The thoughts, views and opinions expressed in the posts and comments of this blog are the product of the author alone. Nothing expressed here is intended to represent any person or entity other than the author. Everything here should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official in any capacity.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The World Has Issues... Episode 2

There is a thing that has been brought up a time or two from various directions and today it struck me in a way that is reverberating around the inside of my skull, clamoring to be shared.

I think it is (mostly) self-evident when looking at the world surrounding me that, somewhere along the way, things took a turn. In particular, I am referring to the fact that happiness is thriving as a counter-culture to the one that most of us are living in.

It pains me that I have to stop and think to realize that, when I gaze around myself at the people inhabiting my world, most of those closest to me are struggling to keep depression and abject misery at bay. In fact, this truth has become so commonplace that it is just accepted as the way things are! I know almost no one who spends their time helping others actually achieve moments of happiness and joy. It seems that, as a rule, we are just too busy trying to keep each other from plummeting into the pits of despair.

Off the top of my head I can give you almost a hundred simple, daily illustrations of this truth but, frankly, I think it is so utterly appalling that I need to come at it all from a different angle.

Hence the illustration I am going to attempt to give as to how happiness has become a sub-culture that is thriving as it strives to run parallel to, and occasionally intersect with, the culture that most of us struggle through our day to day lives living in. (Yes, I know that two things cannot be parallel and yet intercept... We are using words here, not math. Alright?!)

Allow me to begin by sharing a video I was introduced to quite some time ago. It is a video documentary of something that should never have been extraordinary. Yet, because of the way we live our lives, it was not only extraordinary but also tragic, triumphant and, more than a little bit hopeful.

See what I mean? It is horrifying that we live in a world where this was so shocking as to necessitate being banned. Even more terrifying, however, is the fact that... in this day and age, so very very many people can be touched in so profound a way just by the simple act of sharing a hug with a stranger.

Another worrisome and bothersome truth is the simple fact that I find myself envious of those who seem to be in a place that they enjoy. (I know for a fact that I am not alone in this but it is up to everyone else as to whether they care to own up to that truth.) I am not saying that I am unhappy where I am.... Just... Well... You will see what I mean.

I will share two videos to show what I mean by this and then I am going to go find a way to have some fun for myself for just a few minutes. See you after the videos!

Alright, I'm back. Now where the hell are my people and why are we not having that kind of fun together just for the sake of doing so!??!

Why should it be the case that others get to have so much fun when the world doesn't see fit to furnish me with the time or opportunity to have as much fun myself. By no means do I think that those who are enjoying life should stop. To the contrary, I rather think that perhaps the rest of us should take a long hard look at what we are doing and find a way to incorporate more joy and wonder in our own lives.

It occurs to me rather belatedly that many people who know me in the world I currently inhabit are going to find all of this rather hard to accept as having come from my mind. On first impression I, apparently, come off as a dour, mean and miserable person. To those who believe that to be true, I can only say that I am sorry that you do not know who and what I really am. Everything that has been included here are sentiments that I feel from the very bottom of my heart and, more importantly, are truths that I believe in to the very core of my being.

Orson Welles, a tremendous (and sadly deceased) author gave his final interview only a couple hours before his death. At its core, this interview sums up beautifully what I have been trying to explain to everyone for years. Please, watch this last video and pay close attention to, not only the words this wonderful man says, but also to the true feeling and truth behind them.

*Merv: Are certain parts of your life really joyous?
*Orson: Oh yes! There are certain parts of almost every day that are joyous. I am not essentially a happy person but I have all kinds of joy. And there's a difference you know. Because joy is a great big, electrical experience. Just happiness is what a... oh I don't know, a warthog could be happy...
-Orson Welles on the Merv Griffin Show only hours before his death-

Friday, September 25, 2009

Embracing Me...

I have spent the last ten or twelve years in retail. The majority of that time has been in management positions and of bookstores and coffee houses. (Yes, coffee is retail, not food service and anyone who says otherwise has absolutely no idea what they are talking about.)

The application of these two statements basically breaks down to the following...

No visible tattoos. Collared shirts. Khaki or black pants. Close toed shoes... No visible sign of personality lest ye inadvertently give offense.

Fuck. That. Noise.

It is about time for me to get the hell out of retail in any case and, frankly, I am sick and tired of having a black, white and tan striped closet.

Inevitably, this leads me to an outstanding need for a new wardrobe and, hopefully, some new ink not too far down the road.

Of course... I have absolutely no sense of style so the shopping trip I just went on is probably not going to improve my image any... But at least I am willing to embrace my personality.

Personality has the power to open many doors, but character must keep them open.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beauty on the Intrawubs...

I am fairly certain that it is pretty much common knowledge that anything and everything exists and can be found on the internet. (There is also a pretty damned good chance that there is porn of it here as well.)

That being said, I spend altogether more time here than I probably should. (And almost certainly more than is good for me.) Sadly, this means I don't get out and about as often as I should. On the bright side, it means I find some truly outstanding things.

I mentioned a while ago how I am actively trying to see more of the beauty around me. When I said that, I wasn't referring exclusively to the real world. There is beauty of all kinds everywhere and, when I find it here, I can share it with everyone else.

That being said and without further ado...

I present to you, Art, Media and Beauty!


Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated.
-Auguste Rodin-

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Dreams and Encouragement...

Every person believes that they are special.

We are reminded over and over again throughout our lives that this is true. Beginning with our parents and grandparents we are told that we can do anything we set our minds to; that we can grow up to be anybody we want.

As we grow, most of us continue to have this reaffirmed to us by teachers, counselors, friends, family and anyone else we meet. Even a complete stranger, when faced with a child looking up at them with their big round eyes, will lend their voice to the masses and tell the child that they are certain to succeed as long as they put their mind to it.

There are, however, some exceptions that deserve to be noted here.

I have known people who grew up in situations that can only be called abusive. In situations like these the child is reminded repeatedly that they are not good enough, will never be good enough and will never succeed. In some more extreme cases, I have even seen people tell their children that they were, not only a mistake, but that the child ruined the life of the parent and that the parent wished the child were never born. (If you ever hear someone say something like this, I expect you to hit them immediately.)

Ain't that some shit.

Now here is where I think that part of the problem begins...

Quite often a person grows up to either emulate their parent(s) or to revile them. In other words, most people either grow to repeat the mistakes that their parents made or to make completely new mistakes by choosing a different course.

I heartily approve of encouraging a child to dream and to reach for the stars. What people need to stop doing is allowing those children to grow up believing that they can achieve anything without educating the child on what they will need to do in order to accomplish their goal.

Too often, it seems, people are growing up and becoming disillusioned with the world around them because they were ill prepared for the challenges of the real world. These are people who were never taught about the work and effort they would have to put forth to succeed. They have gotten to where they are by expecting the world to hand them their dreams simply because they want them to come true!

I think people need to have conversations with their children. By no means should we just shrug off what they say as the fanciful imaginings of youth. If little Sally tells you that she wants to become an Astronaut, find out why. Try to learn what it is that attracts her to the field and, more importantly, what needs to happen for her to get there. Tell Sally about all the hard work she is going to need to do. Most of all, find out what you, as a parent, need to do to help see the dream come true.

When your son, Timmy, approaches you after the school play and tells you he wants to grow up to be an actor the correct answer is not, "Well you did great! You are already the best actor I have ever seen!" nor is "Well, I don't know..." the right thing to say. Instead, try something more honest like, "That's great Tim. You did really well on stage today and I am sure that, with a lot of hard work and the proper training, you could grow up to be brilliant!"

What I mean to say is, don't just tell your kids that they can succeed if they puts their minds to it and, please, don't discourage them. For that matter, if I ever again see a parent laugh maliciously at the dreams of their children, I think that I may just haul off and punch them in the head. (I will then explain to the child that it was what their parent had always wanted and that I was helping to make dreams come true.)

Children need to be appropriately prepared and encouraged. They need to be supported in reaching for their dreams and bolstered by the knowledge of its achievability and how to make the achievement happen.

As you begin to take action toward the fulfillment of your goals and dreams, you must realize that not every action will be perfect. Not every action will produce the desired result. Not every action will work. Making mistakes, getting it almost right, and experimenting to see what happens are all part of the process of eventually getting it right.
-Jack Canfield-

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Talk Like a Pirate Day...

Alright! Another National Talk Like a Pirate Day has come and gone and I didn't hear nearly enough bad pirate accents!

Every year I remind people ahead of time... I call and text friends with obnoxious piratey slogans (and threats)... I go to work and spout off all kinds of verbal diarrhea tinted with pirate slang... And unless I happen to actually be wearing a pirate hat, all I get are confused looks.

I swear I can read the faces. "Is he alright?", "Oh my, you are a little touched aren't you?" and my personal favorite look, "Ahh... You are one of those people..."

Come on folks! This happens every year! I know for a fact that I am not the only one participating in these festivities! Relax and have some fun for fucks sake!

Let me break this down into the simplest terms I can.

What I am really saying is this:

Everyone, at one time or another in their lives, loves pirates. You may outgrow it and not really consider it your thing any more but if you ever find someone who can swear that they have never once enjoyed something piratey then they are either liars or have led a wasted life and have a serious problem. Therefore, it is your duty as a good and decent human being to FIX IT!

In other words...

Loosen up, relax, have some fun and, for the love of all that is good in the world, embrace that miraculously childlike bit of your Self you keep denying and talk like a gods-damned Pirate!

Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.
-Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain-

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Change Happen...

By now, I think I have made it abundantly clear through my posts that I am making a concerted effort to make positive changes happen in my life. A good bit of that change is happening here, on the intarwubbies, but some is happening in the real world as well.

For example, I had my roommate cut my hair for me the other day. It is something I am still cringing about but it is a positive change. I prefer to keep my hair long but, with my work schedule being what it is (i.e. being at work at 5 am most mornings), I just don't have the time to take care of it. I can grow it out again when my life is more in line with doing so. Looking all ratty just isn't going to work for me anymore. (There! I said it!)

I am also making an attempt at quitting smoking. I've gotten a prescription for Chantix. (Through use of networking :p... I have no regular doctor and no money to spare so I went through channels to achieve a goal. Yay!) Additionally, I have some of the patch sitting around that I may attempt to make use of if it seems to be something that will help me out. The plan is to stop smoking for the dual benefits of better health and better cash flow.

Also in regards to better health is getting more exercise. It is finally cooling down a little bit outside, (By cooling down I mean in the 70s and 80s versus topping out at over a hundred!) so I am going to start walking more again and I am going to make it a point to do some time on my exercise bike each day. Of course, I am planning to succeed so I am not going insane with my goals. To start with I am only going to aim to be on the bike for 10 to 15 minutes at a clip but as I succeed and settle into a routine I will increase the time.

In essence, what I am doing here and now is formalizing the goals that I have set out for myself. My hope is that, by putting this all in print, I will make it more solid and help myself to achieve what I am putting before me. It will also serve to update those who are reading this to know what I am up to and it will (hopefully) solicit support from those who are more intimately involved in my life these days. (coughHINT!cough)

Gods know I can use all the positive reinforcement I can get.

Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not remain so if you only perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.
-James Allen-

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nothing of Substance...

So I haven't written anything in several days now. Almost a week in fact.

As an explanation, I haven't been feeling remotely up to par. Certainly not an excuse, I know, but I didn't want to post work that was sloppy or, more importantly, just plain bad.

I am still not feeling up to snuff but I need to make sure I am maintaining this habit so I am writing this as a space filler kind of thing.

Last night, I attempted to write a blog with some meat to it but the finished result was just plain disappointing. Rereading it today hasn't helped any. I am not entirely sure where it went wrong but if a fix doesn't present itself to my brain by bedtime tonight, I will probably just scrap it and start from scratch tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in other news...

There is a game developer conference in Austin this weekend and it looks like one of the after-party meet-ups may be being held in a public venue tomorrow night. I am supposed to be playing D&D tomorrow but with the way things are going at the moment, I may have to skip out on gaming in favor of attempting to make some forward movement happen in my life.

Time will tell...

Anyway, all that being said (and having nothing else to offer), I am going to close this out for now and go try for a nap. Must - needs - feeling better now!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Momentum is a funny and scary thing. It all goes back to two key facts that, I think, most of us learned back in elementary school.

1. An object in motion stays in motion.


2. Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction.

You remember this little thing, right? Come on... You know you had one.

Time and again it has been brought home to us that these two truisms are always going to be and that there is not a damned thing we can do about them.

So, of course, the next question is; How do we harness them?

I have seen diagrams and designs for perpetual motion engines using springs and elastics and any number of other things but what I am talking about is something that is a little bit more true to life for each of us.

Personally, I have lost track of how many times I have allowed myself to be caught up in the whirlwind of events taking place around me. I have been dragged behind trains of events and mercilessly trampled under the horses of emotion. The bottom line, though, is that, each time, I have allowed events and circumstances to push me into a position where all I could do is allow the storm to wash over me.

Well, all I would do, anyway...

Now I am trying something different. I am not just allowing myself to drift through the chaotic seas of life but, instead, I am offering up my own momentum. I have begun shaping the storm and harnessing its energy into something that, ultimately, will turn to my advantage.

The internet is a tool. Millions of us spend time each day floating through cyberspace, surfing on the waves of thought that have been compiled for our perusal. This blog (along with the other social media sites that I am working on) is my little corner. This is where I am attempting to manipulate the current in such a way that I will no longer be just a casual traveler but, instead, a destination in my own right.

As I grow my little corner of the world into something more substantial, this will be the cornerstone of my empire. From this outcropping will stem a steady flow of creativity and content that will draw others into my wake and allow me a stepping stone into the next stage of my life.

This is perpetual motion.

This is the beginning of my momentum.

This is where I launch my life.

The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum. The most important rules that I ever adopted to help me in achieving my goals were those I learned from a very successful man who taught me to first write down the goal, and then to never leave the site of setting a goal without first taking some kind of positive action towards its attainment.
-Anthony Robbins-

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Filling space...

Just to let everybody know, I am trying to work on doing this on some kind of schedule but I am not quite there yet. This weekend was filled with work and this week and next look to be much the same.

While I have you here, I would like to pose a question to you all...

It has been brought to my attention that the blogs I have been writing are somewhat longer than what a lot of blogs tend to be. With that in mind, my question is this:

Would it be better, in your opinion, if I were to keep my blogs shorter? Or is what I am doing working out just fine for you?

That's all. I don't know if you answers will actually change what I am doing here but I am moderately curious. I know I can be a bit full of wind from time to time.

In other, more exciting news... Aion open beta is going on right now and I actually managed to get my hands on a key today! I have mentioned before how excited I am over the games release and getting to take part in beta testing for it is a huge win for me. If you like gaming, you should definately check it out!

That is all I have to say for the time being. Talk to you all soon!

May you be forty years in heaven before the Devil knows you're dead.
-Old Irish well wishes-

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Living games...

I have been gaming for over two decades now. Scary. In fact, it has been one of the very few constants in my life! (And by constant I mean that, while it may have been shoved into the background on occasion, it was always an underlying motivator at the very least.)

Let me tell you a story...

It all began when I was an innocent young lad. (Waits impatiently, glaring, for the laughter to die down.) My days were lazy and carefree. My parents owned a house close to a beach in a small community in Connecticut. We weren't right on the water but we were close enough that I was able to sneak off for a swim with my friends whenever I thought my parents weren't going to be paying attention for a while. (To tell the truth, I was probably caught more often than I got away with it but, well, I loved being in the water.)

Our story begins on the dawn of my eighth birthday. I awoke at 6 am to my father yelling at me to get the hell out of bed and get dressed. (No one is allowed to sleep in on their birthdays in my family.) It was time for us to go have my birthday breakfast. (Bacon egg and cheese biscuts from McDonalds. My father is a man of exquisite tastes.)

As we ate, my mother (who had likewise been woken up so she would know she wasn't coming with us to McDonalds) was at home hiding my birthday presents from me. This was a game my parents liked to play with us as children. They would hide the presents and you had to find them before you could have them. It saved them the cost of wrapping paper and, if you didn't manage to find them all, they could return them to the store and we would be none the wiser. (I actually think that this threat may have been followed through on once or twice. Either that or my brothers stole some of my birthday loot and my parents never caught on.)

When my father and I returned I was allowed to begin my search.

Step one. Check all the places they used last year. This plan of attack yielded me nothing so I sat down to reassess and redeploy.

Step two. Search the common areas like the living room and dining room. Our house wasn't big but it had about a million nooks and crannies. By the time I was done with these first two steps I had wasted about an hour and was still no closer to my birthday presents.

Step Three. My bedroom. This is where I struck gold! Right there in the middle of my desk was a beautiful red box with a dragon on the front! I was immediately enthralled. I had always been a fan of the fantasy genre and dragons and unicorns were my bread and butter. I tore into that package and started flipping through the books inside as fast as I could. When I noticed the dice (and what dice they were!) I was hooked. It wasn't until almost three hours had passed when it occurred to me that I hadn't had a desk the day before. (My parents thought the desk was going to be my big gift that year... Shows what they knew! :P )

It took a few weeks of asking every person that I knew as well as more strangers than I care to count, (note: People give you extremely strange looks when you approach them in a grocery store to ask whether they play Dungeons & Dragons.) but, eventually, I found a group of kids in my neighborhood to play with. (They were all older than me. My parents had missed the line on the box saying "for ages 12 and up")

That first game was amazing! I rolled up a fighter! (Being 8 years old and the youngest one in the group I wasn't expected to understand all the rules for magic yet.) I was strong and not very bright but I had a sword and armor and I was ready to kill things!

Skeletons shattered at the heavy blows I rained down on them. (Remember THAC0?)

The magic mouth was confounded when the wizard, not only knew the answer to it's riddle, but was able to stump it with a riddle in return.

The cleric saved us all when he turned the zombie lurching in our direction while we daringly fended off the group of goblins we had stumbled into.

And when, at last, we found the Dragon, slumbering atop his horde of riches... We all died horrible, screaming deaths the likes of which none of us would ever know again. (After that first time, everyone realized that n00blet characters had no business trying to hit things with negative ACs. If only we had understood THAC0 from the start!)

Dungeons & Dragons. What a perception altering tool to give to an eight year old! For years I was intoxicated by the game. Other games have come and gone through the years but, inevitably, I always return to that one tried and true first love.

Eventually, as time went on, I was introduced to other games. GURPS, Vampire the Masquerade, Shadowrun... The list seems to go on forever as I glance back at my library of gaming books. (Seriously... It's a freaking library. No joke.)

Eventually, I developed an interest for video games.

Oh sure, I had had an Atari 2600, (I still do in fact. Eat your hearts out gamers! :p) but that wasn't a video game. At least not when compared to the new and exciting world of Mario Brothers!

Now, I won't claim to be a gaming guru. I mean at this point I don't even own a television set, let alone a console game. Even so, I was pretty avid as a teenager and even into my early twenties. Still, table-top paper and dice games were where my heart lived.

Thankfully, as I grew and matured (Glares at the audience waiting for the snickering to die down.) so did my gaming style. Hack and slash became a thing of yesteryear and role playing took its place.

Role playing... What a thing of beauty! To become someone else... To sit and envision an entire life! (It was like having my very own baby. You know... Without the diapers, spit-up, crying or, really, any of the other drawbacks to actually having my very own baby.) This was when all those other gaming systems I mentioned became a big draw for me. Games built on social interactions, political stories, and plot or character driven stories as opposed to the old brute force method of gaming.

Now, just so you understand, I am not only a gamer. In high school I found myself involved in theater. Role playing became acting and, eventually, I even went away to college for it. I double majored in Theatrical and Musical performances with minors in English, philosophy and psychology. I was even good enough at doing what I do that they payed for me to be there! (Yup. I have a little pride in that.) What all of that adds up to is that I can become anyone and convince you that I am, indeed, that character. Unfortunately, I am still searching for ways to turn all that into making an actual living. (There is grifting but, well, I just have this aversion to ever going to jail.) But hey, at least I got some skills and had a great time! (Skillz, I haz em!)

And through it all, Dungeons & Dragons was there. Just waiting for those times when I really needed to get back to basics and kill some shit!

When PC games started getting big I was all over it. I had played FFVII but this new, interactive community... The Massively Multiplayer games... This was special! This was like... Animated Dungeons & Dragons! With even MORE people to play with! My first love had come back to me and she loved me still, with all her heart!

I reveled in this new and exciting world, hopping from game to game... Learning mechanics... Memorizing lore... Writing backgrounds and storylines for characters who finally had an enthralled and captivated audience.

By now, I have played so many different MMOs and told so many stories that I couldn't name all of them if I wanted to. Some I have loved; some hated. Some for years on end and others for only a day or two before realizing that I didn't fit in their world or, sometimes, that they didn't fit into mine.

These days, there are actually a couple releases coming up soon that I am genuinely excited about! (Specifically Aion: The Tower of Eternity and the rebirth of World of Warcraft with their new expansion, Cataclysm... If anyone knows whether Blizzard has announced a date yet, let me know.)

Last year, Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. Like millions of others, I rushed to the bookstore on release day to buy my copy of the core books and I was genuinely excited. I mean, who wouldn't be beside themselves with glee to see the love of their life grow and become all that it had to potential to be?

That very same week my friends and I began play testing this new system. Things had been realigned in an effort to appeal to a new generation of gamers who had started out with MMOs and were just now discovering the joys of my humble beginnings. Fighters were finally a playable class again! (They had long since became boring for me. There are only so many times I can hit something with a sword before I start feeling like a one trick pony.) With new "powers" driven combat the game was reborn into a world where it could be better appreciated by a much larger audience.

Unfortunately, it has done less well among those of us who have mostly outgrown hack and slash. (Mostly but never entirely :D)

These days, I am far from alone in enjoying the role playing aspect of gaming. This new system is absolutely phenomenal for combat but it is woefully, poorly designed for RP. There is no system in place to effectively progress a character without becoming involved in what, for all intents and purposes, can only be considered grinding.

Le sigh.

I still love Dungeons and Dragons but I think that, for now, maybe a GURPS based campaign is going to better suit my paper and dice group. If that doesn't work for us, maybe I will take a turn at DMing and introduce everybody to the wonderful world of Shadowrun.

In the mean time...

MMO mechanics belong in MMOs and while I will always belong to the table top arena in many ways, I also realize that I belong in the MMO world!

I have come to thrive in the online communities where I can act out my toons. I have met some wonderful people and friends there who have enjoyed meeting my characters and playing their parts in the continuously unfolding stories that I tell with my characters. (And I have equally enjoyed playing my roles in their stories. Yay for symbiotic relationships!)

Eventually, I would like to design worlds and stories for even more people to play and interact in. My mind is constantly churning with ideas for stories, characters and plot twists. What better place for me than lovingly watching over a world of my own devising as thousands, maybe even millions of other players likewise enjoy the wonders and enchantments of my love-child? (Insert maniacal laughter here.)

Obviously, I have to start a good deal smaller than that but I am a tenacious little bugger sometimes (Alright, fine. A big bugger. Happy?) and I am more than willing to work my way there. In fact, I look forward to it!

Now to get started...

You can like train a n00b but he'll still be like a trained n00b.
-Jeremy from Pure Pwnage-

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The World has issues... Episode 1...

Alrighty! This is my take on one of the ways that the World has gone all wonky!

Today's topic?... Spirituality.

It seems to me that this is one of those key elements indicative of an individual's humanity. Sadly, it seems that it is also sorely lacking throughout much of today's society.

Let me see if I can explain.

First of all, let me say right off the bat that I am not Christian.

I am also not Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, Buddhist or Wiccan. Hell, if I am going to be honest here, my spirituality and beliefs fail to line up with any particular established set out there.

So where does that leave me?

Well... In most situations I use the word Pagan because it tends to cover a wide variety of belief systems, many of which I draw from in an effort to define my own spirituality. Maybe spiritualist would be a better term but I hate to come across all new agey.

The bottom line here, however, is that I am a spiritual individual. Not as deeply spiritual as I used to be but spiritual none-the-less.

Alright then... Why am I saying that spirituality is something that has gone wrong with the world?

Because it occurs to me that most people are lacking in this area. I mean, people swear to have faith and live by His word and all that but, for the most part, it appears to be an empty faith. People are told to do this, not do that and believe in this because it is what He wants. "You have to have faith," they say. "Have faith and He will deliver you."

Only on rare occasions have I met someone who truly felt and believed in all of this. More often than not, it seems, people go to church on Sunday, not because they know deep down in their souls that it is right, but because they have been told that it is right and they never thought about it again from that moment to this.

Even more distressing to me are the number of people I have seen desperately seeking for something that felt right to them and wound up clinging with all their might to the elusive olive branch offered to them from this or that religious institution. It seems as though the shoeless man will wear any shoe, regardless of size, provided it means he no longer has to go barefoot.

It looks, to my eyes, as if religion has taken up a post as Keeper of the Void. People have come so very very far from our animalistic roots that something basic is now missing and rather than look deep inside of ourselves to see that void and learn best how to recapture that missing essence, we turn to religion as a crutch or a bandaid.

Now, I am not saying that religion is bad. If you have faith in something, by all means keep it close to your heart and never let anyone tell you that you are wrong. What I am saying, is that faith is not the only ingredient. There is more missing from us than words and ritual can replace.

For example, look at the food we eat. Not only is a hardy portion of it unnatural but there are words in ingredient lists that 9 out of 10 people can't even identify! And as if that weren't bad enough, those people who strive to maintain an organic diet are ridiculed for doing so. The same thing goes for vegetarians and vegans. It is more than a little bit distressing that those people who are doing their damnedest to live a healthy, natural lifestyle are being put down by people who are living lives so far removed from nature that they no longer have so much as a frame of reference.

Hell, I am as guilty of this as anyone and still it disgusts me. I really need to try to keep that in check.

Please understand that I am not a health food nut. I eat the same crap most other Americans eat. All I am saying is that I can see where the desire and need is coming from. In a way, it is almost as much a religion as Catholicism. It is choosing to live a life style based on the truths held closest to someone's heart. Seems to me as if they are more or less the same thing.

Need another example? Talk to your parents... Hell talk to THEIR parents and ask them what community means. Friends? Family? Probably not followers...

Social media is an absolutely wonderful thing but once again, it is only guarding a void.

At this point, so many people live their lives through the internet that it is a wonder anyone goes out of their houses anymore. I for one, have friends I would never have known if it weren't for this machine. I mean GODS! I live with a person I met playing World of Warcraft!

I think my Grandfather would be appalled. (Of course, he would have to bite me and get over it but that isn't the point I am trying to make today.)

When my parents grew up, their friends were the people they knew from school. Everyone was in the same geographical location and, unless they had close ties to family elsewhere, that was their world. Their family were the people related to them and that they knew in person.

Followers weren't even something that existed back then. (Unless you knew some o' them freaks up the block what wears der funny lookin' robes an' calls 'emselves the Followers o' Brother Zeke or some such nonsense. Don't go near em', don't talk to 'em, don't meet their eyes, and whatever you do, don't drink their Koolaid!)

Now each of us has a million followers on Twitter, 497 friends on Facebook and Myspace, and my family are people who are 2000 miles or more away and who I talk to once a week on a phone I keep in my pocket. Shit, I get to watch my sister grow up on Skype for fucks sake!

My community is made up of thousands of people I have never even met. Yet, I don't think that I know more than a handful of my neighbors and I have lived here for well over two years now.

Once again, let me point out that I do not mean to disparage these wonderful social networking tools we have arrayed before us. I use them daily and I have no intentions of giving them up. I am merely trying to find ways to illustrate how our spirituality is suffering from the fact that we have moved so very very far from our roots in nature.

Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."

Spiritualism, I think, is an extension of the closeness we feel with the world around us; An extension of our humanity and as we have grown farther and farther apart we have lost something so basic that most people don't even realize that it is missing.

Maybe it is time we stop and examine that a little bit.

I'm just sayin'.

The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.
-John Muir, letter to J.B. McChesney, 19 September 1871

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More thoughts on movies...

So it was brought to my attention yesterday that I was inattentive to a number of movies that should have been mentioned in my post on required childhood movies.

I didn't so much neglect to mention such movies as Flash Gordon and Conan the Barbarian... It was more a matter of I really do not think that the youth of today is able to appreciate these films fully until they are a bit older.

The field of cinematography has come light years ahead of where it was 25 to 30 years ago. Not to mention acting. I hate to say it but the acting we appreciated back then didn't contain an iota of the subtlety and ease we see today. I think that this is, in part, because we can see things better now. Subtle facial expressions are able to be seen by the cameras and transmitted to us on our massive, trillion pixel screens at home. Actors are no longer required to be over the top to get their emotions across to a raptly squinting audience.

I imagine that it was a harder transition for them to reign themselves in than it has been for us to watch the change.

All that being said, however, there are a number of fantasy genre classics that should be watched by anyone with a love for the genre or even an interest in B-films in general.

To begin with, Flash Gordon. Quite possibly one of the WORST films ever created by man and more importantly, probably the worst film ever forced on us by our friends. This is the first film, in my memory, that was so very very bad that is was a wonder and joy to watch.

I have no idea whether the song was written to go with the movie or if the movie was entirely designed as a vehicle for the song... But I think "Flash" was the absolute best thing to have come out of this film.

And let us not forget about the awe we all felt at the sight of California's Governator swinging that broad sword before him as Conan. The Barbarian in 1982 and then again as the Destroyer in 1984 (the same year as Terminator was first released to us) was a hero to legions of stick wielding young boys. I should warn you though. Whatever you do, don't try too hard to understand the words. Arnold had spent far less time learning English than he had building muscles so the words are all but unintelligible. Not that it really matters. Who needs words getting in the way of a great hack-n-slash? That would be like trying to roleplay a character in 4th edition D&D!

The good news though, is that through Conan we met one of the first true heroines! That's right, Red Sonja was the third installment of this... well... lets call it a trilogy I suppose. (I am not sure if it was meant to be a trilogy but it would seem to have become one, regardless.) This film was the precursor to Buffy, River Tam... Hell! Even She-Ra, coming out later that same year, (1985 for those keeping score) owed something to the warrior goddess brought to us by Brigitte Nielsen.

Hey... I wonder who would win if she ever got into a fight with Zena: Warrior Princess!

Brigitte is still working by the way. There is a film called Big Money Rustlas in post-production and supposedly scheduled for release in 2010. Ron Jeremy is in it too so... Who the hell knows what this one will turn out to be.

Moving right along now...

Krull. 1983 had to take a stab at fantasy and this is what came of it. I have to be honest. I do not own this movie. While a small part of me is sorry to have to admit that fact a larger part thanks me every time I think about it. Krull was not a great movie. But it was a fantasy B-film that everyone ought to see at some point.

And just for the record... The only reason I don't own it is that I would actually watch it. I have no idea if this ever came out on DvD but if it did and I were to own it, there would be a time at least once a year when it caught my eye and I would have to sit down in front of it. About halfway through the left side of my brain would try to kill the right side of my brain and I am not sure how many more of those particular battles I can survive.

And finally, the trilogy to end all trilogies... Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness!

Can't you feel your brain melting, just a little bit?

Everyone in the world needs to see these movies at least once. Bruce Campbell (he is the one with the chin, remember?) is our time traveling hero and his boom-stick is the answer to everything in this life. If you haven't seen them, do so. If you have seen them, don't you think that it is time to see them again? Sally forth! and acquire them any way you can!

Now, keep in mind that I am, in no way, saying that this is the be-all end-all of movie lists for anyone. I have left a million or so titles unlisted and I recognize that my taste and that of others do not always line up.

All I am saying is that time changes things. These are films that I thought were absolutely wonderful growing up and that, with hindsight, I can't imagine feeling the same way about today. I think that today's kids are not going to be quite as able to appreciate these movies as we were. I certainly think that they should be seen but probably not until the kids are older or have developed the proper appreciations.

[Chieftan] Conan! What is best in life?

[Conan] To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

-Conan the Barbarian-