On Link and Cecil

I want to take some time to talk about video games again. More specifically the characters within video games. Starting with one of the most popular characters of all time, Link.

Now I might make some fans mad, though that's never stopped me from writing before, but the reason that Link is so popular is because he's something of a blank slate. He never speaks, he just goes out and does what needs to be done. We, as players, ascribe motive and, for the most part, we see Link as a noble hero going out to do battle with the villainous Gannondorf, and that's probably the truest explanation; but since Link never says anything, never emotes a personality we never really know. This is partly because its a new Link in nearly every iteration, though there are exceptions to this rule.

Back in the eighties, ah the eighties how I miss you in some respects, there was a television show called the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. On Tues, and Thurs (I think its been a few years) there was an animated segment based on the Legend of Zelda. To put it bluntly it was terrible. No terrible is too kind a word. Zelda was obnoxious, Link was whiny and obnoxious and there was a fairy character that I don't remember all that well. It was one of those things that fans of the Zelda series look back on as being pretty bad, and not cannon. It was an attempt to give personality to characters that didn't have personality and in that attempt it failed miserably.

Then there was Ocarina of Time. Now in the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I've never played Ocarina of Time. At that time I was a Playstation man. I've read about it though and seen thoughtful criticism of the game and it seems to have successfully given Zelda a voice in the form of the Sheik, which I think was rather clever. I think Link was given more of a backstory as well and I think that was what helped it to be so wildly popular. It kept Link enough of a blank slate that people could slot themselves into the role of the hero while still giving him a story, however minor it really was.

Now contrast that with another more fleshed out character, and for this analysis we'll be using Cecil from Final Fantasy IV.

You being play with Cecil as a Dark Knight. He's conflicted about his role in the kingdom and is effectively banished after questioning the king. You follow him on his quest to save the world, ultimately purging himself of his darkness and becoming a Paladin. Unlike Link Cecil has a clear character arc that begins at the start of the game and continues through out. You learn about him as you progress and you gain, and lose, friends and companions. I'll grant that some of them are rather two dimensional but I still have fondness for them. There's betrayals, secrets, revelations and it ends up being quite the story. I really recommend it for any rpg fans out there.

In some ways its harder to put yourself in Cecil's shoes. You know from the outset that he's done things that aren't good, and that he feels conflicted about it. He has a personality and that can make it harder to get into the game, but its by no means any less enjoyable.

I enjoyed the Zelda games I played. I think I'd call them more action games, but that's more of a personal thing really. Both Link and Cecil are popular, Link much more so by my own admission, and I think that's because of Link's nature as a blank slate. Much like the early iterations of Samus Aran you can more easily put yourself in the shoes of a character that doesn't have much in the way of outspoken personality. We see ourselves being the hero in their place that way, at least I always did.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you

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Orson Scott Card Boycott and My Thoughts


Now I've never read the science fiction works of Orson Scott Card, but I understand that he has a pretty large fan base. I also understand that a large segment of the science fiction community find his opinions on homosexuality to be, at best, a little nutty. Based on this I have no real problem with people organizing like minded types to not support the movie version of Ender's Game. I probably won't see it just because I know nothing about Orson Scott Card outside his now infamous Mormon Times piece, but I do have something of a difference of opinion in one regard.

I don't mind if fans go to see this movie. They have the right to express themselves the same as I do. See there was a webcomic I used to read called Queen of Wands. Its still up for anyone who wants to check it out btw. The artist and writer talked about her opinion about Card's new anti-gay wri...tings when so much of his previous works had been about acceptance and inclusion (again this is based on my memory of her writings on the matter I've never read Mr. Card's science fiction work) and she came to the conclusion that she would hang on to the good memories that she had and the good lessons that she had taken away from his works. She would still enjoy the things that she enjoyed because she had found them at a time in her life when they had mattered to her, and that's something I had to respect. I'm not sure I could do the same in the same situation.

But if you can separate what you love from the creator then more power to you and if you want to go see the movie version of Ender's Game feel free. There are plenty of jerks in the science fiction community that are brilliant writers and creators, and those jerks have legions of fans and admirers. They also, justifiably, have their detractors and critics. All sides have their place in this and its not wrong to love what you love (which is a subject I'll go into at a later date)

So think about it, and make your own choice. If your inner nerd wants to see your favorite book brought to the big screen, then go see it. If you feel like you have to give to a charity to offset the ticket cost then by all means go for it. If you just can't justify supporting the movie based on Card's political statements then you have every right to express that sentiment. Just remember that we're not enemies if we feel differently about it.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you.

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Brian Kilmeade is an Idiot and Gun Control Needs to be Talked About Now

So I happened to have my television tuned into the Five and dimwit Brian Kilmeade was on in place of Greg Gutfeld. Well apparently is now blaming video games for the shooting in Connecticut, and not just any video game but Dynasty Warriors.

You did, in fact, read that correctly. He went so far as to call it and "especially brutal" game even. Now for those that don't know about it Dynasty Warriors is a game by Toei, where you play as one of a number of characters from China's  War of States era. You go through various missions playing one of a number of different factions by basically button mashing combat and fighting the enemy soldiers. There is no blood or gore and the game is rated  T for teen and is known for its mostly terrible voice acting.

Now I admit that I'm a gamer. I play violent games like Diablo 3 and a few others and I can tell you that I've never gone out and hurt a person or an animal after playing those games because that's all they are, games. Video games don't kill people and they never have and all this talk about the shooter playing a T rated game does is paint all gamers as potential threats.

What happened in Connecticut is that a disturbed young man fell through the cracks in the mental health system. What happened was that a disturbed young man had access to an assault weapon and knew how to use it. If there had been a state run, or even federally run, mental health care initiative he might have been found sooner and gotten the help he needed.

Having access to an assault weapon is something that we need to talk about and Eric Bolling is wrong when he says that this isn't the time to talk about it. When do we talk about it? When the next person with a death wish takes up an assault weapon and body armor and goes on a killing spree?

That's another thing that grinds my gears actually. All these armchair generals saying that "if only the principal had been armed she could have stopped the killer" are missing one important fact. The shooter was wearing body armor. Where was someone supposed to shoot him? It would take a crack shot to hit him in a vulnerable area. Is that what we've come to, is that really the answer to how to stop these tragedies from happening again?

I don't know what the answer is. I pray night and day for an answer and the only thing I can think of is that we need to start treating one another with kindness and love for their own sake and loving one another, and implementing some way of helping people that have real mental health problems that fall through the cracks of society. Beyond that I just don't know and I really wish that I did.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you

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I was watching television last night and heard Taylor Swift's song, Mean, for the first time. I haven't listened to country radio in a long time, mostly because I like more traditional country music than the pop country that gets played these days. She talked about how she had written the song in response to a music critic hating her, and how people took it and made it into a anti-bullying anthem.

I listened to the song again today on Youtube and I really recommend that people give it a listen.

I wish I'd heard that song about , oh, twenty or so years ago.

When I was growing up my life was not what I'd like to call good. I was bullied, never physically, but everyday was a fight to make it through without fighting to not fall apart. To make matters worse my father, who drank heavily at the time (FYI he's been sober for more than fifteen years and now we have a great relationship) and was emotionally abusive. I had virtually no respite from the struggle to just get out of bed sometimes because all I wanted was for the pain to stop.

It seemed like everywhere I turned people were mean, rotten and cruel. Even the people I went to church with made me feel unwelcome and for a long time I quit going because I just gave up on trying to connect with anyone. I was ostracized for being different, for liking to read and draw instead of playing sports like most boys my age were into.

I eventually just got tired of trying to make friends and just put up thick emotional walls where I lived with barely contained anger and I lived that way for a long, long time. Now I did have one good friend in high school but we have since parted ways, though we keep in touch with occasional phone calls.

It took me a long time to come to terms with my anger and making the decision to let it go. I try not to think about those times because I don't have many good memories of that time period.

Hearing that song made me stop and think about the bullying I went through and how it shaped me into the person that I am today. My life might not be where I want it to be at the moment, but I'm working on it and I have friends, loved ones and family that all care about me and my well being. In that light I have it pretty good.

What I want to say is that we all need to reach out to the outcasts, the bullied and the people who are picked on and put down day after day. It does get better and whether you're gay, straight, bi or transgendered your life matters. Remember that, and when the hard times come talk to someone that you trust, even if you just post your feelings in an online diary don't keep all that emotion bottled up.

Someday you'll have your dreams and all the people that made your life miserable, well all they'll ever be is mean.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you

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An Open Letter to the Right Wing Pundits

To whom it may concern:

I've been paying close attention to you in the wake of President Obama's re-election and I'm a little confused. You say that the people voted for someone who would give them stuff, that the takers won this time. What exactly did you mean by "taker"? I'm rather curious because you seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth. You say that there should be programs to help the very poor, yet you also decry those programs as being wasteful. You seem to denigrate the poor because they are poor, and I thought that, as good Catholics, you were supposed to help take care of the poor.

You say you want us to have the chance to succeed on our own, yet when we ask for a hand up you slap that hand away. You talk about success and money as if it means a person is better for having them, while complaining that people who have a microwave or refrigerator aren't really poor. How are people supposed to store food without something to put it in? Are you really so full of baloney that you actually believe that?

You say that people should own their own health insurance, but you don't want the insurance companies to be required to cover people with pre-existing conditions. You say the very poor should just go to the emergency room. Well many people die doing that and I don't recall you airing a single story on those people and what should be done to help them. You want to cut Medicaid, or send it back to the states in the form of block grants. What happens when the block grant runs out? Currently the federal government pays when that happens but under your ideas it wouldn't. How would the people left out pay for their health care?

I am not a taker. I am a man who is in the position to need help. I'm currently on food stamps, Medicaid and SSI because of my health problems, both physical and psychological. I didn't ask for these problems, and I sure didn't ask to be demonized by you because I need the help, nor did any of the other people who legitimately need help. Are there people who abuse they system? Yes, of course, but that doesn't mean the program itself is bad.

John Stewart, in a debate with Bill O'Reilly, asked why it was that if you're rich and take advantage of government programs you're a smart business man, but if you're poor you're somehow a taker? (This is me paraphrasing obviously but the point remains the same).

You complain about the minimum wage and want to see it abolished. Let the Free Market tm determine people's wages. Well we had a period like that and wages were a pittance. People had to work three or four jobs to make ends meet. Is that really the model you want to go back to? One where the worker is at the mercy of his employer and has no recourse or protection from them? I suppose it is, since you are the voice of the employer in many cases.

You complain that 48% of the people don't pay any federal income taxes. How much of that percentage are people who make all their money on stocks and dividends? Of course those are the job creators so they don't count I suppose.

You complain about women wanting their health insurance to cover birth control. I'm sorry but many of these same companies will pay for a man's Viagra, and if insurance will pay for that it should also cover birth control. If you want to not pay for it for religious reasons I'm fine with that, provided you stop taking government money. If you take the government's money you should have to abide by the same laws as everyone else and that means insurance companies paying for birth control.

I'm fairly certain that you'll ignore this and go on demonizing the poor, but know that there will always be people like me who are here calling you out for it.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you

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Taking Care of the Least of These

One of the most important lessons I ever learned is that we should take care of the poor, and the sick. Jesus thought that the issue was important enough to say that a person would be judged based on how they treated the least among them.

Why, then, is it such a controversial subject? One would think that helping the poor would be one of the few things people could come together on; but it seems to be just as divisive an issue as any other.

I want to talk about helping the poor and what that means to me today.

There are many schools of thought about what it takes to help the poor. Some believe that only private charity should do so, and that a person should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find a way to get out of their situation on their own. This belief stems from the notion that we are not in this life together. That each person is only responsible for their own lives and that if they feel the need to help another person then they will do so only on a case by case basis.

The problem with this way of thinking is that there just isn't enough charity to go around. I've said before that if every church in the nation were to pool their resources in a massive effort to help people that, after operating costs, there still wouldn't be enough money to help all the people that need it. It also ignores the Biblical concept of being our brother's/sister's keeper. We have an obligation to reach out to those in need and offer a hand to help them up.

Personally, after everything I've gone through, I believe that we're all in this together. That there needs to be some government intervention because otherwise there just isn't enough aid to go around. Heck even WITH government involvement there are still people falling through the cracks. Now I do believe that there needs to be a mechanism to help people transition off of government aid, with educational and training programs to get people into the position where they can get a good job. Of course there also needs to be a job market for those people so something needs to be done there too. I'm not sure what that is but I'm certainly open to suggestions. I do believe that there are people who are just too sick, or too disabled to work and those people shouldn't be maligned because of their situation, and too often anyone getting assistance is put down by right wing pundits and politicians trying to make hay by turning us against one another.

Ultimately I don't know what a good answer is. Yes there should be programs like food stamps, Medicaid and SSI. There are always going to be people that need those programs, again Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us. We just need people to get into office who actually want to help people in those in both temporary need and those with more permanent problems.

Full disclosure I actually am on SSI and Medicaid due to a number of health problems and I can say that not being able to hold a steady job is devastating to one's self esteem. I don't want people in my situation to be made to feel worse by some self serving politician trying to score political points.

That's all for now.

May God bless you and may God be Gracious to you

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Public Television and the Good It Can Do

I'm a child of the eighties. I was brought into this world in October of 1973 and I grew up with public television. I learned a lot from the shows I used to watch, many of which were televised on a Canadian channel.

I'd like to talk about that today and share some memories of the shows that influenced the man I am today.

Two of the shows that stand out in my mind are Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and The Friendly Giant. Both shows emphasized kindness and I learned that it wasn't weakness to show kindness to others, it was a strength. I remember looking up to Mister Rogers because, in my youth, I went through some hard times. I was bullied relentlessly at school and my father (with whom I have a great relationship now) used to drink and was verbally abusive. I remember viewing Mister Rogers, the Giant, and even Mr. Dress-up as role models I could look up to. They taught me about make believe.

I remember the episode of Mister Rogers where they talked about the show The Incredible Hulk and how kids shouldn't be afraid because the Hulk was just actor Lou Ferigno. I remember the episodes where Mister Rogers talked about having someone in your family die and how it was ok to be sad because that was only natural.

Another show that stands out to me is Eureka. Now this was one of those shows that only ever aired on Canadian public broadcasting. It was a series of animated shorts that talked about science and scientific principles. Now I have to be honest and say that I never got into science when I was young, but I loved Eureka and I remember watching it and being fascinated by what they were talking about. 3-2-1 Contact was another show that was good about teaching science and doing so in a way that made it understandable to a kid.

Then there was Read All About it and Readalong. I know that I got my love of books and reading from those shows. They also helped me get my English language skills pretty high, and again they were only shown on Canadian public broadcasting. Heck Read All About It was where I first learned about the five W's; who, what, where, when, why and how and that those were the questions that you needed to answer when reporting on something.

There were other shows like the Letter People, The Polka Dot Door, The Electric Company and, of course, Sesame Street.

Public Television is where I learned to be a dreamer and that it was ok to be different. To be kind and how to share and was exposed to Spanish language words.

I also remember a show about mathematics on the Canadian channel, which I think was the CBC but I could be wrong, I just don't remember the name as it has been close to twenty-five years since I've even seen it.

Whenever I was home sick I would have it on those shows and would just soak up the lessons, whether it was about how people should treat one another or how to use words correctly.

Public Television is important, and while the shows that I grew up on are no longer on the air I think that we need to keep it around. Invest in more shows like Mister Rogers, Sesame Street and make shows about math and science and get kids interested in learning.

Loving to learn is important and in some ways its the thing that will help a kid in the long run by showing them that learning will take them places and that kindness is a greater strength than being a bully.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be gracious to you

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On Some Changes to My Views

We all grow and adapt throughout our lives. We start off believing in some things, and later on sometimes we change.

Change is never easy and sometimes it can be agonizing. We feel like we're betraying family or friends and the inner conflict we feel can be very hard to overcome.

While my belief in God and Christ are still large parts of my life, my political views have changed drastically in some regards.

I need to start off by saying that I'm pro-life. I have been since I was old enough to understand the issue. That being said I don't like the way that the pro-life community has approached the issue. I don't like that there are groups that bomb clinics. I don't like there are people that post the names and addresses of doctors in the hopes that they get killed by some nut.

I think that if the pro-life community had started opening clinics of their own, offering all services except for abortions, that there might have been fewer abortions over the years.

The other problem, as I see it, is that a large number of self professed pro-lifers only care that a baby is born. Many of them oppose any program to give prenatal care to the mothers and any program to give financial assistance to the poor families that need the help.

When I was younger I was a lot more stringent about the issue than I am now. I still think that abortion is wrong, though I totally understand getting one in the cases of rape or incest, but I just don't think that the fight can be won in the courts or in the legislature. The law is the law and I really don't think that its going to change anytime soon. I think that all the money fighting it in those arenas could be better spent opening free prenatal clinics or starting up charities to help poor families.

I didn't use to think that single payer was the way to go in the health care debate. (This is something I went more in-depth in another entry). Right now I'm on Medicaid and taking oncology medicine for a gastro-intestinal stromal tumor. I've seen what people have to go through when trying to get Medicaid and my stance changed from being against it to being for it. There's just too many people who need help to rely totally on charity. If every church in the country pooled their money, after taking out their operating costs, there still wouldn't be enough money to help all the people that need health care.

On marriage I've gone from thinking that gay marriage was wrong to believing that government should just get out of the business of recognizing marriages. If marriage is a religious institution then it should be kept that way and the government should only recognize civil unions.

Most of what I think now has changed significantly from when I was younger. The core of my beliefs, namely belief in God and Jesus Christ, hasn't changed, but sometimes I feel like I'm betraying my family for thinking the way that I do. I've talked about it with my family and they don't see the changes in my beliefs as a betrayal. In fact they understand why I think the way I do now.

Sometimes though I get depressed and feel bad about it though. I guess that's why I write about things like this. Just trying to work things out in my head.

That's all for now

May God bless you and may God be merciful unto you all the days of your life.

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Republicans and the 47%

There's been a lot of talk lately about Mitt Romney and his comments on the so called 47% of the country that supposedly are never going to vote for him. An excellent open letter was written by The Bucking Jenny ( http://thebuckingjenny.blogspot.com/ ), go read it, its a well written piece and needs more people sharing it so the word gets out.

This is my take on what he said.

I have to say starting out that I don't know Mitt Romney. I don't know what his life was like, other than it was one of privilege. He never wanted for money a day in his life. Even when he was living on his own with his wife Ann he got by, not by getting a job and working his way through college, but by selling off stocks given to him by his father.

Now I don't have a problem with that in theory. In practice it means that Mitt Romney doesn't really know what its like to struggle, to be of poor health or to have to make ends meet on a budget. It means that he never had to feed himself and his family on food stamps, and while that's not really a bad thing it also means that he's never given a thought as to what the people who do rely on those things go through on a daily basis.

He laments that 47% of the country pays no income tax, a lamentation that is reflected by other Republicans and conservative pundits like Sean Hannity. What Romney, and the punditry don't tell you is that a large portion of that number are people living on Social Security. Another percentage are people making less than $20,000 a year. 

We've had a Republican run for President, namely Rick Perry of Texas, campaign on getting rid of the G.I. Bill on the grounds that it was welfare.

We have Republicans running for office saying that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are unconstitutional. 

We have Republicans running for office who want to cut funding for food stamps, and Meals on Wheels.

We have Republicans running for office who want to take Medicaid and give it to the states in block grants. To which I ask, what happens when the money runs out? Given to the states in this fashion will require that the states decide on a case by case basis what gets paid for and what doesn't. Hmmmm, that sounds a lot like a "death panel" doesn't it?

The Republicans want to take Medicare and turn it into a voucher program, while at the same time not requiring insurance companies to cover people. I'm sorry but those two positions are mutually exclusive. What happens if a senior has a pre-existing condition? If the insurance companies are not required to cover everyone then all those seniors suddenly have no means of paying for their health care.

Alan Grayson once got in trouble with the right by saying that the Republican health care plan was for the sick to die quickly. Based on the preponderance of the evidence he would seem to be right.

Hannity often screams that the "ebil liberals"  slander conservatives by saying that Republicans want dirty air and water and want kids with autism and seniors to fend for themselves. Actually this is also true. The Republicans want to get rid of EPA, they don't want insurance companies to be required to cover those with pre-existing conditions, they want fewer protections for workers and they want to limit what a person can sue for if injured by a corporation.

On many issues I consider myself to be a social conservative, maybe a social moderate if what some of my online friends tell me. However that being said I cannot vote for a Republican as long as they pay greater homage to Ayn Rand than they do the people of the United States. We the people elect them and they answer to all of us. 

I think that its long past time that we remind them of that.

That's all for now.

May God bless you and may God keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. Amen and Amen

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Harassment in Gaming


I think the guys at Extra Credits did a good job of covering this, as did Movie Bob on his web show The Game Overthinker. If you haven't seen it you should probably look it up some time.

With that being said I want to add my two cents to the issue.

Guys as gamers we've been through a lot. We're used to defending our preferred hobby and each other, and while that's something that has united us in the past we've allowed bullying and harassment to go on unchecked for far too long. It is not ok to treat people like crap.

But Bayushisan, you say, it is just guys being guys, and this is the last place where it is ok to talk like that.

On this I call shenanigans. A lot of us have been the victims of bullying in real life. I know I certainly was and I won't stand for it happening to other people who are just trying to play a game and have fun. It is NOT ok to use homophobic remarks or racial slurs and it is really not ok to threaten to rape female players. It is never ok to use this kind of language.

But Bayushisan, you say, the First Ammendment means I have freedom of speech. I can say whatever I want.

To that I respond with the following. A game company has every right to ban you for that kind of behaviour. I know a lot of you will scream about that being censorship but it is not censorship at all. Censorship is when the government says what you can and cannot say. A company banning you for harassing other players or using vulgar language is that company being responsibe for making their chat system or message board a welcoming place for everyone.

I think that a lot of this comes down to being able to hide behind an online persona. With that anonymity comes a sense of invunerability. People think that because they are anonymous they can act however they want with no consequences.

Guys that attitude is why people think we're an immature bunch of kids. If we're going to ever find acceptance for gaming we're going to have to self police. We have to call people out on their behaviour and make it clear that harassment and bullying are not going to be tolerated. Until we get our act together and start to ostracize the bullies in our midst we're going to be exactly what a lot of people say we are.

Just a bunch of kids.

That's all for now.

May God bless you and yours and may your days be filled with love.

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