25 February, 2009

Interactive Blogging

I keep adding trinkets and things to the sidebars of this blog - and that's a good thing. I like to personalize my space (have you seen my room irl?). But I was looking at it recently, and I thought to myself, 'this page - this is my new myspace'. That's not a good thing or a bad thing, just an interesting observation I made.

Anyway, on to the idea of interactive blogging. Following from my previous entry, I'm thinking that it might be interesting to try some form of interactive blogging. I'm not talking anything *too* revolutionary, just a resurrection of my personal message board. Although I'm considering starting over and getting a brand new one.

But the basic idea is, it'll be like a semi-personal space for me and the few people that I know and interact with online to post about the things in their life with slightly more of an expectation of interaction and the promise of being able to start up some potentially interesting discussions.

Bottom line is, there's no point if I'm the only one doing it - in that case, I'd may as well just keep posting here. So, you few people who would be included (and you know who you are), what do you think of the idea?

The Phenomenon of Blogging

Don't expect an internet-wide report on blogging standards and heavyweights here, I only want to mention a *personal* revelation I discovered recently. It came to mind while searching for backup info for my previous blog entry (the one just before this one), when I happened upon a discussion on my currently defunct personal message board that was similar in topic to that entry. The difference between that discussion and the blog entry is just that - there was an actual exchange of opinions between two people.

And then I realized the difference between posting on a message board and blogging. (And lest you fault me for making such obvious discoveries, there's something to be said for coming to a full and active realization of something that you've been taking for granted). On a message board, discussions occur freely, while on a blog, it's not so easy. Although items can indeed be discussed in comments and taken up in other people's blogs to present their own opinions, the medium doesn't seem optimized for that kind of equal back and forth discourse. When you blog, you're making a bold personal statement, to which you can expect people to agree or disagree in varying quantities, but you don't really expect it to be the catalyst to a great discussion - it's more or less the final say on the topic, or at least that particular spin of the topic - even when it's also the first say.

I used to have philosophical discussions and discussions about life on various message board forums, but recently I've shrunk away from that, my thoughts finding their place unopposed on the pages of a one way blog. Part of that movement is obviously due to my discovery/acceptance of blogging. Though even before I had a 'real' blog, I had been using a page on my website to put thoughts - thoughts that I wanted to share, but didn't particularly care to have feedback about.

However, there's also my declining faith in the power of debate. What's the point of arguing with people? You have an opinion, they have an opinion, and no amount of verbal torture is gonna force those two opinions to be the same. And why should they be? Blame for my disillusion can also rightfully be placed on the fact that most people are idiots when it comes to intelligent discourse, forgetting the not so subtle differences between friendly discussion and heated bitchfest.

But on the other hand, tossing ideas and beliefs and theories off of people can be a very fruitful endeavor, and when handled maturely, can also be quite enjoyable. So I wonder if maybe I'm selling my ideas a little short by just stating them and not expecting any interaction or reformulation.

Only problem is, I'm not about to walk up to a message board, and go, hey guys, what do you think about this and this philosophical quandary? There was a time when I could, but I've lost that ability. I can't even remember the last time I started my own topic. Maybe I should find a philosophy board or something. I dunno, the internet is so vast, and there's so much out there, that you can never find that one specific community you're looking for, or when you do, it's either inactive or populated by the wrong type of people.

24 February, 2009

The Great Saturday Night Heist

I once read something about Janis Joplin, perhaps an interview, where she mentioned or was said to have mentioned a phenomenon that was referred to as the Great Saturday Night Heist. If I recall correctly, it was in relation to a conversation she had had with her father (perhaps the one that initially used the phrase), and the anecdote was used to demonstrate Janis' wisdom about the ways of life, even at a young age. Indeed, Janis was known to have lived a troubled life - a fact that is self-evident through the lyrics in her songs. This idea of the Great Saturday Night Heist, which I think is best exemplified through Janis' music in the song Kozmic Blues (also, perhaps, another phrase for the phenomenon), can be generalized as a form of weltschmerz, a term which I have personally taken a liking to.

"Don’t expect any answers, dear; for I know that they don’t come with age."

But there's also a more specific meaning to the phrase, the 'Great Saturday Night Heist', which is what I'd like to touch on here. The basic idea is also demonstrated, albeit in a more comical rather than tragic fashion, in one of Jerry Seinfeld's standup routines that was affixed to the pilot episode of his popular 90's sitcom.

"You know why we're here? To be out, this is out...and out is one of the single most enjoyable experiences of life. People...did you ever hear people talking about 'We should go out'? This is what they're talking about...this whole thing, we're all out now, no one is home. Not one person here is home, we're all out! There are people tryin' to find us, they don't know where we are. 'Did you ring?, I can't find him.' 'Where did he go?' 'He didn't tell me where he was going.' He must have gone out. You wanna go out: you get ready, you pick out the clothes, right? You take the shower, you get all ready, get the cash, get your friends, the car, the spot, the reservation...There you're staring around, whatta you do? You go: 'We gotta be getting back'. Once you're out, you wanna get back! You wanna go to sleep, you wanna get up, you wanna go out again tomorrow, right? Where ever you are in life, it's my feeling, you've gotta go."

Also, there's a related scene within the episode The Junior Mint:

Jerry: What, you rented "Home Alone"?
George: Yeah. ...By the way, do you mind if I watch it here?
Jerry: What for?
Jerry: Because if I watch it at my apartment I feel like I'm not doing anything. If I watch it here, I'm out of the house; I'm doing something.

It's that feeling you get when you're spending a Saturday Night at home alone, and something tells you that you should be out there, hanging with people, enjoying your life, and that if you stay home you're not only wasting an important opportunity in your life, but that you'll also be more pathetic for it. And while the "Heist" phenomenon suggests an ultimate disappointment even in the empty fulfillment of going out, it's that initial feeling, that drive to go out and live in the first place, that I want to talk about.

I figure it's an evolutionary symptom of our social nature as a species. Something fundamental inside of us drives us to interact socially with the pack and also to pursue mates. Lonerism, from that perspective, is dangerous - it means giving up the protection of the pack, and giving up on the propagation of the species. And so the ancient sociobiological imperative that exists within us urges us, on those Saturday nights we spend alone, suggesting that we could be spending our time in a much better manner.

As an asocial personality, by design and not by choice, I've lived my entire life aware of the difference between the me that keeps mostly to myself and the they that move about in great social circles. It's not a lack of desire that keeps me holed away from the world, but rather certain uncommon psychological barriers which most people don't have a problem with. So all my life I've felt that I've been missing out on...well, life.

Before I started going to school, my older brother hung out with the other kids on the block, and I pretty much followed him/them around. When social life moved from home/neighborhood to the school, we were separated due to age and I was left alone in my own class. I had a few friends over the years, but I didn't make them easily, and I still spent most of my life outside of school at home, feeling like I *should* be out somewhere, doing something. And knowing that all the other kids *were*. And that made me feel inadequate, and crushed my self-esteem. It's a self-defeating pattern.

I remember walking home from the high school one night on the weekend - I don't know if I was just out walking, or actually coming home from some rare extracurricular outing, but it was dark already and I walked by a house on the way home from which I heard people in the backyard partying. Do you know what that feeling is like? You think to yourself, that's the sort of thing I should be doing, but I don't belong in that kind of a scene at all. I'm just going home, and I'll be spending the night alone, doing something uncool. God, I'm pathetic. Some people are secure in their uncoolness. I never really cared about being cool, but I was constantly hurt by the knowledge that I wasn't a part of that thing that people call having a life. Constantly hurt.

Let's fast-forward to college for a sec. College is pretty great in this respect. A lot of the stupid high school social barriers erode, and even the geeks and dorks and nerds end up drinking all night doing things together that they enjoy. But even so, the loners are still alone. I got to do a lot of great stuff in college that I'm thankful for having a chance to do, that I never would have done in high school, and yet I still feel like I missed out on being able to do so much more.

I remember when I first heard about the VG club that I spent many weekends at during those years. I was invited by one of my in-department peers during one of our labs. The funny thing is, in those early days, before I kind of got used to the scene, I would sometimes question myself on the weekends whether or not to go. I'd be standing there, looking at myself in the mirror in the res hall men's room on a Saturday night, debating back and forth in my head, 'should I go, or should I stay home?' It's not like I had anything important or especially interesting to attend to in my dorm room, but even with an open invitation to live this "life" I'd always desired of having, I was still hesitant to engage because of those barriers I mentioned above, which can make situations like those as unpleasant as they should be fun. Even though I knew I'd regret not going, I still sometimes got too nervous and made the choice to stay home. This is the way I am.

Anyway, the point of this discussion wasn't really to talk about my anxiety, even though it's intricately linked. So let's jump back to high school - but a certain special part of high school, in which everything in my world turned upside-down and I had to redefine my understanding of life - senior year.

We touched on above the notion of the 'heist', that 'going out' is ultimately unfulfilling, but I believe there are times when going out can be extremely fulfilling - like the kind of dreamlike fulfillingness that makes you feel like *this*, *this* here, is the reason I am alive, to experience *this*. Well, the only time in my life that I was able to consistently experience that feeling, opposing the more familiar feeling of being a waste of DNA, was the brief period in my life where I experienced deep mutual romantic love with another person.

Don't worry, I have no intention of lapsing into sappy poetics at this point. I'm just saying, even if it's something as simplistic and impersonal as that biological imperative to find a mate and propagate the species, the only time I truly felt that my life was going successfully was when I had a serious and loving girlfriend. When we went out, I felt that I was living life the way I was meant to live it. Hell, even when we stayed in, it *meant* something, because *I* wasn't just staying in, *we* were staying in.

I'm not going to belabor the point (if that's possible at this stage). I have to wonder though, what good it is all for. I know I don't believe in spiritual determinism, but I do like to find my own personal meaning for the things I endure in life. Was I meant to experience that sort of fulfillment? Will I again? Did I only get a taste of it for a reason? To fuel my artistry? Was it only a lucky fluke?

Most people have countless Saturday nights in their life. I had one, once, and it was heisted from me.

23 February, 2009

Temple of the Forsaken

First Church of Misotheism

Welcome to the Temple of the Forsaken, the First Church of Misotheism. Misotheism is a doctrine characterized by the hatred of god. Believers and non-believers alike - those who hate god himself, and those who hate the very concept of god - are welcome. We bear no ill will towards god's followers, only that we recognize them as the misguided sheep that they are, though in moments of weakness we may confess feelings of envy for those lucky souls chosen to receive god's jealous and capricious love. Our patron saint is St. Lucifer, the Lightbringer, who was cast out of Heaven for daring to shine brighter than the lord. We do not condone, on principle, Satan's evil deeds, however we do sympathize with his plight, and respect and understand the circumstances of his betrayal.

Ultimately, the Temple of the Forsaken is meant to be a sanctuary for the many tortured souls that have been forgotten in the eyes of god, and a sanctum of respite from the brainless dogma of traditional organized religion. We preach not from divine inspiration and ancient hallowed texts, but rather from the depths of the human heart. In fact, we do not preach at all - we communicate on a more meaningful and personal level, as fellows, rather than as apostles and disciples. We reject the notion of god as the necessary medium between immediate experience and limitless eternity. We hold that science is the power of man, and will one day grant us the power to succeed god.

Jesus died on the cross alone, forsaken by god. There was no resurrection. His fate was orchestrated by evil men who have propagated their lies to enslave mankind under a doctrine of malice, disguised as good. The New Testament and the Old Testament are the same. We hereby strike down the authority of god and all those that follow him. This is a citizen's arrest within the kingdom of god. In our lives the tyrant will henceforth be powerless to tempt us, no longer will we suffer his empty promises and hypocrisies.

We...are the Forsaken.

22 February, 2009

See Your Doctor When...

• Your cough doesn't get better after a few days. Coughing can lead to fractured ribs or a heart attack.

Okay, reading that kinda freaked me out a little.

21 February, 2009

My Spring Feeling

I was about to write up a post about how much I've come to hate the spring in recent years, but then I started thinking about all the things that makes spring nice, and I realized, at best, I have mixed feelings about the season.

Being the equinox seasons, when things are in flux, spring and fall both seem to have a more extroverted character. There are really only two seasons - summer and winter - but the interstices between them are rightfully honored for that very character. Whereas summer and winter kind of descend upon you gradually, until you think to yourself, well, it's summer/winter by now, I can tell that, fall and spring actually seem to reach out and grab you, as if saying, "look at me, I'm spring/fall, and I'm coming!"

Well, I can already feel spring. I don't really go outside regularly this time of year, so I have no idea what the weather's like (it certainly doesn't /look/ like spring yet), but I can feel it inside me, that spring is approaching. And that wells up a lot of feelings within me.

So what's good about spring? The weather gets warmer, and the sun sets later, meaning even a nocturnal creature such as myself gets to bask in its radiant glow, even if only a little. It rains a lot, and rain is very soothing, very relaxing. Pretty flowers start budding on all the trees, and the beautiful green comes back to reclaim the earth and wipe away the dull greyness of winter.

Oddly, since in theme it seems more of a fall/winter kind of game, I tend to get a desire to pull out Doom and play it some more when the spring rolls around. I wonder if that feeling has any connection to that feeling still ingrained within me that spring = nearing the end of the school year, which in turn means lots of free time to play games and such.

Another thing that spring reminds me of is Easter. It's strange, that though Easter was never nearly as big a deal for me as Christmas was, it has imprinted its signature onto the spring just as much as Christmas has on winter. Related, spring also makes me think about going to church. Note that I don't mean that it makes me /consider/ going, but just that it makes me think of what it was like back in my childhood when I still went. To be honest, I'm kind of jealous of that kind of positive community, and I kind of wish I could be part of one, without the requisite god bullcrap. But I guess people have to have /something/ in common to come together like that... Still, we all deal with the same problems in life, why can't we work through it without defaulting to the giant boss in the clouds? As much as I despise the idea of an atheist 'church', would it be such a bad idea for there to be places where atheists could come together and talk about life and help each other work through problems without invoking the magic word of god? Actually, I'm fairly certain that something like that exists, but it probably has a scary name...

But I digress. One of the primary characteristics of spring is that feeling of new promise. With the rebirth of nature hope springs anew. Life and love is in the air. And yet, though this has in the past had a positive effect on me, these days it does more to depress me than rejuvenate me. I feel as if I'm Persephone, except that I have still to remain in the underworld while the world above springs to life again without me. All those promises are empty, and the hope is, truthfully, hopeless. Making friends, falling in love, living life and having a grand time. These are things I may wish for, but they are things that will not come. And the climate of hope only reinforces that feeling of dread emptiness within me. The world goes on around me, and I'm trapped here still, in this underworld I cannot escape.

Jerry: Oh, so there's still hope.

George: I don't want hope. Hope is killing me. My dream is to become hopeless. When you're hopeless, you don't care, and when you don't care, that indifference makes you attractive.

Jerry: Oh, so hopelessness is the key.

George: It's my only hope.

19 February, 2009

Post-Story Depression

I don't know if there's a technical term, or what, but it seems like there should be a name for it, as I imagine it's not an unusual experience for many people. Though I do wonder about just how common it is, and the varying degrees to which different people experience it...

What I'm talking about, of course, is the feeling of depression you sometimes get after finishing up a story, whether it be a novel or a television series or what have you. You've spent lots of time investing yourself in this alternate reality, getting to know the characters, maybe even falling in love with some of them, and then bam, it ends, and you've got to say goodbye and move on with your (real) life.

For me, I get this feeling from time to time, and though I haven't scrutinized it all that much, it seems to be worse in the series I get absorbed in that actually have endings - and not necessarily sad endings. Like if a series just stops, or the ending is inconclusive, then it almost feels like it's not really the end, even if I have to stop entering that fantasy world. But if there's actually a wrap-up and conclusion, it's like the fantasy world is closing its doors to me and saying, the world continues on...*without you*. And that's like a dagger in the heart. It's like, I've gone through the adventure and the danger and the epic battles with these characters, but after all that I can't share in the "happily ever after" with them.

Obviously, I don't get depressed after every story I engross myself in, and I wonder if maybe part of the reason I like movies so much is because I can sympathize with the characters without getting *so* attached that I find myself having a hard time letting them go when the movie ends, because it's just not long enough for me to develop that kind of an attachment. And the degree to which I get depressed varies also, but it's kind of hard to believe that I could get so worked up over a fantasy, that sometimes the depression feels just as strong as when I lose real life connections. Is that normal?

But gee, all these exciting things happen in fantasy worlds, and these characters make powerful bonds to fight epic struggles against great foes in the name of pure love, and then when I'm faced with reality again, I have to come to terms with the fact that I live not only a boring but a pretty empty life, devoid of 'powerful' and highly 'meaningful' connections to people, and am severely lacking in the department of pure love. Frankly, it is depressing. So I guess there's really no surprise there. I mean, if I could give up my real life and become a fly on the wall to watch the characters from one of these series live out the rest of their lives, beyond even the bounds of the narrative, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I just can't help thinking how empty and meaningless real life is...

18 February, 2009

Heavens Feel

I have finally completed Fate/stay night, the visual novel, after about 87 hours of play time, according to the in-game clock. I started it about 18 months ago, but took breaks in between the three routes (mostly to wait for the translations to be finished). Heavens Feel, the third and final route, is very dark and intense, and the story takes a different turn from the previous routes, almost pushing the Holy Grail War itself into the background to focus on this related but new threat. It's probably my favorite route out of the three, even though the characters I liked best from the start - Tohsaka Rin and Saber - are featured more prominently in the other two routes. Still, I definitely fell in love with Sakura during the course of Heavens Feel. Plus, Rider finally gets to redeem herself, and take a more active role in the storyline, much to my delight!

"What you people call happiness did not bring me joy." - Kotomine Kirei

To sum things up, playing Fate/stay night was an immensely enjoyable experience, and now that I've experienced it all (the secret bonus Tiger Dojo you get for full completion is well worth the effort ;D), I think I can comfortably state that the visual novel far surpasses the anime adaptation (if there was any doubt). I definitely recommend it.

14 February, 2009

<3 Valentine's Day Special <3

I try to avoid talking about this issue, because of all the controversy surrounding it, and though I don't have much of a reputation to protect, having a less than conservative approach to this particular issue may be all the evidence the lynch mob needs to single out their next victim, and I'm always overconscious of the possibility of the normies grouping up to attack me just for being different, despite the fact that I have not committed (nor ever plan to) any crimes against humanity. Common decency, perhaps - that's open to debate - but not humanity. Perhaps I'm being paranoid (though most would probably concede 'careful'), considering the freedom I'm supposed to have in this country and this modern world, but that's exactly the point. The masses (whether people themselves or just the media) have stirred up a climate of fear, causing injustice to be done in the name of safety - safety from this lurking terror. Innocent people are being forced into a state of fear and paranoia, and we, as a society, are allowing it because we believe that in trampling the innocents, we can crush the real monsters that hide amongst us. And in the end, that's the thing that matters most. To this, I say:

"He who sacrifices liberty for safety deserves neither."

I suppose you think I'm talking about terrorism, and while I am, it's not the specific form of terrorism that is generally meant these days when you use the term. I'm talking about pedophilophobia (and also, misopedophilism [try pronouncing that one...]).

Now that we have the issue under the spotlight, this would probably be a good time for me to state my own position, rather than leave you to make gross assumptions about my predilections. Obviously, I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't have an interest in the topic. Contrary to what some of you might at this point be suspecting, I am not, and have never considered myself to be a pedophile. The reason I have a vested interest in the topic, however, stems from the unfortunate cultural ambiguation of the term, itself a result of the scare tactics currently being employed.

Ultimately, precise technical definitions mean little in the midst of a heated debate, but it pays to be accurate in using the words that we mean, and thus meaning the words that we use. Regardless of what words we all end up using, it's the intended meaning of those words that is important. When I use the term pedophilia, I am referring to the psychological condition of having a sexual preference for prepubescent children.

As an aside, though my concern is less than personal in this case, I hardly find it fair that the term "preference" in this definition is all too often mistaken for "abuse". The term "pedophile" is not synonymous with "child molester", nor even "sex offender". Granted the temptations that one can imagine would be existant, a person's predilection - especially one not chosen willfully - does not determine that person's actions. To demonize every pedophile as a criminal would be equivalent to reducing every heterosexual adult male to a rapist of women. In fact, we would all be criminals on account of the temptations we experience in life, even though we make efforts to resist them. And that's just ridiculous.

This is where the misopedophilism comes into play. I would agree that protecting children (and all people) from any kind of abuse is a noble and righteous cause. I don't think that all children are as innocent and vulnerable as the paranoid parents and scaremongerers would have us believe, though I might still agree that even certain consensual activities (if you'll agree that such a thing is possible) between an adult and a child might be best left unventured, for consideration of the child's developing faculties. I'm open to arguments on that case. But what isn't helping is this indiscriminate victimization of all "pedo's" (and potential "pedo's") as wolves in sheep's clothing (or wolf's clothing, if you like). As is my view on all victimized minorities, the humanist approach is to work /with/ them, and not against them. I've said it before, victimization begets victimization, and by labelling every person who looks at a kid once the "wrong" way as a scourge on society and humanity, we are gradually driving ever more people into those psychological holes that do cause the kind of egregious behaviors that we'd like to eliminate.

On to a topic of more personal interest, and probably wider consideration. Just as the definition of "pedophilia" is commonly modified to suggest the inherent inclusion of criminal behavior (i.e., actual abuse rather than simply sexual preference), it is also popularly appropriated to include those who have a perceived interest in not just (or necessarily) prepubescent children, but also (or at least) pubescent and/or post-pubescent "children" - basically, anyone under the age of consent (whatever that happens to be where you live); in other words, minors. And not just those with a distinct preference, but those with merely an /interest/, as well!

I have two main objections to the hasty lumping of these people in with the much-maligned group known as pedophiles. Firstly, it is a perfectly natural, and healthy - not perverse or deviant! - reaction to be interested in, even aroused by, young adults and budding adolescents as they approach and reach physical sexual maturity, even when this occurs before the arbitrary "age of consent" - and, for obvious reasons, the process almost exclusively begins before that age. Depending on your own age and maturity level, acting on any related impulses can uncover potential hazards, but if dealt with carefully and respectfully (without trickery or coercion), I don't see how this should be an automatic crime. At any rate, most decent people are not mindless slaves to their base desires, and they should not be victimized simply for having those natural desires. Thus, not everyone who has sexual thoughts/fantasies about teenagers is abducting them in the back of his van (nor would even consider it).

Furthermore, I'd like to approach the subject from an artistic perspective. The masses seem to have a recent history of being unable to distinguish art from pornography. As indefinite as it is, there's something to be said for the "I know it when I see it" argument, yet these authorities clearly don't know art when they see it. Naked photographs of children and adolescents are not inherently pornographic, even when they do broach the subject of sexuality (which is, due to the inevitable controversy, often /not/ the case), nor are they inherently abusive to the subjects being photographed (anecdotal evidence exists to prove this fact). And yet, I hear these depressing stories about indisputably legitimate photographers - artists! - some of whose work I own and greatly admire, being defamed by ridiculous allegations, followed by inconsiderate censorship - which in some cases drives the art underground, forcing its reputation down further, to the level of the trash it's wrongfully accused of being!

Why do we allow this to happen? Because we are being *too* protective! Pedophilophobia and misopedophilism has created a climate of terror, greatly exaggerating the existing dangers of the invisible predators that supposedly lurk around the corners and in the bushes, just waiting to jump out and swallow our children whole, that we no longer allow ourselves to admire the very innocence we're trying to protect! We can't take photos of our children happily playing naked in the bathtub anymore, without fear of someone finding out, reporting it to the authorities, and having our children taken away from us! We can't make innocent comments about cute children we don't know for fear of being mislabeled a predator and losing the privilege of having any contact with children whatsoever! When adolescents get caught experimenting with their sexuality, texting naked pictures to one another, we send them to court for distributing child pornography! We wouldn't dare admit (out loud) that a developed 16 year old is attractive, for fear of being sent to jail, sodomized by disgruntled convicts, and living the rest of life shunned from any sense of community, forever branded with the scarlet letters SO - Sexual Offender!

I say it's enough. I think we should be realistic. There's a lot to admire about youth. And we shouldn't have to be afraid to admire it. As articulated astutely elsewhere, "our culture fetishizes the sexuality of youth, but then seeks to punish us for responding to it." There will always be people who do the wrong thing, and it's society's duty to deal with them, but frightening people out of accepting their natural impulses in a healthy and respectful way, is not a path to a better world.

P.S. I'm not sure what effect this post could possibly have (positive or negative), but I've been trying to verbalize my stance on this issue for quite some time, and I think this was worded particularly well, so it'd be a shame to just ditch it...

12 February, 2009

Gale Force Winds

I don't know what officially constitutes "gale force", but it's a pretty cool phrase, isn't it?

Crazy storm last night. It was unseasonably mild during the day, with temperatures in the 50's, though by the time I was up it was starting to chill off and the wind was really picking up. The wind raged throughout the night, without rest, knocking out the cable/internet at one point, which only just came back on about an hour ago. The power stayed on, though it flickered momentarily off on at least three separate occasions. Amazingly, the clocks didn't seem to have been affected.

The cat's afraid of storms. She's such a scaredy-cat. She was making far too much noise, and even spent some time up in my room, for the comfort of company, which is quite rare. I was peering out the front door at one point, and I heard some sirens in the distance. I stepped outside to hear better, but as soon as I went out, the wind picked up again and drowned out whatever noise I might have heard.

It was some pretty wild stuff. I give it a thumbs up.

11 February, 2009

Apple Pork

I was thinking, this apple pork stuff is a perfect metaphor for my life, and how my taste is so at odds with that of the established paradigm of modern living, and the unending grief that causes me. As far as the dish is concerned, the main feature is the pork, and the apples and stuffing serve to enhance the experience of the pork. From my perspective, the pork is useless, it's a roadblock obstructing me from the apples and stuffing which I do like. So I find myself with a huge uninteresting hunk of pork on my plate after the scarce apples and stuffing runs out, and I can't get anymore apples or stuffing, because, the way the dish is designed, I'd have to take more pork at the same time, and then I'm in an even worse position.

I've always been a picky eater. When I was younger - much younger, as a kid growing up - I'd often have problems with the meals being served at my home. I remember many a dinner spent sitting obstinately with bowed head and clenched fists, wishing life could be kind enough to at the very least serve me some food that I could actually enjoy eating. Is that really too much to ask? Since then, I've become more accepting of my dismal fate, and I'll eat even if I don't like it, because that's just the way of things.

My grandma and her peers lived through/grew up during the Great Depression, which is what I typically attribute to the attitude they have which makes them constantly remind us (me and my siblings) how spoiled we are, and to their practice of frequently going out to restaurants to have extravagant meals (and why they can't help making comments when we don't finish what's on our plates). It doesn't really bother me, because that's what their frame of reference is; I accept that they've been through tough situations I can hardly imagine. Still, it'd be nice if they could be more accepting that my own 'spoiled' and 'picky' attitudes are merely a result of the easy living I've been exposed to - and it's not like that was a conscious choice I made - my parents chose to raise me that way.

So whenever my grandma mentions how spoiled I am/we are, I just think to myself, that's the way you want it, right? You wouldn't want us to have to have lived through the kinds of things you lived through, right? And yet, if my easy living has made me what I am today, I can't help wondering whether I'd be better off if I'd had a little more traditional adversity in my life (I *have* had my share of nontraditional adversity, however - but it's the kind of thing that most people shrug and say 'get over it', but that's because they're them and I'm me, and we all have our own personal demons we struggle against, that few other people are able to understand).

Like, for example, there's this movie called Bastard Out of Carolina which is an intense movie experience about a young girl growing up in the south, who gets abused and raped by her stepfather. She's a helpless victim at first - after all, she's just a child - but by the end of the movie, she finds her will and fights back, and it makes her this incredibly strong person. And I wonder, she's the type that she'd probably have been a strong person anyway. But without those experiences she had, as awful as they were, I don't think it would be nearly the same. So you have to wonder, if you can create something great out of something terrible, then isn't that terrible thing just as necessary in the grand scheme of things?

I mean, nobody /likes/ adversity (well I dunno, maybe some people do), but is it really something we even /should/ want to eliminate? Nobody /wants/ bad stuff to happen, but is it really so responsible for us to wish that such things never happened to anybody? Should we all live a happy and well-adjusted, easy-going life with no pain and sorrow, so that we all become weak and defenseless and eventually lose the ability to even survive the harsh turns the universe has in store for us? No, I guess not. It's a paradox, trying to protect without being overprotecting. I think I've had both, too much protection, and not enough protection. And it still doesn't mean a damn thing.

Lois: So how was your day?
Brian: My day? Un-freakin' believable. First we nailed this bastard who had the gall to hide his stuff in his daughter's doll--HER DOLL for God's sake! Where's the line anymore? Well, I got news for ya, it's not even on the radar screen! The days of decency and virtue are gone, honey, BAM, freakin' evaporated like a dingy stinkin' mudpuddle. One day you see your reflection in it and the next day it's a, it's a damn oil spot on your cracked driveway, staring back at you, mocking you, knowing the perverted truths that rot in the pit of your soul. That's how my freakin' day was!

08 February, 2009

Cosplay Wow

There's cosplay, and then there's coswow! I stumbled upon some cosplay photos today that were so cool, I had to share.

First up is a girl from cosplay.com who, in this one shot, manages to really capture the essence of C.C. from Code Geass - check it out! Pizza Hut supports the rebellion! She also manages to nail the bedtime C.C. look as well. ;)

And then I found this gallery here, which has a ton of high quality cosplay photography (quality cosplay *and* quality photography), and is worth skimming through if you have the time and haven't seen it before. Here are some of what I thought were the highlights:

More C.C.! ^.^

Clare from Claymore (three pages worth)

Saber-chan from Fate/stay night

A female Bejiita?!?

The Legendary Sannin from Naruto (lol @ ero-sennin peeping on Tsunade-sama!)

BERSERK!!! - *awesome* defeated Griffith cosplay, with some great behelit shots!! (three pages worth)

and, Nagato Yuki (for my book-loving readers)

There's some other interesting stuff in there if you have some time to kill, but those are the highlights. :D

I also read this blog rant titled Cosplay - Should only good looking people do it? (which has a picture of another Clare, btw). In response to the issue, while I am very sympathetic to the sentiment, the obvious point to be made is that cosplay isn't just (or always) about looking good. It can be (and is often - more often?) also about just having fun and celebrating the characters you love. And I would never want to get in the way of people enjoying themselves as such. I think people should, however, have a healthy appreciation for the difference between costume play, and costume modeling (not that the two can't be the same in some cases).

Ok, just a few more:

Gabriel from Constantine

Massacre Princess!!! (and after the madness)

The Joker

05 February, 2009

Gazing Into The Abyss

"Gaze long into the abyss, and the abyss gazes also into you."
- Nietzsche

Not just an overused quotation, but also a concept that I have a fondess for, and an activity that I have a predilection towards. Long have I gazed into the abyss, and though it is not an altogether uncommon interest, sometimes I do wonder just what it is that drives my curiosity toward the darker side of human nature. And there are times when I find myself gazing also into my reflection in the mirror, only to ask myself the question, have I yet become the object of my morbid curiosities? Is it only a matter of time?

There is one view of life, that paints a picture in bright and cheerful colors. Many people believe in this picture. They may not live it, but they strive for it, and they hope for it, because they cannot live without it, at least as a potential. The other view of life paints a very dark and grim picture. Not as many people are as comfortable looking at this picture - and it is not a comfortable picture to look at. But it's the picture I see when I look at the world, and I refuse to kid myself into wishing bright colors where there are none. If the truth is dark, then I will become dark.

There's something appealing to me about controversy. The concept of groupthink is quite bizarre to me - how can a set of beliefs that are so obviously flawed be so unquestionably popular? Am I correct in judging the majority of humanity to be brainless twits? I'd /like/ to think otherwise, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were indeed the case. Controversy is where conflict arises between the sages and the sheeple. I have a tendency to want to approach that which is derided by the collective. After all, am I not among that batch?

I'd love to be more confident in my social rebellion, but the bottom line is that the group is in control, and I fear what they could do to me in their unthinking condemnation of all that is abnormal. Am I really afraid to speak my mind? Have I given up my own freedom of speech? I feel like I should be fighting for a cause. It would give my life some meaning. But what's the point of fighting against the group? As long as the group exists, they will be in power, and short of the apocalypse, my vision of a dream world will never be realized.

And so I sit alone, in a darkened room, gazing silently into the abyss. In desperation, I try to reach out and grasp something. But alas, the abyss is vast and empty, and I am still alone.

04 February, 2009

The Legend Continues

Okay, here's a followup on Urotsukidoji: I skimmed through part 4 on mute, and then watched (that's the key word) part 5 in Japanese, even without subtitles.

Part 4, Inferno Road, consists of three episodes. The first two are something of a side story, in which the traveling gang, including young girl Himi a.k.a. the Lord of Chaos, come across a disturbing village on their way to meet the Overfiend in Osaka. The village consists of a group of evil psychic kids who treat all adults as objects for entertainment, as well as baby factories.

There's a great scene where the kids, over dinner, force the adults to engage in a massive orgy, purely for their entertainment. Note that the kids are merely spectators, and are not actually involved in the activity. There's also a scene where two "kids", having just reached the age of "maturity" (I'm using quotes to allow for creative interpretation), and after trying unsuccessfully to escape the village, are subjected to assault by a monstrous tentacle demon that acts as a sort of pet for the evil psychic children.

Our traveling band gets caught up in the mess, but eventually works things out and continues on the infernal road toward the Overfiend. In the third episode, the confrontation occurs. Also, cloakface appears yet again (in a horror series like this, death is never the end) just to get in the way. The climax is unfortunately underwhelming, though it involves the Overfiend consuming a drop of menstrual blood from the Lord of Chaos, a.k.a. Himi, who since the third part of the series has been aging at an accelerated rate, and is at this point at a ripe young age, and looking particularly good with her long flowing golden locks.

From what I understand, there is an alternate ending that actually involves an epic battle between the Overfiend and the Lord of Chaos - albeit it's a sexual contest rather than a strictly violent one (a *very* interesting concept) - in which the Overfiend ends up getting reverse-raped to death by the Lord of Chaos. It's awesome. I only know this much because part of it is apparently recapped at the beginning of the unfinished part five of the series.

And in that part, we do indeed finally get a more straightforward continuation of the story from where the very first series ended. The real "true" Overfiend is finally born (the previous Overfiend having only been the father of the true one) as an ultrapowerful hermaphroditic being. At first, I thought the reason for its hermaphroditism was because it had perceived sexual deviance as the cause for the worlds' decline into depravity (remember that the Overfiend's supposed goal is to create a better world for all), and so it wanted to create a sexless race - but honestly, what series are we watching? As far as I could tell (since I could only get bits and pieces of the dialogue), this new Overfiend was actually a hypersexual being and seemed to be experimenting with ways to achieve some kind of auto-super-orgasm, for the devil only knows what ultimate purpose. (And since it /is/ the Overfiend, I'm sure it's something more significant than simply personal pleasure).

At any rate, the story's unfinished, so who knows where it could have gone. It's still not nearly on par with the original series, but I quite enjoyed it, and it was unquestionably way way way way way way way way better than the remake series. And of all the sequels, this one /felt/ most like the first. It was really great to see the original Overfiend again, in his "Demon of Destruction" form, and it was quite interesting to see Akemi return to human form after her time as the "true" Overfiend's womb - grown up and looking different from her schoolgirl days. It's really too bad this part of the series wasn't finished. It would have been a hell of a lot better than the stupid remake...

I'm also quite surprised that in all this time (I believe part five was originally released in '96), that this episode hasn't been subbed in English by /someone/, and put out there for the fans. Hm.

02 February, 2009

Experiencing the Overfiend

My Urotsukidoji experience started off with amazement, and ended in utter disappointment. For years, I had been no more than vaguely aware of Urotsukidoji, knowing it only as one of those forbidden classic hentai titles that had always been out of my reach. There had been curiosity, but I never put much effort into procuring any of those titles, since I've never been all that interested in hentai. I prefer a much more subtle approach to erotica (you might call it ecchi instead), rather than the hardcore stuff.

But, my growing interest in illicit activities involving tentacles (aided in no small part by certain experiences in Second Life), led me inevitably to the point of investigating (purely for educational purposes) some of this legendary animated tentacle rape. And, the wikipedia entry on tentacle erotica awards Urotsukidoji the honor of having created the modern paradigm for the genre, so I figured it was a great place to start.

A modern reimagining of
The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

It can be a little confusing putting the pieces of Urotsukidoji together, since there are six installments, and of course multiple versions of each with various levels of censorship and editing, depending on a number of factors. I'm not in a position to be picky, so I've had to take what I can find. It bugs me that it's so difficult to find a complete version of this classic series through official channels, that's unedited *and* in the right language. There's really no way they can blame me for resorting to underground channels. Unfortunately, even there it's hard to find exactly what I want. Maybe it's an exposure/hindsight sort of thing, but I can't even imagine how this stuff could be considered /so/ deviant that they wouldn't make uncensored versions more easily available for those who are interested. But then again, censorship has never been an exercise in logic.

Anyway, on to the series itself. I watched the first installment, also referred to as "Legend of the Overfiend", and was completely blown away by it. Despite the questionable and explicit material, it is, without a doubt in my mind, a masterpiece of animated erotic horror cinema. Everything about it is fantastic, and it's far more artistic and intelligent than I would have expected from a title of such reputation among the darker corners of anime fandom.

Allow me to briefly describe the plot, so you have an idea of what the story's like. There exist two realms in addition to the human realm - the beast realm and the demon realm - and there is a legend that states that every 3000 years, a being known as the Overfiend reappears to combine the worlds into an eternal paradise. That's the legend, at least, and it unsurprisingly leaves a few details out. At any rate, the story follows beastman Amano Jyaku, who is a really cool character, and his sister Megumi as they wander the human realm trying to find the person who is destined to be revived as the Overfiend. Many demons and beasts alike are wary of the Overfiend's reawakening, afraid of it's true purpose (and rightfully so), but Amano Jyaku is the curious, revolutionary type who thinks that the Overfiend's renovation will bring an exciting new world for all.

And this allows a fascinating setup where we eventually discover that the protagonist (sort of) is the one who wants to destroy the universe, and the antagonists (largely consisting of demons) are the ones actually trying to /save/ the world (that's not to say that they don't enjoy casual rape, though, so they're not exactly "good people" either). Anyway, it's a refreshingly original story, and the whole supernatural aspect mixes in quite well with the "school days" environment that arises as the result of the Overfiend residing within a (arguably) normal schoolboy. All in all, it's very well done and very entertaining to watch.

The ending, though climactic, is less than conclusive, and so the story continues. The second installment of Urotsukidoji, also known as "Legend of the Demon Womb", is actually an unanticipated side story that occurs during the events of the first installment. And though there are some decent scenes, the experience is overall far far far far far far far inferior to the first story. Despite that, it does set up new elements to the plot that drive the rest of the sequential installments (one of which, at least, is not as bad as this one). The important element is the introduction of the Lord of Chaos (called also by other names), which basically acts as a primary antagonist for the Overfiend. Frankly, I think that when your protagonist is the anticipated destroyer of the universe, you really honestly don't /need/ an antagonist. Besides, I found the cloaked character who facilitates the Lord of Chaos' awakening to be far more annoying than the cool he was clearly /supposed/ to be (his evil maniacal laugh is way overused). I'd say just skip Legend of the Demon Womb, but for the setup of the Lord of Chaos, and the fact that the cloaked guy does return in the next installment.

Part three, "Return of the Overfiend", starts out better than part two but still far inferior to part one. It does, however, take place after the ending to the first part, so it satisfies your curiosity there. It's post-apocalypse, although the promised "eternal kingdom" is yet to come. The Lord of Chaos in part two was just a stepping stone to finding the real Lord of Chaos, which forms the backbone of the story to this installment. Many new characters are introduced, including Caesar, the leader of an empire, who is working with the cloaked guy to find the Lord of Chaos and stop the Overfiend's dubious plans for the universe, and the "Makemono", which are a new race of creatures who were disfigured by the apocalypse.

I was kind of bored with it at first, especially in the parts that involved the cloaked guy and which were a continuation of the story from the second installment of the series, but I eventually got attached to some of the new characters, and I have to say, at around the climax of the third episode (of four), it got really good. I'm talking dark, cyberpunk, immortal morphing machines, mad revenge, good. Plus, plenty of good quality extended tentacle scenes. Part three ends at a crossroads, with the empire taken down and the characters setting off to meet the Overfiend for his final confrontation with the true(?) Lord of Chaos.

All of which I understand happens in part four, "Inferno Road". Unfortunately, the version I acquired is in English, which is a real shame, because I'm quite interested in seeing the continuation of the series. Plus, it has a reputation for being particularly explicit and gratuitous (even by Urotsukidoji standards, apparently), and frankly, that makes me curious (for purely educational reasons, of course). On the other hand, from what I've read, my suspicion is that the material isn't any more explicit or gratuitous than the usual Urotsukidoji fare, but it's only considered as such because this time around there are (animated) children involved in some way. Gasp. The horror.

There's also an incomplete fifth installment, "The Final Chapter", consisting of a single episode. As stated, this installment is unfinished. It's also not available in anything other than straight Japanese (without subtitles), from what I can tell. I'd watch it straight, just to see what happens (since it's not finished anyway), but since it's a further continuation of the story, I'd prefer to see the fourth installment first.

Finally, the sixth installment, "New Saga", is not a continuation of the story, but basically a remake of the original installment. I have to say, it sucks really bad. And not in any kind of a good way. Honestly, I couldn't even watch more than about fifteen minutes of it. The animation is bad, the CG is horrendous, the characters are ruined, the story is destroyed, not even the sex is good - in fact it's terrible! To compare this piece of trash to the original installment of Urotsukidoji would be to compare a cheap porn with no redeeming value whatsoever to an undisputed erotic masterpiece. It's that much of a difference.

Disappointing, but you can hardly expect better with a remake, particularly in an already much-maligned genre. Anyhow, the original is still indeed a masterpiece. A masterpiece that I would proudly recommend, with one strong caveat: if the idea of erotic horror itself, or more specifically, monsters raping people violently (keeping in mind that these are animated fantasies, with no flesh and blood persons involved), severely offends you (imagine that), you should probably avoid this title. Truth is, it's not for everyone. However, in Urotsukidoji's defense, I'd like to emphasize that even when dealing with offensive subjects, there are tasteful approaches, and there are tasteless approaches. You may not believe it, but there do exist some things that, though defined as pornography, are indeed of quite good quality and carry a lot of artistic merit. But I'm not here to change anybody's mind - you probably already know if you would enjoy Urotsukidoji or not.

I have to wonder, when I watch something like this, and don't find it to be particularly depraved or disgusting, despite its reputation, if my standards are that much different from most people (not, however, unlikely), or if maybe I've just been so exposed to this kind of material (I do watch a lot of horror films) that I'm used to it, and it doesn't particularly shock me anymore. I've never really considered myself to be the depraved and perverted one amongst my group of peers. There are things out there that, quite frankly, do disgust me, and that I want nothing to do with (things that certain of my peers do in fact revel in). But this is just not one of them. You wonder why I have so much trouble dealing with people, when the truth is, I really have a hard time relating to most of them.