Time Out

Recent events, both locally and internationally, have turned my attention to the concept of prison and jail. Not to specific ones, just to the overall construct as a part of human society.

Prisons exist in every society and culture across all of human history. Even today, I would imagine you would be hard-pressed to find a nation or even a community that did not have a prison of some sort. My question is, what are they for?

(Before going further, I want to acknowledge the existence of for-profit prisons but remove them from discussion. A societal industry based around what is essentially slavery is a whole other discussion to be had. It needs to be had, for sure, but it’s a topic and factor for another time)

A person is sent to prison after committing a crime, which is some sort of egregious societal transgression. Fair enough. Laws exist for a reason and good reasons too. Only the most ardent of anarchists would assert a truly lawless community as an ideal. But what is the prison supposed to do in response to the crime?

It seems three possible answers:
1 – the time in prison is supposed to rehabilitate the prisoner, so that upon release they will not commit crime again.
2 – the time in prison is supposed to repay the victims of the crime and/or society itself for the damage done by the crime.
3 – the time in prison is supposed to remove the criminal element from society.

The problem that I’ve seen is that none of these seem to be the case. The rehabilitative nature of prison is dubious, at best. Whole fields of psychology are devoted to the institutionalization that prisoners undergo during long prison stints. And what constitutes a ‘long’ stint in prison is a lot shorter than one might think.
So if the goal is rehabilitation, why aren’t therapy, rehab and detox, and other forms of cognitive restructuring emphasized?

The repayment to the victims/society theory doesn’t make much sense to me because what is taken from the prisoner cannot be given to the victim. The months and years a prisoner spends in prison cannot somehow be added to the victim, like some sort of life transfer.
So the ‘repayment’ seems to be more about removing from the prisoner an amount of time equal to the crime committed. But this too is flawed. Even if we could assign a reasonable time-based debt system, we are still answering one loss with another loss. That isn’t justice; that’s revenge.

The third scenario is about the removal of the criminal element from society. Not a bad idea, I suppose, but that seems to suggest that crime is somehow a genetic factor, or some other similarly innate characteristic that, if removed, perhaps society will be free of all crime. Psychology and criminology both do not support this theory.
But even if they did, why release the prisoners? If they are tarnished by some criminal factor, why not remove any and all criminals permanently from society? Why ever let them return? And if they can somehow recover, that goes back to the first suggestion about rehabilitation.

What I keep coming back to is that I just don’t know what role prisons are supposed to play. I don’t know what prisons are supposed to do. I don’t have an answer, and scholars far more versed than I wrestle with this question even today. But given that prison is one of the corner stones of society – any society and every society – this seems an important question to answer.

* * *

I want to apologize for the late update. I’ve been on the road a lot since Anime Mid-Atlantic and it’s been hard to line up both the time and opportunity to update.

Please stay tuned this week as I’m currently working with my publisher on a special offer relating to Rhest for the Wicked. I hope to have more info in the next day or two.

More To Come

A series of ill-timed and unrelated tragedies have befallen my family over the last week.  This has cast a strange silence over all of us.  In an emotional paralysis, we seem to be bracing for yet another blow to hit.  Everything from professional delays with no source with which to redress to legal matters that came from out of nowhere, we seem beseiged from all sides.  In another time, I might make a joke about somebody having cursed us.

So, regrettably, everything is sort of on-hold until stuff starts to sort itself out.  When will it sort it self?  Man, ain’t that the million-dollar-question.  Until then, please just bear with me while my family and I try to sort through these matters.


And hopefully, I’ll see you at AMA next weekend!  🙂

Know Your Role and Shut Your Mouth

Sorry about the delay in this week’s blog.  I’m afraid I was occupied most of yesterday because my mother fell and had to be rushed to the ER.  Almost the entire day was spent with her, making sure she was okay (she was and is; nothing broken or really all that badly hurt, just a whole lot of pain and bruising).

Yesterday was a reminder for me that I don’t like hospitals or really any medical setting.  This probably seems a bit odd since I work in the medical field (my day job is at a CTR, a kind of cancer-specific medical transcription) and have friends in the medical field (everything from food services and ambulance-driving to true-blue MDs).  I also have great respect for the field and study of medicine.  So then why do I dislike hospitals and all things medicine?

I can go on a great rant about systemic issues confronting the medical field, but what it ultimately comes down to is a consistent series of bad experiences, from my teens to all the way to just a few weeks ago.  In short, personal bias.  So then why do I don’t I gripe about medicine more often?  A) Because personal bias is a poor reason to denounce anything so serious as health and medicine and B) I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

Have you ever been served by a waiter who was just really inattentive?  Maybe he or she just didn’t seem to be all there?  Did you wonder why, or did you write off the service as just being bad?  The answer usually depends on whether or not you’ve worked in food services.  The same is true when it comes to service in a store, and whether or not the customer has worked in retail or sales.  That’s not to excuse bad service, but once you’ve been on the other side of the name tag, you have a great deal more insight and sympathy for what may be going on behind the scenes.

Medicine is the same way.  For example, as a CTR, I’m HIPAA-certified.  Do you know what that means?  If so, then you know the nightmare it can be to become certified and sometimes the nightmare to maintain your certification.  If you don’t know what being HIPAA-certified means, words can’t really convey the laundry list of issues that just that one factor can bestow upon any and all transactions one makes through the course of doing one’s job.

Medicine – the medical industry – is possibly the most complicated field on the planet.  Even the lowliest of nurse requires a tremendous medical knowledge and has an unimaginable number of obligations and responsibilities.  So much as pulling back the curtain in an exam room and introducing one’s self requires filling out numerous forms.  Many of those forms are redundant and down that path lies madness.  The redundancies at play alone in bookkeeping alone (never mind care, diagnosis, or treatment) can seem inane to anyone who isn’t versed in their need…until those redundancies aren’t followed and somebody falls through the cracks.  And it’s important to realize that – while in retail or food service or whatever, if somebody falls through the cracks, a customer doesn’t get what they want – in medicine, if somebody falls through the cracks, there’s a new dead body for the morgue.  There’s a family that has now lost someone.  A child no longer has a parent, or a parent no longer has a child, or both.

Racking my brain, I cannot think of one good experience I’ve personally ever had with the medical industry.  And yet, I work hard to never denounce medicine, to never advise against medicine, to never trivialize medicine.  It is unfair for me to assign blame solely because of my bias.  Because I know just enough – about medicine and about the medical industry – to know how little I know about what’s going on at the nurse’s station or the doctor’s office or any of the hundreds of places people are working to keep others alive.

When in doubt – meaning unless you know exactly what is happening that shouldn’t be, or isn’t happening that should be – default to silence and observation.  Watch and learn.  Know your role and shut your mouth.  However you want to put it, unless you are a doctor, or a nurse, or some other related profession, you have put yourself into the care of these professionals.  Fighting them on every little thing will grant nothing, questioning every little delay will speed up nothing.  You want a second opinion?  That’s perfectly fine and very understandable.  You not only are free to do so, often you probably should do so.  But don’t mistake a quick search on WebMD for seven years of medical school.  Don’t mistake one trip to the ER a year ago as some kind of expertise on how the longer wait this time means the nurses don’t know anything.  Don’t mistake a personal experience for an illustration of an entire field.

Denouncing the medical field because of a personal bias is merely sharing a spiteful and petty opinion that will benefit no one.

X-Strike Studios, in memorium

After eleven years, X-Strike Studios is closing its doors.

You may have heard of them recently, or you may be a longtime fan.  Or you may never have heard of them.  That’s one of the struggles with being an independent artist.  Sometimes some of the best work goes unnoticed.

I don’t hesitate to apply the term ‘best’ to X-Strike Studios’ catalog.  While their films are definitely low-budget, that hasn’t held back their excellence.  If anything, it’s helped to underscore the talent and skill at play.  These are movies for a niche audience, by that same audience.  There’s no irony, there’s no multi-audience pandering, there’s no attempt to be anything that they’re not.  These are movies for gaming fans and nerds.  And the result is that they are some of the best video game movies ever made, hands down, bar none, damn straight.

But it isn’t some goofy love of games that makes their movies good.  River City Rumble, called ‘the Citizen Kane of video game movies’, is a solid (if low-budget) action movie that straddles the line between being serious enough to be internally consistent but not taking itself too seriously so as to deprive the fans of fun antics.  Silent Horror, and its sequel Resident Horror, are genuinely creepy at points while still providing a tremendous good time in every vein, something that their big budget imitators like the Resident Evil series fail to deliver.  Project Snake is an ambitious action story that some consider more entertaining than the games that inspired it.  Their Off-Campus series, while full of inside jokes, remains some of the funniest segments on the internet to this day.  And their most off-the-wall film P. Rappa’s Nth Mile is…a thing that exists.

X-Strike Studios came along at a time when video game films of pretty much any type were novelties.  The best video game movies available were studio-made behemoths like Street Fighter and the Super Mario Brothers movie, attempts made to appeal to general audiences with the after-thought of tapping into the video game fan market.  With the exception of a handful of Star Wars or Star Trek videos here and there, fan films hadn’t yet taken hold either.  There was no Street Fighter Legacy.  There was no Mortal Kombat Legacy.  No Megaman live-action.  And the idea of a video game-inspired fan film that was feature-length?  The very idea was unfeasible, a pipe dream fanboys talked about but knew wouldn’t happen.

And then X-Strike did it.  And then did it again.

Much like Troma Films, much like Robert Rodriguez’s early work, X-Strike Studios would establish a baseline from which other studios would be able to build their success.  An early pioneer of committed and dedicated fan films, X-Strike Studios would be a harbinger of what we know as the fan film industry today, an industry that continues to inspire and influence mainstream cinema.

It isn’t a surprise that X-Strike is closing its doors.  The assorted members had stated on numerous occasions they hadn’t planned for the company to endure indefinitely.  After all, it’s hard to maintain a consistent artistic vision from your early twenties into your mid-thirties, as most of the leadership has seen.  It’s a bittersweet announcement all the same because they’ve given the fan community so much entertainment.

Thank you, X-Strike Studios.