Your Primer to NJPW’s G1 Climax 28

I’ve said it before. This isn’t a video games blog. It seems like that sometimes, because that’s what I usually talk about. But it’s not. It’s an Aether blog. And that means sometimes we have different subjects than the usual around here. Today’s going to be one of those days. Because today I want to talk about wrestling.

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New Japan Pro Wrestling, specifically. Been something of a passion of mine for over a year now. And it’s a good time to be into it. A really good time. The company has been spending the past couple years putting out what many consider to be the best matches in the history of wrestling. They’ve been gathering some of the best talents in the industry, and the results have showing. Perhaps most tellingly, the Wrestling Observer Newsletters rating scale, which many fans look to as the gold standard of wrestling match reviewing, has only awarded more than five stars eight times in its long history. Seven of those times have been matches with New Japan Pro Wrestling within the past year and a half. Hell, they’ve become enough of a powerful presence in the pro wrestling world that even the WWE, who as a rule never acknowledge other wrestling companies, have made some pretty huge references to NJPW over the past several years.

Calling New Japan the best wrestling has ever been is going to draw some controversy, but it’s got a solid claim to that right now. What’s much less disputable is that NJPW is in the midst of a golden age of the form, delivering a level of quality that people are still going to be talking about for years. They are giving us some of the best wrestling you can see. And with them expanding their efforts to connect with worldwide audiences, a new president who has set a priority of delivering more English content, and with NJPW being on the eve of this year’s G1 Climax, probably their highest profile event of the year, I’ll repeat that. It’s a really good time to be into NJPW.

And you know, I’m a giving person. I like making the world a better place. So for those who were interested in getting into this year’s G1 Climax, I thought to put together a little primer. Just something to make jumping in a bit easier.

New Japan Pro Wrestling

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Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, you know wrestling. It’s been around a long, long time, and has taken up enough of a place in our culture that, yeah, you know what you’re in for. So let’s talk a little bit about what’s different about New Japan Pro Wrestling from what you might generally see.

One thing that’s been with NJPW since the start is their value on what they call Strong Style. Yes, WWE selling Shinsuke Nakamura as the King of Strong Style is a direct export from here. The company was founded by Antonio Inoki, a wrestler/martial artist who had a stupid fight with Muhammed Ali once that ended up serving as the dumbest possible origin to Mixed Martial Arts. But Inoki was never-the-less inspired by that, and worked that into the company he made, delivering a take on pro-wrestling very much inspired by MMA, boxing, and other combat sports. The company used to go too far with it, demanding their wrestlers also take part in legit MMA competition and seeing plenty of wrestlers make a habit of hitting each other too hard to get more impact out of their supposedly fake moves. They’ve walked back on it since, but it’s still a part of their DNA, and you’ll see a lot of their wrestlers with legit records in MMA, amateur wrestling, kickboxing, etc. behind them. They do strongly value a mix of styles, both drawing inspiration from outside sources and seeing variety in the types of wrestling styles on display.

One of the best parts of wrestling is the drama. It’s more than just a competition, because a competition that’s not really a competition is kind of lame. Wrestling is at it’s best when you’re feeling for the characters in the ring and getting invested in the momentum between them. In typical wrestling, this often takes the place of a sort of soap opera with muscles that will always sound dumb when you try to explain it to someone else but it can actually be pretty awesome to watch. NJPW is way, way more subtle with that. You don’t usually get people standing in the middle of the ring talking about how they’re going to fistinate everyone else. There’s no ladder matches for custody of people’s children, nobody getting into each other’s heads by having sex with manikins, no fake buyouts of the company by future presidents. For 95 percent of the show, it’s all matches. Most of the story happens in the ring, by the behavior of the people involved in their matches. The announcers will deliver some, some of the special content post match interviews will deliver some for those who choose to go with that too, but most of it just comes from watching and gaining insight into how they interact with each other. Some wrestlers are better at it than others, which leads to some differing quality on how this goes. The story also typically goes over a lot longer term, too. Some people, you’ll see rivalries playing out over years, only coming up a bit at a time when they have the odd match with each other. It’s pretty regular to see them set up a moment at one point that’s not going to have the emotional payoff you’d expect for months. When it works well, it works very well. Again, it does lead to some missteps along the way, but what booking doesn’t have its stupid missteps?

They also take a really different approach to match structure. NJPW values the health and longevity of their wrestlers, so the primary style of wrestling match is some variety of tag match. By my understanding, wrestlers are more driven to push the limits and go for those risky awesome moments in one-on-one matches, which leads to more injuries, so they try to save those singles matches for select times. Typically, you only get singles matches when somebody’s challenging for a title, when they’re going through one of NJPW’s tournaments, or in the odd grudge match. The top talent in the company often end up only having about 20 or so singles matches a year, a record way less than most anywhere else. You still see them in tag matches all the time, so you still get a chance to enjoy them for what they’ve got, but you don’t see them completely unleashed but for a few select times.

And frankly, that booking approach comes to define a lot of how things work in NJPW. Titles gain a lot of weight behind them, because the champion becomes the person you’re going to be seeing in singles matches for the next while. Perhaps because of this, the titles are more volatile than in many other promotions. Most champions are only able to hold onto them for a couple of defenses before someone else takes over. Factions are a lot more important to the company’s structure, as well. Most of the talent is divided into one of four different factions. Those factions give the individual wrestlers some identity, serve as a vehicle for both collaboration and conflicts with other groups, and provide the stable of member with whom you’ll see them team with in that multitude of tag matches they use so often.

The G1 Climax

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When I say the G1 Climax is perhaps the highest profile event of NJPW’s year, that might lead you to expect things that don’t quite apply here. The G1 Climax is not NJPW’s equivalent of WrestleMania, the year-turning show in which they pull out all the stops and capitalize on all the momentum they’ve built up. No, that would be Wrestle Kingdom, which is almost always a great experience in it’s own right. Still, not the G1 Climax. In fact, no titles will be on the line during the G1 Climax, no grudges settled, nothing finished.

Rather, the G1 Climax is a tournament. 20 wrestlers separated into two blocks, going against each other in singles matches over the course of a month. There’s no eliminations from this tournament, it’s all point based; two points for a win, one for a draw, nothing for a loss. At the end the two wrestlers with the most points from each block face each other. The winner of that scores a contract that, assuming they can defend it until then, has them challenging for the top title of NJPW, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, in the main event of next year’s Wrestle Kingdom.

So what’s the big deal about the G1 Climax? Well, aside from the fact that it’s twenty shows over the course of a month of great wrestling, remember that NJPW is protective of their talent, only having them in singles matches on select occasions. And this is probably the biggest select occasion. This is actually where most of the wrestlers involved will be seeing the majority of the year’s singles competition, more matches in one month than they’ll have in the rest of the year combined. This isn’t the only singles tournament NJPW has, but this is the one that gathers the biggest quantity of their top talent, and as a result, has a really great quantity of high quality matches, all in a single place.

Moreover, this is one where they pack a lot of surprises, as well. You’ll see normally invincible champions falter. You’ll see wrestlers pick up surprise victories over people who would normally be way above them in the power rankings. You’ll see matches go in bizarre directions they wouldn’t try anywhere else in the year. Generally, whenever someone beats a reigning champion, they end up with a title shot against them later on, so you’ll see this open up a lot of doors to surprising future matches as well.

So yeah. It’s not just one great show. It’s a lot of great shows, many that bring things you won’t get the chance to see any other time this year. It’s an excellent jumping on point, or an exciting annual event if you’re already in there. There’s a lot to look forward to here.

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Your Guide to Holiday Home Defense

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It’s that time of year again. The time when that spirit of doom rises over us all. That time when we all have to watch our backs every moment of every day. That time when we all know that Jolly Red Roof Lurker waits for our moment of weakness to invade our homes, eat all our cookies, get uncomfortably familiar with our children, and take the credit for all our thoughtfully chosen gifts. Just this morning, before I got into work, he was in my office. He left me something right on my desk. A tin of cheap cocoa and a couple of mugs with his face on it. To mock me. Just to show he knows where I work and that even though it’s behind a couple levels of security, he can still get into it any time he wishes.

I am many things in life. I’m the world’s sexiest human being. I am the new hope for good in a world without. But I’m also the world’s foremost Santa Hunter. And this year, I thought I would do my part to further make the world a safer place and talk about how to defend yourself against Santa, this year. Now, there’s not a science to combatting old St. Nick. You have to be prepared to be flexible, and honestly, there’s a lot to it that you won’t pick up without years of experience. But Satan Claws does operate according to a rather strict set of rules, and knowing them, knowing how to take advantage of them, could just save your life this year.

It can seem impossible to fight back against Santa. After all, he’s constantly watching everything you do. You know that weird thing you do when nobody’s watching? Yeah, he sees that. He’s also everywhere. Especially this time of year. You can’t go anywhere without spotting signs of his involvement. It can seem overwhelming. But keep in mind you don’t have to worry about all that. You don’t have to deal with him in the stores or out on the streets. Sure, it would be an opportunity to rid us of the red menace once and for all, but leave that to the professionals like me. You just need to worry about defending yourself for one single moment, when he enters your home.

The first step in that is just knowing who he targets. Santa is notoriously prejudiced in his operations. For some reason, the Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and practitioners of many other faiths are generally safe from his invasion. Perhaps the most reliable way of ensuring you and your home is safe is to convert to one of those religions, in which case he might just ignore you entirely.

He also seems to focus more on homes with young children. Being child-free is less of a guarantee of safety, but perhaps something to consider.

What is no guarantee of safety, as many assume, is not having a chimney. Many think that having no fireplace means that Santa has no means of ingress into their home, but that’s simply not true. Likewise, many assume that Santa is a normal man with strange magic powers. Again, not true. Sometimes, Santa may take the form of a man, but just as often, he remains in his natural state, that of an intangible Christmas Spirit. In that form, he is able to enter your home through any exterior defenses, whether locked doors and windows, electric fences, or magical barriers.

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And it is in that form he is most deadly. He’s not able to switch the “From” names on your presents to his own in that state, but he has a far more dangerous tool at his disposal. In his Christmas Spirit form, he can take over people’s minds, possessing them or making him his thrall. If you’ve ever wondered why Santa can appear in so many stores at the same time, or why he looks slightly different every time you see him, that would be why. Those are simply others whose very sense of being he has overpowered. It seems he is only able to do so to adult males, it’s very rare to see a woman under his direct control, but for anyone who falls under it, it seems his call is irresistable; no matter how strong-willed they are, they will do his bidding. Most of the time, his thralls are easily identifiable, for they will wear his guise and his clothing. On Christmas Eve, however, his powers grow, and his thralls may not necessarily bear these marks. You should be suspicious and ready to strike against any adult male in your vicinity. Not every grown man is susceptible to his glamours, many, like myself, seem to be immune. But enough of them are that until proven otherwise, you should be suspicious of your significant others, fathers, grandparents, uncles, and any other adult male relatives. When in doubt, it is safer to knock them unconscious than to hope that Santa has not seized hold of their mind. They may pass an uncomfortable night, but if they care about you, they will undoubtedly be pleased to do their part to keep their home safe.

If you’re a grown man yourself, it seems the best way to protect yourself from Santa’s possession is to keep yourself in an altered state of mind. Get drunk. Stay drunk. Not too drunk, because you’ll still need to be able to fight, but drunk enough. You’ll know when you’ve hit that stage. Just stay there, all Christmas Eve. You haven’t seen any of those store Santas drunk around all those kids, have you? It seems Santa has a harder time seizing someone’s mind when it’s under the influence.

Of course, the men aren’t the only ones in danger. In fact, the women might have it much worse. Particularly the mothers. Santa has a really weird love life. As chronicled by that old song, Santa has some constant, broad amorous affections, but only for mothers. Typically, those already romantically attached, as well. It seems he’ll often use his thralls to place his affections, stealing kisses from their partners, underneath the mistletoe. Which, by the way, is poisonous, because Santa spoils everything he comes across. I suspect that seeing familiar features of their loved ones under his guise opens their minds to the prospect, at which point he begins to work his glamours. Whatever the case, witness reports are constant from young children of finding Santa at his dirty work in the middle of the night, only to begin enjoying the affections of their mothers once he is done. Their fathers, nowhere to be found in all this. Some of you still living with a parent or with kids of your own may be tempted to use this odd amorousness as bait, but this is an advanced technique, with much risk at play. Leave it to the professionals.

Due to Santa’s natural phantasmal state and his possession of your friends and family, it’s not recommended to use weapons. You could easily end up harming those close to you who find themselves under Santa’s power, or you could destroy things within your home without harming Santa himself. But don’t worry, you’ll likely be able to drive him off with simply your natural abilities.

Santa will enter your house in his phantasmal state. In this form, he is largely intangible, and mostly invisible. Most people will not even realize he’s in the home. Those of you with mental powers may be able to detect his entry, and he will be very weak to your mind bullets in this state. If you don’t have those, or if you’re wanting to do some more serious damage, you’ll have to be patient and wait until he takes physical form. He will need to do this before he can interact with anything in your home, whether that’s your cookies, your presents, or your family. If he is able to seize the minds of anybody in your home, he will use their bodies, but if not, he may bring in somebody from the outside through some magic I’ve been unable to decipher as yet, or he may manifest in his own form. He is a skittish creature, and will only take a physical form if he thinks he is completely safe in doing so, so it is of vital importance to either hide well or pretend to be asleep until he appears.

Then you strike. Strike fast, strike hard. He is an accomplished combatant, with strange seasonal magics at his disposal, so the goal is to avoid getting into an extended fight with him. It will be far safer to do enough damage in a single moment to drive him off.

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The WWE has been conducting and publishing ongoing research on this for years. Their research seems to suggest that Santa is vulnerable to your finishing maneuver, provided it strikes at the head and is the type that you can pull off suddenly. Your Stone Cold Stunners, RKOs, Diamond Cutters, Sweet Chin Musics, those type of things. In my experience, you can also try for a submission hold, but that does carry a risk that he will leave a thrall in the middle of your hold. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve slapped my Scorpion Deathlock onto Santa only to have to explain to my grandfather why he came to in my hold later.

If you do not have anything suitable there in your repertoire, a stealth attack might be your best bet. Be prepared for the night in your best stealth gear, sneak up behind him as quietly as you can, and make your move when you’re within arm’s reach. I’m a fan of an elbow to the back of the skull, but you know your fighting style best.

If you do find yourself locked into melee combat with Santa, again, the goal is to deal enough damage to force Santa to release his hold and flee. Again, this may be dangerous, but keep in mind that no matter how the battle goes, drawing him into combat means that his dastardly business in your home is interrupted, so you’ve won that part of the battle already. Again, you know your fighting style best, so trust yourself there. Your best bet is to be as aggressive as possible, seeking to deal as much damage as you can as quickly as you can. The shorter your fight is, the safer you will be. He’s got a lot of cushioning on his torso, but strikes to the head and knees work well. Do not underestimate him, in spite of his weight, he is surprisingly swift. Strong, too. In my experiences, though, he’s a relatively simple fighter, mostly sticks to boxing, with some dirty moves thrown in, but his fundamentals there are strong. Fighting him may be difficult, but if you are both careful and aggressive, it should not take too long to force him to flee.

When he does, under no circumstances should you pursue him outside your home. There his magics are most powerful, and he may have reinforcements out there, in the form of other thralls, his reindeer, his wicked elves, or, worst of all, the dreaded Krampus. You may witness some dedicated Santa hunters attempt to fight him there, but it takes years of training and experience to reach the level that you can do that safely. Rest assured that you have protected the lives and safety of both yourselves and the rest of your family, and leave the next steps to those with more experience.

With this, I hope you can keep yourself and your family safe this holiday season. And as always, rest assured that we are ever growing closer to ending the evils of Xmas once and for all.

Cooking With Testosterone: Bison Burgers

Sorry, don’t have a real post for you today.  So we’re going to have this fake post.  We’re getting into the time machine for this one, bringing back something I wrote in… 2012?  Bloody hell, I feel old.  Anyways, here’s some totally cheap content.  I hope you enjoy!

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“Aether, you magnificent figure,” I hear you ask. “Why exactly should I care that you ate a hamburger?” Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But this is no hamburger! These are bison burgers! These are at least three times as manly as your average hamburger!

“So what?” I hear you ask again. You’re really loud. I can hear you from all the way over here. “It’s still a burger. Absolutely simple to cook.” Well shut your mouth. I’m crippled. It’s the best I can do.

I don’t normally cook meat, because all the vegetarians I live with hate it when I make the house smell delicious and remind them that I’m higher up the food chain than they are. But I do like to break out the bison, once in a while. It can be used in pretty much all the same things beef is normally part of, and it’s leaner and less fattening. It retains its juices better if you cook it right, too, so you can end up with an even juicier patty if you’re awesome like I am.

Started with a cast iron pan. Cooking bison has to be done at a lower temperature for a longer period of time than beef, which is really difficult to manage properly on my screwy stove, but I’m an expert, so I can handle it. I used my traditional burger recipe, mixing in egg to make it juicier and oats to help it stick together better, but it’s juicy enough the egg might be overkill. Then, just cook it like you would a regular hamburger.

As with everything else in life, it’s a lot better with some nice buns. The cheap ones aren’t really going to cut it. The meat’s stronger and gamier then regular hamburger meat, so you’d want to match it with some more prominent flavors. Use a sharp chedder, strong onions, dark lettuce, and top it off with a nice dark ale. Of course, you’ll have to be equally strong to match the bison flavors. Obviously, I had no problem, but you might want to do some serious soul searching before attempting this dish on your own.

I cooked it almost perfectly, if I do say so myself. The only problem was that I went with the cheap store brand onion rings. A bison burger of this caliber deserves the top shelve onion rings. As a result, I’m only able to award myself 49 out of 5 points. I know, I know, I’m ashamed, but I’ve still got one more meal to redeem myself. Stay tuned!

Cooking with Testosterone: Steak and Sprouts

My family cajoled me into writing a dumb thing about cooking again.  I thought there’s a slim possibility someone other than them would enjoy it, so what the hell, let’s share it here.

So what we’re looking at today is steak and sprouts, a meal that became a classic the instant it emerged from my head. You might remember brussel sprouts as those vegetables you haven’t seen ever since you got your own home because your parents always made you eat them because they were ‘good for you’ even though they both looked and tasted like green cow poop. As it turns out, it’s not only possible to make them taste good, it’s easy, you just have to get over that parental idea that only bad things are good for you.

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If you’re lucky enough to have one of those moms who loves you, then you might have no idea what brussel sprouts look like. You can see them in the picture here. I used frozen brussel sprouts for this dish. Fresh brussel sprouts would almost certainly be better, but that’s a risky proposition, as the chances of you eating them before they go bad is almost nil on account of the fact that they’re brussel sprouts. Our first step is to cut them into chunks. Then we bake them. We do this first, because brussel sprouts take a long while to cook. That means that not only did your mom make torture you with her lame, disgusting sprouts, she put a lot of work into her torment too.

After that, it’s time to prep the steak. We’ll rub Worcestershire sauce, salt, and fresh black pepper into both sides. Keep in mind that Worcestershire sauce uses sardines as an ingredient, so if you’re making this steak for your vegetarian friends, maybe find a substitute sauce. Then we’ll let that sit for a while.

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In order to get our sprouts tasting good, we need to add something that counteracts both their bitterness and their healthiness. So we fight the brussel sprouts with another superfood, and mix pomegranate juice with maple syrup. We’re going to boil this concoction down until it’s thicker than the maple syrup in consistency.

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As our brussel sprouts are starting to get crispy, we’re going to break out the manliest of cookware, the cast-iron pan. Requiring regular care and upkeep, with a passionate fandom behind it, and heavy and sturdy enough that you can use it to fight of the horde when they show up at the door, this pan fits every uber-male stereotype I care to think of at the moment. We’re going to drop some oil in it, get it good and hot, and sear one side of our steak. Once that’s done, we flip the steak over, and immediately pop it in the oven, pan and all, for a good bake.

Sprouts are done once they’ve crisped up and are starting to brown in the core. The syrup’s done when it’s a syrup. I’m sure you know what to do then.

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And that’s how it all comes out. So how good is it? Well, I’d tell you, but I wouldn’t want to make you all jealous that I got to eat this and you didn’t.

The Tabletop Critique-Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers

Despite my best intentions, Christmas happened again this year. Sorry about that. A man can only do his best, and although my best is considerable, it takes some time to efficiently bring Christmas to a close. Until then, I suppose we all have no choice but to suffer through it.

In the meantime, that means presents, from people. To me. They try their best. This year, me and mine seem to have gotten a lot of tabletop games. It’s been rather a year for that. A lesser man may simply play them, and leave it there, but I’m much more than that. Instead, I shall use this opportunity to enlighten the world! And you’re welcome.

Right. So with all my traditional self-absorbed pompousness out of the way, I got a lot of new tabletop games this holiday season. I’m going to review them. Sound good? Good.

The first game on the Tabletop Critique chopping block is this little number here.

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Magic: The Gathering holds a special place in my heart. I was super big into it as a cub. Well, as super big into it as you can get without actually owning any cards. See, I had those types of parents who thought that anything their children enjoyed was a tool of the devil, so, I had to rely on borrowing stuff from friends. Still, there was a time in my life where my thoughts were constantly on Magic. Beyond just the game itself, the stories, the world-building, and the lore had a really strong impact on me, kickstarting my imagination at a formative stage in my life in a way that little else did. It may be a little odd, but Magic was where I first started playing with storytelling, using the cards as setpieces to craft my own tales to tell myself, which built into one of those good old lifelong passions.

Eventually, I did start picking up the card game itself, then lapsed out of it, and now generally only play on special occasions. I still do have a lot of fond memories for the flavor and the world, however.

Which I suppose is where Arena of the Planeswalkers comes in. It’s a competitive miniature-based tabletop game. I know absolutely nothing about Heroclix, so I feel completely comfortable assuming this game is exactly the same but with a different flavor and a major twist to the mechanics somewhere. Each player controls one planeswalker figure and a collection of critters associated with them, then uses this squad to attempt to conquer all the other players who are doing the same.

In keeping with the source material, you’ve got five colors to work with, each with their own planeswalker, creatures, and spells. Each comes with their own strategic focuses, strengths, and weaknesses, giving you the tools you need to craft your tactics in taking the other teams down. Combat takes place on a game board that can be set up a couple of different ways, with a few obstacles and terrain features to present risks and opportunities. Each creature and planeswalker has different stats and traits, each spell card affects the battle in different ways, you get the picture.

Arena of the Planeswalkers isn’t very flavorful, but mechanically, it does carry the Magic the Gathering feel about as well as you could expect when turning the card game into a board game. The mechanics of it are quite simplified, but the functions carry over into the new format quite well. Summoning creatures plays much the same role as in the card games, and well placed spells will twist the flow of the game in exactly the same way as they can in the card game. In terms of mechanical feel, the game has built it’s similarities with the CCG with unequivocal success. Continue reading

Musings on the Nature of Power

Gonna have something rare on Lost to the Aether today.  I’m going to get real with you.  Going to talk about life stuff.  You know, reality?  That place where you keep all your video games and booze?

About half a year ago, I moved, in response to a new job.  You might remember that time.  That was when I stopped posting here but for once every few weeks and you spent like three months completely depressed for reasons not entirely unrelated.  Anyways, I’ve spewed up a few words about my old job, my past as a small business genius-for-loan, but not anything about my new position.  But I’m in the mood to muse, so let’s deal with that right now.

So, without getting into too much detail, I’m a case manager working within the welfare system to help people become more self-sustaining.  It has a lot of the hallmarks of the typical government job; having to pull out incredible amounts of work with very few resources, the constant uncertainty if funding or laws or just the people making decisions are going to shift somehow and end my job, and dealing with a clientele who varies drastically in capability, mood, and willingness to work with me, but who all need my help nonetheless.  It is both a very stressful and very fulfilling position.  And it gives me something that super villains and assholes spend all their lives trying to get.  Power.

In short, I work with people going through some of the worst parts of their lives, being driven down far enough that they need government help to keep going.  In order to get that help, they need to work with me in order to improve their lives, doing the activities that I, in my discretion, set for them.  If they don’t work with me on that, or if they don’t do what I’ve set out for them, their month is pretty well ruined because they don’t get their support.

It gives me a great deal of control over their lives.  I force people to get better, and although most everyone may agree with the end goals, not many enjoy that it’s imposed on them.  And all this was handed to me.  Me.  When I was still completely green to this type of work.

That used to terrify me.  I was not entirely expecting this degree of control when I was starting up the job.  Which might be one of the things that makes me a good choice for the position, as far as my supervisors were concerned.  Too many people appreciate the power.  Look for the power.  Hell, just take a look at the presidential race right now.  Or all those people going through the job search insisting on some sort of high level position without first building their experience up in the industry’s operations.  Or, well, so many people who go into specific types of government work.  That specific sort of social capital, that’s something that draws a whole lot of people.  But it’s so easily misused, especially when it’s the power itself that attracts someone rather than the purpose for which the power is granted.  The type of people who like that power over others too often become analogous with a good old comic book/video game villain.

And even when it is used properly, it can still be a fearsome thing.  The Spider-man adage is very true, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.  In my case, if I’m not on point, it’s really my clients who pay for it.  If I don’t properly assess their situation, they may have a much harder time than they should as I didn’t properly match their activities to what they need and what they can do.  If I fall behind on the administrative side of things, my clients don’t get the resources that they need.  And even if I’m doing everything right, oftentimes, if I’m not pushing the rest of the team handling other aspects of their case, they’re still negatively impacted.  It puts a lot of pressure on the use of that power.

Even so, I’ve learned that the power does need to be used.  It needs to be used carefully, selectively, but there is a reason for it being there, and it does have to used for that purpose.  I try to be pretty flexible with my clients, but I’ve definitely found that with too much flexibility, getting too light on their requirements, and they tend not to graduate from the program.  It’s easier on them, for sure, but when that power is not exercised, they don’t see results.  They don’t get the overall life improvements the other clients get.  They may not like me setting the more involved activities, but if I don’t do that, I’m really failing to help them.

Of course, it’d be a little too easy for one to fall into the supervillain use of power.  In my case, if I just started using this power to do what’s easiest or most optimal for me, I’d still be well within the intentions of the program, but I really wouldn’t be serving my clients well.  But no.  What I’ve found power, at least the power I wield, really needs is just a focus on the overall goal.  The power is not for my purpose, it’s not to make my working day easier, it’s really to be used for the benefit of the people I have this power over, to make sure that they’re able to build these improvements into their own lives.  How that looks can change drastically depending on the person, but it’s really that goal, that focus on aligning the means with the desired end, that really keeps that power useful, towards my client’s overall best interests.  That the goal is held above all else is really what keeps that power working.

Power for its own sake always ends horribly.  History has taught us that again and again, and fiction’s been doing a good job of picking up the slack in the meantime.  That’s why you want to be very, very wary of anyone who wants that power.  But that same power wielded towards the higher goal is what can really make those great positive changes in our world.  So long as that goal is absolute.

The Responsibility for Spoilers

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I’ve been playing/reading my way through the re-release of Higurashi: When They Cry, one of the big names in the visual novel field, for the first time.  Now, here’s something that’s a total experience.  It’s deep, layered, and twisty enough that even just the very act of knowing what genre it actually is changes the experience you have with the story.  If you know anything about the novel other than “It’s good and you should try it,” you’re experience is already impure.  The story is that complicated.

So, I got to the end of what’s currently available in English on the re-release.  The first two entries in the Higurashi series.  And they took me through a trip.  Such a trip, that I was wanting to go online and explore them further.  Figure out what other people have going on.  And that led me to a problem.

See, the re-release, the one with the actual good translation, better art (and don’t you even), and overall improved presentation is being doled out bit by oh-too-small bit as the translation is finished, while the overall series has been out in other releases and mediums for a decade now.  And I was far from the first person to feel the need to go online and talk about things.

So, I was spoiled.  I was actively trying to avoid spoilers, and I was spoiled nonetheless.  I know big reveals that already change the way I looked at what’s been going on in the story, and are going to keep me from arriving at the conclusions the authors are hoping to lead me to before throwing the table down the stairs.  I know some space where things are more than what they appear, and how.  And I knew of some surprise characters well before they actually arrived.

I was angry, at first.  Most places have spoiler policies for just this sort of thing, and for very good reason, and yet I so easily wandered into spoilers, completely by accident.  I was looking to settle and enhance my experience, yet I ended up ruining parts of it.  And if this were not the kind of story it was, that’d be totally valid.

In most instances, it’s just the basic level of respect to mark your spoilers, to help people avoid them and make sure they get the experience they want.  Here, though, well, this has been out for a long while, and accessible in a variety of formats.  And although that’s not an excuse on its own, as people are picking up new works all the times, I didn’t start looking until after I already knew what kind of story this was, how complex, twisty, and easily spoiled, and that I only had part of the same picture as everyone else.  And it wasn’t like these were being posted on Twitter, Facebook, or another uncontrolled forum like that.  I was actively going out and looking for material.  It is one thing to be throwing unmarked spoilers out there when they’re completely unavoidable, but Higurashi is the type of work that it’s really impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about without spoilers.  Really, that was all on me.  It was my responsibility to avoid the spoilers.  Marking and hiding spoilers is a lofty goal, and one should always be respectful enough to do that when possible, but when it’s not, the discussion can’t make way for it.

People need to be able to talk about the works they go through, to help themselves elevate and better appreciate them, getting something more out of it than just their first watch.  Conversations need to happen.  And when it’s impossible to talk about something without bringing up spoilers, well, it still needs to happen.  As long as those who come first are doing what they can to protect the experiences of those who find a story later, the due diligence really falls to the spoilees to ensure their experience.  The conversation needs to happen regardless, and it can’t wait for everyone to reach the same level.