Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Coming to an end

This semester has been a wild ride for me.  Not so bad as some of the past, but admittedly that's because I sort of went numb for the last half or so.

I'll be honest: I pretty much gave up.  It was not an easy decision.  But I realized that I was unhappy, and that a lot of that came from my not realizing sooner how unhappy I was becoming.

I'm going to be leaving on my mission before I'm back at school next.  At the very least, I hope the experience makes me learn to be less horrible as a student.  I've never been good at learning just because I'm told to.  I've never been good at doing anything just because I'm told to.  I am intensely bad at not asking why.  There have been many specific instances that this trait has caused trouble for me -- major trouble.  For example, and this is admittedly not a very major example, one year I got talked into going to Especially For Youth over the summer.  It's basically a youth camp put on by the LDS church in our area (I'm uncertain as to whether it's in other places as well), with the intention of increasing spirituality and such.  In practice, it's a week of social events with very little real foundation in the gospel (save for the few directly scriptural events, usually classes), and a massive focus on conformity and structured living.  This is for some people.  Many people, in fact, judging by the program's reputation.  This is not for me.

For me, Especially For Youth was a week of hell.  I have to say that for me one of the most poignant experiences of the entire event was the dance at the end of the week.  I don't dance well at all, and never have really wanted to change that.  I cannot abide the social structure of dances, nor the environment.  Really.  I can't stand them.  Now, this dance started as it was supposed to and everyone got shuffled into the cultural hall where it was being held.  I sat down just outside one of the doors in one of the chairs kept there and began quietly keeping myself entertained (I think I was writing something or other).  Over the next couple of torturous hours, I was approached at least once every five minutes or so by a counselor who insisted that I go into the dance and start dancing.  I assured them that I wasn't going to go wandering off by myself and that I just wanted to be left in peace.  They continued to insist.  I asked why I needed to be in there.  They had no answer whatsoever.  It wasn't that their reasons were weak, it was that they didn't have any at all.  And therefore I refused to go in.  Honestly I was incredibly stubborn, but that's how I get when I'm not told why.  At one point the counselors tried to gang up on me.  Three of them all surrounded me and tried very hard to convince me that I should go in and dance "just because [I] should."  All it did to tell me to do it "just because" was convince me all the more that I was right to refuse and that they were wrong to ask me -- it told me that they didn't know any better than I did why I should be in there and that they were just doing what they were doing (i.e. being there in the first place) because they couldn't be bothered to think for themselves.

I have always found something incredibly wrong about people doing things and not having reasons for it.  Even if the reason is no good, like "because I was told to" or "it seemed like a good idea at the time," I can cope as long as there is a reason.  A bad reason, sure, but at least there is a reason.  If not, then my entire sense of order in the universe tends to break down in some way or another.  In a way it's a personal failing; I cannot cope with the world if there are no reasons behind things.  Behind events, behind feelings, it doesn't really matter what.  There has to be a reason for everything, even if I cannot see it, and when people refuse to tell me without actually saying that they can't tell me, I see it as a flat-out insult and cannot abide the person at all.

Again, a personal failing in one way, but at the same time this trait of needing to ask why has led to far more personal discoveries and in some ways actually helping many more people than almost anything else I have ever done or felt.

There are at least two sides to everything.  Even my poor habits and negligent study.  Even my understanding and wisdom.  There are always two sides.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I'm fascinated by model railroading.  Plain and simple, fascinated.  My dream (or one of them, anyway) for as long as I can remember was to be able to put a layout of my own together, and I've envied anyone and everyone with the means to do so.

I came close to doing it about a year ago, but finances got the best of me.  I convinced my father to build me a table and began to make lists of needed supplies.  And then I stopped.  I don't really remember why.

But as of today, that table has been moved into my room and I've purchased a substantial amount of supplies and track.  It's not enough to finish yet, and to be honest I can't really afford it, but for very deeply personal reasons I cannot afford to not at least give this my best shot.

Among several major others, my single most far-reaching reason for wanting to make a model railroad is my grandfather.  He was the single greatest man I have ever known, and he gave me the unique opportunity to grow up (at some times literally) on a model railroad that has been in his and my grandmother's basement since shortly after I was born.  It began quite simply, as an oval on a table with no other features, and grew to fill the entirety of a room and even spilled out through a hole cut in the wall to make a freight yard.  The layout was never finished, or even given proper scenery, but it remains my eventual goal to learn what I need to finish it someday.

My own layout as it has begun is my first real step towards that goal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to Minorities

I've had a bit of a departure from my core topic lately, but I feel it's time to come back and write another entry about one of my personal minority groups.

I'm a dreamer.

Now, I've heard plenty of definitions for "dreamer," and I think all of them are more or less accurate.  But the way I define it is someone who is idealistic, and who looks past the boundaries of the physical and material worlds and into the mind and heart and soul as a matter of course.  I do this.  To the point where sometimes I forget to look at the physical world at all, instead just thinking in terms of the "inside world."  I dream almost as much as I live awake, odd though that may seem.

I'll be honest, what I'm about to say is probably gonna weird some of you out.  Maybe a lot.  But it's still very important to understanding my perspective on this.

I have people, living people, inside my mind.  They are not human, certainly, and some of them are extraordinarily outlandish in appearance.  Most are fairly humanoid and easily-understood, though.  I've been told I'm a very good writer, especially by fans of my original fiction.  The reason for my skill is that I only describe what I see.  If I need to figure out how a certain character would act in a certain situation, I usually just go inside and ask them in person.  Or I'll let events play out however they will, and record my perspective on it all as it happens.  As a result my writing tends to be at least immersive, if not "realistic."

Most of these self-aware entities are separate from me, and live in their own discrete worlds -- mostly separate from each other as well.  But occasionally, one will stand out from the crowd as being able to connect to me in a more personal fashion, and these are usually the ones that end up being the series mascots, as it were, and most "alive" to me.  I draw them, I write about them, I show them off, because other people cannot see what I see -- as it is only happening in my head.  I haven't been able to track down just exactly where, but at some point in the past I remarked to someone "Of course it is happening inside your head... but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

I firmly believe in that statement.  People are constantly worrying that what they perceive is "not real," or somehow invalidated by the fact that it is non-physical.  I don't think most people are dreamers by this definition, but such individuals definitely exist.  They hold their ideals high, and they have whole internal worlds to back those ideals up.  None of us, dreamers or otherwise, will fully live up to all our ideals, because we all make mistakes and screw up, sometimes a lot.  But the dreamers hold the highest ideals of all, usually.  The dreamers know how important it is to make things the best they can be, or at least to try.

I am proud to be a dreamer, even when it comes with the very strange parts that my life now includes.  I am proud to see beyond the limits of physicality.  I am proud to be an idealist.  I am proud to dream.

Bad Customers

I work retail.  Ace Hardware, to be specific.  And I hate it.  There are a lot of reasons for that, and many of them are very specific to my own situation, though many are likewise very common to retail work anywhere and anywhen.  However, the angle I want to show you folks is one that only sometimes (as in the case of Not Always Right) gets much real attention.  Bad customers.

Now I know from long experience that the worst of the bad customers will always, always fail to realize that they are a bad customer.  This is common sense.  But what you don't realize is that there are no good customers.  Anywhere.  There are bad customers you don't like, and there are bad customers that you do, but there are no good customers.

No matter what store a person walks into, if it is a retail outlet in any form, there is a magical force field of some kind that with no warning whatsoever turns even the kindest and most courteous of human beings into the slavering horrid beast that is the customer.  I haven't yet worked out just why this is.  The force field or pixie dust or whatever it is doesn't work on employees -- they still see all the ugly and all the crazy and all the rude that customers have to offer.  I've been on both sides of this plenty of times.  One of the things that makes me dread going to work is that I know I'll be faced with an apparently-endless stream of irritating, rude, and frankly insane people to help (or at least put up with) until I'm allowed to leave.  There are all kinds of idiosyncrasies that people have that bother me -- not reading the instructions on our electronic pinpads, paying sufficiently and then searching around for exact change, leading the employees on a massive wild goose chase all over the store... and yet, for all the suffering I go through at the hands of people like that, I have caught myself doing each and every item on that list at some point or another to other unsuspecting employees in other unsuspecting stores.

In short, when I go shopping, I turn into THAT GUY.  And then, upon walking out the door with my merchandise, I turn back into the nice, caring, more-employee-like person that I am.  And so does everyone else.  Well, almost everyone.  Some people are just rude in general, and I'm sorry to say that they don't turn nice whenever they leave a store.  But still, the majority of our customers actually aren't bad people.  They're just bad people to us.  And on those occasions where I'm out shopping and see someone working that I know as a customer, I dread it a little, because I know I'm being a bad person to them, even though I'm not a bad person.

There's some idiosyncrasy that I have that drives them nuts.  I don't know what it is, because in many cases they're actually being paid to overlook those annoyances, as I am.  But it's there.  I'm a bad customer, just like everyone else.  And if you've ever been in a store, so are you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


In his now-typical fashion, Landon Wilkins has left me another couple of questions to answer -- which I am more than happy to attempt.  Landon writes:

So here are my two questions:

1.What are the most valuable/important lessons you think everyone should learn? 

2.What are the most valuable/important lessons you've learned?

As a knee-jerk reaction, I admit I want to think that these are the same question phrased a little differently.  But then, of course, I think further and realize this is not the case.  I think I'll answer the second one first, since it's easier to talk of myself before making broader generalizations.

My personal greatest lessons, certainly over the last few years if not through my entire life, have dealt with my ability to help those I care about.  Probably the single most important of those would be that I cannot do everything for everyone.  Trust me, I've tried.  It doesn't work.  I can get close, sometimes, at the expense of everything I feel necessary in outside life, but even then some people get let down.  You have to pick your battles, lest "the bear" get you every single day, as the saying sort of goes.

The next-most important lesson that I've picked up recently may seem odd, or too obvious to even mention.  But it took me until just this past year, and many painful ordeals, to finally figure it out.  The lesson is one that I feel applies to both questions, and to all people, not just me.  That lesson is this: maintain perspective at all times, and at all costs.  Never, but never, allow yourself to forget exactly how much you have to do with what goes on around you -- and how much or how little you affect the outcome of any given situation you are invested in.  Forgetting to keep this perspective not only hurt many people, myself certainly included, but also nearly cost my life and a close friend's sanity.  For the sake of the privacy of those involved and for the sake of space, I will not recount the story (even if asked; please trust me that for now it is best that this remain hidden), but suffice to say it was a very sharp wake-up call for me and for all that I was doing and feeling at the time.

Since that lesson seems to apply so well to everyone, I suppose I may just as well move into the first question.  What do I think everyone should learn?  Well, there are a lot of things we all need to learn in life.  I think some of us are just born better-prepared for certain lessons than are the rest of us, but then each person has their own unique strengths.  It's up to all of us to capitalize on that and use it to get a leg up over our weaknesses.  Anyway.  The single most important lesson, or rather the most important challenge, is in my opinion to learn to defeat pride.

That's right, pride.  As in Seven-Deadly-Sins pride.  Wrath, envy, lust, sloth, excess, and greed are all important to avoid, but pride is in my experience the root of all of them, and far more problems besides.  One form of pride is the source of lust and enemy to love, believing that others are just objects to be used for gratification rather than companionship.  Another type believes that others are not as much entitled to their property or status and fosters greed and envy and excess alike.  One type believes that it is above working and engenders sloth.  Wrath is derived from the belief that one's feelings are more important than others' and that offense must be retributed against even if it was with good reason.

Pride is essentially at the root of all selfish or sinful or misanthropic behavior, and must -- must -- be stopped if we as human beings with souls and hearts are to function in harmony with one another.  In a comment on a previous entry here, IamtheEnder writes:

It is painful to see harm done. Why would anyone want that? It doesn't make sense to me to do anything but good.


I agree that it is very painful to see harm or pain inflicted on anyone else... but it is often actually a relief from pain that drives such an action.  We see something that hurts us, and we feel the need -- a prideful need (lest this seem too tangential) -- to fight back against its source.  Someone inflicts pain on us, and the natural and instinctive response is to drive pain into them tenfold, to get revenge or to serve justice on behalf of another for whom we care.  It's wrong, morally, but it's natural.  What we should do, in all cases, is to accept the action that caused us pain in the first place and try to make amends as best we can. But this is not easy.  It requires forgiveness, and it requires strength.  More so than I personally feel I have.

All I can say, in the end, is good luck to all who genuinely want to rid themselves of pride and to exchange it for perspective.

Music Sympathy

I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm in a bad mood, I can't deal with listening to happy music.  Or not much of it, anyway.  And usually, the music I do listen to is even more depressing -- it synergizes with my current bad mood and makes it worse.  I listen to music that sounds like I feel.  Good moods mean happy music and playful sounds, while bad moods mean dismal, gloomy melodies with depressing lyrics when applicable.  However, certain songs with neutral styles (most notably Duran Duran's What Happens Tomorrow and Lover Reef, a collaboration by several contributors to OC ReMix) in my experience have the baffling ability to fit with almost any mood at all and even to enhance it.

Sometimes, even I cannot quite define my musical preferences.  Some songs that fit with the outward mood grate at me and don't sound "right," while others that are totally dissonant with how I think I'm feeling just seem to click for what seems like no reason.  In some rare cases, I'll be listening to a song, even one I'm not very familiar with, and I will be able to think nothing short of "that's it: that is how I feel right now."  One such song I heard for the first time on a very, very grim day during which I was thinking over my whole life and how messed-up it was at the time.  That song, Suzumebachi's The Ballad of Sir Kibbles, resonated with me in a way songs rarely ever manage to, and to this day I feel that it is the story of my life crammed into a three-minute instrumental.

But still, all music has a distinct "color" and mood associated with it.  In fact, perhaps that very concept of "color" explains the strangeness in my choices sometimes.  Mostly I like colors of music that are close to the color of my mood, but sometimes a triadic color, to borrow the color theory term (melancholic to my angry, or orange to my red... or something like that, I suppose it's not an exact science), can resonate just as deeply.

For my readers and respondents: what are your favorite songs for certain specific moods, and how do they affect you?  What kinds of songs do you find you listen to when you're in a happy mood?  Or sad?  Or angry?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

By way of reply

A little over a month ago, Landon Wilkins made a post on one of my introductory entries.  He asked me two very solid questions that I feel are quite worth exploring here.

First.  Landon asks, "What is your base motivation in life?"  He explained that he wanted to know what drives my actions, and my personality.  I've thought a lot over the years about that one and, especially lately, about what drives personality in general.  I find that certain things are at the core of each and every person's life, and that this selection of traits is different for everyone.  Some people find themselves devoted completely to pursuit of skills, or being the absolute best at what they do.  Some follow their ideals, high thoughts of ethics and morals and justice and other such abstracts.  Some are logical to the extreme, while others follow whimsy and passion wherever it takes them.

As for me, I find that certain concepts are absolutely tantamount to my lifestyle.  I am, above all else, dedicated to justice and to love.  If something is truly unfair, it sits very, very poorly with me, sometimes to the point that I experience physical pain in one respect or another if I am unable to do anything to fix it.  In my life, I need to feel that things are fair and just, else I more or less shut down and am unable to cope.  On the other side of things, I frequently discover that love drives me.  I do a lot of strange, abnormal things, and most of them, one way or another, come down to love.  Love for other worlds and new ideas, love for certain people, love for creation... but that warm feeling of love lies beneath them all.
Subsidiary to those two primary drives, I look for logic and reason, for understanding (in a largely philosophical sense of the word), and for gratification.  I am very much a selfish type of person, in that in my spare time I generally do whatever feels best at the moment.  I waste an enormous amount of time just reading dumb websites or playing video games, for no better reason than that I felt like it.  This is the same reason that I flaunt my odd style of dress, and that I carry a bag stamped with my own design -- I am very egotistical and, despite my joking about it, I realize that at times it is a huge problem for me.  If the bottom line doesn't come down to me getting something tangible, I tend to write many activities off as wasteful (even if they are helpful to others in whatever way).  However, of course, this flies in the face of my two bigger motives, and as a result I find myself in very frequent and very heated internal conflict over it.  I cannot feel as though justice is being properly served if I am wasting my time so badly while others that I care about suffer (because, of course, everyone has their own problems), and at times I cannot indulge both myself and my sense of love simultaneously.
The second question (or questions, I suppose) Landon posed is: "How do you want your life to be?  What do you want to do, experience, achieve?"  I honestly don't have many specific plans.  I'm trying to cover as many contingencies as I can, what with getting my degree in a field I don't particularly want to work in (CS).  I want to be an artist, or at the very least operate in a creative capacity.  I don't really care whether that's as a video game designer or as a writer or as a graphic designer or what, but I need to create.  It's just What I Do.  Having a job doing so is... well, it would make life much less painful if my current employment experience in retail has taught me anything at all.
As for personal life goals, I know exactly who I want to marry.  I know more or less what steps I'm going to have to take to make that happen, and I'm mostly on the right track.  I haven't got any particular preference as to how I want my family to be, though I do know that I'm going to wait for at least a few years after marriage to have kids if I end up deciding to have them at all.  I want to emulate the examples of my parents as best I can, since to be quite frank they are, without exaggeration, the only couple I've ever known of who have made no major errors in raising their children.
At some point, I wish to explore the world, to see places like Japan and Ireland that are so in tune with me in one or another way.  There are idols I hope to someday meet, like Graham Stark, Paul Saunders, Tarn Adams, Lynne Triplett, Niyazi Sonmez, and frankly a boatload of others.  I want to publish my games, board, tabletop, and computer alike, and get my worlds noticed by some semblance of a mainstream audience.  I want names like the Sigil Galaxy and Little Heartless and Cog Cyprian to be known, even if only in small niche communities.  I want to share all of the fascinating developments in my mind with the entire world, and to inspire others to see as differently as I do.
And beyond the mundane achievements and status that I want, I have a more transcendental need for my life's course.  I need to help people.  I need to use my apparent aptitude for understanding how people's minds and emotions operate and interact to help them solve their problems and to make peace with themselves.  Like creating things, it is again What I Do, and therefore beyond my ability to stop needing to have in my life.
Hopefully, Landon, this entry has given you an adequate answer to your questions.  And as a note both to Landon and to my other regular readers, and to anyone else who happens to stumble onto this page: please ask me questions, that I may try to give you answers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Intro (Part 4): The big one

I know I'm way behind on this (almost a full month, actually), and I'm trying to get myself caught up.  But to be perfectly frank, I've been avoiding this entry.  It needs to be said, but I wish I didn't have to be the one exposing myself to some potentially very unpleasant comments and opinions.  Might as well come right out with it.

I am a furry.

That's right, one of those people with a thing for anthropomorphized animals.  Before anyone says it, or even thinks it, I neither practice nor endorse bestiality in any form.  However, I do like artwork of humanoid versions of various animals, as seen in (for instance) Broken Plot Device or Housepets!.  I like cats, in general, and my own fursona (portmanteau of "furry persona," otherwise known as my alter-ego in the furry fandom) is a white housecat named Cog -- and yes, that was the impetus behind naming my blog "cogthecat."

Probably the best rendition I have of my fursona at present is the (admittedly somewhat pitiful) BuddyPoke interpretation I've made.  It's not very detailed, or completely accurate (it's missing one of the black patches on his fur and he has no wings in that version... it's a long story as to why he is supposed to have them), but you get the idea.

Before I go on, I need to address some of the common myths and misconceptions about furries that are mostly propagated by mainstream media to people who just don't care to do the research (and then end up just getting spread everywhere).

First.  Probably the most obvious one is that furries practice bestiality.  There are people that practice bestiality, and there are people that are furries, and sometimes those two groups overlap.  However, they are by no means equivalent, and people that practice bestiality are looked down on by the other furries just as much as by the rest of the world; either you do practice that or you don't, and being furry has nothing to do with it.

Second.  Furries are all gay men between ages 16 and 25.  Again, not true.  There are furries in this specific demographic, true, and there is indeed a vast majority (80%, last I checked) of the furry fandom that is male.  A majority of furries are also youthful.  I have no answer to the absurd male-to-female ratio in the fandom, but I do know that the furry lifestyle and ideology is very appealing to youth who want to find themselves and find a connection to the fandom for one or another reason.  The nature of the fandom, specifically that it is much more easily practiced via the Internet than out in the judgmental public, makes it very accessible to young people with an understanding of technology.  As for sexual preference, I myself am very much straight (as is my girlfriend, who is also a furry) -- thus proving that at least two furries are not of the stereotypical gay male group.  The reason that so many furries identify as homosexual or bisexual is, plain and simple, acceptance.  There is a very -- VERY -- tolerant atmosphere inside the furry fandom at large, simply because if you can accept being furry most people generally believe you can accept anything.  People that would otherwise never have "come out" find it very easy to do so in the furry fandom because furries as a whole will accept frankly just about anything.

As a result of this last point, furries do have a decidedly unpleasant habit of being very open about things that are sometimes better hidden.  It's such a strongly tolerant atmosphere that sometimes furry fans lose sight of what should and should not be shared in a public setting.  It is an impulsive and indulgent subculture, often with its members just doing whatever comes to mind whenever they feel like it.  Now, I've probably made the drawbacks of this outlook fairly clear by now.  But on the other hand, it is extremely liberating at times to not have to worry about being looked at weird for favoring a certain fashion style, or for standing just that half-an-inch closer to someone than is socially appropriate in other situations.  Sometimes you just plain want to be weird, and furries will gladly let you.

Now before I go on, I should probably mention my personal definition of being furry.  Perhaps I should have done this first.  But regardless:
To be a furry, also known as a furry fan, one must like something to do with anthropomorphized animals.  This ranges from running about in a full-body fur suit just for kicks and giggles all the way to just liking the Bugs Bunny cartoons, or Disney's The Lion King (for which, by the way, there is an entire sub-fandom within furry culture).

Moving on.  The third big myth is that all furries are just in it for the porn, or that furry fandom is a strictly sexual matter.  To be honest, there is a huge, HUGE amount of furry porn out there, and often it is not filtered nearly as well as it should be (for example on FurAffinity, which is sporadically very, very NSFW but generally just fine for the kiddies; sometimes the NSFW artwork will just decide to be on the front page as it is updated).  However, I must stress once again that this is a preferential thing.  If any one furry likes drawing or looking at pornographic photographs, that's their choice.  Same goes for "normals" looking at furry porn.  Same goes for furries looking at furry porn, and "normals" looking at other naked "normals."  I hope my point is being made here.  If you look at it, that's your business.  If not, then fine.  But just as not all non-furries look at porn, not all furries look at yiff (the accepted term for the furry equivalent... it is known as "the noise two foxes make when you rub them together," though this is often referred to in a tongue-in-cheek manner).

The fourth major myth, and the last one I intend to cover here, is that of identity.  Some people have heard that furries TRULY BELIEVE that they are animals in spirit, or that they can transform into their fursonas during a full moon, or that they share a connection with dragons or elves or whatever.  And that's not entirely untrue either.  Some furries do, in fact, believe that they are lycanthropic (turn into animals, i.e. werewolves) or that they are animals in spirit (therians), or that they are not entirely human (that they are more than their physical bodies; this group is called otherkin and comprises some furries as well as those who believe they are connected to elves, fey, or other mythological beings, among some others).  But the majority of furries belong to none of these groups and just like anthropomorphized animals for one or another reason.

I do feel that I need to cover the reason that these myths get started before I wrap up.  Since furry fandom really started entering the mainstream consciousness, virtually all of the media attention pointed to it has been negative.  Most furries just want to live their lives in peace and as they choose, but some few choose to behave in especially extreme ways, getting themselves noticed by tabloids and the more paranoid side of the media.  Those media outlets, of course, jump at the chance to highlight people behaving strangely -- because scandal sells magazines.  Or papers.  Or increases viewership.  Whatever these outlets focus on, they know it goes up, up, up when furries are involved because furries are Weirdos And Deviants And Perverts Oh My, and people like hearing about people that they can look down on just for being different without fear of reproach.  More recently, the 2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Fur and Loathing" (WikiFur has an excellent article on the whole ordeal from furry fandom perspective) actually called in several local furries as consultants and extras to make sure that they got it right.  Of course, those consultants worked hard to correct the many misconceptions and inaccuracies in the script, but in the end they were overruled by the director and producer, who preferred to make the episode as racy and as scandalous as possible, in the process badly damaging furry fandom's public image.

This kind of damage is happening all the time, and as a result the fandom is very close-knit, often having a difficult time showing itself (as it is with me).  In the hopes that someone would actually notice and bring it up, I myself have worn a collar and tag out in public nearly every day -- not only because I like the fashion statement.  I keep wondering if anyone sees it and wonders about the fandom because of my odd fashion sense.  Or even if someone might ask me straight out whether I am a furry or not.  Maybe it'll happen, maybe not.  But if it does, I will happily answer any and all questions on the topic, because furries are just not that bad.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Intro (Part 3): The first elephant

So, borrowing the metaphor of the "elephant in the room," or something very very important that no one wants to discuss but is on everyone's mind, I have a few things to bring up before I can consider my introduction really finished.  I'll only be covering the simpler one this week, as life outside has become extraordinarily taxing of late.

The first elephant... the first of two things I consider part of my core definition, yet hesitate to even mention to anyone.  Religion.

I am LDS -- that is, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or a "Mormon," in common vernacular.  Being in Utah, there is of course a strong LDS presence.  But in Salt Lake City itself, that presence is diminishing rapidly.  The Church is not actually shrinking, but it has stalled out in its growth in this area.  The masses that move in are often either already LDS or strongly against the idea of converting, leading to a very sharp divide between the two parts of the population.  If you're living in Utah and not LDS, you hate the Church.  If you are LDS in Utah, you love it and treat everyone else with as much disdain as you can get away with.  I admit it, I'm one of Those People that honestly kind of looks down on everyone that comes from "lesser" moral standing.

But I do not mean to suggest that LDS people are any less or more flawed and human than any other group.  In fact, I am keenly aware of my own imperfect nature, in spite of my supposed higher morality.  All I truly have is a higher set of ideals to work towards than many.  The majority, I would say, content themselves with simply being what they are and ignore the ideas of sin and personal improvement.  This honestly makes perfect sense to me.  Without high ideals to work toward, it is much, much easier to live with one's flaws.  It makes it so easy to accept them, and to ignore them as being unimportant compared to just living freely.  But that does not make it right.

Not even, in fact, from a sociological standpoint.  If all of humanity simultaneously decided to ignore the grievous personal faults that exist in virtually everyone, world society would disintegrate within a generation, possibly faster.  No one would teach the children to better themselves, nor to concern themselves with the future.  Flaws would be learned and passed on, individuals would grow further and further from morality and ethics with each passing year, or month, or even each day in an especially morbid case.

However, I digress.  I will be blunt here: the LDS religion is pretty weird.  We believe, among many other details, that you and I were alive before being given bodies, that we will go back to that state after death, and that at some point no matter what happens to our bodies in the meantime those bodies will get back up pretty much of their own volition and accept our spirits back into them.  And all of this because a Jewish fellow bled a lot in a certain special spot a couple of millennia ago on behalf of the father that created the universe and just wants us all to be happy.  But it's certainly not much stranger than most other religions: in Islam, Jesus was a prophet who taught truth and goodness through all his days, except that silly business about being God's son -- he lied to everyone about that one little detail.  In Buddhism, one is expected to do good things all their lives and deprive themselves of every human pleasure, so that someday after they die a few more times they can come back as a cow.  In some sects of Jainism, you're a horrible bad person if you don't suffer through every second of your existence.

Any religion or system of beliefs can be brought down to something absolutely silly.  But for me, the Latter-Day Saint faith is the only one free of contradiction.  It contains every component I feel true religion should: a complete explanation of everything relevant, from the macroscopic deific scale to the microscopic, myopic world of humanity; total internal consistency, and the freedom from contradiction by any means other than differences in personal interpretations; a purpose for existence in general that leads to morally and ethically upright conduct in all areas of life; and most importantly, a personal feeling that it is correct.  Logic and sensibility and justice are a very big deal for me, and the LDS faith provides something that no other religion I have yet seen does.  Mormonism makes sense, and the only reason I see that one would reject it is personal pride (mind you, this is a very broad category and I am vulnerable to it just as much as the next person).  In my experience, the deeper one studies into LDS doctrine, the more sense it makes, and the more it stands on its own as being if not correct, at least logically valid.

I am opinionated and stubborn about this, and I feel I can justify that as simply possessing yet another specific flaw.  But as far as concerns me, it is right.  It is best left as an exercise for the reader to determine whether what I say here is in fact true, and I accept that many (many, many, many) people do not agree with any of it.  But this is, nonetheless, my belief and my faith.

The other elephant, probably far bigger a social "problem," is to wait until next week.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Intro (Part 2): In which I ramble on about dwarves and video games

Yes.  As I mentioned last week, I am indeed a geek.

My wardrobe comes from ThinkGeek, and from various webcomics.  My current favorite shirt is from Three Panel Soul, and references both a pair of their comics and the Bay 12 Games flagship project, Dwarf Fortress.  That game is easily one of my top three favorites of all time, and reading through the TVTropes page on the game (fair warning to those who do not know TVTropes: you click on that link and it will devour your life and free time for a very, very long while... possibly also cause insomnia) will tell you much of why.  It lends itself possibly better than anything else I've ever seen to fanfiction and stories otherwise based on the game, and by far the best parts of being a fan of the game are being able to read about the more-remarkable successes and failures of the many and sundry fellow players.  Of these, my favorites are (and one only needs a cursory understanding of the insanely-complicated game to appreciate these stories):

Boatmurdered -- The now-infamous story of an early succession fortress (the save file was passed between different players for each year of the fortress' fairly short lifetime) in which things were going okay until someone decided to implement a doomsday device that flooded the world with magma.  Everything went totally insane from there and eventually ended in every single dwarf going insane and/or killing each other in an oddly hilarious fashion.  This came in spite of (or possibly because of, depending on your perspective) the fortress starting off with everything that a player could possibly want (magma, underground and outdoor water sources, plenty of wood and food sources aplenty, plus three good seasonal trading partners).  Essentially the fortress started off as well as it could, and then failed spectacularly in every way the players could think of.  Word to the wise reader: the story thread was originally posted at SomethingAwful, and as a result some rather foul language is bandied about with little to no restraint throughout the thread.

Nist Akath -- This fortress is probably the exact opposite of Boatmurdered.  The game was more or less the opposite of Boatmurdered, in that the fort started on a haunted glacier (virtually no resources and animated skeletons everywhere) with an aquifer, meaning only very limited stone for the first while.  It was also opposite in that in a game with no victory condition somehow the player behind Nist Akath managed to actually win.  Needless to say, much awesomeness and hilarity ensued after play got serious.  Currently the story is on the verge of wrapping up once and for all, in what promises to be the most epic showdown between undead and dwarves in the history of the game.

The other two games in my top three are Darwinia and NiGHTS Into Dreams (both of which are linked to in the previous post).  If you have the means, and the dare to get into something really great, then I strongly suggest taking a long look at all three of these titles.

To reiterate a point I made near the top, TVTropes is a massive, massive time-waster.  I can prove this by example: I made the mistake of clicking on the link I posted to make sure it worked.  It's been three hours since I did that and I'm only just now getting away from it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Intro (Part 1): The Basics

I have a lot I could talk about here, or rather rant about, but I'm going to restrain myself until you at least know who's behind the keyboard on this blog.

I am, to say the least, not a normal person.  Most of my wardrobe comes from ThinkGeek, and I'm a hardcore Apple fanboy (also known as a Mactard, a label I'll willingly step into) even though I see the company moving in the same general direction as Microsoft.  I like Mac best even though I actually acknowledge some Linux distributions as being intrinsically better.  I spend my free time (and an unhealthy amount of my non-free time) playing such niche games as NiGHTS Into Dreams and Darwinia and Dwarf Fortress, plus oldschool favorites like Starfox 64 and Super Mario 64... and I sometimes alternate that with useful productive things like work for my deviantART account, but lately that's been pretty rare.  I typically also waste a lot of time with websites like the ever-famous FAIL BlogVery Demotivational, and Halolz, plus webcomics such as xkcd, Irregular Webcomic!, Housepets, Broken Plot Device, and Megatokyo.  Then there are those ever-so rare websites that are just plain beyond awesome, like LoadingReadyRun that I cannot stay away from even if I try.  So yes, I am a web addict.

Let's move on to the labels.  What can I be classified as?

I think of myself as all of what follows (and I've been called most all of these at some point or another): a geek, a goofball, a computer nerd, a good friend, wise, intelligent, a dreamer, an idealist, a gamer, a programmer, a designer, cynical, liberal, an artist, a thinker, a philosopher, weird... the list goes on, but for now that should suffice.

Stylistically, I'm defined by a few items of clothing that I'm rarely seen without -- my trenchcoat and driver's cap, my glasses, some geeky or witty t-shirt, my fractal bag (from my CafePress store, Fractalle -- I'm by no means above shameless self-advertising), and more recently a collar and tag or a bandanna around my neck.  I also think of myself as being far more stylish than I probably actually am, since my fashion sense has never really lined up with social norms.

Identity-wise, I take up a lot of different mantles.  In person, to most people, I am Jacob Van De Graaff; to some few others I am Cog Cyprian.  Online, there are nearly as many pseudonyms as there are characters by which I identify myself.  deviantART, and most conventional websites (discussion forums and the like) know me as Q-Lok, but others know me as Avalon, or as (again) Cog Cyprian.  Some people knew me as Nami the Chameleon for a time, while others knew me by the name Windman.  More recently, on Second Life, my name is Limerick Lexington, and for some time I went as Jacob "Q" Libris within the NiGHTS fandom.  For as many different names as I have gone through, I have likewise conducted myself in even slightly more different ways, dependent upon the situation -- I have been just as many different people.  And for those that know me beyond the limits of any one single name, it becomes even slightly more complicated.  They get to see a composite of different faces, of several of the different metaphorical masks and hats that I wear, and for them I become rather more complicated.

There are many sides of me, and this is only a general smattering of them -- in fact, a number of the most important roles and labels are absent from my lists.  This is by no means a complete definition of me, nor is it even a good outline... however, it does hopefully give the reader a reasonable starting point for knowing where I come from in my writing.

And for those who honestly couldn't tell from the amount I wrote on this topic, I am also the original king of tl;dr.  Welcome to my life.