Betrayal

I stood by your side amid

The blood and horror of battle.

We marched into unknown hells

Celebrated unbelievable victories and

Mourned great losses.

You were as a brother and

Became the only family I had

I held nothing back  and

Gave all I could to your efforts

I took up blade once more

When your call to arms was

Spread

All I sacrificed was for you

I even stayed silent when the

Woman I loved walked down the

Aisle toward you

I held no regrets in

Any of this. Yet

You could not spare

Me one bit of happiness

One thing to call my own

You left me behind

In the ash of your

Mistakes

Yet you foolishly left

Me alive to seek

Justice

To seek

Revenge

Know that your end

Was of your making

By my hand

For them

For

Her

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On Attachments

So I have returned from my adventure of PAX South and had an amazing time. I wish I could have taken many more pictures and met infinitely more people than I did, but alas it was not to be. However, most of my tour of PAX, I primarily worked as an Enforcer. It sounds far more menacing than it actually is. Basically, I was one of several hundred volunteers that made helped PAX happen (I worked the Main Theater and TableTop sections). Here is a short (relatively) rundown of what I am talking about:

Yeah, I became part of that glorious group over the course of three days. During this experience, I made friends, helped several tens of people, and, in a sense, kind of became part of something bigger than myself. Now, calm down. Obviously, I am not trying to compare the experience to truly noble endeavors, crusades, or beliefs. I merely mean that it has been a long time since I have been part of a group with a clearly defined goal legitimately helping each other and complete strangers to achieve said goal.

Seriously, all throughout graduate school, it was basically a clusterfuck of idiotic infighting, intellectual masturbation, and genital measuring contests over irrelevant (even by academia standards) that ended in passive aggressive bullshit. That might explain why most of our social outings involved alcohol.

Anyhow, I grew attached to the event, to the people, and to the enthusiastic, crazy, optimistic, and endlessly helpful group known as Enforcers. They have a saying “Once an E, always an E” and I understand what they mean. I miss the experience of being at PAX, but I definitely miss the people more.

I suppose this first adventure of the year definitely taught me something. I am still looking for more than I have. I thought this was simply my desire for a different career, but it might be that I am searching for a purpose as well beyond a job. It is another thing to add to a seemingly growing list, but one that I look forward to figuring out.

If you get the opportunity, go to a PAX, maybe even PAX South next year because it is really a different experience that you will likely not forget.

Lessons From…LARPs: The Series

Still kind of reeling from PAX South, so not quite prepared to do the usual intensive and insightful (I know I am indeed a very modest and humble individual) post that I strive for. Seriously, I am functioning on like 5 -10 hours of sleep after working 30 hours as an Enforcer and then running around trying to see as much on my off time. No clue how guests like Markiplier can keep their energy levels up for conventions for so long. The man is a machine.

So, in keeping with the geek filled continuum of the weekend, I decided to do a short analysis of the new series, LARPs, on Geek & Sundry. It is completely free to watch on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel and the first episode can be found here:

If you have any interest in either Live Action Role Playing (LARPing, get it?) or Dungeons & Dragons or role playing in general, the series will probably be right up your alley. Now, there is currently only one episode out, so there is not much to really SPOIL at the moment.

Yeah, still going to use this even with no spoilers attached.

Yeah, still going to use this even with no spoilers attached.

The first lesson to be taken from the series is pretty obvious, but it is one that everyone needs to be reminded of every once in awhile. Tolerance, even of the absurd, is a worthwhile trait. Obviously, I am not saying that all ideologies should be considered or accepted; however, every person has the right to believe whatever they wish as long as it is not harming or affecting any other person. I have several friends who are part of SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms), a group of live action role players who have years of experience, lore, and tradition.

Of course, I did not realize that at first, thus when first invited to an event I was basically standing on the sidelines confused and drinking some very good mead (there was a lot of drinking involved). To be perfectly honest, I found the whole experience very weird. It was not until further analysis that I realized most of my interests and hobbies would be pretty weird to other outside observers. In the end, everyone is obsessive and stupid about their personal interests; some are just seen as more socially acceptable for some stupid reason.

The other obvious lesson that seemed relevant from the inaugural episode of the series is simply that people (and archetypes) will surprise you. Most people would think the Paladin should act in a certain way, but not how the one in the show did. In reality, though there are no yet clear indications that she (the Paladin) acted out of turn.

Really though, even in a game, there are rarely clear cut designations for characters and role playing, and life, is far more fun when there are not. Now, go forth, watch the series, and play some fucking games.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Adventures

So the year has started and I am already hating it to some extent. I suppose it is just the standard “not quite happy with my current circumstances” situation that most people go through. Thankfully, I am actually making some progress toward changing my current situation toward something I want. Even so, I get frustrated and bored with life in South Texas.

I know this sounds like idiotic whining, but honestly there are minimal cultural instances in the area outside of religious organizations and activities. And beyond that there really is not much to do. Because of this, I decided that this year I would try to go on more adventures. Sadly, these will not be the “go to faraway land and slay the dragon” kind of adventures that make for epic songs. Mostly because I do not have the kind of funds to go that far away and finding easily killable giant lizards is proving more difficult than I originally thought.

Instead, my random adventures will be slightly more tied to reality. Some will be here at home. Some will have me travel to see friends. Some will involve travel to random locations. A few will be planned. Many will not. Either way, I expect them to help me along in my projects by making sure to keep my sanity partially intact. The first of these adventures begins tomorrow in San Antonio as I work at and attend PAX South!!

I have been looking forward to this for months. I cannot wait to finally be in the convention center working alongside fellow Enforcers and meeting people in the entertainment industry that I have admired for years. I know going to this event will not be a “game changer” or cure all my ills but adventures are a necessary part of the “hero’s journey” and I could use all the experiences I can muster.

So what are some adventures you will be taking this year? What are some you wish you could go on?

Lessons From…Selma

To my fellow Americans, Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! I don’t believe that I have to explain the legacy of Dr. King for the United States, but I would encourage everyone to go and research more into the man’s life and work because the public education system has not done an adequate job of, well, educating. I have been wanting to see the movie Selma since viewing the first teaser/trailer and was a little concerned that it would not reach theaters all the way down here in South Texas. Thankfully my worries were ill advised and I was able to see the movie, multiple times. I wholeheartedly endorse others to do the same. In fact, finish reading this and then go see the movie.

Of course, while watching the film I was moved and brought to tears a few times (I tend to close off emotionally due to upbringing and use sarcasm and intelligent observation as methods of guarding and holding people/things at arm’s length so anything that gets an emotional response from me is surprising), but beyond the sentiment I was amazed by the level of detail, expertise, and willingness to show/teach the audience more than what they were probably familiar and comfortable with. Obviously, I immediately knew I was going to write on this film, so here goes. As always, SPOILERS ahead.

This is the first time I felt a bit uncomfortable using this picture.

This is the first time I felt a bit uncomfortable using this picture.

Like most films based on true stories, there is some aspect of artistic license to ensure a good story, but nothing in Selma seemed extraordinary or out of place. In fact, I had a hard time disbelieving anything that happened on screen could not have occurred. Most Americans are at least tangentially familiar with the story of Selma and the famous march that happened in Alabama, however, the film opens up the narrative and shows what was going on behind closed doors. Much like Lincoln did for its namesake, Selma shows not the major event, but how it came to be. Which brings us to the first lesson: there are great complexities, machinations, and choices that created major historical moments and icons.

This is most evident early in the film upon the first meeting between Martin Luther King Jr.’s organization and a local civil rights group, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (pronounced snick). SNCC is accusing King and his group of coming in and trying to take over after SNCC has laid ground work and done much for the community. They also accuse King of running from legitimate problems and struggles, like Albany, once the media attention goes away. In short, they are accusing King and his peers of being glory hounds only interested in attention and not the movement.

King then calmly explains that while the work groups like SNCC is important for the black community, his organization is interested in drawing white consciousness and attention. They are there to force the media and its millions of viewers to see what the black community is enduring to force the hands of politicians to enact change and enforce those changes. King is playing a specific and intelligent game. He knows what is needed to bring about legitimate change quickly and chooses his stands and battles carefully to further his agenda.

The man had the ear of the president. Pretty sure he knew a thing or two about the political game.

The man had the ear of the president. Pretty sure he knew a thing or two about the political game.

We constantly hear about the happy accidents in history that led to immense events. It makes sense the absurd is memorable and make for great stories. However, it is a disservices to forget the strategy and mental calculations involved in creating history and many of the so called “happy accidents” we love to tell.

Selma does not mythologize its Martin Luther King Jr. There is a desire to create near gods out of those who have done something great. We want them to be pristine totems of greatness for us to aspire to and use as an excuse for when we fail. The truth is that no person is perfect and King was no different. The film addresses this in a few key scenes. There is the confrontation between King and his wife, Coretta, about his lack of a home life and his emotional attachment to the other women in his life. She is fully aware of his shortcomings, yet remains by his side in his times of need. Whether this is because of her understanding of the importance of his work or her love for him, the film does not make clear, but it does not condone or excuse King’s actions. (Though the validity of infidelity and extramarital affairs are constantly in question, the film chooses to use them as part of the narrative)

She never did remarry after his death.

She never did remarry after his death.

Beyond that, there are several instances in the film where Martin Luther King Jr. experiences doubt over the movement and questions whether or not he is actually doing anything for the people. He is unsure of the path he has chosen and what, if anything, will come of it. Can you imagine Martin Luther King Jr. questioning his efforts? This brings us to the next lesson: if King had doubts who are we to think everything is certain? I know the question form is a little weird, but it is true. Individuals who were actively changing and forming history as we know it had doubts about their efforts and themselves. What arrogance drives us to think we will not have or should not have any? I fear the man who is absolute in their certainty far more than the one who questions their actions.

The final lesson is pretty obvious, but also most likely an unpopular one. Nonetheless, it was the most apparent to me as I saw the film and in particular when I heard the ending song during the credits. We have come so far, but have much further to go. Seeing the news recently, it becomes a bit difficult to believe that we have supposedly overcome the trials of the past. It seems like there might be some regression which is why as an audience we need media like Selma to remember and visualize history, even the parts we are uncomfortable with. I am not saying the movie will fix or cure the ills that conflict us, but it will also not let us ignore that illness in the vain hope it will go away.

In honor of that idea, and the memory of those who gave so much in attempts to fix such major social problems and issues, I’ll leave you with this:

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Pedestals (It Will Make Sense, I Swear)

I love media. Whether it is movies, television, books, comics, video games, music, or anything outside of the known spectrum, I will probably consume and engage with it. Seriously, my Netflix queue never seems to dwindle. The same can be said of my Hulu and Amazon Prime accounts. I am constantly begging friends and random strangers for music recommendations. My phone and iPod also apparently have an ever growing list of podcasts that I must hear. Basically, if it is entertainment, I will check it out.

In my lifelong quest to view as much media as possible, I have come across example and pieces that resonated with me on an emotional and spiritual level that I have trouble expressing my love and attachment to them in words. As well, I have seen, heard, read, and interacted (yeah media can sometimes be weird) with art pieces that I would love to be able to lobotomize from my brain and never mention again.

During my mass consumption of media, I have noticed a disturbing trend in criticism of television and film. There seems to be an unfortunate and annoying  desire to place certain pieces of media on a pedestal and protect them from any disparaging critique. Now, this has always happened to some extent because people will glomp onto things they love and strike out in anger at anyone who would dare speak against their beloved show or movie. However, actual critics and artists/creators now do the same. To some degree this is understandable, particularly for shows and films that have more, or better, minority representation both on and off screen. Diversity in our media is a good thing, but should examples that attempt to bridge that gap be saved from legitimate criticism?

For example, examine the HBO program Girls. It is critically acclaimed and considered a darling of the network, but why? Before continuing on and in the interest of full fairness, Girls has received some criticism but that has been mostly on the lack of non-white characters (a fairly valid critique) and not on the quality of the show itself. Now, the program is not really bad, but it is not as good as one would think considering the amount of acclaim and attention it has received.

I had a long conversation with a friend about this program after having seen the entire first season. (Admittedly, the show does pick up a bit in the second season, but not by much). Basically, I compared the first aired episode of Girls to the first episode of Mad Men. Both critically acclaimed shows centered on broken, unlikeable characters, so they should in theory be comparable in quality. Yet, objectively and subjectively one is very much arguably better than the other. At least, I was able to argue why one was better than the other and it was all about the actual writing and narrative.

In one (Mad Men) every character is well developed through action and characterization. By the end of the first episode, the audience was keenly aware of who each major character was and what some of the major conflict was going to be throughout the series simply through seeing a few days in the lives of these ‘people’. They continued to develop and grow throughout the season. In the other (Girls) characters were literally narrating the personalities of other major character during the first episode. As in, the audience was actually straight up told how and what to think of the people and story they were watching. Really, this is the one show we want to protect and uphold above all criticism?

I get that people want more diversity and better representation in media, but shouldn’t we still desire quality? There are so many better shows and films with, and created by, women, POC, and minorities that deserve attention and the eyes and words of critiques. Frankly, I am going to take my own word and advice and go see some right now. You should too.

Lessons From…Alpha House

I enjoyed a lazy few days this past weekend as it was the last one before my break was over and I officially started working. During my time off, I marathoned the second season of the Amazon show Alpha House. It’s a pretty funny and insightful show and I am a huge fan of John Goodman, so of course I recommend watching this as soon as you can. As I kept viewing episode after episode, I noticed a couple of trends and themes that I felt merited further examination and discussion. Accordingly, I chose to write on them here and as always SPOILERS ahead.

I get a lot of mileage out of this picture.

I get a lot of mileage out of this picture.

So Alpha House follows the exploits and adventures of four Republican senators in Washington D.C. Their adventures, for the most part, involve various ways of winning reelection to stay in office and possibly gain more political power. Of course, this is a comedy, so their plans and deals usually end up failing miserably. Furthermore, since they all seem to have an endless supply of “protagonist power”, every single one of them always manages to land on their feet and not get indicted, fired, or ever penalized for their actions. Somehow it makes for good viewing.

This is not to say that there is never any conflict or trouble for the four senators. Merely that they find a way to overcome their obstacles and in doing so learn some deeper lesson. Yes, it is a pretty cliche formula, but again it works for the show. More to the point, one of the fundamental lessons that each senator  learns and goes through is to “lean into yourself” as another senator puts it. Basically, don’t fight who you are and play to your strengths. Each senator has a moment of existential crises, completely of their own making, during the second season and every attempt to avoid or fix it simply digs them in further. They continue in this nosedive into oblivion until each one returns to their original drive, purpose, and self they had when they began their journey into public service. They had to remember who they were to continue growing into who they are meant to become. This is most apparent in Senator Gil John Biggs’s redemption journey from most likely being unseated as a Senator to becoming a front runner for the Republican nomination for president. (Remember it’s a fictional universe where this is a possibility)

Not the worst decision fictional Republicans could make.

Not the worst decision fictional Republicans could make.

A major theme that runs through the second season, and really the whole show, is the need for relationships. The first season focused more on the connections between the four senators/roommates while the second season focuses more on the connection(s) and truth of family and love. Every single senator performs and acts better in all aspects of their political and personal lives when their ambition, passion, and strength is tempered by the love of a good woman, and possibly a man for one of the senators. Which brings us to the second lesson: you need something or someone beyond yourself to strive, fight, bleed, and sweat for. This is most exemplified by Senator Andy Guzman who fucks up royally in his attempt at occupying the White House because of his salacious libido. His redemption only comes after he figures out that the woman he scorned is the one he has been waiting for. His ill conceived attempts at wooing her back actually work and put him back in legitimate contention for the Republican nomination. We are our best when we are working with or toward something beyond ourselves. In other words, greatness requires a bit of selflessness.

There is plenty more to watch for in this show, so I’ll let you explore the rest on your own. Seriously, go watch it on Amazon and marathon the series. It will be worth it.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.