GamerGate Thoughts

I’ve held off on writing about GamerGate, but I might as well speak my piece. It’s not a very large piece.

I’ve followed Anita Sarkeesian‘s videos since her kickstarter. I follow her on Twitter. I haven’t always agreed with her views (in fact, I often find things I disagree with) but I think it’s really cool of her (and really brave) to be working so hard to have a discussion about gender issues in gaming. I’m really glad that she’s done her thing in the face of so much venom. I support her and developers like Zoe Quinn that have been driven out of their homes by threats from a very vicious, very vocal, very venomous group of people.

And that’s nothing new, nothing that many other reasonable people aren’t also saying. “Wait, Matt, you’re agreeing with the idea that it’s wrong to threaten to kill a bunch of people because a woman is talking about video games?” I know, it’s a totally radical opinion I have.

So here’s what I will talk about instead. Let’s talk about gamers. Let’s talk about us.

I’ve been a lifelong gamer. I had the dubious honor of being part of this group during the Nineties when Mortal Kombat hit the scene. You remember Mortal Kombat, right? Violence in games exploded in a big way after that one came out. Suddenly, everyone was talking about those violent video games. Violent games were forbidden in my house. I had to sneak over to a friend’s house to play Mortal Kombat. Considering how much of a super-geek I was growing up, this is literally the only thing I’ve ever done behind my parents’ backs. I played a video game. No drugs, no booze; just that one particular game.

I remember how it went, from Mortal Kombat to Doom to Grand Theft Auto. The issue of violence in games kept growing. Columbine happened. School shooters became a thing. And for most gamers like me, we kept hoping that it wouldn’t get any worse. We hoped that the public tide wouldn’t turn against games. We hoped they wouldn’t end up banned or strictly controlled. We just wanted to play.

Politicians like Lieberman and Pelosi and Hilary Clinton, likely looking to pick up family-first-morality credit, seemed to be in every article, saying how we need to take a closer look at these games, we need to control this. It might be a little ironic that I’m now a vehement liberal who’d vote for any of them, since back then, they were the enemies of gaming.

I remember when I was about ten or eleven, a friend whose parents worked for the local news station wanted to do a story on kids playing video games. At the time, I thought it was the coolest fucking thing in the world. They interviewed us (hilariously neglecting to get permission from my parents) and took footage of us playing games. I remember I had the first twinge of doubt when I offered to show them some of the non-violent games we had. I brought up Mario Kart and explained that it was my favorite, but they didn’t care about that. The reporter said something about how they already had enough footage of that kind of game. So all they wanted from us was the shooters.

I remember being so proud until the segment finally came on and it was an absolute nightmare for a kid who loved games so much. We were painted as being addicts playing murder simulators. Closeups of concentrated faces, hands moving over control pads. At the time, I thought it was because of how good it was at the game. When I saw the segment, I saw how we’d been lied to, literally lied to by the reporter and the camera crew. Fortunately for my younger self, the segment didn’t air until the last fifteen minutes of the evening news, so nobody I knew other than my parents ever saw it. I didn’t get picked on at school for it.

But honestly, I’m still pissed about it. I still disdain the channel that did it, although I won’t mention which news group it was. But I felt like they’d been out to get me. It was an us vs. them. Gamers vs. normals.

We didn’t want to bother anyone. We wanted to play our games and be left alone. As a kid who was picked on a lot, that was my refuge, a place where it didn’t matter that I was awkward and weird.

I remember Jack Thompson’s insane crusade and the mind-boggling amount of media attention he received. He was the universal enemy of all gamers. Even if you didn’t particularly like the games he railed against, if you were a gamer from 2003-2008, you probably had a negative opinion on Thompson. He was our collective nemesis and it felt like justice when he was finally disbarred as a lawyer.

That seemed like a turning point. Gaming had gone from this insular little thing that a few kids did to being everywhere. Suddenly, everyone was a gamer. We weren’t weird anymore, we weren’t different just because we liked games. Of course, I was well into adulthood as this magical change was happening, so at that point it didn’t matter quite as much to my life, but I could see how we were being treated by the general public consciousness. Famous people were gamers! Practically every single male in the world had a copy of Modern Warfare 2! And some females, too, although not as many. That game was a serious bro-fest. Guys that used to pick on me on the playground were lining up in front of me in the GameStop!

It seemed like gamers had proven the naysayers wrong. We weren’t violent, we weren’t maladjusted, we’d grown up and gotten jobs and become productive citizens and kept on playing. More murders have been committed because of something someone wrote in a novel than because of games.

And now, a few years later . . . here we are. Now we’re at the point where some gamers are threatening to commit the school shootings and rape and kill and literally, literally fucking prove every negative stereotype that we’ve endured since the beginning. How the fuck does that happen? How the fuck do you not see how fucking stupid it is to look at the stereotypes men like Jack Thompson heaped on us and say, “yeah, that’s a good fucking way to solve the issue of a woman talking about video games in a way that I don’t like?”

Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me is this; we grew up in a siege mentality. Gamers were used to being the bad guys, we were used to video games being the demonspawned corrupters of souls, the way movies, comics, rock music, etc. were once.

We were persecuted for being geeks and nerds by a hypermasculine social structure that didn’t reward intellectualism over athleticism, that didn’t value wanting to be different and do our own thing. And how, in some dark hilarious twist, instead of saying we’ll be better than that, we’ll be better than the fucking guys that made our lives such living hells throughout our youth that the only solutions seemed to be drugs, suicide or virtual escapism, now we’re just being the same as those fucking guys.

There’s only one explanation that makes sense to me. I can’t believe that any kid who grew up loving games and having that stigma would be doing this to someone else.

So maybe GamerGate and this systemic campaign of harassment and threatened violence against women in gaming is due to the fact that gamers aren’t the same little group of people anymore. Now gamers are everyone and that means that Gamergate isn’t simply a gamer problem, it’s one battle in a larger social struggle against male privilege and patriarchy and the way women are treated and depicted in this culture. That could be it. Maybe it’s not just gamers, but a very specific group of men in general. I don’t know that this would make me feel better about the situation, but it does make more sense.

Or maybe it really is a gamer problem. Maybe the problem really is us and today’s gamers didn’t heed the lessons of the past. Maybe they’re just ignorant of the history of what Columbine did to the hobby that we love so much, which is why they’d literally threaten that very same thing. Maybe we’ve forgotten what it was like to be the ones singled out for wanting to be who we were, for wanting to like the things that we liked. Maybe we’ve forgotten, taken the current status quo for granted, and now that someone else is daring to want to be part of it all, we’re turning on them like rabid beasts.

Or maybe it’s just a case of the echo chamber of the Internet and a small group of voices can be so mind-boggling, disproportionately loud. Maybe it’s the same group of MRA assholes that have been harassing people like Sarkeesian for years and their voices are just now getting particularly loud, their threats particularly egegrious. Maybe for every one idiot who supports the systemic terrorization of women in gaming, there are 99 other gamers who just want to keep quiet and play on.

Regardless, it’s a shitty situation that we’ve found ourselves in. It’s shitty and it’s depressing and it makes me wonder if maybe we weren’t better off with Jack Thompson and his one-man crazy crusade. Because at least when he was around, saying his crazy things, we could just shrug and say, “man, can you believe what this guy is saying?”

Because right now, all I can do is put my face in my hands and say, “man, can you believe what gamers are saying?”

No. I can’t.

I really, really can’t.

Odds And Ends

If you could see the state of the room wherein I am composing this post, you would understand my absence from these parts over the past week or two. Sufficient to say that, yes, I have indeed moved. But that seems to imply that moving is the only step to the process.

It turns out moving is just the first step. Unpacking is the second and, in my case, far lengthier step.

I’m not sure whether it was foresight or foolishness that kept me from documenting the process. A week and a half ago, there was no visible floorspace in this room. The living room was “box canyon,” which is the result when a packrat dragon is forced to move his accumulated hoard into a smaller space. I had a lot of stuff that I’ve collected over the years and I had both a full-sized walk-in closet and an outdoor storage shed to house all that stuff.

While cleaning out the stuff, I found $50 dollars in unused gift cards. I found a $25 check that was, sadly, expired. I cashed in my coin bucket for $80 and that’s just the shit I had rolled; the quarters still need to be accounted for.

I’ve pared down the stuff over the past few weeks. I’ve scythed through it. I’ve cut close to the bone. Everything that’s left is either of tremendous sentimental value, such as my very first manuscript or my favorite childhood teddy bear, or is actively valuable and useful, like my camping gear.

At this point, you can see the majority of the floor in my new space. I’ve taken to calling it my study, because I’ve always wanted a study and it sounds much more dignified than my lair or my man-cave.

There’s still a particularly unsightly shelf that will be hauled out once everything has been organized, but the space is usable. My Xbox is hooked up and I spent much of my leisure time playing Borderlands 2 which I was able to purchase with one of my found giftcards. It was ten years old for a company that went out of business, but the company that bought it evidently transferred all the accounts because the card was still redeemable!

The fact that it’s almost November and thus nearly NaNoWriMo 2014 is a thought that fills me with terror and dread. What will I write about this year?

I Still Prefer Books (And Science Agrees With Me)

There’s probably something odd in blogging about the superiority of the physical page as compared to the digital screen. I don’t particularly love eBooks; as I have enumerated before, I don’t own a tablet or eReader of any sort so my experience is limited to reading on my smartphone. And that’s not terribly enjoyable.

Overall, I’d estimate that out of the 125 books I read last year, about 100 of them were physical, 20 were audio, and the remaining five were electronic text.

Fortunately for me, science suggests that from a neurological perspective, this is the preferred way to read:

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007 . . . But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books . . . A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

My own experiences support this. I recently finished Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and I read it entirely on my smartphone. I noticed one particular advantage: my book was always in my pocket which otherwise wouldn’t be possible given that Cryptonomicon, like almost everything Stephenson writes, is around 1,000 pages. I was able to read pretty much everywhere I went which really helped rack up some extra reading time throughout the day.

But I can tell that I didn’t absorb it as fully as if I’d been reading a physical version. It’s easier to skim on a screen. You scroll through the text and “psuedo-read” what’s there, seeing without comprehending.

As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning. A 2006 study found that people read on screens in an “F” pattern, reading the entire top line but then only scanning through the text along the left side of the page. This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

I noticed the “F pattern” creep into my reading experience. It certainly didn’t help my comprehension, even if it did improve the speed at which I plowed through the book (but since I’m reading for my own pleasure, what’s the point of going so quickly that you don’t realize what you’re doing?)

I also noticed that the “F pattern” effect began to recede as soon as I returned to a physical book. My focus was much sharper.

I have another mammoth Stephenson tome sitting in my “to-read” pile (Anathem, if you’re curious) and it will be interesting to see how the experience compares; two very long works by the same author on the different formats.

Leave Only Footprints, Take Only Pictures . . . And Here’s A $1000 Fine For Doing So

I know that it’s silly to assign values of good and evil to various government agencies, but I swear, sometimes those agencies really go out of their way to make you decide. And no, I’m not talking about the NSA who seem to actively delight in seeming evil and are probably reading this blog post right now. No, today my ire is directed at the U. S. Forest Service due to their new plan to charge a $1000 fine for taking pictures in a Federal Wilderness without a permit.

Don’t worry, though. The permits are a bargain: only $1500. I’m certain that won’t affect any student filmmakers or struggling photographers or, really, anyone else who might be operating on a tight budget. Hell, I’ve got $1500 in my back pocket right now.

Forest Service spokesperson Larry Chambers told the Oregonian that permits will cost up to $1,500, and those caught so much as taking an iPhone photo without clearance will be fined $1,000. Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, told the Oregonian that the restrictions are following the Wilderness Act of 1964, which is meant to preserve the untamed character of the wilderness and prevent it from being used for commercial gain.

So, that sucks. But it gets even better worse!

The Forest Service would make exceptions for breaking news that “arises suddenly, evolves quickly, and rapidly ceases to be newsworthy.”

Beyond the media, the rule would apply to anyone who might use the photos or video to make money while in a wilderness area, be it a documentary film crew, nonprofit, or private citizen.

Sure, you could argue that it’s “only” recognized wilderness areas and not actually “all of nature.” On the other hand, I’m willing to bet that most people have no idea whether the outdoorsy area they’re in at any given moment is considered a wilderness area or not. And speaking as someone who does usually know and has a particular favorite wilderness area, the idea that it’s a finable offense is infuriating!

Oh, but the permit is only required for pictures used for commercial purposes, you say? Well, that should fucking solve it for everyone, won’t it. Wait, is this blog a commercial purpose? Is my picture of a creek that I took four years ago indicative of a violation? I don’t actually make any money doing this blog, but I’m also working on publishing a book, so there’s a very real chance that in a year or so this blog will have a commercial purpose. What happens then?

(Actually, it still wouldn’t be a violation since I took that picture in a State Park, but would you know that by looking at it?)

Maybe I’m overreacting. Certainly, we can trust the Forest Service agency not to abuse this authority to go after people for taking pictures of trees or . . .

I’m sorry, I can’t even manage good sarcasm right now. This is well and truly a shitty thing. We come full circle to my earlier assessment: the Forest Service is evil.

For what it’s worth, I consider the Parks Service to be their good counterpart. So there’s that.

Scottish Independence And How It Relates To My Life

We’re on the eve of the big vote. Scotland awaits word on whether it will once again be an independent nation. It’s an exciting, historic occurrence that we are witnessing from across the pond.

So, naturally, my main concern this: is what does potential Scottish independence mean for me, an American citizen in Arizona? This has the potential to deeply affect one of my very favorite things.

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Pictured above: one of Matt’s very favorite things

What does Scottish independence mean for scotch? 

I’m not the only one wondering about this, either.

Scotch is primarily an export. The market for scotch depends on pretentious scotch drinkers like myself here in America. Will an independent Scotland adversely affect the scotch market? No one can predict how strong Scotland’s currency would be if it pulls away from the United Kingdom. I suppose it could go to the euro. Admittedly, I’m not an international economist but my understanding is that the euro isn’t as stable as the pound is.

Would prices on scotch go up? Would they go down? Either one would be bad for someone. Higher prices would be bad for me, since I already can’t afford to drink my favorite single malt except on special occasions.

But lower prices would be bad for the scotch market in general if they weaken the value of the product and force some of the best distilleries to cut back or close up shop. That seems less likely, given that the demand for scotch is only increasing. But it’s always possible, I suppose.

Most likely, either scenario would happen in the long-term. I doubt my favorite bottle of Highland Park will suddenly quadruple in cost tomorrow. But who knows?

In the meantime, all we scotch drinkers can do is hold our Gleincarn whiskey glasses closely while we wait for the results of the vote.

Textual Preferences

I don’t own an e-reader but I do indulge in reading e-books on my smartphone from time to time. I use the word indulge which might suggest that ebooks are a treat that I allow myself from time to time but that isn’t quite the case. Usually, I’ll choose an e-book when the printed copy isn’t available. Or I need something immediately such as during travel.

Otherwise, reading on my smartphone is an uncomfortable experience. The phone’s screen is too cramped and claustrophobic. My phone is three years old, so prolonged use of any sort wears out the battery too quickly.

It creates a tricky situation. I don’t like reading ebooks enough to invest in a dedicated ereader but reading on my phone is too uncomfortable to induce me to read more ebooks, so why should I spend money on a reader?

However, there is one case when I feel the e-book has a clear advantage, even on an uncomfortable platform like a smartphone: when one is reading a doorstopper.

The current doorstopper in my reading queue is Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. I tried reading a few years ago but I couldn’t get into the book. I knew that it wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t the right time or place or maybe I wasn’t in the right mental state for it. I always knew that I’d come back to it someday and so, a few years later, here I am.

I’m trying it as an e-book so that I don’t have to heft around a massive slab of book which is a bonus when you’re a motorcycle rider and your reading material needs to fit easily into one’s jacket pocket.

Since this is my first really deep delve into reading an e-book, I’m learning some of the quirks. One of which is that I can control the color of the text on the screen. I can choose to have black text on a white background (like this blog page) or I can have the inverse; white text on a black background.

I’ve tried it both ways for about one hundred pages now and I’m uncertain. My general feeling is that the white-text-on-black would probably be better for my battery life but which one is better for my eyes?

A few Google searches suggest that black-text-on-white is more readable which would reduce eyestrain, but there are also countless articles about computer-related eyestrain that make me suspicious of the black-text-on-white paradigm. Might the inverse option be better for the eyes? I am uncertain and there doesn’t seem to be much discussion on this pressing topic to provide me with more information.

Dusting The Blog Off

Where the hell have you been? It’s only been . . . almost a month since I last wrote anything here. I’m sure that’s not dust. Since this is a digital space, any dust you might be perceiving either exists purely in your mind or your electronic device of choice is really, really dusty. You should probably clean that up.

I’m doing fine, thanks for asking. What have I been up to? Oh, lots! Let’s run through the list:

  • Searching for a new house
  • Giving up on searching for a new house
  • Playing Skyrim again (my lizard man is level 84!)
  • Avoiding writing, blogging, or doing anything creative of any kind

That really sounds like a lot when you write it all out, doesn’t it?

The house search ended up being a bust. There’s nothing in my price range that’s available right now. It got to the point where we were looking at a 900 square foot house (same as what we have currently) with two bedrooms (again, same as our current option), a tinier kitchen, and a $300 increase over our current rent.

I think that was the point when we determined that it really didn’t make sense to move into a new place. So, technically I’m still moving; I’m just moving into the dwelling of my significant other. It’s a really nice place. It’s just not what I’d call a new place, since I’ve been spending a majority of my time there already.

My thinking is that available rentals pop up in six month increments. There seemed to be a surplus of places back in early August but now things are sparse. I’m curious to see how it will go come December, not that we’ll be looking to move at that point.

It might sound insane that people would move out in December, but keep in mind that this is Arizona we’re talking about. For us, the winter months are actually the best time to doing your moving.

Washington Trip Recap

You can tell that my original intention for recounting this trip was going to be a daily update with time stamps and a narrative about my experiences. That desire ended when I realized that a few days in, not only had I not written anything since the first day, I didn’t even know what day it was. I could tell you the time, of course, but only because I wear a wristwatch. The wristwatch didn’t know what day it was either, even though I kept checking.

My days were pretty much the following: wake up in a dazed stupor, shower, slug down some coffee, march on to a dizzying array of museums, memorials, and/or national monuments. Then food, then back to the hotel, where I tended to pass out in bed, often still with my clothes on and my contacts in. There was so much to do and see and experience and so much walking to do it all. It reminded me more than a little of my trip to San Diego for ComiCon in 2012.

Literally everything in DC is dedicated to the memory of somebody; at one point (and I swear to God this is true), I tripped over a sidewalk panel outside the Newseum because the edge was raised out of the ground. I looked down and saw that I’d tripped over a memorial that was dedicated to some guy. He also had a bench dedicated to him.

I was literally tripping over memorials.

I’m in Rochester, New York, for a few days to visit family before my flight back to Tucson. Here’s my recollection of events as best I can recall:

  • Thursday: Arlington Cemetery
  • Friday: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, White House, Library of Congress, Marine Corps Band
  • Saturday: Museum of Natural History
  • Sunday: Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space, MLK Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial
  • Monday: Capitol Building, National Archives, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial
  • Tuesday: Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, World War II Memorial
  • Wednesday: Smithsonian Museum of American History, Newseum

I’ll focus on some of the highlights that I haven’t already discussed.

The Capitol Building

It was amusing visiting the Senate and House galleries while the Congress was not in session, if only because I was able to crack wise about how just as much is getting accomplished whether they’re in session or not.

The Museum of Natural History

I think I read every single display in that entire building. It took about six hours. It was totally worth it.

The National Archives

Someone really should have taken better care of the Declaration of Independence. The poor thing is barely readable these days.

Holocaust Museum

It’s exactly as uplifting as you would expect, but still worth the trip.

Newseum

I almost skipped this one since I was pretty tired at the end of the trip, but this ended up being surprisingly entertaining. The Pulitzer Prize Photo Gallery and the 9/11 exhibit were both very powerful.

If anyone is curious about the specifics, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Yesterday Recap

I did a lot in Washington yesterday. In fact, based on the estimated number of miles I walked (approximately fifty million) and the amount of food I ate (almost nothing except coffee), I believe I have already lost 20 pounds. This is a nice reversal from my normal vacation tendencies.

Here’s what I did with my time in the capitol yesterday:

8:15 AM: Bureau of Printing & Engraving Tour

This is where paper money comes from! They mentioned they print other stuff here too, like passports and whatnot, but that’s boring. What’s not boring is watching thousands and thousands of dollars roll out of a machine like someone determined to print every single page on Wikipedia.

I also learned how much I’m worth in terms of stacked $100 bills: about $1.8 million.

My single favorite moment during the tour was a cheeky sign posted over one of the printing stations: “Just imagine how feel. I just printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.”

11:30 AM: White House Tour

The time stamp here doesn’t account for the two hours we spent walking and deciding whether or not we wanted to wait in line for a Washington Monument tour (we didn’t). We also spent some time walking around to find a Starbucks and then we walked around the White House and looked at it from the outside.

And then it was time for our tour!

First impression: holy shit, you know in your mind that the Secret Service is going to have good security but your mind is probably way off base just how little these guys fuck around. A member of our little band was in a wheelchair and since the White House was built long before ADA compliance was a thing, the tour had to work a bit to accommodate us.

That meant when it was time to go upstairs, rather than follow the tour route, a Secret Service officer led us through a staff area, through a kitchen (!) and down some other corridors into a service elevator. You’re kind of used to security guys putting on this fake sunshine thing when dealing with tourists, pretending to be all “I’m really happy to answer your questions, citizen” when you know they’re thinking about all the ways they’ll kill you if you try to fuck with anything. This guy was serious business. “Stand here.” “Walk forward to that door, wait there.” “Walk forward. Stand.” And he said it in such a way that even I, an incorrigible iconoclast, was compelled to obey without question or sarcasm.

He looked like a math teacher, maybe mid-forties and balding, but I’m pretty sure he was the single most lethal individual I’ve ever personally met. It was impressive as hell.

Anyway, let’s focus on the White House itself!

I had that surreal feeling of familiarity even though I was (obviously) in a place I’d never ever been inside before. It’s pretty amazing how much the White House seeps into the cultural consciousness through television in movies, not to mention actual political state functions. I’ve seen all these rooms before; now I’m actually here. Now I’m standing in the halls of power. Many of the most influential people in recent history have walked here where I now stand.

My favorite part ended up being the various Presidential portraits hung through the White House. On our drive into DC, we’d had a discussion about our “Top 5 favorite presidents and why”, so it was fun to pick out where our favorites were hanging.

I mentioned before that the Secret Service guys were absolutely all business. When we reached the end of the tour, I asked where to return the wheelchair we borrowed. The Secret Service agent told me to take it around the White House and back to the visitor’s entrance outside the south lawn. That meant taking it off the property and down the street. He also advised me not to consider taking a White House wheelchair as a souvenir.

I was contemplating the strangeness of this routine (did they do this for all wheelchair guests?) as I pushed the chair down the sidewalk around the Treasury building. Apparently, they do not, because when I pushed the chair up to the visitor’s entrance, the Secret Service agent there cracked up laughing.

“Wow,” he said. “Nobody ever brings it all the way around like that.”

“This isn’t the normal way to return these chairs?” I asked.

“Nope,” he says, still laughing. “I can’t tell you how rare this is. Thanks for returning it, though.”

1:45 PM: The Library of Congress Tour

The Library of Congress was on my list of “must-see” places since, you know, I work for a library. The Library of Congress is practically like a temple to my kind. It has the most ancient books, the coolest collection, and the most profound names attached to its history.

As a building, it’s also freaking gorgeous. It’s literally a temple.

The walls and ceilings are works of art, to say nothing of the actual art that’s filling that place. Sculptures abound. I mentioned how the Arlington Cemetery gave me a feeling of the sacred that had nothing to do with deities. This was a similar feeling. There are sacred books, of course, but this was a feeling that books themselves are sacred regardless of content.

My favorite part was browsing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Or maybe it was looking at a Guttenberg Bible. It’s so hard to decide! I think I’m going to have to go with Guttenberg, since that represented what could be argued as the single most important invention in human history.

3:00PM: Nap

I took a nap at the hotel room. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I passed the fuck out for a few hours.

7:00PM: The Marine Corps Band

We went to the Marine Corps barracks to watch a field parade and rifle demonstration. The phrase “rifle demonstration” is my own and I’m not sure it really describes what I was seeing. They don’t actual fire the rifles. Twirling also feels wrong. Imagine several hundred people moving in perfect unison, executing crisp and complicated movements with 10 pound rifles. That’s about as close as I can get.

The Silent Drill Platoon (I might be wrong on the name) was the most impressive of all, not only because they had the most precision and the most complicated movements, but because they did all of it in perfect silence without a drum or a sergeant to coordinate their movements.

11:30PM: Sleep

We arrived back at the hotel and I crashed again. I had a weird dream that I was opening a video game themed restaurant but it was invaded by bears which chased away all my customers.

Arlington

I’m in Washington D.C. for about a week. Touring the nation’s capitol has been an item on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m glad for the opportunity to check it off. My flight arrived at 6 AM this morning and since I didn’t sleep on the plane, today was a light day. The only item on my agenda was visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

I’m glad Arlington was the only thing I did today because it deserved my undivided attention.

There are signs everywhere reminding you to maintain a proper and respectful demeanor while in the cemetery. It was fascinating to me how profound the feeling of the sacred was through the cemetery. You can’t help but feel as though you’re standing in the presence of something deeper as you look out at the rows and rows of gravestones and the sacrifices those long white lines represent.

It’s a sacred feeling in a very humanist sense. God is not mentioned much throughout the cemetery; mostly in inscriptions here and there. The feeling comes from the people buried there and it creates that feeling regardless of one’s actual religious beliefs. I found that very inspiring; proof that one does not need religion to create something sacred and profound.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was amazing. The discipline and precision of the changing of the guard ceremony is surpassed only by the incredible idealism represented by this particular post. The Tomb Guards are an interesting subject, even though there’s some misinformation floating around the web about them. It turns out Tomb Guards are allowed to drink alcohol when not on duty, contrary to what a few sites claimed.

I ended up staying to watching the changing of the guard happen twice.

Regardless of what you think of the military or wars in general, you can’t help but feel moved by what they’re doing here and the honor that’s being shown. It would be better, of course, if we didn’t need a place like Arlington because that would be a world without wars or bloodshed. But that’s not this world.

Honor and a sense of the sacred are universal, no matter what you believe. I’m glad that I was able to be part of it all today, even if only for a brief afternoon.

The Blog and Times of Matthew Ciarvella

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