Friday, October 12, 2012


In months when frigid gales impose
a psychopomp upon the rose
and cast her crimson trappings down
to join the monochrome of brown,
we feel compelled to flee the chill
before, like roses, we fall ill.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Worthy Pride of Man

I'd pray for you to never pray if it would skew your faith
It pains to see you credit God where I see human power
I think I'd rather fall to Hell, to rings beyond the eighth
Than live outside of Babel and refuse to build a tower

I find no worthy meaning in a puppeted endeavor
If God is here, I welcome him and hope to find his love
But let that love not be the force I press against a lever
I live no life if all my acts are licensed from above

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A Reasoned Hubris

"Is it too soon for me to die?
Must I wait for my time?
No sir, my mind is not awry
nor have I done a crime.
Although, at that, shall I arrange
to lose claim of my sense?
If I should sin, are you less strange?
What justifies you?"

"You've seized your life without a fee.
You hold no deed; you're squatting.
It's owned by you as much as me,
so I've no need for plotting.
I have no plan, no karmic law,
no art within my action.
So sin, go mad, or hold no flaw;
I'm still coming."

"I found my life by happenstance,
a penny on the paving.
No theft, and yet, by happy chance,
it's mine for careful saving.
And since I hold it, you cannot
without a mugger's ethic.
You must have some small moral thought --
what justifies you?"

"This right which you presume to hold
finds governance in Nature.
She'll never do as man has told,
she'll make no deal or wager.
Your mind of ethics, law, and art
does not persuade her agents.
We simply act, no code or heart.
I'm still coming."

"You draw too near, you draw too near!
Stand back and let me speak!
With all you take, lend just an ear
before I grow too weak.
I've much to say before I

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Whiskey-Fueled Melodrama

I wrote this to illuminate something a character I play in a MUD is going through, but I think it can stand on its own too, so I decided to post it here. It is, as the title suggests, rather melodramatic -- which here can be taken as a kinder way of saying "emo." There are some world-specific location references, but everything you need to know about those locations is provided in the story, so you really aren't missing anything by not knowing the setting. You probably don't need to know why he has blood on his clothes, either, which is good because that's a very very long story.

Even though it was written as part of roleplay, it was also deliberately intended to work as a standalone story. Which makes this the first short story I've ever written! So, hooray! I'll find a cake and balloons or something.


Fuck it, I'm staying up.

Demens pulls himself away from the man in his bed, trying not to look at him. He moves toward the wardrobe and gets as far as throwing it open before remembering that all of his things are at the Crossroads. The clothes on the floor will have to suffice. He's been through hell and back, he may as well look it. Most of the blood got on his armor, but even without it there are stains.

Down in the smoking room, he ignores the stares. He's not here for fellowship, he's here for liquor. That's the opposite of fellowship, isn't it? Blacked out memories and ornery mumbling aren't great for making friends. He orders a glass of whiskey and takes a long drink. It's the same brand served at the Crossroads, which lends it some familiarity. The reminder isn't entirely welcome, though -- that place is a shithole.

Despite the unpleasant associations, the drink is gone in minutes. As he sets it down and settles a gaze upon it, the empty glass proves to be a puzzle for Demens. He can go back up to bed, but he'll just lie there -- he won't rest easy. But where else can he go? A frustrated grimace settles on his features, remaining there for an eternity of a moment before it melts with a resigned sigh and he orders another drink. It can wait. Well, actually, it really can't wait, but the whiskey can help him forget that for a little while longer.

He's a little annoyed when he hears the deep tolling of bells. Even at this distance and through the walls, he's keenly aware of that reminder offered by the clock tower overlooking the Crossroads. He'd rather not acknowledge the hours, and just let them pass by without ceremony. Isn't that easier? Time could just as well be measured by counting glasses of whiskey. For instance, it is now two glasses, on the dot, but the hour has already begun ticking into number three. Actually, there might be something to this new system -- it seems to be much better at indicating the state of his world than any clock.

But despite his silent, addled protests, the bells ring. Most people, he muses, would hear the five chimes and tell him that the sun must be rising soon, because it's nearly time for daybreak. And he would shake his head, brandishing his half-empty glass at them for emphasis as he explains that the past is no model for the present, and the sun may just as likely turn around and fall back the way it came, even if it shined without fail every day before that. He's seen things which are just as certain fail just as spectacularly, and he would not be surprised to see it again.

He's proven wrong, though. As he eventually stumbles through the foyer toward the staircase up, the blithe sun mocks him. Ignoring it, he trudges up to the room to rejoin his lover in bed. Out of habit, he slips his arms around Tamas' form as he glances around the relatively sparse room. He's been sleeping there regularly, but he still hasn't moved in any of his things. He suspects that he'll never really get around to moving out of the Crossroads.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Random Seed Poetry 4: "The Trials of Oddity"

Seed words: century, subject, raving, attachment, hum
If you don't know what this means, read the first post in the series for an explanation.

"The Trials of Oddity"

Oh, please don't mind my raving;
I do it all the time.
They've called it "misbehaving,"
but so far never "crime."
I'm baffled by this century,
this inquiry,
this perjury.

Commentary: This one is a bit short, I know. I tried to add on to it, but I kept finding that I had nothing to add. And it's also a bit late, I know. I haven't gone to bed yet, so I'm still going to count it.

This one is partly inspired by some specific past experiences of mine which I will not thoroughly detail here, but mostly it's a reflection on how people react to me. Or, rather, how they used to react to me; I've changed since then, and I'm honestly not sure how to feel about that. There is value in being strange, and I think the pressures that "they" placed on me might have robbed me of it to a degree. But of course, I do still try to utilize what I've got left, as evidenced by the perhaps overstated name of this blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random Seed Poetry 3: "Sight"

Seed words: cross, blessed, engine, astronomy, con
If you don't know what this means, read the first post in the series for an explanation.


The purest truth dissatisfies;
knowledge will ruin me.
An honest con with laser sight
never sees perfectly.
The engine's not the motive force,
it only carries it.
Before the fact, a vision forms,
something more beautiful.

Commentary: Alright, the random word generator is screwing with me now. The day that I have promised to write about something other than religion, the first two words it gives me are "cross" and "blessed." In any case, I did manage to write about something else, although I'm honestly not as happy with how this one turned out as compared to the last two. That may be due in part to two new structural things that I'm trying here. Firstly, I deviated from my usual tendency to use a single repeated metrical foot; instead, the lines alternated between iambic and dactylic meter, which I think gave it an interesting sort of staggered rhythm. Secondly, I wrote it unrhymed — which may not seem like a big deal, but rhyme is usually what I use to tie my poems together, aesthetically. Without rhyme, it risks seeming less cohesive, which might actually have happened — you'll have to tell me.

The topic is probably not very clear. I didn't state things very directly in this one. What I'm getting at is the notion that the experience of something is often more beautiful than the understanding of it. When analysis runs too deep, it can undercut and completely miss the things that made the investigation worthwhile to begin with. And yes, I am painfully aware that this sounds rather reminiscent of a certain pair of rapping clowns, but just because the way they say it is so inane, that doesn't mean there isn't any validity to the philosophical notion that they are trying to discuss. Except, unlike them, I'm not going to go around shouting angrily about scientists.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Random Seed Poetry 2: "Theodicy of a Cynic"

Seed words: staff, partitioning, flour, circuitry, consequence
If you don't know what this means, read the first post in the series for an explanation.

"Theodicy of a Cynic"

Among the dead, some live instead,
no less deserved of death,
the consequence of actions hence
defied with ev'ry breath.
The wrath of God, through Aaron's rod,
was illustrated plain,
but these few laugh and mock the staff
and yet they still remain.

Our laws defied and vilified
by villains and their gall,
we can't avoid that we're devoid
of any laws at all.
No justice then, within our ken,
appears to be at play,
and we cannot describe our lot
with what the prophets say.

Commentary: I know, there seems to be a pattern forming here. I'll try to get onto a new topic tomorrow. I suppose my religious views have been on my mind a lot the past couple of days, but to my credit this is at least about a different aspect of them. Here the title is fairly on-the-nose. It's a somewhat cynical discussion of theodicy (which is the field of religious studies concerned with answering the question, "Why does God allow evil to exist?"). The speaker of this poem isn't really me, it should be noted. I don't share these views precisely. It's simply a perspective which I find interesting to consider, and which arrives at a similar conclusion to mine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random Seed Poetry 1: "Trinity"

Inspired in large part by Jonathan Coulton's Thing a Week and Jonathan Mann's Song a Day, I have decided to take on a similar (but far less ambitious) project. Every day, I will randomly generate 5 common nouns and use two of them in a new poem. I will publish them to this blog as I complete them, along with a commentary of some sort (since, unlike many writers, I like explaining my work). Let's see how long I can keep this up!

Seed words: socialist, known, contraception, prayer, receiving


I can't remember my last prayer
  living in this earthly box
there once was power in the air
  sealed away with cosmic locks
in lack of faith, I'm like a stone
  so sure am I, so solid here
I drop the soul and keep the known
  I place my faith in what is near

Commentary: This poem discusses my drift towards agnosticism and eventually atheism, which occurred over the course of my adolescence. I tried something new and possibly gimmicky with this. Try reading the poem three times — once in its entirety, once skipping the indented lines, and once skipping the unindented lines — and think of each as a distinct poem. The idea is to show a sort of internal back-and-forth, with different perspectives emerging from the conflict. The name is suggestive of both the Holy Trinity which I used to worship and the trinitarian nature of the poem itself.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Untitled and Unfinished

I came upon an awesome sight,
and poetry attacked me.
I suffered then a reckless need
to write the words exactly.

So when my verse could not create complete
the soul form of what I'm
The poem died; I won the fight,
embittered by my failing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social Google

I'm sure you're aware of the changes Google has made the past few months, but have you done your research on them? Read these articles:
Man, what's got Gizmodo's panties in a bunch? They should try to act more like their big brother Wired. These changes are something to be mindful of, and certainly precautions should be taken, but none of it is the betrayal of trust it's being seen as by some. What I see happening here is a chain of events beginning with Google's decision to enter the social networking arena and never done in malice.
  1. Google, while staring hungrily at all the ad revenue Facebook gets, notices that social network users are growing increasingly dissatisfied with Facebook. They decide that it is a good time to start a social network of their own and try to claim all that traffic themselves. Innocent so far; competition is the essence of business.
  2. Google+ launches to far less fanfare than Google wanted. The userbase reaches a plateau much below where it needs to be. Despite this setback, the company isn't going to let it die like Wave did. Google strives to do its level best to make people want to use Google+, so it adds a benefit for Plus users to its most popular service: web searches. Now, anyone with a profile on Plus will get results even more relevant to them, because it will also search their social network. The enormous problem is that this is not an opt-in feature  it is opt-out. The reasoning here is obvious: a feature that's on by default is visible to more users, and will therefore draw more users to use Plus. But those users who use Plus and do not want this feature are now bombarded with the unsettling surprise of very personal results appearing in a service which has always been seen as homogenized and impartial. Google has changed the characterization of their primary service by doing this, and that degree of redefinition will always have significant negative backlash.
  3. Social networks, by their nature, aggregate samples of every single sort of interaction and information that is possible on the Web. Since Google owns the most popular providers of many of those mediums (YouTube, Blogger, etc.), it is absolutely in their best interests to try to streamline the interactions between their social network and their other services. If you upload a video to YouTube, for instance, and want to share it on Google+, it will help if there are mechanisms in place for precisely that. So, as part of this, they decide that it will allow beautiful integration of their services — hypothetically boosting the popularity of each — if they make it so that all your separate Google profiles are simplified and consolidated into just one.
Now, this is alarming to us because we're suddenly seeing that all the information we've given Google is in one place. But Google accounts should always have been combined this way. It's far more efficient, and in many ways can improve services. The bit that makes us panic is the social hub around which this is all built. When Google provided us with a social network, we do what we always do on them: we loaded it with personal information, safe in the knowledge that, short of high-profile hackers with vendettas against us, the only people who will see that information are the people we add to our circles. Now this private information — most notably, the name and photographs we've given Plus — will be propagated to all the Google services that we've linked together under the same account.

However, the proper response to this is not panic, and neither is it condemnation of Google. Google's dynamic is shifting slightly to a more social focus, and their structure must necessarily change to allow this. It is still, as it has always been with their business model, in their best interest to keep you, as the user, happy. This is why they've loaded your inboxes with notifications about their changing policy. This is why they have engineered a data liberation program to facilitate removing your information. The best course of action, if you have any concerns, is to simply use that service to remove private information, then wait until March 1 to see how, exactly, they will be using the information from one service in another. Personally, I seriously doubt anything beyond your name and possibly a photo would be visible to other users if you left all your data intact. Everything else will just be used to tailor ads to the user — and I don't know about you, but I much prefer seeing ads for things that actually interest me.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Personal Dialects

Imagine that I say a word to you. Imagine that this is a word that you know very well -- you have heard it many times in many contexts, and you have naturally learned the concept that it embodies. Now imagine that I have learned the word in the same way, gleaning the definition by seeing it applied. If we each learned it through our own experiences, and your life has been different from mine, is it even possible for the word I know and the word you know to be exactly the same? I don't see how it is.

Let's take the idea further. Imagine that I say a sentence to you. This sentence is composed of many words, but all of the words are ones that you and I both have learned in the courses of our lives. Furthermore, the grammar of it -- the meaning intrinsic to the order in which I placed the words -- is something that you and I have learned to interpret by means of our personal experiences with language. If the meanings of the words are dependant on our unique pasts, as is the way these words interact with each other, then you and I will see two entirely different meanings within the one sentence.

One more step. Imagine that you read a blog post that I write. It is composed of many sentences, and each of those is composed of many words -- and the words and sentences alike draw from our unique pasts to gain meaning. These sentences are strung together, each with individual meaning, but placed in a particular order with common threads running between them to carry a larger message. As with the smaller parts, the way we form the singular thoughts into a larger mosaic depends entirely on how we have learned that statements fit together. From the top to the bottom, the blog post is built from pieces that the two of us can never see in quite the same light.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Criticism of a Criticism of a Criticism

There's a new viral video wherein a man recites a poem he wrote, railing against certain views of Christianity. Watch it, if you haven't already.

Now, there's also an article going around which criticizes that video. Read it, if you haven't already.

I don't like that article. I see some issues in it. Here's my analysis of it:

Fitzgerald begins his criticism of Jesus>Religion by talking about one of Bethke's other poems, trying to build a sentiment against him without actually saying anything about the poem in question. This goes on for an entire paragraph. I won't dissect that paragraph in detail  I'm just going to dismiss the entire thing as irrelevant.

In the third paragraph, Fitzgerald finally begins criticizing the poem. He doesn't actually say much about it. There's just a sarcastic statement which implicitly questions the very notion of "chains of religion" without actually offering an argument against the idea, and accusations of "false dichotomies and outright bad theology." Maybe in later paragraphs he'll expand on what, exactly, he means by that. Let's read on and see!

Fitzgerald says that Bethke "begins by suggesting that Jesus came to abolish religion". What he's failing to recognize is that this is a poem, not an essay. Words have different meanings than they do in prose, sculpted over the course of the poem. Clearly, "religion" does not mean the same thing here as it does in common English. Of course Jesus didn't want to abolish the belief in cosmic forces and entities which underlie the universe and give it meaning. To claim such would be absurd  he was, after all, a religious man himself. Bethke is giving the word "religion" a new meaning for his own purpose, and Fitzgerald ignores that.

Fitzgerald claims that the statement that "Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian" is off-topic. Is he even listening to the poem? The entire thing is about misguided notions of what it means to be Christian. Bethke is criticizing instutionalized, standardized approaches to religion, particularly those with the tendency to condemn groups which they classify as "sinners". In the United States, one aspect of this is that people who espouse conservative values  which are traditionally the mainstay of the Republican party  often call them "Christian values". Bethke is criticizing that. He does not think that those values are what true Christian values were intended to be, even if they have been values within various denominations for a long time.

Fitzgerald identifies one of Bethke's statements as playing "right into the hand of the so-called New Atheists". Now that is just sensationalism. There is no actual criticism there. He's just implicitly identifying "New Atheists" (whatever those are) as the enemy, and saying that Bethke is naively helping them along, without actually saying how or why that makes him necessarily wrong.

Then Fitzgerald says something that I, frankly, find hilarious. "See, he’s not actually on about religion, but about people whose expression of their faith doesn’t match his criteria. It’s not religious people he’s talking about, it’s what we used to call Sunday Christians." Yes, Fitzgerald, you are exactly right! That is, in fact, what he is using the word "religion" to mean! Except he's broadening it a bit  Bethke is also including the people who embrace their religion all week long, but focus on the rules rather than the sentiment. If you follow all the rules of your religion, but you never give a dime except when required, and you harshly condemn with an unforgiving attitude anyone who commits certain sins, then, according to Bethke, you are not truly in the spirit of it. Bethke is taking issue with the people who focus on the religion itself, not the faith and love behind it.

A few times, Fitzgerald claims that Bethke departs from the subject of religion. I'm honestly not sure where he's seeing that. And he pulls out a few nitpicky criticisms, like pointing out a slant rhyme, in an attempt to worsen the reader's opinion of Bethke. It's a good rhetorical trick  specifically, it's damaging Bethke's ethos  but, ultimately, it doesn't mean Fitzgerald is right in anything that he says. Those irrelevant details should be ignored in considering what both of them are saying.

Fitzgerald spends a few paragraphs doing little more than quote Bethke, then, at the end of it, says, "Where do we begin?" I would ask the same question, because it doesn't seem like Fitzgerald ever actually does begin on some of his arguments. Here's that accusation of false dichotomies again, but he's not naming what they are or why they're false. Then he questions a few statements: "Religion is an infection? Religion puts you in bondage? Religion makes you blind?" He never really refutes them, though. Keeping in mind Bethke's unique definition of "religion" for the purpose of this poem...yeah, all those statements seem to ring true. It's an infection in that this particular type of faith which Bethke dislikes does spread from person to person and, in his eyes, damage them. It puts people in bondage because they feel bound to follow the rules, rather than inspired to follow their morals. It makes people blind in that they do not see what is, in Bethke's opinion, the true Christian path.

Fitzgerald claims, "What Bethke is actually railing against is people whose expression of religion doesn’t look like he believes it should." Yeah. Yeah he is. That's what Fitzgerald is doing to Bethke, too. That's what everyone does when they express what they think religion should be like. Criticism implies disagreement, and disagreement implies an opinion. I don't see a problem here.

In Fitzgerald's closing, he summarizes his point that what Bethke is criticizing isn't actually religion as a whole, but a particular manifestation of religion. I'm astounded that he thinks that needs to be said. It's pretty clear, isn't it? That's the whole point of the poem. But Fitzgerald states it like it's a piercing insight into poorly chosen words. I think it's quite obvious that Bethke is building a specific concept, drawing a dichotomy between what he calls "religion" and what he calls "Christianity". He could just as easily have picked "doctrine" and "faith", or "rules" and "heart". It's a poem. Interpret it like one.

Fitzgerald seems to be good at scoffing, but bad at actually constructing arguments. Maybe he has some good reasons to dismiss Bethke. He never actually said most of them, though. The only ones that he did state were based on very literal interpretations of the poem. Which is rather like responding to "I have a frog in my throat" with "There's no way you swallowed a whole frog."

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