Sunday, January 14, 2018

Meditation

Today I attempted to meditate and I intend to do so daily as an integral routine. This not the first time I’ve taken a shot at it but it’s the first time I made a serious go if it.

That it is lauded in excellent Hindu literature and by distinguished associates Neo and World Citizen (not to be confused with the dubious organization Global Citizen), reflects poorly on me. I have been intending to make this commitment for years and simply procrastinated, putting it off another day for some hundreds of consecutive days.

I definitely have improvements to make. I found my mind wandering frequently and reigned it in quickly each time. I found myself slowly slouching and picked myself up straight several times. I slightly adjusted position otherwise a couple times due to growing minor discomforts.

I found myself breathing very gently after awhile and I’m not sure if that is precisely the goal with regards to breathing. I also found myself making other observations regarding my own bodily functioning which provoked thought which I then tried to let go of.

It has become clear I need to go back and brush up on the objective and approach to meditation and clear up my perceptions as they have become weak on the subject. I have garnered much testimony on the subject from many sources over the years which may have broken down in my memory - or else may have come from different schools of discipline and thus may be self-conflicting.

I also found myself drifting into thoughtless states which invited waking (half-waking?) dreams - or dreamettes I tend to call them - which tells me I may have been in the process of falling asleep. It so happens I got the best night’s sleep of the year so far, this past night, so if I can’t achieve wakeful meditation after that performance then I don’t much like my chances at succeeding on a “normal” day where I’m somewhat sleep deprived.

Of course this is all a reminder that I must create a new normal where good sleep is the rule, thus I should be devoting all my useful productivity each day, first to my roster of sleep-helpful to-do’s ahead of everything else. As I pleaded to Aqualad just yesterday: No matter what you wish to achieve in this world, the effort begins with a proper night’s sleep.  

On a good note: When I quit the meditation session (or attempt thereof) I expected to find that I had been at it for about five minutes. In fact it had been sixteen minutes. So it must have gone a little better than I thought.

I must elicit advice from Neo on this. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dispatches from the stupidest society ever: Global Citizen

My suspicions that modern North American society is breeding the stupidest humans in history migrated to near certainty quite a long time ago and for many solid reasons.

But still new frontiers in brainlessness continue to blow me away and make be beg louder and louder for Ford Prefect to please come along and whisk me away from this lunatic bin to some other galaxy.

This one has been on my mind for about a year and still leaves me paralysed with disgust.

Global Citizen has been one of the many groups who provide excellent efficient useful avenues for positive change and justice via legitimate petitioning and similar actions.

Then to my stunned disbelief they introduced a points system where every petition or similar action you take earns you credits toward rewards; namely draws for concert tickets so far as I have observed. I no longer read Global Citizen’s emails now, except to check up on them once in a while to see how their insanity levels are holding up.

Someone please please tell me how any petition could possibly hold any weight before an even slightly intelligent audience when it can easily be interpreted that its signers have been bribed to sign it?

I have asked Global Citizen this question through two separate channels and they have declined to reply.

I have also pointed out to them that there are probably one or two cretins among the ruling conservative elite and their scared-into-submission army of sheeplings who, in this brave new terminally-polarized dysfunctional world of fake news, are possibly clever enough to grasp the above implications and start patting each other on the back and gleefully concluding: “Oh look at the Lefty Lib-tards and their scams! All of this online advocacy is complete bullshit; see!”     

I see online advocacy as the only active remaining vestige of anything which validly resembles the illusion we call democracy and I see Global Citizen as being a very dangerous reckless threat to it.

After about a year I am still utterly aghast. And I can find no online discussion about this anywhere.

With a recent check on their web site’s FAQ page, hoping to see some kind of explanation for this nuttery, I see 40 FAQ items: the first 6 entries relating to the actual work GC does, and the remaining 34 entries concerning points and rewards.

I thought that the reward for advocacy was a better world?

Am I missing something? Am I the only one sane around here or am I terribly confused about this somehow?

If it’s me who is the insane one, I would like to know, please. That would be far more comforting to me than the feeling of being the last sane one left on a terminally fucked planet.


Friday, January 12, 2018

The Planets Minerva: Episode 1: The Beach


The burly warrior, Armigus, sits at the bar table waiting for his friend, a tenant of the inn, to join him. The ales have gone to his bladder and so he rises and heads for the back door which leads to the outhouse. He’s aware that folk are glancing his way, eyes drawn to his pronounced mandible and slightly exposed canines. Not all in the city of Renown are entirely accustomed to the presence of orcish half-breeds.

He shoves open the door, feels the cool breeze of late evening and steps over the threshold. His momentum carries him forward even as he loses consciousness.


Gu’ro’Baen has a similar toothy countenance with a slighter, but still sturdy, build. He gallops down the stairs of the inn and as he passes through the doorway to the common room he meets the same blackening fate.


Catherine de Montreard had stepped through a threshold of her own, she is now recalling, and though her mind is fuzzy, as if awakened from a long sleep, plagued by the strangest dreams, she is confident that her locale has significantly changed. The evening sky is still dim but everything else is wrong.

She is without clothing and standing barefoot in warm sand with the sound of lapping waves beside and behind her and before her a cliff face at least a hundred feet high. More immediately before her there is a sword partly buried vertically in the sand and pooled around it is an ample quantity of grey-brown fabric.

She turns to see a wide horizon of sea and sky beyond the threshold from which she no doubt emerged: a scintillating metallic rectangle of little or no substance; perhaps only the glimmer of a portal in the act of vanishing; a tool of some great sorcery no doubt. Through this portal no sign of her origin is visible; only this new sea and sky.
 
To her right another portal glimmers some fifty feet away and before it stands a naked man and before him an apparent welcome package alike her own; sword and cloth. For miles beyond that lies more vacant beach and cliff side, concluding at some far promontory, and beyond that the reddish glow of setting sun.

To her left lies a similar sight; a similar headland in the distance, well beyond another glimmering framework and another man. Further on she spies a fourth station; no living person but just a framework and another arrangement she presumes the same as that in front of her which she now moves swiftly to. She pulls free a hooded robe; only slightly smaller than her ideal, and dons it. There is no belt. She clutches it closed with one hand while examining the sword in her other hand. It is smaller than her own sword and engraved on the hilt are the words Saint Montreal.

The men have likewise equipped themselves and converge on her now and as they approach she recognizes their telltale orcish features. They recognize one another and call each other by name: Armigus and Gu’ro’Baen. They seem as slow and dazed as she feels but attempt an introduction with her which she ignores and instead marches away toward the unattended portal.

She pulls up short though, when a chittering sound alerts her to a presence emerging from the water at her side. The culprit is some unpleasant beast resembling a lobster in some ways and in other ways something insectile or even lizardish. She prepares to defend herself with the sword as the men come swiftly her way. But the creepy insectile chittering noises amplify and suddenly more and more of these creatures begin appearing from out of the sea.

“This way!” cries one of the men. “There appears to be a break in the cliff wall.” And so they flee the chitterers, jogging toward the sun. At the break in the cliff face they find a wide alcove with steps hewn into the rock and earth, arcing upward to the top. They climb these while the sea creatures gather on the sand, clicking and waving their claws. But they do not ascend.


At the top they find themselves on a savannah-like plain. To the west there stands a rocky solitary hill topped by some sort of stronghold and to the north a larger walled community. As they stand taking this in, they grow more unsettled at this unexpected journey and bizarre destination. The air is so much warmer than it should be and It seems like the sky is slowly growing brighter, not darker, and less blue, and more red.


The adventure is inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and this introduction to the campaign comes from the book The Drawing of the Three wherein portals on a beach draw Roland Deschain’s companions from another time and place. The “lobstrosities” come from this same source, modified little. As per D&D convention I assigned these Chitternids all the necessary statistics to conform to the D&D Monster Manual: hit dice, armor class, attack and damage details, alignment, morale etc. As it happened, no battle or further interaction occurred but that doesn’t rule anything out for the future. The players are about nine episodes ahead of us already (by thoroughly arbitrary measurement) and have already encountered beaches several more times.   

Other features from King’s epic series will be borrowed, but the plot is very different.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Planets Minerva: Introduction

So I’m engaged in a very dynamic and thus far successful Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I am the Dungeon Master - or D.M. (campaign referee), being the one with by far the most experience. The four character players are all somewhere in the 19 to 21 age range; all in university and are blessed with keen intensity, curiosity and imagination.

It is my hope that they will all take a turn being D.M. and creating their own stories of a scope that is appropriate to their more limited role-playing experiences. It would be a delight to see them grow in this capacity.

This campaign of mine, meanwhile, is rather epic. And of course it is only mine in terms of the world it takes place in, the background details and the choices that all of the non-player creatures make. The starring characters belong to the players and as such they are co-authors of this story as well.

The characters, like the players who created them (unimpinged by me), are all young. They are:
  • Gu’ro’Baen; a blacksmith and nascent mage/fighter of half-human, half-orcish blood,
  • his friend Armigus; a hugely strong fighter, fresh out of the military and also of half-orcish descent,
  • Catherine de Montreard; a human ranger,
  • and Zontar the priest, in service of Hastseltsi, god of racing.   


I intend to tell their story in this space, likely in more brief, summary form than regular prose, and perhaps also to add optional appendices to demonstrate the geneses and tools behind the results which make up our collaborative story.

The usefulness of this episodic blog pursuit is that it creates a record of shared DM/player perspective for our own use (we each maintain our own records of course). Perhaps it will also be of use to other D&D enthusiasts who may wish to witness the results of a particular brand of D&D: one with an old-school, highly-adaptable approach, loosely based on the original AD&D version, where many of the “rules” are a matter of interpretation by a D.M. who embraces a wide range of tools and possibilities from multiple D&D versions, and who firmly believes that there are no limits other than those of the imagination; and to witness the possibilities in terms of large-scale world-building that is possible when a referee has a lot of time to devote, a lot of experience, a lot of imagination, and a knack for combining original ideas with ideas borrowed from film and literature.

I suppose it may also be interesting to anyone who enjoys telling or reading fantasy stories or who has pondered getting into D&D as a hobby.

Others may learn to skip these episodes!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The man I should be

I don’t wish to carry on at length with regards to the bond between Neo and myself but there is a matter of housecleaning on the subject, which must be briefly addressed out of principle. In the pursuit of honesty I must look back at my comments about broken-heartedness and alienation and try to update those observations as the interpretations of my feelings have clarified.

One: I realized shortly after reporting that “the crux of my broken-heartedness” was in losing (or so it seemed at the time) the one companion who fully “allowed me to be myself,” that that is not generally accurate but rather reflected slanted feelings at that moment. I realized quickly that what was actually hurting the most was of a parental nature: it was the thought of Neo suffering in the future and me being handcuffed from trying to help him. It was those thoughts which actually hurt most.

Two: On the subject of my feeling alien; of people not allowing me to be “myself”: I think what I have realized is that no one is stopping me from being myself more so than I am.

It is not really “myself” that is being inhibited. It is my potential that is being inhibited. What I have called "myself" is more the man I think I should be than the man I really am.

And the far majority of blame for that lack of evolution is in me and not in my associates. I can’t possibly "blame" anyone for holding me back when I myself am holding myself back.

It’s important for me to remember that. And also for me to take action in terms of that re-evolution, rather than waiting around for it to happen.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A message from EPUC


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Twin accomplishments!!

What a banner day! Two brand new feathers in my cap:

One: I got charged the senior rate at the public pool where I went for exercise but even more so because I needed a shower and the shower at the place which I still consider my home is currently out of order due to a nasty leak. The senior rate, people! I guess I must really look like hell these days! Oh well. I saved $1.55.

And Two: I found out that my income over my last three paycheques dictates that by provincial standards I am officially designated homeless! Homeless, people! Not sure what that actually means since I do have a key to a home and a bed present therein, but hey, it sure is fun hitting all these new milestones! Life is an adventure!

P.S.: I am seeking a second employer. Hope to have that fixed up soon.

Oh, and that double exclamation mark in the title? That's a lesson in how not to write except when attempting self-depreciating humour - or in an annual family Christmas letter where you're trying to torture your old pals as much as possible.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Snotty Movie Criticism

Here's the scoop, movie lovers!


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ***
(2016) Eva Green, Asa Butterfield
Surprisingly amusing family fantasy-action flick of the sort I rarely bother with. I didn’t altogether regret it. As a prerequisite though, you must either have kids or really like fantasy.

The Birth of a Nation****
(2016) Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Gripping and disturbing true story of one of the great struggles against blind ubiquitous evil, which, dear Americans, we have not nearly sufficiently learned from.



Truth ****
(2015) Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford
Another superb Blanchett performance and another of the endless looks into the American Empire’s ongoing destruction of life, liberty and happiness for anyone other than the ruling class. This time it’s nervy W5 producer Mary Mapes standing in the bulldozer’s path with mostly predictable results. Valuable viewing for anyone with courage.   

Eastern Promises ***
(2007) Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen
Plotty dramatic flick. Decent if you’re a big Mortensen fan I suppose.

Django Unchained **
(2012) Jamie Foxx
Yet another pot of Quentin Testosterino stew overflowing all over the goddam place. Bring a shovel.



Wiener-Dog ***
(2016)  Greta Gerwig, Keaton Nigel Cooke, Tracy Letts
Quirky and near-loveable look at a gaggle of Everyday Losers and the thin excuses for joy which we embrace. Some good sincere laughs. I recommend it, especially to Neo and The Healer. (Netflix)

The Last Samurai ***
(2003) Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe
Fun but thin exploration of late nineteenth century Japanese political strife, too low in integrity and too high in masturbatory American mojo.



Mustang ****1/2
(2015) Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan
Thank goodness I failed to pass on this bold and gutsy film when the previews looked dangerously chick-flickish (a cowardly accusation I know). Wonderful painful important stuff concerning one of the most morbid of human traditions and the brilliant determination of youth. Must see!

Morgan **
(2016) Kate Mara
Potentially Intriguing tableau immediately dissolves into pointless action flick with hilariously over-telegraphed plot twist. Too violent for your kids and too dumb for you. Possibly good for thirteen year old boys with a naughty penchant for girl fights?

The Light Between Oceans ****
(2016) Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender
Laudable tale of love and honour and if that sounds ho-hum, I don’t mean it to be.  

Regression ***
(2015) Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke
Catchy thriller on the subject of child abuse which fails to achieve the subtlety it aspires to. Quite compelling though and historically significant.



Anthropoid ****
(2016) Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan
Vivid and gutsy; often distressing truth-based Nazi-rebellion story ramps up as it progresses. It’s worth the punch line and just squeezes in to my holocaust movie A-List.

Life**
(2017) Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson
Decent action flick according to one action flick subscriber who I happen to respect. But with such a grand title and the participation of Magnet-For-Gems Jake Gyllenhaal, I had some really high hopes as dashed to smithereens as a certain space station. Here are my suggestions for a more appropriate title:

Alien 5: The Regurgitation
My Dinner With Calvin
With Six You Get No Egg Roll
Calvin and the Ship-Munch
Sardine Wars
Jake Gyllenhaal Picks a Lemon

Okay, I’ll stop now.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Beware of Malware

Now that my newish Dell laptop is maturing into a slightly slower, slightly more problematic machine, the free-trial McAfee software is starting to play hard to get. Thus I receive this type of welcome little pop-up every day or so:


Wow. Two hundred and sixty in the last minute? Congrats McAfee. You've  been hard at work!

Yes, I realize that when you want to know who is responsible for something (such as anti-virus creation), two of the prime criteria are: Who is the authority on the matter? (virus creators). And 2: Who profits from something (such as virus creation)? (Answer: anti-virus companies and their employees).

I know that if I was being paid to fight viruses, I'd be tempted to launch a few out there to ensure my ongoing employment.

Oh dear! Are these the mad ramblings of a conspiracy theorist!

I prefer to call  it cautionary logic. And as a matter of principal I don't do business with suspected extortionists.

Also I've become too old for porn. So really, what do I have to be worried about! I've tried to stick to mainstream web sites for years and not come down with any viruses of any consequence.

Well, except possibly for once, years ago, when I used to receive a bounty of lost-and-unreturnable  jump drives which I thought I was using carefully. But one day I received one which contained among many other things, some pictures of young people which were probably not illegal but fairly certainly betrayed a previous owner's unfortunate sexual proclivity. I deleted them but later, strangely, some of them turned up on my computer along with other bland documents not of my creation. All of this I deleted only to later find some of them, along with my own files, sitting around on a different jump drive. I don't know if this was an actual virus  or just some kind of file reconciliation process gone rogue, but after more file deleting and garbage-tossing of suspected jump drives, I've gone years without this meddlesome (and potentially reputation-damaging) phenomena turning up.

Cutting to the chase: DO NOT TRUST UNKNOWN JUMP DRIVES! I actually buy my own now. Like a big boy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cage match: Question mark vs. Exclamation mark.

In high school English class I was taught that where a question mark and exclamation mark both apply to the same utterance, that you go with the exclamation mark and pass on the question mark. I do not recall any explanation for this from Mister Eversoboring or whatever the teacher's name was, but like a good boy I have always obeyed.


A lot of people were not taught this, or more likely, don't remember such an obscure tidbit of advice. Some people throw in both as a cute couple?! Which is far too cutesy and certainly not to any convention and will just scare the reader away from trusting the author. Some others default to the question mark instead because their sheep psyche regards the question mark as a RULE and the explanation mark as an option. This is not useful in terms of helping a reader comprehend your text better.

I don't need to research the landscape of official conventions out there to feel confident in the solution:

A well-worded question is sufficiently evident as being a question. Blind rule adherence does not make it more obvious. The implied tone of voice though, offers much in clarifying more subtle  connotations. Thus the question mark demonstrates an inquisitive voice, and an explanation mark demonstrates a loud or commanding voice. This is all useful; the usage of these marks to connote voice. There can be little chance for overlap here.

However, in certain rare instances where the shouting of questions gets tricky in the realm of dialogue in prose, you always have two options where attribution can save the day:

Example one: "Where the hell did the Mayo go?" he shouted.

And two: "Where the hell did the mayo go!" he begged.

You might notice that the above example does not necessarily require
either punctuation. Frankly I find it hard to imagine a well-worded example which does.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bullet-riddled EPUC


Sunday, December 17, 2017

The gift of meat

Spent a good hunk of my morning throwing this birthday gift together. I really hope my vegetarian and vegan pals are not currently readers of this blog.