It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World…

Been a little bit, I know. World seems to have gone a bit insane, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to accept that.

Turns out, I can’t. I can’t accept that my country is willing to install an unmitigated moron into the office of the chief executive. It’s not a decision the country I know would make, or accept.

Turns out, a whole lot of people feel the same way. That helps.

So far, we’ve seen the new POTUS exercise his authority in exactly the ways that many thought he would. And to be fair, he gave the entire world every opportunity to realize how unqualified he was for the job. I mean, a few million of us seem to have taken that as a dare, but, okay.

Every day, the news feels oppressive. What fresh hell will I wake up to? Today we’re going to ban Muslims from particular countries. (But just the Muslims. The Christians from those countries are fine. And the Muslims from countries that have actually sent terrorists here. But the President has business deals there, so those are surely fine.) I mean, it’ll never stand up in court, but why not try? Oh, today we’re going to appoint a propagandist to the National Security Council? Cool, cool. Oh, the President wasn’t fully briefed on that order? Well, I’m sure that’s not problem. Oh, here we go – we have to rescind two regulations for every regulation we pass. That’s not completely arbitrary and impossible to implement effectively. Wait, what? Oh, come on. Who picks a fight with freaking Australia?! Oh, come on, she doesn’t even have any credentials in education AT ALL!

So on and so forth.

Some people think the left is overreacting. That because the right spent the last eight years hysterically worrying about Obama coming for their guns, and death panels, and Jade Helm, and being a secret Kenyan-Muslim Brotherhood -whatever-it-is-this-week plant, it is now somehow unjustified to be outraged about the current President’s actually announced intentions or actions. We can’t freak out about the things he’s doing, because you spent all that time freaking out about the things his predecessor wasn’t. Man, come on. That’s not how any of this works.

It’s funny, until this election, I never really thought of myself as “Belonging To The Left.” I thought I could still maintain my prized identity as an independent. But holy hell, if you’re going to make me pick a side, I’m going to pick the side that at least tries to give a shit about people. I’m not heartless. And I can’t endorse people so willing to sell their consciences for power. Not anymore.

So, congratulations, Mr. President. You finally made me pick a side. I’ve been leaning towards it for years, but I’m committed now. I’m going with the resistance.

Speaking of… the whole notion of “the resistance”. The various signs showing things like Princess Leia on a “We Can Do It” poster, or “Dumbledore’s Army, Now Recruiting” – or even just George Takei reminding us all that just because it feels like the Ministry has fallen and the Death Eaters are in charge, doesn’t make it so – well, that just warms my little nerd heart.

Dan Rather described this generation as “woke”. (Wrap your head around that. I think Dan Rather might understand current slang better than I do.) He posits that current events have awakened a sense of civic need and identity that hasn’t been felt in this country for forty years. I think he’s right. (I hope he’s right.)

The response to the Trump Presidency’s many, many failings restores my sense of pride in my country. From what I mentioned above, to the wondrous outpourings of the Women’s March, the National Parks twitter accounts going rogue, thousands of people crowding airports to show support travelers, the upcoming March For Science and Tax Day March, and so many, many other examples. It makes me proud. It reminds me that while we currently live in a reality I can’t accept – millions of other people feel the same way.

And millions of people have decided that they will no longer be a silent majority. Will that trend continue? I don’t know. I hope so. I very sincerely hope so. Because that is the America I love. That is the America I recognize. One that is constantly striving to be better.

Not the one where the President trashes a nuclear disarmament deal to his Russian counterpart without knowing the details of it. Not the one where the President has to learn the hard way that the Presidency is very, very different from being the CEO of a company, and what phrases like “Checks and balances” and “the separation of powers” truly mean. Not the one where the President uses the bully pulpit to tell shake his finger at a store for cancelling his daughter’s line of low-selling clothing. I don’t recognize that country.

But the other version? The one where people are flooding town halls and Senator’s voice mail boxes? The ones where they expect qualified candidates to be named to government roles, and their representatives to listen to feedback from their constituents? The one where they start marching when those in power stop listening? I know that country, and it’s the one I love.  The one that cares.

I’m going to be donating to the ACLU for the first time. To the Democratic Party for the first time. In April, I’ll be attending my first-ever protest. I’ve never felt that strongly about an issue before. Now I wonder what took me so long.  I will continue to call my Senators’ and Congresswoman’s offices at every opportunity. In the meantime, my wife and I are having regular conversations with our children about what’s going on in our country. Maybe they’ll get it sooner than I did.

That’d be nice.

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Hero For Hire

In which I review Luke Cage, which I completed last night, despite Charter’s Saturday-night efforts to take away the internet and isolate me from humanity. Bastards.

Background: Clearly, I am not a black man. So I can’t speak to that aspect of the show’s appeal. I don’t have the cultural vocabulary for it. I am, however, a very long-term fan of Luke Cage. I was introduced to him in the giant box of comics I received from my father at an early age. Christ Claremont was the writer for both the X-Men and Power Man & Iron Fist at the time, so there was a lot of character crossover – Misty Knight and Jean Grey were roommates for a time, for example. Naturally, that meant that I read Power Man & Iron Fist, too, and I LOVED that book. Early me didn’t recognize the literary appeal of an odd-couple pairing like that – I just knew that it worked.

I was naturally disappointed at the 90s attempts to revive the character, and beyond thrilled when he joined – and eventually led the Avengers. Luke Cage became a father at the same time I did.

The show presents a fairly straightforward adaptation of the character. Notably absent, of course, are Cage’s Blaxploitation roots. Given that this is 2016 and that Quentin Tarantino does not control Hollywood, I feel like this is probably okay.

The first item to note is the casting.

1. Luke Cage – Mike Colter – Colter has an advantage here in that we were already introduced to him in Jessica Jones. He was a very solid rendition of Luke Cage there, and here, Colter truly gets the chance to shine. He simply embodies every aspect of the character, doing more with presence and body language in this series than some actors ever manage in their entire career. Luke Cage is strong, a rock and he is going to take care of business. Colter conveys that perfectly.

2. Misty Knight – Simone Missick – Missick is similarly well-cast. Misty’s dedication to justice and to her people are strongly in evidence, and I can’t wait to see more of her. She turns in a nuanced performance in a role that could have very easily just been a plot function, infusing Misty with strength, passion, vulnerability, fears, hopes. She avoids several tropes in her portrayal of the tough cop.

3. Alfre Woodard – Mariah Dillard – Are you kidding me? It’s Alfre Freakin’ Woodard. Of course she’s fantastic. And Black Mariah is far more interesting in this version of the character than she ever has been before.

4. Mahershala Ali – Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes – The same thing here. I’m not sure Cottonmouth has ever had this much character development, but it’s damn good here. Again, a beautifully well-done rendition of a complex character.

5. The supporting cast – Rosario Dawson, Theo Rossi, Ron Jones, Karen Pittman, Frank Whaley – all are fantastic. You never doubt their performances, and each adds layers and depths to the story.

6. Erik Harvey – Willis Stryker – This might be the only misstep in the casting, and I’m not even sure it’s that bad. I just kept thinking I was watching Tony Todd, and it would throw me out of it every time I realized it wasn’t him. He definitely nails the crazy.

7. Harlem – (Filmed on Location) – This may have been one of the wisest production moves made. I strongly feel that in the best stories, the setting is its own character. Gotham. Deep Space Nine. Hell’s Kitchen. Harlem is a living, breathing, three-dimensional thing here, with its own wants and needs. Not the stereotypical shortform setting of an action blockbuster, but a real place, with real people, and real lives. Luke Cage sells you on this instantly.

Also, a note on the music: It’s fantastic.

SPOILER SECTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dude, I warned you.

 

 

 

Okay, so this show was really good at keeping the surprises coming and the plot moving. I feel like the Netflix shows are very strongly benefiting from the 13-episode premium format. There’s no room for fat here. The decision to delay Cage’s origin story until later in the show is a wise one, with it not being told until far after the viewer is invested.

It’s still solid as a superhero origin, with Cage’s primary arc being to accept what he has become, and then learn how to do the best he can with it.

Episode 1: “Moment of Truth”
Solid introduction to Luke’s world since we saw him last. Like in Jessica Jones, he is simply trying to move about his life and not get involved. Pops, however, isn’t about to let him get away with that shit. Sorry, Pops. I’ll put one in the swear jar.  I particularly like the reinvention of “Black Mariah” as Woodard’s Councilwoman Mariah Dillard, a scheming politician. Very well done.

Episode 2: “Code of the Streets”
I’m a little upset at the decision to kill Pops, as the Aged Black Mentor character KEEPS DYING in these shows. Pops’ presence is absolutely felt throughout the entire series, however, and serves the plot role here of moving Luke out of his inertia.

You know, I was going to do one of these for each episode, but I’ve changed my mind. Just go watch the show already.

On Writing

On Writing

My apologies to Mr. King for swiping his title. Turns out it’s really hard to get back into the groove of writing fiction after a long break.

Ideas? Sure, just as fertile as ever. More and more world-building thoughts about the SF/F detective book I’ve been toying with for a few years now. Considering reviving – or salvaging – a military SF project with my favorite writing partner. Had a brainstorm for an idea that may or may not work at all, but I still phoned my daughter and made her write it down (to what I’m sure will be her eternal puzzlement.)

Even this blog has turned out to be relatively easy – the words just flow, and I’m never short on ideas for things to say.

But the fiction? The thing that really satisfies that creative urge?

Oof.

I’ve read a ton of articles lately on how to break back through the wall. How to write when the words won’t come. How to take it a day it a time, how to start back small, how to go big or go home. Everyone’s got advice. And it’s all good. And it’s all bad.

Some days, it’s just a hell of a lot easier to go play video games and unwind for a few hours.

So, my writer friends, please share your tribal knowledge. What do you do to break the block?

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! (Part 2)

I perhaps should have mentioned that this was going to be a two-parter. I will remember that in the future. My last post enumerated the many flaws I find with the level of political discourse in the United States. I spoke at some length on why I am so very, very opposed to one party’s choice of candidate. This post will continue with some of the first, but the second will (hopefully) be more positive. I’m going to tell you why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton as President of the United States.

Just to get it out of the way, she wasn’t my first choice. And that had nothing to do with her actual qualifications. It was entirely based around the idea that she was another Clinton. Back when it looked like the race was shaping up to be Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush, I was extremely leery of that idea. A third Bush Presidency? A second Clinton? Not a precedent I like to see happening. I’m also distrustful of candidates who seem like they’re waiting for their turn. I didn’t like it with Romney, I didn’t like it with Kerry, I didn’t like it with Gore.

But as the primaries winnowed through, she did become the clear choice to me. She’s been in public service nearly her entire adult life. Former First Lady. Former Senator. Former Secretary of State. Former Presidential Candidate.

As resumes go, that’s a pretty damn good one. She has significant experience in both domestic policy (as First Lady) and foreign policy (as Secretary of State). She has the legislative experience (as a Senator) and political experience (see above, lifetime of service to the public good) to ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO WORK IN A BIPARTISAN MANNER WITH CONGRESS. She has the legal experience (lawyer) to be able to choose smart Supreme Court picks who will uphold the meaning of the Constitution. So she can make the Executive function like it’s supposed to, and enable the Legislative and Judicial branches to do the same.

Holy shit, you guys. There is a candidate who can make our government work. Like it’s supposed to.

We forget this, but obstructionism hasn’t always been the way of things. Polite disagreement is possible. Compromise is not a dirty word. I know, I know. That doesn’t play into the “us vs. them.” If there’s no conflict, it’s boring, right? How’s that going to drive ratings, or hits to keep the ad dollars rolling in?

Oh, right. It’s not supposed to.

Government isn’t supposed to be about what side is right the most. Government is supposed to be about servicing the needs of as many of your citizens as possible. That means compromise. That means you give a little, and you give a little. Politics is the art of making that happen. We’ve allowed our politics to become our government, and that takes us back to the Very Bad Things I spoke about last week. Is Clinton going to be a magic solution to putting us back on track? No, of course not. But could she get us there? Could she at least start to get us there? She’s got the resume. Well, that’s seems like it’s worth a shot.

In no way would I be able to rebuff all the objections about her – hell, there’s people whose full-time job it is to debunk statements about politicians, and I ain’t getting paid for this. I recommend you check snopes.com, factcheck.org or politifact.com if a claim sounds dubious to you. Those folks do some fine work.  Please remember that if a politician makes a claim that sounds outrageous to you… well, that’s probably exactly what that statement was designed to do, and it’s likely that it only bears a tenuous connection to reality.

Objection #1: She’s a Clinton.

Well, that one’s hard to refute. She is, in fact, a Clinton. But that doesn’t make her the devil. It makes her a politician. And jokes aside, that’s not actually a bad thing. We need politicians just like we need plumbers. Someone’s got to keep all the shit going in the right direction, after all. But it does come with baggage. She often seems cold and remote – though personal accounts differ wildly from this. She doesn’t appear angry for the same reason that Obama never appears angry. If he can’t be the Angry Black Man, then she sure as hell can’t be the Bitchy Boss. Our society, right now, doesn’t allow for public figures to express a full range of human emotion. We forget that public figures – politicians, celebrities, musicians, etc., etc. are PEOPLE. We think it’s okay to judge why their marriage fell apart, or take pictures of them on vacation, or micromanage the public portion of their lives when we have no idea – none at all – about what they’re going through on a daily basis. And in a world where brand recognition is king, maybe her being a Clinton isn’t the flaw I thought it was at first. It means we know what to expect of her.

Objection #2: She isn’t transparent.

This is a big problem for Clinton, and to be honest, I’m not sure how much of it is actually a problem versus being a perceived problem. The e-mail thing is irritating, because honestly, it just seems sort of dumb. But it’s also nowhere near as a big a deal as it’s been made out to be. For people of my generation and younger, thinking of the importance of data security is second-hand. For Clinton’s generation? It’s a new world they’ve constantly adapted to, and the Government itself is still trying to figure out. But if you think for one second she was ever going to go to jail over it? No. People don’t go to jail for that. If there was anything actionable – any true risks to National Security – the Republicans would have found it by now and been screaming it from the rooftops. And it’s hard to fault her for wanting to be as private as possible. In the world she grew up in, you could be a public official and still have a private life. We don’t let them do that anymore. She spent an entire decade with every aspect of her marriage’s dirty laundry literally being drug into the public eye when it wasn’t even any of our goddamn business in the first place. We don’t know what their marriage is like. For all we know, she was perfectly cool with everything that was going on. Maybe she wasn’t, either. But either way, that’s a problem for them, not us. But the way everything was made such a public spectacle? Shit, I’d try to be as private as I possibly could and have an irrational dislike for reporters, too.

Objection #3: Benghazi

This one really, really pisses me off.  Back in 2012, about halfway through the Arab Spring, Islamic militants attacked an American Diplomatic Compound (not an Embassy) and a few hours later, another compound, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, while Clinton was Secretary of State. This is tragic.

And somehow, somehow, this became a political weapon to be used against Clinton. There is a wealth of information available about every aspect of this exhaustively-investigated situation. Every indication is that Clinton made the best decisions she could at the time. There has been no indication of any wrong-doing – and again, the Republicans would have absolutely seized on any actual evidence by now. Why we seem to hold her personally accountable for those four deaths is a mystery to me. You know who is responsible? The people who killed Ambassador Stevens. Making a political football of them is an insult to the lives of every American who has died abroad. 4,424 Americans have died in Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. 2,325 in Afghanistan since 9/11. Thousands die every year because of guns, cars, contagious diseases, smoking, inadequate healthcare, and a whole shitload of other things that we don’t freak out about. And we’re supposed to disqualify this woman because at some point, she had the option to maybe increase some security that may or may not have helped in this specific case? That’s insane. The people responsible are the people who did it. You can’t damn a person in hindsight.

Objection #4: She’s dying!

Dude, no. This is just… no.

Objection #5: She’s not liberal enough!

Well, no. She’s not really a liberal. She’s not Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, guys and gals. She’s Hillary Clinton. She’s a center-leaning Progressive who is most interested in – get this – actual progress. She probably wants the pie-in-the-sky stuff as much as the rest of us, but Clinton is I believe, a pragmatist at her core. She is able to read the tea leaves and determine what’s actually possible. And holy shit, do we need that right now. Going through her history, she’s clearly opposed to dramatic statements – instead of saying “No more of this thing!”, she says “Well, let’s look at the thing. And see what the best way to approach more or less of the thing is.” I know, that’s not exciting. But it WORKS.

Objection #6: She’s in Wall Street’s pocket!
The only thing that is going to make this not an issue for any – ANY – candidate will be when the public makes it clear that this is no longer acceptable. We’re getting there more and more, but we’re not there yet. I’m not sure if her Wall Street connections are as ironclad as some suggest – as a pragmatist, if she finds it politically expedient to dump Wall Street, I fully expect she’s going to dump Wall Street. If Wall Street keeps helping her get what she wants elsewhere, well…

Objection #6: She’s going to get rid of the Second Amendment.

Again, dude, no. No, she’s not. Her extremely consistent point of view has been that better background checks should be implemented and that the loopholes in the system should be closed – a stance that something like 80% of Americans agree with. This is a hot-button the right likes to use because of the number of single-issue voters that get fired up over it. But realistically speaking, gun rights aren’t going anywhere any more than abortion rights are. Roe vs. Wade is never going to get overturned. Neither is the Second Amendment. If we didn’t do anything about guns after Sandy Hook – and you can argue all day about what we should do, and for my money, nobody has found a good solution yet – then we’re certainly not going to do anything about guns now. Threatening that the other side is going to outlaw all guns is a fear-mongering tactic that the right keeps using because it works. The left scares people that the right is going to take away their Social Security. Both go too far in using it as a scare tactic, and in defense of each institution. Neither situation is likely to change any time soon, and it is blatant manipulation of voter’s emotions. Because it works.

Those are all the biggest objections I can think of off the top of my head, and to me, none of them hold any water. So we have a candidate who is eminently qualified. She has a chance to get our government working again, if we’ll let her take it. She’s educated, practical, confident. I think that she genuinely gives a damn about people. Not as demographics, not as poll numbers. But as real people. And holy shit, do we need some more of that. It’s almost like she spent her entire life building her resume to make her the best presidential candidate she could possibly be. And if she can be the one to break THAT glass ceiling? I think that’s something worth supporting. I hope you do, too.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

This post deals with topics of a political nature. If just that word makes you roll your eyes, then, well… that’s probably going to happen a lot if you keep reading. But I ask that you keep reading nonetheless, and consider my words with as much objectivity and calm as possible. And hey, I get it – it’s easy to get infuriated when people don’t agree with you.

That’s sort of the problem.

I imagine that each generation thinks the politics of their time are the worst they’ve ever been. But I remember a time when respectful disagreement between political parties was possible, rather than the completely-at-each-other’s-throats nature of politics that now seem commonplace. The things that divide us often seem stronger than the things that unite us, and that, my friends, is Very Not Good.

Abortion. Religion. Science. Economics. Politics itself.

One must be pro-choice or pro-life. One is not permitted the nuance of thinking that abortion isn’t exactly a good thing, but it’s a complicated issue. I may think it’s a very poor method of birth control, and not a choice I think I could live with. But it’s also not my body, and nor do I have the right to tell someone else what they have to do with theirs. Nor is it a choice that I will ever have to live with. The nuance goes even further, of course.

One must have faith – and this typically means Christian, as we as a society are simply not terribly interested in what other faiths are doing unless they’re Muslim. This thing that is supposed to bring peace to people is instead repeatedly used as a wedge. The “War on Christmas”, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism. Schism over equality within faiths. Midichlorians. (Screw you, Episode I.) Large portions of our society still seem unable to grasp the basic meaning of the separation of church and state, that, essentially, the two should stay out of each other’s business. The government doesn’t have the right to tell the church who they should marry any more than the church has the right to tell the state who can’t.  Society at large is not trying to remove Christ from Christmas – though the holiday is just as much a secular celebration for those of us who do not subscribe to any particular faith. Telling the faithful that one is a perfectly happy agnostic is often met with condescending pity (though those responsible often do not see their words in that way.) Some atheists rage at what they perceive at the blind foolishness of the faithful, and this approach is just as wrong. Faith is an individual matter, and best left that way. No one has the right to tell you what your faith is or how to practice it, and nor do you have any right to tell others what and how they must believe. And the State stays out of the whole damn thing. That’s what Freedom of Religion is.

I may not be objective on the next point, as I am a scientist. I was educated as a biologist, and have worked as a chemist for the better part of a decade. To me, scientific facts are perfectly clear when there is such a large body of evidence to support them, like the theory of anthropogenic climate change, or the efficacy and safety of vaccines as a method of disease control. But this, too, has sadly been placed on the altar of political confrontation. One’s acceptance of science has become a matter of belief. This, my friends, is also wrong. You can argue with the conclusions. You can argue with the implications. You can argue what the next steps are. But it’s very hard to argue with the data. Science, at its core, is about revision, and proof. Scientific theory represents the best information we have available at any given time, and it is always – ALWAYS – open to revision. New information can always force a re-evaluation of a theory. And it should! But that’s the catch – you can’t just say you don’t believe in it. If a theory is wrong: prove it. Please.

Our next topic sort of has the same problem. Everyone has their own pet economic theory, and their beliefs on why the other ones would represent the END OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION. Free-Market Capitalism. Regulated Capitalism. Socialism. Communism. The problem with this is that no economic ideal actually encompasses the breadth of human nature. Not one. In their purist forms, they fail to account for human nature at all. So whatever we have is going to be a constant hybrid in a state of refinement. ALWAYS. So, as a society, it is up to us to do the best we can. But if we can’t do that if everyone who thinks differently is the enemy.

All of these things – and dozens of others – over the last few decades, have firmly divided the American populace into more obstinately divided camps than we have ever been before. And each cycle gets worse. During the Bush years, many of the Democrats in Congress were unreasonably obstinate. During the Obama years, the Republicans have taken it further to the point where they seem to have abandoned rationality. At this point, should Clinton win, I fully expect the Republican Party to eat itself from the inside-out. Should Trump win, I expect the Democrats will spend the next four to eight years collectively losing their shit just as badly.

But that, in itself, is another aspect of the problem. And friends, I don’t know how we got here. Not exactly. But I know we collectively need to damn well do something about it. Because this collective madness has gotten us to the point where Donald Trump is considered an adequate candidate for President of the United States.

And that, my friends, is absolutely-banana pants-insane.

Whatever your issues with Hillary Clinton may be – that she’s a woman, that she’s untrustworthy, that she’s a politician, that she shadily set up a private e-mail server, or any of it, I ask you to please set them aside. They are the objections one is likely to have about any opposing political candidate, and we could spend all day debating them. I would happily and respectfully do so. The same could be said for Gary Johnston or Jill Stein (and man, believe me, I would LOVE for third- and fourth-parties to be an actual thing, because I think that would better represent the opinions of our electorate.)

But please, let us set aside the us vs. them, red vs. blue, my-team-is-better-than-your team for a moment. Let us step back from the way our society has turned every debate into a fist-fight. Let us ignore the fact that the majority of our most common news and information sources are in it for the entertainment value and the money, not out of any sense of duty to keep the public informed.

Donald Trump is a horribly awful presidential candidate. He is an egotist, a narcissist, a bigot, and a bully. He is temperamentally unsuited for the office of the President. Hell, he’s temperamentally unsuited to be a used-car salesman. He openly brags of buying off politicians. He openly degrades every group that is not white men. He openly advocates unsupported conspiracy theories. He openly engages in rhetoric designed to be inflammatory because he (wrongly) believes that all attention is good attention. That’s all he wants out of this, folks. He doesn’t want to “Make America Great Again”. He doesn’t want to provide economic stability for the average joe. He doesn’t want to simplify the tax code to everyone’s benefit – but he does want to drastically alter it in a way that screws everyone else but benefits him. He doesn’t care if manufacturing jobs are here or elsewhere. He doesn’t care if Obama was actually born in the United States. He doesn’t care about Hillary Clinton’s health. He doesn’t care about any of the things he says – and I mean the things he says directly, not statements attributed to him or interpreted by others. If I attempted to outline ever single reason he’s unfit for the office, I would be here for days, and those points have been amply made by others.

He doesn’t care about any of those things. He cares about how he can use those things to manipulate us into doing what he wants. He cares about the attention he gets from seeing his name in print, from seeing people talking about him, no matter what they’re saying. He’s the guy in your office who is always right, no matter how blatantly and obviously wrong he his. He’s the guy who bullies everyone into getting his way, no matter how much it screws things up for everyone else. He’s the uncle you never, ever mention anything about race at Thanksgiving because good god, do you not want to hear one more freaking rant about it.

He’s a bad candidate, and a terrible human being. That he has become the Republican nominee is not a triumph against the establishment. It’s a statement of the establishment’s failure to establish any sort of coherent worldview. It’s a surrender of the notion of any form of uniform Republican ideals crystallized around a single concept: Opposition. Anyone who is not us is wrong, and must be stopped. You are either with us or against us.

That aside, he’s dangerous. He’s dangerous to the citizens of the United States, and the people of the world. International politics is a delicate minefield, and he would plow through it with all the care of a bull in a china shop. But instead of dishes being broken, you’re talking about lives and the fate of nations. He is a man who openly wonders why we can’t just use our nukes to settle matters with other countries. He is a man who advocates for agents of a foreign power to hamper his political rivals. He openly idolizes the dictatorial tendencies of Vladimir Putin. He openly speaks of hampering our most sacred rights – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion. He proposes firing the Joint Chiefs because they served under the opposing political party, threatening the very neutrality of our military. He casts doubt on the very bedrock of our Republic, the peaceful transition of power, by suggesting that a rigged election is the only way he could lose.

He SHOULD lose. Donald Trump represents the very worst of America. He is our fear, our insecurity, our ugliest tendencies made manifest.

Vote for Clinton, Johnson, or Stein. Or don’t vote at all, whatever is your pleasure.

But, please. PLEASE. For the sake of whatever God believe in, from the God of Abraham all the way to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for the sake of our country, do not vote for Donald Trump. There will come a time, eventually, when the current madness has subsided. These things do go in cycles. And I firmly, absolutely believe that there will come a day when many of those who have supported Donald Trump will feel deeply ashamed of that fact.  I know this will fall on some deaf ears. I know some of you will think I am foolishly misguided for feeling this way. I respect that you beleive differently than I do, and that maybe absolutely nothing I can say is going to change your mind. I even respect that you may feel completely differently from me on these topics, and that your objections to other candidates may be so strong that you cannot agree with what I’m saying. I respect your right to that opinion, but I have to try.

Please. Please, set aside everything our society has taught you about everything being a zero-sum-game. That everything can be boiled down to one side versus another. Please forget all of that and consider this man objectively. Put him in the dustbin of history where he belongs, at poorly-attended nursing home book signings. That’s all he deserves. Not the highest office in the land.

I am begging you, my friends. Please don’t do something that we will all end up regretting.

And while we’re at it, why don’t we all collectively agree to disagree a little bit more respectfully? That couldn’t hurt at this point.

Notes:
Aggregate article linking the many statements Trump has made – See this link for a large collection of sources for many of Trump’s statements I’ve referenced in this post.

For The Alliance!

Allright. This is my first time attempting to write any sort of review, so you’ll have to bear with me.
wow-legion
Also: Story spoilers abound. Sorry.

First, some background: I am an enormous Blizzard fanboy, going all the way back to the first Warcraft RTS, which my father introduced me to in 1994. I played Warcraft II, and the expansions. I played Warcraft III, and the expansions. I played Starcraft, Diablo, and all the attendant sequels and expansions. I currently dabble in Hearthstone (a fun occasional diversion), Heroes of the Storm (a far less toxic community than League of Legends), and Overwatch (the most fun I’ve had in any FPS, which I haven’t played regularly since, you know, Star Trek: Elite Force or the old Star Wars: Battlefront.)

That brings us to World of Warcraft. I held out for a little while, since I could easily see how a Blizzard MMO could become an obsession for me. I knew exactly what would happen if I started playing WoW, so I didn’t play through Vanilla. My reserve broke down about halfway through Burning Crusade, as City of Heroes was starting to peter out, so I said… what the hell? Why not?

Well, it went as expected. I loved every minute of playing my paladin, rushing to 70 and gearing as quick as I could so I could join my friends who I’d been playing CoH with in raiding. I loved exploring the world, and seeing all these locations from the previous games expanded into something more real. I loved dipping my toes into PVP (Alterac FOREVER, yo.) I loved the challenge of dungeons and raids, and everything about it. I played through the epidemic that heralded the arrival of Wrath of Lich King, and during Wrath, I played religiously, even joining a hardcore progression guild for the better part of a year. I argued with Horde players on forums about which side had a proper claim to Lordaeron. (We’ll kick the Forsaken out, one day. Mark my words.)

My interest in that level of play petered out, and by Cataclysm, I had switched to “friend and family” type guilds with a drastically reduced raiding schedule. I started playing alts –  DK and Shaman during Wrath, and added a new alt with each successive expansion. By Pandaria, I had started to drift away for months at a time by the time each content draught hit, and before Warlords, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to come back.

I did, and I massively enjoyed Draenor. I think that the content that was provided was well-done and engaging, but I understand why so many in the community had issues with it. If I was playing like I did back in Wrath, I’d probably have a very different opinion. But I still played, and when I got to a stopping point, I stopped, until a few months before Legion.

Blizzard sold me on Legion with the Artifact weapons, no lie. The idea of my Paladin become the head of the Order of the Silver Hand and wielding the Ashbringer (Super-awesome holy sword with a lot of history in the game, for the uninitiated), and my Shaman getting to wield the Doomhammer was absolutely enough to convince me to come back.

But here’s the thing: Blizzard used that hook to get long-time fans back in the door, but didn’t count on just that. They seem to have taken a decade’s worth of feedback and integrated it. Maybe it’s the shiny-new-carness of it all, but this honestly feels like the best expansion since Wrath of the Lich King. I’ve broken up my observations into several subsections below.

Pre-Launch

As always, about a month before the launch, Blizzard released the pre-patch. This did several things to allow players to prepare for the new expansion, namely the reset of talents and abilities to whatever Blizzard’s new scheme is this time. Ample information was available to respec characters, and the ability prune was sorely needed on several classes whose number of abilities had become too unwieldy. My Enhancement Shaman immediately got much more enjoyable to play again. Once I had respecced all my characters, however, I decided to focus on my last two low-level characters – a fury warrior and a druid that I had never played. If character class was going to be important to the story, I decided I was going to have one max-level character of each class to play through this expansion. The Invasion pre-event made that possible, and also went a long way towards repairing the damage Garrisons did to the game. Now, don’t get me wrong – I liked Garrisons a great deal. As a story tool, I liked the growth of the Player Character into a commanding general of the alliance or horde, I liked returning RTS elements to the game and having to defend my base against invasions. I did not like how isolated the Garrison felt – with everything there, I rarely had reason to visit more populated areas. I also feel like Karabor and Shattrath were hugely wasted opportunities, but a review of Warlords would be an entirely separate article.

The Legion began invading in a questline spread out over several weeks before the expansion. They hit numerous old-world zones, and gave bored players a reason to interact again. Hundreds of players descended on each invasion site, and the flock of mounts traveling from boss to boss was always an amazing thing to see.

And then came the Broken Shore questline and cinematics. Cinematics have always been a strong point for Blizzard, and they brought Varian’s story to conclusion in a story event that set the stakes for the new expansion. They kept the tension between the Horde and the Alliance in a completely reasonable way, and made the King’s final moments appropriately epic. It’s all very-well done, and a helluva lot of fun. The invasions are gone now, but the questline is still the start to the expansion for everyone.

Class Fantasy – Artifacts and Order Halls

Class Fantasy has never been the strongest point in World of Warcraft. Sometimes it’s more emphasized then others, sometimes it’s de-emphasized to a degree that is almost laughable. It’s a very strong component, now. Immediately after the Broken Shore and the teleportation of Dalaran to the Broken Isles (another good intro questline), the player character is approached by one of the heroes of their class to start their artifact questline. There’s a different questline for each class and spec, and each scenario is well built around those combinations. From there, the player unlocks their order hall, which are all fantastically designed and immersive, and class-relevant. All specifications are unlocked, so one can bounce between DPS, Tank or Healer as needed or desired, and no class content is gated behind specification requirements. Gear has multiple specifications to make it suitable for every role, making that easier than ever. For the first time, it feels as though the class of your character matters – and characters you have fought for or alongside now regard your character as an equal or a leader (which is only natural given the story events player characters have been a part of.) You’re not playing the faceless adventurer anymore – armies now move at your command. In Warlords, this was a faceless army. In Legion, it isn’t.  I’ve only played through this intro section for each class – from here on out, my experience focuses on my main, the first Warcraft character I played. Naturally, that is my Retribution (and sometimes Protection) Paladin.

Questing

Questing zones are deeply immersive into their themes, and relevant to the expansion. I don’t actually want to spoil too much, but each environment feels different, and is wholly engrossing. Every bit of space is utilized for some objective or another. Story naturally flows from one hub to the next, with tons of side-quests, bonus objectives, vignette encounters and random treasure to keep things interesting. Professions actually have story-based questlines, and are almost as integrated to the plot as the Order Hall questline, which keep the narrative of the expansion flowing. It never once feels as though you’re just grinding through to max level – I was perfectly happy to keep playing that content through to its completion, rather than just farming out the gear to get to the better stuff. The dungeons are all story-relevant, and scaling difficulty keeps you from ever out-leveling any of the content. (Even at max.) Additionally, the zones are just out and out beautiful to look at. If Darnassus or Silvermoon looked like Suramar, a hell of a lot more people would hang out in them. (Well, Silvermoon has a bunch of other problems, but that’s not the point.)

Max Level

I’m still dipping my toes into these waters, and am questing through the last zone now. But World Quests – the new Dailys – were unlocked, and they’re surprisingly fun. I don’t have to travel from hub to hub, my map gives me the quests directly, and there are incentives and rewards for every aspect of the game. I’m only just getting into the pet battle and PVP portions of the expansion, but they seem to have received the same care as everything else. I had a smooth progression from Dungeons into Heroics – where they again seem to have hit the sweet spot between challenge and reward. I expect the transition to Mythics to be more of the same, and I’m excited to see what Raids look like this time.

Also: Patch 7.1 will be released in a month or two, and it’s making my favorite raid into a dungeon. Karazhan. I cannot wait.

So, basically – if you’ve ever loved World of Warcraft, it’s a pretty good time to return to Azeroth.

For the Alliance!

(Or, you know, For The Horde!, if that’s your preference.)

Like a Phoenix

So, my writing has not been so much of a thing these last few years. I started this blog with the intention of it being a regular practice, to keep my hand in, that sort of thing. Plans, plans, plans!

Then I got a new job that I dove headfirst into, and have barely written anything in the last two years at all. So, that sucks.  But, such is life.

So, this is a brief notice that posting here will resume, and that any topic will be fair game. Parenting, relationships, science, science-fiction, politics, religion, books, films, comics – whatever strikes my fancy on a weekly basis. Like a phoenix, I am determined that this blog will rise from the ashes. (But not like Jean Grey, because she’s still dead, so that’s a crappy example. Meh, whatever.)