Monday, May 14, 2018

Calling Out America

Originally Written 05/14/2013

This isn’t about being treasonous. This is about honesty. Let’s face it America needs someone to sit it down, tell it what it’s done wrong, and then put it into time out. The list of wrongs isn’t all that excessive. However, they have become interwoven into our psyche as individuals and its going to take a stern spanking to get them out. As citizens OUR transgressions are bold, in so far as they have become unconsciously routine.

This didn’t happen when we were standing together at the helm of the country, guiding it to a better tomorrow. This happened because we were doing something else entirely. We were in line getting our grande caramel mocha. This happened because we were busy keeping up with the Kardashians. We were distracted by the lights of the city…the depthlessness of the internet…the lure of self-gratification.
           
The first is a slap in the face of the strength this country was founded upon, for America has lost its will. At one time we were a nation of hardened people willing to traverse an unforgiving frontier in covered wagons. This was done without any guarantee of prosperity or profit. No one complained. When men went overseas to fight during World War II, women took up the mantles of the dingy and dangerous jobs they left behind. No one complained. Democrat and Republican alike held each other in mourning when John Kennedy was murdered. No one paused.
            Now we refuse to stand together on whether or not homosexuals can marry. The country complains about shit jobs being done by immigrants, which they themselves wouldn’t perform for 10 times the minimum wage. Today, our grease slathered rotund faces can’t find the energy to go to the gym for twenty minutes a day. We’ve lost our will. Our hunger to produce by need has been replaced with gluttony to consume by greed.

            Some would point the finger at religion for all of this. Claiming that belief in varying Gods, or no belief in God at all, has led us to this point. In a certain light that’s true, but not in the way that spending Sunday morning in a church pew is going to cure. Money is God and credit is His savior son. Therefore the truth is a growing number of people (survey says: all of them) worship every day, all day. But make no mistake; their focus isn’t a typical deity. No, America hasn’t lost its belief, merely shifted it. Once upon a time we believed in ourselves, now we believe in self.
            Americans serve themselves. We delude ourselves into satisfying our every whim. It’s just too damn easy. For several generations, we haven’t had to work hard, and those that do invest their time and money into the greatest commodity; themselves.

Finally, in a time where every side has an agenda, one can’t even tell who the bad guy is anymore. Worst of all is no one is even trying. Arguments made up of inaction of political rants fill our space; everyone that once cared or has the power and means to take action has lost interest.
For the past fifty years, America has claimed the Easy Street of the Earth as its residence. We do so as the rest of the world- a world that hasn’t had much of a view (let alone access) to the high and rolling hills on Easy Street- work harder and more efficiently with less.

            But don’t worry we’re Americans - someone else will pick up the slack.
           



Friday, May 11, 2018

Infinitely Entertained


                “In time, you will know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right. Yet to fail all the same.” – Thanos

Rights to Disney/Marvel

The Review           

            To be a proper hero you need a great villain. Someone who is powerful, intelligent, persuasive, maybe some can even be sympathetic to the cause. To sum it up; heroes need a substantial threat, especially the super-powered kind. The viewer (see also reader or player) needs to feel as though there is some sense of danger and suspense surrounding the protagonist for which they are rooting. Avengers: Infinity War accomplishes that in this writer’s view.
            So it’s here I want to write about my experience with Avengers: Infinity War. Now that I have completed enough therapy sessions after watching it to feel that I can discuss it and not need a safe space.
            I won’t go into spoilers here, even though I imagine if you are interested in the MCU you’ve likely already ventured to the theater or at least uncovered details of the plot elsewhere. It’s safe to say,  it was full every emotion;  action on many different fronts, touches of great humor between the characters (Bucky and Rocket to name just one), love, respect, and much, much more.
            You may have guessed by now overall, I loved the movie. I grew up with these heroes in nothing but comic book form and the imagination of a teenager to power them. There is something deeply appealing to me about seeing these heroes literally come to life. It is even greater to see them come together in order to overcome the impossible. It motivates me to press on in the face of adversity. That quite simply is the highest compliment you can pay to any art form (Yes I just referred to a genre where the main characters wear tights as an “art form”), is that it pushes you to be a better human being.

The Haters


            What’s odd to me is I continue to see people on social media express their disdain for the super hero genre as overdone, childish or predictable. And to those people, I would say it is. It’s based on fictional characters that have incredible otherworldly powers, also there’s a guy that shoots arrows. All of them are equally interesting to me because of what they stand for, even the villains. So if you don’t like super hero films I have two pieces of advice: 1) Go back to watching Downton Abbey, and 2) Fuck right off because no one asked for your opinion (Somewhat ironic coming from a blogger, no?).

Where I’d Like to See the Next Movie Go

      I enjoy the Avengers (and many DC characters as well). However, my favorite team is the X-Men, specifically Wolverine. As such, it is my hope that at least in the post credit scene of Avengers 4 we get a sneak peek of the X-Men and/or the Fantastic Four. Although, if Disney/Marvel really wants this writer (and many other fanboys and girls) to completely geek out, a full crossover and meeting of these teams fighting side-by-side with the Avengers would be epic (And trust me I’m not the type of guy to throw around the word epic very often)!

            For now, the opening day for the yet untitled Avengers 4 is slated for May 3, 2019. In the meantime, I’ll keep snapping my fingers in anticipation.

Rights to Disney/Marvel


Sunday, May 6, 2018

DeVos Doesn’t Want Educated Citizenry


Before I begin I will make one thing clear; it is my belief that corruption and politics go together like senators and sex scandals. Further, I do not think that monetary (or other) influence(s) is unique to one party or the other. If political sell outs were baby names nearly every elected official could be called “Aiden”, “Kayden” or “Brayden”.
            Which brings me to the elected official that this piece will highlight; Betsy DeVos.

by AntarcticSpring on DeviantArt

               No wait a second...

 That's better, or at least more accurate.


            The Secretary of Education has over thirty years of teaching experience and has been known throughout her career as a champion of the disenfranchised. She has built her altruistic legacy through her work with non-profit education foundations. In addition, she has given most of her meager earnings to those within our country that are most in need.
            No wait scratch all that, our current Sec of Ed has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Political Science (Emery, 2017). Her own children never attended public schools (Emery, 2017). DeVos is also a bona fide billionaire. However, rest assured she does contribute philanthropically, and although it is hard to pin down, it seems she and her husband Dick are particularly fond of supporting Christian education (Emery, 2017). Finally, she is a proponent of what DeVos herself labels as “school choice” – going as far as saying that the federal government has a monopoly-like grip on education (Weller, 2018). She also has taken steps to eliminate student loan forgiveness. Not coincidentally, she holds an interest in a debt collection agency that focuses on repayment of past due student loans.
            There are of course, concerns with all of these things. Although, what bothers folks (but doesn’t surprise them) is what she’s done since being in office.
            DeVos, someone with little experience in public education, but seemingly at least some business experience continues to support an educational for-profit business model that yields little in the way of results. Many sources have shown that the charter schools that DeVos is so fond of fall behind statistically when it comes to their main goal, educating the nation’s youth. In fact, some studies have indicated that some of these charter schools have amassed a sad graduation rate of only 48% (Hefling, 2017). Further, many of these schools have been labeled as a contemporary form of segregation, reporting that 70% of African-American students attend schools that are nearly all minority students (Weller, 2018).
            These results are part of what makes DeVos’s unwavering support of charter schools all the more mystifying. Typically, those in business look at the benefits of what their product produces- what make the product worthwhile to consumers. In a competitive market (a market with the choices DeVos often touts) this matters because the opposition will be quick to deliver on that which is lacking in order to gain an advantage in the marketplace.
            With education, everything is different. There isn’t truly any competition, there are contracts. There isn’t really value of the DeVos brand over another, instead there are vouchers.  
            DeVos’ maiming of the country’s educational system doesn’t just stop at curling her boney fingers around another crumpled dollar at the expense of an entire generation. She has also repealed no less than 72 federal statutes that serve students with various types of disabilities (Hammerschlag, 2018).  This action is as transparent as it is repulsive. Clearly, accommodating students with disabilities is cancer to the bottom line, DeVos’ bottom line.  
            Beyond the almighty dollar, is there anything else that motivates DeVos? That becomes harder to say. As mentioned earlier she seems to support the idea of religion in schools, and this writer would state that there’s nothing wrong with that, she only needs to make sure those same religious morals accompany her own decision making.
            When it comes to DeVos we have 2 things we can use with which to form opinions on her intent; her history and her actions in office. Each of these has thus far demonstrated her intent is not to educate, but merely profit off of the idea of education.
           


References

Emery, D. (2017, February 7). Meet Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education Nominee.     Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Snopes: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/betsy-devos-education-   secretary/

Hammerschlag, A. (2018, May 5). Betsy DeVos gets standing ovation from Florida graduates after   religious speech. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Arizona Republic:   https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/05/05/betsy-devos-religious-   commencement-speech-earns-standing-ovation-fla-college/583868002/

Hefling, K. (2017, October 8). DeVos champions online charter schools, but the results are poor.   Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/08/education-betsy-   devos-online-charter-schools-poor-results-243556

Weller, C. (2018, February 7). New education secretary Betsy DeVos champions vouchers and   charter  schools — here's what that means. Retrieved May 6, 2018, from Business Insider:   http://www.businessinsider.com/what-are-charter-schools-2017-2



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When it Matters Most


You don’t get to pick your finest hour. However, you do get to chose how you live in moment-to-moment.

            I don’t know who said that, oh wait yes I do it was me! Just now when I wrote that line that said; “You don’t get to pick your finest hour. However, you do get to chose how you live moment-to- moment.” Quote, credit due to me! Ha!
            Anyway, so the social worker in me would love to sit and tell you how you are better served to surround yourself with people that are conducive to your goals and can help you facilitate the positive change in your life that you want to see. In tandem with this effort you are tasked to drop those from your life that seek to deter, distract or are generally unhelpful in your goals.
            But of course, much like the phrase uttered in the Count of Monte Cristo (film) “It’s complicated.” Because what if those that do not hold your best interests at heart are close to you? A wise person (pretty wise at least) once told me “We could play the ‘what if’ game all day.” Meaning, if you are holding on to someone based on the 0.0007% chance they will do the right thing in regards to your welfare, well sir or madam you are sorely mistaken. Statistically you are a fool. Therefore, in real life you are going to be proven a fool.
            Saying you have to get rid of a family member, close friend or confidant can be an anxiety-inducing decision. All that being said, at the end of the day no one is going to watch out for you like you watch out for you.
            “But, but DavidIWriteStuff? Surely, this topic didn’t come to pass by accident?”  - a fan asks (I mean assuming my ‘fans” both exist and can form a decent question).
            No, no it did not. However, my goal is not to call out anyone, but to merely help others who’s bullshit meter may not be as highly refined as mine.
            Of course because I believe in the value of helping people I’ve included this handy chart outlining ways you can sniff out bullshit.
            


            And as far as all the bullshitters out there: If you truly care about someone, you not only care about being there, you make an active effort to care about what is important to them.  If someone can’t do that for you, they simply don’t care.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Job Search Codified


           


            Ahh, it’s that time once again. Time to brush the dust off the old resume and start pounding the pavement, shaking hands and smiling my best smile all in the hopes that I can earn a living like a typical adult.

            But it’s really none of that stuff anymore, is it? You don’t have the luxury of meeting someone (anyone?) face-to-face in order to show off your personality. You have the luxury of “saving time” (or saving someone time) by doing everything via the modern personal computer (Hold applause, no really).  
            Thanks to the advent of the internet, I’ll edit my resume electronically. All the while keeping a keen eye peeled to make sure my key words match their those used in the job description at a rate of 80% or more. From there, before I even meet a prospective hiring manager, I will answer a 100 question “personality test” that basically gauges whether or not I’m a sociopath, likely to steal office supplies, or generally be an unproductive waste of space once hired. And in my favorite part of the process, I’ll get to upload my resume and then on the very next screen, fill in each section of my resume in overly complex little boxes that require the most minute details. If I miss anything, or have any typos, I get to see that glowing red box of idiocy if formatted even the slightest bit outside the website’s parameters.
            I can chose to check boxes that tell a company my ethnicity, military and disability status, or I can keep it a secret. Because maybe I’m afraid I’m too Caucasian, or not Caucasian enough (Just what the in the blue hell is “Caucasian” anyway)?
            Luckily, if I don’t get the job, I’ll get that important hope-crushing email that proudly declares “We have decided to pursue other candidates”. Worse yet, I may never hear anything...ever. In fact, I am still waiting on that mortgage broker gig from 2001.
            Speaking of that, how many high quality candidates, hard working folks, are lost in the information algorithm that is the online job hunt? Do you feel like you’ve missed out on jobs, careers even, because you checked the “wrong” answer in response to a question? Or simply the computer program couldn’t exactly reconcile your qualifications with that of the position you were applying for? I know I often do.
            It has been said that looking for a job is in effect a full time job. And often times it does feel like a full time job, minus the pay, human interaction, and personal sense of satisfaction or accomplishment.



Monday, April 16, 2018

COD WWII: Is The War Machine Broken?

Copyright: Activision/Sledgehammer Games


Ah the Call of Duty franchise, where adults and children alike can noob tube, camp, quick scope and rage quit all for the sake of unlocking that sweet, sweet camo on a gun you won’t ever use again, immediately after unlocking said camo.   


            I have been a fan of the COD series going back to COD: World at War. Meaning, I have spent my hard-earned money on nearly every iteration of these games since November 2008. As of this writing that makes nearly a decade of getting panic knife’d, wall bang’d, or some other such bullshit.  


            And you know what, every time I say “Never again COD, you crossed the line. I’m out.” The very next year, almost without exception I find myself eagerly waiting to download the newest head-glitching, spawn-trapping maps, and what is usually a solid campaign mode.
            About now you are probably asking yourself; “Geesh David, jump on the COD hate-bandwagon, go ahead it’s what all the cool kids are doing.” That’s not what I mean to do here, because really, I love the games, most of them anyway. I really do! In fact, I have been revisiting COD WWII and playing the latest update, along with The War Machine DLC, and have been enjoying it.
            From camping as a noob in BO1 with the Olympia, to going on a 30-0 run on BO3 in TDM. Both memories but a smile on my face, though obviously for different reasons.   
            However, it seems we have reached a point where COD has lost its luster for a lot of reasons. And rather than hate on a franchise I love, I think I’d like to try and explain why.
            1) Increased In-Game Competition
            For starters, no one likes a game they aren’t good at. If you are horrible at something the odds of you sticking with it without some measurable sense of improvement isn’t very likely. Winning and doing well (whatever your definition of that might be) is a big piece of what makes any game enjoyable.
            Basically, if I am new to COD, and spawn in only to repeatedly become cannon-fodder for more experienced players, that probably isn’t going to fit my definition of fun. Because the casual players have been recently/consistently migrating to other titles, the only ones that left are those that have a higher skill level. Meaning, us COD fans have been thinning the herd when it comes to noobs each and every year.
            Couple this with the fact that as a longtime COD player what once was a “good” game for me back in the WAW days, would prompt me to Meh myself back to playing Far Cry 5 by today's standards.  A 15-8 TDM might not be awful, but it doesn’t give me that endorphin rush of dropping 20 answered kills before unleashing all my score streaks (or killstreaks) on the unsuspecting opposition.
            Simply put, the bar is higher now. If I feel like my last game wasn’t as good as a previous one- or even compared to a previous COD title- I might wrongly correlate that to the game straying too far from its original formula, a futuristic setting, or whatever excuse I come up with.
            2) Repetition, Repetition, Repetition  
            You know who I feel sorry for is all those fan boys who buy Madden every year. I mean $60 for a roster update…Oh ya, I’m a COD fan, what’s your point?
            Land, air, water, nighttime, daytime, snow, rain, 2 lanes, 3 lanes, 5 lanes, sniper towers, secret passages for flankers, tiny maps, big maps. There’s only so much you can do. In a lot of ways every year COD gives us basically a dozen or so maps each year and they splice in different guns, character abilities or what have you, and by and large that’s fine to hold some people over and have them invest in the game for another year. But if you are like me and you are honest with yourself, running wild on the other team just doesn’t have the same feeling it did back in let’s say MW2.
            3) The Impossibility of Giving Consumers What They “Want”
            The first guy that tasted Coca-Cola had no idea that he wanted a cola. In fact he didn’t know what the hell cola was because it was a brand new beverage!
            Realistically most of us don’t know what we want until we’ve already tried it.
            To further this notion, most of us think we want something until we get what we asked for and it falls short of our expectations. For years Activision gave us the same rinse, repeat formula, until people starting complaining it was getting stale. Activision tried to deliver something new, in the form of Advanced Warfare (and later Infinite Warfare) and most of the COD community responded by taking a big ole’ creamy dump on their efforts.  
            The fact is no one knows what the next big thing in gaming is until it’s already here.

            It is these three (interrelated) things that I believe have given rise to other games like Fortnight, Overwatch, PUBG etc. It is simply the more casual fans wanting something new and different. Not because COD “sucks” or as the haters love to chant “COD is dead”.         
The War Machine Itself
Copyright Sledgehammer Games

            On the bright side, concerning the titular DLC/update for COD WWII, I believe Sledgehammer Games has definitely moved in the right direction, the pace of the game has increased; the new maps don’t seem as hopeless if you are not a rusher with a PPSH, and the changes to the divisions offer a greater variety of customization in accordance with your play style. Overall, the multiplayer feels much more fluid and “easier” than it did previously.  
            If you haven’t jumped on in awhile, I highly recommend you give it another try. Especially, if you are a noob, because I really need to get my K/D up.



* I rented COD: Ghosts from a Redbox, played it for a day and returned it. Moved slower than my bowels after a week on a low fiber diet.  
Ɨ My brother hooked me up with a beta access code for Infinite Warfare. The game play was so frenetic I was diagnosed with ADHD after playing 3 matches of TDM.




Sunday, April 15, 2018

(I'm Not) Valedictorian



            Sadly, I was not chosen as valedictorian and even with a 4.0 GPA. No one tapped me on the shoulder to ask me to speak at my upcoming graduation.  And no, I am not here to complain about that at all. What I thought would be interesting though is to write a speech as though I were addressing a teeming mass of young adults on the cusp of turning those tassels
            So ya, no one asked me to do it but yet here it is anyway…



            Hello fellow Sun Devils. Hello class of 2018. HELLO TO THE FUTURE!
            (Hold for applause)
            Ya know two years ago I gave up a lot to go back to school. I gave up seniority, money (Oh so much money!) and comfort of the known.
            However, what I found was much greater. I found my purpose. I found meaning in my life, and what I believe to be the lives of so many others.
            What is that meaning you ask? Helping those that need it.
            For you see, I have come to realize that not every addict is hopeless, not every homeless person is on the streets because they chose to be, and not every person with money is happy. The strange part about it is, inherently, I already knew all of that, it was as though I just needed to prove it to myself.
            And the beautiful thing about this is that standing here today; all of you have helped me. Because you see, a great deal of my cynical world view was fueled by the notion that no one else cared, so why should I?
            What I have witnessed during my time at ASU (hold for applause) is a generation of individuals who desire a change for the better. This has given me- once the most cynical of cynics on the earth- hope.

            The strength and determination that all of you have shown, and have shown me, has been my fuel when I thought I had no more fuel in the tank. It has reminded me that the evening world news is not necessarily representative of the world itself. 
            We social workers are taught not to give advice, however I am going to break that maxim just slightly for this one occasion…
             As you go out into the world following today, as you serve the populations that you hold dear- whether they be the elderly, those without shelter, the differently-abled, those in recovery, distressed and oppressed peoples- or simply those that have encountered a rough portion of road in life, please do one thing:
            Think critically as an individual, but think for the greater good.  
            Thank you! We now return you to your regularly scheduled graduation ceremony!


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