Extra Life 2018!

After a rather lackluster 2017, I’m back!

For the rest of the week, I’ll be streaming a variety of games while trying to raise some funds for Riley Hospital for Children right here in Indiana!

Be sure to check out OseronPhaer, subscribe and click the bell for notifications for when I go live, and check out my fundraising page: https://www.extra-life.org/participant/oseron-phaer

Thank you all!

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The Measure of a Man

Guest post by Tim Champion

Way back in 1986, Boston asked us the question “What does it take to be a man?”

The answer they came up with was, in part:

The will to give and not receive

The strength to say what you believe

The heart to feel what others feel inside

To see what they can see.

This isn’t a bad stab at it, but as always, the question remains… “What more?” Let’s take this time to talk about work, though you’ll find many aspects all connect like strands of a web.

From a personal standpoint, I started asking what it took to be a man when I realized I was surrounded by men, but wasn’t yet a peer. Immediately, I found myself asking how one ascended to this brotherhood. I had some larger than life role models that I wanted to impress, somehow. I had people outside of my immediate family that I wanted to think more of me. I was big for my age, but that didn’t make me a man. It did earn me some advanced level chores, though…. Lucky me.

When I was thirteen, my dad decided I needed a good work ethic, since my people skills were, shall we say, unpolished. He arranged for the farmer that he worked for as a young man to put me to work as well. I did the usual small farm stuff: herding and milking cows, baling hay, (and later, alfalfa, which is a new lesson in work), doing some light farm-type construction, and even keeping the calves safe from wildlife that ventured in from the woods.

This all taught me a few things:

1) Work is hard. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called work, and someone else would have come along and done it already. It’s also completely necessary. Things do not happen by accident. You have to work toward a design, rather than expect a windfall.

2) No one cares how tired you are. Every single day is a grind, but the cows still needed milked. They don’t care about the show you wanted to see, the girl who wanted to catch a movie, or the fact that homework is piling up. There’s work to be done, and the guy handing you HIS money needs to know you’re pulling your weight. He’s investing money in you, for your labor, in hopes that he can turn a buck on it and his product. You do well for him, and you keep your job. Excel for him, and you get more. I got a raise every few months, thanks to the fact that I left every drop of sweat I had on his land.

3) The new guy. At some point, we’re all going to be the new guy. You’re going to suffer like only the new guy can. Initiations happen. You’ll wonder why you’re even there. It sucks. Embrace it. EMBRACE THE SUCK. It’s the time of maximum learning, and if you want to last, you need to learn it all. Don’t whine to HR about feeling left out. Catch up. Carve your own spot out… with your bare hands, if you have to. Just make sure you know what you’re doing, or you’ll go up in flames. Did I mention “Learning”?

4) The fourth big lesson I can pass on, and it’s as important now as it’s ever been, is this: There is NO guarantee of security. There’s always a chance you’ll do your best, and still come up short. Some guy’s nephew will beat you to the position. Someone, somewhere, hates you, and you’ll lose a job you busted your ass for. It’s ok, and here’s why: as someone who did their very best, for the sake of the work itself, you’ll have competence and a good reputation in your field.

5) Last one: Sacrifice. You don’t get anything of value for nothing. For everything you do, you build new opportunities and contacts. Those give you more options. It’s that simple. Yes, this is a quaint way of saying that the work never ends, but it’s also true that at a certain point of expertise, you get to pick the work that you do. This is more valuable than the money you’ll make. If time = money, the inverse is also true, labor = soul. You might be raking it in hand over fist, but are you ok with it? Is the work to your liking enough that you don’t mind the heartbeats and breath you’re investing in it? That’s the question. If it is, go you. If not, you need to do better for yourself through training or re-education in a new field. Remember, we all learned how to do the thing. If you need to learn a new thing, you can.
In closing: Work ethic, experience, reputation, results. In that order.

Let me stress something…

YOU. CANNOT. BUY. THESE. THINGS.

Not for any amount of anything.

After a few years of this, you tend to develop this thing called “character”. You actually want to do the work right, because a job well done is, in fact, its own reward. One of the major traits of a man is that he takes pride in looking at the quality of his completed work, whether it’s the way the yard turned out, the new deck he built, or the family he raised. Don’t ever be afraid to look at something you did, “and see that it was good”. Being proud of your work is normal. Finding ways to hone your craft is exemplary.

So when someone asks what it takes to become a man, I tell them you don’t become one, you make yourself one from the ground up. YOU get to be the architect of your character, your self worth, and ultimately, your public image.

It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

Watch: It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

More McCain-ia!, plus gun-grabbers vs. gun rights advocates: who’s less civil? Political false equivalencies galore, emotionalism vs. stoicism, Osei’s review of The Incredible Hulk, and music theory/videogame and cinema music are all discussed in this episode of Nerd Rage! Watch, subscribe, like, comment, and share!

Porn Is Not Harmful, or So They Say

Hoo boy, where do I even start with this one?

Let’s start with “any man that tells you he doesn’t watch it is probably lying to you.” When you yourself watch pornography, it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing this statement. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that “everyone does it”? The problem with this statement is that it’s false.

I do believe it is true to say that most people intentionally consume porn; it has simply saturated our culture that thoroughly. But this idea that there isn’t a soul untouched by it, or uninterested in it, or willingly avoiding it? That’s ridiculous. Of course there is. Being inundated in porn culture leads us to believe that everyone is secretly a closet pervert like ourselves; we end up living in a (disturbingly large) bubble that keeps us from realizing that there is a world away from internet porn and that some people still live in it. There are still some people who want to live in it.

Let’s look at “insecurity,” as though it is simply blind paranoia that would lead to someone hating porn or refusing to date someone who has or still does consume it. But what do you have to be insecure about when it comes to porn consumption? Is it being compared against other attractive women (or men)? Is it fearing that your significant other’s eye is being drawn askance? Is it being replaced emotionally? How about physically?

Wait, but these are all things that can and do happen when someone watches porn. So is it insecurity or justified fear?

I’ve written before about my struggles with porn. I’ve spent the bulk of my life struggling with feelings of guilt and shame, disappointment and weariness. Pornography is harmful; I’m my own best example. But I don’t need to stop at myself.

When I started following Fight the New Drug, it made me conscientious of the fact that not all porn on the internet is fun. The performers aren’t always having a blast, they aren’t always doing things they really want to do or are comfortable with.

That’s when I started to notice; you can see it. You can see when performers are tired, when they’ve exhausted themselves, but have to keep going to finish a shoot. You can see when female performers are in pain, or when they’re disgusted by certain acts or actions. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes; what happens to these people before the camera is turned on or after its turned off? Have they been coerced? Are they desperate? Do they numb the pain with drugs?

The people you saw on that video on Pornhub are just that: people. They aren’t sex machines or gods. They aren’t just images on a screen; they’re flesh and blood human beings. Human beings who have either chosen to or been coerced into using their bodies for the basest of acts.

I mentioned my feelings of guilt over porn before, because porn has harmed me. It has shaped my character into something…small. A jaunt into the comments of these videos brings you to the other side of this coin. Whereas I hide what I do, the comments are filled with all forms of degeneracy.

Men (with the occasional woman) appraise the performers (most often the woman) on looks and how they act, treating them as a piece of meat hanging in a butchery. They ask for names, so that they might hunt down more videos of the person in question. Most are blind to what I can see. To the degradation and the humiliation. They comment gleefully on how “excited” and “into it” she seems to be, and certainly there are videos where they are. It is always striking, however, when the commenter is blind to the obvious.

It’s even worse when the commenter likes it. When they see that the woman on the screen is unhappy, is being humiliated. And they cheer it on. They write out the most vile ideas from the dark hole that is their minds. Yet people say porn causes no harm. They are wrong. It twists individuals into horrid gremlins, mutilating their souls, wringing from them empathy and humanity. On the outside, they still lead normal lives. But on the inside, they hide their darkest desires. And those desires may one day come out, often onto the shoulders of a girlfriend or boyfriend, wife or husband.

And what of the women who watch porn, a cohort the OP proudly declares herself a part of? Perhaps she believes herself to be fine, to be unharmed (I doubt it). But what about everyone else? What about the women who become what I described above? What about those who have their self-image tied directly to how large their breasts are, how curvy their bodies are, how long they can perform in bed, all because they saw another woman on a screen?

Porn is harmful. No matter what anyone says, it is harmful. Somewhere along the line, it is hurting someone. It debases humanity in the cruelest of ways, turning something beautiful and meaningful, the greatest act of intimacy on this planet, into something comparable to the rutting of dogs. Humanity should be better than that. We should see the nobility within ourselves and aspire to it.

Instead, we’ll burn ourselves to the ground, all for a little bit of empty pleasure.

FFXIV Selections III

It’s the midpoint of Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood’s life, so it’s about time for me to add to the playlist! …Which I actually did four weeks ago or so, but who’s counting?

“Penitus”

I’ve mentioned before that I tended to gloss over A Realm Reborn’s soundtrack; I simply never found the game particularly engaging until the story-telling improved. Between that and the fact that my first run of this dungeon saw me get held up by watching a cutscene and subsequently getting lost, I never paid much attention to the music. Indeed, the music may be the only redeeming quality of a long, draggy dungeon. From bombastic brass to haunting vocals, Penitus is evocative and a fine final dungeon theme.

“Steel Reason”

A holdover from Final Fantasy XIV’s 1.0 era, Steel Reason is another tune I kind of tuned out. It wasn’t until mid-Heavensward when I really started to listen to it. I honestly want to say that the aspect of this song that stands out the most to me is how unique it feels. In a world of swords and magic, Nobuo Uematsu did a fantastic job of capturing the feel of fighting foes that wield advanced technology, from guns to armored walkers. Yet, it remains upbeat, as though even foes far above you can still fall.

“For the Sky”

For a change of pace, this is a theme I loved from when I first heard it. For the Sky perfectly captures the feeling of this time in the game’s story. When you have almost nothing, banished in a strange, war-torn land, still you drive forward.

“Even in our lowest low, we could cling to one thing: hope. Hope and the will to see our hopes realized. So did we enter Halatali, determined to save him, driven by the hope that, despite everything, there was still a chance to salvage this.”

“The Measure of His Reach (The Royal Menagerie)”

“Oh come ye wayward brothers,

bereft of hearth and home.

Beneath yon burning star there lies

a haven for the bold.”

This might be my favorite version of this song. I’ve always been a sucker for orchestral arrangements and this one is no different.

“Wayward Daughter”

I’ve always been fond of this style of music. There’s something about the haunting female vocals that arrest me. The song fits perfectly with its fight: it is face-paced without being too upbeat, somber without being too depressing. A fitting theme to end a tragic and wicked life.

I suppose I’ll be back in a few months to give the music one last look before 5.0’s launch…

Harmony and Free Will

I love Star Wars; it is not a stretch to say that it was the defining element of my childhood, far and above anything else. I wasn’t good at making or keeping friends. I didn’t have much interest in physical activity. No other franchise could grab and hold my attention the same way Star Wars would.

Whenever my mother’s siblings would visit us, I would arrange my Star Wars toys in my bedroom as a museum they could visit. I would watch the movies whenever they were on TV. I remember every summer, TNT would air the trilogy in a solid block; it was the only night my mother would let me stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I watched them on VHS. I played Star Wars: Tie Fighter and Yoda Stories obsessively.

When The Phantom Menace came out, I loved it. It was the first new Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi, a movie that was released six years before I was born (a concept I still didn’t get at that point). All I wanted was new Star Wars, and Episode I delivered for me. It wouldn’t be until I was in my twenties that I would realize how flawed Episode I was. I did not understand how poorly paced it was, how it focused on superfluous elements like politics, how tonally jarring and annoying Jar Jar Binks was.

But there was one thing I was lost on from the very beginning: the prophecy. Leaving aside the incredibly questionable decision to turn Anakin Skywalker from just a tragic hero to tragic Space Jesus™, I did not understand what it meant by bringing balance to the Force. How do you balance something by destroying half of it? The prophecy stated that the Chosen One would bring this balance by destroying the Sith. For years, I could not wrap my head around concept.

Space Jesus
“Are you saying this…boy is to be out lord and savior?”

Indeed, it was only recently that I rethought it in such a way that it finally made sense.

You see, balance in this case doesn’t mean Yin and Yang, light and dark balancing each other out.

It means harmony.

Balance means allowing the Force to flow through the universe, uninterrupted. There may be light and dark elements contained within, but those elements are not discordant. The life cycle naturally involves death and rebirth. However, there are not forces within the stream disrupting it, causing strife and suffering.

This, of course, was the central goal of the Jedi, both on an individual level and on the whole:

There is no emotion; there is peace.

There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.

There is no passion; there is serenity.

There is no chaos; there is harmony.

There is no death; there is the Force.

The Jedi, in their purest form, seek only to maintain the harmony of the universe.

For the Sith, this was antithetical to their creed:

Peace is a lie. There is only passion.

Through passion, I gain strength.

Through strength, I gain power.

Through power, I gain victory.

Through victory my chains are broken.

The Force shall free me.

For the Sith, the ultimate outcome of their actions, intentional or otherwise, would sow chaos and discord. The Sith would bring strife upon each other and war upon the innocent. At their very worst, the Sith would destroy entire worlds, stripping them clean of life and leaving wounds in the Force. And all the while, the forces of light and dark would battle against each other, dragging countless souls into the conflict.

Invasion_of_Alderaan
This wouldn’t be the last time Alderaan would burn at the hands of the Sith….

As ill-conceived as it was (from a storytelling and lore standpoint), the crux of the Chosen One prophecy is that this cycle would stop. The darkness seeded into the galaxy during the first great schism of the Jedi would finally come to an end with Anakin Skywalker. Even if there was still darkness in the galaxy (and there certainly would be), the destructive horrors perpetuated by the Sith would finally come to an end. After nearly thirty thousand years of conflict, there would be harmony again.

Which brings me to The Last Jedi.

“Oh no, haven’t you already spent seven hours talking about The Last Jedi?”

I would spend seven more, too. In a sad way, it’s precisely because there’s something I dislike so vehemently (Episode VIII) in a thing I love (Star Wars) that makes me so engaged in the topic. I wouldn’t talk about it so much if I didn’t care so much on every conceivable level, be it about in-universe canon or storycraft. It is fascinating, in its way.

The thing about The Last Jedi is that Rian Johnson took the simpler interpretation of balance being “light and dark” when trying to explain who Rey is. Supreme Leader Snoke says that she is the light that has risen to face Kylo Ren’s darkness. She is who the Force has chosen (after a fashion) to balance him out. There are plenty of things I could say about this, I could even say it was not a terrible creative choice, but there is one thing that stands out to me.

If Rey has in fact been chosen by the Force to be Kylo Ren’s opposite, to be the light to his dark, then Rey, in fact, has no agency. She is not in control of her destiny because she is a vessel for a greater power, a power that seems to be giving her no choice in the matter. This upends the storytelling in there Star Wars saga in a very fundamental way.

Part of Star Wars’ appeal to the audience is the fact that all of the characters within the movies are making choices. They are independent actors, choosing their actions not because the narrative demands they do, but because they want to. One of the core aspects of well-crafted stories is that the characters act because they have the motivation and will within the narrative to make the decisions that drive the story. Barring stories where the goal is to show that mortal men cannot escape destiny and/or the will of the gods, this is more often than not true.

Anakin Skywalker chooses to pursue his own selfish goals; he is the ultimate cause for his own downfall. There is never a point where an outside force beyond his ken is making him marry Padme, or making him choose the Sith over the Jedi. There is no element that creates attachments for him or makes him fearful of losing those things he loves. All of that, in the end, is Anakin’s doing.

AnakinVaderVision-GOM
Anakin contained the seeds to be either a hero or a villain.

The same applies to his son, Luke. Luke chooses to pursue the path of the Jedi. He chooses to fight for the Rebellion. He makes the most important choice of the saga when he chooses to try to redeem his father, the most hated, evil man in the entire galaxy, simply for love of family. The choices of these two Skywalkers in their respective trilogies are the why of Star Wars.

It is not hard to see these two characters making different choices, as well. One can very easily see and believe Anakin Skywalker choosing to instead let go of his affections for Padme and dedicating himself wholly to the Jedi. If circumstances had even been slightly different: if Qui-Gon lived, if Obi-Wan had been a better mentor, if Anakin himself had held himself more accountable…. Luke, on the other hand, could very easily have taken Vader’s hand in Cloud City. It is entirely believable in that moment of deep doubt and confusion, Luke could have made the choice to follow his father, a man he’d idolized all his life, because it was the only option that made sense to him. There is never a point where the narrative of either the original or prequel trilogy makes it feel as though Anakin and Luke are forced to act in a particular way. Their choices naturally flow.

What about Rey? Perhaps this is just a case of unfortunate implications and not intended at all, but it seems to me that her destiny is set, that there is no real choice for her.

As I’ve discussed in both my Last Jedi Rant series and on our Star Wars episode of Nerd Rage, Rey always seems to make the “right” choice, the “good” choice. Despite two big opportunities to break this mould in The Last Jedi, she simply seems to “revert” to the good choice. She doesn’t question her path when she discovers Luke’s deception nor does she seem to meaningfully consider Kylo Ren’s offer to join with him and forge a new course. Part of me can’t help but wonder if this is a consequence of Snoke’s assertion that she is the light opposing the dark. For me, at least, there seems to be a subtle implication that she may not be able to do wrong at all.

Whereas Anakin, even though a character who seemed to rise in opposition to darkness, made terrible mistakes, Rey seems to make none. Luke spends his movies making difficult choices, choosing to be the light rising in opposition to the Emperor’s darkness, but this role just seems to fall into Rey’s lap. Rey feels like she is getting pushed around by the universe instead of forging a path through the tempest. Even when she does make a choice, notably when she goes to confront Snoke on the Supremacy, it never quite feels like she is a free moral agent. Her destiny feels laid bare, thus robbing her journey of all emotion and potential.

Kylo's Offer
What if Rey had instead chosen to follow Kylo on his new path?

Star Wars, when you dig a bit, has always been about individuals making choices, for good or ill. For every Sith who chooses to destroy, there is a Jedi who chooses to meet them. The Force does not create heroes and champions, nor does it create villains; those individuals choose to use their gifts, they consciously choose harmony or discord.

Rey does not feel like she fits into this paradigm, leaving both her character and the story around her feeling…empty.

Spoiler Free Infinity Wars Movie Review

Written by @indepgirlism (Shane) and shared here with permission. 

Spoiler free (mostly) review of Avengers: Infinity War.

 
First off, this is incredibly difficult to write. Once you see the movie, you’ll understand. Secondly, this is a movie to see on the big screen. More on that in a minute. Lastly, the follow up movie CAN NOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!!

 
Ok, so let’s dive in.

 
The multitude of story lines is astounding. Between the complicated relationship between Gamora and Thanos, Thanos wanting to collect all the Infinity Stones, Thor trying to rebuild Asgaard, the Guardians doing their thing, the Avengers no longer working as a team, Spider-Man trying to prove himself, and all the side love stories, I thought they could never do it all in one movie. And I am right…sort of. There is another installment coming which should resolve any cliffhangers, but this installment handled everything brilliantly, carefully, and kept the humor Marvel movies are known for!

 
It is a long movie (2 hours and 30 minutes) though it does not feel that long.

 
Thanos is fleshed out as a truly 3 dimensional character. We learn about his drive, his plan, his pain, and his deep emotions. This is a villain who is not just evil for the sake of being evil. He has a purpose. You may disagree with his purpose, but there is no denying that he has thought this through in great detail! His motivation is solid, if flawed.

 
His relationship with Gamora is heart breaking. That’s all I can really divulge at this point.

 
In my estimation, the pivotal character throughout the film is Doctor Strange. He plays things very close to his chest and makes choices that seem contrary to the ultimate goal of stopping Thanos. His mystery and arrogance is masterfully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 
And can we talk about Steve Rodgers for a minute? His defection from Tony Stark is somewhat vindicated in this film. I am looking forward to a final resolution and/or battle between those two. Rodgers has aligned himself with T’Challa/Black Panther, and the pairing really works! Both men are pragmatic and powerful. Their partnership is one that I want to see more of.

 
IW brings in some new faces which I hope will play a bigger part in the next installment. I can see where the writers are going, though I have been wrong in the past.

 
Now on to the practical side of things. My kids have grown up with the Marvel movies. They know and love these characters through and through. My kids are ages 17, 14, and 12. The movie has a PG-13 rating. There are good reasons for this. My 17 year old loved the movie. I am ok with my 14 year old seeing it. My 12 year old is a hard no. This caused tears and some shouting (on her end, not mine), but I know she is not ready for this story to be told to her. If you have younger kids, I would recommend screening the movie first. Only you know your kids and what they can handle, so make a wise choice in whether or not they should see it on the big screen or at home.

 
There is only one end credit scene. It is at the bitter end of the credits, and needs to be seen. Trust me. It really is worth the wait.

 
Visually, this is a STUNNING film. Great locations, perfect CGI, and beautiful imagery. It’s not going to be nominated for the big Oscar categories (a shame really because Robert Downey, Jr. puts in his best performance as Tony Stark yet), but the whole of the film is fantastic. Solid story, great dialogue, good pacing, and spot on performances. I can’t say enough good things about the film.

 
One final note: this is not your typical Marvel movie. The humor is there, and is used perfectly through the film, but it is not the focus. Again, small children should be taken only IF you feel they can handle it AFTER you have screened it. I can not stress that enough.

 
Go see it. Then go see it again. It’s that good.