michigan.

Rivalries are neat things, but Columbus takes it way out of hand.  I mean, how many other cities have been known to straight up start RIOTS simply because they lost their rival game?  Thanks to the Columbus Police Department and the OSU campus police, we no longer have to worry about cars being tipped over and dumpsters being set ablaze on the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NSFJ: Happy Thanksgiving!!!

In case you were wondering, NSFJ = "Not Safe for Jersey."  Sorry, Jersey, but I've started a tradition and I must stick with it.


 
 
 
Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For KP: What Makes a Leader

KP, one of my regulars here on Christian Fearing God-Man, suggested that I write about leadership.  So over the next couple of days, we're going to talk about leadership in personal terms and on the national and international stage.  What does it take for me, the common man, to be a leader?  What does it take for the President to be the leader of this nation.  What does it take to be a leader in the world arena?  Well, we're going to find out.

This topic is interesting to me because I was having a conversation with my father about my son that veered onto this idea.  My son is seven years old--in second grade.  At his parent-teacher conference, my son's teacher told my ex-wife and me that he demonstrates a level of maturity that is uncommon for a boy his age.  She said that he "has a dry sense of humor, which is sometimes bad because his sarcasm can be very cutting to the other children--because they don't understand."

My father laughed when I told him this, partially because he knows that my son is a carbon copy of me and my personality (Me?  Sarcastic?  Perish the thought!), but also because he knew what it potentially portends for his future.  "You know what he'll be, don't you son," he asked me.

"Yes" I replied, "he's going to be a leader."  It is in my son's nature to be independent, to be strong willed.  He enjoys being in charge of a situation, and he loves being the rule-maker.  Sometimes, he even displays a flash of vision: occasionally he is able to imagine an end goal, and he can lead little people to realize that goal.  He's a neat little guy.

Those are some of the good qualities of being a leader.  You have to be independent, self-reliant.  A good leader knows when he can't do something himself, but a great leader always tries to do it himself first as long as failure will not cause catastrophic harm.  Too often we see leaders who have no inkling on the particulars of a task ordering others around and placing unrealistic expectations on their followers.  That's not to say that you have to be intimately familiar with every single detail of a particular function, but you should at least familiarize yourself.

A strong will is essential, because failure is always just one poor decision away.  One thing I've noticed about humans is that many if not most lose heart fairly quickly when faced with failure.  It's not difficult to demoralize someone into resignation, and we are more prone to quit when we feel like the circumstances are out of our control.  The leader helps his people overcome that feeling of hopelessness.  The leader inspires his people to press on, failure after painful failure.  However, a good leader knows when to call it quits and how to motivate his people to learn from the failure and move on.

None of that means a hill of beans without vision.  This will be the hardest thing to teach my son, because vision can only be achieved through creativity.  Although you can foster creativity, you can't really teach it.  Anyone can be creative, but the thing that separates a visionary from a dreamer is practical application.  It's not enough to see the end-goal, but you have to know how to get there.

My friend, the Anonymous Howard Beale as I like to call him here, is a visionary.  He's a man who can not only see the final product before he's even begun the project, but he figures out all of the steps necessary to achieve victory.  What's more, he is able to paint that picture to others, and he can inspire them to help him realize his vision.  It takes a clarity of mind which is easiest achieved through logical, analytical thinking.  A good leader must be willing to hammer out the details if he ever hopes to succeed.

I've noticed some negative qualities in my son, the sort of pitfalls, if you will, that come from being a leader.  My son finds himself wanting to control people so that he can achieve his own personal goals.  He wants them to play his games, and to follow his rules.  He is usually very unwilling to compromise, which is something I work on with him.

There is a point where someone ceases to be a leader and instead has found himself to be a manipulator.  It's alright to inspire people to realize your personal vision, but what separates a leader from a manipulator is mutual benefit.  Working towards your vision has to be rewarding for everyone involved, or else you're simply treating your fellow humans as disposable resources.

So what does it take to be a leader?  Three things: Vision, charisma, and drive.  In the next article, we'll talk about how these things apply to the office of President of the United States and how Obama stacks up against other historical examples.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dumbass Idea of the Century: Secession Edition

In a little known conflict known as the American Civil War, several states in the South seceeded from the Union.  What ensued was an incredibly bloody conflict that claimed the lives of over 600,000 Americans.

What's so wrong with secession?  Apparently, there's some people in a bunch of states that signed petitions asking for the federal government to allow their states to peacefully seceed from the Union.  Kind of ironic seeing as how the first real secession crisis came on the heels of a presidential election.  So if a bunch of people want to do it, it must be okay, right?

Wrong.

Many people have accused Lincoln of being a tyrant, of denying the natural right of popular sovereignty.  Well, they're wrong, too.  Lincoln's whole basis for secession was actually based on . . . wait for it . . . the constitution.

Secession is unconstitutional.  The secessionists states in the 19th century claimed that the constitution was a contract entered into by the states, and if a state decided it wanted out, then that state should be allowed to exit the contract.  The problem with that is that the preamble of the constitution--the first three words--nullifies that entire argument.  For those of you who have never read the Constitution, here's how the preamble reads:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
 
Note the underlined and bolded part.  "We the people . . ."  It doesn't read, "We the States."  The Constitution was not a contract entered by states, it was created by the people and for the people.  A state cannot legally seceed from the Union, because the Constitution is a document that binds the states to the law of the land.  The states are bound to the Constitution by the will of the people.

So it's fairly stupid to continue on with this whole secession idea.  Not only is it insanely stupid and indicative of a historically retarded populace, but it's ridiculously childish.  What, because you can't have your way, you're going to take your toys and go home?

Grow up, dream on, and get over it.
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why the Republicans Really Lost

First of all, thank you to everyone who has been patient with me in these past few weeks.  My good friend, the Anonymous Howard Beale, saved the day by resolving my PC issues.  In return for his excellence, I have offered him free China Buffet for a year.  A round of applause for the man that saved my sanity!

I have taken all of your suggestions into consideration, and I will write on all of the topics suggested to me soon.  But I figured, what better way is there to get back on track than to piss off my conservative readership?  I figure that if I'm not pissing someone off then I'm doing something wrong.

Since the election, I've noticed a considerable amount of articles that usually have some variation of "Why Romney Lost," as the title.  I'm noticing a theme here, and that theme is denial.  Most articles I've read have blamed either money--the idea that Romney didn't have good campaign momentum because of poor fundraising--or low voter turnout on the conservative side.  In typical Jack Camwell fashion, I think they're both wrong.

The problem is hard-core social conservativism.

Let's look at some statistics, shall we?  There was a Gallup poll that conservatives touted as proof that the pro-life movement was gaining momentum.  "For the first time in history, more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice," the poll claimed.  I'm not disputing the poll numbers, but I will dispute the interpretation of the numbers.  I will use myself as an example.

Personally, I am pro-life.  I am not morally okay with abortion.  I think in most cases it's wrong.  If I were a woman, I do not think I could abort my baby (unless I was raped or the baby was going to kill me) and live with myself.  I know a few women who have had abortions and who are of the same mind.  It's a moral line that I cannot personally cross.  However, politically I am pro-choice.  My theory is that many Americans who identify themselves as pro-life feel the same way.

Now, the poll asks the question of whether or not abortion should be legal.  The numbers are a bit misleading in my mind.  According to the poll, over 30% of Americans feel that abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances.  Another 40ish % of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in a few circumstances.  Only 17% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Seventeen percent.  I think someone should have shown those poll numbers before the RNC went off the deep end and adopted "pro-life without exception," as the official Republican Party platform.  They turned off a lot of voters with that nonsense, and those who were in the extreme minority clearly ignored the majority of registered Republicans.

The second big mistake is the whole gay marriage thing.  Right now, a majority of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legally recognized, according to Gallup.  Call the poll skewed all you want.  Most people I know--and I know a very diverse group of people--think that gay marriage should be legally recognized.  53% of Americans think it should be legal.

When you break it down by political affiliation, the only thing that really matters to Republicans in this case is the independents.  In 2011, 59% of independent respondants said that they supported the legalization of gay marriage.  How many independents you think are turned on by the GOP's stance on gay marriage?  My guess is that at least 59% of them disagree pretty strongly.

When broken down by age, young people overwhelmingly support gay marriage legalization.  It's no surprised that people over 55 were the ones who disagree with it most.

I for one could not vote Republican this year partly because of the blatant fraud committed in the primaries, but also because of the sharp right turn the party took.  If the Republicans ever want a chance to be in the Whitehouse again, they're going to have to wake up and smell the social evolution.  No, this is not the sign of the degredation of society.  It's a sign of social evolution.  It's a sign that much of the country is finally realizing that the government has no business dictating morality to the people.

The government has no business telling me how to make my life so long as I'm not hurting anyone.  "But what about all the aborted babies, Jack?  They're getting hurt!"  Yeah, well so did a lot of innocent Iraqi children, but the Republicans still beat the war drum pretty loudly when we went in and stomped a mud hole in Sadam's guts.

Stop being hypocritical, Republicans!  Either you believe we should be free to choose and live by our own morality or you don't.  Either you believe that I alone have the power to choose my moral actions or you believe the government should choose for me.

The Republicans lost because the extremists somehow got a hold of the reins.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the poll numbers.  I am sure that I'm not alone in how I felt about the party.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reason for My Absence

First of all, thank you to everyone who has commented on any of my work in the past week.  Your continued participation is greatly appreciated.

The reason I have been absent is because of a brown out that totally tanked the mother board on my PC.  It blew a capacitor in the power supply and completely raped the BIOS.  My friend, the Anonymous Howard Beale, has been working diligently to get my PC up and running again.  A big thanks to him!

I'm writing this from my mother's computer, so unfortunetly I'm not up and running just yet.  My promise to all of you is this: I will make a 3-part article spectacular on some subject that I think people might be interested in.

And as an added incentive, I will take suggestions on what the topic should be.  What do you want me to write about?  It's not me being lazy, it's me making up for my absence.  I wan to give the people what they want.

So please, give me suggestions on what you would like me to write about on some length.  The only thing I ask is that you PLEASE not ask me to write about economics.  I hate economics.

Thank you to my readers, and hopefully I will be able to fully participate again soon.

BTW:  In my absence, I've passed the 200,000 pageviews mark!  Peanuts to some of you, but it's a nice accomplishment in my mind.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Parenting in the 21st Century

Yesterday, I took my kids and went with my mother and grandmother to the pumpkin patch.  It was an alright time, even though those sort of things don't really amuse me anymore.  I was happy to see my kiddoes having a good time, but I didn't want to necessarily dilly-dally.

Well, the time came for us to make our way out of the place, and my mom wanted to stop at the gift shop.  My grandmother told the kids they could have two things each.  My son, who is seven, immediately found two things that he wanted.  Actually, he had difficulty deciding which two things he wanted out of the myriad of crap that caught his eye.  Naturally, he asked if he could have more than two things.

My mother almost said yes, but I looked at him rather sternly and told him to stop being so greedy.  My mom shot me a look of disaproval, to which I answered with my own furled brows, finally just waving her off with my hand.

Then it came down to my daughter.  All she wanted was a little bear.  She's only four, but she's like me in a lot of ways.  She's not too flashy, and she doesn't really want a whole lot of stuff.  She just wanted this one little bear, but my grandmother and mom kept asking her, "are you sure you only want one thing?"  When they asked her a third time--after already answering "no" both times--I finally stepped in and said "she doesn't want two things, she doesn't need two things.  Stop trying to make her buy some junk that she doesn't even want."

That's a key difference between my mother and me.  For whatever reason, she's all about excess.  To see her house at Christmas time is to see why the Christmas decoration business thrives so well.  She wants to have tons of stuff, and she wants my kids to have tons of stuff.

On birthdays, I have to specifically tell everyone "one. toy. only."  And when I do, I always get groans of complaint.  If those idiots could only see the ridiculous mound of toys we've accumulated over the years--toys that they hardly ever play with--then perhaps they would understand.  My children want for nothing.  They're supply seriously outweighs their demand.  My mother apparently thinks that happiness and contentment lies in quanity, whereas I want my kids to learn that it's all about quality.

That's why I limit how many gifts they get for holidays.  That's why going to the toy store is something that only happens less than once in a blue moon.  In fact, I almost never take them to the toy store unless they have gift cards to spend from their birthdays.

I found myself feeling rather disgusted that they were pushing the kids to get more shit that they didn't even want or need.  The word that kept popping into my head was "decadence."  Then I started thinking about an episode of American Dad, specifically the one in which Stan Smith squares off against a former Soviet national.  He was a commie, of course, and all he talked about was "the decadent west."  I sort of chuckled to myself, but it got me thinking.

I think that American parents should teach their children about the value of frugality and rejecting an opulent lifestyle.  American society anymore is all about more stuff--not better stuff, just more stuff.  I don't want my kids turning out like that.  I don't want them buying into this obscene consumer culture that constantly bombards them.

Parenting in the 21st century means that you have to instill the values of much earlier centuries--those tried and true values that transform children into healthy, well adjusted adults of good virtue.  I want to say that the general value should be moderation, but also to teach children that although it's not necessarily wrong to want more stuff, they should learn to be happy with what they have.  And they should learn to be happy with only having a little bit.

I have the few things that make me happy.  I'm all about electronics and gaming: my PC is a pretty good gaming rig, I've got a nice 32 inch LCD TV, and I've got a PS3.  Other than that, though, I really don't want much else.  I'm fine with my books, my games, and my interwebs.

Be happy with less, because less makes your life less complicated.  Less material possessions makes one's life more meaningful, because that means we have to focus on the life of the mind rather than the life of hacing four cars and a summer home.

Am I alone on this?

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Would You Do If God Didn't Exist?

The question itself is not mean to presuppose God'e existence, it was just the shortest way to ask the question.  Here is the fullest version of the thought experiment I am asking all of my readers to try out.

If tomorrow, humanity discovered definitive evidence that disproved the existence of God and the afterlife, how would that alter your life?  What would you do with yourself knowing that there is no afterlife, and that we are all here by a one-in-a-dillion chance?

This question applies to believers, non-believers, and agnostics alike.  I am willing to bet that even people who say they are atheist still have some glimmer of hope in them, some nagging desire for there to be existence beyond this physical realm.  I don't think any human particularly enjoys the notion of the void--of a state of no consciousness.  So what would it do to you to know, with certainty (because I don't care who you are: you can never know for certain what lies beyond the veil of life) that this life is all there is?

This question may be hard to answer for theists.  I get the sense that they don't often entertain the notion of a Godless universe, because such a thought is frightening to them.  I admit, the thought of such a thing is disturbing to me as well, but I am guessing that my fears are different than that of, say, a Christian or a Muslim.

For me, the non-existence of God would not mean much.  In fact, it would actually make me feel even more special.  To think that somehow this entire existence we know today is the product of sheer chance is pretty damn amazing in my opinion.  To think, that out of all the billions of stars and the maelstrom of unorganized matter in the universe, this thing we call life happened here on Earth is sort of overwhelming, especially when you know how utterly inhospitable much of the universe is.

I already have a sense of insignificance, because even if there is a God who thinks I'm special, that doesn't take away from the fact that when I die, an imperceivable fraction of the universe will care.  My life means nothing to Mars, or to Alpha Centauri.  The Vega system will never hear about the mediochre Jack Camwell dying, as all humans must, in relative obscurity.

The words I am writing at this moment will have no greater impact on the whole of existence than a single drop of water bears significance to the ocean.  And you know what?  I'm pretty okay with that.  I don't need to believe that some mystical force loves me and cherishes me, because I know there are other human beings to whom I mean the world.  I understand and accept my insignificance, but my children sure as hell don't.  I'm more important to them than anything they even know of (except maybe for Spongebob and Adventure time--haha).

And I know that the people I care about certainly are not insignificant to me.  My children, my family and friends--they all mean something to me.  They're special to me from my mother to the Anonymous Howard Beale, as I like to call him.

So why would I need God to feel like my life still bears meaning in the face of insignificance?  Should not the prospect of facing the eternal void, the uncompromising abyss, only spur me to seek further meaning and greatness to this thing we call life?

Perhaps I would be liberated if I knew that God did not exist.  Perhaps that would allow my mind to explore further possibilities of what exists beyond existence.  Maybe, just maybe, I would find more satisfaction in life knowing that this is all I have.  If God does not give my life meaning and purpose, then it would befall my shoulders to do so.

That's what I'm asking my readers to do.  Imagine that there is no God, and that the only meaning we have is what we make of it.  It sounds bleak at first, because there are those who would make humanity out to be nothing but piles of flesh and bone--resources to be used up.  But there are those, like myself, who do not consign ourselves to our physicality simply because God may not exist.  Life is special whether it is by complete chance or if it is the design of a higher intelligence.

This week's experiment is to find meaning in life without God.  Try it, if you dare.  You may be surprised what you come up with.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Evolve or Die

First, a little background about my education might give some context on where I'm coming from.  I double majored in history and political science in college.  There's several areas that historians focus on beyond period and place.  Some are cultural historians, some social, others military.  My focus was intellectual history, also called the history of ideas.

On the political science side, my focus was on American government for most of my education, but towards the end I started to focus on totalitarianism.  I was very interested in how a democratic society could transform into a totalitarian regime (i.e. the Weimar Republic Germany transforming into Nazi Germany).

So combining what I learned in college, and what I've learned since, from these disciplines, I think I've come up with a theory for the intellectual evolution of the human species.  Bear with me.

I see human intellectual evolution as a maze.  The goal, as in any maze, is to get to the end point, but this maze is different in that there are two endpoints.  I sincerely believe that a Type 1 society is the final stage of human intellectual evolution (in terms of how society is organized), but there are two possible outcomes.  The first is a sort of advanced, democratic type 1 society, the alternative being a totalitarian type 1 society.

It might take a minute for that to be clear.  A type 1 society can exist either as a free society or a totalitarian society.  For those who might not know what I mean by "Type 1 society," I'm referring to something akin to Star Trek.  The idea is that the world is organized as one body of people with one specific purpose: the perpetual survival of the human species.  It would be like how the United States is organized in terms of Federal => State => Local government, except a type 1 society would be organized as World => National => State/Local/Whatever government.

Just as state goals are held as important but at once subborned to national goals--i.e. a state goal cannot interfere with a national, federal goal--a type 1 society would function in a similar way: national goals are subborned to world goals.

Back to the main point, we're in a maze.  Sometimes we hit dead ends and we have to go back and find a new path.  Those dead ends are points in history where we as a species arrived at a bad place intellectually, and a change in course was required if we were to endure.  Well, we hit a similar point with the rise of totalitarianism.  It wasn't a dead end though: it was a fork in the maze.  Instead of the maze being horizontal, the fork went virtical.  Upwards leads to an advanced democratic society--what that looks like, I don't know--and down leads to a totalitarian world, much like Orwell's 1984.

The problem, though, is that we didn't take a fork.  When we got there, we were so insistent on making horizontal progress that we refused to make virtical evolutions.  We were scared.  We saw what fruits totalitarianism would bear, but we also feared what any advanced form of democracy might look like.  We were convinced that what we had previously discovered--America's current form of democratic-republican government--was it.  We thought we had reached the pinnacle, so there was no need for further evolution.

So instead of choosing a direction, we set out to break through the divide and barrel through the wall.  We continue breaking through the wall to this day, only the problem is that we don't have the tools to do so.  We're breaking through with our hands and stone, bloody and beaten.  Because of the horrible toll it's taking on us, we're becoming deformed as a species, and eventually we won't even look human.

We will break through the wall and get to the end, to be sure.  But we'll come out of it as monsters.  And once we break through, and all that's left is the end, gravity will kick in, and we'll fall straight to the bottom.  On our current course, we will end up as one totalitarian world, and we will have lost our human will to fight it.

So what do we do?  Well, the only thing we can do is go back.  We have to go back to the fork in the road and figure out how we can take the path up.  We cannot continue on our current intellectual path, because it's only making this country--and the world--worse.  We have to evolve.  Democracy, republican government, are not the final solution.  There is something beyond American government that will take us to where we need to be.

We will be one world no matter what.  A day will come when the human species finally becomes cognizant of the need for togetherness and singularity of purpose.  If we continue to stifle our intellectual evolution, if we remain stubborn in our assertion that 21st century America is as good as it gets, we will end up as a totalitarian world.  That world is death: death of the human spirit and character.

Evolve or die.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dumbass Idea of the Week: Me Edition

What was my dumbass idea for the week?  Thinking that I could have an actual discussion with people who don't even have the slightest clue about anything that has to do with history, cultural anthropology, or anything that even remotely resembles social science.

You can't explain cultural evolution to a person when the person doesn't even acknowledge the fact that the Middle East is in Asia.

You also can't argue with someone who completely ignores just about every distinction you make, and then tells you that you failed to make that very distinction.

You also can't have a discussion with someone that poses a question, or makes a point, and then completely ignores every single refutation you offered in response.

You can't debate with someone whose only answer to your refutations is "you're wrong."

You can't talk about religion with a person who tries to prove that the fringe wackoes of a particular religion somehow represent the true nature of the religion.

You can't talk about religious violence with someone who refuses to acknowledge the brutal history of Christianity.

So I'm a dumbass for arguing about the evolution of the various human cultures with a person whose understanding of culture goes only so far as to know that there's a difference between Arabs and Persians, and then subsequently tries to use such a distinction to "dismantle" my argument.  Nevermind the fact that I was speaking about "Far Eastern Asian" cutlures in comparison.

You can't argue with someone that blatantly ignores just about everything you say.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why You Fail to Understand the Middle East

I am by no means a cultural expert on the Middle East and North Africa, but it has become painfully apparent to me that if I only know a little bit about those regions, then nearly everyone else on the blogosphere knows even less than that.

I'm sorry that I have to go on the attack to my Conservative readers (only because I know that most of my readers are conservative), but I'm going to have to call you (most of you) out on something.  Many of you claim that Islam is the problem in the Middle East, and you're doing that for two reasons:

1.  You have a feeble understanding of Arab and Persian cutlure.

2.  You're on a mission to paint Islam as a false religion, at least false compared to Christianity.

I got someone on some blog, maybe Political Realities, to admit that he believed Islam to be a "false religion," (his words, not mine), and I couldn't help but wondering if his opinion served as a credible one.  I mean, honestly, would you give credence to a radical Muslim's interpretation or perception of Christianity?  I wouldn't, but that's not because I grew up Catholic.  It's because I generally don't seriously consider the opinions of radicals when they're speaking about their perceived opposition.

So let's explore thing 1 that I mentioned above.  I think all of this stems from the fact that few of you have even a cursory grasp of Middle Eastern culture.  Arabs and Persians have historically been brutal cutlures, and that fact is largely a result of their environment.  Try growing up in the harsh, unforgiving desert and see how you turn out.  Then, couple that with the fact that the peoples around you are so bent on increasing their stockpile of already scarce resources that they're forced to conquer those around them just to have a greater chance of survival.

That's how these cultures began, and that's part of the reason they are still harsh today.  You might think that because it was such a long time ago that they should have evolved, but thousands of years of a particular cultural attitude has a way of ingraining itself in the psyche of an entire people.  You can't simply unmake thousands of years of cultural development and just expect them to "get with the times."  Although it may change and evolve over the centuries, it won't simply "go away."

I think Silverfiddle brought up the Jews as an example of how Islam is the real problem, because he believed the Jews to be peaceful.  Well, let's consider something here: how did the Jews even obtain their homeland?  Spoiler alert: they conquered it.  Not only did they conquer the lands that came to be known Israel and Judea, but they committed genocide all along the way.  They claimed that God told them to, so that the heathens wouldn't test their faith in God.

A little harsh, no?  Oh, but what they did was totally fine because "God commanded it."  Hopefully, some of you reading this are seeing how absurd that sounds, especially when you consider that the terrorists blow up school busses of children because it is "Allah's will."  The Jews were just as brutal as the Arabs and Persians.  Their laws were just as unforgiving.  They owned slaves (ironic given the fact that they broke free of slavery), they believed in eye-for-an-eye justice, and they sacrificed animals, just like many "heathen" religions around them.

The only difference is that the Jews were consistently conquered from about the 8th century BC on, so their society didn't really get a chance to reach the heights of decadent violence as their neighbors did.  Although I am sure that they were still just as fanatical and brutal as everyone else.  I mean, they stoned people, too.

So why do you think Islam is the problem, given the fact that Middle Eastern culture has been brutal since it began?  The Arabs, Persians, and other Semites had existed thousands of years before the advent of Islam.  Islam, if you know anything, didn't come into being until the 7th Century AD.  I promise you that Sharia law was simply the pre-existing law that ruled Arab and Persian cultures, just with a religious excuse behind it.

Arab and Persian culture came before Islam, and Islam is a product of those cultures.  Why are far east Asian Islamic countries less fanatical than Middle Eastern countries?  It's because they come from completely different cultural traditions.

Why are American Christians more fanatical than European Christians?  Why are there some Mormons who still believe in polygamy and some that don't?  Why is an Italian Catholic different from a Midwestern Catholic?  It's because of how culture reflects the interpretation of a religion.  Fundamentalist Southern Baptists are infinitely more zealous and ignorant of the meaning of Christianity than even the most ardent Catholic.  And it's because Catholicism is rooted in nearly two-thousand years of tradition and evolution, while the Southern Baptist movement is maybe two hundred years old counting its predecessors.

Many of you fail to understand the violence in the Middle East because you can't get over your vendetta against Islam.  You look for any reason to point out how awful a religion it is, so every time a Muslim perpetrates any kind of violence, you immediately use that for validation.  I suppose we should say that Catholicism is false every time a priest molests a kid.  We should just throw all of Christianity out the window whenever Christians perpetrate violence.

"Christians don't kill in the name of God!"  Well, they don't anymore at least.  But that's only because Western Civilization evolved.  The Arabs and Persians are still living in 1099 AD.  Islam is no more false than Christianity.  Get over it, because unless you bring intellectual things to the table, all you're doing is having a "my dad is better than your dad" argument.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dumbass Idea of the Week: Worst. Thief. Ever.

A guy in Massachusetts makes out with a coin collection worth over $100,000.  Some might be thinking, "hmm, that's a pretty good heist," and it was.  There's just one problem though:  the guy spent the coin collection on pizza and a movie at face value.

Apparently, he didn't realize that the Liberty quarter he had was worth way more than 25 cents.  In fact, it was worth over $1,000.

It doesn't pay to break the law, but apparently it pays even less to be a gigantic dumbass about it.  You can read the original article here.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Repost: Intelligence is a Shitty Business

Rarely do I repost something I've written in the past, but I think this is as good a moment as any to do so in light of everyone flipping out about GWB and the 9/11 intelligence.  Again, my credentials are short, but I know more than probably about 95% of Americans in terms of the process and what the work itself is like.

I was a cryptologist in the U.S. Navy for three years.  I was of the communications intelligence brand, and in 2005-2006, I was deployed with the USS San Jacinto in the Persian Gulf.  While I was there, I was the ship's collection supervisor, which meant it was my job to make sure we were carrying out our ship's portion of the overall collection mission. 

When the San Jacinto was acting fleet coordinator (basically whenever the carrier pulled into port) I was responsible for tasking the cryptologic collection missions of not just my strike group, but all the strike groups in the 5th fleet.  Suffice to say, I know a thing or two about how intelligence works.

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It might sound cool to be a spy, or to be involved in some sort of intelligence stuff, but then you hear about some spies of ours getting caught by Iran and Hezballah. When a CIA official says "we'll likely never see these guys again," that's when the reality of the intelligence business should set in.

It really is a shitty, thankless field to work in. Sure you get to tell people that you can't talk about what you do, and then chuckle at them for their inevitable probing questions as though they think they're crack interrogators who are going to trick you into revealing what you know, but that's not enough to make it not suck.

I know what it's like. In the Navy I was a cryptologist. I only spent three years as a cryptologist, so I didn't have the chance to get into any of the seriously crazy shit, but three years is enough to know how much it sucks.

For starters, there's that whole thing where you can never tell anyone anything, ever. That sounds cool at first, but after a while it gets frustrating. I did some fairly cool shit in my time. I was really good at what I did, and I wish that I could share my success stories with the people I care about. But the only people that knew just how good I was and the great things I did are those who worked with me and were cleared to know that sort of stuff. I haven't seen them in years, and even if I did see them it's not like we could talk about it out in the open.

It actually affected my marriage a bit. My ex-wife didn't like the fact that I couldn't come home and talk about work other than whenever we had to paint something. She didn't appreciate the idea that there was a part of my life that she'd never be privvy to. You see in the movies where spies' wives get all upset about that sort of thing, and I always discounted that as silly. "This can't be realistic. Of course their wives would understand." Well, not all of those wives understand, I guess.

And aside from how it affects your personal life, there's the nature of the work itself. Intelligence is not the place for people who enjoy discovering concrete answers to their burning questions. Much of the job revolves around guess work. Try this little exercise. Observe one person for like a month or so, and after that month try to predict their daily schedule for the next month.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it's not that easy. The person might call in sick for work one day. He might stay in for lunch rather than going out. He might go out with his friends and be too hungover to get to work on time the following day. Then, after you realize that there are a million variables you have to take into account in your observations and predictions, throw five more people into the mix. Try to predict what six people are going to do every day for the next month.

As if that's not hard enough, let them in on the little exercise, and tell them to willfully try to throw you off their scent to make them more unpredictable. Still easy?

Intelligence involves a *lot* of guess work. We always called them WAGs, or Wild Ass Guesses. "I don't know," is never an answer that your superiors want to hear, so you give them the best guess with what you've got. Sometimes you don't have shit, but they still want answers.

So intelligence is a field in which all you're doing is guessing and hoping to Christ that you're right. Your successes will never be known to the people you care about, and your failures will be plastered in plain sight for all to see. People mock you for failing so much, but don't realize that successes are kept under wraps because if everyone knows what works, it doesn't work anymore.

So if you're into dealing with guess work, never getting to talk about the cool shit you've done, and enjoy getting shit on by a public who doesn't even understand the nature of your work, then work in the intelligence field. You'll have a ball.