On Commenting

John Scalzi is one of the most widely known men in science fiction today. Not only is he known for his fiction, which have won numerous awards (such as the prestigious Hugo award), but also for his blog, Whatever (whatever.scalzi.com.) Not only does the blog benefit from Scalzi’s amazing wit and superb writing skills, but also from the wide corpus of regular commenters that frequent the site. Part of this is due to the commenters themselves, who provide valuable insight to whatever topic John Scalzi might be writing about that day, but also to Scalzi’s approach to managing the comment thread. If you took a look at his website you would find links to various pages where he discusses how to comment on Whatever and the penalties for acting like a troll. He refers to this approach as “the mallet of loving correction” and it inspired his book of the same name.

As a result, according to Scalzi himself, the comments are generally worth reading themselves. Whenever I read news articles or blog entries I usually go straight to the comments section when I’m done reading, so that I can get a taste of what people’s opinions might be on that particular piece. Doing so has given me the privilege of witnessing the diversity of the human mind in terms of opinions and intellectual thinking.

Recently, I recreated my original blog and have written several posts in the days since I brought it online. I have also followed many other blogs on WordPress and took a look through each one to get a sense of the content level and to see how many people have commented. A good way to see if a blog is any good is to see how many people comment on it. As of 8/24/2014, I have also written six (the seventh is on its way) entries for Amazing Stories, which has a wide fan base and dozens of bloggers and editorial staff members. While I have noticed a few posts on Amazing start to get a decent little thread, I have only had one person write a single comment on any of my posts.

As a blogger and writer, this makes me sad.

There is no way for me to tell how many people read any of my posts for Amazing at any given time, but I know that my new blog is starting to get a few readers, which is good for a blog that has not even existed for an entire week yet. I’ve even received a few likes and comments on Twitter regarding some of the stuff I have written, which has done wonders for my self-esteem. I wish there were more people out there who would take the time to comment.

Commenting on somebody’s blog entry, just like commenting on Facebook or Twitter, allows the writer not only the satisfaction of knowing that somebody really does read what they write, but also valuable insight as to the quality of their writing ability and the quality of their thoughts. Everyone has their own opinions about everything, so for readers to take a few short seconds and add to whatever it is they had just read turns the situation from reader and writer to that of a conversation. When that happens, people are bound to experience viewpoints they might never have known to exist. They might learn new things and figure out mentally ways that they could improve not only the quality of their blogging but new ways to back up their own arguments. Not only that, but the quality of the blog in general improves the more commenting a post gets. Even minor things such as grammatical errors have a tendency to be corrected faster if a commentator takes the time to point it out.

My challenge for everyone who reads this is to take a few seconds after every blog post and let the blogger know what you think about their post. Tell them your opinions, give them advice, or simply pat them on the back.

The blogosphere will thank you.

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There is such a thing as a ‘pro-choice’ Christian

            I was reading an article online the other day by Matt Walsh, who claims that it is not possible to be pro-choice on the matter of abortion and a Christian at the same time. According to Mr. Walsh, pro-choice and pro-life are two totally different viewpoints, X and Y if you will. He uses analogies such as the fact that a person cannot be a civil rights activist if the same person is an advocate for slavery at the same time. He also claims that a person’s viewpoint on one issue will be clarified by their stances on everything else. Therefore, if you believe in God, who Christians believe is the creator of all life who loves each of us (even unborn children) as his own children then you cannot be pro-choice, which advocates the rights of women to have abortions if they so choose. The title of that particular blog post is “There is no such thing as a “pro-choice” Christian.”

            First off, I would like to thank Mr. Walsh for telling us what Christians are allowed to believe in order to remain Christians. Your clarification is much appreciated.

            Secondly, he’s wrong.

            I know that this will probably generate a lot of controversy, but I am here to say that it IS possible to be a pro-choice Christian. I am a Christian and I am also pro-choice.  Matt Walsh may call me blasphemous and wicked, and if he chooses to then good for him. As a Christian I know that God knows the truth about me, and that if by some chance I am blasphemous and wicked that He will help me on a path to atone for my sins and that He will forgive me. Humanity is not perfect—people kill people every single day. Jesus Christ mounted the cross knowing the sins that each and every one of us will commit in our lives, and still gave his life so that we may be forgiven by the Father. I am a Christian even though I have sinned many, many times in the 24 years I have been alive, and I will remain a Christian until the end of time even though I will sin countless more times in my life. I try not to, but that is the human condition. We are Christian because we believe in God and Jesus’ sacrifice. We believe in forgiveness. Our beliefs do not change just because we choose to take a stance on a certain issue. Christianity is not about conformity. If that were the case, the Roman Catholic Church would still be the only Christian church in existence today. People can have radically different beliefs and still be Christian. Pro-choice believers can be just as religious as those who believe in pro-life. Just because I believe that women should be allowed to choose whether or not they should be allowed to have an abortion does not make me a killer or an evil person. In fact, I would have to say (modestly) that I am quite the opposite. I volunteer regularly at church, I use the manners my parents taught me, I’m kind and courteous to others, and I respect peoples’ opinions. I respect people in general. That is half the reason I am pro-choice, because I respect the mothers who are carrying the child and their right to do what they want with their own bodies without other people jumping in and telling them what to do with their bodies.

            The other half of the reason I am pro-choice is because I respect God. I am pro-choice because God is pro-choice.

            Indeed, if you believe what Christians believe, God is the giver of life and the one that planted the seeds of creation on planet Earth. However, He also gave us the gift of free will. I feel that it is really disrespectful when people say, “This is what God has planned for me,” or “This is what God wants me to do.” He gives us the choice to do what we please in life, and the option of any of countless paths to choose from. Each of us are our own individual person, born to lead our own lives and do what we feel we need to do. God is not our puppet master. He guides us, nurtures us and helps us but in the end it is our everyday choices that dictate what becomes of us. Evil exists only because God allows it, and evil exists because of the choices we make. If God did not want us to make our own choices then he would not give us the option. Instead of casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden as punishment for the very first sins he could have restarted everything so that mankind did not eat the fruit of the tree and damn humanity from then until the Rapture.

            What we, as Christians, have to remember is that this Earth is just a temporary stopping point in our eternal journey. God has a special place reserved for all of us, and just because the unborn children of abortion do not get to experience life on this Earth does not mean that they are barred from existence. This is NO WAY a means to justify the end, but I’m hoping that remembering that God will accept these babies and fetuses into the Kingdom of Heaven regardless of our own actions will bring a little comfort to the debate.

            Now, I could continue arguing my case for pro-choice all day long, as well as my own reasons for taking this particular side. I could argue that each person is entitled to their own bodies, and that I feel that it is sexist and an intrusion for others to say otherwise. I could also say that I feel that people should mind their own business and worry about their own problems before trying to start problems with other people, but I will leave it at this.

            I guess my overall point is that God is the real judge of who is Christian and who is not, and I think we all can guess on what His decision is. We are all God’s children, even if our beliefs are as varied as our many personalities. As long as we believe that God is our God and that Jesus himself died for the forgiveness of our sins then we are Christian, even if we are pro-choice. It does not matter what Matt Walsh says or how many Bible verses he recounts. Let God be the judge.

            I am a Christian, and I am PROUD of it. I am pro-choice, and I am proud of that, too.

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My Introduction to Sexism

I recently experienced my first instance of sexism firsthand. What I mean is, not only did somebody say something to me that was somewhat prejudiced against me due to my gender, but the organization that that person works for made a decision—a hiring decision—not to even interview me due to the fact that I am a male.

Before people read only this first paragraph and fly into an outrage, let me explain a little further.

The business I am referring to is a daycare. In respect to this daycare and the person(s) involved, I will not mention any names, locations or even give subtle hints as to their identities. I will, however, say that this daycare is a ministry of a church so, unfortunately, it would seem that the church therefore also was sexist.

The daycare caters to children whose ages range from toddler to four and five years old. The representative from the church who I had talked to about applying for a job there told me that they would only be willing to consider me for a position in the four and five year old classroom and not for any of the younger rooms, where all the open jobs were. The reason they gave me was that they were worried that parents would be uncomfortable with a 24-year old male watching over their young children. The daycare was worried about being sued so I was barred from employment from those classrooms. There are twelve classrooms in the daycare, and I am eligible (theoretically, as there are currently no openings in the four and five year old room) for only one of those twelve rooms.

So maybe they were not being entirely sexist, but in my opinion even a little sexism is sexism nonetheless. And if it is the parents who really are concerned about a young guy like me babysitting and teaching their kids, then they, too, are acting sexist.

I am not trying to make a big deal about this, but I want to know what some of these parents and the daycare/church are thinking. For one thing, Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Denying me certain positions because I am a man and not a woman is discrimination, so theoretically I could sue the daycare and the church for sexual harassment. Now, I am not going to. It’s a church, after all, and in some ways I see where they are coming from. I talked to several teachers and teacher’s assistants who work there (all of them women, obviously) and they all think I would be a good fit there. However, one of the older ladies warned me against seeking a job in their profession, as it would put a target on my back from the get go.

The question I have for these people is, “Why?”

By the time I graduated high school almost a dozen students—half of them male—were parents. This means that before they were 18 they had entered into the realm of parenthood. I am 24—if I had been one of those young fathers and if I do the math correctly it would mean that I have almost six years of parenting experience. It would also mean that my child would be older than even the oldest age group at the daycare. Would these same parents worry about MY children being watched and taken care of me on a daily basis as their father, or would they not give it much thought since it was my kid in question? What makes their children any different? If I can take care of my own kids without being labeled as some sort of predator, then why should I be denied the opportunity to watch kids for a living?

I mentioned earlier that the daycare was worried about being sued if I was hired. Naturally, if I had done something horrendous and illegal I fully expect the law to fall on my head. One thing the daycare and parents do not seem to realize is that men are not the only ones capable of wrongdoing. I read in the news all the time of female teachers being arrested for having sex with students, among other things. To worry about a male and not worry about a female being hired to watch children from seven in the morning until six at night is prejudice at its worst.

I thought that in a day and age where women have finally been allowed to serve in combat units and the Federal government has outlawed any form of discrimination in the work place that employers would be willing to overlook the fact that I’m a male and look at my references and experience. If the daycare reps had, they would notice that not only do I have extensive volunteer experience (a lot of which came from that very church) working with kids those same ages, but I have also been babysitting for years. My mom and I watched a six-month old baby and his two-year old sister for months late last year, and their parents did not seem to care. I watched them with my brothers when my parents were not available. (You see, THREE guys watching little children. We had a great time watching Sponge Bob and crawling around on the carpet.) On top of all of this, but I could name off a long list of people who could tell you that I love kids and am great at taking care of them. My dad, whose favorite compliment is “Cool” even went so far as to say that I’ve always been good with kids. I am no expert or anything, but I know for a fact that if I were in charge of a daycare that is the kind of person I would want looking after young ones while their parents were away. To deny me because I’m a guy deprives the kids of a mentor figure and friend who would give his all to take care of them and be there for them.

That concludes my venting for the day. Carry on.

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Blast from the Past: My Hopes for Ben Affleck, DC’s Next Batman

Originally published by Amazing Stories on July 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. (http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2014/07/hopes-ben-affleck-dcs-next-batman/)

Until very recently I have been a HUGE Marvel Comics fan and always ignored anything DC. Thanks to my girlfriend I have garnered a newfound love and respect for certain DC characters, particularly Batman. I have seen the original two serials from the 40s, every episode (and movie) from the campy Adam West TV show, the Burton/Schumacher series, and Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. I’ve also recently started playing the Arkham video games and started brushing up on the few Batman comics in my collection. While I am by NO means a Batman expert (I consider myself simply a minor fan) I have seen enough renditions of the Dark Knight in both film and comic form to know what is good and what is bad, and what has been done and what has not. With Ben Affleck cast as the newest incarnation, set to face off against The Man of Steel in 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice DC has a chance to do some potentially great things with the character. However, there’s also plenty of room to make mistakes, especially since audiences will be introduced to this new Batman in a Superman film and not a film of his own, as we’ve been accustomed to with Marvel’s crossovers.

Here are some of the many possible ways DC can make “Batfleck” great.

  • Give him a great arsenal. Let’s face it—as much as I love Batman, and as much as any fan might love Batman we all admit that physically he stands no chance (by himself) against Superman. Superman has super strength, flight capability, freeze breath, and heat vision in his arsenal. Batman has trained himself in various martial arts and is at the peak of human conditioning, but even alongside his great intellect these are not enough for a physical confrontation with Superman. In order to face him on equal terms, Batman is going to need some great gadgets. In the comic The Dark Knight Returns Batman uses a powered exo-skeleton Batsuit to battle Superman. One of the things I did not like about the Nolan trilogy is that even though Bruce Wayne had some really cool Batsuits and technology at his disposal when it came to gadgets and weapons they really fell flat, as opposed to the science fictional arsenal of the Burton/Schumacher movies. I really hope that they let Batman have similar tools for his battle with Superman. If the filmmakers hope to convey realism, then it’s only fair that they give Batman anything he needs to stand up against Superman.
  • Let him be the world’s greatest detective. In the early serials and the campy TV series of the 60s Batman spent some time in the Batcave looking at clues and determining the location of the criminal or figuring out where he or she would strike next. In the modern films Batman’s fame as a detective is hardly touched upon, and is reduced to watching surveillance footage and (to be fair to The Dark Knight) reconstructing a fragmented bullet to get a fingerprint off of it. Ben Affleck’s character will be living in a world where an alien (Superman) who defies the laws of physics also exists. If the two are going to confront each other then Batman needs to put his detective skills to use and figure out ways to beat Superman. He needs to show Superman that he is the “intellectual Superman” of the group. This way when the time comes for the two to team up and track down a bad guy Batman can use his detective skills to locate the bad guy and save Superman the trouble of flying around all over the place trying to find them himself. If anything it is something that they have not shown in modern times, and would be a new treatment of the character.
  • He needs to be his own Batman. In Man of Steel Zach Snyder attempted to do what Christopher Nolan did with the Dark Knight Trilogy and make his Superman film gritty and realistic. As Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is going to be the official sequel to Man of Steel it is safe to assume that it will follow along that same realistic path. While I am not a fan of studios attempting to make these comic book characters seem plausible, if they choose to do it this was then they have to remember one thing when it comes to the new Batman—he is NOT the same Batman that Christian Bale played. Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight is not going to be an older version of Christian Bale’s, nor is he going to be following the Burton/Schumacher example of having different actors play the same character in different films. This is a chance to, I say this again, explore new grounds with the character and attempt a portrayal that would even make Bob Kane excited. We already know that this version’s Batman is going to be a seasoned, veteran crime fighter and an older, wiser Bruce Wayne. Perhaps what I’m asking is not too much to ask for at all.
  • Give him more screen time than Superman. This is probably going to piss some people off, but I mean it as diplomatically as I can. As I mentioned, Ben Affleck is going to be playing a brand new character, one that has not had the luxury of an origin story or even his own film to give us a sense of what his character is going to be like. You might say, “We already know why Bruce Wayne decided to become Batman. His parents were killed, he was terrified of bats, and he wanted to use that symbol to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals of Gotham City.” That is all fine, well, and good but that does not explain how this version’s Bruce Wayne came to be where he is in life and what makes his Batman the way he is. As an older, more experienced superhero this Batman has most likely already faced off against the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and possibly even more of his rogue’s gallery that we probably won’t see at all in the film. This is all hypothetical, of course, but seriously. Do you think that Bruce Wayne/Batman became as hardened and experienced as he is going to be in the Superman sequel by battling muggers and bank robbers? Long story short we had a whole movie to introduce us to Superman, and if this Batman is going to also be in the Justice League film then he needs some screen time so that we can get to know him and start making the distinction between him and all the Batmen that have come before.

 

Finally, here is my final request to DC regarding the new Batman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice:

  • Batman needs to have a fair chance against Superman. After all, the title of the film says “Batman V (meaning VERSUS) Superman”. This implies that the two will at some point, be it in the beginning, ending or throughout the whole movie be duking it out and throwing punches and heat rays back and forth. The title does not say “Batman gets his butt handed to him right away by Superman”. There has been a lot of talk online in forums from fans who claim that they are excited to watch Batman get smacked around by Superman and laugh off Batman fans’ attempts to defend the Caped Crusader. I have the feeling that if and when Batman does defeat Superman in the film that those Superman fans will be as dumbfounded and outraged that a playboy billionaire managed to take down a god-like superhuman. There is little point having the two end up in the same movie combatting each other if the outcome is already “decided.” Surely there are other ways to bring the two heroes together without having one of DC’s most iconic characters get embarrassed on the big screen by another. No. The fact that DC is bringing these two legendary superheroes together and pitting them against each other should be even more of a reason for Batman to have a shot at beating the Last Son of Krypton. If the DC series has any chance of ever outdoing the much more established Marvel Cinematic Universe then this new movie has to blow it out of the water with a force that only Superman could muster. They have to give these two metahumans everything they can so that when the ultimate showdown begins it will be so epic that even Darkseid will be on the edge of his seat (or throne).

And if that happens, then Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will have a good shot at the top of the box office charts, and movie history will once again be made.

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Welcome!

Hi everyone,

I just discovered that I still had this old blog, so I’m trying to get it up and running, so please be patient. I’m also reading other blogs and following them so that hopefully I can get my own followers sometime down the road.

So if you see that I’m following you, but you only find a blank WordPress site, don’t be alarmed. I’m working on it,

Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to blogging and giving you all stuff to read.

 

 

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Blast from the Past: The Cliff Richard Scandal, after so many years

To buy myself some time while I figure out how WordPress works and how to make the most out of my new blog, I decided that my first several posts will be “Blasts from the Past.”These are posts that I’ve written for my other blogs in the past that I am sharing so that this new blog, which I have every intention on keeping and not giving up on, starts out with some good content.

 

So without further ado, here is my first Blast. Recently, in my soon-to-be-extinct other blog, I wrote about a developing story in Britain. Cliff Richard, the legendary British singer, has been accused of a “historic” allegation of sexual abuse. While Sir Cliff was out of the country–and without letting him know they were coming–British police and the BBC raided his apartment and confiscated several items. Britain, unlike the rest of the world, has no statute of limitations of alleged sex abuse charges. Here is what I had to say about this story. 

                                                                 ***********************************************

 

30 years after Sir Cliff Richard, the legendary British musician, joined Billy Graham on stage in Sheffield, England to sing and announce to thousands his story of finding and accepting a Christian faith he is now being accused of one of the worst un-Christian crimes possible. A man (who has yet to reveal his identity) recently reported to police that he had been sexually abused by Sir Cliff during that event when the man in question was only sixteen years old. Great Britain, unlike the U.S. and several major European nations, does not have a statute of limitations of sexual abuse. As a result, on Thursday morning police invade the singer’s apartment in Berkshire, surrounded by the media, and confiscating several items from the apartment for investigation. Sir Cliff, in the meantime, was on vacation in Portugal, and does not even live permanently in the UK anyway. Apparently Cliff was the last person to find out about the search warrant or the giant news party that erupted because of it.

While people are jumping to take sides in this situation, even as more and more people are starting to come forward with information, the British news is admitting that Cliff is angry about the intrusion.

Well, duh! Who wouldn’t be?

The police have a warrant, which is great. Under British law (Section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) search warrants can be issued to police by a magistrate’s court if:

  • A criminal offence of a sufficiently serious nature has been committed. (Indeed, sexual abuse is definitely a serious business. However, at this point it is still an allegation, not an actual offense.)
  • There is material evidence on the premises that is likely to aid a criminal investigation. (Unlikely, since the alleged assault happened almost thirty years ago. What could they possibly find in his apartment after all those years that could link him to the crime?)
  • It is not practical to obtain the evidence without a warrant being granted. (In this case, I doubt it matters much if there was a warrant or not.)
  • That the purpose of the search will be seriously prejudiced if the police officer cannot have immediate access to the property upon arriving at the premises. (It’s already prejudiced. Thirty years have passed!)

In short, the police were quick to ask for a warrant after somebody claims to have been hurt by a famous singer twenty nine years ago. For some reason they also found it necessary to take several items from his home that somehow or another are important to their investigation, and they chose to execute their warrant without letting Cliff Richard know first. They should have at least had the common courtesy to notify him that his home was going to be searched so that he might be there to make sure everything went smoothly, and to possibly aid in their investigation. Hopefully someone was there to make sure the limitations of the warrant were upheld.

The various news outlets I checked out have not mentioned what items were taken from his apartment, but it is hard to conceive what he could have had in his vacation home (which is essentially what that Berkshire apartment is) that could be relevant to his case.

Unless, of course, Cliff Richard is an obsessed, perverted, OCD stalker who keeps souvenirs from his sex victims and the police were fortunately able to recover them. I find this HIGHLY unlikely. Even if he did, in fact, perpetrate the alleged assault, why would he keep any kind of evidence in his apartment, or better yet keep it at all? He has residences in Portugal and Barbados, as well, which he spends more time at than anywhere else. A reasonable person would think that if he did feel the need to keep anything that might incriminate him in one of those countries that he would have the smarts to move those artifacts to one of the other countries he lives in that are outside the other’s jurisdiction.

As for the man waiting almost three decades to report the matter to police, who knows what might have inspired this. The news people seem to think that the notorious Jimmy Savile scandal gave him the courage to step forward. Maybe he decided he had a religious or personal obligation to report it that had nothing to do with Jimmy Savile. The world may never know. People also have to remember that at this point there’s even a chance that the guy is telling a big fat fib and this is his pay of achieving media notoriety and inflicting a cruel and senseless blow against Cliff Richard for no good reason.

Regardless, I am very interested to see where this investigation leads, especially when dealing with the amount of time that has surpassed since the alleged crime in question took place. It is highly unlikely that, unless Cliff Richard is a sociopath that keeps treasures of his attacks decades later, there won’t be much physical evidence tying him to a crime. Whether something dreadfully serious happened thirty years ago or a man is seeking his claim to infamy now remains to be seen. I’d hate to see Cliff Richard labeled as a hypocrite for doing something sinful at a Christian concert.

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