Month: March 2014

Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act… Shenanigans

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HB 1547, a bill passed in my home state of Tennessee, proposes to protect the rights of religious students by granting them special rights that will allow them to freely voice their religious views and protect their religious views from discrimination.

Essentially, a person may use religion as a free pass.

Don’t understand that final answer on your biology quiz about evolution? God is the answer.

Why did you just harass the foreign exchange student from the Middle East? God is the answer.

Why are you wasting class time sharing the Gospel instead of studying Edith Hamilton’s Mythology? God is the answer.

Why did you just terrorize your classmate who is gay, or at the very least doesn’t fit in with the kids from your church’s youth group? God is the answer.

Why is God the answer? Because religion is sacred and should be above discrimination. And this is where I call shenanigans.

That’s right. Tennessee proposes to sanction religious based bullying as a protected right.

As a gay person who went to school in this state, I can honestly say that I didn’t experience any bullying because of my sexual orientation. Because I kept it a secret.

I lived in terror that someone would discover I was gay. I feared the ridicule I would experience for being gay. I loathed myself for feeling different in a way that others seemed not to deal with. I felt shame that other “normal” people were happy and that I was only pretending to be. I maintained this painful facade carefully for many years, and many choices in my young life were made based on this facade.

I avoided actively pursuing interests that would betray my attempt at deception. I acted contrary to my true self to uphold that false image. I let opportunities pass me by because they would make my identity harder to maintain.

Imagine living like that. And imagine that if you were discovered that “Christians” would have legal freedom to persecute you like a witch in the Dark Ages.

But it isn’t just about being gay. What of the intelligent young person with a mind of science, with a love of logic, and a future in discovering the mysteries of the universe? Imagine how ignorant young people will stall education because their “religion” forbids them to learn evolution or the Big Bang.

What of an aspiring young author who is unable to study Shakespeare or Keats in peace because her classmates are railing against the ungodly secular literature that offends their sensibilities?

To be clear, I am not implicating all people of faith as ignorant, because I have known many intelligent people who have coupled their faith with a love of learning. I have also known many religious people who are truly gracious and accepting of other people.

But those are not the people for whom this bill was written. There is a huge wave of equality rights sweeping this nation, and it has been cresting for decades. This bill is an attempt to thwart progress.

This isn’t just a war against equality. This is also a war against the mind. The very mind which can love a person is the same one that thinks and produces art and science that fills the future of our world.

Whether or not this bill is made into law, consider the implications of something like this. If Tennessee is willing to sign over the rights of its citizens to medieval theocracy, then what other travesties will follow?

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Diablo 3: What A Difference A Day Makes…

Dinah Washington’s crooning version of this song comes to mind when I think of Diablo 3. What a difference a day does make. Or a year. Or indeed a decade. You see, I remember when the first Diablo released, and I played the dark and gothic first few levels in a shareware version (remember shareware?). I remember the collective joy at Diablo 2’s release that allowed us to traverse a vast and diverse landscape rather than just deep and dark dungeons, and the confusing finale in Lord of Destruction. I also remember Diablo 3’s seemingly troubled release.
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I’ve given the game a break and have just recently returned to it, so let me first detail some of my initial impressions of this new game from Blizzard. I noticed the game lacked a great deal of substance compared to its predecessors, and its style departed from the gothic/horror feel to a more cinematic World of Warcraft-y feel.  There were also some things that stood out glaringly to me that I couldn’t ignore.

  • The Story

I found myself cringing, scoffing at the story. It seemed so corny, so reductive, so cliche that I felt torn from the game like someone waking me from a dream and thrusting me into bad television. What happened to the epic feel that the previous games had? Where was that horrific mystery, and the enticement to overcome my revulsion to the enemy and dark setting and forge ahead into darkness? And what of my character? He (or she) seems more like a henchman than a hero, making no decisions except which jewelry to wear while pwning undead faces.
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It’s true that none of the Diablo games will ever be elected as the next great American novel, and my heroes in previous games were no less secondary to the story. Heck, in Diablo 2 my hero spent the majority of the game chasing the real main characters Marius, Diablo, and Baal, while I watched the true metastory play out in FMVs. So, there’s nothing novel about Diablo 3’s powerful characters being little more than hired muscle for the NPCs.

  • The Soundtrack

Yes, and I know it’s a nitpicky thing to have beef with. I never knew how integral the soundtracks were to the overall experience until I played Diablo 3 and barely noticed there was a soundtrack. I have distinct and specific memories from the previous games such as entering Tristram’s dungeon for the first time hearing the shrill chorus wail in holy terror while foreboding percussion echoed the footsteps of the undead legions below. My young mind was petrified by the distant sounds of painful moaning and crying babies.  Then there was when I entered the Harem beneath Lut Gholein to fight of demonic invaders while listening to a woman singing hauntingly beautiful Sanskrit lyrics with an industrial instrumental accompaniment. I have no memories such as this in Diablo 3, yet anyway.

In fact, having a strong soundtrack could probably have distracted me from the sometimes frustrating story. The previous games’ music could make a story about teddy bears fighting unicorns seem darkly interesting.

  • Always Online

This aspect bothers me in principle.  Diablo 3 at heart is a single player game with a multiplayer option (even though the multiplayer option is what really skyrocketed the previous games). Being forced into an internet connection is heavy-handed and unfair, and those who wish to play this game off the grid will be disappointed. However, I have played MMOs for years and am desensitized to this a bit. Even though I only play multiplayer only part of the time, I barely notice the online component, except for signing in. Again, the principle bothers me, but practically I don’t have much else to say.
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So now, over a year after its release I’ve come back on the eve of its first expansion “Reaper of Souls”. It promises a few new features that somewhat excite me to explore, and there is even some possibility of more expansions. The Auction House feature, which utilizes in game and real world currency, is on its last couple days of existence as I write this. I never used it but I’m glad to see that the game itself will become the primary source of gear. And we have some new patches that are paving the way for the expansion.

Gameplay is smoother across the board now, in all ways. My hiatus has softened my negative opinions a bit, either because of better perspective or overall jadedness. I’m cringing less at the story, and I’m actually intrigued more now by all the little bits of reference to previous games that make the whole series seem more interconnected that just episodic.

As always, the skill system is just as satisfying as ever, and this is perhaps Diablo 3’s most notable feature. Gone are the days of regret and apprehension that came with spending your precious skill points irrevocably. Now you can switch out builds on the fly for that tricky fight, adjust your skills to fit your multiplayer party, or just shake things up when your skills get a bit stale. I’m even using Youtube less and less to play older Diablo music in an attempt to get used to the current soundtrack more (but that will be a long struggle).

Perhaps I needed a day or so, but I think I can take Diablo 3 for what it is, and with a new expansion coming, maybe my faith in this series will be restored.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Old Dogs, New Dicks

Carrie doesn’t like Big looking at other chicks.

Sagacious Samantha comments that men are like that and that Carrie needs to settle down.

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Miranda is also getting used to settling down for bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night while new boyfriend Steve gets to her place late from the bar every night.

By the time she wakes for work, Steve has other work to do in the morning and that work requires Miranda’s attention.

Charlotte had been giving her attention to a new man as well. He is a good critic who uses a corny whisk reading system. How would she rate his penis, which is uncircumcised? Very poorly.

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Just to clarify, most men in America are circumcised, so this seemingly “extra” skin is a shock to most women here. So those of you for whom this isn’t a problem, or is in fact quite normal, keep in mind how sexually naive women in America are.

Sagacious Samantha one again expresses wisdom when commenting on looks being inferior to usage. Charlotte can’t get over it, referring to it as baggage. Even Carrie is indifferent due to her knowledge of statistics that most men aren’t. Miranda, usually intelligent, shows some ignorance by saying she wants to save her potential son psychological pain by inflicting physical pain with infant skin removal.

Yikes.

At least Samantha is supportive of all natural men.

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Later that night, Carrie is on a date with Big. She almost goes off on how arrogant he is after he swindles a bar if patrons into suffering his cigar smoke.

She restrains herself again when he checks out another chick.

She misses on why this bothers her while she puffs a cigar-ette of her own. Can you change a man, she muses.

And we are treated to another set of street interviews. I obviously haven’t watched season two in forever because I’ve forgotten how freaking many there are! I’m no longer going to say “thank goodness these are over” because, at this point, I have no idea when they will be over.

Just when Charlotte anxiety us about to crest over making love to her man’s extra flesh, he admits he is getting circumcised. Charlotte actually thinks this is a sweet gesture, because she’s secretly a sadist.

After more morning sex, Miranda finally has to fend off Steve. Unlike most straight men, Steve likes post coital cuddling. Unlike many straight women, Miranda hates it.

She complains about this during drag queen bingo. Samantha continues to claim that you can’t change a man. She also claims to love morning sex, which is probably true.

Then she runs into an ex. He’s in drag. He’s modeled his lady look on, you guessed it, Samantha. Apparently men can change. They can get circumcised and that can dress up like ladies.

The only man who can’t change is Big. Carrie presses this issue when she asks for a key. He evades every chance to change, but she goes to bed with him anyway. Until she is pushed out. Literally.

She smacks Big in retaliation in the nose. After attention to cool down in separate rooms and with ice, Carrie tries to chat the air by voicing her concerns.

Despite them dating again, she feels like he is the same guy from before and that she is lacking the same things from season one, and she wishes there would be more for her this time around.

Charlotte’s date had less this time around. Less skin. But he’s to fresh from the knife to do anything, leaving Charlotte desperately waiting for a man who changed his body. Just. For. Her. 

Aw… (Ew…)

Speaking of change, Miranda is hacked up on coffee and is trying to seduce Steve at 2 am. By the time she gets to the bedroom with some sexy wine, Steve is already asleep. So she gives up on her late night love attempt and asks Steve to leave for the evening.

A week later, Charlotte gets to she her man’s new naked penis, and he uses the most inaccurate and pathetic line ever: “You know this makes me a virgin?”

No. No it doesn’t. Stop it Charlotte. Just stop. But… okay she sleeps with him. They finish up only for him to break up with her so he can go share his new penis with the women of the world. Apparently Charlotte changed her man into a slut.

While regretting her candor, Big arrives to Carrie’s place with a bruised face. He admits that he’s crazy for her, even if he doesn’t give her a key. He gives her the most selfish speech about their relationship, but somehow it works. Our maybe Carrie is just desperate and will accept anything. But he spends the night at her place. Maybe there was a good change. Finally.

Another night at 2 am, Miranda gets a call from absent Steve. He asks her to look out at the blue moon. How poetic. Miranda decides to change a bit for Steve because, that’s what you do once in a blue moon.

This episode kind of regresses to the previous seasons “monster of the week” which is foreskin. It’s sad that it shows most of the main cast so scared of this issue, especially how outspoken they are against women under going plastic surgery at other points in the series. It’s kind of a double standard that it’s okay for men to mutilate their bodies but women who do are shallow and materialistic.

Regardless, we get a bit more plot development. Miranda becomes less of a stone cold heart, Charlotte begins her decent into sadistic inhumanity as she becomes more desires to snag a mate. A Samantha imparts words of wisdom.