Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Deus ex Machina: Christianity in the Information Age

So internet we've known each other for about a month now so I figure I should come clean about something. I'm not sure if you're going to like it but if I don't say something now it's just going to be tougher for both of us in the long run. I'm a Christian.
I knew you were going to be an ass hole about this Internet
Now the last time I openly talked to a friend about this his response was "WHY?! HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID?" I have no idea how he talked in all capitals but he was clearly agitated about me being religious and many people I have met seem to be fully on board with a lot of things I say until I drop the J bomb on them. For some reason you lot have lots of preconceptions about us and I have no idea why.
Oh wait... now I get it.
So this week's blog post isn't about boobs, robots, cats or sweet space lasers. It's about serious stuff; beliefs and feelings and being nice to people. If this disappoints you feel free to tune in next week when I'll probably be going on about something much less boring. If you want to actually read something meaningful however, stick around.

Now I don't pretend to be a mouthpiece for God nor do I think that my opinions are any more important than anyone else's but I'm hoping to set the record straight a bit tonight. I've been hearing a lot of things about the Church and its inhabitants recently that don't really add up so I've decided to step up on my virtual soap box and have my say. I'm fully aware that this makes me seem like some kind of evangelical ass hole on a street corner but hear me out.

I Don't Hate or Fear Homosexuals

Us Christos and gay people have had a bad track record for some time and it is true that quite a few of us have issues with them on some level. I think this comes down to a lack of understanding on our part and an inability to process this ignorance. Homophobia is an ugly and stupid thing and I personally want no part in it,  I have met many wonderful gay men and lesbians, some of which I count as my closest friends.
No homo
I don't really understand how men can find men attractive and the bible says some pretty specific things about homosexuality but that doesn't mean that I have any right to comment on what the gay community get up to. The bible actually contains more warnings about greed, theft, lies, bad council, drunkenness and foolish talk than homosexuality so by all accounts I'm just as bad as anyone who has touched another man's balls in a romantic setting. Any homophobia you find amongst God's people is a purely human failing, not a divine one.

I Don't Think I'm Better than Anyone Else Because I'm Christian

'Holier than thou' is a phrase I hear banded about in reference to us God Botherers a lot and it's an unfortunate truth that many Christians can come across very arrogant and aloof when attempting to describe their faith. The word Holy itself is loaded with cultural and religious connotations but if we strip it back to its Hebrew origins we see a different picture. Holy or Qadosh in ancient hebrew actually means "separate". Not better, not more righteous or pious, just different. I would describe myself as holy in this sense and I doubt anyone would have an issue with it.
I was also holy as a child
I have talked about how much I dislike mainstream culture before and I don't hate it because I'm a Christian and it's full of sinners, I hate it because its shitty. I'm just as much of a sinner as many non-Christians. Sin is the great unifier, the darkness in us all holy or not so for me passing judgement on others is out of the question.

I'm not a Christian out of Ignorance or Indoctrination

Religious schooling has never made sense to me and appears to make better atheists than theists most of the time. While I was brought up a Christian by my parents my choices when it comes to faith and how I live my life have always been my own and I know they are proud of me for it. I have definitely done some things that don't make sense to them but I know they respect me enough to let me work things out on my own. 

I also have a reasonably deep understanding of nature and evolution (I studied microbiology at university) and have heard all the popular intelligent arguments for and against religion so what many people think are subjects of vigorous theological debate tend to leave me cold. I guess the major reason I'm still a Christian is that it's the road less travelled and narrow paths have always seemed more interesting to me, they tend to lead to the most interesting places.

So what am I trying to say? 

I guess the main point I'm trying to put across is this: us Christians are similar in a lot of ways to everyone else so we all have similar failings to everyone else. We are doing our best to be better people and we want  to be nice guys like Jesus was but its hard and it makes us feel a bit conflicted at times. This makes us say stupid things and act like reactionary idiots sometimes - in fact some of us are so misguided and full of hate we're causing more harm than good (we're looking at you Westboro Baptist Church) - but at our core we want to be good. If you give us a chance you might actually like us.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Do the Impossible, See the Invisible

So this week I want to post on a subject that's very close to my heart. This week I'd like to talk about anime. As you're on the internet you probably have a vague idea of what anime is so I'm not going to patronise you, let me first put three common misconceptions to rest before we continue.
  1. It is not all pornographic.
  2. It is not all "like pokemon".
  3. Dragon Ball Z is really old now, you're just embarrassing yourself.
Anime is basically cartoons from Japan for teenagers/ adults and I love it. Like really love it. You know that tingle you get down your spine when you hear that song that reminds you of her? I get that whenever I see a giant robot punch another giant robot in the robot face.
Giant robots: statistically more likely to be bad ass than any woman
So what makes Anime so good? Why do I love it so much? Have I ever felt the touch of a woman? All of these are perfectly good questions (apart from the last one, you're kind of a jerk internet) and I intend to answer them.

One of the things I love so much about Anime is the fact that it inhabits a place between the realistic and the ridiculous. We're dealing with a cartoon here so obviously things are going to be exaggerated,  over the top and needlessly overblown sometimes but often there's still a grounding in some form of reality that allows you to suspend belief.
Most of the time these things are boobs
When it comes to anime I often forget that I'm watching a cartoon because the unreality of certain things are fused with realistic and relateable character motivations and/or well crafted feasible yet fantastical worlds. This allows story tellers and artists to create characters and events that are totally impossible in any other medium of story telling. In a world where the same recycled mundane fodder is constantly fed to us though western media (I for one am fed up of vampires and zombies) it's refreshing to be able to experience narratives that can make you laugh, cheer and cry, all inside 20 minutes.
If you know who this guy is, you'll know what I'm talking about
Another thing that never ceases to amaze me about anime is that there is so much of it. It's at least as varied as normal television shows and there is totally something for everyone. Do you like kittens? there's an anime for that (Chi's Sweet Home) are you into gritty, realistic science fiction? there's an anime for that (Planetes) are you a school girl who likes to play rock and roll? there's an anime for that (K-On).

Whoever you are and whatever you like there is an anime out there for you. While you're sat in your living-room watching another re-run of Scrubs a young man is raising a revolutionary army to fight for the right to live above ground (Gurren Lagann), a space pirate and his rag tag crew of outcasts are on the run from a team of 12 cyborg asassin maid girls (Coyote Ragtime Show), a prince is being forced to become a terrorist to save his island home from a totalitarian global empire while his childhood friend hunts him down (Code Geas) and a bunch of school girls are going to the beach (Azumanga Daioh). Whatever Dr Cox has to say to  JD about him being a big girl, it can wait.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Ascent of Nerd

As I mentioned in my first post I am what I like to call a "Person of Alternative Interests" after I've been drinking. When I'm sober I'll accept nerd, geek, weirdo or "hey you with the glasses come help me fix my computer" - which I can totally do (ladies) - a moniker I have earned via long hard years spent in the weeaboo trenches of various societies, conventions and internets. After much reflection on my life so far I've decided I may actually have my parents to blame. For example the only night we were allowed to have dinner in front of the TV when I was a child was Wednesday night because that was when Star Trek: The Next Generation was on.
Pictured: what I (still) want to be when I grow up
Also at some point between the ages of 12 and 13 my dad sat me down for an important man to man discussion. The kind of talk that all good fathers have with their almost teenage sons. That talk was about Star Wars and how we should watch it together.
More important than sex ed
A lot has happened since then but the geek in me has never gone away, in fact he's grown into something new, something eccentric and something sexy. He moves in exclusive circles, speaks a myriad different languages and inhabits a world that many people don't even know exist.

We live in a society where enforced social norms and compromise crush the life from our lungs and the colour from our souls, where apathy and futile acceptance force us to build gilded cages from the stuff we accumulate in which we are imprisoned until death. Where fiscal responsibility and creative photosynthesis force us to root ourselves to stagnant sinking soil made from endlessly recycled celebrity and hollow pop culture.  This is a world that I decided a long time ago not to inhabit so I made a big life choice:
I joined an anime (Japanese cartoon) appreciation society. The group of people I found there was one of the most creative, welcoming and fun social groups I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of, we all had issues (some of us even monologued like self indulgent Rorschach wannabes) but everyone was welcome and united by one passion. We drank, we watched anime, we argued, we fought, we laughed, we partied, we philosophised and had elbowy awkward sex until the early hours of every Friday night. I met a girl, fell in love and became a man in the company of these amazing crazy people.
Some of which were also anthropomorphic animals
Towards the end of my university years I moved in with four physics and philosophy students who were all kinds of amazing, we played through Mass Effect 1 and 2 together along with Assassin's Creed and formed probably the worst 5 man team DotA has ever seen. I had some of the best friendship times ever in that house with those guys (no homo).

After university one of the first jobs I got was at the headquarters of Games Workshop "Warhammer World" essentially a combination of the virgin sweat boxes you see on most high streets, an epic gaming hall a museum and a bar.
It sure as hell beat Starbucks as a graduate job

In this hobby stronghold I got the opportunity to teach kids to paint, make friends and kick ass at table top role playing games, just like I did when I was little.
Here I am, kicking ass... apparently
I also got to hang out with some pretty cool dudes and manage other smaller GW stores across England. Those were magic times.

Then of course there's the conventions:
Cosplay Hard

Party Harder

So what's the point of this self indulgent look back at the past? The point is I'm not the only one who's grown up as a nerd, we're everywhere hidden in plain sight. We've done it all, probably better than you have and we've lived to tell the tale. We're not all reclusive misanthropic loosers who sit in our bedrooms alone, we're out there stealing your girlfriends and living it large and we're not scared any more. We've grown up, we know what we're doing now and we're not going to take your shit any more. So next time you see someone like this:
Remember underneath all that apparent awkwardness he's dropping sick ass beats like this:
And you will never be as cool as he is.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Kony 2012: Shooting the Messenger

As you're reading this blog I'm assuming you're on the internet and you've been using it for some time so you have probably already seen the Kony 2012 video or have heard about it through one of your friends. In case you haven't seen it yet here it is:
Essentially a bad man with a last name that sounds like he's a pokemon has been doing bad things to children in Uganda and it has made some nice white people sad so they decided to make him internet famous.
A fate worse than a fate worse than death
Now on the surface of it there's nothing wrong with this (apart from the faint whiff of neo-colonial bullshit) and you would have to be pretty messed up to say that someone like Joseph Kony shouldn't answer for his crimes as the leader of the LRA but like most things in the mirrored wilderness of the internet the Kony 2012 project is not necessarily what it seems. All three of these articles make well thought out points about Invisible Childrien Incorporated  (IC inc.) and their video so I'm going to do my best not to regurgitate what they have to say. I do however have some points of my own to make:

Issue 1: Using Your Children to Attempt to Explain Complex Geopolitical Issues Makes you Look Stupid
One of the stand out parts of IC's video for me was the use of Jason Russel's kid son Gavin as a adorable figurehead for western children as a concept.
All together now... DAWWWWW
This juxtaposes with a Ugandan child on the run from the LRA called Jacob who has lost everying due to their actions. Let me first say that this is a well thought out and powerful piece of documentary film making which genuinely moved me. what happens about 9 minutes into the video however did not move me. If you think it's ok to use the testimony of your tweenage son who thinks that his dad stops "Star Wars badguys from being mean" to explain the situation in Uganda (or indeed any part of the African continent) you should not be trusted with trying to improve it.
You cannot apply the kind of logic your kid son uses when he's playing "Daddy vs the mean black men and Darth Vader" in his room with his toys to the kind of crazy shit that's going on in Uganda and the developing world as a whole at the moment. Especially when you throw your lot in with a different bunch of rapist child soldier recruiters.

Issue 2: ICinc. Have Some Pretty Questionable Friends and Views on How to 'Fix' Africa
For an apparently Peace loving organisation ICinc. Love them some high powered black market weaponry:
Peace and Love Bro
What the hell is wrong with these people? Here's an exert from their official response to criticism of this picture
" we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, “Haha - they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.”"
Even the photographer though this was dumb, it's not funny and you are ass holes. Also the guys who you're equipping to find Kony are not the good guys they are just... guys. That's kind of the issue. Africa is not a problem to be fixed, it's a place with lots of people in it trying to get by. Most of those people are basically good, some have had to do terrible things to survive but some of them are terribad and deserve to be killed with fire. In the west we take those horrible people and put them on TV.
Too right Bill
But that's not the solution here and neither is putting more guns and people who can use them on the ground in Uganda.

So what am I trying to say here? First and foremost do not give any money to ICinc. their video is meant to raise awareness of the tragic conditions people live in on parts of the African continent and that's admirable but they only give 32% of their money to people out there. If you were going to give them any money may I suggest another charity. If you just want to be part of a group of people who put posters up and complain about politics may I recommend anarchism, it worked wonders for me until I grew up.
Nothing says "Anarchy in the UK" like reactions lenses paid for by the NHS

Stay Crunchy Internet

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Nothing Here is Ever What it Seems

Hello, my name is Simon Payne and I enjoy reading books, gaming and artistic pursuits (who am I kidding, I like Warhammer and similar nerdy things). I like to make bold statements, can be unnecessarily confrontational and enjoy intellectual arguments so much it borders on social self destruction. I also enjoy the company of cats.

As you may have also noticed I rarely use 5 letters when 55 will suffice and am sometimes what scientists refer to as "a pretentious little faggot". I try to stay in control of this side of my personality and it only tends to come out at dinner parties after I've had too much to drink but as I've already named this blog after a Fish album from 1990 and am quite possibly already drunk you're just going to have to roll with it for now.

I started this blog in an attempt to get over an ex girlfriend who cheated on me (with one of my best friends... I'm not bitter) because I know there's nothing the Internet loves more than voyeuristicaly - it is a word shut up -  watching people have nervous breakdowns and misery. I was also hoping to share some of the things I've learnt during my gradual, slimy evolution from teenage nerd to man-child without a cause. I can't promise quality... or quantity... or any kind of regular update schedule but I promise if you read my blog God will reward you with many lolcats in heaven.
If you don't like cats I'm afraid we may not get along
So there you have it, I'm basically the same as all the other slightly jaded internet guys out there. There is one major difference however, most of them have never had an armed police squad after them due to a case of mistaken identity. Is that true? Does it have an entertaining and satisfying story attached to it? Will you get to read it if you visit my blog again? POSSIBLY!

Stay Crunchy Internet