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.