Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dungeons and Dragons, "The Church of the Trinity"

Gods of Dungeons and Dragons

            I have over the years put out several entries on the topic of fictional religions.  I never really went anywhere with my discussion of Religion as an aspect of settings that I wrote about years before that, but since then I have tried to come at the topic in ways that would make it interesting for someone who had been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a while or someone new.

            In each instance I have tried to either go in an entirely new direction like with my unique take on Orcs a while back.  I then did a short follow up to that with a pair of orc characters in that context.  There was also a more traditional pantheon of deities that act in concert with one another, "The Five".  I did a follow up to that one in which I created a team of characters that each serve as an exemplar of the various members of The Five.  Then there was “The Preserver” which was my attempt to graft a messianic style belief system onto environmentalism-oriented religion. My last entry was the “High Arcana” a religion based on Tarot Cards.

                This will be the first blog entry for me in quite a while, and the first on DnD in even longer… But I wrote most of this material back when 3.5 Edition was still the primary edition, so there might still be some language in there that suits that type of setting better.


This is an excellent rendition of the Triforce, which manages to include additional imagery from the games in each part, further illustrating the use of 3 in each sub-symbol.

The Trinity

Holy Symbol: Triangle (sometimes a Key or Doorway)

Divine Domains:

Gaia: Forge, Life; Isis: Knowledge, Tempest; Ishtar: Nature, Peace

Favored Weapon:

Gaia: Mace; Isis: Spear; Ishtar: Bow

 World View & Mythos: In ages past before the world had formed three goddesses came from the void and created the world.  Gaia, created the earth, rolling the lava, sand, soil, stone, clay, and metal that upon all else would be built.  Isis, poured from the heavens the rains which filled the open chasms to make the seas and oceans, and cut fine lines thru the earth to form the rivers and ponds.  Last came Ishtar, who breathed out the wind which carried with it the seeds of life.  It was then, as the spirits of life took hold that the trinity returned to the heavens never to return.

 Beliefs: It is most often believed than when creating the world the goddess imbued the world with a set of natural laws which favor strength, contemplation, and tenacity.  It is the role of the living to use these virtuous qualities to tame the wilds, dream of grand designs, and build great works.  Large cathedrals, gilded and lit with the light of gloriously ornate windows define the great architectural vision that the followers of the Trinity believe to be the natural order of things.

                There are 3 primary holy books, each devoted to the study and philosophy that each god supposedly represents.  The first book is the Tenants of Gaia, and emphasizes how to live a stable life and emphasizes strength and the harvesting of natural world.  The second is the Wisdom of Isis, which speaks of the flow of time and the changing world and changing self, it teaches about meditation and contemplation.  The last is the Teachings of Ishtar, which speaks about the importance of growth, that growing as a person thru new experiences, growing one’s community thru procreation, and growing the wealth and bounty of the world thru constructive action.

It is not uncommon for a cleric to emphasize the teaching of one goddess and seek to emulate that particular goddess’ role, picking for their domains the favored element.

 Practices: Those who follow the Trinity favor matriarchal social orders, with women taking the role of teacher, religious leader, and administrators, these roles seen as a natural extension of their position as mothers who create and cultivate life.  Men are seen as laborers and soldiers whose strength constructs and protects the homes and fields of the people.

 Superstitions and Taboos: Followers of the Trinity take Hospitality very seriously, to the point of having numerous inns and shelters founded in their name.  To harm a guest or host is one of the direst of sins.  They are very much in favor of civilized life and are the favored faith in many major cities lending a study of architecture to the cities defenses in the form of walls and gates.

 Churches and Denominations: the Trinity is worshiped in numerous communities and nations and is often recognized as being a de facto state church.  However it is a polyglot of a religion.  Originally there was a single church which still exists, it split into two denominations based on the role the church would have in the politics of nation states.  It fissured again over the role of the church hierarchy itself, and has subsequently fractured numerous times based on several prophets that have followed after.

 1) The Inclusionists are considered the original church, it was their practice to assimilate religious practices from those they converted and incorporate the local folk heroes and gods into the myths and legends of the church as a whole.  Their art is exceptionally varied and it looks at the world in a global context, doing its best to not involve itself in the political affairs of nations except to offer aid to those in need.

 2) The Politicos were the first group to break from the Inclusionists 1300 years ago.  They saw it as not only excusable but necessary to align themselves with various governments and political groups within nations to exert change, seeing politics as a reality that must be dealt with in the pursuit of spiritual truth.  This group has fractured and has separate but related churches in each of the nation states on the continent and holds varying levels of influence within each.

 3) The Exclusionists broke from the Inclusionists 500 years ago.  They wished to return to a purer form of the original faith and began destroying and excising rituals, saints, and practices that were not a part of the original texts from the church’s founding.  They too take a global view of the faith, and aside from taking combative stances against the other churches as quasi-heretics, they mostly do not involve themselves in the political affairs of the world.

 4) The New Dogmatists is an umbrella term that captures all small churches that have fractured off from the Exclusionists since their founding.  These groups followed one particular prophet or guru to create a new church with a new holy text to annotate the original holy texts.  The three largest were the Wanderers, who believed that the Goddesses are still in the world, wandering among us either guiding or judging our behavior and meeting out lessons; then there were the Exiles who believe that the Goddesses created this world to house evil spirits and only thru self-purification could one cleanse their would and float up to the heavens to join the Goddesses in paradise; and the Lamp Lighters, a group that believed in the claims of four prophets that they were sent by the Goddesses to found a new church in the world, this movement was the first and only group to dogmatize a crusade for the faith, all previous crusades for the Trinity are seen more as state action on behalf of the various churches; the Lamp Lighters nearly swept the continent before devolving into infighting and eventually being put down, they currently exist in very small groups that “keep the lamps lit” for the return of their now vanished prophets.

Social Organization: Traditionally there was no martial tradition in the faith, and holy war is not a concept backed by dogma or faith in any of the churches. There have been instances in history where a “Liberator of the Throne” position has been created to protect the faith via force of arms especially in the context of a Politico denomination’s efforts within a nation. Otherwise there are two major groups within the religion. 

1) The Builders/Laborers, men who devote their lives to the Trinity further the cause thru the construction of buildings, the production of food and goods, and the tilling of fields.  Men are rarely seen in positions that require extensive academic study, instead vocational training is taught to them from a young age in communities where the Trinity is the primary religion.  Architecture and engineering are the rare examples of tasks that require much greater study.

2) The Scholars, devout women by contrast are taught art, literature, history, and music.  They are seen as the cultural and spiritual heads of a community.  They contribute to the intellectual pursuit of such communities, with the only labor intensive practices taught to them being sculpture or ornate metal work.

Cults & Heretics: There exists two offshoots of this faith that stand in direct conflict with it.

1) The Church of the Creator Above believes that the Trinity are secondary agents to a greater more powerful being, that this being is the true font of creative energy that allowed for the formation of the world and life.  They see the worship of the Trinity as heresy and seek to appeal to a deeper and more true alliance with this greater being they call Ptah.  That there is no archeological record to support some more ancient form of the religion that had a singular creator at work has done nothing to deter them.  Often they are seen less as a danger and more as a contrary and strange group that exists as a harmless counter culture.

2) The Trinity of Kings is a dangerous cult.  They believe that the goddesses were actually gods, and that the myth that women as the wiser sex is a lie spread by the insidious conspiracy that is the Matriarchy.  While some defend them as having legitimate points that gender should not exclude a person from a life of vocational or scholarly pursuits, the truth runs much darker. The Trinity of Kings cult believes in the violent subjugation of women, that they should be confined to the role of slaves and sexual toys.  Women have been kidnapped, raped, and ritualistically murdered by this group.  Their violence is not limited to women, as many men who work for the faith have had their hands cut off or been blinded.  The gods’ names are Cronus, Set, and Anu.

Heretical Symbol:

                Ptah: Circle; Trinity of Kings: Phallus

I enjoy this 2e rendition of Ptah, the 3e version looks, sad, tired and confused.

Heretical Domains:

                Ptah: Creation (Forge); Trinity of Kings: Life, Order, War

Heretical Favored Weapon:

                Ptah: Warhammer; Trinity of Kings: Longspear


            This is going to be pretty obvious, but the big inspiration here are the Three Goddesses of “The Legend of Zelda” and the concept of the Trinity in Western Religion, primarily Christianity.  I highly recommend this video which discusses with real sincerity the religion of Hyrule, and there are other videos I will link that talk about the trinity and other concepts as I feel they can be interesting.

                As for the heretics, the primary concept there is a gender flipped version of the Early Mother Goddess concept.  The name Ptah is an obscure Egyptian creation deity whose name fits the renaming scheme I used, replacing the three goddesses of Hyrule with real life goddesses that I felt fit well enough.

                The Trinity of Kings is a parody of the fascist/misogynistic group/movement of “Return of Kings” and by extension the online communities of Pick Up Artists and other creepy dipshits. This is taking their crap and drawing it out to a medieval/dark age style monstrous level of behavior beyond even the sad and dangerous material of today.

                Aside from those factors the idea that a religion incorporates material from the various cultures and communities it attempts to convert is a well-known history in Europe, as the source of numerous rewrites of mythology into folklore-history, this is especially the case with Celtic Mythology. Beyond that a big part of Protestantism was a departure from a perceived idolatry of the Catholic practice of adopting those pagan symbols and traditions.

                As always I wanted to create prompts to allow someone using this material to shape it into their own world, so the various splits of Politico and New Dogmatists could allow for logical permutations within the world while keeping this vague outline as a referential core that can be reinterpreted by the players, “I want to be the Joseph Smith of this world” as a character motivation could be useful.

                Remember, the goal is to have fun while learning about and exploring ideas from the real world with fun permutations. Just like with all fiction.


                If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Writer's Block Review: "Lake Mungo" (2012)

              To help me break with some writer’s block I have been suffering from since the large amount of writing I did for my finals in the middle of May, I am going back to basics.  You might be saying, “you haven’t updated this blog in months.”  To which I must replay, “yeah, I had other shit going on.” 

             A large amount of this blog is just me writing about movies I have seen.  For a time I would rank/review all the movies I had seen from a given year.  I stopped emphasizing movies for whatever reason and now my brain is tired from thinking bigger thoughts about the world and suffering and how people in power know exactly how to fix it all, but they don’t.

             Today I am going to write on here something simple, much like how I started simple when I went back to the gym following Covid.

 Lake Mungo (2012)

Written and Directed by Joel Anderson (who is known for this and that is it)

Currently available on Tubi.


The Premise

             This is a fictional-Documentary about the events surrounding the death of a young woman and the subsequent haunting of her family by that young woman.


The Good

             I found out after the fact that the actors adlibbed most of their dialogue.  The idea being that they would sit down, be told what the idea of the scene was, and just to act it all out.  This strategy sounds like it would be a fucking disaster but turned out quite well.  The reason I found out about this is simply because I found the acting strong enough that I was intrigued with the behind the scenes.

             The haunting material is solid.  The idea of someone appearing in footage or in pictures is a classic “Ghost” thing in folklore/media and it is presented well almost every time (there are some instances in which the ghost is supposed to go unnoticed till a reveal and you are left going, “I saw that earlier”).

             The mysteries and secrets that get revealed are intriguing and spooky in equal measure.


The Bad

             Um… I mean, I already mentioned the few instances in which you will see the ghost before they intend you to.  It happens.

             It is a little slow and I think the most interesting bits could fit into a 60 minute format, but compared to the bloated nightmare that is modern true crime documentaries on streaming where 1-2 hours of content is spread over 4-12 because god forbid they cut the fluff… “Lake Mungo” is tight as a drum by comparison.

             I guess the only “complaint” I have is that it is far more sad than scary.  It is perhaps the nature of ghost stories that “grief was the real ghost the whole time”, but this one especially.



             “Lake Mungo" is a good, sad, short little ghost story.  It is worth watching.


            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Writer's Block Review: "The Possession" (2012)

To help me break with some writer’s block I have been suffering from since the large amount of writing I did for my finals in the middle of May, I am going back to basics.  You might be saying, “you haven’t updated this blog in months.”  To which I must replay, “yeah, I had other shit going on.” 

A large amount of this blog is just me writing about movies I have seen.  For a time I would rank/review all the movies I had seen from a given year.  I stopped emphasizing movies for whatever reason and now my brain is tired from thinking bigger thoughts about the world and suffering and how people in power know exactly how to fix it all, but they don’t.

Today I am going to write on here something simple, much like how I started simple when I went back to the gym following Covid.

 The Possession (2012)

Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White

Directed by Ole Bornedal

Currently available on Netflix.

The Premise

After a cold opening that makes no sense based on the mythology explored later in the movie and which completely gives the game away on their being some kind of telekinetic ghost/spirit/demon being in a box… we get a movie about a troubled family that buys said haunted box from a yard sale.

This movie is “based on actual events” in that there is a supposedly haunted box owned by notorious ghost hunter and notable fraud Zak Baggins… maybe that is too harsh… let’s change it to alleged fraud.  The actual object It is one of those things that is obviously bullshit but it is fun to pretend, we all need a little magic in our lives.

The Good

The child actors in this work.  Kids often have a hard time putting forth a believable performance, but these kids hit the mark.  I have no complaints about their performances or their roles in the story.

Jeffery Dean Morgan is fantastic in this.  He is so much better than the material that I am vexed as to why he is even in this movie.  Just a paycheck?  Was he taken in by the “based on actual events” tagline?  Apparently, in an interview he shared some of the weird events that happened on set, maybe he is into ghosts?

The use of moths as the signature animal associated with the demon/ghost is different, and I appreciate different.  There are images of the monster as seen in an MRI image that is legitimately creepy to point where I feel a better movie would have used such a scene to elevate itself to “great”.

The Bad

The previously mentioned opening is crap.  I cannot stress enough that having a ghost/demon that can kill and maim people while still in its prison undermines the entire point of the story.  When the box does the same sort of violence later in the movie (I have to imagine a producer said, “you need and action beat”) it again pushes the story away from spooky to goofy.

This is not hard to fix.  In the opening have someone OPEN THE BOX, and then refusing the demon/ghost’s attempt to possess them (let us say the person is an adult and knows not to let themselves be possessed) then the demon uses some kind of power to hurt them.  At the midpoint have the person killed by the demon be killed… BY CHILD WHO IS POSSESSED.  That ups the stakes.  That the monster is able to use their power because they are now free and anchored into a willing host.

Having a third-party victim killed by the possessed person will make the audience worry more for the family members, setting up an internal tension for the little girl who is trying not to hurt her family, but… you know… possessed.  You could even have a scene like the one at the end of “The Exorcist III” where the possessed person fights thru and helps to defeat the demon.

Another big failure of this movie is how they show you the contents of the box almost immediately and there is very little mystery to the box itself.  Weak.

Let’s also talk about the monster, I am always a little iffy when it comes to appropriating other cultures to pepper your ghost movie with some exoticism.  In this case the demon is a creature of Jewish folklore that speaks in Yiddish and is defeated by the drafting of a hip young rabbi who is willing to go outside the rules to help battle the demon.  That is a weird choice.  You don’t often see in the movie, “I must consult with a mystic to battle this evil, gonna have to catch the train to the Bronx.”

So, here is an obvious idea to help reform the plot, why not make the family Jewish?  Shocking to realize that the family is not Jewish (at least not ostensibly) considering the subject matter.  But religion is a thing that can bring people together or be a wedge in a relationship.  You could have the mom be Jewish and she is trying to reconnect to her roots (maybe in response to a family tragedy, maybe there used to be three kids, hell the ghost could pretend to be the third kids ghost making it easier for it to possess the younger sister who is not haling the death of the sibling well). 

This commitment to her religion in the wake of a family tragedy could be why the mom and dad broke up.  The idea that he no longer fit with her increasingly conservative outlook fits better than the “we broke up… for… reasons…” material that is there.  As is, the mother being just pointlessly hostile, petty, and too quick to believe bad things about her ex-husband makes her real hard to root for.

Then you have another interesting way to take things.  That the dad has to embrace Jewish mysticism to defeat the demon/ghost, but the mother thinks he is mocking her or trying to get back with her via some kind of manipulation of her beliefs.  That is real drama.  Then, just like the ending to “Signs” you can have the family come together at the end having had their faith confirmed and tried by horrific circumstances.

Remember "Signs"?
Remember liking Mel Gibson?
Is it disrespectful to bring up Gibson when talking about a movie that centers on Jewish mythology?

Really the ending is weird.  I was expecting a super dark ending, in which the demon jumps to possessing the other daughter; then kills the mom, younger sister, and rabbi; and then frames the dad for it all.  Super downer endings were the family gets murdered by the demon have been shown to work, look at “Sinister”.  As is, the ending peters out on a vaguely happy ending… BUT OH NO THE DEMON BOX ESCAPED.  Weird and not as fulfilling or scary as it should be, just stuck in the middle.

To come back again to the Jewish mysticism angle, this is not the only Jewish exorcism movie I have seen.  The Unborn” also did this and these movies are a study in contrasts.  I find “Unborn” has the better thrust, because the ghost in that story is an unborn twin, and they manage to weave that idea into the Nazi twin experiments.  Using material from the Holocaust is a lot of borrowed pathos to bring into the movie, which is crass… but it is also SOMETHING.  Maybe I should have made this a double feature to compare and contrast the two?  Jazz up this review.  Oh well.

It is cr-ASS on the movie poster for sure.
Holy moly is it tasteless to have this be such a selling point
for a movie about the specter of the Holocaust.


“The Possession” is a hacky bit of forgettable flotsam in the ocean of content that the world has to offer.  It is not bad; it is just typical.  The best scenes in it deserve to be in a better movie, while most of the material is so ‘meh’ you have to wonder why they bothered.

I cannot emphasize enough that the “oops, I bought a ghost” premise is fantastic not just for horror but also comedy.  It is solid gold and if they had chosen to go the route of emphasizing characters being funny/witty like “Hatchet” had done for slasher movies, they could have turned this forgettable story into something interesting.


            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Writer's Block Review: "Hatchet" (2006/07)

 To help me break with some writer’s block I have been suffering from since the large amount of writing I did for my finals in the middle of May, I am going back to basics.  You might be saying, “you haven’t updated this blog in months.”  To which I must replay, “yeah, I had other shit going on.” 

A large amount of this blog is just me writing about movies I have seen.  For a time I would rank/review all the movies I had seen from a given year.  I stopped emphasizing movies for whatever reason and now my brain is tired from thinking bigger thoughts about the world and suffering and how people in power know exactly how to fix it all, but they don’t.

Today I am going to write on here something simple, much like how I started simple when I went back to the gym following Covid.

Hatchet (2006/2007)

Written and Directed by Adam Green

Currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Premise

A boat tour of character actors sinks in the swamp near a haunted(?) cabin and the various colorful characters are killed off in gruesome fashion by the deformed revenant that stalks the marshland.

The Good

While not everyone in the movie is a great actor even that kind of works as it is more of a comedy.  The dialogue is frequently good, with quips and acting beats making it feel true to the various characters in the movie.  There is really no conversation or line that feels like the wrong person is talking.

The make up and gore effects capture the goofy tone that the dialogue does, and it all fits together quite well.  They go for over the top and a few of them shoot the moon.

Maybe I am shallow in that I consider the presence of Mercedes McNab to be a highlight.  She is gorgeous and has perhaps the best comedic timing one could hope for in a bimbo character.  I loved her as Harmony on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and here she is elevating the dumb bimbo role to an artform.

I am not going to call out all the actors or the cameos/small roles for horror icons, but they all work well enough for this movie.  Just some are better than others.

The Bad

I am glad they leaned in on the comedy.  Holy hell is this one of the most derivative outlines o a script you can get.  This is exactly the sort of cliché riddled movie that “Cabin in the Woods” was mercilessly mocking and if they had tried to play it completely straight it would have been complete garbage.

Bigger issues come with the shoestring budget, as Saturday Night Live has more convincing swamp sets.  Worse for the horror side of the story, everything is lit to a comical level… At one point they find a flashlight and its beam is completely drown out by the lighting they just have as the default.  Keep in mind this is supposed to be night, in a foggy swamp, it should be dark as hell.  I can’t help but imagine how you could light the woods in a way that makes it visually interesting without completely breaking the conceit, but you would need a lighting guy who costs money and they don’t have any of that.

As far as acting, unfortunately the worst performance is the movie’s final girl, played by Tamara Feldman.  She is playing this role way too straight and comes off like someone from a more serious iteration of this material who got lost.  Bad direction?  Maybe she just wasn’t into it because she did not reprise the role for the sequel.  Either way it is the weakest acting on the character with perhaps the 2nd or 3rd most screen time.

My biggest issue is with the ending, which I guess will be a spoiled here.  The ending feels like a cheat on the characters.  They are clever earlier in the movie trying to concoct a plan that played on what they knew about the monster’s origins, “let’s light him on fire, because his tragic death involved him trying to escape a burning cabin” and their plan is foiled by rain.  This plan is good.  And how it is foiled is also good.  That should have been the climax and ending of the movie, but that is instead the end of act two.

The ending comes when the characters have a protracted chase thru a graveyard and seemingly defeat the monster by stabbing it in the face.  Stabbing in the face is not any more effective than the myriad of other bullets, stabbings, and other harm they have visited upon the monster and yet they think they beat it.  The characters are surprised when the monster shows back up and ostensibly kills the remaining characters.  Downer ending, perfectly fine for this kind of movie.  BUT, that feels like a betrayal of the characters who were previously shown to at least be trying to get a handle on things.

To fix this I would have moved the chase scene to act 2, the characters realize they can’t get away after being chased in a circle back to the haunted cabin.  They then try to use the fire plan on the monster back at the haunted cabin, and then their plan is foiled and they all die.  Ramp up the character’s knowledge and insight in how to fight the monster as time goes on, make the audience feel like the characters are going thru an arc.  Currently their knowledge goes up and then crashes down.

For an example of how to do this well I have to point to the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie.  Nancy forms a plan on how to defeat Freddy Krueger by pulling him out of the dream world and into her house full of traps, it ostensibly works… but the twist ending shows that Freddy was not actually defeated and the characters die.  “Elm Street” ramped up to the twist ending, it felt like a surprise and it doesn’t feel like the characters failed to try everything they could.

The ending kind of ties into one more issue, there is no character arc.  You usually want to show your protagonists dealing with some kind of trauma or weakness over the course of the narrative, and by overcoming the weakness they help to overcome the monster.  In this instance the main character is dealing with a breakup from a previous relationship and the final girl is trying to investigate what happened to her brother and father.  Logically, neither of these tie into fighting a revenant… The best I could think is that during some key moment the Final Girl’s father and brother could rise up as revenants to try and help her escape?  And logically the main guy getting over his breakup by getting with the final girl would be the other side of things, you would have to establish that she left him because he was not a take-charge kind of guy and by the end of the movie he is a take-charge kind of guy.  Just… Something.



I don’t hate this movie, it is watchable.  The humor elevates in enough that the derivative elements and low production values are mostly forgiven.  I can’t help but wonder if they could have done something more creative with the backstory?  Maybe if they had the budget to make the presentation of the setting actually scary?

It is strange that one of my oldest movie reviews on this blog is for “Phantasm” which was similarly low budget but was far more creative with the premise… and I still like this one more because the acting and dialogue is better.  Maybe give Adam Green some money to work with so that he can escape the horror-ghetto his career seems to be in and see what he could do with something bigger and stranger?  I could see him  doing episodes of “Creepshow” or other horror anthology series without breaking a sweat.

This is not the first movie by Adam Green I have seen. “Digging up the Marrow”, which is sort of a cross between a mockumentary and the movie “Nightbreed” was, and it is better than “Hatchet”… and better than “Nightbreed”.

(Sidenote on “Phantasm”, I no longer consider it the worst movie I have ever seen by a long shot.  That title went to “Boyhood”.)


            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Inauguration of President Biden: Some Thoughts From Last Week

            I am writing this a little over 24 hours after President Biden has been sworn into office and a series of executive actions and policies are being reversed.  Criminals previously in control of government departments are being dismissed and the first of a handful of candidates are being reviewed for confirmation into cabinet positions.

            My mood is akin to the relief felt by the survivors of a slasher movie just before the masked killer jumps up from his prone state for another attack on the hapless sex positive teenagers that think it is all over… Maybe my cynicism is too much.  I know, logically that the future is marching on, but I am also acutely aware that Donald Trump did not storm the capital by himself January 6th, which will end up being some sort of parody holiday in the future akin to 4-20 or May the 5th.

             No matter how orange he is, Donald Trump will not magically turn back into a racist pumpkin just because the clock struck 12 yesterday.  The various crooks and schemers that he gave power and influence are still skulking in the shadows, they did not turn back into mice.  Things are still bad.  Trump was not only a culmination of a great many awful things in this country, he was just the latest and he will not be the last.

            It is troubling that Joe Biden ran on the “Build Back Better” slogan that is… nakedly synonymous to the phrase “Make Great Again” and no one seems to care.  Both political parties ran on a message of returning to a prelapsarian past.  And when the restoration of the relatively not-evil political party only takes you back 4 years to the same paradigm that led to the rise of the fascist pumpkin to begin with I have to ask why everyone is so relieved.

           Why is everyone so relieved?

           There is so much pageantry and performative “change”.  You would have thought that a young woman reading a poem had cured Covid for all the people weeping over it.  I get it, I do.  It is not for nothing that the first non-white VP is a thing, a woman likely to be running for President in 4 years.  That is good in the nebulous way all breaking down of color barriers are good.  But that doesn’t actually fix the underlying alienation and toxic bullshit that gave birth to the QAnon death cult or the Nazis-in-all-but-name jerk offs like the Proud Boys or the Boogaloos.

             I actually expected worse.  I had expected the capital to be attacked.  I had expected mass shootings in the inner city on election day as a small army of white nationalists would make the drive to non-white areas and stop voting.  I expected assassinations of Democrats and moderate Republicans.  I expected state capitals to be attacked, the logical escalation of the various “protests” that took place over Covid last year which I said at the time signaled to white nationalists that they would not be treated harshly by law enforcement.

            I am thankful that many of my doom saying did not happen.  But to call back to my horror movie monster metaphor from earlier, it is not that the masked killer is about to get up for one last attack, instead the camera is panning from the house full of sobbing survivors out into the dark of the woods where an entire cadre of masked killers stands in waiting for some unseen signal at which time to strike.

             The sequel to this horror show is going into pre-production as we speak.  And it looks like this franchise will have legs.


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Saturday, December 5, 2020

I am Working on the Topic of Racism

            I work as a university researcher while studying as a PhD student.  The last couple months my research has focused on Racism in K-12 education.  The idea being to see how various factors of racism are discussed in the field of education and how it might be applied to Public Policy or Administration.

            Shockingly, researching this topic for numerous weeks left my brain feeling like it had been beaten with a cudgel.

            It was a strange arc to the whole process too.  The first half dozen sources I worked thru I could immediately see a larger narrative (one that held steady thru the remaining research) and enjoyed the act of learning for its own sake.

            Then as I read the next half dozen I started to think, “Oh good, a lot of these literature reviews see policies in action, and it seems like they know how to fix many of the underlying problems.”  During this time is where a normal undergraduate would be able to write a paper spelling out numerous issues and numerous solutions.  Then I kept going…

            The refrain of racism became an earworm.  20-25 sources reviewed and all I could see is the long pattern stretching back thru American and world history and it leading to the current state of things.  The attempts to fix it, the constant push back, and the half-hearted attempts to dig out the infection of systemic racism and cultural bias, it was the arc of history and while things are better, they still suck, and it is too easy for them to get worse.

            Conversations with people at the dog park were a treat for them I am sure.  As puppies played and older dogs sat on benches and got head pats from the various lounging dog owners, I turned conversations with those who would listen to me into town halls.  There a bunch of people listened to me explain how subtle racism permeates every aspect of the primary education system.  And then went on to explain how that racism is part of the legacy of segregation and white supremacy that is as baked into the apple pie of America alongside patriarchy and heteronormativity.

            I was being a bit of a downer.

            By the time I had finished summarizing and organizing more than 30 of these papers (each in turn a literature review or meta-analysis of numerous other studies) I had been thinking about racism constantly for a month… and I stupidly didn’t stop there.

            I am an avid user of audiobooks and I had been listening to some of the free titles offered via my audible subscription on history.  What were two titles I had picked?  A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution” and “Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow” as my stupid ass had decided without really thinking it out, “Hey, I have been wanting to learn a little more about these topics” and ended up reading about a whole other dimension to racism.  (Both of those titles are quite informative; I am not slighting them in the least, do pick them up if you are a fan of history.)

            Racism was the hobgoblin of my thoughts.  You might be saying, “what about your classes?  Didn’t studying for those take your mind off of it?”  Well, one of them deals with philosophy and certainly did, the other… It deals with Welfare Programs in the US and HOLY SHIT is it just racism all the way down.  I kind of lost my mind at some point when we were having class discussion where people were trying to give the benefit of the doubt to… let’s politely call it, “the other side” by spelling out their fiscal conservatism and romanticizing of the Protestant Work Ethic.

            Yeah, I decided not to give the same benefit of the doubt.  Ending up on a mini rant about how we all need to stop giving them credit or listening to them lie.  Spelling out how persistent racism has been the guiding star of so many “reforms” and so many abuses within the American welfare system (and America in general) that we have to stop treating the other side as acting in good faith.  At a certain point you have to come to the realization that you and the public you serve are in danger, that the other side is not acting in good faith, that the other side does not tell the truth, and that if you don’t start acknowledging all that you are going to allow great harm to come to the most vulnerable.

            Regardless of all these attempts to kill my own soul by burning away what little remained of my own ignorance (keep in mind, I am not learning too many new things about racism, it is the wallowing in the subject matter that is getting to me) I did come out the other end and will continue to work on the material.

            I talked to my supervising Professor about how draining it has been to bathe in this topic (it is interesting at least to see which authors look at things with a cold detachment, those that feel a sense of sad pity, and those that have some real fire to their writing) and the professor suggested to distance myself from the material a bit, focus on putting out a useful policy message and maybe making a positive change.

            The professor also made the suggestion to go back over the reading list he had given his students earlier in the semester which included the titles, “White Rage”, “White Trash”, and “White Fragility” and not read those titles for a little while.  The university and our department in particular had been trying to position themselves as “Anti-Racist” (something I support) and that had led to many such reading lists to help the student body understand the context of the university’s work on the subject.  I previously discussed the book “Blindspot” for this very reason.  The Professor saw that I was already knee deep and needed a bit of a mental break.

            Good news is that I might be able to publish some of my work from this and that might do some good in the future.


            Maybe it will just be the latest in a long line of papers saying, “Here is the problem, we all see it, here is a possible solution, please don’t ignore it” and then it getting filed away to only be referenced by other academics and ignored by policymakers… Cause racism.


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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Halloween Watching Suggestions

            I figured for Halloween I would do one of the easiest hack blog entries a person can do, a series of movie recommendations based around Horror.

 Franchise to binge: “Nightmare on Elm Street”

            I don’t think I am ruffling any feathers in the horror community to say that the Nightmare franchise has the highest overall quality, ESPECIALLY for a series with as many entries as it has.

            A special commendation has to go to the second entry as being the one with the best themes and best blend of creative dream nonsense with actual horror elements, but I am betting that number 3 is the one that most people will list as the high-water mark of the series.  The fifth entry is perhaps the worst, a shame because I feel it brushes against greatness.  There is just something off about it which kills it.

            With 9 entries it is enough for a whole Halloween, and I think that Freddy the character, the implied mythology, and the various missteps I see in the series could fill a book.  I have talked about the franchise some before, but it was only last year that I finished watching all of it.

TV Shows to Watch

            As a Netflix and Amazon guy there is a lot of stuff on Hulu that I am not able to access (but there is still stuff I would recommend).

            The first pick would be “Hannibal” which is a series I watched on a lark thinking, “A prequel series to Silence of the Lambs…. I bet this is a cash grab mess.”  Turns out it is one of the most visually arresting series I have ever watched, and I consider the heroic protagonist Will Graham to be a character I identify with to a shocking level (like, while watching the show, I would finish the character’s sentences).  The first season is fantastic and will hook you for the second.

            The second is one people have probably already seen, “The Haunting of Hill House” (I did a review of the audiobook).  Mike Flanagan is a creative person who has instantly entered into my “I will consume anything and everything they make” category.  And as soon as I have more time I will be binging his latest series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor”.

Cartoons Series and Animated Movies

            I have talked before about my infinite love of the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and I can point to two opportunities to experience underappreciated aspects of the franchise.  Extreme Ghostbusters” (It has one of the best theme songs ever) the 90’s animated sequel to the 80’s “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon is probably the most underrated cartoon of the 90’s (plenty of people would point to “Freakazoid”, but that show has gotten a lot more love in the years that followed).  It is currently on Hulu, and I love it.

            Continuing with ghost busting, there is “Filmation’s Ghostbusters”, which aside from having a talking TV, Car, and Gorilla on the team is also one of most fever dream of all the cartoons I have ever seen.  I wish, in the depths of my soul that Filmation had been less of a shit about “The Real Ghostbusters” because I think a crossover animated movie would have been a delightful relic of the late 80’s.  What could have been.

            As far as movies, I have talked about my love of stop motion before, and this is going to be a case of me vigorously pointing at the work of Studio Laika and saying, “Watch their stuff!”  But start with “Coraline” an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name (and I love Neil Gaiman).  But then move onto “ParaNorman” a movie that gets the tears welling up at the climax every time I watch it. 

Most Under Rated Movie

            I find myself mentally revisiting the movie “Underwater” all the time.  It is a mix of science fiction and horror tropes that speaks to me.  The acting is great, the use of claustrophobia and aquaphobia are fantastic when coupled with the simple plot of, “We are being hunted and we have to get out”.

            It has perhaps the coolest monster reveal at the films climax I have ever seen.  I was legitimately filled with dread and awe when watching Kristen Stewart trying to deal with these horrifying things in the dark.

            I would also say that this movie benefits from the audience going into it knowing as little as possible to help preserve some of the set piece moments and plot developments.

           Give it more of a shot than the studios did, when they released it to no fanfare, little promotion, and after having shelved it for years.




            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.