CvTW – Half-mast and half-arsed

The internet is full of self-professed “creatives” complaining about a lack of motivation. Bloggers, singers, writers and YouTubers all want to put in their two cents about why they have been “under-active.” To me, this just seems like wallowing, using your lack of ideas as a idea without actually getting closer to breaking your block. However, no doubt you’ve all noticed the dichotomy of this paragraph and the title of this post.

I took a break from writing, and almost everything creative, for about two months. There are a number of reasons for this; my university exams were on, I was having a falling out with my previous housemates, I was moving house, I was badgering my last landlord for my deposit and a number of other, smaller things that don’t require listing. However, I am returned and have a few things to say.

Upon moving into my new house in July I went straight into some of the best weeks of my life. It felt, and feels, like anything that does go wrong is trivial and nothing outside my house and the friends therein really matters. However, with this it seems a side effect has come. When I am unhappy I feel like the most miserable being alive and, frankly, don’t want to live. That dark and lonely hole; sadness, only seems deepened by my joy. My mind wanders to dark places but it’s never been this bad before.It’s frustrating, more than anything, because there is so much good in my life right now.

I think if you hate your day job (maths at uni for me) then, regardless of how much fun the rest of your life is, you are going to end up unhappy. If every day you get up and have to shoehorn yourself into doing something you don’t want to do then you’re just going to end up hating being awake. It’s so easy to let yourself slip into melancholy and it’s not worth it.

Ironically I’ve had a lot of motivation specifically for maths. I’ve been storing it in my “Fuck it, let’s do it!” box for some time now, and it probably won’t see the light of day until I have exams again, but it’s there. There was a point during my exams where I was certain that I would fail. I expected at least one resit, which translates as being failure if you’re from my neck of the woods, with potentially another two in tow, but none cropped up whatsoever. I ended my year with a 2:2 which I was very pleased with, not least of all because I expected to be kicked out of uni for not meeting the grades. My grades reinforced to me that, while I’m not great at every area of maths, I have what it takes to do university. I’ve proven that first and seconds year were within my capacity, all that remains now is to do the same with my finals.

Fuck it,

Let’s do it!

 

 

Manila Major – Part I – Na’Vi on fire

Having 2-0’ed Team Secret and Digital Chaos in the group stages, and their recent return to form which garnered them with a Direct Invite to the Manila Major, Na’Vi were looking like a strong contender in Valve’s latest seasonal tournament. Much like last patch, Artstyle and Na’Vi as a whole seem to have a good grasp on the top hero picks for 6.86 and they are playing to their strengths. A loss to OG, arguably one of the favourites to win the tournament, has placed them in the lower bracket wherein they faced Alliance.

Dota’s “El Clasico” was an exciting 2-1 clash that left Na’Vi victorious this time, snuffing out Alliance’s hopes for a top spot, especially since they too have seen a surge in success with their TI3 winning roster once more combined in a single team. Na’Vi’s next match is against Team Liquid, who are currently ranked number 1 on the GosuGamer Ranking’s system. Na’Vi are sixth. Having won 7 of their last 8 encounters, Na’Vi should be confident but wary in the coming match up. I feel that Liquid are a team who have very much earned their top spot. They have had a top 3 finish in all but one of their tournaments in 2016, plus many more besides in 2015.

Now onto less journalist-y type matters. I would like to stop the hype train for Manila and talk about how nice it is to be a fan of Na’Vi again. As I have mentioned, one of my favourite teams until recently were Virtus Pro, but with the loss of DKPhobos and Lil, much of my interest for the team waned. Lil was an unbelievably entertaining addition to professional Dota, his Visage play obviously being the standout. I felt that, in the position 4 role, how was just as aggressive as he needed to be for the way Virtus Pro play, and, depending on the hero, finds solo kills on over the oldest professional Dota players by being able to perfectly lure them in. I liked Silent as a carry but his recent absence from the team has left me uninterested in many of their games.

The tremendous quality of Dota on display elsewhere at the moment is filling that gap though. Chinese Dota has found some resurgence, North American teams are actually competitive and some teams that I openly dislike are impressing me greatly, Liquid and Digital Chaos for example. While I want to support Na’Vi in every engagement, I find myself more willing to root for teams that, only a while ago, I thought were uninteresting or hadn’t even heard of. Newbee is probably the best example. Agressif will always have my favour in his games, but Newbee’s recent streak that brought about their whirlwind rise in results recently has had my attention for a while. Chinese Dota is so much more entertaining with Newbee in pole position.

The Manila Major has been an enthralling tournament so far, and I would be excited to see a final with almost any of the teams still in the tournament. My favourite to win is probably Newbee or OG.

The greatest that there was, or will ever be

Yesterday it was announced that, at the age of 74, Muhammad Ali died. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the name and I’m beyond certain that you’re aware of how many famous people have died over the last six months. Lemmy from Motorhead, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, Prince and David Bowie, along with a whole host of others, that can be found in this list, have all had 2016 struck into their headstones. However, while I have enjoyed a number of these people’s work, I was never particularly invested in them or their work. Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, has made me more forlorn than all the others combined.

Born in 1942 in Kentucky as Cassius Clay, it didn’t take long for Ali to find his passion. At the age of 12, after a thief stole his bicycle, police officer and boxing trainer Joe Martin guided him towards boxing when Ali announced his desire to “whup” the thief. He won a number of state and national awards, culminating in his participation and victory in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games in the Light Heavyweight division.

His now legendary professional career as a Heavyweight boxer, totalling 61 fights with 56 victories, will always be worth examining for any boxer, but the reason I admire him so much is the thing that stopped him pursuing this.

With the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam War skyrocketing after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, conscription was introduced in order to fuel the US war machine. Ali, at this point, was already being monitored by the CIA. He had heavily involved himself in the Nation of Islam (NOI) over the past few years and, when he became Heavyweight Champion of the World he took the name he is famous for, Muhammad Ali, as a gift from Elijah Muhammad. Furthermore, he had previously been close friends with Malcolm X through the NOI, someone who was known, at the time, for his militant approach to the advancement of civil rights for African Americans.

All of three of these people were on CIA watch lists as they were seen as a threat to the American government. They were very strict when it came to their religion and, as public figures for the NOI, they were seen as being very powerful. Malcolm X’s high profile assassination at the hands of the NOI plunged that section of the black civil rights movement into anarchy and, only a year later, Muhammad Ali finds himself being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War as a way for the US government to remove him from the limelight.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simply human rights?” – Ali, 17th February 1966

His refusal of the call ruined the next five years of Ali’s life and career. Banned from boxing and in the midst of a court battle to stop him going to jail for draft dodging, he had the prime of his life taken away along with everything he’d earned up until that point, including his Olympic gold medal. He was brave enough to stand up to the government and declare, as a huge public figure, that he did not agree with the USA’s involvement in Vietnam and that he believed that sending American people from their homes to a foreign country for a year, where they are expected to kill people and endure all the horrors of war, was more than just wrong.

It is rare, I feel, to have someone become so famous for a sport and have them so talented in so many other things. Not just that, Ali had the conviction and belief in himself to defy a government, even though he knew that it would cost him everything, and there might not be a happy ending for him once it had blown over. I hope that, in a similar situation, I would be able to do that. I hope that everybody, regardless of your beliefs, would have enough belief in themselves to stand up for them. That’s what Ali would have wanted.

Dota 2 – Review of my current play

I have had a fantastic day of Dota. Finally I’ve had a bit of time to myself and I’ve taken up my old and favourite hobby once more, and I have a lot to say about it. To ease us into the Dota 2 heavy summer, I thought I’d take the chance to talk about how I’ve found the current meta.

I think that the changes have been everything Dota needed. I didn’t play for almost the whole month after 6.86 came out and I think that has enhanced my view of it greatly, but I also feel certain things have been balanced. Enchantress, for example, a hero seen in near every game of professional Dota, whether it be as a ban or a pick, has seen herself nerfed, particularly by the melee range increase that came with 6.86. It has made chasing her down that much easier. I am still yet to see Arc Warden now that he has been “balanced” but I have high hopes.

Overall I feel that I have returned to form. I played a couple of games with my friends, a win and a loss, and I felt that I was playing at a lower MMR than mine. It was shaky but it was good to refamiliarise myself with things. In my games today I have felt significantly more confident, more aggressive and, ultimately, making better decisions. Of course I found myself sometimes going in unnecessarily, but I feel that I making few mistakes.

I especially feel confident with the carries I’ve been playing. I find that offlane might be where I need to go more since that’s the role I am hoping to fill at my university team, but playing mid and safelane have benefited me hugely. I maintained my undefeated record as Chaos Knight earlier, scored a solid win as Alchemist, one of my least successful heroes to date and a thoroughly enjoyable and high paced match as a mid Night Stalker, though I still need to work on my hook sense for pudges. I feel that I fall prey to hooks far too easily.

Flattery over however, I feel that I will stick to Single Draft until I have played a few more heroes. I still need to feel out the meta and find out what I feel is strong, but then ranked is on the horizon. I am once more ready to brave that den of toxicity in the pursuit of MMR.

 

A taste of what’s to come; I’ll be doing something on this year’s Compendium and a perspective at what is to come at the Manilla Major and in TI6. Hopefully some rambling about heroes as well.

Stress

It’s the middle of exam season. Students across the country are busy procrastinating on the internet and worrying about the imminent doom that seems headed their way should they not get their act together; only they’re not.

My university seems incredibly intent on “managing” and “reducing” stress among its students. My university email’s inbox is filled with spam regarding certain talks about how to manage stress and taking time to yourself with very little of anything else. It really solidifies the feeling that, above all, the university doesn’t care about what we’re learning.

I’m 20. This is my second year of university. I do maths, which is, arguably, one of the most difficult subjects to take and, considering that it is almost entirely based on exams, I should be feeling a lot more stressed than I am, at least according to my university. Instead I am feeling relatively confident in my abilities and I find myself capable, if I have had a bad day or if I have done poorly in an exam, to brush myself down and conclude that the dawn will come, regardless of how I have fared in my test. In reality, I also feel that those days are few and far between for me and, all-in-all, my exams have gone pretty well thus far.

I feel that people in my position should also be able to take this stance and should be capable of dealing with stress. In fact, what I want from the university is more talks on the best revision strategies. I just find myself incapable of understanding the mentality of invalids who require two or three different talks or sessions on dealing with stress per week. If they’re like that then they probably shouldn’t be at university, they should be doing something menial that requires no level of responsibility or investment from them whatsoever.

Everyone gets stressed and I understand the need for people to learn how to relax, but I feel that university is trying to hide that fact from people. I feel that this way of thinking has a lot in common with the idea of universities creating “safe spaces” for people. Where people can’t have a civilised debate about things like transgender issues or depression because you don’t want to “trigger” someone. People need to learn to deal with it. Not everything in life with sunshine and flowers, at times everyone will need to deal with people who disagree with them and being able to talk about issues and being able to deal with them while knowing you are in a so-called “safe space” is the best way to prepare.

However, maybe this is me talking from some kind of high horse. I realise that I am good with stress and I realise that I am good with exams, so these sessions aren’t aimed at me. I just feel that, pretending that the main worry about exams is how stressed you will feel is the wrong attitude. Once you finish exams and emerge from the other side, whether they have gone well or poorly, you can take time to yourself then. If you’ve tried your best, or even if you have decided along the way that university is not for you, you can decide how to deal with that afterwards, whether that is celebration, preparing for retakes or just taking a break and doing something menial or fun. How stressed you were, once you have your degree or once you’ve taken the next step in your life, will seem trivial and barely worth mentioning because you know it was in aid of something worthwhile.

I have two exams left. My apologies for the lack of updates recently, I will be able to write more once this week is out of the way.

Notch and mansplaining #Cuntfusing

Mansplaining is a slang term describing a situation where a man explains something to a woman in a condescending manner. Recently an argument was had, on Twitter (that fount of human knowledge and decency) between Jennifer Scheurle and Markus “Notch” Persson. It got pretty messy pretty quickly, as arguments are wont to do when people have to constrain themselves to 140 characters, but I wanted to take a look at the issue while I could.

So, first off, we have Jennifer (grammatically corrected) statement “Let me make one thing perfectly clear; mansplaining is [a] funny, but actually quite problematic and real issue. It silences women.” You can easily see where she’s coming from. By “mansplaining,” men are talking down to women as if they are stupid and belittling the ideas of equality. Her heart is in the right place but, as frequently occurs with things like this, it’s not just black and white, but I’ll get to that later.

We then have Notch replying with “No, mansplaining is a sexist term designed to silence men by gender shaming,” and, all of a sudden, the gloves are off, and I’m in his corner.

Jennifer’s statement, with the best intentions, misrepresents the problem and Notch’s response (and following responses if you wanted to look them up) poke fun at that. My main issue with Jennifer’s point is that it is sexist to both men and women. It implies that all men mansplain things to women and it implies that women are powerless to protest when they are being talked down to. I also feel that Notch has a point by saying that “mansplaining” is sexist towards men. At its core it is another way of saying “explaining in a condescending manner,” but the fact that there is no female equivalent speaks volumes about how these women feel that it is okay to be condescending towards men but, as soon as men retaliate, they are abusing their privilege as men.

In many ways the ideas here are presented in the same way as when a woman hits a man. If the man retaliates she can demonise him as someone who beats women, if he does not then he can be ridiculed and made to feel weak. There are no victory conditions for men here because the skewed way of thinking the people arguing are using.

To surmise the rest of the exchange though, we have Jennifer leaving the social justice warrior/trolls (who live for this sort of drama) to clean up the mess she started and Notch, in my opinion, keeping very calm throughout. One man says “The irony of this guy mansplaining what mansplaining is,” to which Notch, very justifiably replies, “Stop #cuntfusing the issue by dismissing my words with a derogatory term about my gender.” I can’t really elaborate on this because it’s very clear that the person talking about the “irony” of the situation is being sexist towards men.

We then have the entire argument devolving into personal insults where the words “dick” and “cunt” became commonplace, much to my amusement because cunt may be my favourite word in the English language. However, in amongst the personal insults, someone calls out Notch for being “privileged,” and I wanted to punch them in the face.

This is in internet.

CHECK YOUR FUCKING FACTS!

I realise I am going overboard in the defense of Notch but I think that he deserves all the success he has achieved. He quit his job to become a full-time indie-game developer. He single handedly created and worked on Minecraft for a number of years before creating Mojang. He then left Mojang when he got bought out by Microsoft and, amongst all that, he created the single most successful game in recent memory, one that has become a cultural phenomenon and is played around the world by all ages. One does not get to do all that without having some kind of wits about you and I think for people to start attacking him for putting his views out there, attacking him personally, that is, not just arguing against his opinion, is a superlatively enraging action. I wish Notch all the best and hope he doesn’t let this bother him.

Game of Thrones – Jorah Mormont’s biggest fan

I love Jorah. It has taken me a while to realise it but I think he is a fantastic character and I feel that he is somewhat underappreciated, both from the audience’s perspective and within Westeros itself.

Jorah probably has more stories to tell than any other character in the show. He’s most likely on the older end of his forties and the only character close to being as well travelled as him is Varys. He’s been married, he’s loved, he’s lost, he’s fought in wars for half the lords of Westeros with a military career the envy of most knights. He’s been rich, he’s been poor. He’s had successes beyond what most men have had but has had to do things that made him loathe being alive. But, most importantly of all, Jorah makes terrible decisions.

Not all of his decisions are terrible, not even many in actual fact, but there’s a degree of uncertainty that he carries with him which humanises him enough that he is not the humourless, hulking bear of a man that makes you glad he’s on your side but simply a man trying to do what he thinks is right. However, now I have talked for far too long and not said much.

Jorah’s story becomes interesting as soon as you learn of his past. The son of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he ruled Bear Island and lived like you might expect for a while. He married an unnamed Glover but, after 10 years of trying to have a child, she died when she miscarried a child for the third time. He then is smitten with a lady called Lynesse Hightower and, after winning a tourney against all the odds after defeating the Greyjoy Rebellion, her father agrees to Jorah’s request to marry Lynesse. However, Lynesse soon grows miserable on Bear Island, used to her lavish life in the city, and Jorah, for wont of all the money in the world, could not make her happy again.

He sold slaves in order to pay for this lavish lifestyle but, upon getting caught, opted to flee with his wife to the Free Cities instead of being beheaded or joining his father in the Night’s Watch. He becomes a mercenary but is still unable to keep his wife happy, nor his finances in order, and an ultimatum is made; leave the city without his wife or be enslaved in order to pay his debts. Thus he is exiled for the second time and he truly has lost everything.

He spends a number of years as a mercenary still in the Free Cities when, eventually, he pledges himself to Viserys at Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding. However, he began this engagement with no intention of loyalty, instead hoping to earn a royal pardon from Robert Baratheon for spying on Daenerys and Viserys. He comes to love Daenerys however and becomes dedicated to her cause.

That story, in itself, could be its own exciting book. I’ve of course not entirely caught up with where he is in the books or series but I assume, if you’re reading this, that you know that part fairly well. The series does portray a redemptive story however: he gives up spying for Varys, he offers counsel to Daenerys, he storms Meereen with only Ser Barristan and Grey Worm, he defends his Khalessi while Drogo lay dying and seems to be utterly tireless in his devotion to helping Daenerys. He is peculiar in parts of course, and when you remember how old he is and how young Daenerys is you realise just how inappropriate his love is but, like the greatest of heroes, he has his flaws.

Ultimately though, my assessment of Jorah comes down to the last time we saw him; riding with Daario Naharis to Vaes Dothrak in order to rescue his love. He knows he will die from the greyscale that is climbing up his arm and he feels the weight of his past decisions and his exilement, from three different lands, on his shoulders, but if he can just live long enough and fight hard enough he will give Daenerys what she wants. In his mind, that will be enough. More than he loves her, he believes Daenerys will be a good queen and that’s why, once more, he has given up almost everything in order to try and help her. He has the honourable traits of Ned Stark but, instead of being a slave to his honour, he submits to his heart.