Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Religion of Orcs"

            In the past, I have talked about Orcs in the context of Dungeons and Dragons and how underwhelming they are as a culture.  I understand why that is, their place in fantasy mythology is that of the barbaric horde which seeks to pillage, rape, destroy, and dominate.  They are all things ugly, dumb, uncultured, and held together only by strength and are always the minions of some greater and more mindful evil, your Dark Lord Sauron or Duke Igthorn and the like.
            I find this boring, and between the presence of Gnolls, Goblinoids, and numerous other evil humanoids I feel that an opportunity was lost to give some dimension to Orcs in more recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons.  It is not like it can’t be done, “Warcraft” has done a lot to flesh out their orc culture and “Warhammer 40k” has at the very least made them alien/other enough that their silly-violence makes them distinct within the setting.
 
What is the value of a bad guy who is just a bad guy?
My Change to Orcs: Maltheism
            Orcs are too often portrayed as accepting their role in the world as being the followers of Gruumsh, the orc god who got his eye poked out by the god of the elves starting the whole enmity between the two groups.  This compounds an issue I have with Dungeons and Dragons views on religion in that everyone seems to acknowledge the existence of all the gods and races other than humans have gods tied to them in particular.
            Here is my first change, Orcs are Monotheistic.  They believe in only one god, all other gods are either fictions made up to deceive people, or are powerful outsiders capable of great things that gain power via being worshiped and give out power to certain followers to prove their benevolence.  But, none of these pretenders are the one true god.  Orcs know that there is only one god and they hate that guy.
            They see God as a cruel being.  Pitting people and races against one another, creating monsters and storms to break those who would otherwise live peacefully, and touching many with madness and disease to keep them low and in pain.  God is evil, and the Orcs want to kill God.

I think "Wondermark" is the most underrated webcomic out there.
            Orcs fight and build strength, keeping their minds clear with the purpose of destruction so that when they are faced with god in the afterlife they can attack and hopefully defeat him.  Not all Orcs are warriors, and they too contribute to the effort, an entire army of souls exist waging war on God in hopes of finally ending that bastard’s hold over everyone, to create a world free of calamity and mistrust, and to build an afterlife worth going to.
            Orcs dislike temples and places of worship, seeing them at best as comfortable delusions to keep the masses from seeing the bitter reality, and at worst they see them as tools for God to sow sorrow, mistrust, and false hope.  God pretends to be different deities to send followers to war against people who are deluded by a different pretend god.  Be it Bane or Pelor all “gods” are just God, and he is making everyone hate each other.
            Cults and Temples that use religion to harm people outright, via human sacrifice or oppressive social structures and stigmas are the worst villains in the eyes of the Orcs and are to be destroyed.
 
"Yep, gonna have to take care of this infestation before it starts to spread." -Thori, Orc Warrior
Spiritual Strength
            Orcs believe in the value and power of nature and Druidic tradition permeates their day to day life.  Stone circles which they call Ley Wells draw on and concentrate the power of nature to grant them bountiful harvests and gentle storms, protecting them from a wrathful god.
            Orc clerics do exist, but they are seen as stealing power from God, taking from the malign deity the power to do harm and turning it to good ends.  Eyes of Gruumsh are not God’s chosen in orc culture, but instead are the orcs who saw a vision of God and were able to curse him before the vision passed.
            There are always those who do not follow the path, many orcs find religion outside of their home culture, and some Orc tribes see a pantheon of gods as a likely state of cosmic affairs.  There are also those who are considered the worst of heretics, “True Believers” those orcs who not only believe in God’s evil, but wish to spread it by being a tool of the dark one’s malign whims.
 
"This shit is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with." -Thori, Orc Warrior
Virtues
            Orc culture favors certain key virtues.
            Honor, that is being direct and honest with one’s actions; generally speaking, lies and deception are seen as wastes of effort, being forthright with what they want and how much they are willing to pay for it saves them time.
            Valor, which they see as akin to improving one’s self, this also applies for setting goals and having the drive to attain them; this is not limited to combat, a person who takes risk in one’s job, romances, or exploration is seen as noble.
            Glory is when Valor pays off via talent and ability.  While it is noble to take risks, it is Glorious for those risks to find reward.  Orc paladins are often called “Glory Seekers” for their desire to attain a particular goal.
            Dominance is the final virtue, this is the ability to not only be good at what you do but to challenge others to be better.  Competition between individuals who seek to be the best and fending off challenges to one’s title is seen as a natural part of orc culture.  You cannot win one battle and rest on your laurels till passing in your sleep, you must continue to seek out battles to Dominate your profession.  Not enough to write one book or paint one mural, you must invite comparisons between your works and the works of others and continue to produce work in attempts to produce better and better products.
 
"For the Glory of the Mortal races I shall defeat the cultist chef Guy Fieri."
"Guy Fieri isn't a cultist, he is just a chef."
"Bullshit.  No one would wear their hair like that unless it was the will of their mad god."
            Too often Orc culture becomes consumed with combat.  It is hard to look at the world and see it as being controlled by a giant evil entity that seeks to make you suffer and be driven to do anything other than want to fight back.  There are orc communities that do escape such cycles of violence, those that wish to battle God with works of art that venerate the mortal will to survive and overcome, those that wish to heal the sick and infirm, or those who wish to build structures that can stand against the raging winds and crashing storms of God.
            Orcs are not just barbarians.

(I wrote all this as a sort of break from all the political stuff I have been consuming too much of.  If you would like to read some of my thoughts on current events, here are links to things on Net Neutrality, Immigration, and the events in Charlottesville.)
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Diversity in my Life and My Thoughts on Charlottesville

The Speed of News
            News is happening so fast that I can’t even comment on all of it.  Charlottesville seems more of the moment, so I am going to talk about it in a shallow way to get my feelings out before it is all washed out by the next horrible thing.
            I do feel it necessary to point out, atomic war is something that might have broken outlast week and it is somehow not the top news story illustrating how awful President Trump is.  Also, an issue that promises to hang around for a while.  Keep that in the back of your mind while I reflect on my world view.

Some Context
            Growing up in the 90’s I was exposed to numerous TV shows and movies that wanted me, and I am assuming children in general, to know that the world was in trouble and everyone had to work together to save it.
            Shows like X-Men are perhaps the most iconic and ongoing properties in that vein, the comic having been around since the 60’s and even now being a massive movie franchise about bigotry and alienation when it isn’t about firing as many lasers as possible at a purple cyborg to… You know, maybe we can all acknowledge that “X-Men Apocalypse” did not understand the franchise’s core appeal and move on.
            My point is, diversity in the casts of those shows was not something that was advertised or commented upon, but was something that was there.  Even as a kid I recall having the thought, “Oh, I see, they want to show how everyone is included”.  Sure, it was often clumsy and rarely subtle (for instance the kid in the wheelchair for the Burger King Kid’s Club, was named “Wheels”.  Yeesh), but I didn’t mind.
            When I watched the shows or movies, or looked at the asinine advertising for subpar burgers, I was there to see an adventure.  If not every member of the cast was a cis-gendered-white-male I just accepted that as how the world was.  Because not everyone is a cis-gendered-white-male.

They even included Kid Vid who was really into 80’s new wave pop music… Or was possibly a time traveler from 2080, they were not really clear on the concept.  Apparently his real name is Ryan Mcfarland according to wikipedia.
            When I watched Dr Bashir save Deep Space Nine with medical knowledge, Kwame lead the Planeteers with a level head, or Roland rewire the proton packs to catch more powerful ghosts I didn’t think to myself how unrealistic it was or how the show had to include them for “diversity”.  I accepted that these characters were doing what they were doing and their race was at best a physical description rather than any defining characteristic.
            I know that I had and have biases and prejudices that I am not even aware of, things so subtle that I would not even understand what was being pointed out if someone explained them to me.  I know that I had a resentment toward my schools for putting a huge focus on certain cultures over others (you can read my review/reflections on “Pocahontas” for more of my feelings on that), but I do know that the area I grew up in was not diverse and if not for some focus being put on other cultures and people I don’t think I would have gotten any exposure.
            The best I can do in my day to day life is try to treat everyone as an individual.  Every person has their own little story to tell and is at their own place in this world because of decisions made not only by them but by countless other people.  We will never meet all of those people who caused the dominos to fall, we just know that we are getting knocked over.

Nazis
            With all of this in mind, I have to ask what shows were these guys watching when they were growing up?



            What made them this?  What made them see “Indiana Jones” and think that the guys getting punched were the ones in the right?  What part of Picard’s Drumhead speech made them think that diminishing someone was alright?  What part of “Heart” made them think that having fewer and whiter people was a winning strategy?
            I really do not get it.  What made them think that the “Red Pill” Morpheus (a black man) gives to Neo (a white man) to explain how everyone is being marginalized by a system (whose avatars are all white men) was a symbol of men waking up to the oppression of… Feminism?  Guys, I think you missed the whole point of that movie.  Like all of it.
            Who lied to these weak racist fools so often about the Civil War that they now think it wasn’t about Slavery?  Who lied to them about World War II to make them think the Holocaust didn’t happen (though they seem to think it should have)?  What happened to these guys to make them blame minorities for how disappointed they are in their own lives?

Didn't they see "Fight Club"?
The Credit Card companies are responsible.
             Why do so many of them think President Trump is the answer?  Just because he is racist and hired racist Stephen Bannon to be a chief policy advisor?  Even if President Trump is on their side they still have to look at how comically inept the President is and realize their star player is laughably bad at every task.
            Why is it so many people think every time white nationalists do something horrible at an event celebrating racism it is somehow a false flag operation?  Are they really that stupid, deluded, or just trying to cover it up?  I do not get any of this.
            A few months ago, I decided to coin the phrase, “Not-Zees” as a descriptor of the Alt-Right and White National supporters of Trump who were pedantic enough to point out they were not literal Nazis, which they defined entirely as a political party started in Germany following the first World War.
            I guess I can throw that cute nickname out the window.  Kind of hard for anyone to claim Nazi is such a narrow term when there are guys yelling “Heil, Trump!” and carrying Swastika branded merchandise.  Images of the KKK battle flag sitting next to the Nazi flag also erases any illusions people had of the two being distinct, and curb stomps all future moronic arguments of, “Heritage, not hate” as transparent lies, as if they somehow weren’t before.



My Thoughts
            Like I said, I don’t get any of this.
            I see the world as a big and diverse place full of people who are awful, but I see them as awful on an individual basis and I judge them on their Words and Deeds, as I have explained before.  So here we are, the President shows more deference to a Russian Dictator and Nazi mobs than he does to Senators in his own party.
            What is more, that is not just me exaggerating, I have a quote from white nationalist rag The Daily Stormer who took President Trump’s awful response to the issue and rightly interpreted it as a winking endorsement.

            “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together.  Nothing specific against us.
            “He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides!
            “So he implied the antifa are haters.
            “There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.
            “He said he loves us all.
            “Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.
            “No condemnation at all.
            “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.
            “Really, really good.
            “God bless him.”
            -Taken from Here


Sleep tight America.  It has been less than 9 months.
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Friday, August 4, 2017

"The New Colossus", Poetry and Americana

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


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This poem was written to raise money for the erection of the Statue of Liberty.  It predates the statue being placed on Liberty Island.

Maybe I am atypical, but I was told throughout my primary education that this simple poem, along with many other small speeches (Gettysburg Address), oaths (Pledge of Allegiance), and statements of purpose (Preamble to the Constitution) represent important aspects of Americana and our own internalized mythology (those exact words were not used, I was in elementary school).

I don't know what the general public feels about such things.  I do know that I dislike the casual dismissal of this bit of writing.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

To Senator Rubio (Net Neutrality)

            At the beginning of the year I wrote to one of my state’s senators, Marco Rubio.  The letter dealt with the awful treatment of refugees and immigrants into the United States.  Senator Rubio’s office replied to that letter shortly thereafter, with a reply I found lacking.
            A couple weeks ago, I wrote another letter to Senator Rubio concerning Net Neutrality.  I thought to write another on the topic of Healthcare, and another still on the topic of the Russia, but decided on Net Neutrality as the first to prioritize.
            As I explain in the letter, and this was a physical letter, not an email, it will take up some space on a desk before being read by an underappreciated staffer, and then responded to by an underappreciated staffer.  As I explained in the letter, Net Neutrality is important to keeping the internet the free and open space that is it, and by not enforcing its status as a natural monopoly a dangerous status quo would emerge.
            I made comparisons to the Enron crisis which emerged as a result of a natural monopoly like power supply being turned into a “free market” boondoggle, and how little faith I have in the current head of the FCC.
            Feel free to utilize my letter as a template and send it to the elected official of your choice on the issue.  I am sure there are many state regulations that could be utilized to prevent Net Neutrality from rolling up completely in many areas and many federal officials that could slow the dissolution of current protections.  The Letter is presented below.
            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.
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(Name)
Masters of Applied American Politics and Policy
Masters of Urban and Regional Planning
Masters of International Affairs
(Address)
(Contact Information)

July 13, 2017

Senator Marco Antonio Rubio
Junior United States Senator of Florida
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

To Senator Rubio,

Senator, I am filled with a growing concern for the state of net neutrality in the United States.

It is my sincere belief that greater protections for the internet as a utility is necessary for small businesses to thrive within it, and to maintain the free movement of information and commerce thru it.

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Varadaraj Pai strikes me as an untrustworthy guardian of net neutrality.  If he dissolves the current protections it will hand a tremendous amount of power to large firms in the telecommunications industry.  Far more power than any government or citizen should be comfortable with them having.

The internet, much like water and electricity, should be viewed as a natural monopoly and regulated as such.  Limited competition and price regulation insure a stable and uniform experience for users and preventing internet providers from extorting web based companies for access to their customers.

Control of communications, ranging from what news people can read, to what shows they can watch, and even to what stores they can shop from is a tremendous power.  It would be dangerous to trust this power entirely to the open market without oversight.  The only comparison I could make is to the Enron fiasco, during which the trade of energy was chaotic and resulted in costs exploding and service being erratic.

While I know, that on a philosophical level, choice is lauded by the Republican party and regulation is seen as a burden.  I feel that the choices that would be offered without proper regulation would be no choice for many people.

Regulation in this instance should be seen less as a burden and more analogous to brakes and seatbelts.  Attributes that are needed to ensure greater control and safety.  Regulations should be clear, uniform, and efficient, but not abolished.

One only need look at how Comcast has provided such limited and pricey options for their cable, phone, and internet service to envision how abusive an untethered industry would become.

Ultimately, I would prefer the internet to become as ubiquitous in this nation as phones and TV.  For it to continue to grow into the completely accessible source of information that people can depend upon.  The government should work to make sure the internet is provided to all citizenry in a uniform manner, as an open marketplace of ideas and products, not to be manipulated by those industries who provide access to it.

Thank you for your time,

(Name)
Masters of Applied American Politics and Policy
Masters of Urban and Regional Planning
Masters of International Affairs