Thursday, September 15, 2011


A Static-Lands Saga story.  As always for the new reader:   This also relates to a few of the previous stories, most especially "The Last Dream." 

Warnings and Notes:  This story revolves around a suicide and contains many of my thoughts about the subject.  In fact, I wrote it when I was experiencing a depressive-low.  I'm sure I've noted it previously on this blog, but in case I haven't, I am (functionally) mentally ill.  This is the kind of story that cannot be written by someone with a perfectly healthy mind.  It also contains some graphically violent imagery.  Potentially triggering, so I am giving fair caution.

I also play with the concept of reincarnation with this, which unlike the Heaven/Hell concepts also explored here, isn't one I'm intimately famliar with in regards to its use in actual religions (in other words, I know a little about Buddhism, Hinduism and other spiritualities, but not enough to "get it right" with thier concepts) - and I don't try.  I play loose with the rebirth idea in the same manner as I do when I write my "Legend of Zelda" fan fictions in which I employ it, as in, it doesn't reflect anything but my own world. In this story, it's my world- my rules, so if I actually do, somehow, "get it right" - it's incidental.  This is fiction - very fiction.     

The Static-Lands Saga

Sen signed his name with a flourish on the last page of paperwork.  Applying for a job had been lengthier.  The lady he’d met earlier stepped into the room and asked him if he was ready. 

“I got no next of kin,” Sen said. 

“Surely you didn’t come to this city alone,” Dr. Dodge commented, “You look too young for that.” 

“Ma died of the Shines and my dad came to one of these clinics.  I listed friends who might claim me.  Iffin’ they don’t, do what you want with me.” 

“Good, we intend to,” Dodge said, “You may prove useful to our studies.  You may even save lives.” 

“Yeah, of the kinda folk you wanna live – not the kinda folk you don’t wanna die.”

“Precisely.  I am surprised at how rational you are.  Very few people come to us for the specific service in a rational state.  You aren’t even shedding any tears, yet you seem to fully understand what we’re about to do.  The physiology of your kind is identical to that of full human beings, aside from the obvious features.” 

Sen followed the woman down a hall brightly lit from windows, another reminder that this country was not his own, even though he’d lived in it most of his life.  Fortissimo, the principal city in the Land-of-Always-Day, had driven the young Ilkhan to his decision.  It was a hard place to live for one of his kind – his many “kinds,” really.  Had he grown up and lived day-to-day somewhere in the Land-of-Always-Night, perhaps he would have not decided to take the path he was following.

His hooves clacked upon the cold tile floor.  Everything was excruciatingly white, like a typical medical building.  This was not a typical medical building. 

“We are going to be running an experiment during the procedure,” Dr. Dodge said, tucking a stray lock of red-blond hair back into her bun. 

“What kind of experiment?” Sen asked, blowing a stray black hair out of his face, “Just came here for you to kill me, no frills.”

“We will be placing a device upon your head,” Dodge said coolly, “We will also inject a few medications into your system other than the standard ones.  We are studying the various things that happen to the brain at the moment of death.”

“What kinda stuff will that do?” Sen asked curiously, slightly worried.  The reason why he’d chosen to come to this clinic was because doing the deed himself would potentially leave him in a lot of pain.  Fortissimo’s “passing clinics” promised a quick and painless passage.   

“This will sound kooky, but… perceptions of afterlife,” Dodge explained. 

“You’re a Valien.  You ain’t supposed to believe in none of that stuff.”

“I don’t… and we don’t, but we’ve come to understand, in our profession, that many people seem to dream before they finally, fully die.  It’s very interesting, actually, to hear the babbling of our clients.  What is it that you believe, Mr. Sen?”

“The same stuff most of my people near the boarders believe – spirit-lands all the way from the Barrens to the Celestial Forest and all these ghostly points in between.  I hear that suicides don’t get to the Celestial Forest.  That’s okay. Even if I wind up in the Barrens, it’ll be okay with me, ‘cause I’ll no longer be a burden.  I had a dream, not long ago – a vivid dream. In it, I’d died an’ was all laid out on the forest floor. I was watchin’ myself, like I was a ghost or somethin’.  The scavengers came along – dogs and vultures and the like, eatin’ on me and bein’ full an’ happy.  It was then that I realized my body was worth more to this world than my soul, mind, whatever you wanna call it ever was.  Even if I go to that gray place, or even the cold black nothing your folk have in mind, it’ll be okay.” 

“We find that people have visions of either pleasure or horror, depending upon a number of factors,” Dodge said, “The nice visions that we catch rantings of would seem to resemble the after-land of one of our obsolete religions, a land called ‘Ciel.’  The unpleasant rantings would seem to resemble the opposite of that place in the old thought, ‘The Grand Prison.’  It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference were someone’s from or what they believed, although some of you Ilkhan rant about your superstitions, creatures coming to get you and so forth.  In any case, it is all rather fascinating.”

“Does anyone say they just see nothing?” 

“Sometimes.  Sometimes, it’s just blackness coming to get them, like blacking out.  We’ve studied that, too, and it’s what I expect to see when it comes my time.” 

“I don’t suppose you’ll take a clinic.”

“I might if I get sick or become crippled – am no longer in the favor of Materia-Machina, as we say.  I doubt I’ll ever come to one over poverty, but if it happens, that, too.” 

“I never was able to make much money, hold a decent job.  It’s ‘cause I’m an Ilkhan, but more than that, I guess.  Some folks say that even some of my kind are in Machina’s favor, but I was never strong enough.”

Dodge nodded.  “You are a rare one, you know, and quite brave for this.  You understand your own lack of value and have chosen to sacrifice for the good of your society.” 

“Bravey’s got nothin’ to do with it, lady,” Sen answered.  “I’m pretty darn sure this may be the most cowardly thing I’ve ever done.  A friend of mine said I should be brave an’ live just to spite the world, but I can’t. I just can’t bear up.  He told me once about how his people see a pot that’s been broken and mended as being better than a new pot.  Then I thought – pretty sure I said to him outright – ‘What happens when a pot’s been broken into so many shards an’ dust ya can’t fix it an’ it leaks no matter what ya do?’  He told me I missed the point, but I’m sure I’m just too broken.  People here sweep up the broken pieces of a smashed pot and put them in the trash.” 

“Uh huh.”

“I know I don’t think like normal folk. It’s why I’m too broken, not worth fixin’.  Best to be quick, stop wastin’ stuff that can go to others.” 

Dodge opened a door and gestured to a lounge-type chair with leather belts on the arms and over the middle.  It was covered in sheets that were severely stained, but looked like they had been washed and that attempts at bleaching had been made on them that ultimately failed. A steel tray on a stand with instruments stood beside the chair as well as a strange device that resembled a headband with small, thin nails lining it – if headbands were made of steel.  Another doctor was there, a man.  His hair and his coat were like the rest of the room – very white.  Even his skin was quite pale. 

“This is Dr. Fredricks,” Dodge introduced. 

“What’s with the belts and all the sheets?” Sen asked. 

“The belts will keep you still and keep you sliding to the floor as you go limp,” Dr. Fredricks answered.  “The sheeting is because, well, when many people die, they leave quite a mess in terms of things relaxing.  It is for our benefit, to make cleanup easier.”

“What happens after all that?” Sen wondered.

Dodge gave him a gentle nod, “We have a cold storage in the back.” 

Sen shivered a little bit as he stared at the chair.  Once he sat down in it, there was no going back.  Did he really want to do this?  Up came a feeling that he often had; this horrible feeling of needing escape – one of those impulses that lead him to imagining scratching his own skin off with his fingernails or any convenient sharp object.  The last time he’d had that feeling, he’d torn up one of his arms with a sewing needle.  He always felt so stupid for having these impulses and images.  From what he’d learned from other people and society, normal people didn’t think thoughts like that.  Instead of alleviating pain, actions like that only reminded him of how abnormal – and therefore inferior – he was.

The deer legs and antlers that differentiated him from “real-humans” had nothing on those feelings of having a sub-par mind.  He walked over to the chair, sat down, laid his legs out and tried to get as comfortable as possible among the wadded sheets.  “Just hurry up,” he said, closing his eyes.  

The doctors strapped him in and he felt the strange sensation of metal placed over his forehead and temples, a careful fit over his antlers and behind his ears.  He relaxed as something was injected into a vein and a warm sensation overcame him.  He felt needles prick the skin of his scalp and the strange sharp sensation of electricity sparking against his sweat.  He smelled both – not a burning aroma, but that indescribable odor peculiar to electrical activity. 

“Measurin’ my brain?” he asked in a slur.  He felt like his mouth was full of smooth stones. 

“The study has begun,” Dr. Dodge said. 

A burning, sharp pain shot through Sen’s entire body.  His skin was stretching and pulling away from him.  He looked down at his arms and his legs. The skin was coming off him of its own accord, as if he were being skinned by an invisible knife. 

“What’s going on?” he yelped, panicking against the straps that held him firm.  He watched helplessly as his legs became tight pinkish muscles and white cartilage stretched over the long bones, washed in deep red from the opened veins snaking throughout.

“You are experiencing the first stages of the Grand Prison,” Dr. Fredricks said calmly.  Sen detected a hint of…glee? his voice. 

“Why am I going somewhere I don’t even believe in?  I ain’t heard of it ‘till today!” 

“Because we’re manipulating your visions, dear,” Dr. Dodge explained.  “The device we placed upon you is not for measuring, as we told you. We’ve gathered enough information from our studies.  We have learned how to manipulate dying dreams.  We can give you the ‘eternity’ we see fit – whatever we want, whatever we think you deserve.”

“Why?”  Sen’s cry was cracked, weak and desperate, issuing forth from a throat too sore and a heart too frightened to be anything but a pathetic plea.   

“Because we can,” she answered, “and because you believed in nonsense, because you were not strong enough to gain the favor of our Materia-Machina, and because you are of an inferior kind.  You lived your life as a beast who did not know its place.  You existed.  You existed at all, that is why – but mostly, because we can.” 

Dr. Dodge had metamorphosed into a horrific creature with gray, rotting flesh and yellow fingernails that resembled thick talons.  Dr. Fredrick appeared to have turned into some kind of a reptile covered in bulging sores and puss that glistened over his scales.  They both forced a pot to his mouth.  It looked like it had been cracked and mended with grout. Sen felt an incredible lurching urge in his stomach and emptied its contents into the pot – only for it to be forced back into his mouth until he drank it down. 

He closed his eyes tight and then opened them to find himself standing up in a misty gray void that darkened into a surrounding abyss of black. His skin was back on his body and the pain of having had it removed subsided.  The taste of vomit, however, remained on his tongue as well as grit and squishy bits behind his back teeth. He gulped hard.      

Invisible claws tore over his chest, his arms, his back.  The young Ilkhan watched chunks of juicy flesh torn from him.  He felt something bow his head and cut off his antlers.  They clattered to the floor before him, cut clean as if by a spectral axe.  This was the greatest shame for his people, or at least the tribe his family had come from.  The antlers were the pride of an Ilkhan, especially for a young stag like him. 

He felt an ache in his middle and looked down to find parts of him falling out.  The organs still pulsed and worked.  His nose was assaulted by a particular gutty smell – something that went beyond the smell of bodily wastes or the smell of blood, but was something of a slimy, gooey nature, as much as such things could have a scent.  He had experienced the odor of an eviscerated animal before, and so he recognized it.  Sen was surprised that he could remain standing and that he could concentrate on things such as scents, but such was the strangeness of whatever place he was in.   

This wasn’t like the Barrens his parents had told him about.  According to the myths of many of the tribes of Ilkhan on the borderlands of the Land-of-Always-Night and those that lived, as his family had, in the Land-of-Always-Day, some people went to an unpleasant place after death, a lonely, gray land.  There were some tribes of Ilkhan that believed all went to a similar place, regardless of the deeds and the honor of a life lived.  According to what his parents had told him when he was a child, those with good hearts received better – either ascension into the Celestial Forest, a place of peace and beauty beyond description, or a chance to get there, either though ghostly wanderings or rebirth into a chance to live a nobler life.   People who went to the Barrens inflicted it upon themselves with their petty hearts, but it was not generally thought of as an inescapable place or as a place of profound and acute torture – only as a lonely land where a person might torture themselves if they did not find the way out.

If he was in the “Grand Prison,” it was decidedly a different thing.  The pain was such that he didn’t even bother pondering whether or not he deserved it. 

“Here!” A voice said out of the darkness.  “Pull yourself together, boy, and walk this way.” 

Sen’s ears perked in confusion.  The voice did not sound like either of the doctors.  It was a kind voice, almost playful.  Not knowing what else to do, he began gathering what he could of his broken body into his hands and clutching it to his middle.  He was surprised at the ebbing pain and at the fact that his torn flesh seemed to be mending itself.  He stepped forward, through the mists and noticed that the weight of his antlers had returned to his head.  He saw a pair of diamonds in the dark. 

“That’s it,” the voice said, “Easy now.  Calm yourself.  You’re safe now.” 

Sen, fully mended, dressed and out of pain squinted in the darkness. The darkness turned progressively grayer but never turned to light.  It was a pleasant gloaming, like the twilight he’d seen once on a trip to the Gloaming Lands, or like the light of an overcast day. 

The diamonds glittered, like twin white lights, sometimes shifting subtly into other colors, but always coming back to that clear white light, silvered at the edges.  Out of the foggy air stepped a dog – medium-sized, black and shaggy.  Its ears were floppy and its nose was long.  It looked half-wet.  Its eyes were never visible as eyes – they remained shining. 

Sen smiled and knelt, offering his hand out to the animal.  The dog did not approach him, but spoke; “I am not a pet,” it said. 

“You spoke!” Sen exclaimed. 

“Of course I did.  Is it really unexpected?  You know the legends of your folk.” 

Sen stood up.  “You are one of the Guides, then.” 

“Do you remember which one was the dog?” the dog said, wagging his tail slightly. 

“Reincarnation, I think.” 


“But I was just in…. an’ figurin’ the way I died…Iffin’ I’m really, fully dead now?” 

“Silly boy!” the dog barked, running to him and putting his paws on his thighs playfully.  His tail wagged back and forth as if he were expecting Sen to throw a ball for him, then he sat back down and cocked his head.  “You’ve got too soft a heart for the Barrens and not enough lingering resentment to become a ghost.”

“I was in a horrible place,” Sen said. 

“I know,” the dog said compassionately.  “It’s been overridden.”


“Your good heart is being protected.  The cruel hearts cannot touch it any longer.” 

“Where am I?”

“Between, but keep in mind, boy, this may be as much a function of your own mind as the other state was.”

“But I’m dead, right?” 

“Maybe yes and maybe no.  I would say that you are, but I may be a figment of your imagination, a function of your poor brain protecting itself after being put under terrible stress.  Either way, what your ‘good’ doctors wished to do to you has been overridden.” 

“So, I am seein’ the dog that guides folk to reincarnatin’, and you’re sayin’ you might be real and maybe not.”



“What do you know in your heart to be true of your life?” 

“That I screwed up?” 

“Everyone screws up.  What is true about the end of your life, as you know it?” 

“I went to the clinic an’ told ‘em to take my life. I didn’t want it anymore.” 

“You did not expect to reach the Celestial Forest with that.”

“I didn’t.  Didn’t expect you, either.”

“I am here because you failed to learn a crucial lesson.  I am here because you let the people who would destroy you win in the worst way possible.  You conceded defeat and destroyed yourself.  You may not have done it by your own hand, but you know you let the bastards win.” 

Sen gaped, surprised at the language employed by what was supposed to be a spiritual guardian. 

“Each of us are honest.  The Lady of Chains and the Golden Stag are not much for conversation, but the Cat and I enjoy brutal honesty.” 

“So, seein’ as I chose an exit, I gotta go back through this whole life thing all over again.”

“Yep,” the dog said as he stood, stretched and yawned.  “I’ve no control over it except as a guide, but I suspect the next time will be easier on you.  I do know that you will go to the past – that is, what you know to be the ‘past’ right now.” 

“I’m bein’ sent through history? How, wha? Ain’t I supposed to live anew in the future? Thought it was the way it goes…” 

“Time is not how you think of it,” the dog answered.  “It has its own substance and patterns.  You may have read the gravestone of yourself at some point in your life, or read a book written by yourself.  Is that not an interesting possibility?”

“Definitely, but weird, weird, weird, weird.  Lead on, I guess.  I’m just glad to be away from the horror. The docs were runnin’ some kinda experiment on my brain… why would they put me through pain when they just want folk like me gone quick an’ clean?”

“Because you disagreed with them,” the dog said bluntly.  “You were of a people who disagreed with theirs, or so they perceived.  Some cannot stand not being right in everyone’s eyes.  Others cannot stand the existence of people different than they are or that they otherwise do not approve of.  Even when someone they have a distaste for is utterly powerless, human cruelty knows no bounds.  For some, merely inflicting pain upon others brings joy – a sense of superiority, perhaps.  I wish that you had kinder ‘passage-assisting’ doctors. Those two were just especially horrible.” 

“They said something about the Grand Prison bein’ somethin’ people once believed in an’ don’t anymore.” 

“Yes.  The current people that dominate daylands wiped out all who held to that, and to the Ciel - that concept of that is not unlike the Celestial Forest.  The people who believed in the Prison were of mixed opinions on it.  Some thought people could escape it, like the way some think of the Barrens. Most thought it was forever, but most didn’t wish it on folks.  Some did, don’t get me wrong – human cruelty knows no bounds.  Most that believed in it sought to warn people away from it.  Even some that believed it existed most ardently hated it, and saw it merely as a cruel fact they could not change.”

“Seems like it woulda hurt a lotta people – even iffin’ it didn’t turn out the truth for them.”

“It is a painful concept.” 

“What I don’t understand is – them doctors, they didn’t even believe in it! Thought it was nonsense, but the lady – she was in control….they… they wanted to try to send me to the Grand Prison though they didn’t believe it at all! Why’d someone wish a torture-chamber they think is bunk on someone they never met? Why’d they wish it on anyone?” 

“Bitter hearts.”

“That’s gotta be different than the folk who just believed in it and didn’t want folk to go! I mean, one kinda people’s gotta be outta their minds with fear an’ grief, but people like my doctors are… sick!” 

“Well, when the wish is not a throwaway phrase or an idle threat, but capable of being implemented, yes.” 

“They wanted me to die in pain…. All that blood and guts I thought I saw to be the last thing I felt and all I’d know.”

“Yes.  A Grand Prison, implemented, made as ‘real’ as they can.  I think your doctors Dodge and Fredricks would have been considered valuable to the Valien army during the purges and the wars, though Dodge is too young to have been a part of that time.  Quite a lot of torture went on, though it was physical.” 

“And I’m to be reborn into such a world.” 

“Yes.  All the living in the world must know cruelty, whether they are on the supply end or the receiving end of it.  One must do what one can to live nobly.” 

Sen walked with the dog through the mists.  “Well, iffin’ this is real at all. Maybe I’ll walk here forever or only think I’m bein’ born somewhere’s somewhen’s when it’s all just me dyin,’ an’ nothin’ else.”

“You wouldn’t be able to process anything else if there was nothing to process, anyway.”

“I’m glad for the override, then. Thanks.” 

“Know the good in your heart and try not to let the bastards win this time.”


Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 Thoughts

Some 9/11 Thoughts

Maybe this is an obligatory thing for a person who has the soapbox that is a blog, I don’t know.  I’m not really planning on doing anything commemorative (in fact, if I don’t get some grocery shopping in before I need to go to work, I think I’d like to play videogames and pretend the world doesn’t exist for a while). 

Ten years ago, as I recall, I was living with my parents in Arizona and was going to a two-year college trying to finish up an associate’s degree in graphic design.  I had just been in and dropped out of the U.S. Air Force the year before.  (I joined up because I really wanted a further education than what I could afford/get money for – you would be surprised at how few scholarships exist for people aspiring to arts degrees, at least back then).  I slipped through the cracks regarding grants – wasn’t poor *enough* to qualify for any, plus my only “minority” status was “female,” which didn’t seem to count for much unless I was a mother returning to school, which I wasn’t.  Friends of mine had joined the military, which helped them with their educational funding and got them away from their families – and I was desperate to do both at the time.  I wound up being discharged out of basic training because of mental un-fitness – I couldn’t take the conformity and it led to things and anyway they decided I wasn’t a good match.  So much for my patriotism, but I felt like I’d dodged a bullet.  (Worried for my friends, though).

Anyway, I’d awakened to a day when I’d expected to go to my classes – Multimedia and Graphic Design II – I remember them, rolled over in bed wanting to get more sleep. My mother, who was watching the morning news on television in the living room (she was an insufferable morning person while I was the opposite), told me something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  I thought it was some sort of weird freak accident with some small plane piloted by some idiot doing something stupid and went back to bed, figuring I’d hear a stupid story later on the evening news.  I wanted more SLEEP before having to make the 45 minute journey (we lived in the middle of nowhere) to class, DAMMIT. 

Then I hear someone (Mom, Dad, I forget who, think it was Mom) shout from the living room “THEY GOT THE PENTAGON!”  Okay, that got me out of bed – zipping out of bed to see what was going on.  Learned that the plane that hit the WTC was a fully-loaded passenger jet, heard stuff about people jumping out of the tower (I felt sick), saw the other jet plow into the other tower on live TV and said “I think the other one just got hit” and my Mom said “I think they were just replaying footage of the one tower,” and it turned out I was right.  My older brother was there and said something about how I should be glad that I didn’t make it in the military because there’s definitely going to be a war now and everyone on the bases was no doubt in lockdown-panic mode.  I remember my Dad’s commentary on the Pennsylvania plane that was still in the air but known to be piloted by the terrorists, how it was going to be shot down and whatever happened, all those poor people on board knew they were going to die. 

I wound up finding out schools were still in session, so I went to class.  I avoided my usual driving route, which would have taken me past Luke Air Force base, and took a long way. (As I recall, I was driving a white, ’91 Chevy S-10 at the time.  My guy and I have humorous photo of the beast being mock-destroyed by me with a shovel, taken before we set out for my move to Pennsylvania because that little truck caused me more problems… anyway…)  I remember having my regular (rock, alternative) radio station be nothing but news, so I’d turned to the Christian-rock station I used to listen to religiously (har, har), that I hadn’t listened to in a long time (despite still being a regular churchgoer then).  Said station was running a lot of its regular programming, as the announcer in a break said that they wanted to be a break for people from all the horrible news for people who needed such a break.  I can’t remember whether I’d turned away from it because I got sick of the platitudinous music or just because, at the time, I was more in the mood to be a news-junkie than to escape. 

The population at my college was sparse, but classes went as usual.  My Multimedia teacher turned the radio he had in his classroom off and we all learned how to do channel-selection in Photoshop or something and worked on our projects.  I can’t remember whether my Graphic Design II teacher scolded me for being late to class again or if she was surprised at me being uncharacteristically on-time.  As I was driving home, I thought about finding the nearest blood bank before hearing on the radio that they were only looking for the rare and especially useful types of blood.  I’d known from donating blood at drives in the past that I had the most common and least-useful kind there is, which is good for me if I ever need blood, but is not as good for my helping others, apparently. 

I remember going home and trying to take a nap because I wanted to escape the world.  I also remember going to a fandom message board – Team Rocket Headquarters (I enjoyed Poke’mon at the time and liked the villains from the anime) and talking about things and seeing if people there were okay since there were a lot of East Coasters at the board and the founder was a New Yorker.   I seem to remember friends at the message board all being okay.  My guy now owns the remains of TRHQ2 right now, but I am loathe to go back there because I consider my time spent there to be when I was in my stupid-era and I’m not sure I can ever make up for all the stupid things I said to people there.   I also remember hearing on the news that evening that a poor Sikh man in Phoenix got shot to death in his store by a guy who thought he was Arab/Muslim and was trying to “avenge America.” 

I was far away from it all.  I lived in Arizona – I didn’t personally know anyone who was involved – no deaths touched me.  In fact, I remember a few days after the fact AIMing with a friend I had at the time who introduced me to her other friend who’s father was missing and I basically got yelled at and told I was trash because I was alive and apparently shouldn’t have been living because I wasn’t suffering as much as she was and was just some stupid Arizonan living far away.  Then I felt horrible for daring to be alive.

Too many things have changed for me in the last ten years for me to even want to list, but some things haven’t.  Back then, I was a 22 year old failure still trying in life and reaching for dreams just out of my reach.  Today, I am a 32 year old failure still trying in life and reaching for dreams just out of my reach (though I’m with someone who supports my dreams and is also reaching for his own).  I did get my associate’s degree and worked at places as a graphic designer, but it was all short lived because of other issues in my life.  I’m living in the East now.  My political views have gone from leaning Right to leaning Left (not just because of the move), though I remain the fierce Independent that I always was – I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer. As far as 9/11 issues… I’ve been all over the board, alternately patriotic and pacifistic, so whatever view you’ve got, I’ve probably had it. 

The one thing I’ve learned, perhaps, is a sad lesson.  It is this:  That sometimes/often, a tragedy isn’t about the victims so much as it is about symbolism.  Sometimes, the victims might even get screwed by the symbolism.  I have seen 9/11 *specifically* be used to promote and justify everything from torture to selling stuff.  I have to wonder how many people who died/were hurt in the events, if they could speak/were listened to would be angry over being made martyrs for causes they never believed in. 

A while back, there was a series of boards/communities I used to go to – the base of the community was fandom/geekery but there were serious boards. I don’t go there anymore (haven’t even given them a nostalgia-look in over two years) because I just never belonged there in the first place.  I remember, however, having sympathy for one person there who talked of 9/11.  She was a New Yorker who’d seen the smoke and stuff happening and she did a little rant about how she was so sick of the Southern/Republican/Inbred Redneck/Conservative “types” she hated using 9/11 for their own agendas or even mourning the victims because “These were the people who were calling us all Soddomites on 9/10.”   Whether she is right or wrong in general attitude, it doesn’t matter, she had a point. 

I remember reading a news article on Muslim-American victims of 9/11, people who weren’t terrorists, but were people just going about their jobs and how their families have suffered and struggled to get their death benefits and to get them properly memorialized and so forth….

And then there’s the thing that comes up often – the ardent anti-theist crowd who probably have been upset that we haven’t yet created a world where we’ve Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions for a long time using 9/11 as a soapbox.  (Note I didn’t say “atheist” – I think there’s a difference between atheist and anti-theist, though the distinction isn’t always made).  It’s not like they don’t have a point, really.  People taking something that is essentially subjective, intangible and unproven/beyond science and treating it like an objective that direct-orders folks to do bad stuff through a human who claims a greater touch with the subjective-thing is pretty damn scary.  I can understand the perspective of “We’d all be safer if we just got rid of it all” (in the same way as I can understand the perspective of people who’d think we’d all be safer and better in morals if we “All just followed the one subjective thing we know to be right!” ). While their point is understood, some of them (both on the Internet and prominent speakers) --- it’s just, something in me wants to shout “It wasn’t just non-believers who died in those towers!!!!”  The way I see some very angry people rant about the whole thing on the Internet, you’d think they thought that none of their “enemy,” were wiped out.  Maybe some people think that they’re Crusaders (har, har) for them, as well, on the grounds that “even though they were among the worthless religious, religion killed them.”  However, in the end, I don’t think that many of those dead would have wanted to be martyrs *against their own faiths,* which they probably felt to be an important part of themselves, at least not any more than an atheist would want his/her death to be used to promote a religious soapbox.

Hell, it doesn’t even matter if people who think, for world peace and the FUTURE, that we “all need to be atheists/Christians/Republicans/Rastafarian accountants/etc.” are actually *right* - the point is, that the people who *weren’t already* when they died probably didn’t want to be martyrs for such a cause.      

Those are pretty much my thoughts on the whole thing.  Life was crazy back then, life is crazy now, a lot has changed and hasn’t changed… and, in the end, if I ever die in a terrorist attack or other mass tragedy, if you can, please at least try not to make me a martyr for a cause I don’t believe in.  For the record, my politics are always in flux, so what they are at any given time is anyone’s guess, DO NOT TORTURE ANYONE FOR MY SAKE, EVER.   I’m not “churchy” anymore, but a basic faith is important to me (even if it might be the thing that makes me worthless), and any wars fought in my name should be fought with foam weapons made by NERF.  I know none of this is possible in such a harsh, violent, selfish world, though. 

I do, however persist in dreaming of a world where there is no killing and all wars are fought with NERF swords where victory is determined by whichever side is the first to capture the live miniature poodle that’s been unleashed upon the battlefield.   I’ll continue to dream.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Random Anime Recommendations (for people who like animation that's not for kids)

Recently, I read an article online about people's perceptions of God, wherein this trope was brought up:   - The article mentioned a study in which participants were asked to "draw a picture of God" and, reportedly, the people who drew a bearded old man were children and atheists while adult believers typically drew something very abstract or nothing at all. (I have to think that *some* clever atheists drew nothing at all, too, but that wasn't cited). 

I might have drawn the King of All Cosmos from "Katmari Damacy" just to be cheeky...  (I did once write a short fan fiction where a guy dies and expects to meet God only to meet the King of All Cosmos and have his mind spin.  He was subsequently sent back to Earth to roll a Katamari for eternity).  For those who don't know what I'm talking about - it's a bizarre and wonderfully addictive video game, look it up.  The King is hilarious.

Anyway, considering some of the stuff I run into online regarding debates about the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything and who may or may not be running the show, I sometimes wonder if some people who "left something behind in childhood" are really stuck upon the images and concepts related to that childhood in a way that they just assume that anyone who is (still) into that particular thing by necessity keeps that conception.  (Not helped, of course, by being surrounded people that *do* have such conceptions, the problem is when people assume *all* people who enjoy a concept enjoy it simplistically or childishly). 

Anyway, theological debates aside, it made me, perhaps randomly, think about cartoons. 

Seriously, I thought about cartoons.  Specifically, I thought about that time I happened to be in a Toys R Us and curiosity led me to look at the movies for children rack.  I was probably looking for something nostalgic, seeing if it had movies I enjoyed when I was a kid, what was still popular, etc.  In among the Care Bears and the My Little Pony, the Barney and the Transformers (something nostalgic for my significant other and a good friend of mine) and all the other kids' stuff, I see.... Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell.   The link will take you to its entry on TV Tropes. 

Um, if you don't know your anime, do look it up, if nothing more than that Tropes page.  It's been a while since I've seen the film, but I can tell you that it's not for kids.  It's a sophisticated sci-fi thriller that deals with concepts that go over the heads of many *adults* (the nature of souls/minds/sapience) and has lots of graphic violence.  Even a bit of full frontal female nudity (though, to be fair, the Major is actually in a skin-suit cloaking device), but, you know, as I recall, within the first fifteen minutes, someone's head explodes in loving detail.  

What was it doing on the children's movies rack? 

My conclusion was that probably some dip who couldn't even bother to look up what movies belonged in what case just saw "Oh, it's animated, it must be for kids."  

While those of us who "never grew out of cartoons" KNOW BETTER. 

If you're techincally an adult and interested in animation and are looking for something beyond the "American kiddie fare,"  let me tell you about some of my favorite series and films out of Asia (where no such "animation age ghetto" exists) that are mature (without being porn) and have sophisicated themes: 

The aforementioned Ghost in the Shell, including its sequel and its multi-episode television series are great if you like cyberpunk and things exploring humanity's relationship to technology. 

Neon Genesis Evangelion - For people who love eschatology told in the weirdest way possible!  Infamous for its very liberal use of symbolism from Christianity and Jewish mysticism, (none of the creators were Christian or Jewish), it is one of the nerdcore animes that all serious anime fans would seem to be required to watch to show their cred.  I've not seen the Rebuild (and an Eva-purist friend of mine will not touch it), but I've seen both the original TV series and the End of Evangelion movie.  Full of angst and explorations of Freudian psychology as well violence (including one of the bioweapons EATING its kill in a graphic manner) and said bioweapons spewing literal gallons of blood when injured, this is one of the ultimate "cartoons that ain't for kids." 

Although Cartoon Network did try to edit it to put on their Toonami block once.  People make fun of this because as it turned out, they could only air butchered versions of the first two episodes becuase it's damn impossible to kid-fy this thing. 

Warnings:  If you're a Christian - before you watch this, make sure you're a Christian like I am: open-minded and one who enjoys sci-fi to a point that complete botching of symbols relating to your religion doesn't matter to you.  This anime, as I once saw someone put it is "Teenagers killing angels in order to become God." (though a more accurate description might be "Teenagers killing angels in order to ascend to a higher existance and become an angel).  Er. this show is weird. It will make your brain spin in your skull.   Also, if you have any psychological problems, it might be hard on you - it's fairly depressing, all of the characters are messed-up (their head messed-upness is a major part of the plot).  It was made by a severely depressed man who was off his medication at the time and it shows.   (In fact, the crew that worked on it immediately worked on a crazy comedy anime immediately after they were done with NGE as "relief"). 

Trigun - This is my very favorite anime.  It is not widely praised by critics for its sophstication like the ones I mentioned above, but it is actually very deep.  In fact, I've said that if I didn't already have a religious leaning, that I would create a religion based upon the main character of this.  I would call it "Vashism."  Its tennants would be "Love and Peace" and its sacriment would be donuts and beer.  I have an agnostic/atheist friend I met in the fandom for it who said she'd join this religion in a heartbeat.

Anyway, Trigun is a space-western (that was created *before* Firefly, in fact, I'm pretty sure the latter took some inspiration from the former regarding some of those backwater towns on desert planets).  It starts out in a lighthearted mode and keeps an air of comedy through *most* (though not all) episodes. It does get progressively darker. (And the manga - comic series - of it is even darker, edgier, and tons bloodier.  The anime has a lot of serious themes without a lot of blood, the comic has scenes where superpowered characters walk around with their guts slopping out. If you like gore, pick up the manga, if you don't, stick with the animated series). 

The story follows a man wanted for horrible crimes, including the destruction of entire cities - the most feared outlaw on the planet with an astronomical bounty on his head.  Turns out he's a nice guy, a goofball and a pacifist.  Vash wanders the planet trying to spread his mantra of Love and Peace, as well as "looking for someone" (if I said who, it would be a spoiler). He tries to talk bad guys out of violence (and sometimes succeeds!)  He also does very crazy things to save people (and shows it in his body, he has horrible scars under that big red coat of his).  He does use guns, but he's perfected the art of shooting weapons out of peoples' hands and wounding them without killing them and other feats the real world laws of physics would not allow.  He's very much a classic "messianic" character - he wants to save everyone - even his enemies. 

He winds up being tailed by a pair of female insurance adjusters who are tough and know how to kick ass when necessary (and pull of being both plain and pretty, rather than the typical fanservice anime heroines).  He also makes a friend in the form of a dubious priest whom he sometimes has to remind "Thou shall not kill!"  There are also bad guys with freaky psychic powers and a lot of people who are just over the top and would be hilarious if they weren't psychotic killers - and some who are hilarious even with that. 

The story plays a lot with themes of morality - particularly philosophy regarding "whether or not it is justified to kill anyone."  Vash goes out of his way to save everyone, but sometimes, you're left wondering if he should have.  Though there's lots of fun, like his love of beer and donuts, there's a lot of heartbreak, too.  And the manga is even darker.   Also, for the eggheaded, there's quite a bit of Christian and Buddhist themes and symbolism in this, a few of them rather blatant (though it is definitely a secular story), and unlike with Evangelion, above, the creator knew what he was doing with it. 

(I once got into an argument on a message board when I casually remarked that I found Vash's "Love and Peace" philosophy to relate to my experience with Christianity.  A very angry regular there confronted me and basically told me that I was not allowed to relate Love and Peace to my faith because, according to her, Love and Peace were anti-Christian because Christianity was evil.  And no, my own personal, subjective experience didn't matter because she had taken a college course on world religions and, naturally, my not being an atheist like her made me too stupid to even have a subjective experience.  I found person to be insufferable on other things related to the fandom, too, and is the major reason why I no longer go to that particular message board. I seem to remember ranting and raving that the creator of the series was wrong, wrong, wrong! because he ended the comic in a way no one expected and she didn't approve of).... anyway, I felt privately VINDICATED when I later read a translated interview in which the creator revealed that he had converted to Roman Catholism when researching his work and was a "Catholic who retained some Buddhist ideas." 

So, yeah, he used the symbolism and did so knowing what he was doing with it. A self-proclaimed Japanese Christian of any stripe is about as rare as a Muslim born and raised in Alabama, so that makes things interesting.  

Hmm. I have a poster for the side-movie, "Trigun: Badlands Rumble" over my bed right now.  I've also been known to cosplay Vash at anime conventions, even though I'm female. 

Haibane Renmei - Another favorite of mine.  Don't let the look of the characters fool you, they aren't actually supposed to be angels - just people with wings and halos.  This is a much *quieter* anime than the ones above.  It's not violent, though there is a little blood (the first episode involves a character painfully growing her wings and there's a flashback in a later episode to a time when a character got hurt doing something forbidden).  HR is a story about a mysterious walled town that people are born into from coccoons with a vauge sense that they had another life that they cannot remember.  They live by using the things no longer useful to humans and are protected by a mysterious order and the walls around their town.  It is each Haibane's destiny/apsiration to eventually be brought to their "day of flight" which is a kind of ascension after they've discovered some missing piece of themselves.  This is a mysterious work - the audience is never told what's beyond the walls or whether the Haibane are actually dead people in limbo (that's the popular fan speculation), but despite it's sweet nature, I wouldn't say that this one is for kids because it deals with issues related to psychology and... suicide.

I can tell you truly - if you've had any kind of problems with depressive illness, this anime will make you bawl your eyes out - but in a completely GOOD, cathartic way.  This anime actually helped me get through a rough patch and has a special place in my heart because of that.

By the way, if you click the tropes link and look up the Fanfic Recommendations, yes, someone recommended one of my old fanfictions.  I'm the same Shadsie. Also, ArkNorth is my fiance'.  So, yes, the fanfic recs there are by me and someone I know and neither of us recced them. Heh!  We love our HR in our house. 

Now, I think those are some good recs for now - they'll give people something to consider watching, or at least, disepell the notion that at least one thing that people label as "childish" must and always will be so.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Something Dumb.

Sometimes, when I'm bored, I like taking stupid personality quizzes online, particularly on Blogthings.  I don't post results becuase I find them a waste of space, but I had to post this one.

The results from my "What Cooking Show Are You?" quiz - posted for my friend, Matt, should he come by the blog, because he's a bit of a "Good Eats" fanatic. 

Posted as a link because I can't seem to get either of their codes to work on this blog. ARRRGh!

It's true - if I'm not making up something quick or from a box the rare times I bother to cook, I tend to be doing some kind of experiment.  My experiments usually turn out pretty well, though.  I have been kissed in gratitude for food that turned out well at least once! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Beast of Time

I finished this today.  I think it may just be one of my better bone-art pieces.  Cow, dead of natural causes (my parents got me the skull long ago at a yard sale and I had it in storage for years before deciding to do anything with it).  Use of random found objects.  The gear is from a car or bike or something - not a clock, but I still think it works.  

One of the weirder questions I've ever asked anyone: "What do you think the color of Time is?"  I asked this to a pair of my online/AIM friends (Hello, Lilith and Laihiriel!) I got the answers of "Blue" and "Black" respectively and thought both made sense.  Blue seems to be the color of "time energy" used most often in fiction/film and black has connotations of mortality (in Western culture) and that certainly relates to the inevitable march of time (also, it's a skull...) 

Don't worry, I don't need that key for anything. I'm pretty sure it was for something I left behind when I left Arizona.  I've kept it aside for eventual use in an art project, and here it is.