Archive for October, 2012

SPOILERS HERE!

This is a music video tribute to DeathbyDD‘s Mass Effect Trilogy custom playthrough with video compiled over the course of five years since the first game’s release as a 2012 birthday present. I have written about Denaveria (DxDD) before here and I think the persona she chose for her character in this trilogy experience reflects the person(ification) she is in real life.

DeathbyDD’s Commander Shepard in-game.

Mass Effect is about a space-faring humanity trying to establish a place for ourselves in the galaxy. It is also about a hyperadvanced synthetic species called “Reapers” that harvests advanced organic life in a cycle every 50000 years then erases all evidence of their existence but leaves some of their technology to be found by the next cycle’s species thereby insuring organics evolve along a route that the machines can predict, control and exploit upon their return. It is a continuous sci fi story spanning the length of 3 games that remembers decisions that you make and relationships that you have and the way your completely customizable character changes and adapts throughout all the stories. An article goes into depth about the social significance of this title here.

Song by H.I.M “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

Happy Birthday, D.

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THE BLOCKADE

             The 900 Day Blockade of St. Petersburg

                A WWII Survivor Tale

                 In Commemoration Of:

              Maya Peterson

             &

               All the souls lost in WWII and Stalin’s Purges

            Told By:

                    Elena (Peterson) O’Donoghue

               Written By:

               Aleksandr Kolpakov

       

The following historical account was orally passed on to me by my mother. I wish to share with you the narrative as my mother recounted the heroic story of my Grandmother and her family during the terrible events of the Nine-Hundred days-long St. Petersburg blockade of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) as she, Maya Peterson, experienced it. I hope you the reader, can also learn something new and useful out of this most painful story of my heroic Grandmother.

 the-right-one1Stalin and Mao killed their own people, ‘domicide’. “And we’re sort of fine with that. Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won’t stand for that, will we?” — Eddie Izzard

Maya Peterson was born in the city of Pushkin to a family of Russian kinsmen in 1929, which was a residence for noble families. Maya’s mother’s name was Ekaterina and her father’s was Mikhail. They were both of noble Polish and Swedish backgrounds, but were Russian citizens (or more technically for the time, Soviet citizens). Andrei, her elder brother, and Marina, her little sister lived with them. The father was an army engineer–the mother, a house wife. Maya’s Grandfather, (my Great-Great-Grandfather) Major-General Sergei Nikolaevich Wojciechowski (veet-sa-hov-ski), PICTURED LEFT was third in command of the White Army who had to stop their fighting with the Germans in WWI alongside the rest of the world and turn to fight the communists at their backs that had overrun their homeland while they were away. During this revolution both of Major-General Wojciechowski’s commanding officers,  General Vladimir Oskarovich Kappel, as well as the head of the White Movement: Admiral Aleksandr Vasilyevich Kolchak were killed (as illustrated by the recent historical movie “Admiral“). Maya’s Grandfather therefore, was known to have for some time been the default commander of the entire anti-communist ‘White Movement’. Perhaps this is one of the reasons her family along with many others were targeted for extermination by their countrymen while the rest of the world stood unified against fascism.

Months before the Red Revolution of 1917 in which the German-paid communists under Vladimir Ilyich Lenin took control of Russian Parliament–the Duma–by force. Before the destruction of the 9 month-old Democratic Provisional Government that had been established when the czar voluntarily gave up all power. Before that same czar was nonetheless executed by firing squad along with his wife and children. Maya’s family had intended to flee to France where they could seek shelter with relatives. However, a child of the family caught a severe illness and could not be moved, thus the family stayed and watched as the borders were closed off by the new communist regime and as that regime made a pact with and was paid for by the Axis Powers.

Before the second war, “Uncle” Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin’s secret police had Mikhail Peterson (Maya’s father) secretly arrested and abducted during the night. During Stalin’s early purges, all intellectuals (those having college degrees or professional jobs) and those of professed noble birth, were killed for fear of opposition of Stalin’s tyrannical rule (later, he turned against even the most loyal Communists, making the record breaking genocide numbers of his reign of terror from the time of the Revolution to the time of his death in 1954 an unholy, unspeakable, 62 million Russian lives not counting war and famine casualties which were always in the high millions.*
* these numbers were released by modern-day Oxford Scholars

Maya Peterson lived with the remnants of her family in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) when the Second World War began. Once again, the world stood together to fight the Germans and once again the communists made a pact with them. It was not long however, before the fascists betrayed that pact and invaded an unprepared Russia. The Peterson family owned their own manor on the bank of the river Neva (the manor is still there, though our family does not have the documents to claim it as our own). When the Nazi blockade began, all the schools closed and Maya’s mother went to work, something unheard of for a noblewoman of her family’s stature. Ekaterina was paid with food stamps instead of money.

Transposition of time on the same street in St. Petersburg. Then and now.

Maya’s brother was drafted and killed in the first few weeks of the Nazi invasion. Andrei was eighteen at the time of his death. The cause of which was most certainly the preferred “method” of fighting by Stalin’s drafted young forces: to overrun the enemy position with sheer numbers, something that was purely suicidal when faced against the automatic firepower of Nazi trench warfare. These draftees were furthermore either armed with outdated muskets leftover from the First World War or with nothing at all. The combat motto was: “Go out and get a weapon”. And the response to hesitation was “We will kill your family if you don’t.”

During The Blockade there was nothing to eat. No light. And no warmth. The people that stayed alive that long had to go every morning at 03:00 to a store and stay in line in the freezing cold (-45ºC/-49.0ºF) for hours in order to obtain an inch-sized piece of bread per person each day (the “bread” was made of clay and paper). Nobody had any money that was of any use; they just had ration tickets to get the so-called ‘bread’. Maya’s mother sold all the good furniture, cloths, books, priceless relics revered as ancient family treasures, for mere pittances. Anything that could bring in some scraps of food, all so she could feed her two remaining children: Maya and Marina.
Maya’s little sister was two years old when The Blockade began, and she cried all the time as she slowly starved. Maya remembered one night very well. Maya had to go every morning across the “ghost city” to get the bread for her family since her mother had to tend to the ever-sick Marina and was herself too sick to walk long distances. Maya was twelve years old when one early morning she went for the bread and was attacked by a desperate man in the dark. She got away, but the glove that held the ration tickets was torn off during the struggle. The already starved family had to go for one whole week without any kind of food at all, until they were issued new ration tickets.
“In such a horrible time, people would eat dogs, cats, rats, even little girls…”

One night, Maya’s mother Ekaterina, died in her bed from hunger. She had been giving all her scarce food to the children for too long. The then thirteen year old Maya and the four year old Marina put their mother’s corpse on a sled in the middle of harsh winter, and dragged her through the famine stricken town to be dropped into the “Body-Hole”, were all those who died in The Blockade were dumped without ceremony. They were–from that moment on–all on their own.

A Soviet version of the Red Cross would go around the city and pick up stray children and pack them into military trucks, Maya and Marina were scooped up by one such truck. The Soviets then took lines of these trucks across the frozen Neva river, through The Blockade, and into public foster homes. However, trucks would often fall through the ice and the children inside would quickly die from exposure. To make the trek more hazardous still, the Nazis were also firing their long-range cannons on the column of ‘Red Cross’ trucks as they attempted to cross. Due to the cadence of their shelling, every odd-count truck was blown away by the missile-fire from across the river as they fled the city. Maya and Marina were in an even count truck.

While going across the lake, Marina no longer begged for food, but for a big doll she remembered seeing in a store before The Blockade had begun. Maya kept promising that just as soon as they got to safety she would get her one just like it. Halfway across the lake Marina died of hunger in Maya’s arms.

After she escaped the Blockade, Maya stayed in a foster home until she was eighteen years old. There was much fighting and drinking, and Maya endured every single disease and pestilence of that time. Yet still she survived. Afterward, she finished school and went on into medical college. In order to join however, she had to become an official member of the Communist Party. Having no other options, she joined the community that had caused her family so much suffering in order to continue her education. Maya lacked the money to finish however, and instead worked as a hospital nurse to augment her training. Afterward, she took up after her father and became an engineer. She eventually married, though it was not to last. Her husband left Maya and her two daughters PICTURED LEFT, leaving my Grandmother with no options but to take up two extra jobs, including grueling hours iron-working at a factory in order to satisfy the fiery woman’s desire to give her children the very best in cloths, toys, and especially food. In this, she succeeded with extraordinary grace.

Maya is pictured at center, crying at the ceremony

Recently, the modern-day Russian Federation held a ceremony officially recognizing Maya Peterson along with elderly citizens who had survived the events of the Blockade to present day, as Heroes of The Motherland, and even though she no longer resides in Russia, they were given the highest awards possible for civilians of the State. Furthermore, Maya was recognized as true owner of the old family home in St. Petersburg, however she did not wish to return to a place filled with so many painful memories, and instead donated the estate to a historical society.
To this day, Maya lives in the city of Tallinn in the country of Estonia in Europe (former USSR), and thanks to her children, and her own endurance, is not the sole survivor of her noble bloodline. I am very grateful that my Grandmother–the heroine of this story–related the tale to my mother. It would sadden me beyond compare if the valiant story of my Grandmother should ever be lost to time. We are the few who are privileged to know the truth, and I am proud beyond words that my own living Grandmother has made it so.

 

Women Must Mistrust Men

Posted: October 29, 2012 in Feminism
Tags: , , , ,

“Oh! He is so mysterious! I just can’t wait for him to open up and share with me!”

As I understand it, American women are often hesitant to ‘hang out’ with men in a friendship capacity, at least partially due to a deeply-rooted (and justifiable) skepticism of the males’ motives for such a gathering.
What these women don’t understand — and neither do other men for that matter — is that unlike most of my male counterparts, I do not judge my masculinity by how often I “get laid”. To put it frankly: I just don’t give a shit.

Odd, I know. Possibly more rare still is my general distaste of strip clubs (as I really can’t get excited over something as simple as human nudity without first establishing at least an intellectual report) as well as my arguably even more baffling disinterest in receiving oral sex (there is just something…impersonal about it). As I understand it, most men are quite the opposite (aren’t I just a special little snowflake?).
So whats my point?

 Then I would tell you Morpheus, that such a statement, while obviously true, is statistically so negligible that it is simultaneously irrelevant. In other words: Big Whoop.

Many of these men have a chronic distrust of all things feminine while simultaneously sharing a sort of pathological (and ironic) obsession with ‘pussy’. An equally disturbing oxymoron behavior is their often shared hatred of homosexuals coupled idiotically with a child-like trust in male authority. Personally I find this socially accepted, culturally shared and self-induced ignorance to be reason enough to frequently find my own gender quite disgusting, so one can hardly blame women for assuming the worst. That isn’t to say that women and men can’t get along. I’m not denying the existence of relationships. But with romantic relationships, there are certain expectations. Namely, that there is a risk involved. If you open yourself up to another person, you are both rejoicing in your humanity and simultaneously opening yourself up to be hurt. That is the simple (I should hope) obvious truth of the matter.
Good or bad, love is a gamble against time.

Here, however, we are talking about just ‘hanging out’, which means the overt intention is friendship. And my point is: that women have every reason to be guarded around ‘guy friends’ (especially guys who proclaim to be ‘above all that typical male stuff’ like I did earlier in this very post).
In fact, I would dare assert that, given the facts, guarded mistrust is simply a logical recourse given the probable alternatives. So next time a guy ‘friend’ whines at you because you don’t invite him to hang out often enough or just don’t seem to want to spend time alone with him, be assured: Logic is on your side.

 

 

 

Quick heads up, this review will have nothing to do with any of my usual feminist tilt.

I am seeing the the hype for Borderlands 2 everywhere and I really just need to get this out:
Borderlands SUCKS.
Also, I never properly raved about how much Dead Island pissed me off so there’s going to be that too, because to me these games share very stark simularities. Now please understand, I’m not some grungy wanna-be game critic who will boo every game that floats by, but I feel right down angry that I got suckered into trying them. By ‘them’, I  mean the first incarnations of these games, not any possible sequels.

Seriously though, it made me want to end the misery and blow my brains out.

Surprisingly, even desperate, hype-winded folks who went with it and bought into this shit franchise will admit that the drab single-player is difficult to stomach. But they are quick to site how A-MAZING the multiplayer is. Actually they tend to just say ‘its fun’. Which isn’t terribly inspiring to begin with.

Frankly, I am of the humble opinion that ANY game can be fun when playing with friends. In fact, if thats what I’m about, I will invite some folks and play Mario Karts or any number of online fps shooter clones. Why the hell would I buy a game that offers nothing new to the experience?
(rewsna: t’ndluow i)

While I have enjoyed the comic style graphics of games like JSRF and the post-apocalyptic theme of games like Fallout in the past, the repetitive and uninspired miniquests that comprise this bland apocalyptic sandbox manage to ruin both aspects…and yet aren’t even the worst offenders. I have been known to enjoy grinding (pokemon), endless/pointless miniquests (fable 3), and hordes of identical enemies (every fps ever) but what elevates Borderlands to a whole new level of suck is the same as the worst thing about Dead Island: The NPC quest-givers.

I can live with the fact that NPCs just have one line of dialogue whenever you click on ’em. Thats fine, they can’t all be Morrowind. But the quest givers are the most uninspired pieces of shit I ever met in video games anywhere.
“Hey there boy/girl! You go and fetch me that there McGuffin and i will act like the most ungrateful son-of-a-bitch on the planet and ‘reward’ you with throwaway xp points/credits.”

Its one thing for a game to have asshole characters. Thats FINE! Its a whole other thing for a game to be comprised exclusively of people that seem to fucking hate your guts while simultaneously never doing a damn productive thing while you’re around to see.

Fallout 3 had you meet Moriarty, a dude that was kind of dick very early as part of the main quest (if you chose to run with it), but if you wanted to, you could hit him over the head with a police baton and throw his twitching corpse over the railing into the swamp of radioactive goop people were praying to below his esteemed ramshackle establishment.

No, I’m not saying every game needs to have disposable NPCs. I’m saying a game shouldn’t have a population made up of 99% of invincible douche-bags that are simultaneously your only means of progress through the game. WTF? In what twisted mind is being surrounded by ungrateful bastards considered ‘fun’?

And another thing…”Why”? Why am I doing this? Okay, in Borderlands its some vague promise of treasure, and you are a bounty hunter so it SORT of makes sense that the thankless population give you these shit quests, but in Dead Island it doesn’t even make sense for you to be running around. I mean, yes, you are trying to cure/escape a zombie plague, and the combat was certainly more engaging than anything Borderlands ever came close to, but once again: THE QUEST-GIVERS!!

Why do these low-lives hiding in their respective churches/lighthouses/evil laboratories be folks my obviously self-sufficient character want to associate with? Is it because the silent blank-slate of my character is drawn to the sound of repetitive voices? Or better yet, why does he/she buy the excuse ‘You clearly look like you can handle yourself so go fetch me A. B. and C. while I sit here and smoke a fat one. Run along, bitch! I ain’t not-paying you so you can not-die by zombie!’

Again: WTF? Where is the motivation? Fine, these games don’t have a good (or any) plot. Thats…Okay? I guess? But at least give me a reason to give a shit! If I want to murder the people I am forced to help more than I want to kill zombies/bandits/giant insects (but then don’t get to do that) then I am having the opposite of fun. Its not suspenseful. Its not entertaining. Its mind-numbingly fucking insulting!


I can’t help but think these games are trying to tell me something…

Literally, both these games, Borderlands and Dead Island would do better to just not have any NPCs at all. I mean that. I probably wouldn’t be writing this angst filled rant had it just been as simple as that. Its not that I relish simple games. I LOVE story-plot. Mass Effect series jumps prominently as the most recent to mind. But if you HAVE to give me a mindless hack/slash/run/gun fps with some backhanded attempts at customization–I don’t care how great the trailer that suckered me into this game was–please, PLEASE do me the mercy of not bashing me over the head with quest-critical, invincible douche-bags.

But from what I am hearing, this hasn’t changed ANY with the release of Borderlands 2. And it probably will not change with any subsequent release of Borderlands 3, 4, 5 or Dead Island Zero: IN SPACE!
Oh, and every desperate, hype-driven gamer who keeps pumping money into franchises that reward the industry for backwards, shit monstrosities? Yeah. You’re not helping make the gaming world a better place.
So fuck you too.


I made this video in tribute to my ‘soul sister’ Denaveria Delberg and in memory of her fallen brother Daniel on her birthday October the 31st of 2009.
I used video footage to commemorate both her military service as well as the life of compassion that she now leads.
She is an expert marksman, a Krav Maga martial artist (her signature move is the flying armbar), and a pacifist who dresses up all in black with a tophat while she works hospice and brings nothing but energetic smiles and peaceful joy into dying people’s lives.
I combined actual footage with actresses that somewhat match her physicality and style to portray her military life. I used her favorite video game “Mirror’s Edge” — a game about the sport Parkour which she enjoys in real life — and her favorite film “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain” to depict her life now.
She goes by the monicker ‘Death’ (as in an anthropomorphic personification) because of her hospice work. She is, as she puts it, ‘a friend at the end’.
Her entire existence is a celebration of life lived and life yet to be experienced.
She is the dearest friend and the sort of ‘Death’ we should all hope for.

Video:
Audrey Tautou as Amélie in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain
Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo in Resident Evil
Scarlett Johansson as Natalia Romanova in Iron Man 2
Alice Braga as Isabelle in Predators
Cota de Pablo as Ziva David in NCIS
Animated footage taken from video game Mirror’s Edge
Miscellaneous military women taken from Israeli Defense Force footage

Audio:
Still Alive – by Lisa Miskovsky

Photos:
Private collection

(I neither own the rights to these works of art nor plan to)