Archive for December 2013

The audacity of being an American Christian   Leave a comment

Let’s be honest: These days, being a Christian isn’t exactly a popular thing in this country.

No place is this more clear than the internet. Look at what happened when I typed in “Christianity Is” On Google:

In case you’re wondering the same suggested results will show in the US version of Google too. Google may be a evil company but their search engine is used by billions of people worldwide. What you see is what people think of when they think of Christianity in regards to Google.

It’s not all that different from how it was in the beginning when you think about it. When I say beginning I mean back when Christianity was born. In the years immediately following Christ’s Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascention to Heaven, all of his disciples except John (who was banished to Patmos Island) were hunted down and executed as enemies of state. In Roman Coliseums across the empire, Christians were killed for the entertainment of others. Most viewed Christianity as a cult or movement that would die off as quickly as it began.

Today we know that isn’t the case.

Today, maybe not in America but in many parts of the world, Christians are given a choice: Denounce their faith or go to prison. In some countries, Christians caught sharing their faith with others are put to death or in some cases, used as political bargaining chips.

Before the internet and social media, such open hostility toward Christianity and later religion as a whole was unheard of. As I said about another group of people and the Internet earlier this year, some of it IS just the perceived anonmity that comes with using the internet. The rest–which shouldn’t be taken lightly–comes from people who have been wronged Christians, a Church or a Christian denomination. And you know what? They have a right to be angry at the way Christians in America view the world around them.

Notice I said Christians in America and not Christian America. That’s because there are MANY Christian Americas. The circle I hail from is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, whose mission is the prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Dr. Dwight K. Nelson, the Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church said something interesting during the sermon that aired on Hope TV yesterday: People fear rejection. Jesus feared rejection (John 6:67). It is one of the absolute worst feelings a person can go through yet it is the feeling I am most familiar with.

The two groups of people closest to me rejected me very early on: My Family and My Church Family. Most who’ve been rejected by the latter will tell you it feels worse than being rejected by your own flesh and blood. A bit of wisdom: When your rejection is made clear to you, you leave under your own power. This was a lesson I  had to learn the hard way with some of the online communites I recently severed my ties to.

Getting back to the main point of this blog post, it’s not exactly popular to be a Christian in America. Some of it comes from the fact there are so many denominations compared to Islam (which has two branches, Sunni and Shi’ite) and Judaism (which also has two branches, Orthodox and Unorthodox) but the majority comes Christianity’s universal stance on Homosexuality.

That stance is rooted in the fact there are SEVEN passages in the Bible that explicitly states Homosexuality is an abomination. The Old Testament passages can be argued as being necessary for the time. After all, at the time the people of Israel were God’s Chosen People on Earth and God literally needed to spell out what the Israelites were forbidden from doing. If you read the entire chapter the Old Testament texts come from you will see incest and beastiality are also forbidden under penality of death.

As for the New Testament passages, Paul was giving a recap of the Old Testament law in Romans (1:26-27 and 1:32) and why. The passages in Timothy 1 (1:8-10) and Corinthians (6:9-11) do not specifically mention Homosexuallity though it is assumed to be included. Perhaps the most inflamatory piece of evidence is what The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is known for:

Yes, this is a real church and yes their membership (and like-minded groups) routinely holds demonstrations at military funerals across the country. They have the support of both the Supreme Court and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to continue doing what they do. The WBC has also demonstated at the funerals connected to the Sandy Hook and Aurora Movie Theater shootings and the Boston Marathon Bombings. In the months since the SJC ruling in favor of WBC, The White House has been moving to get WBC classified as a hate group and the benefits they enjoy as a church revoked.

They are an independent church (for the time being anyway) after being cut off by their denomination. As one church member said, “They’re doing what Christian Americans should be doing.” They’ve clearly demonstrated they are not remorseful of the unuiversal anger their protests generate and as I mentioned in the above paragraph, the law is on their side.

The WBC’s demonstrations is one of the main sticking points of why there is such a pointed hatred toward many things “Christian”. The other is the perceived hypocrisy commited by self-professed Christians who are politicians: Former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton (when he was president) to name a few.

What The Bible have to say about all this?

Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus did say those who follow him will suffer because of their faith. This is fact.  Before he left, someone asked Jesus gave this commandment: ““A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) In the next verse Jesis said “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

Earlier in his ministry, Jesis told the parable of The Good Samaratain. Those who know their history know the Israelites and the Samaratains didn’t like each other very much. Everyone knows the story: A man is beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road. A Priest and a Tax Collector pass by the man without a second glance. The third–the Samaratain–administers first aid. He takes the man to an inn and gives the innkeepers some money to cover the man’s bills, promising to cover any further expenses when he returns from his journey. After telling the parable, Jesus said we should do the same.

All the petty biases and hatreds so prevalent in mankind mean nothing to God. Yes I said petty because they ARE petty. I’ll tell you something I’ve never shared before because I think it drives home the point I’m trying to make.

Before I did the City Year program 10 years ago, I didn’t know what Homosexuality was. I’d never even heard of it. It wasn’t until I went through basic training at the beginning of my first year I realized how blind I was to the hatreds of the general public on this subject. As it happened to turn out, half my team that first year was openly Gay or Bisexual. I’m not saying who they are for the same reason I’m not sharing a picture of my team here. I don’t want to accidently start another internet witch hunt. Anyway, in talking to them and getting to know them and they getting to know me, I came to this conclusion: Everything I thought I knew about my beliefs was only from one perspective.

In order to properly understand the other side of an arguement, you need to familiarize yourself with their side of the debate or in other words, be willing to play devil’s advocate. American Christians in general have demonstrated time and time again an unwillingness to do this. It is this kind of mindset that helped me come to an understanding of why I felt I’d been rejected by my peers at Church.

Of course, a few years later I learned I was actually wrong and it was a complete misunderstanding on my part. Church politics and the mechnanisms used to fill pews (“evangelize, baptize and cut loose”) are the reasons I no longer attend church. In a sense I like to think that in one way I am following Jesus’ example. I’m what you’d call socially ostracized in every circle I’m a part of. The same can be said of Jesus and every circle you’d expect the Messaiah to be a part of. He was rejected by his own people and his closest friends abandoned him the night he was arrested. He died the death of a common criminal by the order of his own people.

With so much darkness and evil around me, I’m mostly unscathed. The Enemy–Satan, Lucifer, The Devil–whatever you want to call him, they’re really one in the same and always have been–has been able to get me to renounce my faith in Christ so he’s targeted the people closest to me instead. He’s hoping to get me to blaspheme even if it’s on a technicality. That or commit The Unpardonable Sin. I will never do either.

Now what IS the Unpardonable Sin? Easy: Tell God to leave you alone. Believe it or not God respects free will. We all have a choice. That’s what faith is in a nutshell. You choose to believe or choose not to. Be warned that in telling God to leave you alone, you forefeit God’s protection against the supernatural, too.

The supernatural…another topic non-believers dismiss as “fairy tales” along with the existence of God and The Devil. The second-greatest deception the devil ever pulled was proving he doesn’t exist. The first was convincing Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This despite the fact more and more members of the scientic community have accepted the fact there are many things that will always be beyond human understanding.

My very existence is one such example.

I’ve told most of you about my medical history. For all intents and purposes, the fact that I lived to be 10 is a miracle. I found out recently some of what I’d undergone during those regular hospital visits in preparation for open heart surgery was chemotherapy. Before the surgery I experienced shortness of breath even when I wasn’t moving. That was caused by the muscle bundles squeezing my heart, forcing my heart to work harder to circulate blood. If I didn’t have the surgery I’d be dead by age 12 so…yeah.

Like it or not Christianity is here and for the time being in America, it’s here to stay. Some might wonder why an America historically and primarily founded with Christian values in mind “tolerates” other religions. It’s in the Bill of Rights first and foremost: Freedom of RELIGION, not freedom of Christianity. The freedom to believe in God, Allah, Jesus or nothing at all. Like it or not this is the best system a country could have in regards to religion.

Is there a push by Conservative Christians to make Christianity the official religion of America? Yes there is. Is it a good idea? No it isn’t. Proof of this can be found in Theocratical towns across the country and other countries that have a state-backed religion. They only have one demographic in mind and do not take those who are in the “other” category into consideration.

Albert Einstein had a saying: You don’t know enough about a subject if you can’t explain it simply. I don’t claim to know everything on this subject as I’ve made it very clear this narrative is from my perspective. I could be wrong on many points and if I am I’m fine with that.

Did a man named Jesus once exist? Historical records say yes. The Shroud of Turin, which is the cloth Jesus was embalmed in after his death is on display in a museum in Europe. In regards to weather or not Jesus was the Son of God, that depends on weather you actually believe he was. If you believe he was a prophet, you would not be wrong in that belief. He is, after all the way, the truth and the life. Scholars who lived at the time noticed several prophecies concerning the Messaiah were fullfilled during and after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Why did Jewish authorities reject Jesus? Pride. Their pride and traditions. Jesus said he was the Messaiah when asked the night before he died. He also said that he had the authority on earth to forgive sins before healing a man lame from birth. Then he demonstrated his authority to do so by healing the man of his affliction. He didn’t come to prop up the establishment as many hoped. He made that clear. Yes, the Jews were under Roman occupation but he reminded them of why that was in the first place. If you turn your back on those in need around you, you should be surprised with what happenes to you. Yes the Jews were God’s chosen people (emphasis on WERE) but in refusing to share their blessings with their fellow men, God stopped blessing them and gave it to the very people they looked down upon.

That’s the kind of approach I can identify with. It’s not enough to just say why you believe what you do. You should show it in your everyday actions. That’s what I consider the audacity of being a Christian in America.

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The thing about R. Kelly you should never forget   Leave a comment

One of R.Kelly’s Many Booking Mugshots.

He is a convicted rapist and a convicted pedophile.

Click that link for the full, uncut and distrubing details of what he did by the journalist who has since made it his life’s work to see to it R.Kelly’s crimes against children are never forgotten. Some of what that article contains is pretty disturbing to read but given what a man of his status went to prison for, it should never be forgotten for as long as he lives.

Having said that, I don’t have a problem being transparent and saying I own this album:

The album contains what most would call some of the greatest-ever R&B songs of the genre before his first conviction. The 2-Disc compelation contains World’s Greatest, Gotham City and I Believe I Can Fly, which was recorded and featured in the 1995 movie Space Jam as and its connecting music video. The song itself is still considered today to be one of the greatest R&B songs of all time despite the fact its creator is a convicted pedophile. Rightfully so but there is no avoiding the controversy of the artist.

Let me expain one clear difference between Michael Jackson and R. Kelly: One admitted to sharing a bed with minors on tape, had said interview used against him in court and was found not guilty of comitting any crime. The other lied about having oral sex with a 17 year old girl and was later found guilty of the rape of a minor.

Despite the fact Michael Jackson was found innocent of all crimes he was accused of, the court of public opinion prefers to forgive a convicted rapist.

Why is that?

They’re both black men so there’s no race/gender bias. They’re both musically gifted (which is indesputable). They both have fans all over the world. Michael Jacks0n deserved a second chance. R. Kelly got several and wasted no time blowing them all:

Shortly after his release from prison R. Kelly released the above album (because let’s face it, he was broke and needed the money). While he was working on Volume 2 R. Kelly’s name was called in a sex tape leaked to the media in which he urinates on a 14 year old girl. In court, Kelly said he did not know the girl was a minor but as an adult already convicted of a similar crime it’s not unreasonable to have expected him to confirm the girl’s age before taking her to bed. This was the case in which the court of public opinion came to the consenus “Ok so what? If he couldn’t tell I don’t think I could either!”

After being released from prison (again) R. Kelly recorded the first “Black Soap Opera”, better known worldwide as Trapped in the Closet:

His timing couldn’t have been better. At the time he released the first 5 chapters Tyler Perry was becoming a household name with the Madea plays. Trapped in the Closet quickly became a cult classic and after chapter 12 was released it really looked like R. Kelly would be able to put his dark past behind him.

Then he is found on tape raping a 19 year old woman. This time, supposedly it’s R. Kelly himself who recorded it. R. Kelly’s latest incident is resolved without jailtime but the damage has already been done. There is a belief among many that now, the guy simply does not care anymore. This is percieved belief highlighted in the recently released Black Panties in which R. Kelly supposedly admits to his previous crimes and that he just can’t help himself. I haven’t listened to the album so I can’t comment on that but I have no plans to buy it.

You see, R. Kelly is like those politicians repeatedly caught cheating on their wives: He’ll just do it again knowing all he has to do is make music to pay off the legal bills sure to come. Does that make ANY sense? No it does not.

Again: I won’t deny he is a very gifted singer. Even so, I can’t support a man whose personal life is so tainted it’s clearly effected his professional life. That’s the other side of why so many look the other way when it comes to R. Kelly. Yes you should draw a distinction between his public and private lives. It’s what I did with Michael Jackson and Paul Reubens (aka Peewee Herman), after all. Even so, R. Kelly has neither shown remorse for what he did or even asked his victims for forgiveness. When you take that into account it’s harder to come up with a valid arguement to support this guy.

I hope this gave you guys something to think about moving forward. Oh, I will listen to the music he’s done in the past that I have. When I do, I prefer to think of him as the man he was before his fall from grace.

The You Tube Revolution has FINALLY Begun   Leave a comment

All I can really say is it’s about time.

I was one of the first to stand up and say You Tube was systematically taking away their users freedom of expression in conjuction with the RIAA. Some will say the problems started when YouTube was bought by Google 6 years ago. Before the buyout You Tube was a massive free for all. Everything under the sun including pirated movies, tv shows and so on were shared on You Tube. After the buyout YouTube cleaned house.

The problem is they didn’t stop there.

Things escalated from closing accounts used to upload pirated movies to blocking videos in the U.S. for having copyrighted music playing in the background. Now granted, the buyout by Google brought some organization to YouTube but nowadays you’ll find few who make music who actually likes the RIAA. It’s free advertising for them as far as they’re concerned. Oh, speaking of advertisements. As I’m sure you’ve been finding out all year, Google has been coming up with new and creative ways to stick advertisements in every single video on You Tube. This is kinda related but for those who have Chromebooks, did you know Google is using the info you store on those computers to better spam you with junk mail? That isn’t baseless rhetoric from Apple and Microsoft (“Don’t get Scroogled”). It’s fact.

Anyway, folks are beginning to take a stand against You Tube’s practices. Now don’t get me wrong Google has no plans on EVER changing its copyright policy. They have it set up in a way that ANYONE can claim copyrighted material is theirs even though it’s obvious they’re not the copyright holder. It’s an automated system that requires little to no oversight from a Google employee. Ergo, it’s not equitable to change their system.

The only options we video makers/uploaders have is to go elsewhere or make a new video host site. I think a combimation of both is in order. I have been looking at Daily Motion, Blip.tv, Vimeo and Veoh. over the last two years as alternatives. I think it would be far better for someone to just make a site than to just jump to one of those sites. More and more Cable Channels, Anime Companies, Major Sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, Olympics, NCAA, NASCAR, etc.) and sports entertainment (WWE, UFC and TNA) have been streaming their programs through their own websites. Yes, much of it is because some folks will upload live feeds to You Tube after it aired but at the same time they don’t want their content regulated by a third party company.

Now I want to back up a little bit and give the less tech-savy folks out there who use You Tube in on three truths you should always keep in mind:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, an ordinary person like you uploaded the video to the site.
  2. If the video contains copyrighted music and the uploader is not a musician, it will be flagged and blocked or removed in short order.
  3. You Tube has a Three Strikes Policy when it comes to uploading Copyrighted or offendable material. Three Strikes and your account’s closed.

 

See, the thing less tech-savy folks SHOULD know is You Tube’s automated system only does what it’s programmed to do. It does take into account, for example someone walking by with Lady Gaga blaring on their iPhone. It does not account for someone WITH permission uploading copyrighted material. All it knows is someone not in its recorded uploaded something in conflict with the programmed peramaters. Fanmade Music Videos made with copyrighted songs used to be everywhere until a few years ago. What happened? The new copyright policy is what happened. It forced those who make AMVs as they’re also called to look to other sites or just use Rapidshare or Mediafire.

At last, The Revolution has begun.

As more and more people become aware, new video host sites will rise. I don’t expect these new sites to reach even the level of popularity You Tube has but when they come they will be here to stay.

Consumers beware: DO NOT SELL GAMES TO GAMESTOP!   Leave a comment

Just don’t. You’ll get enough money to buy a tank a gas if you’re lucky.

I thought about posting this on my Game Blog but I thought it better to post this on my main blog since this is a little known yet well known fact. The pictures above are Internet Memes but they’re mostly true. For the gamers in the crowd you probably already know this. This post is for non-gamers and parents of kids/teens who may be interested in selling off their library of video games.

To start, let me share a few facts about Gamestop you probably never thought about. Now, what I’m about to share is public knowledge and Gamestop itself is open about them.

  • Gamestop, EB Games and Funcoland are all the same company. Different name brand but same company regardless. Kinda like Marshalls and TJ Maxx or Microsoft and Windows. In addition to that, Game Informer is owned by Gamestop. If you ever wondered why they give a free subscription with people who get a Power Up Rewards Card (more on this in a bit), this is why. Unlike during the 1990s Game Informer writes what they’re paid to: They’ve spent the last 10 or so years bashing anything Nintendo except Pokemon, Mario and Zelda for example.
  • Gamestop makes over 70% of its sales on PREOWNED (Used) games and consoles.
  • All video game consoles traded to Gamestop ARE tested before they’re shelved (and if it doesn’t work you can exchange it for another one). The Vita, PSP Go and DS Lite I own were bought Preowned from Gamestop and have been problem-free since I got them. In fact they all work fine. Regardless I would follow this basic rule of thumb: Request the clerk test the system for you before you buy it.
  • Gamestop is not a pawn shop. This is fact. They do not advertise themselves as one. See, with pawn shops you and the store negotiate until you’ve reached a price that works for both of you. Gamestop buys games/consoles/accessories from the public at a flat rate. Said asking price isn’t negotiable.
  • Typically, Gamestop buys new console games at half the retail price and handheld games at 66% of the retail price. If you were to bring your copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts or NBA 2k14 (any system) to a Gamestop RIGHT NOW (December 12, 2013) you’d leave with $30 cash or $35 Store Credit (both games sell for $60 new right now). In case you’re wondering no, you wouldn’t be reimbursed for the Season Pass if you bought it or any DLC you downloaded. Just the game itself. Bring your copy of Pokemon X or Y (Nintendo 3DS) or Dragon’s Crown (PS Vita) to a Gamestop and you’d get $25 cash or $30 Store Credit (both games sell for $40 New on their respective systems).
  • Recent game releases resold at Gamestop have a mere $5-$10 off the price of a new game. A preowned copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds (Nintendo 3DS) goes for $35. It sells for $40 new.
  • Gamestop Store Associates have no control over the amount offered for trade-ins. This is decided by the suits at the corporate level.
  • The trade in system is set up so that the public always sells games/consoles to them at a loss no matter what. This is fact. No matter how Gamestop spins their reasons for their obviously abhorrent trade-in system it is designed to ensure that in the end they get games/consoles from the public for next to nothing.
  • At the moment the original Wii sells for $70 Preowned at Gamestop ($150 new in case you’re wondering). You’d get $35 if you traded it in to Gamestop. No, any games you downloaded onto it will have no effect on the price/value of the console.
  • Until a few years ago Gamestop used to keep a log of all trade-ins including the seller’s name and contact info. They no longer do this in most stores except where required by law. Yes Store Associates test every game and console before putting it on the shelf but it’s a good idea to make sure the console works before you leave the store with it. With console games ask to see the underside of the Disc before it’s rung up.
  • For those who do not know yes, a government-issued ID (Military ID works too) is required for all trade-ins. Sometimes folks sell stolen games to Gamestop so…yeah.
  • Going with the above: Gamestop Store Associates can refuse trade-ins for any or no reason. It rarely happens these days but some folks do try to sell them stolen games and consoles.

Prettymuch if you want to make money off your mega collection of games, you’re better off trying your luck with eBay, a yard sale or a convention like Anime Boston. Or if you’re feeling daring try Craig’s List (LOL!).

Don’t get me wrong Gamestop is still a great place to buy games for less but I would NEVER advise you sell your games to them. I’ve done it in the past and each time, honestly I felt like shit. I knew the games I sold were worth WAY more than what I got for them. Now when I buy games they’re for life. I’ll post a picture of my game libary this weekemd so you can see. Some of you know I own every console of the current gen except the PS3 (my brother wanted it back when GTA V came out, LOL). When you see my collection of games…let’s just say you’ll be surprised =O

Getting back to what I called The Gamestop Controversy around this time last year, game makers don’t get a cent from those proeowned sales. Some will argue Paid DLC (Downloadable Content) is their answer to this. Little did we know that was just the tip of the iceberg. In recent years they’ve come up with Season Passes. Basically, for a flat rate you get access to all the DLC free and/or at a discount released during a game’s life cycle when you buy the season pass. It’s their way of offsetting lost revenue from those preowned sales made at Gamestop they don’t get. It’s also the compromise by the console makers to not block preowned games on their systems.

Without a doubt Gamestop is here to stay. Some say digital gaming is the future. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with that. Basically it’s the idea game developers will release games digitally like they currently do for most of their games now but it will be like, say Killer Instinct for the Xbox One: The game itself is free but you’ll have to pay with your wallet to unlock features and characters. I don’t particularly like this model specifically though in Fire Emblem: Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS (All the DLC combined is $56, which is $16 more than just the game itself!) it just works. It really depends on how it’s done. In the MMO Community you walk a fine line between paying to play the game and what critics call Pay to Win but that’s a separate topic for a separate blog.

I will be doing one more video game related blog this month and it’ll be for folks thinking about buying a game system for the holidays. To make it extra special there will be a video attached to it. Look forward to it!

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