Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nothingness is a Hard Art to Master

People can do more stuff than cats. Cats don't cook, work on projects, or pay bills. But cats do more than say a patch of grass can. I guess we define "advanced" by the number of functions a living being can do. As man has evolved, he has learned to do more things.

I like being able to do things. I don't like being limited. Function is a blessing. 

Yet I have learned that there's moments in life when you're not supposed to do anything. A couple days ago at work, I had a full plate. I had to complete a number of projects in a very short amount of time. My employer wanted me to do many things and so I got very wrapped up in so much doing that I felt very overwhelmed, to the point of dealing with anxiety. I realized that I couldn't function this way, so I stopped everything I was doing and closed my eyes, removed expectations, and embraced nothingness. That probably makes no sense. Yet it took two minutes of nothingness, that is not doing anything physically and mentally, and I had a sense of calm. I could almost see all my troubles for what they really were and they were really not that big. 

I think we really attach all of our doing to our identity. And when it comes to employment, everything is based off of what you do. I know several workaholics and their identity is molded into their jobs. They are also stressed out and look like hell. So as a responsible human, one must "work or don't eat", but then again is what we do who we are? 

People for the most part avoid their interior lives. Yet I have come to learn in recent years is that all truth and even wisdom is buried deep inside. It's a strange phenomena. In my busy, waking life I have plans and agendas, prejudices, and a variety of emotions. There have been moments when I have been rotten to a person and felt justified in doing so. But then in a moment of total inactivity, when my faculties have begun to simmer in rest, an interior voice tells me, "You handled that wrong, Jim. You shouldn't have said that to them." Like a jungle of static, I perceive all the busyness, the rage, my plans, my hunger for success, and they are almost outside of me. It's almost like looking at yourself from the outside, but you're perspective is actually from deep within... your unconscious or spirit (whatever term you fancy).

So I know why people meditate. The act of "not doing" will enhance your functions. It's as if you have to take moments in the day to detach yourself from the functioning mode of self that will become a bull in a china shop if left unchecked. There's more to us than what we do.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


It's been a while since I've blogged, so I figure I would clump all of today's subjects in one post. Here we go...

Fortress Maximus KNOCK OFF

It is quite expensive to purchase original Transformers (G1) from the 80s these days. They're actually quite valuable, like owning gold or something. To those of us who never grew up and wish to collect these toys strictly out of love for characters, look to the east. I'm talking about China. Somehow, Chinese toy manufacturers have obtained the molds of original Transformers figures and have produced "knock offs" of your beloved characters. Sure they may make some color alterations and change their names, but it's obvious its a replica of the original toys. Today I am show-casing the character/toy "Huge Extremely", or as everybody else knows him as Fortress Maximus.

As you can see, this version of Maximus isn't two feet tall like the original. I'll also state that his head doesn't transform into a little mini Cerebros. He doesn't have a Master Sword either. Those are the bummers.

What I like about this figure is that his eyes are not decals like the original. They are painted on. Notice his weird mix of an Autobot/Decepticon symbol on his chest? China has to watch their asses, I guess. You can't rip Hasbro off too much.

I'm the lamest Transformer collector ever. I never transform them in their vehicular modes. In this guy's case, he turns into either a base (or fortress, hence the name) or a spaceship. I haven't bothered doing that yet. 

In conclusion, if you're a fan of Fortress Maximus but lack the cash to buy an original, or the $300 to buy the Encore version, this little Headmaster will fit nicely in your collection. I bought mine here.

The Eye in the Sky

If somebody would ask me what my worldview is, or faith or whatever, I would answer with "Christian." If the questioning person would then pummel me with stereotype jabs like, "Do you really believe the world was made in six days?" or "Science has proven the Bible wrong, why do you bother reading such primitive non-sense?", I would pretty much shrug my shoulders and say, "I'm not so sure myself that the world was created in six days" or "Yeah, I agree that the Bible is full of crazy, outdated stuff." If my present day self had a conversation with the Jim of ten or twelve years ago, we probably wouldn't get along. The version of myself a decade ago tried very well to be a good Evangelical Christian, attempting to please God and church every millisecond of the day, and the present me is a thirty-something that has to pay bills but knows the importance of finding some joy and life through the rubble. I've discovered after eleven years of "trying to be a good Christian" that I cannot please God. I didn't ditch moral character or anything (it's of greater benefit to yourself anyhow), but I ignored the all-watching eye in the sky which was nothing more than a holographic projection from my own insecurity.

Most religions with a deity are formed on the basis that the adherent lives a life pleasing that deity. Whether you read the Old Testament or any other ancient writings, you usually have a people or nation placing hope in their god to either defeat their enemies, bring crops, or fertile mothers. With all the terrorist attacks taking place around the world these days, you see a legion of believers carrying out barbaric acts under the influence of "the great eye in the sky", thinking that they are doing him a favor. It's makes you wonder if there's an element of truth to the atheist's point that God is a product of man's insecurity.

I quit going to church a year ago. I'm not interested in it anymore. I haven't touched a Bible since June last year. I personally was going through a difficult season a year ago, struggling with depression, stress, and anxiety. All the dogma and memorized Bible verses couldn't stand to the inner storm that plagued me for a season. My wife and I were attending a small church and I was told several things by the congregants. I was overtaken by demons. I need to be put on psychiatric medicine. I needed to know the Bible better. I needed to step out in faith and believe my issues weren't real. The last time I attended the church, I was going batshit crazy. A woman was dancing behind me, drenched in Frankincense, hitting me on the back of the head with her twirling flags screaming, "Jesus!" Children were running circles around me, yelling. The music became an audio-like claustrophobia, strangling me mentally and emotionally. To top it off, the pastor stepped up to mic and said, "This is what heaven will be like." I got nauseous. Their heaven was my hell. I stood up, told my wife I was going to be right back, jumped in the truck, and drove to the woods. After I parked, I walked through the forest and studied the blooming spring plant life, the wonderfully colored slugs, and the singing birds. I realized that nature didn't need religion to please God. Their worship was through being pretty much what they are. 

I started fishing on Sunday mornings.

So although I fell through the cracks of religion, I still consider myself "Christian" because it's the label used to identify a belief in Jesus. It is my belief that Christianity and the gospel are two different things. One is a religion composed of a hierarchic system of dogmas and positions of management, the other is a way of life in which a person can live in harmony with others and God. When you read Jesus' statements that "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21) or the offensive remark to Jews that he could restore a demolished temple in three days (symbolic illustration of replacing temple-based religion with himself), I think it's evident that Jesus viewed religion as unnecessary. In a sense, you see conflict between two deities: the previously mentioned god of insecurity and a god that we always wanted to know and who also strikes against our natural securities in religious thinking. To state "the kingdom of God is within you" says something that runs contrary to the need to submit to a clergy or have properly organized doctrines. Or the need to show supremacy over others. God isn't distant.

In the past few days, I have read articles about "The New Atheists" (Bill Maher, Sam Harris, etc) who pretty much point out that religion is responsible for the problems in our world. I think they are partially correct. The eye in the sky will make you do crazy stuff (I used to attend conferences where people thought God was making them do animal noises). The anti-religion assault is trendy; it sells books and gets people watching tv. And we even see Christendom itself running in different directions. Corrupt pastors are being brought to light, mega churches are crumbling, decisions are being made by congregations worldwide to accept or not accept persons of "alternative lifestyles", long believed doctrines are being questioned. This could be viewed as apocalyptic, but it could also be the shedding of unnecessary layers to reveal a genuine, yet ancient core. What is eternal and what is not? What will stand and what will be blown in the wind? If the god of religion is blown over, who will we behold? I think the result would bring further understanding of Jesus' message.

Check Out My Friend's Blog

Please check out my friend Matt Sams' blog. He's a great blogger with good insight and humor:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Optimus Primes

Here's all the Optimus Primes I have so far. I need more. I need more Transformers to fill this case.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Transformers Headmasters

When I was a kid, I was a huge Transformers fan. I rediscovered them as a young adult and have been a fan since. I pretty much only like anything Generation 1 related. My feelings are mixed in regards to Michael Bay's films. I would love to be able to collect all the original toys but they cost a fortune. So I purchase what toys I can, but mostly have to enjoy the original Transformers through their animated exploits.

Watching episodes of the original series as a thirty-something-year old man isn't always an easy feat. This was a children's show created to sell toys, not a vehicle to display great science fiction. With that said, the dialogue and the plots are sometimes hard to stomach. There were some great episodes, like "Heavy Metal Wars", "Five Faces of Darkness", and the "The Return of Optimus Prime." That's only naming a few and please don't think I'm slamming the series, because I am not. I love it and always will.

My relationship with Transformers took a different turn as a kid when the animated film came out in 1986. Unlike the television show, when the characters were shot they actually died. The Decepticons were homicidal maniacs in the film. I remember when Megatron blew an already wounded Ironhide to bits with his arm cannon, it introduced a whole new level of villainy to me. Bad guys were not just bad, they were cruel and had an agenda. The film was epic, like a space opera, and at such a young age my standards for storytelling were changed. When the third season began, which takes place after the events of the film, it was business as usual. Several new characters were introduced (to sell toys) and there were good episodes and bad. The saga was maintained for a young television audience, but the grittiness and brutal reality of war portrayed in the animated film was not present. Like previous seasons, both Autobots and Decepticons fired weapons at each other, all missing their targets.

As the series waned in popularity in America (possibly due to the advent of the Ninja Turtles), Hasbro produced a three episode fourth season called "The Rebirth." Many new Transformers were introduced, including the Headmasters. The American Headmasters were robots basically controlled by an alien race called Nebulons (as well as the humans Spike and Daniel Witwicky). Both sides of the Transformers had them. The season passed like shadows in the night. 

In Japan, however, Takara (the company responsible, in part, for creating the franchise and toyline) wanted to continue on producing new animated exploits and toys. Not satisfied with the West's fourth season, they created an exclusive 39 episode series called Transformers Headmasters

For a Christmas, just a few days ago, my wife got me the series as a Christmas gift. I love it, sometimes watching it for hours. And in all honesty, I like it better than the American series and this is why... it captures the spirit of the animated film. Unlike the American series, in which there are a lot of self-contained episodes, Headmasters is an unraveling saga with victories and losses. Rejecting the events of "The Rebirth", both Autobot and Decepticon Headmasters are sentient beings. The concept of Nebulons was discarded. Instead the Headmasters were refugees of the Cybertronian War and to seek a peaceful existence, they found a new life on the planet called Master. The planet had harsh living conditions, so to survive the robots modified themselves as "Headmasters" in which they more or less transformed into the heads of a larger robot bodies (called Transtectors).

The Headmasters were of course the stars of the show, although original characters from the series' past were present. Like the animated movie, characters actually died. Optimus Prime, just newly resurrected, sacrifices himself to save the unstable Vector Sigma (Cybertron's central computer) and Cybertron itself. That was by episode three. Ultra Magnus eventually dies by the hand of Decepticon Sixshot. The cassette playing robots Blaster and Soundwave kill each other in combat, only to be rebuilt as Twincast and Soundblaster respectively. Cybertron itself is destroyed by the tenth episode, making Autobot leader Rodimus Prime decide to withdraw from battle to find a new home planet. He appoints Fortress Maximus, a Headmaster, as the new Autobot leader. This is where the series takes a different turn, because leadership is changing within the Decepticons. By less noble means, the mysterious Scorponok becomes the new leader of the Decepticons (Galvatron, the former Megatron, is eventually smashed by an iceberg on the North Pole).

My only complaint of this series, besides killing off Optimus Prime again, is Daniel Witwicky and Wheelie. Added to the show for comic relief, these two become major pains in the ass. And they sound like girls. I guess the producers wanted to bring back the Spike and Bumblebee shenanigans of the first two seasons.

So if you love the original Transformers and want some kind of closure to the animated mythos, get the Headmasters DVD. It's in Japanese with English Subtitles. Buy it here.

The opening theme:

A fan dubbed episode:

Micropterus Press Shop Open

Micropterus Press

I opened an online shop on Storenvy to sell my minicomics. You can visit it here.

So far, I have the first two issues of Air Ghost Illustrated for sale and plan to have issue three available next month. The current issues sell for $2 a pop.

Air ghost illustrated #2

As always, please feel free to help a brother out and click ads.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fishing is My Lotus Position

I recently took up fishing again and have really been enjoying it. Not only have I had a great time, but I have really enjoyed the meditative nature of fishing. It's been said that the proper perspective to meditation is being in the present moment. One could be trapped in a lot of anxiety if they are stuck in the past or are overly concerned about the future. I think one of the finest, if not most important elements of fishing is enjoying the present moment. Minute by minute, cast after cast. Don't let the lack of catches yesterday interfere with your current outing.

This is my first year fishing in Oregon. I'm originally an Ohioan and I was raised on warm water fishing, so I haven't really got the fever yet to go after salmon, steelhead, and other northwest fish. With that said, I have been fishing in lakes and ponds, going after bass, catfish, trout, and panfish.

One nearby fishing spot I frequently visit are the Salish Ponds in Fairview. The place gets some negative reviews but just last week, on May 1st, I caught this little guy (a largemouth bass):

Photo: Don't despise small beginnings. First fish of the year caught at Salish Ponds.

I caught him in my first 2 to 3 casts, using Blue Fox spinner baits. I had a strong feeling that afternoon I would catch something. The weather had been sunny and warm for days. At this time of the year, I figured bass would be pretty active along the shoreline. Combine spawning with the nice weather and the odds may be in your favor.