Sunday, November 6, 2011

We are not the same, I am a Martian

This post has been brought to you by the three mugs of Bud Light I had while writing it at Thunder Jackson’s on Bleecker Street and Sullivan Street near Washington Square Park. Thunder Jackson’s is currently a Halloween-themed bar playing a trance remix of “Missing” by Everything But The Girl. Fake spider webs are strewn across NYC train signs, chalkboards advertise cheap beer specials, pillars holding the building up have a million stickers advertising local bands and artists, and the scrawny bar hostess is promoting her own cleavage. I think, as I write this, I will tell you what song the hostess is blasting each time a new one comes on, just to try to bring the atmosphere to you and also because I fu%#ing feel like it [now Guns’ N’ Roses -- “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is playing].

 Ah………the disappearance of The Clandestine Samurai. Let’s see…..when I was last here to push my values on you, I was discussing the mockery and satire of the Mathema-Christian, what kind of video games people should really be blaming real-life violence for, and the Near Government Shutdown by selfish Republicans. Then, like Keyser Söze, poof……..I was gone. I’ll tell ye where I bloody went: after 10 months of unemployment (starting in August) from being laid off by this old, cheap and idiotic Jazz Museum owner who ended up not being able to afford the salary he offered me, I was finally hired by an appliance warehouse located at a 30-mins. train ride South from my home [“Creep” by Radiohead]. I was hired as a Customer Service Representative (a position I’ve been doing for years) in May, and on the day I found out I was ecstatic. I celebrated over some beers with a pastor at my church at a pub in Chelsea and then headed home to watch SpongeBob before rejoining the labor force. The next week I showed up at my scheduled time, ready to learn, administrate, problem-solve and conquer. Two weeks after I started, I ran head first into the cold, disillusioning truth that the search for a new job had not ended at all [Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana, which features one of my all-time favorite lyrics: “I wish I could eat your cancer*”]. If anything, it became more desperate.

I was placed in a seat and told to stay there at all times, answer the phones (there’s literally an incoming call at least every 6 seconds) and help customers. This demand came with no training on how this company wants its employees to conduct themselves with clients, no stable source of information about the products I’m supposed to help these customers with, and no education on company policy [“Roxanne” by Sting]. Just a seat amidst the most immature and insipid group of people I have ever had the chance to encounter. A customer will call me with any number of questions, ranging from “Do you have the compressor for this model?” to “Where’s the part I ordered 4 months ago that your company told me I’d have in 2 weeks?” to “I need that part that connects to the thermostat but powers the defrost heater and shuts down the Condenser Fan Motor. You got it?” I’m just as equipped to answer these questions as you are [“Seventeen” by Winger, which I find an oddly……inappropriate song]. Everyday, the other employees here are constantly screaming and arguing with customers trying to force them to accept half-baked answers to these questions just to get them off the phone. Where are the managers, you ask?

There are 2. One is an inept, narrow-minded hypocrite who tries to get the company more money by forcing people to accept the items we send them although they are either wrong or defective. The other is a senile, extremely old-fashioned maverick-wannabe who only helps when he wants to (which is never) and is the walking incarnation of a character most religious folk are familiar with [“La Grange” by ZZ Top].

There are other aspects of this hellhole, such as the overly-aggressive, simple-minded Tea Party member; the violent psychopath veteran (by veteran I mean both that he’s been at that company for 8 years, and he was also enlisted in The Army and stationed in South Korea earlier in his life) who does customer service mind you; the dopey, inept secretary whose life has not an iota of recognizable meaning; and 2 technicians, one of which is just as simple-minded and neglectful as the rest of them, and the other one, a selfish, alienating court-jester type who laughs everything off and does not recognize any importance other than his own.

Although it is constantly repeated on the news that there aren’t that many people that can afford to buy food and clothing, much less appliances, right now, this company is flourishing. They’ve started with a handful of employees years ago, and now have a marketing department, a customer service department, a sales department and a bunch of other people that do other crap. It’s obvious this company has zero interest in helping the unwitting clients who make it stay afloat. They have nothing but terrible ratings on and the Better Business Bureau is probably just waiting for permission to send F.B.I. agents busting through the windows at this point. But they’ve been in business for decades and had one of their best sales years in 2010. So now, if for every business relationship made with one client, the customer service team drives 2 other clients away (who then spread the word to other prospective buyers), how is the company generating this success? Obviously something corrupt is afloat. But I digress. All of this is way too much to unpack now [Ready To Go” by Republica].

I’m sure you come across a bunch of people telling you “be grateful you have a job, others are struggling right now”, or “at least you’re not unemployed” just like I do. Or perhaps you are one of these people. If you are, you should look in the mirror and give yourself the middle finger for me. Just because jobs are low in supply right now doesn’t mean it’s ok for me to throw my humanity away just to keep one. If people woke the f@$% up and realized being rational about things would carry us better and much quicker through a recession than being a land of scavengers would, there wouldn’t be things like 99 Percenters protests or elevated rates of crime like there is now. I don’t ask for a lot, but my point is that there are jobs that you can do until something better comes along, and then lower than that are jobs that have to be vacated and replaced with a new one immediately because they are torturous to be at. This job is about 5 levels beneath both of those.

Nah, not really, but it definitely is the 2nd one [Another dance remix of “Missing” by Everything But The Girl].

The title of this post is a reference to a line used extensively in this song.

*Been trying to use this as a pickup line for a new girlfriend. Will let you know when it produces a phone number instead of a look of disgust.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I have been gone for quite some time, but this blog was never out of my thoughts.
I will return, my friends. I will return.........

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Heaven for Old Zealots: What Can We Learn?*

[For numbered parts, see Notes at the bottom of the post.]

So. Here we are. Post-Rapture.

I don’t know you if you caught a piece of the eschatological fervor, but recently headlines were made by Harold Camping, former engineer, present 89-year-old mathema-Christian1 and show host at California-based non-profit broadcasting station Family Radio. He predicted, through some “Biblical Numerology” that just appeared to be a handful of high school algebra problems mixed with plot points from “The Da Vinci Code”, that on May 21st, 2011 all humans who were pre-handpicked for Salvation by Christ like contestants on “American Idol” would ascend into Heaven and vanish. The Left Behind would slowly die off until October 21st came, when there would be an official death for Earth itself.

According to an essay he wrote on this whole thing: due to God being sick and tired of Satan-owned churches (regular churches that are now owned by Satan because God is not with them anymore) and the Gay Pride Movement, earthquakes were to start on the Western Hemisphere of the world at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and then roll across to rest of the world. I’m not sure why Camping foreseen the specific time of 6:00 p.m., although I’m sure it’s because he knew Christ was to use that morning for laundry and that afternoon to meet someone in SoHo for lunch, and He wanted to get this project done before that day’s new episode of “N.C.I.S.” premiered.

A glance at the date on your cell phone can tell you that May 21st has long passed. As far as I can see, which is only a few feet since I haven’t been able to afford a renewed prescription on my glasses, no one has Left. But I’m sure there are reports of people mysteriously missing and piles of clothes lying around floating about somewhere or other. Or there would be if Camping’s P.R. people were smart about this.

Family Radio used millions of donated dollars to put up posters saying that the non-picked unfortunates only had until October 21st to talk to that person on whom they’ve crushed for so long, or to go skydiving, or to complete “Grand Theft Auto 4” before you sold it back to GameStop, because Camping knew for sure that that’s the date Jesus put on His Google Calendar to return to Earth, despite the fact that a large amount of Family Radio’s employees were planning to return to work on the following Monday. Believers in his prediction setup websites to give their pets to others because they had a heart and didn’t want to leave their chihuahuas and goldfish alone in their respective apartments after ascension (although I wonder if some of them have since embarrassingly tried to get their pets back).

Yet, here we are. As it stands, people have gone to Camping’s home to question why nothing has happened, but he has not been available for comment.

I suppose it would stand to use up internet space to criticize Mr. Camping for ignoring the Holy Word itself and instead using a solar-power calculator and scrap paper for his eschatology, but no! The question here is: what can we learn from Mr. Camping?

Is it the reexamination of our lives under the fear of its impending end?
I tried this theory by helping to enliven his teachings. On that fateful day, with my mother in her bedroom sleeping, I starting thumping fists against the walls in my apartment to simulate an upcoming earthquake. The bass-sonorous booms sounded distant at first, but I gradually increased the strength in each slam to signal a closing proximity. My mother, frightened at the anxious prospect of becoming a piece of spiritual-nothingness, cried aloud in fright: “Boy, turn dat damn Lil’ Wayne shit down, I’m tryna sleep! You ain’t too ole’ fo’ me to bus yo ass!”2. Hmm…..not the results I sought.

Are we to then learn that theories can become realities when the belief in them becomes strong enough? Well, as I’ve said, I haven’t gotten news of anyone being Returned To Sender on 5/21/2011, but what about the fact that so many believed that Christ was to return that day and take His handpicked back with Him? Was it Mr. Camping’s conviction in voicing his Family Radio broadcasts that told these guys he was the Truth and the Light? Do his teachings “all make sense” in some form or fashion?

I tested this theory myself after having my own revelation.
After multiplying the digits of J.K. Rowling’s birthday with the number of text messages sent globally in February of 2006, and then dividing that by the number of planets in our universe, and then mixing Kool-Aid powder and a Starbucks Frappuchino in a glass and throwing it at a pigeon, then coloring outside the borders on a black-and-white “Dora the Explorer” picture with crayons, the Answer came to me.
On December 25th, The G.A.S.3 Force Trinity: Walt Disney, Hitler and Mel Gibson, will rise from the dead and reclaim the war against the Jews of this world, committing a “Holy Genocide” and leaving us in a new, reborn Earth where people are liberated from overpriced Lox bagels and Natalie Portman4. The Palestinians will be free to take the Gaza Strip for themselves and interest rates in everything from bank loans to credit card payments will mysteriously go down.

Hitting the streets with a painted van and a cheap bullhorn a few weeks before Camping’s predicted date, I promoted this vision with an obnoxious voice and a lot of finger pointing. I went to parks, restaurants, community centers. Synagogues5. I did an interview or 2 at radio stations and for journalists. I screamed and ranted that people wake up and receive this most pious warning.

After fighting with a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses for territory at a train station, one passerby had the nerve to question the Truth that I labored to enlighten mankind with. Behind a table with pamphlets and Kinko’s printouts, I shouted through the bullhorn “Forsooth! Cut your earthly connection to the Jews, for the G.A.S. Force will return and their judgment will be swift! The roads will be coated with blood, and the new Earth shall become!” A curly-haired youngster of no more than 15 years of age accompanied by his clearly-skeptical father took a printout and read it, showing some semblance of curiosity.
I said “Prepare yourself, youth! Read “Shylock the Jew” multiple times and make sure you and all of your friends never tune into “The Jon Stewart Show” again!”
He responded, “Dude, this doesn’t make any sense. These gas force people are going to rise from the dead……but Mel Gibson is still alive.”
I felt sadness and pity at the prospect of this child’s spiritual darkness and failure to understand……but I didn’t have the patience to explain anything to him. So I smacked him in the head with my bullhorn and then ran to keep his father from wrapping his hands around my throat.

Generally, except for a ragtag group of White Supremacists (oddly enough) who loved what I was saying, but wanted to promote my teachings on their own time with a great distance away from me, no one came on board.

So then, what are the lessons about fear and belief to be learned by Harold Camping? I have no idea. When you figure it out, please notify me. I have to see about moving Halloween to September since no one will make it to its traditional date.

*The title of this post is a reference to this book/film.
1) “Mathematician” – “tician” + “Christian” =
2) Translation: Young man, I am trying to attain rest! Turn the volume on that most disturbing rap raucous down this instant! You have not surpassed an age where a bout of physical discipline is no longer eligible!
3) G.lobal A.nti S.emite.
4) I kid, I joke. I love Natalie Portman and her shaved head to death. God is in the rain!
5) Didn’t get too warm of a reception in those. No idea why.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Answering some Plinky questions 5/14/2011

Oh…hello! Didn’t see you there! Welcome to another episode of The Samurai answers Plinky. I’ve decided to throw out the old formula of picking three random questions to answer, because I won’t have answers for them all. And some of the questions are kind of corny and clichéd. So, I picked these three questions for this time around:

Posed on Thursday, Oct 21st, 2010
Are you an optimist, a pessimist, or something else?

Hmm……I expect the worst from people, so I guess I’m a pessimist. I still have hope for a brighter future, so I guess I’m an optimist. I’m not sure either one of those concepts completely color my life viewpoint, but if I had to pick one, I’d say pessimist. Humans create their own reality, but they don’t always keep this in mind when they give in to destructive and shallow urges. Continually.
However, it is fully possible for them to put a general halt to this, and in the state of the world today (as well as throughout history), the more substantial human being lives, hopes, and strives for what is possible. Not what simply…….is.

Posed on Sunday, November 28th, 2010
Yay or nay: Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

I look at love as a solid affirmation and appreciation of a human being. To truly love someone is to do for them as you would do for yourself (with respect to their [moral] desires and well-being). As that stands, I think it would benefit a person to love them, so that even after you lose them, they come out of the relationship a changed and spiritually stronger person. So, I will say better to have loved and lost.
Note: this answer does not take into consideration a person you’ve loved that was a piece of shit.

Posed on Monday, October 11th, 2011
Your house is on fire. Which keepsake items do you grab, and why?

You see, this goes back to the question of whether a person is who they truly are when they just act out of a blind passion or when they first deliberate and plan. This could also yield some pretty sad personifications for people, including me.
I’d like to say that I’d grab my books, T.V., Xbox and cellphone (shows you what I value, right?). But I highly doubt I’d be able to carry a 6-foot bookshelf full of novels out during a fire, and the Xbox might be a bit of a hindrance, too. So I may attempt to grab other things that I actually have the strength and energy to salvage.
Clothes are replaceable, and I can sleep on the floor just fine. The items I listed are replaceable as well, but look at how much an Xbox and flat-screen T.V. costs! Replacing those takes much more work than replacing the clothes (replacing a bed is costly as well, but I can wait for that just fine). I can’t do without my novels, “Law and Order” repeats or “The Saboteur” game-time; those are things that will help me in the down time while I struggle to get back on my feet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Near Government Shutdown

People try to stay neutral and give all political sides (which in the U.S. is primarily Democrat and Republican) a chance to govern in various situations, even if it’s just to be in the name of being open-minded. I read people’s comments in blogs, news articles and on Facebook about how people shouldn’t vote for politicians based on ideology, but rather on how they are proposing to address important issues of the time. I, a staunch liberal, try to adopt that outlook…but it’s a bit difficult for anyone with logic and humanity, in and out of politics, not to see patterns that constantly emerge every time a right-wing candidate gets a hold of power.

Just a week ago, a government shutdown, what would’ve been the 9th or 10th in American history, was almost going to be administrated by the Conservatives and Tea Party members in the House of Representatives and the Senate who wanted to stop Barack Obama from spending government money on programs for healthcare, unemployment, the arts and sciences and education.

A government shutdown means that employees who work directly for the government would’ve been sent home on non-pay status (unless exempted because people lives depend directly on their job) for an indeterminate amount of time, national parks, museums and monuments would be closed down and forced to lose potential revenue, patients stop being admitted into the National Institute of Health and toxic waste clean-up around the country comes to a halt, amongst other stuff. In an economy that’s just barely making its way back to a healthy state, the Repubs want to stop more people’s income, which will in turn ripple its way through society and affect others trying to make a living.

Since 2003, Dubya the Monster led our country into a sharp economic descent with his unnecessary and unjustified war in Iraq (which was primarily meant to claim the oil refineries in Iran for his and his Big Oil friends’ pockets). After his second term (which he won by his brother’s corruption) finished, Barack Obama stepped in and began initiatives to get people hired again, to get quality education to kids whose families wouldn’t be able to afford, to get healthcare to people who can’t afford it, amongst other things. The conservatives are up his ass because he began using government money to achieve these ends, although the nation is in debt.

Funny, since everyone will tell you that this recession is as bad as the one that occurred during World War II. And government spending is exactly what got the country out of the recession that time.

For the last few weeks, conservatives in the House of Reps and the Senate, with John Boehner as one of their head speakers, fought to pass a bill demanding as much as $70 billion in budget cuts, with the riders that the government stop sending “Abortion Funding” to Planned Parenthood, a national reproductive health services organization, and that they stop funding environmental policies, particularly one that would’ve installed Federal Wilderness Protection for a certain million-acre plot of undeveloped land in the West.

The Repubs say Obama is only installing the FWP to prevent private sector companies from coming in and drilling that land for oil. As far as I’m concerned, the idiots just made a solid case for him without him even saying anything.

But with the first rider, they’ve again proved that in order to espouse patriotism, you have to get rid of reality. The government funds Planned Parenthood so that they may be able to give treatment for STD’s, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings, birth control and other services to underprivileged women who can’t afford it. None of this money goes to abortion, patrons pay for those themselves. Not to mention the fact that abortions are an infinitesimal portion of the services that P.P. provides, despite the Repubs wanting to identify the entire organization as an “abortion center”.

But here’s the kicker in all this: if the Republicans were to have gone ahead with the government shutdown, pay would’ve been delayed for soldiers in Afghanistan and Libya and wherever the hell else there’s probable oil sources are.
The military, an institution usually shunned by liberals and praised as high as God Himself by the right-wing for being the symbol of what a “worthy” American looks like, would’ve had their pay taken away from them by the conservatives if the Federal Government didn’t stop their “abortion funding”. I hope soldiers are paying attention to this, so they may see the party that will actually make the military suffer if they can’t push their illogical and inhumane agenda on the nation.

I watched a video of a Fox News interview with Mike Huckabee where he was asked his opinion of this whole thing, and during his explanation that the Republicans should take whatever they’ve won from this battle and move on, he said that “The President, the Senate and the media will blame the Republicans” for the possible shutdown because “they won’t see it as ‘The Republicans were really trying to save America’”. Come, come now. I would think that modernism, or even post-modernism (perhaps especially), would completely decimate the mentality that bringing a country salvation means destroying its spirit. But the GOP still drags their antiquated ideals into today’s spotlight. And it’s still left to the more enlightened folk to fight these clowns.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Answering some Plinky questions 3/19/2010

Good lord, man. Earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, the U.S. just launched an attack on Libya (while we're still in Afghanistan), The Jasmine Revolution in Egypt and new ones in Tunisia and one in China. What the hell is the world coming to? A long time ago, I plagiarized the question "Is life all war with periods of peace, or all peace with periods of war?" It appears to be one of those things that are pointless to ask for an answer, but rather an existentialist inquiry to inspire people to push life towards one side or the other. At any rate, it's been a while since I've come here, and my life is a bit too stressful to cover any one of those subjects in full detail for individual blog posts of their own, so, I'd like to task myself with a Plinky e-mail for blog updating purposes.

I choose one of the e-mails of random questions they send me, pick three random numbers (ranging from 1-6, usually) and try to answer one of those corresponding numbered questions. Answers are not always guaranteed, since no human person has a valid answer for everything. Here we go:

Posed on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Is chivalry dead?

Hmmm.........I guess, in some ways. I certainly won't say I was a fan of it. The idea of me having pre-written behaviors for my relations to the other sex is a pile of garbage, if, by "chivalry", we mean the whole make sure you hold the doors open for women and put your jacket in the puddle so they could step on it and taking more than the actually-needed chunks out of my life and mental energy to remember what should be said to a woman, and what kind of gifts to buy a woman, and the specific things done to honor their beauty and all that other rubbish.
These are things that should be done for everyone! Or I should say, if there are to be codes of conduct, they should point to the way of behavior towards human beings as a rational and loving people. And they should be done because they're heartfelt, not because they're obligatory to me as a man. There's more to say in order to clarify, but I'm a bit tired now. A future edit will come.

Posed on Sunday, February 27th, 2011
Describe your most embarrassing foot-in-mouth moment.

Off the top of my head, I don't remember one, although I'm sure one exists. In today's political climate, inappropriate comments do more good for society than proper ones (based on the individual's definition of proper, I guess). I usually associate what is and what is not proper to say with patriotism. So, perhaps the right-winged pundits deem it inappropriate to speak badly about your country. And consequentially this issue goes into the realm of lies and truth (only speak about the good things your country does, or about your country doing "good things", or go somewhere else). Of course, no true intellectual deems this kind of semantic trichotomy worth its salt, and so, an almost fervent rebellious religion of speaking out loudly against the country develops, in order to preserve the truth and an enlightened republic, instead of drinking the ridiculous conservative Kool-Aid and spouting "Our Country is the Best Country" all over the place for no reason other than pride and simple-mindedness.
But I digress.........I don't remember my most embarrassing foot-in-mouth moment, although I'm sure some would say it's my answer to the first question on this post. Or perhaps this answer.

Posed on Saturday, February 26th, 2011
What unusual food combination is surprisingly tasty?

What comes to mind upon reading this question is my friend Kevin, who, years ago, used to eat sandwiches composed of peanut better, jelly, and nacho-flavored DoritosTM. This was a most curious delicacy, but I've never worked up the testicular fortitude to try such a thing. Another dish that comes to mind is my ex's ex-best-friend's boyfriend, who used to eat chicken alfredo with ketchup. Now this was a terrible sight.
As for me, I'd probably have to say that chopped hot dogs in tomato sauce with rice is probably the tastiest unorthodox combination on my palate.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Analyze This 2

A dream:

I was going to some sort of corporate office to use their shower, which was right in someone's cubicle.
Some guy, a manager of some sort, asked me how the hell I managed to get in the building. I didn't know, so I left for the final time (it felt like using their shower was something I did on the regular basis)
Downstairs, it was a sunny day out with rich, blue skies and the whiteness of delineated clouds reflecting off the columns and rows of windows on the corporate building (many images of which can be seen here). Groups of people in business suits were going in and out of glass revolving doors to the lobby. Typical corporate machine imagery.
I start talking to some window washer, an older black guy, and he's telling me that if we board his elevating platform, we could wash the windows way up where the building meets the sky. I was not going for this, so I began to walk away.
The point-of-view in the dream began to move away, and suddenly I was a character in a video game, shooting a two-armed cannon at a creature of some sort. I had teammates. Then, I took off a virtual reality helmet in which that was playing out, and I was actually in an office that took up an entire building floor (I knew this but didn’t see it). Others were next to me and took off their helmets as well. I began to be yelled at by my supervisor for trying to work more hours than I was scheduled. So, I went to my supervisor’s room to start packing up to go home, and she asked me why I was leaving since it wasn’t time yet. Back in the room with the helmets, my co-worker, an older Asian guy, asked me what I wanted to do to pass the time. I suggested we go back in the video game. So we both put the helmets back on, and then I woke up.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Invisible Things"

"'How can anyone estimate the ballistic qualities of words? Invisible things happen in intangible moments. What should keep us writing is precisely that possibility of explosions.'"
--pg. 205 in the hardcover of "Ilustrado"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Answering some Plinky questions 1/21/2010

Are you there, internet? It’s me, the Samurai. Once again, the thought-provoking site Plinky has e-mailed me a list of things worth pondering in the spare moments of life in today’s economic and political climate. I have to announce, though, that the nature of these questions will change in the future, as I personally selected the following 3 questions instead of them being randomly chosen, which would produce a truly heart/body/brain-picking blog post.
So then, I shall attack them and then be on with myself. Commence!

Posed on January 8th, 2011
Do you prefer to talk or text?

I was just arguing with an ex-friend who became un-ex’d about this. I much, much prefer to text.
I notice a lot of people complaining about how technology is distancing people from each other. That we are in the Wired Age and that all interaction goes into smartphones and iBooks way before they come into contact with actual people.
If you notice, before this age was the age of a lot more wars and conflict amongst distant countries and even in the countries themselves, where the North or West was completely disconnected from the East or South. Also, the age before this was the one where the only communication soldiers had with their families back home were letters and phone calls, as opposed to the Skyping that unites the two with live visual, audio communication that we have now. It was also vaguely the age where people who did not have money or status would not receive information about the poverty, death and disease that goes on in other parts of the world and be filled with the humanitarian spirit to speak on those things to others or go attend to them. The age before this was the one where life in different geographical areas would grow in completely different directions, until they would perchance meet and crash into each other and the streets would run with blood. But I digress.
I’m not a people person in the least. It used to greatly antagonize me to have to call someone and meet them just to ask the few simple questions “How are you?” and “What are you up to these days?”. A phone call to this effect is chock full of anxiety from awkward pauses and meek attempts to come up with stuff to talk about when there’s clearly nothing worth conversing on.
A text message is ultra-efficient in this situation; I can send a text asking those very questions, and continue to go on about my business while the recipient of said texts get back to me in their spare time. There is no forced attention on a conversation that has lost all relevance before it even started, no anxiety about forcing the phone call to be full of talk that isn’t there. If you want a clear picture of why phone calls, mixed with prudence, waste huge amounts of time and energy, go to link I placed above.

Posed on December 16th, 2010
If there were no consequences, what is the most evil thing you would do?

Hmmm….well…this would then suggest that I want to do evil and am only not doing it because I would have to pay for my actions; quite the picture of a soulless person, indeed.
Although, I’d be lying if I said I was above this. There are a few people on this earth who deserve some suffering time for things they’ve done, and a few corporations who’d be just fine if their banking accounts were Clandestinely tapped for a few million. But I’m afraid that that is all I have to say about that.

Posed on December 17th, 2010
Is it always better to know the truth, even when it hurts?

A principle that should be written in stone, I’d say.
An informed life is 10 times as important as an emotionally comfortable one, even rendering the latter an absolute sin in some cases. And I’m aware that saying this now may curse me to live out some situation that might make me want to eat those typed words, but even then I’m sure that I’d say the truth is the one and only valid option.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Call of Wikileaks: Black Ops

You know, I noticed that Politicians and “concerned” parents will rant and rave about a piece of media that has violence (and sometimes gore) if it goes against their values, usually voiced under the cloak of being worried about the impressions said media will give their children (or "the" children for a more humane feel). But when another piece of media comes out that captures their values, despite it promoting all kinds of things that are wrong with international thinking today, all is quiet on the homefront. Just take a look at this and humor me for a sec. Or an hour or so, this blog post is long. NOTE: This video is graphic and very real.

Not sure of what you just watched? Let me try to summarize.

Julian Assange, A 39-year-old Australian journalist, publisher and software developer, started a website named “Wikileaks” in 2006, a place where the public can have access to secret and classified documents that governments in their respective countries try to hide. Whistleblowers contact Assange through encoded channels on the internet and pass him files that may show a bit of a different side to a particular war, business practice, government affair or what-have-you that the media presents.

Here is one of those Wikileaks, published in 2010: a video that takes place in Baghdad, 2007 during the Iraq War.
It’s from the point of view of United States Army soldiers, coming from a full day of attacks with Iraqi Insurgents with small arms and grenade launchers. They’re hovering in an Apache helicopter watching another group of “Iraqi Insurgents” walking through an open area. The soldiers swear that a few members of the group are holding AK-47’s and one has a Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher. They ask authorities over their headsets for permission to shoot and receive it, immediately firing upon the group, sending a few of them to the afterlife and the rest running and injured. One particular “Insurgent” has been shot and is trying to continue escaping, but the Apache pilots let him have another healthy barrage of 30mm rounds before he gets a chance at life again. A van appears and one of the wounded hop in, but the pilots once again request permission to fire before they can get away and they pierce the van with a hail of ammo.

Typical military activity for the safety of our nation, except for a few, miniscule notable bits:
--Almost everyone in Iraq has an AK-47, to protect themselves amongst other possible reasons. The presence of an RPG was the real alert. The problem is: besides the fact that the ground group was literally doing nothing but walking, the U.S. Army soldiers were given permission to fire on the group before the authorities were even told that they had RPG launchers.
--That guy crawling on the floor? His name is Namir Noor-Eldeen, he was a freelance photojournalist, not an insurgent.
--The RPG launcher Noor-Eldeen was holding? Was not a launcher, it was a camera.
--The van came to pick up the wounded and take them to safety. The people operating it were unarmed.
--The injured guy trying to get into the van? His name is Saeed Chmagh, a camera assistant working for Reuters news service and helping Noor-Eldeen. Also not an insurgent. The “RPG” he was killed for holding was also just a camera.
--Amongst the van’s occupants was an unarmed father of two children, who was shot and killed.
--Both of the aforementioned man’s children were also in the front seat: a 4-year-old girl who was shot, and an 8-year-old boy who suffered brain damage from shrapnel.
--The firing soldier’s response to injuring the kids? “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their children to battle.”

Now, this isn’t as bad as what followed afterwards, when these same soldiers targeted an apartment complex with three families and bombed it with Hellfire missiles, but an important point in the commentary on this video was made. The group on the ground were calmly walking somewhere and the pilots opened fire on them, in the same way you’d open “Tetris” or “Pac-Man” on your phone while waiting for your laundry to finish the dry cycle. In this video you see “these young pilots, acting like their playing video games…” Yes, but surely, playing “Donkey Kong” or “Guitar Hero 4” wouldn’t breed psychological results such as this. So which video games?

Two games immediately come to mind: “Grand Theft Auto 4”, a 3rd person urban crime story, and “Call of Duty: Black Ops”, a 1st person war narrative. Sure, there are numerous games which can come up in discussion of this topic, but I picked both of these because one received a whole bunch of controversy it didn’t actually deserve, while the other mostly made its way into millions of households and game systems without the speculation and criticism it should’ve gotten. Entertainment wise, both of them are excellent to add to the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 library. But we’re talking about the way their violence influences.

“Grand Theft Auto 4” was pure fodder for massive controversy when it came out; almost solidly criticized by the right-wing. They called it a “murder simulator” and said it promotes heartless criminal activity to the youth, although I’m willing to bet the real problem was because the game portrayed the law and the government as corrupt as ever.

The main character Niko Bellic, upon being told by his cousin Roman that riches and a luxury life await him in Liberty City (New York City), leaves a war in his unnamed Eastern European country to find that his cousin actually lives in a shabby apartment, running a cab business and in debt to numerous loan sharks. Niko goes to attend to the loan sharks and begins to get caught up an intricate web of criminal activity. The story from there on is one of someone paradoxically trying to escape crime by participating in it. The whole thing was a criticism of America’s capitalist ways, and the dream it promotes to the world that it has the ability of realizing for everyone, although America doesn’t describe the morals you have to trash in order to achieve it.

Missions never require you injure or harm innocent people, although it is fully possible for you to do so and even profit from it. People of all nationalities have evil and good traits, as well as their own personalities and interests. Finally, murdering is not even close to being the only that you do. Other missions include racing, stealing cars, driving the taxi for your cousin, escorting people to safety, amongst many other immoral and moral things. This particular portrait is the fabric of life for many people. For the game to make the kind of commentary that it does, that kind of realism is required, and to the true intellectual (and mature), that realism is much more preferred to, say, silly noble-wannabe games and shows where children never die, the good guy always prospers, authoritative figures are always wholesome and dedicated, nuclear families are the pillars of all thriving societies, and minorities can only ever be supporting characters to the big picture.

That much controversy was not made of “Call of Duty: Black Ops” when it was released, which was really the only time I was seriously moved to be against a game not getting in the hands of children.

It is the story of Alex Mason, a SOG operative who mysteriously keeps having numbers flashing in his head, being strapped to a chair and held captive in a dark room. Electronically cloaked voices from elsewhere interrogate him as to the meaning of the numbers and the game’s stages themselves are flashbacks through Mason’s military history during the 1960’s as he and his interrogators work to figure out why these numbers keep popping up.

Bear in mind, what I just described is something you just watch, or, at some moments and even worse, simply observe. But the one, single, solitary thing you ever do in that game, the only thing you ever interact with from start to finish is:
Kill the communists.
Kill the foreign communists.
Regardless of the year in the 1960’s; regardless of the city or country: Kill the foreign communists.
Your American friends and a few from other countries occasionally have faces and things to say. But ultimately you have all kinds of guns at your initial disposal, all of which project from the center of the screen as if you yourself are holding it, and you stay permanently aimed your enemies, who are facially nothing more than indistinguishable blurs that let out segments of foreign language for authenticity and appear as abundantly as ammo for your guns do.

First-person view.
Unregulated violence towards a national other.
The cloak of military cause.
Putting all this under the label “Hero”.

Which violent video game looks much more like the Wikileaks video than the other?

The conservatives will swear on every innocent life they’ve taken that Wartime is mostly the place where a Hero can thrive. Then videos like this one come out from out of the rug they’ve tried to sweep it under, and the dismal side of Heroism suddenly becomes some sort of “necessary evil”. Violence in all places is bad, regardless of where it happens or why. But the difference in the cases of these two games is that one kind of violence is a critique on a shallow American concept that is to cause its players to think, and the other kind is something the game tells you to wholeheartedly embrace if you want to be a national hero, consequently producing soldiers like the ones you hear and watch in the first video above. I was doubtful about Assange and this Wikileaks project, but now I keep it as a favorite site on my browser. You should too, if you’d really like to make informed decisions in your life…in and out of politics.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Obama's Minority Report, I have other things to write but didn’t feel right putting them down here unless I first (briefly) tackled what I now generally thought of Obama’s presidency.
Well, while he certainly is no W. Bush and I don’t regret voting for him at all, I’m not entirely sure yet that I would vote for him again.

A Facebooker once expressed that presidents need one term to settle into the Oval Office seat and a second term to truly get down to action. On the one hand, people would’ve obviously ate chapstick for a year before having W. Bush as commander-in-chief a second time, and yet he snatched the seat again, with numerous environmental, war and civil crimes under his belt to prove it. So, I don’t see why we should not grant Barack a 2nd chance as well, since a majority of his first term was spent bickering with Senate Republicans and the people over things like the 2007-2010 Financial Crisis and him handing over tons of money to the banks to bail them out (so the people wouldn’t receive foreclosure on their houses), him pulling troops out of Iraq but raising their numbers in Afghanistan, this recent issue on the Bush Tax Cuts, and the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

On the other hand, it’s that inclination to constantly seek the approval of conservatives, alongside promises unkept, that destroys his original 2008-2009 liberal image. His original supporters deserted him over his decision to keep the troops in Iraq, whom he promised he would withdraw immediately during his campaign (and eventually did, the last combat brigade was withdrawn on August 19th, 2010). Furthermore, his continual seeking of a compromise in ending/continuing/altering the Bush Tax cuts (which had the rich pay the government less in taxes) with the conservatives hurt his public image even further, although his attempt at this compromise did allow unemployment benefits to be extended and funded. In general, a lot of people aren’t sure what they voted for anymore.

He did bring a bit of redemption lately, however, by repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which basically states that if military personnel find out and determine (with evidence) that a soldier is gay, they have the right to kick them out of the military. Obama himself has never agreed with homosexuality, or at least he doesn’t agree with gays being allowed to get married. But he at least had the civility to respect their right to serve our country, which matters a lot to me since I don’t see how the fingers that pulls triggers and place bombs and drive tanks rely on the sexuality of their owners to be able to perform their service. He also, this morning enacted the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides funding and medical help to those who are sick as a result of helping out with recovery efforts after 9/11, something no rational human being can see the reason for not being in place a long, long time ago.

So, as it stands now, he is in purgatory. The liberals are starting not to like him because he keeps looking like he’s more conservative than they originally thought (which leaves me not understanding why conservatives are complaining). I don’t fully understand where his administration is coming from in telling the government workforce to stop looking at WikiLeaks articles and asking other governments to restrict Julian Assanges’ travels in response to the WikiLeaks situation (both a person and situation that I’m very interested in and will be blogging about later). I’m still waiting for the news to blast a bunch of reports on new bills passed and government investment into improving the infrastructure of the Native Americans (which he also promised during his campaign), although he understandably has a lot on his plate as it stands now. I certainly and staunchly want a liberal in the White House, but until I see a truly progressive fire in O’s belly, I’m not sure he will get my vote again.