Archive for thoughts

I’m Dreaming of a Rather Disturbing Christmas

Posted in Holidays, Mental stuff, My So-Called Life, My Thoughts on X Thing with tags , , , , , , , on 27/12/2009 by phyrbyrd

Well, I should stop apologising for it being a while, since I only post when I feel I have something to say and I haven’t had anything particularly pertinent to say for the past month – I’ve just been busy. Even clam-examiners will know why – it is the season to be… well, at least not publicly miserable, anyway.

I am spending the holidays with three different sets of family this year, and so my present list has been quite large. I am currently writing this on Boxing Day evening from an air bed in the house of one of Mum-Ra’s twin sisters (1). I have had a good Christmas – there are family circumstances that put a darkener on the whole thing, but on the whole it’s been pretty good. Dark Twin has two daughters, and I don’t often see my cousins – we live at opposite ends of the country so it’s good to catch up. Tomorrow the Boil and I are going to visit other relatives, and Mum-Ra will stay to help deal with the family circumstances for a few more days.

But I’m not posting about Christmas, particularly, although I hope yours went well. What I’m actually posting about is dreams. You see, last night, I had a really disturbing dream. Not a nightmare, in that I wasn’t actually scared by it. I seldom get nightmares anymore in that sense – I just don’t scare easily. I was, however, very rattled when I woke, because although I’m told that nobody knows where dreams come from (2) I tend to believe that they’re composed entirely of the dreamer’s experience – that is, you can’t dream what you’ve never seen or at least heard of. This dream, therefore, was one which I was shocked to find in my own head.

I’m not going to tell you exactly what I dreamed. I’ll tell you the one before it – I was sitting in a bar drinking orange juice which was paid for by the man beside me who was drawing banknotes, and these notes were accepted as totally legal tender by the barman. After I’d drunk a massive amount of juice, the skin started to peel away from my hands, leaving bloody gashes in which the blood clotted up and hung in lumps. This dream was by far the less disturbing of the two – the later dream was perverse, illegal and not politically correct on many levels. There is nobody I could describe it to for fear that they, too, would be shocked at me for dreaming it and for the emotions that I felt while I was dreaming it – because, of course, the feelings were part of the dream, and it didn’t occur to me to be nauseated until after I woke up.

And yet. Why be horrified at Hypothetical Woman because she dreamed a dream? It’s not her fault. It isn’t her fault that her dream-self felt nothing but childlike wonder as she watched what would normally be illegal in several countries. She isn’t a lucid dreamer. She just dreams the dream, and then she wakes up and wishes she could scrub out the inside of her head.

I have encountered this misaimed prudery before, too – once I was in my art class and someone mentioned that they’d heard that ‘frottage’ was some kind of sexual act (3), so I explained it and everyone was mildly shocked – so was I, but mostly at the thought that they’d thought I was a nice girl. This was the same class that had seen me present this as an exhibition piece the year before. But really, why be shocked? I’d heard about it. It didn’t mean I was into it and even if I was, what business was it of theirs?

The original aim of this post is beginning to escape me – I believe it was something along the lines of, I’ve had some quite disturbing dreams, and people should be more open-minded. Happy New Year.

  1. Henceforth known as Light Twin and Dark Twin, since they are non-identical twins and one is darker than the other. Both married officers in the british navy, but since I’ve only met Light Twin’s husband once, I’m going to call Dark Twin’s husband Navy Guy.
  2. I would give a reference for this comment but it’s late and all I can find online at the moment is a load of guff about dream meanings and spirituality. I’ll fix this later if anyone gives a damn.
  3. ‘Frottage’ means ‘rubbing’ in French – in a sexual sense it can mean anything from masturbation to rubbing one’s genitals together. I, personally, think she already knew, but I picked it up from Y!Gallery.

The God Confusion

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing, religion with tags , , , , , , on 25/11/2009 by phyrbyrd

So, I have been reading through my Ultimate X-Men collection – which is by no means complete, I currently have seventeen of the trade paperbacks, but there we go. Anyway, if you’re a clam-examiner you may not know that there have been many, many versons of this particular superteam – the film series cannot possibly have escaped your notice.  The Phoenix story arc is an important part of the X-Men mythos – one might even say that without the Phoenix, it’s not really X-Men at all. But I have expended a whole paragraph and four links just telling you what got my train of thought out of the station, so I’d better get started for real. Obviously, I’ve been thinking about gods. Morality again, too, but mostly gods.

Hypothetical Woman is given the power of a god. This god is truly good, and overwhelmingly powerful, really and truly capable of solving all that is wrong in the world. Or is it? Because if we assume that this is so, then we are saying that the coin only has one side.  For example, Hypothetical Woman and her borrowed powers heal everyone and restore people’s lost loved ones to them. Instantly, there is not enough food, housing and clean water to go round. Well, that’s alright, she can provide enough to eat for everyone – but the planet is still a finite size and soon every single available space is taken up with housing, the animals are extinct and there is still not enough room. Hypothetical Woman, it seems, can’t win.

Random Guy is also given the powers of a god. He is also made omniscient and immortal on top of it all, and his god has a completely neutral morality. Random guy spends a little while interfering in the lives of common humans, and then gets bored. He has nothing to relate to. It’s like squashing spiders – you grow out of it. Why on earth would an omnipotent god give half a damn about something as fleeting, as insignificant, as humanity? Eventually, he gives p and goes out into the cosmos in search of other gods to talk to, abandoning Earth for good.

Dr. X. Ample (say it with me) is also given the powers of a god. An evil one. However, when he tries out his powers, he runs up against the same problem Hypothetical Woman did – there are two sides to the coin. He starts wars in his name, but there are always some people who the war benefits – soldiers who are paid more than they ever were before, entire communities who make a living from supplying military equipment. No matter how many people die, that means more resources are available for those who are left. In frustration, he considers killing everybody, but then he’d only have the animals to torture and they don’t have a concept of evil – and what good is being evil unless there’s someone to know you’re doing it? He could just blow up the planet, but then that would leave him with nothing at all to do, and that would be really dull. Maybe he should go and talk to Hypothetical Woman – give them both something to do.

The point, and I realise that it may not be very well made, is that any good god is evil to someone and vice-versa, and an ever-living god has no reason to even register us at all, since we’re finite. That’s register us as a species, let alone individuals. Anyway, I did also have another point regarding how people believe, but that’s going to have to wait. I make no promises.

The Thought Box

Posted in craft, Craft Post, My So-Called Life, My Thoughts on X Thing, Politics, Thought Box with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/11/2009 by phyrbyrd

Another ‘it’s been a while’ post – apologies, it has been a while. There are a couple of reasons for this – one is that my life has been rather hectic lately, the other is that I’ve honestly been trying to get together a good coherent post but really my thoughts are too fragmented at the moment to do so – this happens to me a lot, so I’m just going to give you the fragmented thoughts in the hope that you find those interesting.

First of all, I had two of my wisdom teeth out a few days ago. The operation itself was a snap – they put me under, and afterwards I came round with a minimum amount of wooziness, was chatty and chirpy within a couple of hours and after a night’s observation,* was sent home. However, now the right side of my face is all swollen, eating a meal is a chore and sleeping is increasingly broken, and after being informed that this isn’t actually all that normal, I’m going to the dentist to check that I don’t have an abcess. IT NEVER ENDS.

I had no idea people normally get sent home with antibiotics after a wisdom-tooth-ectomy or whatever they call it, but I’m not surprised I didn’t. The hospital I went to had to phone out to check whether the stitches would dissolve, and couldn’t tell me how to clean my teeth post-operation. I’m not saying they were incompetent – I’m saying they were hideously underfunded. The nurses were lovely, sweet and friendly,** but the beds had very, very minimal bedding and what blankets there were were mostly fraying. The NHS is one of the most underfunded things this country has; it’s also one of the most precious things we have. It should at least be able to afford a whole blanket for every hospital bed.

And across the pond, America is on its way to getting government health care. This is a good thing. I can’t understand why a lot of Americans seem to think it’s a bad thing – I guess the freedom to go bankrupt because you fell ill is a basic human right? So Obama’s having to fight every step of the way to get this through. And one of the things that’s happened is that the Stupak Amendment has passed. Basically, if you’re an American woman, and you’re not rich, abortion is now illegal. This is hideous, and I can only hope on behalf of my American friends that Obama fixes it quickly.

Obama, of course, can’t fix everything – that’s been one of his big problems, lately. Everyone expected that he would fix everything, clean up the mess Dubya left behind – but he is, after all, only human, and America has a senate, not a monarchy. Obama cannot just say ‘do this’ and have it be done – there is a hell of a lot of due process first. There is a lot he has not yet delivered, but at the end of his first year, I actually think he’s done pretty well, considering. Apart from the Stupak thing.

On a different note, I spent a while today with my stepfather, hereafter known as the Mad Scientist, and his best friend the Hardened Cynic. I was at the Mad Scientist’s house, where I spend a lot of time, and it’s a nice, relaxing place to be – Mad Scientist is free with tea, coffee and conversation, and so a lot of people come and go. At one point Mad Scientist’s brother, Crazy Artist, turned up, and, as is his wont, started to rant. Now, the people around this house generally have at least one pet theory or another, they’re usually very intelligent people*** and I have reason to respect a lot of them, if not to take them seriously all the time. Most of them have known me at least since I was in high school and so it’s taken a little while to pluck up enough confidence in my own intelligence and research skills to be able to offer my own input. And normally it is taken on board and given as much airtime as anyone’s – except by Crazy Artist.

Crazy Artist is a ranter. He talks down to me, will not let me finish and assumes I know nothing. Apparently he does this to everyone and I take it too personally – maybe I do, but talking to him always ends in me seething. I have been told that Hardened Cynic is also a ranter who talks down to people as though they were ten – but Hardened Cynic offers me respect. He allows me to finish my sentences. More than that, Hardened Cynic is one of my dearest friends – he was one of the people who was there every day when I was seriously ill, he has seen me at my lowest. He offers me criticism that I can take gladly, because it feels honest, and he also tells me when I do well. Crazy Artist has an art degree, and I don’t show him my work anymore because his attitude is always, ‘Meh, it’s OK – and this is what’s wrong with it.’

I will do my very best not to rise to Crazy Artist’s bait next time – even Mad Scientist is saying maybe I should slap him.

Anyway, I leave you with, at the bottom of the post, one of the things I’m most proud of – a clothespin doll I made in 2007. This one was actually the second stop on a process that started with me wondering how elaborate I could make a peg doll – the first one was made in 2006, and I shall show her to you another day. This one was made a year later to check how far my skills had evolved. I think I might make one of these every now and again just as a periodic skill check.

* – Due to my epilepsy and possible effects post-general anaesthetic, they wanted to keep me in for a night under observation.

** – When I was in for three weeks in 2006 with pneumonia, I passed the time mostly by complaining – I consider NHS nurses to be absolute saints.

*** – Although occasionally inclined to tinfoil-hattery.

Autumn Angel - November 2007

Autumn Angel - November 2007

The Return of Me – and why I’m not buying a poppy this year

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing, Politics with tags , , , , , , on 28/10/2009 by phyrbyrd

Well, here I am back again, fully installed, or very nearly so, in my very own Tower of Solitude – or, me plus the cat.

The Fuzzbutt herself

Say hello, Bizkit.

All is peachy, or will be when I get these wisdom teeth out next week and can stop chewing garlic and clove oil (yech) to take the pain away.

So, humourous cat pictures aside, I did actually have a decently serious subject today. Y’see, soon it’s going to be Remembrance Day.  A bunch of you guys overseas* have this too, you might call it Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day or something else. Here, pretty much everyone goes around for a while beforehand with a paper poppy in their lapel, and they keep the silence at eleven in the morning on that day.

Which I will not be doing this year.

There are several reasons for this, some of them fairly petty, but they’re just add-ons to the real reasons. So we’ll start with the petty reasons first, get them out of the way, shall we?

First of all, a paper flower on my coat is not going to last five seconds, because I wear a large bag on a long strap, with the strap across my body to stop it falling off. I used to put my poppy on my hat instead, but this year’s autumn hat is one of those black fleece ones with the devil horns so it’d just fall off really fast. Second, I’m not likely to be awake at eleven AM on any given day, especially a Sunday. I normally miss the silence anyway, even if I do buy a poppy. OK, petty enough? Good, let’s move on.

Right, it’s not that I do not give a damn about the soldiers and the things they are suffering. I know that Remembrance Day is in remembrance of war dead since World War I, and the proceeds go towards helping old and injured soldiers. But they shouldn’t need it. And the war we are in now? We shouldn’t be there. Who is going to remember all the civilian dead in the Afghan and Iraq wars? Their dead and injured dwarfs ours. And why are we there? It used to be because we were looking for a terrorist, now it’s something nebulous about ‘it’s too complicated to leave now’.**

But this isn’t an Afghanistan rant, it’s a Poppy Day rant. Remember I said veterans shouldn’t need Poppy Day funds for their care? They shouldn’t. They should be cared for by the state, the government which sent them to risk their lives in service of this country. They shouldn’t be treated like old dishragscast aside once they’re no longer useful.

I will not wear a poppy this year because the poppy has ceased to mean anything much. It’s just a paper flower. There are a few stories about the World Wars attached to it, but unless it brings any benefit to the people it was created to represent, I will never wear one again.

* – This is me pretending I have masses of international readers at this point. A girl can dream.

**- It’s about oil.

Alignment and Morality part 2 – Hypothetical Woman meets Neitzsche

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing with tags , , , , , on 27/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Hello again, and here as promised is the second half of my alignment rant. I only just discovered Neitzsche, so please bear with me – glaring mistakes are likely due to the fact that there is a lot I don’t know about his life and work yet. Anyway, these are my initial thoughts.

The Polish* philosopher Freidrich Neitzsche (and no, I wouldn’t have spelled it right without checking) is often closely associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and so people are afraid to read his work and consider it for themselves – maybe they think they will see the words, think the same thing as Hitler thought, and facism will be born? I don’t know. It annoys me that so many people have an inability to form an independant opinion just because a figure historically marked as the Big Bad liked it.**

So, what does Neitzsche say? Well, he says a lot of things, one of his more famous philosophies is to do with the Übermensch, or Superhuman, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about his views on morality. The Master and Slave theory. That there is a simplified view, this is a more detailed explanation.

So as you can see, Neitzsche believed that Europe (and America, but Neitzsche was concerned with Europe) was ruled by the Slave mentality. I would not go so far as to call it the social illness that he did, but I can see what he meant. We are expected to be selfless, look out for other people, be modest, prudent, and so on. Our films praise the underdog and our politics are all about giving everybody a say. Our religions are about shoring up good deeds for a heavenly afterlife. So far, so good. Nothing wrong with this, really.

But why is the Master mentality (as characterized by, among others, the Hellenic races such as the ancient Greeks and Romans) bad? Is it bad to think of yourself? To say ‘I know’ instead of ‘aw, you’re too kind’ when someone says you did really well? To be experimental and creative? To concentrate on this life instead of the next one? Why can’t our films be about a strong hero?

Yes, there are flaws with both mentalities, but neither is bad, really. The Master mentality is terrible when taken to extremes. That’s when you get people trying to make a Master *race*. But the Slave mentality is also terrible when taken to extremes – that kind of thing triggers people shooting abortion doctors because they kill the poor defenseless unborn babies. *Any* philosophy can be taken to extremes, and I struggle to think of an occasion when this is a good thing.

Currently, our society tends to express anger ‘resentfully’, as Neitzsche put it, as opposed to directly. Especially in Britain, if someone slights us, we tend to do nothing, mutter behind their backs, and sometimes try and get them back in some other way. We have a kind of malicious joy in seeing the misery of those who are richer, more glamourous, more powerful than us – otherwise the celebrity magazines wouldn’t sell so well. This kind of behaviour corresponds to the Slave mentality, and its opposite would be if we expressed anger immediately – this is not to say disproportionately, although I imagine a lot more fights would be started if we were governed by a Master mentality.

For example, Hypothetical Woman lives in a society governed primarily by the Master mentality. So does Random Guy, and they are talking, and suddenly Random Guy makes a joke that Hypothetical Woman finds offensive. Instead of worrying about whether it is rude to tell Random Guy she didn’t like the joke, she confronts him about it. What happens next? I have no idea. I live in a society governed by a Slave mentality so I think if I was Random Guy I would apologise and the conversation would carry on uninterrupted. Dr. X. Ample says he would punch Hypothetical Woman in the face for daring to challenge him, but then, he would. He’s got a Master mentality, but he’s crazy.

* – Neitzsche is commonly identified as German but he was born in Prussia and identified as Polish. Germany as it is now didn’t exist at the time of his birth.

** – There is no evidence that Neitzsche would have liked Nazism, had he lived to see it. He died in 1900. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that he would have despised it.

Alignment and Morality part 1 – Why Dr. X. Ample isn’t Evil All Through

Posted in My Thoughts on X Thing with tags , , , , , on 27/09/2009 by phyrbyrd

Well, this is a first – a post I promised you was coming is actually here. The Alignment Rant. This was going to include my thoughts on Neitzscheism but I got carried away and had to split this into two parts. This one’s just going to be about alignment.

Most of you know about the famous Dungeons and Dragons Alignment Grid. Even the clam-examiners probably know it; in fact, the ones most likely not to have heard of it are the people like my neices and cousins who spend their time glued to the TV and likely never heard of D&D in their tiny little lives. However, in case I am wrong, and because every blog entry of this sort ought to show what its subject is, then you can see the table and a full explanation here. Go on, I can wait. I want everyone to be absolutely on the same page here*.

Now, this is, of course, a very simplified view of morality. D&D as a game system is made to be adapted and built upon by its players, none of its rules are written in stone – if your game decides the gelatinous cube is a dumb monster as is and rewrites it so that it can change its shape, extend suckers, drag people in and, you know, travel faster than walking pace, then a) not only are Wizards of the Coast** not going to know, but b) why would they care? What does it matter to them if you use the basic D&D gameset to make a new game involving My Little Pony?

But I’m getting distracted. My point is that the rules say that a character of a certain alignment can’t be a certain character class. Hypothetical Woman plays a paladin, so she must be Lawful Good. But wait a second, does that still count if the god she serves is Duum, God of Eternal Destruction? or Kray-Zi, Goddess of Chaos? or just Sniggar, God or Mischief? Also, if memory serves me right, most people who claim to hear the voice of a god or claim to be doing God’s work aren’t very lawful. Or often all that good, really. In some cases, downright shocking.***

Real people are not robots. There is no button in their heads to be pressed to determine their alignment throughout their whole lives. The morality of real people is determined by a number of factors, including but most certainly not limited to, upbringing, social interaction, political and social situation, family size, date, and class.

A demonstration for you. Dr. X. Ample was born Alexander Ample in a quiet suburb in Milton Keynes in July 2024, the only child of a pair of wealthy scientists, a biologist and a chemist. He was well-schooled, especially in the sciences, and proved to have a remarkable talent for physics and chemistry. By the time he was thirteen, he was already well ahead of his class and being plagued by teachers who wouldn’t allow him to move up more than the two years he was already ahead, and his parents – loving, but both very busy and absorbed in their work – refused to homeschool him. He got incredibly frustrated and at fifteen, the school exploded in mysterious circumstances, although no-one could ever prove it was him. At seventeen, he went to college, where he had a slightly better time despite the fact that he was at BA level and was taking physics, chemistry and computer science at A level. He spent most of his time completely out of his head on drugs of his own devising, and still managed distinction in everything, passing into Oxford university the following year noticeably manic, but still by far the best chemist in his year – or the one above him, come to that. While he was at university, he didn’t sample his concoctions anymore, but they seemed to be continuing to affect his brain, making him more angry, more irrational, more prone to incredible flights of fancy.

And then there was a fire in his home town, killing both his parents. Alexander, now calling himself Xander, blamed the fire services for not dousing the fire quickly enough, and the paramedics for not saving his parents’ lives. On top of the resistance he had had throughout his school life, this was only adding to the resentment to authority he was to cultivate throughout the rest of his life. He now had someone to encourage him, too – his lab assistant and fellow student, Jen-Erika Sydekik, had always been something of an anarchist and greatly admired Xander’s increasingly gargantuan ideas for taking over from the current status quo and establishing one that would work.
Eventually, both of them graduated. And then disappeared without trace for some time, eventually reappearing as a national threat…

OK, so by D&D standards, Dr. X. Ample is obviously chaotic evil. What, really? He’s fuelled by what’s essentially an extended drug flashback, an arguably justified hatred of authority, grief for his parents’ passing and constant goading from his closest friend (alright, and lover, for the purposes of this post). Does this make him evil? How could he be expected to react? He’s still a highly intelligent and strong-willed person, so why should he be expected to curl up into a ball and whimper until the pressure goes away? Yes, chaotic I will accept. But if Dr. X. Ample went through his life – this same one I just described – and was a perfectly nice, pleasant person at the end of it, wouldn’t you be waiting for the safety valve to snap? I know I would.

Incidentally, there’s one thing about the Lawful Good thing that the paladins get – a lot of players of paladins seem to focus on the Lawful and not so much on the Good. That’s when you get something called Lawful Stupid. However, as I said, it is actually possible to play a paladin who isn’t good – who votes that Darth Vader is a paladin? *hand up* I also had a chaotic good paladin in a LARP game once who was sent to join the Company to help with her anger management issues. She got turned into a smear on the pavement in the first session because, well, I thought ‘berserk’ would be a fun flaw and there was this demon who was six times more powerful than me… Yeah.

Anyway, more on the morality schtick tomorrow. I hope this made sense. I tried to be more concise than i normally am…

* – Yes, I am aware that I use a lot of Wikipedia links. This is because often it saves me linking about three more different sites on the same subject. I’m aware that the information may not be reliable, but if I think that is the case then I will find additional material. Wikipedia is pretty on the ball as far as alignment is concerned, though.

** – The current co-producers of D&D.

*** – I had some misgivings about including Bin Laden there. But since he did claim that he was acting in the name if Islam, it really only proves my point, and I can only apologize if I offended anyone – but not for trying to make a point.