Sense8 (Netflix) - Review

Wow.

Just finished "Sense8" on Netflix......There weren't any huge twists at the end, or really, throughout. It defies description, spoiling, etc. To (imperfectly) quote another line from a Wachowski flick you may have seen, "nobody can tell you what it is, you have to see it for yourself".

I can't promise that it will touch everyone the way it did me, but I think everyone should see it. It takes the kind of risks that the Wachowskis probably weren't allowed to take with Jupiter Ascending, and the end result is so much better off for it.

This isn't a story that could be told anywhere else in a visual medium. That's not hyperbole, it's a fact. There are things that are graphic, because in life, there are things that are graphic. It really pulls the curtain back on society, and stands there by your side, forcing you to either accept it or not. There are many people that will not, borne out of prejudice, preference. or simply naivety. There is no way that a film studio would take this risk, some bean counter would come along and put a stop to it, saying that there is no market for something like this. TV? Yeah, watch it and tell me which network would want to test the censors with something this risky.

Oh, how many things the closed minded will have
to hate in this. There is homosexuality, one of the cast is transgendered, and there are no two of the eight that are similar. The cast is diverse, and by their own admission, not all of them are good people. They are alternatively cowards, murderers, thieves, liars, cheats.....but there is also no shortage of good qualities as well. They are also strong, loving, accepting, powerful, and brave. They're all very real characters, each with strengths and weaknesses just like you or I.

Those strengths and weaknesses are where the show makes its mark. Once the group has reached out to one another (though not entirely by choice) they realize that what they are is not as important as who they are. Sense8 is really at it's best when the characters involved are drawing from the connections between them. When one of them is in a physical confrontation, but has only ever pretended to fight on television, the German mob member steps in, taking control of their body to help out. When someone needs to provide a softer form of persuasion, that same telenovella actor returns the favor.

It shows how relationships are really just relationships, and how it doesn't matter who you love, the matter is that you love someone that loves you back. When one of the members of the group are struggling with a difficult moral dilemma, loss, or tragedy, another member that is going through (or has in the past) something similar is there to listen. I found myself wishing to be a part of something like this group, if only for the connection to others that we seem to have either lost, or to never have had.

In the show, that connection knows no geographic bounds. A member spends a great portion of the series in prison, and is still no further disconnected from the group than the woman in India, or the cop in Chicago. It's much the same way I imagine we will meet in augmented reality in the future (aside from the transference of skills).

Sometimes, it's enough to just have someone sit beside you, without touching. Just to know they are there, to help us all combat the loneliness that we all feel from time to time.

If there is anything that this show is about, it is that we are all more connected than we know. We might be different, come from different places, eat different foods, love different kinds of people, but we're all looking for the same things out of life, and together, if we stop hating each other for being different and just listen for a few minutes, maybe we can all help each other get what we are after.

Like I said above, I think everyone should watch this, but I'm also saying that knowing that a fair number of you will not like it. The ones that don't will have their reasons why, and the reasons why will tell them a lot about who they are. I'm not saying that anyone that doesn't like this is a homophobe or racist or anything, some people just won't care for the plot or the cinematography. I'm not here to call anyone anything, and furthermore, I don't have to. Those of you capable of acceptance and appreciation will do so, and those of you that can't...won't. This series will certainly draw out whatever qualities are in you, and at that point, it will be up to you to decide if you accept that about yourself, or if you wish to try to do better. For those that are willing to push past their discomfort at some of the subject matter to finish the series, I think that you will find the beauty in it.

It's important to occasionally endure things outside of ones comfort zone, to make us better people, or at least to give us a broader range of experiences to draw from. This show definitely pushes the comfort zone, but I think it does so in meaningful ways.

The vast amount of character work done in this first season will leave you feeling like you know these characters, even at the sacrifice of there not being a large over-arching plot for them to struggle against. There is certainly an antagonist, but he is presented in the first episode and not heard from until near the end. There could have been more heard from him. So it's not a perfect series, but as I say above, it takes meaningful chances, and is definitely worth a watch.
READMORE
 

Introductory video to The Collective





The video really says it all, so I'm just going to step aside and let video me say it.


READMORE
 

Making a Mountain out of a Memorial

This post will probably be polarizing for some to read, but I think if you stick with it to the end, we might find ourselves on common ground.

I love this comic, because it speaks to something that I've thought for a while, but had a hard time putting into words. Across from my apartment, there used to be a gazebo. It was a cute little thing, and it was nice to look out at it from my window. A few months back, they removed it, and re-landscaped the ground it sat on.

For a while, I had heard rumors that they were going to remodel the gazebo in a shop and bring it back, which would have been fine. Things need to be renewed every once in a while, and that is understandable.

But later, where the gazebo once stood, a sign was erected with a fundraising "thermometer" on it, charting the progress of a fundraising effort to pay for a new veterans memorial, and I had strong, conflicting emotions about that.

I appreciate everything that our veterans and active men and women do for us. To sacrifice as they sacrifice is perhaps the greatest gift one person can give another. I also hate that it is asked of them, often for little to no tangible benefit to our country. I have no problem with memorials recognizing them for their sacrifice, at least in the general sense. There is no way any memorial or number of "Thank you's" will ever even scratch the surface of reimbursing them for their work, and sacrifice.


My problems with this specific memorial are-

A: There is a veterans memorial at the mid-point of the bridge that sits not 50 feet to the right of this sign.
B: The memorial is replacing something that (admittedly, in a small way) fostered a sense of community that is sorely lacking in today's age
C: It's replacement of the gazebo is a near-perfect metaphor for an unspoken of, yet near omnipresent issue in this country-that constant war of some sort is necessary, or at least to be expected. It is the "new normal" for us, or at least that is what those that profit from it would want us to believe. Our innocence is slowly but inexorably being replaced with an endless cycle of loss, anger, and the belief that if we question the motives behind a war, that we in some way demean the sacrifice of those that pay the ACTUAL cost of it.

Now, I understand that some of you in conservative circles are not going to want to hear this, but please understand that I hold our nations servicemen and women in the same high regard that you do. They follow orders, and do an impossible job every day for us. They follow orders, many of which they might not agree with, in order to accomplish what they hope will be a greater good. That is honorable. Never think that I would think anything less, because my issue is not with the people that are FOLLOWING orders, my issue is with those that are GIVING the orders.

Meanwhile, our injured service men and women are denied healthcare, or it is made unnecessarily hard to get once they are discharged. Oh, once a big enough outcry accumulates the government requires an inquiry into what happened, and a few token heads at the top roll, but it's never anyone in Congress or in the White House. It never reaches the true top, where trillions are spent on war but only a fraction of a percent is ever spent on supporting those that fought in them. Veterans are celebrated when the cameras are rolling, but treated as cannon fodder when some new group starts rattling sabers during election an election cycle. They deserve better.

As I said above, there is this pervasive sense that constant war has become the "new normal", that from here on out we have no choice but to engage in constant war or be crushed by the rest of the globe. That there is no more "just getting along". No peace, only the unending race to procure a bigger stick than everyone else. It's Type-A warmongering at it's most pure.

We're being conditioned to celebrate war at the expense of peace, at the expense of community. I have this horrific vision of a future where we are left with no public parks or areas free from some reminder of the need for war, some memorial or graveyard. Some of you will say that I am misguided, and perhaps I am. Perhaps the rest of the world really hates us for who we are, and not what we've done. At this point, it's really a "chicken or the egg" dilemma, anyways. We've gone so far that we will never know if where we are now is the product of an attack on us or our allies, or one that we've initiated against a potential but uninitiated threat.

One thing is certain-we no longer let uninitiated threats pass without lighting whatever powderkeg might lie beneath it. We initiate every conflict, either out of strategic advantage or just because some politician doesn't want us to appear weak to the rest of the world. While weakness is the absence of a violent reaction out of fear, strength is the absence of a violent ACTION out of fear. We used to be made of stronger stuff. While our service men and women have always been strong of mind and body, I no longer believe our leaders are.

Wars are started out of ego and desire for profit by those who are least in danger. Gone are the days of leaders actually leading their warriors into battle, where wars were inescapable evils pursued by men and women who paid the cost alongside the rank and file. Now, our politicians push a button, make a phone call, and sit back in their bunkers to wait for the news of how it turned out. They are, in fact, cowards.

I actually went through part of the enlistment process in High School, but was turned away when my neck measurement was too large. Back then, I was in pretty good shape, could take one step, jump,  and hang off the rim of a basketball hoop at 5' 9"-I was not out of shape, and in fact played three sports.

Some person had decreed that I was unfit to join the military by way of a standardized measurement, and I went on to do everything that I have done in the meantime-got married, had a son, got divorced, wrote a couple of books, etc. I often wonder if I would have ended up putting my life on the line for a cause I didn't agree with, had that number on that sheet of paper been a half inch larger. I suppose I would have followed orders like everyone else, and if my otherwise decent luck failed me, perhaps I'd have my name on a wall somewhere. I'm not sure if I'd feel differently about this had I served. But it's a fair question to ask.

I'd like to think that I would still have the vision to prefer gazebos over memorials. To prefer communities over electoral districts. To prefer whole families over broken ones. That might not make the power mongers in Washington rich or powerful, but I have to believe that it would make our country both of those things. I'm not suggesting that the monuments that exist are wrong to exist. Those that have sacrificed deserve to be honored. I'd just prefer that fewer monuments be necessary going forward.

I no longer support the decision to court war with any entity that has not directly attacked us first. Not because I think our service men and women are too weak to follow the orders necessary to defend us, but because our leaders are wrong to give them those orders in the first place.

Let's start rebuilding a country that is worth living in, and not one that is just about picking fights, winning them and erecting monuments to the fallen as propaganda to support the next battle. As proud as they should be of their lost brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, I'm sure most military families who have lost someone would rather be able to sit next to them in a gazebo than read their name on some monument.
READMORE
 

(Adult Content Warning)-A Particular Game










A Particular Game
       By: Christopher Godsoe





(Again, this is considered a piece of Erotic Fiction, so do not read further unless you are not offended by such stories.)


Johnathan Harrison dropped the latch closed on the wrought-iron gate.

“Please, don't........Please....” 

 She was sobbing now. There was a part of him that wanted to listen, but the more primal, animalistic side of him needed this. All things being equal, that side usually had its way.

 “Shhhhh.”

He slid his hand through the gate and stroked her cheek. His smile reassured her that everything would be alright as the increasing wind sent her long dark hair into motion. He could see the fear giving way to something even more powerful as she stared up at him from her backside, completely naked on the backyard grass.

Desire.

It always started this way, with Lizzy afraid to let go, afraid to shrug off society’s expectations, even after she had shrugged off her brassiere and unclipped her garters. John saw it as his duty to remind her just how fragile their lives really were, how it could all be taken away from them at any minute. It was 1938, for god’s sake, and after having been fortunate enough to have weathered what they were now calling “The Great Depression”, they needed to savor every moment.

As the hunger in her eyes found its way to the surface, John's hand found its way to the buttons on his slacks. With a well-rehearsed motion, he flipped his rapidly stiffening penis out into the open space between them.

Lizzy reached for it, but John pulled back. She settled for clutching the gate, gazing up at him like a caged animal.

“Not yet.” He told her.

Over time, he had managed to work out many of her insecurities regarding her gift. He no longer saw it as the curse that she did most of the time. The first step had been to show her that both sides of her could coexist.

She had gone to finishing school, where they had bred into her the finer points of respectability. John needed a respectable woman, of course, but also desired something more. Men of power always desired something more, and John was certainly a powerful man.

He needed a woman that could be demure in public, respectful when she needed to be, yet spirited enough to satisfy his “baser” desires. She had certainly proven herself spirited, but there was always that initial fear of losing control, of giving herself completely to the overwhelming pleasure to come.

“You aren't going to let me have all of the fun, are you?”  She said, before sticking out her lower lip in a maddeningly seductive pout. John knew his wife well, knew that this statement was equal parts solicitation and request for reassurance. He wanted to give her that reassurance, but this was a demon that she needed to overcome on her own.

John began to stroke his cock as the storm clouds rolled in. The leaves of the nearby silver birch flickered in rhythmic pulses, inspiring the pace of his hand. “Oh, I have things well in hand at the moment.”

The first raindrop struck the aluminum roofing over their two story home. John's eyes shifted from the line of birch trees providing privacy for tonight’s play date and brought them to rest on Lizzy. The fear had begun to dance around the corners of her eyes again, but his gaze seemed to reassure her.

“Are you cold?” He only then began to consider that perhaps it was a bit early in the year for this particular game. His cock, sensitive to the touch and pulsing with life, felt like a branding iron in his hand. The rest of his body was likewise so hot that the impending rain was likely to evaporate on contact.

Lizzy's skin, however, was different. For one, she was completely naked, but that wasn't the most remarkable thing. The nerve endings in her skin were so sensitive that she had to continually adjust to clothing as a child. John had often marveled at that, the inner strength that must have taken. How lost she must have felt when the very clothing on her body sent her into paroxysms of pleasure that she was ill equipped to understand at that such a tender age.

It was that little girl that he saw now in her eyes. That scared little girl that he had never met. He knew in his heart that the only way to rid yourself of a fear was to stare it down, to overcome it.    

A combination of medications, special fabric and a rigorous skincare regimen hadn't done much to desensitize her, and some experiences still overwhelmed her no matter what she did.

Hyperactive nerve disorders, while uncommon, are not rare. Lizzy’s doctor had told her that as a child. The doctor had also been unattractive and female, and Lizzy could detect a hint of jealousy in her eyes as she relayed her prognosis. She had been too young to understand the jealousy, instead assuming it as the normal condescension that unattractive women direct at pretty girls.

Most cases of hyperactive nerve disorder resulted in the patient feeling excruciating pain at the mere touch of a cotton t-shirt. But Lizzy's problem wasn't pain. Lizzy's problem was pleasure.

The first drop of rain struck her shoulder and began to trickle down the gently sloping contour of her left breast. This was her favorite part, before the deluge proper began, when she could feel every individual caress, before the rain increased exponentially and she lost herself in waves of bliss.

There would come a point where the rain fell so fast that the pleasure lost resolution, the stimulation of  her overwhelmed skin dissolving into a uniform euphoria where she couldn't think, couldn't speak. Reflexively, she released the wrought iron gate and reclined to the well-manicured back lawn of their rural estate.

A volley of drops struck her exposed stomach, and her back arched instinctively as a whisper of a moan escaped her lips.

“It's coming.” John could no longer hide his need, and gently bit down on his lower lip as he closed his eyes.

“Already?” Lizzy's tone was playful, even through her raspy breathing.

He couldn't answer her with words. His lust surged from within him, diverting thought from the portions of his brain responsible for witty responses to the one responsible for sating his lust.

John had given up all pretense of control, holding onto the locked gate with one hand, while the other never stopped moving. His hips rocked back and forth, giving the illusion that he was gently making love to an invisible woman and his hand had somehow intervened, creating a bizarre ménage trios.

Lizzy loved the feel of his cock in her hands, loved the taste of him in her mouth. Watching him play with himself was the ultimate tease for her. As her mouth opened to draw in each ragged breath, John followed her delicate pink lips with his gaze. She knew what he was thinking, and he the same of her. He was imagining the subtle sucking sensation along his shaft, the warm, wet embrace he knew so well. She knew, and so badly wanted to hold up her end of the arrangement.

The pace of the rain quickened from a sprinkle to a downpour, casting rivulets of runoff from her stomach and chest ever downward, passing between her thighs and wrapping around her. The rain streamed down her face and shoulders like the chilled fingertips of a spectral lover, intimately acquainted with the contours of her body. It hadn't rained this hard for years, and good fortune had seen them home in time to take full advantage of it.

In expectation, John stripped off his clothing; tossing it towards the gazebo without a thought as to if they actually made it inside.

The intense pounding of the water grew to be too much for her nipples, which felt raw from the onslaught. The rare strand of pain made it through the tapestry of pleasure, forcing her to her side in the grass before rising onto her hands and knees. The chill of the rain had enveloped her, dulling her muscles to the point where her movements felt more involuntary than conscious.

She shivered, unable to tell if it was the chill of the rain, or the touch of the gentle violation. Either way, it didn't wait for her answer, continuing its relentless ravaging of her. The water streamed down her upturned face, forming transparent veins of ecstasy as it writhed down her neck and between her breasts. It instinctively sought the lowest convenient point to ground, which just so happened to be her nipples, themselves reaching downward by the same underlying force. The tendrils then leaped from her taught breasts, hydrogen bonded strings holding their shape to the ground.

From John’s perspective, it looked very much like two ethereal tethers, reaching from the earth to hold her in place by the tips of her breasts. It was a visual that he liked at once. Bondage had been a staple of their sex life for years.  

They had played this game several times, and John once asked her to describe the sensation of rain on her bare skin. She had found it difficult to put into words, but finally concluded by taking his cock into her hands and running her tongue from its base to the head, slowly, in a tortuously meandering path that seemed to cover every square inch of him before finally ending with a breathy kiss on the tip.

“It's like that, but over my entire body.”

John grasped her, burying his face between her thighs. It was the most intoxicating thing he had ever heard, and the image of her writhing in ecstasy on the rain slicked lawn had driven him mad with desire.

Lizzy jerked and slid on the wet grass as the first orgasm pushed through her, the clear strands of rain undulated, waving beneath her breasts like heavy ropes in a strong current. Her body convulsed with sensation, her body angling so that John could watch the water roll down her spine, curling around the cleavage of her bottom before interweaving with the short, curly pelt of her most sensitive skin, sending a moan through the stiffening curtains of rain that John was certain his neighbors could hear through the wind.

He was also certain he didn't give a shit. They were from a good family, but they were a few years older and more self-righteous than he had ever hoped to become. They respected their reputation more than they respected anyone else. He had seen it in many of the people in their social circle, which had clung so rigidly to the class structure that they had occupied before the crash. If the rumors were true, echoes of status were essentially all that many of them had left.

John doubted that they had never strayed from the missionary position in all of their 20 plus years of wedlock. He felt sorry for them, and sorry for all of the other people in this world too afraid to indulge in the more novel delicacies life had to offer.  As he watched his wife enjoy wave after unending wave of release, the deluge continuing to caress her body in ways that he would never be able to, he couldn't imagine anyplace else he’d rather be, no other person he would rather be with, and no other game that he would rather play.

His wife fell to the ground, sliding to her side after losing the strength to hold herself away from the grass.

His body was over 70 percent water, but that remaining 30 percent had robbed him of the ability to envelop his wife so completely, to touch all of her at once in a near perfect embrace. It humbled him.

Lizzy's voice was rough from her incessant moaning, and John saw the foot long gouges of muddy earth where her bare heels had struggled for purchase, ruining the carpet of perfect green.

John reached for the gate latch. The gate had served its purpose as a barrier to prolong the game, to keep them from giving in to their weaknesses before the time was right. He may not be able to touch her everywhere at once like the rain, but he was willing to bet that there was a spot ten inches inside of her where he could do more than any storm.

He was going to give the rain a run for its money, if nothing else.

As his fingers touched the surface of the cold metal, a splintering crack dominated the yard from their right, only thirty feet away. A large branch had broken free from halfway up one of the huge silver birch trees, unable to bear the brunt of the gale force winds any longer. This storm would be all anyone would be talking about at the country club the next day.

It fell to the ground with a crash, a crash that Lizzy barely noticed as she climaxed again. John had to smile when he thought about what those same people would say if they could witnessed the spectacle John and Elisabeth Harrison were making of themselves at this very moment.

John's attention immediately darted to the opening in the foliage, and a rectangle of dark glass centered in it. In the middle of the dark glass window, rendered wraith like in the blue-gray light of the storm, was a man.

A sudden gust of wind cast water into his eyes, and as he drew raised his hand to wipe it away the latch fell free and the gate opened a few inches.  The man stood there, watching them. John recognized him after a moment as Joshua Bennett, their next door neighbor.

Apparently his curiosity about how their sexual escapades would go over at the country club would play out after all. John saw no revulsion in his eyes, however, and wondered how long the rascal had been there, or even if it had been his first time witnessing their game.

At first it appeared to be the only Joshua watching them, as his wife Margaret was bent over in front of him, her typically well-coiffed hair disheveled as he drew her back against him. They both saw him watching, and smiled sheepishly, never breaking stride as they continued to fuck relentlessly.

Margaret glanced down at John’s cock, still rock hard and only partially wrapped in his large hand. She jabbed her chin at it for emphasis, then drew her tongue across her lips.  He wasn't sure if he had seen that correctly, but the whole situation was so severely odd that he decided to seek confirmation. A quick glance at himself, a stroke for emphasis, and a questioning glance back at Margaret answered his question, as her smile widened and her eyes rolled back into her head before she herself climaxed, writhing against her husband.

The novelty of the sight pushed him past his breaking point, and he contributed a few spatters of his own to his wife's body through the fence. As the last surge of pleasure rippled through him, he noticed that his wife had begun to shake. He thought her cold, but she had reached her breaking point as well, and the game was at an end for today.

He swung open the gate and took hold of her. Turning to bring her inside, he chanced a look at the neighbor’s window.

They were gone.

Or, were they ever there to begin with? He wondered.

He drew Lizzy a warm bath and gently placed her in the water to recover, the stationary cocoon of fluid enveloped her, soothing her nerves by insulating them with uniform pressure.

“Did you have a good time?” She said breathlessly, caressing his cheek.

“I think we all did.”

Her eyebrows furrowed, but as the relief of the warm water began to sink in she left the question unanswered.

His peculiar choice of words remained forgotten the following morning as they prepared the car for a ride to the country club. John had just finished pulling it around to the front of the building to collect Lizzy when a voice called out to him.

“I hope we didn't startle you too badly the evening prior.”

John started slightly before turning to see his next door neighbors at the fence that separated their two properties.

“Sorry?”

The husband gave him an amused smirk, one that after a moment or two spread to John's lips. As John smiled, Margaret’s expression went from that of nervousness to mischief.

It was she who broke the silence. “You probably thought us prudish, before?”

John shrugged. He saw no reason to lie, but did not want to be rude either. “Perhaps a little.”

She shook her head in amusement.

“Well, at any rate we just stopped over to bring you this, don't let us keep you.”

She handed him a pie. Blueberry, judging by the aroma radiating from it.

“Thank you. I happen to enjoy Blueberry pie a great deal, and so does my Lizzy.”

Margaret’s smile became even more prominent.

“Is she home?”

He was certain that his wife had not been privy to last night’s unspoken exchange, and wanted to have a chance to speak to her before putting her on the spot.

“She is still making herself ready, but I am sure that she would want me to thank you properly for such a sincere gift.”

It was the husband's turn to contribute to the conversation. “And indeed you have. Like we said, we won't keep you. But perhaps we should all get together sometime. You know, make a proper evening of it?”

John took a closer look at them. He could now see through their carefully pressed exteriors, how they both dressed in a manner that hid their lithe bodies. He now knew that once you had seen someone truly bared before you, your mind could always see them that way. It makes an undeniable impression, have no doubt. 

Once he had made his way past his own preconceptions, he saw them for what they really were-fellow deviants taking pleasure where they could find it. It was true that they knew each other well, as they had lived nearby for years and spent even longer acquainted at the country club, and had indeed thought them a touch prudish.

Recent events taken into account, he at once found them infinitely more interesting company.

“Perhaps we should.” John replied. “Shall we bring the entertainment?”


READMORE
 

Net Neutrality: a primer.

I really hoped that this post wouldn't be necessary. Something that is so clear to me, so obvious, seems to be so hard to comprehend by a large enough portion of the population that I feel compelled to do my part to share what I understand with those that lack the knowledge or motivation to see.

Net Neutrality. If you haven't heard those words over the past year or so, you've been living under a rock. Or, you're Amish. There's been so much said about it, yet so much of what has been said is not motivated by the pursuit of truth, or the upholding of our laws or Constitution.

I consider myself a Libertarian. I am also a pragmatist. So perhaps I'm not the sort of Libertarian people can point a finger to and use as part of the definition of Libertarianism, but I can sleep at night secure in the belief that where I err as a Libertarian, I do so with the understanding that the current system favors the rich and powerful, and if I have to choose a side for which to defend personal liberty, I choose the people. The world I wish we lived in is not yet a reality, and that means that the waters can still be muddied by compromise driven by corruption and ignorance. If everyone had the resources to have their voice heard, the opportunity to play by the same rules, then success would be determined by hard work and character, the way our founding fathers envisioned. I wish for a level playing field, where if a tax and oppression free society is yet beyond us, perhaps a flat tax might not be. I want fairness, if I can never see utopia.

I'm not going to give a lecture here on liberty. Suffice it to say that there are those that defend liberty, the ability for each person to chart their own course and live by whatever consequences arise from that path, but even some of those people have become confused on this individual subject. They defend the rights of corporations, yet don't understand how doing so in this regard is infringing upon the personal liberty of everyone else. Some of them have made allies that are lying to them, and some of them have made allies that have motivations that run counter to libertarianism. They have enjoyed being part of a club, rubbing elbows with movers and shakers too much. In short, they have ventured off the path.

They made a choice. Where they see Net Neutrality as an infringement on the rights of Internet Service Providers, or ISP's, a means to force their hands via government control over their companies. While I understand the mechanics of a free market ecosystem, trying to apply them to the ISP industry is to overlook the obvious-ISP's, at least in this country, are monopolies. Monopolies do not have to fight it out in a free market, by nature of colluding with each other to make sure that they do not have to compete.

Many of my readers are fellow authors, and the memory of the Apple/Big 5 vs. Amazon antitrust trials still fresh in their minds. In this, for those not privy to the events, Apple and the big five publishers were found guilty of agreeing in secret to force Amazon to charge more for their books than they wanted to. Amazon wanted to price books lower, and was willing to accept lower margins in order to sell more books. The Big 5 publishers didn't want Amazon to become a monopoly, and the way they sought to fight this was to work together, in effect to become one themselves.

Amazon is not a monopoly, but they are fast becoming one, something that needs to be addressed in publishing circles by someone doing a better job of competing with them. There is no artificial limits being placed on Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, iBooks (Apple), or any other bookseller at the moment. Amazon has earned their standing in the market by out-competing these sellers, by providing a better buying experience. They do not have exclusive agreements with publishers or authors, content creators have every right to sell their works wherever else they feel they can sell them. This is the way competition is supposed to work, and Amazon's lead in the market will continue until someone better comes along to dethrone them.

This is entirely different than what is going on with Net Neutrality.

Senator Ted Cruz, a man who has pocketed more than most from Comcast and other ISP's, recently posted on twitter and facebook that Net Neutrality is like Obamacare for the internet. He knew what he was doing when he posted this. It was a well designed lie.

Obamacare required people to buy health insurance, a product sold by private corporations in order to protect the bottom line of other corporations. I did not agree with Obamacare when it was being drafted, and I do not agree with it today. Members of my family have been hurt by it, seen their insurance premiums skyrocket. I did not agree with it, but once it became an inevitability I consoled myself in hoping that some of it's provisions might lessen the blow of the requirement to buy insurance. I'm referring to the portions of the bill that require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, or at least to remove their ability to use that as an excuse to deny coverage. My science fiction novel, pre://d.o.mai.n, was centered around a family whose coverage of a life saving cancer cure was denied by such a loophole. I also hoped that the portions of the bill would remove the shroud of secrecy around hospital chargemasters, the computer programs used to determine billing, seemingly in an arbitrary manner.

Patient bills are determined after the treatment has already been provided, in most cases, and the patient has no choice but to pay the bill, even if they have insurance. In a lot of ways, it's like eating at a fancy restaurant with no prices on the menu, and when you think you might want to go somewhere else you realize every other restaurant has the same menus.

I've drifted pretty far off track here, but I wanted to refresh everyone's memory on how unpopular Obamacare is, and how even the people that initially were hopeful that it might do some good were disappointed in it's half-ass execution, where the benefits of increased hospital billing transparency still haven't been put into practice yet.

So when Ted Cruz tied Net Neutrality to Obamacare, he did so not because the comparison is accurate, he did it to tap into the hatred of a populace too busy to bother looking too close. People don't see how Net Neutrality benefits them, and they're often too busy or disinterested to bother looking into it, to educate themselves and to draw their own conclusions.

So let me break it down for you. A brief history lesson on Net Neutrality.

First, a definition of just what Net Neutrality is.

Net Neutrality is the policy that all internet traffic, be it porn videos, cat videos, facebook posts, this blog post, Netflix videos, emails, tweets, WHATEVER, is all treated the same, or, to make it clearer-Neutrally. Oh, Netflix has to pay more, because they use more bandwidth, but the amount they pay is directly proportional to the amount of bandwidth they use, and the speed, just like everyone else.

If you want a faster internet connection, you can pay for it. If you have a cell phone, and you want to be able to use the internet more on it than your 2 Gb plan will allow, you can buy a bigger package. If you want it to be faster at home, you can buy a faster package. If you want your cell phones internet to be faster, you can buy one that has 4G capability. The point is-you pay for your service already. You don't pay more or less based on where you go on the internet, you pay for how far and how fast you can get there. So does Netflix. They pay for their connection just like you do. Net Neutrality critics behave like Netflix has free access to the internet, or that they somehow are using more bandwidth than they pay for. This is not the case.

Up until 2011, the internet was largely unregulated in terms of Net Neutrality. All content was treated equally, just like if you pay for gas in your car, the gas station can't tell you where you can or can't go with that gas, or if you can get on the highway with it or if you have to stick to back roads. It was great, and the only reason you don't notice that anything has changed is that ISP's are waiting for the other shoe to drop before enacting changes. If they make their changes now, when the subject is still up for debate, they will lose the support of whoever they've bought off because the changes will be less popular than Obamacare. No, they're biding their time, not wanting to shoot their load (muzzle loader gun reference, get out of the gutter) before the contracts have been signed, so to speak.

Net Neutrality has been currently overturned, since 2011 when Verizon sued the FCC], stating that the Net Neutrality rules the FCC had put in place were unconstitutional. The FCC had decided that internet service was a basic utility, like the electricity provided by your electric company or the water provided to your local water utility. It very much is like that. It always has been, since the very birth of the nationwide internet. You pay for electricity, and the electric company doesn't dictate what you do with it. They don't tell you how many TV's you can use, if you have to use an over or a rangetop to cook your food, or how long you are allowed to leave your lights on. Same with water. Your water company doesn't tell you how long your baths are allowed to be, how many glasses you are allowed to drink, etc. You simply pay for what you use, and enjoy the freedom to do with it what you please, so long as it isn't breaking any other laws.

Do you think that the internet, as it currently exists, sounds a lot like that? Yes. So long as you aren't Netflix. As consumers, we pay for our internet, we use it how we see fit, so long as it doesn't break any laws. Netflix, since the Appellate court overturned the Net Neutrality laws in 2011, has been fighting a losing battle against Comcast and other ISP's. Netflix still pays it's internet service fees, same as it always has, but recently it has been forced to pay additional fees in order to maintain the same level of service it was enjoying prior to the changes. Let me reiterate that-Netflix was paying it's bills to the ISP's, but the ISP's decided that they needed more money because Netflix was....well......Netflix. Netflix was already paying for their electricity, their water, but Comcast didn't like what they were using it for, so they started turning down the water pressure, and causing brownouts, until Netflix agreed to pay more money than everyone else for the same internet access.

Since I know some of you are visual learners, let me show you a graph. Netflix is the black line on Comcast. I'll let you guess when Comcast started shaking Netflix down, and at what point Netflix's first check cleared for the new billing cycle.



The graph shows that other ISP's had the same problem, but remember, Comcast is the largest infrastructure provider in the US. Meaning they own most of the interconnecting roads, so their speeds will drop as well because part of their networks run through Comcast's.

This would be like Comcast deciding that it disagrees with your political or religious beliefs, and decides to slow your connection when you visit sites that support those beliefs because it doesn't agree with them. It's an gross infraction of personal liberty, of free speech, and it is also an antitrust violation as well as a discriminatory practice. The only reason the people in charge of this are not in jail is because:

A: our government is largely bought and paid for. The only corporation that donated more money than Comcast in the last election cycle is Northrop Grumman, a military contractor, who has no customers other than the government.

B: It is currently LEGAL, under the ruling by the appellate court. Even the potential human rights violations have little in the way of legal precedent, which means that it's a veritable playground for the ISP's until the FCC finalizes it's new rules. They can point fingers all over the place, and nothing will change until the FCC dictates what the legal ramifications for this practice will be, if any.

The fact that Senator Cruz was even allowed to post something in direct contrast to facebook's stated opposition to overruling of Net Neutrality is only because they choose to not engage in the very behavior that Comcast, Time Warner, and the rest of the ISP's out there are trying to get signed into law. As the law stands, again, only since the appellate court ruling changed the landscape in 2011, they could block Ted Cruz's account, or slow down his posts so much that he would be commenting on Net Neutrality after the decision had already been made. There is no law against it now, because the appellate court has decided that corporations are people, and not only are they people, their rights are more valid than yours and mine. The Republican party has been a supporter of the new changes, of which Ted Cruz is a member. This is also the same Republican party that won landslide elections a few weeks ago, meaning that if Congress has their way, you will be paying a great deal more if you want to participate in parts of the internet that they and the ISP's of the world find wrong, or at least there will be nothing stopping them from doing so, legally speaking.

But we trust the government to dictate morality well enough, right? Oh...well how about large corporations, ones like Hobby Lobby that have decided that they can make changes to their employees health coverage at will based on religious beliefs? You know, separation of church and state, right?

If you want the government out of your browser history, you don't need to be against Net Neutrality, no matter how much Ted Cruz wants to confuse you. You need to be for it, because Net Neutrality is about personal freedom to do what you want on the internet, and to be able to pay the same prices to do it as someone that enjoys a different political, personal, or service preference than you do.

And if you're just supporting the ISP's because you think that they will cut your bill because you don't watch Netflix online, or tweet 100 times a day, then you are the worst sort of lemming. When was the last time your internet bill went DOWN? It doesn't. Just like there isn't some untapped potential in the network for a "Fast Lane." According to their own information, the information that they are supplying to twist the debate around Net Neutrality, there isn't enough network capacity to continue without future expansion, or at least for much longer. If they don't have enough capacity to provide the promised "Fast Lane", then the only thing they can do is make the current internet the "Fast Lane", and reduce the speeds of those that don't pay.

Or even worse, they're lying about not having more network headroom, and they're just holding out on everyone in order to extort more money. Whichever way, they're being dishonest.

The internet needs to go back to the way it was, or to stay the way everyone seems to think it is right now. People need to get what they've been paying for, and Comcast and the other ISP's need to stop being greedy, manipulative monopolies.

I vote FOR Net Neutrality, and I hope you do too. Or, I would vote for it, if they were allowing us to. At any rate, call your senator, and explain it to them now. Clearly there are quite a few of them that don't understand it either.


READMORE
 

Halloween Short for 2014-A Forest of Choice

Every year I've had this blog, I have tried to include a Short piece for Halloween. Previously, it was a running joke that I submitted for a local newspaper's Halloween writing contest, one that I tried my best to write something elaborate and nuanced enough to avoid winning. This year, they cancelled the contest, so I took it upon myself to write the piece for my own (and hopefully, your) pleasure. It's called a Forest of Choice, and I barely managed to keep it to exactly 500 words. I wanted to try to write something that was a little larger than the 500 words on the page, and for my own purposes, I think I succeeded. I wanted to explore the paranoia of being lost in the woods, but I also wanted to explore the minutia of life, how the closer we look at it, the more questions we are left with. Call it anthropomorphism if you want, but I think it's a conversation worth having.

Anyways, before I go off on any more of a tangent, here's the piece. Let me know what you think?

A Forest of Choice
By: Christopher Godsoe
Word Count: 500

The storm rolled in, demarcating a shift in tone as well as climate. It brought with it the cold, and it's the cold wind that I feared most. It pushed around the branches of the birch grove I spent the night in like a spectral composer, and I shook.

I was lost, but if you asked me for how long I had been lost, I couldn't tell you. One wrong turn, a poor choice on the path, and everything I knew might as well be a thousand miles away.

Neither could I tell you when the voices started, but now they're my constant companion, telling me how I'll never escape, how I will spend the rest of my days wandering that same trackless expanse of wilderness. One choice, one solitary decision to leave the trail had been my undoing. It's been said that we are a product of our choices in life, and it's a point I can find no fault in.

As I've walked, I've been thinking a lot about choices. I wonder if our minds are simply a product of the choices inside of our brains, the billions of individual connections between neurons carrying the magic formula that makes us....us. Does consciousness arise from the noise of a billion neural connections, and we just lack the perspective to see it? I suppose it's possible.

But if a billion choices are the genesis of consciousness, might any system of sufficient complexity generate the same “spark”? Is perhaps the forest, with it's billions of tree branch vocal cords, such a being? Aren't we both nothing more than symbiotic clusters of lesser living things? You might call that crazy talk, but if a crazy man shouts the secret of life in an otherwise deserted forest, does he make a sound? Does a forest, with it's bespoke consciousness, posses an intelligence capable of whispering the horrible words that have followed me for the past few days, simply by shaping the wind through the unique pattern of branches, each fork in each branch a choice of the tree?

Or is it my mind, with nothing to do but generate false phantoms? These are the things I think about, when every survivalist tells you that I should be thinking of home, cultivating hope that I will see everyone I love again. They're not here, though. They don't hear the wind as it passes through those branches, whispering in concert, speaking to me in a tongue that only I can hear. Maybe the voices were always there, the lost language of a forest grown furious by the indifference of man. Maybe you just have to be quiet long enough to hear it's enmity.

Having listened to that incessant lecture, of how soon I will become weak from famine, how my once sure steps will begin to falter, it's a gift I wish to return.


I'm cold, rapidly depleting my pudgy excess of stored calories, and soon there will be one less voice in the forest.
READMORE