New Blog and Name Changes

15 07 2013

If you follow this blog, you’ll see that the name has changed.  The new name, LaMar’s Musings, represents more of what I blog about here.  Last year, I split this blog in two by forming my travel blog in the interest of organization.  Now, a new dawn rises, and I have created another blog.  This is where I migrated the former name of this blog.  Behold, the blog Something Clever

http://thesomethingcleverblog.wordpress.com/

I began the new Something Clever in order to create an online portfolio of sorts for my writing.  It will include short observations, longer analytical pieces, and fiction.  Topics that I will cover in the blog will not be political or social in nature.  For that, I have this blog.

My travel blog will remain online in the case that I travel or go somewhere fun.  Because why not.

 

Thanks for reading, and Garrus sends his regards.

Garrus





For Phil

3 01 2013

Phil Hall was a unique individual.  He was clever and quite smart.  Accompanied with that intelligence was a sharp wit and keen sense of humor, almost to the point his intelligence was hid under a sometimes relentless stream of jokes and a carefree attitude.  After all, why take something seriously if you can make a joke about it?

In Sunday School one day, Phil made a comment that would forever change the meaning of the phrase for me.  Our teacher had asked a question that has been asked in Sunday Schools around the world since the first Sunday School started.  The actual question was immaterial, though; I do not remember it exactly, but it had something to do with how we should treat each other according to Jesus and the Bible.  A simple, culturally and temporally transcendent question about human nature.  Phil responded that we should “Be nice.”

Phil had struck comedic gold.  In the coming weeks, months and years, he applied that phrase–be nice–to almost every Sunday School question that was asked.  How should we treat our elders?  Be nice.  How should we treat our fellow classmates and colleagues?  Be nice.  Why did Jesus not command the woman to be stoned?  He was nice.  Why did Herod kill thousands of infants in order to get rid of Jesus?  Herod was not nice.  See, Phil had found a phrase that could be universally applied to situations everywhere, even outside the Bible.  Your grumpy, arrogant, and thus ineffective boss?  He wasn’t nice.  Gandhi, he was a great guy wasn’t he?  Because he was nice.

Of course, being nice does not solve all problems, and he knew that.  We knew that, those of us who adopted the phrase as a joke even after the Halls had stopped coming to church events.  Under Phil’s intelligence and constant offhanded comedy there was another side, one that realized that to ‘be nice’ was very important.  Phil had an earnestness that I’m not sure he wanted people to see.  Through all of his struggles and orneriness, he was still earnest.

This young man, Phil, is dead.  I am not an expert on anything, and I cannot begin to explain why this happened, nor do I really want to; Phil’s death is nothing short of a tragedy.  I will not blame and have no authority to do so.

Some may feel that all of this is irrelevant now, that Phil’s bright light now extinguished too early is all that can be recognized.  I disagree.  We all die alone, and can take no one with us to the grave.  What we can do is touch other people’s lives, and we can change them for good or evil.  Phil’s life impacted mine.  Phil, though his unique blend of intelligence, humor, and sincerity, helped me to recognize just how important kindness–being nice–really is.  The world is a complicated place, yet somehow we can still apply kindness to almost every situation.  We can be nice, or we can not.  Phil’s life was worthwhile and to be celebrated because he influenced those whom he knew. 

So, in memory of Phil Hall, let us all forget our differences, our hatred, our selfishness.  Let us be nice to each other.  It’s what he would have wanted.





Endings to a Saga

6 07 2012

*I have tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but be aware that they are impossible to avoid completely.

Mass Effect 3 came out on March 6, 2012.  It was the ending to a science fiction journey that spanned almost five years, three games, many choices, and eight story-related DLC.  Heavily hyped, it received praise from the press; its aggregate score on GameRankings.com (for the Xbox 360 version) is 92.17% and is the 24th best ranked game for the Xbox 360 platform.

And yet, all was not well.

Rippling through the internet were waves of extreme dissent from fans who loathed the ending.  Videos were made and posted to Youtube where they bashed the ending and Bioware.  Bioware was somewhat taken aback by the intensity and proceeded to ‘fix’ their problem by releasing a free DLC on June 26.  (Before I continue, I would like to say that Bioware should have included the Extended Cut DLC as part of the original game.  I did not finish the game until after the DLC was released, and I did not think that it was an ‘extended’ ending, but rather, the ending that should have been there all along.  Bioware screwed up initially.)

Still, even after the DLC was released, many fans were still unhappy because the core endings were the same, even if the presentation was much better.  Fans still didn’t like it.  But why?  Why did so many fans hate the ending to a game series they loved so much?  Why?  Was it really that bad?

I hereby attempt to answer that question.

———————————————————-

Any writer or composer knows that endings are extraordinarily difficult to write.  Regardless if it is a short poem, a novel, an academic essay, or a symphony, the ending is often the hardest thing to get right.  A good ending fits with the aesthetics, scope, and tone of the rest of the work, providing a satisfying and worthwhile close.  A bad ending undermines the work itself, drawing you out of your suspension of disbelief into frustration.  There is no template for the ‘correct ending’ for a given work.   Endings are particularly important in the last volume in collections of works, as this ending must not only function as the ending for the final volume, but also function as a proxy ending for the other volumes.

It seems that nobody really considers how difficult it is to write an ending for a significant work, and the ending is often judged more harshly than the rest of the work (perhaps unfairly, perhaps not).  It is the last thing that we are left with after experiencing it and likely remember it well.  Bad openings can be camouflaged by the quality of the subsequent material, but bad endings linger like the taste of bacon jelly beans.

Fans have a vested interested in endings, as they are, arguably, one of the most important things that happens in a work.  This is especially true for series which span years and whose ending also ends a chapter in fans’ lives.  In recent times, no work embodies this description more than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

HPatDH ends with a huge bang and an epilogue that jumps years into the future  Rowling, actually a terrific writer, was under huge pressure, and I think she wrote the perfect ending and epilogue.   But…remember in 2007, when the book came out, how much criticism and, well, whining there was?  The epilogue was particularly under fire.  Here are some quotes from users in a December 2008 thread on goodreads.com:

“The WHOLE epilogue is corny! Not just the names…But it’s still predictable.”

“It was a big let down about three paragraphs in I nearly decided to skip the epilogue.”

“Yes, both predictable and cheesy.”

“I did not like the ending of the book or the epilogue…Yes, a lot of my favorite characters did die, but the epilogue should have shown that Harry was effected by their deaths through his whole life if he were to live. This was just too predictable and to unrealistic for me”

“My complaint about it is that it seemed very rushed and didn’t have a lot of thought put into it.”

Harry Potter fans are some of the most loyal and passionate, and yet a very vocal segment expressed unhappiness.

Let’s look to another book, one that was recently written and released: Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, final book in the Inheritance Cycle started by the book Eragon.  The ending was not quite as effective as Rowling’s, but was, in my opinion, appropriate and inevitable.  And then I looked at the internet.

Again, these quotes are from a forum, this time the unofficial inheritancebook4.com:

“WHAT KIND OF DUMB ENDING WAS THAT, FOR A BOOK WITH OVER 8OO PAGES”

“The more i think about the book, the more angry i get!…There is a certain relationship between Writer and Reader and [author Christopher Paolini] has destroyed that relationship by giving us a bad ending.”

“It’s just [Paolini] took so many predictable turns with this story… I can sorta see why it took him so long to put this out, but still! With that much time, he could have come up with something more interesting! More suspenseful!”

“I gotta admit, some of the theories I read on this site resolved certain issues MUCH better than the actual turn of events in the book. I remember he said in one of the last interviews that he’d left one or two open-ended points, but I didn’t think he’d leave us with so many UNRESOLVED plots.”

For now, let us leave the realm of books and move on to a different media–film.

The Lord of the Rings, as written by J.R.R. Tolkien, is perhaps the most influential fantasy story ever written.  However, nowadays, many people are more familiar with Peter’ Jackson’s film adaptations; this is logical, as the films are classics in their own right and are more accessible than the mammoth book.   The finale, The Return of the King, garnered 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture.  And yet, the ending was the one thing that I heard the most complaints about.  These are quotes from a thread on ign.com:

“If the ending had not been so butchered, this could have stood out as my favorite movie ever. I still love the films, but the ending was so terrible. Jackson’s failure to stick to the books took a lot of greatness out of these movies.”

“I did miss the lack of closure for the majority of the central cast though. There was little or nothing known about what happened to Pippin, Merry, Eowyn, Eomer…Theoden-corpse, Legolas, etc.”

“I understand that there are a ton of characters who need closure, but I felt there was far too much falling action…Too many fadeouts, indeed.”

Remember, this was a fantasy movie that won the most Academy Awards in history, and yet fans were unhappy with its ending.  This ending is usually criticized for being either too short or too long, and obviously it can’t be both.  Something else is going on here.

————————————————————–

So, in three separate cases, fans have been dissatisfied with the ending to the saga.  Too long, too short, not enough closure, didn’t follow the original closely enough, not what they expected, unresolved plots, rushed, lethargic, too happy.  Let me ask you something:  what do all of these complaints have in common?

Answer: they come from the fans.

As a fan of a thing, one becomes attached to it.  One takes it and appropriates it as his or her own, and this is what makes fandom great.  This is why Harry Potter was such a big deal for an entire generation–these kids ‘grew up’ with Harry and friends, even moreso for games where one literally takes an active role in the story.  This sort of attachment is all fine and dandy until the source of the fandom is coming to a close.  Then emotions run high, and even the smallest disappointment is magnified, as there will be no upcoming works to smooth it over.

I have a theory, and I hope my illustrations above have helped to support it.  My theory is that, in many cases, passionate fans of a franchise or series are unwilling to let it go.  As such, their view of the final offering’s ending is often negative or, at the very least, more critical than it would be for literally any other point in that series.  Am I saying fans are incapable of good judgment?  No.  Am I saying that bed endings can always be explained away due to the fans’ reaction?  No.  But there is a curious effect going on here.  In four cases, fans have been very vocal about the endings to some critically praised franchises after supporting these franchises for, in some cases, many years.The fan outpouring was immense, and Bioware responded by releasing the free DLC Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut, which added a few key pieces to each of the endings.  I bought and finished Mass Effect 3 in a post-Extended Cut world.  I was aware of an apparent controversy regarding the endings and braced myself for the worst.  Well…it wasn’t bad at all.  I didn’t feel at all like I was watching an ‘extended cut.’

As a video game, Mass Effect is a wholly different experience.  Fans not only watched or read about Commander Shepard–they were Commander Shepard.  Each game took between 15-30 hours of playthrough for a normal run, and I would guess that most intensive fans did two playthroughs.  By the end of ME3, we are talking about 45-90 hours of playtime, much more than, say, the 10 hours it takes to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies.

I liked the ending; I really did.  I enjoyed it and thought it was a good, solid ending to the series.  I’ve come up with some things to consider as we continue to play and discuss games:

1.  It is not your world

This is important to remember–it is not your world.  It is the creator’s world.  If they want to do something that they feel is the best ending for their creation, that’s their choice.  It is not excuse for a bad ending–but it should be one for an ending you didn’t like.  For Mass Effect in particular, I think many fans saw the world as their world.  They made the decisions, they decreed if the Quarians or Geth would survive, told Shepard to headbutt a Krogan, and who would be his (or her) lover.  This was all an illusion, as Bioware was ultimately in control of the story, not us.  While this seems obvious, the illusion was so real that, for many fans, it was a rude interruption when the illusion had to be revealed, the reigns taken from an ending without a decision wheel.

2.  There doesn’t need to be closure on everything

In the ME3 ending, people wanted to know everything.  There was a lot that happened in three games worth of time.  Unfortunately, a story needs not tie up everything.  Not doing so allows for future creative endeavors within the world–besides, you don’t want an ending that goes on forever, and if you go that route, people will still claim it is too short.  Return of the King, I’m looking at you.  There was so much that happened in Mass Effect, it would be impossible to cover all of the events that happened over three games–the fate of a dozen species, decisions regarding individuals, planets, groups–in a satisfactory ending.  At the end of Star Wars: Episode VI, there isn’t actually much closure at all.  Luke and company have a party with the Ewoks.  That’s pretty much it.  But I have yet to experience any unhappiness over this very incomplete ending.  What happened to Hoth?  To the Empire?  Is the Alliance still underground?  Etc.

3.  If what happens isn’t what you think should have happened, it is not necessarily bad

Self-explanatory, related to #1.  A disliked ending is not a bad ending of little quality; not necessarily.  I like the Transformers movies.  They’re not good, but I like them.  Quality and opinion are different.

4.  If you don’t like it, could you do better?

Seriously better?  Would it be well-received–or would you do something only you would enjoy?  Endings are hard.  This is not to say that all endings are off-limits because fans aren’t writers; that would be ridiculous, and no one could criticize anything.  But the ‘fan’ ending for ME3–the Indoctrination Theory–was a strained attempt at forcing a square peg into a round whole and didn’t work.  If you can’t see that ‘it was all a dream’ is a flatly unsatisfying and lazy ending, you probably shouldn’t criticize endings as much.

So:  was the Mass Effect 3 ending bad?  I don’t think so.  That’s a different post.  But what I do know is that fan responses to these sorts of things are curiously slanted negatively in most cases.  Perhaps we should take a step back and think about it before we take potshots at the work of very talented people.  We certainly can apply this thoughtfulness to the story-driven games we play.

If you still don’t like it then?  More power to you.





A Review: TFK

1 05 2012

In the midst of my travels, I seem to have neglected this blog.  For those of you who wish to find out about these travels, visit my blog somethingclevertravel.wordpress.com. 

But now?  The End is Where We Begin.

Image

The End is Where We Begin is the latest release by Canadian rockers Thousand Foot Krutch.  These guys have been around for a while, releasing a series of excellent albums–Phenomenon in 2003, The Art of Breaking in 2005, The Flame in All of Us in 2008, and Welcome to the Masquerade in 2010.  Over the years, they have built a staple of hard rock anthems and some great ballads.  Unlike many rock bands, Thousand Foot Krutch, or TFK as they are known, is not afraid to evolve their sound.  There has never been a huge change, but each subsequent release has its own character.

Does TFK succeed again with The End is Where We Begin?  The answer is, emphatically, yes.  Previously under the label Tooth and Nail, this is TFK’s first independent album since their very first efforts pre Y2K.  It shows.  TFK’s sound has moved from a hip hop/rap/rock style to a more modern hard rock sound, and while it has done so gracefully, the hip hop elements present in Phenomenon and The Art of Breaking were a huge part of keeping those albums fresh and interesting.  With their independence, I can only assume that they felt freer to do what they wanted, and the result is a cohesive effort that evolves while reaching back for a heavy dose of “old-school” TFK. 

Though it is irrelevant to the music, I give huge props to whoever is making the album cover decisions.  The Flame in All of Us featured this cover:

Image

Welcome to the Masquerade featured this cover:

Image

I like it when bands have continuity in their album art, and TFK has taken the initial idea from The Flame in All of Us and created an identity from it.  Also, the cover for The End is Where We Begin is just awesome.

So, the music.  What does TFK: TEIWWB sound like?  Well, here’s from their youtube channel:

That’s War of Change, one of their initial singles from the album.  The album starts off with an intro, then moves into the rousing and energetic We Are.  At this point, sitting in the Munich Airport waiting for my plane, I was expecting the rest of the songs to be similar and for TEIWWB to sound similar to Welcome to the Masquerade; this is not a bad thing, as We Are is fantastic and more of that is good. 

But then Light Up the Sky came on and, oh man, you knew this album was different.  Here we can see their decision to go independent paying dividends.  Lead singer Trevor McNevan is phenomenally talented.  He is in the same rare mold as Jon Foreman, that is, a great songwriter, fantastic musician, charismatic, and creative.  One of his many talents is rapping, and in Light Up the Sky, Trevor breaks out his rapping to great effect.  Underneath the rapping is a wonderfully groovy, syncopated guitar riff.  Then, in the chorus, Trevor’s vocal prowess is shown off as he ascends to the stratosphere to light up the sky.

After that comes the title track, a more restrained melodic rock anthem which is very catchy.  The next two tracks, Let the Sparks Fly and Wicked, also summon 2003 and earlier TFK, especially Wicked, which exhibits more verse rapping.  The next track, Be Somebody, is the best track on the album.  It starts off with just an electric guitar and Trevor’s smooth and emotional vocals a la Breathe You In.  Then, in the chorus, it turns it up to 11, throwing heavy guitarwork in.  The song shows some of the best of vocals on the album: 

When I could only see the floor/you made my window a door/so when they say the don’t believe/I hope they see you and me/when the lights go down, I’m just the words you are the sound…We all want to be somebody/we just need a taste of who we are/we all want to be somebody/we’re willing to go but not that far…

The second half starts off with the enormously epic Courtesy Call.  Its business as usual for a couple tracks (read: rock) until the final trio of songs.  All I need to Know sounds like a campfire song and is a pleasant, acoustic break from the previous songs.  Fly on the Wall, the next song, is perhaps the second best song on the album.  Its lyrics are dark and brooding:  we were divided, we were the same/and we free but we all wore chains/we couldn’t see it, but we created/a place between truth and overrated.  The song itself derives much of its energy from the cellos and strings of the verses, but it also plugs in the amps during the chorus. So Far Gone ends the album as a simple, but touching, worship song. 

———————–

Too much attention gets paid to whether or not a band is ‘Christian’ or not.  There’s probably a forthcoming blogpost on that, but, for The End is Where We Begin, the question is only secondary:  TFK’s latest release is excellent music.  Go buy it, listen, love it like I have.

4.5/5 Smileys

🙂  🙂   🙂   🙂   :-





Big Blog News

17 03 2012

ATTENTION ALL READERS:

Do you read this blog for my thoughts–all of them?  Yay!  Continue following it.

Do you read this blog for my travel updates and year abroad whilst not caring about my opinions?  Stop following it.

For what I have done is streamline our Collective Dynamic Blogging Experience (I hear words like ‘dynamic’ are good for marketing, so now my blog will probably get thousands more viewers).  Thusly, I introduce you to my new travel blog:  A Clever Travel Blog!  Or, http://somethingclevertravel.wordpress.com/.

I did this so that people could more easily follow my experiences abroad in addition to more clearly defining my blogger roles.  This blog will carry out it’s original purpose, which is to act as a vehicle (preferably a dirigible, though I’m not picky) for my creative and random writing endeavors.  Sometimes I like to write about things because I want to, without the pressure of being ‘academic’ and ‘serious’.  Because no one should be serious all the time.

This is also good for me because I will hopefully end up updating the travel blog more, as I will be more aware of how much I actually write about my experiences.  This is particularly important as I will be setting off for my European tour in a few days.

 

So, readers, thank you for reading.  If you were amused at least once by me, I’m content.  Thanks again.

 

 

 





England vs. America: Part II

15 03 2012

Part One, which can be found here, illuminated America’s dominance in the food category whilst giving England the edge in comedy and public transportation.  Now we move on to Part Two, wherein I discuss more differences and declare a winner.

At this point, I implore thee, the reader, to comment on my blog or facebook and ask me what to compare in Part Three.  So, without further ado, here we go:

4.  Everything Road and Car related:  Winner–America

Despite what you are thinking, this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the British drive on the left side of the road.  However, as a side note, I must wonder:  why?  It seems that, over and over again, the British think of their little country as something special, something more special than other countries.  This may or may not have anything to do with it, but noting that the UK’s currency is not the Euro like pretty much every other country in the Eurozone, there is a pattern for this sort of thing.  It’s not even that many countries do this sort of thing.  This map shows which countries drive on which side of the road–red is right, and blue is left.  I’d say the results are telling:

Almost everyone except the UK and some of its former colonies drives on the right.

But, I digress:  I don’t actually care that they drive on the left side, I just find it immensely amusing that they decide to do it that way when billions of people living in other countries do it the opposite way.  Now, as far as cars go, America has the edge for a number of reason.  First of all, gasoline is much, much cheaper.  Generally, in the UK, gasoline is 1-2 pounds per liter.  Now, that might sound nice, except there are 4.5 liters in a gallon.  How does approaching $7 a gallon sound to you?  It sounds ludicrous to me, but that’s just how it is here.  Basically, the cheapness of gas in the States allows for a larger variety of affordable (or semi-affordable) vehicles; there is much less interest in the UK vehicles.

Also, British roads are completely ridiculous.  They apparently got the second-hand road engineers (probably the ones that graduated from the University of Missouri), because their roads and intersections leave something to be desired.  First off, they are often dealing with less-than-stellar road situations in the first place due to the old-ness of the cities and whatnot.  I do understand that.  However…they aren’t very good at building intersections.  There is no left turn on red rule like the ‘Right on Red’ rule in the States, which slows thing down (British readers:  this allows people turning into the flow of traffic to go during a red light if the coast is clear).  In addition, there are practically no stop signs, which is not good because sometimes stop signs are the most effective means of governing an intersection.  The intersections that they do have are not efficient in directing the traffic flow.

Secondly, there’s the British love for roundabouts, which borders on a fetish.  Why do I say this?  They’re everywhere.  They’re even on the highways.  That slows things down as well, as even if you aren’t getting off at a town, you are forced to go through the roundabout anyway.  Then there’s this:

Evil. They should call this the Eye of Sauron.

This wonderful bit of road-making resides in Swindon, where they apparently enjoy torturing adolescents who wish to learn how to drive.  It’s called the ‘Magic Roundabout’, and I’m pretty sure it would have sided with Lord Voldemort instead of Harry Potter.  Five mini roundabouts that comprise one big roundabout.  The inner circle goes counter-clockwise, while the outer roundabouts go clockwise.  And, on top of that, it takes up an enormous amount of space.  Geez.

5.  Charm:  Winner–England

England has been around for a long, long time.  Americans have a bit of a skewed perception of history:  our country’s beginnings lie in the 18th century, and our country is less than 250 years old.  England has an entirely different history.  They can look back 250 years as we can.  Then they can look back another 250 years.  And then another, and then another, until you’re talking about the Anglo-Saxons only a few centuries after Jesus lived.  There is a historical weight that England (and the rest of Europe) has that America lacks.

How is this relevant?  Well, firstly, any large city will have a much wider range of architecture.  Cities are much more individualistic due to local geography and history as opposed to the specifically grid-like model to which many American cities ascribe.  Simply put, England has way more charm.  One minute you can be in the Apple Store in the mall, and you can literally walk for less than 5 minutes and enter a half-millennium old building.  In America, a house built in the early 1900s is a cool old house.  In England, it’s just a house.

6.  Variety:  Winner–America

America is a large country.  England isn’t a particularly small country–especially if you consider the rest of the UK–but it is severely limited in geographical and weather variance.  Take a look at this:

War Horse, anyone?

This is rural England.  Beautiful, to be sure.  Rolling hills, green grass, trees–very nice.  But that’s kind of all you get.  This is rural America:

I can feel the heat from here.

This is also rural America:

Ah, Mountains.

You can get almost anything you want in the States.  Like deserts or mountains?  Got those.  Beaches?  Yep.  Forests?  Of course.  All of the above?  California.  Boring, boring rolling plains?  Got those too.  Temperate rainforests?  Yes sir.  This principal can also be extended to other areas as well.  There are a variety of huge cities in which to live if that’s your thing.  If not, there are huge amounts of suburbs and rural areas too.  England, for all its charm and individual personality, isn’t extremely varied.

 

Total:  America 3, England 3

 





(In)visible Children, Criticism, and the World

13 03 2012

Now, if you haven’t heard, there’s this video that has gone viral and is the talk of facebook for good and ill.

If you can’t watch it, or fell asleep in the middle, or whatever, here’s the scoop:  There’s a bad guy in Uganda whose name is Joseph Kony.  He’s doing nasty things to kids and forcing them to fight.  His army, as so eloquently put in another viral video, “is climbing in your windows, snatching your people up, trying to rape them.”  The army’s name is the LRA, which is, sickeningly, the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’.  He’s been doing this stuff for over 20 years.  Invisible People is set on exposing this guy to the world and ending the reign of terror.  Sounds good, right?  Yay, Invisible People!

Well, er, not really….?

Invisible People has fallen under some harsh criticism from various people about a variety of things.  Examples: this video  and this blog post.  In addition, there has been somewhat intense argument on the facebook about it.  So, what is really going on?  Who is in the right?  Well, this isn’t a math problem, so the simple answer is no one.  But, let’s see what people are saying about this:

Chewbacca's viewpoint on all of this. His opinion is fascinating.

Afterwards, I’ll write something geared towards each group.

The Kony 2012 Movement

Joseph Kony must be stopped at all costs!  I never knew this sort of thing is happening.  Now I have ‘seen the light.’  I posted the video on facebook, and I want everyone to be aware of the problem so we can stop Kony and restore peace to the peoples of Africa.  I support Invisible Children in all their endeavors and might even donate to them in the future if I have the money.  Some of my friends aren’t able to donate, but their sharing of the video is participation in this movement and will help stop this madman.

The Opposition

So, now that you saw a video on Youtube you’re a social activist now?  Furthermore, you think this is a simple issue that can be solved with a video share and a couple of good feelings?  How naive.  First, you should take a look at Invisible Children–they only spend a third of their money on Africa!  Besides, they support the Ugandan army, who has human rights violations on their own.  Awareness solves nothing.  You think you and your middle-class white background can change this complicated situation in Africa?  Get a grip.  Just because they have good intentions doesn’t mean doing the right thing.  Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

  • To Invisible People:

First of all, congratulations on what is arguably the most successful viral marketing campaign of all time, with 76 million views and counting.  The video carried out its purpose beautifully:  to offer a simple introduction into the atrocities that Joseph Kony has committed, expose his crimes to the world, and offer a way for people to get involved if they weren’t already.  However, please don’t let this get to your head.  As Uncle Ben Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  I implore you to stay vigilant in keeping your organization in quality shape.  It seems you have already handled criticisms gracefully, even if people still disagree with you.  Keep assessing the situation and continue allocating your money as best as possible even as situations change.

  • To the newbie supporters of IC:

If you are one of the many millions of young people who were exposed to problems like this via the Kony 2012 campaign and were moved by it, I urge you to further examination.  Blind support of a cause with good intentions is usually worse than not attempting to help at all, and causes such problems as the U.S.’s current mess in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Also, sharing videos on facebook does not make you an activist.  But, this doesn’t mean stop caring or supporting IC.  Do research–is IC an organization you want to back with your hard earned money?  If so, then do it!  But if not, use your noggin and find an organization you can wholeheartedly support.  It’s great that you want to get involved–just think before you leap, that’s all.  The world needs more compassionate people who are willing to help–I’m glad that you’ve taken one step closer to becoming one.

  • To the critics:

The internet is a fickle being; on one hand it allows tens of millions of people to become exposed to an idea over a few days, and on the other hand it enables an immediate and harsh backlash of everything.  I’m not going to lie:  outspoken critics of IC, you messed up big-time, and missed out on an opportunity you might never held back.  What you did was criticize IC’s status as an outstanding charity, take potshots at people who shared the video on facebook without further thinking about what’s at stake, and complained that awareness and the average white Westerner is realistically unable of doing things.  What you should have done was welcome this group of eager people, showing how they could make a thoughtful and definite impact.  This was a fantastic educational opportunity, critics, and you blew it.  You even outright claimed that this was a bad thing.  Now, forgive me for being, blunt, but that was terribly stupid.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Kony 2012 is creating a veritable army of good men, and instead of taking part in shaping the world, you stood in a huff and complained.  Now, I’m not saying that awareness solves everything (it doesn’t), or that blind intervention is good (absolutely not), or that everyone was this way; nor am I claiming that IC has correct stance on everything (it has a couple of very disputable policies).  But I can’t be the only one who is disgusted with the way the internet collectively struck down upon such a well-intentioned movement.

  • To everyone:

The world is broken.  There is no doubt in my mind about this fact.  Hitler murdered 6 million Jews.  That figure is waved around like a stick, but that’s 3 and a half times as many as the total number of people who saw a game at Kauffman Stadium last year.  People live in poverty all their lives and die in poverty, while Kim Kardashian gets millions of dollars for no apparent reason and wastes bunches of it on a two month wedding.  Countries all over the globe actively repress various sections of their citizenship for trivial reasons based on caste, race, or religion.  Kony runs around unknown, abducting thousands children and committing atrocities for two decades.  Kony 2012 helps to expose this fact.  I do believe there is something we can do.  We can change ourselves.  If we become more compassionate, less self-centered, more apt to humility and a servant attitude, we can change the world we live in.  Focus on ourselves, our neighbors, our towns and cities.  Without a fundamental change in how we live and act in our everyday lives, we will never be able to better the world.  We are blind to problems because we don’t want to see them.  When we look for problems so that we can help and serve…that’s when things get done.