Saturday, October 27, 2012

Debating on the Internet

Ah, the Internet debate. So prevalent, and yet so universally despised. An excellent topic for discussion. Or debate.


But first--a pie chart.

 These data were collected (yes, data is a plural noun) by thirty-seven and a half brilliant urologists from Harvard with the help of the Hubble telescope in an international study.

It must be true.

Nice as the color variety may be, the picture is grim. Unfortunately, this chart depicts the current state  of Internet debates quite well. As an avid lover of both the Internet and debate, I felt moved to do something about it.

So I published this argumentative post on the Internet.

We all have our own ways of contributing.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Thought I might as well post this, to mark this moment in my life and crap.

Today I officially graduated. I have my little transcript, diploma, and everything. It's all nice and proper.

Now I ascend to the next level of the perpetual monkey-dance of human social existence. Huzzah!

I should have a bit more time now to devote to this blog.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Government is Watching You

I found this article recently. Educate yourselves, my people.

It is essential these days to learn how to better protect yourself from unwanted government observation. Because it's not like you can fight back if they decide they don't like you or the things you say.

A pity we have come to this.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Video of the Week: A point about drawing swords

This is for the producers of every sword movie ever. Educate yourselves, I beg you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Video of the Week: Copyright

Ah, copyright. Another one of those things government just doesn't seem to have thought through too well, despite the incredible impact it has upon society and culture.

This video explains the original intentions of copyright, and how that has been perverted by greedy corporations (those guys seem to be behind everything bad, don't they?).

On a side note, I am afraid these video posts may be the only thing I get done on this blog for the next few weeks. I am frantically trying to get my novel written and my other courses finished by June. So, there will be a bit of a slowdown here until then. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Video of the Week: What They Don't Teach You in College

This week's  video shall be on the topic of college, another thing which has occupied much of my thoughts over the past few years. College is  one of the biggest businesses in America, and it is no secret that there are many flaws with the way it is used these days.

I love the way this guy describes it. I suggest you watch his other videos as well; this man is amazing. Prepare yourself for randomness.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Video of the Week: I Hate Pennies

 I was going to do a long essay on the evil nature of pennies (and other coins) this week. However, it happens that the magnificent John Green (who is also perhaps my favorite modern author) has already made a video concerning this; I doubt I could say it much better than him. In fact, I have decided to feature an educational/funny video every Thursday to propagate general awesome in the world. 

 This was actually the first video I ever saw of John Green's--and it introduced me to the wondrous world of Nerdfighteria.

A note though. As of this post, pennies require 2.1 pennies to produce--0.4 cents more than what they cost when this video was made.

If your name happens to be Penny, I apologize. You are probably not evil. I would suggest you immediately change your name, however.

Monday, April 9, 2012

When to Quit?

It is said that the what separates the winners from the losers is the fact that the winners don't quit. This is obviously an idiotically simplistic thing to say. Just look at all the imbeciles on TV who sell themselves trying to get into the public eye who just won't give it a break. Those people should have quit a long time ago to spare themselves the shame.

And we also have those old athletes and competitive performers who stick around way too long in their respective crafts who seem to have never heard the phrase "quit while you're ahead". They just tax themselves (and everyone watching them) trying to compete with the more virile succeeding generation.

Nobody wants to be like those American Idol performers who can't sing but think they can. Or like the Republican presidential candidates who think they actually have a chance of being elected when a black guy is running against them. They only embarrass themselves. So the question is not if you should quit as much as it is when you should quit.

Here are a few bits of information I have discovered concerning quitting.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Noob Mentality

I play video games. Not excessively, of course, but it is a part of my life as much as other people have their TV shows or movies. It is only to be expected of a nerd, I suppose. But I do not believe it is always a waste of time, or simply an escape from real life, as so many see it. Through video games and the incredibly loving world of online gaming, I have been gently introduced to many poignant life lessons.

The most significant one I will share with you now.

In gaming (more specifically in online gaming), there are two distinct groups of gamers. In the first group, we have the pros, who are professionals of their craft. These are the guys who research their stuff on the Internet. They use the forums. They read (and write) the FAQs, walthroughs, and guides for the games they play. They calculate stats and time in-game actions. They "grind" for experience points. They "farm" materials and weapons. They join clans and guilds. They use weapons and strategies they don't like because they are more effective. They try to get 100% of the trophies, even if it has no in-game benefit.

Then there are the noobs--also known as n00bs and NUBs (Non-Useful Bodies).

Noobs (the idiots they are) play for "fun"--as though video games were ever about fun. They hop from popular game to popular game, only delving into the waters of each long enough to get the bits of poo floating on the surface, and never delving into the delicious mire of the riverbed. If they make any attempt at strategy or cleverness, it is usually through abusing simple, universally known tactics that ruin the dynamic nature of the game. Examples of this may include camping (in shooter games), chicken-hawking (rpg's), excessive grinding (mostly universal), using exploits or glitches deliberately to gain an advantage (universal), and relying upon other characters to carry or support them without fulfilling their own part/role (rpg/universal).

Noobs have no desire to learn. They often display this through asking stupid questions they should be able to figure out themselves just through common sense, or reading the instruction manual. If one corrects a noob, the response is often outrage or defensiveness.

I should quickly note the distinction between noobs/n00bs and newbs/newbies here. Newbies are simply new or inexperienced. Everyone goes through this stage. Noobs are perpetually inexperienced. An easy way to tell the difference is to observe the willingness to learn. Noobishness is a mentality, newbieness a stage--newbs become pros with time. Noobs always need help, and fail to give help in return.

In real life, we have mercy upon those who are noobs. We have unemployment programs, charity organizations, etc. There is no such mercy in online gaming. Although many minority groups whine about the vicious verbal abuse they receive in online gaming, noobs are by far the most commonly (and deservedly) bashed of these groups.

On a side note, I think it is important that all people experience this world of casual abuse at some point in their lives, so that every fault in their souls might be brought into the open and mocked savagely.It is excellent for character building.

Far too many people have the "play for fun" mentality in real life. The consequence (the same as it is in gaming) is that they suck.

I say it is time to do away with this prevalence of noobishness in society.

If you suspect that you may be a noob, I suggest you go through the following list. If you suck in one of these areas, make yourself better.

 1. Look at your grinding. Grinding is anything dull and intensely repetitive that increases power/money/good stuff like that. Like your job. Or weight lifting. Or homework. If you are grinding excessively in one area, then you are probably a noob for taking advantage of a super-simple mechanic just to give the appearance that you are awesome. Workaholics, nobody likes you. Go away.

From the other end of things, if you are not grinding at all then you are most certainly a noob. Grinding is the fastest way to improve in an area. Although the task is not daunting in itself, the monotony and circumstance certainly are. Suck it up. Just do it.

In short, value grinding but keep it in its place if you don't want to be a noob. 

2. Look at the specific things you are doing. How have you come to where you are? How much of what you do is in imitation of others who are regarded positively by society? Are you taking the things you are learning and applying them in new ways? If not, you are being a noob.

If you ever want to become more than a noob, then you must learn. You must  be willing to learn on your own (and that means applying creative thought as well as simple research), and go through some pain in the learning process. Most importantly, your learning must make a difference--it has to change you. This process is called growth. You don't experience true growth when you only copy what everyone else is doing just because it works for them.

3.Can you resolve everyday problems independently? Do you need outside motivation or instruction to get things done? Do you demand an example before you attempt something? Do you continue to require aid to do simple things, or delegate those things to others entirely? This is noobishness, and also just plain annoying.

4. How deep do you dive in the muddy creek of life? How do you consume? All of us in western society are consumers. At least in the middle class, it is how we consume that sets us apart from our fellows. Do you think about what you wear, eat, and use? Are you analyzing the things that occur everyday and responding  to them properly?

Do you look beyond what is immediately available/visible to everyone? Do you search for answers and deeper complexities behind events, products, knowledge, and life in general? Or do you trust the simple summaries and mass-produced junk that others pump out as good enough for you? You know you do, you noob.

Figure things out on your own. You weren't born with a massively complex brain just so everyone else could work out things for you.

5. How are you exerting yourself? If you pick up a hard game, do you finish it? Or do you get past the first level, quit, and go on Gamespot to write a whiny review about how unfairly difficult the game was?

A noob is defeated by any sort of unexpected difficulty. Don't be like that. Exert yourself--you will never grow if you never push your boundaries.

You must go beyond easy mode if you ever want to be a pro. Do it.

A Final Word

In my opinion, life is no more meaningful than a video game. Thus, if you truly wish, I suppose it doesn't matter if you want to be a noob. But as long as you stick around to play the game, you might as well contribute to the world rather than be just another leech.

And the first step to that is in mastering your lazy, selfish nature.

I have no doubt that if you put all of your noobish desire for immediate fun in its right place, it will bring you great pleasure down the road. There are few joys greater than fully mastering a well-made game.

But if you decide to remain a noob, that's actually alright with me. You'll be yet another headshot for my kill streak.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: Inheritance Cycle

Now before I am murdered by a flock of angry pigeons insisting on precision of language, I will start with the admission that the Inheritance Cycle is a series of books, not a single book. My advice to the pigeons of technicality is this: go away. Well, that isn't so much advice as it is an imperative statement, but without the outraged birds to emphasize exactitude of enunciation, I can get away with that sort of thing.


The Inheritance Cycle is a series of four books (originally intended as a trilogy). I read the first two books back in 2006 when I was too stupid to tell the difference between fine art and an oddly-shaped pile of horse dung. The books came to my attention after I saw the movie, which I liked because the dragon looked cool and it had been a long time since I had seen a somewhat realistically depicted dragon in film. The premise of the film intrigued me, so my grandmother purchased Eragon and Eldest for me. Yes, she does that sometimes. And no, it is not because I am a completely broke, lazy student who spends his spare time ranting on a blog that no one reads.

In any case, I genuinely liked the books at first. They promised and fit into the confines of one word: archetypal. A cynical person would say that this just means "cliched", but as we all know I am a very cheery, optimistic sort of fellow who is dearly fond of his philanthropic mindset and lollypops. So let's just call it "archetypal".

I like fantasy books. There, I said it. I enjoy tales of adventure and worlds much more epic than my own realm of small screaming spawnlings (also known as siblings), odd odors, and luminous laptop light. I am easily endeared by stories telling of the exploits of individuals who have earned or been granted powers significantly beyond those which humans can attain unless they fall into the category of being Chuck Norris.

The Inheritance Cycle gave me another world, and a reasonably interesting one. Dragons, swords, Urgals (who are definitely NOT orcs), and all that. And so I came to like the Inheritance Cycle, which made me hold the opinion that it was good.

Of course, the fact that it pandered to the pathetic needs of my anemic soul did not excuse or change the fact that my opinion was wrong.

People marvel and say that Paolini started writing the series when he was fifteen. I marvel not at the young age, but rather that people know this and don't immediately drop the series like it's coated in male pubescent bodily fluids.

It's not very hard to see that the writer of these books was inexperienced. To cite a few broad examples: Poalini is quite fond of flowery, overly descriptive narrative passages. His dialogue feels structured in places. This may be a more personal criticism, but he often portrays people and circumstances in an unreal, romanticized light. The pacing in his stories is not the best--think somewhere between Tolkien and Herman Melville and you've got an idea of it. Some of the situations (even allowing for the fanciful setting) felt unrealistic (his character Roran is particularly guilty of failing to follow the rules of probability).

While this may all seem very bad, I will note that Paolini has talent (something a critical large number of writers such as myself don't seem to realize that they will need if they ever want to make a living as a writer). And obviously, people still like to read his stuff, which is what matters in the end if you want to bring in the cash. However, this review will mention little of the positive aspects of the series, because it's so much more fun pointing out where someone else has screwed up than praising all the things done right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poem: As I Come Undone

I like reading poetry. It is a more raw, focused form of emotional expression than fiction. However, I tend to despise my own attempts at poetry. I am wholly confident that everything I have ever written that can be called something like poetry is an abomination to the craft. However, even I need to vent emotion at times. These unfortunate excretions sometimes manifest in the form of poetry.

I never thought I would come to this. Here I am, about to publish one of my dreary displays of dejection. This is what happens when one procrastinates and must come up with filler material at the last moment for one's blog.

So, here is As I Come Undone; it is a melodramatic product of some tearful day when I utterly screwed something up and had to imagine what it felt like to have someone not completely abandon me so I would not blast out my brains with a shotgun in despair. It would have been an annoying mess for my family to clean up, you see.

Fall to my knees

Fall to my face

Cover my head in disgrace

You can’t see

You can’t understand

All that has fallen by my hand

I can’t go on

I can’t believe

Why you still see something in me

You don’t give up

You still believe

Even though I can no longer see

Why do you stay?

Why don’t you run?

 Even as I come undone

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sword Review: Windlass 15th Century Longsword

Ah, the sword. I could rant on the beauty, the symbolism, the very essence of everything that has been and is that iconic blade-and-hilt tool of death every day. At times it seems as though my every thought, my entire life and state of being are focused around this one tool--no, this ideal--for the sword is an ideal as much as a physical weapon.

But you're not here because you want to listen to my senseless adoration of deadly symbolic weaponry. You want... wait--what do you want? Why the government are you here? Get yourself a life, good man. This is no place for sane people.

But in the chance that you are actually insane, stay and read a bit farther. This may be useful information for those seeking a sharp/pointy object with which they might kill something.

This fine weapon was made by Windlass, a company based in India (that is, their products are produced by native American Indians, who have had a long tradition of forging high medieval weaponry). Their services to the world are varied in nature, but most pertinently to us, they manufacture miscellaneous entry-level  medieval clothing/armor/weaponry. The key factor in their products is this: they are cheap. Everything they make is produced with extreme care to keep consumer cost down.

This weapon could easily compete with similar models priced around 300 USD. I got it for about $130 (on sale). Currently, it can be purchased from the very good people at Kult of Athena for $170 with free shipping in the US. If you want it, that would be the best place to get it.

The above link contains the essential statistics of the sword, as well as more pictures.

Yes, I am actually a spy for Kult of Athena. No, there is no chance that I just think they're a good retailer.

I give you fair warning: I love this sword. I can't help it; I'm sorry. It's just so pretty. It sits across my lap even as I type this. My review will be biased. I'll still have things to criticize, but I'm not going to nitpick as I would with a higher tier sword.

Handling/First Impression

This sword is beautiful. Pulling it out of the box, that's all I could think. The compound hilt, wire half-wrap, and crisp pommel come together very well aesthetically.

The weapon feels light and free in the hand. At just over three pounds, it is nearly a full pound lighter than my other longsword. This sword begs to be swung.

In both hands it flows and snaps sharply without resistance or drag. Hooking a finger over the crossguard, the blade feels natural with one hand. Thus, it truly fits into the category of a hand-and-a-half sword.

Most of the weight is centered around the ricasso, as the crossguard (while stylish) is quite thick. Same with the ricasso itself. While this extra weight is unnecessary, for me it doesn't detract too much from the handling.

The blade is overly flexible; you can bend it noticeably with one hand and focused effort. I knew this would be true before I purchased it thanks to a few other reviews, but it seems that this fact was a bit exaggerated. Wielding at full intensity, this slight whippiness is noticeable, but not ruinous. I could go through all my drills without distraction.

On a practical note: if I was going to do heavy cutting, this would probably be a bit annoying, as any flexing during a cut would detract energy from the blow. So, if you want to go on a wild, limb-chopping massacre free of annoyance, you might consider a different sword.


The construction of the sword is interesting. The blade has been described as anything from a type XIIa to a type XXa--I have never seen such a dissimilarity of description with a single longsword. The hilt is more easily classified. The iconic ring guards evoke a late fifteenth century feeling (although the wire half-grip doesn't quite feel right).

In my mind though, it makes sense as a tool. It's fashionable and light. The blade geometry would be best suited to cut and penetrate soft targets. I could easily imagine it as a civilian weapon for a rough nobleman's son.

The sword comes with a simple yet stylish black leather scabbard that fits loosely to the blade. The pommel, crossguard, and scabbard fittings are of stainless steel; they are well-aligned as well as secure. The blade is carbon steel. The half-wire grip is tightly wound. All seams in the leather are neat and unobtrusive. The fuller is straight and even on both sides. The blade has been polished to a satisfactory level of shiny-ness.

My biggest complaint here (and perhaps in the sword as a whole) has to do with the pommel. Sure, it looks nice. It fits neatly in the hand, so gripping it for extra leverage is easy and practical.

But it is screwed on.

For me, it has come a bit loose several times in my ferocious testing. This was easily corrected by simply re-tightening it, but that is not something I would really want to be doing in a duel (or in the middle of a limb-chopping massacre).

I don't know why they did this. Windlass, would it have really been so hard to just thread the tang through the pommel and peen the pommel in place? That, along with correcting the geometry of the blade, would have made this sword an incredible offering to the world of entry-level weaponry at this price range. It could be sold for double its current price without consumer complaint.

I find your lack of peen disturbing.

However, as it is this sword can only be said to be "just another" attempt at a pseudo-historical weapon reproduction from Windlass.


Despite all of my cynicism, high standards, and general lack of tolerance for things that suck, I love this sword.

Call me cheap, but I more than happy to have purchased sword. If you are interested in swords/medieval martial arts and you don't have a lot of money to throw around (or if you just want to swing something), consider purchasing this. Other swords might represent the longsword better in a historical sense, but I don't think there is much out there at this price with this level of... aesthetic appeal.

A note though: this weapon, even dull, would not work as a sparring weapon (I don't care what sort of protection you wear). I bought it unsharpened, but the tip is deadly pointy--it will sink into flesh with little effort. I would call the edge "unhoned" rather than "unsharpened". I have made deep gashes in my wooden training pell with this edge; I can only imagine what it could do in sparring.

All things considered, I give this sword a 7/10 for a new sword enthusiast.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Selecting a Mate

Alright. I know you non-existent readers are all probably thinking something like "Hey! You're a nerd! There's no way you can talk about love relationships in an accurate manner! Everyone knows all nerds are eternally single!"

While true this may be, I do not believe that my utter lack of experience in the field of mate-selection disqualifies me from making scathing comments. I have never killed anyone (in a battle situation) with a sword before, and yet I slap ignorant Internet tough-guys across the face all the time for purporting egregious factual errors regarding the proper usage of a sword, the dynamics of combat, and the physics of medieval weaponry in general. So, while some of my comments might reflect poor understanding or contain overly broad/simple generalizations, consider my criticisms for the points they make rather than the personal advice/information they might deign to offer.

Having given that disgustingly generic disclaimer, I shall begin with analysis of some of the goals for love that we commonly accept in this culture.

Note here that I am referring to the "boy-girl" sort of love in this post (although, in these modern days this sort of love can also be applied to girl-girl, boy-boy, girl-dog, boy-hand, and boy-girl-girl-girl-girl relationships. But that is just distracting; by now I'm sure you know what I'm talking about anyway.).

I will start by stating that this culture's view of love is screwed up. (...That may have been a poor choice of words.)

The ultimate goal in love relationships has become physical and emotional fulfillment. You expect your partner to live up to your standards and satisfy you in these areas. Women tend to want more emotional and physical security, while men so infamously seem to more greatly desire intimacy and support.

There are two things wrong with this as I see it. One, no one can ever "fulfill" you and your needs-- this is far too much burden on the other person. Two, personal fulfillment is a selfish goal. Since when did love become a selfish thing? It's good that people want to make wise decisions when choosing their mates, but approaching matters of love with thoughts like "I only want the best for myself", or "I really need a boyfriend/girlfriend so I can have this/that" will usually set you up for disappointment when you discover that the other person wants the same thing. 'Cause you see, you aren't the only selfish anal orifice in the world.

An unpopular and somewhat cynical view (and, purely coincidentally, a view to which I held for a good time in my younger days) states that there is no purpose to love besides reproduction and the upbringing of new life. While this is technically perhaps the most accurate purpose for love from a biological standpoint, in this current culture love clearly serves more than just this by the fact that people are having fewer and fewer children per couple on average as the years pass. Not everyone wants to reproduce, and not everyone will. So there is more to it.

On the opposite end of the cynicism vs. idealism spectrum, we have the people who pursue love for "healing"--sometimes from the pain of a previously failed love relationship. 

It's always a good idea to do the thing that hurt you in order to fix the hurt.

But I won't disregard this cultural view of love yet, as it does have a bit of truth--love is innately one of the strongest emotions we are capable of feeling, and thus can overwhelm other feelings of pain/heartbreak.

Again though, this goal of love is callow and self-centered. What happens when the other person can't heal your trauma (and they will not be able to, any more than they would be able to re-attach a severed limb)? The most they can be is a distraction--a source of happy chemicals to dull your pain. Which means you objectify the person. Which is not good.

Other reasons for pursuing love can range from "I just don't want to live life alone" to "I want to know what it is like to love". Analyze your own reasons for pursuing a love relationship. I bet you'll have a hard time finding one that does not have the subject "I" and the verb "want" (synonyms count). As I said before, we are all selfish blighters.

Now I will move on to some of the critical assumptions those of us who live in western society make about choosing that special person. I love analyzing assumptions.

I find it amusing and revealing when people speak of finding a companion in the same way they might about selecting a car, and often at the same time romanticizing it so it still fits in with the fantastic perspective that there is such a thing as "The One" or "True Love", a perspective that has somehow ascended beyond the realm of fancy and into our fundamental beliefs regarding love.

As with choosing a car, we always want the ideal (The One). Even if we can't find exactly what we want, when we see something that meets our expectations fairly well and is at a nearby dealership, we think that it was all the more "meant to be" shortly before and after we obtain it, just because it was conveniently located near us. Of course, when we discover that the MPG isn't so great and that those stylish leather seats are actually kind of ugly eighteen months after purchase, we start to question our decision. And we begin to wonder if we actually made the best choice, how long we will be stuck with this car, etc.

Don't get caught in the infinite models and colors. Once you buy your car, don't think that you still have the freedom to go through and drive around in all the other ones to make sure yours is the best.

I may be getting off track with the analogies.

Anyway. Regarding love truthfully (actually, regarding a lot of things in life), I believe everyone is incredibly naive. I don't care how intelligent/accomplished/experienced you are in love or any other field in life--something about the horrific strength of emotion that comes with love screws up the minds of even those who are normally quite rational, even when the actual numbing blaze of the moment has passed.

When we are in love, we are certain that the person is the One--but even when things get difficult and we "fall out" of love, we still believe that that special One is out there somewhere. Just forget about that last guy that you were so sure about who cheated. Or the guy before who got convicted for drug abusage (yes, abusage is a word. I just added it to my Word dictionary.). Or the guy before, where things "just didn't work out".

I will state this simply. I don't believe everyone has a One True Love. Even if I believed in fate, I would not believe I had a "One" set aside for me. If I thought that was true, then I would question whether or not I actually chose the One the moment I realize that my spouse is not perfect. This view is harmful to marriage, not beneficial.  

Next assumption: you should pick your husband/wife based upon compatibility and practicality.

Choosing a mate (for most of us usually) is an emotional choice. Especially rational people have incredible difficulty weeding out the candidates when they have a large pool from which to choose, because rationally we can't determine what makes one person "better" than another--actually, any choice will be wrong with this outlook, because we will eventually find things we don't like about anyone once we know them. Broadly speaking, I don't believe that we, as humans, can judge other people well under most circumstances. Which is why we are designed to choose our mates based mostly upon emotion and physical attraction, often spiting the will of parents, social incompatibility, or common sense.

I think that, to a degree, keeping love an emotional thing is better than the current trend of extreme particularity that doesn't seem to be improving the nation's divorce rate. Keep the particularity and practicality practical. Don't think that you've chosen the right guy/girl because you've thought about it a whole lot. Your emotional brain will have messed with things somewhere.

Opposites attract, but so do similaritites. Compatibility is overrated; how much you care about the person is the real question. If you find the person you want to marry, marry him/her, and make it work, even if she likes cats and you prefer dogs.

Next assumption: You should really get to know the person you want to marry before you marry him/her by dating for at least [insert number] months/years.

I laugh when I hear this advice. But it grieves me at the same time to know that people take this seriously.

I read a book in my sophomore year of high school titled "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". It's written by some Conservative dork who's got a lot of high-minded traditional ideals. I disliked that book, as I have disliked many books that present the personal opinion of the author with religious authority. I read the book anyway though, because it challenged this society's ill-considered passion for dating as a means of courtship (and yes, Joshua Harris, dating is indeed a form of courtship). This was the central element of the book, and I at least agreed with him on that. I still hated the book though, because I always let the things I dislike about something to dominate my opinion about that thing.

Anyway, the biggest problem with the "get to know" approach lies in the fact that dating sucks as a way to get to know somebody. Speaking as a writer (and a masterful one at that), in order to develop a bond of any sort between two characters, they must exchange meaningful dialogue (hint: the antics of your cat or something funny a friend said are not exactly very meaningful) or engage in conflict--the source or object of the conflict does not matter particularly, so long as it is resolved mutually (it can be between the characters, directed against the characters, etc.).

A note to you parents trying to separate your daughter from that undesirable gangster boy, or you public school officials prosecuting a teacher for pursuing an "inappropriate" relationship with a student: you are creating conflict that will actually draw them together and make their relationship stronger.

Dating is as good at revealing character as the number of kills you get in Call of Duty reveals how much of a soldier you are. Dating is fun; it's a game. You play around, chat, and relax. You can be really good at dating and making a good impression, but it reflects performance in "real life" poorly. I could rant for quite a while as to why I hate dating the way it is used in society, but I'll save that for another post.  

The second problem the "get to know" approach is that people change. I cannot believe how rarely this seems to be considered. The funny, outgoing Bob may turn into a despondent, fat Bob after twenty years of dealing with a horrible job and too many Twinkies. Anything that makes up who we are (except perhaps our pasts, which, surprisingly, do not affect our personalities that much outside of how we view them) can be changed. Your very involvement in this person's life will change the person. Who is he/she without you? Who will he/she become with you?

Knowing a girl's music preferences now is meaningless if she decides that she really likes Justin Bieber ten years from now when he finally hits puberty.

Not saying you should jump right in and marry somebody you just met in Wal-Mart. But perhaps determining a person's character to see if they have a personality that is "compatible" with yours may not be as important as society makes it seem. In India (and a few other "backward" countries), people still get betrothed at infancy/have their parents choose their spouse. And somehow, their divorce rate is a lot lower over there. Go figure.

Next assumption: dating prepares you for marriage and relationships with the opposite sex.

Just in case I wasn't clear on this before: DATING SUCKS. Dating trains you for marriage, yes. A temporary marriage. The cycle of becoming infatuated, romantically involved, breaking up, and finding a new person becomes habitual. You carry it into your marriage. Don't do it.

Next assumption: there are two types of love: infatuation and true love.

Obviously, there are more than two types of love. But I won't get into the types of adoration we can feel towards other humans; I will focus instead on the naive idea that either love is shallow or it is something incredibly, magically deep.

"True Love" can fade. Don't listen to the fairytales. Love is like any other passion in your life; you have to feed it. It doesn't feed you some magical stream of constant energy.

"Love at first sight" (another one of those magical things) is infatuation. In fact, any love based primarily upon physical attraction would count as infatuation. True love is what happens when you are prepared to sacrifice yourself utterly for the other person (and I mean more than just the "I would die for you" sort of sacrifice--think a slow, daily sacrifice of what you like to do and your concern for yourself for the other person). True love can grow from infatuation.

Love is love. It is what you make of it. You control the depth and intensity.

Next assumption: if you are not happy/having problems with your relationship, then something is wrong and you should get out of the relationship.

Ugh. So very many things wrong with this.

First of all, your spouse is not responsible for your happiness. They have no control over fate. Or your hormones.

Second, problems in relationships are one of those things that are what they call universal. Meaning not only are you not the only one, but everybody goes through them. So you have no excuse for not pulling through as well.

Whatever happened to that passion that caused you to become involved in this person's life in the first place? If you quit on them, you invalidate all of that. It's like middle school again, where you wanted so bad to get into that football team/learn an instrument. Then, after a few weeks when your body became sore from the strain of practice and you got sick of practicing your scales over and over, you asked your mom if you could stop. If your mom was a good one, then she would have said "no". (Of course, she should probably ask you why first, and then give the "no" once she understands that your poor, lazy butt is just sore from all the effort.)

Think about it. Why give up? Just because it is hard? Just because those magical, happy chemicals aren't being released into your bloodstream as much now? Because he/she is/isn't doing something, and it distresses you?

Habits change (not saying that they go away always, just that they change). The state of things now does not indicate the state of things three months from now. Better or worse, the future is unknown and largely unknowable. You cannot say anything about the future for certain, other than this: it will come, and it will be different. As I said before, stuff changes. If you and your attitude don't, then they will, or the situation will, etc.

So. I have just abused numerous assumptions we make concerning love in our modern culture. But do I have anything to offer besides mockery and criticism?

Of course not. I'm a nerd, Bob dangit (and yes, I just used "Bob" as a cuss word. I do that a lot.). I'm not authorized to speak on such things. Even if I was, I would not want to, as I am also a troll who does nothing but raise conflict. Actual contribution is forbidden for my race.

Anyway, none of you would want to hear what my approach to love is. But you know what? I'm also an arrogant liar in addition to a nerd, so I will tell you anyway.


I... I don't know what I plan. Do I even want to pursue a love relationship? Well... I guess I want to make my life about more than just myself. Isn't that my whole purpose being alive? But if the other person doesn't like me, then I would just be an annoyance. I've been an annoyance to a friend before. One of the worst moments in my life was when I realized just how much of an annoyance I was. I haven't had contact with that person since then.

No, I have no plans for love. Somebody else can make the choice to get me into that sort of relationship; I won't look for it.

Not saying that that is the ideal. But for a creep such as myself, it is the only option.

As a final note, I will say that I have completely failed in getting this published by my (self-set) deadline of Valentine's Day. I thought it would be so perfect to match it with that day when love-y feelings are most recognized by our culture, but then I remembered something: I hate this culture. So actually, instead of posting this late, I am simply expressing my uniqueness and rebellion against societal standards. Valentine's Day wasn't even about love originally anyway (it's about romance as much as Christmas is about Christianity--that is, it has been totally convoluted over the years).

We must also consider the Valentine's Day massacre. Why should I commemorate that horrible day?

Yes, now I'm just making excuses. I know, I'm a horrible person.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: Brotherband Chronicles

I have come to the inevitable point in life where I have begun to question the very essence of everything I once thought I admired. Actually, I reached that point about three years ago when I learned that Star Wars was not exactly considered a masterpiece of epic storytelling with poignant lessons of wisdom with profound underlying philosophical messages. And again about a year later when I realized I actually found females (as popularly depicted in media) to be disgustingly thin and unattractive, in contrast to the fine muscular figure of the male body.

I have since come to terms with many of these idiosyncrasies that tend to arise in any individual devoted to the more obscure reaches of culture. I am a perfectly normal, unique person. My uncertainties in these areas are just parts of my natural development! Of course I understand Star Wars is just a movie. Of course the Force isn't real. And I am not gay!

In any event, this book has unfortunately begun the cycle of re-discovery for me once again. John Flanagan was one of my favorite authors when I was younger, and I remember thinking his Ranger's Apprentice books were quite good--at least above average. They are responsible for a small part of the person I am today, and I still reserve a space on the shelf of my personal library of favorite books for the series.

I would not do the same for this book.

I fear to look back through Mr. Flanagan's previous stories else I discover that the glorious literature of my childhood is actually not so glorious. Or even that good, for that matter.

Let me start with the good bits Brotherband Chronicles, to get that out of the way. First of all though, I suppose I should mention that I did not finish the book. I got about three-quarters of the way through it, I think. I simply could not bear it. But that is not beginning with the good is it? I suppose I just threw that in there as a disclaimer unless the book suddenly got good near the end.

I'd start with the characters, but I did not find myself liking a single one of them (with the exception of a minor character who was able to avoid the over-development Flanagan put into every one of his main characters to try to make them more sympathetic with the inevitable result of actually making me despise them all the more).

Instead, I think I'll start by pointing out the good parts of the context of the story--the setting, or mood/time/place/culture/planet-thing. I remember that fateful day when I first picked up the very first Ranger's Apprentice book off the shelves in the Barnes and Noble young adult fantasy section. I read the prologue thingy and part of the first chapter, and was sold. It was a thrilling and witty story of grizzled master ranger and his young but capable apprentice in a quest to hunt down monsters of another age who threatened the kingdom (but turned out to only be a symptom of a much deeper, more sinister disease to the realm--a powerful outcast villain). It was an epic, exciting story that showed me something new and fantastic while still feeling realistic. At least, that is how I remember it.

This story is not at all like that. But wait, you say. Isn't this story supposed to take place in the same world as the original Ranger's Apprentice?

Yes, it does.

But then, it doesn't.

You see, Flanagan went through a sort of genre shift while writing the Ranger's Apprentice books. After the second book when the "Evil Dark Lord Guy Person" (and yes, of course that was his name--isn't that the name all antagonists in fantasy stories are given?) dies by the hand of Horst (SPOILER ALERT-- oh wait, I did that wrong, didn't I?), everything takes on a distinctly more pseudo-historical-fiction-esque feeling. Flanagan seems to like the idea that he writes "realistic" fiction. Of course, It does not matter that most of his characters are based on cliched archetypes (which may not be entirely unacceptable apart from the fact that they are neither clever archetypes nor particularly realistic ones) and remain one-dimensional cut-outs of characters he has seen on television throughout his books despite the fact that he gives them numerous lines of what should be enriching, character defining dialogue that almost inevitably devolve into meaningless bantering consisting of what Flanagan must think are witty comments (but are actually rather dull lines which pass into cheesiness far too often for any characters Flanagan intends the audience to take seriously).

Of course, I will not go into Flanagan's failures concerning historical weaponry and even basic physics. Yet.

But where was I going with this? Oh yes. Flanagan no longer writes about dark creatures that stalk the night, or powerful men who build armies by themselves in the cold reaches of the world to someday claim revenge or whatever, or complex young men who carve out their names into the stones of legend with the guidance of dark, brooding mentors who still retain human quirks.

Now he writes about idiotic teenagers performing average feats fully expected of them, but failing miserably at times of crucial importance in pathetic ways.

I believe he wished to set himself apart from the vast crowd of fantasy writers creating what they hope to be epic stories with high-brow dialogue, powerful wizards, dark lords, idealized heroes, and the fate of the world at stake.

But didn't he already do that? I don't know, maybe the original Ranger's Apprentice was just like the Brotherband Chronicles--hence my fear to re-read Ranger's Apprentice. But I do remember I felt swept away with the thrill of discovering some new world within those pages, and new people I wanted to know more about. Everything about Brotherband Chronicles feels trite and recycled. The more I find out about the characters, the more I think, "Oh, what an annoying fellow. I would never want to be friends with a person like that,"--except with different words in place of "fellow" and "person".

So far, I think I have pretty much totally failed at starting with the "good bits". So maybe I should just get on with how the book begins.

It opens with a relatively peaceful raiding, in which the raiders are made to look like the good guys--because as we all know, vikings cared deeply for others even in their bloody rampages, and they never went on raids without justification. And if that justification is a bit sketchy, then who cares? Boys will be boys. They just need to go out and do a little raiding sometimes. Perfectly normal. But I digress. These not-to-be-misconstrued-raiders do their work, and leave the village relatively peacefully, but something goes wrong. Here's the good part, I thought.

Horse riders come to challenge these raiders and defend their possessions. Unfortunately, these riders happen to be n00bs. And Flanagan makes this painfully clear, explicitly emphasising their freakish inexperience by every method of conveying an impression available to fiction writers (including outright telling the reader).

These riders do absolutely nothing to the plot or story in any way, except give an opportunity to show how much the author loves these raiders but somehow failing to give me the same emotion of adoration for their over-emphasized awesomeness (in addition to making totally sure the audience knows that they are the good guys). The riders all run away the way little cowardly kittens do when you violently kick away their food dish and scream hellish cries of outrage at them while chasing them deep into the woods (What? You've never done that or seen that happen? How odd.).

The raiders go back to their ship, where they start chuckling to themselves about the utter ease of the encou--OHGODAFREAKINGSPEARINMYCHEST!!!

Imagine a guy throwing a spear instead of a god.

Somehow, one of those juvenile wannabe-knights had run all the way back to them without being noticed by anyone and was able to hurl a spear with enough force and accuracy to impale one of the absolutely-noble-viking-raider-guys-who-had-just-stolen-everything-the-evil-kid's-family-had through his armor and kill him (but of course leaving him alive just long enough for him to impart his dying wishes to a nearby best friend).

Not sure why I didn't stop there. I felt nothing for any of the characters so far, and the direction the plot was taking just seemed... weak. Like the Flanagan just had a general idea about this book and pulled this portion out of his anus to fill in the historical gap and create some sort of conflict at the beginning of the book--which was not altogether a bad idea considering that I cannot recall any meaningful conflict taking place in the first few chapters, apart from another flashback-thing between the scrawny protagonist and his idiot friend who doesn't even know how to swim.

I stuck around to get to the bit where the protagonist goes into this training thing which is supposed to be really hardcore. It's called "Brotherband" training (*wheezeTITLEDROPcough, cough), pardon me. However, it may as well be called basic US military training (with some boy scouts/summer camp type activities thrown in), because that's pretty much what it is. Complete with annoying whistle-blowing drill sergeants.

Can't get much more awesome than the army, but come on...


This is not a particularly new thing for Flanagan. Basically every culture or army in his world is directly based upon some ancient/medieval counterpart, and usually you can tell just by looking at the name. The key thing though is he usually bases the things in his books on history--you know, as in stuff that used to be but isn't anymore? I'm not sure if Flanagan didn't understand that the vikings had their own methods for bringing up young warriors and raiders, or if he decided that researching that sort of thing or maybe even (*GASP*) consulting an expert on the dark ages/vikings was just way too much work.

It may have prevented him from postulating that the fuller of a sword serves to allow the blood to drain from the victim more easily. I'll never forgive you for that one, Mr. Flanagan.

Gah, this post is getting long. I'll sum things up by saying this: don't bother to read the book. I would tell you to not read it or any other books by this author ever or else I'll kill you and your dog, but that would just make you curious, and then I'd have to deal with jail sentences, and all that messy business. So I'll just keep things simple and straightforward.

Save your time (and your dog). Don't read it.


Somewhere in my reading time (or the time when I am actually supposed to be babysitting) I have managed to get through the final chapters of the book. HUZZAH, I DISCOVERED THAT THE BOOK WAS ACTUALLY A COMPLETE MASTERPIECE, BETTER THAN ANYTHING I HAVE EVER READ EVER!!!

Well, maybe not. But I was pleased to discover that the ending was not quite as predictable as I thought it would be. However, elements of it were definitely unrealistic. Why would Erak let a bunch of n00bs guard Skandia's most precious artifact on the night a bunch of suspected pirates leave the city? That's like asking for it to get stolen (SPOILER ALERT--dangit, I did it wrong again, didn't I?).

Flanagan has never been a George R. R. Martin, but I also thought the ending didn't evoke a lot of emotion of loss--that is, somebody should have died. NOBODY dies in this book. Being a gore-loving morbid sort of fellow, I found this to be unacceptable, especially considering that Flanagan obviously wanted to pull at our heartstrings with this "sad" ending. Instead, I was moved to my core with the emotion of "I don't really care."

However, the small amount of surprise at the end did not by any means justify the rather mediocre beginning, middle, and end--or at least the bad bits of the end. Of course, it is a well-known fact that I am severely mentally retarded, and thus it is quite possible that a normal-functioning person could have discerned the ending from two hundred pages away.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Inanity of Blogging

Over the past five years or so, I have seen an incredible increase in the number of simply pathetic blogs on the Internet. It seems as though every idiot who has ever taken a college course on English composition has realized the fact that it requires no great mental exertion to create a blog--and has thus decided that he would be able to write and maintain a unique blog of superb quality.

Sometime in the past century, our culture has gotten the idea than anyone can write. Which has created the odd situation where more books than ever are being published and fewer books than ever are actually being read. But of course, not everyone who has been educated with this mentality wants to go through the tiresome effort of hiring an editor and finding a publisher--not to mention the strain of (God forbid) writing an actual outline for his book so it isn't a rambling mess of suck. But who cares about that--now, we have blogging! (We also have Facebook, but that is an evil to be addressed in another post.)

Thanks to Google (who has ever believed in and supported the power of the common stupid person by making its features as mind-numbingly simple as possible), anyone with a Gmail account can make a blog in approximately five minutes. Sure, it may not be the most original or best way to begin a blog, but that does not matter to the hordes of prospective writers who flood the Internet with their precious thoughts which so desperately need to be expressed.

The subjects of these blogs may be anything or everything. Cooking, fitness, media, sports, style, politics, science, education, activism, philosophy--even the incredibly exciting events of the personal life of a person who has enough spare time to spend hours every week writing in a blog--are all popular categories. No one ever bothers to come up with anything outside of these categories, because that is just too hard. In short, whatever the blogger deems worthy of the cost of corrective surgery for his spine from sitting with poor posture in front of a computer for hours every other day adding to his blog is an appropriate subject.

Blog content is not usually much better. Almost invariably, any blog I find on a subject that may be remotely useful (such as fitness) seems to devolve into giving 1: the same information repeated every few months, 2: information that can be obtained in any popular magazine, or 3: just enough information to make you want to buy the blogger's latest book/product that has some deep secret which can never be posted in the blog itself because it will apparently result in the spontaneous combustion of Earth.

Dividing by zero will do that, too.

And that just covers the truthful blogs. The number of blogs that contain misinformation, unverified claims, or even outright lies is approximately equivalent to the number of bad singers on Youtube. Of course, on the Internet--where no one cares about anyone (except perhaps slutty attractive young girls who are really federal agents in disguise)--that is only to be expected. If I had the ability to draw pictures with poo on the sidewalk without anyone giving a flying cow pat, then I of course would. After all, it is important to express oneself in the way that most reflects one's personality, no matter how ignorant or disgusting it looks.

That is not to say that all blogs are entirely useless. I myself read a few blogs every so often to assure myself that I am still significantly better than the rest of the human race, or for material when I need examples to illustrate the egregious flaws in the US education system in my papers deriding the course humanity has taken over the past few centuries.

Really though, I suppose blogging is not that useless as far as modern forms of communication go. For one thing, they don't slowly leech away your privacy by tracking your every click online and recording every event/emotion of your life until they have stolen your very soul.

Unlike some websites.

*wheezeFACEBOOKcoughcough* Pardon me; I have a bit of a tickle in my throat today.

However I'm not really sure I can count not doing something as a plus.

I am left with no conclusion but that this fad of blogging has done nothing to further humanity. Perhaps my little voice here will reach out to just one blogger, and convince him of his utter stupidity and the worthlessness of his blogging efforts. In the end, I believe that would be worth the sacrifices I have made to my ideals in writing this.

Until my next post. Fare well. Don't paint the sidewalk with poo, no matter how pretty you think it looks. It's gross.