Friday, November 30, 2012


Any mention of Mirrormask seems accompanied by a condescending head-shake toward its plot. This would make sense if we were talking about an Agatha Christie "whodunit" or a morally charged SciFi warning of the future, but not when the subject at hand is an oneiric fantasy created to showcase imaginative landscapes.

Yes, it's true, it would have benefitted from a more complex storyline. As it stands, it's a fairly standard hero's journey. The heroine enters a magic world, acquires a sidekick, receives aid from various helpers, has a falling out with the sidekick, then they reconcile, grab the macguffin and reinstate the status quo. You're even told what the macguffin is from the get-go. It wasn't meant as a mystery of any sort.

Believe me, i am not spoiling the movie by saying that the mirrormask is the goal of the heroine's quest or that her sidekick will need to apologize at some point. Unless you're six years old, you will see all the major plot 'twists' coming from a mile away. What you won't foresee are the myriad visual details and the fantastic settings. Every scene warrants new descriptors like 'sphinx pride' or 'monkeybirds' or 'clockwork nannies' and the overall visual effect is as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting come to life.

The whole movie is a prime example of the power of even simple, relatively unsophisticated CGI, and the positive spin good writing and atmosphere can put on a simplistic premise.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Give the people what they want - TSW edition with a LOTRO mention

"Sign up for the secret war via the PvP menu (P). Battlefields and warzones are tons of fun, and PvP is a great way to advance your character."
- TSW loading screen hint

I'll have to make a much longer post at a future date about the many good and bad (more good than bad) aspects of The Secret World. This is specifically about one poor decision. I warned them! I want credit for this.
Years before the game came out, during early development, i posted the following comment on their forums.

"Either build the game with PvP in mind or do not implement PvP. [...] Some game concepts work better as purely cooperative playstyles. TSW, with its supposed slant towards puzzles, secrets, and meta-plot, definitely strikes me as one of them."

PvP is not normally something you have to push on players in any online game. It's usually more of a chore to get the vicious little monkeys to stop trying to kill each other. If you have to push it on them, force them to PvP in order to advance their characters, then you obviously missed some detail about your target audience. Say, maybe you geared your entire game from the ground up as a casual puzzle-solving adventure game with PvE RPG mechanics and dedicated all your initial ad campaign towards drawing in players who like unraveling mysteries and conspiracy theories.

As soon as the game started it was obvious that the battlefields were simply extraneous to the rest of TSW. The few players who spent time in them were the ones who had no interest in the game as a whole. The rest of us knew better than to PvP in a puzzle-solving game. TSW's basic concept was simply not geared toward dick-measurers.

This reminds me of LoTRO's 'hobby' system. At some point, some idiot at Turbine decided the game absolutely needed to start copying World of Warcraft's secondary crafting skill system and gave players the opportunity to fish. Since it had nothing whatsoever to do with middle-earth (the only fishing in LoTR is Gollum trying to grab some with his bare hands out of the water) it was a decisive flop. It's not why players paid for LoTRO and it had nothing to do with the rest of the game. Water is only a surface in LoTRO anyway, and there are no other water-related activities whatsoever. They don't even force you to swim. It's just scenery. Fishing was a blatant timesink.
The most recent expansion however includes several quests that force the player to pick up a fishing pole in order to complete the questing deed in a certain region.
This year's bad decision is obviously justifiable for being an effort to justify last year's bad decision.

I wonder how long it'll be before TSW forces players into battlefields in order to complete the quests for some new region.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiv - never mind, string up the lights

The worst of the holiday season (defined as 'whenever the sales start') is no longer the corporate push to extend Christmas spending. Forget that the image of Santa Claus is a century-old Coca-Cola ad. Ignore all the stores already pushing 'must-have' gifts on you. I guarantee you by the way that your child will not die without the latest Tickle-Me-Beanie-Furbie that all the other kids have.

No, the true sign that the holiday traditionalist Waterloo has come and gone is that on November 17th, the house down the street acquired a full set of Christmas decorations, complete with fiberglass does with plastic reindeer antlers glued on their lovable little heads. I'm half-expecting an army of turkeys to march down the street and have it out with their holiday's invaders a la West Side Story. No, i don't know how they'd manage the finger-snapping.

My point is that it's Joe Schmoe who's now skipping right over one holiday to get to the one a month from now. A month? A month is huge. At the time these celebrations originated, you could've died to cold, starvation and bloodthirsty invaders five times over in a month. The stores' interest in extending the gift-buying holiday at any expense is well documented and has a certain internal logic. We're talking about corporations; their behavior always follows the amoebic slide toward food, or in this case, profit.

No, the sick effect is the brainwashed average duh-merican stringing up Christmas lights with a turkey leg still in his mouth. Thanksgiving was your holiday you geniuses. All the others were Germanic or Jewish or perversions of druidic seasonal rites. Taking the harvest celebration which is fairly generic in most cultures and making it a day of remembrance for the struggles of the early colonists and the one moment of cooperation with the natives before they butche -

Ooooohhh, now i get it. Thankgiving's not safe for children. Better show them a nice, cuddly baby Jesus instead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

holy Lands

I really need to stop reading those news items.
Ok, ok, i get it. We're supposed to be on the Jews' side in this hemisphere, because once America succeeds in making the entirety of the middle east into a screaming Jihad worthy of blue eyes and spice addiction, we're gonna need the puppet  'nation' of Israel as a springboard for continued strikes against oil-rich countries. I get it. It's a convenient location, like it's always been. Hell, Damascus lived off of freakin' nothing for centuries just by legitimized silk highway robbery. Replace silk with black gold and anyone can see what profitable real estate that gods-forsaken patch of tired rock can be. Even the goats wouldn't want it otherwise. I get that it's convenient. Machiavelli and Sun Tzu would be proud.

What i'm sick of seeing is this tacit acceptance of moral cause. Israel's fabricated claim is something out of the dark ages. In what other situation do we justify beating the current inhabitants of any region out of their lebensraum because some guy with a funny head-dress says the big magic beardy-man up in the sky said it was his instead? It's not like there aren't any other historic injustices littering the place. The cornerstone of Jericho was hardly laid by Jewish hands even by Biblical admission. This entire planet is a clusterfuck of ape tribes killing and displacing each other. If we were to dredge up every invasion of the past two thousand years, WWIII would come and go so quickly the dolphins would own the planet in a year. There are in fact two continents full of descendents of various peoples who were butchered and driven off their land much more recently than the Jews - but i don't see the American and Canadian governments abdicating to put the Iroquois back in charge.

No, there is no debate, no mutually acceptable compromise. If this were a moral decision, the only course would be a cessation of all trade and support for Israel. It is a purely cold-blooded profit-driven decision. We are willing to promote continued military conflict in the region for profit. And if you can't handle that thought, if all that blood on your hands for lower gas prices turns your stomach a little, then stop trying to pretend fair-mindedness. There is one right side to this issue, and it doesn't involve the Holocaust. As far as i know, the Nazi party included precious few Palestinians.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The earliest SciFi?

I've always said that Frankenstein is the first true example of science fiction.* The premise is based on rational advancement or discovery and even features the heavy slant toward social commentary characteristic of good scifi. Its focus on objects and especially ideas as opposed to characters or subjective states is nowadays so intrinsic to the genre as to make the lignified Keanu Reeves an ideal science fiction protagonist.

Turning to the relevant wikipedia page we find of course many more outlandish notions than my own. I doubt many can hear of Gilgamesh as a potential Keanu Reeves role without doing a double-take. Still, some of the more reasonable inclusions in science fiction (pre)history merit consideration. I find myself forced to abandon one of my other proposed scifi precursors, Faust, because the action is entirely supernatural regardless of his status as a scholar. Faust is more of a morality play than a "what if" story.

I'm also unimpressed by the idea of Gulliver's Travels as science fiction. Its various world-shaking notions are not discoveries. They are given "as-is" to support social commentary on a particular theme. It's good stuff, but given that the protagonist, his acquaintances and really all other characters lack any sort of agency and are more or less observers in their own adventures, given that they almost entirely lack meaningful decisions to make, it all feels more like an extended fable or faery tale. The Gulliver stories are no more sciencey than Rip Van Winkle.

Most of the other examples, given that i've never heard of them, i can't comment on. One, however, did throw me for a loop. I've never read Utopia (i know, i know, someone give this man a library card) but i do know the basic precept and it may just have been the earliest true scifi story. The main concern of science fiction (and i mean the good stuff, not just "spaceships and laserguns" fare) is the variety of social and personal implications of new discoveries. 
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea** is greatly concerned with the power a captain of an electric vessel might possess in the steam era. Much of the book discusses Nemo's restraint or lack thereof in carving out his niche with an arc-welder.
H.G. Wells was fairly heavy-handed by comparisson. I wonder if any of today's multibillionaires sleeping on piles of hookers are tormented by nightmares in which these turn into morlocks.
Even The Lost World was half big lizards and half Doyle's poking fun at scientists and their foibles, the blustering or slithering men of learning which clutter academia to this day. It's the human and inhuman attitudes in that novel setting which make it interesting.
In fact, it seems more difficult to find any memorable works of science fiction which have not concerned themselves heavily with social commentary. Even Star Trek had its primitive, simplistic talk of freedom and the pursuit of knowledge in between phaser duels. Journey to the Center of the Earth would be a good example of apolitical scifi, just a nerd's "wouldn't it be cool if" ramblings. Stapledon's Last and First Men, after the first men die off, would also be simply a flight of fancy (it's as if he wanted to get the politics out of the way in the first few chapters.)

Utopia concerns itself with an advanced society. Presumably the various advances were made scientifically, through the effort and ingenuity of thinking beings, and not handed down by supernatural benefactors. From a scifi point of view, the story may be considered rudimentary if it skips much of the details and simply gives a cure for cancer, abundant crops or readily available birth control as part of its premise. These days, authors are expected to put a little more work into gadgets, gimmicks and geekery. Still, new discoveries cue shifts in morality. Science prompted social Darwinism and science debunked it. If Utopia concerns itself with that sort of prompting and debunking, then i'd have to consider it scifi.

I'm reminded of Robert Heinlein's recently released early attempt at writing, For Us, The Living and its blatant use of the scifi setting as a mere soapbox. Aside from a convoluted and shaky economics lesson, the book focuses entirely on finding the best way to live, the individual's coping with new avenues of thought and the difficulty of overcoming atavism when it has become socially damaging rather than an evolutionary tool. The characters do not simply act according to human nature as we'd expect from Gulliver's chance acquaintances. They are instead actively shaping their world and themselves. It's agency in a rational universe that sets them apart, and makes Utopia a valid candidate as the grand-daddy of all laser-gun duels.

*I realized i was lying, for some time i considered 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the earliest.
**This is where i realized it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Far to the north of the town of Bree lies an area known to the Bree-folk as the north downs. It is a land which has largely fallen out of my kindred's reckoning, at least in my own time, resting as it did within the edges of Arnor while the line of kings held and thereafter left under the care of its scattered farmers and the watchful eyes of the Dunedain.

East of the dwarven settlement of Othrikar, far east of the Greenway in the metal-rich hills which line the border to the darker north, i found a cottage, a dwelling of men such as a single family might occupy, crude stonework and a thatched roof like so many others which litter the plains of Eriador in this age. I found it abandoned, its occupants likely having heeded the call to evacuate when the orcs flooded out of Angmar, but their retreat seems to have been unnecessary. No trace of orc-filth mars their calm little hollow. Deer and the occasional bear or lynx wander through the sparse trees and brush as though the world had never known either the cruelty of the wicked or the ambition of the great.

I stand here and wonder at their lives, these sons and daughters of the Atani. I wonder what they know of the struggles in the faraway southlands and at how little i myself know yet. At such a time as this i would forego my scholar's lore. There is game in these hills, and good hearty roots. The hearth my predecessors used for warmth i would welcome as companionship, a friendly play of flames on cloudy nights. Up the hill to the west stands a war beacon, unlit. And why should it be otherwise? There are no marching hordes in sight here, no siege engines, no cries of fear and pain.

There is a patch of bare earth off the southeast wall, large enough for a few herbs to greet the morning light, if i had a mind for it. I walked to Othrikar yesterday. The dwarves knew of the house. Hunter-folk, they say, and had little else to do with them other than the usual trade in furs, tools and sausages. None even knew the men had left, and less of when they would return. Autumn drags on. There is enough time to plant some bulbs before winter.

I could not stay here forever. From the peaks around the cottage, one might make out abandoned farms to the south, overtaken by orcish outrunners. Far to the northeast on a clear day loom the barren cliffsides of the blighted northern mountains. War may ravage these hills as likely as not. The rangers cannot hold for long and this is no Imladris, no holdfast against the darkness; mere chance has spared it thus far. Crebain cross overhead now and again. And what would i do, scion of the elder race, plant cabbages and chop firewood in a thatched hut? Though born in this land, my blood calls to the west.

Yet still. They should not return to a crumbled home and rotted land. The stones may be uncut but they were laid with care. Cabbage and venison is no shameful fare. I can hunt. These Naugrim will not leave yet, stone-sedentary as their hearts hold them, dark times or no.
They had only one task for me, my new neighbours: that if the southern road should darken or the valleys to the east fill with danger, i would climb the hill between us and light the beacon. And why should not a Noldo bring deer-hides to market in Othrikar in place of a man, for a little while?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wapsi Square

The main problem with Wapsi Square is the writer's uncertainty in delineating the nature and limits of the universe, the characters' personalities and the internal logic of the work as a whole. It's a fairly common problem in webcomics, given their habitually haphazard beginnings. Very few are thought out beforehand as finite works. Many presumably simply run out of ideas because they outlast their estimated popularity.
This issue is compounded by the desperation for outlandish situations. I commented in an earlier post that the internet is littered with webcomics about high school and college students travelling to alternate dimensions and fighting vampires and dragons for no apparent reason. Let's not even get into the "elves with swords" routine. The Wapsi girls have a tendency to acquire overblown, dramatic powers and histories which serve no real purpose in the long run.

Very few comics which fall into the pattern of endless cast expansion, soap-opera-like twists and reiteration of the background of their imaginary worlds ever manage to pull together into something coherent and unfortunately Wapsi Square seems to be continually sliding downwards.

I suppose i should start with the goods before i get into the bads. It's nice to see the artist fine-tuning his particular style, making what could be nothing more than blocky caricatures into expressive, forceful personalities. The story, such as it is, also held some interest for a while because it deals with some of the less familiar conspiracy theories, concerning Atlantis, cyclical human history or Mayan calendars (OK, that last one has become all too familiar the past few years but he's not to blame.) Novelty carries with it the caveat of obscurity however, and many times the dialogue seems to jump, to make nonsensical leaps based (i would guess) on assumptions about how demonic possession 'works' according to a particular culture or the nature of a cyclical timeframe. Another central issue is the almost entirely female cast. Male characters make only cursory appearances, almost as extensions of a female's internal monologue. Whether it's pandering to the audience by drawing nothing but curvaceous characters or outright slavishness to women's control of males' instinct, this tendency is in itself distastefully sexist.

The bigger issues though are still the ballooning cast of (yes, all female) characters and the seemingly random redefining of each one on a whim. The comic started with jokes about bra sizes, drinking in bars and sexual relationships, a fairly predictable melange of twenty-somethings' concerns. At an early point, the main character freed the Aztec god of alcohol from a statue, but he's male so he was largely abandoned after he introduced a trio of bimbos which turned out to be an all-powerful trinity that just want to live normal human lives, then sphinxes got involved and one of the characters discovers she was an eighty-thousand-year old sphinx all along and a couple of them discovered they're haunted by demons with their own personalities but that's ok because we can redefine the central story to revolve around demons even if it was about the sun stone to begin with and if by this point you think this is sounding like "Days of Our Lives" with more magic you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The author, though admittedly creative,  seems to suffer from "wouldn't it be cool if" syndrome and a sad tendency to try to make each episode, each new character quirk as world-shaking as possible. He seems to realize this to some extent and was clear-headed enough to downplay the end of the first big adventure (in which the heroines save the world and possibly a good portion of the Milky Way as well) to prevent himself from needing to create more sharks to jump... but then he started shark-fishing anyway.

Still, in another year maybe i'll take another look at the comic, for the sake of the good old stories of the creepy girl at the office (who turns out to be just creepy, not supernatural - currently being retconned into something supernatural i'm afraid) or pages like this one of the main character being attacked by the demonic personification of her self-doubt. Wapsi Square's problems tend to look like a condensed version of those of print comic books. How many times has Batman's personality been re-iterated and how many origins does Spider-Man have nowadays?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Latest Greatest Hopes of MMOs

It's been well over a decade since companies started selling products they call MMOs. It's been about a decade since most of them stopped even trying to put out anything resembling a persistent world. In that time there have many empty promises and failed attempts.
Without going into the failed attempts and sell-outs of the past, here are the current and future failed attempts or empty promises that i've run across.

Pretty much dead at this point, Dawntide vaporized when it lost its funding last year. If it were resurrected by some kind soul of a cutthroat profiteering billionaire it would still be the strongest contender for a true persistent world simply because its creators had the best grasp of the necessary interconnection of player activity. The game revolved around crafting and the necessity of gathering crafting components, controlling profitable areas and getting goods to wherever they're going (no teleporting), with player conflict growing naturally out of that. Combined with its heavier slant on naval combat, the entire game world being set in an archipelago while still not pigeonholing anyone as pirates, it still holds some promise.
If another six months or a year go by without anyone reviving it however, the game can safely be considered dated and buried along with Ultima Online even if it does get dredged up a decade from now.

The main detriment to this one is how difficult it is to get into. It lacks production values (even Dawntide was showing more promising artwork and sound before it went under) and it is very punishing on beginners, even those who, like me, have played any number of sandbox games whose learning curve is a solid cliff wall like EVE.
It is however an expansive persistent world (and they're putting the world first with player activity really changing the landscape) and offers a great array of player options. It seems to be the most fanatically "sandbox" of my examples here, and the trade-offs may well be worth it for those who truly like their freedom.

The Repopulation
Of this whole bunch it has the widest appeal while still staying true to persistent world core principles. They are heavily pushing faction warfare which may end up to be a debacle like Darkfall (which boiled down to a few zerg guilds parceling out an all-too-small map with fixed city locations) but the landscape looks pretty in screenshots and they are promising to make non-combat playstyles valid choices instead of pigeonholing everyone as PvPers with some crafting skill stapled on in the back of their skillsets.
They are taking a vast risk by offering both FPS and RPG combat all in one. What's more, instead of making a PvP-centered game with some PvE, they are saying they'll be on equal footing. My impulse is to say that it will be impossible to balance and they will mire themselves in development hell for years trying to get the game engine and skill system to accomodate all that. Time will tell, but i must admit this is the one i'm currently most curious about and would love to see a beta.
It's as or more ambitious than Xsyon while looking better and having more gimmicks to draw players in.

Life Is Feudal
The problem with LIF is that it's primarily going for roleplayer appeal. There is a great amount of sandbox appeal, including again, alterable terrain, but the game seems heavily dependent on the viability of its player faction system, the feudal lifestyle. I have a weak spot for LIF because it might be a  true multiplayer version of Mount & Blade but their die-hard dedication to the medieval setting (no magic or other fantasy elements) might make it hard for the game to achieve the critical mass of players which a persistent world needs to keep it interesting. It will live or die according to how many creative anachronists play online games.

Planetside 2
The original Planetside is, along with EVE and ATITD one of the tragically few examples of true persistent world gameplay. It is a niche product, a pure PvP game selling mainly on the idea of a world-sweeping conflict between three fixed factions and is in this respect much of what World of Warcraft failed miserably to live up to. Hundreds of players at a time using infantry, tanks and planes against each other along gigantic, continent-spanning battle-lines, that's all there is to the game, but there is enough to that concept to make PS2 (along with the fact that it's funded by Sony and has, compared to the likes of the games i've presented so far, practically infinite funding) the most likely to succeed short-term. It's not a sandbox, but it is persistent and massive, and if all others fail it will make a good fall-back point.
It's not its lack of features that will kill PS2, but its marketing scheme. Even before release, they are offering players a chance to buy amusement-park money to spend in game on more powerful guns and upgrades. This is a much bigger weakness than Sony's bean-counters seem to realize.
Nothing matters more for a PvP game than fair-play. What they are offering players is a "pay-to-win" option and it will kill the game's competitiveness in the long run. It will be thoroughly enjoyable for the first couple of months but most players will soon after begin to realize that they can never compete with those willing to spend hundreds of dollars every year to keep buying the more and more overpowered weapons, armors and so forth that Sony is selling.
Don't get me wrong, PS2 will never drop out of the market altogether, but it will rapidly devolve to the status of Project Entropia or EVE, profitable because it can keep a few addicts shilling out year after year but inconsequential for the rest of us looking for a an actual game to play and not just legitimized cheating.

The best thing FireFall has going for it is the investor-bait of an apparent "pay-to-win" system combined with a promise to only let players buy cosmetic features, never practical advantages. Aside from that, it's a compromise between The Repopulation and Planetside 2. Fewer features but more polish, better ad-campaign (they're hiring geek spokesmen like Wil Wheaton as advertisers, good angle) and a solid focus on PvP while still including PvE, fitting my own mantra on the issue of balance in a persistent world, it looks to be the most likely to succeed and actually deliver a true MMO since EVE started selling multiple subscriptions.

Friday, November 9, 2012


One of the greatest examples of how badly games have been dumbed down is weapon damage. When a game pretends to have a variety of weapons, some slower or faster, smaller or larger, pointier or blunter and then simply reduces all considerations to a simplistic comparison of average damage per second, it's no mere accident.

It is a commentary on the decline in gamer intelligence.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mitt Romney

It's november 5th, and tomorrow the reactionary public of the good old yew ess of ayyyy will as likely as not pick another ultraconservative moneygrubber as their figurehead. My concern right now isn't the issues. Romney has no platform other than "nobody likes Obama, trust me, you don't like Obama, i am telling you, i know you better than you do you don't" but hell, it's not like Obama ran on an actual platform either, just kept shouting "change change change changetty change change (hope)" like some forum spammer in an online game.

What i'm worried about now is that Romney is actually appealing as a figurehead to so many americans. I am socially inept. I'm not the most perceptive when it comes to reading facial expressions, voice inflection and so forth. So what i find most puzzling at the moment is how nobody is pointing out just what a cheesy pastiche of the outwardly restrained closet megalomaniacal sadist Romney is.

What i have seen in every one of his speeches is an even more wooden mask than most politicians, a tense, wrought-iron, clenched-teeth facade barely containing the desperate desire to take up a cat'o'nine-tails. Unlike most of the half-entertainer figureheads the U.S. tends to elect, this guy is not even a good actor. How is everyone missing the sardonic note in his voice when he says "i care very deeply" or "i support" whatever his target audience supports? It is no accident that that KGB hatchet-man Putin can't wait to 'work with' Romney if he's elected, because they're like two peas in an irradiated pod. They are both willing to make a blind power-grab within their lifetimes and damn what comes after. They want another cold war. How delusional do Americans have to be to buy Romney's comment that Russia is the #1 geopolitical threat when the entire U.S. economy has "made in China" stamped on it thanks to the profit-first (and profit only) neoconservative deregulators like Romney they've been electing to office for the past three decades. Can nobody see who this schmuck actually represents, the cut-throat Wallstreet profiteers willing to throw the west into another cold war in some pissing contest with Putin as a smokescreen while they feed bite after bite of the infrastructure to the far east under the table?

And yet americans, primed as they are by this sick, overcompetitive 'wild-west' macho mentality their leaders have carefully cultured over the past century and more, buy into Romney's image as a stalwart, dependable 'strong leader' as if he's not going to grab a learjet to a private island compound in a non-extradition country as soon as things turn sour. Look at the fuckin used-car salesman grin; this schmuck is not Alexander the Great at the head of his armies trying to conquer the world. He's not even a madhouse Napoleon. He's a Bond villain! I wouldn't be surprised if his line as he bails out of the country with his corporate masters after partitioning off the infrastructure to the highest bidders is "no mr John Q. Public, i expect you to die!"

And he is not even charismatic, this guy. The same people who refused to elect Gore because he looked like a plastic robot from the planet Spineless are now nodding their heads in tune with a humorless scheister they wouldn't buy snake-oil from under normal circumstances. It's not so much that he doesn't laugh; the man cannot even fake a laugh, he actually says 'heh heh heh' like some cackling cartoon supervillain. Clinton was entertaining and Obama was smooth and even that finishing school dropout, the child king Bush II, could at least halfway play the man of the people angle. Romney is a charisma tar pit.
That's the truly perplexing thing, Romney's lack of figurehead qualities, or would be if it weren't perfectly explainable in terms of media control, because the uneducated hoi-polloi of the richest country in the world can reasonably be expected to vote for whoever shouts loudest. Forget rational analysis, they have lost the ability to even vote based on gut feeling.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My imaginary friend told me i don't have to think

It's taken me forever to understand one particular aspect of the religious mindset. Having largely dropped superstition from my thinking since i was around ten to twelve years of age, it's been difficult lately to remember just how polarized the religious view is, how absolute the delineation between one's indoctrination and the evils outside the sect. It stems, of course, from religion's primary use as a tool of social control. The 'us versus them' mentality, the channeling of instinctive kin recognition into this particular use of ritualistic behavior to cement social bonds against unbelievers is as central to religion as the promise of life after death.

Intellectually, i've held that understanding of sectarian polarization in some remote corner of my brain alongside the knowledge that religion, for anyone but a caveman making up an explanation for thunder and the phases of the moon, is basically a refusal to think, a shrinking away from the unpleasant effort of logically working through the problems of the univesrse - cogitation constipation, if you will. I did not grasp the implication, just how completely religion precludes the concept of logic itself.

Recently, i've decided to skim through some snippets of Bill Maher's HBO show, Real Time, both through the segments HBO provides online and various youtube clips. This led to other Bill Maher comedy and commentary clips. I ran across the following paragraph in the screaming of some fundamentalist at the beginning of this clip (min. 0:40); i am transcribing it myself so pardon any inaccuracy.

"You liberals are hypocrites. You say 'don't yell at me, don't get upset at me, you know, just have free thinking, open your mind, don't be so narrow-minded' and as soon as somebody disagrees with you you start cussin' you start getting upset. [you're?] outside of Jesus Christ, you hate God, yew haytcher country!"

The way in which he says 'you hate god' was what made me sit up and replay the segment. It seems a key to understanding the religious incapacity to grasp the basis of individual thought, and the inevitable rejection of religion through independent thought. The revelation (biblical pun intended) is that there is no rationalism from a fundamentalist viewpoint. We're just another heathen sect. They are incapable of discerning between rational atheism and the disciples of Baal, Amun-Ra or the dark lord of the morning star. They see it as just another religious war because they cannot imagine anything outside religious indoctrination.

And it isn't. The common atheist frustration is not spurred by disagreement. That would imply a weighing of factors, an informed opinion, a search for truth by both sides. Religion is a refusal to think, a wholesale, gullible entrenchment in the safety blanket of childhood indoctrination. By the same token, the fundamentalist cannot imagine a life not ruled by irrational adherence to socially-imposed dogma. He believes atheists are only usurpers from another faith. There is no disagreement between reason and religion because they're not even speaking the same language.

I don't hate gods. I can't. It is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist. I like stories about gods. They entertain me. I'm a big fan of mythology.
I hate religion itself, the particular deca-millenial subjugation of will and intellect by social pressure toward irrationality.