Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Paladin Club

So I'm working on this steampunk novel called "The Paladin Club," but that's not what this post is about. No, I'm going to write about my other passion: World of Warcraft. I love my pallies in WoW (I have one that's 85 and one at 80 that I haven't started to level in Cata yet). They're both Ret/Holy. I tried tanking and I disliked it. What's the point of getting better gear and going through all that effort if you don't get to do something flashy once in a while? We'll maybe tanks do, but the rhythms of the tank class just didn't appeal to me. I'm much more comfortable as a healer and that's all right.

I just read the following on the WoW Insider site:

For us, it procs an effect called Hand of Light that lets us use any of our holy power-based abilities as if we had the full 3 holy power stored up without actually using our holy power. As I said in the section about haste, Hand of Light procs off of auto-attacks, so while a slow weapon might be better for your attack abilities to work with, a faster weapon will cause more mastery procs.

This means that my insistance on 2-handed weapons may not be the wisest course! A shield with sufficient strength, expertise, mastery and crit could equal or exceed the 2 handed weapon because of the greater frequency of proccessing the Hand of Light through auto-attacks, which happen more frequently with a one-handed weapon! Thus allowing me to cast the important Templar's Verdict. I hate it that my Exorcism spell is my top dps function. That's because I haven't understood the full implications of Hand of Light. I must remember that whenever Hand of Light procs, I must use Templar's Verdict--which acts as though I have 3 holy power, no matter how much holy power I have. If it procs while I have x3 holy power, I can get off 2-3 Templar's Verdicts in a row, causing as much as 60k dmg. This is really big.

If furthermore, I have a lighter, faster sword, then Hand of Light will proc more frequently! Thus allowing me to cast Templar's Verdict more frequently! While the damage Templar's Verdict does is dependent on the amount of damage a weapon does, it could be a wash without the shield, given that the frequency of TV proccessing increases. Add in the strength bonuses from the shield, the armor bonus, and the enchantment and you could even have a greater dps than with a 2-handed weapon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lamentations of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a genius, but a genius with a strong moral character and sense of loyalty and duty. What he wasn't was a good businessman. A recent immigre from the Balkans to the U.S., he assumed that people were as good as their word. In the person of Thomas Alva Edison, however, he found his sinister, dark, pathological identical twin.

We Americans love our heros. Edison was not only a genius, he was a shrewd businessman. But his treatment of Tesla was nothing short of despicable. In the documentary I watched last night from PBS, Master of Lightning, the hum between the lines became obvious that Edison was envious of Tesla's genius. Their feud over currents, DC (Edison) v. AC (Tesla) was the stuff of legend. Their showdown at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1892-3), which Tesla won, is the stuff of epic drama. You can feel the pathology working in Edison's mind, as he strives to show people the dangers of AC current by electrocuting animals and finally human beings. Repulsive.

Tesla, the airy, disconnected, obsessive-compulsive idealist and dreamer, spent his early paydays on mature research and development, and ended up penniless. He'd signed his lucrative Westinghouse contract back over to the company during Westinghouse's financial rocky period. The AC motors he had patented, and which drove the industry of the world, had made billions for corporations, yet he was a pauper. Finally, Westinghouse granted him an allowance for food and lodging for the rest of his life. Ironically, exactly what he would have enjoyed in the communist/socialist state his homeland became. It is precisely this trenchant irony, which gives his story so much dramatic potential.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Security Theater

Social Security is a political football, but is it really in any danger of being greatly altered in the imminent future? Doubtful. The world of politics is rarely concerned with real, substantive change, but more often fanning the flames of the electorate's fear and anger over proposed changes. That's what's happening here. Social security is such a fact of life that it just can't be messed with. While bankers may own and fund the government to a large extent, even they are powerless against the vast horde of social security recipients who vote. But political fearmongering? No harm, no foul. The democrats look good to their base when they oppose efforts to derail social security by privatizing it, and the republicans look good to their far smaller base when they propose to do just that. Nothing changes, but both parties earn political capital.

Social Security is monolithic and unstoppable. If ever there was a structure that has earned the title "too big to fail," it's SS. I've paid into it every day of my working life. I expect and depend on it to be there for me. Not as my sole means of support in my old age (unless I live to be very old), but as a supplement.

Unfortunately for us, the bankers and Wall Street have decided that if Social Security is to survive, then they can get a drink at the public trough too, every now and again. It's what we're left with. Two social structures, monolithic in attitude, diametrically opposed, looking at each other with hatred blazing in their eyes. But neither one can afford to strike first.

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Day

In the catalogue of classical Christmas music, there are a few obvious standouts. Handel's The Messiah is probably the most famous, with the Bach Christmas Cantata and Vivaldi's Gloria close seconds. My personal favorite, however, is Ralph Vaughn William's Hodie (This Day). What's it like? Well, it's extremely programmatic, which is to say, it tells a story. This is not music to enjoy, as much as it is to be inspired by. In tone and sonority it's rather like a sacred version of Holst's The Planets. Vaughn Williams has set a variety of sacred and Christmas themed secular texts to music. Parts of the New Testament that deal witht the birth of Christ are interposed with set pieces, arias, which have as their texts mystical poetry in the English tradition of Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Drummond, and the father of the entire genre, John Milton.

Mystical, mysterious, the sonorities are largely in a minor key, which makes the occasional shifts into major chords exceedingly dramatic. In this scene, the Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, to convince him to "take unto thee, Mary thy wife..." The angel prefaces his comment with "Fear not." Were I to hear such mysterious and turbulent minor chords under an angel's command, I would fear aplenty! But I'm not a saint. Maybe they can withstand more ambiguity than I.

(Note, put the marker to minute 5:00 to begin the Angel's recitation).

In the above section, minute 5:00 through the end of this cut, Vaughn Williams introduces the themes which he will return to twice more in the piece. Note the dramatic shift into major chord on the the word "Jesus!"

Of the several standalone arias in the piece, my favorites are The Oxen (text by Thomas Hardy), sung by the baritone soloist, and Bright Portals of the Sky (text William Drummond), sung by the tenor. The former is an idyllic lullabye, perfect for a Christmas Eve candle-light service. The latter is a glistening, jewellike, piercing stab of mystery, like looking at the face of God.

The absolute highlight for me, however is the Chorus of the Three Kings, which in my mind creates even more mystery and power than Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres, the thundering epilogue, set to text by Milton, which is the penultimate moment of the cantata.

All in all, with Hodie, Vaughn Williams has used the mystery/mystic traditions of his English heritage (the mystery plays) and set it in a blistering and heartrending 20th Century minor key which only resolves into major keys infrequently but to tremendous dramatic effect in this piece. It's something to listen to in the candle-lit darkness. If you're in a Gothic cathedral, so much the better.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Psychopath Beside Me

Wow, what a title to post the day before Christmas Eve. Please be comforted. Tomorrow I will write about Christmas music. Today, however, I must get down in black and white what transpired yesterday that froze my blood.

An individual and I have shared many pleasant conversations in the past. He has shown me pictures of his trips, notably to the Gay Games in Berlin last year, where he was feted and received an award as a volunteer. I've also seen a side of him which has not been pleasant, a kind of darkness. It has been exposed on occasion when he has had a particularly difficult commute. He's confessed to me that he feels as though he hasn't been taken seriously, that his work hasn't been held in sufficient esteem, nor has he been properly recognized, and success has been elusive. At one point he opined that he might give up his professional altogether and take up male modeling. He has striking features and physique; so it's not a strictly delusional prospect, though he would need to lose the spare tire and get his teeth fixed, IMO.

Just two days ago he showed me a picture of an artwork he had created, drawn and painted. I had no idea he was an artist, but apparently so. As I recall I reacted solicitously.

Yesterday, I happened to open Facebook to see a picture of my sister. I asked him if he would like to see a picture of my sister. I was so delighted with her picture, she is gorgeous in it, and I was so thrilled and wanted to share my excitement. His reaction, "Well that's a strange request but I guess so."

Thereupon I again saw the darkness in his face which I've seen at times before. I regret to say, I ignored it. Standing next to Karen in the picture is her best friend Sue. Sue lost her eldest child to suicide a few years ago, and I said, "That's Sue, she has had a lot of tragedy in her life. She lost a son to suicide a few years back."

His response, I kid you not, was, "Well that's not the WORST thing that could have happened..." Verbatim, just as I have typed it here, with the emphasis on "worst." My immediate response to that was a volcanic rage so intense I could hardly see straight. I said, "I'm going to remember that. I'm going to put that away in my bag of tricks to pull out at a vulnerable moment so that I can completely minimize your feelings too."

He turned his back and spoke not another word.

Then my blood cooled and began to freeze. This guy is completely inappropriate. What's wrong with him? And then I realized--it's a character disorder. A Character Disordered person, according to M. Scott Peck, is a person who blames the world and causes outside himself for his problems. The obverse is a neurotic person, who blames some inner deficiency as the cause of their problems. The character disordered person sees the world as broken; the neurotic sees themselves as broken. Dr. Peck states that the neurotic is easier to treat. I have always seen myself as neurotic, but I've also survived a lot of abuse, so I have very low tolerance to threatening situations, and as a result of that I'm perhaps too defensive.

I'm reminded again of that darkness, not just metaphorical darkness, but a coagulation of blood in the face, a real physiological darkening of the features. I beheld his demon. And the blistering effect of his words. The way he was able to choose the most damaging thing to say that he could possibly have said. Fortunately for both of us he didn't insult my sister, or I might have leapt from my chair to strangle him then and there. Good for both of us. Meanwhile, I continue to detox from my SSRI preparatory to switching to a different medication. I'm fat, I'm single, I've only achieved moderate success, and I'm facing bankruptcy. I wouldn't trade places with this dude for anything.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Confession: I Know Squat about Politics

I cannot remain silent on this day of epic moral victory for lovers of freedom and the theory implicit in the American experiment that freedom includes the right to be different, even despicably different in the eyes of some.

Barak Obama signed the law 86ing DADT about an hour ago. It is a moral and political victory for the President and quite an achievement getting this law passed and signed against forceful and irrational opposition.

I must confess, however, that the president's brand of political consesus building was difficult to endure the past few months in the face of exceedingly vile, extremist right wing diatribes aimed at him. First, he came across as weak. Second, he came across as being a back-door deal maker, the kind of thing he campaigned against, and which the Republicans lambasted him for, even as he was caving in to their demands. Oh, how I wished someone would have just given it right back to them. In your face Mitch McConnell. Someone like ... Hillary Clinton?

But in politics, the proof is in the pudding. The echoes from the bully pulpit fade away, but the ink drying on the page is permanent! I voted for Barak Obama because I thought he would be a uniter and a consensus builder. I got what I WANTED! And then about 7 months into his term, I didn't really want it anymore. Instead, I wanted someone who would step on some toes and speak up against the unconscionable obstreperousness of the conservative wing of the Republican party (which is now 90% of Republicans it seems).

But Barak Obama didn't do that. He kept his head down and worked, worked, worked for the end goal. Meanwhile Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, slapping themselves on the back and crowing about their mandate, mistook the bully pulpit for actual political work. 3 weeks ago it looked like DADT repeal was DOOMED. But today? It's like a rabbit from a top hat. Obama delivered big-time. He'll have my vote for a second term. Not only am I glad I voted for him the first time around, I'm glad he stuck fast to his principles and didn't get involved in tit-for-tat childish, churlish screaming matches that could have ensued had someone else spoken from a strictly emotional point of view. The Republicans have been doing that now for 2+ years, after having decided that they'd done enough soul searching after the 2008 election. What has it got them? Tax breaks for the wealthy that will be repealed as soon as everyone realizes that continuing them will bankrupt the country. When push comes to shove, what will fall? Tax breaks for the top .001% of the population, or Social Security for millions? I'm banking on the former.