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2015 Blog Retrospective

As another year comes to a close, I find that it’s fun to look back and see how things have gone for the blog over the past year. Overall, I’m really pleased; traffic has continued to increase at a steady pace and I’ve received enough comments from people to convince me that not all of the traffic is spam robots.

My post output has been reduced considerably compared to previous years, which sort of fun to puzzle over; more people are reading less content! Is that a thing to be proud of?

The problem is that posts don’t equate for all of my online footprint. If you take a look at my Goodreads page (perhaps through the helpful widget on the right siderbar!) you’ll notice that I’ve been writing reviews for the books I read. Time was I used to read a book, slap a star-rating on it, and go on my merry way with nary a grunt. About two years ago, someone pointed out that they were really curious why I’d rate a book with whatever rating I happened to give it, so I started actually writing my thoughts out.

The reviews tend to be shorter than blog posts, but since I read pretty quickly, there are a lot of them. So while blog post content is down, I think that’s because my output shifted to a source outside of this site. I’ve considered linking WordPress to Goodreads so that reviews would get posted here, but thus far I’ve resisted for the same reason that I don’t tweet my Goodreads links anymore; it feels annoying and spam-y to me. The content is there if you’re interested; no need to plaster it everywhere.

Which is an attitude that I realize makes me doomed in the evolving ecosystem of the Internet (see previous post about online advertising and ad block).

Finally, there were less posts this year because I’ve actually been writing my novel again! Between the experiment with giving my book away for free (and actually getting a bit of money for it, whee!) and the new project that really has my attention, there’s actually been a huge increase in my word ouput. It’s just in a place that no one gets to see right now, except for me and my spreadsheet.

So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past year. I realize it’s made this blog somewhat of a lonely place, but it’s been infinitely better for my head. I haven’t felt the urge to write a post just to write a post about something, which usually meant seeking out a topic that made me angry enough to have thoughts about it. It’s made for a more harmonious life. And really, we don’t need one more blog by a straight white guy on the Internet talking about things that make him angry. There are a lot of those already.

So instead I focus on my book, because my research has shown me that we really do need more books where people ride dinosaurs into battle and kill each other with them. Because dinosaurs are awesome.

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I Feel Bad About Running An Adblock But I Can’t Stop

Bloggers tend to have a complicated relationship with advertisements. For professional bloggers (i.e. those who make a living off this sort of thing), that’s the lifeblood of their profession. In fact, I’d go as far to say advertising is what’s created the Internet as we know it today (well, technically, the World Wide Web, but nobody seems to use that term anymore).

We expect to get content for free these days, but we also expect it to be of a professional quality. The days of some dude’s crappy Geocities page being the only source of information are long over; now, you can peruse hundreds of blogs written by people that, in a different decade, would be reporters for actual newspapers and the like. And advertising is what makes that happen.

And then there are the ad blockers. A brief description for the non-tech readers: an ad blocker is an app you can install, typically directly into your browser. It will scan the content of each page that you access and it will disable the various ads, pop-ups, sponsored content links, and other stuff that websites use to generate advertising revenue. The end result is that each page is decluttered from all the extra stuff that gets stuffed in there and it creates a cleaner, more enjoyable browsing experience.

For the user, there is no real downside. For content creators, however, there’s a huge downside, in that websites earn money by how often those ads they display are viewed and if people are blocking the ads, they’re not getting the page views, which means earning less money. It’s not a big loss if only a few people do it, but if enough users are blocking the ads, it can really hurt the content creator.

Aside from that, there’s a moral dimension as well: those ads are how creators get paid for their work. By blocking the ads, you’re getting the content for free, or at least, you’re not contributing to the creator getting paid. Is that stealing? You could make an argument that way. Certainly, I feel bad for using it. I feel like I’m taking advantage of the system.

Some creators get around it by moving to a subscription-based model; for a small fee, you get an ad-free experience and maybe some addition perks. For most people, there a likely a few sites that they use heavily enough where this is possible, but certainly not all of them; there’s just too much content out there.

Recently, I tried turning off my ab block to see if I could get by without it. The price of good content is a few ads, I told myself. After a week of browsing without an ad block, I was in a hurry to reactivate it.

It isn’t just that the ads are annoying or for things I don’t care about. They’re actively harmful to my experience on the site. The human eye is drawn to movement and so while I’d be trying to focus on reading a page, the videos would play or pictures would shift, and every time it happened, my concentration was broken for a moment as my gaze shifted to the thing. Not to mention the sheer visual clutter for most pages.

Compare that to the clean, quiet space created by an ad block and you’ll see why, regardless of feeling bad about using it, I was in a hurry to go back.

I don’t have a solution to the problem. It’s just something that I’m thinking about right now.

And for what it’s worth, I pay WordPress a small fee each year to keep ads off my site, so you’ll have an ad free experience here regardless if you use ad block or not. But I’m also a hobbyist blogger who doesn’t depend on the success of this site to eat, so it’s hardly a fair comparison.

It’s Easier To Stay Away

So, it’s been pretty quiet around here, yeah? My fault, of course; I’m the sole proprietor of this little corner of teh intarwebz. There are a lot of things I could blame for my recent lack of personal responsibility, a state that extends far beyond just not blogging for a while.

I could say that the double punch of rolling from another grueling NaNoWriMo right into “having an Xbox One” ended up being a lethal blow to my personal productivity. Why sit down and try to write something when there are so many games to play? Dragon Age: Inquisition alone took about a month to play, although that was because I took my time with it and sipped slowly, savoring each story progression quest like a fine wine. I still have Titanfall (shoot things as a giant robot!) and Destiny (shoot things with space magic!), not to mention that I finally tried MineCraft for the first time, even though this puts me a few years behind everyone else in the world.

If there’s a more deadly game to one’s productivity than MineCraft, I don’t know what it is. Last night, I intended to relax and play for half an hour before going to bed; and then suddenly, it’s 1:30 am and I’m halfway through the construction of an underwater glass tunnel. Why am I building an underwater glass tunnel? BECAUSE UNDERWATER GLASS TUNNEL.

I could say that all of those fun things are the reason why my blog went stagnant, I stopped updating my budget, and failed to really do anything outside of going to work. But that’s not the real reason. I could also say that, well, basically I’m a video game addict and so it’s my addiction’s fault, but I’m hesitant of using the word “addiction” so freely. There’s a much more appropriate word, in my opinion: escapism.

It’s easier to escape into a virtual world. It’s smooth and it’s easy and it’s fun. The problem is that you tell yourself you’re just going to take one quick dip into the abyss, just stick your toe in a little, but the abyss doesn’t want to let you go. Its pull is slow and steady and sure. And once you’re in up to your knee, suddenly the fact that you haven’t written anything, anything for four weeks feels like too much failure to overcome. What would I write about at this point? Sorry for not writing? I hate posts like that. A blog that fills up with “I promise to write more” is a blog that’s already on life support.

It’s easier just to stay in the abyss.

I write this because I’ve learned to come up from those depths. It was World of WarCraft during my undergrad years that taught me the importance of actually attending to my own life, although sadly it was a lesson that took much longer than a month over the holidays to learn. But I did learn it, even if sometimes it’s easy to slide back down.

It’s not a New Year’s resolution. I’m not resolving to write more often, exercise more, play fewer games, worker harder on my budget and paying down my student loan debt. This is just a moment in time; a realization that I am an escapist and like so many facets of one’s personality, there is a dark side as well as a light one. Realizing it is the only way I know how to keep it in check.

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?

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.

Various Thoughts

Are we halfway through May already? How did that happen? The time, where does it go?

I’ve been busy over the past few weeks, as my lack of presence here on the old blog can attest. In no particular order, here are a few of the various and sundry things that I’ve gotten myself up to:

  • I took a backpacking trip through Aravaipa Canyon. This is my third trip to the canyon in the past four years. This is, without a doubt, my favorite place in all of Arizona. The Grand Canyon might be larger, but it’s also busy. Aravaipa is remote; really, really remote. We counted how long it took us to get from the canyon entrance to the first gas station: nearly two hours.
  •  My Challenge mode group finally earned all gold ratings, so now my night elf druid has a bad-ass looking set of armor. This is a World of WarCraft thing, so worry not if you understand what all of these words mean individually, just not in this particular configuration.
  • I completed my first oil change on my Z1000. I would have taken pictures of the event to commemorate baby’s first oil change, but my hands were covered in gross oil that I didn’t want to get all over my smartphone. You’ll just have to imagine how it went.
  • I managed to contract some particularly virulent plague. I had to stay home from work on two separate occasions within the same week, but even so, I managed to infect almost everyone I came into contact with. If I’d written anything during that time, it likely would have infected all who read it, so be glad I stayed away.
  • I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading. I like to set a reading goal for the year, which Goodreads then tracks and helpfully informs you of how far ahead or behind you are on that goal. For most of 2014, I’ve had a comfortable eight book lead but it shrank considerably over the past few weeks as I grappled with some particularly challenging philosophy reading. At last glance, my lead was down to four books. I’m hoping to build that back up with some lighter fiction reading soon.
  • No word from the agent that I queried. It hasn’t been four weeks yet, but I’ve got my list of who to send to next. In the meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about what novel I want to finish writing next. I’ve got a sequel to my current work that’s half-done, but there was also that cyber-punk novel that I started and am actually kind of proud of. Hmm, decisions, decisions.
  • The freelance writing thing is going pretty well! I can’t talk about it too much due to respect for client privacy, but I just finished working on a draft for a technical guide that I’m really proud of. I actually rather enjoy technical writing. I worry what this enjoyment indicates about my level of mental health.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Usually I check my own Twitter feed for reminders (I look at my Twitter account as a little archive of my life), but I haven’t been tweeting all that much, so there are no helpful reminders. So it goes.

What have you been up to? Anything fun?

Cynical Idealism Is One Year Old Today

I made my first post on this blog on March 13, 2013. I’d moved to WordPress after retiring Objects in the Mirror, my oft-neglected blogspot site that was begun as an undergrad writing assignment that continued on for a few years after I finished that class.

It’s been a very interesting first year. This blog has been the most successful thing I’ve ever done online. There have been some interesting and insightful comments made from both dedicated readers and brief visitors alike. In fact, although I wrote up a comment policy and posted it last summer, I haven’t had to deal with trolls outside of a brief influx of MRA activists back in June and July.

That’s the aspect of this blog that I’m the most proud of. Not the MRA activists, screw those guys. I’m proud that this site and these posts have been able to create a place for discussion, however small a corner it may be in the scheme of the larger web. I debated even allowing comments when I first started. I looked at sites both large and small and saw the spam, the trolls, the general toxicity and I asked myself if it was even worth it.

Over the past year, my readers have shown me that it has been worth it unequivocally. I’ve learned more from the responses to my posts than I ever thought possible.

So rather than take this moment to look back and talk about all the things I did, I’d like to say thank you for everything that you did. I started this blog assuming that I was talking to myself. You’ve shown me that this wasn’t true and for that, I am deeply appreciative and grateful. I look forward to the second year of Cynical Idealism’s life and all the things that I’m sure to learn through your comments and discussions.

Thank you for reading.

NaNoWriMo 2013 Retrospective

I met my NaNoWriMo word count goal last night: 50,149 words in thirty days (actually twenty-nine days since I finished a little early). Hooray!

2013
The stats for the Snake Detective.

I only started entering my daily word counts a few years ago but it’s one of my favorite things about doing NaNo. I like seeing the daily goal, the words per day, and the various other statistics it provides.

One thing that I’m proud of is that I didn’t miss a single day of writing, although I did have a few lean days here and there. Compare that to last year or the year before and you’ll see the difference. This year was much smoother than previous attempts.

2012
The stats for Bleed (NaNo 2012)

In 2011, it was even more spotty. The first big gap was caused by a local convention that I was working, but I honestly don’t know what happened on the other days.

2011
Stats from Angel’s Descent (NaNo 2011)

Another statistical quirk I noticed is how things always accelerate in the last few days. I think this is because the momentum starts to swing in my favor; I’m moving towards the most exciting part of the story (hopefully) and I also have the weight of all those words behind me spurring me on to finish. It’s a good thing, too, because it’s nice to have things move so smoothly after the slog that is the 20,000 to 40,000 push. I think the only reason I was able to tough it out this year was because I’ve seen the pattern a few times now.

So I’ve finished another NaNoWriMo; my fifth, to be exact, and yes, I am bragging a little. For one thing, I’m proud of the accomplishment and it’s the kind of thing one does just to do it.

With the conclusion of NaNoWriMo for another year, it’s safe to say that December will be a much better month for blogging than November was. My original intention was to keep up a blog schedule of 3 times/week, but by day three of NaNo, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Although I’d love to spend all of my spare time writing things and posting them and then writing other things, I did have a graduate school course that needed attention. And my friends like to “socialize” and “see me” now and then. And I need to finish the quest for my legendary cloak on my druid. So, you know, I was busy.

I titled this post “a retrospective” because I spent a lot of time thinking this pat month thinking about what NaNo meant to me and why I was doing it. I’d like to share a few of those observations.

I can honestly say at this point keeping up the streak is a pretty big motivation, as petty as that sounds. Alcoholics and anybody who has tried to quit smoking (or other drugs, I imagine) can attest to the power of the streak; if you break it, all that hard work is undone. You go back to day one. Is doing that thing (or not doing it, in my case) really worth going from five years back to day one?

With five NaNos under my belt, where do I go from here? I know there are other challenges out there. Some folks do a “double NaNo” and aim for 100,000 words or they try to do 50,000 in half the time or whatever. That’s not really for me. Honestly, I feel like I manage to make the 50,000 writing goal by the skin of my teeth every year and trying to increase the difficulty of the goal seems a recipe for failure. Life itself seems to be a great way to add difficulty to one’s writing time; every single time I was asked to go out for a beer with a friend or to see a movie or anything . . . that was a challenge on the writing time.

Not that I’m complaining about those other things, of course. I enjoy those things very much.

There was something else I realized during this past month. Before I explain, a caveat; I love NaNoWriMo. I will advocate for it for the rest of my life. I love that for a month, being a writer is cool. Everybody wants to talk about writing! Do you know how often people want to talk about “that novel you’re working on?” Other than NaNo, the answer is never.

Not to mention, NaNoWriMo was a great catalyst that got me through my own writing doldrums. My first win in 2009 was the first time I’d managed to achieve something in writing since I wrote my first (terrible) novel at 16 and then I languished for several years, starting dozens of projects but never developing any of them.

NaNoWriMo gave me my confidence back. It gave me a seed that grew into the novel I’m proud of today, the one I feel really does deserve to be published. Sure, it took years and years of work and rewriting, but the important thing is that it exists and it exists because of NaNoWriMo.

That all being said, it pains me to admit that I think this past month was something of a distraction. Yes, I wrote another story. Yes, I wrote a story in a genre I’ve never even tried before (although it did slip into something else quite bizarre halfway through). Yes, I challenged myself and proved once again that writing time can be carved from even the busiest schedule.

But NaNoWriMo also meant that for an entire month, I completely ignored all my other projects. Actually, it’s been more like two months since I worked on anything else, since around October, the gravity of NaNo’s impending arrival started to pull my thoughts away from anything else. I didn’t do any editing. I haven’t attempted to do any more query letters.

I now have another half-finished story sitting on my hard drive. With the exception of Unrepentant, which I wrote in 2009, all of the NaNo novels I wrote since then have gone untouched since reaching the 50,000 goal. Some of them may remain buried forever. The Snake Detective might end up being one of those stories; I’m not particularly pleased with large parts of it and I don’t know that I have the motivation to polish it up. I did have one idea that appealed to me that I may still pursue, depending on relevant enthusiasm. Since I have no real intentions of trying to publish the Snake Detective, I might edit it and post it for free on my blog. At the very least, it’d be a chance to show something of my writing beyond just talking about it all the time.

Regardless, what I learned this month is that sometimes, even writing can be a distraction from writing. I allowed this month’s NaNo to be an excuse to not work on other things. Yes, it was fun (mostly). Yes, it means I cranked out another story that would have otherwise just languished in my brain as a weird idea (it’s like Castle, but he’s a herpetologist and then things get really weird. Seriously, that was the extent of my outline before I started).

So what do I do moving forward? Although it might seem premature to start thinking about next year’s NaNo before this one is officially over, I want to write down what I learned so I have it to look back on come October 2014. And what I realized from this past month is I need to make NaNo be about something else other than hitting the word count. I need to change things up.

The rules state that you shouldn’t work on a novel you already started and that you should always start from scratch. From nanowrimo.org:

This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Honestly, this is a very good rule. Most writers have a novel, whether it’s their first or just their favorite, that they’ve been working on for years and years. I did that for almost six years myself and I can honestly admit that I would not have been able to write recklessly with the characters and plot I’d begun in 2002.

This rule served me well for five runs, but I think next year, it’s a rule that I need to break. I have four stories sitting on my hard drive that are half-finished and need some attention. They are stories that deserve to have a shot at being completed.

Patrick Rothfuss has a great post on his blog from a few years ago where he arrives at a similar conclusion. I encourage you to take a look.

NaNoWriMo gave me the push to start and develop stories. Now I need it to help me finish what I’ve started rather than continually starting one project after another whenever my attention wanders.

This could change, of course. Maybe I’ll finish Bleed (fropm NaNo 2012) or even the Snake Detective and be ready to start a new story. I still have a few ideas that I really want to develop at some point; Dreamshift seems like it could be awesome and I had a pretty amusing idea after watching the trailer for Divergent for a parody version involving the MBTI. Perhaps the appeal of one of those ideas will provide the impetus for me to finish one of my other projects to clear some space for a new story. Otherwise, for NaNo 2014, I’m going to continue a story I already started, even though it’s against the rules. I’d really like to finish writing Bleed and I know I have at least one person who is absolutely appalled by the fact that I haven’t touched Angel’s Descent since 2011.

There’s a lot to do. I’m grateful that something like NaNo exists. It gave me the boost I needed to get where I am today. I think next year, it might again be a source for growth. Regardless, it’s a wonderful thing. I’m glad that it exists and I’m proud to have completed it for five years running.

 

Blogging In A Time Of NaNo

Just a quick status update to keep the blog from atrophying. I’m currently considering what to do with this blog while I triumphantly plow through my NaNoWriMo project, the future bestselling novel The Snake Detective. I currently don’t really have the time or energy to meet both my NaNoWriMo daily goal of 1667 words and do a 1000 word blog post.

If you’d like to track my progress, you can follow my novel’s update page here. I really enjoy looking at the stats throughout the month as the novel progresses. It’s very personally rewarding to see the bar graph fill up day by day.

I’ve been idly considering posting a few chapters here as I write them, but the idea of showing this rough draft gives me hives. It might completely destroy the ability to move forward if I know I’m going to show it to somebody.

I’ll keep trying to think of something to do with this space so it doesn’t go stagnate for the entire month of November. To those of you who are trying NaNo yourselves this year, I hope it’s going well and you’re meeting your word requirements. If you’re not doing it, I invite you to try. Even if you don’t succeed (and most people don’t, especially your first time), it’s a very rewarding experience that I highly recommend everyone tries at least once.

Things I Learned About North Korea From Reading The Comments Section

North Korea is one of those topics that grips my attention with morbid fascination. It boggles my mind to imagine a world so removed, so disconnected, and so absolutely alien to my own human experience. My interest goes far beyond “this is a crazy dictatorship with nuclear technology,” which seems to be as far as the rabbit hole goes for most people. For me, it’s the idea of what life is like in such a place. It seems like something out of a novel and it’s chilling to know that all the books I’ve read, like Barbara Demick’s poignant Nothing to Envy are filed in the non-fiction section.

I saw a great article about a tourist’s experiences in North Korea. The author’s own reactions are the highlight of the post: a combination of empathy and shocked amusement wrapped in a witty shell. I think shocked amusement is a normal human reaction to something so strange and unsettling; humor is one of the brain’s ways of dealing with stress, after all.

I don’t think this is cruel, superficial, or insensitive. Joking about how bizarre and weird such an experience is doesn’t mean insensitivity to the very real and very horrible human rights violations (only Eritrea has a worse record of human rights violations than North Korea). When you’re faced with something like that, the mind really has only a few options: try to laugh, try to forget, or shatter.

The reason why I’m writing about this article is not because of the article itself (although it’s very good and I think you should read it), but because of the comments the article has spawned. The author wryly notes early in the post:

Before I talk about what I learned, I’d like to quickly say hi to whomever from the North Korean government is reading this. Only the highest-level officials have access to the internet in North Korea, and I learned that the job of one of them is to scour the internet for anything written about North Korea and keep tabs on what the foreign press is saying. So hi, and haha you can’t get me cause I’m back home now and I can say all the things I wasn’t allowed to say when I was in your country.

The comments section unequivocally proves this to be true. Here are a collection of some of the best gems. Most of them are posted anonymously, although a few do have rather dubious sounding “Western” names attached. I won’t be offering any commentary as I think the rebuttals are fairly self-evident.

From “Anonymous”:

Actually, it was a rather contrived article full of swearing that was meant to make Americans feel good about their own massive police state. Enjoy feeling smug about yourself and your “free” country? Get a kick out of feeling “pity” for those poor North Koreans. Pull your head out and try fixing your own broken country, namely the USA.

From “Anonymous”:

Yes, it does sound a lot like the USA since 911. Of course, its easier to see the speck in the other guy’s eye, ya know? Not that N. Korea isn’t much worse and very sad because it is. But do take heed because they are working on making the US into the same kind of place. Current attack is against free speech under the guise of protecting “real journalists” – warning, warning, warning. We all must have the same protections.

From “Anonymous”:

Funny post, but some of it sounds pretty similar to the place where I live:
1. The leaders are a really big deal…
Like the POTUS (Mr. Peace Prize Terror Tuesday, and all the others before him), and the Fed chairman?
2. Everyone lies about everything all the time…
Like saying “the recession is over!”, or “unemployment is going down!”, or “inflation is low!”, or “the FED knows what it’s doing!”, or “college is a good investment”, or “we stand for Freedom! Yeah!”, or “marijuana is bad for you! booo!”, or “the Terrorists are going to get us!”, or “our military is killing people over there so they won’t kill us over here!”, or “the government cares for your safety!”, or “fluoride is not bad for you!”, or “the Healthcare Act was written to benefit the people, not the insurance companies who wrote it!”, or “Syria bombed its own people with chemicals, so now we need to go over there and bomb their people with even more killing metals!”, or “Iraq has WMD’s”, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
4. Propaganda is absolutely everywhere…
Like chanting “allegiance” and singing songs about how great the country is and how the country is God’s favorite, to start every school day, and at church, and before every collegiate and professional sporting event? And parading soldiers out in front of everyone all the time to be admired? Like that?
7. The details of the leader’s birth (and college career, professional career, criminal history, etc.) is not a subject you should try to gather information on…
Hmm, too much to list on this one, about every leader this country has ever had.
8. The same physical place can be fancy and shitty at the same time…
Washington D.C., New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, etc.
9. Still talk about the Wars… all the ones we had no business starting or participating in?
12. Lacking a sense of humor about the places that hold the bodies of dead leaders… See #1…

From “Kacuncica Davidovic”:

Well in many bulletpoints North Korea is not much different than modern USA.

From “Anonymous”:

True. This piece of slanted propaganda is only meant to titillate those Americans that are already brainwashed. The biggest police state in the world is the USA. Only in the US would you be informed that you are being totally spied on and everything recorded and then not to worry about it! Mindless American bootlickers unite!

Okay. I’m going to break my earlier statement about not commenting. Let’s clear something up, just in case there was any doubts.

If you are able to complain about the “lack of freedom of speech” in a public forum, you still have freedom of speech. You’ll know when free speech is gone, because nobody will be able to say anything about it. (Complaining about the erosion of free speech is still vital, however, as it safeguards against that erosion.)

The day I know we’ve slid into an actual authoritarian police state will be the day when I do not see numerous books on the shelf in a public library accusing the current President of destroying the country, being an idiot, or just being evil in general. We won’t have a news networks that are pathologically dedicated to mocking everything the government does. Those things don’t exist in a police state. You don’t get to be a talking head on a popular news network, you get to be shot in the head.

Thus, it’s paradoxical, but I actually take comfort in seeing Fox News continue to be ridiculously anti-President (or CNN during times of Republican dominance; they like to change things up like that). As long as they’re around, I can be certain that the First Amendment is alive and well.

Yeah, there’s a lot that’s going wrong. The PRISM thing comes to mind as an example of a larger problem (although for most people, the idea of privacy is completely ridiculous considering our level of social media narcissism.) This whole “let’s play chicken with the debt ceiling” is somewhat troubling, especially since the Teabag core seems hellbent on nihilistic immolation at this point.

Still. All things considered, we’ve got it pretty good. South Koreans have it pretty good. Most of us in the industrialized world have it pretty good, admittedly to varying degrees of good.

Hopefully, someday North Koreans will have it pretty good, too.