The Agent on YouTube’s Restricted Mode and The Value Of Uncensored Debate

“This video is restricted because some people can’t handle a mature critical discussion on some topics. Sorry about that.”
Source: The Independent

What is this; the third – maybe fourth time I’ve had to weigh in on a YouTube policy change? You guys could circumvent a lot of this bulls*** if you just gave us some details before you made the change.

Anyway, for those of you not keeping up with the new media, YouTube recently went live with a new ‘Restricted Mode’ feature that had some, shall we call it, unforeseen effects.

The goal of Restricted Mode is to give viewers the option to hide content that some may deem as questionable such as violence, profanity or sexual situations. And believe it or not, I totally understand why they would want to do this.

Let’s not forget, YouTube is a business first and foremost. Their first priority is to placate their advertisers, shareholders, and viewers. So, anything that might be counter-intuitive to an advertiser/viewer’s interests – say having their ad for a new children’s movie just before a video of a particularly foul-mouthed Let’s Player who uses f-bombs like vocal punctuation or having their five-year-old stumble upon the same – might scare them away.

But, the problem arises from what kind of content gets blocked when Restricted Mode is active; namely people weighing in on LGBT politics. Most of them are not even talking about gay sex, mind you; They’re just chiming in on the politics of queer culture.

I think the problem is pretty obvious and it’s a problem that asexuals like myself encounter routinely – people conflating relationships with sex. YouTube saw the phrase ‘LGBT’ show up and just ASSUMED it was about sex without actually checking the content. I assure you, talking about romance or being in love doesn’t AUTOMATICLY imply someone is bumping uglies and we need to stop think like it does.

Of course, this wave of (very likely) accidental anti-LGBT censorship is endemic of a bigger problem that I have with YouTube’s Restricted Mode and censorship in general. Simply put, I’m against censorship because is restricts discourse from both sides of a debate and thereby halts social progress. It’s a pretty simple chain of logic to follow; if neither side is allowed to talk about something, how can they debate it in order to solve any problems with it?

It’s for this reason that I support YouTubers like Count Jackula who dedicate regular live-streams to debates with fans and fellow creators or Armored Skeptic who often makes debunking videos pointing out logical fallacies in other people’s arguments. Yes, things often get very heated, people will get offended, and I frequently disagree with them on at least one point. But at the end of the day, they offer a perspective that made me think and that surge of critical thought is what we need more than anything else in this societal landscape.

That having been said, I can still see where YouTube is coming from in terms of business. It needs some kind of system to please the people that make them money. So, what we need is a common ground… and I think I have it.

Firstly, STOP CONFLATING RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEX. I will scream this 24/7 until I go mute from the scar tissue building up on my larynx.

Secondly, I suggest giving more control to what shows up in viewer searches by employing a sort of ‘ADVANCED Restricted Mode’ that allows the user to select what kind of content gets filtered out based on what they personally don’t want to see. It’s not ideal and those people will still be very likely to miss out on mind-expanding discussions, but it’s probably the best we can do until we can build that utopian society where people’s anuses don’t slam shut like steel security vault doors everytime they hear something that threatens their fragile reality.

The Final Philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Christianity, Satanism, and Accepting Your Sins

At long last, Isaac’s nightmare is at a close…
Source: Steam Community

You’d think that with my history of gushing about the greatness of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth that I would have written a think piece on its final DLC, Afterbirth +, long ago. But, I wanted to get a feel for the game before I actually sat down to pontificate on it. It was a good thing I did that too because this game gave me a lot to think about.

Anyone who has played the game (or has just read the title and knows their bible stories) can tell you that Christianity is a running theme of the story. But, very few people discuss TBoI‘s associations to Satanism. Of course, one can infer that a story that praises or decries Christianity will likely be touching on Satanism by virtue of how the two are linked. But after doing some light research, I was shocked to see just how much there was to unpack.

First things first, I want to make it clear that this article takes NO OFFICIAL STANCE on either Christianity or Satanism as the superior moral practice. This is purely about comparing the two philosophies and putting them into a modern, progressive context so that everyone of any religious or non-religious background can benefit from it.

Secondly, I’d like to give a huge shout out to horror movie critic and open-practicing Satanist Jack ‘Count Jackula’ Shen for informing a lot of the research I did for this article – especially his semi-in-character rant on why he chose to convert to Satanism and his thoughtful debate on applying Satanic philosophy to social media. Even if you don’t buy into his beliefs, he’s still a funny and insightful man that I’ve supported for some time (you can actually see my name at the top of his credit rolls in his movie reviews from when I helped fund his new editing rig). I also wish to apologize to Jackula in advance if I’ve misinterpreted anything I may have gleaned from his discussions.

Getting back to TBoI, this new DLC gave us a pair of new main story endings that tie together with the previous endings and share a common theme; Isaac is found dead in his toy chest but is soon seen again walking through an empty field resembling the hills overlooking his house.

Another theme that pervades the game is Isaac’s guilt. Not only has he grown up in a VERY strict Christian household that reinforces the idea that he is evil and shames him for his sins, but the scenes that unfold suggest that he’s also from a broken home without a father and that he blames himself for his parent’s divorce. This guilt (or ‘sin’ if you will) manifests as a shadowy devil-like figure that lives inside Isaac and that he routinely becomes.

This is the core belief that both Christianity and Satanism share; all people, regardless of faith or lifestyle, are inherently flawed and ‘sinful’. The difference is that while Christianity believes that morality is to repress sinful nature and shame those who fail to do so, Satanism believes morality is to accept one’s sins as normal so that one can focus on doing right by themselves before moving on to others.

I propose the following; Isaac’s death is not a literal death. Rather, it’s the death of his ego. He’s finally grown up, come to terms with his ‘sinful’ flaws, and is ready to form a new, healthy moral code of his own rather than adopting the one he’s been force fed by family and a millennia old fable that, admittedly, is overdue for re-examination.

In short, Isaac has finally learned a lesson that is so often overlooked in both devout and non-religious lifestyles: Moral Relativism.

Now, am I preaching the virtues of Satanism over those of Christianity? Absolutely not. Firstly, Satanism eschews the idea of virtue by its definition (remember, it’s all about EMBRACING sin instead of repressing it). And secondly, I’m far too much of a free-thinking skeptic to accept any religious ideology entirely.

That said I do believe that good ideas can come from all religion; even one that embraces a figure that many consider the embodiment of evil (I guess that would make me a bit of an Agnostic Omnitheist, but I’m not one to care for labels). And I have to admit that the idea that we are all damned souls no matter what, while pessimistic, takes the painful edge off of our failures.

We can’t always be good people; it’s impossible. Eventually, you’ll be forced to do something that some will call ‘evil’ for the sake of yourself or another or that will make you question your own morality. However, you can always strive to be the best you can reasonably expect and not let yourself be deterred by your missteps.

You can’t be a good person. However, either by the virtues of God or by the sins of The Devil, you can be a decent one.

Three Things We Were Told Are Bad But Are Good If Used Properly (and How To Do Them Wrong)

“Sola dosis facit venenum.” The dose makes the poison.

This is the most basic principle of the study of Toxicology. It’s the simple fact that anything can be made lethal or even just detrimental by misusing or abusing it.

So why do so many people still insist that some things are just plainly bad for you?

I hate the idea of being told that something has no practical benefit and I often check out as soon as someone that thinks that way speaks. To me, it’s an indicator of narrow-minded and unquestioning thinking that I have no respect for.

So today, let’s discuss the things that we are told will put us in an early grave that, in reality, can be beneficial as long as you aren’t stupid about using them.

Marijuana

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made. Source: Weedist

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made.
Source: Weedist

As always let’s get the big one out of the way from the get-go.

EVERYBODY knows that there is a long list of medical uses for marijuana. What’s more, the LD50 (the dosage of a substance required to cause death in 50 percent of cases) of THC is so astronomically high as to be practically impossible; especially when you compare it to its effective dosages and even MORE especially when you compare it to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco.

That said, you CAN get stupid with the stuff. People whose brains are still developing (read: under 18) are at risk for a loss of mental faculties and, needless to say, you shouldn’t be driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence. But seeing as those problems tend to drop off after legalization, the problem seems self-correcting. Still, it’s best to bake responsibly.

Caffeine

As someone who works overnight shifts for a living, I practically live on coffee. So all that caffeine can’t be good for me, right?

Well, much like our friend weed above, the ratio of caffeine’s effective dose and its LD50 are massive. You would need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one sitting to have a 50/50 shot at getting penciled in for a visit from Azrael.

That said, it’s not impossible. Reported deaths from caffeine overdoses are usually from those abusing pep pills or mainlining pure caffeine. And that’s to say nothing of the risks of Stimulant Psychosis that comes with abuse; especially for those who already suffer Psychosis through conditions like Schizophrenia.

But, for most normal and healthy humans, even the withdrawal symptoms are more like minor hindrances than serious issues. Just make sure that you stick to the coffee and energy drinks for your buzz.

Video Games

Can we start calling IQ points 'Brain Levels?

Can we start calling IQ points ‘Brain Levels?” I feel that would make my life more fun.
Source: LifeHacker

Not a drug, I know. But it’s still an issue… Why it’s still an issue I’ll never know.

All my life I was told that Video Games were bad for me and that I was going to grow up to be a mentally warped, violent freak for playing them.

But here’s the thing, while games can increase aggressive tendencies (as most competitive activities do), evidence shows the rate of violent crime DROPS with new major releases as a result of providing a time waster for those destructive desires. Also, as I mentioned last week, gaming provides useful mental exercise for those looking to keep their minds sharp.

But on the subject of exercise, let’s not forget that gaming is a largely sedentary hobby. So, it may behoove you to drop the controller once an hour to go on a 10-minute walk. Also, maybe we should replace the chips and energy drinks we often nurse with roasted nuts and iced tea.

Gaming for Everyone: A Guide to Gaming for Older Newbies

Grampas with game. Source: davidlc3.wordpress.com/

Grampas with game.
Source: davidlc3.wordpress.com/

Some time ago, my dear sweet mother expressed interest in purchasing a video game console for herself citing that she wanted it to help her keep her mind sharp.

Needless to say, spending nearly 30 years trying to convince her that gaming is actually good for the mind and psyche have finally paid off.

But then I realized that she’s in the same boat as many other people her age; an older person looking to enter a sub-culture that they’ve been rejecting (by choice or out of fear) for years and unsure of where to go. This issue can only grow when the ever family-friendly Nintendo drops the Nintendo Switch this March.

So, I feel its time for me to lay out some basics for the generations catching up to us and help them to understand how to look for games and how to best enjoy them. Just remember the following:

PC’s are for variety; Consoles are for specialization

There has been a LONG TIME argument over gamers as to whether PC’s or consoles are the superior gaming platform. But both sides miss the obvious point of having the two. You can argue technical specs and throw numbers around as much as you want, but it means nothing. The two sides exist and continue to exist for the sake of convenience.

PC’s sport the potential for larger libraries of games and beefier technicals than consoles, but consoles succeed by catering to those who know precisely what they want and cutting out the fluff to save themselves and the consumer cash in the process. This is partially a result of console manufacturers having very specific images of themselves they like to maintain. For example, Nintendo tends to put out a more family-friendly vibe to draw in older potential gamers while mining the nostalgia long time fans that are old enough to share them with their families. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft focus heavily on the 18-24 demographic for security’s sake and their line-up of more realistic, action-centric games reflect this.

Basically, you have to ask yourself how specific your tastes are and how deep your wallet goes before you settle on a platform… provided you don’t go multi-platform like most dedicated gamers.

The ESRB is next to useless

Back in the 90’s when games started tackling more adult material, people not up to speed with the culture freaked out and demanded regulation. Thus, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board – ESRB for short – came about to serve the same purpose for games that the MPAA does for Movies.

But those little labels are not a good description of quality or content. Take for instance the Super Smash Bros. series. Those games are light-hearted, colorful, and feature no blood, gore, or suggestive situations. They’re on par with the cartoons your 10-year-old kids watch. BUT, they still get a Teen rating because the characters are VAGUELY human and they OCCASIONALLY use weapons that VAGUELY resemble real ones.

Yes, the ESRB folks are even stuffier than the FCC.

If you want an accurate look at a game’s content, your best bet is to find a playable demo or, failing that, find a playthrough on YouTube (many games only get popular after a popular channel shows it off these days).

All games are ‘educational’

One of the concerns parents buying games for their kids (and for themselves by extension, I’m sure) is the educational content of the game. To wit, I’m here to allay those fears and tell you that ALL games teach something at some level.

Take the popular Pokemon series. On the surface what seems like simple virtual dogfight is actually a deeply complex arithmetic strategy game where the best players use basic addition, multiplication, division, and probability to form a winning strategy. And that’s to say nothing of the genetics lesson in breeding the perfect stats or the occasional Cultural Anthropology class you’ll get if you decide to research the inspirations behind the designs and lore of the various creatures and locales.

Remember; games are an interactive medium that requires your input. That means you’re forced to use your mind every time you play them.

The Importance Of Sex In Fiction (Or “This Cartoon Is Hot And That’s Okay”)

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site. Source: Wikipedia

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site.
Source: Wikipedia

So, one reader this week left a comment on my discussion of Steven Universe‘s Garnet and the purpose of her sexualized nature saying that they found the article after doing a light search to see if other people felt the same way about her. They also stated how they felt odd about being so attracted to an animated character and wanted to know if there was “something wrong” with them.

Well, to that reader and to others like them, I say to you this; No, there’s nothing wrong with you.

Sex and sexuality have been a major part of fiction since the creation of fiction. When someone invented the wall, someone else said, “not bad, but it would look better with a bunch o’ NEKKID people on it,” and created the first mural.

Arthurian lore is a great example of this. The tales of King Arthur and the likes of Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, Lady Guinevere, Morgan Le Fey and others are often centered around or even solely motivated by sex.

Even when the issue of censorship started coming into play, people found ways around these ‘decency laws’ to simulate and imply sex without actually showing it as a legal loophole. And thus innuendo became mainstream.

Basically, sex is a big deal in fiction because it’s something we either all do or are at least affected by; a universal constant that we can all relate to. Even asexuals are affected by the lack of desire for intercourse. That’s why asexuality is STILL a sexual orientation.

It’s for this reason that I get a little hot-headed whenever I see trolls online poking fun at people who draw erotic art, read hentai manga, or have an interest in anthropomorphism. Here are a group of people engaging in a time-honored global tradition and now they’ve come under attack by closed-minded bullies that can’t separate reality from fantasy.

Fiction is fiction and fantasy is fantasy; no healthy-minded human being will debate that. The use of fiction and fantasy is a means of self-exploration; exploration of our minds, our morals, and – indeed – our inner desires. And to this day, we have yet to find a better way to explore those notions than through fictional narrative.

Basically, if you aren’t willing to indulge in flights of fantasy – including sexual fantasy – while reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game, why are you even bothering with a story in the first place?

Protein Princesses: 3 Awesome Muscle Women In Fiction

Now, I know that a lot of you are expecting some kind of reflection on the election. But, I’m not doing that. I make it a point in politics to not complain about people regardless of what I personally think of them as I feel the REAL problem is in the mechanics of government. And since I’ve already made my point on that front, I’m not going to repeat myself (Side note: I did actually break my own rule and vote this year in a vain attempt to demonstrate the problems with the system so I have every right to complain).

Besides, I promised happier topics last week and I intend on delivering. So, let’s talk body positivity.

As some of you may have known/guessed by now, I’m pretty big on the idea that your size, shape, color, etc. doesn’t define you as a person. As a result, I get a lot of stories about men and women taking pride in their various forms.

But you know what story I almost never see? Women proud to be built like battleships.

There’s almost no talk about body image pride among muscular, athletic women. And that saddens me because I can think of tons of buff ladies that I admire. Ladies like…

Pvt. Jenette Vasquez

There’s something beautifully satisfying about the image of a comparatively small person with an over-sized gun…
Source: opensketchbook.tumblr.com

Aliens was the first time in my life that I was given the idea that a woman could be just as much (or more) of an ass-kicking titan of awesome as any man. But, in an odd twist, it wasn’t Ellen Ripley that I gravitated to. That honor went to Private Vasquez.

Ripley may have been the hero in the end, but I always felt like she was cowed by the machismo of the Marines. Not so with Vasquez; She took it all in stride and constantly proved that she could dish out whatever others gave her – as evidenced by her most famous retort.

Sure, she errs on the side of the butch stereotype, but she makes it clear that it’s her choice to be who she is and she owns it every step of the way.

Jennifer Walters; The She-Hulk

These muscles were forged in justice. Source: TV Tropes

These muscles were forged in justice.
Source: TV Tropes

An obvious choice, I’ll admit. But you don’t get as big (no pun intended) as She-Hulk without good reason.

See, Jen isn’t just a pretty face and/or mounds of muscle – she’s also quite brilliant. Remember, when she’s not running with The Avengers or subbing for The Thing on The Fantastic Four, she serves justice the old fashioned way as an expert defense attorney.

Basically, she will always be loved as long as she remains the proof that you can have brains, beauty, and brawn in one glorious green package.

Bismuth

There's nothing like the feeling of a satisfied customer. Source: Steven Univerce Wiki

There’s nothing like the feeling of a satisfied customer.
Source: Steven Universe Wiki

Have I mentioned my Steven Universe obsession yet? I feel like I may have brought it up at some point.

Firstly, to all of the Jasper fans out there, yes; technically the Big Buff Cheeto Puff qualifies for this list with her 80’s glamazon image. but I’m not counting her because, as a character, she’s not very sympathetic to me and has rejected every chance for redemption. Remember, this list is about RESPECTABLE muscle women.

Bismuth, on the other head, is a great example of a sympathetic antagonist. She’s not truly vicious and obsessed with strength and control like Jasper, she’s simply misguided in her attempts to protect the ones she loves. Once you get past that, you can see that the biggest muscle on her is her own heart.

Add to that that she’s a steel worker and a blacksmith – labor that is traditionally considered to be “men’s work” – and she’s a great role model that teaches us to, in her words, “… choose to do whatever [you want].”

We’ve only seen her a handful of times so far, but I look forward to doing BISMUTH with her again in future episodes.

Sex, Romance, and Dangly Parts: Three Things That The Agent Is Sick of Explaining To People

... And if you can't understand a simple explanation, you probably aren't trying hard enough to understand it. Source: Quora.com

… And if you can’t understand a simple explanation, you probably aren’t trying hard enough to understand it.
Source: Quora.com

Do you have a quirk about your personality or a personal belief that, despite your best efforts, you are constantly forced to explain in excruciating detail to people because they assume that you’re like that for completely unrelated reasons?

… ’cause I do. I’ve got a lot of ’em. Quirks for days.

I hate explaining these things about me to people, not so much because I constantly have to repeat myself, but because their misunderstanding of me comes off as insulting – if not to me, then to the people who are in the same boat as me. And it’s even worse when you have to explain it to the same person multiple times.

So, once and for all, let the world know that…

I’m not a prude; I’m asexual

This is probably one of the biggest problems that I (and many others, I’m sure) face as an ace – just because we don’t want to have sex, people assume that we’re prudish, virginal, moral guardians looking to ruin other people’s fun.

In fact, I’m not even all that against sex personally. I have a large collection of erotic art stored away. Some of my favorite songs are sexy love ballads. Hell, I recently wrote an entire article dedicated to the amazonian sex goddess that is Steven Universe‘s Garnet.

I simply don’t ENJOY sex as much or in the same way as other people. I prefer to avoid direct sexual encounters because I feel they distract from what I really want out of a relationship; emotional support and intellectual stimulation.

I’m not gay; I’m panromantic

… And since I don’t f***, I also can’t be gay… not that it hasn’t stopped people from thinking that.

I think what bothers me most here is more what it implies about other’s views of homosexuality rather than their thoughts about me. It seems this only ever comes up as a negative when people ask or at least that’s how they come off.

Make no mistake, I do find myself attracted to women more often. But when all I want is an intellectual chat and a reassuring cuddle, it doesn’t really matter who I get it from as long the feeling is mutual.

Thankfully, this is one of those things that was more a problem in my youth than it is today. But it still comes up often enough where I wanted to bring it up here.

I’m not transgender; I just REALLY like crossplay

Back in my college drama club days, one of my most beloved roles was in the murder mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the incorrigibly fun-loving maid-servant Ruby Pinkbottom – a role written to be played by a man in a dress. To this day, it’s considered by many of my friends to be one of my best performances.

… As well it should be. I’ve had a LOT of practice with drag roles.

Costuming is one of my favorite hobbies. I love being able to become someone else for a few fleeting moments to escape the drab, boringness of real-life. Of course, when you’ve become things like aliens, vampires, and warriors often enough, even they get old after a while. So what else is there to explore but the opposite gender?

I guess the technical label for me would be ‘gender fluid’, but I definitely identify as male by default.

Basically, I cross-dress and cosplay for fun because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a real-life shapeshifter. So don’t be shocked if you see photos of me at a convention dressed as Bismuth in the future.