Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Mostly I recommend this album because it will BLOW YOUR FACE OFF WITH AWESOME.
There. It was nice to get that out. I have listened to the the demo version of Breaking Out about a gajillion times, but the final version on the actual CD was something unexpectedly wicked. It kicks ass through twelve tracks of striking lyrics and guitar solos.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to buy it and rock the fuck out:
Sunday, August 30, 2009
My posting schedule will remain unchanged, as it is currently dictated by whether or not I remember to wake up in the morning, followed promptly by me remembering that I have a blog.
So, that being said, everyone go out and learn to play Warlord so that you can buy the new book I am working on when it comes out.
Yes, you will be graded, and no there is no extra credit.
Monday, August 10, 2009
My favorites so far:
The pictures alone are to die for.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Also, they are donating the proceeds to Child's Play, a wonderful charity that deserves more attention than it gets.
Keep up the great work guys, and everyone go support both parties if you can.
Monday, August 3, 2009
The whole concept appeals to me to this day. Reward and recognition for learning a new skill? Hot damn.
Their compliment, the Girl Scouts, do basically the same thing except for chicks since both groups have genital based discrimination policies. (There are some skills I am sure they do not want to issue merit badges for.)
So I was surprised when I read this article about a girl being given the highest honor available for teaching children about creationism, acquiring a creationist library for her church, and building a model of Noah's ark.
Now, on the surface these seem nice. Working with kids and helping your church are community service, building a model of some sort is some great arts and crafts, and talking about creationism is creative story telling. (Which if they offer a badge for story telling I am so kicking myself for not joining the scouts way back when.)
The part that had me laughing was the name of her project. Alternate Reality. I shit you not. I can only imagine this statement being delivered with a straight face, followed by beaming pride and possibly a single tear rolling down her cheek.
Which brings to light, if that is what she believes her teachings and statements are, then WHY IS SHE TEACHING THEM TO CHILDREN.
According to dictionary.com:
Alternate ( awl-ter-neyt)
|1.||to interchange repeatedly and regularly with one another in time or place; rotate (usually fol. by with): Day alternates with night.|
|2.||to change back and forth between conditions, states, actions, etc.: He alternates between hope and despair.|
|3.||to take turns: My sister and I alternated in doing the dishes.|
|4.||Electricity. to reverse direction or sign periodically.|
|5.||Linguistics. to occur as a variant in alternation with another form.|
|1.||the state or quality of being real.|
|2.||resemblance to what is real.|
|3.||a real thing or fact.|
|4.||real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs: the reality of the business world; vacationing to escape reality.|
|6.||something that is real.|
|7.||something that constitutes a real or actual thing, as distinguished from something that is merely apparent.|
This alone should bring to light that she is deriving something other than the reality we all live in and teaching it to small children. That is so many levels of not right that I don't know why it could, or would be honored in the slightest.
Then again, maybe I am being a bit harsh. I don't have all the details, so it may be a different situation all together (if so let me know). But based on what is here, I think my envy for the scouts has waned just a tad.
Friday, July 31, 2009
"Hold still boy," the surgeon said as two of Benam's lieutenants grabbed his shoulders. "This is going to hurt like hell."
Before Benam could respond, the surgeon pulled, setting the leg his horse had landed on in the battle. The crunch of the bones and grinding of the meat around him was almost too much, and he threw up the hardtack that had been stewing in his belly since before the fight.
"Well, stay off of it if you can, and if you can't don't complain to me when I have to do that again."
"Are the," Benam asked, gasping, "the tallies in on casualties and an itemization of what we pulled off the bastards?"
"Yessir," said Corman. Benam had picked the man up somewhere along the road in the Principality of Vaegiers, and he had proved a very capable second.
"Three dead, all recruits from our trip down by the coast. Eight wounded, including you and I, but the doctor says we all will live. We also got about ten prisoners who surrendered."
"You are wounded?" Benam asked, looking Cormain over.
"Yessir, three arrows to the body sir. Left arm probably useless for holding a shield for a while."
"You never use a shield anyway."
"That is true sir, but I had considered it in hindsight since had I had the sense to do so in that last battle I would have saved myself and arrow in the arm."
Benam smiled, and laid back down on the table. He was dizzy from blood loss, and his leg was aching through his entire body. But all in all, not a bad day. They had been trailing a mercenary warband for over a month, watching to see who was paying them. As per their orders from High Prince Yekovik, once the information was obtained the enemy mercs became free game for Benam's men. It had been a long time since they had a successful encounter, and moral was running low as rumors spread about the coffers running out.
"Speaking of shields. The spoils?"
"I was hoping you would ask sir. We got a present for you."
"Yessir. Boris! Bring me that present we got for our wounded captain!"
Boris, the unit's smith, lumbered in and filled the doctor's tent with the smell of ash and oil. He was carrying in his arms an oilskin wrapped parcel.
"Well, you busted it up something fierce with your lance, but she held up good and strong. A little buffing and laying in with my hammer took out that problem. Might fit a little off kilter, but she will serve you well," the lumbering hulk said as he unwrapped the oilskin.
What he revealed was the finest suit of plate armor Benam had seen outside of a castle. It was folded Swadian plate steel, fitted for riding and able to set with a lance and unlock to swing a blade.
"That is... that is a rather nice set of armor," Benam said, searching for words to serve him. He had found it easier to martial men than he ever had his own tounge.
"NICE! NICE!" Boris said, flustered, "This is the stuff we made for Lords back in Swadia! We wouldn't even accept an order for lest it was up front twenty thousand Denars!"
"You could make this stuff?" Cormain asked, frustration edging into his voice.
"Not lest you got twenty thousand Denars. Takes me near on four months to make one set, and I have to have a separate set of dips and new hammer's and stakes. Can't risk hurting the metal. Plus the steel itself comes straight from Pravin..."
"I get it, I get it!" Cormain said, holding up his hands.
"Anything else?" Benam asked, smiling.
"Yeah, seized about fifteen thousand Denars in coin, and another forty or so in tradeable equipment," Cormain said, reading off of his scroll.
"Tradeable?" Benam asked.
"Sir, according to the King of Swadia's own smith Boris, these gentlemen were well equipped. Very well equipped. That fifteen thousand we took apparently wasn't all that unusual," Cormain said.
"So who was paying them?" Benam asked, growing annoyed at this point as the shock wore off.
"It is Lord Raichs," said a woman's voice outside the tent flap.
Benam winced, but couldn't help the vicious smile that crept onto his lips.
"Well you might as well come in Caren," Benam said.
She had joined up with Benam as he fled Rhodokius, both travelling on the same road at the same pace in silence. They had gone on like that for a day, and they pitched camp together that night on the Swadian border.
"I too am fleeing Raich's grasp, though not from his house," she said.
"If not his house, then why?" he asked her.
"To prevent having to flee his house, for I was to be his bride. But to be bound to the man who killed my father and known to brag of his goings on with other women would be a fate far greater than any torture."
"I see. Well, if revenge is what you seek, then our missions are the same. Can you fight?"
"Yes, I can use a blade an a lance. I can also ride and shoot, all the thanks to my father and eldest brother. But before I join you, why is that you flee from the safety of Raich's house?"
"Sir," Cormain said, interrupting Benam's memories.
"Are you listening?" Caren asked.
"No. Sorry, I got dizzy from the pain. What were you saying?"
"If Raich is the one funding this mercenaries, then he is pushing this war with our employers even farther than they realize."
Benam sat up and let his leg dangle over the edge. Thoughts ran through his head, and he tried to silence the maelstrom. But standing at the eye of it all was that quiet whisper of "Revenge".
"Marshal the men. We set out tomorrow as soon as possible."
"Destination?" Cormain asked.
"Uaxhal. We take this information directly to the High Prince. Boris, reequip my officers and then the junior officers. Anything left over split up among the squads for their captains to distribute as a reward."
"Yessir," they said in unison and left.
Caren came over and helped Benam up off the table. Six months since they had left Rhodokius. One month since their first battle. Two months since they accepted a contract from the High Prince of the Vaegirs to deal with the mercenary war bands that were looting border towns.
Now, after that, Raich's death had come one day closer, and it couldn't taste sweeter.
One thing I love about science is its accessibility and the sheer volume of available information. Especially information on the speculative impacts based on lines of research. This is hard SF gold.
So, before I ramble on until your eyes bleed, please enjoy these lectures by George Church and J. Craig Venter on the synthetic genome, brought to you by Edge.
Lecture 1 is of particular interest to writers, he almost makes it too easy.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Ok, so I messed up the posting schedule on "Revenge" and then ended up deleting half the posts, so Revenge Pts. 2-5 will be released tomorrow in just one abridged piece. Sorry, having to rebuild things off my notes.
I feel rather stupid for deleting them without checking if I had backups, but senseless seems to be one of my strengths so I will wear it as a badge of honor and register republican.
To entertain in the mean time:
super awesome shirt x2
Extra awesome speculation on the up coming SSA visit to the Creation "Museum" (Read the rest of her stuff while you are there, all good.)
And since reading is something we all love to do: A great SF story for free courtesy of Tor.
Monday, July 6, 2009
You can find me at http://ficly.com/authors/jarrad
For those of you (if there are any) who are waiting for revenge part 2 and 3, they should drop this weekend after my final.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I enjoy this style of art work for two rather obvious reasons:
1. Steam punk looking objects make me all weak kneed and excitable
2. I rather enjoy the deconstructionist look to them.
When I was very young, I used to love to see old machines that had broken down and been disassembled. It was great. Even greater still, was when they were left exposed to the elements and slowly came apart.
Mr. Freitas' art does a good job, at least in me personally, of recapturing that same feeling.
So, your mission, go check it out.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Romance of the Three Kingdoms -> Zhang Jiao -> immortal spirit (Xian-Taoism) -> Digital Dictionary of Buddhism -> XML -> appendix -> Appendix of the Epidiymis -> Wolffian Duct -> cloaca -> Urohydrosis -> New World Vultures -> monotypic -> Bearded Reedling -> passerine -> Pygmy-Tyrants -> hummingbirds -> hum -> tones -> Heinrich Hertz -> contact mechanics -> tribology -> corrosion -> ceramics -> refractory -> sintering -> Middle High German -> Gothic Miniscule -> ligature -> Cuneiform -> Proto-Writing -> Neo-Lithic Signs in China.
It was here I decided I had come far too close to full circle for the day, and got back to what I should have been doing all along. Damn you Wikipedia for being so damned useful to me as a writer, and also so damned distracting.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A note about these texts: I write them very quickly and with little to no editing. As it flows into my head, so shall it be laid down. So, if you find an error you cannot let stand, feel free to leave a comment.
It was a normal, overcast spring day in the Confederacy of Rhodokius as Benam made his way down the rain soaked street. His pace carried him through the muck with the quick vigor of a man on urgent business.
He came to the edge of the paved roads in Jaekal, and turned quickly onto the main road as he pulled up his cloak. Arthur's shop was just a few blocks from where he currently was, and the nearest guardhouse was at least three farther than that.
Traffic was busy today, which was good if you didn't want to be noticed, but it bothered him since that meant increased militia activity in the area, and Benam was unsure as to whether his theft had been noticed yet.
Breathing a sigh of relief and shaking off the paranoia that threatened to set in, Benam ducked into Arthur LaPoint's shop.
“Busy day today,” LaPoint said, not even looking up from his ledger.
“If that is the case, then why is your store empty?” Benam asked as he walked to the counter.
“Seems my normal clientele are lying low since it is Festival soon and the High Council has their dogs out to make sure things go smoothly. But more than a few have mentioned that if a certain trinket came my way, I was to let their buyers know post haste.”
Benam smiled and pulled his stolen treasure from his pocket. The glittering object was a pendant that was inlayed with exotic gems and emblazoned with the House Raichs’ coat of arms.
“Well, Lord Raichs is not going to be happy this went missing. Hopefully some poor concerned noble looking to curry favor with the Councilman will snap the curio up from the villainous hands that try and pawn it in some dive.”
“Speaking of,” Benam said, holding out his hand, “I believe we had an agreement. Lest the militia be alerted to the existence of such a pawn too early in the game.”
“Always so serious, Sir Benam. Though I must say, I am a bit confused as to why you would steal from your lord’s keep.”
“The same reason anyone betrays the hand that feeds them. Revenge.”
“I see,” Lapoint said, looking over the pendant. “Well, as agreed, two thousand denars. A word of advice from one who spends a lot of time in the shadows, revenge is a bloody affair and should be avoided lest it seek you next.”
“No, it is much too late for that.” Benam said. “Just as his transgression against me fuels my rage, so too shall his treasure fill my coffers and feed the men who will come knocking one day soon.”
He put the coin purse into his robes as the slow spattering of rain began outside.
LaPoint merely shook his head, made a note in his ledger and summoned his page to deliver the good news to the various minor councilmen who would find value in returning the pendant to its rightful owner.
Benam stepped into the ever increasing downpour, turned, and strode out the front gate, a smile on his face for the first time in weeks.
I have always had a habit of just kind of mentally plotting out the adventures and thoughts of the character's I play whenever a particular scene strikes me. This, it occurred to me far later than it should have, would be a great way for me to practice small writing techniques and hone my characterization and scene setting if only I committed them to some media other than the meat twixt my ears.
This is where you readers come in. For your personal entertainment I will post small snippets of story following the progress of the character of whatever game I am currently playing. I will also include on the first post of each series a link to the game I am playing as well as a brief synopsis about the general plot and the company who made it.
So, onward to round one. The game for this one is Mount and Blade, a middle ages tactical/combat RPG. As the player you are dropped headlong into a sandbox world to rise in the ranks of the kingdom of your choice or simply raise hell. Your call. The graphics for the game are a bit dated, but the combat, should you utilize everything at your disposal, is very deep.
Our hero for this tale will be Benam, a young page who left his post in order to acquire the means of revenge against a Lord in his realm.
So buckle up, and lets get ready for Revenge.
Monday, May 25, 2009
To help put things in perspective for things on a galactic scale, I use a program called Celestia. Just viewing our solar system is a head trip. Zooming out far enough from Sol just to take in the whole of the solar system renders the inner planets nigh on invisible. Distances out side are damned HUGE. Its amazing and more than a little bit humbling.
What amazes me even more, is the fact that every day those distant stars grow just a wee bit closer. With each unmanned probe, and each new ground based advance, we inch our way out of the protective shell of Terra, and reach our fledgling hands towards those closest of objects.
It is enough to set the imagination aflame of even the most incurious of peoples. This introduces the second problem with writing about space: namely that it is so varied and alien to the senses that it is almost too big of a sandbox for the imagination to play in.
One of my favorite themes inside of science fiction, and one that I don't feel has been explored enough, is the idea that we are so damned small in a universe so big that our minds can't even visualize it. It is so beyond our sense of scale! Yet we strive towards it in our imaginations so much, that we make it into as much a reality as possible!
Whew. Sorry, was getting a bit excitable. It is late, so I will just leave you with a video narrated by one of my heroes:
Thursday, April 2, 2009
In the mean time, Nic has a new game out, so knock yourselves out.
The game is a great little platformer with a neat jump mechanism: toss out concussion grenades to increase your jump.
Simple? No, the game is hard as hell, but well worth a play though.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Avenger seems to be the class I had in mind when I rolled up a paladin, which is great for multiclassing later. Too bad I can't change my race and become a Gnome.
I recommend grabbing a copy (if you can find it, a lot of places around here were selling out as soon as it hit shelves) and if you aren't in the middle of a game now, start one up with these new classes involved.
Great job on the part of the WotC and the R&D team, I think this is my favorite DnD edition yet.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Morality, as I see it, is derived from the feeling of empathy that we have.
Often the response is "Well, if there is no after life, what is the point?" It bothers me when this is the first thought about our morality. A desire for reward, or a fear of punishment, should not be the motivating factor for us to do good in this world. That is selfish and barely above self-preservation.
Morality is not something passive. It is not following the rules, and making sure all of your i's are dotted. No, it is something active. Something we must try to do, and do it only for the reason that we are here, now, and must live with our actions.
I do not need a god to judge me on this, for the worst judge is the one I must face in the mirror each morning. If I cannot live with what I have done to myself and my fellow man, then who can? I do not kill because to kill another is to void my own protest against someone killing me or those I love. To steal is to give up claim against others who take what is mine.
To live a moral life, all one must do is look at what they enjoy, and realize that without the order instilled by a basic moral code derived from basic human empathy it would likely disappear. It is not given to us by higher powers, it is not even authoritarian.
It is simply a social agreement between people that agree that mutual survival is greater than individual hedonistic pursuits and the dangers that those bring.
So, you do not need to look to the heavens to find what is the good path. You need only to look into a mirror and walk in the other person's shoes.
The other common claim is that godless morality is subjective. This is also false. There are some absolutes that manifest themselves. The problem with these absolutes is that they swim in an almost endless sea of gray special instances.
Is it always a bad thing to kill someone? I would argue that yes, it is. But what about the case of self defense? I would still say yes it is bad, but damned if it would stop me in defending myself and those that I care for.
Is it wrong to steal? Yes, obviously, you are taking what someone else has earned for yourself. But in the case of survival? Then the above case applies, but once again, I would not begrudge those who did it if it was a matter of life and death.
So what we have is a big machine that we have designed to protect ourselves and each other, that is held together with duct tape and boils down to don't fuck with each other and keep your hands to yourself. Do not cause harm, and do not hurt others for personal gain. Thats not that hard a concept, and we do not need a deity to help us through it.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The way it works is that 3-5 players are all assigned various roles and must work together to stop a global pandemic of four diseases.
The roles are:
Medic: Can heal all disease from a city and administer known cures for free
Dispatcher: Can move any player to a city with another player in it.
Researcher: Can trade any data with a player in the city.
Scientist: Can find a cure with 4 color cards instead of 5
Civil Operations: Builds research facilities to allow easier access for scientists and allow faster travel.
In a turn you have four actions: movement, curing, role abilities, ect. After that two player cards are drawn. These are usually color coded cities to move to a cure or special events. The only bad one is the Epidemic card. I think it speaks for itself.
Then, after that is done, you draw two infection cards and infect two new cities. This is where the epidemic card gets bad, because it makes you draw from the bottom of the infection deck, infect the city to maximum and then shuffle up all the previously infected city cards and place them on TOP of the deck, so you will find yourself with rapid reinfection.
Needless to say, we lost more than we won. But it was fun. Crazy fun. This description I have given you is a just the basics, and every game is different. You can find yourself on the easy road to victory only to lose right at the end, or you might struggle the whole way only to win in one round.
I recommend picking up a copy if you have the people to play with.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
1.Get up early
2.Put on 'church clothes'
3.Go to Sunday school (little of which I remember outside of cookies)
5.Stand around while old people talk
Somewhere along the line, I got really caught up in the whole affair. They had me in there, hook line and sinker. Hell, I was a member of the Royal Ambassadors. (Kinda like hella religious boy scouts, instead of just kinda religious.) I went to Vacation Bible School, and even to some summer camp that was just the bees knees and something to look forward other than catching up on reading over the tedious break.
I lived for this. I lived to try and be what I thought the Bible said I should be. I wanted everyone to do the same. I was excited when my parents gave me my very own personalized Bible for Christmas one year.
Then we moved. I was in the sixth grade, and we didn't just leave my neighborhood, or the city. We shipped out of state. Gone were the foundations of my life that I had built on for so many years.
My parents jumped around from church to church, but they never seemed to stick any where, and eventually we stopped going while we were in Austin. When we moved to Houston, more wandering but never settling.
It was during this time of exposure to the secular world, with no real religion in my life, the idea of any kind of deity took a back seat to my reading about epics and learning about history and science.
Man, science. It blew me away when I was first introduced to the method and really GOT it. The teacher honestly and whole heartedly cared about his subject, and I felt something awaken in me. A sleeping dragon woke, and it was more fantastic than any story I had read up to that point.
This dragon was voracious and insatiable. I had to KNOW things. How they worked, why they worked, what drove them. It burned through books and devoured journals and articles. It continued on like this, until my sophomore year of high school, when I changed schools.
I hung out with a group of people while there that were either into New Age nonsense, or devoutly Christian. Still just barely standing on my critical thinking legs and still in awe at the incredible vastness of the universe and I bought a lot of what they said hook, line, and sinker. I was drawn back into Christianity fast and hard. But even caught up in the fervent torrent of worship a small voice in my mind continued to doubt. It continued to question what I had been pulled back into. I had a habit of ignoring the answers, especially when they contradicted what I believed. But it got harder and harder to do so as time went on.
Especially one morning early in my second semester of that year.
An answer appeared. It wasn't gradual. It wasn't slow. It wasn't even nice. It came down on me like a ton of bricks and knocked me senseless.
I no longer believed that god existed.
A new dragon had reared its head. This one ancient, and from an age long past. I could not abide that this had happened, that I had become so skeptical. So I started tagging along to church with my friends in the hopes of easing this trouble in my mind as the two dragons fought for supremacy.
At first I tried to reconcile the two. I thought that they could exist together and that there was no problem. I would just go to church and reacquaint myself with god.
I prayed. I sang. I read. I talked with the minister about what was going on.
But the dragons never slept. One was always there, reminding me that nothing I was being told could be proven, and much of it contradicted what I knew to be true.
I prayed on, listening to the biblical teaching that god guides us when we call on him.
Finally, after so long, I explained it once again to my minister and he said. "Jarrad, you are trying to get something from god, but that's not the way it works. You must not be selfish. Instead, open your heart to Jesus Christ, and you will find peace. You must be honest and humble."
So I did. That night after everyone had gone to bed, I sat up to be alone with my thoughts and god. I closed my eyes, and prayed. I asked for forgiveness for my foolishness, and that instead of talking, I should have been listening and that I was ready to be the man I was called to be. That I gave myself willingly to serve god and that I opened myself up to him and his message of love and grace.
All I heard was the echo in my own mind. Not a literal one, but just an empty feeling as if I had been talking to the air except worse. At least the air had substance.
The bottom dropped out of my stomach, and I sunk with it, trying to implode on this hollow emptiness.
The dragons stirred once more. The Dragon of Eden, who I so much wanted to believe in because of the promise of life everlasting, guidance, and protection. But the dragon who I had been trying so hard to suppress, the one who knew how to find REAL, tangible answers. It could find things that I could touch, taste, and see their effect on the world around me. It promised me no comfort except that double edged blade of understanding.
While I just lay there, feeling lost and empty, these two notions raged on in my head. I was powerless to stop them, as my mind seemed out of control and in the grip of directionless emotion.
Then, it hit me. The reality of what I had thought. That this was the key to reality. I understood what I saw for the first time. There were no gods hiding in the wings, making magic and shooting rainbows and happiness.
The reason the world looked so harsh was because I compared it to a fiction. The fiction of perfection. This notion that I was not good enough, that the world was falling apart, all stemmed from this idea in my head that there was something better.
There wasn't. This was it. I had to make the best of my life under my own power. The wonders of the world blossomed before me. The wonders of the solar system, the beauty of the cell, all here just because. No reason, just IS. It was beauty manifest.
But a cold sunk in as well. If there was no god, who was there to guide my hand towards good? Why should I even be good? This passed quickly as I realized that I guided my hand, and that every action was my responsibility.
What need have I of gods or devils when both powers lay within myself?
As one image of heaven faded, and with it its totalitarian lord, a new one replaced it. In my young mind was planted a seed. A picture of a world undivided by petty tribal notions of angry deities. A world where we were free to love, and play, and help each other not because it was ordained, but because it was right.
The dragon of reason stopped fighting the phantom of Eden. There was nothing there to combat. No substance. Just empty promises and ancient folk tales. A shadow of the once ominous creature that had ruled over me.
Today I have grown, and with each piece of new knowledge the beauty and potential of our species and the planet we inhabit grows. The flames of reason burn brightly and magnificently.
I do not know if a god exists, and as those around me are fond of saying, yes, when I die I might just find out. But as it stands now, no matter the cost, I stand by my decisions. It becomes more and more apparent as time goes on that we must stop chasing phantom dragons. We must stop longing for a world beyond this one, and instead fight to make this life the best we can. If there is a god, and it has a plan (as many are quick to claim) then let it work, and if there is not, then we will die knowing we did the best we could under the circumstances. Either way we must cast off these shackles to our thought. Do away with the blinders that close our eyes to the beauty in THIS world.
Only then can we be free to explore our potential, be truly equal, to look on our fellow man as brother instead of enemy.
Then, when that is in our grasp, will the lovely, intricate, ever changing, delicate universe we live in open up to us.
Then we will see with unclouded eyes what we are.
I do not say this in an attempt to goad people into taking away religion. I say this only because it is the way I see it.
That is why I am an atheist.
But one thing holds me back from just letting such thoughts slide, and that is a small feeling of unbridled joy at suddenly realizing you know what is happening, and why.
Often, growing knowledge is associated with sadness, bitterness, and a frustration with the world around you. That by becoming aware, you see the ugly that is the world. This is true. One need only look at history to see those who were the brightest were burned down faster than others. They aged quickly, were driven and dogged at every step, and often died young.
This, I believe, is not a symptom of the knowledge gained, but the loneliness you find in it. There is a great lack of passion for knowledge in the world today, an apathy if you will, and those who pursue knowledge for knowledge sake find themselves on the outside looking in.
But that is not the point of this article. No, the point is the answer to the question: Why? Why go out of your way to learn more about the world than you need to? Whats the point?
The easy answer is "you never know when you will need to know something." But that answer also does not do justice to the reason. The answer is because when you see life happening and understand it, you are struck by beauty.
To strike a match and know about the chemical process of oxidization, to picture in your mind millions of tiny electrons jumping orbitals to express light and heat. To see a flower bud, then bloom and you can think of thousands of cells to dividing at insane rates all to open itself up to the world and live. To know that those cells are an integral part of the system that we live in and sustains us. To understand that the bee who lands on that flower is off to do their part in this system, and to know that the honey you ate on your toast started this way just makes it that much sweeter.
That sudden, small burst of joy in your chest when you first realize that your pets are not only aware of you, but go through the similar processes you do. The sudden rush of relief to see, with open eyes, nature in all of its blind glory.
To cast off the shackles of ignorance and see my fellow human beings not as African, Indian, or Arab, but as just... people. To know that they share genes with me, and that we all came from the same place and are all part of the same system, and many of us are going in the same direction.
That burning candle of pride when you use that knowledge to make something work.
To see clouds in the sky, and know what they are and how they formed in the intricacies of the hydrological cycle. To look beyond those, and see the planets move in their orbits, and to understand the balancing act of gravity that is our solar system or galaxy.
To be able to understand that I am but a small piece of carbon, on a small rock, looking out at a sky full of stars around which, very likely, another creature is looking and doing the same.
To know that, despite being that insignificant piece of organic tissue, one piece of it allows me to stand on the shoulders of giants and see something larger than myself. To stand where these pioneers stood, and climb the steps they climbed, and not just see the awe inspiring beauty that is our universe, but to understand it.
Why do I go out of my way to study? I do it because it gives me the keys to unlock the mysteries of this world. It takes my one and only infinitesimal life, and fills it to the breaking point by cramming it full of the very nature of the universe and all of its secrets.
I do it because as simple an act as turning on a light switch becomes more than a banishing of the dark.
It instead becomes the summoning of vision.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I don't know how many people out there are on medication (statistics would indicate a lot of you), but if it is one you need and suddenly stop taking, damn do you notice. It isn't just the withdrawl, but what ever it was fixing comes back one hundred fold, or at least seems to since you had coped and forgotten about how difficult it was for you before hand.
I don't care if it is pain, neurological disorder, chemical imbalances, or any number of other treatable conditions, when you stop your meds, then those nice coping barriers you have been building up so that you can get on with your life come crashing down, drowning out any ambition or notion of having a productive life.
My advice: If you have a problem that can be treated with medication, do it. You aren't a weaker person for it, that is what these pills were made for. To help us have a normal and productive life. Life is too damned short to sit around muddled in fear, pain, or confusion.
Get out there and enjoy it.
Friday, February 27, 2009
JAPANESE BUG FIGHTS!
Spoiler Alert: This is the shit nightmares are made of. Seriously, this is MMA on a primal level.
I haven't the faintest idea what the announcers are saying, and honestly I am not sure I want to. These kinds of events are a kind of gold mine for us writer types: Bizarre, real, and absolutely insane. Perfect places to throw plucky heroes, would be spies, and incompetent henchfolk.
So, grab something to eat, sit back, and... watch.
UPDATE: CRAWFISH ARE NOT BUGS.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Needless to say, this is fucking stupid. The opposite side of a nonsense position is one that is solidly built on rational thought and backed up by corroborative evidence that is independently verifiable.
Instead we have baseless accusations and nonsense straw men on parade from both sides. To be apart of the fun you really have to fall in step to the beat of the party, otherwise you are left in the cold. Talk about what your holy book tells you, or your gut, and make assertions with about as much evidence as the average alien abduction story and the legions will follow.
We saw it under Bush, we are seeing it again under Obama. Republicans crying out about socialism (after voting for a bailout of private industries) and Democrats turning their noses up without as much moral superiority as their predecessors.
This is a democratic republic folks, not follow the leader.
We need to be aware, and full of facts, not sound bites. We need uncomfortable questions to be asked, and when answered the answers need to be checked against the evidence and accepted once it checks out.
That last bit is EXTREMELY important. Too many times do we see legitimate evidence dismissed as a "conspiracy" or "wrong" just because of some fabricated reason in the receiver's head.
If that is too much to ask for, the welcome to the Know-Nothing Party! Everyone is invited to play the party games, just check your brain at the door.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
How, perhaps, is this going to play into the future of politics?
In the past, it has been easy for political handlers to clean up an official's past by simply taking them out of that situation, and spreading the 'official word'. This revisionist trick does not work any more, as was demonstrated in our last election. Every time they tried, anyone with an itch and bandwidth pulled up the facts almost as fast as the politicos could lie.
These are more visible and immediate effects of the prevalence of the infortubes, but what say... twenty years from now? Will we find out that the presidential candidate was livejournal user darkXblood who wrote awful poetry? Will President BunnyLord's blog come back to haunt him from his days as a confused teen?
The answer as far as I can see it is: yes. No amount of revision is going to delete Google's cache page, or the cache's of any other number of sites. No amount of the party line will wipe away the incriminating MySpace photos.
I just toss this out there as food for thought. I personally am looking forward to it. It might bring us to a whole new level of transparancy in government... one we wished we had never seen.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
As far as art is concerned, technology and societal views go hand in hand. With the advent of digital interactive works, people found a new outlet of expression. Along with that, there are those from the old guard who view it as nothing more than a cheap thrill.
But nothing is static. Take a look at the genre breaking game Little Big Planet. This thing defies all pigeon holing attempts by even the best. (More on genre later.) It is a sign of changing times, and it is a sign of a work of art that takes its base image and gives the play not so much a sandbox as a desert to play in. I would daresay that the central theme of this work of art IS to encourage creativity in its audience as it requires critical thinking as well as out of the box applications of resources.
This kind of gameplay is nothing particularly new, but to see it evolve with the ever forward march of technology. The rise of Flash based gaming is also seeing a large boon, especially with the ability to publish not just online in casual environments, but on every major console currently available. (Castle Crashers comes immediatly to mind.)
This also applies in comics and writing. The changing technology has allowed for wider print ranges, and in some cases the elimination of print all together. While I still support printed works, this really opens up the scene to people since it broadens the range of resources available to everyone involved.
As we press on, we see the rise of ebooks, online comic books such as th3rdworld and zuda, and many other forms of new media. Now, granted, these just emphasis new publishing techniques, but others things will come about as well, from interactive story telling to who knows what.
These are exciting times we live in, and a lot happens quickly and unexpectedly. So just watch, and keep an ear to the ground, otherwise you may just miss a grand opportunity when it arises.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The point I would like to discuss mostly is the future of interactive media as art. I liked what Scott was talking about when he demonstrated the various new forms comics can take alongside the older models of presentation. What he doesn't talk about though, are video games (probably since he is a comic book artist, but the ideas cross pollinate well.)
This debate has been raging since the first games showed up. The resistance to the idea of new media being inconceivable as art is nothing novel or unique. Just look at the birth of movies to see that at one time, they too were thought to be nothing more than a cheap thrill, a gimmick to appease and amuse.
But times change, and today many films are considered masterpieces not just by the viewing public, but by those who study the evolution of the medium itself. This trend is indicative of all things in human society (and nature at large): opinions change, evolve, and take in new facts as they become available.
The question becomes, then, why? Why so much resistance? From where I am sitting it breaks into three subjects: changing societal views, evolving technology, and application of the medium.
Application of the medium is the most broad of the categories, so we can address it first. Basically, what it boils down to, is how the creators are using their tools to express whatever it is they are trying to convey. In video games, like most long visual media, the point is usually less to express a single emotion, and more to invest the viewer emotionally in a story.
Movies accomplish this by exposing the character's flaws, interests, and objectives to us in order to help us identify with them. Books do it in a similar method, but give us the added bonus of at times having access to the thoughts of not only the hero, but also the villain, as well as world based information and the ability for long expanses of time to pass in a few pages. Our relationship with the character in a book is often slower to develop than it would in a movie.
Video games on the other hand have the unique ability, if applied properly, to invest the player on a more basic level of including interactivity. This immediately invests the player emotionally since they are essentially responsible for the success or failure of the character they are playing. Therefore, through application of lighting, mood, setting, you have increased your viewing willingness to receive what it is you are trying to tell them.
Now the question becomes: Do you have anything to say to them? This is where games depart from movies just slightly and enter into book territory. The story in a game is often told through a combination of narrative, dialogue, and the emotional investment of the player throughout their play time. Are they aggressive? Passive? Do they read each line of text or listen to every cut scene? Do they skip right to the action? Do they ignore story and action both for a while and just play with their environment?
This is where we get into uniquely game territory, and where the real art comes in. Choices matter in a lot of games, especially with regards to modern and roleplaying games. How a developer implements these choices reflects on the project itself. Some questions have to be answered early, such as: "Am I telling a linear story, or a tale of many paths? Is this a sandbox, or an alley?" Now, I have presented these as either/or statements, and that is oversimplifying the issue to say the least. The best of these games combine both sides to create a unique interactive piece of art that has the staying power of any movie.
That is where I will suspend this now, I will continue when I return from my trip. Until then, think over this (if it isn't a giant rambling mess, I lost my notes and outline) and I will resume writing on Saturday if all goes well.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
How, as aspiring writers, are we to avoid this so that we can get on with our work?
We don't, because if it was that damned easy there would be no reason to write about it.
After finishing my first novel, I came to the realization that in order to progress in life I was going to have to don the mantle of minor miracle worker. This mantle is one part ditch digger, three parts pyramid brick layer, and six parts draft horse. I still have on my plate (I will get a bit personal here, so as to provide context): a troubling financial future, impending graduation (if I can get my act together), ailing family members, and trouble at home. This situation is hardly unique, but it is difficult, emotionally involved, energy and resource draining, and somewhere in it all time and energy must be mustered to write.
The only solution I have found is time management. That is it. No magic words, no fairies in bottles.
Just plain old fashioned time management. It helps, I am terrible at it, but it helps.
So, if you find yourself swamped, but have a burning desire to create, do not despair. Do not sacrifice what is important to you for something else. Sit down, prioritize, plan out a schedule and most of all STICK TO THE DAMN THING. (as much as possible)
I have more thoughts on this subject, but for a later time. Just got off work and am a bit tired.
Like a stained glass window, we create a single work of art we call humanity, but it is each of our tiny differences that makes the whole. As we learn about our many views and walks of life, we can see not only our weaknesses, but also our strengths and our compliments.
As far as that goes, please enjoy this video (thanks to www.richarddawkins.net and Yervant for spreading it around) We will go ahead and say the gents who made the video are our artists of the week.
Players who enjoy Settlers of Catan, or Ticket to Ride should enjoy this game.
It is a game of resource management (current economists are welcome to join, I would love an easy win) where players must accrue wealth in order to purchase victory points. Person with the most in the end wins.
It is a game that is simple on the surface, but gets complicated quickly.
Out of a deck of 24 action cards, ten are drawn at random so that each game is unique. The cards range from allowing you to draw more cards into your hand, give you more actions on your turn, or an immediate boost to your wealth.
It is fun for both friends and family, is picked up quickly, and you won't have anyone stop speaking to you unlike Sorry.
So, go pick up a copy at you local games or hobby store.
Monday, January 12, 2009
When people think that 'health freedom' is more important (or even relevant) than our failing economy, two unsuccessful wars, and rampant corruption in the highest offices of the land, then we are beyond fucked.
Lets look at what 'health freedom' entails:
Specifically "freedom from coerced or mandatory vaccinations". (The other pro-infectious disease one is obvious)
What the hell do these loons think is happening to them?
We have watched the rise of the No-Nothings on the right, but apparently the left is just as bad.
This country now has bipartisan support for idiocy and is unified in its refusal to accept reality. Bitch, moan, and complain all you want about Republicans, but damned if the Democrats aren't just the other side of the moron coin.
These ignorant urban savages are so scared of everything they don't understand that they are willing to risk our very infrastructure just to keep themselves safe from bogeymen and monsters under their beds.
But I digress, so let us return to the point.
People have become convinced that somehow, autism is caused by vaccines. This idea is nothing new, its been around at least since the early nineties, if not even before. (Most likely before, I've only been alive since the mid-eighties, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong.) It has been spear headed by the likes of celebrities, charlatans, and 'alternative medicine' practitioners in order to profit off of the suffering of lost of grieving parents.
It is diabolically genius on its face, and evil to its core. These people blame the victims of freak genetic flukes for something completely out of their control, and then proceed to demonize the only damn people who stand a chance of helping the afflicted child. As most people know, people who are upset are more likely to cling to anything that gives even the faintest illusion of hope. 'Psychics' to contact the dead are a perfect example of this.
I am no expert, but there are resources out there for people looking for answers.
I recommend the following: www.scienceblogs.com/insolence
The author of this blog is a practicing doctor, and has addressed over and over why these myths exist, and has doggedly attacked the people who prey on the desperate parents of these children. He also is hilarious, so enjoy the reading, and most of all:
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Today I would like to talk about Keith Thompson.
Mr. Thompson has a rather impressive online folio of concept and finished art that is wonderful roller coaster of creativity that plunges into some of the darker regions of the imagination. Though, not unlike most coasters, some of the pictures might give some people a bit of gastronomical unease.
I tend to enjoy concept art, since you get to see it usually evolve over time. Portfolios often include early sketches of finished works, and a bit of insight into what the artist's thought processes were.
Some of my favorites from this particular concept artist are: The Slaver, Havelock (more on him later), The Firestorm, and the Viraemia. There are so many more wonderful pieces of artwork available for viewing on his website. I really recommend checking it out.
Didn't I say more on Havelock? Well, that was because this is a special artist of the week! Enter round two with: Modofly. These folks have some REALLY impressive works of art laser etched onto moleskin notebooks. We grabbed one for a friend of our for holiday, and let me be the first to say: DAMN, was it nice.
The reason they are here is because one of Mr. Thompson's designs is featured on the notebooks! Good ol' Havlock in all his creepy glory, now in sepia. I would go through my list of favorites here, but like the above mentioned artist it would be better for you to go and check it out for yourself.