Saturday, September 30, 2017

It's Been a Brain-Busy Week...

-People who get energized by overcast days disgust me.

-I kinda miss the days when I actually watched TV.

-My memories of my paternal grandparents are happily unhampered by politics/religion/all of the other things that have separated me from my relatives as I've grown up.

-Everyone has that one friend/coworker who serves as a stress-test for the group by being happy and bubbly by default. When the bubble pops, brace yourself.

-I miss having work-friends. I'm friendLY, and I know people in the building, but it's not the same as what I was spoiled to have at the library for all those years.

-I apparently need to take the time to get into The West Wing.

-Okay seriously, in what world is speaking someone's name in their general direction constitute a "greeting"?

-You know you're building up a tolerance to energy drinks when the taste no longer turns your face inside-out.

-Apparently, when I'm sufficiently exhausted/frustrated, I turn into a little kid inside my head.

-I would probably feel worse about not hanging out with my family if anyone was reaching out to me trying to make plans. Especially since I don't have kids and am a totally free agent every Saturday.

-Some days, I feel like a lactose-intolerant cheesemaker when it comes to expressing affection via words.

-I feel truly incapable of thinking about gender (mine or anyone's) in anything BUT a detached, objective manner. All I know about my own is that it is a set of barbaric impulses to dominate and control against which I must constantly struggle.

-I can't imagine treating "I have a bachelor's degree in [X]" as a legitimate point in a debate, much less USING it as such. If your education confers greater knowledge of the subject, DEMONSTRATE IT THROUGH YOUR ARGUMENT.

-Do not flee from the limitations and conventions of your art when first you lay your hand to the canvass. It's possible to build a house with one's bare hands, but using all of the tools at one's disposal is much more likely to build something which will do what you want and need it to do.

-That sad moment when you want to introduce a coworker to a favorite comedian, but their best material is not safe for work.

-Only in America is "Please drink responsibly" needed for alcohol commercials.

-It's discouraging when friends who rely on medication for mental well-being suddenly lashes out and you can't tell if it's you, them, their meds, or the reason for their meds.

-A lack of training on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

-Few management actions hurt team morale like drafting the responsible employees to fill ini the gaps left by irresponsible employees who are still employed for some reason.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Brain Was Active Today...

Thoughts of Today:

1) "Logan" has forever changed the way I pronounce "North Dakota" in my head forever.

2) I'm still waiting for an economic downturn large enough to cause a mass layoff of professional athletes and film actors.

3) I need a right-brain job in which I work with project/assignment deadlines rather than customers.

4) It's amazing how much veggies can leave one feeling dehydrated.

5) Every time a self-identifying Christian quotes "an eye for an eye," I want to hit them over the head with a large slab of marble etched with "BUT I SAY UNTO YOU".

6) The Marvel logo gets cooler with each succeeding film.

7) Whenever I start to introspect about my personal psychological development, I become incapable of being productive at work.

8) You know you shouldn't work customer service when the phone rings and you want to answer it with "LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY!"

9) You will never be [X-quality] enough for someone in your life.

10) Anime theme songs are like musical meth.

11) "You're a/an [X], so your opinion doesn't count" is why we need feminism.

12) Apparently, there is an organization in California dedicated to protecting the rights of retirees. Their slogan? "Protect Our Pensions"

13) New content addition for a high school Life Skills class: How to end a phone conversation in a non-awkward manner.

14) Rest in peace, Joan Lee. May you watch over your husband for all the years we have left with him.
In other news, does anyone else think Stan Lee will be the last surviving World War II veteran? The dude is 94, and gets around like he's in his 60s.

15) The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" heard through a single earbud is TRIPPY.

16) When you work in a call center but don't want to interact with people, butt-dials are your best friend.

17) I learned the hard way from an early age that I was not in control, and I don't think I've ever truly gained it.

18) Never underestimate the potential impact of an offhand ad hominem.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Ten American Commandments

1) Thou shalt serve the Market thy God with all they money, all thy labor, and all thy vote. Yea, though thy children go hungry and thou dost waste away beneath the grindstone, thou shalt shake thy fist at government while thy High Priest drinks the blood of thy sacrifices.

2) Thou shalt eat terrible food while feeling terrible, and shalt proclaim that thou hast earned it whene'er a loving friend doth protest.

3) Thou shalt kill, frequently, at the whim of thy trigger finger or at the behest of the paranoia provided to thee by the Market thy God.

4) Thou shalt not elect women to positions of power unless they swear themselves to the Market thy God, and to the leadership of their husbands/fathers/brothers/sons.

5) Thou shalt hate and fear the different, the exceptional, and the new.

6) Honor thy father, mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, and ancestors unto the seventh generation. Thou shalt honor thy children until they reach the Age of Educated Opinions.

7) Though shalt treat thy community solely as a truncheon with which to enforce thy grandparents' morality, especially wielded against the sins of "equal treatment under the law" and "taking care of everyone".

8) Thou shalt not exercise, sleep, or change thy diet enough to actually improve thy health, but thou shalt blame government for thy lack of it.

9) Thou shalt not admit that anyone anywhere might have anything better than thee, whether quality of life or life expectancy or education. Thou art American, and therefore superior.

10) Thou shalt not break from the herd, even as thou proclaimest the herd to be the Father of Lies.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

When Your Parents Become Your In-Laws

Get your head out of your ass, there is no squickyness here.

My wife and I have been together for about ten and a half years (holy shit), and in that time my relationship with my family has taken several plunges.

Especially as I've grown and surrounded myself with growing people, and realized that most of my relatives do not fit this description, having stagnated either before I was born or at some point in my childhood or adolescence.

This is especially true of my parents, whose old-time-small-town religion has grated on me more and more as I've grown and bonded with people who are the opposite (whether still spiritual, agnostic, or decidedly atheist) and who demonstrate much greater empathy and intelligence.

While I always knew of my parents' proclivities regarding those who are different, it wasn't until I married my then-girlfriend, and proceeded to live an adult life vastly different from theirs, that it truly hit home.
Moreso since they apparently feel carte blanche to take spiritual potshots at my wife as not only their right, but their duty.

Even though I had made it as clear as I could very early on that she had not been raised in church, and had not been taught to treat church membership as a fundamental need.

I'm not sure how they interpreted my efforts at specificity and clarity, but one unsuccessful game of Bible Trivia at their house after we had been married for a little while threw them into a moral panic, peppered with phrasing like "You gotta get that girl in her Bible!" or "Is she just riding your coattails?"
A storm which we rode out, got home, high-fived, fucked, and went on living OUR life as WE saw fit.

It wouldn't be as deep or as frequent an irritation if my parents were gradually settling down to permanently occupy a set of comfy chairs in front of the TV like good little elderly bigots.
They live seven hours away, and typically don't harass us over the phone.
Unfortunately, they apparently suffer from the Baby Boomer deathly fear of growing old, and the subsequent inability to be content in one spot.
Thus, they are, to quote my or a later generation, "all up in our bizz," assuming that our residence is available as a place to stay when they are in town (almost every month, sometimes multiple times per month), questioning everything we do (and questioning several things we avoid doing specifically because they want us to do them), and generally demonstrating every stereotype associated with invasive in-laws, but inflicting the stereotype upon BOTH of us.

To the point that I've almost stopped referring to them as "my parents" when in pleasant company, instead calling them "my wife's in-laws".

How did I get to this point?

Well, old-time-small-town religion doesn't really have much for a boy to bond with his father aside from the typical redneck pursuits.
Which my dad wasn't into anyway, so that whole book was never even opened.
He was a raging alcoholic without any need for alcohol (plus my hometown was a dry county up until a few years ago), with nowhere to throw his random fits of fury except outward, at whomever happened to be in range.
There wasn't much physical violence, but for a child a parent who randomly flies into a screaming rage doesn't inspire trust or confidence.
That he also seemed in a constant state of at at least annoyance with someone somewhere didn't help, as I was quickly Pavlov'd into thinking he would fly off the proverbial handle at any moment, and kept my distance.
Which pissed him off, of course.
I wasn't able to stand up under the screaming until I was in high school, by which point I had been in enough fights to shout right back at him to bring it on (perhaps hoping a knockdown drag-out would finally settle it and let me move on).
He never took me up on that offer, of course.
Now he's in his seventies, and beating the living shit out of him probably wouldn't help anyway.
Plus he's a broken record since having a stroke and being reduced to spouting Bible verses constantly, likely due to that part of his memory being much more concrete than math or music and thus less subject to loss via brain damage (thanks to my wife for pointing that out after years of irritation).

As for my mother, old-time-small-town religion gives plenty of opportunities for a son and mother to bond, especially when the latter is a musician.
I studied voice and piano, and eventually trombone, and had many performance opportunities through our church.
And given that both of us were subject to the above random fits of rage, I would cling to her most of the time.
She enjoyed my confidence much longer than my father (if the latter EVER enjoyed it), and I even married a woman similar to her in many ways (favorite color, sung voice part, chosen profession, etc.).
But as I've grown and have experienced the world, my filter for what I can and cannot discuss with my mother has broadened and thickened.
And she too became a broken record eventually, based on her assumption (being a preacher's kid) that one NEEDS to attend church in order to have a community, or that one NEEDS to memorize the Bible to empathize with others and treat others as one wants to be treated.

I have friends whose parents were similar when we were children, but who have grown (along with their children) into people who actually live in the real world, and thus my friends can enjoy intimate relationships with them, with little or no filtering and little or no fear of judgment or moral panic.

I cannot express the depth of my envy for them.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Star Wars

Far too many fans devote far too much time, energy, and YouTube bandwidth to complaining that everyone in the Star Wars Universe is either a Solo or a Skywalker, but reading the first offerings of Disney's Official Expanded Universe just drives the point home that that's exactly how it should be.

The Legends stories were all Skywalker/Solo stories precisely because those were the characters we'd already invested in. All of the world-building was done through the framework of "New stories, old characters," and any new characters were introduced via their connection to the old (Luke's new Jedi, Han and Leia's children, etc.).

The Legends authors didn't bother with "Let's spend a day on Ithor."
Instead they would write such a story as "Luke/Leia/Han/someone connected with them goes to Ithor, and we explore it through their interactions".
Choosing this technique means that the audience CARES about the new people they meet and the new places they go.

Even the X-Wing books, which focus on side-character Wedge Antilles and barely mention Luke at all, develop their new cast of characters through the one we already know.
Wedge personally recruits his team in the initial effort to reform Rogue Squadron, and we experience each person's individuality and backstory through the lens of Wedge's interactions with them.
Then, once the characters have been sufficiently developed in the existing framework and readers connect with them independent of the older characters, they can be let loose in their own stories like I, Jedi without the risk of a disconnect.

The Disney-approved EU books seem so focused on being Not-Skywalker/Solo stories that they're losing the original human connections to this universe that Lucas, Leigh Brackett, and Lawrence Kasdan poured so many years and so much effort into building.

I compare it to the more recently developed martial arts.
One can receive a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but if one cannot trace the line of masters back to the Gracie Family, one cannot be certified to teach the art in one's own gym.

An author can write a book and say "This is set in the Star Wars Universe," but even if he/she uses all the right jargon and references/visits familiar places, it will require much more effort to form a connection between audience and characters if the established cast is never mentioned.

Not to say it is impossible, but Star Wars in particular is infamous for overloading readers and audiences with planets, technology, and politics (an infamy the new set of EU authors seem set to continue), instead of the kind of character studies that "realistic" fiction authors do all the time.

The new trilogy is following the same basic format as pretty much all of the Legends stories, which has been proven to work over and over again, but fans still complain that "There's just Skywalkers and Solos everywhere! We want a bigger experience of this universe!"

Well how did you supreme intellects experience this universe in the first place?
Especially given that Finn's character is basically an answer to "What is Stormtrooper #3's story?" so branching out IS happening.
It's just happening, again, in the framework of new characters introduced via how they relate to characters we know, have already connected with, and are already following.

In my opinion, we need more Skywalkers and Solos, not less.
We need more of that original sense of adventure instead of getting bogged down in worldbuilding.

If you want Skywalker/Solo-free exploration of the Star Wars Universe, WRITE SOME!
And then edit in some known characters so we know what the hell you're talking about.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Agency and the Quarter-Life Crisis

It seems strange to think that the time of greatest agency in my life was when I was in school.
Agency here meaning feeling in control, of having the reigns of life.
I haven't had that feeling over the past four years.
So many of my peers couldn't wait to finish school because they felt trapped, slaving away for someone else and pining for graduation because it meant freedom.
But I never felt trapped or enslaved while in high school or college.

I've felt trapped and/or enslaved SINCE college.

Perhaps this is due to my knowing and thriving within the relative stability of my high school and college experience.
Knowing that the system is operating under a specific set of guidelines, and knowing that it will ALWAYS follow those guidelines, allows one to relax into the groove and find a niche.

That the adult world keeps changing the maps every time I hit a milestone is, by comparison, paralyzing.

Maybe I was trapped in school, but like Brooks Hatlen I knew how things worked and was comfortable with, even proud of, my place in the system.
Having been forced out of the system into a nebulous world which demands so much and offers so little, how else am I supposed to feel?

It's interesting that each generation reaches a point at which the world seems to have spun out of control.
For the World War II generation, it was the '60s. Yay hippies.
For the Baby Boomers, it was the '90s. Yay mass censorship.
For Generation X, we'll see.
For my generation, though, it's here and now.

It seems ironic that the youngest generation of adults (maybe second-youngest given that we have adults who barely or don't remember the '90s) has hit their X-life crisis so much earlier.
But it's because we grew up and went to high school and went to college and graduated from college in at least two different worlds.

Each generation, upon reaching their x-life crisis, pines for the time at which they felt the most in control, when the world seemed to be the most stable.
Our grandparents pined for the years immediately after WW2 (thank you, Archie Bunker).
Our parents seem to pine for the '70s.
Our older siblings pine for the '90s.
....we also pine for the '90s, or maybe the early '00s, but because our time of greatest control and stability was CHILDHOOD or ADOLESCENCE.
Thus the current market boom in '90s nostalgia.

Of course, the worst part of this for me personally is that there doesn't seem to be an end to it, unlike the trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence and early adulthood.
The game is no longer "work hard and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually you will emerge into the life you want".

It now seems to be simply "work hard and at some point you will die, and be glad of it".

I've had people point out many examples of individuals who weren't able to start doing what they loved until later in life, but in every case the person was MAKING MONEY and living in relative financial stability up until they had greatness thrust upon them, because they were living in a time when business was at least a little more lax in rampantly exploiting employees.

That fact makes the situation even more frustrating and increases the feelings of confusion and impotence.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A White People PSA

The following is a public service announcement for white people:

When speaking of social trends, such crime or mental or physical health, treating individual persons as autonomous social units is a very, very white idea. It's what started "the American dream" in the first place, and has in many ways always stood in the way of racial unity in America. Among educated white people, far too many are unable to see anyone as anything BUT individuals.

The positive of this practice is that it can stem from a desire to avoid generalizations and labeling based on stereotypes.
The negative is that it leaves those who hold with it unable to understand anyone who does not hold this viewpoint.

Other American racial and ethnic groups, in what started perhaps as a backlash against that idea, see any crime committed by or injustice inflicted upon or massive success attained by anyone of their race as an infliction of harm against their entire community.

A black woman who commits a vicious crime tends to be derided not just for making a personal choice to do harm, but for the harm that action causes for the black community as a whole.
Tiger Woods' golf successes were treated as a victory for the entire black community.

A Latino who is killed while in police custody is mourned not as an individual victim of a single tragedy, but as a surrogate for every son, brother, father, uncle, cousin, and husband in the community, and the outrage at his death derives from this surrogate status as well.

Meanwhile, a white man who commits a crime is derided by other whites as a single, isolated incident, whether it is a crime of passion, a crime of malice, or a crime resulting from mental illness (the last of these is an entire racial argument all its own regarding the unequal enforcement of the law and its reporting in news media).

Similarly, a white person having financial success is treated as a success for him/her only, and instead of being treated as a mark of progress for the white community (which isn't really a thing thanks to this very viewpoint) is treated with envy or disdain by other white people because he/she is not them.

If we as a country are ever going to shake off nearly two centuries of American (nearly six of North American) white-first race wars, we who are white and would be more educated and enlightened must recognize this tendency in ourselves and recognize that it is not the default for everyone, and in many cases has been hurtful to ourselves (see my generation's cynicism regarding "the American Dream") and to other racial and ethnic groups seeking true justice and equality in our nation.

It is not racist nor bigoted nor unrealistic to seek understanding, to seek to see people as they see themselves and to better see ourselves through their eyes.
Only through such sharing of sight can we move forward together into building a better and brighter world.