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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ghosts Are Real...

...Except they aren't.

It's past 5:00 am when I begin to write this, which is far later than usual, so be prepared for anything...

So I've been hanging around the forums on Newgrounds for quite some time lately. Recently, I came across this thread. Now, I don't know whether it was a troll who was the OP (original poster, for those of you who were thinking "over powered" or "one piece") or not. It doesn't matter though. Many of you won't check out the link, but basically there's a guy who believes in ghosts, and claims to have been possessed by one. I made some replies on the forum, giving an explanation for what probably really happened to mr. OP, but I figured I might just write about the phenomenon of believing in Ghosts here too.

I know it was a long time since I made my previous post, but I have some excuses. Among other things, I've been on a slalom skiing trip to Vuokatti. I've also been playing SpeedRunners for unhealthy amounts of time. I also spent some time on reading "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck", while listening to one of the only graphic novel soundtracks in existence (link will probably not work forever; copyright laws), on a CD I bought on the release date.
Mostly though, I've procrastinated. I did however partake in a music competition, and posted a compostition, inspired by an awesome artpiece.
I didn't even come close to winning though, but it was fun :D
(Album of 15 best entries: Bandcamp or YouTube, where all the amazing art is shown too).

Apart from that, I've made yet another infinite song.

Whew :/ Now that that's out of the way, we can return to ghosts.

So I did some research, and it seems as though a LOT of people believe in the existence of the paranormal.

Why do so many people believe that some of the dead still stick around on this little speck of the universe? Well, there are probably many reasons.

Some people simply believe it since they have heard convincing stories. People have always been fascinated by the very things that scare them. As I discussed in my previous post, many enjoy the thrill they get from being scared. There are seemingly endless amounts of horror movies out there, and more is coming all the time. From the moment we're born, we've heard ghost stories, read some books, seen movies. Seeing as it's such a huge part of our culture, it's no wonder that the question "are ghosts for real?" pop up in our heads every now and then.

However, one would think that the vast majority of adults would arrive at the answer "no" in a matter of milliseconds. That doesn't seem to be the case though. Some people are simply FULLY convinced that the souls of the dead walk among the living, which to me, is an absurd thought.

As cool as the theory is, I strongly believe that it's not true. I'm not saying I know with 100% certainty that there couldn't possibly exist such a thing as ghosts, but I've almost never seen anything that would indicate otherwise.
I think that many just enjoy the thought so much (knowingly or not) that they kinda wish ghosts were actually a real thing. Since no one alive knows what dying, or the potential afterlife feel like, it makes sense to want to want to discuss the topic with others. Some people also would want to think that dead relatives or beloved ones are still around them.

Those are all pretty normal people. Different religious beliefs also tend to make folks more susceptible to the possibility of ghosts existing. But these are people who've had no convincing experiences, which eliminate all doubts of the reality of the paranormal. There are even "scientists" that claim that these kinds of things are real, and even some relevant studies have been conducted!

What I want to take some time to discuss, are the extreme believers. There are people that are fully convinced they've had encounters with beings of darkness. I don't doubt that they've seen what they've seen, that they've heard what they've heard, and that they've felt what they've felt. I'll now tell you the funniest thing about this all!

Almost every single kind of these stories occur either when the person affected is lying in bed, under the influence of something, or has just experienced a lot of stress or sleep deprivation. Coincidence?

Quite obviously, not. Why alcohol or other drugs might make you hallucinate (including vision and/or other senses), is no mystery.

What's up with those other things though? Well, I'd say stress is pretty self explanatory too. Did you know that stress is probably the single most common trigger for mental diseases? Stress is responsible for a lot of other malice too. A lot of stress or sleep deprivation can cause you to hallucinate. And often, negative feelings don't result in happy hallucinations...

But even stripped from everything else, the fact of lying in bed is probably the most usual causer of naturally occurring hallucinations! Hallucinations are actually FAR MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK. In fact - by definition - you've probably hallucinated this very day without realizing it. You've probably experienced pretty "strong" hallucinations sometime during your life too. You don't need to be sick in anyway at all in order to hallucinate.
Have you ever searched for you keys, in the location you thought you put them, but couldn't find them, only for it to later turn out that they were there the entire time after all!? Well, that is actually a naturally occurring "negative" hallucination (as opposed to "positive"), since you couldn't see the keys that were actually there. This phenomenon is actually not even caused by the blind spot in your eye (you're probably not one-eyed either...), but rather from your brain locking out the very thing it's trying to locate. Actually, every hallucination is both positive and negative, as you'd have to see what was under/behind the keys in order not to see the keys.

This is a pretty non-extreme example, but hopefully you got the point. I know I mentioned this in one of my posts about hypnosis too (which is actually a real thing [scientifically proven several, several times], although seemingly more scepticism is directed towards it than at the existence of ghosts o.O).

Anywho... Back to bed.

I've mentioned this before too, but most "paranormal" phenomena occur while people are about to fall asleep (hypnagocic), or are about to wake up (hypnopompic).
Often upon these two things happening, one may experience sleep paralysis. Basically, you're paralyzed when you're sleeping, to prevent you from acting upon your dreams (sleep walkers tend to have an issue with this). However, if the paralysis happens when you are semi-awake, you might experience the scariest events of your life. Your brain isn't functioning normally, and at the same time, your body might try to explain why you can't move (or otherwise bug you with odd sounds or scary figures)! A lot has already been written about this topic, which you'll see if you check out the link I added in the beginning of this paragraph.
Another similar phenomenon is night terror - pavor nocturnus.
Speaking of sleep paralysis, I once mentioned a blog post written by someone that had experienced it. Well, that same blogger has recently made another post, discussing a completely different subject.

So as you can imagine, not all people are educated in this area of psychology, which causes them to draw other conclusions when they see the shadowy figures surrounding their bed and/or laying on top of them. Many people hallucinate about wild animals or just about anything scary you could imagine, but the strange thing is that a huge lot of the people see "the shadow people". Don't believe any of the scary stories based around them though, as they are but projections of the mind. If you're interested, you can actually play a good flash game that's based around them! There's a sequel too, but if you're interested I'm sure you'll manage to find it yourself.

So basically, all the people who have seen ghosts have either misinterpreted something, or hallucinated, or simply have false memories. Heard about them? Basically, every time your brain remembers something, the synapses in the same part of the brain where the memory is stored start working again, which will affect the memory every time. It's fully possible to use inception, this way (the planting of a false idea I mean, not through dreams). There are people who are fully convinced they've seen dinosaurs, without necessarily being "crazy".
You don't actually see the world the way it actually is, but only the way your brain interprets it. Makes you wonder what's real and what's not, doesn't it? Think about it. Ever had some old memories, you've remembered so many times that you're not really sure exactly what happened anymore? The order of events may be mixed up, and some memories can be just plain false. Don't lie too much either! If you do that, it's actually not impossible to start believing some of your own lies XD
Seriously though, I'm not joking... It is. It's scary, isn't it? Not being able to differentiate between reality and fiction.

Back to hallucinations. Don't underestimate how realistic they can feel. All the emotions you feel while hallucinating will only make them feel as real as reality, or maybe even more real?

Anyhow, the entire point of this post is that ghosts most likely do not exist. Photos and videos claiming to have captured them are simply fake or something explainable as well, and have always been. What do you think? Are ghosts for real?

Please, I'd love to hear any scary stories that you have from your personal life! They don't have to be scary either, just relating to the subject. Feel free to comment away ;)

IN OTHER NEWS. Ludum Dare 29 had its start exactly 2 hours and 20 minutes ago. I'm entering this time around. There are two different competitions; make a game yourself, from scartch, in 48 hours + some other restrictions (compo). The other one: 72 hours, teams allowed, not necessarily entirely from scratch, and so on (jam).

The theme that was just released is "Beneath the Surface". The game has to relate to the theme somehow. Seeing as one doesn't get much time, the games become pretty minimalistic. I have this simple idea already which I will expand upon after some sleep (personally, I'm joining the jam).
Here's a two minute skiss:

Basically, the mechanics will be similar to that of the SHIFT games.
Probably, one will be able to alternate between the white and the black ball, if I manage to figure out how to "program" this with Stencyl. You'll move to the side, and have to complete puzzles that become more and more difficult. Also, there might be some dialogue, some music made by me, and such.
This is far from the most original idea, but what do you think? Should I do something else? Please be quick in replying, as time's running out...

Well, since the clock is soon determined to show 6:30, I ought to get some shut-eye.
Have fun...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inspired By Fear?

Have you ever been afraid?

If your answer is no, you're either a liar, or know nothing of this world. I'm sure that all of us have experienced fear some time; if not much, then at least a little bit. What is fear, to begin with? It's just a simple human defence mechanism, not much more. But if you're afraid, struck by terror, there's not much else you can think about. It's one of the strongest feelings there is, and it often tops anger, hunger, sometimes even love (although not always, especially not in stories). Granted, love doesn't really count as a feeling, but it's comparable.

The reason that fear is so special, is that it's similar to a reflex, in a way. It's your body's reaction to danger, and often activates the fight-or-flight response, which concentrates the blood flow to areas you're soon likely to need - your arms and legs, and the brain as well.
Not always though... To some people, fear can be immobilizing, which is pretty much the opposite. This is probably a defence mechanism too. Many animals suddenly freeze, because it makes them difficult to spot. Others simply play dead. With humans, being afraid may cause your enemy to deem you not worth killing. Then again... Others enjoy it.
Yes, you're right... I've been reading "A Song of Ice and Fire" again... Which is also the reason I didn't write anything yesterday night, when I meant to.

Anyhow, back to being afraid. When I was little, I used to be scared of the dark. I'm sure that many of us were, but I think that I got rid of the fear much later than most did. I still don't feel completely at ease at some very specific locations (like the cellar in one abandoned house, owned by the parents of one of my friends). I'm not afraid in the same way anymore, though. I used to have some difficulty controlling my fantasies. If I began imagining something scary in the darkness, I could not stop myself from making it even worse. Maybe part of me enjoyed scaring itself more and more; I don't know. What I know is, this doesn't happen anymore.

I know it's a bit cheesy, but it's true without the shadow of a doubt that humans tend to be afraid of the unknown. That's one of the main reasons for phenomena such as racism and homophobia. Phobia actually means fear. But that might also be why many fear the afterlife, and have even made up places like heaven and hell. Superstition in general always has strong bonds to fear. Fear is a great motivator. You can use fear, to get as you want; to control others.

Superstition is also a reason as to why the dark can be scary to some people. Sometimes it's logical; the human eye is not as great as one would like. An enemy can easily hide in the shadows. People often avoid alleyways when the sun is down, because they also want to avoid potential robbers or other "weird" people.
But if you're at home, safe in your bed, is it really logical not to want to turn of the lamp when you go to bed? I think not.

Fear doesn't have to be rational. All of the stories, movies and games with monsters of some kind don't make it that much easier. Still, being afraid can be... fun?

The very reason that horror stories exist, is that they are entertaining. Alike many other things, fear is something that people can share, together. In a weird way, watching a scary movie with your friends can give you a sense of togetherness, and also, it can help you overcome you fears. Most things don't seem as scary when you're together with other people you trust; the more the merrier. This all makes sense from a biological standpoint too. A group of people can meet a greater foe than one man alone, so it's only natural that being 'round others evokes a sense of calm.

Then again, some people like scary stuff when they're alone as well. You might play creepy games with jumpscares, even if you're all by yourself. In fact, as the conclusion we just arrived to suggests, it's all the more scary when you're alone, with no one to turn to if fear takes over. Why? Just for the thrill of it.
As I mentioned earlier, fear is seen in the physical reaction of your body. At the same time, hormones such as adrenaline are released into your system, and I dare say quite many enjoy the feeling, although sometimes without realizing it.

Why do you think you enjoy rides on roller coasters? The reason is the same as when you enjoy fear. Part of it may have to do with overcoming the fear, which can give a feeling of gratifictaion, or even self-actualization.

As a summary, while fear can save you from danger, or be your greatest enemy, it may also be a source of fun and be a great motivator.

Now, let's return back to me.
I said I used to be scared of the dark. Well, it wasn't necessarily the darkness itself that bothered me. Acutally, if everything was truly pitch black, I had no problem with it, as far as I can remember. But when I kept my eyes open, and saw just a little bit... That was when things could get scary.
If your vision is limited, the brain sometimes wants to invent things of its own. And since fear - as I said in the beginning - takes over pretty much all your thoughts, the brain naturally invents scary stuff instead of what's actually there. Your chair with the clothes on can suddenly become whatever scares you the most, and even if you close your eyes afterwards, your brain might just keep on thinking about creepy things. I could talk about why clowns and dolls and such scare the shit out of some people, but I think Vsauce already did a pretty good job of that.

I'm not really scared anymore though, as I said. Why is that? Well, part of the reason is probably that I simply grew up. But still, there are adults that have irrational fears that are far worse than anything I ever had. Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure that you're not as scared of superstition when the logical parts of your brain are active. I'm not saying that I'm constantly living a life of pure logic nowadays, as that would be dull as fuck. What I'm trying to get at is that when you get rid of the belief in the supernatural, your fear of the supernatural might subside in your list of concerns.
Personally, I'm an atheist. There is not necessarily much wrong with all sorts of religious, or should I say, superstitious beliefs (although something's quite clearly wrong with others...), but they can result in irrational thinking when it comes to some subjects. The older I've grown, the more certain I've become that nothing supernatural really exists (well to begin with, if anything happen in this world, it becomes natural by default due to the pure definition of the word). This includes anything from multiple eyed monsters to any invisible ruler in the sky. After all, if God exists, would not demons too?

Anyhow... Another reason as to why I'm not so easily scared at this day and age is that my father has, as I'd like to say, already scared my fear away. Not as of late, but when I was a kid and during some of my early teens, he used to scare the crap out of me every now and then. And for each time he did so, the effects wore off slightly; I got used to it. Some people do so quickly, for others it takes a long time to adapt, but alike many other things, it's possible to gain some immunity from fear. Naturally, there are several kinds of fears, and in order to not be affected by any of them at all, you need to feel less than a psychopath. That is hardly obtainable, at least for the living.

Well now, why did I write about such an odd topic today (night* sigh...)?
I actually realized that I actually enjoy darkness most of the time. Like really, I prefer dark over light. I'm not emo, goth, or any other of those labels, but some of my "style" can seem similar.
Black is most likely my favorite color (I mean, just look at the theme of this blog, not to speak of the name of the blog). I like really "dark" music, if it's well pulled of. Even the very few serious pieces of art I make seem to revolve around dark themes.. Most of my online usernames involve the word shadow, and that is only some of the things I mean. I like the concept of darkness in gerenal, is what I'm trying to say. Why do I do so? I might just like how mysterious the darkness; the unknown, can be. Acutally... I don't really know why I like the theme; I guess I simply do.

So basically, I'd say that darkness has inspired me quite a lot in the end. It has shaped me, so to say. All this, even if I initially was afraid of it. Hmm...

As I said in my previous post, I even made a game. The game is pretty dark too, as one might expect. The main reason I mention this, is  simply because I actually won 4th place in the competition the game entered! And about 100$ (minus taxes) as well :p
Check out the other winners too!! Especially the game in the #1 spot baffled me...

Speaking of darkness, I've picked up a pretty weird habit lately. In one of the houses I live in, there's a storage path that connects the stairwells (the house is a highrise). This path is mostly underground, and there are no real windows. So sometimes, I take the path, but I leave the lights off. It's actually pretty fun to walk that way. At first, it was difficult even to walk straight, let alone succeed in not touching the walls and get a good sense of distance. But for every time I took the path, I got better at it. I haven't taken it in a while now, but I'm sure I could still pull it off quite well.
However, one time I -for no specific reason, as far as I'm concerned- decided to simply sit down and wait for a while in the complete and utter darkness. And actually, I quite enjoyed it! There was nothing to disturb me. No sound (except when someone flushed a toilet...), no vision, no nothing, really. I ended up sitting there alone in the darkness for quite a while, maybe up to half an hour or so (luckily no one came there, it was already pretty late... If someone had come, the situation might have been a bit awkward to explain. I would've probably just gone to the exit on the opposite side before I was spotted).
Anyhow, the experience was one of the most relaxing ones I can remember. It felt pretty much like some sort of meditation. It also made me see my thoughts much clearer, as one might imagine. With no other sensory input, my thoughts were pretty much all I had. There's actually a psychological experiment that is closely related to what I did, but a tad more extreme 1, 2, 3. :p
As I sat there in the darkness, I also noticed that I wasn't in the least bit afraid. Quite the opposite, I'd assert.

If you're the least bit as weird as me, I recommend you try out something similar sometime! It just might be worth your time...

That wasn't the end of my experiences with total darkness though...

Somewhat recently I read a post on 9gag about someone that liked to shower in the dark, aka without any lights, and the post had many likes. I figured I might as well try it out. Guess what? I enjoyed it :)

This is something I absolutely recommend for all of you. You don't need to be as extreme as me and turn off all the lights in a bathroom without windows, but try using as little light as you dare. Just make sure not to hurt yourself; I'll take no blame.

In the same way, showering in utter darkness is most relaxing. No real vision (although, during daytime your eyes will adapt to the small amount of light that enters through the interstice below the door), combined with the soothing sound of the water from the shower, not to speak of the warmth. Seriously, why would you NOT try it out XD?

And there's no need to worry about being odd for doing it; a lot of people have at least tried it/are doing it. More people than one might think. At least according to a survey, but oh well.

What's the moral of this entry? Clearly, it's that darkness is cool and you should accept it into your heart :'3

Also, here's an entirely normal picture of me.

Now, for the advertisements :'D

Firstly, I made a playlist out of all the songs I've uploaded to Newgrounds! I even included the bad "joke songs". So if you're ever in need of background music, just check that link out ;) (Also, if you do it, you get to see a picture of me cosplaying as James, from Pokémon).

Also... Some time ago I made a simple piece for the piano, which I didn't really like all that much, but other people seemed to really enjoy it... So if you want to, you can go check it out for yourself ;)

Even more importantly, my favorite blogger is back in action!!!
And he seems to be quite active as well. In the span of one week, he has already written three good posts, so go check him out ;) (No need to worry, his entries are not as long and confusing as mine are).

OneSketchist even painted an elephant man, so why would you not check him out?

Well, I think that's pretty much all for now :/
As usually, I've created a monster of text. So why not make it even longer, and end it all with a weird "poem" I wrote some nights ago, for no apparent reason. It's very similar to my previous poem, which I wrote some months ago. Enjoy! (If it's humanly possible...).

Poem on Poems

Once again, here I am
I don't know why I write these poems
Maybe it's just because I can
Or maybe there simply is no reason

From boredom my writing just might arise
Not necessarily from any real problems
Not any inner thoughts in disguise
My psyche is far away from treason

It seems as though I lack the flow
I seem unable to make this glow
with the light of meaning or humor
Maybe I'm just causing a tumor

I don't look at my poems highly
Thay lack any sort of deeper depth
I guess I write them far too dryly
In this area I'm quite inept

I'm better off with writing music
At least that shouldn't make you sick
Reading this might just do that though
Or maybe not; I don't know

I always seem to write late at night
The mood is always more sincere
My inspiration is seldom light
Which is something that should be clear

This will be the final verse
Which I don't think will make you fierce
Alas, as a poet I won't get employment
I still hope I brought you some kind of enjoyment

Now... Back to reading "A Clash of Kings"...