Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Astartes is a short Warhammer 40K fan film that tells a pretty compelling story.

I recently got sucked into watching the short fan film Astartes. It seems to tell the story of a group of super elite Space Marines on a kind of doomed mission (which seems to fit the "grim dark" storyline very well) when they uncover a strange artifact that sucks them into (I'm guessing) a place ruled by Chaos (where they are so tiny that they appear as specks on columns surrounded by giant stone statues of skeletons seated on thrones). The attention to detail in this one-man fan film from start to finish is amazing and the 3D modeler behind it all is extremely dedicated to his work. You can see fine embellishments on every surface...even the scoring on the armor looks makes me believe that the suit has seen hundreds of years of battle.

I wish I knew more about the Warhammer universe. I guess I should read some novels, right? If you haven't watched these shorts, click below and give it a try. You might become a fan, just like me.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Broadchurch on Netflix is a story that gets a ton of mileage from the murder of one child.

I've been watching Broadchurch on Netflix. I think this was originally a BBC production (and it still may be), because I recognize so many Doctor Who alums from it. The current "Doctor" plays a woman with a son who was murdered. As the detective work unfolds and the investigation spreads fear through a small community, we come to learn that there are many things about this idyllic village which are rotting just below the surface. And that's what makes it a good drama.

The first season of the show had one story arc, which was to finally get around to solving the question of who exactly murdered an eleven year old boy (and also why). The thing that I find remarkable about the season is that in this (at times) tediously emotional examination of one murdered child in a community, I'm seeing remarkable things. The boy's funeral and after funeral complete with sad music to really drive home the emotion features multiple fires on cliffs spanning the oceanside of Broadchurch...all for this kid who liked to skateboard, play video games, and had a paper route.

In reality I know that no one does this kind of thing. A thousand people died from Covid 19 in NYC in a day, and for the most part, nobody cares. Kids frequently show up in the news here in Salt Lake City...first missing...and then found dead in fields having been murdered, etc. The murderer gets caught or maybe they don't and that's that. There are no mountains being set afire, there are no huge sweeping scores. I kind of wonder what kind of community it would take for one death to matter so much, and how we got to where we are at in a society where the impact of a pending 240,000 or so deaths irritates people that have to keep stores closed because it will hurt the economy.

There's a break therein somewhere...either certain lives don't matter...or all lives don't really matter...and everyone is just pretending that they do. Or maybe what I'm watching, i.e., Broadchurch is basically a white racial narrative of a small English town. White boys are not supposed to get murdered in idyllic settings, and when it does happen, they will be given the burial ceremony of a Viking king. Or something like that.

Grief is a strange thing, I guess? And of course, the mother of the child is still not done after the ceremonial bonfires and the lightings of these huge torches on mountains at sunset (kind of like what happened in the Return of the King when Gondor called for aid). She needs to do more. She holds a conference with community members and states that there needs to be a foundation named after her murdered child. They are (of course) mostly in for supporting this devastated mother. But as I'm watching this I ask myself, would anyone make a foundation for me if I got mugged and killed outside a 7-Eleven? I've got to admit that the answer is a resounding "No!" Are any foundations being made to celebrate the lives lost due to this Covid Pandemic? Probably not as the bodies are just being thrown in body bags and stacked inside refrigerated morgues lining the streets of NYC.

Then maybe it's volume...maybe that's the reason. You lose one child in a community that never experiences this kind of violence, and it's worth carving monuments out of stone to last until the end of time. You kill thousands all at once, and it's a bulldozer and a ditch, and everyone gets on with their lives. I guess I want to know when exactly do individual lives matter, and why doesn't every human life matter like this?

Anyway, I'm enjoying Broadchurch. It resoundingly lies within the crime fiction category. If that's something you like, then check it out. The performances are pretty stellar, and despite the things that cause me puzzlement, I've been entertained.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

It's April 2020 and time to reflect upon being an Insecure Writer during a worldwide pandemic.

It's April Fool's Day of the year 2020. Hopefully there are some fun pranks that will get pulled today to lighten the mood of everything that's going on with the pandemic. As it is the first Wednesday of one of my favorite months, I'm participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

The purpose of the IWSG is to share and encourage without the fear of appearing foolish or weak. As blogfests go, it's a pretty good one.

The rules and sign-up can be found HERE. Please go there if you are interested in it. Now onto the monthly question (which is optional):

April 1 question - The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

This is a bit of a loaded question, as there's so much to talk about that I wonder where to begin? Each day doesn't feel real to me, which I think is a mild trauma response. My government job is classified as essential. I have many responsibilities, but one of them is to issue laptops and computers to disabled clients so that they can transition from attending school in person to attending school online. I get many panicked phone calls with messages like, "My computer isn't working what can I do?" or "I have tests to take and I can't get online. Help!" I have to solve those things over the phone or in person. To borrow a phrase from George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire..."Valar Morghulis," I suppose. The literal translation from the High Valyrian of Westeros is "All men must die." But in context of the novels and the television show, it is used much the same as "Que Sera Sera," which (as you know) means, "Whatever will be will be."

So I haven't stopped meeting with people, sometimes as many as three or four a day, because I need to make sure they get their laptop and that we get the loaner paperwork signed. We take precautions with sanitizing, social distancing of six-feet, and washing hands, but there's only so much you can do. So far, I've had no health issues aside from what I recognize as seasonal allergies that are easily controlled with one Claritin in the morning. I did cancel a visit to go and see my aging father in his assisted living facilility. And going to the grocery store feels really strange as people here stare at you if you clear your throat.

Utah's panic-buying has been intense, and I've heard it's the worst in the country by far. The population here is full of fear, and it's somewhat contagious. There has been no toilet paper anywhere, no flour, no sugar, no rice, no beans, and milk and eggs get regularly wiped out. The government here is very Republican, and it's loathe to put any kind of quarantine in place that has bite to it, because it would jeopardize the fortunes of billionaires that need stores to stay open to make money. It really does look monstrous to me as I see how expendable people really are. I've known for many years that they didn't really care. But to actually hear from our leaders that grandma or grandpa should die so that the economy remain healthy is a lot of truth to digest about billionaire largesse.

So the local government tells everyone strongly to stay home and stay safe, and that you could get arrested for not staying home. But then they load the whole thing with exceptions. Stay home...unless you need to go to work...unless you need to go for a walk with your dog...or to the store...or to drive around. And they say they won't arrest anyone really. It's just a scare tactic. ((Shrug)). Okay then. People of faith are still meeting, because they don't believe the virus is real. Then they're getting sick, because the virus doesn't care what they believe. The ones that stay healthy will spin it to say that their faith protected them. Whatever.

There are furniture stores that are still open as are many other kinds of stores with frightened workers still seeing the public. The why is simply because of money. The answer is always money. There are hardly any landlords giving anyone in this entire state any kind of break on rent. I've read story after story of how letters were sent out saying, "Your rent is still due on the first!" The brutality of the plantation owner and the slave is on full display. The fact that no one sees themselves as a slave seems to have either one of two outcomes: 1) the reality of being a slave hits home and causes lifelong depression or 2) denialism sets in about one's allotted place in life which results in extreme narcissism. So you either interact with depressed people all the time, or you are interacting with narcissists who have no empathy and constantly act like they are better than you. There doesn't seem to be any in-between.

Capitalism is very cruel. I just wish more people would understand exactly that and want to do something about it. And that's all I've got to say about that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Taking a break from blogging until April 1st. Stay healthy folks.

I own an Akebono cherry tree, and I have it planted in my front yard. During early spring, it produces flowers just like you see in the above picture. I can't wait for it to bloom. Every day, the buds on the branches become just a little more pronounced. That's how I know that spring is just around the corner.
I'm taking a blogging break until April 1st, which is the Insecure Writer's Support Group post for the month. I hope you get lots of blooms this spring coming up in your yards. I know I plan on getting to work in the yard soon. I love me some flowers.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The guy who hoarded hand sanitizer and wipes is just practicing your beloved capitalism even if it pisses you off.

This guy who has a bunch of hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes (among other things) that he intended to basically cash-in and make himself rich is being pretty much vilified online since the New York Times wrote about his money-making scheme. Now, he's stuck with all of his product because Amazon, Ebay, and other outlets banned him from price-gouging online. Interesting turn of events, right?

The thing is, I'm seeing another issue at play here. The American dream has shifted, folks, and what it has morphed into is not the same as it was for generations past. Now, Americans of all shapes and colors basically want lives of leisure and play. And play is basically five things: vacation with new experiences, eating good food, having sex, maybe raising kids, and learning/participating in art. That's it. That's what the American dream do that ALL of the time, every day, forever. I gotta actually sounds really nice. Especially if you can accomplish that early and just sail into old age doing that on and on and on forever until you drop dead.

But here's the rub: it takes a ton of money in our modern world to live that life of leisure, especially if you want all the "trimmings." The "trimmings" here are people who buy your groceries for you and stock your fridge, clean your home, and basically do all the crappy work like toilet work and laundry so that you can continue to be on vacation, experiencing music, having sex, doing art, learning, etc. And there are fewer and fewer paths that actually deliver the above to you.

The old mantra of "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and "achieve the American dream" by yourself, doesn't work for anyone anymore. All of the good ideas for businesses have been taken. The people who have examples like, "My grandpa was self-made because he saw a need for furnace filters back in the day when they invented furnaces, and he met that need." Well...duh...thanks, Captain Obvious. But those opportunities have long since dried up. If a man were to make furnace filters today, he'd die poor because you can't compete. It takes something like Covid 19 to crush everything to death to create a "need" so that someone like the above guy can actually achieve the American dream. And then everyone accused him of price-gouging, which (to be truthful) is fair but that's just capitalism, and now he's screwed with a bunch of product he's going to have difficulty unloading.

The Covid-19 outbreak is remarkable in so many ways. Yes, it shows the weaknesses and shortcomings of preparedness as well as the fragility of our economic and supply chain. But it is also a fantastic way to see how truly impossible it is for people to get that "American dream" and live a life of leisure where you eat grapes while someone is fanning you in an exotic location while still in possession of your youth. To make the kinds of millions that would facilitate that lifestyle is incredibly difficult and nigh impossible for many folks until an emergency comes along that creates opportunity. In fact, I'd say that true "hand over fist" money-making opportunities might only exist in an emergency these days. During regular (read as normal) times, the most creative people will only improve their financial situation marginally, buy a modest home, and still have to work until 80 to retire. In other words, they work, pay taxes, and die like everyone else. And a lot of the young folk today are saying "I ain't playing that game," even though life is totally going to kick them in the privates and force them to play the game (which is why the new generation is very anxious and depressed). Hell, I don't blame them. If I'd been told their version of the above American dream, I'd be depressed right now too. That's what terrible lies do. They create false expectations that don't meet reality and the only way to make ends meet is to become a crook.

Don't any of us think that the above guy in the picture might have gone a different route with a business if it were easy for him to do so? I'm sure he wouldn't have chosen to hoard a bunch of stuff in a crisis and then sell it for a huge margin if it weren't so obvious that this is exactly how he could make a fortune. If he could make a fortune doing something legit, he WOULD HAVE DONE just that. But there is no easy way to make a fortune that doesn't require a ton of work and a ton of luck (and yes you've got to have both). And people want easy money...that's part of the American dream too. I used to shovel driveways for $5.00 with a foot of snow. Kids these days won't even lift a finger for less than $40, and then they just roll their eyes and groan while setting their phone on the counter. "DDDDOOO I NNNNEEED TO? REALLY? Won't you just give me the money?"

Anyway, you might ask, what do I think of the above guy? I think he's scum and should be caned like they do in Singapore to people that litter. HOWEVER, in this country where every old white man has told me since I was a youngin' that, "Boy, if you know what's good for you, you'll pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop complaining, and put that nose to the grindstone and makes somethin' of yourself!" I would like to say, "Price-gouging and predatory capitalism is your creation. Let's celebrate this asshole that you created and price gouge you. Let's see how you like it. You made this bed, now sleep in it." In other words, I actually think the guy is in his right and should be allowed to take people for all they are worth. That's how the rules were set, and not by me.

Capitalism just sucks, and yes I will continue to play the game. But it especially sucks when it's hypocritical. No one likes a hypocrite. I honestly don't understand how more people don't see how hypocritical our entire system is. Sigh.

Have a nice Monday!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Why do people spend so much time virtue signaling online?

If you don't know what "virtue signaling" is, I'll define it for you. Once I do, I think you'll recognize it in your own life on your social media feeds. "Virtue signaling" is an expression of moral outrage that smacks of feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others. In short, it's an attempt to show other people that you are a good person. In my own personal bubble of "friends," the act of "virtue signaling" appears very strong with those who have extreme liberal views. It makes me wonder if they have a problem with self-esteem, or if they feel like they are (in fact) not good people. The answer is probably somewhere in-between.

Still having trouble figuring out what I'm talking about with this term? Want an example? Take the good looking thirty-something man that says on Facebook, "Women please be proud of your bodies no matter how they appear. You are lovely whether you are fat or thin, white or chocolate, and in any shape or size. You are all beautiful." But then you actually know this guy and he dates only thin models or women who have smooth legs that exist nowhere in nature outside of a dolphin (and wear high heels and have long flowing hair and makeup). And yes, the same guy dates only white women. Yet he is chased after by dozens of women, because yeah...he's good movie-star good looks. He could have anyone he wants, so why not take the Lizzo look-alike? It's because what he's saying online is a hypocrisy. It is not the truth, because fat women actually don't (and never did) have a chance with him at all. It's the "do as I say, and not as I do" type of person.

I've noticed that one of the things about virtue signaling is that it actually does not require the person saying anything to live by what they preach. Additionally, the person that is engaging in "virtue signaling" generally comes across as pompous and bossy. I think most of us would want others to just privately act on one's convictions without the hope or expectation of acknowledgement. However, a lot of people in the modern world have no self-identity within themselves and depend on an external source of validation in order to obtain any kind of life happiness or satisfaction.

And I think that's the ultimate answer to the question I posed in the headline: why do people spend so much time virtue signaling online? It's because in the modern world, a lot (and I mean LOTS in all caps) of people are relying upon external validation for their self-esteem. Through virtue signaling, they get reassurance that they know what they stand for, they point out to others that they are a good person, and they (maybe) identify with a wrong that harmed them personally and are pointing it out to the world so that others avoid being damaged in the same way.

That's what I think, anyway. As to why people collectively worldwide seem to possess low self-esteem, I have only a few theories. The most prevalent one is that the Earth is extremely overcrowded (population explosion times infinity). Because of this, scarcity of resources is becoming an everyday thing as is the inability to distinguish oneself from another because anything you have to offer is a dime a dozen.

The term "spoilt for choice" comes to mind. This is a British phrase that means, roughly, that there are so many things to choose from that it becomes impossible to choose, which can create anxiety. Remember elementary school and not wanting to be the last one picked for a dodgeball team? Well society is essentially a dodgeball team on a grandiose scale. Whatever is doing the picking, whether it is for a job, for a lover, to be a model, to be a singer, to be a famous one wants to be in the picked over pile. But because there are so many of us, the pickers are "spoilt for choice" and (I hate to say it) but a lot of us just end up on the bottom of the barrel rotting away. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, I think Earth's ever increasing population does a disservice to us all by collectively devaluing the actual cost of a single human life with each new baby that comes along. That's not to say that I don't like babies. I adore them as much as the next person. I'm just trying to state the obvious that when a population goes from a million to ten million and to a hundred million, each individual in that population is worth less (in terms of what value they bring to a society). This is why we all have to join unions to get collective bargaining power: a single person alone is no threat at all to the employer.

So maybe virtue signaling in the end is an attempt to restore some of that lost value damaged by unchecked population growth. However, (and for whatever reason) it always makes me think for a little while that the people who are doing it are smug. It makes me want to ask, "Who gave you the power to tell others how to live?" I don't like it, but I don't think it's going away anytime soon. Just my two cents on a Wednesday.

Curious: do you virtue signal online? Please leave your answers and thoughts in the comments.