Repeat, Repeat

Photograph by Phelan M. Ebenhack

While reading Michelle Cliff’s Abeng, one of the most prominent moments in the piece is the death of 100 slaves by Judge Savage’s hands. After reading the recollection of this occurrence, I actually stopped reading the book for a while because the thought of this ghastly act is so disturbing. How could someone kill so many people? Many times we could never imagine how such a deed could ever happen, and how this act would not be considered downright macabre. How was this terrible man justified in such ways?

Savage burned his slaves to death because they were his property, and he felt that he could do with them as he pleased. These people, slaves, stood at the eve of their freedom, and they were gruesomely silenced before they could see that dream become a reality. Now, we would consider this appalling act as blatant murder or even an act of terror; however, at the same time we can also look back and see that slavery itself was morally wrong. In our hindsight, we know both of these acts could never be justified properly, so we view them as terrible mistakes.

This separation, the slavery from the killing, is significant. At the time of the occurrence, holding slaves was legal, so I do not believe many would have opposed that act at all. Though morally we know killing other people is wrong (especially burning them to death), the Africans were viewed as Savage’s property. These “people” were looked down upon, so much that they were not even recognized as human. They were seen as lowly objects just because of the circumstance of their birth, something that they could not help. We see now that the slavery and oppression of these people was wrong, but we also view the murder as a terrible unjust thing. We do not stand for either of these two separate acts now, nor do we see either as justification for the other. During this time, the act of enslavement was not seen as breaking the law, nor was the desecration of one’s own property, even if it meant the death of 100 people.

Now, let us fast forward to our modern times. We face another striking, yet terrible occurrence with the assault on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Here, there was a gunman, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, who targeted a specific group of people: homosexuals. Again, this massacre takes the lives needlessly of the oppressed, who number 49 dead and 53 wounded at the time of this commentary being written (New York Times).

In the same way as Judge Savage killed the slaves of his plantation, we see that the oppressed continue to take massive blows on the eve of their freedom. The next evening after the shooting, a person called in to a radio station that I listen to. In tears, this person said “just as it seemed safe to come out, something like this happens”. This was a clear reminder to me, having just read Abeng, how some people cannot stand to see the oppressed gain their freedom or identity, and how the misunderstanding of other groups can lead to such appalling occurrences.

Again, there is a separation from the oppression and the killing, yet we view the circumstances differently right now. We know that the oppression of people is wrong, and we acknowledge that legally in many different areas (the Emancipation Proclamation, the creation of the NAACP and ACLU, etc.); however many people still attempt to justify their negative views. In turn, these people believe that this gives them a purpose to claim their hatred towards these people, enough so to kill them. It gives them a reason to spread their hate, and they feel justified in their ways.

Furthermore, I have seen some Facebook posts that have a similar mixed reaction about the killings. The majority of people see the act of murder as appalling, yet others have been quite vocal on the circumstances of this event. They believe that the murder of homosexuals is justified because the people were gay, and that they had it coming because of their sexual orientation. They view this group of people as being lowly immoral objects who are not yet fully human, and this seemingly justifies their views.

Right now, most people know that neither of these acts are morally rationalized, yet some people continue to believe these occurrences are not a problem. They think in the mindset of pre-1863 logic, that because a people can be oppressed, they should be oppressed, and in their oppression the slaughter of this people can be defended. I absolutely believe that 150+ years from now all of humanity will look back at events like this and see these people, who do not support their fellow man, as being on the wrong side of the argument.

Just as today, we look back and think of the horrors of slavery, all of the pain, suffering, and heartbreak the Africans went through, people will look back on this era and see the error of their ways in thinking that homosexuals can be reprimanded for the circumstances of their birth. People will not just show sympathy, but also empathy towards this group of people and the evils that they faced along the way. One day humans will finally understand that the persecution of one group, only because they are different, cannot hold to a logical, moral, or even religious argument.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the Pulse Nightclub event has quickly become synonymous with firearm issues and gun control. However, I believe in the same way that Judge Savage used a tool, fire, to kill his slaves, we cannot hold the item accountable for the act. People would like to focus on how such a terrible tool, a firearm, allowed Mateen to inflict such massive casualties. Instead, we should focus on how morally this same attitude has prevailed for hundreds of years. Our focus should not be on how either of these murderers committed their terrible deeds, but why they acted the way they did. What made them feel justified and validated in their views to kill 49 and injure 53 more, or destroy 100 human lives, all on the eve of their freedom?

In the same way the families of all of these people, separated from one another by hundred of years of grief, will never find the answers or closure they need, we cannot look at these events and find a single answer to a moral deficit. This is not a single group’s problem, this is not a gun control problem, this is a human problem. Why have individuals believed they are justified in their ways, enough so to take the lives of people, and why has this attitude persisted for so long?

There is no simple one answer to this issue, and what is even more terrible, there may very well never be.


It Doesn’t Average Out

In the past few years, I have noticed something while driving. It has become quite more more prominent now than in my past few years of experience. Perhaps I pay more attention to it or I purposefully notice it occur more, but either way it’s happening. People will drive 40 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, and when we reach a 55 MPH zone they suddenly speed up to 60 MPH. This irritates me to no end because I will pass them in the 45 zone for going so slow, only to be passed by them in the 55 because they’re suddenly going so fast.

This happens to me without fail every single time I drive home. A car will be going slower causing a bit of traffic behind them. As soon as all those cars (myself included) pass them, they’ll buzz by a few minutes later, speeding past everyone so they can lead the pack. Of course, they almost always subsequently slow down again, and the process repeats over and over again. I don’t quite understand why this keeps happening. It’s also not really limited to one demographic, because I constantly seen men, women, young, and old do this. The icing on the cake is when these same people pass everyone and then slam on their brakes to turn.

Am I the only one who experiences this issue? It would to happen to me every once in a while a few years ago, but now it seems like it happens way too often to be just a coincidence. Perhaps I’m a magnet for this type of behavior? Maybe I’m just attracting the slow down speed up, pass then get passed kind of people on my drive home each day? Are they teaching this averaged out tactic in driver’s education classes? How is this explained in Common Core?

Costumes: Captain Jack Sparrow

Some personal projects take a little while to put together, while others take years. This is one that took years. After I finished my TDK Joker, I noticed that a lot of people who were doing costumes also had Jack Sparrow outfits up their billowy rum soaked pirate sleeves. That kind of peaked my interest, as I wanted to expand my costuming horizons a bit with another large project. Over the course of the next three years or so, I started and subsequently “finished’ my Captain Jack Sparrow outfit, and had some great experiences along the way.

Jack 1
A2Z Photography

I was fortunate with this costume because I got several higher priced (and hard to find) items for relatively cheap. On one occasion I scored a set of three items for $350, which would have ran well over $1000 otherwise. Another time I purchased a pair of lightly used CA Boots for $100, which would have been several hundred dollars new. On other occasions people just flat out gave me things, like my vest from Mellissa Ebbe (who is now on Face/Off!), or some of my belt accessories which came from a costumer who decided he was done with trying to get his costume together. I was very fortunate to have so many friends in the hobby who helped out like this, as these connections also allowed me to purchase several items from the original sources, so not only was the costume accurate, but the items were from the very people that produced them for the film.

Jack 2
A2Z Photography

Eventually, when the costume was about done, I ended up doing a speech around Halloween at my community college in the outfit. This was pretty much the beginning of a new chapter in my life, as it would lead to many subsequent events. One of these experiences was that I got cast as the lead in Pirates to the Rescue!, a childrens’ show written by David Quinn, which was Kaskaskia College’s main stage play. This was my first acting experience. I can vividly remember hearing Quinn say “Oh, you’ll only have like 3 or 4 lines!”, but I’m pretty sure the final count was between 150-160. This would lead to many great things in my life that I would have never expected.

Jack 3
A2Z Photography

During this time, I was also featured on TLC’s television program Big Tiny, which was about my friend Brad Jordan and his sister. I was also hired by Macy’s to promote their fragrance department, all because I was Captain Jack Sparrow (they also thought Quinn was my manager). Eventually, I would also win several awards for acting at Kaskaskia College, including Best Actor, Director’s Choice, and the Alumni Award for two years running. I would also receive a theater scholarship, which paid for my tuition in full for two years.

Jack 4
A2Z Photography

This costume really brought me numerous and amazing opportunities, and it was always a blast to wear. Many people helped me out along the way, and it is always something that I am super thankful for. The opportunities and relationships that arose because of this costume have also been really rewarding. I would have never expected the simple concept of wanting to do a costume to have ever led to so many wonderful experiences or amazing people. It truly has been an awesome journey, all thanks to Captain Jack Sparrow!

Jack 5
A2Z Photography


Everything is a Problem

For quite some time now my friends and I have been saying “everything is a problem”. It’s kind of like our catch phrase or slogan. Why? Because we usually (and typically) encounter a problem with just about everything we do. From minor choices to important tasks, I experience issues on a daily basis and I’m not really for sure why.

Recently, I considered taking count of these issues. I would not add any weight to the problems, I would simply count how many disagreements, issues, or troublesome events I encounter on a daily basis. Car trouble? 1 point. Disagreement? 1 point. People standing still while an automatic door waits for someone to make a move and no one will take initiative to walk forward as humans naturally do ? 1 point. And yes, that did in fact happen.

I didn’t really have the ambition to do this just yet, as I was still kind of contemplating the whole topic overall. I was also partially nervous to find out how many problems happen to me on a daily basis. This subject did get me thinking though. Why do I have so many problems each day? Why can’t things go off without a hitch? And why am I asking so many questions in this blog? Well, another question I had, was how many problems on average do people encounter each day. I had assumed it would be around 20. I think this is about how many I have on a normal day, and that’s reasonable, I think.

The answer, which surprised me, is a measly 9. I learned this in one of my first classes this semester, Conflict and Communication (take a stab at why I chose to take that course). Surprisingly, within this class, one of the assignments is to log each time we encounter conflict in our lives. Here is my opportunity to commit to my problem log, it has presented itself! I’ve already been considering doing this very thing, and now I have a purpose to do so.

After leaving the class, I began to consider the topic again. How long would it take to encounter the next issue? What would it be? Why are there more questions in this blog? Well, I got my answer fairly quickly. Upon arrival at Dierberg’s, just 35 minutes after leaving class, and despite having done this very thing several times, the woman at the deli wouldn’t let me chose chicken bites as a side dish.

Weekly Armada #1

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

After a hiatus from blogging (and everything else enjoyable in life) because of school related activities, Matt and I finally had a chance to get back to Armada this past weekend. After throwing his wife Sierra a surprise birthday party, we broke out Armada for a quick round. We haven’t played since the last blog post, but we quickly got back into the swing of things.

To make the round a bit more dynamic, we chose to only use 150 points worth of ships, which left me with a Nebulon Frigate, a Blockade Runner, and 4 X-Wing squadrons. Matt played as the Imperials, so I faced a Victory Class Star Destroyer and a crap ton of TIE fighters, Bombers, and Interceptors.

I was also able to use several asteroids as cover as I moved my ships up in a single force. After several turns I was able to maneuver the Blockade Runner around the map, running at speed 4. That allowed me to slip directly past his Destroyer unscathed. We eventually agreed that Matt would forfeit if I took out all of his fighters (despite going over 6 rounds).

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

I was eventually able to engage the Victory Star Destroyer from behind (oh baby), but only after destroying all of the TIEs he had left. That meant for the first time in our campaign I was able to win, but only by his forfeiture. He also ran directly into some debris in front of him during this turn, so he must be taking after me somehow when I play…I was lucky enough to not lose a single ship during this game though, which was really nice.

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

Overall we both can’t wait for the wave 2 ships to be released, as I have them on pre-order. I also ended up ordering another core set, so both sides will have more ships to chose from when we play. Hopefully we can play a bit more often because we both seem to really enjoy this game.

Friday Night Armada

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

As a kid, I had always really liked the idea of huge battles. Big warships pulling up along side each other, cannons firing, and smaller engagements in the mix of it all. The idea of massive battles has always fascinated me. The idea of strategy, flanking maneuvers, and strong arming a victory, it all was, and continues to be something I find pretty awesome.

Recently I got Star Wars Armada, a tabletop game that allows two players to do the above, just on a smaller (and much safer) scale. Originally, I had wanted this game just for the miniatures. It’s really the first time that anyone has made nice scaled miniatures of these ships, so I wanted them for the displayability. The only thing holding me back was the fact I had bought WOTC’s StarShip Battles line like 10 years ago, and didn’t want to purchase the same ships twice, even though these Armada ship are much nicer.

I hadn’t really considering playing the game, until my friend Matt showed interest in it as well. Neither of us have ever played a tabletop game, so we were both curious about how fun it would be. After receiving the game in the mail (thanks to my mom), we busted it out at my apartment and played our first round together. I think it took about 3 hours and 45 minutes total, as we started to learn how to play, and discover just how careful we had to be with ship and fighter movements. I played as the Empire, and Matt was the rebels.

A2Z Photography

That next Friday we played again, but changed venues and sides. The match went surprisingly fast, no less than an hour. Of course, I knew as soon as I started that I wouldn’t last long. I had started a maneuver (manure) that had taken any advantage I had away, starting my ships too close together, miscalculating distance,etc. Trapped, my three Rebel ships collided with other ships, debris, or were flat out destroyed before I could even make a dent in the enemy Star Destroyers. My fighters turned tail, but were cornered and destroyed before they could make any sort of counter attack.

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

Overall, Matt and I are super excited about the game, and hope to continue to play it every Friday night. One element I really need to work on is my strategy, as I tend to over think my ship movements. I’m pretty sure Matt is golden, because he won both of our practice rounds. One thing that we do plan to start is keeping a record of ship loses, and to begin a psuedo-campaign, to give the game some sort of story. Instead of just playing these small skirmishes, we’d have some sort of overall goal to look forward to: galaxy wide war.

Star Wars Farce Friday

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

I had been looking forward to this event for a long time, even despite all the hiccups along the way. I may criticize Hasbro a lot, but there’s something awesome about going to a midnight madness event. One aspect is that I have always done these events with my family, and they also feel super fulfilling. I’ve always been able to find everything I want, without any difficulty what-so-ever. This Midnight Madness definitely leaned in the other direction.

The evening before MM, my friend Matt and I’s game plan went south. After re-grouping and Jack in the Box tacos, we ended up going to Glen Carbon, IL Walmart. They had the 18 ft train and the aisle ready to go at almost exactly midnight. The staff there was absolutely awesome. I showed the girl guarding the aisle my phone at 12:01, and was allowed to go in. I grabbed Rey’s Speeder and was ready to go because that’s all they had from my “buy list”. There was a lot of stuff stocked, just not enough Hasbro items. My friend and his wife Sierra ended up picking up about $40 worth of stuff, and the only other person there was a bald guy who was super rude, who absolutely wouldn’t talk to us. “How are you doing tonight man, excited?” was met with total silence, as were all other communications.

We then jetted over to Woodriver, IL Walmart, but the staff there was a bunch of “good ol’ boys”, and they didn’t have anything out. When I asked the guy about the time line for getting stuff on the shelves, he told me it could take a while. It was already like 1:00 by that point, so we left and I took my friend’s home. We decided to hit up Target that next day because of the coupons, $10 off a $50 purchase, or $25 of $100. I mean, it’s was probably a better deal anyway, and their displays would be freaking awesome.

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

When I got home I stayed up for another 3 hours or so reading reports and stuff from the forums, and chatting with other local collectors. After seeing a lot of Toysrus stores not receiving hardly anything, or hearing about kids crying because Target didn’t have what they wanted, I ended up ordering the bulk of my stuff from Amazon. They were offering the same coupons at Target, so I definitely wanted to make sure I got the stuff I wanted: a desert speeder, and some Snowspeeders for my photonovel. I wanted three; however Amazon had a limit of two per customer. I also had to add Rey’s Speeder to the order because there wasn’t anything else I wanted, and couldn’t make up the $100 coupon minimum, so I have to return one of them to Walmart sometime.

My friend and I then met up again at around 9:30 Friday morning, and went to Edwardsville, IL Target. They pretty much had everything but the 2-packs, Falcon, and big TIE. We talked to a guy named Austin for about an hour, which also gave me time to think about buying the Poe’s X-Wing or not. I went back and forth a hundred times, but decided to pass on it because of how poor the reviews were.

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

I was able to purchase my third Snowspeeder for the photonovel while we were there, so I was pretty much done. Matt bought 5 Funkos Pop!’s for $2.68 a piece, which made us wonder if that was a pricing error in the system, or just a great deal. He also got the 12 inch Kylo Ren, which had a great head sculpt, but looked as if it was wearing goucho pants.

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

Overall, I’m happy that I got everything I wanted (that made it to retail); however the lack of product was really apparent as I read others’ reports. Some people took their kids to the event, and even being one of the first 10 people in line didn’t ensure they were able to buy any figures. Likewise, Walmarts didn’t receive any ships bigger than class 1 deluxe, so they missed out on a portion of their buying publics. At the same time, I have to mention that reviews of some items, like the X-Wing were so bad they influenced me not to purchase them, so maybe not stocking them was a good move afterall. I really did want one; however I just can’t justify something that doesn’t scale well with past items, has flimsy rubber parts, or see through plastic in area that shouldn’t be see through. I also didn’t buy one figure because of the lack of articulation. Walmart did announce they’d continue the Black Series articulated line as a store exclusive, but the first three figures are repacks, so that’s great.