Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Year I Forgot Easter

I completely forgot about Easter this year. It's a weird feeling. Three and I went to Wal-mart to pick up trash bags, and I noticed all this pastel-colored candy and decoration and asked, "Wait, didn't Easter already happen? Are the Cadbury eggs on sale??" Luckily, I remembered before being called by my mom Easter morning, wondering where we were.

I'm not going to lie. It was kind of embarrassing. Plus, people heard me and gave me all sorts of side-eye. Mind you, I live in a more rural part of the South, where a lot of life is dictated by religious (cough Christian) holidays, with a few others added in for spice aka fireworks. There are actually days that I yearn to live in an area where multiple faiths and cultures are openly and proudly embraced, so I don't just see a small section in stores dedicated - begrudgingly, I might add - to other religions*. But I don't, so yay for me.

What bothers me the most is that I'm not bothered by it, if that makes any sense. I guess it stems from the same place that told me, nope, going to church is actually hurting your relationship with God, so anything that I connect with the legalistic aspect of Christianity is not really something I espouse. I mean, I'm still a Christian, albeit a very liberal one that also incorporates other aspects of other faiths, such as Buddhism, but I really dislike the way the church is headed. And Easter is such a hodgepodge of pagan symbolism (bunnies = fertility), church dogma (there were so many eggs available at Easter because Catholics couldn't eat eggs during Lent and they had to do something with them), and pageantry (passion plays) that I'm just, ugh, over it. And it's not like I need a day to specifically celebrate Jesus' crucifixion, which sounds kind of macabre actually, if you take it out of context. I guess you could say that about Christmas** and celebrating Jesus' birth, too, but that's a whole 'nother fish to fry.

I'm in this strange place these days when it comes to religion, Christianity specifically, although I think a lot of people, both inside and out of it, are in the same boat. I'm tired of having to argue with people who disagree with my interpretation of the Bible, which I do not believe is the word of God, anyway***. I'm tired of hearing about the attack on Christians whenever someone wants to remove religious views from government policy or whenever someone who does not practice Christianity is given a voice to express his/her opinion. Most of all, I just want to do what I'm supposed to do: love people and love God, and I'm tired of people telling me how I'm supposed to do that.

So I suppose it makes sense that my brain shut out anything related to Easter, at least the current version of it. It also helps that I've kind of been a shut-in the past few months, where most of my contact with others has been through the internet or phone. Maybe being a hermit is the path to spiritual enlightenment. Who knows?

(In addition, Mom, since I know you're reading this, I expect my Easter basket again this year. As long as I am childless, I will reap the benefits of a grandchild.)

* And it's not like those are well-stocked or diverse, either, mainly focusing - again, begrudgingly - on Judaism. The craptastic menorahs they had on display was actually more offensive than if they didn't have any at all. I mean, come on, Target.
** It does amuse me that both Easter and Christmas - centered on Jesus - are so close to, if not directly on, pagan celebrations (Vernal Equinox and Samhain, respectively). It's like the church wasn't even trying to be subtle about appropriating pagan holidays. Way to go, guys.
*** And that always opens up fun doors full of spikes and angry zombie dogs, waiting to attack me.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Opinions on the internet are like assholes.

The internet is an amusing place. I lived through its advent and have witnessed it grow from being an awkward infant, completely unsure as to how to behave in its environment, to its current state as an ornery toddler. I don't even think we're even close to the teenager stage of this technology, sadly, so it's going to get worse and more defiant before it matures into generally an okay thing with some bad habits, like any healthy adult. Or maybe it turns into a sinister serial killer. Who knows?

Most of all, it's populated with people, and we all know that some people can be assholes. The whole anonymity thing kind of allows for this type of behavior, which is why I am kind of okay with people having to register and at least put a face to their assholery, although this is not a newsflash. I mean, why else do people write slur-laden graffiti on bathroom stalls? Because they can, and, unless they get caught by some over-zealous bathroom guard, they're not going to be punished. For some people, there's a thrill to be gotten out of pissing someone else off, which I can kind of understand; I mean, it filled me with joy every time I got my old supervisor angry by telling him to get out of my cubicle so I could get some work done*. But to just be offensive for the fuck of it? I dunno. Plus, people freak out over the absolute weirdest shit, online or otherwise.

One of my favorite things is when people react to other people not liking what they themselves like, as if I'm making a decision to offend you by not getting enjoyment out of a thing. Like, I don't like musicals**. Does that mean I don't think anyone should enjoy musicals? Of course not. I mean, my sister went to school for it, so I'd kind of be dooming her to failure if I tried to make people hate them. But dammit if people haven't tried to convince me that, if I just go out and watch more musicals, I will suddenly like them. Nay, I'd start to LOVE them. Isn't that kind of the argument people use against others who don't want to have kids? Um, no. I do not wish to subject myself to more of what I do not like. Thanks, though?

Sometimes, though, it can get downright nasty. An article of mine was published, in which I discussed my dislike of Jane Austen, and yes, before you say anything, I compared her to Stephenie Meyer. I don't take it back, either. In the comments, I further explained that it was more of a thematic comparison than anything else, since Jane Austen wrote quite well. It's not my taste of writing - not much from that era is - but it's well-crafted. (My issue with her has multiple layers, and you can go read it if you'd like, since I don't really want to rehash what I already said.) I was told, as predicted, that I should just read her again, "more carefully" this time, which no. I took a course on her in college, in hopes that I'd develop a taste for her so I could talk with my roommate about her work, and that was enough for me.

Another person who read the article told me that she was actually criticizing her culture, which I can see more in her later books, particularly Persuasion, but that actually got me thinking about Seth MacFarlane. Okay, stay with me here. This does make sense. When he hosted the Oscars, many feminist websites were railing against him because of how incredibly sexist a lot of his jokes were, and his supporters were like, "No, it's satire! You're just too dumb to recognize it." My argument was pretty much, uh, if the majority of people - even smart ones - don't get that you're doing satire, you're not very good at it. Jonathan Swift? Obviously satire. Stephen Colbert? Undoubtedly satire***. Seth MacFarlane? Not so much.

What baffled me the most, though, was how many commenters (not on the website itself, but also on Facebook and other sites where it was reposted) were just incensed that I spoke negatively about Jane Austen. I'm like, "Dude, I'm not trashing you personally. If you like her, awesome. If you view what she wrote differently from me, awesome." That's the beauty of art; it can be interpreted in many ways, depending on your lens. But I might as well have run over a box of newborn kittens twice. In a gas-guzzling SUV, nonetheless.

But I am not the worst case, either. The reactions I got were actually quite tame in comparison. Somehow, while I was browsing Google+, I came across this thread that initially started out expressing concern over the Monsanto rider in the bill that Obama just signed (I could do the research and find out the name, but I don't want to). I was hoping to find out more information about the bill, including a link to where I could read it for myself, and found myself staring at this really strange train-wreck sort of thing. People on both sides of the issue started out outraged at either the actual signing of the bill or the fact that the others were outraged. Some tried to present facts, while others posted links to dubious sites that were obviously some type of propaganda. And then the beast known as Name-Caller reared its ugly head, which eventually invited its cousin, Troll-Labeler, and brother-in-law, Crazy-Ranter, to join in the fun. I eventually had to quit reading because of an uncontrollable desire to find all of these people and slap them right on their faces. And it didn't inform me at all about with what they were up in arms****.

I mean, I'm not sure how to combat this or if it should even be attempted. I mean, I don't watch reality television, so I have to get my "watching people I don't know or care about do stupid things" entertainment somehow. There will always be disagreements, and some will be able to handle it in a mature, level-headed manner. Others? They'll threaten to stab you with a spoon because it will hurt more and they're not just trying to be funny with their pop culture references. It makes me hesitate to post anything because I don't really want to deal with people yelling at me. People yelling at me makes me stabby. I can handle criticism or disagreements as long as they are civil and respectful, but the second someone starts being an ass? Oh, I'm done. As a matter of fact, I have sworn off the internet at least 987354761 times, give or take a few (I'm looking at you, Tumblr). But I guess I should just get used to it, kind of like how I'm used to stupid drivers being everywhere, talking on their phones and being generally obnoxiously unaware that, oh, yes, there are other people on the road.


* In my defense, he always came over to my cubicle to talk about one of the following topics: 1) his daughter's bisexuality which I'm sure she'd be thrilled to know was discussed; 2) Vanderbilt sports, about which I do not care; 3) my dating life, prior to getting married to Three, and afterward our married life because everyone knows that's exciting; 4) the fact that he was a coach for a youth league of some sort; or 5) OMG my son needs special food that is expensive and you have weird food allergies what do you think? I actually just got annoyed just thinking of these. Ugh.
** I enjoy "The Lion King" because the stage technologies they use throughout that play are amazing and "Wicked" because it's fucking "Wicked." But, yeah, that's about it.
*** I have heard stories of people who think he's a For-Real Conservative, which does make me wonder.
**** I did find the bill online, and seriously, I fucking hate legalese. I'm no dim bulb, but shit if it's not hard to interpret what in the hell they actually are saying. I'm not asking them to write at a first grade level, but come on, there are simpler and clearer ways of doing this.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Know If You Have an Addiction

I woke up this morning in kind of a panic, but I really couldn't pinpoint where the anxiety came from. I've had panic attacks before (I can count the instances on one hand), but they were all caused by underlying stress that I'd been pushing onto the back burner. So I sat down, grabbed a Dr. Thunder, and tried thinking about what stresses could be causing this minor panic attack.

To my horror, I felt the most overwhelming wave of relief come over me when I took my first swig of Dr. Thunder. For those of you not in the know, Dr. Thunder is Wal-mart's ripoff of Dr. Pepper, and - I hate to actually admit this - but I prefer it over the "real" thing*. I eyed the can suspiciously and then quickly ran over to our recycling bin. Good GOD, over half of the recycling was used soda cans. And those cans were only one or two days old.

"I may have a problem," I told Three when he came downstairs to see why I was making gasping noises.

"I didn't want to say anything," he said, almost with a hint of guilt.

Now, Three does most of the grocery shopping, not because I don't want to do it but because, well, he likes doing it. And because he usually has the car due to him having an out-of-home job.** So he's the one who was buying me all these cartons of Dr. Thunder. Once, he even brought home a 24-pack, and I remember thinking to myself, "OMG IT'S THE HOLY FUCKING GRAIL." That really should have been a heads-up, but oh, well. Oblivious might as well be my middle name.

There's a reason I don't gamble or do drugs, and it doesn't have anything to do with morality, although I'd like to say that it does. This current (and recent) affliction just proves my point: I have an addictive personality. My aversion to most vices is more akin to self-preservation than anything else. Take poker. I love poker. And I'm actually pretty good at it. But I won't go into casinos. I've seen what people like me do: go into several bankruptcies and eventually get killed by loan sharks. I've been through one bankruptcy, thank you very much, and have no desire to do so again. I have no idea about loan sharks, though, unless you count, like, my exposure to movies and TV. I also don't buy lottery tickets. A friend of mine, who has a similar problem with addictions, spent over $300 in one day on lottery tickets, and when he tried to get me to buy one, I had to run out of the room. I wanted to buy one. I really did. Just to test my luck! But I did not have the money or the will not to spend what little money I had. So running was really my only option.

This translates into my life other ways, too. When I was in college, I was what you may call a professional smoker. I didn't even care that my clothes all smelled like an ashtray or that I constantly had the sniffles. Nicotine is awesome. Honestly, if cigarettes didn't lead to cancer and death and shit, I'd probably still be smoking. I occasionally slide back into the habit - usually when I'm severely stressed - but for the most part, I just crave them when I see somebody smoking, be it on the TV or walking down the sidewalk. It's a monumentous task when I have quit in the past, enough to where Three has specifically asked me to never smoke again so he won't have to deal with my mood swings when I decide to quit. And he never asks me to do anything, really.

It hasn't gotten to the point of erratic behavior with the Dr. Thunder, but if I go without one for a day, I get a splitting headache, damn near a migraine. It's horrible. At first, I thought it was dust or mold or something allergy related, but when I tested my theory, a day after realizing that I had indeed downed nearly an entire 12-pack of Dr. Thunder in less than eight hours, my fear was realized. It's like when I figured out that I was allergic to latex, gluten, and lactose; I just kind of crumbled.

So I'm in this conundrum now. I don't really want to quit drinking Dr. Thunder or any of its alternatives, but it is pretty much all empty calories. And caffeine is just a stimulant. I lived most of my life without it, so I'm sure I can do that again? But then I teeter back to "but I don't want to." Ugh, caffeine addiction can't be any harder to kick than nicotine, right? RIGHT?? I honestly don't know. I'd go look it up on WebMD but I don't want to worry that I have H1N1 after reading a few pages.

Sigh. It's like Sophie's choice all over again.

* This kind of creeps me out for some reason, but Dr. Pepper has a sort of floral taste to it now that I never noticed before.
** Also I'm not allowed to go alone because I'll come back with a bunch of food that we didn't need plus all sorts of teas.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bravo, Bioware. BRAVO.

Okay, so I don't usually do reviews because ... honestly, I don't know why? Maybe I just don't really feel like something is worth mentioning unless it makes an impact, either positive or negative. Plus, there are endless amounts of sites that provide professional reviews, so I figure that's an area that stays pretty covered.

But I just cannot resist. The Mass Effect 3 DLC Citadel is quite possibly the best video game expansion I have ever played. I'm going to go back and replay it I don't even know how many times - probably enough to where I hear all the unique dialogue from all the characters and then some. Hell, I may even play it with my ManShep. From what I can tell, it has no effect on the ending*, but it was damned fun to see all of the characters back in action. Particularly Wrex. Oh, how I missed Wrex.

It's been called a "love letter to fans," and yeah, it totally is. I know I always wondered what Shepard and Crew did when they weren't fighting Reapers or Collectors or whatever, and I got an answer. Garrus takes tango lessons; Zaeed is addicted to arcade games; Grunt performs teenager-esque stunts and then gets hungry for noodles; Tali watches over-the-top melodramatic romances. I mean, God. Every part of this DLC was perfect, from the beginning sushi date with Joker through the main plot all the way to the Blowout Party, where of course everyone makes fun of Shepard's dancing. I even enjoyed characters that I kinda hated, like Miranda. How FemShep and she interact at the casino actually makes me think they're friends, not just coworkers, and Miranda doesn't have this I Am Superior attitude throughout the entire thing. Even Javik, who I thought was kind of an asshole - well, he still is an asshole, but I like him more - Bioware really knows their characters, and they know what fans love about those characters. If I didn't know any better, it's like they were sitting in on conversations between me, Three, and our friend, A, as we discussed the Mass Effect series, even down to the Big Bad of the DLC.

They also understand that a lot of people that love the series feel deeply connected to these characters. I cried when Thane died earlier in the ME3 game (seriously, the game is a year old; it's not a spoiler), and I didn't even have my FemShep romance him**. When I got to Grunt's scene with Shepard, I loved the maternal aspect of her relationship with him; he's her freaking baby, even if he is a full-grown, basically teenage krogan. The date scene with Garrus (because this Shepard had a turian fetish, in my head canon) had me smiling the whole time, even more so when he was awkwardly trying to have a fake blind date with Shepard with a female turian watching on. And Wrex complaining about all the sex he was being forced to have because of the genophage cure was the icing on this incredible DLC cake. I could literally talk, point by point, about the whole damned DLC and geek out the whole fucking time, which I think is what Bioware was going for. This really was an appropriate ending to Shep's story, showing how she was awesome on her own, sure, but her friends and comrades are what makes her great.

A lot of video games, I think, should look to Mass Effect and take notes. I mean, it wasn't perfect. Each of the games had their own bugs, and the story, while expansive and highly detailed and nearly hard sci-fi in its descriptions of space travel and math, wasn't completely perfect, even in the new DLC (I won't give any spoilers here, because my main issue with the storyline here is a pretty big plot point). But that wasn't ever really the point. Bioware created this little society, led by Shep, that people just got. They fell in love with these characters and their relationships and their side stories. Why else did I play the million hours (I exaggerate) of loyalty missions in ME2? It wasn't for the higher war asset score in ME3, although that was a nice perk***.

All in all, I say, bravo, Bioware. BRA-FUCKING-VO. While I may wish to have seen Shep get reunited with Garrus and then adopt Grunt, I'll be content with having that happen in my head. Instead, they chose to give me a much better gift: a chance to virtually party like there's no tomorrow with some people I wish were actually real. And so I could call Wrex "Uncle Urdnot." Now, I have to convince myself that getting sleep is preferable to playing more ME3. Sigh.

* I understand why a lot of people were upset with the ending. I thought it was bland, actually, and was kind of hoping for an epic showdown with Harbinger, but whatever. I was more disappointed with the lack of closure and leaps of logic (how in the hell did the Normandy go from being in a battle to being propelled by a mass relay?). I am also firmly in Camp The Ending Was Shepard's Internal Battle with Indoctrination.
** At least, not this playthrough. I did have another character hook up with him, though, and yeah, even though Thane's reptilian-based? He's still ridiculously hot. I don't even know what I'm saying.
*** I'm also the person that just cannot let bad shit happen to these characters. I don't want to see them die because I didn't do a loyalty mission. And I cannot bring myself to get a lower score in ME3 just to see the Earth and everything get destroyed. I have a hard enough time watching the videos on Youtube.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I didn't really realize how much I loved the internet until I didn't have it for a week. I kind of forgot that it existed, mainly because I've been sick like a dog and barely able to walk around without getting exhausted, except when I was like, "Oh, I wonder what kind of shoes Sonny Crockett wears in this episode. They look comfy." Then it was almost as if all of the schooling I've had didn't matter because I didn't have access to the Knower of All Things Knowable.

Then I remembered that I had an iPhone, but seriously, it's a pain in the ass to type anything out on that little virtual keyboard. I did eventually end up on a Miami Vice wiki-spiral, though, that lasted well into the night.

When I got onto my computer this afternoon and saw the little bars at the bottom of my screen, I felt this sweeping sense of relief flow over me. I now had my connection back into the world. It was actually a little sad to think that I'd not realized the hold this modern thing had on me. It's how I get my news, keep in touch with my family and friends, write ... I mean, it permeates nearly every aspect of my life. And that's actually not so much sad as it is terrifying.

I, for one, welcome our digital overlords, just as long as I can stream old 80s TV shows whenever I want. Now, I have to tear myself away from my wonderful internet and actually continue unpacking. Did anyone ever tell you that moving sucks?
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