Friday, August 18, 2017

What I've Learned from Politics

I've learned that I'm tired of politics. Seriously, I'm not really a political person anyway. Yeah, I see you laughing there, but you should go check this post to understand what I'm talking about.

I've learned that I really liked it when I didn't have to pay attention to the political realm EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. I think this must be what it's like to live with an abusive alcoholic. You have to always be on guard, always on watch, always paying attention. God, it's tiring. If nothing else, Obama gave us a kind of stability that allowed us to pursue our own lives but, now, every day there is something new and every week, seemingly, some new catastrophe. Because if there's one thing you can count on is that Trump #fakepresident will get drunk every weekend and go on some kind of twitter-rage so that each week begins with some kind of horrible drama.

I've learned that one man can make a difference, but it's not a good one. Political stress is everywhere, not just here but all across the world, and a great deal of it is being caused by ONE FUCKING ASSHOLE with the power to wage nuclear war #fakepresident, and I don't mean the chubby baby in North Korea. The whole world is on edge because of the toddler the US put in the highest office in the world.

I've learned that some people I thought once were pretty decent people have been vile undercover racists and worse all along. I've learned that people who, at this point, are still supporting Trump #fakepresident have no redemption in store for them. If you support a racist, fascist, Nazi-lover; you are a racist, fascist, Nazi-lover. Sorry, you don't get to be a Trump #fakepresident supporter and also try to claim that you're not racist. Not anymore. Not ever, really, but certainly not after Charlottesville and Trump's #fakepresident refusal to condemn the Nazi-instigated violence.

I mean, fuck, even some of the worst Republicans out there, real assholes themselves (Rubio, Hatch), immediately condemned the acts of the Nazis. How hard is it to condemn Nazis? Too hard for Trump #fakepresident and Sessions. So, yeah, Sessions called it domestic terrorism, but it was obvious that he was forced into that position with his whole, "it meets the legal definition" bullshit.

I've learned that the GOP are even bigger assholes than I thought. And complete cowards.

I've learned that talking politics is good for blog traffic, which isn't something I considered when I started doing political posts.

I've also learned that the increased traffic does not lead to more comments or book sales. Which, admittedly, was not a motivation for making the political posts (again, see the link provided above), but it would have been nice. Would be nice.

I've learned to not respond to people who say things like "prove it." It doesn't matter what data or evidence you show them, they will continually tell you that that data and evidence are fake, something they've learned from their Russian-Nazi master #fakepresident.

I've learned that Texas is the hand basket. Except for Austin. Texas has politicians as bad as #fakepresident. It makes me ashamed to have been there and so glad to be away from there.

I've learned that Nazis don't give up. David Duke is still around and pushing his racist KKK agenda decades after trying to be governor of Louisiana. Louisiana is probably the handle of the hand basket.

I've learned that books like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 never quit being relevant.

I've learned that intolerance is a thing that can't be tolerated. At all. If it could be tolerated at all, we wouldn't have Nazis inciting violence again and heading us toward a New Civil War. Also, you can see this post where I first talked about that.

I've learned that it's never too late to punch a Nazi in the face.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Disappeared: Part 1" (Ep. 6.8)

-- Without darkness, there cannot be light.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

Today's episode: Jar Jar Jones and the Temple of Doom!

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this episode. On the one hand, we find out that Jar Jar has a love interest...
Yeah, I'm going to stop right there.
There is humor in it, though, in that Jar Jar goes off with Queen Julia for the night and Mace Windu spends the time freaking out about where Jar Jar has gone and what he could possibly be doing. That the queen is Jar Jar's girlfriend never enters Windu's mind. Inconceivable!


The dagoyan people don't like the Jedi despite their affinity for the Light Side of the Force. They hold the belief that the Jedi are kidnappers because of their practice of taking Force sensitive children to train at the Jedi Temple. And, well, we don't know that the Jedi are not really kidnappers of a sort. All we know is that they take young children to the Temple to be trained as Jedi and that that is common practice in the Republic. We don't know anything at all about how this is carried out or whether it's with consent or how often it might not be with consent or anything. And all of this is something that's mentioned, basically, in passing, but it's the most interesting question the episode brings up.

Well, that and why anyone, even Jar Jar's girlfriend, would trust Jar Jar to solve a mystery. You'd think that someone that close to Binks, in fact, would be the last one to trust Jar Jar to handle an important task completely alone.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why You Worship a False god (Part Two)

[You should go back and read part one of this, because I'm not going to provide any kind of recap or summary, and this probably won't make sense without the previous post.]

I left you all last time with "Christianity is the worst," and I meant it. Why? For one simple reason:
"Christianity" provides a solution to the linear god problem then turns its back on it and walks away.

Imagine three cages with people all locked up inside each one, one for Jews, one for Muslims, one for Christians. No one can get out. Except there are people inside the Christian cage with keys to the door, but they like being in the cage and like having all the other people locked in with them, so they don't bother to tell anyone. They could, but they don't want to. That's pretty despicable. At least there isn't anyone in the other cages concealing keys.

Look, it's even true of Paul. The asshole. To paraphrase:
When Paul was approached with the idea that sin didn't matter anymore because all sin was forgiven under Christ, Paul said, "Sure, you're right. Don't sin anyway." Basically, get back in your cage and sit down and shut up. Because Paul was a legalistic douche bag, kind of by his own admittance. He was a Pharisee among Pharisees.

And this is where we get to the point:
The whole point of the idea of Jesus is that he was a final sacrifice for all sin. All sin. Everyone's sin for all of time. Yes, you have to accept it, but, if you do, all of your sin has been atoned for. All the sins you've already done and all of the sins you'll do in the future, because it's only past and future for you. God sees you as a whole human being throughout the entire timeline of your life, so the one act of accepting the forgiveness offered through the sacrifice of Christ cleanses you of all of the sin. Therefore, it doesn't actually matter what you do; all sin is forgiven.

Now, this is the point where you really need to pay attention to get to the same place that I'm going.

Only a God outside of Time can do this. Only a God who can see your whole life at once and take away all the sin at once. That's what makes God, God.

If your god demands constant repentance and/or sacrifices to be on good terms with "him," then your god is no god at all. A god who is locked into judging you based upon your latest prayer, act of contrition, or sacrifice is a fraud. If your god is a fraud, then there is no sin, and it doesn't matter what you do. If your god is a fraud and you insist on dogmatically following some esoteric list of rules, you are also a fraud, propped up only by your legalism.

If your God is outside of Time and able to look at a person as a holistic being and has given you a way to purge your sin once and for all, then there is also no sin, and it doesn't matter what you do. Because let me be clear, no little prayer of "asking Jesus into your heart" is going to fool that kind of God into forgiving you. Whatever that means. Either that kind of God is up there judging people and it doesn't matter if you've "prayed the prayer" or not, because "He" knows more about what's going on in you than you do; or that kind of God is not judging people at all because, seriously, why would God even need to do that? Either way, it doesn't matter what you do. Neither can you "be good enough" to get into Heaven, nor can you be bad enough to get kicked out.

Which leaves us all in a very uneasy space, I know. A place of real moral ambiguity.
I mean, I've just stated that it doesn't matter what you do! How will we know if people are good or if people are bad or whether they're going to get into heaven or go straight to hell or whether we should look up to them because of how "righteous" they are or look down at them and spit because they're dirty, rotten sinners?

But here's the thing, man clearly has a moral compass of sorts. Humans have a pretty standard idea of what's right and wrong across cultures. It doesn't matter whether you believe if that's something divine or if it's some kind of genetic inheritance because we're a social species, there is a clear call to uphold the social good. Maybe the idea is to be good for goodness' sake, not out of fear of some kind of punishment. Maybe the idea is to do the Right thing because it's the right thing.
And God doesn't matter in that decision.

Here are the things I can tell you for sure:
1. Any God is so far above man that we are incapable of any kind of understanding about who or what God is. Anyone who tells you differently, anyone who tries to tell you what God is about and what God approves of and what "he" doesn't, is a liar and a fraud. Any person claiming to know God's mind worships a false god. Anyone who ever utters the phrase, "You need to get right with god," worships a god trapped in a linear timeline, and that god is not a god at all.
2. The current "christian" establishment in the United States (possibly the entire "christian" establishment across the world) clearly worships a linear god; therefore, the current "christian" establishment worships no god at all.
3. Anyone supporting "christianity" and Trump are clearly not even "christians," let alone a Christian. There is nothing in "christianity" which supports the support of a person like that. He is the antithesis of what it is to be a Christian, so anyone supporting him is clearly paying lip service to a religion they know nothing about. Clearly those people are worshiping a god they have made up in their own minds, not a God who lives outside of Time. The fact that they can't see the glaring divide between the character of Jesus in the Bible and the caricature that is Trump highlights their ingrained hypocrisy.

What I'm saying here is that most of you out there, if you believe in "God," have no idea what you believe. You've been told what to believe by other people and your idea of God is flawed. If your idea of God is flawed, you can't believe in God, only god. You have no idea what the Bible is about or what it says because you've never bothered to read it. And reading the Bible should only be the beginning of your learning about what you believe. That is, if you believe it. Because, really, most of you don't believe in anything; you just think you do.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Aurora Daedalus (the continuing saga)

"It sounds spacey and stuff, I guess."

My son made a song. His words. That's what he said when he announced, unexpectedly, that he'd been... you know, I don't know the correct word to use here, because "making" probably is more correct than "writing" in this context, though I don't really know. Anyway, he announced, "Hey, I made a song. Do you want to hear it?"

The word "yes" got shoved around in my throat as I tried to figure out what he was talking about. What came out was more along the lines of, "Wait, what? You made a song?"
"Yeah, you want to hear it?"
That's when the "yes" made it out.

And I was impressed. You should take a listen:
Aurora Daedalus
I mean, I was impressed in that I really like it. Sometimes kids bring you things that you're impressed with because it was your kid that did it, but I think this is a great piece of music.
And he's written some more since then! Aurora is still my favorite, but they're all good.

And we didn't even know he was working on this stuff!

So, anyway, go check out my son's music.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Crisis at the Heart" (Ep. 6.7)

-- Deceit is the weapon of greed.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

When you make a deal with the devil... Well, you know how that goes.
Maybe we should change that from "devil" to "Sith." Or "Trump." Seriously. Ask the GOP how that's going.

I don't really know what I want to say about this episode. The closing chant of "Long live the banks!" is disturbing on many levels, but it's not substantial enough to talk about.

Overall, this arc is about Palpatine continuing to cement his power for his ever approaching takeover as Emperor. It's difficult for me to watch these things, sometimes, because I want to say, "Are you all blind? Can't you see what's going on?" Which makes me want to say, "People would never be that stupid," but, then, we have Trumtatine as president, so, obviously, that's not true. People are that stupid, and Palpatine plays them like a drum.

Even the Jedi go along. Which reminds me of the electoral college, because the electoral college was put in place specifically to keep someone like Trump from ever getting into office, and, yet, here we are. And the Jedi, who should have been the people to stand up and say "No! This is wrong," fail to do that at every turn. And it makes sense at each little step for them to go along because there was nothing at each little step to prompt them to protest.

Which is exactly what the GOP have done to us over the past few decades, slowly eroding our democracy to a point where Trump is in office and they can't figure out how to stand up to him because they're not willing to risk their own power.

And then there's Anakin and his insane jealousy, but that story is completely undermined by the fact that he's right about Clovis, so, in the end, he's not held accountable for his horrible actions. Not by the Jedi and not by Padme.
But that, also, is how things are.

It's not a very enjoyable arc, but it's probably a very good one.

"Your actions have brought war right where there cannot be war."

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Worship a False god (Part One)

Let me just say upfront that I'm probably going to lose a lot of you with this "discussion," and not because of the offensive material but because of the metaphysical material. My experience is that people don't tend to be able to keep up. For example, my first college roommate was a Calvinist (you can look it up), but he was a Calvinist because he didn't understand the doctrine of predestination or what they mean by it. In his mind, since "god" knows everything, "god" also causes everything to happen. There is no free will. Foreknowledge equated control. Basically, "god" was upstairs with puppet strings attached to everything, and no one had any choices about anything.

How boring.

The problem was that he really just couldn't see the difference between foreknowledge and complete predestination (of everything) no matter how many times or how many ways people (not just me) tried to explain it to him. Some of the people who tried to explain it to him also didn't understand the differences in the concepts; they just knew that they had been told that Calvinism was wrong.

I only bring this up because it relates. We're going to talk about God and Time and why your god isn't actually God. And, sure, that part might be offensive, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to lose most of you way before we get far enough along for you to be offended. Unless, of course, you're already offended.

So let's start with something pretty basic:
For god to be God, He has to be outside of time, the maker of Time. That's pretty standard thought nowadays, in theory, at least among "christian" theologians, so I'm probably not losing anyone yet, theoretically. Until we get to the part where we're dealing with what it means to be outside of Time, but I'm not got to get into that, because that's kind of like asking a fish what it's like to be outside of water. And the fact that most of you probably don't get the part where Time is not some linear stream that has always existed.

Maybe you're wondering why that even matters, but it matters in that, for god to be God, He has to be omniscient, and He can't be omniscient from within Time. To know everything, you have to be outside of everything, including Time.

And it matters because of sin.

Before I go on, let me state quite clearly that I am NOT just talking about Christianity here. I'm also talking about Judaism and Islam. It's all the same god, and all three religions suffer from the same issue: sin.

Here's where we start getting tricky...

Men are linear creatures, time-wise; therefore, our views of people tend to be pretty tied into whatever they did last. The quality of a person is based on his/her most recent actions. That's the linear view.

And that's the view religious people, of whatever religion, tend to take, too, hence all of the sin, repent, repeat nonsense. Because you can't go to heaven if you have sin, and you're only as good as your last repentance.

Christianity, theoretically, deals with this issue. Jesus was intended to be the one and only sacrifice that would wipe sin from your life both backwards and forwards. Hebrews 10:10 -- "...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." The idea for the need for constant repentance (sacrificing) has been dealt with by the one sacrifice of Jesus, so sacrifices are no longer needed. Provided, of course, that you accept the One sacrifice of Christ as your own. This is what the writer of Hebrews is saying. [Note: The writer of the book of Hebrews is unknown, but it was almost certainly NOT Paul. The asshole.]

Of course, the writer of Hebrews couldn't reconcile this idea with himself and, a few verses later, says that, basically, since you've been forgiven of your sins -- all of them past, present, and future -- don't ever sin again. I mean, if you're accepting the grace of God but, then, go out and sin again anyway, you deserve to go to straight to hell. STRAIGHT TO HELL, I tell you! Because he couldn't take himself out of a linear mindset despite the words of Jesus himself claiming to be the one and only sacrifice ever needed.

This is where we run into some problems, because neither Judaism not Islam have any mechanism for dealing with sin in a non-linear fashion. Their god is completely Time-linear and can only deal with men based upon their most recent actions. This causes two problems:
1. You have a man who has lived a horrible, despicable life full of sin and mayhem. The worst possible person you can think of. But, shortly before his death, he "sees the light," repents, offers the appropriate sacrifices, then dies and goes to heaven. [And some of you are saying, "But that's the great power of "god" and his offer of forgiveness to man!]
2. You have a man who has lived a pretty great life of being good and just to other men as much as possible. A true saint among men whom everyone looks up to. But he "stumbles" and commits some sin or other and, before he can repent or make the appropriate sacrifice or whatever, dies suddenly. Because he dies with sin, he is denied heaven. AND GOD CAN'T DO A DAMN THING ABOUT IT! Just, oops! That's too bad, but you have sin and can't come in.

Let me tell you, that's the kind of god I want to follow. One who is bound up in his own arbitrary rules and inability to see beyond the same linear timeline as man.

You "Christians" can stop patting yourselves on the back, because, in a lot of ways, you're even worse. Probably in the most important ways, you're worse.
But we'll talk about that next time.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rigoletto (an opera review post)

You want to talk tragedy? Let's talk tragedy.

My wife and I wrapped up our 2016-17 opera season with Rigoletto, a Giuseppe Verdi opera based on a play by Victor Hugo. Neither play nor opera were received well by "those in charge," so to speak. Hugo's play, Le Roi s'amuse, was banned after one performance and not performed again for 50 years. Rigoletto also fell prey to the censors, but Verdi worked closely with the censors to make changes to the opera, like removing the action of the plot to Mantua instead of France, so that it could be performed. Let's just say that the nobility didn't appreciate either work.

At this point, I'm really tempted to give you a rundown of the plot, but you can get that elsewhere, or read Hugo's play, which the opera is very faithful to (despite the changes Verdi made to satisfy the censors). If there was ever a tragic figure in literature, Rigaletto (Triboulet in the play) is certainly it, a man reduced to life as a court jester due to a physical deformity. Triboulet is an actual historical figure, just so you know, not that I know how accurately Hugo portrays him in his play. The play is fiction, after all.

The premise, though, is that nobility, due to their high station, are able to escape the consequences of their horrible behavior in ways that other people are not able to. The idea is comparable to Don Giovanni in that it actually takes a supernatural occurrence to hold Giovanni accountable for the horrible things he has done. There is nothing similar in Rigoletto to hold the duke of Mantua accountable for his abuses. Rigoletto is left to pay all the consequences, not that some of them are not of his own design, and therein lies the tragedy.

For this production, Rigoletto was played by Quinn Kelsey, and he was AMAZING! Not only does he have an amazing voice, but he brought a certain amount of sympathy to the character so that you actually feel bad for him in the end. Because, don't get me wrong, Rigoletto is not a nice guy and really (almost) deserves everything he gets. He would if it was not taken out on Gilda, his innocent daughter, who also suffers at the hand of the duke.

Nino Machaidze (Gilda) and Pene Pati (the duke) are also great. Their only detriment being that they had to perform opposite Kelsey. Actually, this production was full of great performers. And one who rose even above that. Kelsey is already being compared to Pavarotti, and Pavarotti is generally considered the greatest tenor ever to sing opera. I guess we'll see how things go with Kelsey.

The sets and costumes were also impressive, and I would say that this was a pretty great production of Rigoletto, not that I've seen other productions of Rigoletto, but this one was great, and I would gladly go back to see it again.

Fun fact:
The duke's aria, "La donna e mobile," is one of the most recognizable tunes in opera. Verdi knew what he had when he wrote it, too, and didn't introduce it to the cast and musicians of Rigoletto until hours before the premiere performance of the opera. They were given instructions to not sing, whistle, or even think the melody outside of the theater. The morning after the premier performance, people were singing the aria in the streets.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Clone Wars -- "The Rise of Clovis" (Ep. 6.6)

-- Jealousy is the path to chaos.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]

What I said last episode post notwithstanding, this episode is good. Tense. In part, it's good because Padme is back in an environment that makes sense for her to be in; mostly, it's good because we get to see into the dynamic between Anakin and Padme, which is something there hasn't been much of throughout the series.

Remember when Revenge of the Sith came out and Anakin and Obi-Wan had that big duel mostly because Anakin thought Obi-Wan had something going on with Padme? Some people got upset about that because they thought there was no way Anakin would just turn on Obi-Wan like that. They don't know people very well, is all I can say. And it's not like Lucas didn't set Anakin up to have rage problems, and people with rage issues tend to also have jealous-rage issues.

We really get to see Anakin go off into a jealous rage in this episode.

Oh, and spoiler alert:
Padme breaks up with him.

Really, though, what we're getting to see so far in season six, both in the previous arc and this arc, is the culmination of Palpatine's plans. Come on, everyone knows whats going to happen, but these are well done enough that you're really hoping things will go the other way.

"It's not that we're not allowed to have these feelings. It's... natural."