Post-Vacation Update

Hello again, dear viewers.

I just got back from vacation. Don’t worry, my family and I didn’t travel far. We only sent a week in a campground in the same county we live in. I’m pretty sure COVID will be knocking at our door anytime soon. But enough about stuff in my personal life. We need to talk about where I’m taking this blog in the near future.

First, I want to join more social media sites to help spread the word about the blog. I already have a Pinterest account, although I have yet to figure out how to post my blog posts there in the form of a “pin” as of yet. The only other social media app that I feel comfortable joining is Twitter. Sure, Twitter mobs are a thing I’m a bit paranoid about, especially considering my far-left political views and how Jack Dorsey seems a little too comfortable sharing his platform with alt-right demagogues. However, between that and Facebook’s history of privacy invasions, data collection, and political manipulation, I think Twitter is the much safer bet here.

I also still intend to join DeviantArt sometime in the near future so I can share my fiction writing, especially the stuff I have completed on The Divine Conspiracy so far.

I suppose I should also talk about what kind of blog posts you can expect to see in the near future. There are quite a few ideas I have, so I think I will list them all in bullet point format:

  • A blog post detailing my religious beliefs (it was partially my questioning about the nature of God during my college years that inspired The Divine Conspiracy in the first place)
  • A post based on the book Evil: A Guide for the Perplexed by Chad Meiser that examines several explanations (secular or otherwise) for the existence of evil in the world. I thought it would be fun to rank the options presented from least to most favorite.
  • Maybe a post going into how being on the autism spectrum has affected me
  • You might also expect a few posts debunking myths related to certain hot political topics of our time, like man-made climate change, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, etc.
  • Related to that might be a few posts debunking conspiracy theories like JFK’s assassination, 9/11 Truther beliefs, anti-vaxxer myths, etc.
  • Similar to that would be a few posts dedicated to showing scientific explanations for ghosts, things we could be mistaking for UFOs, reasons why cryptids like Bigfoot, lake monsters, and others probably don’t exist, etc.
  • Finally, I have an idea for an ongoing series where I talk about certain songs that have left an impact on me. As a person who loves music from many different genres, expect a lot of compositions to be discussed.

Of course, this might beg the question of where I might find the time to do all this. Previously, I said that I planned to post once a week, usually on Saturday or Sunday. However, given that I hold a steady job that keeps me occupied for about eight hours three days of the week, I have come to realize that is no longer feasible. Therefore starting at this point, I declare that I will post on this blog every ten days, equating to three blog posts a month.

Three shall be the number of blog posts per month, and the numbers of blog posts per month shall be three. No more, no less. Four posts shalt thou not expect, nor shalt thou expect two posts a month, excepting that thou then preceedeth to three. Five is right out. One the third blog post is reached, being the third of that month…

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Anyway, I hope that leaves you with a better understanding of where this blog will stand going forward. Have a wonderful rest of your summer, wash your hands, wear a mask, and for the love of God, do not vote for Trump in November!

An Introduction to “The Divine Conspiracy”: My Biggest Writing Project

Logo created using the Endor font on fontmeme.com. It is a placeholder, though, so it is subject to change.

My relationship with the world of fictional literature has been a rather strange one, to say the least. During my childhood and well into my high school years, I had little to no interest in fiction writing. Most of the fictional literature I encountered during this period was read to me, either by my mother (e.g., Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia) or one of my teachers (e.g., James and the Giant Peach, The Spiderwick Chronicles). I did read some fictional stories of my own accord. Two particular franchises I remember enjoying were the Magic Tree House series and the Bailey School Kids.

Does anyone else remember these books, or is it just me?

Overall, my reading time was mostly taken up by nonfiction titles that covered whatever topic my autistic brain was hyper focused on at the time (dinosaurs, the Titanic, cryptozoology, American history, etc.).

But then, as I’ve talked about elsewhere, Watership Down happened, and I decided I wanted to major in creative writing in college. Since then, much of my creative energy has been spent on creating my own fantasy universe. This story I am writing has been the culmination of all my childhood interests in myth, legend, the occult, and my later interests in religion, esoteric spiritualities, and the worldbuilding of speculative fiction titans like J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft. So let’s talk about it.

The Basic Premise

The Divine Conspiracy centers on a pair of fraternal twins, Ariel and Ronan Banks, who were born with unique magical powers. Ariel specializes in healing magic, conventional spell casting, spirit channeling, and practically every psychic ability you can think of (telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, empathic abilities, precognition, even teleportation). Ronan specializes in spirit conjuration, alchemical transmutation, mind control, invisibility, intangibility, and a temporary ability to copy others’ powers. They have also learned the same “bending” abilities practiced by the characters in one of their favorite TV shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender, although Ariel is better at water and air while Ronan is better at earth and fire.

They inherited these abilities from their mother, a succubus sent from Hell to help with a plot to assassinate the twins’ grandparents, Vincent and Frances, who worked for a secret society descended from the Knights Templar that investigates the supernatural and vanquishes malignant threats. Fortunately, she ended up falling in love with their son, Peter, instead. She renounced her ties to the Underworld, took the name Rhiannon, and became an agent with the Knights alongside Peter.

Sadly, Hell’s wrath caught up with her ten years later, and she was killed. The story proper begins two years afterward. As the twins struggle to cope with her loss, they too end up joining the Knights. As they learn more and more about their powers’ true nature, they also learn that they may be the key to redressing the imbalance of dark and light magic that has plagued their universe ever since Satan’s rebellion against God. But they also must avoid the temptations of the hellish forces of the Underworld, who want to turn them into soldiers of darkness and secure their supremacy over Heaven, Earth, and all of their inhabitants.

The Conflict

The conflict that Ariel and Ronan find themselves caught in the middle of is an ancient one spanning the breadth of Creation itself. Numerous godlike entities are in a pitched battle to win the right to do whatever they want with Creation. Some want to preserve the life that already exists there. Others want to enslave the lifeforms for their own ends. Still, others don’t know or don’t care about their existence and would gladly bowl them over to satisfy their own whims. It will become Ariel and Ronan’s job to eventually heal the divide between the factions so that humanity’s future can be a healthy and prosperous one.

In all, four magical factions are vying for control of the Divine Conspiracy universe. I ended up basing their characteristics on the four classical elements, which seemed appropriate considering the story is about ancient gods and demons awakening from their slumber in the present day to continue their destructive conflicts. All four factions have unique characteristics to their form of magic that symbolize their desires and personalities.

Representing the water element are the Lovecraftian Outer Gods and their children and grandchildren, the Archons (aka Great Old Ones).

Think regular tentacle rape is bad? How ’bout a guy who can tentacle rape the ENTIRE UNIVERSE?!

I copied all of them directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s work (Azathoth, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, etc.), which I can do since his works have long since entered the public domain. I chose water to represent them for two reasons. The first is that, much like water, Lovecraft’s gods had no definite shape and can endlessly shift between different forms. The second is that water is the element of change and adaptation, slowly sculpting the Earth’s surface over millennia until the landscape is unrecognizable. The eldritch gods behave in the same manner toward the universe, treating it as an artistic canvas to shape as they wish, no matter how many civilizations get wiped out in the process.

Representing the element of air is the other side of the coin; God and His angels.

We’re just like bronies up here, ’cause we will love and tolerate the shit out of you!

Air is the element of freedom and imagination, certainly befitting a benevolent supreme deity who created the known universe and gave its inhabitants free will. The God of this universe is forever linked to the eldritch supreme deity Azathoth, His twin brother. This is not necessarily bad, as the tension between the two keeps the universe healthy and functional. Unfortunately, the balance between light and dark has skewed toward darkness almost since the beginning, thanks to a particular angel who became a megalomaniac.

That angel was, indeed, Lucifer, or Satan as he is now more commonly known, and he and the legions of Hell he commands are represented by the element of… well, guess.

Wait, come back! We haven’t carried out the proper torture for talking in the movie theater yet!

Fire is the element of power and desire, fitting for a despotic fallen angel who wants to take over all of Creation and turn all mortal souls into his slaves. But not all demons share this goal. Indeed, as Ariel and Ronan will soon discover, there are some demons who would much rather leave Hell’s bounds and return to their Heavenly Father’s side.

Finally, there are the magical races of the Earth, which tend to be divided into two groups. First are the Half-Fallen Angels, made up of several legions who abandoned Satan’s army before they were sent to Hell and ended up settling on Earth instead. God granted them stewardship over the planet, and they would eventually evolve into the Watchers/Grigori, the pagan gods, and the fay (i.e., fairies, elves, dwarves, household spirits, etc.)

They may look cute, but don’t fuck with their forest, ’cause they will fuck you twice as hard.

The second is the elemental spirits formed out of the magical energies already present in the Earth when it was created. These include undines (spirits of water, also known as nymphs), gnomes (spirits of the earth), sylphs (spirits of air), and dragons (spirits of fire) (Giants, while also spirits of the Earth, tend to be classified apart from elemental spirits due to their immense magical powers). Together they represent earth, the element of substance and strength. They are steadfast protectors of the Earth and all its inhabitants, human and otherwise, facing the future and their adversaries with ironclad resolve.

The interesting thing about Ariel and Ronan’s magic, though, is that their’s doesn’t neatly match up with any of the other four’s characteristics. Indeed, many of Peter’s fellow Templar Knights theorize that their magic may be a completely new strain analogous to the elusive fifth classical element, aether. Also known as spirit or quintessence, this element was what the alchemists and occultists of old believed made up Heaven itself. In the Divine Conspiracy universe, aether is also what makes up the energy that manifests in the physical universe whenever magic is used. It is the element that all the others came from, the great unifier if you will, which befits Ariel and Ronan’s ultimate goal.

A Brief Summary of Each Character

Before I proceed, let me issue a disclaimer. None of the images in this section that I will be using to represent my characters have been in any way commissioned by me. In fact, some are characters from previously established intellectual properties. I have used them here to represent best how the characters look in my head. I will be giving credit to the artists and links to their pages whenever possible. So with that, let me tell you a little something about the Divine Conspiracy’s main cast.

Ariel Aisling Banks is twelve years old and the youngest of the Banks family (Ronan beat her by about five minutes). She is a timid and reserved girl, with barely any friends outside Ricky Sandoval (more on him later). This is mainly because she falls on the autism spectrum. But what she lacks in social skills, she makes up for in artistic creativity. She thinks she may have mild hypergraphia, certainly not to a pathological extent, but enough that she has had a compulsion to write as much as she can about her day in her diaries since about the age of five. She also is a very adept artist, usually painting images she sees in her often vivid dreams. Unfortunately, these images have taken a much darker, borderline apocalyptic turn ever since her mother’s death.

Clip from the “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime featuring Wrath (one of my inspirations for Ronan’s appearance)

Ronan Diarmuid Banks is pretty much the opposite of his sister in every way. Whereas Ariel is meek and reserved, Ronan is often brash and impatient. This may be thanks to bullies being a lifelong problem for both of them, making Ronan feel like he needed to become a hard-ass to protect his little sister. This might also be because of his boatload of mental disorders, including dyslexia, AD/HD, and bipolar disorder. He also has artistic urges like his sister, although he is much more into music and is already a whiz at guitar. He’s also been growing his hair out for the last five years to emulate his heavy metal idols, much to his grandfather’s annoyance.

Before you ask, no, I’m not a gamer. I just think something similar to Frisk’s design really suits Ricky (art
drawn by pekou).

Ricardo “Ricky” Sandoval is Ariel and Ronan’s best friend, having known them since kindergarten. He, like Ronan, is also a warrior against the local school bullies. Unlike his half-demon friend’s brawny intimidation tactics, he’s more of a prankster, using cunning and trickery to get back at his foes. He is also a musician, although he prefers the bass guitar, and has a lovely singing voice. While he seems human at first glance, Ariel and Ronan quickly learn early in the story that he is actually an elf and is the adopted son of the king and queen of the Seelie Court of fairies.

Before you ask, no, I’m not basing Peter Banks’ looks on Daniel Day-Lewis because I want him to play Peter.

Peter Vincent Banks is a former heavy metal guitarist who joined his parent’s secret society alongside Rhiannon after the twins’ birth. He became something of a renaissance man during the following decade. He and Rhiannon continued touring with the band while simultaneously doing their duty as parents and keeping up their job as secret agents. Peter also wrote several books on paranormal skepticism, doing his part to deprive the demonic forces of their favorite food: human fear. However, after Rhiannon’s death, he left the band and became more focused on his secret agent work. He has had battles with depression and substance abuse in the past, which he has found harder to deal with after losing Rhiannon.

Of course, there are a lot more characters present in the work. There’s Peter’s parents, Vincent (a paraplegic Vietnam vet who runs a horse farm with his wife) and Frances (who daylights as a psychotherapist). There’s Walton Abernathy, the deputy director of the modern-day Knights Templar, who is personal friends with the Banks family. There’s also Cillian and Deirdre Beckett, Ricky’s parents, better known in the fairy world that they rule over as Finvarra and Oonagh (or Oberon and Titania if you’re into Shakespeare). And there’s also Ariel and Ronan’s familiar spirits, respectively, a Maine Coon named Jem and a border collie named Scout. However, I feel that this post has gone on long enough, so I think I’ll move on to the concluding section.

Plans for the Story’s Future

My biggest desire is to make The Divine Conspiracy into an animated TV series, eventually, but that pipe dream is definitely a long way down the line. For now, I plan to post what writings I have finished on the story (as well as my other fiction writing) on DeviantArt. I’ve decided that I want to start my account sometime after I come back from my annual family camping trip at the end of next week (as well as a Twitter account to maybe increase this site’s exposure). I know a vacation may sound like a bad idea given that the coronavirus is still on the loose, but who knows? My corner of the state hasn’t had a lot of cases so far. I’m safe, right? Right?! Either way, my parents wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to convince them otherwise, so fuck it, I guess.

Sorry, tangent. Anyway, I hope to hear your feedback on what I have on this tale of mine so far. I’m really looking forward to this project’s future. Stay safe out there, my friends!

A Beginner’s Guide to Anarchism (And How I Discovered It)

“Odonianism is anarchism. Not the bomb-in-the-pocket stuff, which is terrorism, whatever name it tries to dignify itself with; not the social-Darwinist economic “libertarianism” of the far-right; but anarchism, as prefigured in early Taoist thought, and expounded by Shelley and Kropotkin, Goldman and Goodman. Anarchism’s principal target is the authoritarian State (capitalist or socialist); its principal moral-practical theme is cooperation (solitary, mutual aid). It is the most idealistic, and to me the most interesting, of all political theories.”- Ursula K. Le Guin, Forward to “The Day Before the Revolution,” The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

There is probably no political philosophy in history that has been so thoroughly and completely misunderstood as anarchism. As with virtually every leftist philosophy, this is especially true in America. Ask any average Joe in my home country what anarchism is and what its adherents believe. Chances are that the answer will be something like this:

Basically, a bunch of people who have no real beliefs besides 1) total abolishment of all government and 2) everyone being free to do whatever the hell they want free from consequences.

Of course, it’s nowhere near as simple as that. As I have discovered the past several months, anarchism is actually a vibrant philosophy with very sophisticated ways of operating a socialist society that doesn’t suffer the centralized bureaucracies of places like Soviet Russia. Indeed, I have come to believe that this “libertarian socialism,” as some call it, might be the only way forward as capitalism slowly begins to collapse under its own weight. But first, a little of my personal history.

My Political History (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Support Socialism)

Back in the years when I was still, as my grandfather calls it, a “brain-dead teenager,” I used to think that Glenn Beck was one of the greatest men who ever lived. He exposed me to shocking revelations about people like Barack Obama, George Soros, and Van Jones who were ruining our country with lies about global warming, systemic racism, and the need to redistribute wealth so they could undermine American freedoms. I loved tuning in every weekday at 5 to watch his entertaining deconstructions of everything that was consuming America from within like a gangrenous cancer. I even borrowed his novel The Overton Window as soon as it made its way to my local library. It seemed I was well on my way to becoming a full red-blooded Trump-supporting constitutional conservative like my father and his father before.

That skinned knee you got from tripping on the sidewalk? Obama’s fault! That bee that stung you on the eyelid? Cass Sunstein sent it! People in your family say be nice to liberals? Mind control devices funded by Soros!

But then Beck left his daily show on Fox News in June of 2011, and I didn’t follow him onto the Internet where he continued his show. I did follow his online newspaper The Blaze for a little while, but I didn’t really know where to watch his new show, so I just drifted apart from him. I stopped paying attention to politics except whenever Dad ranted about something Obama did that pissed him off. Then I rediscovered Watership Down during my senior year of high school and decided to dedicate my following college tenure to honing my writing talents. Throughout much of my college tenure, I kept my center-right beliefs, safe in the knowledge that America would always remain the greatest country in the world.

Then everything changed when the MAGA nation attacked.

I really have nothing to add. The caption above sums him up perfectly.

I didn’t leap to full-blown leftism immediately upon Trump’s election. It was a rather gradual process that didn’t complete itself until about a year after I graduated. I spent a rather large part of this period as a “social liberal, fiscal conservative” (i.e., right-wing libertarian) because while I found pretty much all conservative views on social issues like abortion, drug policy, criminal justice, and LGBTQ+ rights to be morally repugnant, I was still under the impression that the only economic alternative to capitalism was Soviet-style communism.

However, my pathological need to hear some of my favorite personalities on YouTube dunk on Trump eventually led me to the so-called “Breadtube” or “Lefttube” creators, who began introducing me to left-leaning philosophies that differed from the Soviet dystopia that Glenn Beck warned me that all leftists wanted to turn the U.S. into. The turning point for me came when Leon Thomas of Renegade Cut recommended a book called After Capitalism on a comment to one of his videos. Although he didn’t really specify which one he was talking about, I ended up choosing the one authored by Dada Mahesvarananda, which blew me away. And it’s all been downhill since.

But enough about me. Let’s actually talk about what anarchism is.

Why Anarchists Believe the Current System Blows

In contrast to its chaotic public perception, anarchism is really libertarian socialism, as opposed to the authoritarian socialist systems of places like Soviet Russia, Maoist China, and present-day North Korea. Whereas those places pretend to be collectivist societies while placing all economic and political decisions in a governing elite’s hands, anarchism proposes to place trust in the individual to make those decisions. You know, what American libertarianism pretends to do while actually handing power over to ruthless multinational corporations whose CEOs take all the profits for themselves while underpaying their workers and taking every loophole they can to avoid paying taxes?

Like this Gargamel-looking motherfucker right here?

“But how exactly do you anarchists propose to do that?” you might ask skeptically.

An anarchist society at its core rejects unjust hierarchies like the ones that have formed under capitalism. In their view, capitalism is inherently unjust because it naturally leads to a tiny number of people gathering an obscenely large amount of wealth.

Plus, an obscenely large amount of those lucky people happen to be white, which is… suspicious, to say the least.

Conservatives will argue that all that wealth is justified because they believe that more money in the rich’s hands means more money to invest in new business ideas. I remember Glenn Beck in particular (in his book Arguing with Idiots) comparing it to a mountain where water trickles down from the snowy top to sustain people’s villages below. Pretty nice metaphor, Glenn, but what happens when the rich decide to dam up that water so they can store it in tax havens and gamble it in the stock market instead of, you know, actually paying their workers?!

Seriously, what’s what the rich people of this world are. They’re like Immortan Joe from Max Max: Fury Road.

“Do not become addicted to water, my friends! It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!”

And do you know what all that money buys? Politicians, who will do whatever you want for all those sweet, sweet campaign donations. Want to build an oil pipeline that cuts through Native American land? Boom, done! Want to stop an uppity leftist political party from undermining your business prospects in a foreign country? Send in the military! Want to convince people that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary? You literally have all the money in the world! What the hell is stopping you?

Speaking of which, environmental devastation is also an inevitable consequence of a system like capitalism that is constantly seeking infinite growth in a finite system. The big multinationals are either too lazy or too uncaring to move away from oil and other nonrenewable resources because they have become increasingly averse to risk. That’s a big reason why they invest money in the stock market instead of new business ventures: most new businesses end up failing, so why risk losing money on something that probably won’t go anywhere?

All of this adds up to pretty much everything that’s wrong with the world right now. Politicians are spending massive amounts of money on military interventions to satisfy their corporate backers’ whims. All that money ($721.5 billion, last time I checked) adds to our national debt ($25 trillion, last time I checked), which undermines our economic stability. Meanwhile, Congress passes tax cuts on the wealthiest individuals so they can steal more money from people who actually need it.

Poverty grows, and with it, crime. And instead of actually fixing the social problems that led to that increase in crime in the first place, America takes the easy way out by throwing them all in prison. And since prisons in this country are shitholes, they do not rehabilitate criminals. They just make them more violent and antisocial. Plus, America has a deeply racist past that it has failed to face up to time and time again, so about 60% of the male prison population consists of black and Hispanic men.

And the right wonders why we want a change.

How Anarchism Proposes to Fix It

But enough about how capitalism sucks. Why don’t we answer the real question here that I intended to answer in the last section but then got sidetracked by my anti-capitalist screed, which is this: What do anarchists believe is the best system to replace it?

That is, admittedly, kind of a tricky question for two reasons. The first is that no true anarchist society has managed to survive for a long period of time. This isn’t because of any flaws in the systems themselves. Usually, it’s because an outside power came along and destroyed it. Probably the most famous anarchist society was founded in Catalonia, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. That one only lasted three years before the fascist government of Francisco Franco and Soviet volunteers sent by Josef Stalin crushed it in February 1939.

The Bolshevik revolutionaries also dismantled several worker-owned collectives in Russia in the wake of the 1917 overthrow of Nicholas II, including the Makhnovia Free Territory in Ukraine because it would not submit to the U.S.S.R.’s authoritarian regime. French troops also crushed the famous Paris Commune of 1871 in May of that year. Many indigenous tribes around the world also operated on what could be described in hindsight as anarchist principles until white European imperialists came along and “civilized” them.

The second reason is that many anarchists favor an experimental approach to forming new societies. I think Noam Chomsky put it best in response to an interview question in which he was asked what kind of society he would establish to replace capitalism:

I think that the economic institutions ought to be run democratically-by their participants and by the communities in which they live. And I think that through various forms of free association and federalism, it’s possible to imagine a society that works like that. I mean, I don’t think you can lay it out in detail- nobody’s smart enough to design a society; you’ve got to experiment. But reasonable principles on which to build such a society are quite clear.

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power

What exactly are those principles? In Pyotr Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread (often considered the Bible of libertarian socialism), he argues for two main principles that an anarchist society should be based on; mutual aid and voluntary cooperation. This entails the flattening of all unjust hierarchies into a decentralized, egalitarian social order. Anarchists propose to achieve this via popular assemblies and worker-controlled cooperative enterprises.

Indeed, this is in every way the complete opposite of the “government should be run like a business” philosophy of many conservatives. In fact, many anarchists would argue that businesses should be run like the government. Wouldn’t it be amazing if workers were able to vote out their supervisors instead of simply suffering under incompetent or capricious ones?

Mr. Spacely, you’re fired!

Another way of explaining the basic philosophy of anarchism can be found in this essay from the website The Anarchist Library, which lists the tenants of anarchism as an escalating “if X then Y” statement that goes like this:

If mankind is born free, then slavery is murder. If slavery is murder, then property is theft. If property is theft, then government is tyranny. If government is tyranny, then anarchy is liberty.

Albert Meltzer, Anarchism: Arguments for and against

I should probably clarify that anarchism does not view all governments as tyrannical or even all hierarchies as unjust. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that, say, the captain of a ship doesn’t deserve his or her authority over their less experienced crew.

You know, mateys, it occurs to me that maybe we shouldn’t have replaced the captain with a cabin boy who didn’t know how fucking steering wheels worked!

An anarchist government would probably be similar to the US Congress but on a much smaller scale. Societies would no longer be organized into countries. Rather, they would form into communes with a maximum population of about 10,000 each. These communes would be further divided into about 70 wards, with each sending two representatives to the commune’s governing council. This would result in a governing council totaling 150 representatives.

This model is based on the studies of anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who studied various human societies and how they were organized. He argues that the maximum number of humans that can successfully work together is 150.

Why is it limited at 150? The answer is twofold, actually. Partly, it’s a cognitive challenge just to keep track of more people. The other side of this is a time budgeting problem. You just don’t have time in everyday life to invest in each of those people to the extent where you can have a real relationship with them.

Robin Dunbar

Another reason for this relatively small number is because issues with trust and familiarity tend to arise in larger groups.

Of course, communes can also join together in unions of communes, including millions or even billions of people. This is similar to the various cooperative enterprises that multinational corporations enter into under capitalism. Of course, the difference is that those cooperatives only help the capitalist class’ profits while anarchist cooperatives would work for the social welfare of everyone.

How Anarchist Workers Would… Well, Work

Unlike a capitalist workplace where a person is held under the whim of a boss who can fire you for basically any reason he or she can think of, an anarchist workplace would seek mutual aid for all parties. No person would be able to wield power over another.

Money would be abolished in favor of contracts. A new member joining an anarchist commune would make a contract with that commune, agreeing to perform a rotating series of jobs in return for life’s basic necessities. No one would be stuck in a single soul-sucking job for their entire life like they are under capitalism. A commune member will alternate relatively normal jobs like desk work and construction with the kind of stuff you’d see on Dirty Jobs, both to break up the monotony and out of fairness to the rest of the commune.

Last month I was cleaning out restrooms at the local Dairy Queen. Next month I get to work at the local Ben & Jerry’s stand.

This system would not just uphold traditional human rights like freedom of speech and religion. Anarchists also believe in positive human rights, meaning that every human being is entitled to have their material needs met in full. This includes everything we humans need to survive, like food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity, running water, healthcare, Internet, etc. Any commune member would receive this through the form of a reasonable contribution, like working a maximum of 5 hours a day and participation in the local government, barring any physical, mental, or developmental disabilities or personal circumstances.

Naturally, a capitalist might balk at these ideas, accusing anarchists of rewarding lazy people who won’t work. Of course, the anarchists would argue that that argument stems from the Protestant work ethic, which states that being a hard worker means you are valuable in the eyes of God, something that certainly wouldn’t fly in a more secular anarchist society. They would also argue that the widespread laziness that conservatives decry in modern society is actually a product of capitalism. As those who struggle to keep up with the system eventually give up as they realize that they will never reap the rewards, they turn either to crime or the hikikomori lifestyle as a result.

This anarchist overhauling of the workplace would also help eliminate what anthropologist David Graeber rather bluntly calls “bullshit jobs” in his 2018 book of the same name. These “bullshit jobs,” like receptionists, telemarketers, lobbyists, survey administrators, and others, came about as a result of capitalism twisting the benefits of automation to their own ends, Graeber says. In contrast, an anarchist system would utilize automation in a way that helps take the burden off the working man, reducing his or her workday so that he or she has more time for leisure.

Anarchist Police and Military

As stated above, police officers are not the heroic defenders of the innocent that capitalist propaganda portrays them as. Rather, they are defenders of the capitalist hegemony, punching down at those who wish to change the system while protecting white-collar criminals from prosecution.

Something that has become all too obvious at the time I’m writing this.

Anarchists propose a policing system based on these four principles: harm prevention, emergency response, forensics, and rehabilitation over revenge.

Harm prevention means preventing crimes before they happen by curing the social ills that cause them, like income inequality and a lack of social capital.

Emergency response will be needed to deal with sudden and unexpected acts of violence that will certainly be inevitable given the centuries of oppression and coercion that have preceded this current century.

Forensics will be essential in helping to solve violent crimes like murder and sexual assault.

And finally, rehabilitation over revenge means getting rid of prisons, where 2.3 million Americans are now detained, half of them due to drug offenses, non-violent or otherwise.

My grandfather has stated his belief that prisons should be places that you never want to go back to, that they need to be Hell on Earth because, otherwise, the prisoner gets so comfortable that they commit crimes upon release so that they can get back in. However, anyone who knows anything about human behavior would realize that it’s those harsh conditions that cause recidivism, not humanitarian aid.

Have not prisons- which kill at will and force of character in men, which enclose within their walls more vices than are met with in any spot on the globe- always been the universities of crime? Is not the court of a tribunal a school of ferocity?

Pyotr Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal

Again, though, America’s single-minded focus on individuality and personal responsibility means that all crime is viewed as a moral failing rather than a social illness.

Anarchists instead propose a law enforcement system that focuses on education and psychotherapy instead of vengeance and torture. They want to work with the criminal to understand why they did what they did instead of just locking them away and being done with it.

Of course, there will still be special hospitals for the Ted Bundys of the world who commit crimes out of incurable mental or biological defects rather than social ills.

As for the military, anarchists propose a service based on voluntary contracts rather than coercive drafts. Of course, hierarchy would be necessary for the military like it is now, but officers would be voted out if they abused their power.

George Orwell describes an anarchist military based on his experiences fighting for the anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War:

The essential point of the system was social equality between officers and men. Everyone from the general to the private drew the same pay, ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and mingled on terms of complete equality. If you wanted to slap the commanding general on the back and ask him for a cigarette, you could do so, and no one thought it was curious. In theory, at any rate, each militia was a democracy and not a hierarchy… Of course, there was no perfect equality, but there was a nearer approach to it than I had ever seen or that I would have thought conceivable in time of war.

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Other models for an anarchist military might include the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, Rojava’s freedom fighters, and many others.

At the most basic level, anarchists think both the military and police departments should operate more like the fire department. After all, firefighters don’t constantly patrol the streets looking for fires that might start. So why are the police doing the same with crime?

Art and Luxury Under Anarchism

Before I end this essay, I want to talk about art and luxury and how they might be achieved under anarchism.

Once again, capitalists may balk at such a suggestion. We’ve never had so much luxury under any other system, they might say. Did communism ever give their citizens king-size mattresses or pearl necklaces? Pyotr Kropotkin highlights similar critiques in chapter 9 of The Conquest of Bread:

How will men act in a society, whose members are properly fed, to satisfy certain individuals desirous of possessing a piece of Sevres china or a velvet dress?

Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread

If one was to replace “Sevres china” and “velvet dress” with, say, “PlayStation 4” or “iPhone,” you basically get what criticism of anarchist or any other leftist ideology might look like today.

Similarly, capitalists ask how artists would create art under a system that lacks capitalism’s nonconformist nature. They either don’t realize or don’t care about the fact that capitalism breeds its own form of conformity.

This type of conformity makes itself very clear in the realm of art and science. An artist can create art only if they have a lot of capital or are willing to sell their art to those who have the capital to commodify it as they see fit. Art as pure expression has no place in this system.

One can try to join a neoliberal type “artistic improvement program,” but those usually focus on making the art more “marketable,” i.e., more palatable to the capitalist class. One can also go independent, but that would put you in a more financially precarious position unless you are willing to still work within market trends.

As for science, capitalism stymies that too, if any scientific innovations that happen under its watch are innovations they cannot profit from. For example, pharmaceutical companies will only fund drugs that they can profit from. Tech companies tend to focus on profit problems instead of technical ones. In particular, Uber notoriously stole workers from one of the nation’s top robotics labs to make better self-driving cars.

Replace “Heaven” with “underground lab,” and you have my theory of how Uber got them in the first place.

Most humans agree that we need art, entertainment, and scientific innovation to be truly happy. As Breadtuber Angie Speaks says:

…art serves a higher purpose that fulfills the abstract spiritual needs of human nature, but cannot be quantified by its material merit.

Angie Speaks, Dadaism: Art as a Political Weapon
A Youtuber who talks leftist politics and esoteric spirituality? Sign me up!

Meeting material but not spiritual needs in humans works something like locking them up in solitary confinement. Sure, we give the prisoner materials to stay alive, but eventually, the solitude reduces them to caged and mentally unstable animals.

Capitalism, driven by the Protestant work ethic, seeks to make sure that whatever little free time the worker has is spent resting and or preparing for the next day’s work. While capitalism usually provides physical needs to those who work, it leaves little to no time for the worker to explore their own subjective needs. The Protestant work ethic stipulates that the act of just goofing off and having fun is a waste of time and a sin in the eyes of God. But it’s not! It’s a vital concern for any society to survive and thrive.

In the end, capitalism is so focused on profit that the worker’s identity is often reduced to how they make their money. It makes us waste our time on jobs we care little to nothing about instead of things we would much rather be doing, like spending time with our families, for instance.

No doubt, nowadays, when hundreds and thousands of human beings are in need of bread, coal, clothing, and shelter, luxury is a crime; to satisfy it the worker’s child must go without bread! But in a society in which all can eat sufficiently the needs which we consider luxuries today will be the more keenly felt.

Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread

Anarchists propose that artist/scientist-owned organizations not beholden to any larger government agency or corporation are the solution. Their members will be working members of the anarchist commune who pursue literature, musicianship, printing, painting, engraving, etc. They all pursue a common aim- the propagation of ideas that are dear to them.

The worker will discharge first his task in the field, the factory, and so on, which he owes to society as his contribution to the general production. And he will employ the second half to his day, his week, his year, to satisfy his artistic or scientific needs, or his hobbies. Thousands of societies will spring up to gratify every taste and every possible fancy.

Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread

Of course, capitalists would argue that certain people are just naturally destined to work all their lives in fields or sweatshops. If geniuses were equally distributed among all social classes in all nations, they say, then the system would surely recognize that talent and lift them out of their poverty. And yet none seem to show up in the inner city ghettos or the developing nations of the world.

However, these capitalists fail to recognize that it is not an inherent flaw in these people’s nature that keeps them in poverty. It’s the centuries of systemic racism that many countries (America especially) have failed to deal with properly. I think Stephen Jay Gould puts it best:

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Stephen Jay Gould, “Wide hats and narrow minds,” New Scientist, March 8th, 1977 (pg. 777)
Conclusion

I hope, by now, I have made my case that better things are possible in a world beyond capitalism. I especially hope that I’ve convinced you that there is far more to socialist philosophy than what capitalist propaganda would have us believe. Make no mistake: capitalism is going to end someday, just like feudalism did before it. At this point, we have only two choices in the future: socialism and fascism.

If you don’t believe me, try replacing “Muslims” with “Jews” every time you hear Trump mention them.

Do we flatten the unjust hierarchies that have ruled over us for centuries, as leftists like myself want? Or do we double down on them even as they spiral further and further into chaos and discord, thus letting the capitalists rule over us forevermore?

I don’t know about you, but I think more happiness and less poverty is a good thing. A life of luxury and leisure is possible for more than just the privileged few. As Pyotr “Bread Santa” Kropotkin says once again in The Conquest of Bread:

We see that the worker compelled to struggle painfully for bare existence is reduced to ignorance of these higher delights, the highest within man’s reach, of science, and especially of scientific discovery; of art, and especially of artistic creation. It is in order to obtain these joys for all, which are now reserved for the few; in order to give leisure and the possibility of developing intellectual capacities, that the social revolution must guarantee daily bread to all. After the bread has been secured, leisure is the supreme aim.

Pyotr Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread
Ho! Ho! Ho! And what do you want for Christmas, my little comrade?

Of course, Bread Santa’s book was only one of the inspirations that helped me write this piece. Emerican Johnson of the YouTube channel Non Compete was the one who really made this possible, as he explained anarchist societies better than anyone else I’d listened to over the years in his How Anarchism Works playlist.

If exploitation could be taken out of the equation, everyone could have a lot more fun. If we weren’t living so precariously close to financial ruin, we would all have much better faculties and much higher expectations for enjoying life.

Emerican Johnson, How do Anarchists LUXURY? How Anarchism Works Part 5
Before you ask, yes, that is his real name, as far as I can tell. Don’t ask why, I’m not his parents.

While his work wasn’t as big an influence on this article, I still want to give a shout-out to Matt from Thought Slime, who has been a major help in demystifying anarchist philosophy for me. Also, he has a segment on his show called “The Eyeball Zone,” which showcases small leftist projects on YouTube and elsewhere, which he thinks deserve more attention. So that’s pretty cool.

Pictured here on a Non Compete thumbnail (he’s the one in the middle if you couldn’t tell).

And that’s all I have to say about that, folks. Next time, I’ll talk about my own artistic endeavor I’ve been working on in the last few years; an epic urban fantasy/horror saga called The Divine Conspiracy. Until then, stay safe, take care, and death to capitalism!

A Brief History of the Animation Age Ghetto

I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw the film Watership Down, but I couldn’t have been older than nine or ten. I remember how my mother found it in a rental store and, having seen before sometime in the past, decided it would be a good movie to show the kids.

Pictured: fun for the whole family!

Needless to say, my siblings and I were rather unnerved by the scenes of violence that the film has become infamous for and ended up blocking it from our memories for the next decade or so. During that intervening decade, I grew distant from the Renaissance era animated films of my childhood like Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Prince of Egypt, writing them off as juvenile nonsense that was beneath the more “adult” tastes I was developing.

However, two things happened during my high school years that shook me out of this mentality. The first happened during a field trip I took with my school’s history club (probably to Washington D.C.) when our social studies teacher showed us Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. While literally everyone else on the bus was going, “What the fuck am I watching?!”… well, so was I, but there was a small voice in the back of my head saying, “Oh my God, this is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Don’t worry, Mrs. Ruddy. There was one student out there who appreciated your taste in film.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, that was followed by me rediscovering Watership Down on YouTube, probably sometime during my senior year. My re-watch of that forgotten childhood memory undoubtedly changed my life. I began to pursue film and literature far more stridently and decided that my destiny was to become a creative writer. I ended up falling back in love with animation, recognizing the artistic potential in the medium.

At the same time, though, I began to recognize that the same antipathy I had developed toward the medium in my teenage years was a widespread problem that many animators struggled to deal with. Perhaps Scott Mendelson, writing for Forbes, put it best: “…American animated films are strikingly similar in that they are mostly G or PG-rated comedic capers with stories and characters intended to appeal to younger moviegoers.” It doesn’t matter when these films portray themes like an old man coming to terms with death (Pixar’s Up), racism and prejudice (Disney’s Zootopia and Warner Bros.’ Cats Don’t Dance), man’s relationship with God (Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt), or even discussions of genocide (Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 or Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame). It all kiddie nonsense to a lot of people in this country.

Because nothing says “fun for the whole family” like “Destroy Esmeralda! And let her taste the fires of Hell! Or else let her be mine and mine alone!” Keep it classy, Disney.

Of course, the obvious question is… why? Why do so many people, especially in my home country, hold onto this misconception of what TV Tropes.com calls the “Animation Age Ghetto”? Many answers can be found in the history of how the medium developed in the United States.

History Pt. 1: 1920s-1970s

Animation first came to prominence in America in the 1920s, especially after the classic Walt Disney short Steamboat Willie premiered on November 18, 1928. The period between then and the early 1960s is often considered the Golden Age of Animation.

It became a tradition to play animated shorts starring the Looney Tunes, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, Tom and Jerry, and others in cinemas as a prelude to the feature presentation. Prominent creators of the era like William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Tex Avery, and Chuck Jones stated that they had adult audiences in mind when creating the shorts. Indeed, Betty Boop (created by the Fleischer Brothers) was infamous for her provocative fashion sense and flirtatious attitude until the Hays Code caught up with her around 1934.

Before you ask, yes, she’s not wearing anything under that lei.

Walt Disney, meanwhile, proved that animation could be adapted into full-length feature films when Snow White and the Seven Dwarves hit the big screen on December 21, 1937. This would pave the way for future hits like Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.

However, it should be noted that Snow White wasn’t the first full-length animated film; that honor goes to the 1926 German feature “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.”

However, after World War II, television slowly began to supplant cinema as the go-to form of entertainment consumption. Theatrical shorts were dispensed with as animation began to move toward the small screen. Animation fans often refer to the period between the early 60s and mid-80s as the Dark Age of Animation, and for a good reason. TV studios like Hanna-Barbera and Filmation were forced to use more limited forms of animation due to budget constraints. What resulted was what Chuck Jones once referred to as “illustrated radio,” characterized by an emphasis on dialogue over visuals and a generally lazier aesthetic that often only appealed to children. Fellow Looney Tunes artist Fritz Freleng was less charitable, describing TV animation during the Dark Age as:

“…such a monster. It swallows up this animation so fast that nobody seems to care whether it’s good or bad. These kids’ shows are badly done technically; it seems as though nobody really looks at them but the kids.

Fritz Freleng

The fact that this era of animation came on the heels of a revival of conservative values in the 1950s certainly didn’t help matters. Parent groups were downright savage in attacking anything they did-not deem child friendly. They purged the classic Looney Tunes shorts of their trademark cartoon violence and piling on content restriction after content restriction until even conflict, the very soul of story itself, was excised. On top of all that, animation was often relegated to the now-famous Saturday morning block, which kids would watch while their parents often slept in from a long work week.

You’re dethpicable!

The result of all this was the bare minimum of effort being put into TV animation, especially in the 1970s. TV studios, endlessly restricted by the moral guardians, often resorted to cranking out endless sub-par clones of Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, etc. Some quality shows did manage to slip through here and there, like Fat Albert, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home and Schoolhouse Rock.

This song will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the week. You’re welcome!

They were still vastly outnumbered by poor quality efforts, though. Even the king of animation himself, Walt Disney, expressed his frustrations with artistic restriction toward the end of his life. When he first saw the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, he reportedly told his colleagues, “Now this is the kind of film I wish I could make!”

A Light in the Black: 1970s-1990s

Fortunately, not everything was totally bleak for the medium during the Dark Age. Europe was still producing edgy, avant-garde features like Yellow Submarine, Fantastic Planet, and the aforementioned Watership Down. Meanwhile, Japan started experimenting with more adult series, moving away from kid-friendly fare like Astro Boy, Speed Racer, and Kimba the White Lion to epics like Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam. Even America saw the likes of Ralph Bakshi, who made such raunchy, controversial, and, surprisingly enough, financially successful escapades as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin.

Ya hear that, babe? That’s the sound of a thousand Bible thumpers having a stroke.

Things began to look up for the American side of the medium as the 1980s rolled around. One of the most important factors in this revival was President Ronald Reagan’s rollback of broadcast regulations. This would spearhead the rise of toy-based cartoons like Transformers, My Little Pony, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. While these shows are often derided for being “half-hour toy commercials”…

…and the man who made those cartoons possible is derided for… various other reasons…

… the fact was that these shows proved that animation could be profitable again. Artists and business investors quickly leaped at the opportunity, and the stage for the Renaissance Age of Animation was set. The Walt Disney Company helped kick-start a new era of quality television animation when the first cartoons of the Disney Afternoon block, like Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Ducktales, and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers first aired between 1985 and 1989. Television networks solely or heavily dedicated to animation like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon began to find a huge audience.

Meanwhile, after languishing in the doldrums for several years after Walt Disney’s death in 1965, animation in American cinemas found a new savior in the form of ex-Disney animator Don Bluth, who introduced a high quality to his animated features that had not been seen since the Golden Age. Features like the cult classic The Secret of NIMH led to financial successes like An American Tail and The Land Before Time, both executive produced by Stephen Spielberg.

He was also known for putting some pretty dark shit in his movies. The Sharptooth killing Littlefoot’s mom was the “Your mother can’t be with you anymore” scene from Bambi all over again.

This inspired Disney to step up their game, leading to financial juggernauts like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid. This led to animation regaining much of the artistic respect it had lost in the Dark Age, to the point that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast even became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards.

On top of all that, Japanese animation started to develop a fanbase in North America due largely to the gritty and intense adult drama of films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell and the sheer artistic beauty of Studio Ghibli’s filmography. Anime TV series like Sailor Moon, Dragonball, Pokemon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Cowboy Bebop only further cemented its popularity.

A New Downturn: 1990s-2000s

Unfortunately, all of this failed to break the Age Ghetto’s death grip on the American psyche, especially as the Renaissance Age gave way to the Millennium Age around the turn of the century. Many animated films toward the latter half of the 90s started to rely increasingly on the Disney “formula,” resulting in many films that recycled the I-don’t-fit-in characters, “I want” songs, wacky sidekicks, pop culture jokes, and other tired tropes of the time. Warner Brothers’ Quest for Camelot, released in 1998, is often considered the absolute nadir of this trend.

It originally started as a PG-13 rated film based on Arthurian legend. It ended with the two heads on that blue dragon singing about how much they hate each other while doing an Elvis impersonation. I am not kidding!

Economic downturns throughout the 2000s also led to a decline in quality television animation, to the point that Cartoon Network actually stopped airing cartoons for a brief period in the late 00s. This proliferation of subpar TV shows may have convinced 90s kids who grew up on Ren and Stimpy and Animaniacs that they had outgrown the shows of their childhood.

You were the chosen one, Ron! You were supposed to save animation, not destroy it!

It certainly didn’t help that adult animation shows started their own toxic “follow the leader” mentality. They became what I would refer to as Family Guy and/or South Park turned up to eleven in all the wrong directions, overusing edgy and offensive vulgar humor while ignoring the smart political/social satire that made both those shows so beloved in the first place. Thus we received schlock like Brickleberry, Drawn Together, and Allen Gregory that can be better described as adolescent rather than truly adult.

A New Renaissance: 2000s-Present

As the current decade reaches its twilight years, however, there have increasingly promising signs that America may finally be putting the ghetto mentality out to pasture. One sign of this reckoning is the massive popularity of creator-driven cartoons spawned from the successes of such shows as Disney’s Phineas and Ferb in 2007 and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time in 2010. Other shows like Regular Show, Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall, Gravity Falls, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and many others have gained massive fanbases even among adults.

Speaking of which, adult animation has also received shows this decade like Bojack Horseman, Rick and Morty, Bob’s Burgers, and Moral Orel that have shifted the focus away from vulgar shock humor and put the spotlight more on character development and more relatable adult issues. Some adult series like Castlevania, Primal, and the Samurai Jack revival even moved away from comedy entirely, becoming dark fantasy epics focused more on story than being as offensive as possible.

Let’s see Brickleberry try to top this.

The more diverse animation offered by Japan has also exploded in popularity in the States thanks to series like Fullmetal Alchemist, My Hero Academia, and Attack on Titan, largely thanks to the Internet. As the world has grown smaller and more connected, fans of animation have grown closer together and have been able to assert themselves in the public eye more easily and have easier access to content that might interest them.

Sadly though, the ghetto still retains one last stronghold: the Hollywood studios and their executives. Especially as capitalism reaches its late stages, the big studios have grown extremely risk-averse. Since adult animated features have not proven themselves to be financially successful among moviegoers, the executives are hesitant to invest in them. The ghetto mindset is especially frustrating when it comes to how it affects the Best Animated Feature award at the Oscars.

Many anonymous interviews with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members responsible for deciding the Best Animated Feature have revealed contempt for the art form, viewing it as lesser than live-action. Many interviewed individuals even admitted to having their kids watch the nominated films instead and based their vote on what their kids liked best. One particularly infamous comment from the 2015 voting season had one voter complaining about The LEGO Movie not even being nominated…

Which, as someone who has seen the film, I can definitely agree with.

…but then they go on to complain about “these two obscure freakin’ Chinese fuckin’ things that nobody ever freakin’ saw” being nominated over it. To add insult to injury, this voter could only have been referring to The Tale of Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea, which are Japanese and Irish, respectively. I can see why the Oscars are such a laughingstock among serious filmgoers.

Even on this front, though, there is still cause for optimism among animation fans. In 2016, Sausage Party became the first financially successful R-rated animated feature film to be theatrically released since 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. It grossed over $140 million over $19 million budget and earned an 83% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s creator, Seth Rogan, has since expressed a desire to create more animated adult films in the future. Sony Pictures, the company that released Sausage Party, has also announced several more adult films in development as we speak. While not as financially successful as Sausage Party, Wes Anderson’s PG-13 rated Isle of Dogs, released in 2018, was also very well-received by critics and audiences, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Conclusion

C. S. Lewis once had this to say about people who appreciated artistic works for the sole reason of them being “adult”:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a form of approval, instead of as merely a descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown-up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish: these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence.

C. S. Lewis, On Three Ways of Writing for Children

If I could get the average American filmgoer to understand one thing about animation, it is this; you are not stupid for liking the movies or TV shows your kids like. If anything, the adult who enjoys animation is far more adult than the one who enjoys animation is far more adult than the one who mindlessly insists that live-action is inherently superior. Lewis went on to state the following:

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly.”

Not only do the elites in Hollywood need to follow Lewis’ advice, but maybe it wouldn’t be out of line to remind them that Walt Disney holds the record for the most Oscars won by a single person (22, to be exact). I mean, the Academy Awards is the place where the very best in film is honored, right?

Birthday Update!

Yessir, it’s my birthday today! As of today I have been on this planet a full quarter century. 25 years, my friends! But you don’t care about that I imagine. You probably want to know where the hell I’ve been the past month.

There’s been quite a few things hampering my writing muscle these past few months. For one thing, I’m having a bit of trouble fitting much writing time into my work schedule. It has become rather painfully clear to me how pitifully underdeveloped my time management skills are. Indeed, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time on YouTube as of late, perhaps more than I should.

Of course, writer’s block has had a lot to do with it as well. I decided that the next post I was going to do after the Midsommar review was a post detailing all the reasons why Donald J. Trump is the worst president in the history of the United States. However, I found myself at a loss as to how to approach it. Like, how many of his sins should I include? Which ones should I focus on? The sexual assaults? The defrauding of charities? The attacks on journalists? The naked racism of some of his statements? His comforting of white supremacists? His complete unwillingness to confront Russia over the election meddling? There were times when I even considered scrapping the Politics category on this blog entirely, mostly because the research that would be required for it seemed daunting.

I eventually decided to retool that piece into a simple overview of my political beliefs, specifically how my libertarian socialist ideology differs from the authoritarian socialism of the Soviet Union and how I believe that anarchism is the only way forward as capitalism slowly starts to collapse under its own weight.

I also want to write a piece detailing my religious beliefs, which have sort of become an amalgamation of several different spiritual traditions (i.e. Gnostic Christian direct revelation, pagan naturalism, Hindu reincarnation, etc.). After that, I’ve kicking around several ideas for “debunking” posts, talking about conservative myths about climate change and gun control for the Politics category, as well as some debunking conspiracies surrounding JFK’s assassination and 9/11 Truther beliefs. I also want to do some about supernatural topics, probably including ghosts.

Some other ideas for posts that I currently have include a review of the two recent movies adapting Stephen King’s It, comparing them to the book in the same spirit as my Dark Tower review. Another is inspired by a book I recently read called Evil: A Guide for the Perplexed. This book outlined several philosophical arguments, both secular and non-secular, for why evil exists in this world, and I thought it might be fun to rank them by which ones I think make the most sense.

In addition to all of that, I recently ordered a book about how to market my blog on social media, so I may be occupying myself over the next figuring out how Twitter and Pinterest can help my blog. I’m still hoping to get a DeviantArt page started for my fiction writing as well, so keep an eye out for that.

And that’s all I have to say about that, ladies and gentlemen. Until next time, take care.

And remember to wash your damn hands until COVID-19 stops being a thing!

So I Just Saw “Midsommar”…

…and my feelings about it are rather… mixed, honestly.

Come to our summer solstice festival! Our cliff-diving event is to die for!

Before I talk about my problems with the film, let me state for the record that this is by no means a bad film. The film was directed by Ari Aster, who also directed Hereditary, my current favorite horror film of all time. A lot of the elements that made that film so effective are also there in Midsommar. The cinematography is as brilliant as it was in Hereditary, greatly helping to complement the slow-burning tension. The acting was excellent, especially from Florence Pugh, who was definitely channeling Toni Collette during her more emotional scenes. The beginning scene also demonstrates how good Aster is at portraying family tragedies in the same vein as… that scene from Hereditary. Don’t play dumb, people, you know the one.

Don’t look in the back seat.

While I’ve never done drugs before, I’ve also heard that the scenes showing the perspective of characters under the influence of drugs were also very accurate. Indeed, it’s not for nothing that such figures as Nicholas Cage and Jordan Peele have heaped praise upon it.

Where my biggest problem lies, however, is in how some of the characters are portrayed, especially the cult itself. Unfortunately, in order to answer why will require major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, I would suggest you see the film first before continuing with the review here. If you have seen it, or have no plans to, well then, let’s get started.

My biggest problem is how the protagonist Dani’s induction into the cult is presented in the film. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been watching too much of that Leah Remini series where she muckrakes Scientology lately, but to me, the Midsommar cult seems to be a vile institution. Their members force their elders to jump off a cliff to their deaths when they are seen as no longer useful, and they murder the foreign characters with impunity for questioning their rites. True, Christian and his gang are a bunch of frat-boy assholes, but does that really excuse the cult fucking blood-eagling that British guy for calling them out on said cliff jumping ritual?

For those of you who don’t know what a blood eagle is, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_eagle. Of course, like many old Norse myths, there is some debate over whether it was a real ritual or invented by Christian missionaries to make the pagans look bad.

The very ending, which seemingly shows Dani having finally achieved peace, thus rings kind of hollow given how she’s accepted this wretched hive as her new family. It certainly doesn’t help that Ari Aster himself was apparently inspired to make this film after he experienced a real-life breakup, even going as far as describing Dani as a reflection of himself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Aster is trying to convince us that it’s good that Dani traded Christian for a giant clan of gas-lighters, but I definitely don’t blame some people if they did come to that conclusion. True, the cult members do put a lot more effort into comforting Dani during periods of emotional distress than Christian could be bothered to. Still, given that one of said emotional episodes was induced by the cult members forcing a drugged Christian into a sex ritual against his will… yeah, that doesn’t exactly endear them to me.

Still, even if the moral ambiguity of it all seems to work more toward the film’s detriment, in my opinion, it’s overall a great work of horror from a director who seems well on his way to becoming a true master in his field. It has a great atmosphere, a solid cast, and great special effects for the drug trip scenes. Definitely check this film out if you haven’t yet, and I’m giving this one an 8 out of 10.


Hey guys, this is a new thing I’m gonna be doing in between my other blog posts, trying my hand at movie reviews. This one was obviously a lot shorter than the Dark Tower one, as it is more in the style of YMS’ Quickie reviews.

For those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about, it’s this guy, Adum Johnston! Watch his movie reviews here! https://www.youtube.com/user/YourMovieSucksDOTorg

I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing these. Just know they aren’t going to have a set release date as the other bigger posts will. I’ll just be doing these whenever I see a film that I feel like I have things to say about it. I hope you enjoy it! Thank you, buh-bye!

A Much Belated Update

Not that it matters much with the lack of traffic here so far, but what the hell…

So, the world has kind of lost it’s shit since I last posted on here. Trump made probably the biggest mistake in his entire presidency…

And considering his track record, that’s really saying something.

He dismissed a coming epidemic as a hoax for months while it continued to encroach on our country. And so when it finally hit us in mid-March, we were forced to close our businesses and tank our economy so that the coronavirus didn’t infect more people than it already had. Hell, I even lost my job at the local hardware store because the proprieter wasn’t making enough income to pay me. So now here I sit like a bump on a pickle, as more rustic circles might say.

So why haven’t I been working on the blog more? Actually I have. Unfortunately, it has mostly been behind the scenes technical stuff. Yeah, remember when I said that most of the technical stuff had been taken care of in the last update? I was too optimistic. For one thing, it was a lot harder to get SSL certification than I anticipated. And even how that I have got it, the address bar for the blog proper still isn’t showing a padlock, so I have to figure that out.

Also, my site health tab keeps going back and forth on whether or not my site can be found on search engines. I’ve had it analyzed by Ryte.com, and it’s given me warnings about internal no-follow links, internal temporary redirects, duplicate content, and other things like that, so I have to figure out how to fix that stuff as well.

In the meantime, though, I still want to at least try to get some more writing done on the site. My main goal right now is put at least one entry in the other categories besides Art and Entertainment. I know that for Politics I want to start with a post further explaining my current political beliefs and how I came to them. I also may be doing posts outlining all the reasons I hate President Trump in another post, so you might look out for that. I don’t really have any solid plans for the Supernatural and Religion and Spirituality categories yet. I would like to talk more about my personal spiritual beliefs, although considering that those beliefs are playing a big part in shaping The Divine Conspiracy.

Of course, any discussion of my own fantasy epic will be going under the Personal Stuff category. You can definitely expect a post expanding on the basic premise of the story I’m writing, as well as maybe some elaboration on the characters and what they will go through. I also want to do a post talking about how being on the autism spectrum has affected me personally, and maybe also do a post debunking common myths and misconceptions about ASD.

I have definitely decided that building a second website with the two-domain purchase InMotion gave me is out of the question considering how much of a hassle creating this website has been. So I intend to make a DeviantArt account sometime in the near future to post my fiction work. I also need to expand my social media presence so I can promote this site more. I already have a Pinterest account, though I have yet to figure out how to promote the site there.

The only other social media site I’m willing risk joining is Twitter. Yes, I’m aware of the hate mobs and that Jack Dorsey does not seem concerned in the least that the alt-right is slowly hijacking certain parts of it. As far as I know, however, it doesn’t collect data on its user, at least not to the extent that Facebook does. And it doesn’t run political ads, meaning Russian bots can’t use it in the same way they use Facebook.

Before I do all that though, I need to figure out all the technical stuff so that my site is as healthy as it can be, even as the rest of the world sickens around me. I still plan to post weekly, and I still wish to try for a Saturday or Sunday deadline. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for this site.

Till next time, friends.

“The Tower Will Fall, Roland”: A Postmortem on “The Dark Tower” Film Adaptation

“You really think I’m gonna let you destroy the universe?”
“Be a lot cooler if you did.”

Adapting books into a visual medium like film is a very tricky gambit. Sometimes the filmmakers care very much about respecting the source material, resulting in cinematic masterpieces like To Kill a Mockingbird and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sometimes the filmmakers do care about the source material, but for one reason or another, they end up making a film that fails to do the book justice, like comic book legend Alan Moore’s work. But by far the worst thing any filmmaker can do is not care at all about the source material, which is what happened with such works as the Percy Jackson series, Eragon, and the subject of today’s review, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Stephen King’s history with adaptations has always been rather spotty. It seems that for every good adaptation of his work (The Shining, Carrie, Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption), there’s a bad one lurking just behind it (Maximum Overdrive, Children of the Corn, Dreamcatcher, etc.). Perhaps nothing illustrates this dichotomy better than the two big adaptations that came out in the summer of 2017, namely The Dark Tower on August 4th and It on September 8th. Whereas the latter stands at the time of this writing with an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and rave reviews calling it one of the absolute best Stephen King adaptations, the former stands at only 16%, with many critics lambasting it as “wildly unfaithful and simplistic.” And honestly, as someone who read all eight books before the movie came out, I think they were right on the money.

Before I get into why, though, let me clear up a misconception often stated about this movie; Sony Entertainment (who distributed the film under their Columbia Pictures division) was not trying to condense the entire eight-book series (totaling 4,250 pages) into a single film running a measly 95 minutes. It was actually intended as a sequel to the books, which was made possible by how the end of the seventh and last book in the series revealed that protagonist Roland Deschain’s quest to find the tower was actually an extended cyclical time loop. In theory, this would have allowed the filmmakers to keep the story’s basic gist intact while having some license to change some elements around.

In execution, however, the film ends up a confusing mess haphazardly combining story elements from several different books in the series. Even though I’ve read the books, I still had trouble following what was going on, so I can only imagine what the film must feel like to someone who hasn’t read them.

The basic Lord of the Rings meets The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly premise of the books is kept intact. The gunslinger Roland Deschain roams an empty, post-apocalyptic fantasy world called All-World in a quest to find the Dark Tower, a universal linchpin that guards the universe against the primordial chaos. Roland believes that the Tower holds the secret to rebuilding his dying home. He has two main enemies that he faces in his quest. The first is an evil wizard called Randall Flagg (or the Man in Black/Walter O’Dim in the film), who seeks to control the Tower. The other is All-World’s despotic ruler, the Crimson King, who wants to destroy it. He is joined by several companions hailing from Earth in his quest, including Jake Chambers, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, and Father John Callahan.

However, the film seems to shift the focus away from Roland in favor of making his child companion from the first book, the aforementioned John “Jake” Chambers, into the main protagonist. This, I think, does a great disservice to Roland and his actor, Idris Elba. Granted, I think that Tom Taylor (Jake’s actor) is pretty good as far as child actors go, but I also think that more focus on Roland in his fantastical setting would have helped to better establish the unique universe that Stephen King set up in his books.

Of course, the fact that the film is only 95 minutes long certainly doesn’t help matters. You would think that a film in development hell for ten freaking years would have had at least a little more to offer us. This film definitely needed at least another twenty minutes to make it a proper introduction to the Dark Tower mythos.

One thing that definitely suffers from the minuscule run time is the main characters’ motivations. For example, Roland’s tragic backstory, which explains so much of his single-minded pursuit of the Tower and his need to save his decaying land, is very quickly glossed over in the film in a few short flashback sequences (most of which were re-shoots done after poorly received test screenings). We also receive no explanation as to why the Man in Black (played by Matthew McConaughey) wants to use the psychic energy he gathers from kidnapped children to destroy the Tower. The best we get is “Death always wins,” maybe suggesting an ultra-nihilistic viewpoint.

Furthermore, this is the complete opposite goal of his book counterpart. In the books, he wanted to seize control of the Tower and become a god. It was the Crimson King, who is directly related to the demonic creatures that live in the primordial chaos, who wants to destroy the Tower so he can rule over the chaos left in the void. What makes this even more confusing in the film is that at several points, we see graffiti declaring ALL HAIL THE CRIMSON KING, which just made me wonder where the hell he was supposed to fit into this mess if the filmmakers were going to make the Man in Black into a copy of him.

There were also several instances in the film where I thought that the book’s key terms were misused. For example, when a bolt of psychic energy strikes one of the energy beams that hold up the Tower, Roland refers to the event as a “beamquake.” In the books, however, a beamquake happens when one of the beams actually snaps, which, on top of leaving the Tower more vulnerable to collapse, results in the fiery destruction of any ground that lay in the path of the beam.

Another term I thought was misused was “taheen.” In the film, Roland uses it to refer to the half-human half-rat minions of the Man in Black hunting him and Jake down. However, in the books, the rat-men are referred to as “can-toi,” or “low men.” They are hybrids of humans and the taheen from the books, who are basically humanoid creatures with animal heads (very much like Egyptian gods in appearance) who are speculated to be the only supernatural beings left in All-World. The taheen in this film, however, are basically nothing more than generic evil minions.

Some other miscellaneous elements that didn’t make sense:

  • Roland’s character arc was stupid. He starts out being as nihilistic as the Man in Black, also thinking that the Tower’s going to fall one day anyway, so why bother protecting it? He now only seeks to kill the Man in Black for the sake of revenge. Except… wouldn’t that still be protecting the Tower? You know, killing the single biggest threat to its existence? Roland gets lectured more than once about putting revenge ahead of protecting the Tower. I don’t see how the two can be mutually exclusive in this case.
  • Speaking of things about Roland’s character that don’t make sense, what was the deal with him being immune to the Man in Black’s magic? It doesn’t really add anything to the story other than plot armor for Roland. The optimist in me wants to think that the writers may have had an explanation for this, but it’s probably more likely that they couldn’t figure out a better way to stop the Man in Black from just killing him on the spot.
  • At one point in the film, Roland sees a GEICO commercial featuring talking raccoons and asks Jake if the animals still speak in his world. This joke makes no sense even if you have read the books, because talking animals never show up. The closest we get (aside from the aforementioned can-toi and taheen) is Oy, a billy-bumbler (looks like a cross between a raccoon and a corgi) that Jake adopts as a pet in Book III, The Wasteland. Even then, his speaking abilities are no more developed than that of the average parrot, repeating simple words and syllables that he hears the rest of the team speaking.

There were elements of the film that I liked. While Idris Elba was a controversial pick since his character was white in the books, I personally thought he nailed the gruff personality of Roland Deschain, even if the script didn’t leave him much to work with. I also liked Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers, even if he did steal the spotlight for the first half-hour, and the bonding scenes between him and Roland were a definite highlight. Matthew McConaughey was also clearly having a lot of fun playing the deliciously depraved Man in Black, and watching him snatch Roland’s bullets out of the air with his bare hands and kill people just by telling them to stop breathing was both entertaining and terrifying.

The visuals, I thought, were also well done. The portrayals of All-World in all its decaying glory were a lot like how I imagined them. The way the Dark Tower itself was portrayed in the film, soaring high above the clouds, definitely does justice to its status as the center of all reality. Finally, the action scenes were exciting to watch, even if the Man in Black’s death was a little too unrealistic. Seriously, how does a .45 caliber bullet wound to the head not leave any blood? (Speaking of which, the film really shouldn’t have been a PG-13 film. The books had a lot of foul language and bloody violence, as do most Stephen King books. Granted, the former wasn’t really present until Eddie Dean joined the team in book two, but still…)

In the end, I think my main problem with the film comes down to the execution. The world set up in the book series involves an order of Old West-style gunfighters descended from King Arthur and his Round Table knights (Roland’s revolvers are even fashioned from Excalibur’s blade) roaming a post-apocalyptic world that suffered a nuclear war so terrible that the world still hasn’t recovered thousands of years later, with magical and supernatural threats lurking around every corner. On top of all that, the laws of space and time are slowly unraveling due to the Crimson King’s constant attacks on the very Tower that is holding the universe together.

The film does justice to almost none of these elements. It takes a maddeningly pedestrian approach to everything in its unique and imaginative source material, treating it like nothing more than your average shoot ’em up action film, but with a supernatural twist.

I’ve read rumors on the Web that a follow-up series that Amazon is developing (originally a sequel series adapting Roland’s backstory as depicted in the fourth book, Wizard and Glass) will be revamped as a complete reboot of the franchise. I’ll wait for the series to air before I judge it (which might not be a while, since Amazon passed on the pilot in January). As for the film, I give it a 5 out of 10. It is a shame that the filmmakers made such a flat and uninspired film out of such vibrant and imaginative source material. To paraphrase Rotten Tomatoes: “Go then, there are better Stephen King adaptations than this.”

A Quick Update

I know there’s probably no one out there to read this yet, but I figured why the hell not because there’s a few more ground rules I want to set down before I truly get started on this blog.

First of all, I’m pretty sure I’ve completed most of the technical stuff. All I have left to do is to figure out how to purchase SSL certification and change my password away from the automatically generated one I’ve been using since I purchased the domain. I’m sort of at a loss as to where I’m supposed to find SSL certification, mostly because I’m not sure if I want a free SSL or a dedicated one that I’ll have to pay money for. I may need to consult with my parents on this one.

As for the Dark Tower review, I’ve been a bit too busy lately to focus any attention on it. The technical stuff with the blog has been a major reason for this. Another big reason is that it’s that time at the end of the month where all the big streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are purging certain titles from their rosters, which means I’m trying to watch as many of the ones being deleted from my queue as I can before they expire at the end of the month. I don’t even know what’s leaving Netflix yet, since they usually warn me only a week ahead of time (i.e. the day after the time of this writing) as opposed to Hulu, which gives me a two week warning.

Still, Amazon says the Dark Tower movie is free to watch on their site if I sign up for a 14-day free trial, so that should be easy. True, it will probably mean supporting the eldritch monstrosity that Jeff Bezos built, but no worries. I’m sure Bernie will win the election and lay some long overdue ass-kicking on those capitalist pigs, right? Right!?

I’m warning you, Vlad, don’t fuck this up for us!

Let Me Introduce Myself

Pictured: me, introducing myself

Hello, Internet.

I’m a twenty-something New Yorker on the autism spectrum who has decided to take up blogging to make up for his inability actually to say what he thinks needs to be said. I have opinions have I, for one reason or another, do not feel comfortable expressing verbally. Also, for someone who has graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in creative writing, I don’t feel like I’ve done much writing as I would like since I left that broken mess America dares to call an education system in December of 2018. Well, aside from that fantasy novel I’ve been trying to develop for the last few years now. But we’ll talk more about that later.

For now, I’ll just say that I am simultaneously excited and terrified to be undertaking this journey. I’m excited because putting myself out there could potentially open up new opportunities for me. But I’m also terrified because, as someone on the autism spectrum, I have a natural paranoia about how people may react to what I have to say. Still, I’m a big believer in taking risks, even if I’m not exactly the most spontaneous person out there in my normal life. So, here I go, I guess.

First of all, let me tell you a little bit more about myself. I’m sort of on the border between the millennial and Generation Z divide. I was born in the mid-90s to a very normal, albeit conservative Christian family in northern New York. My life has been fairly unremarkable on the whole, with very little drama to speak of. Many of my problems have come more from my Asperger syndrome than not. I got through Pre-K down to college without any difficulties (outside of… shudder… math). My home life has been very stable, barring the usual spats with my siblings when I was younger. Besides the Asperger’s, I was a pretty normal young boy obsessed with normal young boy things like dinosaurs, classic rock, and action-adventure movies.

Basically, I’m here on Blogspot to make as much use as I can out of my creative writing degree, or at least feel like I am. There are quite a few subjects I’m interested in talking about on here. I’m not sure if I’m going to talk about all of them on just this blog or if I might make use of the two-website deal I got with the hosting company that made this blog possible in the first place. But I’ll figure that out later. Let’s talk about interests.

  1. Arts and Entertainment

I know, big surprise, a creative writing major likes to talk about art. Well, maybe not talk, because I don’t have many friends, and my family’s tastes and mine barely overlap, but anyway…

I have a somewhat eclectic taste in music, film, television, literature, etc. My favorite genres are action-adventure, fantasy, science fiction, Western, and historical/war dramas. In music, my big three are country, rock, and metal, although I also like a little Celtic folk, new age, classical, and soundtrack music on the side.

My biggest love in the entertainment world right now, though, is definitely animation. I think the biggest reason I’ve been obsessed with this medium since high school is because, at least in my home country, animation has had this stigma for at least half a century that it is only a genre of children’s entertainment, which is really annoying, because animation, in both mine and many other’s opinions, has the ability to take stories in places where it is literally impossible for live-action entertainment to go. I do think that this “Animation Age Ghetto,” as TV Tropes calls it, is finally starting to die off, but I still think we have a long way to catch up to Japan as far as that is concerned.

You can probably expect me to try my hand at reviewing some of my favorite and least favorite pieces of entertainment. However, I may be somewhat limited in this regard since I’m not financially independent from my parents. For example, I have been interested in checking out the filmographies of what some might call more “arthouse” directors like Terrence Malick, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Ingmar Bergman, but their films are not readily available on the streaming sites my family currently uses (Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime). The latter does offer an app on their service based around the Criterion Collection, though that has gotten a few complaints from users saying that it needs the latest model of Firestick or something like that to work.

Oh, Jeff Bezos, why do you have to be such a money-grubbing asswipe?

And that’s not including all the independent foreign animated features that I want to check out. Still, if one of the greatest dinosaur movies of all time taught us, “Life finds a way.”

2. Personal Stuff

This part covers stuff like my struggles with ASD, as well as my fiction writing. I may discuss how I’ve coped with my developmental disabilities and try to dismiss some myths that have been spread about people on the autism spectrum over the years.

I will also discuss my fiction writing projects, both past and present. I’m especially eager to discuss the biggest project I’m working on, a fantasy saga that I’ve tentatively titled The Divine Conspiracy. The story is an epic urban fantasy narrative centering on Peter Banks, an agent for a secret society that investigates paranormal phenomena, and his fraternal twin children, Ariel and Ronan, who inherited magical powers from their mother, a succubus who was sent from Hell to murder Peter but fell in love with him instead. After their mother is hunted down and murdered by the evil forces she abandoned, the twins decide to join the secret society, helping their father hunt down malignant supernatural entities while searching for answers about the true nature of their powers, trying to stop a new war between the forces of light and dark from destroying the world as we know it, and confronting temptation, existential dread, and questions about the nature of God, the Universe, and their own seemingly insignificant place in it.

I’ll try to keep you posted to see how that goes… that is if it doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own ambition first. My plan so far is to post my fiction writing to DeviantArt, but that could change at some point as well, so, as I said, I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and speaking of the paranormal…

3. The Supernatural

This category should be rather self-explanatory. One of my childhood obsessions was ghosts, cryptozoology, and other such urban legends. Basically, anything that may be the subject of stories that begin with, “Once I knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy…”

…who knew this guy’s cousin

Nowadays, I am a bit more skeptical about such fantastical claims as lake monsters and government cover-ups of UFO activity…

Seriously, Loch Ness is only 22 square miles. Why is finding Nessie this difficult?

…but I’m still not entirely convinced that all supernatural occurrences can be explained by mere misfires of the human brain or wayward woodland critters. Maybe it’s because I’m a pretty spiritual person, but I have a hard time believing that the material world we see before us is really all there is.

While I will be talking about paranormal phenomena in this category, I do wish to also shed some light on what the skeptics also have to say since I do feel like they are somewhat neglected by the often sensationalist media of our day and age.

4. Religion and Spirituality

Whereas I would refer to the paranormal phenomena in the previous category as micro-level, or physical, here is where we talk about the supernatural on a macro or metaphysical level. Well, technically the former can’t really be called physical since ghosts are (possibly) the souls of dead people who didn’t move on, and UFOs could be coming from completely different universes than ours that may not have the same type of matter as we do… never mind, I digress.

First of all, let me explain my personal beliefs. As I said above, I grew up in a Christian family. From roughly until college, I was a pretty orthodox Christian who went to church every Sunday (although my childhood obsession with dinosaurs pretty much destroyed any chance I had of becoming a creationist). While I still am a regular churchgoer, in all honesty, I only remain Christian inasmuch as I believe that Jesus was a divine messenger of God. This is mainly because, even though the people at my church are fairly good and honest, I became aware of things like the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and the right-wing fundamentalism eating away at my country’s liberties as I grew older.

I also became interested in how other religions worked as I grew older, and increasingly became skeptical that Christianity was the only true religion. These doubts only grew more strong as I looked up the various spiritualities grouped under the category of Western esotericism, like Hermeticism, Kabbalah, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Neopaganism, and Gnosticism, an early form of Christian faith that is probably closest to the beliefs I have now.

Except maybe the part about the evil lion-snake god thing. At least on a literal level.

If you are sitting there at your computer with a confused look on your face, don’t worry. Since Western esotericism is, by its very definition, esoteric, I will probably have a lot to say about that subject. I’ll also examine the more mainstream religions of our time like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and others, maybe debunking myths about them here, talking about how they influenced my beliefs there, or talking about how my research into the esoteric influenced The Divine Conspiracy.

Before you say anything, I know talking about religion on the Internet is major flamebait. But wait until you see what I have to say about my final category…

5. Politics

Yes, yes, I know. I can hear you groaning from your own keyboards as I type this. But if there is one thing about autistic people like myself that is true above all others, it’s that we are slaves to our passions. And trust me, I’ve become extremely passionate about politics ever since this brain-dead fascist pig somehow failed his way upward into the White House.

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Russian spy, a sexual predator, and a billionaire walk into a bar…

At the risk of sounding like an unoriginal bastard with this Bill Hicks paraphrase, it’s not that I disagree with Trump’s policies or anything like that. It’s just that I think he’s the spawn of Satan sent to ruin everything that’s actually great about America to enrich himself and his billionaire cronies while leaving the rest of us to suffer and die, either by climate change, targeting by white supremacist skinheads, or from a hail of bullets in our schools because the NRA has convinced us that the right to bear arms extends to military-style assault rifles!

*takes a deep breath* Yeah, I’m just slightly to the left when it comes to these issues.

It wasn’t always this way, though. Like I said above, my family was and still is, politically conservative, and that definitely rubbed off on me during my high school years. There was even a time when I watched Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News every day at 5 until he left to form the Blaze. However, even during the days when I was farthest right, I still had a hard time with the right-wing views on abortion, LGBTQ+ issues, and the environment (even if I was on the climate change denial bandwagon a while).

By the time I graduated from college, I was calling myself a libertarian, mostly because while I believed in things like feminism, gay rights, and systemic racism in the law enforcement system, I still believed that these problems could still be solved within the parameters of free-market capitalism. However, I think in reality I was what author Robert Anton Wilson would call a “frightened anarchist,” because it wasn’t long before I discovered several left-wing channels on YouTube like Contrapoints, Innuendo Studios, Renegade Cut, and Philosophy Tube that advocated for an end to capitalism in favor of a more egalitarian leftist system. Still, it wasn’t until I read the book After Capitalism by Dada Mahesvarananda that I decided to become a libertarian socialist.

So yeah, if it hasn’t become clear to you by this point, let me state this as plainly as I can… I CANNOT FUCKING STAND DONALD J. TRUMP OR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!

I think they are only interested in obtaining as much power as they can for themselves by giving tax cuts to the rich, letting them hide as much money as they can in offshore tax havens while leaving next to nothing for the poor or middle class. That way, they can insulate themselves from the worst effects of the climate change they created while leaving us to fight for scraps of food in the barren hellscape they left behind for us. They insist that hard work alone determines how well you do in life, even as the capitalist system leaves minorities in squalor. Most rich people these days only become rich via inheritance.

They also tend to be fundamentalist Christians who I think are letting the world descend into war-torn chaos because they are convinced that Jesus’ second coming is imminent, so what’s the point of fixing our broken systems if our lord and savior is going to rapture us all to Heaven anyway? Well, except enforce apartheid in Israel because Muslims aren’t God’s chosen people.

And no wonder! Just look at these filthy devil-worshiping heathens! Those Popsicles are dyed with the blood of Christians!

I could go on and on about how much I hate what my country is becoming, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. I’ll end here by saying that I’ll be using this category to explain to people all the problems with both Donald Trump and the Republican Party, why the left doesn’t want to literally turn the United States into a carbon copy of the U.S.S.R., and, probably most important at the time I’m writing this, why you absolutely need to vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in the next election!

Also, if you live in Kentucky, please, please, PLEASE vote for Amy McGrath instead of this obstructionist asshole.

In Conclusion

So, yeah, that’s what you can expect from this blog.

Like I said above, I’m a little bit scared to open myself up like this, especially since I’ve never told my family before this about my real feelings about Trump and conservatism as a whole. Still, I know I can’t keep it a secret forever, and I can’t let my fears get in the way of getting my feelings out there.

If you’re wondering what I’ll be writing about first on this blog, I may look through some of the papers I wrote for my writing classes in college and write pieces based on those. For example, I think I may start with a movie review I wrote for a magazine writing class comparing the 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower with the book series it was based on, explaining how, in my opinion, the film failed to capture the spirit of the books.

I’m not sure when I will be posting that, though, because 1) I would like to figure out how to see the film again before I rewrite the essay so I can be sure my criticisms are accurate…

Although reading all eight books took me 4 1/2 months the first time, so fuck that!

…and 2) I still have a lot of technical stuff to do on my blog before it’s fully ready for action. I still have to upload plugins, purchase SSL certification, figure out how to set up a mailing list, Google Analytics, social media marketing, etc. Still, my aim is about one completed piece a week, posted every Saturday. Also, as you might be able to ascertain from some of the language I’ve used, especially in the more political parts of this writing, I’m not exactly shy about using profanity, so parents, be strongly cautioned!

It’s going be a lot of work, for sure, but still, I have a feeling it will all be worth it in the end.