Project Red Band: the Proposal

20170816_150524I can’t speak for anyone else on this subject, but it seems to be very big news in North America at the very least. Over the previous weekend, National Socalists (as they preferred to be called) descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in memorial to a person of significance or some such that I don’t really understand at present. And of course, as with all such things: bad went to worse.

Anti-White Supremacist Rally attendees were accosted by a member of the White Power organization via vehicular homicide, killing one and injuring very nearly twenty others (a slight inflation on my part, but it worked well for the sentence). Then, in the face of such events, the organization that is supposed to be a point of clarity for the people to turn to, or at the very least the symbol of unity and belief in the Less-than-United States performed a series of shocking political blunders that rivals anything B-rate Hollywood script writers could concoct.

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This is the statue “of  significance or some such” that I was mentioning.

Sufficed to say, the whole story is something of a catastrophic mess. Seriously; the world-ending events of World of Warcraft Cataclysm isn’t nearly as disastrous as what’s going on south of our Canuck borders. But while things seem to only be going from bad to worse, the reactions and opinions of everyone seems exceedingly divided.

 

In my own personal friend groups, I’ve seen opinions ranging from “this is a travesty” to “yeah, I don’t give a crap” to “we need to kill more people”. Declarations of “history repeating itself” have been thrown around online, and everyone who used to have faith in human capacity is finding that belief seriously tried or strained.

I, myself, find this whole series of events shocking and exceedingly stressful. It’s why there was no blog post on Monday, as a matter of fact: I had to retreat into my own head and rationalize what precisely was going on. It all seemed so surreal; it couldn’t actually be happening, could it? After all, US media has romanticized anti-Nazi sentiments to such a degree that I had assumed it was very nearly a trait born into all “pure-blooded Americans”, as the concept goes.

And no matter where I looked or what I listened to, the messages being spun around are either less-than-helpful or dubiously vague. There seems to be one hundred and one ideas on what to do about this, and one thousand and one excuses for what’s transpiring. It is, for a mere mortal like me, all too much to process.

This doesn’t mean I plan on burying my head in the sand and hoping it’ll all blow over, a strategy that was suggested to me by someone who cares about my mental health (my mental sanity is shaky at best, and at worst: basically the condition of the Titanic immediately after it hit the iceberg. On the surface it looks alright, but an hour later it’d fracture in twain). And it is true, part of what makes modern media so appealing is that no matter how un-bad something is, News outlets are pretty good at inflating the issues to sensationalize things to a greater profitable degree.

Fake NewsI realize that sounds like an accusation of “Fake News”, a term I generally lament using, but that’s a different issue for a different day.

Today, I want to focus on what some of the primary issues and questions that have been raised as a result of the Charlottesville riots. I’ll cover them in very broad points as follows:

  • If, historically speaking, US ideologies are greatly against the concept of Nazi-ism and centralized governmental control, why are we seeing a great insurgence of people who are declaring themselves as National Socialists
  • Is this a result of recent electoral and governmental flaws in the US Presidental system of national, or an inevitable result of a culture that defines itself by violent uprising
  • What are the environmental conditions that give way to a system of prejudice and hatred; is it limited to certain socio-economic classes, or is it less discriminating

And, most importantly:

  • What is the best way to manage these recent events in a way that ensures growth and security for peoples in general in a developed country with a great deal of ancestral or modernized pride

Charlottesville EmblemMuch like all issues I find myself in the middle of, there might initially appear to be simple solutions to these issues. But I do believe that if it were so simple we wouldn’t have the issues we have to this day. On the contrary: each of these points are incredibly complicated issues that affect every aspect of modern western culture on the whole, and the societies that stem from them.

I have every intention of trying to understand this issue in greater detail. I want to find a solution that’ll bring about a positive change to what is transpiring at present: one that does not defer to violence as a means to the end. Maybe it’s because, in the traditional sense of the word, I am a coward (I spent 8 years studying martial arts, and the one aspect of it I could never perform well because of personal beliefs was sparring), and by extension that I do not place much faith nor emphasis in using violence as a method to enforce will.

Of course, this will discredit me to many of my friends. As I’ve seen multiple times, I know no shortage of people who seem almost giddy to default to violence or murder to “quell” the hate-based groups that have given rise to these present and pressing issues. They endorse such ideologies which share, in their own perverse ways, similarities to the hateful methods of these self-titled National Socialists.

Violence is not the solution; not to me anyway. Being a student of history, I understand how violence will cause an initial disruption of organizations, but will just as efficiently and effectively give greater cause and fervor to those same groups. In fact, many of today’s most powerful organizations and religions were tampered and strengthened by acts of violence perpetrated against them by once-great forces.

To understand this will be our best weapon against these movements. I strongly believe this, and so, I will be endeavoring to understand all the smaller nuances and ideologies that are held by all the various organizations under the heading of National Socialist. This will mean I’ll be burying myself in research; online, literature and even personal. This last point will very likely earn me the ire of many people who I hold in high esteem, as I will, without doubt, be talking with these supremacists on an individual or group basis to understand what their motivations are.

And this terrifies me on many levels and causes me no shortage of stress. As I mentioned earlier, my mental health is not the greatest and will very likely never will be. But I have the tools and resources to try to make a difference in this, regardless of how small or insignificant it will end up being at the conclusion of it all. I’m doing this because, despite all the horrors of the past, distant and recent, I still have faith in the human race. Perhaps misplace, perhaps idealistic, but I don’t really care.

Image-7I know where I stand on these issues and I will try to find solutions using methods that I agree with. This is the concept behind what I am titling Project Red Band, an ongoing research and investigation task that was not given to me, but one I will take up all the same.

Results of my investigation will be posted here as I find and learn things, and the title will always include PRB: _ in the heading. If this research or my methods make you uncomfortable, I completely understand and will think no less of you for disregarding what I have to say. As I’ve said in many past topics: not every fight is for everyone. This also does not mean that Station 85 will be exclusively about Project Red Band; I will still post my other works as the schedule demands.

Thank you in advance for your patience with the patchy uploads on this site and for those who keep coming back. And good luck to all of us in these trying times. Seems there’s something of a shortage of it these days.

Imperfect Recollection: the Proof

20170802_013032I’m sure you’re familiar with that age old saying: “Some things you’ll never forget”. Truly, some occurrences and instances are so fantastical, extraordinary or downright moving that an exact series of frames, or even complete video footage, very well might have been imprinted into your brain. And these memories are exceedingly personal, each one forming a small component of who you are and identify as.

This past Saturday, I experienced something that I had assumed would be just that: an event that would be so vivid in my mind I’d be able to draw upon it without much effort. I was involved in a fairly intense car collision, which (as you can see from the attached photo) did very little to improve the condition of my truck. My blog post today isn’t so much about that occurrence, rather a series of observations I have made recently about my own cognisance and memory.

As I had said, I entirely suspected that I’d remember every detail leading up to as well as the crash itself. I even remember remarking to my dad shortly afterwards that the crash was useful to me: now I could write about the force of impact, the sounds, the smells and all other sensory stimulants in much greater detail. And it is true, even now, certain events I can easily call upon.

It hadn’t even been an hour, however, and the memories were beginning to muddle in my mind. For starters, I had it in my head that the other vehicle in the crash was white. Spoiler alert: not even close. This was surprising to me at the time, as the other vehicle was just around the corner from where I sat. Then came the realization that I was misremembering what my dad had said mere seconds before the crash.

For those curious: “Fuck, this is going to hurt.”

These inconsistencies were mounting rapidly as minutes passed by, and in the days following, I can’t say for certain if I misremember particular details, or if I’ve outright fabricated them myself. A day later, an off-hand comment had revealed that the back-end of the truck had lifted off the ground upon impact. I had no memory of that at the time, but now, I can visualize the sensation of the back end lifting. Did that actually happen, and was I actually remembering it? Did my mind just fill in a blank with the information presented?

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Surprisingly, the only damage sustained was a somewhat nasty bruise on my nose

It’s been a long standing reality of most psychological fields that memory is less than perfect. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Socrates himself even said “Damn, I don’t remember last night happening THAT way.” Disclaimer: I know Socrates wasn’t a psychologist, but I hope you get what I’m getting at with this analogy. This is, as far as we understand, a result of the fragmented way our brains store what we refer to as memories.

I’ll not delve much further into the specifics of how the concept we rationalize as memory is compartmentalized and stored within our brains, if for no other reason than I’m still not entirely sure I understand it myself. After all, I am not a psychologist (yet). But what I can speak of with confidence is the newfound understanding of how I can understand my own memory processes. And while it’s not indicative of how the average person (whatever those are) remembers things, it may serve as a launching point for further inquiries and discussions.

For the time being, however, I can confidently say I’ve thoroughly shaken my own appreciation for how unreliable my memory is. I used to think it was prone to deception after 24 hours, and I’ve now been served a clarification.

It’ll lie to me after fifteen minutes.

Some Thoughts on Education – No Click-bait-y Titles Here

Anyone who has held a prolonged conversation with me can probably tell you there are several topics that will send me into a spiral or rants or musings, depending on the nature of the discussion. Oftentimes, we call this a “heavily-opinionated person”, and I can certainly attest to being someone under such a label (despite my general disdain for labels in general, more on that another time). My reasons for launching into these triads stem from a few different sources: the need to express an opinion, the desire to challenge my own thoughts and critical thinking and a plethora of minor reasons that are a little too tedious for my shockingly presently-focused mind to feel like rationalizing.

Chiefly among those reasons, however, is the need to voice my beliefs and thoughts about topics I have seen or read. My mind is a jumbled mess of thoughts and concepts at the best of times, and vocalizing these thoughts helps form them into concise statements and hypotheses. And one such topic that I find myself launching into rant-realms over is the land of education.

Now, I understand education is something of a hot-button topic (a phrase I didn’t think I’d ever use until now, which means I probably am misquoting or incorrectly using it), and everyone and their dog has an opinion on the matter. Teachers, students, parents, politicians, researchers and board members all have their opinions on what the educational system today is like and what it needs to do to improve, or conversely, what it needs to stop declining in quality.

It should come to no surprise that I, myself, am someone who has very charged and self-important beliefs on the quality of the school system in Canada (or at least in Ontario, as I understand there are minor nuances to the systems not only between countries, but between provinces as well). I mean, I possess all the warning flags of someone who has deep-rooted grievances with the current school system: I did poorly all through school due to a laundry list of personality and motivation flaws, I did not attend post-secondary education due to financial and personality flaws, and am largely against the commercialization of education due to financial and personal beliefs.

You might have noticed something of a trend in there somewhere.

Granted, I’m not so self-important as to believe that I am blameless in my current academic standing, nor do I honestly think that the problems that plagued me are anywhere near similar to those that bother other individuals or organizations. That’s why I make it a point to read up on different studies, articles or coverage of the ever-changing landscape of education. I also keep contact with several friends who are teachers at different levels in the school system (by that, I mean the range from kindergarten to high school, teachers to school board members, and even a couple of politicians) and am very careful to listen to those who have differing opinions on the school system than I (check out my piece on Echo Chambers in social media for more).

I also consider the opinions of those who have personal views on the nature of school because of life experience or spiritual beliefs, as these are both important aspects in understanding how we can better operate as a global community in our exceedingly diverse world. I’ve noticed several trends in these varied beliefs that sometimes I am, at first, inclined to argue against, but often have to sit back and think on until I can properly process what I’ve just learned.

There is one general consensus that I have noticed, however: very nearly everyone thinks the current academic landscape is broken or has gaping holes in operational efficiency/policy. Very seldom do we hear people discussing the accomplishments of a standardized educational system that has made significant leaps and jumps in how our brains have developed over the decades, let alone centuries or millennia of the history of education.

Instead, there seems to be an overwhelming belief that there is little good from our current school system. This generally stems, I have noticed, from small groups picking out an issue and inflating the damaging nature of said defect. This is not to say there are not dangerously broken systems in our schools; one needs only look at the academic disparities between both racially segregated or financially destitute schools to see things, two traits that are oftentimes linked. But some issues are only a part of a greater concern, and that is the need for hard evaluations on the intended direction that education serves as.

Now you start leaving the realm of hard, numerically provable evidence and get into the realm of cultural or philosophical reasoning. What EXACTLY is the purpose of education? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer as it seems the intended purpose changes based on personal views.

I know it seems that I’ve performed a complete 180 from my original statement, but bear with me: it’ll all tie together in the end. I think.

Note from Self: I can’t help but feel the “bear” that was used in the sentence prior is incorrect. I’m almost completely confident that it should be “bare”, but Microsoft Word is convinced otherwise. I might also just be losing my mind, which is exceedingly possible, as well.

I don’t claim to have the greatest knowledge of educational history, but based on what I do know, it seems that for the better part of western culture and history the drive for better education was a largely social need. In order to develop a more stable and prosperous civilization, better academic reasoning was required. To cultivate this sense of logic, students (or monks, before that) focused on the mathematics and sciences. As anyone who has built a tiny bridge in science class can tell you: understanding weight dispersal and fulcrums are not exactly guess-work when trying to plan for a bridge to navigate a tiny car across two desks.

But with the maths and sciences, so too came the humanities. Poetry and music can help maintain a semblance of order and sanity in large populations; they also further reinforce a sense of cultural identity and stress relief that maintains a higher quota of productivity than otherwise. And as time progresses, so too do these systems improve. Science and learning becomes more precise, and literature and the arts have more to draw upon as human nature and identities change with the times.

Now, I’m not even going to begin to speculate on eastern education, because I know very little about it. Based on academic rankings, though: they seem to be doing pretty well in the past couple decades.

Based on these developments, I’d say the nature of education is to improve upon the human mind in general. We can see this in the varied and diverse fields of study that can be obtained within the higher academic establishments; the only real limits to what you can learn comes down to ethics at that point. Or money.

And in that regard, the education system we have today has achieved that goal with remarkable success. Our brains are sophisticated machines that, as a result of the stimulation and information we’ve received through our developmental years, can process complex questions and scenarios that have built civilization as we recognize it today. The fact that we can even question these ideas on such a massive scale, potentially reaching and hearing millions of voices at a time with universal theories and scales to work with is testament to that accomplishment.

But this begs the question: what is the purpose of education now? Where do we go from here? And this is where everyone splinters into their different groups and beliefs. We’re all asking the same question, frankly, just in different words. And this is good. This is hella good.

I strongly believe that everyone who partakes in these conversations and arguments all have the same base goal: to improve upon such a fundamentally important system that our world relies upon. And if we’re all having that discussion, I genuinely believe that, as far as morals are concerned, there are very few wrong view points to have.

Except for anarchists. I do not like them, or their beliefs at all!

The funny thing is what sprouted this recent mind experiment for me. I was thumbing through a social media feed and happened across a post about the nature of education. It stated that home education was far superior because, as far as human history is concerned, it’s the one that’s been in use the longest and that established education was an experiment.

The implication was that established education was wrong and we should go back to individualized family-based learning instead. I can sympathize with the sentiments behind the post, but I largely disagree with the overall message. As a whole, our society is better for having an educational system in place. And while I, much like many, believe that our system is far from perfect, it is infinity better than having nothing at all.

Masterful, Merciless, Madness

Darkest Dungeon

Red Hook Studios/ Horror, RPG, Strategy

20170716_212924I’ve had a long standing relationship with the darkness and with hopelessness. Quite likely stemming from a very intimate history with depression; how riveting it can be to peel back the layers of the shadows and to peek into the fragile minds that dare to delve within it. When you realize that the people behind great deeds are, in fact, human and prone to the same weaknesses we all are, it reduces an idol to a breathing soul.

It’s perhaps one of the things that’s always irked me most about fantasy stories and adventures: how inhuman all the main characters are. In human in the sense that, despite overwhelming and impossible odds, or great horrors, their minds remain unblemished after the battle ends. Sure, they’ll be distraught by loss or over joyed with victory, but these are fleeting emotions before they just kind of… move on.

This is why games that have mechanics to really reflect the fragility of the human mind are something I strongly value in many game genres. And while I certainly don’t, for a moment, think that every game needs to have such mechanics: the ones that do are a very welcome change of pace. As such, Darkest Dungeon has become something of an obsession of mine in the recent weeks.

DarkestDungeon_Metadata_BackgroundPDP_1That’s a slight lie on my part: I was infatuated with the game when I first discovered it last year late, late into the summer. I poured many hours into it before I was dealt a series of devastating losses that I , personally, was having a hard time recovering from. More on that later.

Let’s start from the beginning of things here: in the game, you play as the ancestor of a once great and powerful family. Of course, as your ancestor (know in game only as The Ancestor) grew bored of more conventional diversions, he began to dabble in the forbidden and the insane. This dips very heavily into H.P. Lovecraft‘s works as the Ancestor discovers ruins and gateways beneath the family manor.

And anyone familiar with Lovecraft knows that, when you find a door guarded by squid-faced statues, the correct answer is always, ALWAYS nope right out of there. Breaching the gateway, of course, releases unspeakable and unfathomable horrors into the mansion, and a creeping doom begins to infect the lands surrounding.

It is your job, dear player, to play clean-up. Tainted monsters, blood-thirsty brigands and all manner of eldritch horrors need killing. But since you are by no means a fighter yourself, your only option is to hire others to do the cleaning for you. That way, when the terrible realities of what it is they’re seeing start to sink in, you’re no worse for wear. Kinda.

I’m going to by-pass a lot of the mechanics of the game in favour of getting to the real meat of my interests with this game. And in all honesty, if understanding the mechanics in more depth is your thing, you can find 1000 and 1 reviews out there that’ll pull them apart. No, my interests lie in the unique stories each and every of these characters you’ll hire tell. And, most fascinatingly, how the game encourages you to either be a caring or apathetic commander.

Let’s take this one step at a time, shall we. Starting with point one: these strangely unique characters who’ll wander their way into your town, looking for gold and glory. Or perhaps redemption. Aside from the first four characters you get when you start the game, each character is randomly generated every time you return to town from an expedition. And while the base stats of each class are very uniform and all the faces look the same, what’s more interesting is the random quirks that each character begins with.

chesterThese quirks come in two flavours, good and bad. And with a little bit of imagination, you can conjure up all sorts of fascinating potential backstories for each of these new arrivals. Of course, this requires a degree of acknowledging the cannon lore for each class, as according to the official IG write-ups: each class represents one specific person. For example, the highwayman’s name is Dismas, and upon game completion, you can unlock a comic strip that tells a little of his specific backstory.

This begins to fall apart a little when you consider how many Dismas’ are running amok at any given time. Not too long ago, I had 3 highwaymen in my roster, one of which was named Dismas, and the other two were very nearly clones aside from their scarf colours (in the couple of expeditions that followed, pretty well all of them died horrible deaths. #adventurerlifegoals ). Upon inspection of each character, their personalities were quite different, and because of how I was trying to save some IG money by not unlocking each and every one of their skills, they all had a slightly different way of fighting and working with a team.

I got to know each of these characters rather well. In one case, a highwayman (I’mma keep using these guys as an example for reasons well beyond my own comprehension) names Meri arrived in town. About as low level as they come, he seemed to be more skilled in swordplay than in the use of his gun. What was interesting, though, was that his positive trait was Weald Scrounger, meaning he was more comfortable in the woods and better at scouting ahead there. But his negative quirk was Witness. At some point in his life, he had seen something unsettling happen in a place of worship, and as a result, refuses to go back inside.

darkest-dungeon-review-crop-a_480.0Like I said, a little imagination and you can start to piece together Meri’s backstory. Off top of my head, I can picture a young lad who was training to be a knight in the service of God. Perhaps it was a scandal from the local abbot, but he saw something in his youth that caused him to turn his back on the church. He was a skilled swordsman already, so carving a life for himself out in the woods as a brigand would be no major difficulty. With rumours persisting of a wealthy family hiring explorers to delve into dangerous ruins and the like for good coin, Meri signed on to the nearest caravan and found his way to the Hamlet.

Kind of hits the realm of fan-fiction in many regards, but a good piece of fan-fiction can serve as the basis for great writing material.

Each and every of these characters seem so interesting in their own way, which made leading them further and further down into despair and danger all the more harder. This ties in that second point I mentioned previously quite nicely, and also relates to that point on a crippling defeat I had brought up some ten paragraphs ago. As you begin to get to know these characters, invest a lot of time and effort into raising and improving them, their deaths become all the harder to burden.

Perma-death mechanics are a fickle mistress in gaming. You either love or loathe them. In this case, I view it as a necessary part of the experience. Because I do feel sad when I lose an adventurer I had grown fond of. Sure, I don’t know them on a personal level, and I didn’t watch any cut-scenes featuring exposition or points from the Writer’s Guide to Making Audiences Love Your Character nonsense. No. Instead, I watch these brave, sometimes desperate souls, fight impossible odds or losing battles against mind-breakingly strong adversaries.

So when I would watch, of that party of four who left confident and full of vigor come back as only one or two, horribly broken both physically and mentally, it can be very draining for me. As I’ve learned, I’m not the sort of leader who can just throw bodies into a meat-grinder if it meets a goal. I want to see as many of those heroes return after the battle and celebrate victory with me.

The last time I had played extensively was November of the past year. I don’t remember all the details specifically, but I had suffered a string of terrible losses that forced me to surrender to the demons, as it were. Many of my best and favourite adventures had died one after the other, my coffers had become so light the only option was to send out more parties with bare minimum equipment and pray for the best. Of course, these expeditions would end in disaster, if it were the best case scenario anyway.

After a couple of IG months of this, I turned back and surrendered the Hamlet to the creeping demonic influence that was laying claim to the land. I lacked the emotional fortitude to keep going and I surrendered.

There’s something very visceral and powerful about experiencing that in a game. Not because it was a scripted loss where the game was stacked against me (though, with the nature of RNG dungeons, that very well may be the case sometimes), but because of the circumstances, I found my breaking point. And the best thing about it is, aside from time invested, I didn’t actually lose anything for the experience. No one actually got hurt of worse, and I personally grew from the experience.

Now I’m back delving into the Darkest of Dungeons (with a new file, obviously) and applying the lessons I learned from my previous incarnation to wage war against the Eldar Ones. And these lessons are also useful outside of this game.

I know now that, in the heat of the moment I will make a choice to sacrifice everything to obtain my goal but will very much regret it later on. I also know that the individuals are important to me, and that the ends don’t justify the means. Care and caution are paramount, and I can’t ignore that about myself.

This didn’t fall under the category of your typical review. I didn’t assign it an arbitrary number, I didn’t discuss extensively the graphics or even the team that made it. I needed to review my own process and thoughts with this experience and how it has shaped me today. Because that’s what games and experiences do: they shape us.

Even if, to do so, they expose us to horrors our rational minds could never fathom.

Let’s Bring Back Those House Hippos

20170712_115836-1[1]I have always stood by a statement of mine that I am, 100%, a by-product of the 90’s. In regards to pop-culture influences, to music tastes to overwhelming passive-aggressiveness for no justifiable reason. And Pogs™, let’s not forget those either. But perhaps one of the biggest things about the 90’s I remember are those Concerned Children’s Advertisers that played on half a dozen channels intended for audiences between the ages of 2 – 18.

You remember those commercials? “Nobody’s good at everything, but everyone’s good at something”; or “I can put my arm back on, but you can’t. So play safe”; or my personal favourite and topic of today’s article: The North American House Hippo. I remember how long it took me to come to terms with the fact that the commercial was a result of clever editing and lighting tricks, and a very convincing voice-over. After spending far too long searching my own house for traces of the House Hippo, I finally was old enough to rationalize the message behind the commercial and apply it to tv, the focus of the advertisement’s warning.

Some twenty years later, this message is just as applicable. And not only because of its limits to less than factual television programming. The lesson of “don’t believe everything you see” can be applied to very nearly every source of media we, as the Western world, absorb on a very-nearly hourly basis. Granted, this mantra needs a little updating and polishing to be more poignant.

For starters, let’s evaluate the primary message behind the House Hippo commercial. We (kids) were presented with a series of shots and explanations as to the lifestyle of the elusive House Hippo (should that be capitalized? I’m not even sure), what they eat, where they nest and all that good jazz. Then the reveal at the end that the house hippo wasn’t real, and that we should be wary of things on television. Or, at least, better informed.

Fake NewsAnyone whose spent more than thirty seconds on Facebook can tell you that the spreading of misinformation or, worse yet, outright lies, is a blight upon what the greater information network (aka, the internet) is supposed to be. Everyone and their political representatives have pointed fingers to every Tom, Dick and Jane for being to blame for this and youths/elders/millenials/generation-bazinga people need to read things more carefully.

Were the solution that easy, this wouldn’t be an ongoing issue.

Breaking down the reasons into the spreading of misinformation usually stems from articles/posts/claims/statements/utterances that appeal to an emotional response; knowing how to get people riled up is one of the fastest ways to get a message out there into the world at large. Is it any surprise that the articles most likely to be blatantly incorrect or misleading are often charged with rage-inducing headlines or slants? I could do it myself if I didn’t like to think of myself as an entirely passive-aggressive-ish person; this blog would very likely get many more viral views. This largely comes down to a matter of framing.

For those of you who know what framing is, you are well aware of the powerful impacts it can have on even the most benign of statements. For those who don’t: a quick Google intermission might be in order.

This is now the part where I would very likely launch into a series of inductions based on the research I have compiled about this particular topic; but as things stand, my research is actually quite narrow in this regard. I’d very much like to cite a proper experiment on this topic, but as of yet, a good example eludes me. And such, I am reeling myself in from making any sweeping statements about the phenomena.

hhYiYBfWhich, in many regards, is still a great deal better than most of these posts that are the ire of news outlets and rational thinking alike. Because of how fast everything seems to be moving at all times (especially online,) it can be very difficult to not make a wild conclusion based on the concepts and information we have at our disposal. When we do: while it is true that we will invariably see more readers for what we post, we will degrade the quality of our works by not taking that little extra time needed to verify our sources.

No Laughing Matter

20170705_011455-1It was maybe going on four years ago now a friend and I were having a greatly heated discussion. The kind of discussion that only happens after someone makes an off-hand comment and, in all my wisdom, I challenged him to a verbal duel. A battle of wits. A kerfuffle of nonsense. The argument lasted all of the two hour car ride we were in, but every so often one of us would remind the other that we hadn’t reached a consensus, or would pipe up with some new dollop of information that would (ideally) sway the other to our cause.

Of course, like all great debates of our time, it stemmed from nerd-dom and superheroes. Surprisingly, I had all but forgotten about the debate until a wayward article numbering the top film and game Jokers of all time rekindled that debate in my soul.

For the sake of all humanity, I have yet to bring it up with my friend again. There may very well be no survivors.

The argument in question referred to the Dark Knight Trilogy; that Chrisopher Nolan brain-child that revived a somewhat stagnant DC franchise and presented the world of Batman to a darker world that most mainstream fans were not familiar with. Hell, most people, before this trilogy, had no idea that Batman could be as dark and visceral as this updated rendition. The idea of Batman still sat in their mind as the goofy Sunday morning “Baffs” and “Pows” that were iconic to the Adam West era, or the cartoon rendition from the 90’s series that, while dark, was still written for a young audience and, therefore, lacked a lot of the teeth that the comics of that time bore.

Good Gods, Self: you’ve spent about three paragraphs dancing around the topic now with cryptic and teasing mentions as to the argument. In the almighty words of Python: Get on with it!

In the trilogy: there were three main antagonists for Batman to out-battle and compete with. The first was Ra’s al Ghul, the super sneaky ninja mastermind whose national origins still baffle me to this day (more on that shortly). Then was the anarchaic and deranged Joker, as popularized by Heath Ledger; giving madness and violence a certain skin-crawling charm. Finally was Bane, the brutish member of the League of Shadows who delivered a reckoning to Gotham, and forced its peoples to look into their inner monsters and become the villains they were all aspiring to be.

Get on with it!

Ignoring that Ra’s al Ghul was a way less interesting villain than Scarecrow was (how I still dream to this day that the good doctor was given the leading villain part instead, but I digress), and that Talia al Ghul was actually the mastermind behind the whole movie and, frankly, was an anti-climatic plot twist that I’m still a little sour about. The debate raged on about who was, actually, the greater villain mastermind in the trilogy.

GET ON WITH IT!god.jpg

I just mentioned it, actually; chill. My friend and I had bashed heads for a good long while about who the better super villain was. He was in favour of Bane, while I attested that the Joker was far greater in very nearly every aspect. And the debate got rather heated once or twice. And, as a point of clarification: the argument was exclusively about the characters as they were portrayed in their two respective films, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; as well as it was about the natures of the characters in how they not only pushed Batman and the people of Gotham, but how they themselves represented very visceral aspects of humanity and the varying degrees of success for their plans.

Note from Self: and thank the gods we ignored the overall movies and just focused on the characters: the Dark Knight Rises was a hot mess of a movie and there are few too many leaps o’ logic in The Dark Knight to make any real sense anyway.

Of course, each of those topics could very easily be stretched out into a very long article on their own, and just going over the broad topics don’t really do the depths of these two characters any justice. That being said, I’m certainly going to do my best to make a good case for both characters and, if there’s enough interest, I can re-visit this all in greater detail.

Joker 2Disclaimer: If there’s one lesson I managed to actually take away from my Writer’s Craft course from high school, it’s that we should be up front about our biases and honest about them. In this regard, I am almost 100% of the mind that the Joker is the much greater villain between the two. Honestly, if you read the article closely, you probably could have divined as much.


For the first part, let’s examine these characters as devices that move the plot forward

In both cases, both Bane and the Joker serve very well as an embodiment to focus Batman’s, or in many cases, Bruce Wayne’s attention towards for character growth and a baddy to beat-up. In the literal sense, both men are incredibly dangerous in very easy to understand ways. While Bane is certainly a much better fighter than virtually everyone, the Joker is more liberal in his willingness to throw away any and all human life simply to prove a point, and oftentimes in a very grim and grotesque manner.

But, in less literal terms, both of these villains serve as emotional and philosophical hurdles that Bruce Wayne must overcome. Trust plays a large factor for both villains, as well as understanding the limitations of what one person can accomplish on their own (it’s easier to tear down than to build, as it were). There are fairly overt differences in the broader aspects of what each sort of threat each villain poses to society in general, and in ways that terrify us as individuals. And on that note:


The threats that both these characters pose to our own rational minds

bane-2.jpgThis is where things split for the two villains in quite radical ways. Starting with Bane (because that happens to be the BGM I’m listening to right now), he represents very methodical and deliberate destruction. It’s large-scale and targets very foundational organizations that we, as a society, place a great deal of faith in. Governments, military and law enforcement, and corporations are the targets of Bane’s destruction; as well as the stripping of power from those who possess it. While it doesn’t necessarily empower those of the lowest classes, it enables those of looser moral scruples to act as they see fit with fewer consequences. It’s total liberation from social conventions, and rapid changes like that are dangerous to civilizations en mass.

Joker 1The Joker, however, represents fear in the individual. His methods of terrorism and destruction hit everyone on a very personal level. Mutilating civilians, blowing up public services and encouraging the deranged and the violent tendencies, that many people have buried deep within, to be brought forth as a result of desperation. It’s indiscriminate and unbiased fear; a kind of fear that will affect anyone and everyone. Because no matter whom you are or what securities are in place, it’s yourself that is at risk. And when comes down to personal safety and security, or a matter of life and death, nothing can tear down a social hierarchy faster than the fear for the individual’s life.


The execution and accomplishment of “the plan”

It’s reasonably safe to say that both Bane and the Joker’s meta-plans failed as a generalization. However, if that were really the case, Gotham wouldn’t have changed, and neither would our dark and brooding main character. The plan for the Joker was… well, actually: was there even one at all? Contrary to his statement that he was a guy without a plan, he wasn’t lying, strictly speaking. He didn’t have one; he had dozens. Little plans and schemes that sometimes related to one another, and sometimes didn’t. But, if we were to choose his primary goal from the smorgasbord of choices, it was the mass spread of fear that was his greatest ambition. To rip open the weak seams that held public security together and to unleash the city upon itself in mass hysteria. Traditional terrorism, really.

Bale BatmanAs for Bane, his objective was a lot more straight forward. To continue the work of his predecessor, Ra’s al Ghul and have Gotham tear itself apart at the core. Because the opulence and corruption of Gotham had become so deep-seated within its nature, it was to serve as a world-wide symbol of a return to balance in the nature of things. To reset the clocks, in a way. This, however, wasn’t going to inoculate the human ego from the corrupting influence of power and wealth; but it would serve as one hell of a cold medicine.

In both cases, though: the plan was not (completely) achieved. In the Joker’s case, while the town didn’t exactly succumb to total fear, it certainly did brew up a sense of unease and insecurity in established conventions that would lay the groundwork for Bane’s ambitions to follow. And in the case of our favourite brutish mute-turned gentleman: Gotham did in fact rip itself apart… to an extent. The dregs of the social pyramid pillaged and plundered until they basked in a kingdom of hedonism and fear. But, it would require the aide of an atomic bomb to finish the deal, which proves that the basic concept behind the plan was a little more than flawed. But, to his credit, Bane did instill a more balanced sense of public justice afterwards. So, y’know how it goes.


In conclusion: I have way too much spare time to over-think this stuff

When you really break it down to the nuts and bolts, these character renditions are fascinating on a multitude of levels. Both Mr. Hardy and the late Mr. Ledger breathed an incredible amount of life into their characters, and with no small measure of help from not only the directors, but the writers as well for concocting the script and lines that we know and love today. And if nothing else, it gives us nerdy folk something really fascinating to dig our talons into and pull apart, all in the name of fandom.

For those who watched these movies and simply enjoyed them as movies: ain’t nothing wrong with that. I’m sure these kind of folk enjoyed different villains for far different reasons that are no less valid than the in-depth reading and thinking I tend to perform to things I enjoy just a little too much.the_dark_knight_rises_2012_gotham_new_york_city_bridge_explosion

And at the end of the day, there is one unanimous rule that pretty well everyone can agree upon: Batman’s villains are WAAAAAAAY more interesting than the “villains” that Superman deals with. Because Superman is dumb and everything about him is garbage. /tiny-rant

The 150th Canada Day Debate; Where do we Stand and What Does it Mean?

20170702_155747-1I think it’s fairly safe to say that very nearly everyone and their dog has had an opinion about the Canada Day 150th celebration that had passed only some couple days ago. And, shockingly, this might have been among the most charged and polarized discussions and arguments that has lit up the internet since fidget spinners first hit the scene (what was that: like, 3 weeks ago.

For people outside of Canada, a country celebrating 150 years of existence sounds like it should be a pretty straight-forward party. Fireworks, anthems, flags and over-priced merch that totally doesn’t all look the same. Inside the borders (or on just about every Canadian-based online forum) was a very different story. There seemed to be an almost polite civil war going on about the very nature of these celebrations. On the one side, you have the Pro-Canadian folks: proclaiming our love for beer, back-bacon, the long history of inclusion and awesomeness and incredible Canadian icons. On the other, however, was a group that I’ve taken to referring to Genocidal Canada: our long history of betraying and murdering the aboriginal communities, of clear ideological divides over our Euro-centric focuses and unwillingness to make amends for our past transgressions. Then, of course, the more quiet group, the Pure Canada folks: how dare we let refugees into our country, the gays should be put to the axe (because its sacrilegious that we should be flying the gay pride flag below the Canadian flag), and that our acceptance of more liberal views is degrading our values of a once great and proud nation.

3 Way Fight Chart

No matter how I look at it: there’s no winning side in this mess. Least of all that middle area.

Good Gods when you look at the three-way brawl that’s been going on online for the past couple months it’s enough to make you forget that, as a country, we’re viewed as the kind and benevolent neighbours to a much more volatile nation south of the border. And I have no doubt that, for many of us, this kerfuffle will continue into the next few months with no signs of slowing down.

Again, not unlike the fidget spinner fad…

The biggest problem with this whole debacle is that I don’t know how I’ve felt about any of this. When lines are drawn, sides are expected to be picked. And I’ve seen all sides very clearly chosen by even close friends of mine, let alone the extended friend basis I like to think I’ve kept. I’ve seen very compelling and articulate arguments for all sides at one time or another (except that Pure Canada thing; it’s hard to make a logical and compelling argument for killing homosexuals that doesn’t come off as a little maniacal). I like to pride myself as something of a hobbiest historian, so I am all too well aware of the long-standing history of “things are great so long as you don’t look into native reserves” that is so prevalent in our country.

But the thing that’s been bothering me most about this whole thing is: do our sins of the past and present outweigh the option for us to celebrate that which we value?

It almost seems that we, as a society, have been brow-beaten every time we wish to celebrate something that is important to us by interest groups or by particularly passionate individuals. We are guilted for thinking that it’s okay to have a good day when awful things are still transpiring all around us. And while I can certainly appreciate the sentiment that we should always be aware of the terrible things that have occurred on all our watches, I’m also something of a believer that in a world so seemingly bleak and hopeless as the one we find ourselves in, we need to have a little fun (more on that subject another day; getting into the dissertation of how the world isn’t as awful as mass-media makes it seem is a very complicated issue).

But, hold a moment. What exactly is this Canada 150th celebration about? Surely, the nature of what the party is will change the tone of our decision (my decision, anyway) of whether it is okay to partake or not. Again, things get fuzzy on this one. The celebration is to commemorate 150 years of Canada being Canada. Which makes no literal sense; what are we discussing exactly here? Canada as a specific thing, or as an idea/concept/symbol?

PrintWell, Canada as a specific thing. That has to be fairly simple, right? 150 years of Canada being a great nation. Well, not quite; Canada wasn’t a truly independent entity until only 35 years ago, with the Constitution Act, where we achieved full independence from the British Parliment. Or maybe it was with the symbolic act of the Statute of Westminister in 1931, where very nearly all British Colonies (except Quebec, for whatever reason) were to be given independence from the crown. Or maybe it was even earlier in 1763, where with the Treaty of Paris, control of the Canadian colony was surrendered to the British by a defeated France. Scale it back again to 1534, where French explorer Jacques Cartier stuck a foot and a cross into the ground and declared it land belonging to the French crown (while brushing aside the native peoples who were sitting there a little perplexed). On that note, what is to be said of the centuries or millennia (dependent on your reading sources) of aboriginal history on the continent of what we recognize as North America? Or even before that when the landmass that is recognizably Canada first emerged with the splitting of Pangeae 175 million years ago?

I’m sure at some point in that paragraph you mentally drew a line and said “yeah, that is Canada”. I don’t blame you; hell, I’ve done similar in the past and even to this day. What Canada specifically is in our minds is very much a reflection of experiences and personal philosophies. The same can be said for what precisely the very idea of Canada is. What is it that we, as a people, stand for and represent?

And we all know the stereo-types that surround that philosophy for our less-local friends. I’ve been to a few different countries in my time, and the impressions of what Canada is is not very different whether you live in the US or in Belgium. We’re the happy-go-lucky nation of buck-toothed beavers who drink beer and go polar diving in June, after riding our dog sleds to the nearest Tim’s for a bucket o’ double-double.

I’d go further with that description, but you, reader, have probably already inserted several more icons into the mix. I think you get the point.

ut inside our own borders, we’re just as ideologically divided as any other country; perhaps even more-so. Because of this huge divide, I’ve been exposed to so many different views as to the nature of celebrating Canada Day that it makes my head spin. It’s been very difficult to reconcile all these different views to figure out exactly what it is that Canada Day means to me, let alone something as apparently monumental as 150 years of existence (though I don’t put much stock in that number; refer to a few paragraphs previous). Even as I watched a modest fireworks display firing off on the coveted July 1st, I was still battling in my own mind where I stood on the issue.

Note from Self: I felt bad for all the bats in the area that were going to have splitting migraines from the show, but immediately forgot about that when the sky lit-up in that impressive display.

For the time being, I think I’ve come to a decision on the matter: The nature of the Canada Day 150th celebrations is less a matter of praising something physical, visceral or even said. It’s not about celebrating all the things that have been achieved under the iconic banner of red and white, or even the historic peoples who were born on this landmass. It’s not about political borders, or about spiritual beliefs or even past by-gones. The celebration is to commemorate an identity that is not shared by anyone else in the world. On this day, we acknowledge everything we have achieved: accomplishment, crime and otherwise. This day marks a moment in our history where we can look back to all we’ve collectively and individually done and discuss it with our friends and family to learn and improve.

Residential School

Residential Schools: one of the many, MANY mires on our collective history

Canada has accomplished great and terrible things; not occasionally at the same time. We have committed great atrocities within our own borders while reaching a humanitarian hand to those suffering in other countries. We have shed words, tears and blood in this and other nations to stand for what we believe in: whether that be by ten, one hundred, one thousand or one million voices. And the greatest thing of all: it is not an absolute.

These views will change and morph as we discuss and learn. So long as we continue to speak and to listen, we are doing our nation the honour it deserves. There will be times when we acknowledge and admit our shames, just as there will be times where we raise a toast to praise our accomplishments.

For the time being, this is my view of what this 150th celebration stands for. Undoubtedly, it will change in time, as all ideas and concepts should. I will see new things and experience new sensations that will forge and shape my beliefs.

To all those who have spoken up about their beliefs (even if they’re ones that make me uncomfortable or ones I disagree with), thank you from the bowels of whatever I have left of a soul for your opinions. The challenges I’ve faced with understanding this celebration has been an arduous one; one I feel that I am all the better for facing.

To the idea that you and I carry for what Canada is during this 150th year, I raise a toast. Here’s to the difference in our views that allow us to think and to grow. Here’s to the symbols we have become and the ones we are to be in the future. And here’s to our uncertain future; for better or worse, I am proud to identify as a Canadian and face these coming challenges head on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the huskies bickering again. I’m going to go take them for a once around the tundra to burn off some steam. Until the next time: g’day, eh?