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

higurashi_mv.jpg

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.

A Note for the Slow

Once upon a time, I wrote something I’m rather proud of.  Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Copyright Disclaimers.  It was funny, and charming, and informative, and it made the world a better place.  I just read it right now, and it brought a big smile to my face.  Man I rule.

So, anyways, point is, I wrote something great.  A humorous post calling out dumb people on the internet who think that claiming they didn’t mean to infringe copyright somehow exonerates them from infringing copyright while also explaining some of the basics about how copyright works.  It is a thing of beauty.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It will make your life better.

People find that post.  Problem is, people don’t read that post.  See, for some people, this presses their hot button.  So they read the title, assume the content I wrote from that, then head right to the comment section as if I’m going to bother reading what they have to say when they clearly didn’t give me the same respect.

Todd just left a comment.  Todd’s one of those people.  I could respond to that, but I’d rather just call it out and mock it.  I’m assuming Todd just didn’t read the post.  I’m being generous in doing so.  Because the alternative is that Todd was just too dumb to comprehend what he was reading.  But just imagine what was going through Todd’s head there.  Aside from empty space.  Dude just read a title, than had some thought in his mind he absolutely thought the world needed to know.  Never mind that he had no comprehension of the actual content of that post.  Never mind that the post itself was in support of the very concepts he seems to think it’s arguing against.  Dude was so bloody full  of himself he thought he knew what it was all about without even reading it, because todd has all the attention span of a retarded goldfish.

So, I know time doesn’t come free.  I know it takes time to read something.  But please, if you’re going to take the time to leave a content, at least read the post first.  Otherwise you end up looking really dumb.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Years ago.  I made the decision to beat all my games, or come as close as I was able to.  This turned out to be a pretty big undertaking.  Like I said, it’s been years, I’ve been going by console generation, and I’m still working through my collection from two generations ago.  Since then, I have played hundreds of games.  Beaten hundreds of games.  And as much as I have impeccable taste, there are still some bad ones that slipped through.  Sure, there were a few I wasn’t actually able to beat.  There were a handful I couldn’t bear to go all the way through.  There were a couple I called completed just because I technically saw everything the game had to offer, and couldn’t bear to truly complete it.

Even so, in the time I’ve been taking on this quest, I have beaten nearly every game I’ve owned.  Even the horrible, miserable, foul games that made me question my faith in a kind and loving God forevermore, I endured, and I conquered.  I have defeated Fur Fighters.  Overcome Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero.  Thoroughly plumbed the depths of Wrestlemania X8.  I have seen some of the darkest parts of the world of video games.

Why, then, is it Baldur’s Gate, one of the most highly regarded games out there, that I just can’t bear to force myself through any longer?

baldurs-gate-win-ingame-37780.jpg

There are a lot of people who like this game, for very good reason.  Even people who, like myself, never played it in its proper era.  People who love the story, get really into the world, even people who enjoy all the prep-work the game’s combat is based on, all things I’d normally enjoy myself.

But in trying to figure out why people liked the game when I just could not, reading over what people were saying about it felt like I had somehow ended up with a completely different game than anyone else.  The world that people loved, in what time I played I just saw standard fantasy forests and villages, with no more details than you could see anywhere else.  The plot?  They had some interesting things with the iron crisis, but I cleared that up and I never got the story past the base that some jerk killed my dad and wanted to kill me.  Both of those could have become something good, but I’ll never know, because neither of them managed to go anywhere in the first ten hours I spent playing the game.  Neither did the gameplay.  I was a mage.  I had one spell slot.  I could cast one spell a day, then I was completely useless.  First level D&D 3.5E was always really weak on the first level, and that stretches out so long here.

I’d love to jump into the middle of this.  I’d love to see the game everyone else enjoys so much.  This is one of the favorite games of a great swath of people, and there has to be good reason for that.  It has to turn into something great later on.

But as much as I enjoy a good slow-paced story, 10 hours without giving me anything is a little too much.  I don’t know if I’ve ever played a game that’s so slow about everything.  I spent ten hours with this great, wondrous, award winning game, and did not come across a single hook.  This game is amazing.  I was bored out of my skull.  Everyone loves it.  I could not go on.  I have finished so much worse, and I will likely never beat this game, or play its sequel.

It goes to show, the critical success, the popularity, it’s no guarantee that you’ll find the experience enjoyable.  People like different things.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  And sometimes, it’s okay not to like something.  Even when the whole world disagrees with you.

Player 1: Status

Hey, everybody, not much time here, but I did want to drop a quick status update.  So, I think I mentioned earlier that I’m moving into a place going through a big ol’ housing crisis?  Yeah.  That’s still a thing that’s happening.  Yet, much like every single other thing I do, I handled it with grace and beauty.  I’ve successfully managed to secure housing, something that’s a bit better than I had feared I’d have to settle for, actually.  So I’m not going to end up as the world’s sexiest homeless man!  Happy day!

The new house doesn’t have internet.  I started my new job on Monday, but the schedule has not settled into place yet.  And a lot of my free time is still devoted to transporting stuff halfway across the state.  So the blog is still on the back burner for the time being, but we are moving forward, and with luck, I’ll be able to get back to creating content before long.

Lessons Learned: I Rule

Traverse_City_Film_Festival_with_Airscreen

Note: This is not my festival. Purely a flavor image.

Last year, I put out a post reflecting on the work I had done for a recently completed film festival.  Then I left the film commission I had been managing.  With that, I thought I was finally out of the game.  Both the festival and the commission were a lot of time, and a lot of stress, and I had never really had the passion for film that’s pretty much required to thrive in the industry.  I had left that behind me, happily so, and moved on with my life.

But just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I have a hard time saying no to people who need my help.  And the festival it seemed, was not quite ready to stand without me.  Still, I was adamant that I was not going to be as involved as I was last year, basically working another job towards the end of it.  And that was fine.  Last year, we had a problem with having way too few people involved to cover everything, the year before we had way too many to get anything done efficiently, this year, we seemed to hit the sweet spot.  We had few enough people there that we weren’t bogged down in multi-hour long meetings revisiting the same things we did in the last several, but enough of a team that nobody was really overworked.  As opposed to last year, when I managed the money, did most of the fundraising, led the marketing, as well as all the other odd jobs on my plate, this year, I limited my main activities to just handling the finances.  I helped out with other stuff as well, but that was all I was really in charge of, dedicated to.  Everyone else had their own areas, but there were enough people going around, that everything went smoothly.

Until the day before the festival.

And that’s when everything went bottoms up.  First our festival director had a situation suddenly come up, and he couldn’t make it to anything.  Then another member of our committee had an emergency, and she couldn’t make it either.  Leaving our decision-making group cut by half, leaving only myself and our programming director.

But you know what?  We handled it.  We were in a situation where both of us were having to completely adjust what we were doing on the fly, and we made it work.  We had volunteers to help us, some of which were pushed into roles a little bit above their heads, and we both had to take a lot more ownership of the festival and its activities, but we made it work.  I learned things about myself, too.  I learned I do pretty great at quick, casual presentations, given that I had to keep ad-libbing things in introducing or closing out the films, which is one thing I hadn’t been expecting to be charged with.  I learned that I’m able to pretend I know something about a subject matter when talking it over with an expert enough to hold a good public discussion with my only knowledge being the twenty minute film I just finished watching.  And I reaffirmed that people just really enjoy looking at me.  Good times.

I also learned I’m really good at marketing.  Last year, I took over most of our marketing activities.  Our attendance doubled.  I figured I couldn’t claim responsibility for all that at the time.  This year, I left the marketing to others.  Our attendance halved, back down to what it was before I got involved.  It still might be too soon to claim that’s all me, but I think that’s enough evidence to determine that I was at least partially responsible for the boost.

So yeah.  That’s what’s been going on in my life.  Just got through a really rough weekend.  Have a number of strenuous times ahead of me, so posting might be a little slow, by the way.  But still, I learned through it all.  I really need to respect myself more.  So does everyone else.  After all, as this weekend proved, I rule.

Take a Stand. Take Down Santa.

Photo by Cyril Doussin.  Click for source.

Photo by Cyril Doussin. Click for source.

So, it’s that time of year again. That time when the sun can’t bear to look upon us, the time the very darkness in the atmosphere forces us to hide within our homes, the time when all the first world devotes to worshiping that demonic thief in the night: Santa Claus. Idols to that jolly red roof lurker have pervaded all aspects of our culture. There’s no escape. Trust me, I’ve been trying for years.  Santa Claus, the Christmas mascot.  Normal, sensible people will lose their mind in a false sense of happiness at the mere sight of him.  People look upon him as some sign of peace, joy, and happiness. Oh, those fools.

I’m tempted to say you all disgust me, for your blighted Santa infatuations, but I won’t. Not because you don’t all disgust me, I’m just not going to say it. And, because I realize that you’re all mostly just unenlightened as to the evils of that crimson mass of blubber. All you know is the tales of the rosey cheeks and cherry nose and the magical times at the north pole and the reindeer and sleigh and the presents, presents, PRESENTS! Well, Santa is not that man. And I’m tired of being the only one around that knows it. So, please read these following facts, and hopefully, after I’m done, you’ll be convinced enough to join me in my annual holiday celebration of kicking Santa’s fat butt as soon as he enters our homes.

St. Nick, another name for Santa Claus, is patron saint of:

Merchants-Christmas is not about the presents so that you can make your friends and family happy, no. Christmas is about the presents so that you can fill the coffers of those who bankroll Satan Claws on his yearly quest.

Thieves-fitting, as Santa sneaks into your house like one. And you ever notice how everything you’ve ever loved is missing after Santa visits your home? That’s because Santa is also the patron saint of…

Pawnbrokers-That’s where everything that goes missing after Christmas ends up. Also, half the presents you give out go there too, because people are jerks. Santa-worshiping jerks.

Furthermore, St. Nick has spent his immortal life waging a war with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, Women’s Empowerment, and Virginity. As for why this battle’s gone on, well, he is the patron saint of prostitutes.

Everyone knows that Santa gives presents to the good kids. What about the bad kids though? Coal? Well, yes, but he’s also got a long, long history of giving bad children golden colored birch branches to be beaten with. So Santa’s an advocate of child abuse, too.

Santa doesn’t work alone, either. He has a couple of companions, such as Black Peter. Black Peter used to be a murderer, who attempted to serve St. Nick human flesh. So Santa turned him into some immortal… thing who alternatively scares and entertains children by performing a minstrel show in blackface. So Santa’s a racist, too.

There’s also the Krampus, a demon who rides shotgun with Santa, punishing the bad kids as Santa rewards the good. By punishment, I mean those children are whipped, kidnapped, drowned in ink, dragged to hell, that sort of thing.

NORAD tracks Santa whenever he’s flying around. They pretend it’s some kind of cutesy Christmas funtime thing, but clearly, they don’t trust him any more than I do. And if the US Government doesn’t trust somebody, why should you?  Granted, they’re apparently tracking all their own citizens out of paranoia, but still!  My point kind of stands!

Santa is officially a Canadian citizen. That means he’s entering our country illegally every year. He’s also got homes in America, and each of the Nordic countries. Forbes has him as the single richest person in the year. Does he ever pay a cent in taxes? There you have it. Santa is the reason for our deficit.

And this is only a few of the evils that man has committed. I can go on all day, listing his crimes, the various demons under his command, and the rest of the reasons for my lifelong vendetta against him.  But I’d still like to hold onto my sanity. Hopefully, this is enough for you.  You’ve seen the terrors this man is capable of.  This villain, this thief in the night who breaks into all of our houses to steal our cookies and kiss our mothers!  It is time to fight back.  Time to finish the era of Santa Claus.  I have had enough of him.  And so have you! So join me, and let’s end our common nemesis!