Archive | January, 2010

Too many chiefs, not enough indians

30 Jan

Today I’m running around preparing to leave in the afternoon for a medieval immersion event. Myself, along with a couple of other buddies, will be camping out in the woods for 2 days in full 15th century kit. No public, just us.

One of the things that I love about these types of events is that the “hierarchy” is really reduced. Sure there are the event coordinators in charge, but everyone there is from mix-match groups.

One of the problems my current group has, and that I think a LOT of medieval living history groups have is “Too many chiefs, not enough indians”. Lets face it. Life back then sucked. The social hierarchy sucked. There was a reason for the French revolution, and the execution of all the nobles. It was just really awful to be lower class.

Well the problem for the later period groups is the social pyramid. Unlike more modern groups where only the military hierarchy is really rigid and the social is more loose, the medieval hierarchy is extremely stiff. “You are a peasant! And you will serve my table, polish my armor, and generally kiss my ass! This is your place in life determined by GOD!” Yeah, not much wiggle room there. Nobody likes being stuck with the crappy impressions. Everyone loves putting on the expensive armor, picking up polearms, and looking badass.

Ideally, the system should work a bit like a Ponzi scheme. As long as the base keeps getting bigger things are fine.

If the group kept adding new members, at the same rate that current members move up from one kit level to another, the pyramid stays stable and just grows. Entry level people move up to level 2, level 2 people to level 3, etc. This would make it so people who were in entry kit level, who had to play the shitty parts of being a peasant, could at least look forward to building their kit up and getting to play something cooler.

Unfortunately, this is never how it really works in reality. The above method requires everyone to be working on their kits equally, and assumes a steady supply of new members. In reality people have lots of other things that need their attention. They can’t spend all the time working on their kit, and as everybody knows, it’s hard to get new people that stick. So what ends up happening is this:

Without a steady flow of new members, the pyramid stagnates. People who have put in the time and effort to move up to the next level are forced to stay in their current level for the sake of preserving the historically correct pyramid. This in turn breads resentment and increases the chance someone will stop coming out to events, which only further exacerbates the problem.

Eventually people will get tired of having to spend money to go kiss someone else’s ass for a weekend. It becomes a job that you put everything into, and don’t get what you want out of. These people will inevitably either quit the hobby altogether, or break off into splinter groups with them at the top. (In the 10 years I’ve done living history, I’ve seen this happen a LOT)

In living history individuality can be a great thing and a horrible thing. On one had, it is awesome to have unique items in camp; anything that makes you stand out from the rest of the people out there who might be doing similar but different stuff. On the other hand, the individuality has a tendency to make everyone a one man/woman show. Yes they all have to work as a unit, but people love you show off their stuff. While some groups might not be overly affected by this, it can turn into dick waving contests in other groups. (Which in turn also fuels splintering of a group into smaller groups where other people want to take their cool “stuff” and be the center of their own group.
I really don’t see any other option than the continuous cycle of group forms, group eventually breaks, splinters of old group form new group, only for that one to splinter and break. That is unless the group is pulling in enough new members regularly. Thoughts?

Nerds are the only ones alive

25 Jan

The oh so reputable wikipedia defines nerd as: “Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities.”

That usually conjures up the image of something like this:

I would disagree with wikipedia on the issue of age-inappropriate, since this assumes that all nerds are into video games, or trading cards.

I would define nerd as anyone who had a passion or interest for any specific thing. One can easily be a video game nerd just as easily as a car nerd, or a basketball nerd. As long as you love something and research it.

I would argue that these “nerds” are the only people who are actually alive, the only ones who actually matter. The exact opposite of the nerd is the conformist. I don’t mean to sound highschoolish about this. The conformist to me is the person who is jack of all trades, master of none when it comes to hobbies. These people can easily be identified on myspace of facebook. They usually list a lot of generic interests, without overly emphasizing any of them.

These people like a couple of mainstream bands, but aren’t overly into any of them, they don’t analyze the music, or anything. They usually list some generic mainstream sports, like basketball or football, might like a particular team, but don’t really care much beyond that.

Now I don’t overly like sports, but I can respect a sports nerd. Someone who is very passionate about a game, someone who analyzes teams, plays, and players. They have a passion. Those conformists, they’re just mindless sheep that float through life, going with the flow, blending in with whatever is popular. They’re a dime a dozen. Not saying they’re worthless people, they’re still human beings, but they’re not interesting. There is nothing unique or special about them.

The bible does not matter

24 Jan

One of the most annoying things non-christians have to deal with is christians throwing bible verses at them. Look, we all know you think that book has some kind of magical power, and that it is the key to absolute truth, etc, etc, but we don’t.

Injecting bible verses into a debate, or onto an object do not help your argument. No one has ever seen a bible verse and gone “Oh my gosh! I’ve been wrong this entire time! Reality and evidence don’t matter after all! The magical power radiating from this righteous verse has shown me the way!”

In fact, using bible verses actual hurts your argument. To thinking people it shows that you do not have enough support for your claims, and so you must fall back on a book that you, and you alone, hold as absolute truth. Well guess what, sorry, but that doesn’t prove shit. (Not that you’d care)

When I was a christian, I used to think the bible had some kind of magical power. When I accidentally knocked mine off the desk, I would freak out, dust it off, and pray for forgiveness having possibly damaged it. It was sacred. I thought that I could use it, combined with a cross, to hold back evil spirits. Now that I’ve grown up, I realize that the bible is just a book, just like any other book. It is simply ink printed on paper. It has to magical powers, and is mass produced like all the other books.

It’s funny when people bring it up in a debate. “Well in verse X god says ABC”! I always want to reply: “Oh really? Well in Harry Potter, book 3, Dumbledore says XYZ!” I’m pretty sure I’d get a dumbfounded look on their face. “Bu…bu..but THAT’s not the BIBLE!” Look buddy, you can scream it as loud as you want, or say it with as much reverence as you want, it doesn’t change the fact that it is still just a book that you personally believe to be the word of god, and sorry, no matter how deeply you believe in something, that faith doesn’t make it true.

What if your truth doesn’t match reality?

24 Jan

Theists, if there was a clear discrepancy between what your “absolute truth” says and what reality shows you, would you admit that your “absolute truth” is wrong, and thus not absolute?

I feel most theists would admit they don’t have all the answers, but what about those who would still hold onto ideas that can clearly be shown not to fit with reality? How do you argue with them? I figure you can’t really argue with them. If you play by the rules of “reality is impartial and final” like the rest of the world, and they don’t, then there is no point.

How do you deal with these people? Usually you just walk away and ignore them, but what do you do when people like this rise to positions of power? How do you combat them when they don’t care if reality says they’re nuts, and killing them only makes them martyrs?

Presents make me depressed…

22 Jan

It’s almost my birthday, and presents are starting to come in. I don’t know why, but presents have always made me depressed, be it birthday, christmas, graduation, whatever. I always feel like I haven’t really done anything to deserve a present.

It’s even worse when I get a present I don’t want. It’s not that I get angry like a spoiled brat that I didn’t get what I asked for, I just feel bad that people spent money on me, and imagine the present feeling hurt and rejected, which I know is silly. Sorta like a puppy, opened up at christmas, and then rejected by the child it was intended for, so the puppy is then put in a box and on the curb to whimper in the rain, alone, unwanted, and cold…

I’ve have had a bad history with present and my family. I’m not saying they give bad presents, no, we’ve just had a bad history around present giving.

My dad used to travel a lot for business. He would always stop and get me presents to bring home. I remember the first time I got a present I didn’t really like. It was a t-shirt or something, can’t remember what it was of, but I finally worked up the courage to tell him thanks, but I didn’t want it. That made me cry. I felt so horrible.

(I remember watching some Nickelodeon game show as a kid where they were blowing up RC cars. I remember crying over this because I imagined a nice small group of people at the toy factory, putting a lot of love into making these little RC cars in the hopes that children would enjoy playing with them, only for these innocent cars to be blow up in a heartless manner for some amusement.)

Anyways, the worst I remember was my 12 year old birthday. I got nothing that I asked for, and all the presents were weird little things including this plane that hung from some fishing line and flew around. It was very heavy in the back and I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. It kept wanting to go backwards. I cried about that, thought it was stupid how they made it so heavy in the back. That broke my parents’ hearts. And then it broke mine for breaking theirs.

The next present giving occasion I fucked up was one in which my parents got me a video camera. I again had made a list of things I would be interested in as presents, and again got nothing on the list. (My parents always used to ask us to make a christmas list, I was especially hard to buy presents for because of my extremely niched hobby) Anyways, I had written this list of possible presents, all of which were not very expensive, and my parents went out and bought an expensive video camera that I didn’t ask for. At the time I didn’t think I would need one. Yeah my friends and I were making movies, but we already had a camera. (My “friend” and I were always in a “keeping up with the Jones-es”  war, he always had to have the newest and best thing, better than mine, and so he relegated my camera to backup camera)

Well I got upset with my parents for spending this much money on a camera I didn’t want, instead of a whole list of possible things I did want that were drastically cheaper, and that broke their hearts again, and again mine. My mother broke down in tears, and my dad just left the room, silent. I still haven’t forgiven myself for saying anything. I did end up liking the camera, and it did come in handy.

You’d think I would have learned. I got upset another christmas later when I got an ipod instead of a more basic mp3 player. I hated the popularity of ipods, and was trying to resist. I figured I only needed a CD worth of music, not a could GB. (I later would change my mind) But I again got upset and approached my parents about it, wanting them to return it and get a cheaper one as so to save the money) My mother again broke down in tears, and my father, furious, came out and said how they had been a gift to from a business client, that he didn’t spend any money on them. I felt like shit. Again.

I think I’ve finally learned to just shut up and accept presents. My girlfriend pointed out that she thought this practice of “making a list of the things you’d like” and asking people “what do you want for X” was particular, and that presents were not supposed to be given that way. They aren’t supposed to be something you ask for in advance, they are supposed to be a surprise gift that someone thinks you will enjoy, that they are giving to you because they care.

I fucked up presents so bad in the past with my family they just make me depressed now. I wish I hadn’t said anything and just enjoyed them for what they were.

GOD! GOD! GOD! GOD!

12 Jan

There are some people out there that just can’t say “god” or “Jesus” enough. It’s like they’re a walking advertisement that gets paid every time they mention the name. They are in fact obsessed. To them, any object, movie, radio show, book, you name it can be instantly improved by adding “god” or “Jesus” to it, and the more the merrier!

(I would pay so much money to see these cars explode)

I’m surprised that people this obsessed can function, let alone drive a car. I wonder how they fight the urge to stop in the middle of the street and pray. Who cares where you’re driving, or that you’re blocking up traffic? The end is near and soon you will be rewarded for your frothing at the mouth while all your other fellow human beings burn in eternal agony. Oh righteous on you are….

I honestly don’t see why these people don’t just commit suicide.

Abortion: No. Killing my child with prayer:Sure!

12 Jan

After reading a nice post by Sisyphus Fragment on whether parents who kill their children by withholding medical treatment for religious reasons should go to jail, I got thinking about the implications with regards to abortion.

If it is ok for parents to cite religious belief in mistreating their children, even when it leads to death, why is it wrong to have an abortion? (I’m assuming the people killing their children by withholding medical treatment are conservative and therefore against a woman’s right to be the master of her own body)

The way I see it, abortion is the lesser of two evils when compared to the religious method of killing one’s child. In an early abortion, the fetus is unable to feel pain until 8 weeks and is not self aware.

On the other hand, an already born child can feel pain fully, and is self-aware. They may not understand what is happening, or why mom and dad won’t call 9-1-1, but they can feel their body shutting down, and they can feel the pain.

So it’s not ok to abort an unwanted child (who will most likely grow up being abused and mistreated for being an unwanted economic burden on his/her parents, and then lead a life of crime) but it is ok to kill an already born child who is fully aware that you are killing them, all because you say an invisible man in the sky wants you to not give them life saving medicine?

It’s a miracle!

12 Jan

So a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were walking to my apartment after parking my car. It was a cold and clear night and to our delight we found this upon looking up at the moon.

Yep, it was a really cool looking halo around the moon. It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this, and I think one of my girlfriend’s friends made a comment about it being religious in nature.

Naturally, this peeved me to no end. Whenever there is a natural phenomenon that people can’t immediate explain there are some who will make the large, and completely unfounded, jump to a religious explanation. This is in itself a contradiction. “I can’t explain X, so therefore I can explain it we god!”

Before I tell you what actually causes these halos, lets look at the implications of calling this a miracle. Calling this a miracle from god asserts that

  1. There is a disembodied intelligence in the universe that magically exists from nothing and made everything out of nothing (for which there is no evidence)
  2. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence decided to zoom in on our galaxy (us out of billions) , and then from our galaxy decided to zoom into our solar system (out of further billions), and then from our solar system decided to zoom in on earth, specifically Lynchburg Virginia. (can you sense how ridiculous this is becoming?)
  3. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence then decided to create a little circle around the moon for unknown reasons as a way of communicating with us instead of doing so directly and making their presence irrefutable.

“Miracle” encompasses all of these absurd assumptions. It is vastly more complex than the simple and actual explanation of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

“A circular halo, often referred to as just a halo, is formed by the refraction of sunlight through cloud suspended ice crystals as opposed to raindrops or other liquid water suspended in the air.”

No crazy disembodied floating man needed, so think twice before leaping to conclusions. Remember, it is perfectly ok to say “I don’t know”!

I really miss living history

8 Jan

I first started doing living history when I was 12 years old. I always had the next even marked on my calendar, and was constantly thinking of new things to build for the events. I loved going to our weekly meetings, getting together at friend’s houses and doing crafts nights, and sword practice on Sundays. I had somewhere I felt I belonged.

Well the group I was so fond of growing up fell apart, and some of my treasured bridges burned. I joined a new group that I was ok, but I hadn’t grown up with them. Plus they were mainly based 4 hours away, so I couldn’t go see them regularly. What really put a kink in my hobby was college. I suddenly had almost no time to work on medieval things, let alone the space and money to do so. My re-enacting fell to one event a year, and I lost myself.

I didn’t have sword practice regularly, and so I started to forget. I had my suit of armor, but it stood solemnly collecting dust in my bedroom. I no longer spent evenings in the living room, with a mug of hot chocolate, a fire roaring in the hearth, and my favorite medieval movies on while I sat there and sewed together whatever item I was working on for the upcoming event. That was my childhood, and now it’s really depressing.

I feel like over the years of not really doing anything, I lost a burning passion, a passion that set me apart from other people. I had something I loved and could talk for hours about, but now that’s gone. My girlfriend has a passion like that for gaming, and while I listen intently to her lectures on the subject, and even participate in games with her, that is and always will be her passion, not mine.

I want my passion back. This all peaked my senior year in college. Right before I am to graduate I come to startling realization that I no longer have a passion for anything. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist working in castles. I wanted to find things that re-enactors would then research when trying to create things for their camp. I spent years preparing to pursue that career, worked in internships, field schools, weekends, even traveled to England for a month, only to decide that I had lost my love for it.

Now I’m afraid of becoming just another cog. Another bland slice of bread. Nothing special about me when I put on my dress shirt and tie to go into work.  I really feel I’ve lost something unique and defining about myself. I want it back.

I hope that now I’m going to graduate and get a job, I’ll have some more time, and money for that matter, to pursue my hobby. I want to become more involved in my living history group, perhaps join others as well. I want to go to events more, get more connected. I want to find another western martial arts group to train with, get back in shape. I want the excitement from my childhood back.

Republicans don’t want smaller gov only badly run gov

7 Jan

I can understand the desire to have a smaller federal government. The less government control over your life, the better. People could also keep more of their money from taxes with a smaller government’s operating costs. It’s a legitimate idea. The problem is, bigger governments protect everybody more equally than a bunch of smaller, more autonomous governments.

I don’t mean “protect” in some kind of creepy 1984 “protect” but take the civil rights movement for example. If states were able to operate more autonomously then Jim Crow laws and segregation would still be rampant in the south. Minorities would become even smaller minorities within their respective states, and thus have even less power to insure their equality before the law. A larger, more powerful federal government is able to change that, it evens out the field by adding in the populations from all the other states.

But what I’m starting to realize is that everybody loves big government when it’s doing what they want, republicans too. GW greatly expanded the federal government while he was in charge, and nobody on the right complained because their people were in charge.

I’ve also noticed that republicans love big government when they use it to try and enforce their social and religious views into law. Take a recent action by the Tea Party Patriots for example. In California, they are trying to make it mandatory that schools have children listen to or sing christmas carols. The schools would be subject to litigation if they fail to comply. These people are supposed to be all about keeping government out of your lives, but now they want to use it to force christian holiday music on children in a public school.

Look, if a kid wants to say a prayer to his/herself before a test, fine, but you can’t force children at a public school to pray. If a kid wants to listen to christmas carol music on the radio between classes, or on his ipod while walking through the halls, then fine, but you can’t take force children to listen to your religious music.

Where is the logic in electing people to an office when they espouse a belief that government can never do anything right? What incentive do they have to get it right? They’ll just get elected and run the country into the ground, only to turn around and say “I told you so”. Had people who actually thought the government could be used as a tool for good been in charge when hurricane Katrina hit, it would not have taken 5 days to get water to the super-dome in the middle of a first world country.

It would be one thing if republicans, when elected, slashed all government departments and cut everything down to the bare minimum (even though I think that would be disastrous) but they don’t. They happily fill up the ever increasing government with their people, and proceed to mismanage things.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers