Friday, March 30, 2012

Tired of swimming against the DRM tide

I decided to remove three previous essays, which were basically just acrimonious rants about Steam and DRM.

After much consideration, I've come to a sensible conclusion:

I will, like everyone else, quietly vote with my dollars. If a game has unreasonable DRM, such as the upcoming Diablo III, I simply won't play it. I won't even set sail for the newly christened "The Promo Bay," also known as "The Pirate Bay."

I won't bother downloading it for free, like everyone else who thumbs their noses at Blizzard for being draconian lunkheads, because it's just not worth my time. The previews may look great and the buzz may be considerable... but in the end, I choose not to reward Blizzard's products with any attention for showing such a lack of respect to their honest customers.

There are so many awesome games to play, why waste my time on one more DRM headache? Am I really missing out? Nah.

For those of you who don't mind being made to dance like marionettes, enjoy! I will continue having the time of my life at my brother's LAN parties, playing older, DRM-free games that would surely cause you DRM lovers to heartily scoff.

Ultimately, I realized life does not require you to acknowledge the loss of your dignity, and it's not my job to help you regain it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The living sacrifice

Just what was Paul talking about when he spoke about the living sacrifice?

The first three verses from Romans 12:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

When one references passages from the Bible, one always runs the risk of interpreting something differently than someone else. For this reason, I would like to make it clear that although my thoughts following this paragraph are definitely what I believe, I can in no way insist to the reader that I am more correct than anyone else on the matter. I have always recognized that everyone should look for themselves, and not just automatically accept the interpretations of other human beings. If there is truth to be found in the Bible, one can discover it best by searching sincerely alone, without the influence of a so-called 'person of God.'

Disclaimer delivered; let's proceed.

Living in the 21st century has allowed us to better see the dark side of humankind. Improved forms of communication and information dissemination are the main reasons for this clearer view. Some say humans are 'worse' than they were before, and this may be true, but something tells me that there have always been those who prefer to dismiss the well-being of others.

There are myriad ways to take something good and twist it into bad by selfish intent. This happens every time a greedy entity squeezes another unnecessary nickel out of your pocket. It happens every time someone cuts you off on the freeway. It happens every time a sick individual kidnaps a young child for who-knows-what sort of depravity. It happens when someone decides that he or she is more deserving of the better seat than someone else.

It happens every day, all day, around the world. To imagine a world where people didn't treat each other badly, or take advantage of each other, or use each other in a selfish manner... well, you might as well believe in the Tooth Fairy.

So, because selfishness is so prevalent in the world, it is of course the path of least resistance to simply become a part of the machinery, so to speak. Why not make even more money by charging more than you have to? Why pass up the chance to be the big cheese? Why spend any time considering how your decisions affect the lives of others? Who cares about the people you stepped on and over to accomplish your goals? Someone has to be the winner; why not you? Someone has to be the loser; why can't it be the other person?

People often think daily supplications to a higher power, or weekly attendance at a physical structure designed for the aggregation of the religious, will flip the switch of God's favor to the 'on' position in their lives. Many are fond of pointing out that faith in God is essential; works themselves are not sufficient to gain the favor of God.

I would say yes; faith is important. But out of a person's heart comes his or her actions, and no amount of philosophizing or tithing will set the balance right if one's true intentions are in opposition to the Law.

What is the "living sacrifice?"

In the 21st century, it is the strenuous and humble avoidance of the endless selfish rationalizations of the vast majority.

Unpopular choice? Indeed. Not as 'smart' as going along with the crowd? Perhaps.

It really comes down to a very simple question: do you give deference to God or the flesh?

Despite the self-deluding power of sophistry, you will never find a way to do both.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Complicit Puppetry

Human beings (that means you and me) spend a good amount of time wanting. Mind you, wanting some water or food in your belly is merely par for the course for a biological creature. Wanting rest when you're tired, wanting activity when you're bored, wanting company when you're lonely... these are all predictable results of the experience of being anatomically and emotionally structured as human beings.

However, there is a different, exceedingly larger collection of wants that has nothing to do with survival or requisite fulfillment. This seemingly infinite list of personal desires not only has nothing to do with what humans require for happiness or fulfillment, it actually has much to do with the production of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

That an entire industry of ambitious mountebanks have risen to prominence by dangling these needless carrots in front of the Pavlovian masses should be no surprise to anyone paying attention. Does it truly require a marketing degree and six-figure salary to realize that human beings generally will want whatever is placed in front of their noses? This is not any sort of science; it is transpicuous manipulation.

Typically, those who stand up and shout from the street corner about this insidious puppetry are thought of as lunatic fringe. "What's wrong with a little excitation of the human proclivities known as conquest and acquisition to stimulate consumer activity?" the oily penguins known as 'marketing executives' love to ask.


Take for instance the concept of physical beauty. While it is conceptually true that beauty resides in the eyes of the beholder, there are also seemingly universal standards that spawn an implicit hierarchy of beauty among the vast majority. This hierarchy is arbitrary and subjective, yet most can somehow agree that person 'A' is attractive, and person 'B' is comparatively not as much.

Most people tend to think it must be wonderful to be considered very attractive. To the average student in high school or college, this is a 'no-brainer.' Cultures across the globe breed us to desire popularity in order to establish our identity and importance in the eyes of the world. Tabloids and magazines at the checkout stand are icons of this mentality. Television, movies, shopping malls... these all constantly reinforce the idea that our existence is firmly founded and celebrated by how many 'friends' we can congregate to our Facebook pages, for example.

I submit to you this radical point of view: exceptional physical beauty is a curse.

Why do I look at physical beauty with such a seemingly odd perspective?

A whole host of psychological maladies have arisen from the idea that we must compete with others to be as attractive as possible. We are in competition in this area because it is by comparison that standards are established. Therefore, by either a quirk of nature, or perhaps extensive employment of trickery known as makeup and grooming products, some will rise to the 'top,' but many will tumble into the undesirable bargain bin of social leprosy known as The Unattractive.

However, and this is the twist, just what is gained by being at the top of the beauty heap?

Constant attention, whether you want it or not. As anyone who is 'blessed' with exceptional beauty will tell you, it's no picnic. To have your physical aspect praised and worshipped may stroke the ego, but ultimately it overshadows and all but buries the most valuable asset you possess: who you truly are inside.

For the blowhard and sociopath, being attractive is an endless source of pride and joy. For the rest of us, it is a pursuit we're pressured into from earliest youth, and must comply with continuously for the entirety of our lives, else suffer the consequence of deliberate rebellion against the standard. That consequence being, of course, social irrelevance.

For me, to be able to go to the store in my bland but clean clothes, sporting my unfashionable but clean hair, driving my boring, unsexy, but quite reliable vehicle, and not be pestered by the attentions of people I don't know... well, now that's what I call a blessing.

But then again, I don't measure my relevance by the opinions of others.