Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spartan Thinking

I have really been working hard to change the way I think and feel. In fact, I have begun to examine much more closely what the purpose of thoughts and feelings are. Rene Descartes is famous for saying,” je pense, donc je suis” For those of you that do not speak French (or are too lazy to make use of Google Translate) that translates to,” I think therefore I am.” That saying is perfectly vague, deep sounding, and ephemeral. What really does it mean? More importantly, if Descartes is defining existence by self-awareness, what purpose do emotions serve?
I do think that thought and awareness define the existence of a being. I also know that a stone or a branch exists independent of the ability to think and feel. I would say to Descartes,” Je suis, donc, je suis,” or, ” I am therefore I am.” Still, feelings and thoughts serve some purpose or we would not have them.
In the reading that I have done, emotions have been explained as an evolutionary imperative to mate, rear our young properly, and keep a safe place to live while doing the aforementioned activities. Even as a Creationist I believe that our bodies, souls, thoughts, and feelings operate on a set of rules- the Physics of our Physicality. Why would an intelligent creator set things up any other way? It is as if She is saying,” Go, learn how you work. There are rules and logic inside you. Discover them.” Yes, I feel like God is a woman.
My belief in feelings is simple. I think that our emotions are there to prevent us from succumbing to our baser nature. Humans are two creatures in one. Our bodies are animal. The animal part of us is all about instinct and necessity. When the animal is hungry it hunts to feed. When it is hurt it hides to heal. The animal part of our human self is all about need and survival.
The rest of us resides in a complicated connection between our brains and our souls. I think of this amalgamation as the ID. It is the transcendent part of us that can overcome the animal. The animal hungers or lusts. The ID soothes the animal and controls those urges. The scariest thought to me is that not all ID is created equal. I even believe that there are human animals that are bereft of any ID. These are truly scary thinking animals without conscience.
This means that the job of the animal is to survive, procreate, and protect the next generation to continue the species. The job of the ID is to check the behaviors of the predator and to provide higher purpose. The ID creates art, poetry, blog posts, novels, and those really cute little wool hats. The ID makes you cry at a touching scene in a book or movie. It helps you feel empathy and sympathy for other people.
I feel far too much empathy and sympathy. It makes me vulnerable and gullible. It also lets me care for people even when they are long past reasonable redemption. Because of this, I am often sad, lonely, and depressed. The biggest problem with this is I have an excellent memory and a past filled with far too many heartbreaks. It is tough carrying around almost 40 years’ worth of feelings. I cannot imagine how I will feel if I make it to 90 years old. I suspect I will feel very, very tired.
To change the flow and pattern of my thoughts I had to figure out how to make my thoughts and feelings more effectively. I wanted to keep the power of my thoughts which I need to function. I also wanted to keep the depth and weight of my emotions which I need to write (which to me is as necessary as breathing). The trick was going to be doing away with anything that isn’t intrinsically of value. Luckily, I have been working on doing that in other parts of my life.
In 2014 my life took a series of twists and turns. Part of those changes was imposed upon me by others. Some of those changes I brought upon myself through poor decision making and pure blind stupidity. The fallout and pain that resulted have chased me around like a debt collector ever since then.
The problem with that statement is that it implies a lack of ability on my part to deal with and evolve past it. My feelings on the subject have come up enough that it is absolutely clear I feel some kind of way about it. Feelings though have no more ability to control us than we allow. I recently posted a Facebook status that said,” No one can drive you crazy unless you allow them in the driver’s seat,” or words to that effect.
The same can be said of emotional baggage. No one can make me feel anything unless I allow it. Emotions are not a choice. The power you give a feeling over you is absolutely a choice. By accepting that the emotions that come up are NOT a choice was the first step to liberating myself from emotional slavery. The next step was simple. I started cutting things out of my head that didn’t make any sense to allow to weigh me down.
Prayer and meditation really help with this. I prayed for a lot of ability to forgive. I reflected on my own role in hurts. I realized that my brain, just like everyone’s on the planet, likes to edit memories to my own favor. This doesn’t mean that I suddenly accepted guilt that wasn’t mine to own. I just started letting go of things that were nonsensical.
Why miss people that make no effort to be in my life?
Why allow me to continue thinking or feeling anything about relationships that have ended?
Why hold any grudge against anyone not currently causing me upset? (I struggle with this one.)
Why continue to search for answers to questions that only exist in the hearts and minds of others?
Hurt over rejection
Why allow me to respond to feeling any of it? I simply acknowledged to myself that those emotions exist. I accepted that it is acceptable to have felt those things situationally. Now I just needed to lay those feelings to rest and spend my precious mental and emotional energy on things worth the investment.
Doing this took this huge weight off my shoulders. My heart and mind felt less cluttered and chaotic. To be gross, I felt like a took a giant emotional shit. Moreover, I felt as if I could handle things I had been avoiding for a long time.
Since this little emotional awakening, I am a lot more difficult to frustrate. I am able to deal with something difficult in an almost offhand way. Losing a friend for some needlessly stupid thing would normally have put me into a week or month long funk. Now I can feel it, accept what I feel, process the loss practically, and then move on to something that actually matters.
This uncluttered mental attitude is getting more and more reflected in how I operate. I have been getting rid of my physical clutter. I think of this as Spartan Thinking because it is a very functional and basic mindset. Does this bag full of Paracord have a practical use in my house currently? No, toss it. Does the loss of the aforementioned friend have any practical value to my psyche? No, the person wasn’t your friend in the first place or you wouldn’t be dealing with this. Toss it.
I actually have started doing this from the top down in my life. It really started with mapping out my finances. Spending about 40 hours plotting and categorizing every dime and dollar I have spent this year so far was a bit of effort. God bless Microsoft Excel. Seeing that I spend an average of $400 a month in January and February on comic books (I have zero problems with this number.) and nearly twice that on fast food made me rethink habits.  In August I am under $50 in Fast food. (Sometimes convenience does win the day)
Numbers are amazing. Thinking about how I spent my money in that much detail (21 % of my income this year has been spent on my cars. That is more than FOOD. This doesn’t include the 8% on fuel) got me thinking about how I actually spend my time. While that is much harder to quantify I have been able to be really brutally honest with myself. I idle away far too much of my free time on frivolous emotional nonsense. Why should I spend ANY time thinking about people who have dumped or abandoned me along the way? A smart man would take that time and spend it wisely with the people who treat me well. The fact this blog isn’t being neglected and I am actively developing work I intend to publish for PAY is a good sign.
The shift in mental attitude and discipline is helping my physical health too. Stress can kill you. It is a slow unpleasant death. Suddenly, I can process stress like any other emotion. Oh, look, David, you are feeling stressed out about something. That is valid. Now, what do we do to solve the underlying problem? By doing this, the stress itself isn’t a problem. (Please see The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck for an explanation of the feedback loop from hell.)
Spartan thinking has done some nice practical things. My dishes stay clean. I only keep down a plate and a bowl. Instead of dirtying everything and then cleaning up a pile I act as if I only have the two dishes. I don’t always wash these until I need them again. I do, after all, still not enjoy doing dishes.
I also find myself putting down “neat” things I find online and in the store. Do I want to build another Raspberry Pi to work as a virtual media center that I can access from ANY device with a web browser? Of course. Do I need that? No. My phone plays games, video, and music. What is more, I rarely have time to do any of those things when I am not home. That thought saved me at least $40.
That isn’t to say that my Spartan thinking doesn’t include fun or frivolity. Relaxation and mental stimulation are VERY necessary to my life. I just think them through a little more. I did invest in a Bluetooth keyboard and a case for the 8” Kindle I won at work. I am actually writing this post in Word on said Kindle. It is fun and practical. Note to you Amazon, I want a 10 or 12 inch Kindle Fire in the near future, please. If you make this happen I will buy one and pass my 8 inch along to someone else (Giggity).
Keeping up with The Arkham Horror Living Card game and playing it with my friends has immense value. Reading my comics to have something I enjoy both alone and in discussion with my friends is almost priceless. This does NOT mean it is ok to knowingly rip me off. I will be dealing with that soon. That will happen with as little emotion and as much practicality as I can muster. Anger is still one of those emotions I can acknowledge and accept all day long, but it wants me to feed into it.
Thinking like a Spartan has made me feel much more in control. I like the feeling and it keeps spreading in my life in better ways. Things keep getting better. Why wouldn’t I keep focusing on it?
That is the other side of this post. Perhaps the most important part of Spartan thinking is giving sway to good feelings and thoughts. I spend more time on feeling love, appreciation, contentment, accomplishment, and happiness.
Why shouldn’t I be proud that I have fought my way back from crippling debt without filing bankruptcy?
Why shouldn’t I be happy that I made a career move that increased both the amount of money I make and the time I am available to my family and friends?
Why shouldn’t I thank God for this new clear, clean outlook on life?
Why shouldn’t I be happy driving my old beat up Ford back and forth to work while my title rests in my safe at the house? Who doesn’t love not having car payments?
Why shouldn’t I feel accomplishment that I can crank out several thousand words of writing while working and actually living my life?
Why shouldn’t I feel absolutely blessed to have a fantastic family and a great group of friends all who love and accept me for who I am?
I should. I should feel those things. I should focus on them and never waste a single moment on the other garbage that I have allowed to drag me down in the past. I also feel hope. I hope that this post reaches the audience that needs to read it. I hope it helps. I also hope that if it does that the people pass along as much good as they get.
No matter what, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Comic Books and the Art of War

I really like reading philosophy and books about strategy. Lately, I have been reading very little. I am slowly working my way through Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras. It is suggested as the inspiration for the X-men. I am about half way through the novel. I could believe that it is. I felt I owed it a read. Beyond that, I have been reading my usual weekly boatload of comic books. On that front, I am happy to announce that I have completed a quest.
I now own every solo book for the character Old Man Logan. I also own his “origin” material in the Fantastic Four and later Fantastic Force series. I decided to build up my Old Man Logan collection in a small personal tribute to a fallen friend that I miss. He managed to piece together all of Wolverine’s solo books. He and the character Wolverine died in the same calendar year. It felt very fitting that I carry on with Old Man Logan. You cannot replace Wolverine with any other character. You can, however, carry on his memory. It didn’t bring any closure for my dead friend in my heart and head, but I do feel like he would understand and appreciate the gesture.
I wanted to shift away from my comic books for my next quest. I am enjoying playing Final Fantasy games on my PS4. XV was excellent. XII was a great release. It just doesn’t feel epic. I am not in love with my board games or Magic the Gathering right now. My writing is something I am not willing to quest on currently.
Instead, I have decided to continue my quest for comic books. Perhaps here it is worth posting my current pull list for examination and discussion. I am also going to make a few annotations about why I read each book before I get into my quest and the thought that really has me writing. I have the books sorted by publisher and alphabetized.
Unholy Grail – Cullen Bunn gives a great story of Arthur and his Knights. This one is deep in the lore. The book is also beautifully drawn and colored.
Sisters of Sorrow – Kurt Sutter does what he does best telling a meaningful and dark immorality tale.
Dark Horse
Black Hammer – Jeff Lemire writes a strange amalgamation of heroes that nod to obvious mainstream comic mythologies (Barbalien/ Martian Manhunter, Black Hammer/ Thor, Golden Girl/ Shazam, etc.) and then turns the whole thing on its ear with a crazy setting.
All-Star Batman – Scott Snyder continues to pen Batman. Honestly, I wasn’t in love with this book until the most recent arc that focuses on Alfred.
Batman- I apologize officially and in writing to Tom King. I ranted on the podcast ( about how awful a writer he was. King won me over with The War of Jokes and Riddles. I still don’t like how we got here. I am entirely enthralled by the current arc. I salute anyone who can win over their critics. The book is beautiful and well written. It cost me something to admit this.
Batman Beyond- If you were a fan of the ’90s cartoon, this book builds the mythology and ties it directly to the “real” DC continuity. I love everything about it.
Detective Comics- Hands down the best Batman comic currently being published. I cannot get enough of that.
Harley Quinn- I honestly have only read four issues of the current 26 issue run. I enjoy the art. I am also deep into the lore of the 3 Jokers. Secrets have been revealed and will continue to be hinted at here.
Wildstorm- Warren Ellis does his thing. If you don’t take the time to pick up what this legend puts down then you shouldn’t call yourself a comic fan. Ok, that is hyperbole, but the effect is worth making.
Bettie Page- Sexy. Hilarious. Beautifully illustrated and colored. This is everything I wanted from a Bettie Page comic and it is intelligent on top of it.
Duck Tales – Saving this one for my two-year-old.
Curse Words- I started the 1st arc of this one calling it the best book that I have no clue what is happening. Parts of it have gotten a little silly. That has me questioning the book’s future on my pull list. However, I will see through a few more issues.
Deadly Class- Rick Remender has become of my favorite writers all too quickly. The fact that this book is about a bunch of really messed up teenagers from the ’80s who are training to be assassins doesn’t hurt.
East of West- Johnathon Hickman weaves an alternate United States History alongside a twist on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. My biggest issue is that there isn’t more of this book to read.
Kill or Be Killed- Ed Brubaker delivers a delicious psychological thriller…or is it an occult crime story? Will we ever know? I don’t really care. I just don’t want it to end too quickly.
Mage: The Hero Denied- The end (?!) of the Mage saga. Also something of an Arthurian retelling.
Manifest Destiny- Supernatural meets Sacagawea. I am not even kidding. Just substitute Sam and Dean for Lewis and Clark.
Monstress – I genuinely haven’t read much past the first issue, but it really is beautiful and I own every issue. I will read it all eventually.
Redlands- Another Southern Horror story. Issue One was very good.
Redneck- Texas. Vampires. Donny Cates tells a great story.
Regression- I dig this because it deals with madness in a fun
Rose- So far an on the rails fantasy romp with a predictable story. I have loved every page and panel. Sometimes you need wenches and battle axes. Beautifully illustrated and NOT a guilty pleasure.
Saga -Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaugh make Shakespeare their bitch with this one. Romeo and Juliet meet Star Wars. Also, naked people, foul language, drugs, and most of it is told through the narration of a child who is born on the second page of issue one. “Am I Shitting? It feels like I am shitting. You’ll never love me again if I defecate on you.” Actual dialog from the aforementioned issue one.
Seven to Eternity- Rick Remender again. This time he is doing some beautiful work in a fantasy setting. The world is dark as they come. I both love and hate this book. It makes me feel entirely too much.
Sex Criminals – My hands-down favorite read.. right up until the Wide Weiner song. Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction make me love them a little more and myself much less. I got to the point I cannot even look at the letters page. Every time I think about dropping this one through the next issue pulls me in deeper. *ahem*
Astonishing x-men – Take all my X-men entries as written. I have been an X fan since I was reading comics.
Cable- This is somewhat on the chopping block.
Captain America: Steve Rogers – The turn to Hydra has not been a descent into evil and it has been a fun read.
Darth Vader- I didn’t think I could love a Star Wars comic. They all try too hard. This one gets it right.
Doctor Strange – This is a quirky and fun book. I love the character.
Generations -Damned event books.
Generation X
Infamous Iron Man -Doctor Doom is one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. His attempts at heroism are well written and fun.
Iron Fist – I grew up on Kung Fu films. This feels like it should- a Kung Fu comic.
Jean Grey
Mighty Thor -Jason Aaron has made a character I cared nothing for absolutely amazing.
Old Man Logan
Secret Empire – A good, meaningful event book.
Spider-Men II – I want to like a Spider-man.
Weapon X
X-men Blue- Cullen Bunn and the X-men. Duh.
X-men Gold
In DC I am also keeping up with Action Comics as details on Mr. Oz (or whatever) are teased out. I read Flash for a while. I want to love and respect the DC universe more, but I lean toward Marvel. My newest quest is an attempt to change that.
I am going to collect every appearance of Superboy Prime. What is not to love? He is a kid who wants to be Superman after he reads about him in comic books. Then, he actually becomes a Superman. Later he turns into a douchebag and frequently tries to destroy pretty much everything and everybody for reasons all his own….multiple times. What a dick, right? He is angry all the time for his own internal reasons that have very little to do with reality.
I have to love this character. I so identify. Before I open that can of worms, which is what I really want to be writing about, I might as well share the depth of this quest.Here goes:
DC Comics Presents #87
Superman #414
The Official Crisis Index #1
Last Day of the Justice Society Special #1
Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Update ’87
Crisis on Infinite Earths
DC One Million
Super Girl Volume 4 #79
JLA Issue #119
Infinite Crisis
Adventures of Superman #649
Infinite Crisis Secret Files #1
Rann-Thanagar War #1
Batman Annual #25
Teen Titans: Life and Death #1
Action Comics #839
Green Lantern #13
Detective Comics #820
Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #2
Teen Titans (#29, 31, 32)
Sinestro Corp Special #1
Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1
Countdown to Final Crisis
The Sinestro Corps War
Green Lantern/ Sinestro Corps: Secret Files #1
DC Universe #0
Justice Society of America Annual #1
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds
Justice Society of America #20
Ambush Bug: Year None
The Flash: Rebirth
Adventure Comics (#3,4,5, 7, & 518)
Blackest Night
Superman #712
Batman Under the Red Hood #1
DC Retroactive: Superman- The ’80s #1
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Curse
Teen Titans (#98,99,100)
The Multiversity Guidebook
Justice League #40
Convergence Superman Issue #1
Robin War 100 Page Spectacular
Nightwing #9
At first glance, This is a great way to walk back through DC comics history. I think almost every major (non-Batman) related event is represented here. This is also a HUGE investment in the (non-Batman) DC universe. The quest is simple here. I either want to fall in love with the (non-Batman) DCU or give up on it and officially say, “Make mine Marvel, but throw in those Batman books.”
I often do identify with characters like Superboy Prime. Oddly enough, Hulk doesn’t fit me. Hulk is a rage of emotion completely out of control of himself. I am always a bubbling cauldron of anger and rage, but I am also tightly controlled. I was always sort of pissed the Bruce Banner couldn’t get his act together and control himself. I control myself well all the time.
From ass * hole * ol* o* gy Chapter 3 Rule V: “The asshole is always in control. The asshole is in complete command in every situation- in the boardroom, the bar room, and the bedroom. He steps up to take charge and doesn’t look for help unless absolutely necessary. The asshole stays cool, calm, and collected.”
I dream angry. I have had nightmares from the time I was little. When I was a kid, things chased me. Things caught me. Things hurt me. Now my dreams are much more of me chasing and hurting people. My dreams normally horrify me at how easily I can just tear someone apart for the least provocation. It disturbs me and wakes me often at how thoroughly I enjoy being a monster in my dreams.
To control this feeling of being a monster I don’t express anger much in meaningful ways in the waking world. By the time I say something about a situation it has gotten bad enough that I was ready to fight about it two trespasses ago. If I am angry enough to raise my voice about something there isn’t really any fixing it.
I play a bit of a mental game. When I am vexed by someone stepping on my toes or taking advantage of me I try hard to be nicer to that person. I play dumb more often than not. I think of this as giving my opponent another chance while I hand them ample rope to hang themselves with. At this point, if someone is smart enough to realize I am dangerous and they stop doing what they were doing all is well.
Most people see this kindness as weakness. They got a free inch. Now comes their chance to see if they can take a mile. Again, I don’t react. They are beyond redemption. I have been discounted in their mind. Anyone who would knowingly continue taking advantage of me while I have done nothing but show them kindness now deserves any temper I could show. Still, I focus.
From the Hagakure Chapter 2: ” Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.”
Forgiveness is absolutely divine. I still want to give people a fair shake. Baseball taught us all that it takes 3 strikes to be out. I begin setting traps at step two. Experience has taught me that anyone who goes to screw with me a second time will come back for bite number three with no hesitation. They have come to believe I hold truly no ability to hurt them. I am big but dumb. I am gullible. They clearly have me out thought.
When strike three slams home I am completely absolved. I am justified in the anger I felt at slight number one. The whole affair is worthwhile.
From The Art of War Chapter 1:” All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity, when active, inactivity. When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away, that you are near. Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him. When he concentrates, prepare against him; where he is strong, avoid him. Anger his general and confuse him. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.”
I may be angry, but I am deliberate, well practiced, and well read. Perhaps my greatest skills are that I pay great attention and I am completely patient. I am willing to lose in the short term to have a final decisive victory.
To quote Jidenna from Long Live the Chief,” You can either lead, follow or get out the way/
Make a fuckin’ move it would make my fuckin’ day/Got a 100 year plan you jus’ think about today”
Man, I love that song. It makes me happy. Isn’t that really what life is about? Well, no.
From The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Chapter 2 (titled Happiness is a Problem): ” Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving”. If you’re avoiding all your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.”
I am good at embracing my problems. I get the meat of my problems between my teeth and chew it until I can swallow easily. The extra work I put in makes that meat tender. It also means that I don’t apologize for something I was wrong about very often. I have checked my facts to make certain that I am not acting on faulty opinion. When I throw the first blow it is also (normally) the last.
So why do I explain all of this? I don’t see how I am all that complicated. I follow the Golden Rule. I treat other people the way I want to be treated. I remain kind when slighted. Depending on how important you are to my life, you might be able to slight me MANY times before I say or do anything. In the end, no one really ever gets one over on me. I knew. I let it happen. I let you carefully dig your own grave. You calmly laid yourself down inside. You even pulled the dirt in after yourself. All I really did was keep myself calm until you removed yourself from my path.

That isn’t so complicated, is it? Consider this a P.S.A. I took the time to explain it for a reason. If you are out there right now and you can count past strike one with me, it might be time to start making things right or be moving the hell on quickly. I never waste my words. They are very precious to me. It isn’t my fault if they fall on deaf ears.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Father’s Advice to his Daughters: Lesson One

I have two things in life- my family and my words. I am blessed to still have my parents with me as I approach (much too quickly) my fourth decade of life. They have done more for me than I could repay if I were given ten lifetimes more with them. I sat tonight after work eating a homemade meal, sorting through and organizing some tools, and then brainstorming on a project I plan to start later this week. I realized that so much of who I am comes directly from the lessons I learned as a boy. My parents gave me so much knowledge and more importantly the ability to put things together for myself. I realized that I could do a better job passing these ideas along to my girls.
I didn’t really think about how much of my Mother’s cooking prowess I picked up over the years. Cooking was just something I did without much thought or effort. I can whip something up on the fly without much preparation or planning. Mom managed to install this knowledge in my head without me even realizing it. I played helper (maybe that should read PLAY) to her frequently. My tasks over the years never seemed complicated. I would stir this or pour that with just a smattering of requests to open lids or cans. My fried potatoes are pretty mean, but they still don’t top Mom’s. Still, without her very subtle guidance, I wouldn’t be able to boil an egg. I took this for granted for years. Cooking isn’t something everyone can do.
In a very similar way, my Dad taught me to fix absolutely everything. Over the years we have rebuilt everything in a car, repaired sinks, mounted air conditioners, sharpened tools I have dulled, built a trailer, built walls (Mom and I did most of the tearing down of walls), painted, spackled, glued, assembled, and polished. Our most recent adventure has taught me a huge amount about the working of a submersible pump. Because of being Dad’s helper I can figure out how to do most anything. Very much like Dad, I am not afraid to rush in where Angels fear to tread with a wrench in one hand and a hammer in the other. This also is something unusual. Most people pay to replace or repair their things.
Just for the record girls, there are no jobs that come to mind where you need a wrench in one hand and a hammer in the other. I do recommend this tool set on any dates you might go on in the future. Upgrade to a sledgehammer and a pipe wrench should either of you consider getting married. I can fix most anything, but I don’t even know how to talk about a broken heart. Do us all a favor and don’t get one.
Mom was never confined to the kitchen, nor was Dad forbidden to enter it. Mom can turn a wrench and knows the working of an engine. Dad makes great eggs. Don’t let anyone define your role in the world. Be whoever you want to be without hesitation or shame. Most importantly as you become the people you are meant to do it yourself. I believe DIY is at the heart of freedom and happiness. I have always appreciated things more than I have earned, maintained, and repaired as necessary.
It may be hard to beat Mom’s baked spaghetti, meatloaf, or Christmas ham, but you should try. Learning how to do everything for yourself makes the things that others do for you taste sweeter. Be easy on the sweets though. They really aren’t good for you or your teeth. Brush those teeth. Do it three times a day. Floss. Use mouthwash. Take care of your gums and teeth. You will miss them if they start to go!
That is the difference between accepting a gift and expecting things to be done for you. Entitlement is not good for anyone. No one in this world owes you anything except for the people that brought you into it. We owe you a good raising, a whipping when you need one, and love as close to unconditionally as it is humanly possible to give. Fair warning girls, my Mom, and Dad frequently remind me that I am not to big to whip. You never will get too big either. I will let you know if I ever get ungrounded. Your Grammy grounded me for life in sixth grade and I am still serving time.
Punishment can be very good for you. I believe that most mistakes can be forgiven if you learn your lesson. At times in life, that lesson is going to cost you something. It took me a lot of years to figure out that you cannot easily get a speeding ticket if you aren’t driving above the speed limit. Those fines eventually got the message through to me. I slowed down.
On a side note, if you do the crime be willing to do the time. It is very immature to be mad at the policeman that pulls you over for the crime you were committing. Be polite. Say yes sir or yes ma’am, whichever is appropriate. Pay your fine. Don’t think about being clever and fighting the ticket if you actually did what you were cited for. That will only teach you that you can game the system.
Conversely, if you didn’t do anything, don’t accept blame. Grammy’s favorite idiom to me has been,” I don’t take no shit from nobody.” I think the triple negative works. It lends an eloquence that,”I take no shit from anyone,” just doesn’t quite impart. If a person of (alleged) authority is in the wrong be polite, say yes sir or yes ma’am, and don’t accept their wrong answer. There are right and wrong times to back down. Be smart about which is which.
While we are on the subject shit is a “bad word”. You shouldn’t curse. It sounds like you lack the ability to express yourself intelligently if you cuss all the time. Whenever possible find more creative ways of imparting your feelings through colorful, non-vulgar language. However, if you stub your toe.”Oh, shit that hurts,” is a perfectly acceptable utterance most anywhere or in any company. You don’t want to be close to anyone who would judge you for that one.
If you find yourself in the poor position of calling a preacher a “piece of shit” at church I promise to very quietly excuse us from the meeting. I will quietly, but firmly bust your ass in the privacy of our home. I won’t warn you of this until we are in the parking lot. I know when and where to drop these gems. I learned well from my Uncle Shorty, my Grandmother, and (she might deny it) my Mom. You will understand perfectly how to use cursing to excellent effect if you study my Mother. She once repeated something Donald Trump said and left scars deep in my brain. She just doesn’t say words like that. If you trumpet them all the time they lose effect. Used properly “bad words” will catch attention better than a slap in the face.
Violence is another tool that I hope you both never have to use. You should learn about violence. You should understand it and how to apply it. You should be willing to use it if absolutely necessary to astonishing effect. No one should ever expect you to be capable of any sort of violence. You shouldn’t ever talk about it. Keep violent thoughts and ideas to yourself. No one should see the first punch coming. If you do it right, it is entirely possible to completely end a violent situation without anyone seeing you act violently. This is true mastery of the force of violence and of yourself.
My Father taught me a simple idea. You should never throw the first punch. Once someone tries to hit you though you should fight. There is only one way to fight. You fight to end the other person. You don’t stop until they cannot get up. No one has ever wanted to fight me more than once.
I would add when it comes to the subject of fighting that you should only talk with your fists. Talking tough or loud is stupid and a waste of time. Once a fight is inevitable what is there to say?
Words are much more dangerous. You should study them. Learn to love language. Learn to love grammar. Math (the language of numbers) and Grammar are immutable. They have rules. They have structure. You can master them. You can command them. That isn’t true of many other things. Words are what sets humans apart from animals.

I will close this first lesson with one final piece of advice. It may be the thing I have most benefited from in life. You cannot control much in life. In fact, the only thing you truly own is the thoughts in your head. The space between your ears belongs to you and you alone. Be careful who you let in there. Don’t be afraid to evict someone that isn’t worthy. Own the space that is your mind and be comfortable there. If you can be at peace with yourself no one can bother you.

Blogging Philosophy and the Art of the Repost

I haven’t been writing. Notice there that I did not say that I haven’t been blogging. I have been in this horrible writing funk. This is not something new for me. I don’t even remember how many blogs I have started and later gotten frustrated with and deleted.
I do know that I have kept most of my blog posts in one form or another. There are some good quality posts in there. I certainly would like to see them make their way back to the interwebs. Once upon a time (and this may still be true), Blogger deleted posts that had gotten past a certain age. I found this out the hard way and a few of the posts I have written have been lost in space and time.
Watching my daughter- Taila- start putting out so much content is both impressive and a source of inspiration. I think writers need a group of people around them that are excited to read their work. You don’t write to your audience. You write to tell a story. However, knowing that someone is reading what you write makes it worthwhile.
From the Hagakure, Chapter 1:“Once when Lord Mitsushige was a little boy and was supposed to recite from a copybook for the priest Kaion, he called the other children and acolytes and said,” Please come here and listen. It is difficult to read if there are hardly any people listening.” The priest was impressed and said to the acolytes, “That is the spirit in which to do everything.” This quote is so worthwhile. All things worth doing are worth doing in a fashion you would be proud to do in front of an audience. I certainly try to bring this to my writing. I blog often, and it is my way of saying, ” Please come here and listen”
I really enjoy philosophy. It can really be found anywhere. One of my favorite books of philosophy is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. This gentleman took the works of A.A. Milne and extrapolated a funny and valid explanation of Taoism. This is no small feat. If you are working on finding your calm peaceful center then this book is a great place to start.
When Garin and I were doing our podcast each week I had this beautiful outlet to discuss something I love- Comic Books. I really was not able to keep recording due to time constraints. I have two kids I feel like I neglect through my absence. I couldn’t really justify, with my new career path, continuing to spend time on it. I really miss the Podcast. More than that I miss hanging with my friends talking about comics. I decided I wanted to dedicate a little of my writing to talking comics, but I don’t want to have a blog dedicated to the subject.
In fact, I think I have finally figured out how to correct a problem. I have had separate blogs for my fiction and my opinion pieces. My original blog (I don’t remember the title) is 343 typewritten pages long. None of that is out there for public consumption and that is a shame. My Knoxville Knights original work came down. I did repost my Wizard’s Task serial here.
To fix this ADD tendency of mine, I am going to have One Blog to Rule Them All. I have been searching for meaning in my titles. None has been more appropriate than David’s Boring Blog. I went back to that. still points to this blog. That also is appropriate because it is something true to my branding. I don’t see well. I hear things slightly differently. From my experience, this means that I process and perceive things differently from others.
It probably isn’t a big surprise then that I find a ton of philosophy that speaks to me in comic books. Around the time of my first blog, I was also working on a book on dating. It is hard for me to believe that was more than a decade ago. I was happy to find some philosophy on pages lately that echoed thoughts and feelings I was trying to explain all those years ago.
Before we get to the philosophy on the page let me say this: I am not going to go to a crazy amount of trouble to get quality pages from the books. The reason for this is simple. Comic books are worth reading in their entirety. If you dig the snippets you see here go BUY a copy of the book and read the whole thing.
From Deadly Class Trade Paperback #3:
This one hit really close to home for me. I have been the “nice guy” more than a few times in my life. I have lost out in every romantic relationship I have ever been in. While I am not done being the nice guy I have started to realize that being the nice guy is a losing proposition when the girl secretly believes she deserves to be treated like dog shit. Eventually, as proven by wife #2, no matter how good you are to them the girl who believes she deserves to be treated badly and has nothing will go back to an abusive asshole over staying with the nice guy she doesn’t think she deserves.
Conversely, I think I may have fallen into this mentality myself. I don’t normally have relationships with nice women. I have often worried that I try to be some sort of shining knight saving the damsel in distress. In fact, one woman commented to me that she wasn’t damsel enough for me.  That wasn’t the case, but I do question if I have been being the abused girl. Have I let myself become so accustomed to being ignored and neglected that I don’t think I deserve a happy and normal relationship? It is certainly something to think on.
I think a lot of relationships and by extension sex. I will try not show other types of philosophy in the future from Comics (and other things), but I have to say my starting examples are very sex and relationship-centric. Sex Criminals is one of my favorite books. It is heavily R rated and as such is not for kids. The book has some relevant things to say. Every once in a while Chip and Matt whip out some nonsense like the Wide Weiner Song too. That one hurt my brain. They redeem themselves with mature perspectives and valid things to say though. Check out the below examples from Sex Criminals Issue #20:
I have been guilty of this one too. Sometimes, I have tried to fuck away an insecurity by showing my sexual prowess. This one made me think quite a bit because that wasn’t about the person I was with. It was about filling a hole inside me. That makes it kind of messed up and gross in retrospect. Then again, psychologically speaking, sex can be really messed up and gross even without crazy undertones.
The real thing I took away from this one was a good explanation of want versus need. I absolutely hate when someone says they need me or they want me to need them. That is just all sorts of dependency and messiness coming to life. I want people in my life. Needing them is a sickness. Run away from people who need you unless they are a blood relative or a dear friend with an illness.
Children are obviously an exception to the rule of need. Your kids need you up to a point. Your job as a parent is to develop them to the point they don’t need you anymore.
I am going to finish up with a return to Rick Remender’s Deadly Class. I like this book both because it is a look back at the late 1980’s and the fact that there is a lot of deep thought. Philosophy is what it is because it stays relevant over time. My nearly 40-year-old mind can connect with that of fictional 80’s teenage stereotypes because of this.  Check this out:
I wrote chapters on jealousy and possessiveness. Remender, in his masterful way, quickly explains the futility of this behavior in a handful of panels. Oddly enough, I am seen as strange because I am not possessive or jealous. In the last few relationships, I have been in my,” do what you want” attitude has lead to multiple issues. I just cannot bring myself to be jealous. It is so base.
How many relationships could be saved by getting rid of jealousy or possessiveness? I summed my view of it simply. If I can get your girl she isn’t yours anyway. If you can get mine the same is true. I have lived this one a few times as proof I am not a hypocrite. I would name examples but that holds true for nearly all of them.
I have accomplished what I set out to do here. I have put some words to the page that I can be proud of. I am not nearly as rusty as I thought. The words flow as always. I am going to finalize this post by posting up my very first post.

My first blog went up June 29th, 2005. My home had been invaded. I needed to write about it because I felt some kind of way. Sadly, the photos of the invasion did not survive (at least anywhere I can produce them easily). I hope you all enjoyed the writing up to this point, and I hope you enjoy my 25-year-old voice as well. Love me or hate me post comments. Find me on Facebook. Tweet about me. I love attention. To read my first blog post click here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Quest: Magic the Gathering

I have always enjoyed adventure stories where a hero or heroes are charged with completing some Quest. Since I was a kid I have come up with quests for myself. I set myself a Quest to read the Bible cover to cover. I set myself a quest to play all of the Mario Brothers games (play not complete). I set myself a quest to see all of the endings to the game Chronotrigger. I set myself a quest to read all of the work of Robert Howard. I set myself a quest to beat all of the Final Fantasy games in order (I have repeated this one several times). I set myself a quest to complete all of the Legend of Zelda games. I set myself a quest to play all of the printed adventures for Dungeons and Dragons (OE and AD&D).
A lot of my quests center around reading or playing games. I did set myself a quest to collect all of the X-men titles ever printed (counting reprints as valid). I also have quested to grow out my hair. I have quested to run complete a 5k. Quests are fun. Normally, I do not share my quests with other people. I also recognize that my quests are probably fairly geeky.
My newest quest is worth sharing. I am embarking on a deck building quest for Magic the Gathering. It isn’t enough to generally say you are going to do something. There must also be parameters. The decks I build must be functional in that they must hold their own against other decks of the same type (Standard vs Standard etc.). At the end of the Quest, I want to have at least one each of standard, modern, legacy, and commander decks. To be fair I can already check this off my list.
This is where the quest becomes a challenge. I am going to build one deck of each of the following type:
One each for the clans of Tarkir which are:
The Abzan Houses – WBG- Khan- Anafenza the Foremost “Outlast” 
The Jeskai Way- WUR- Khan- Narset, Enlightened Master “Prowess” 
The Sultai Brood- UBG- Khan- Sidisi Brood Tyrant “Delve” 
The Mardu Horde- WBR- Khan- Zurgo Helmsmasher “Raid” 

The Temur Frontier – BRG- Khan- Surrak Dragonclaw “Ferocious”
One each for the Guilds of Ravnica which are: 
Azorius – WU 
Dimir- UB 
Rakdos- BR 
Gruul- RG 
Selesnya- GW 
Simic- GU 
Orzhov- WB 
Izzet- RU 
Golgari- BG 
Boros – RW
One for each of the Shards of Alara which are: 
Jund- BRG
Naya- RGW
Bant- GWB
Esper- WUB
Grixis- UBR
That makes 20 decks. I will also build one functioning 5 color deck (technically I already have one named Taste the Rainbow). Then I am going to get fancy and make workable decks for the following 26 win condition cards:
Amulet of Quoz  
Approach of the Second Sun  
Azor’s Elocutors  
Barren Glory  
Battle of Wits 
Celestial Convergence 
Chance Encounter  
Coalition Victory  
Darksteel Reactor  
Demonic Pact  
Door to Nothingness 
Epic Struggle  
Felidar Sovereign 
Hedron Alignment 
Helix Pinnacle  
Hellkite Tyrant 
Laboratory Maniac 
Mayael’s Aria  
Maze’s End  
Mechanized Production 
Mortal Combat  
Near-Death Experience  
Test of Endurance  
Vraska the Unseen  
To be fair, there are win conditions here that will work in the same deck. A proliferate deck will ramp out Azor’s Electors and Darksteel Reactor equally well. I can build Vraska into Golgari. I will very likely build Naya around Mayael’s Aria. Still, the task is quite daunting. I look forward to reporting in when I have completed the Quest.
The real fun of this Quest though is going to be all the playtesting and polishing. Message me if you want to join in on the fun.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget