We Have Nothing To Fear, Yet Fear Ourselves

I have a serious question for anyone who reads this. I honestly and truthfully want to know opinions or thoughts on this question because it really just bothers the hell out of me. My question is as follows:

When did life become more about living for society and less about living for yourself?

Or, more importantly, when did we decide to sacrifice the things that make us truthfully happy for the things that our neighbors or coworkers enjoy? Why do so many people change how they live because of the way people they’ve never met live? Why do they exercise just because movie stars always look good? Why do they read books just to have something to talk to coworkers about? Why do they alter the way their relationship works just so it will match the family in Happy Days, or whatever programs the kids today watch?

Okay, so maybe that was more than one question, but the main question remains: When did life become less about being happy and more about being average? Why do so many people live in so much fear of persecution that they toss their own joys to the wind and settle? This is something that has plagued me for years as I’ve watched my peers grow up and slowly shed their golden dream scarves (excellent band name) and adopt lives that their former selves would have scoffed at.

Now, don’t think for a second that I am so naïve that I choose to believe that larger persecutions such as those on Religion or Race are things we can simply dash with a few poignant words. I understand that in any country where there exists majority and minority (excluding portions of Russia where there is a majority of cold and a minority of fun and the two seem to work hand-in-hand), there will be some form of persecution or conflict between the two groups. This will remain true until the day we resemble the androgynous Thermians from Galaxy Quest. Now, I may have made the jump from naïve to cynic, but in no way am I saying we shouldn’t at least try to nurse the wounds caused by such persecution. I merely mean to say that a look at the human condition shows that a group in power will almost always persecute weaker (politically or economically) or more sparse groups in order to maintain that power until the day when the two groups become similar, either in population or literal description. Thus, I want to point out that this post is not about the persecutions that run incredibly deep, such as Race, Sexuality and Religion. That’s a strong topic for another post. This is more an analysis at how the nature of persecution has seeped into the very heart of most men and women, creating a society wherein most people are persecuting themselves in fear of not fitting into the world around them.

As people go through life, we are constantly met by choices. These choices range from life-changing to choosing today’s socks, but they all cross through the same avenues in our brain. A choice usually begins down an avenue of our own preference, then continues to a brief look into the past, an analysis/prediction of the future and finally a look at factors in our present world that might affect our choice. For instance, when I wake up and mosey over to the basket where I keep my plethora of socks my first thought is that I prefer softer, thinner socks. I will then recall which socks I have worn recently and check to make sure I won’t be needing any socks for future engagements (i.e. black socks for a suit and tie day). Having mostly decided on a pair of thin white socks, I will then recall that the weather forecast has stated that it is going to be quite chilly, so I will instead choose a thicker pair of socks. Done. Decision over. Obviously, decisions with more of an impact can take much longer in any particular stage or can even address multiple stages at once. For instance, a decision about a relationship usually spends a large amount of time in the past whereas a decision about a job will spend much of its time in the future. Recently, this process has seen a new addition, a freshly installed bureau of affairs that must process all new arrivals. We now pass through the office of Society. We now judge every decision on how normal or abnormal the result will be. When looking at jobs, we fear not that we won’t get the job, but we fear that the failure will sever us from the average. We fear that being unemployed will make us abnormal. As we get older, we worry about not having a relationship not simply because we feel lonely, but because we are afraid of what our friends, family and strangers will think of us. It even affects our more superficial decisions, from hairstyles to clothing. From pets to apartments. From food to television shows. We are constantly rating our own decisions against those of society. Constantly wanting to fit the mold for average and afraid of taking risks that might result in our failure to conform.

Now, everyone who has been reading this is thinking one of two things. First, your brain is telling you “damn, we really need to watch Galaxy Quest again.” Second, you are screaming out at me with rebellious fervor. You are shouting, “I am not a conformist! I fit no molds! I am a member of generation X and drink Pepsi and love to skateboard and bask in my youth!” I respect you, ye gentle Lords and Ladies of uniqueness, I do. But let’s look at a scenario for a second. Say you buy a new shirt and you think you look absolutely gorgeous in it. You wear it to work/school/social function the next day. How would you feel if a) people blatantly showed disregard/disgust for your new shirt, b) people went out of their way to compliment you on your shirt choice, or c) nobody said a damn thing. If you peaked even slightly on your emotional scale for any of these, then you may not be as free from society’s grasp as you think. And, true, maybe you honestly don’t care what people think about your clothes. Replace the shirt with anything and it still holds true. What about if you were out on the town with your new guy/gal? Or driving your new car around? Or just got your hair cut? Or showing people your new business cards with your fancy new job title on them? If you place a heavy weight in the attention of others, either positive or negative, then you are not the rebellious punk God that you hoped to be. And maybe you honestly just don’t care, and Society has let you slip through its fingers. Well, answer me this: What are your friends like? Who are your role models? What books do you read or TV shows do you watch? More importantly, do all the major influences in your life have ultimately the same outlook on life as you? Nonconformity in groups is still conformity. Just because you and all your friends are too outside of society to vote, it doesn’t make you that rebellious if you all constantly listen to the exact same Gogol Bordello album on repeat.

So what are we doing to ourselves? I personally believe that our Super-egos have gotten moderately out of hand. We no longer have three levels of psyche. The id and ego have been drastically crammed together and represent mostly the same thing, with one presenting itself more forcefully at different times a la the Incredible Hulk. On the back of this feeble creature of dual personality rides the fat, pompous super ego, his bulbous belly ripe with the spoils of his recent feast of media, society and, most decadent of all, E! News. Our psyche is now rigidly controlled, whether we decide to conform to the average or conform to the nonconforming. Every move is watched by the elements that fill our brain. We take less risks. We’re less impulsive. We no longer live in the moment, but live more in a place of over-exaggerated past and paranoid future. Constantly, we fear the repercussions that society may enact should we make the wrong decisions. This fear has made us, as a whole, complacent and weak, settled in our position of slaves to a mindless, faceless entity that exists only inside of our own minds.

A few final thoughts:

First, I truly believe that there are plenty of people who are actually capable of living outside of this control. Do I think I am one? Not in the slightest. I recognize that I am a victim of the same circumstance I have just described, but I am trying to break myself of it. Second, you may be wondering what I think has caused this, and honestly I’m not sure. My hunches would be the influence of media and the cult of the celebrity. I personally believe that this slavery to ourselves is a result of the importance that we place in people whose ‘job’ it is to look nice as often as possible. These folks, in many ways are REQUIRED to be presentable whenever possible. Now, I have nothing against celebrities, I simply have a problem with how we try to adopt celebrity culture into everyday life. This results in a society full of people who imagine themselves as characters in their own TV series or stars of their own film. Our existence in the hyperreal is, in my opinion, the largest catalyst at work here. I feel this is exacerbated by Social Media, which allows various third parties direct access to our lives much easier than was ever possible in the past. Finally, I also do believe that this is mainly a problem in Western Society, and more specifically a problem in America. Though there are signs of self persecution in other countries, it usually takes on a different tone or has a much different cultural origin than it does here in the States. I am in no way an America basher, in fact I love the hell out of this country. I just hate seeing what’s happening to it.

So remember: Don’t resist doing things because you want to do them. Obviously, this doesn’t mean break the law because it felt right, but don’t let the opinions or concerns of others dictate your life. Be impulsive from time to time. Go to the gym and juice your pecs because you felt like it, not because your girlfriend keeps talking about Chris Hemsworth. Eat a burger from time to time and then diet because you want to for you. Take a day off from work to focus on your personal mental health. We need to stop fearing society, because we ARE society. We’re only fearing what we’re capable of. We’re afraid of what we can accomplish. Without that fear, the world is yours. Regain your psyche and take back your life.

~C

What do you think is causing this self persecution? Do you feel this problem is getting worse or better? Was I completely off base? Are you all about that bass? Let me know.

More Like BORED Games…

Let’s face facts, the classics never die, but they also never really improve to awesome. There’s only so many times you play 6 hours of Monopoly only to land on someone’s Boardwalk with like fifty hotels as they smirk and go “uh oh, I don’t think you’ll have enough” and all you want to do is punch them in their stupid face but you can’t because it’s your nephew and he’s like 5, which stings even more.

Well, as my continuing attempt to improve the world, I have come up with a few variations on classic games to make them, I don’t know… more… creative, I suppose. (Note: These are probably more enjoyable with booze)

Here it is. My List of Variations on Classic Boardgames (that there’s a Google line, yessir):

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Co-opoly:

  • Need: One copy of Monopoly (any variation), 4 or 6 players, two unclaimed game pieces (two different coins would also work)
  • Summary: Players will form businesses and acquire property from a collective pool of money. A randomly controlled piece will represent the fluctuating nature of the economy, and ultimately screw some people over.
  • Rules:
  • Split into two/three teams of two.
  • Divvy out the money as per the core Monopoly rules, giving each player the designated amount of bills, however each teammate’s money will ultimately be combined to form that team’s money pool.
  • Come up with goofy team names, preferably representing your business name.
  • Each player needs their own game piece despite being on a team. They will move across the board individually and be able to buy property and whatnot on their own. However, their money for these activities will come from their team money, meaning it would be important for them to discuss any acquisitions with their business partner.
  • NOTE: This is why it is important for team money to be combined, despite players still moving and acting individually.
  • Team order should progress so that one member of each team goes before the member of the other team. Thus, with two teams, the order would be ABAB, and with three it would be ABCABC
  • The game proceeds like normal, going until only one business is not bankrupt or until players are bored and it’s 5 in the morning.
  • There are three main rule changes:
  • Jail- If one player ends up in jail, they are in there for some sort of corporate fraud or insider trading. As such, their teammate is an accomplice. The player in jail has three rounds to roll doubles with no option to pay a $50 fine to get out of jail. After those three rounds, their partner joins them in jail as an accomplice. Both players now have three rounds to get out of jail or can pay a joint ($50 x 2 = $100) fine. One player may not leave jail without the other, so if one player decides to skip the rolling, he must also post bail for his partner. If they fail to roll doubles after three rounds, they have to play the $100 fine.
  • Swedish Bank Account- If a player lands on any space that provides them with money (I.E. Chance Cards, Passing “GO,” Free Parking, Etc.) They have the option to set aside any portion of this money as their “luxury fund.” Essentially, this money can come in and out of play at that players leisure and represents their personal bank account. All payments for property tax and whatnot will come directly from the company’s funds, but the players with private accounts can supplement their company’s account as they see fit. At the end of the game, if a player’s company goes belly up and she has more personal funds than her teammate, then she gets the pleasure of having lost less than her partner and can rub it in his face that he’s in the poor house and she is sipping pina coladas in Maui. There is little benefit to the private accounts except to help regulate funds, keep money from an over-eager partner, and to have some sweet bragging points to ruin a friendship. However, if a player’s partner feels that person is setting aside too much and not investing back into their company, they can have that person arrested for laundering. The whole thing goes to court, which is represented by both players rolling a D6. If the defendant rolls higher, they have to pay a $200 payment for lawyer fees, but ultimately get off scot-free. However, if the accuser rolls higher, then the defendant goes to jail for D6 turns and all their private account is dispersed, with half going into the bank and half going to charity funds (Free Parking). The company has to pay $100 to the bank for lawyer fees.
  • Boom and Recession- These economic cycles are represented by the two unclaimed game pieces on the board. The Boom piece moves anytime doubles are rolled (even if rolled by a player in jail). It moves the amount rolled. If Boom lands on a space owned by a player it provides that player with 2D6 x 10 dollars (for example, if it rolls a 5, the company gets $50). On a roll of doubles, that player can chose to either A) take $$$, B) place a house on that space for half price or C) take a chance card. If Boom lands on a space with a player, that player receives $200, like passing GO. The Recession piece moves every time a 6 is rolled. Unlike the Boom, the Recession rolls a separate movement die, which is one D6. If the Recession lands on a place owned by a player company, that company loses 2D6 x 10 dollars (for example, if it rolls a 5, the company loses $50). On a roll of doubles, disaster has occurred and the space loses one house in addition to the amount displayed on the dice (if a space has a hotel, it is reverted down to four houses). If the Recession lands on the same space as a player, that player loses 1D6 x 100 (so, on a roll of 5, that player loses $500). On a roll of 6, the company is being audited and players can either A) pay the $600 or B) go to jail.

Jules Winnfield the Game:

  • Needs: A Copy of Guess Who, 2/4 players, booze
  • Summary: Players compete in a charades style game of Guess Who, where the only thing they can ask is “Does he look like a bitch?” with different body language and inflection to accompany.
  • Rules:
  • Game plays exactly like a game of guess who, where opposing players take turns trying to guess the character that the other player selected by asking relevant questions.
  • However, these players are all taking the role of Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction and can thus only ask the all important question “Does he look like a bitch?”
  • It’s up to them to use proper inflection and body language to relay what their actual questions is, and it’s up to the person across from them to understand it.
  • Play continues until one player reduces their board to all but one character. They then shout “DOES Character Name LOOK LIKE A BITCH!” If they are correct, they win. If they are wrong, they lose.
  • A 3rd and 4th player may be added as teammates who work as spotters to streamline the game a bit. These spotters will sit with the opponent of their team and watch. If at any point the opponent drops the tile for the character your team has selected, the spotter will call it out and the opponent automatically loses. The addition of the spotter is simply to end the game early if there is any miscommnication.
  • This game will most DEFINITELY result in a lot of people not guessing correctly. It’s more fun for the rare chance that someone actually succeeds.
  • With the above note, this would probably be more fun with alcohol involved.

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Anti-Trust-Opoly:

  • Needs: Two copies of Monopoly, 4-6 players
  • Summary: Players compete with one person (representing the Big Corporation) has considerably more funds and resources than the others
  • Rules:
  • Decide who will be playing the Big Corporation; all other players will be the Small Businesses
  • Divvy out the money to all the Small Businesses as per the Monopoly rules. The Big Corporation player will get X times the starting amount, where X equals the amount of Small Businesses (Thus, if there are 4 Small Business players, the Big Corporation starts with 4 times the starting amount). This is why you need two copies of monopoly, because you will probably need to let the Big Corporation player have his own set money.
  • Remove all “get out of jail free” cards from the decks
  • Each Small Business starts with one randomly selected property in their control. The Big Corporation player should be the one to shuffle and distribute these properties.
  • The Big Corporation will always go first and the play order proceeds clockwise from that player
  • Jail- if the Big Corporation goes to jail, they follow the same rules as found in classic Monopoly. If the Small Businesses go to jail, they have three turns to roll doubles. If they fail, they must give a property (randomly selected) to the Big Corporation. If they do not have any property, they are considered bankrupt and are out of the game.
  • The Big Corporation wins if they own X complete sets of properties, where X equals the original number of Small Businesses. A complete set is when a player owns every card in a particular color, railroad or utility.
  • If a player is knocked out of the game, the Big Corporation DOES NOT now have to collect one less complete set. The number is based on how many Small Businesses were present AT START OF GAME
  • The Big Corporation CANNOT include the two utilities as their complete sets. They may still buy these, but they cannot win with them.
  • The Big Corporation also wins if all Small Businesses are bankrupted.
  • The Small Businesses win if they bankrupt the Big Corporation or if each Small Business owns a complete set and can hold on to them for three rounds. In other words, once the last Small Business to acquire a complete set purchases their last needed card, it must make it fully around the turn order to that person three times without a) a Small Business losing a property b) the Big Corporation gaining the required amount of complete sets. The person who was last to complete a set will be the last player to go.
  • If one person is knocked out of the game, and the remaining businesses all have complete sets, this begins the win scenario. The three turns will begin with the next Small Business player to go after the player is eliminated.
  • The Small Businesses CAN include the Utilities as their complete sets.
  • If at any point a Small Business manages to meet the win condition for the Big Corporation, their business has become a Big Corporation and immediately defeats all other players (i.e. if a Small Business collects X complete sets, they have ousted the original Corporation as dominant and instantly win the game, screwing over the smaller, weaker businesses that once were their compatriots).
  • NOTE: Though small businesses are technically on a team, they are still REQUIRED to pay when landing on another player’s property. They may be friends, but this is business, people…

Reflecting on Life:

  • Needs: One copy of The Game of Life
  • Summary: Now aged and resting, players reminisce on their lives leading up to their current situation.
  • Rules:
  • The focus of this game is more to be narrative and silly than have a defined winner and loser
  • Players take on the roles of elderly people sitting around a table reminiscing about their lives.
  • At the start of the game, each player selects a piece, randomly chooses an occupation, and selects how many kids they want or if they have a spouse, and randomly selects a house.
  • Play proceeds as is usual in this game, except players will be moving backwards across the board, starting at what is typically the finish.
  • Players need to be in character and narrate as things happen in their lives. All cards involving career or housing change happen in reverse (i.e. changing jobs, you will explain why you went from being a doctor [your new card] to being a plumber [your starter card])
  • Any acquisition of large sums of money must also come with a story of how you lost that money in the past.
  • Landing on marriage or child related spaces result in a loss of that family piece.
  • The fun of this game comes from the stories you make up and the fact that INEVITABLY something won’t match up. Say, for instance, someone starts with only two kids, but then draws lands on ANOTHER kid space, having no kids to remove. This should be narrated with some sort of funny anecdote like “A yes, my eldest child, Bernie. I try to forget about Bernie. On account of his tastes in men. Or something to that effect.
  • This is more a narrative, role playing type game akin to Fiasco and other freeform RPG’s. Players should feel free to go crazy and have fun with their characters.

I might have more at some point, but this is all for now. Get out there and play!

~C

A Guide to Comics: Marvel Women Part 3

Welcome back, ladies.

Marvel Men: 1  2  3

Marvel Women: 1  2


Thor
  • Character Summary: At time of writing, actual identity is unknown (and even after it’s revealed I won’t mention it here because, come on now… spoilers); A mysterious woman who lifted Mjolnir and took over the mantel of Thor, who lost his ability to hold Mjolir due to an equally mysterious series of sneaky whispers (fo’ real); “Lady” Thor is presented as much more than that, or rather more than just a “Lady” version of regular Thor; In fact, it is laid out multiple times in the comic that she is not a woman with the Thor title, but rather is ACTUALLY Thor, with all the powers, respect and responsibility that comes along with being so; The writers have a done a decent enough job not making this Thor seem any less capable than the original, putting her in similar scenarios as the previous Thor would often find himself in; All in all, the series is still very new, but I seriously hope that it’s popularity is sustained even after the identity is revealed.
  • Common Themes: Adapting to new powers; Secret Identities; Trust; Obligations and Responsibilities
  • Good For: Thor Fans; Fantasy Fans; People interested in VERY powerful female superheroes
  • Go To Series: Only the one right now, but THORS comes out in May as part of the Secret Wars Crossover
  • Stand Out Stories: Still making them!

Jean Grey/Phoenix

  • Character Summary: Jean Grey, Omega Level Mutant Telepath/Telekenetic; Admittedly, Jean breaches my rule of avoiding characters who are mainly attached to a team; Jean doesn’t have too many solo arcs, and honestly, that’s why I’m including her; As a character, Jean has a lot of depth and intrigue; She is a vessel and avatar for an interstellar entity known as the Phoenix Force, which is a being of pure energy that feeds on creation and destruction; She has severe relationship issues thanks to her time with X-men and is generally constantly on edge due to the massive amounts of destructive power that flows inside her; HOWEVER, throughout much of the runs of the comics, Jean is mainly used as a plot device; She is strong when she needs to be and weak when the writers need her to be; She also stands as one of the primary examples of a comic book cliche- the inability to actually die; Jean has died and come back a number of times, which is usually attributed to her ties to the Phoenix; Ultimately, Jean Grey stories are worth a read because A) Jean is actually a really cool/powerful character and B) they often represent some of the mistakes that can and have been made in comics [This isn’t to say all Jean comics are bad, just that, much like Ms Marvel, Jean suffered in the beginning from the era of writing]. AS A SIDE NOTE: I prefer Jean Grey from the Ultimate universe; She is more tough, more badass, and a bit nerfed power-wise.
  • Common Themes: Power and Control; Relationships for Heroes; Separation from Society
  • Good For: X-Men fans; Hero team fans; People who like the tension of unstable heroes
  • Go To Series: X-Men (Vol 2); New X-Men (Vol 1); Ultimate X-Men; All New X-Men
  • Stand Out Stories: Endsong; New X-Men #150; Phoenix Saga; Dark Phoenix Saga

Continue reading

Been Ramblin’

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Good Morning, all!

Sorry I’ve been away. Went on my honeymoon recently and between travelling and sight-seeing, hadn’t had much time to produce any posts. But I’m here now, so everything is right with the world.

The wifey and I decided that for our honeymoon we wanted to take a road trip, experience some places we hadn’t been before. So we traveled up the coast to Philadelphia and Boston, then hit the Outer Banks on our way back down. It was an awesome experience, though definitely a cold one for our sun-soaked Florida bones.

We mostly just hung out in the cities. Did a handful of touristy things: Got a cheesesteak in Philly, went to Walden Pond, walked around Harvard and gawked at students, etc. But mostly, we just hung out: checking out bars and shops, finding hole in the wall restaurants, and just generally enjoying ourselves. One thing we decided a long time ago (and this may be why we get along so well) is that we love travel, but we don’t feel like travelling benefits from being held to a rigid itinerary.

Sure, any time you visit a place, you should have a definite list of things you want to do, but by no means should you plot out every hour of every day. The experience benefits from being allowed to be more free-form, more organic. And really, that’s what travel is all about: An exciting, unpredictable experience. Not that an overplanned trip wouldn’t be fun at points, but it just feels so formulaic, so rigid. When you travel, you should be open to surprises, to new and exciting adventures. Be impulsive once in a while. Get lost somewhere. Not knowing what might be around the next corner just makes the experience that much richer.

For me, experiences are everything. Again, that’s why Tee and I decided on a roadtrip. The journey and voyage are more important to us than just a few nights at a luxury hotel on a beach or at a theme park. Seeing new things, meeting new people, and experiencing something different is much more important. All in all, we just love to travel, so much so that for the past few years, we have opted out of getting each other physical Christmas presents so that we can instead use the money on a holiday time adventure. Wanderlust is our friend.

To end this post on my typical weird note, I did notice something interesting on our travels. Each state has a certain theme in the billboards that you find along the road. Obviously, not all billboards are about one singular topic, but some states have billboards that appear much more frequently than ads for food places and truck stops. Here’s a quick list of some of the weird ones:

Florida – Anti-Abortion
Maryland – Human Trafficking
New Jersey – Anti-Vaccine
Massachusetts – People just generally being shot
South Carolina – Canned Goods

Seriously, there was a sign about canned something every single mile in South Carolina. It’s like nobody in SC eats anything unless it comes from a can. It was crazy.

~C