Christmas Music

As a general rule, I avoid it like the plague.  There hasn't been any Christmas music worth listening to since Bing Crosby gave up his crooning license (number 8 on this list of 25 best Christmas albums of all time) back in the days of my youth.  Still, every now and then there is a song that captures my imagination;




I mentioned this song in a previous entry, but it's that time of year again.  I had pointed the song out to The Wife the other day; she poo-pooed it, pointing out how it was clearly a song written by an atheist to make fun of the holiday.

I never noticed those lyrics.  I have always been captured by the imagery of sharing a drink with family in the sun of a summer's day.  Tim is from Australia, and Christmas in Australia is probably a lot like the 4th of July is in the US.

Coincidentally, the imagery that is my favorite way of remembering the family I grew up with is in the sun of a summer's day; picking cherries from gramma's cherry trees, making ice cream, and sharing a cold drink. I can see her sitting on the covered porch in her favorite chair, grampa sitting next to her and dad helping the kids hand-crank the ice cream maker.  A beautiful image captured in amber that I wouldn't mind being able to revisit if I could turn back time.

That is what I see when I hear White Wine in the Sun and it never fails to move me.  Thank you Tim for taking the time to write this one.

Christmas Card Humor

This is the year for updates. This one was first published by me in 2005.  Back in those bad-old days, people would want to share things and have no place to do it. Frequently these items were placed on their company servers unbeknownst to the all-powerful system administrators (praise them!) and then emailed widely, opening the systems up to inexplicable external traffic and potential hacks.  This activity frequently got the individual in trouble with their company as well as getting them in trouble with the author of the work.

For many years the card that inspired me to write this post was incommunicado, taken down when posted on Youtube, because Youtube was where pirates went (and still go) to publish works that aren't theirs.  What authors have discovered recently though, is that it's also a good place to attract attention to their own work.

Consequently the card that was originally housed on a Reuters server is now on Youtube for everyone to see;


(Courtesy Joshua Held)

The version of White Christmas being used to back up the animation is one that I have liked since I heard it featured on The Santa Clause more than a decade ago. Me being the curious foot chewer that I am, I wrote a reply e-mail;
So who is singing that version of the song? I don't recognize the singer.
Should have known what response I would get;
not sure who that is????....sounded/looked like santa to me, with a reindeer accompaniment???????? :-) but i realize there are a lot of santa impostors out there....nothing is sacred anymore it seems....everyone trying to cash in on holy-days seasons.....aloha
Yeah, really set myself up for that one, didn't I?

So who is the voice behind the big red guy? Well, I tracked down the singers on my own. It would be The Drifters. Have a Funky Christmas.

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Santa with Soul
Continuing the trend of all that is old is new again, this one was first written in 2006. As I mentioned in a post a few years back, I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals, and for the most part agree with them in principle, if not agreeing with their often ham-handed tactics.

One of the subjects that they tend to stomp on mercilessly is Christmas as a christian holiday, and the figure of Santa Claus in particular.  I've lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn't disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the winter (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn't have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather's house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn't until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn't defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn't a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn't have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn't seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn't get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

(courtesy Berkeley Breathed)
Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he's actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he's the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It's all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it's just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

Willful ignorance? If you like, call it that. It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it's one I've come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. Otherwise, why play?

The Reason for the Season

(abridged and enhanced from this post)

Every year I hear the same thing; Holiday this and Holiday that and the counter mantra they're taking god out of Christmas. There seems to be some confusion about the origin of Christmas amongst the general population; and this year is worse than most, with Kurt Cameron's latest christian film (labeled a comedy for face saving reasons I'm sure) Saving Christmas currently out in theaters.

On top of everything else, FOX's mindless genning up of  the War on Christmas, the incessant whining of the christian majority of the US that they are in fact an oppressed minority, and their demands that they be allowed to persecute actual minorities or they really will be oppressed; this year Texas is allowing a nativity scene to be displayed in the Capitol rotunda. (this is probably in violation of  the US Constitution, which clearly states that no preference for any religion can be shown in public spaces, and in decision after decision handed down by the courts) Apparently they look forward to being forced to allow atheist, pastafarian, festivus and even satanist displays in the rotunda as well, since that is the only way that religious displays of any kind are allowed.

It's almost hopeless, the idea that facts when presented without bias can change minds, especially when polls like those conducted by the Pew Research Center show;
...that most Americans believe that the biblical Christmas story reflects historical events that actually occurred. About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.
In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened. Among U.S. Christians, fully eight-in-ten (81%) believe in all four elements of the Christmas story. Even among people who are not affiliated with any religion, 21% believe all these events took place, and 37% believe at least one (but not all) of them occurred.
But still I soldier on, year after year, attempting to point out the silliness that surrounds us.

The word christmas is a bastardization of Christ's Mass, which is specifically a Catholic celebration. The Catholics, being the earliest example of admen on the planet, realized that they could more easily sell their religion if they simply adopted the holidays in the areas that they wished to convert. When they moved into Northern Europe, they took on the holiday known as Yule and incorporated it into their religion as the day of Christ's birth (even though it's considered most likely that the date would have been in spring) it is even more likely that the celebrations of Saturnalia spread around the Roman Empire, influencing the the celebrations held informally long after Rome had ceased to be a power in the region. Whereby Roman celebrations influenced Yule which in turn influenced celebrations in the later christian eras.

Christ's Mass (Mass being what a protestant refers to as a 'sermon') was thereby invented, placing a holiday that directly coincided with celebrations already being held on the shortest day of the year, accurate calculations of which could be made (and were and still are essential for agriculture) with the crude technologies of the time. What I'm getting at is, if you are calling the holiday Christmas and you aren't a Catholic, you are referring to the secularized holiday formerly known as Yule. There is no need to further secularize it by calling it a Holiday.

My son attended a charter school that was hosted at a Catholic Church for a few years while he was in grade school (long past now) and they used the phrase Holiday Party to describe thier Christmas Party. If there is one group that should be using the word Christmas it's the Catholics.  They certainly didn't hesitate to tell him all about god in that school (which was the main reason his attendance there was brief) I can't imagine why they wouldn't just say Christmas.

Christmas being Yule modernized isn't nearly the earth shattering revelation that FOX and their devotees might think.  A good number of the names for things that we use daily, even the names of the days themselves, are related to Germanic/Northern European traditions, whose gods were not the gods the Romans worshipped (Remember to think of Odin on Wednesday next time it rolls around) nor the later god of the christians that Rome would officially adopt. Our traditions in the US are a literal smorgasbord of celebrations cobbled together from every major culture on the face of the planet.

So, if you hear me wish you a Merry Christmas, it is because May your feast of the Winter Solstice be enjoyable is too cumbersome to say repeatedly. Christmas has as much to do with Odin as it does with Jesus, and has even more in common with Coca-Cola ads from the early 20th century than it does with any god; Coca-Cola having created the figure of Santa Claus that most of us recognize today.


(courtesy the Coca-Cola Company)

I can hear it already, in stentorian tones even "Jesus is the reason for the season". 

Axis tilt (22.5 degrees) is the reason for the season. Lack of sunlight causing depression is the reason for the celebration.

It also bears mentioning that the pilgrims that the average US citizen credits as founding the American colonies specifically targeted Christmas as being a pagan influence introduced by the Catholic church, and they exorcised it's celebration from their religious practices, even punishing celebrants caught loafing during the early years of the colony.

But that view is a oversimplification anyway. No one group can be said to be the founders of the United States, unless you are talking specifically about the authors of the Constitution, a group that consciously kept all mention of religion out of the document (aside from the proscription against religious tests) If you go beyond their ranks, you are faced with the fact that there were French colonies as well as Spanish colonies, and if you want a contrast with the straight-laced Puritans it's hard to find one more glaring than the types of celebrations held in New Orleans down through the years.

The US is not a christian nation. Establishing a new christian nation would have placed the Constitutional authors at odds with the cause of a good many early colonists moving to the Americas, to escape religious persecution in European state-run christian orthodoxy. Jesus was not a capitalist.  Jesus does not want you to buy gifts to give away on the winter solstice, not only because he wasn't born then, but because you should give gifts every day of your life. If you really want to know, that is What Jesus Would Do, as well as washing the feet of the poor and feeding hosts with loaves and fishes. The United States exists as a celebration of reason not religion. Reason is the basis for Humanism and the Enlightenment, this country's real foundations.

Yes, I know, I've ruined Christmas for you. I'm sorry. The world isn't as simple as you want it to be, it won't change just because you or I think it should, and like those toys you bought for the kids, it won't go back in the !@#$%^&*! box so that you can return it to the pimply-faced clerk that sold it to you, so that you can just get the preassembled one that has all the pieces in the right place! The kid will be happy for the gift anyway, he probably won't notice the missing parts, and the world will continue to spin on it's (tilted) axis whether we will it or not.

Just relax, sit back, and have some more eggnog (or whatever your beverage of choice is) it's just a few more weeks and then we'll have a whole new year of problems to deal with. Now isn't that a refreshing outlook?

...Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Gaming The System

I haven't written on the subject of shootings (justified or otherwise) in quite some time.  Well, that's not quite true. I've written plenty on the subject in other places over the last few years, a smidgen of which is reproduced here.  But I haven't posted much of what I've written on the subject on this blog since I last wrote about the Joe Horn case in Houston several years back.

While the Zimmerman case was being argued in the court of public opinion and later in actual court (to little effect) I wrote extensively on Dan Carlin's bulletin board system about the problems with Stalking and Shooting, the categorical description of the behavior that Zimmerman engaged in.
Zimmerman made a affirmative SYG case, so SYG has everything to do with it. The problem with Trayvon Martin, the problem with Marissa Alexander, is that both of them have black skin. Consequently they are looked down on, even by people who have the same color skin. This fact is borne out by statistics. So Trayvon is threatening simply because of the color of his skin; it certainly wasn't the presence of a sidewalk, 20 feet from where he was fatally shot. Marissa was assigned a duty to retreat because she had the double curse of being female and being black. Women are routinely jailed for daring to defend themselves.  
The problem with SYG is specifically this; we SHOULD have the duty to retreat in public places.  Zimmerman had no business profiling and stalking that teenager. No one should expect to get a "get out of jail free" card simply because they claim self-defense. EVERYONE (including cops) should be  subject to trial when someone dies at their hands. Had Zimmerman not been emboldened by what they lyingly said he was unfamiliar with, he would have stayed in his car, and Trayvon would have been alive today. 
How we get to the point where we legally 'have to' allow women to defend themselves, is a separate discussion. Clearly special laws are required, since general laws yield outcomes like Marissa's. Special laws giving women permission to shoot abusive men. Yeah, that'll happen.
Being the briefest of brief rehashes of content posted to a 42 page thread, and that typed up and added as a comment to an article on Reason Magazine's site concerning the attacks on Stand Your Ground Laws that occurred after those laws were so horribly and hypocritically applied in Florida and elsewhere.

But this latest slew of problems isn't about SYG as a perversion of an offensive action into a defensive one.  It isn't even necessarily about guns, since one of the deaths in question involved a choke hold, not gunfire. It is about police using their unique relationship with their local prosecutor's office to make unjustified homicides look like justified ones, allowing the offending police officers to claim vindication in the courts, when no court trials have occurred.

This was all brought back to mind when I wrote and posted yesterday's entry on calling torture torture and not some other nicer sounding phrase. I wrote the line Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted and wondered if I'd ever get around to writing that piece.  This is that piece.

Much like the torture post, this post remained unwritten because the solution to me was so obvious, and has even been related by talking heads on various news outlets.  The prosecutor's office in nearly every county and city in the US works closely with the police, or as Jon Stewart observed at about 7:50 in this clip;


Yes, it's Law & Order, and a serious (but humorous) oversimplification, but still it has to be observed that police departments have internal investigations departments (and all of them should have) there really need to be special prosecutors appointed specifically to prosecute cases against police officers. There should be citizen oversight everywhere there is a significant police department, too.

Prosecutors work too closely with the police to be able to effectively prosecute cases against them, all of their protestations to the contrary. It is a breach of trust to even allow them to bring cases against police that they work with.  The real surprise to me is that it has taken this long for this conflict of interest to be brought to the public's attention.

This has been true for awhile now, as many people more versed in the subject than I am have pointed out, over and over again. I'll just point to Radley Balko as one shining example.  Time and again he has documented how police excesses go unchecked, and how most people turn a blind eye to the real costs, because it is too painful to witness.

Well, if torture hadn't come along to interrupt the outrage, we'd still be talking about this mess.  We will probably be talking about it again after the New Year's passes, because it isn't going away anytime soon unless we do something to fix this broken system of ours.

You might well say, what do these police cases have to do with Joe Horn, or Zimmerman or that other case?  If you really have to ask that question, the answer of skin color probably isn't going to sit well with you. But it is true all the same. In all these cases, the public dialog has gone out of it's way to give latitude to the aggressor.  The dialog in Joe Horn's case was largely supportive of his actions; and I still think he was legally justified to take the actions he took, even if I would have listened to the operator's advice myself and let the cops handle it (because they were there and witnessed the shooting) still, his victims were black, making them easy targets to dismiss.

It's not the race of the shooter that is in question, because the statistics show even black cops distrust black faces. It is the race (skin color) of the victim that allows their deaths to be easily dismissed.

Outside of the black communities who are protesting and outraged over the dismissal of charges against the police, the attitude still remains largely dismissive of the victims rights, of the needs of survivors and family members to see justice done, to have their day in court.  FOX (as Jon Stewart and others point out) seems willing to lead this parade of monkeys consistently seeing no evil, hearing no evil, but managing to sound pretty evil all the same.

Torture; Because a Spade is a Spade

I have resisted writing on this subject because; frankly, it's black and white to me.  As a matter of course you treat innocent people (people not convicted of a crime) as if they haven't done anything wrong. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time, even when you're fighting a battle in a third world country.

This view puts me at odds with most law enforcement, even in the US, where any visit to the holding cells for people recently arrested will result in horrified outrage at the treatment of people awaiting processing. But depraved conditions in the local holding pen because of the tight-fistedness of local government is nothing compared to intentionally causing physical and emotional pain to people simply because we can, because we are in charge and want to assert our authority.

There is an excellent essay up on Stonekettle Station right now on this subject.  Jim Wright has the experience to back up what he says when it comes to the subject of taking prisoners in a time of war, of just how hard it is to take a high moral road when you really are in the thick of it.
I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.
And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.
I would.
Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong. 
Good intentions do not justify evil.
A just cause does not justify injustice. No more than if I donned a cape and tights and drove around Gotham in the night killing criminals without trial or due process. 
(courtesy Jim Wright @ Stonekettle Station)
It's worth noting, in our depraved current era, that not even Batman killed the subjects he pursued in the original comic books.  The same is true for all the heroes of previous generations.  They didn't kill, they didn't torment, they didn't torture. That was what the villains did. That was why the Punisher was a villain when introduced in the comic sphere.  Because he killed, he tortured. He was evil.

Nowadays our heroes are not heroic in any sense of the word.  Sports stars pummel their wives unconscious on video and go unpunished. Beat their children to the point that they need medical attention, and expect to be let off without suffering consequences. Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted. Politicians don't even flinch at being caught in hypocrisy any longer. They just explain it away as some thing they said but didn't really mean.

I only have one response for people who think we should be subjecting prisoners to torture, which is what enhanced interrogation techniques are.  You can be seen as free of hypocrisy, supporting the systematic use of torture, if you willingly undergo it yourself. I mean, if innocent people can be subjected to this kind of treatment, then anyone should be able to undergo the treatment without ill effects.

Christopher Hitchens thought waterboarding was no big deal, until he allowed himself to be waterboarded. here's the video of it;



(courtesy Vanity Fair & Christopher Hitchens)

I expect Dick Cheney to submit himself to waterboarding, or to the Hague for prosecution for war crimes.  He should do so within the week.  Unlike someone subject to waterboarding, I wouldn't suggest you hold your breath waiting for that.

Emergent Principles of Human Nature; Inalienable Rights

Part 1 of a series of posts defining Emergent Principles of Human Nature; an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I "explain inalienable rights without including god".  Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time. 
This post will be updated and reposted ahead of each subsequent post in the chain, with links to each as they are completed. A lengthy endeavor, but hopefully worth the time and effort for both writer and reader.
Throughout human history we have attempted to find meaning in the world around us.  We do this imperfectly because we are imperfect beings in an imperfect universe; perfection is an unattainable unknowable state which only the deluded think they understand.

As a group we have tried many approaches to find this meaning.  We have given this discipline a name, Philosophy, and established schools of thought within the discipline as varied and as many as there are philosophers in history.  Down through the ages we have dallied with gods and flirted with the idea of the absence of gods, and fooled ourselves that we group of blind men can fully describe the elephant with only our hands and words.

I do not harbor any delusions about the ability of one uneducated man to be able to perfectly describe the universe or establish it's meaning; for myself, I can only hope to find my meaning within the universe.  To this end I have pursued my lifelong obsession with philosophy; and when I say obsession I do not mean that I have exhaustively read the treatises of other philosophers.  I have done some of that, but I have found that most philosophers aren't actually interested in exploring naked truths.  They are more interested in explaining why the world is the way they perceive it.

After that fashion, I guess I'm no different than they are.

However, I think that meaning can be found that is universal, objective.  It was because of the word Objective that I first allied myself with Objectivists.  Ayn Rand in her ultimate folly thought she understood the natural universe perfectly. Her writing on the subject, compelling as it is, is incomplete at best.  At worst, her work is used as it is today; to justify horrors by those willing to enact them, citing her works in ways that the author herself would never have condoned. Her claiming of the title Objectivism for her philosophy is illustrative of the massive ego of the woman herself, made obvious by the study of her life, if you are simply inquisitive enough to take up the challenge.

Within every lie is a kernel of truth, as the saying goes, and within the brashness of Objectivism is the truth of materialism, the denial of post-modernism and it's still-born sibling, solipsism.

The original challenge to define inalienable rights was issued because god; and yet god himself is a hopeless contradiction, a failure of man's imagination to grasp that the complexity around us is achievable through time multiplied by error alone. The uncreated creator is a substitution for understanding, not an explanation. Accepting this conclusion, it fell to me to offer a real explanation for the concept of rights; an explanation grounded in science out of necessity, since scientific evidence is the only demonstrable way to objectively prove anything.  At least, the only way that we've yet discovered.

Aristotle's unmoved mover may indeed exist, the god of scientists and philosophers, the natural god, but that god does not offer explanations beyond mere existence itself.  It falls to us to explain what things mean to our own satisfaction.

The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. why what I am writing about cannot be simplistically pigeonholed as natural rights will be discussed in the next piece. This piece hopes to offer up a bare bones explanation of inalienable rights, and their grounding in science.  The planned series of posts to follow will embroider nuance into the bare structure I'm presenting here.



The theory of emergence  provides the grounding for inalienable rights.  While rights are vested in the individual, it is only through seeing the interactions of individuals that the pattern of rights becomes clear. There is no concept of property when alone on a desert island (where Rothbard's simplistic outline of rights fails) all of everything the sole inhabitant of the island touches is his property by definition; but the individual marooned on a desert island cannot hope to do more than survive while his health endures, alone on an island.  Simple survival is the least of any of our human aspirations.

Most of the concepts we deal with on a daily basis emerge from our interactions with others.  Money is a concept that becomes useless in a social grouping small enough to provide for it's own needs. Families everywhere struggle with introducing money into the social structure of the household, grapple with educating children on what money is, what it means, what is it's value. If you corner any given individual and challenge them to define money, most of them will be unable to do so beyond showing you a physical representation; which is not of itself a definition.

In groups large enough that the contributions of the individual cannot be valued and compensated accordingly, money becomes a necessity. How else is the individual who makes widgets all day to be afforded to directly purchase food and shelter for his continued existence? When the value of the widget cannot be directly translated by the average person into a quantity of food, the quality of shelter? Money makes that possible, however it is defined. Money is an emergent system, an outgrowth of human interaction.

But rights are not systems themselves. Rights are principles that systems are based on.  Like systems which emerge from human interaction, the principles that those systems are based on are also emergent; revealed through the interactions of individuals.

That money should have a definable value to the individual is a principle (albeit flawed) of the monetary system.  All of the systems around us that we take for granted are based on these principles that most of us never even bother to seek out, let alone question.  Jefferson's (through Locke) immortal listing of Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness is, as it says in the Declaration, truncated. There are many other principles that can be inferred from the interactions of individuals, there for anyone to see if they simply take the time to look.

Which is why what we are wrestling with here is Human Nature, not ideology, theology, or the natural world as revealed in the study of other animals. How we as humans value each other, or fail to value as the case may be. The nature of the human animal, as it relates to other human animals within the structures we create for ourselves. As I observed in my first outing on this subject;
A prisoner has rights. Not because we 'allow' them; but because his [human nature] enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights in spite of the full force of government and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. 
In the broadest sense, Emergent Principles of Human Nature represents what most people mean by inalienable rights; what has been lacking up to now is some way of objectively defining why rights cannot be separated from the person; this is satisfied in the concept of emergence.  They cannot be separated from the person, because they are only revealed through common interactions with other individuals. Without them, survival in a group is impossible because the basic needs of the individual cannot be met; and any system created that doesn't take them into account will fail through the actions of individuals intent on fulfilling their own needs.

Rights are not listed on some government document. They aren't granted by sovereignty, even your own.  They emerge from the requirements for human life, and the process of securing those requirements on an individual basis.

I finished my first entry on this subject with the observation;
That's about as far as I've taken it. Much more to be written...
Apparently I have the gift for understatement, as the length of the many posts to follow should reveal.

Podcasts, Obsessions & Faulty Memory

I write about podcasts I listen to on this blog quite a bit.  There was a phase I went through when I first started listening to podcasts and having a lot of free time due to disability, a phase of needing to document the various episodes that I had enjoyed.  If you do a label search for FFRF you can see that my obsession with recording my impressions of this particular podcast was quite intense (and yet another subject that I have a series of lengthy articles on that I haven't published.  I really need become obsessed with finishing my writing and publishing it) likely because I felt their online library lacked any real organization.

I've noticed this compulsion in other's behavior over the years, a need to retain copies of all the things they've watched, or all the things they've listened to.  I had never attributed it to myself until I had time to reflect and notice the stacks and stacks of books, music and movies that cover every shelf in every room of my house.  Since that time I have consciously tried to restrict the impulse to retain every smidgen of information that I run across, trust the internet not to loose the data that seems to sieve out of my mind, everyone's mind, unless we are reminded of it on occasion.

Besides, it has become clear over the past few years that there really isn't time enough to watch all the things I want to watch, or listen to all the things I want to hear; much less space in my, our, homes for all that content. Space in our minds for all that memory. Youtube's content alone expands so quickly that if you attempted to start watching it, you would never get to the end of it. My Tivo (thanks to Grande) is always full of things I want to watch, but almost never get time to watch sans distractions.   Gaming occurs while watching and listening to other content that I need to catch up on, and it all gets blended together in a sort of melange of information that I can't separate cleanly.

Try as I might to break obsessions when I find them (I used REBT methods to quit smoking and learn to hate the taste of french fries just because both were obsessions that were bad for me) I can't seem to shake a process once I get started on a project.  The process that I've gotten into with podcasts is I go back and listen to their back libraries once I've determined that the content is dense enough and worthy of further scrutiny.  So while I have followed Freetalk Live off and on for years, I have felt no need to go back and review the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of talk show inanity like I have for Dan Carlin's podcasts which are generally shorter and more informative than 3 hours of random callers.  Those are just examples.  If I listed all the podcasts that I dabble in we'd be here for days. Just listing the ones I love will take hours.

My most recent project is the Radiolab podcast. I rediscovered Radiolab recently; and I say rediscovered because I remember hearing it on NPR years ago.  Or perhaps that is a false memory.  I want to say I remember it, because I remember a lot of the voices I hear on it, but I have to say that I haven't run across an episode yet that I distinctly remember hearing on the radio. Which may be a way of saying that the internet is the modern example of public radio, television and the library all rolled up into one, because a good portion of PBS and NPR are available on the internet if you know where to look.




Apocalyptica (above) was the episode that decided me on going back and listening to the rest of the catalog for the podcast, and I had started into that list on the podcast feed when I discovered that the feed isn't all inclusive, that there are several years (years) of episodes on the website which are not on the feed.  So I had to backtrack (the obsession kicks in) and start from the beginning, from the shows on the website.

I like relying on the podcast feed to tell me what I've listened to.  None of the podcasting apps track your listening across platforms, so if you are like me and can't remember if you've listened to something just based on the title of the episode, it can become quite tedious downloading, listening and then discarding content because, meh, I've heard that before.

So this morning I roll out of bed and decide "enough" of the current book I'm struggling through (The Last Dark, book 10 of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) I think I'm in the mood for something lighter.  What did I listen to last from Radiolab...?   Memory and Forgetting is loaded on the phone. Did I listen to that one? I can't remember.  So I crank it up. Rats and Spotless Mind; false memories; the muse of a New York painter; the story of Clive Wearing. Listened to the whole thing again.  I have a hard time believing I forgot this episode; Clive Wearing's experience (like the movie Memento mentioned in this story) is a rather potent nightmare for me.  His repeated statements "It's like death" ring with a certain terror in my mind.

I have to admit that I was running on hour 20 something with no sleep, and had listened to two other episodes that same day.  I noted the other two episodes (Zoos are depressing, I agreed with Jad. I was struck with the statement "At the beginning of the morning, the things left standing are the things you need to know." 37 mins in to the episode Sleep) but somehow the last episode got lost in subsequent sleep.  I would go on to mention that the episode Stress reminded me so much of myself and might go a long way to explaining how and why I forgot Memory and Forgetting but I think the rabbit hole is deep enough now.

Welcome to my morning.



Just discovered that the Radiolab feed/website is as freeform as the show is.  There are two different archives for the show; the podcast archive and the radio show archive, some of which overlaps.  Not all of it does.  It's actually worth the time to go back to the early radio shows in the archive and listen.

Especially shows like Emergence, a subject I will be spending a lot of time talking about in the future.

How To Fix US Politics

First thing I see on Facebook this morning (still chewing my toothbrush) is this from Robert Reich;
The final tabulation of the percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the midterm elections is 36.3 percent. That’s the lowest turnout since 1942 (when the U.S. was in the middle of World War II and many couldn’t get to the polls).
To what do you attribute the record-low turnout? (a) Most Americans are so turned off by the negativism and mean-spiritedness of politics that we don’t want to participate. (b) We don’t think our vote makes any difference because big money has taken over. (c) We like the direction the country is moving in and therefore feel no reason to vote. (d) We’re working so hard these days that we just couldn’t take the time. (e) Other? (I'll give you my assessment tomorrow.)
The number one reason that I've heard cited for not going to the polls during my time canvassing over the years has been that the person did not think that their vote mattered. With Citizens United and other outcomes to point to, those people who didn't believe they should be voting now have something concrete to point at and say "see, my vote doesn't count".

It is true that voting is not enough participation to see that your views are expressed by your representatives; but then voting is just the last event in a long chain of actions that a responsible citizen should be taking in order to make sure our representative government works.

You cannot (like so many libertarian/anarchists/voluntaryists on the internet) simply say "I'm not part of this system, it is imposed on me" and thereby withhold your permission for government to operate at all, simply because you don't agree with what it's doing. The systems do not require your permission to continue operating.

In fact, the new leaders in our government prefer that you don't participate and simply accept their plans for you. They've got a pretty good money making scheme going here (have had it going for awhile now, since Eisenhower's time) and all this noise about participation sounds like interference.

We owe it to ourselves and our children not just to vote, but to take back our government from the corporations currently profiting from it, and eliminate those corporations from the process entirely because they are not only not people, but their participation allows certain moneyed people more access and influence than whole classes of real suffering people who actually do the work in this country.

So the short answer is (b) in my experience, but the solution is not just to vote, but to invade the Democratic and Republican Parties with our selves and our views and turn this country around. Prove that American's still have a will of their own.



Further, the following groups were specifically formed to eliminate the effects of Citizens United, to get money out of politics and hand the government back to the people, where the power belongs.

Wolf PAC's petition reads I support a Constitutional amendment saying that corporations are not people and they do not have the right to spend money to buy our politicians. Can't get more straightforward than that.  They have had some success getting states to back this.  Check their website for the latest info.

Rootstrikers is the group associated with Lawrence Lessig. His book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It is free online now. The group is more generally aimed at ending the corruption, of which Citizens United is just a part, not just amending the Constitution.

Move to Amend is another petition group, this one without a specific petition it is promoting. It's list of goals currently reads as follows;
  • Accountability and responsibility, both personally and organizationally
  • Transparency
  • Community
  • Movement building
  • Dedication to Move to Amend mission, goals and tactics
  • Commitment to anti-oppression within ourselves, communities, work places, policies, and representation

Click the link and read up on the group if you want to know more.



The Right are not right but right.

Got it? Let me explain then.

On every issue there are people who want to move in a particular direction, and generally it is true that there is a majority that is happy with the way things are.

Back when we first started writing down ideas, codifying the world as we saw it, the world was ruled by divine right. Kings, Czars and Emperors abounded, all of them claiming to have their power because god granted it to them.  But the people at the bottom of the chain of power suffered horribly and died for want of even basic care; food, water and shelter could be and were denied to them by the more powerful amongst them.

Many excuses were made for why this was so, but in the end the people in the middle of the chain came to believe that the suffering of the bottom could be alleviated by sharing the wealth present at the top.  To this end, they began to cause trouble. They started providing care for the less-well-off (the dreaded poor these days) educating the lower classes about the wealth available to the upper classes because of the combined efforts of the group as a whole.

When enough of them understood their plight, and the artificial nature of it, they began to form together as groups, pressing their rulers to provide to them some of the benefits that the rulers enjoyed.  Through the ages, forums and then parliaments were formed, attempting to gather to themselves some of the power held by the rulers.  As this form became more common and more powerful, it just so happened that the supporters of the king happened to be sitting on the right side, whereas the people demanding change, more power (the liberalizing influence) were sitting on the left.

Left has always been the side of darkness.  Most people are right handed, while those who are left-handed are seen as peculiar (Sinister is another name for the left side) it is seen to be proper that the right hand be dominate.  At earlier times in history, left-handed children were forced to use their right hand until it became dominant to all external appearances. To this day left-handed people die younger, generally of injury inflicted by tools and machines created in a right-handed world.

So it was probably not by chance that the supporters of the king were seated on the right side, the correct side, of the aisle.  After all, supporting god and king was the way to be in those days.  However history has progressed, and kings are almost extinct.  Where they still exist in the civilized world they retain a figurehead status with no real authority beyond the title they hold.  Where they exist in the rest of the world, they are no better or worse than other people.  Tending toward dictatorship in the more perverse, and benevolent father in the more enlightened.

However the verbiage of Left and Right remain; the Left being those who generally wish to change the status quo, and the Right being the group which favors the way things are or even better were.

Except that memory is flawed.  The way things were never was; or only was because of elements or structures which no longer exist.  The way things were relied upon variables which ceased to be, and so the way things were cannot be re-established.

There are other words for those who want things to stay the same.  When they do so because they fear change, the word is coward.  When they do so because they cannot see that change has already occurred it is called delusional.  It is only when change will make things demonstrably worse is that word prudence, or caution. It is only then that the second definition of right (to be correct) applies here.

The changes which are forcing themselves upon us through technology and an imperfect understanding of the closed system which is our habitation known as the Earth are inevitable.  We cannot deny their occurrence because reality will assert itself until it kills us all if we do not admit that change has occurred.  The changes which we can afford but are being resisted (universal healthcare as one glaring example) will occur either now, or at greater cost in the future.

So today, now, the Right are not right they are simply right, as in seated in the section reserved for those who are in love with the past in an demonstrably unhealthy fashion.  Creepy.

We Get the Government we Deserve

A friend of mine from my libertarian days posted an article on Center for a Stateless Society today;
So here we go again. Another biennial US election season draws to a close and here come the solemn multi-partisan invocations of civic duty: Exercise that franchise. Pull that lever, push that button, mark that box. The future of western civilization depends on you. And if you don’t vote, don’t complain.
Politically, the last four years were a cooperative Republican/Democrat enterprise. And unless the Republicans win their way to 67 seats in the US Senate and 291 in the US House — neither of which will happen — so that they can override presidential vetoes, that’s the next two years as well.
So go vote. Or stay home and watch reruns of “How I Met Your Mother.” Either way, feel free to complain all you like. I know I will.
...and I felt compelled to comment as follows;

We get the government we deserve, when 3/4's of the population has no interest in even the most basic part of 'civic duty' which is voting. As a long time activist in various political circles, I am constantly met with blank stares from people who are told that voting is just the beginning, or the ending. It takes years of work, canvassing, motivating, attending meetings, crafting language, more canvassing, more motivating, more meetings, etc, just to get a single measure on the ballot. Voting is just the final act in seeing something you wanted come to fruition.

Ask the Tea Partiers (some of whom made the pretense of being libertarians for many years) how much work they've had to engage in to take over the Republican party. Do you honestly think that the government would have been shut down, that the congress would have sat on their collective hands for 6 years, that Ted Cruz would be a Senator from Texas without their support? Are you (and your commenters) going to seriously sit there and suggest that there is nothing we can do to change things by participating, while the right half of the (calcifying and failing) two-party system appears to be having a nervous breakdown? Engaging in denial of reality, much less science?

Cooperative? When all President has to do to ensure a measure is never adopted is for him to support it? When actions he takes are supported by the Republican leadership before he takes them, then opposed after he takes them?

If we allow the Tea Partiers with their radical religious right agenda to gain more power, because we can't be bothered to get out and resist them, because we are convinced that no changes will actually occur, then we will get the changes we don't want (according to polls) because they are moving on their agenda across the country in areas that they already control. We will indeed get the government we deserve.



The results are in, and the Republicans took the Senate as many pundits predicted over the last few months. Democrats beat themselves, they didn't set the conversation, they accepted the conversation from Republicans that Obama is a bad President. Consequently the argument is won by them. 

Credit Jim Wright & Girl Du Jour
Lesson to be learned here; do not let your opponent lay out the battleground you will fight over, to
paraphrase Sun Tzu.

I have been a staunch supporter of President Obama since he won the office, even though I didn't vote for him in 2008. After the horrible treatment he received for what I considered to be a better than average execution of his duties, I made a point of voting for him in 2012. 

I would like to say that I "don't understand" why he is treated the way he is, but I'm afraid I actually do.   The pattern is all too familiar to anyone raised in the South.

The Republicans set out to do nothing 6 years ago, and blame Obama for their inaction. The electorate has rewarded them for their hypocrisy by returning them to office again, and again. It is a sad, sad day in the US.

Every time Ted Cruz talks, and the news points a camera at him, I beg the talking head to explain a) why they bothered to give him attention or b) why they don't demand he produce a shred of proof for any of the insanity he spouts. "Excuse me Mr. Cruz, but you appear to have forgotten to get dressed today and you are standing there naked." 

...all of the Republican leaders are in this boat. None of them can enumerate real complaints, real objections. None of them are willing to lead.  Now that they control both houses of Congress, I can't wait to see what kind of draconian proposals they will advance as conservative policy.  Should be an entertaining next two years.

Beware Cosmic Religious Propaganda

I went looking for Carl Sagan's Cosmos on various internet outlets recently.  I had the first episode in my sweaty little palms on loan from Netflix, and I was ready to give up and just get a cheap second hand copy of the program.  Having found good prices on eBay, I thought I'd compare pricing on Amazon.com.

Went to Amazon, typed in "Cosmos Carl Sagan" and midway down the page I found "Created Cosmos". Unbelievably, Amazon had allowed creation propaganda  to be linked to Carl Sagan's name and the most famous science series ever produced (if you click the search link in this paragraph, you will notice that this is no longer listed in the results. Thank You Amazon.com!) I felt obliged to review this travesty negatively;

I hate this for one very simple reason.  Not that I've seen it, it's religion masquerading as science and not worth my time to investigate.  Much like the billboards claiming to care about poor pregnant women, but are actually nothing more than groups set up specifically to scare women away from having an abortion (every street in Texas has one of these billboards) this video exists merely obfuscate the truth of science and prop up the dying embers of religion in a scientific age. 
No, the reason I hate this video, the presence of this video in my search results, is that I specifically went looking for "Cosmos Carl Sagan". I didn't want to get false results for Neil Degrasse Tyson's new show (not that I don't love it too) what I wanted was to see the purchasing options for Carl Sagan's PBS program.  Instead of finding a good offering for the real program, I'm offered this schlock in its place. 
I missed Cosmos when it was originally broadcast because the backwater of Kansas that I grew up in didn't have access to public television.  We had churches on nearly every street corner, but only one tiny library.  Cable was a new invention.  By weird coincidence the cable company took over the Kingdom Hall across the street from my home in that small town, which was a great relief to us since the Jehovah's Witnesses stopped at our house every time they went canvassing. While we couldn't afford to buy cable services, at least we were no longer disturbed by people who wanted to pass on their twisted message of god on a nearly daily basis. No computers, no internet.  Only country radio and two fuzzy TV channels we could pick up with an aerial.   
I'm reasonably certain that the idyllic setting I'm describing is something that the liars who created & marketed this program on Amazon including the keywords "Cosmos Carl Sagan" would greatly prefer over the current ability to find accurate information regarding the natural universe and what we really know about it.  That they would give up not only blu-rays and Amazon, the current technological marvels of cell phones, electric cars, wind turbines, etc; all of science, medicine and progress. Give it all up and go live in caves clad only in the skins of animals that they had to kill themselves, if only they could be assured that their bronze-age god was real. 
To them I say "go find your cave and give up your comfortable cotton clothing. Hand over your cell phones and your comfortable air conditioned houses. You do not deserve to benefit from the achievements of science, since you hold it in so little regard." Either that, or pull this offering from the marketplace and apologize to the memory of Carl Sagan for ever creating it in the first place, much less placing it on Amazon falsely linked to his name. 
I really want to know.  Why is this program included in my search results?  Why is the Creation museum allowed to key their products with the name "Carl Sagan"?  This is disturbing, like finding homeopathic cures, and cigarettes in my pharmacy. Oh wait, that happens too.

Revolution Already in Progress; Now Go Vote!

I have a confession to make; several of them actually, and not all of them will occur here.  I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the forums of Dan Carlin's website (newly renovated) largely because I tended to agree with his political arguments and loved his history show. Since I first signed on those forums I've abandoned them several times because of various hostile posters, only to be drawn back again because of some inane argument presented in of his Common Sense podcasts.

The latest Common Sense (titled Kickstarting the Revolution) is a nice illustration of why I have stopped spending time arguing with devotees of Carlin's on his website, and why I contemplate abandoning his political podcast altogether.  Starting from the false attribution to Churchill which he repeats and is debunked on Churchill's website like so;
"If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart.  If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: "Surely Churchill can't have used the words attributed to him. He'd been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?"
Never mind that I personally can disassemble the assertion by simply observing that I have never been an ideologue, and it is not solely the realm of the young as he insists when he brings up that misquote (ideologues making up the bulk of liberalism in his argument) since there are any number of hidebound hoary old ideologues out there insisting that their ideology must be followed, and that make up the bulk of the Conservative wing of the Republican party. 

But that's just where he starts to go off the rails.
I don't think a lot of you have perhaps considered that we are a month away from the 2016 election kickoff, and I know what you are thinking because I always think the same thing; already?!?  Yeah, the midterm elections are a month away.  If you've got some fancy-schmancy wise interesting outside the box idea for impacting the 2016 Presidential elections for all our good, you need to start it now.
No Dan, that isn't what I'm thinking. What I'm thinking is that you (and the vast majority of the electorate apparently) are once again mistaking authority for ability.  Attributing to the President more power than he actually has, and holding him accountable for actions beyond the powers of his office (on the one hand) and expecting the next President will be able to exercise powers he doesn't have in order to fix things which aren't under his control in the office of President (on the other) What this podcast represents, at the end of another long and winding hour and a half, is one more episode chalked up in support of the dictator theme; the false dream that electing the one right person will fix things, skipping over the very obvious fact that what is important right here and right now is that people go vote in the midterms.

The lackadaisical way that US Americans approach the obligation to participate in government both highlights the need for a requirement that people participate in their government; while at the same time reinforcing the observation that we get the government we deserve.

This reliance on the President, this common belief that this one person can fix the ills of an increasingly complex system inhabited by hundreds of millions of people who are all going about their merry way living their own lives, is the worst kind of naivete.  Couple that with the blind insistence that the calcifying remnants of the two party system are no different from each other, in the face of the popular takeover of the Republican party by the Religious Right in the form of the Tea Party, evidence that the revolution that you agitate for is already occurring, has been occurring since 2008...

...Well, it boggles the mind, the lack of understanding of the system itself that these views now represent.  I'm more than a little mortified.  The reference link for this podcast points toward Lawrence Lessig's site. I agitated for Dan to interview Prof. Lessig for ages on the show, and now that he's done that and promotes him, he links the Prof. to the completely dysfunctional idea that 2016 is somehow more important than the day to day operations of party machinery, or the impending disaster that will be handing the Senate over to the hidebound Republicans if only their Ebola-fearing voter base goes out and votes this month.

That isn't how the world really works. Yes, the individual can matter, does matter.  Yes, authority grants a certain amount of power, but that power is limited by design and by the reality of there only being so much one person can do.

The fallacy here, as I so often come up against, is the externalizing of purpose. The false idea that your purpose in life can be satisfied by some external agent, can be defined by someone else than yourself.  That voting actually does something aside from (as I've alluded to many times) seal the deal that you make when you set out to support a candidate or a position and then work to see the goal come to pass.

You have to decide what is important, you have to do the work to see it successful.  You cannot simply go vote and expect others to carry your goals forward with them while you deal with things you deem are more important.  They will do what they think is important.  Either you accept that their goals are at variance with yours, or you don't and are never (and will never be) satisfied with any outcome no matter how much better it may make your actual conditions in life.

...in that vein, the Democratic party and the Republican party are simply tools to be used, just like any other social structure.  They are no more and no less good or evil (or monolithic) than the individuals who work in those groups to advance the goals they set for themselves.

So go vote this month! But not just vote, go scope out your local party, see how the sausage is made in the hands of the people who currently hold power; and if you want wild ideas about how the internet can fix the problems of aging structures in or government, maybe you should take a look at this;



Pia Mancini and her colleagues want to upgrade democracy in Argentina and beyond. Through their open-source mobile platform they want to bring citizens inside the legislative process, and run candidates who will listen to what they say.

If we want to get away from the kind of world that Noam Chomsky outlined in Manufacturing Consentor the kind of world where the wealthy buy the votes of or representatives as described by Professor Lessig in Republic, Lost; How Money Corrupts Congress - and a Plan to Stop It then we should listen to people like Pia Mancini, or dedicate ourselves to one of the many groups who are working daily to modify the system so that is is more responsive to the voting population of the US.

The Wolf-pac - We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America! That has had success in at least one state house.

Move to Amend - which has been trying to get legislation through congress; and not having much luck at it.

Lessig's own Rootstrikers.org - which is the third iteration of his groups attempts to form a movement behind the ideas he has put forward again and again.

Or maybe even a group like Represent.us that is facing pushback on the local level in Tallahassee right now while trying to make inroads on the problem of corruption in or governments.

Governments.  Plural.  More than one.  Local, County, State & Federal; not just the President. So go vote, because that's all that is left to do right now with one short month left in this election cycle.  But don't allow yourself to sit back after voting and expect the problems to be solved, or (even worse) wait for a President to be elected who will fix the problems we face, that will do so in a way that you approve of (which is a pipe dream) go out and change the system by participating in it.  At least then you will have earned the right to bitch about how things turned out, rather than just pretending you have that right because you have a right to free speech.

World of Warcraft; New & Improved?

Some of the new and improved character models can be viewed on our website. 
WoD Beta Notes 
 I hate that phrase.  Despise it with every fiber of my being.  It is a learned response, because every single time that I've heard that phrase there is no noticeable improvement.  Case in point, the new character models for classic characters in World of Warcraft.

I'm in the beta group, so let me just illustrate the changes for you.  This is my Dwarf female Keslingra as she currently looks.  Notice the shape of the face.  The set and shape of the eyes.  The hair has highlights of gold. There is a youthful hopefulness in this face, possibly joyful amusement somewhere behind those eyes.

Can you see what I'm talking about? Have that mental image in your head, even if it's not all there on the screen?

This is the beta model of the exact same character ported over to Warlords of Draenor. Please note the shape of the face.  The set of the eyes. This woman has been washing a bearded bastard's clothes for 30 years, and she's about to visit his snoring ass in the middle of the night and bury his waraxe in his head, so that she can get her first good night of sleep in longer than she can remember.

She's seated in the exact same chair in the exact same city in the game. Granted, the POV has been lowered, we are now looking dead on at the face, rather than from slightly above; but still, what the hell?  They have added a face button to the barbershop interface, but what about skin color? What about being able to change eye color separate from the face? (important now that the graphic resolution is finer) what if none of the faces emote anything other than bone weary boredom, tired resignation, or at best, fiery hatred?

Someone please explain to me how this face is an improvement over the face she had before?  I will be unable to play any of the characters I've ported over and checked, because every single one of them has been altered in a fashion similar to this, where the designers have taken liberty to alter shapes as they see fit, without having an understanding of what we the players were looking for when we selected the faces we had previously.

I started a thread over on the beta forums on this subject (the lifespan of my threads on WoW forums is generally charted in days, not weeks, just FYI) I understand that it's too late to alter character models now.  We're stuck with the improvements that aren't improving anything at this point, I get that.  Can we please, please, please for the love of the light, get a free Appearance Change for our characters?  So that I can justify at least purchasing the expansion pack this time around?

I mean, if I wanted to play tired, dirty, ugly characters, I'd still be playing Skyrim.



Just wanted to add a plug for this thread on the forums as well;

Draenei are still screaming over face 7's honker and short tails, trolls don't understand why they all look so freaking angry, gnomes are frightened their eyeballs are going to pop out of their sockets, female humans and dwarves are violently applying regenerous cream from Olay to their faces to get rid of all these lines, the human men are trying to shave their beards off, the male night elves aren't sure how their upper body is supported with their crazy small waist and wet noodle-like run. Orc women are looking for mascara and stealing the Olay cream from the human and dwarves, and the blood elves are all standing back cackling at the rest of the races with the goblins, pandas, and male worgens while the female worgens mourn the sorrows with the female tauren.
Guys, when there's a ton of people saying 'THAT'S NOT MY CHARACTER!' or numbers and numbers of topics on the same tweaks you can make to the models, it's time to respond to us. We're getting frustrated and worried at this point that you haven't listened to one snippet of our data on the models, and wasn't that the big selling point for this xpac?
He had me rolling with just those two paragraphs. There is a serious problem with the models in Warlords of Draenor.  The author is also correct that this was Blizzard's big selling point, the model updates were going to be unbelieveable (as in good) and what I've found is that they are indeed unbelieveable.  As in unbelievably bad. Bad enough that I have a hard time telling the April Fool's joke female Draenei from the one that is in the beta.



In a weird way, this sort of makes up for the insult of changing my beloved characters, and explains it in a properly creepy-assed way;



I have found a face for Keslingra that I find acceptable, and I'm learning to deal with the rest of the changes. Really had hoped for something more than acceptable and closer to the improvement I was promised.

World of Warcraft; Brewfest!

I recently wrote a novella (so the wife says) about my 5 years playing World of Warcraft trying to complete a quest I set for myself.  However, there is (at least) one other thing I did forget to mention. Gameplay in the world is generally pretty predictable, except at certain times of the year when world events occur, or on the odd years when a patch is released.

The first year I played was the release of Wrath of the Lich King, and the world event for Hallow's End that year was marked by rolling hordes of zombies in all the cities, and mayhem that kept us lows (players who didn't have characters at max level. Level 70 at that time) from getting anything done.  A world event and a expansion pack release event rolled together, or so it felt at the time.

"What are those weird glowing crates for?"
I remember walking one of my 'toons into Ironforge and wondering where all the guards were, why was there smoke in the air...?  Suddenly, in the distance, movement in the smoke.  Players? No. Zombies! Every freaking NPC for the city had been turned into zombies by players who had been infected by the undead plague. It's funny now in retrospect, but I had things to do in the cities, unlike max level characters. I was quite annoyed at the time.  My toons took to sleeping in trees outside the cities until the the patch event had passed.

However, the first world event that took place in World of Warcraft after my subscription started was Brewfest; and Brewfest has remained my favorite event in the game ever since. When it spawned outside of Orgrimmar & Ironforge, I had no idea it was a temporary thing, or that this same event (like many others) would re-occur annually. I feel in love with it.

The reason for this goes something like...

There was a Jackalope over the bar in the local beer hall in the Kansas town I grew up in.  My dad used to love to tell stories about hunting Jackalopes; to which all his friends (who were in on the joke) would lovingly add details.  I can't speak for the other children, but I was fascinated by this cryptozoological problem.  I would go looking for Jackalopes while wandering the fields near my house.  Unsurprisingly I never did find one; not until I started playing around at Brewfest.  The purpose of Brewfest was to get your character blind drunk; or rather, the program responded (and still does, to some extent) to each beer you drank by making the screen images progressively fuzzier, distorting perspectives into tunnel vision.  Also, after you've drank about three strong drinks, invisible creatures started to appear.  Little horned rabbits with wings.  At first I thought I was seeing things.  I really did feel like I was drunk (still do, sometimes. I blame the Meniere's) and where did those creatures come from?

They were labeled Wild Wolpertinger in the game.  Researching the name, I discovered that Jackalopes and Wolpertingers are related; related by beer.  Wolpertingers are commonly found on display in taverns in the Bavarian region of Germany; and Jackalopes seem to be found in German settled areas of the American Southwest, also to be found in taverns there.  I had discovered a long drinking tradition, the telling of tall tales while indulging in the spirits at the local drinking hole. My father, whose mother was of German descent, was simply carrying on the tradition.

"Hey newb, did you know you can
dismiss your user interface by hitting CTRL-Z?"
The first year I played, you couldn't catch Wild Wolpertingers, but you could purchase a pet one with tickets  (and your pet is invisible to everyone but you.  Unless they are drunk) You can catch them now, just like you could when the event first started, but that year you couldn't.  I had to have one, so Tharthurm and I spent some quality hours working at Brewfest to get tickets for the Wolpertinger. Even took some tourist shots with the local guardsmen.

It was the event of Brewfest, combined with this whole new world to explore, that made me fall in love with the game.

It was after getting the pet (the pet that no one can see but me) and having it summoned pretty consistently for months, that I began to identify with the Wolpertinger; after all, it and I were the only consistent things across the various characters I played, and the other players couldn't see either of us. So I started using it as my avatar across many boards and platforms I post in, using the cryptozoological beast to represent me.  I commissioned a piece of art from an artist I know so that I wouldn't have to violate Blizzard's copyright to it's own game images.  Hers looks better than theirs, anyway.

That is where I am today. Represented on the internet by a cryptid that my dad used to tell great stories about, and that I rediscovered in a game I just happened to be playing because a friend asked for a favor.  If you play WoW and haven't taken time to get your What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been achievement, You are missing out on one of the more interesting parts of the game.  You should at least try Ram Racing.  Do it now, because Brewfest is here!



First the praise, now the criticism.  Three years ago the designers at Blizzard got lazy and they gave up offering new mugs (the in-game collectable for this event) and at the same time disabled a handy feature of the game for new players.  The old mugs were a useable item, and gave a buff which was useful in game.  Rather than scale the buff for new releases of the game, they simply replaced the real mugs with a magically refilling baby bottle that does nothing.  Bring back the mugs!  Bring back the buffs! (this is true of Hallow's End candy as well) Update the gear drops for mid-xp and end of xp events, for crying out loud! Make it desirable to do the events, so that people will do them.

The toons don't get blind drunk killing Dark Irons anymore.  I get it, we want to be sensitive to people who don't approve of drinking to excess, but it's a game for crying out loud. I still go around killing everything that moves in the game, and I don't feel the urge to do that in real life.  I also understand that players become ill watching the drunken graphics. Me too. It would be nice to be able to just kill the visual effect with an easily findable toggle when it gets to be too much.  But that is aside from the point of drinking beer and throwing mugs to down the Dark Irons.  What are we saving the kegs for anyway since they can't be used to refill mugs? See the first critique.

Finally, let's admit the game has changed. Pandaren should be top brewers, not Ogres. Ogres make some nasty strong drinks, but Pandaren have turned brewing into a lifestyle.  They should not be relegated to a booth in the corner quietly selling also items that have no bearing on the event itself. None of my Pandaren will even go to the event until they are properly represented as the best brewers on Azeroth.  Call it a protest.  The rest of them will be there, though.