Friday, September 30, 2022

The Boomers entering assisted living is probably going to crush the healthcare system in the United States or usher in universal healthcare.

For many years now, my last surviving parent (father) has been in assisted living care. The cost has been a staggering $1200.00 paid out every seven days from his estate, and this hasn't been covered by insurance. This morning (for some reason) I decided to google "Why is assisted living so expensive in the United States?" And I landed on a Quora page with the most intelligent and insightful (concise) reason that I just had to blog about it. And then I want to talk about what it may mean for the future. But first, here is the answer that I got that was so fantastic:
"Because they are private for-profit facilities that take advantage of America's lack of healthcare for its elderly.

"In countries with universal healthcare, people don't have to go bankrupt to pay for their parent's care. The for-profit model knows that they can wipe out the life savings of a senior and take any form of inheritance laid aside for their children, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

"If your parent becomes impossible to care for in your home, you have to pay for it. Therefore, they charge it because they can, and because the United States government won't pay anything until you are down to your last $2,000 in assets. It's a system of robbery that pays the workers (who are usually foreign) very low wages and offer nothing close to the luxury that $10,000 a month should provide.

"It's an unsustainable business model that is able to do this because the WWII generation lived in a cheaper America, and they were able to save more. Once the Boomers start entering care, there will not be this plethora of saved assets and either the U.S. Government will need to implement universal healthcare or seniors will collapse the system."

Wow! First off, this was an incredible post made by someone going by ED L on Quora. Additionally, from my personal experience, it is 100% correct. Like...there is no error I can see here at all. So let's move onto my analysis of what's being said here and what it means for the future.

Folks, the Boomers are about to crush the system. Huzzah! It's all going to come crashing down. This has kinda got me a little excited. Sure...there's going to be lots of suffering and crying, but when it all crashes, I'm going to have fun looking at the Republicans who opposed universal healthcare and feel mighty smug about being right on this. I don't have kids, so the system crashing is not going to hurt me as much. But it's going to smack these huge family units in the ass. Hard. And I just can't wait until it happens.

And furthermore, just more validation that capitalism like we have in America absolutely sucks just makes my day. "How dare you want socialism! Don't you know that you'll pay more in taxes?!" I don't know how many times I've been told this by an ignorant person, even as my taxes go up all the time due to Republicans in Utah taxing everything. They are even discussing at the Legislature level about taxing food delivery, which is absurd. And Utah is one of only four states that taxes social security, which has been taxed already. But they have a good social media game with, "We support lower taxes!" What they mean is, "We support lower taxes to rich people and corporations!"

I mean...what's the alternative? Force old people onto the streets? How on earth will they be able to live with themselves, especially if they are Christian? It's going to be fun watching the greedy and righteous squirm. At least they can blame Obama.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this nugget of wisdom from Quora. It made my day. I hope it makes yours too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

House of the Dragon is a great reminder that the human race is a miserable species.

The world that has Westeros in it (A Song of Ice and Fire) is brutal. We saw this in Game of Thrones, which ended its historic run some four years ago. With House of the Dragon I'm reminded at just how grotesque the people are in this world. But my own naivete would be to think that this is abnormal. That the people of "Earth" couldn't be this gross, could they? But a little digging and a little delving into history (and into modern headlines about what's going on in Ukraine and Russia) makes me think that George R.R. Martin was (if anything) simply a really good study of history and human behavior. And just to be clear, modernity has not changed this. Humans in 2022 are just as gross as they were in 1222. In other words, all the incest, rape, and murder he puts on display in his stories is just par for the course as far as humans are concerned. We (human beings) are awful. Take for example some of the things we've seen just this season in House of the Dragon. This list of things are drawn from human examples.

For one, bastards popping up to cause problems with family dynasties is a reflection of real-life things that happened in kingdoms on Earth. Infidelity aside, siblings murdering other siblings was a real thing that people did in order to seize power. The character of Alicent, who was Rhaenyra's best friend when they were teens, got pushed into marriage with an older man (the king) by her own father and forced to have sex with him (leprousy and all). Imagine forcing your own daughter to have sex with a leper with oozing sores so that you could birth heirs to a throne. Who imagines this kind of thing? You don't need to because this kind of thing happened in real life history. She ends up having no friends and people (like her father) are manipulative to the point of getting both her and her kids into very dangerous situations. Add to this situation that she is "god fearing," and you understand why she is so hateful toward her former friend who get to bed whomever she wanted as opposed to what lay in store for her.

There's Daemon Targaryen played by Matt Smith. His monstrous behavior at killing his wife so that he can be free to marry another just smacks of King Henry VIII. The fact that one of his wives takes it into her own hands rather than let him decide to slice her up to save a baby that is in breach and just immolate herself to death seems...I don't know...realistic if not horrifically grotesque. Then there's the self-loathing knight of Ser Criston Cole who brutally murders the knight of kisses for pointing out that he knows that Criston has obviously bedded the princess (at least that is my take).

Self-loathing is so destructive. You see it in the gay community when a politician is gay but they are deeply closeted and married to a woman, denying everything about themselves. They may not murder someone, but the vitriol, anger, and hatred from a self-loathing man in this position is probably the most dangerous thing there is to the sustained well-being of a society. And I can't imagine how the family unit itself suffers. The man who is a closeted gay probably tells the wife that sex can only happen for procreation, hiding the fact that he secretly wants to just suck a dick. The obvious "my husband does not feel anything toward me sexually" causes more self-loathing in the woman, who thinks it may be that she isn't sexy, or is somehow gross. This leads to other problems like unnecessary plastic surgeries, more self-loathing, and mental illness. It's basically just beating someone to death like Ser Criston Cole did at Rhaenyra's wedding, only it takes years instead of a minute.

 A healthy "Game of Thrones" scenario seems to be benign neglect. This is what you would want to pray for if you were born a woman in this world. The other kinds of things that can happen to you in this world (if you are a woman) are terrifying. The short list is 1) getting married off to somebody triple your age (and hope they aren't diseased), 2) being tortured or enslaved because you were not born a boy, 3) or just getting raped directly. If you have children, then there's the added possibility of watching them getting raped and slaughtered in front of you before the same fate is visited upon you. When a future alien anthropologist happens upon Game of Thrones, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Walking Dead, it should become clear why the human race became extinct. We are a miserable species, and some of our greatest writers know it to the core.

Monday, September 26, 2022

As far as I'm concerned the Rings of Power has come into its own.

This last episode really sealed the deal for me. The Rings of Power has not been a fast burner, at least as putting together a cohesive plot has gone. But the individual threads that have storylines in 1) the people of the south lands, 2) the harfoots (an ancestor of the hobbits I think), 3) the dwarves of Moria, and 4) the elves trying to stamp out the last vestiges of Morgoth are at last becoming entertaining to me (spoiler alert: they fail at doing this).

I just needed to switch my focus from trying to force a story out of this thing, to realizing that what I was witnessing was a "slice of life" tale that peeks in on all those living in a significant portion of an age of Middle Earth. This series is a chronicle of those lives that influenced the great ones that have most been visited upon in Tolkien adaptations and in the Tolkien books of which we are familiar. It isn't here to give us another Frodo or Elrond. It's here to give us the reason as to why there is such biting emnity between elves and dwarves (just one example). It's here to explain why Gimli says, "Never trust an elf" in his casual off-handed racism. There's a story behind why this happened.

So, I needed to let go of "What is the purpose of this character?" and embrace the idea that "this character is one that did a thing in Middle Earth, and it was important enough to warrant a footnote" in The Return of the King. But in order for me to like that character, I need to watch them eat, train, and interact with other characters. So there's a lot of the boring minutiae of life interspliced with these "events" that happen, which are significant for the characters.

Events like: 1) Is Sauron returning, and 2) what does he look like, and 3) yes the dwarves eventually release the Balrog, but...before that happened...what did their homes look like and was Durin a nice guy? These are all things that we get to see, and I actually love it all. The series is there to build the world, and in all of that world-building there are few plot-based stories and more "slice-of-life" stories that allow us to sympathize with these characters that (honestly) are not fleshed out enough by Tolkien to even be interesting outside of "facts about Middle-Earth."

Amazon is also being pretty daring with their series, which is angering some people who may not have wanted that daringness (I am not one). These are the same people who really could have cared less about what Durin looked like or even what his wife looked like or if she had a nice voice or cooked a tasty dinner. All that they were interested in was that the Balrog in Moria was called "Durin's Bane." That's where their interest began and ended.

It was also enough for these people that mithril was this legendary metal that only the dwarves had, and it was as light as silk and stronger than steel. It didn't need to have an origin. But Amazon is deciding to give us an origin. It's choosing to say that the light from one of the lost Silmarils went into a tree and that it penetrated the earth through its roots, and this may be where mithril gets its precious light from.

Okay...I have no problem with that, and it's actually kind of cool. Whatever. I also like that Amazon is explaining how important light is to the elves. In Rings of Power, physical light is so important that it actually sustains their immortality. I didn't realize this, and it's probably a thing that Amazon made up, but I don't care. It actually makes more sense in all the things I've read and seen because light is always the magical thing that gets rid of evil. It makes it seem more mystical rather than Gandalf just needing to turn on a lightbulb to drive a swarm of Nazgul away.

I also love the scenery and the music. Amazon got its money's worth on this series, and I hope that there is a season two. It's absolutely stunning in its beauty, and I don't mind that I'm actually walking side by side with these characters just going through the motions of their lives as opposed to being focused down on a singular quest: to throw the one ring into Mount Doom to destroy Sauron forever! I'm glad I gave this show the time it needed to unfold what it wanted to say about the magic rings. It turns out that there were a lot of puzzle pieces that needed to come together in order to get these things forged. It just took me longer than I expected to understand this about the series, and with my expectations properly adjusted, I'm finding it pretty hard to wait for the next episode to drop.

Friday, September 23, 2022

It's a little weird thinking that the new Hellraiser movie on Hulu is a Disney property.

Horror movies are not my thing. However, I'm going to watch the new Hellraiser movie when it hits Hulu on October 7th. I've always been a fan of Clive Barker, and the mythology he created. I also read the story which Hellraiser is drawn from called The Hellbound Heart. In this short story, Frank (one of the deranged main characters who is an extreme hedonist) opens the Lament Puzzle Box expecting to be greeted by beautiful angelic beings. What shows up are a cadre of very evil BDSM demons who have no safe word. If I remember correctly, in the novella the Cenobites actually give Frank a choice.

In the movies that I've seen, this illusion of choice is not really so spelled out. When someone solves the box, they're essentially entering into a deal with the Cenobites. This is the form of "consent" that the demons require, before they begin an excruciating session of agony that ends with the person who summoned them being ripped to pieces by meathooks or something just as awful. In other words, these supernatural and demonic beings can't just go about murdering and killing. They have rules that they must follow.

The thing I liked from the trailer for this Hulu reboot is that it actually looks like the director and the producers cared about what they made. It feels like there are actual production values at play here, and that they put some real money and effort into the project. They also appear to be honoring the intellectual property quite well, by making references to things that we've seen in the prior multiple movies, including drawings of the different configurations of the puzzle box. This "puzzle box" is the magical MacGuffin that lies at the center of the story. Mysterious and powerful, we don't ever really know what it can do, and in this aspect, it is similar to "the one ring" in the Lord of the Rings stories.

The Hellraiser mythology also includes a bit about this thing called a Leviathan, which is a Lord of an infinite labyrinth that might be a fallen angel of some kind. In one of the Hellraiser movies, this Leviathan makes an appearance as an octahedron that floats above the labyrinth sending out black beams which (when someone is exposed to them) makes you relive all of your sins. This thing apparently rules over everything, and the cenobites serve it, by funneling souls to its pit to serve out their damnation. As it spun above the labyrinth, it emitted a fog horn-like sound that was Morse code for the letters: G...O...D. I assumed that this meant that it was repeating over and over that it was a god and worthy of worship. Hard to argue, given how powerful it obviously was.

Anyway, I don't normally watch horror movies. But this one has enough supernatural and fantasy angles to it that I'm going to watch it. In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to it. If you haven't seen the trailer, I might recommend to you to click the one I've embedded below and give it a good look.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Timothée Chalamet said that societal collapse is in the air. I think he's right.

Timothée Chalamet (while wearing what looked like a backless red dress thing) said something that caught my attention. It happened at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. He was there to promote the cannibal love story (yes there is such a thing) called, Bones and All. I haven't decided if I'm going to watch the film. I like Chalamet very much. But "very much" these days rarely means I'll go out of my way to watch something a person is in. It just means I appreciate them for what they do, and I follow them on Instagram. So what did he say?

Timothée said, "It's tough to be alive now. I think societal collapse is in the air--it smells like it."

I have to say, I wasn't expecting him to say that. It was a "drop the mic" moment, and shook me out of what I was doing so that I could be fully living in the present. Being "present" is harder than it sounds. There's a lot of us that struggle with this, especially with the ubiquitous "smartphone" within hand's reach. But what Timothée had to say struck a nerve with me. I think he was speaking honestly, and I kind of agree with him. But what does that mean exactly? What does societal collapse look like? Here are a few of my observations, taken from a guy who lives in a state that was recently discovered to have the most aggressive and dangerous drivers in the United States. I can confirm, it is bad here to be on the roads. Nobody cares and its every person for themselves. Psychologically, this kind of thing can be expected when people are both very entitled and very selfish (you can see I have a high opinion of my fellow human). But I digress...

My firsthand observation of the collapse of society looks like the degradation of humanity via a mental health crisis. I also think that our society is at a point of no return. This mental health crisis around the world, but most particularly in the United States, is largely fueled by greed. It takes the form of political greed, corporate greed, the fossil fuel industry, big pharma, employer greed, professional sports, religious greed, and greed within families. Is there anything that embodies the image of pure greed more than "royals?" We were treated to a spectacular show this week with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The entire time I saw snippets of this, I asked myself, "Why are these people better than anyone else? What gives? Why do people send so much money to others like this?" I had no answers for any of my questions. I only had co-workers who are barely getting by themselves who were in tears because this incredibly rich and entitled woman died. What a mind job, man. It's like everyone has Stockholm Syndrome, where they sympathize greatly for their abuser.

This avarice for more and more is seen as the highest standard, a so-called badge of overall life success, without any sense of compassion or concern for anyone else. When a Queen dies millions mourn and lament the passing of a person that probably never had to hustle to get dinner ready after working a 10-hour shift. When a homeless person dies, people just complain at the stink and step over the body if it is on the sidewalk. The constant barrage of consumerism and the widening gap between the haves and the have nots tremendously affects mental and physical health. Most of us (including myself) feel like we are running on a hamster wheel with little or no incentive. Our annual wage increase, if we even get one at all, doesn't even come close to covering the cost of living. Then after taxes and healthcare premiums, we've taken two (or more) steps backward. But by all means, let's shed tears for the Queen and not even think about the destructive swath British colonialism wreaked upon the world in the centuries it was allowed to endure.

I think that a lot of people who share my values feel powerless and hopeless about the future. From where I'm standing, American society resembles a dystopia of social disconnection, gun violence, and confusion over the most fundamental facts one should know. No wonder the catchphrase for 2022 seems to be "quiet quitting." In any other context, people would see that particular phenomenon as just setting healthy boundaries. But in 2022, where people are shoveled crap by the bucketload, "quiet quitting" is the term that summons rage at the idea of another person just doing the bare minimum to get by, as if that is somehow shameful to even contemplate, given how toxic to mental health everything has become.

Monday, September 19, 2022

I was surprised at how good the HALO series was on Paramount +.

I never played the HALO games that Microsoft put out, but I had plenty of friends who did. When the HALO show premiered on Paramount + earlier this year, despite my lack of familiarity with controlling Master Chief, I was excited to watch the show. I finally got around to finishing it this last weekend, and it didn't disappoint.

In reflecting on these nine episodes, I think I can say that HALO was a surprising show in that it had a lot of roles with diversity and handled them really well. This wasn't a clumsy or ham-fisted adaptation with little disregard done to racial casting. Every role seemed to have as much weight as the Master Chief himself. And each was given enough dialogue and enough screen time to warrant the investment of talented actors who seemed to take their roles seriously enough that I was immersed almost constantly while watching. In particular, I really enjoyed actress Yerin Ha's role in Kwan Ha, the only survivor of a Covenant-led attack that murdered her clan on the planet of Madrigal. Her story arc was really interesting, and shone just as brightly as the one led by the Master Chief.

I think that I'm glad I never played the video game, and thus was unfamiliar with the story going into this show. On the surface, it's a diamond in the rough, offering a lot of promise in many of its scenes (the one showing a ring-world of some kind in dreamscape-like sequences hint at some pretty high science fiction that may be coming down the pipe). I'm now on board with these characters, and I'm invested in whatever goes down with them. I actually cared that a Spartan was in danger. One thing that gave me a chuckle was watching John's bored face while watching for Kai to show up after the spaceship crash. That said to me that John knows an exploding starship is like a mosquito bite for a Spartan. In the end, I think the only thing that scares them are "feelings."

I was also impressed with the villainy of Dr. Halsey. In this show, the crime that she commits is one of the most horrific I've ever heard of in a story. Here's what it is in a nutshell: to create the Spartan program, she selected kids that were about six years old and targeted them for kidnappings. Then she cloned those kids (once they were kidnapped) and returned the clones to the parents. These "fake" kids would then (within days) hemorrhage blood and go into unexplained seizures and die, leaving the parents to mourn for their children while she kept the real ones for training to be Spartans. I was like...oh my god...that's so evil! I's like next level evil. Like Dr. Mengele evil (real-life former Nazi doctor). I wonder how she's going to outdo herself in season 2. Maybe she will just kill millions of people or something like that, and justify it to herself as "saving billions." What a monster.

Additionally, I learned just yesterday that it has been renewed for season 2. I can't wait.

Did anyone else watch HALO, or are you in the process of watching it? If so, what did you think?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Lower Decks is back with season 3 and Bradford Boimler is my favorite character.

With the launch of season 3 of Lower Decks on Paramount +, I think my favorite character is Bradford Boimler. Voiced by Jack Quaid who plays Hughie Campbell in Amazon's The Boys, the character of Boimler takes himself very seriously while everyone else does not. That's kind of his running gag, and it does seem to work. He also has a lot of the "Sheldon Cooper" obliviousness which maybe is an homage to Big Bang Theory which in its long run had many of its own homages to Star Trek. It may just be that geek culture in general is one big bathtub and everything just sloshes around in it constantly. So, if you are a geek, then you see all parts of the tub equally, and they all affect what you like equally.

Thus far in season 3 we learn a little more of Boimler than we did in previous seasons. The first thing that surprised me was the sight gag of "Picard at the Vineyard" before the Boimler reveal (meaning it was Boimler at his own vineyard and not Jean-Luc). I had no idea that Boimler had that kind of money in his family. But it could be that it was just meant to be another gag. And then, it was funny to see Boimler being ogled as a sex object by all the people at the vineyard (mostly women) who were literally throwing themselves at him. But in Sheldon Cooper style, he had no idea what was going on and gave them instructions quite literally whenever they would complain about "getting stains on their shirt," etc. I don't know why that kind of humor lands with me, but it does. So yeah, I laughed out loud multiple times.

I also hadn't realized that Boimler's hair was actually purple. I guess in the animation, I assumed it was kind of a blue black thing. I've seen people use black and then blue to explain highlights in it. But I hadn't given it much thought. And then Boimler said he dyes his hair purple. So, that explains it. But now I'm wondering why he dyes his hair purple.

The season three opener also had the lower decks crew playing a kind of Star Trek version of Dungeons & Dragons. So of course I liked that. The "DM" in this case (who is the one that runs the game) was the Klingon Martok from Deep Space Nine days. He said a line that reminded me of my friend Joseph, who runs some ridiculous games where he has encounters that just end badly for players and that don't make a lot of sense rules-wise. This is actually common in the D&D community, because a lot of people who run games don't really know how to run them. It can be hard to get a mastery of encounters, and much of the time, DM's just want to kill player characters probably because they've convinced themselves that by doing so, people will take them seriously. It's kind of how George R.R. Martin has an oversized influence on fiction by being one of the first authors to really "kill his darlings." A lot of people just don't like to do that, so you end up having these laughable critiques like, "Galadriel has plot armor. Nothing can happen to her even though they are trying to make this seem dangerous."

Anyway, so the line that Martok says in season 3, episode 1 of Lower Decks happens when Brad Boimler declares that his character is going to do a thing, and then he rolls a twenty-sided dice. It comes up a "1" which is a critical failure in just about every scenario. The Martok character laughs and says loudly, "The Klingon warrior rips your arm off and beats you to death with it. It is a death WITHOUT honor, because technically you died by your own hand." It's a quote that stuck in my brain, and by which I've teased my friend Joseph with several times now. When I did it the first time, it was at his game that he runs at the local game shop, and his players all agreed, "Yeah, that's Joseph."

The season opener also had a holographic James Cromwell making his inaugural warp flight from Bozeman, Montana in it. This was featured in the movie First Contact, which came out sooo long ago. Man, does time fly. Anyway, in the Star Trek universe, civilian space flights actually take off from a theme park in Bozeman, Montana. I couldn't help but think that someday this is probably going to happen somewhere on the planet. Only it won't be a holo James Cromwell doing the piloting. It will be a holo Elon Musk. And this sadly means that I'm living in the screwed over Mirror Universe, as if that wasn't apparent already.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Stable Diffusion is here to give you art on demand and to make artists obsolete.

For the past week or so, I've been playing around with Stable Diffusion. If you want to play around with it, you can go HERE to check it out. When you click on that link, it will take you to a link where you can enter a string of text and then hit a button and wait for a robot (an artificial intelligence) to generate an image based on those words. I did one last week where I wrote, "Timothee Chalamet as Legolas," and it generates some really uncanny valley images. It's kind of addicting to come up with a sentence and then wait for the A.I. to interpret your words and generate a bespoke image just for you.

Here are some images that were generated by other people who have been playing around with the software. 

It's definitely got some uncanny valley to it. Another thing it can do is generate images from other images. This second set of pics came from Reddit user argaman123. They created this image:
and then they added the following prompt:

A distant futuristic city full of tall buildings inside a huge transparent glass dome, In the middle of a barren desert full of large dunes, Sun rays, Artstation, Dark sky full of stars with a shiny sun, Massive scale, Fog, Highly detailed, Cinematic, Colorful

And then Stable Diffusion produced the following two images:

I haven't gotten anything close to results like this, but I'm still learning how the software works. It's also improving all of the time. I think it's only a month old at this point. However, anyone that does art for a living should be scared. Stable Diffusion literally makes images in less than five minutes. And as the software gets better, artists are probably going to become obsolete if this is the kind of quality we can expect from artificial intelligence.

The robots are coming for us all.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Three episodes into the Rings of Power I have a few observations that could be construed as nitpicks.

I'm three episodes into Amazon's Rings of Power. I am stunned by this beautiful and contemporary take on Tolkien's works. I also couldn't quite suss out a plot by the end of episode 2. However, episode 3 seems to have done a decent job in drawing it all together for me. My friend who watches it with me reminded me that a lot of Tolkien stuff takes a while to get going, so this should follow that same formula.

So what should I say about Rings of Power? Well, it's mostly observations. So, if you think my observations might be spoilers, then you should probably avoid them. However, if you too are watching the show, it might be useful to know if you noticed the same things that I did. So here are my first observations based off the beginning episodes.

The first is that the guy they've hired to play Elrond has the biggest chin I've ever seen on someone. In some shots, it honestly makes his entire face look like a crescent moon. I've joked with my watching partner that "Elrond must receive broadcasts from the future because of his chin." So that's been fun. It's also mean of me to body shame, but I can't help it in this case.

My second observation is that its weird that Galadriel jumped off the boat near the shores of Valinor and just...I dunno...decided to swim back to Middle Earth. This seemed so unbelievable to me that I commented to my friend, "This would be like diving off a boat in the middle of the Pacific and swimming back to San Francisco. It was utterly ridiculous. My friend reminded me that elves are badass. So, I shrugged and said, "Okay...I guess I can let this go. But it does bother me."

My third observation is that I think Halbrand who plays a man from the south (notorious followers of Sauron and Morgoth) is Sauron just kinda hanging out and being all hot and stuff. It's really weird. But he killed the people without a second thought at sea, and I think he saved Galadriel so that she would introduce him to the elves and so that he could help out with the rings of power (which they are about to get around to forging). It makes sense, because Galadriel kinda likes him and in the books and in the movies she clearly doesn't and calls him "the deceiver." So...I think he "deceives" Galadriel starting with this shipwreck and subsequent trip to Numenor, etc. And most of us who have read The Lord of the Rings books know that Sauron was a great smith, so him trying to help out in the smithy seems within character. If I'm right, it's just weird seeing Sauron eating dinner and hanging out. He kinda has a look with all that spikey armor that I'm not used to thinking of him like this. But I suppose he could look like whatever he wants to look like to accomplish his goals for his master.

My fourth observation about the show is that the Harfoots, who appear to be ancestors of the Hobbits, are incredibly cruel. They just abandon anyone that falls behind when they decide to move from one location to another. They actually have a word for it: "de-caravaned." And among some of the worst punishments are being at the back of the caravan, because it is more likely to lose the back than it is to lose the front. In practice, it looks like you can expect no help from anyone else in the caravan. You either follow under your own power and strength, or you just fall behind and die, and then they read your name out in a book once a year. It was honestly kind of grotesque, but whatever.

I suppose these are just nitpicky things. I'm enjoying the show, and I know it is difficult to create a fantasy world. They are doing better than most, and this is to say that I don't think I could have come up with anything better using only footnotes and appendices. Is anyone else watching, The Rings of Power? If so, what are your observations?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Allowing work aversion disorder to set in is probably the most toxic thing you could do to yourself if you can't afford to not work.

I suppose this post was a combination of things I was thinking about. There was the death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday, which got me thinking about people who don't really have to work because they live off other people in a life of extraordinary privilege and entitlement. There are also numerous people I know who have what is called "work aversion," and they are at various ages in life. And thinking about those two things in particular led me to write this peculiar essay of sorts for this blog, and how being work averse when you are not rich in a capitalist society is probably the most toxic thing you could do. It's actually just awful. But first, I think I need to define what Work Aversion Disorder is. And trust's super common. I have only like 10 total friends and at least four of them that I know of suffer from this "disorder," which when you boil it down isn't really a diagnosable disorder. It's just a better term than extreme toxic laziness.

Work aversion is the state of avoiding or not wanting to work or be employed, or the extreme preference of leisure as opposed to work. It can set in because people observe privileged folk not working, and they think that if so-and-so can get away with it, I can too. It can also come from parents who coddle their children and believe that many kinds of work are beneath their children to do. It can set in from negative experiences. A lot of work is done alongside assholes who berate, pay you low wages, or who treat you as a subhuman. This is mostly because of an inconvenient truth in that a lot of people are actually terrible. Violent crime aside, the bullies and the casual law breakers and people who can't be bothered to respect others are everywhere. So work in itself (for many people) is trauma. You have to have a thick skin to work, to suffer performance appraisals, and to suffer the many indignities that are splashed on you because of work. So I get it. Work Aversion then is the ultimate boundary. It is saying, "I'm not going to play this game. It hurts me. I'm not doing it. Ever." And then what happens is that the burden of that person living gets passed to someone else. So the workload increases.

What I find fascinating is the insidious spiral of death this decision creates. In other words, these extremely concrete boundaries set by those who have "work aversion" will destroy you in a capitalist society. There are so many complications, but here's a short list of those that are possible (and that I've actually observed) that are visited upon the person with this disorder:

1) Loss of assets. Duh...if you can't afford anything because you don't work, then you end up poor. This (in the short term) leads to huge debt and credit problems that (because of our society) can quickly creep onto a partner or a loved one like a disease and ruin their finances.

2) This then leads to abandonment. Duh. Again, this is a no-brainer. Why would you let someone else drag you down? So strings get cut, the person is abandoned, and the people who were partners thank the gods that they were able to escape this "toxic" person. Friends scatter to the four winds too, because in a capitalist society (especially America today), everyone that isn't a Queen is maxed out on who and what they can care for.

3) Because of abandonment and because of being dirt ass poor, depression sets in. Now you've got a real diagnosable mental illness. Then self-neglect sets in. This includes malnourishment (if they even could afford food to begin with), and the neglect of one's personal appearance or hygiene. This in turn drives even more people away.

4) Strained relations with family and friends happen. No one wants to be around a needy, stinky, person who doesn't want to work and just wants you to support them. So yeah, the isolation grows if it wasn't already huge to begin with. Not to mention that the person is probably constantly talking about their mental illness and screaming for help and there is literally no one who can fill this bottomless well of need (because what they really need is millions of dollars to meet all of their financial burdens as a result of being work averse). 

5) This leads to reduced socialization, which causes even more mental illnesses, like anxiety, and terrible codependency issues.

So's like dominoes. When you knock one down, it touches another, and so on and so forth. But I get it. Who wants to work, especially when we can see that there are folks who live wonderful vibrant lives who really don't have jobs that abuse them and treat them like garbage? But work aversion disorder is literally the worst thing if you are not one of the people who are lucky, and can afford "not to work." And it's amazing how it's a doorway to so many horrible things. In fact, I'd describe what happens to a person as a toxic death spiral. It's like you make a decision to circle the drain. But what's the alternative? For many people, it is embracing severe daily trauma for low wages that eventually break your body and your mind. That's fascinating, isn't it?

Anyway, that's what I wanted to share with you today: thoughts on being forced to work and having the privilege of not having to work. Those are some interesting things to contemplate in this all too human experience called life. Now if only I could answer (for myself) why we have things like Kings and Queens to begin with? Why do we celebrate these freeloaders? How did it even get started? Does it all go back to bullying and narcissism? Did the one with these toxic traits thousands of years ago just bully and stomp their way to the top and enslave everyone else? Maybe that's all it was. As I said earlier, people are terrible, and they just keep visiting terrible on other people forever.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The September IWSG wants to know what genre I'd have the most difficulty writing for and why.

The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. If you've been following my blog, you know I like to participate in this thing. This is the first time I can remember in a long while when the IWSG happened so late in a given month. I guess it was a perfect storm with the 31st of August landing in the middle of last week so that the 1st was actually a Thursday. If this is your first time stumbling across this blogfest, know that it's been going for years now (maybe even a decade). Alex Cavanaugh, writer of best selling science fiction, started it all. Here are a few other details taken from the sign-up page, which you can find HERE.

What is the purpose of the IWSG?: Well, it is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

When do y'all post?: As I said above, it is the first Wednesday of every month. This is the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group posting day. You are to post your thoughts on your own blog, talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered, discuss your struggles and triumphs, and offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Or, you can just answer the monthly question, which is what I do every month unless I'm feeling particularly ambitious.

Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

The IWSG is on Twitter! The handle they use is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG are Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Every month, the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 7 question - What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

I'm going to answer this as anything that people who are strongly conservative in their politics would enjoy. I know that sounds like a weird way to answer this question, but people who are conservative and people who are liberal like different things. They just do, and it's a fact and not an opinion. It's why Yellowstone is such a huge hit with conservatives and very few liberals actually watch it. I know what conservatives like, and I just can't write any of that. It's not for me. I don't understand it. I don't like it. And I'm glad that it isn't my job to write stuff for their minds. So yeah...that's the genre that would be the worst thing for me to tackle.

I hope that answer satisfies you. Now for those of you who have visited my blog, here's a not-so-fun fact about the State of Utah where I live: temperature records going back to the 1800's show that Utah (on average) has eight 100 degree days during the summer. Here on September 7th (Wednesday) of 2022, we have now had 35. It will be 105 degrees today. I'm not sure what is happening, but I hate it. I never signed up to live in Phoenix, Arizona. Our future is so screwed.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Why was there so much red matter in a containment field in the 2009 Star Trek movie?

So I came across Star Trek on cable one night this week (I think it was on AMC), and it was the J.J. Abrams reboot that happened in 2009. I hadn't seen it in a few years, and I only watched some of it, because I was headed to bed. The part I did watch was the "red matter" scene, where the Romulans inject a drop of red matter into their drill that is going to attack Vulcan in order to make a hole deep enough for them to fire a torpedo into Vulcan and cause its collapse into a black hole. This is where (for the first time) I kind of blinked and asked the question, "What is red matter anyway?" I figured that the internet would have stuff written on it. And it didn't disappoint. So today's entire post is an essay of sorts on exactly what "red matter" is, because I figured you guys would all want to know. It's like that itch that you didn't even know you needed to scratch from the pseudo-science from a movie that is already thirteen years old and where one of the main crew members has already passed away. How time flies. So ready? Here goes.

Red Matter in J.J. Abrams's reboot is a substance capable of forming a black hole when ignited. One drop was sufficient to collapse a star or consume an entire planet. From what I can gather, it was originally created by Spock, and his idea was to use it to reinvigorate a dying Romulan sun, but it didn't work, and the result was the complete and utter destruction of Romulus. brain was like...okay, then why was there this much in the movie (picture below):

Remember when staring at the huge red ball that they only needed one drop.

Like...that is a ridiculous amount of red matter. I don't know how dangerous all of that stuff is, but one drop can cause an entire planet to disappear into a black hole. So this led me to question, "Why would Spock make the above when all he needed was a single drop?"

Here's what I found out. Getting this out of the way, I'm not the first person to ask this question. And there is no answer other than maybe he thought it would be nice to have extra for other applications. Who knows? However, the Vulcans were not overly keen to have a potentially world-ending substance sitting around in their science facility. In the comic book (I shouldn't have been surprised that there was a comic book) Geordi LaForge and Spock indicate that red matter is very unstable. They had to build a special container on Spock's ship (named the Jellyfish), and that ultimately became the safest place to store it. That's why there's such a huge amount of it on Spock's ship and nowhere else. They also seemed to think that it would be okay to jettison whatever was left into the singularity that formed and it would just disappear into the black hole like everything else. That seems weird to me, but I don't understand black holes anyway. So I suppose that sounds like a good idea. Like...where else would you store it safely?

And finally, I guess that all of J.J. Abrams's movies and productions have a red ball placed somewhere in them. I've never noticed this. But it is an Easter Egg for his movies. There is one in the Alias pilot, and people who work with J.J. wonder where the red ball is going to show up. So the red ball in Star Trek was impossible to miss, which may be an indication of how excited J.J. was to direct the movie, even if its disruption to canon has riled many Star Trek fans.

So, now you know as much about "Red Matter" as I do. It's one huge macguffin, and an inside joke. Are you satisfied? Did it scratch an itch you never knew you needed to scratch? Have a great Labor Day weekend. I will be back on Wednesday with an Insecure Writer's Support Group post.