A Quiet Weekend

This weekend is Conference weekend.

For many, that doesn’t mean much. Sands, most of you probably have never heard of it. That’s fine. It’s a religious event.

Ah, see? Some probably ran in a panic right then and there.

Anyway, it’s pretty simple. Conference weekend, known among the members of my religion as General Conference Weekend, is a bi-annual (twice yearly) event in which the entire church comes together in a conference, to hear the religious leaders of the church speak directly to the entirety of the church. Given that this leadership consists of a Prophet of God and twelve Apostles, this is a pretty cool thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like they’re not carrying out their duties as special witnesses of Christ and his gospel the rest of the year. They do—they put some serious travel in going around the world and meeting with members of our church all over. But twice a year, they all gather—Apostles, the prophet, seventies (Exodus if you’ve not heard of that), etc—for this General Conference. And then? They teach. And that teaching is broadcast via the internet, radio, television, etc, all across the world, and the members gather and watch it. Five broadcasts, each 2 hours long, over two days.

Ten, awesome, fulfilling hours.

Right, why am I talking about this? Well, for starters, because you don’t have to be a member of our church to enjoy it. This isn’t some cliche “The end is nigh” monologue given by a man with a crazy beard in a robe. So far, in the first session we had today I’ve listened to an Apostle give counsel on how not to take the many gifts of God for granted, and how to learn to see how many truly wondrous gifts we’ve been given. Another spoke on prayer, and how it is an act of humility before God. You don’t have to be a member of our faith to get something out of it. There’s a spirit of holiness and tranquility that surrounds each message, a gentleness you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

And even if you’re not a member of my faith, well, a little bit of peace and tranquility might feel pretty welcome. Which is why I’m mentioning it (well, also and so you guys are kept up-to-date on my movements, since Saturday is normally fanfic day). Maybe you’re wondering what to do with your day. Maybe you’re feeling a little down. Maybe you just want a pick-me-up and have found that the usual isn’t doing it for you.

If so, well, this conference gets streamed live on Youtube. Feel free to listen in. Regardless of where you are in life, there’s something for everyone that gets said at these things. They talk about God. They talk about Christ. They talk about our purpose on Earth, the atonement … a plethora of topics that many people wonder about, even if they don’t put voice to those wonders.

So if you’ve got some time and you want a pick-me-up, feel welcome to check it out.

 

 

NOTE: And if you despise my religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and want to start a big controversy, or are thinking about posting “the truth” in the comments below in some vain attempt to save my “misguided” soul … please don’t bother. I’ve been an open member of my church online for years now; screaming, shouting, ranting, accusing, or even trying to get my books taken down from Amazon as some sort of “revenge” isn’t anything new. It’s been done before, there are better ways to spend your time, so please, go and do something productive elsewhere.

Reader Feedback: How’s the Ad Experience?

Right, so here’s a question that’s been on my mind for a while with regards to improving the site: How’s the ad experience? I ask because while WordPress informs me that ads appear, I don’t see them. Probably a combination of being the site creator and having adblock running 24/7.

But those who aren’t me, or perhaps do or don’t have adblock … how’s the ad experience? What kind of ads are you seeing? Are they loud? Distracting? Not applicable to the site and subject matter?

I ask because if I up the domain subscription, I can remove ads entirely (or have control over them), and it’s a step I’m considering taking.

So, I ask you, readers: What do you see? Is it annoying? Complimentary? Clashing?

Comment below.

No, Aven Colony is Not the Next Outpost 2

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Yesterday morning, I received an unexpected burst of surprise. I was browsing r/games on Reddit when I came across a notification of a Science-Fiction colony-builder survival game titled Aven Colony … certainly enough to pique my interest. But the real shock came when I saw that the (then) top comment was “I’ve been waiting for something to fill the void that Outpost 2 left in my heart for so long.

Yeah, that snapped at my attention right away. I spent the rest of the day (I was busy doing other things) already planning to check to see if that commentator was correct. As you may recall, I’ve written about Outpost 2 before and why I’m waiting for a successor of some kind, and to my surprise that post continues to be one of the most regular reads on the site. Scarcely a day doesn’t pass that it doesn’t get one reader (other posts get many more readers, but in batches, this one is about as stable as my home page).

Now, I know I tend to talk more about writing than anything else one here (though again, I’m always open to branching out), but since gaming is one of my biggest hobbies (not surprising, as I did study at creating games and even founded a game studio that went nowhere), occasionally snippets of that might leak through.

Like right now, when I’m reporting back on Aven Colony. I had to know: Was it truly a successor to Outpost 2? Was it a game that filled a niche that has been empty for almost two decades? Was it what this obscure reddit commentator was hoping?

I did some digging. Watched a video. And now I have an answer.

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The Problems with the Arguments Against “The Great Wall”

So, you may have heard of a movie that’s trailer dropped this weekend called The Great Wall. If you haven’t, you should go give the trailer a watch. The film, as you can probably guess, is about the famous landmark of China, and asks the question “What was it built to keep out?”

It turns out, the answer is dragons. Yes, this is a fantasy flick from the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers (movies that are a bit more known over here, so far from his home). The great wall is built to keep out dragons. I am completely sold.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so impressed. In fact, some people are angry at the film. Why?

Because one of the stars is Matt Damon. Who is, as the detractors have pointed out, white. Which in their eyes makes the film racist. No joke. You can read some of the fire about it here (and I recommend this article over the USA Daily one because this article at least did some research and points out the glaring flaws in the stance, while USA Daily, in what I feel is likely their usual sense of journalistic integrity, couldn’t be bothered to fact check anything).

Now I’m not going to get into the factual inaccuracies of the mud being slung at Hollywood for this, except to point out the obvious: This is a film made in China by film production companies based in China. Not Hollywood. They have little to do with this outside of distributing the film in the US. So the blame for them is pointless.

No, what I want to point out is the delicious hypocrisy of the backlash against this movie, which is, alongside the everyday usual racist commentary, declaring that movies should be more diverse in their casting and look outside their box.

Completely missing that this is what the film is doing.

Let’s look at this for a minute. We have a film made in China by a talented Chinese director. The movie stars a number of major film stars in China, who are all—wait for it—surprisingly (yes, that is sarcasm) Chinese. And alongside those individuals, for diversity (oh, that beloved buzzword), Zhang has also cast someone who isn’t a major Chinese actor: Matt Damon. Along with three other actors from around the world such as Pedro Pascal and Numan Acar.

So we have a movie set in China, filled with actors from China, and one “white man” (Wu’s words, not mine). Plus the three other actors from around the world. Which … oddly enough, would be diversifying the cast a little.

So, surprise surprise, the backlash against this film doesn’t pass the flip test. Yet again.

As for me? I look forward to seeing the flick. Dragons versus The Great Wall. I’m sold on the concept, and I’ve quite enjoyed some of Zhang’s other movies, so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this one.

Whether or not you want to see the film, just … do yourself a favor and ignore the made-up, hypocritical “controversy” that really boils down to an American Social Justice movement attempting to exert control via it’s values over a foreign film studio (Oh hey, that sounds a lot like western imperialism …). It’s hypocrisy, it’s pointless, and it’s really not worth much of our time.

Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

It is somewhat of a disappointment, however, in more ways than one. First, it’s a shame that it had to come to a removal. I was really interested to see what reviews would have cropped up from the SPFBO, as well as what sort of extended audience I could gather. But in light of their review practices … no gain would have been worth throwing my support behind it. Secondly, it is a shame that such review practices are even a small part of the SPFBO. Perhaps that will change, I would put my voice out as saying I strongly encourage them to do so, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, that’s the bad news. Sort of. I can’t help but feel it’s a good thing, in the long run. There are some things one just shouldn’t associate with, and reviewing and rating books with the focusing lens of “Is the character/writer X race or not?” is one of them.

In other news, the book in question can still be read and enjoyed by those of you who won’t care so much what Samantha’s, Alma’s, Jacob Rocke’s, or Mathoni’s gender or ethnic heritage happen to be over getting a great story. You can find the book here.

Thanks for the advice, guys, and thanks for standing with me on this one. I’m glad I’m not the only one who considers this important.

 

EDIT: Whoa. This blew up. This was just supposed to be news for my regular readers. So let me make something very, very clear, just in case. This was a news post keeping my readers up to date. I voiced a concern about one of the sites in the larger picture, and when SPFBO couldn’t bump me to a different review site, decided to withdraw. That’s what it is, please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill or put undeserved antagonism on the wrong party, and keep a level head.

The Loud Neighbor

So my neighbors make a little bit of noise. Sometimes a lot of noise.

That’s fine. I’m okay with this. They have several kids. They live above us. Sometimes they have parties and want to play music. They laugh, they watch movies, they have an ordinary life. Sometimes that ordinary life is a little loud.

Again, I’m okay with this. Because I know, and am quite aware of the fact, that myself and my roommates are fairly loud as well. I know that most of the time our noise is kept at a sufficiently low volume that they don’t hear us, but then there are the times that we have parties, that we have late night movie showings, and we want to hear that T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park in our bones. And I’m aware that at those moments, they can probably hear us. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t.

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The Season

Today is December 21st. Four days until Christmas day.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write for today, and I do mean a lot. I had a lot of drafts that I went over in my mind, debated, discussed with myself, and eventually discarded. I even debated sitting down and writing this all out in advance. But … I never quite did. Instead I waited until this exact moment to write this out, because while I knew what I wanted to say, wasn’t sure how I wanted to say it, what method I wanted to use to present what’s taking this week’s place from Being a Better Writer. I spent a lot of time thinking over it, weighing the various things I could say, the topics I could tie in—and make no mistake, there were plenty of those this last year. More than anything else, now, I think the world needs the message that the celebration of Christmas reveres and brings once more. This last year has seen hatred piled upon hatred, vitriol on vitriol. The world at large … well, it wouldn’t have us think kind things, or even good things. The message from it has been that we must hate those that disagree with us, and revile against those who are different then us.

It’s sad. Now more than ever, I think, we need to remember what Christmas is truly about.

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