STOP INTERNET CENSORSHIP!!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (a rock in a cave, deep underground, beyond the realm of even the mole people), you might have heard about two new bills being muscled through congress, as fast as the big entertainment industry corporations can muster, in the name of fighting piracy. The U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). These are bills aimed to curb online piracy, however they do so not by targeting actual pirates, but rather by targeting avenues by which a potential pirate might operate. These bills also give the government the ability to shut down sites based on criteria that the Entertainment industry will define.

These bills will effectively allow the government to censor the internet, and will put this loaded gun squarely in the hands of the big entertainment industry execs, giving them the ability the pull the trigger at will at whoever they want, whether it is justified or not. What gets me even more is the that these kinds of bills, that violate the very constitutional rights of all American citizens, are difficult for me to agree with even when they are used to stop terrorism, and save lives. And yet here we are, having our right violated simply to line the entertainment industries pockets! It’s absolutely disgusting.

And to cap it all off, none of these bills will actually prevent piracy. The vast majority of the cases that these bills will end up be used for will be to squash competition, freedom of speech and expression, and to bring ridiculous lawsuits against innocent Americans and their families. These bills will do nothing more than allow the Government to censor the internet, stifling our freedoms, and will just give Big Entertainment industries more ways to control the media and line their pockets. And that, my friends is not right. We need to fight these bills with everything we’ve got.

Please visit AmericanCensorship.org  to learn more, and fight these bills. They are wrong, they target the wrong people, they give the government unconstitutional rights, and they are flat out un-American. Fight them. Tooth and Nail, Fang and Claw. We can beat them.

Go to this site.

http://americancensorship.org/

Do it. Do it now.

Stop American Censorship

You’ll thank me for it later.

Trust me.

PhyreBlade

How can people be so blind?

So I was moseying around on YouTube a couple of days ago, and I ran into an interesting video. Obviously the guys in the vid were trying to make some point about gun control. However I think their perspective is entirely irrational. Here’s the video in question:

The comment I am talking about occurs at about 1:20. And I quote:

So this is the deal right, this is why there is so much instability in Somalia. The NRA’s got it wrong, like, guns don’t kill people, AK-47′s kill people.

Orly? I am constantly amazed by how much misdirection is fed to the general public by the gun control lobby, and those who claim that guns are the source of many of societies ills. AK-47s are the cause of instability in Somalia? So how about poverty? How about greed? Corruption? Apathy?

If any of these folks had actually lived in a poor developing country, gotten to know the people, and made even a token effort to understand how the economics of the country affects the people of any country torn by poverty, civil war and strife, they would realize that these guns are simply a means to an end. Survival. Protection. Control. Nothing more, nothing less.

And if you argue that the proliferation of “cheap” weapons makes it difficult to stabilize the region, then you are simply advertising your own ignorance. Before there were cheaply obtainable firearms, there were machetes, cutlasses and knives, and exactly the *same* amount of violence.  If not worse. It is the poverty, the need to survive, or to fight the oppression that results from corruption and greed, that creates instability. Not the firearms.

In fact, if we look at firearm ownership in the good ‘ol U.S. of A, you can clearly see that it is not simply the presence or abundance of firearms that cause problems. There are an estimated 250 million firearms in the country. And that is not counting military, law enforcement, unregistered, or black market firearms. Now here’s the thing. As of the time of this post there are an estimated 350 million men women and children in the country.

If we count every single gun in the country, that would easily make one firearm per household. In actuality, surveys show that most gun owners own multiple guns, who are estimated to make up anywhere between 25% to 50% of the US populace. And given the recent surge in gun ownership, my guess is that number is probably closer to 50%.

In contrast, in Somalia, for instance, over 60% of a population of roughly 10 million, live well below poverty. They couldn’t afford to buy a gun even if they wanted to. And I would be willing to bet that, out of the remaining 40% living above poverty, only a fraction of them make enough to own a firearm. But even if each and every Somali that could afford it owned a firearm, that would still mean that at most, 40% of Somalis own one.

So given the 10% greater (and that’s conservatively speaking) percentage of the American populace owning firearms, If firearms cause these problems, and lend to political instability, why are we not constantly engaged in constant civil war? Why is America relatively stable? Well, I’d argue that it’s because the guns themselves have no influence on the nature of the people. If the people for any reason, are moved to violence, then it doesn’t matter what weapons are available.

Somalia, and many countries like it, are in civil strife because of the environment, and the people. Not the guns. Poverty, religious beliefs, cultural strife, political power, greed and hatred are what motivate them. And they will continue to war with themselves until the learn how to overcome those internal conflicts. Regardless of whether they use AK-47s, machetes, or sticks and stones.

The truly observant will notice that the kinds of violence we see in poor developing countries only exists in isolated pockets of America. It is seen only in areas where the same level of poverty, strife, corruption and cultural tension exists. It is an easy pattern to spot, if you are really looking to solve problems, rather than chasing ghosts and looking for quick fixes or scapegoats.

It is always disappointing to see how much time, energy and cash the gun control lobby pumps into trying to get weapons off the streets, when the real problems are poverty, lack of education, prejudice, etc. These people are not about making the world better. They might believe that they are, however they are simply trying to eliminate anything that scares them, anything they do not understand. Regardless of how it might affect anyone else.

It is really a shame.

Michael Jackson – Good or Bad, Black or White?

It comes as no surprise that, everywhere I turn, I see a gazillion Michael Jackson related articles, tributes, and videos on YouTube and such. But one of the more interesting phenomenons I have noticed about many of these vids is that commenters either do the YouTube equivalent of spitting on his grave, or seem to try to avoid speaking badly about the late and great King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Not that I think that he should be being badmouthed or anything, but I’ve always found the glorification of the dead a rather unusual practice. I suppose it may have something to do with sparing the feelings of family and friends, but as I see it, if a person was a tool while they were alive, being dead doesn’t make them any less so, and the ones negatively affected by their toolishness have just as much right to express their emotions about it, at the very least for closure, if not for anything else, as anyone else. But I digress.

The thing is, there are some folks who go the extra mile with the glorification, going so far as to defend the deceased even in the face  of a very poor reputation. One particularly interesting video I came across was that  of the popular YouTuber Kev Jumba, in which he decided he was going to find ways to negate the negative press MJ has received over the years. The video is below if you are interested.

While Kev made an admirable effort in that endeavor, his approach seemed to make little sense to me. Or more to the point, it was hardly what I’d call an objective review of MJ’s actions. Simply put, if you go out looking for reasons to demonstrate a persons benevolence, then more often than not, you will find them, whether they are there or not. Kev Jumba, in essence, made the same mistake the press, and many others have made, which may have brought them, prematurely, to the negative conclusions that they all still hold today about the late Michael Jackson.

Case in point. Was he generous with his money? Yes. But with the kind of money he was making, it could easily have been for free positive publicity, than for any altruistic reasoning. Did he molest little boys? Well, while there is lots of circumstantial evidence, and a mountain of testimony based on a lot of hearsay, that says he did. But there is now way to know for sure whether or not those kids were coached, their parents were being over protective, or it was just part of an elaborate smear campaign designed to get so cash out of the King of Pop.

Did he bleach his skin because of a skin condition? Again, only MJ, and the doctors who treated him know the truth. But claiming vitiligo might have just been positive spin intended to mitigate the negative reaction from the public about his changing his skin color. Was his nose surgeries because his dad called him “bignose” when he was a kid? Possibly. But if we buy that logic, then why dismiss the idea that he bleached his skin for similar reasons, instead of medical ones?

The list goes on and on. Now don’t get me wrong. I am actually neither defending nor attacking him. I am simply trying to demonstrate that for every positive explanation, there is a negative one. And since I do not personally have sufficient information to either confirm or deny either position, I simply cannot make any kind of informed judgment call on the man, and simply don’t understand how people can form such a visceral hatred of a person based on what is largely hearsay.

From my perspective, it would make a whole lot more sense to make inferences based on factual things that we do actually know about him. For instance, we know he did not have a normal childhood. And we know for sure, that he had a far from normal adulthood. And the one thing I know, from lots, and lots, of demonstrated and documented case histories on the books, is that leading a life so far isolated from societal norms can lead to a skewed set of values, and a lack of understanding of what is socially acceptable. And this this manifests itself in many ways.

Take, for instance, the hanging of his baby off the balcony of his hotel room. I don’t really think he was cognizant of the horror it would inspire in others. The same could be said of sleeping with young boys. (And when I say sleeping here, I mean sleeping, in the literal sense… Get yor mind out of the gutter :/ ) And if memory serves, I beleive he did actually admit to sleeping with them.

But whether that was simply another faux pas simply due to his misunderstanding of societal norms, or whether there were any actual sexual acts involved, we just don’t know. Given his eccentric nature, it cannot be absolutely ruled out, however it was never proven in court, so imho, we can not really say with any kind of confidence either way. Ironically, it almost seems like dumpster babies and babies killed by shaking by moms and babysitters got less press than this. Which in the grand scheme of things, is really messed up. Go figure.

But here is the other side of the coin. We also know that he was a terrific dancer, singer, and all around entertainer, whose influence is felt even today. And from all accounts, he seemed to be a nice person. I’m not saying that this should negate any bad habits he might have had, however, these are concrete things that we have definite proof of. I figure if someone was going to form some deep emotional schema about someone, from a logical perspective, it should be based on the concrete things, not the gray area.

But such is human emotions. In the end, I cannot really know what was going on in Michael Jackson’s head. Nor, I beleive, can anyone else. So from my perspective, it seems to make the most sense to simply celebrate the great things he contributed to our society, and not dwell on the possible negatives. He’s gone now, no matter how misguided he may have been, or how he may have hurt people, he can do no more harm. It takes a whole lot more energy, and in the long run is much worse for our emotional health, to hate, than it is to forgive and forget. I say we put it all behind us and move on…

But that’s just my opinion.

I am Infinitely Less Holier Than Thou…

You know, people have given me a lot to think about. It is becoming more and more obvious that for many of you, the debate about religion vs atheism has little to do with actual rights, intelligence, violence, or anything of any relevance whatsoever, and more to do with being right, people trying to feel better about themselves, and, of course getting their own way.

I’ve heard some really stupid religiously motivated garbage. Non-believers should perish. The believer is more important than the non-believer. God told me to kill those people. God’s wants me to persecute them. It is impossible for a non-believer to be good. Associate with sinners and you’ll go to hell.

Dancing is of the devil. (no, I kid you not – life is stranger than fiction.) I’ve read a lot of religious texts. And I’ve realized that what many people get out of them is what *they* want to take from them. They are all written in a metaphorical style, and as a result, they are all highly subject to interpretation. And this is where, in this humble bloggers opinion, people go wrong.

That’s not to say that the other side is blame free. I keep hearing Atheists talking about having their rights violated by religious zealots. For things that are ridiculously just trivial. And then gleefully sliding down that slippery slope to whatever conclusions gets their knickers all a-twist. Yet the same people turn around and say that *nobody* should not be allowed to pray in schools, as if it’s an infringement of their rights if someone should dare say a few “Hail Mary’s” in their presence, or say Grace before a meal. Meanwhile, a person can cuss up a storm, regardless of who may happen to find swearing offensive, then stick their nose in the air and say “Freedom of speech!” and everyones lips snap shut.

And then theres things like this: “Why are atheist mad? Because it’s religions people are pretentious! It’s as if they think they are better than us!” Yes, I’ve actually heard that said. Meanwhile, The very same atheist are calling religious people stupid for believing in what they believe to be the equivalent of the tooth fairy. As if belittling anothers belief system was not at all condescending in any way. Yeah. Right.

It’s one thing to say that everyone should be given the choice whether to pray or not, but I hear some of you saying that ALL RELIGION must be removed from schools, hospitals, etc, and that is just going to the opposite extreme. Might as well ban cussing, swearing, spitting, eating red meat, smoking, drinking, etc, etc, etc. Yes it sounds extreme, but this is exactly the same type of legislation many atheists would like to see with respect to religion. And if that happens, you can all just call me Plissken.

Who is really looking down on whom, I wonder? My personal take? Both camps are being selfish, pretentious, illogical and intolerant. Religious folks cannot blame “sinners/nonbelievers” for all that is wrong in the world. I know many nonreligious folks who are much better, higher quality people, than quite a few Christians I know.

Conversely, atheists cannot blame “Religion” for everything either. The acts of a few fanatics do not represent “religion” as a whole, and and even if they did, proposing complete religious prohibition would still be prejudice. “Because it could possibly offend someone.” is not a good rational to make something illegal. Why do people not get that? Everyone is offended by something these days. If we follow that train of thought, everything would be illegal.

It seems very few people these days seem to truly understand the meaning of balance and tolerance.

The Good, the Bad, and the Vampiric.

A while back I read an interesting article at The Spiders Den on the interesting topic of Child Vampires. Fellow blogger Lady of Spiders talked about the scarcity of children vampires in contemporary literary works, and it’s virtual non-existence in historical folklore, and made the observation that this was likely due to the ideal of the “Innocent” child being anathema to that of the “evil” Vampire.

She went further to provide a few other examples of child vampires in contemporary movies and books. I thought the topic would make for a good post, because I think that there was a whole lot more to talk about than simply the effects historical stereotypes at work. This unusual case, that of the vampiric child, actually raised some very good questions about good and evil, how they are generally identified and how that process applies to children.

I’ll start with the more ostensibly clear cut ideal of the “evil” monster. Or to use a more specific example, a Vampire. Historically, Vampires were considered inherently evil creatures. They needed drink the blood of humans to survive, they partied with creatures of the night (creatures supposedly many orders of magnitude worse than the kind you’d find in a red light district), and generally engaged in all sorts of unsavory practices.

Now to me, the real question here is this. Was their reported malevolence a result of their need for human blood to survive? The type of creatures they hung out with? Or was it because of the brutality with which they slaughtered humans? It seems, to me at least, that only the last one, the blatant disregard for the life and suffering of others, would really qualify any of them as monsters. But here’s the rub.

There have been many, entirely human creatures throughout history, who have done far worse, for much less. As monsters go, I think *they* are the real monsters. However, because they are clearly human, their descriptions are often times painted by the eyes of the writer. So much so that sometimes they are rarely described as the horrific creatures they truly are in the history books. But I digress.

I thought it was an interesting post because this way of thinking runs counter one of my most deeply held beliefs. That there is no such thing as either a “good” or “bad” child. Vampiric or not, a child is simply a child. It may have a genetic predisposition to certain emotional states of mind, such as agitation, nervousness, fear, anger, etc. These, however, are just tendencies. No more, no less. I do not believe that they are any inherent indicator as to whether a child will be be good or bad. I would, in general, look to it’s guardian if I had to make that determination.

Unless it happens to be Jesus Christ reborn, (or the Anti-Christ), born with the full knowledge of good and evil, as provided by the apple in the garden of eden, a child has no more knowledge of what is evil or good behavior than it knows how to blow it’s own nose. What a child does, is learn. It learns from what it is surrounded with, and from it’s experiences. If it is taught, or sees bad things, it will learn bad things. Conversely if it is surrounded by good, it will learn good. It is that simple. It is we, those that populate a child’s environment, that determine it’s benevolence or malevolence, and not the child itself.

Does this mean that a childs genotype is of no consequence to it’s disposition? No, Of course not. The nature of a child who is genetically predisposed to, for instance, hyperactivity, might be more likely to become a bad seed, but not because of it’s nature, but rather as a result of being doomed to constant harassment and rebuke by it’s parents, as a by product of it’s nature. This will have negative effects on it’s intellectual and psychological development, and ultimately how it views the world. Its outlook, and reaction to life, will be tainted by what it has been taught by it’s parents actions, not by it’s inherent hyperactivity.

It is all about what the child is taught. Negative breeds negative, and positive breeds positive. The parent of a hyperactive child must learn to deal with, and channel that hyperactivity in positive ways. No small order, to be sure, but in my opinion, it is the most important aspect of dealing with so called “problem” children. They generally aren’t evil, they mostly need structure and guidance. And parents with healthy imaginations, a coping mechanism that does not tune the child out or beat them down, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, of patience goes a long way.

Did I mention patience? Ok, just checking. Can’t say that enough. Granted human beings are human beings, and few parents have the infinite patience required to weather the seemingly inexhaustible supply of vampiric, patience sapping, negative energy that a toublesome child can emit.

But I think it is important that parents understand the difference between what makes a child being bad, and just being difficult, and adjust their reactions accordingly. Too many times, I’ve seen children who were doing nothing wrong, penalized simply for being hyper, or loud, or whatever it is that gets on their parents nerves. Sometimes I see them punished with no explanation, no chance to explain themselves, no logical rational for why they are being persecuted.

These actions can have very, very damaging psychological effect on a child. It is this flux, this lack of structure, that often leads to the generalized frustration, anger, malevolence and hatred that many troubled children suffer. And more often than not, it is actually the parents constant negative reactions that turn them into the monsters that they become, not video games, not movies, nor any inherent predisposition to evil or wickedness.

I have said this many a time, but it bears repeating again and again. A parent is the single most influential person in a childs life. They have the ability to mess them up in ways that can be dreamed of only by highly trained, third world, non Geneva convention restricted war interrogation experts, or can be more effective than an experienced psychologist, at teaching them how to properly respond to any give situation or stimuli.

To put this in perspective, what this means is that, even if such a thing as a vampiric child existed, with proper parenting, I believe you could teach it to control it’s blood sucking urges, and how to respect it’s food. Notwithstanding the fact that no such creatures exist, I’m telling you… It’s doable…

I’d suggest you wear some steel neck protection before you begin, but still… :D

Lessons of Life and Love

Today, I came across an interesting post from one of my favorite blogs, My [Confined] Space. It was a rather poignant post about love and lost opportunities:

A Bawl Story

Yeah… The kind of stuff blockbuster movie tragedies are made of. However what was interesting was the range and content of the comments that followed (you can click on the image or the link at the end of the post to see the original comments @ M[C]S ). To me, the posts all seemed to take either one extreme or another. There were some people categorically stating that being in love with your BBF is a fatal mistake, and that you should run as fast as your little legs can carry you in the other direction. Others were deeply moved by it while others chalked it all up as BS, and shucked the whole thing into their mental garbage bins.

However there were a few who did seem to come away with at least one lesson from it, and I thought there were some good points made. Me personally, I thought this chap handled the situation entirely wrong, but being the anal retentive sociocultural explorer that I am, I couldn’t help thinking about what the real lesson of all of this was, and what I would have done differently if I were in that situation. The results of my musings were rather unsatisfying, but I thought they might make for an interesting post… If you are the type that frequently posts “tl;dr” just go on ahead, leave now, and forever hold your peace. Other wise grab a cuppa, (or whatever your favorite poison happens to be today) and get comfortable…

The very first thing that ran through my head while reading this was that it seemed unfortunate that, despite being best friends with this girl, this guy decided to hide something as important as the fact that he was deeply in love, with her, from her. I can understand why he did it, however his logic for doing so seemed seriously flawed to me. Having never discussed it with her, how could he possibly know she didn’t think of him the same way? This, to me, seems to be one of the fundamental flaws with relationships these days. Lots of unfounded assumptions compounded by having none of the important communication required to clear it up.

That is not to say, however, that telling his female compadre that he was in love with her would be guaranteed make things any easier. But as I see it, there is only one possible problem with telling her. And that is that she might get weirded out by it. To be honest, it sounds stupidly stupid to me. Yep. After all, if she really is your best friend, even if she doesn’t love you romantically, she should still love you enough to understand what you are going through, and be there for you, probably help you find ways to deal with your feelings constructively. But that’s just my opinion. In real life people don’t act in particularly logical ways. Bottom line, if she actually did get weirded out, then he would  have potentially lost a best friend. However from my perspective, if your so called “BFF” bails on you for committing the oh, so heinous, cruel and unforgivable sin of falling in love with them, then they weren’t particularly good friends to begin with. C’est la vie. .

However this train of thought brought me to another interesting consideration. The reality of life is that some people aren’t really honest with themselves about who their friends are and what kinds of people they are.  I’ve noticed some rather illogical behavior with people towards those they consider “best friends”. When those “BFF”s do something wrong, they are quick to excuse the behavior, sometimes even when they themselves would never condone that behavior from anyone else. From my perspective, that is not what a good friend is supposed to do. A true friend should not be ones personal “yes” man. A true friend should always be honest, and should challenge any of behaviors that they know to be wrong. Again, just my take on what friendship means. But I digress.

The point is, when people want things bad enough, they can, and often will, lie to themselves, and tell themselves that someone is their best friend, even though the person is not. I imagine this could happen even easier with a person whom one might be romantically attracted to. They become “best friends” but do not realize that even that “Best Friend” relationship is really one way. You are doing all the befriending, in spite of the fact you have *nothing* in common, (apart from maybe wanting to get them in the sack) and they are just along for the ride. As a result you end up with a best friend who isn’t really your best friend, and isn’t even really the kind of person who you would be friends with if you weren’t sexually attracted to them. Bummer. Big bummer. Anyway, where was I…? Right. Self honesty.

Barring the possibility that the target of ones affections turns out to be a flaky pastry with no fluffy layers, there should be only one other question one should ask, should they find themselves in this situation. Will *my* feelings change if I tell my BFF I love them, and happen to get rejected? This is the scenario that been known to kill people dead (mostly metaphorically, but sometimes even literally). However from my perspective, this reaction makes no sense. If you don’t tell her, you will live the rest of your life secretly in love with your BFF. You will still have to continue to treat them like your BFF. And whatever torture you are putting yourself through will not cease.

If you do tell her, one of two things will happen. Either she will say “Aww that’s cuuute!! But can we just be friends?!?”, (BTW, welcome to the hell that is the “Friend” zone!), and you will still live your life in love with your BFF, except now she can be more sensitive to your feelings towards her, and you can try to move on. OR the she says “What took you so long, you dork!” And all will be well with the world. Well not quite, but at least you will have jumped one of the major hurdles. But you have to be honest with yourself. Be aware that just because your are BFF doesn’t mean you are automatically in like Flynn. And also realize that a rejection of romantic interest doesn’t inherently mean they weren’t really your friends to begin with. Most folks who think like that are really just pulling a juvenile “sour grapes” tantrum. But you won’t be able to tell the difference unless you are really being honest with yourself.

The thing is, assuming of course, the BFF isn’t a type of cardiologist that eschews surgery with the traditional and time honored scalpel in favor of a wooden spoons, you can not be any worse off than you were to begin with, UNLESS you weren’t being honest with yourself to begin with, OR the person whom you think is your BFF isn’t really your BFF. In which case I say, “To blazes with them!!” Yeah. Yes, I’m sure you probably won’t feel that way as you stand there, fully awake, spoon carving itself a ragged path around your heart, sans anesthetic, but the reality of it is that all you will have lost is an illusion. Nothing of any real value. What you *will* have, at last, is a clear and unclouded vision of where you stand with respect to the friend in question.

If they reciprocate, then good. You still have a lifetime of relationship ups and downs to contend with. But even if they reject you, If they cared about you before, they will still care about you after. If they are the person you thought they were, you will care about them no less. (unless you were, or are lying to yourself about them, which would really be your fault, not theirs) But you will now be free to decide how to live the rest of your life, with no regrets, no questions, no “what ifs” lingering over your head. That’s what I think. But then again I do have this tendency to oversimplify things… :)

A Bawl Story – [My [Confined] Space]