The State of the Stevo Address

Catchy title, huh?

Noteworthy is that each time I open WordPress on my computer, there seems to be an update available.

Having the app available on my computer makes me a happy camper, though. When I first started blogging on WordPress years ago, the WordPress app for Mac didn’t exist, so I had to use crappy third-party apps that enjoyed destroying formatting or not uploading photos.

Progress in technology is a welcome thing.

Here in Florida, a Tropical Depression is causing a great deal of rain to fall and flood our lawn. The good news is that it’s cooled things down; the bad news is that I don’t like being cold. Of course, it isn’t that cold. It’s Florida, and we didn’t have a real winter this past year. But I have to say, it’s summer now, and I love summer. I feel more alive right now than I have in ages.

The real question is, why?

I’ve felt healthier and more energetic, not at 100%, mind you, but I feel generally better than I have in ages. I’m happier with my life right now than I’ve probably ever been, nevermind the bizarre moments of nostalgia for eras that saw me with a greater deal of distress.

I’ve more recently been joining the local Pagan community for their rituals. In addition, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship I’ve attended for years. Maybe I mentioned all this in another blog, but that’s how long it’s been since I’ve written.

So I’ve wondered if community has had anything to do with my health and happiness; in fact, I think it may be part of the key. I’m making my way through the internal barriers, crossing the borders that I’ve built up over the years because time and again when I let people into my life, I let people get to know me, I allowed myself to love and trust someone, they stabbed me right in my fragile heart.

Turns out, many people in the past were only interested in hurting me and not in being my friend.

Maybe it’s too soon to tell, or maybe I’ve simply been able to find that the boundaries that exist for me aren’t all on one front or the same- healthy boundaries are selectively permeable and are adjusted according to time, place, and person.

When you go from a world full of Republican-voting Christians who hate you for existing to a world full of Democrat-voting (mostly) non-Christians who love you for existing, it takes time for your self-esteem to catch up. That may be a generalization, but it’s an approximation that’s damned near close to accurate.

As it turns out, in times past, I may not have been struggling with low self-esteem so much as I was just surrounded by assholes (as the meme goes).

Well, those assholes can go fuck themselves.

I welcome this new world of growing self-esteem and happiness.

Steve

Of Brains and Warm Cloths

Sometimes, my mind is sharp and ready for an argument; sometimes, the gears turn, the neurons fire, the logic floods at blinding speeds, and I can disarm another person and justify my position without ever blinking.

Other times, my brain feels like there’s a nice, warm blanket wrapped around it, and I can’t process things, I can’t think clearly even if I wanted to. My brain actively decides to become mush, and that’s that.

The thing is the Mushy Brain phases aren’t terribly unpleasant- they feel good, especially to someone used to experiencing anxiety and something called minority stress.

The trouble is that the Mushy Brain phases are dangerous. They’re a false sense of security and affect my critical thinking skils. Suddenly survival becomes based more in instinct and emotion and reactions.

Sometimes, I’m just tired. I spent the weekend dealing with stomach cramps that came out of nowhere one night and threatened to destroy my intestines. What does it feel like to have 30 demons clawing viciously inside of your abdomen? Well, it’s unpleasant. And it tires you out. Monday arrives, and here I am, and I just want to sleep even though I have things that I need to accomplish; yes, I’ve got shit to do.

Migraines are the same way. They last just long enough to break my spirit and take my energy, leaving me to fight to recover the next few days.

So my empathy is out here for people who deal with physical ailments and make it out to wherever they’re going, whether school, work, church, or otherwise.

My empathy is out there for people who have Clear Brains and can think clearly most of the time. I damned sure can’t.

Steve

13 Reasons Why Review

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(Minor spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

Recently, a  new binge-inducing TV series has debuted on Netflix: 13 Reasons Why. My husband and I spent a few days watching it in our spare time, getting an episode or two in when we could.

There are enormous things I like about the series- the freshness of delivering the story through cassette tapes was great, and that soundtrack is probably the best of any TV show I’ve ever watched.

The acting is believable for the most part, the characters coming to life and being painted in a dynamic light. We’re offered a few decent backstories, especially for people who aren’t the true “main”  characters. It’s easy to form emotional attachments to the characters, and I had a few that I liked.

And you’re defnitely there with Hannah, all the way through.

The writers understood the complexities and dynamics of interpersonal relationships; the problems of one set of people would bleed into the problems of others in a way that didn’t come across as forced.

More importantly, that overall message concerning bullying, suicide, and the connection between the two is something that can’t be overstated in this day and age. As a survivor of bullying myself, I felt like I would have a connection with this series.

But I didn’t.

The series is too long. 13 half-hour episodes would’ve been more appropriate than 13 hour-long episodes. Several episodes seemed to drag on, and the justification that appeared in the series is that our protagonist (Clay) was so emotionally traumatized that he couldn’t make it through the tapes in one long listening session.

I didn’t find that realistic or believable at all.

The most unbelievable character is Tony. He doesn’t seem like a teenager or someone who should be in high school, and people across the internet have aptly dubbed him “Plot Device Tony.” His accent is wrong, his speech patterns are wrong, his random appearances are wrong for him to be a teenager. I’m also not sure he was set in the correct era as he seems more like someone you would find in a 1950s.

Then comes the diversity issue. While I’m glad the series added more characters of different backgrounds, they all end up kind of being in the circle of the bad guys or as side characters- the same problem that we see in Riverdale.

Worth of note is that Ross Butler, who plays the asshole jock Zach Dempsey in 13 Reasons Why, also plays the asshole jock Reggie Mantle in Riverdale.

The next issue is the main antagonist doesn’t have a backstory that forces us to consider showing him empathy. He’s just an asshole jock among asshole jocks. He’s easy to hate.

Contrast that with the character Courtney, her story, and why she does what she does- her actions are compelling. They don’t justify her, but we can understand her.

And then there was the lack of any twist or real crescendo. The series fizzles out. We don’t have a real resolution, only Clay finishing listening to the tapes. No justice is seen, no closure is reached. I was really, really waiting for some major plot twist to appear and completely throw the series and make me fawn over the true brilliance so that I could recommend the show to anyone and everyone who would listen, but I was not granted that.

And then there was the lie. The lie my husband and I both picked up on, the lie that was nothing but characters saying and doing things that contributed to the lie. And I can’t forgive the series for that.

Will there be a season 2? It’s wide open for that. But I won’t be watching 13 More Reasons Why.

Steve

 

 

Beauty and the Beast Review

Well, I awaited a good, long while to see this little gem, and the movie thankfully lived up to my expectations!

 

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My childhood! 

 

I had the tiniest apprehension of what Emma Watson’s voice would sound like while singing Belle’s songs; surprisingly, her voice is extremely clear (clear as a bell is too heavy a pun but accurate), and I preferred it to the singer from the cartoon movie.

Visually, the costumes are the most stunning part of the movie; I don’t know how accurate the clothing is for people in that period and region of the world, but the effect is above and beyond.

A huge surprise to me was how well the enchanted objects were designed. Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and the rest are all a delight to watch.

Storywise, we have a tightening of the narrative and fixed plot holes; the cartoon movie left us with a few holes and loose ends that deserve to be answered, and this movie does just that.

Belle’s sense of determination and independence is shown more clearly in this version; Emma Watson made her even more likable as a protagonist.

The minor characters received better characterization, and two minor characters (Maurice and LeFou) were both granted dignity as opposed to being bumbling idiots.

Various supporting characters are given a stronger connection to the story and their potential fate.

The controversy surrounding LeFou is unfounded; his character is enjoyable and comical while not being over-the-top, and (MINOR SPOILER) he has a moment of redemption for all his faults. That, in and of itself, made the movie worth it.

So go see Beauty and the Beast, or wait for it to come out- either way, I completely recommend it.

 

Undertale: A Review

Admittedly, I’m a bit late to the game with this little gem. People have been talking about it for a while, and I had previously played a demo, but I hadn’t bothered to do the whole game.

Inspired by the Mother series (Mother 2 brought to the USA as Earthbound) and another genre known as “bullet hell” games, Undertale takes us through the story of how the human world and the monster world came to be separated.

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So here’s the good, the neutral, and the bad about the game:

  • The price point is decent; $10 for this quirky little game, and it’s DRM-free as far as I know.
  • Total nostalgia throwback for those of us who grew up in the age of overhead, pixellated RPGs
  • Unique characters in a unique concept combined with an interesting battle system
  • A few twists and turns in the game
  • Catchy music

Neutral aspects of the game:

  • Length. The game is fairly short. It’s over before most games are really starting. I place this at “neutral” because the length of a game and story isn’t the absolute determining factor; Undertale has its story and tells it.
  • Storyline. The story isn’t terribly deep, but because so much of the game is unique, the lack of depth doesn’t really bother me.
  • Multiple endings. This is neither good nor bad as far I’m concerned. Multiple endings can make a game more interesting, but we’ll look at this in the next section.

Bad aspects:

  • The player cannot run. This is frustrating because of the next point…
  • …which is pacing and layout. Sometimes, shops and save points are bunched together, and other times there are long stretches where you can’t get healing items even though you really need them, and you have to backtrack…slowly…through various areas.
  • Lack of diverse objects or explaining their connections to other aspects of the game
  • Lack of clarity about multiple endings. The multiple ending aspect is well-known in the fandom, of course, but the game doesn’t do a good job explaining it within its story or how to achieve it.
  • Lack of clarity about other things. I had to look up several things online. For a short game, it could’ve been more straightfoward.

 

The good news, of course, is that you can look up on various websites all about the various styles of playing.

No matter what, I highly recommend playing Undertale. Go for it.

Steve

Enemy: a Poem

Enemy, my Enemy

Your face is red, it seems

Your body has more heat

Than it can handle

Here, let me help you

Repay you a kindness

For evil you’ve done unto me

As Christ would have me do

He bade us show love

Where hatred was given

Rival! O, my Rival!

Your tribute to me,

warm and true

Allow that I should free you

From this curse

Of excessive heat

There, now, a slash

Across your throat

Behold, you’re free!

An act of love

A blessing of

Our rivalry!

I bathe in blood so crimson

To cool you off

A sacrament

A tribute to you

My Enemy

Media, Facts, and More

I’m a big fan of  pointing out what isn’t said as opposed to what’s said.

The current situation with the Mainstream Media is this: many people distrust what various news outlets report because they feel like they’re (always or almost always) given a biased story that leaves out or distorts the facts due to the media being owned by corporations that have particular interests.

The reaction is for many people to turn to sources that aren’t mainstream- and they then somehow declare such sources to be more reputable by that virtue alone.

So the first false dichotomy we have is that Real News versus the Fake News; the trouble is, both sides might potentially be incorrect or correct. There is no guarantee that one is accurate and the other is inaccurate by virtue of its source.

Which is to say, the lack of a perceived corporate agenda does not mean no agenda exists.

We’ve seen that sites like Breitbart pump out stories that are not only misleading but often mostly fabricated; the trick is that sometimes a kernel of truth can be found in the article, but the way the information is presented distorts what’s really going on.

This brings us to the second major point. While we may talk about facts and whether or not something did happen or did not happen, we may need more than the mere verification of whether or not something occurred. Facts are woven into a broader narrative, and the way one weaves those facts varies according to one’s worldview. Facts are things that exist on their own, and what we do with those facts potentially matters more than the facts themselves.

All of that being said, I have a brief list of high-quality sources from which I obtain my news and am aware of the sort of bias and skew that are present in them, and I refuse to rely on low-quality sources that churn out information to upset people.

Which brings us to the third point, really more of a question: is it really possible to be unbiased? I have my doubts. People implicitly accept certain political realities and worldviews whether or not they overtly state them.

Food for thought.

Steve