Friday, August 5, 2022

Westernism VS Socialism




In the Wizard of Oz book the Emerald City itself isn't actually green. Everyone is expected to wear emerald glasses, and if they don't wear these emerald glasses they're not let into the Emerald City. The emerald isn't the city, it's the glasses, and the important thing isn't the city itself, it's the freaking glasses. We call these glasses culture: everyone chooses to see the same color, and uses that color as a common point, because as it turns out perception is so hard that you have to create a common point. The culture is religious: it provides an interior reference point for everyone to orient their lives by. With this common interior reference point everyone can walk in lockstep. With this interior viewpoint in mind everyone builds a civilization together. But eventually everyone wants to stop seeing the same color, because look at what they built! It should be enough! Look at how cool it is!

So they take the glasses off.

Cause they figure what they built can stand in for seeing the same color.

They're disastrously wrong. Because without the color in common none of the stuff they built together makes sense. It wasn't the objects that were important, it was the common colored glasses. But everyone is tired of seeing the color. They can't bear it anymore. It's not laziness, it's cultural decrepitude. It is cultural age. Blaming people for taking the glasses off is like blaming an old man for not lifting a heavy object if he has arthritis. You shouldn't be blaming him for having arthritis. But you also shouldn't expect him to lift heavy objects anymore.


Spengler calls the common glasses Culture. He calls the taking off of the glasses, relying upon what Culture had previously built as a common reference, and the loss of all common perspective Civilization. Culture is religious. Civilization is atheistic. Culture is alive and will enliven you. Civilization is dead and will kill your soul. Culture relies upon the interior voice lined up with others in a common cause. Civilization uses power, for its own sake, to force compliance. Anything that does not have culture, an objective and interior truth, its heart, is totalitarian, by absolute necessity. Orwell talked about this in depth, even if I disagree with his fixes. 




Socialism has always been, and will always be, the weaponization of the common people by a group of elites against a rival group of elites. Sorry Orwell, history has proved your intuition wrong.

If you find yourself saying "But legislation will fix (insert random cultural problem here)" congrats, that's totalitarian! Get out a mirror and take a good, hard look at it.

Back in my Facebook days I found myself watching as a good number of my college friends “went woke”. Now, this isn’t an indictment on any of them. When enough propaganda, when power, is leveraged on you you will change your mind. Brains aren’t invincible things; anyone who thinks such a silly thought has already been caught.

I repeat: if you do not think brainwashing isn’t going on in your head then it already happened to you, and that’s literally what folks like Merloo would tell you without a second thought.

If you think it hasn’t happened then you’re already grabbed. Period.

Anyways.

As this wokening continued, I noticed a trend. These were people who nominally Christian who, as time went on, continued to talk about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church (an obvious thing only missed by idiots and kool-aid drinkers), the misdeeds of its priests (a tragedy of the highest degree, but not even in the same ballpark of scale as what happens in public schools and the government), and who slowly gained the opinion that one could apply power to make the world a better and kinder place than it was (a pipe dream if there ever was one). The first two are merely a part of the trend, but I don't think they're the point. I think the last point about power is where the trend was driving at. 

Power fixes things was the claim of my friends. “Just exercise some power!” isn't what they said literally, but by thinking that the government could fix the issue that was what they were saying. And that felt wrong, somehow. Something about the whole thing smelled rotten to me, and so I resisted the downward pull as hard as I could, and got off Facebook when I realized that the system was designed to make one desire power and I began to suspect I was losing this fight. I have an addictive personality; it was only a matter of time before their system took my brain and fried it. 

It is never about the words themselves, but who is saying them and where those words are going. They're always going somewhere! So I looked over at who was saying the words were parroting. What a surprise, the party that kills children were saying them! That, right there, is where I stopped up my ears. You are never going to get me to agree with people who employ the tactics of the eugenic-genocidal abortion movement. Whatever words they say, it comes from the top of a mountain of tens of millions of babies. Whatever they say, it has to be taken with that image in mind. 

"Peace, justice!" they cry.... atop a mound of miniature dismembered arms, legs, torsos, heads, eyeballs, the rest. It's a grizzly thought, but utterly accurate to the hypocritical sludge they push.

Nope.

Never.

If you stand for peace, get off the damn mound of little corpses you made

Oh wait, you won't? It's a right to be able to kill someone else, you say? To sell their little organs (and yes it is sell) and profit off of frying them in acid or dismembering them as they die in agonizing pain? You still call that peace?

Fuck yourself if the answer is yes. I have my limits. I don't have many. But that is definitely a limit of mine and I will not pretend that I hold any respect for any person who says yes to that question. So yes. Fuck yourself. Bye.

"But Nathan, it's more complicated than that!" people who will cry out no to the above but still back abortion will inevitably say. "Women shouldn't be trapped. Men should be accountable for what happens."

You did it again.

You hear it?

No?

There's that appeal to power to enforce what should be a common understanding, once again. You can't make interior voices line up, but you can enforce compliance in anything you like. Don't mistake compliance with agreement. Power cannot create culture. Something about that reminds me of something... someone... it's 20th century.... hard to place...

Oh, I know!

Our enemies

Our friends. Who killed many many more than our enemies


Power cannot fake culture.

All well and good you may say, but have you seen the other side? We've been told, over and over again that they're awful! The power, the propaganda used, are of course not suspect, because have you seen these Neanderthals?? They try to say that women who have miscarriages should be locked up. And there's always the people (that I've personally never met, but it's a cliche it's gotta come from somewhere!!!) who say you're killing children if a dude masturbates. That's utterly crazy and is its own form of oppression. Granted, it doesn't involve a mountain of tiny corpses but it's still not acceptable. These supposedly God-fearing Bible thumpers are so backward and don't listen to their own book!

And I agree.

They're morons.

But the thing is that the Right isn't Christian. Oh, sure, it claims to be Christianity. They'll thump those Bibles that were made up in the 17th century loudly and proudly... and ignore the spot where universal feeding of the poor is required. Or the canceling of all debts every fifty years, along with the return of ancestral lands. Two seconds of reading any earlier ascetical texts or medieval texts or talking to people who have experienced "the small still voice" is a good splash of cold water, right to the face. What the Right is nostalgic for isn't Christianity, it's a bunch of fucking Vikings made soft by Christianity. As Western Europe, with Britain at its forefront, expanded it merely mimicked its Viking progenitors on a less extreme level. Instead of killing everyone they just enslaved and took the resources. Yes, that's a step up. What, you thought the Anglo-Saxons were gonna stop being marauding assholes with a little prattling on love and forgiveness? Any examination of primary sources reveals the lie. Any look at someone who lives by the small still voice makes the lie ridiculous and obvious.

But did you notice the trick? Cause there's a trick in there, and it's damned good one. You have two stories, both of which I've more or less shown to be incorrect. And you, the reader, probably thought they were before you started reading this post, however faintly. There's not one person I know of that backs the corporate shills, or who likes the government, or who even really likes what conservative Christians or progressives are doing. It's easy to see that it's all wrong.

So why the hell are you picking a side?

Who told you to do that?

No, really. Stop reading. Sit down. And play out the events in your head.

Who on earth actually told you all these things? Really? 

If either story (conservative or progressive) you were fed involve people you know to be untrustworthy why the hell are you considering either one????

Folks, the trap is that it isn't two paths, but one: the way of power and totalitarianism. Power cannot force culture to come back. I'm sorry, it can't. Power doesn’t corrupt. That’s a damned lie, one in where there is nothing worth using power to protect. Power is useful for many a thing, but it cannot counterfeit the lining up of interior voices. That's gone for the moment, and it's going to be gone for quite some time.

Oh, and just in case it’s not clear enough yet, one of the definitions of totalitarian I found on Google was:


"relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.
"a totalitarian regime""

Or, in other words: a society ruled entirely by power, which has not even a conception of culture. Because all is determined centrally.

Conservatives want a culture that is dead, that is so far gone that even the most basic understanding about the past (the British Empire ran on a deficit pretty much the entirety of its existence, ask yourself why they might do that) doesn’t exist anymore.

Progressives want power, because they know it's the only effective thing against chaos left to us. They don’t know what culture is so they can’t even really miss it. It’s alien to them. It's alien to all of us.

Yes, all.

None of us actually remember what it's like to have our interior voices lined up. Not the conservatives, who think sticking to the old texts will help kickstart a mass memory that's been dead, certainly not the progressive, who yearns for culture but thinks power will get it back. Both ways are lies, both ways are not true, and sticking to them is utter insanity.

So what is there to do?

I don't know yet. 

It's taken me this long just to be able to articulate the problem. Just getting to this point was an exercise in will that I cannot understate. But I do think that is, in fact, the problem.

The trick is always in asking the right question. 

I think the above is on the right track to figure out that question.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Crescendo: Take Your Time

 

This was some of my favorite play I've ever done. Some of my playtesting of Crescendo with David was an argument and a funeral. It was two hours of discussion about ethics and hope and ultimately the sadness of death and life’s meaning. The plot moved at an absolute crawl. We got philosophical. Then we mourned the death of an NPC that Sorin, David’s character, had been forced to kill. And, despite the fact that pretty much nothing got done, it was one of the most meaningful sessions I’ve ever had the pleasure of GMing.

But first, the setup: the world’s soil has become largely infertile, for reasons hitherto unknown. This was principally shown in the widespread death of trees whose fruit gave magical power. With the death of the trees would come the collapse of the social order, and soon after everyone would starve. Sorin, David’s character, was a druid dedicated to the maintenance of the earth itself, guardian of the ways of old. He had resisted the machinations of the cult of Zodie the Fallen, who taught that meteorite dust could restore the earth… if they ripped out the magical trees, which were thought to provide life to the soil. Sorin had advocated for adhering to the old ways, of resisting Zodie and his false promises, and set out to find a way to save everyone.

And then Sorin found his long-lost mentor Yvonne. Half dead. With meteorite dust in her wounds. And the dust was definitely helping heal them. So meteorite dust was, in fact, life giving, to the utter contrary of everything Yvonne had ever taught Sorin.

The soldiers Sorin were with demanded to bring Yvonne in for examination. Sorin was on good terms with these men and begged for the chance to examine his mentor… to no avail. If meteor dust could restore people then no time could be wasted. Sorin asked for just a bit more time. 

His head swam.

Yvonne couldn’t be using meteorite dust. It was anathema to preserving everyone and everything. And yet there she was, alive. And there it was, in her arm.

Why wouldn’t the world stop spinning???

Why wouldn’t everyone shut up? He needed to think.

Yvonne.

Alive.

Hurt.

One of the soldiers reached for Yvonne. Something about taking her.

His head fell to the ground with a THUMP.

Sorin brandished the axe he normally used for firewood at the remaining soldiers. They backed off but promised reinforcements would come for him. Sorin tended to Yvonne’s wounds. They found a cave and Sorin began to bandage his ankle which he had badly sprained earlier.

Sorin found himself in a place of utter darkness, which tried to choke him. A voice in his head mocked his struggle.

And then all of a sudden Sorin found himself in the eternal battle between Facator, the creator of the world, and Leviatan, the sea, A small whisper asked Sorin what he, the defender of "The Old Ways", considered "old". The truly old ways didn't include humans at all, did they? Or the world, for that matter. Sorin responded that he was small... and then he was buffeted by something. Something huge. A dark cloak surrounded Sorin, shielding him. The small voice chuckled, telling Sorin he was apparently favored by someone.

Sorin suddenly came to. Yvonne was in need of care. So was his ankle. He tended to both a bit more. He closed his eyes, for just a moment.

Sorin saw a cave, with a dark light emanating from it. A young man sat beside the fire, one who Sorin felt was familiar, somehow. The man asked Sorin what he hoped to accomplish, given that this was an eternal cycle he was trapped in. Sorin said he knew he was small, but he had to act, he had to do something. 

The man before him became the soldier Sorin had killed.

And asked if Sorin would become a corpse, like the man he had murdered.

There was the flash of a blade and the dead soldier lunged. Sorin tried to sidestep, but he was bowled over by the lunge, even if he didn't get stabbed. The dead soldier, standing over Sorin, asked  if he was really comfortable being as small as he was. 

Hands encircled Sorin's throat.

He was back with Yvonne, in a sweat, suddenly. Somehow he got some sleep.

David and I then took a session to make a poem about one of the immortals, Elepte. We were following the dictates of the mechanics, and this is what we generated from the mechanics:

Sing to me, O Muses!

of Elepte

and her treacherous family.

They are stranded in the sky, halfway along on their journey home.

Elepte mourns her trapped clan, stranded amongst the stars

Their station chases the (her) moon, making them dizzy

Elepte's clan's treachery cannot be forgiven, which prevents her from releasing them.

But she feels their rejection, all the way down in her heart.

Before their voyage, they were free as pelicans

But Elepte looked down from her abode and saw their evil, and how they threatened the mortal races

Tehy are being judged by the other immortals

Elepte could interfere, but she will not, for she prizes her position as the moon

Elestre gave perpetual motion to the stations so they may travel

Elepte knew this action could only be undertaken by one who wished to show the deepest commitment

Elepte and her clan will continue this game until the station stops.

Elepte's regret for her folly is felt but unknown

Elepte's love for her family made her want to keep them close

Love constrains, love binds, love blinds

Elepte is afraid the tables will turn amongst her clan

-From the Recovered Scroll of Adrian the Station-Master

Yes, that's relevant, hang in there.

The next morning Mihail, one of Yvonne’s other students and friend to Sorin, came along. The soldiers had reported the incident and Mihail, who was in the area, managed to talk the local magistrates into letting him attempt to talk sense into Sorin first. But Mihail stopped cold upon seeing Yvonne. He demanded to know why she was alive and what the hell she was doing with meteorite dust in her arm.

Yvonne then dropped the news that the stations above, which dropped a blue mist upon the planet every week, had been fertilizing the planet with the mist. And the stations were running out of said fertilizer. She didn’t know why. She had barely made it up onto the abode of Elepte’s family once before, fleeing after learning the truth. That was all she could ascertain. The nutrients in the blue cloud were concentrated from meteorite dust.

Sorin immediately made ready to find a way to get into the stations in orbit around the planet, but Mihail protested: he had given his word that he would bring Sorin back to the magistrates whose soldier Sorin had killed! If only Sorin explained what he was doing then Mihail was sure he would be let off. Sorin explained that if he played by the artificial rules of society that he’d be waylaid, possibly prevented from accomplishing his task. And then where would those people be? Those people whose laws he’d broken? 

Something changed in Mihail. Sorin noticed but couldn’t quite place it. But Mihail agreed to come along and help, so Sorin shrugged it off.

They heard a commotion and looked out the cave mouth. A group of satyrs were heading north, towards the town of Titular, with weapons and a bag of seeds. Curious, Sorin, Mihail, and Yvonne followed behind at a distance. The satyrs saw them and did not care. They sang lustily about destroying Titular and using its lands to plant more of the dying magical trees, particularly the farmland. Mihail remarked sarcastically they were definitely going to let the satrys do as they wish.

To his surprise Sorin agreed. Titular was well-guarded and the three of them would add little to the town defense. They would go back to get their things and bury the soldier Sorin had killed. He deserved that much.

They laid the soldier in a shallow grave, piling rocks above him. Sorin said how sorry he was that he had killed the soldier. The man was trying to do his duty, a duty that had put the two of them at odds but a duty nonetheless. They both wanted the planet safe; Sorin would see to if that the soldier’s death would not be in vain.

A flower pushed up between the stones. Somehow, some way, Sorin hoped that was some sign of forgiveness.

Now to figure out how to get to the stations in orbit. Sorin hadn’t even known that was possible. But it was.

For all their sakes he had to do it.

***

I wrote that out because it’s one of my favorite RPG stories. Each decision and happenstance was the result of a situation that had no clear cut answer. I didn't plan a single bit of this out beforehand. Not one bit. This was all game mechanics helping to craft situations on the fly. Mechanically, David was handed situations about Sorin’s psychology and he had to pick what he thought was the least worst option. The honest option. And each time he made a character choice neither bad or good. He was just a person, trying to figure things out as he went. Did he do wrong? Oh yes. Did he do right? Definitely yes too.

I want to make RPGs that touch something real. I want moments of humanity to be front and center, where all there is is the reality of the situation and the inability to really judge what’s going on. For there to be moments of helplessness and vulnerability, where people can just be people.

I say all this because I’ve not met David. 

He’s not even in the same country.

We met up online, via Discord, and he graciously agreed to playtest. What has resulted is a friendship between us that I didn’t expect. So this game doesn't require you to have met your players, so long as you're willing to be open! We've both been really happy with how things are progressing.

Some of the friends I’ve met before and gamed with have agreed to playtest too, and I’ve found the experience enlightening with them as well. Each session of play has let them play characters in such a way that honesty is required. And it’s revealed a lot of good, a lot of empathy in new ways I figured I wouldn’t be finding new sides of.

But why write this now? If the game is as good as I claim wouldn’t I have tons of stories like the above? Actually I do. This is the first of the thirty or so sessions of Crescendo I’ve tested where I didn’t think it could have been a fluke. I’ve spent the last year writing and revising Crescendo absolutely refusing to let myself believe it was working. I was able to do this because I was constantly patching mechanics in play, so it was possible it was just the players being good at what they did. The last few sessions with David I haven’t felt that way at all. Oh sure I need to write a much better draft and whatnot but the mechanics themselves?

We used them unaltered for the above. That was us playing the game. That story above had a mechanical prompt for every line written. And it was simple without being dumb, and soulful without breaking boundaries. David and I played a game and got a story about the fragility of life and the pain of that fact. No, we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t say “Hey, let’s do something about mortality!”

Nope.

We played a game. A slow game where in five session barely four days have passed. Hell, in the other playtest game thirteen of the fourteen sessions that were the first arc happened in the space of less than a day! And yeah, that was a lot to do. Most “storygames” play out in one to eight sessions, for the whole story.

One arc of this game can take more than eighteen sessions.

Yeah.

That’s just one act. 

But it’s been incredible. Every session has felt different, even when the broad range of mechanics in Crescendo repeat themselves. There’s something deeply engrossing about the range of deeply personal and mythological themes Crescendo has you explore, from having to explain why an otherwise calm and detached man would snap and decapitate a soldier to exploring the messed up dynamics of a goddess and her crazy family. And realizing the stories are not just related, but about to collide.

For you see, man cannot be understood without his cosmos, his inner and outer stories must be known to make any sense of him.

I can say that Crescendo makes finding out about both fun. Provided you’re willing to put in the time. I can finally say that, after a year of writing and play testing.

And damn that feels good!

If you wanna hop onto the Discord and see the myriad drafts of this game, as well just hang out, click here!

Friday, July 29, 2022

ComicsGate Has a Point



No, don't go away.

Sit down.

The message of comicsgate has always, always, been that ideology has become the center of modern comics. Not that politics are in comics. Not that comics can't have political messages. It's that popular comics have become a propaganda machine for the progressives and their ideology at the cost of story. You listen to even five minutes of a single comicsgate video and that becomes obvious quite quickly. Anyone who says differently is lying. Period.

Like Mark Waid. Definitely him.

No, don't go and read an article about what people say it's about. Or any non comicsgate person.

These folks are on Youtube. They aren't hard to find. And they're not that hard to listen to either, particularly Perch.

I didn't say these people were saints. Or even that I like them. They're people, and thus are a decidedly mixed bag. Some folks "classified" as comicsgate don't even go by the moniker, because they just want to talk about comics, like Perch. But you have folks like Just Some Guy (a very much so black dude, as he frequently brings up), who seem to have mainlined the comicsgate Kool-Aid, despite having some points... sometimes.

But then again it's remarkably easy to dunk on Mark Waid. Dude's a genuine creep.

So maybe I'm giving Just Some Guy a bit too much credit.

Point is, I'm not necessarily a fan of comicsgate either.

So, why am I bringing this up?

 Because Eric July's Isom #1 is currently at 3.2 million bucks and I've heard very little about it from the establishment.

Well, except this hit piece from Bleeding Cool.

He hit 1.5 without any form of advertisement. At all. And anyone who says differently is lying, best of my knowledge. It's absolutely bonkers!

Sure, at some point Fox propped him, but that was after he made that actually shocking sum in a day.  Without any help from anyone in the comics industry. And the response on Twitter has been... I'm not going to copy some of those responses to him on Twitter. Go look. You'll find them. Some of them are just flat out racist. It's not subtle. Nor is it right. A black dude makes a comic book about a black superhero... and folks are calling him an Uncle Tom. And a whole hell of a lot worse. Not to mention calling him a liar and a fraud.

One of the rumblings from the Comics Gate folks is that, really, right when you get down to it, the "mainstream" only cares about power. They don't care about race, or minorities or whatever it is they're propping up, they specifically want power, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

Which, by the way, factors into what socialism really is to begin with: the weaponization of disaffected lower classes by one element of the upper class against another.

But this isn't kind of blatant.

Why am I posting this? Why am I bothering to write at all?

Well, it ain't because I bought a comic from Eric July. I've not spent a red cent on his work. I took a look at the website, shrugged, thought "Not for me", and went about my business. The book could be great! I hope it is. But I have absolutely no stake in how Eric July does. I'm not sitting around and hoping he'll fulfill (he has it done and printed already, unless he's faking that warehouse I've seen), nor am I a comicsgate person myself. If a work is good and I'm interested I'll buy it. I've a full run of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Tom Taylor sitting in my closet right now and I love the ever-loving shit out of it. The incredibly woke Tom Taylor probably wouldn't want to be in the same room with me, nevermind be my friend. I don't care. His writing on that title was gold, and I bought every last issue of it. I wish he'd write like that more often. 

I'm pointing this out because the fact that someone is knocking it out of the park like this and there is concerted effort to shut him down is enormously obvious. Again, go check Twitter if you don't believe me, cause I'm not blaspheming my hard drive or blog for you.

I'm pointing this out because a black dude making a black superhero, the very definition of what the left has called inclusivity, is getting called a traitor and an Uncle Tom (AND WORSE). There's not a lot of ways to go forward with that, folks. He doesn't share their politics. Therefore he is hated. It is truly that simple.

It's also exactly what comicsgate was saying would happen, the whole time.

No, really, I went and looked. They've been calling it for years.

I am not suggesting that comicsgate are great people. I certainly am not on their side, for the same reason I'm not on the establishment's side: I don't pick sides, best as I can. There is many a thing I disagree with comicsgate on, their idiotic and garbled non-Euclidean screaming about the sequel  trilogy being one of them. I think libertarianism, Eric July's political leanings as pointless as Waiting on Godot. You can't call anything "apolitical", because that's impossible. And, with the exception of Perch and Razörfist, the rest of the group have some clear axes to grind. Perch is just too damn even keeled to have a grudge and Razörfist had been complaining about the issues that led to comicsgate and gamegate for years before either movement came to pass.

Oh, and Chuck Dixon (remember him??) seems to be a pretty even-keeled and standup guy from what I can tell.

But, c'mon. This is obvious. On this one spot the comicsgate people are 100% right: the mainstream comics industry is rotten from the inside out, having exchanged story for straight up propaganda, and it's playing out, in real time, if you know where to look. 

The fact that you have to know to look should be enough of a reason to be deeply concerned.

The Batman is a Masterpiece

 

I've not felt anything more positive than mild irritation over the last few Marvel movies.. the ones I didn't think were just so outright stupid that I didn't even bother. Feige's vision is the very worst of the comic book franchise: just building to the next big thing, with installments that don't matter. And I don't mean as installments or even as pieces of content, although content go fuck right off. Like, there's nothing in these latest... time sinks... that I can feel is an actual spiritual statement at all. And what little I can get I hate, as it's just cynical nonsense.

But this?


This perplexed me

The Ave Maria? For this scene? And remixing it for the soundtrack throughout the entire damn movie? Like, you don't just do that by accident. You can't. That's as on purpose as it's going to get. The darkest moments of this movie feature the Ave Maria. Y'know, The Hail Mary: 

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

There is some disturbing shit happening in this movie, to that prayer. And the way it's shot? It's meant to be taken in the context of that prayer.

We'll get back to that in a minute. So pin, going in.

Then there's this use of Something in the Way by Nirvana:


Underneath the bridge
Tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I've trapped
Have all become my pets
And I'm living off of grass
And the drippings from my ceiling
It's okay to eat fish
Cause they don't have any feelings
 

Something in the way
Mmm-mmm
Something in the way, yeah
Mmm-mmm
Something in the way
Mmm-mmm
Something in the way, yeah
Mmm-mmm
Something in the way
Mmm-mmm
Something in the way, yeah
Mmm-mmm

Folks generally think this song is about Cobain's time being homeless, and his attempts to justify his existence, particularly since, as it turns out, Cobain loved fish as pets. So this is more or less a song about coping with existence as it is.

These two songs alternate, and indeed they duel through the movie. Or at least they seem to. Whenever Riddle shows up the Ave Maria plays. Whenever Batman shows up Something in the Way plays. And when Batman is going nuts right up in the Riddler's face? The Ave Maria plays. This seems to be a simple and shut case, just another director using classic Christian music to make some bold and edgy statement about the uselessness of the Christian faith and yadda yadda yadda insert some bullshit statement here.

YAWN.

Open and shut, right?

Well wait, one sec. I strive to not be an ideologically blinded person. Strive. And this movie really resonated with me, so there's something true in here. It's not my job as a Christian to return evil for evil, but good for evil. I have no doubt that someone as purposeful as Matt Reeves meant such a statement, but I hope not. The fact that it resonates means there's something different going on here, something a bit deeper, at least for me.

Let's start with the use of women in this story. It is of interest to me that Reeves not only begins with the Ave Maria but focuses on the last few minutes of the mayor, with his family. The Riddler waits to kill until the woman and child are gone. In the absence of wife and children the man dies. It's of interest that the DA dies protecting his family, begging for the mercy of God. It's also of interest that every. Single. Threat. Made. Always comes back to a mother. Namely one Martha Stark. Far from the Ave Maria being a commentary on "No good woman left" the song is being used to show just how wrong Riddler is, for trying to use something holy and good in a twisted way.

Also, notice something interesting about the ending scene here?


The mayor is an idealistic, pure woman. Or at least she appears to be, and has given me nothing but assurance that she is. The person Batman lowers into that stretcher, the one who changes those angry eyes?

It's a woman.

These women are softening the rage of Batman, whereas they sting the rage of the Riddler. So the songs don't "duel", they merge. The feminine redeems Batman, finally. He can accept his role and purpose in protecting. He becomes a true knight. 

But the Riddler’s singing the Ave Maria on the movie, you may protest! Shouting it, actually! And yes that’s correct but you know who shouts that Jesus is the Son of God in the Gospels? It’s not the apostles, who are bungling morons and traitors. It’s not Mary His Mother, whose silence is a key part of the text.

It’s the demons. They shout the truth all the time.

And Christ shuts them up every chance He gets.

Pretty clear image, ain’t it?

Batman’s silent at the end. Riddler isn’t.

It’s also of note that the first step of the Christian life, East and West, is the remembrance of death. That doesn’t mean “Things are icky”, it means “All things have a downward trajectory to despair, dissonance, and oblivion, and it’s happening to me, right now. There is one arc to the universe, DOWN. All progress is dissolution.” The remembrance of death is the realization that this world is not, has never been, and never will be home. It’s to become disgusted with your surroundings on an existential level, to wish to remove yourself from the filth, even if such attempts hasten your destruction, BECAUSE ALL PROGRESS IS ALWAYS TO DEATH.

Progress. Is. Death.

And time is progress on steroids.

The remembrance of death is considered the first gift of God. The thing He gives you so the other gifts can be given 

And when you accept it? All the way down? That this is where you’re going? And there’s nothing to be done, that you’re powerless to stop it? A strange thing happens. You are able to see people. You can see the soul behind their eyes, and something new begins to take shape. Something strong and good and wise. Something tiny and firm and sad, yet accepting and loving. Even joyful in some moments.

It looks remarkably like The Batman’s eyes at the end of the film.

And I find that absolutely inspiring.

SO...

I just found out that the Ave Maria is a funeral song. Don't look at me and judge! I never went to a Roman Catholic funeral where I heard it! And I've been Eastern Christian since 14! We don't sing the Ave Maria, we've got our own stuff and and and - 


So.

With that in mind, this movie is a lot easier to decipher. I mean, it's obviously about death. And how one reacts to it.

Yup.

Look, I like my take better, okay???

I'm allowed.

But hey, insert rant about how art has multiple interpretations possible.

Yeah.

Totally not embarrassed, at all.

Go away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

RE: What's Wrong with Nerd Culture, Epilogue: "On Love and LARP"

 


The three comprehensive virtues of the soul are prayer, silence, and fasting. Thus you should refresh yourself with the contemplation of of created realities when you relax from prayer; with conversation about the life of virtue when you relax from silence; and with such food as is permitted when you relax from fasting.

- St. Ilias the Presbyter, Gnomic Anthology III

I still want to scream that Dave is just as right as he is wrong. There’s always a healthy sub-culture of crafting and art in every geek and nerd community that I’m a part of. Hell, the TTRPG community has always embraced a relatively high level of DIY. I mean, I was doing homebrew almost out the gate, in high school! Technically I’m doing it now. It wasn’t very good in high school. One might argue I’m not very good at it now. But I’m doing it. But Dave isn't talking about the minority, he's talking about the general trends. See, the problem is that, four years after this series came out, not a lot has changed in the fandoms I follow. Star Wars is still as toxic as hell, in no small part because of the eradication of the EU and Disney making a "new" canon (EU was never canon folks, sorry).

But see, there’s a healthy way to approach all of this. We cannot stop contemplating the good, true, and beautiful. I didn’t say we shouldn’t, I said couldn’t; humans are built to constantly meditate upon what they think is good. We do that or rot. But our brains wear out after prolonged exposure to direct thought. They get tired and need to relax. 

And this is where the quote at the top comes in. “Created realities” is what’s said. For some that may mean a life of hiking or gardening. For others martial arts or philosophy. But some of us? We wanna get into something abstract, a sub-creation of the mind. We like having something made up to think on. That’s relaxing.

The object of St. Ilias’s statement isn’t to make a straitjacket, but to simply say: “Goodness is the point, however you get there.”

If you can relax while playing a game with your friends, and thus build relationship and affection? Great! Mission accomplished! Is watching a TV show filling you with hope? The hope’s real, who cares how you get it? If playing an obsessive amount of RPGs helps you understand and forgive the real world, then fantastic!

It’s drifting away into nonsense and ennui that’s evil. Whatever helps you stay here, with the ones you love, that’s what’s good to contemplate. And, when people do this together, it’s naturally communal. They build silly little things. The fact that they are silly is the point. The fact that they aren’t real is irrelevant. As people build and debate they build a culture, something informal and invincible, so long as their higher goals align. Things like The Brothers Grimm, LOTR, fan fiction, it’s all folk culture.

Or it can be.


The thing is that geek/nerd culture is a bastardized form of folk culture: the difference between someone who paints his own minis and those who carve their own chess pieces is academic. But now we can rely upon these huge centers of production and we have gotten lazy, and even the bits we do do we scoff at, because they're not shiny enough like the mass-produced bullshit.

Yes, I'm aware most fanfic is awful.

But that's not the point. 

The point is that nerd/geek culture is the monetized form of folk culture... which then chokes out folk culture. Because the love of money does that. We've gotten to the point to where we just take in this stuff passively, as opposed to making it ourselves and giving our own little tweaks to it.

Corporations making up crap for us consumers is not culture. Culture comes from the bottom up, in response to top-down influences. Instead of guiding us along in contemplating the good when we’re tired most of these corporations merely want to make a buck. 

And I think the drive that Dave woke up in me, years ago, was to not be a part of that bastardized imitation of culture. I didn’t know it then, but the drive to make games that pointed out something good while you were tired began here.

Because yes, this is ultimately why I design now. I want things that help guide me to goodness when I’m too worn out to do it myself. I want to be able to relax and not lose a second to evil, because evil rides in with tides of disintegration and time. Evil doesn’t need to try, not here in this world. Good does.

None of us deserve that. We should be able to relax and still keep our focus on goodness. We need to trust that we will be carried, just a bit, while we rest from the exhaustion that living can inflict. 

No, I don’t think Dave quite has the picture, even now. His truly black pessimism allows him to see the rot, but like many of the neo-reactionary YouTubers he has trouble realizing what the point of having a point of view different from the rotten mainstream is for. But without his promptings I wouldn’t have gotten here.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

RE: "Fantasy Role-Playing Is Hurting America"

 



"Oh God, another one" is what I thought upon reading the headline of Christianity Today. I mean, I frequent enough gaming groups to know they're practically lousy with progressives. I listen closely enough to know that their hatred of Christians isn't totally unwarranted and is usually because some family member said something to the extent of "Dungeons and Dragons is satanic!" and then the poor nerd had to endure a living hell simply because they found something worthwhile in a poorly understood hobby.  Conservative Christians are bad at figuring out RPGs. That's not a controversial statement. Period. And, while this article isn't nearly as irritating as it looks upon first glance, it's still symptomatic of basic issues that Protestants have with... well... being human. Still not a good article, by and large.

I do recommend reading the article before going on, by the way. Here it is again.

Now, in the 2020s, I am wondering if my evangelical elders weren’t partly right about the way fantasy role-playing can paganize a culture—just not in the way they expected.

Right here, at the beginning, we have a problem. That word: "paganize". I'll bet you that most Americans (Wiccans included!) wouldn't know real paganism if it bit them in the ass. But we'll get back to that. Just know, right here, that right at the beginning of the article Dr. Moore commits a fatal error: he thinks that paganism has anything to do with what's going on in "fantasy roleplaying", as he calls it.

It doesn't.

If anything it's the lack of paganism that's the problem, not its presence.

But we'll get there!

So we'll address the good of the article, which is more evidence of manufactured consent being a constant in this... "republic". Dr. Moore breaks down Bannon's disgusting tactic on manipulating people through Breitbart. To quote Dr. Moore:

Senior asked whether Bannon considers what he has done in propagating political media and in energizing populist nationalist movements to be “the gamification of politics.” He replied that this is exactly what he’s doing: “I want Dave in Accounting to be Ajax in his life.”

That is gross. I'm perfectly aware the left has their own form of this, but that doesn't mean I can't call out Bannon's evil tactics here. Bannon realized the basic premise of pretty much most MMOs: keep the dopamine stream coming and you can sorta comfort yourself with the fact that none of the things that happened reflect who you are in the real world at all. Bannon's response to this phenomenon was perverse: make that wish to have the two "halves" of a disaffected person become one in a way that benefits him. So he admits to pumping this tragic dopamine spiral into Breitbart.

I mean, I can't get that out of most progressive "news" institutions, so at least he's honest?

Yay?

Here we stop for just a moment to remind everyone reading this post that manufactured consent is the problem of a republic (I won't call it democracy, democracy is just flat out evil): he who gives information to the voter has the real power. Period. That's who you have to worry about.  And, as distasteful and gross as Bannn's tactics are, it's the same basic Marxist narrative as the left pushes, and just as deliberately. If you are sitting on the left and going "Oh you stupid conservatives!" you really have not learned anything from the last ten years, at all. Both sides are trying to weaponize the common folk for their own profit, that's all socialism and any variation of Marxism has ever been

And will ever be.

To resist the left as persecutors is in itself Marxist.

But Dr. Moore does not point this out. I do not know if he knows it, but as we're about to get to, his basic presuppositions are so wrong, on such an egregious level, that I think he's drinking the Kool-Aid as much as anyone else.  He lumps in things that do not belong together with a flippancy that I actually find shocking. 

And it takes work for me to be shocked at the idiocies of conservatives.

It turns out actual fantasy role-playing—whether it be Dungeons and Dragons in a treehouse years ago or multiplayer video games on a screen now—is, for most people, harmless fun.

Hold up. Just hold up. That's like comparing playing baseball in real life with playing a baseball video game. TTRPGs require active engagement of the imagination in common with others, while holding to a ruleset to guide said common imagining. The benefits of this activity have been tracked, with some pretty awesomely verifiable results, over the last few decades, and roleplaying is itself a therapeutic activity, in and of itself a good thing to do. TTRPGs are not morally neutral. I'm not saying everyone has to play them, but they're actively good for you to do, should you choose to do them.

MMOs, while there's some obviously good examples of them being healthy, also have a strongly addictive element to them, shown by actual cases of people pretty much literally pissing their lives away on an addictive loop that is more like a slot machine than a real game. Obviously they're not all like that. And not everyone who uses a slot machine will be there until they shit themselves. But anyone who thinks MMOs and slot machines (and the social media that's based on it) aren't designed to be addictive are kidding themselves.

I do not fault Dr. Moore for not knowing about the therapeutic benefits of TTRPGs. I do fault him for not engaging in just the tiniest bit of common sense.

You might find that nitpicking. It's not. This level of basic ignorance is a common trend of  this article. For instance, right after that:

 Paganism, after all, demands the sort of significance that is heroic, in which one’s virtues of strength and power are celebrated in story and song.

Has the man read any actual mythology at all??? Like, at all??? Even a few seconds of reading anything before Christianity reveals a total lack of caring about humans. Humans do not succeed in these myths because they're cool, they succeed because the gods like them, and that's a very important distinction to draw. Assuming humans show up in the mythology at all, like in most Norse stories. Speaking of the Norse, there's a good reason why the common folk went Christian, as the scraps of the old religion they followed involved all sorts of awful crap like human sacrifice. Bits of Mediterranean practice we have are no better; temple prostitutes would get knocked up by men intentionally possessed by spirits so the child would start out possessed. And it just goes on. And on. And on. To be pagan meant to realize that humans were worth fuck all in the grand scheme of things, and therefore were perfectly expendable.

Where are on earth is any of that in CNN or Breitbart??

The problem of paganism, of course, isn't that the pagans were wrong for realizing that human life was cheaper than toilet paper, or that the world is inherently predatory and cruel. That's as obvious as walking into a war-torn country, of which there are many today. Western society is the exception to the truth... and that only goes insofar as you don't look at a garbage can behind Planned Parenthood.

At least the pagans had the balls to call the things they killed human.

I can't even get that out most progressives. Cowards.

No, the problem of paganism is very different: they leaned into the cycle of cruelty. They found there was no way out, so they didn't bother to try. There's a nobility in accepting things as they are, and it's this nobility I think the modern "pagans" try to recreate... but if you're going to do that you better be willing to build an altar to put those baby parts on. And you better be willing to own up to to what it is that you're doing.

Progressives can't because their ideology is inherently dishonest in a way that no pagan could ever afford to be.

And conservatives are just progressives driving the speed limit.

So.

This brings us to the end of the article, where Dr. Moore attempts to solve the problem with Christianity as he understands it. Of course his presuppositions are so wrong that anything he tries now is going to be hollow and insulting. He's trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. And besides setting off the baggage of many a conservatively-raised human (that includes me!) he present an image where all the words aren't technically wrong but it all adds up to one horrifying lie.

Christianity, as a historical fact, has never disagreed with paganism on the shockingly cruel nature of life. Nor had it ever tried to paint a different picture until Protestantism, because actual, historical, Christianity values life experience over something like a book. It is not an abstraction. What Christianity is, instead, is an acceptance that the world is going to break you. Over. And over. And over. And over. There is no "winning". You can't beat the house, and even if you do you'll be sitting in a puddle of your own piss and awfully creamy underwear and really, at that point, did you really beat the slot machine? Did you really?

Down.

Down.

Down.

That. Is. Life. Period. Not liking it doesn't make it not so! Sorry! 

But what Christianity, real Christianity, preaches loudly and without reservation, is that God became man so He could be there to catch you at the bottom. It goes from a bone-crunching fall to landing into the arms of your father after he threw you into the air. It turns all the anxiety of falling through the air and realizing you're going to get really hurt into something thrilling, because He's waiting for you, arms outstretched and ready, smile on His face

Some of us just happen to get tossed into the air particularly high, and the drop can deliver a particularly heavy kick of fear.

We all also happen to experience the drop, however scary, in decades, not moments.

Ain't that a bitch?

It's the same inputs of death, decay, and illness, but with the knowledge that it adds up to something incredible. 

As an aside,  I don't say that as someone who has completely unlearned the old ways of cynicism, mistrust, and rampant trauma that is classical liberalism. The Enlightenment era peddled the idea that somehow humans, just on their own, are capable of figuring out the world, and that there are methods to get around the brutal facts of the world. I can see that it's wrong, but I'm only just beginning to realize there may be a better, more positive, way of thinking than assuming that humans have something that they never did: power.

I suppose Dr. Moore's sum up of what he thinks is Christianity at least touches on the actual pitch of the 2000 year old religion. But it's more a blind squirrel finding an acorn. Or a stopped clock being right twice a day. I don't know Dr. Moore, and I really shouldn't pretend  to, but this article I find scandalous in the actual sense: it confuses and hurts one's ability to think about the truth. He misidentifies the dying throes of a sick and twisted ideology for something else, and therefore he misleads, however unintentionally.

But I find that in a lot of Protestant stuff, so there's that. It's almost like classical liberalism is just the philosophical outgrowth of Protestantism, or something.

But that's for another time.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Urth of the New Sun: The Second Take on The Second Reading


The locked and rusted gate of the necropolis stood before me, wisps of mazed kelp threading its spikes like the mountain paths, the unchanging symbol of my old exile. I launched myself upward, swimming several strokes and thus flourishing the skull without intending it. Suddenly ashamed, I released it; but it appeared to follow me, propelled by the motion of my hand.

Gene Wolfe; Urth of the New Sun

The above passage, where Severian encounters his childhood (a torture guild) home after drowning his formerly frozen planet with a new sun, summarizes my experience with C-PTSD. Time and again I was forced to confront a series of facts: my past was dead, I had killed it, and it was never meant to last. 

My past is dead. Many people think something along those lines but very few people must confront the fact that dead means rotting. My past wasn’t just gone, it actively disintegrated, morphing into new and horrid shapes, revealing new details I’d not thought about as a child, similar to finding the skull of a childhood friend at the bottom of the ocean. 

Or a childhood rapist.

Or the fading memory of your wife’s childhood laugh.

All. Rotting. At the bottom.

In one big oily mess.

But it was what was left behind that haunts me still. Memories of what I valued and why were underneath the things that rotted, but now exist as half-shades of their own, without the things that gave them context. I've tried. And Tried. And tried. To get back what I had atop of these more foundational, more primal, memories. But the person who had made those memories is long gone. His innocence, his joy, his strength, it's all gone, vanished into the ether. There's just me, here, in the present. 

The truth of it is the next part: I did this, to myself. By wanting to heal, by wanting more than what I could give, I had to destroy what I was. On some level I knew who I was just simply couldn't get me through the next lifetime. I had set my face like flint so hard, had put everything I had into the attitude, that to change was to fall apart. All of this emotional wreckage... I had done it. And I had to. 

But the hardest part of it all, as I examine my emotional wreckage, is the knowledge that it was always going to happen. I remember how I felt, why I felt, and how driven I was... and I know now it was never going to be a long-term thing. And it isn't. I'm far weaker than I was before. I don't have the willpower. I can't face the same emotional storms I once could. But I don't need to now, I suppose, now do I? Life has changed. I am married. A father. I went to visit family for July 4th for criminy's sake, that was definitely not something I did as a child. I'm in a new place. I chose this new place. And that means everything that could not adapt to that new place had to die.

That just so happened to be almost everything.

Almost.

But not quite.

If you think this post has nothing to do with Urth of the New Sun then I don't know what to tell you, but it does. It has everything to do with it. Wolfe, on coming back from the Korean War, could not hear a loud noise without collapsing to the ground in a heap. He lived with his parents because his PTSD was so bad that he couldn't live a normal life on his own. Book and Urth of the New Sun were written very much in this period of recovery, and I just... I felt this book in a way that's impossible to understate. Even more than New Sun I always walked in a dream when reading this book. It was a dream where I could just... be. I was what I was: strong, defeated, pathetic, and some form of nobility that I have a hard time owning.

But it's there.

Just like with Severian, the former torturer, rule, and then drowner of Urth.