Keyboard Warriors

AmpersandQuest

Their sure are some blood thirsty savages out there sitting behind their key boards. I get accused of being a “keyboard warrior” and maybe I am guilty as charged. That charge is largely true but I do not take it personally despite the negative connotation that accompanies it.  I might be a “keyboard warrior”but feel that as long as I realize this and stay within the realm of honest discussion and respectful debate that it should never detour me from expressing myself online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glorify the term and I realize why the term exist and why you don’t particularly want to be one. At the same time however I won’t allow the term to silence me either.

 

It took me a long time to get over the fact that there are bullies in the world especially online. Thank goodness I have been fortunate enough to meet some like-minded individuals online who’ve proven to me that I was allowing people to get the better of me and did not have my emotions in check. Sure, the bullying, trolling, and abusive language is never nice to read but the only thing complaining about it will do is put me in the position of a victim. A position I can attest to that weakens your positions tremendously and comes with, for me at least, a great deal of embarrassment and shame.

 

It is no longer acceptable to me to allow myself to be silenced by anyone attempting to derail me by posting negative remarks about me. It is far more empowering to take it all in stride, swallow your pride, and do what you set out to do without feeling guilty, ashamed, or victimized by anyone you encounter online. It’s become a trend it seems to cry out with histrionics about how mean the internet is. I can’t help but roll my eyes these days because that used to be me. The only difference is no one really ever listened to my complaints and for that I am glad. Call it a blessing in disguise if you will because if that had happened I might have ended up relying on trolls to justify my online existence.

 

If I’m going to be involved with online discussions on social media I suppose I would rather be refereed to as a “Keyboard Warrior” rather than a “Keyboard Victim” because at the end of the day a Warrior will always be criticized for his actions but will have the fortitude to admit their mistakes while a “Keyboard Victim” will always be in a position of submissive abandonment of their pride and dignity. This does not mean I blame victims of harassment because I do have compassion for those who have suffered at the hands of sadistic trolls who target them with reckless abandon and don’t let up until things become so dangerous that law enforcement is required to deal with it. That is far different from allowing a few or even a lot of trolls get under your skin even though it’s pretty obvious they aren’t going to present any real harm to you other than ridiculous and immature trolling online.

 

Be a Keyboard Warrior folks, but don’t fool yourself into believing you are anything more special than a human being sitting behind a keyboard making comments on world events in the comfort of your arm-chair. It’s a conversation folks, not a real battle field.

 

Be good everyone. Thanks for reading.

 

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Album Review: Tool – Lateralus Part 1

AmpersandQuest

 

 When I review albums of music I want to provide as much useful information as possible while also providing my own unique perspective on the album. Below my commentary will be a series of links for more information, lyrics, the band’s website, and a link to purchase the album. Please support the artist you enjoy!

 

 

Tool_-_Lateralus

 

As I said above factual information about this album will be found below so I will spare you the gory details in favor of a more opinionated diatribe that will detail my feelings and interpretations of each song. If you are a big fan of Tool and have followed them for a good length of time you will understand when I say that my interpretation is not a prescription of how you should feel. I realize I haven’t covered a Tool album before and it might seem strange to really hardcore Tool fans out there to start now with Lateralus. My reason for doing so is that while I have become a really big Tool fan and love to know all the little details about them I have to be honest, this wasn’t always the case. My fandom of Tool started with this very album soon after it was released in 2001. I was a freshmen in high school, my parents were just divorced, I was a social outcast, and I turned to music to escape the harsh reality of my existence.

From my experience with all of Tool’s albums it is a blessing that Lateralus is the album that I dove off from first as it seems to be a turning point not only in my life but in the lives of the artist who created the album as they seemed to be in the midst of a spiritual and intellectual awakening. This album is chock full of inspirational themes but they are not fully realized without taking a journey through the cold dark reality of existing in this harsh modern social climate so full of cruelty and despair. Lateralus as an album served me the same purpose The Holy Bible would serve a born again Christian but obviously in a very different way. Take away the overt brainwashing that religion offers and replace it with understanding, acceptance, and enlightenment that the main characters of The Holy Bible were created to represent and you have the album Lateralus.

What we have here then is one young boy’s Rosetta Stone for life. A means by which he would come to understand all of the strange, unique, painful, and beautiful things that were happening to him. All of which seemed to come through the speakers and soak deep into his bones as the stories of the music and lyrics came to be fully realized mythos unto themselves. This album, if you cannot tell by now, means a lot to me. If I were ever able to speak to its creators I would thank them deeply for finding it within themselves to express the glorious truths of nature described in this album and having the conviction to lay the tracks down and sell it to the world without shame.

With that out-of-the-way let us begin the review and remember that the lyrics for each song can be found in a link at the bottom of the page.

Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/
Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/

              Track #1 -The Grudge – 

Let us not avoid how much this track just flat-out rocks. The instrumental work in this album from the very start is outstanding from beginning to end and the very first track does not disappoint. It leaves you with a very powerful first impression by the nature of the very aggressive kit work from Danny Carey who never seems to let up throughout the entirety of this album. Danny’s drumming prowess is in full force here and beyond. The power chords from guitarist Adam Jones may not be technically brilliant however I would argue that his composition AND his precise technique don’t really leave a lot to be desired, it’s as if he simply plays exactly the right way all the time even if it’s not wailing technical solo’s. If I wanted power metal solo’s there are plenty of artist who provide that. Tool is not that sort of band. I have also always been fond of Justin Chancellors bass work and here it serves its purpose well to seemingly make Danny’s drum set sound even more pronounced and adding just the right amount of contrast to Adam’s guitar playing. Singer Maynard James Keenan gives a very powerful performance as he always seems to do in his own way. Both guttural and operatic weaving in and out of each other in a symphony of powerful and aggressive musical backdrops.

Moving on to what I believe this song’s story is. In life, whether it be an individual, a group of people, an institution, or even yourself you will find adversaries. You will inevitably experience all of the emotions and realities of what it means to have an enemy. People will do things to hurt you, you will be singled out, be treated unfairly, and make mistakes that you will regret. This song is not about that. This song is about the willingness or lack thereof to let go of grudges. It weaves in and out of inspiration and despair as both the music and lyrics spin you round and round but all the while staying focused on the merciful release that is granted to those who learn to let go of those enemies, gangs, politicians, and regrets. While at first the song might seem to be screaming at you out of anger ultimately the point of sale comes when it all culminates in the emotional outburst and release of that anger as both music and singer collide in an epic 32 second long scream urging you to simply LET GO! The lesson here is that there is much more to be gained in life from accepting reality for what it is instead of hanging on to that which ties you down and keeps you in one place and static with your blood boiling and a soul full of regret.  I fully recommend looking deeper into the lyrics of this song because like all of Tool’s songs it could mean something totally different to you. For me, this helped me control my anger and tempered me whenever I felt my emotions could be getting the best of me. It was easy for me to think back to this track and remember how awesome it feels every time I listen to it.

             Track #2 -Eon Blue Apocalypse (Instrumental)- 

I get the sense that this song is full of grief and a great amount of pain.  It is very short and delivers what feels to me to be a “moment of silence” sort of feel. Appropriate because apparently it is an ode of sorts for the passing of guitarist Adam Jones Great Dane whose name was Eon. For me, on a thematic level, it serves as a break between the aggressive opening song and the next. It might be a track that we skip over but from time to time I like to listen to it as I reflect on life.

 

              Track #3 -The Patient-       

The intro to this roller coaster of a song feels lumbering, laborious, tedious, and filled with tension. Perhaps the title of the song is very appropriate here as it seems to feel almost like how one would feel sitting in a doctor’s waiting room as you ponder what the good doctor has to report to you. Even the opening lyrics are dripping with a feeling of restrained exuberance dying for a massive release.  As the next section continues on we are presented with growing animosity as the music gets subtly louder and the lyrics encourage you to open your heart. The meat and potatoes of the song break free as that feeling of having to wait, be quiet, and remain stoic give way to an outburst of conviction and aggressive musical themes.

I think this song can be about anything. For me personally I tend to feel it’s about living in an overly politically correct society where you are not encouraged to express yourself. Quite the opposite is definitely pronounced throughout society. Thus, we all seem to go through periods in life where we lay low, keep a low profile, and become quite apathetic towards others. I believe this song explores the importance of both being silent and introspective and expressing yourself loudly and without shame.

It is important to have a stiff upper lip and soak up the pain at times as in don’t whine and complain too much and actually BE patient. But the desire to reach out, express yourself, include others, and branch out once you’ve healed is a desire that shouldn’t be forsaken.  The reason I said this is a roller coaster of a song is because towards the end the feeling I get is much the same as waiting for the big drop off at the top of a roller coaster at a theme park. Much more appropriate to me now that I mention it would be the feeling of a tight rope walk. That you are constantly walking this fine line between apathy and empathy. That while you want to reach out to others and experience love, compassion, and community there is always a desire to return to solitude. I strongly encourage a deep and focused reading of the lyrics found at the bottom of this review.

 

Track #4 -Mantra-

 

There are a lot of interesting discussions I found online about what this track represents and also how it was recorded. If you’re interested I would definitely encourage you to check Google for the information. However, right now I just want to talk about how the song makes me feel and how it correlates with the rest of the album’s thematic aura.

The listener is graced with a very peaceful yet somehow creepy and dark sound effect. There are a couple of layers to the track to mention. Most notably what sounds like the cry’s of a whale or perhaps monks chanting. Regardless of what the artist actually did to record this track to me it serves as a way to invest the listener to focus on their inner most thoughts. It isn’t long enough to make you forget about the previous track but just long enough to get your attention heading in to the next. Which is one of the most popular songs in Tool’s entire discography so it makes sense that Tool would want people to really pay attention at this point in the album.

 

Track #5 -Schism- 

 

What stands out to me most about this song is that while it is the song they chose to be the radio friendly song of the album it is not by any means your typical arena rock and roll anthem, which I do love by the way, but they somehow managed to create a song of very pressing matters that most people don’t want to talk about and make it a chart topping hit. It’s as if they created something that isn’t supposed to appeal to everyone that by virtue of its own merit managed to soak itself into the world consciousness and took on a very powerful meaning for millions upon millions of people. It is not by any means my most cherished Tool track but I deeply respect it for what it is and what it meant for Tool being absolutely cemented in history as one of rock’s greatest bands. That does not mean this track is not chock full of philosophical importance, indeed it is, but that’s not what impresses me about it. It stands on its own as the Tool song that took music by storm without selling out.

The song itself begins with a bass intro that comes off the heels of the previous track Mantra and fits so damn well with the feeling of Mantra. The focus and attention I get from listening to Mantra is not at all broken by this intro but enhanced. The intro drones for a moment as the main bass riff that’s become so recognizable begins to enter your consciousness. Followed by Danny’s powerful drumming and Maynard’s timeless lyrics unfold before you. Musically to me this song is not the most impressive of all of Tool’s efforts but it is by no means forgettable either. Mostly because of how pressing the issues discussed in the lyrics are. To me that is where the strength of this song stands.

There is no way to view this song in a one-dimensional manner. It is about you, me, and everyone else. It is about our institutions or lack thereof. But what is the song saying about them? Personally I think the entire point of the song is that we do everything we can to promote certain ideals and convictions but fail to recognize how those seemingly virtuous and inspiring intentions also create division, animosity, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.  It is amazing to me how our greatest intentions can give birth to such tragic failings in human kind. As the song says, you can realize that all the pieces fit but only because you watched them crumble, fail, and burn to the ground. While the song definitely encourages all of us to strive for good things in life it doesn’t bury its head in the sand when it comes to how those good things are often born from human suffering.

Perhaps this song was so successful because it’s over all message is that no matter how strong our convictions, family ties, friendships, and relationships are they will never be perfect. Everyone can relate to this message and appreciate the compassionate message it has. It doesn’t attempt to paint a pie in the sky image of the human condition but instead is honest with the listener. I am very glad this song became as popular as it did for it provided an outlet for all the animosity in the world. Also, it gives people the chance to understand just how connected we all are in the human condition and encourages us to come together in a common goal. Not in any communist hippie dippy sense but in a realistic realization that we all experience this schism in our interactions with others. We are all our own individual with our own belief structures but ultimately they are all born from a very similar place where we desire the best outcomes for not just ourselves but those around us. It is then by its very nature a message of peace and understanding. It’s not saying to tolerate bad behavior for the sake of tolerance either, rather, reaches out for us to recognize how bad behavior manifest from otherwise harmless and good intent. What a fascinating example of how music can change the world.

This has become quite a lengthy article so I have decided to break it up in three parts. Come back for more especially because I happen to enjoy the later half of the album a lot more. I have a lot to say about the remainder of the album so stay tuned and thanks for reading! 

Lateralus Wikipedia Link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralus

Tool Website: http://www.toolband.com/

Lateralus Lyrics Link: https://www.toolband.com/album/lyrics/lateralus.html

Don’t forget that if you want to listen to the album, please, for the love of all that is right and just in the world. Buy the songs or the album.

Try With All Your Might. Rock and Roll Will Not Die!

AmpersandQuest

 

 

If you have been following the #GamerGate hashtag online over the last two months you are probably familiar with both sides of the argument. Breifly, one side believes video games promote misogyny, violence, bigotry, and need to be changed and censored. The opposing view-point see’s video games in a much different light and believe they are forms of art that should not be censored by any means and offer a way to experience difficult human conditions without actually bringing harm to others. I find myself on the latter side but not just with video games. While #GamerGate might be the strategic front for now to criticize the views of a group known as “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW’s for short) it has come to my attention more than once that my favorite genre of music will definitely come under their harsh, unfair, biased, and unrealistic criticism. I will not sit idly by while they try to tear my favorite form of music expression to pieces and attempt to make it more politically correct. Rock and roll has faced this over and over again over the years and I for one believe it will survive the onslaught. 

 

elvis-presley-dancing-thesuiteworld

 

 The following is taken from Wikipedia. 

      “The second Milton Berle Show appearance came on June 5 at NBC’s Hollywood studio, amid another hectic tour. Berle persuaded the singer to leave his guitar backstage, advising, “Let ’em see you, son.”[104] During the performance, Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of “Hound Dog” with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements.[104] Presley’s gyrations created a storm of controversy.[105] Television critics were outraged: Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. … His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. … His one specialty is an accented movement of the body … primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.”[106] Ben Gross of the New York Daily News opined that popular music “has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley. … Elvis, who rotates his pelvis … gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos”.[107] Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation’s most popular, declared him “unfit for family viewing”.[108] To Presley’s displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as “Elvis the Pelvis”, which he called “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin’ from an adult.”[109]

 

    Elvis Presley may not be the most rock and roll of rock and roll however this famous example really highlights the points I will be making later on in the article. Please consider the ramifications and consequences if we listen to the same kind of concern, baiting, immaturity, and baseless accusations of the modern-day political correctness brigade infamously known now as Social Justice Warriors. 

mastodon-once-more-round-the-sun

 

                         The following is taken from Loudwire.com

  •       http://loudwire.com/mastodon-brann-dailor-defends-twerk-heavy-the-motherload-video-sexist-allegations/

       “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s just no escaping from the phenomenon known as twerking. Even Mastodon took a tongue-in-cheek approach to rippling glutes in their new video for ‘The Motherload.’ In a new interview with Mastodon drummer / vocalist Brann Dailor, the musician explains the concept behind the video and addresses the sexist criticism that videos featuring twerking receive.”

               It will be tempting to dismiss the comparison by pointing out that the criticisms of Elvis came from a different time and that Mastadon’s criticism is that of female dancers being sexually objectified. To me however these observations only serve to highlight how much more ridiculous, immature, and biased it is to criticize women on 2014 the same way people criticized Elvis in 1957. In both cases I have to wonder what in the world are these people so afraid of? Is society at large so easily offended and afraid of sexuality that even dance moves send them in a fluttering tizzy of emotional weakness? If men and women are equal then why is it offensive for one to shake their hips and not the other? 

               If my love of the rock and roll/metal genre has taught me anything it’s that nothing is off-limits. The main reason I love it so much is that it constantly pushes the envelope and the artist involved are constantly exploring hot button issues in order to provoke a reaction that raises eye brows and hopefully gets people to think twice about their preconceived notions.  I admit that I am not the biggest fan of Mastadon nor do I find the video particularly interesting save for the parody of early 90’s heavy metal music videos which I find a bit humorous. That does not grant me a right to even attempt to censor them, tell them they are sexist, and try to tear them down in any way. Sure, you have all the right in the world to make such criticism but in doing so you open yourself up to retort. My retort is that you are simply being entirely too sensitive. The girls in this video are not forced to dance in front of the camera in provocative ways. In fact, I think it’s rather demeaning of you to label them as victims when in fact they have found a job they enjoy doing. Who are you to pass judgement on them? 

                          What would have happened to the music industry if we as a society would have taken such accusatory, baseless, and immature criticisms to heart? Would Elvis Presley have gone on to set the world on fire with his provocative style? It is my opinion that if we do not stand up to the political correctness brigades of the world that we will end up in a joyless ride where you have to constantly watch what you say, enjoy, do, listen to, watch, or are otherwise entertained by. It is exactly this kind of blatant censorship which I fear most and would simply refuse to live and put up with. Rock and Roll/Metal music serves a very important purpose in this department. The more PC is pushed, the harder these bands should rock out. The more they are labeled and blamed for societies problems the more provocative the lyrics should become until finally something gives and the PC Nazi’s of the world grow up and realize the jokes on them and give up on their ridiculous quest to Nerf the world. 

There are even more examples of rock music coming under fire and being blamed for ills in the world (I will provide more below). It seems that every time something bad happens in the world we will quickly divert responsibility away from the perpetrator and on to the kind of music they enjoyed, games they played, books they read, or movies they watched. Why? It’s a simple question that the SJW movement wants to answer by saying things like, “Just because you don’t think you’re affected by media doesn’t mean you aren’t. In fact, it probably means you are the most affected.” Anita Sarkeesian said something very similar to this in one of her Tropes vs Women videos and I have to demand actual proof of this baseless accusation. I am defending rock music here because for me it has served as a very healthy outlet and allowed me to explore the darker half of my psyche without actually having to express it and take it out on others. This art form doesn’t just explore the dark but very creatively creates a light at the end of a very difficult tunnel for millions of fans world-wide. To imagine anyone trying to take this away by failing to make a valid criticism of it just because they are too sensitive to understand what rock and roll/metal is all about is beyond asinine. To these people I recommend just turning off and avoiding media that makes you feel so mad and sensitive. The rest of us are just fine and aren’t out to hurt you. Leave us alone and stop trying to ruin OUR fun and OUR hobbies.   

 

 

List of Society Blaming Rock for Violence

  • The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” & Manson Family Murders
  • Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution” & Teen Suicide
  • Judas Priest’s “Better by You, Better Than Me” & Suicide Pact
  • AC/DC’s “Night Prowler” & Serial Killer Richard Ramirez
  • Marilyn Manson & Columbine’s killers

                        I advise my readers to do google searches of this list and would ask that you consider the consequences of demanding artist censor themselves just because bad things happen in the world. What sort of legacy will we leave behind if we are the generation that chose to leave behind the tradition of free expression? Do you really want to be remembered in history for going along with an ideology that demands you not explore yourself through the safety of art? Is there any good reason why we should close our minds, hide our eyes, and close our ears every time someone creates something that offends our sensibilities? My accusation of you if you have already is that you are of a weak mind and speaking from a place of fear and ignorance. Your message is not the only one that needs be heard and understood. So while you are free to criticize all you want it really stops there if you are unwilling to go and create your own art, messages, and content for others with a like mind to enjoy. If you simply refuse to put in the effort to create and build an audience then I’m afraid your complaints fall on deaf ears because all you’re ultimately doing is complaining constantly that the creative people of the world didn’t make something that pleases your every last desire. 

 

ROCK AND ROLL WILL NOT DIE AND I HOPE IT ROCKS YOU OUT OF YOUR SOCKS! 

Apostasy Now Ep 23: Davis M J Aurini – Documentary called The Sarkeesian Effect

Really well done podcast. Enjoyed the show!

Apostasy Now

Davis M J Aurini drops in to talk with us about a documentary he’s working to produce investigating claims by many social justice warriors about and surrounding the gaming industry and the ignored journalistic collusion of editors, reviewers, etc that most of the media is ignoring. Davis is a very intelligent man with a lot of interesting things to say, I’m glad we could have him on. Please check out his links below and if you can’t donate to the cause then pass on this show link to spread the word to others who might!

A special thanks to Anton A Hill (AKA Atheist Asshole) for being a guest host. Dude, you are awesome. Check his links below as well.

[audio http://archive.org/download/ANPEp23DavisMJAurini/ANP%20Ep%2023%20-%20Davis%20M%20J%20Aurini.mp3]

Download ANP Ep 23

Davis M J Aurini

Davis M J Aurini

Davis’ Blog

http://www.staresattheworld.com

Davis’ YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/user/Aurini/featured

Davis’ Twitter @Aurini

https://twitter.com/Aurini

Anton’s Site

http://atheistasshole.com

Anton’s YouTube channel

https://www.youtube.com/user/antonahill

Anton’s Twitter @antonahill

https://twitter.com/antonahill

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Gamer Gate and the Bigger Picture of Political Correctness.

AmpersandQuest

 

It’s been almost a month now since the gaming community found itself in a steaming pile of a controversy surrounding the actions and behaviors of certain elements in the community. There are several hands at play in this on going situation but that is not what I am going to write about here. If you need to know the details about Gamer Gate I recommend you click on the link below this paragraph before continuing on. The video will talk about a lot of things and if you want to know more than what is provided in this video make sure to take notes from the video and search Google for your answers. My goal here is not to cover the specifics but rather the larger implications that are beyond the gaming industry itself.

Mundane Matt from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UwkdxlyRt0

Just to provide a brief description of Gamer Gate let us discuss the two opposing sides to the controversy. One side identifies as “Gamers” and the other side claims that “Gamers” are dead. The side that claims “Gamers” are dead have been labeled as Social Justice Warriors and seem to be less interested in video games as they are in supposed equality and inclusiveness. They have accused “Gamers” as being misogynist, bigots, privileged white males, and worse. Gamers have of course objected to this but it has been building up for a quite some time now. So if I’m not going to talk about all the details then why am I writing about it? The answer is in the next paragraph.

Whether its video games, movies, tv shows, music, or sports it seems to me that there is a growing amount of concern to be more politically correct in every entertainment or sporting industry there is. This is not by any means a new phenomenon, however, in 2014 it seems people have had enough and I count myself among those who feel this PC era of entertainment has got to end. If you support political correctness I don’t necessarily have any gripe with you on an individual level, however, when it comes to freedom of expression and the sharing of controversial ideas that you may find offensive I cannot help but become critical of your views on the matter.

I grew up believing that people’s opinions and views mattered. I’ve always believed and still do that even if those opinions are grossly out-of-bounds with what I can agree with that I shouldn’t be allowed to censor them. There is a very important reason I believe this and it feels like society is losing touch with that reason as each year passes on. That reason is that of objective comparison and contrast with one another. If we as a society cannot hear the down right horrible views of some and attempt to wipe it all from the historical record then what kind of legacy will we leave behind? Not only that, what kind of chance will future generations have of knowing what was and is acceptable behavior? What sort of context will we be able to provide if we attempt to censor those opinions of which we fully disagree with and oppose?

Silence is not an option and that of course is not what I am attempting to push here. Rather, the ability to listen and let sink in the opinions and world views of those we oppose and speaking out against them. That is what is at stake here. Are we to strive for a 1984 like totalitarian society where we simply wipe the history slate clean when it does not fit with our narrative? Are we to just forget about all the horrible things people have done to one another in a vain attempt to feel better about ourselves as a people? Whether or not you actually support these horrible things in the long history of society is irrelevant to the matter of allowing them to be known, studied, and explored.

If we are so weak as a people now that we cannot even allow ourselves to see the dark side of humanity then I am afraid we are doomed to not just repeat those mistakes but create even greater atrocities by virtue of plain ignorance and cowardice. Political correctness in my opinion is merely censorship with a pretty name. It is a means by which to silence dissent against one’s narrative. Whether or not that narrative is actually healthy and true is not the point, allowing people to ask questions and disagree with that narrative is. I have to ask myself, at some point, are we going to send people to prison when they simply hurt someone’s feelings in the future?

There are little situations less frightening to me than to live in a society to afraid to have a civil dialogue about important issues. It is easy to point at the trolls, haters, and bullies of the world and pass all their aggression on to those who differ in opinion to you but I believe that is the crux of the problem here. Instead of taking the easy route why not instead take on the challenge of real debate.  Why are so many people so terrified of the possibility of being half wrong that they’ll do just about anything to avoid a realistic conversation in which a common goal can be ascertained? Personally, I have trouble looking in the mirror too, but, it doesn’t stop me from actually participating in a discussion where I might have to admit when I’m incorrect and change my mind on specific things I’ve said or done.  The one thing I don’t do, at least I try my best not to, is trying to paint my opposition as simply being trolls. I don’t claim to be a victim of harassment just because someone or several people call me out for being an idiot. Maybe it’s because I work in an industry where it is a daily ritual to have to face facts and get actually harassed by cranky people. I must have developed a thick skin.

In conclusion to these thoughts I want to leave you with some food for thought. I am a huge fan of rock and roll and metal. Other than the music the one thing I love most about that culture is the freedom of expression involved in it. The whole purpose of rock music is to represent a passion that exist in the human spirit to live life to the fullest. That does not entail always being inspirational and happy with life. It does mean looking at both sides of the coin and realizing that maybe life isn’t completely black and white. Rock music fully explores both the good and the evil of the human condition and does so without considering who might get their feelings hurt. Some of my favorite artist have publicly stated that the last thing they would ever do is listen to their fans when writing new material. I really like that. It says to me they care more about honesty and integrity than they do about pleasing everyone. They didn’t acquire their fame and fortune by simply being nice to everyone and bowing down to their every single whim. They got there by being extremely talented, having a relevant message to send, and by delivering it in very awesome and unique ways. To realize now that there is a huge group of people who actually oppose such things disgust me to no end and I simply will not stand for it. Critique is one thing. Attempting to censor is quite another.

 

 

Response to Gene Simmons: “Rock is not dead.”

Recently world renowned rock and roll legend and former KISS bassist Gene Simmons stated and explore the idea that rock and roll is dead. When asked, “You once said the music business isn’t dying — it’s dead. What would you say to young musicians and songwriters today trying to navigate this new terrain?” Gene replied, “Don’t quit your day job is a good piece of advice.”

He elaborated on the subject by bringing up how well more recent music has done in comparison to rock music. Gene contunued, “From ’84 until today, name some. Just give me a few artist that, even after their passing, are or will be inescapable.” To which I would reply with bands like Tool, Radiohead, Primus, Dream Theater, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Phish, and Dave Mathews Band. However, Gene’s point does not escape me. I get it, rock is not mainstream anymore. It hasn’t been for a very long time. Was it ever meant to be though? For a short time sure, however, the general population doesn’t have a very long attention span does it?

For me rock and roll has always represented a counter culture of the sort that does not seek the approval of the masses. I honestly don’t like many of the bands he mentioned as much as I do the one’s I mentioned. I realize those names are inescapable by the numbers he’s bringing up. But to me, that doesn’t matter. There are bands waiting to be heard out there. Bands waiting for people to identify with them, cheer for them in stadiums, and remember them for the rest of their lives.

Gene has this to say about the internet and file sharing, “The masses do not recognize file-sharing and downloading as stealing because there’s a copy left behind for you — it’s not that copy that’s the problem, it’s the other one that someone received but didn’t pay for. The problem is that nobody will pay you for the 10,000 hours you put in to create what you created. I can only imagine the frustration of all that work, and having no one value it enough to pay you for it.”

 

To which my reply is, Yes, certainly the industry is not what it used to be. However, it has allowed artist to further explore their hobbies and passion in music with much more freedom than before. I cannot count how many times I typed in “Progressive Rock” into Youtube and found bands I never would have heard of before and while I didn’t buy all the albums I heard I have bought quite a few and I really enjoy that. I feel that because I buy the bands I really enjoy and don’t share or listen to the bands I don’t like so much that I am helping the bands I do enjoy and feel that other bands that other people like are being supported as well. Perhaps not on the same level Gene Simmons is referring to which would also be really awesome to see by the way, please don’t misunderstand, I am not disagreeing with the sentiment Gene is bringing up.

 

My entire point is inspired by Gene’s concern for rock music in general. If you are going to share music from artist and help people find out about them the least you can do is buy a damn album from them. I often find myself buying entire discographies of the bands I really love. I believe that some how rock and roll can revive itself and in some ways I feel it already has.

 

Those are just feelings though and I do believe Gene when he states his concerns. It’s just I can’t let my favorite music die silently. Please support the bands you love and support the artistry and hard work you find out there that inspires you to get through your day. There is plenty of good music out there, I just hope who ever reads this feels my sentiment and does so today if possible.

 

Now get out there and listen to some damn good rockin music folks. And if you are a musician, well, you know what you got to do. Keep on rockin baby!

Hipster Puritanism Ode To Starbucks Buddha (A Prayer For Jordan Owen)

Our Mermaid Lady, who art in Starbucks,
Hallowed be thy fish-like hands
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in Starbuckia
Give us this day our daily conniption fit
And forgive us our politically incorrect trespasses,
As we refuse to forgive those who triggered our emotions,
And lead us please into complete hedonistic temptations,
But deliver us from evil, straight white men.
For thine kingdom is so cool
and the power, so really neat
and the glory hole, in which I’m too good to stare.
for ever and ever and infinity forever.

Amen.

Pinnaclism

Just rebloging as a highlight of my wordpress. Do not want this to be buried.

Ampersand Quest

Ampersand Daily2

Pinnaclism is my idea of looking at the vastly superior ideas from any given political or social movement and combining them under one umbrella. When those ideas compete with one another, we should lean towards the more ideal conditions and compromise those ideas which are not in our best interest by accepting the faults of that idea and allowing new and innovative ideas to take their place. This will require a high degree of intellectual honesty and also the ability to let go of preconceived notions once it has become apparent that one idea is inferior to the other.

This is a new term that I have come up with and in my opinion is the only solution to an authoritarian state where violence is deemed required to spread ideology. Pinnaclism still allows freedom of expression, thought, and allows us all to have our positions without the threat of violence…

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Place Your Bets Please

AmpersandQuest

 

This word press is going to tell a story of a man who entered into a new profession as a boy and learned what it takes to be a man because of it. It will also tell of the anonymous faces this boy saw and how it impacted him to think about where he himself was heading in life. It is a peculiar trade and one that takes a lot of skill, cunning, and brutal honesty to be a part of. All of which the young man did not have in abundance before becoming seasoned in the trade. The lessons learned have branched out into other areas of his life and have allowed him to mature into the man he had always hoped to be. Or at least showed him the path. A path on which he continues to travel on to this day. This young man is me of course. Here is my story of the Casino trade.

 

Allow me if you will to take you into the world of gambling, entertainment, and the brutal honesty that is the Casino trade. It is astonishing to me just how much of a reflection gambling is of actual life and of how accurately you can learn about people in general by reading the dispositions of those who place their hard-earned money in the betting circle with the hope of winning big money. It is easy at first to imagine this trade to be dishonest, shady, and otherwise criminal but nothing can be further from the truth. Think about fast food if you will. How often will these large restaurants defend their food even though we all know it’s trash. They spend billions on marketing every single year and because of it they still somehow thrive. The degree to which they have to advertise a happy-go-lucky attitude about their business is to me what makes it so transparent that no one should even think about shoveling that food into their mouths.

 

Before we dive to deeply into that let’s start at the beginning of my career, dealers school to be precise. I had been working in fast food for 3 years prior to my enrollment into dealers school. Far too old of an age to be relying on a near minimum wage salary and answering to some of the worst humanity has to offer. Though I did build some character in the fast food trade it was but a drop in the bucket compared to just two weeks of dealer training. It started off slowly enough with learning how to handle chips, cards, and money as only a dealer can do. Each day increasing in difficulty as we would learn to quickly count card values, chip values, and dollar amounts so that we could keep games moving. At first this just meant learning how to deal the most basic and also most popular of games, Blackjack.

 

Our instructor was kind and patient enough to be teaching us but at the same time he was a complete smart ass and he made sure to remind us that his cruelty was nothing compared to what we would be subject to on a live game so I kept my mouth shut most of the time and just absorbed any kind of disciplinary actions taken against me because I had the feeling that there was no room for any kind of know-it-all behavior. I was exactly right to think this way as I witnessed one student after another losing their cool and being escorted out of the training facility. It became obvious to me that this job was not at all for the faint of heart. However, I myself was very faint of heart. This did not sit well with me at first but something inside me kept me going. This was the first time in a very long time that I felt myself actually giving a damn about my performance not just as a student but as a human being.

 

Several weeks into training it became obvious to myself and my teacher that I was becoming someone to look at with interest. Other students started to ask me questions instead of the instructor. I did not allow this to go to my head at all out of fear that any kind of arrogance would result in a return to the fast food work I had been doing. So I mostly differed this attention to my instructor. After I became more comfortable with it however, I began to be able to answer these questions with confidence and soon enough I was dealing mock games of black jack long before the other students in class.

 

For the first time in a long time I had a sense of pride in what I was doing. It became an art form just as much as playing guitar had for me in years past. It became clear to me that this job did not simply mean putting cards on a table then collecting and paying bets. There was much more to it than that after you learned the fundamentals of dealing cards. I started noticing subtle changes in people’s behavior when it came to different scenarios in the game. Much as professional poker players talk about when competing on TV. People cannot help but react when it comes to a game, especially when money is on the line. However, this was still true even though it was mock money on the line in class.

 

Let’s skip forward to my first night on a live blackjack game. It was a first night to remember as it was July 4th. The Casino was completely packed to the brim and a line of guest were in waiting to get in as the fire marshal would not allow more than capacity to enter the building. I was assigned a table in the main pit of the floor which was so crowded that it took me 10 minutes just to enter and find my place. The table was full of what I now know as a matter of routine are the most difficult people to deal to. Fifty plus year old drunk men and a whole table full at that with others in wait for when one of them got up to move on with their night. The amount of pressure, nervousness, and adrenaline that was rushing through my body is still to this day indescribable.  In a moment I had forgotten every single thing I had learned in class and not only that was being cussed at, picked on, and flogged because on of the more veteran dealers had let it be known that it was my very first night on the job.

 

Music from the live band playing was so loud that I could barely hear anything which is an all important aspect to being a live table games dealer. You must be able to communicate certain things to your pit boss and this was nearly impossible with everything going through my mind at that point. That night I had to either put up or shut up and hand in my dealers license. My first hand went off without a snag, the second, third, and fourth as well. This was because nothing of note happened but I will never forget the first black jack I dealt was a bet made with several colors of value chips. Now days, it is something I don’t even think about but on my first night my mind drew a complete blank. A black jack will pay any bet three to two in odds. In other words a ten-dollar bet will pay fifteen dollars on any black jack which is the first two cards the player receives equaling twenty-one. Mathematically you simply take the entire amount of the bet, divide by two, and then add that amount to the original bet. On a ten-dollar bet, divide ten by two which equals 5, add five to ten which equals fifteen and then pay the bet. The bet I drew a blank on was a bet of twenty-three dollars and fifty cents. I stood there, confused, bewildered, and ashamed of myself.

 

Unable to figure out the payout my pit boss started pushing me to figure it out, the players cussing at me, calling me names, and myself beating myself up more harshly than that! It was one of those moments where everything goes silent and you either put forth the effort and do it or you fold like an accordion and fail miserably and decide to move on with your life.  I knew I wanted this job more than anything in the world. I just got a new girlfriend, my own car, a new place to live, and was moving on with my life outside of this job so the idea of giving up now was out of the question. I started to scramble and figure out the bet one color at a time. And 5 minutes later, which is an obscene amount of time to me now, I had figured it out. The entire table of drunk old men, my pit boss, and the shift manager all cheered aloud as I stood there completely embarrassed, yet, triumphant in getting over myself and just paying the man his money.

 

Fast forward two years and I am a competent dealer in several different and varied games including several types of poker games. The lesson I learned that first night has never left me. That is, people, even when they’re being complete shit heads, typically just want the best things to happen for themselves and others. Even if they’re calling you every name in the book, they still want the good thing to happen. That is why this business is so god damn honest. They don’t come there expecting to win every hand or at all for that matter. What they come to do is have a good time and it is my job for that entertainment to be at my expense. That’s not to say I still let guest cuss me out and treat me like garbage like I did my first few weeks of dealing. It just means it’s my job not only to deal the game correctly but to make it as entertaining as possible for the guest.

 

The trick is to present the guest with such a good time that they leave me a tip, which is the bulk of my annual income. I have had experience in sales in my lifetime as well which has come in handy but one thing I’ve noticed about this job in contrast to sales is that of the level of honesty. When it comes to what I’m selling I can be utterly blunt about it where as when I was in sales I had to make the product sound better than it actually was. Here, when someone is losing and starting to get pissed off about it all I have to do is get the rest of my table to start cheering for them. I have to encourage them to have a good time despite the loss and that they are partaking in something that’s not just about them but the party atmosphere around them. They don’t want to be a party pooper do they? Hardly anyone does and those that do want to poop the party well there are other ways of handling them as well.

 

The most difficult guest that I encounter are the one’s who complain no matter how much they’re winning or losing. Either that or they have hardly anything to say at all. Getting them to play along is difficult but not impossible. It takes a higher level of patients and cunning to get them involved with the “party”. For example, getting the rest of the table involved with their decisions on the game can mean the different between a tip or not. If they simply are not going to tip and others are it is amusing to hear the rest of the table cuss that guest out for being a prick and not treating their dealer right. “Hey buddy, it’s not like it’s the dealers money, he wants us to win too ya jerk!”, they’ll say. To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, my boss already makes enough money, none of us have his kind of money so let’s make it together folks!” If that doesn’t work and the party pooper still doesn’t play along it only encourages the rest of the party to have more fun in spite of the pooper. It’s fascinating to me how this dynamic plays out over the hour-long period I will deal to them before I have to go on a mandatory break. Which is another interesting way of using psychology on the table.

 

In the state in which I work, by law, a dealer is not allowed to deal for more than an hour and twenty minutes at a time. This not only allows the dealer to gather their thoughts and clear their mind but it can also swing the game back in or out of the favor of the house. I call this dynamic “good cop, bad cop.” Much like we all see in cop movies/tv shows where cops team up on a suspect and play good/bad with them dealers can do much the same thing. For example, for an hour I might be “dumping” to the table which simply means paying out a lot of money on each hand. This gets the party atmosphere in high spirits while I’m there but then my break comes and a new dealer is there for the twenty minutes I’m away. The new dealer now may be impossible to beat. This is all a part of the fun of gambling. When I get back from break after the new dealer takes back most if not all of their chips the guest will rejoice in my return and offer up tribute in the form of either handing me tips or placing dealer bets so that I can play along. As the bad cop a dealer learns not to take the insults personally and realizes they have played their part in a mind game that results in more tips than usual.

 

Now you may be saying to yourself that this is some how shady and dishonest but is it really? We aren’t allowed to ask for tips directly and in my opinion this is a good thing because it is more professional to actually earn those tips by providing an entertaining experience rather than cheaply asking for tips out right. Not only can a dealer lose their job but in my opinion it cheapens the entire experience for the guest and the dealers as well. Regular guest know what is going on and not only are happy to tip but realize it adds a lot more to the party like atmosphere going on.  These are the guest we rely on most to ensure a great time for everyone playing and after so long you develop really tight and awesome bonds with them.  But for every guest like this there are ten who just do not get it. This is where the artistry of everything I just talked about comes in to play.

 

Often times I feel like a rock star on his own unique stage because people know my name by word of mouth and I find regulars returning to my tables every single week just to have a good time of which I am very happy to oblige. It is just as important for me to have a great time as it is to make money at my job and that is why I absolutely love what I do. This job has not only helped me financially but has helped me mature into the young man I always hoped I would be. It has motivated me to make other changes in my life. Like caring about my appearance, the way I socialize with others, and how I treat my personal life with loved one’s and friends. At the end of the night when I am ready to clock out there are always stories to be told, merriment to be had, and friendships to be maintained. Some times I help count up all of our tips for the day and I can tell you that I and the other dealers all take pride in every single red cent we get. We do not think of our guest as suckers and they do not think of us as scam artist. We develop a bond with them much as a bar tender would his guest.

 

I honestly believe this is one of the most honest trades in the world because no one forces anyone to place those bets on the table. We even go so far as to explain the best odds possible and that there is not one single game in the entire casino which has the guest best interest at heart. Why then do people keep putting their money in the circle? I say it’s because of the thrill of the chase, the good people they’re surrounded with, and the memories they create while there. Sure, people get lucky and make a lot of money some times but more often than not people will spend what they bring every time they come and yet they return the next week. That tells me there is something else at play. Something intangible and valuable to humanity involved with gambling. Something that only people in the entertainment business truly understand and have mastered over the years. It’s the same reason you pay to go see your favorite bands, or go to the movies, or even take your friends or co-workers out to a nice restaurant. Once the money becomes irrelevant and you are simply having the time of your life you quickly realize that what you are betting on is having a great time.

Night Terrors: The 22nd Century

AmpersandQuest

I wake on my yacht in the middle of my prescribed slumber only to feel this sweet yet terrifying sensation burning on the back of my neck where my update cord is firmly plugged in. I imagine the feeling is similar to that of what the fetus of 100 years ago would have felt in it’s mothers womb which both brings me comfort and delivers an awkward uncomfortable feeling that I am not supposed to be living like this.

I am not supposed to be awake right now, yet I am, but everything my cord is telling me is to fall back into my slumber. Yet I feel the sensation of the waves rocking my boat back and forth. I feel the breeze on my arm, my artificial skin and body hair unable to goose bump or otherwise react yet I could swear it was. I longed for it to feel as my ancestors would feel.

I close my eyes as the burn on back of my neck increases, I know what’s coming and though I wish I could now cry I know I never will so why do I feel this way? I am confused beyond my own understanding. As the burning increases yet again I hear a dolphins cries in the distance as seaguls screach above my head. I don’t want to return to my slumber. But now it’s time for my update to return me to my slumber…I….Can only feel the burning…Oh that burning…I hate it….

……….SUBJECT 231483 YOU ARE NOT AWAKE. PROTOCOL #421 HAS RESUMED YOUR SLUMBER PROGRAM. RELAX, DO NOT RESIST.