Guardians of the Galaxy did really well, so that means there will be a sequel (Guardians of the Galaxy 2: 2 Guardians, 2 Galaxy), and I think that is a great opportunity to correct what I perceive to be a glaring flaw in the first movie:  Gamora’s criminal under-utilization as the most badass character of all.

Now, everyone loves a good, clean karate-fight.  Your Captain America versus Batroc the Leaper, &c.  But also one of the things that makes fights great and interesting is when there are obstacles or limitations that the fighter has to overcome (think basically every Jackie Chan fight scene ever).  These are good ways to make the fight unique and creative, and also often to raise the stakes of a fight scene part way through, so that we don’t get tired of seeing people try to kick each other or what have you.

Guardians of the Galaxy did do one of these, the Gamora / Star-Lord Supine Karate Fight, and don’t get me wrong, I love a good fight where both characters are lying down.  In my opinion, almost ANY fight could be improved by having the fighters lie on the ground and try to hit each other!

Still, you’ve done that once.  Here are some other ideas.

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Fine!  It was fine.  A fine movie.  It had some exciting space adventures, people flew around in ships and shot each other with lasers.  There was some kind of power-exploding MacGuffin, that was great.  The character stuff was for the most part exceptional.  Groot was there, he was awesome, Rocket Raccoon was awesome.  My favorite was actually Drax the Destroyer!

(“We just established that blowing up the ship I’m on isn’t saving me.” “When did we establish that?” “Like three seconds ago!” “I wasn’t listening to that part, I was thinking about something else.”)

Hahahah.  Excellent use of Dave Bautista, finally we’re seeing him live up to the potential he revealed as Bronze Body Man in The Man with the Iron Fists.

A good time was had by all.  I am going to write a few things here, because it is in my nature to be a Debbie Downer, and a natural enemy of all that is good and fun, so if you HATE FUN, by all means, keep reading.

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I am taking a break from expounding my LIFE PHILOSOPHY to talk about some other things, as a kind of intellectual palate-cleanser.  Today’s subject on which I will now go on at length, pulled randomly from the heaps of garbage that I read every day, is this article by Colin McEnroe over at Salon.

For whatever reason, I find I’m always more exercised by running into junk like this at sites I read regularly, as opposed to sites like the New Yorker, where I only once in a while check-in.  It seems to me that not only is the thing itself wrong, but that it’s also a kind of betrayal that they published it in the first place — not necessarily because I don’t agree with it (though, I’ll be honest here — as we all should strive for honesty in every one of our doings — that’s probably a big part of it), but because it seems like the kind of thing an editor should have looked at and said, “Nope, too dumb.  Send it back.”

(Well, I know, it’s Salon, obviously that wasn’t going to happen, come on.)

Anyway, the piece is for the most part some fussy hand-wringing about Kids Today, and I think that all articles about Kids Today should be answered not necessarily due to their merits, but just for the sake of having the counter-argument exist, in the hopes that this generation will, at long last, be the generation that beats back the idea of Kids Today, if not forever, at least for now, a momentary peace in a world constantly under threat.

It’s mostly fussiness, but it takes at its heart Ira Glass’s apparent disinterest in Shakespeare: “I think I’m realizing: Shakespeare sucks?”  And then seeks to take him to task on the grounds that Shakespeare self-evidently does NOT suck, and Ira Glass is somehow representative of a generation of increasingly-stupid children who don’t seem to realize that.

Well.

Before I get into it, let me just be clear: I like Shakespeare, as a reader, as an actor, and as a speaker of English. I’m also GOOD at Shakespeare; ask anyone, I’ve got a knack for this kind of stuff. If I was willing to live a little more in poverty, I could probably work consistently just doing Shakespeare. Shakespeare often speaks to me in a way that I find deeply intuitive and affecting. I have, in other words, a vested interest in seeing Shakespeare maintain his position as the most important playwright in the English language, and in seeing all of us remain idolators to his genius.

But.

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So, here I am, continuing on with my PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I talked before a little bit about what I think the world isn’t, and how we can have a functional morality within an atheistic context; then I talked a little bit about what I think the world is, and about how we navigate it. Today I am talking about Mysticism, and why I think it’s important, and this is the part where it begins to get weird (it’s going to get even weirder as we go) and where I’m probably going to start earning the scorn of my fellow atheists (who are my “fellow” only in the loosest-possible sense of the term).

Mysticism typically refers to a kind of intuitive, direct communion with the divine reality, but I don’t believe in a divine reality, so that’s not what I mean by it. When I refer to mysticism, I’m talking about something that’s a little simpler, and doesn’t make ontological statements (that is, statements about the nature of what things are) about the universe: “mysticism” is a sort of philosophical position in which we argue that the essential or important experience of the universe is a non-rational experience.

I realize this sounds pretty crazy, probably more crazy to people who know me, and understand me as being aggressively rational or logical, but maybe I can explain it a little bit. To do that, I need to back up.

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So, prompted by some comments about how certain atheists (*cough*richarddawkins*cough*) tend to make all atheists look bad by acting like huge pricks all the time, I figured I’d participate in the process of the differentiation of atheists by laying out what my own philosophy of the world is, rather than according to one particular thing I think it isn’t.

Before I talked specifically about the atheistic part of the world as I see it – the idea that there is no guiding benevolent force directly interacting with the universe in any perceptible way and sort of concomitantly, that any other kind of deity (the God as Watchmaker, for instance) isn’t particularly relevant. This time I want to write about what I think the nature of the world is, and the way in which we live in it.

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On the internet today, someone that I know said that, even though she wasn’t an atheist, she thought we all deserved a better atheism than Richard Dawkins gives us.  I am an atheist, and I’m inclined to agree — I think Dawkins (et all those guys — Hitchens, Harris, &c) did an important service by making atheism a reasonable subject of conversation in the national discourse.  But they also did it in sort of the only way that you CAN do that in the national discourse in America, which was by being huge fucking pricks about it.  This is kind of not their fault, I guess — Richard Dawkins didn’t decide that the way that we all ought to communicate our ideas is by having our individual platforms and then yelling at people from them.  And it’s important that SOMEONE carved out the space, but it’s also misleading to let these guys define what atheism is for everyone.

This is especially because “atheism” isn’t really a tradition or a philosophy; it’s a broad category of many different traditions and philosophies, unified only by a single characteristic that they share in common.  “Atheism” is as, or more, diverse than “theism”, and only some terrible prick would insist that all theists believe the same things.

Anyway, this got me thinking that maybe I ought to write down my own ideas about my own kind of atheism in a systematic way.  I’ve had a lot of occasion to think really long and hard about what I believe and why.  A lot of this is because of my challenges with depression and alcoholism — you know, I think a lot of us can get by pretty well without having thought rigorously about our (for lack of a better term) LIFE PHILOSOPHY (our own individual theories about “how we should be in the world”), but when you go through some of the emotional and psychological challenges that this kind of philosophy specifically provides a bulwark against, you end up putting a lot of work into it.

A lot of people find religion, or find a philosophy to help them get through rough times.  I went through rough times, but I mostly just made mine up.  This is it; I figure if I write it down, maybe someone else who’s having a rough time might find something useful in it.  It’s what you might call Religious, but Not Spiritual.  There isn’t a name for it so far as I know, but it technically breaks down as Atheistic Materialist Zen Mysticism.

I will now elaborate.

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Causality: A Game for Time Lords

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Braak
Tags: , ,

This is the game they play on Gallifrey, to teach young Time Lords how to start thinking along timelines, instead of within timelines.

The Short Game of Causality is played on 22boards.  The long game is played on 1,534.  The boards are arranged above and below a line called the Horizon.  Below the Horizon is the Point of Origin board.  This board has two generations; each of these boards has two generations, and (in the short game), each of these boards has two generations, for a total of fifteen.

Above the Horizon there are seven more boards.  The first four each have two progenitor boards, the next two likewise, and the final board (the Singularity) similarly.

sketch; board layout is not accurate

sketch; board layout is not accurate

Each board is six squares by six squares, and contains six pieces for each player (Black and White).  The six pieces are the Regent, the Regis, two Castles, and two Elephants.

Each board also has an Orientation:  a board is either Orthodox or Unorthodox.  At the start of the game, the Point of Origin is Orthodox, and the Singularity is Unorthodox.  On an Orthodox board, Elephants behave like bishops (long diagonal movements only), and Castles behave like pawns (advancing one square, attacking on the diagonal).  On an Unorthodox board, Elephants behave like pawns, and Castles behave like knights (advancing two squares up and one to the side).  The Regent and Regis always behave like the king and queen, but swap places when the board changes its orientation.

A player is able to make one move each on two separate boards per turn.

At the outset of the game, half of the boards are Orthodox, and half are Unorthodox.  Each pair of boards is in the Obverse Arrangement.  When Black puts White in check on any board below the Horizon, the orientations of that board’s generation are swapped to Reverse alignment — the Orthodox board is now unorthodox, and vice-versa.  When White puts Black in check, the orientations return to Obverse.

Above the Horizon, a board’s orientation is determined by its progenitor boards — if they are the same, the board remains in its Obverse alignment.  If they are different, the board changes to its Reverse alignment.

When a Regent is in checkmate, the board is Locked, and no further moves on that board can be played (however, moves on boards closer to the Point of Origin CAN be played; if the board’s orientation changes and checkmate is disrupted, the board is Unlocked and can be played again.

The game is won by creating checkmate on the Singularity board.

[POSSIBLY: there are only four pieces per player per board (Regent, Regis, Elephant, and Castle), arranged in opposite corners.

POSSIBLY: The game ends when checkmate on the Singularity is achieved, and no further moves on previous boards can be made; the player wins who has the most points -- the Singularity is worth five points, the individual boards are worth one point each.

am still working out the details]