The Politically Correct Vigilante must have secretly taken and lynched the old Min Lee. I've been doing a lot of self-reflecting lately and I fear that I have become this lame, tame, bland, and ultimately a hollow version of the person I used to be. I am only a faint echo of the edgy, flamboyant, and reckless person I used to be during my latter college years and my young adult days. I used to not give a fuck, and used to speak and tell stories based on principle and fact. Now I practice the soft bigotry of low expectations as to not offend and anger people. Probably because I have become lazy, weak, and apathetic. A stronger person, a true trailblazer, would have continued on a progressive path and would have been willing to take on the burden of pulling along his peers to greener pastures. A stronger person would have pulled on his own despite being ridiculed, spit on, and resisted.
I do not know when the PC Vigilante stole and silenced the stronger me. People should be more offended by my soft bigotry, and less offended of the times of when I used to tell it like it is. I used to ask questions and present ideas firmly and with conviction (and often sprinkled with vulgarities), and expected reasonable and formidable responses with an open mind and heart. When the responses were under-qualified, illogical, unreasonable, and just plain weak and stupid, I squashed them with emphasis and vigor. Not to be rude, not to be condescending, but because none of us have time to toy with those ideas, nor should we nurture those soft ideas. That should be the course of action that is respected and expected. However, soft bigotry is cushy, it is comfortable, but it is not helpful. We should expect more from each other.
I think my job has a lot to do with what I've become. The PC Vigilante in my case is not an external pressure. No, it is not a gang of people with pitchforks and torches, but rather an internal struggle. A yearning to be liked by the masses, when I should be seeking the approval of the correct and intelligent minority. I could use your help as I am hoping to light a flame. A flame that is bright, enlightening, fearless, unwavering, but most of all helpful to everyone. It is a flame that I hope stays strong for many years to come, and one we can all share to guide us in the darkness.
I have this reoccurring dream that I will detail below, but I think I finally caught on to when it comes back. I don't remember the first time I had the dream, but I realized this time it always happens when I'm going through an existential crisis. When I have questions about what I am doing, where I am going, what I should be doing, what I have done, and so on. I seem to always go through these cycles. I always get to a point where I ponder a lot, I ask a lot of questions, and then act on what I gathered. It usually results in me being pleased about working toward something, but then I get semi-complacent. I casually ride the steady waves for a bit, and then I find that I need to re-organize and re-boot. I always need to improve myself. I worry that I am going to waste my life.
This reoccurring dream isn't set in reality. I am on an island with my friends and family. The island doesn't sit in the middle of a body of water. Instead, it is surrounded by nothing. If you sit on the edge of this island and look out, it appears like a giant white wall is in front of you. However, there is no telling where the wall starts and ends. Try imagining a horizon of "nothing", or at least the closest we can imagine "nothing". What I mean by that is, even if you imagine "nothing" you are imagining something. It is impossible for us to imagine nothing, but that is a different blog. The island isn't as depressing as it sounds. I am there with my friends and family and the island is self sufficient. There is clean water, the climate is comfortable and great for producing plenty of food. The island isn't big and a lot of times we have to plot out the area carefully, but it's just enough to live comfortably and happily. Everyone on the island is happy, however, we are planning to leave. There is a promise that a ship will come and take us from this island.
When you take a step off the edge of the island, you don't fall into water like a normal island. You just fall. And you probably fall forever because there seems to be no floor. Everyone is diligent about never flirting with the edge of this island.
The day the ship is supposed to arrive comes up. We pack and prepare the day before. Things get hectic, but we know just a single day of meticulous planning and work and we will be set free. Night comes and everyone is asleep, but I'm unable to do so because of the anticipation. I get up to check everything over one last time. All our belongings are near the edge of the island because we wanted to load the incoming ship as quickly and efficiently as possible. As I am checking over everything a piece of the island crumbles and I lose my footing. I slip, but I'm able to grab on to the edge of the island. I need assistance, but I can't produce a sound. I don't worry too much because I know everyone will be up soon and will come to where I am because they will need to board the ship. Eventually the time comes and everyone works quickly to load everything we organized the day before and hop on the ship. As I hang on the edge with my forearms burning, I watch the ship leave. I try mightily to yell, but still nothing. I justify in my head that someone will eventually recognize that I am not there with them. After all, they are my closest friends and family. I tell myself to focus on gripping the island and that I should see the ship returning in no time. Days pass and I feel my grip becoming weak. My forearms are on fire and my knuckles are ready to burst. I don't know how much longer I can hold and there is still no ship in sight. I haven't heard a single sound produced by this universe of nothingness.
Then I wake up. I always feel uneasy, and I don't know what to think of this dream (maybe nightmare). I usually shrug it off until I have it again. There is probably a lot of symbolism in there and something I'm trying to tell myself. Maybe I should pay attention more.
I don't understand why my brain is this way, but I'm constantly thinking about the future. I have these really heavy and often depressing existential discussions with myself about my personal future and the future of the world. Obviously my own personal interest makes sense, and why I care so much about my neighbors and the world is another premise (But really, why wouldn't you?). Maybe because I was raised Christian (Seventh Day Adventists to be more specific), but religion always enters the discussion (Obviously if you follow me on Facebook, right?). Religion is a topic that brings me great entertainment. It gives me something to always talk about. It's a lot of fun to talk about and ponder in a serious setting and really easy to joke about in a light setting. Religion is also a topic that brings me great frustration and often makes me depressed. It makes very little objective sense and some of the evil that if produces breaks my heart.
There is a sect of the Christian community that believes in predestination. This idea that their god has an infallible "Grand-Plan" or "Master-Plan". It is objectively impossible to believe in a grand-plan when the recipe also includes an omnipotent and all loving god because there is way too much suffering and pain in this world for that to pass any test of logic (or reason, I will add). However, I sometimes wonder what if Christians are right and there is a master-plan.
I attend a Presbyterian Bible study class. I explained to others a couple of times recently that I don't attend churches and expect people to throw away their beliefs just for my visit. The members of my Bible study group know fully that I am agnostic and know that I don't believe in the idea of a master-plan. It would be incredibly stupid of me and rude if I went to a Presbyterian church and expected people to not believe in a master-plan just because I was there.
Recently I started thinking that if predestination is true, I have been chosen by the Christian god to go the hell since the beginning. He knew from the get go that at the age of 21, I would start to question my faith and go on a spiritual journey, and that 2 years later with the help of the Bible (I consider the Bible the quickest way to become atheist), many discussions and sleepless nights, educators, and books, that I would become an atheist, then an anti-theist, and then that I would go through a state of apathy and then eventually settle on agnostic. If predestination is true, I was chosen by god to go the hell from the start.
Maybe I really was predestined to be this way. I remember around 4th grade in Bible study class, we were discussing what heaven might be like. My youth group leader at the time told me that heaven would be happy and beautiful. Even at that young age that was too general for me. Really, what does happy and beautiful even mean in that context? That didn't help me assemble my image of heaven in the slightest. I asked him to specify and he went on to tell me everything is the cleanest of white, that everyone would have mansions and plenty to eat, and that the streets were paved with gold. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, even in the 4th grade that sounded like a waste of resources. I asked him what is the purpose of paving the streets with gold? It doesn't really give us any advantage, it's arrogant and again, a complete waste of gold. At that time, I was 110% a god fearing Christian boy. I knew that if I didn't do what the Bible told me, that I would go to hell. I prayed when I woke up, I prayed before breakfast, I prayed before lunch, I prayed before dinner, I gave quick prayers before snacks, I prayed when I was bored, I prayed when I was lonely, I prayed when I was worried, and I prayed before bed. And these weren't your scripted and recited prayers. Each prayer was genuine and original. How could such a dedicated, god fearing Christian boy question what heaven looked like?
Fast forward to 7th grade. I was told in Bible study class that every man on this earth had one less rib than every woman on this earth because woman was created from the rib of man. I was a 7th grade boy carrying around with me an immense misunderstanding of the human body. They had raped my mind and ruined my view of the world. When I learned in my (secular and awful public school) health class that my understanding of the human body was incorrect I was embarrassed. Looking back as a grown man I am infuriated. Why would the church do that to a young boy? Why would they disadvantage and fuck a little boy so hard that his understanding of the world could be so off? So, I went back to church and I needed answers.
So, what if I was born an atheist/agnostic? What if I am predestined to be this way? I can see instances where I have always questioned the church even as a little boy. Why would an all loving god sentence me to a life in hell from the very beginning?
(The spacing in my Word document is a bit different. Sorry!)
It has taken me a while, but I finally found the time to finish the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I have the benefit of watching a recorded version so I am able to pause and take notes when something interesting is said. I am very excited to hear both perspectives and I hope that I walk away having learned a lot. I, however, am disadvantaged as I was forced to watch the entire 2 hour 45 minute debate between several dates. Hopefully the notes I took along the way prevent me from disconnecting any major points of the debate.
A lot of us know Bill Nye regardless of religious beliefs or lack of. If you had any sort of normal childhood in the '90s and a television, you probably saw his show. When I was young, I thought Bill Nye was just an actor but it turns out he is an actual scientist, engineer, and genius. Not only that, but he had the privilege of learning from Carl Sagan (Another personal hero of mine). During the Superbowl, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane's teaser for The Cosmos aired. A re-make of the brilliant series by Carl Sagan that aired in 1980 and I am very much looking forward to it. I did learn that some people don't take Nye seriously because of his Emmy winning background, a position I disagree with. I cannot make the connection as to why being a successful Emmy winning producer, writer, and host should take away from your credibility as an engineer and scientist. As Nye explains in his closing statement, when you're in love, you want the world to know.
Ken Ham is probably not a household name, but that doesn't mean he should be discredited (The same way I don't think Nye should be discredited because he is known). I have only gotten snippets of Ham so I don't know too much about him. I know he is one of those people that believe that dinosaurs and humans once roamed the earth together. I do feel a bit sorry for him because he wants so badly for science and religion to co-exist. Perhaps that is possible, most likely unreasonable, but no one is here to tell him that it's impossible. I've seen interviews with plenty of Catholics leaders that believe in science and religion and do a good job of separating the two. Mr. Ham (At least in the material I have seen him in) fails to separate religion and science when it is necessary and is willing to suspend facts to support his own belief. (And now that I have completed the debate, I believe in this position even more).
I felt like the opening statements portion was the most bearable and "reasonable". Reasonable in the sense that both sides made their points, interests were raised, and you wanted to hear more. The second half increasingly became frustrating because of Ham's inability to answer any of the questions or address any of the challenges that went his way.
I'm so glad Mr. Nye addressed this strange idea of "observational" science and "historical" science. It's difficult to understand why the scientific method applies to one, but not the other. He did a great job handling a strange idea that he was exposed to for the very first time. It's very difficult to break down a new idea on the stop. It's much more fair to have an idea, to sit and examine it, and to pull it apart and put it back together before you can explain it in full. Nye wasn't afforded this luxury and was still impressive enough to dispel this kooky and random method of operating.
But not all my frustrations in the opening statement were directed at Mr. Ham. I was already growing impatient with Nye's call to scientific support. I absolutely support this idea that we need to inspire the next generation of scientists and I absolutely believe that humans will only thrive as far as reason, intellect, and scientific advancement will allow us to. But stop taking this "patriotic" angle and just debate Ham. Win the debate, and inspiration will generate itself because no one will want to go down the path of Ham.
I am glad that Mr. Ham was able to address something a lot of Christians are afraid to address these days. It's no longer dangerous to be in support of equal rights when it comes to the LGBT community. Many of us know this line of thinking doesn't quite jive with the Christian way of thinking. Mr. Ham claims that humanists, secularists, and scientists have hijacked the word "Science". He also claims that those groups of people also are out to indoctrinate children. They aren't. Quite the contrary actually because science asks them to be open minded, to question, and to progress. But I will side with Ham on a position and if any idea has been hijacked it is "Christian Morality". These Christian apologists have blurred, mashed together, and made confusing what Christian morality is and the morality of those that want a fairer, safer, more consistent, and loving world. Do not get me wrong, Jesus preached great things and I am a fan of Jesus Christ. It's more the Christian god that I am upset with. The point I am getting to here is, I am glad that Ham has the backbone to stand up and say that "marriage" is between a man and a woman. A lot of Christians these days don't have the courage to stand up for the book they live by. For that, I will applaud Mr. Ham for his strength and criticize his stance on morality.
It's only when the rapid fire rebuttals and the Q&A begins that the debate begins to unravel a bit and we see Nye separate himself and take the lead in the debate. Ham refused to answer any of the proposed questions. And by refuse I don't mean that he choose to not speak, but he kept reciting the same practiced answers as if this were a Sarah Palin interview. Or, he ignored major portions of the question entirely. Nye had a different, and thoroughly supported responses for all the questions and then on top of that expanded on the questions and asked Ham to elaborate. I actually learned about physics, about biology, about chemistry, about the cosmos, about ship making, about evolution, and so many other sects of knowledge because Nye explained his answers in detail. Nye also tried to come in with his point again about the future of America and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) being the key to a flourishing future. We get it, Bill Nye The Science Guy.
I also did not expect that the two would dissect the topic and story of Noah's ark so much. I agree with Christian apologists on this one that the story of Noah's ark so be taken as...well, story. To believe this as an actual and literal story would be akin to believing Lord Of The Rings, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Thor, or any other fictional story or character as non-fictional. When you're a child, you do have license to let your imagination run wild. If your child wants to believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Santa Clause, that is totally fine. But when you become an adult and you need to make decisions off facts, and based on reasonable ideas and intuition, you need to harness that imagination a bit. This is what a lot of Christians fail to do. With all that in mind, if you were still somehow on the fence about the story of Noah's ark, then Nye's explanation about Noah's ark should have tipped the scales. Not only did he present an argument with reason (much like the way I outlined above), then be brought logic into it, and then lastly he brought history and physics into it. The story about the ship bending and taking in water is something I never would have thought of or have heard of. For many reasons, but for one I don't work on boats. I also don't know the physical properties of wood well enough to be able to understand that's what happens. This should have been the last we heard about the story of Noah's ark, but it continues as the debate does.
Also, it makes difficult the point Ham made about "observational" science and "historical" science. There is a large disconnect and major inconsistency. Mr. Ham claims that Mr. Nye cannot know or project to know what happened, let's say, 4000 years ago because Nye was not there to observe what happened. This is the case Ham was making against Nye when they were talking about the age of the earth, the atmospheric bubbles trapped inside ice, the fossils that are excavated, the rings in trees, and so on. Since Nye did not witness those things happen, he cannot claim to know any of those things. However, the same can be said about Ham not witnessing the Christian God hand down any of the laws he desires, nor the creation of the world as explained in genesis, or Noah's ark, or how the Bible was written and the credibility of the Bible because he simply was not there. Ham cannot have it both ways.
Ham also continued to sidestep every question and rebuttal that came his way and it became increasingly frustrating. Not the most exciting speaker as it is, it almost became unbearable when he continued to waste our time by not addressing anything. He continuously played a game of semantics to avoid supplying us with anything substantial. At one point, he asked us what "literally" meant. Oh, I don't know...maybe what we all mean when we use the word "literally"? Mr. Ham also went on to say incredibly stupid things like, "It's not survival of the fittest, it's the survival of those who survived," and "It's true, that's why it's true". What does that mean? That's like if you looked up the word "bread" in the dictionary and the definition read, "bread". It explains nothing! It doesn't even attempt to. It's lazy, and when you're engaged in a debate, it's cowardly.
Also, before I wrap this up, I have a historical question. Mr. Ham credits the invention of logic as a Christian invention. Obviously Ham's credibility is pretty low after this debate, but it's worth trying to figure out. Historically speaking, is logic a Christian creation?
I think it was a mistake for Bill Nye to debate Ken Ham. There was very little upside for him to debate Mr. Ham, while the upside for Ham was exponentially greater. The trouble with a debate is that the point isn't actually to find the correct answer. It is to win by either showcasing your position and ideas, or by bringing down the other person's idea enough to make your stance the more viable position. Even with that, Bill Nye was able to win the debate and hopefully he generated inspiration and momentum for the reasonable, and scientific community. There is a poll that was taken shortly after the debate and even Christians overwhelmingly thought Nye won the debate. It was probably a mixture of his charisma, his tone (Ham's tone almost seemed indifferent), smiling (Ham looked like death!), and the fact that he brought information with him. Congratulations and thank you to Mr. Bill Nye for allowing reason to prevail.
Before I end all this, I do have to reference Christopher Hitchens. One of the most articulate, knowledgeable, and greatest debaters I know. Ken Ham at one point brings up that without Yahweh and the Bible, that the world would be without morals because there would be no origin. I would pay money to watch Christopher Hitchens take down Mr. Ham on this point. No one demolished Christian morals the way Hitchens did. For that, we are forever in his debt and I miss him greatly. Simply read Leviticus and Deuteronomy (you could look elsewhere too and find shocking material, but those are easy places to start) to know that if we lived in a world of Christian morals, it would be a horrific place to live.
Be opening minded, love, and progress.
(No proof reading was done. I hope this makes at least a little sense).
It is cold outside, right? Like dangerously cold to the point where if you stood out there long enough without proper equipment you might die. First you would suffer incredible pain and your body would do everything it could do to, first, alert your consciousness of the issue and then take the appropriate measures to buy you time. You see, in Minnesota, at the time of this writing, it is negative 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday we saw a low of negative 10 degrees and today we will not even eclipse 0 degrees as our high will be a whole negative 1 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is kind of insane considering negative numbers only exist in theory. I'm no meteorologist so I am not here to blog about atmospheric chemistry and physics. I am here to ask a few questions.
It was pounded into my head for 21 years that Yahweh created this pale blue dot we live on with us in mind. To me, that means he should be considered one of the worst engineers of all time, he is just plain stupid, or he actually created the planet without having us in mind (And he can be all three, a mixture, but he must be one). Why would he allow portions of this planet to become so immensely cold (and others so immensely hot) that warm blooded creatures could not survive in those areas? And why would he cover the surface of the planet with a substance that we cannot live on or in and is more suited for marine life? He also created us so that we would need to consume incredible amounts of sustenance which includes large amounts of water. Yet, although the planet is mostly covered in water, we cannot consume it because a lot of the water we are presented with would harm us. We could not survive living on a majority of this planet without great advances in science and technology, yet many of us claim that this rock in space that we so fortunately inhabit was created in a few days with us in mind. That would mean we are either unreasonable, immensely stupid, and/or gigantically arrogant (or again, a combination of).
We can't all fit in San Francisco where I hear it is beautiful all year round. For some reason, Yahweh has designated that area of this planet to the homosexuals; a group he despises yet has given the best real estate to. A part of me resents being fed mis-information for 21 years, but I do appreciate seeing that side of it. My hope is that we can stop claiming that the Christian god created this pale blue, spinning, orbiting rock with his children in mind. It is so clear that isn't the case.
I always seem to write only when I am in times of need. That’s pretty selfish of me, but writing, expression, and art only gives and never demands. I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the last 3 weeks or so. I seem to go through these cycles. Periods where I am very happy and I feel stable and completely comfortable with where I am. Then there are times where I don’t know what my next step is. Periods where I feel completely lost and I feel desperate for something to latch onto. I think I’m learning more and more lately that feeling that way isn’t entirely strange and uncommon and knowing that does provide comfort, but only to a degree. Of course everyone wants to know what their future is going to look like and what their calling in life is, but that is not a luxury many of us are afforded. You explore, you keep your eyes open, you absorb, you learn, and you keep marching no matter how much life and the future sucks a nut. And I want to be clear, exploring and not having stable footing sucks a nut for the most part.
However, how you feel also depends on how you approach life sucking a nut. I am going through a lot of changes in my professional life lately and it forced me to look around and reevaluate. I was super bummed out at first, but I woke up one day and I realized this is not a reason to cry and feel locked up, but rather an opportunity to feel liberated. I have so much more free time to experiment and get involved. Sure, as I mentioned above it is partially uncomfortable, horrifying, and frustrating, but that’s life and I have to roll with it. It’s a challenge not to be crippled by fear and to show some courage. I feel like I’ve been lacking courage lately. I’ve also been feeling like an outsider, which is fine since I have embraced not being “common” for quite some time. I got a new hair cut the other day that kind of symbolizes that I have more courage than I show and that I am okay with being an outcast. I’m hardly ever satisfied with new haircuts, but I think I like this one.
I’ve also very much accepted that I am a large, steamy, stinky pile of shit and that’s one of the greatest admissions I could make at this point. It’s unshackled me from the chains that keep me occupying a small space. After you fully accept that you are a piece of shit, there is only moving up and out. No tall expectations to come tumbling down to disappoint you. I think some people would tell me that is an unhealthy and pessimistic view point, and I don’t think they are entirely wrong, but you don’t have to let being a piece of shit hinder you. You can embrace it and let it fuel you. No one wants to be a piece of shit forever, although it’s kind of fun because no one cares about you or the mistakes you are about to make. They expect you to fuck up. After all, you are a piece of shit!
I’ve been talking to a lot of people and I’ve also come to accept that I can’t complete this journey successfully without the help of other people. No one ever “makes it” alone. There are a lot of people that help you along the way, a lot of accidents that need to come together, and a lot of luck needs to be involved. Even with those factors out of our control, there are many variables that are in our control. Like how much we are going to care about future projects, how much time and effort we are going to put into those projects, how hard we are going to work, how determined we are going to be, and so on. Maybe I’m completely off, but a large chunk of the battle is about how much you actually give a shit. I can say right now I give a shit. I give a shit about my life, my happiness, my well being, my future, and my career. I give a shit about the family, friends, and the people around me. I really do give a shit. Look, I have to protect and look after me, and sometimes that conflicts with being more generous and helping and loving, but I do give a shit. I want to live a happy life. More than live a long life, I just want to live one very fulfilling life. As an atheist, I think that’s all we get. One chance to make yourself happy, leave a mark on this world, progress it, and hopefully that’ll enhance the lives of the people to come after you. And that matters to me because I give a shit about other people. Their happiness matters. Their happiness is just as important as yours or mine. Because when someone is happy, they work harder, they give more of a shit, and they are more inclined to pass along those great qualities. I was chatting with a friend not too long ago and I was explaining my situation to him. He stopped me and said to me, “Well, you make it seem like your life is super shitty, but then why walk around with a fake smile and make an effort to help other people so much?” That’s because my shitty life shouldn’t make the lives of other people shitty.
So, in other words, love each other and help each other. Especially me, because right now I really need it. I feel so insanely unstable right now. I want some long term goals, some short term goals, and a “purpose”. I want to wake up driven and feel like if I weren’t a part of something, that machine would crumble. So yes, I need your help. With ideas, with inspiration, with guidance, and with opportunities. Anything! I want to be somebody someday, and I want the same for you.
I've just been kind of down lately. Nothing really exciting going on, kind of living every day in repetition, and just unsure of a lot of things if not everything. There was a period earlier in 2012 where for a couple of months I was busting ass and trying to make things happen. I think that sort of maximum effort would've continued had I seem some sort of progress. However, there came a point where it seemed like the harder I worked the more backwards I was headed.
If I could just pin-point the source of my frustration/depression/anger/anxiety/yearning (See, I can't even come up for a good word for what I'm feeling) I could hone in on it and focus purely on fixing the issue with laser like focus. I think this inability to articulate and understand what I'm feeling makes it doubly frustrating.
And so I've decided to change my way of life a bit. Forever I tried to be this purely logical, very disciplined, no bull-shit, considerate, open-minded, and available kind of guy. I chased "perfection" with nothing else in mind. I convinced myself I could rest when I get there. However, it would make little sense for me to continue this course of action if I feel like I'm going backwards. I suppose it doesn't matter at this point if I don't have a solid backup plan because what I'm doing is not working. I can almost assume anything else would work better.
I, however, have figured out one thing during the trek. I've learned that my pursuit of perfection might have been my biggest flaw. What a stupid fucking flaw too. Doesn't seem right that trying to be the kindest, hardest working, most logical dude in the room can be a flaw. But it was mine and I now know I have to let go a bit. Trying to control every factor just isn't possible.
I just hope something comes my way soon. I just want something to click, or a sign to come my way and give me a push a certain direction. Even a tiny little spark that would add some excitement in my life would be good enough for me. Something that makes waking up exciting. 2012 is about to end on us, and although a date doesn't mean anything, maybe it will give me enough of a placebo push a certain way.
A couple of weeks ago Audrey Britton, or one of her canvassers, left some information about her campaign on my door. This is not an article about Audrey Britton, but after reading over her “résumé” I was reminded of something that annoys me a bit about politicians and elections.
It seems to me that most politicians brag endlessly about how good they are at running businesses. It seems that most politicians are either lawyers or business people. However, if politicians are elected to represent and reflect the public, where are the teachers, the doctors, the dentists, the engineers, the scientists, and the technicians? When I step out into the world, I’m not surrounded by only lawyers and business people. There is a vast mosaic of professions and ideas. Should our government not reflect this more? Now, I’m not saying that being a lawyer or a business person should dismiss you from becoming a public servant, but I am saying that maybe this shouldn’t be a prerequisite. The first bullet point on Britton’s handout is “small business owner”. Again, this isn’t an article bashing Britton, she just had the misfortune of leaving her résumé on the door of a thinking skeptic.
When Fox News and Republicans claim that Barack Obama has very little business experience and that he was only a community organizer, I don’t see this as a criticism. I say good, because serving the public isn’t only about business. Considering the well being and happiness of people is a bit more complex, so let’s not purpose simple solutions to complicated issues.
I had the chance to ask some Korean citizens if Koreans still see America as a positive global force. It seems like many Koreans were disappointed in America during the Bush era, but they still view America is a very positive presence.
So, a thesis I would like to look into is, why does America’s presence in South Korea mostly seem like a success while America’s time in the Middle-East mostly a failure? What did we do differently? Or is the problem that we went into two very different areas with the same approach?
Are there any books or good launching points you guys can suggest? Please and thank you.
Do you have to commit intellectual suicide to be religious? Although I would very much like to say you do have to hand over any license to be intelligent when you choose the path of blind faith, I just don’t think it’s fair to say that. My objective side tells me that truth is power, and because truth is power, I’ve chosen not to be a theist. To claim that religious people are committing intellectual suicide just on “gut-feeling” would put me into the same pool as those who practice blind faith. Can you be a theist and also have a great progressive mind? I think it certainly is possible, but I do feel that having the burden of being a theist does create unnecessary barriers. This is a shame because what if these barriers hinder a great mind from changing the course of history. Imagine how many great ideas and inventions we might have missed out on.
We do need to be very careful when mixing blind faith and intellect. When we throw blind faith and evidence into the same pot, we are creating a mess. Mixing the two together gives faith credibility it doesn’t deserve. I’ve heard some argue that being intolerant of religion is just as dogmatic as religious folk. I used to agree with this sentiment, but now I think there is a rebuttal to be made. I watched Sam Harris give a speech at TED that really opened up a new perspective for me. I thought being completely tolerant and open minded was a great thing, but Sam Harris suggested that being too open minded and too liberal is actually harmful. Instead of trying to sum up Harris’ great speech, I’ll just provide the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww. For me to even attempt summarizing his insights would be shameful. The part that stood out to me was when he talked about Saudi Arabia and continued to explain that when we know something is just plain wrong, it isn’t intolerance to be firmly suggest a correction.
By now anyone who follows politics, and probably many who don’t, have heard about the comments presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made about 47% of Americans at a $50,000 a plate fundraiser. I’m not here to straighten out the facts, try to convince you one way or the other, or try to use Romney’s comment as a way to smear or defend Romney’s campaign. As an independent, these last few months have been a headache. However, I want to write about the reaction Romney’s comments received. Although I can understand why people reacted the way they did, I am shocked that people were shocked. A lot can be said without going too deep into the numbers.
I was surprised that people were shocked by Romney’s statements because it’s not surprising he said those words. In fact, when asked about his comments after the public and media had a chance to dissect his words, Romney stated that he stands by his comments. Of course he does, and good for Romney for not backing down and standing up for what he believes in despite the outrage and even if his ideals are horrible. Did people actually not know this was Romney and the Republican’s stance on social programs? No matter how we spin it, the Republicans are not in favor of social programs. That is their platform and this is no secret.
This leads me to believe that people are either playing dumb or they aren’t paying attention. I hope most people are just playing dumb because it would be horrible for a mostly ignorant electorate to fill the booths this November.
I have been attending rock concerts for about a decade now and therefore feel as though I am seasoned enough to have a valid opinion about concerts and the scene. I remember thinking that the rock show was pure anarchy at the first few rock shows I went to. But as I continued to attend live shows, I quickly learned that it isn’t mass chaos and I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere of live shows and what they could provide. I have even found myself doing some crowd control at recent shows. I really thought about the etiquette of concerts and thinking about concerts systematically after I attended the Dead Throne tour a month ago. It was one of the worst crowds I have rocked out with in quite some time and it really made me think about why that crowd was so bad. There is no textbook for concert etiquette and so young concert goers only learn from experience. However, not everyone’s observation skills are created equally, and so some concert goers always manage to make it difficult for other fans. I want to use this blog to take a humorous and light yet systematic approach to concert etiquette.
I have never been to a rap or pop concert, so this blog does not pertain to those types of concerts. I mostly listen to the spectrum of rock music. I have been in friendly ska circle pits, I have been to atmospheric concerts where people stand in place in awe of the music, I have been to general alternative concerts where it’s just about having a good time, and I have been to metal concerts where it seems I never go back home without sharing some blood with the venue. There isn’t too much going on at concerts like Copeland and Lydia where people can stand around and just enjoy the music. The ska crowd is just too nice, simple minded, careless, or all of the above for this blog to pertain to them. It’s the general alternative, metal, hardcore, and screamo shows that sometimes need a review of etiquette. This includes everything from Thrice and Taking Back Sunday to bands like As I Lay Dying and Cradle of Filth.
When you come to one of these shows the venue will most likely be pretty spaced out. Not everyone comes for the opening acts. People will most likely be standing in circles with their friends or with their arms crossed looking at the stage that has nothing but equipment on it. You also have the fan that has come to the show only to play with their cell phone. These fans I have never understood because you can play with your cell phone at home without paying the price of admission. Before sound check starts, most people will stand near the stage with a good 4 to 6 inches of space between each person. There is no need to stand shoulder to shoulder, chest to back at this point of the concert. However, you will often have a young fan arrive to the venue late and disrupt the harmony that was carefully carved out by more prompt concert goers. To add salt to the wound, this fan will often gleefully wave his friends over destroying any shred of harmony left and testing your patience even further. Why fans choose to bully their way through and make everyone around them uncomfortable is beyond me. Sure, now you’re a little closer to the stage and your vantage point might be slightly better, but what about the people around you? Plus, I am willing to bet a good lump of money that you will not end up in that exact spot when the show or set ends. There will be music in the room; you will be able to hear it regardless of where you are. When sound check ends and the fans can sense the start of the first band, an act occurs that I like to call “the rush”. The rush is a compression of everyone in the room and migration toward the stage. It’s a phenomenon that occurs at all concerts and puts a smile on my face every time.
Now let’s take a moment to look at the crowd from a bird’s eye view. The common rock concert crowd can be sliced into three primary sections. I will analyze the three sections starting with the section closest to the stage and move toward the back of the venue. The first section can be called “claustrophobia unfriendly”. This section probably doesn’t take up as much room only because the fans are so concentrated. This is where you will typically find younger fans who mistakenly believe that being closer to the stage will enable them to be more involved with the music. There are fans in this section that could care less about the music and more about being physically closer to the musicians because it gives them a sense of being involved with the scene. To be fair, there are plenty of good fans in this section too that just have the misfortune of sharing this area with poor fans. When I was a young concert attendee, I thought this was the place to be, but that perspective quickly changed as I gained more knowledge. Most of the fans here will be grumpy as they have absolutely zero wiggle room and sometimes will find it difficult to breath because of the of the amount of pressure created by bodies being pressed against each other. In this section, you sometimes have to think twice about putting your hands in the air at the band’s request because you might not be able to put your arms back down. One of the most annoying acts in this section is something I like to call “the-ring-of-protection”. You will see this immensely annoying violation by young couples. Often a boyfriend will try to create breathing space for their girlfriends by creating an imaginary hula-hoop around them with their arms making it uncomfortable for everyone around them. These violators need to either quit this act, or they have to take their romance to the back of the venue. You cannot go to a concert and commit this heinous act in section one without being a thorn to everyone around you. If your girlfriend is that petite, you have to know better and stay home or respect the people around you. This is a rock concert, you know what to expect.
The second section is probably the largest in terms of square feet and not necessarily bodies. I believe you will find more veteran concert goers in this section and I am certain you will find the more rowdy concert goers here. Most of these fans are indeed there for the music, but to be fair, some are only there to thrash and can sometimes ruin it for the other people. The fans in this section have grown tired of the first section and have learned that the party is actually in this region. There is also another kind of fan that make of the periphery of the second section. These fans are also tired of the first section, but don’t plan to partake in the circle pit. These fans can fully enjoy the music and appreciate the crowd as well. They also play the vital role of maintaining the frame of the circle pit. The circle pit is a chaotic and amazing space. The circle pit might look like complete anarchy, but to a seasoned vet, there are unwritten rules in place, rules that a newcomer will not know. There are two types of fans in the circle pit. One who is there for the love of music and to take advantage of the atmosphere and everything a live show has to offer while connecting with the similar fans. Then as mentioned above, there are some fans in the circle pit just to release some aggression. I personally can’t get involved in a circle pit unless I can “feel” the music. Now here is an unwritten rule that was often ignored at the Dead Throne concert I attended: when a fan falls, it is the duty of everyone else in the circle pit to help that individual up. If that person is not helped up, they will get stepped on, possibly injured, and they will have a hell of a time attempting to get up as the swarm of people above them continue to step on them as the madness continues. Another element newcomers to the circle pit don’t seem to understand is that the objective of a circle pit is not to run into each other in an attempt to destroy each other. For example, at the Dead Throne show, there was a not so gentle man whose main intent was to knock everyone in the circle pit over before they knocked him over. It was as if he were playing a very violent and deranged version of tag. Of course after a few minutes he was the least liked guy in the pit and he found himself on the receiving end of a couple of choke holds. To help you better picture this ass of an individual, just know he had his Ed Hardy polo on and his collar popped. When people told him to quit intentionally knocking people over, he replied that it was a concert and this is what was suppose to occur. To the untrained eye, this is what it might look like. This is, however, not what is actually going on. No one is in the pit performing their best Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher impersonation. It just so happens that sometimes during the chaos people run each other over. There is not, or at least shouldn’t be, any intent to injure someone in a circle pit. People just understand that a certain level of violence comes with the territory. There is another fan that I like to call “the flailer” that shares the space inside a circle pit. The flailer doesn’t move around much within the pit, but does demand a good amount of space as they flail their extremities in an unhealthy fashion. It may look as if the flailer is mindlessly attempting to unhinge his forearm off his elbow, but a good flailer is very aware of the length of their limbs, the people around them, and the amount of space they have. The flailers at The Devil Wears Prada show failed to consider the three elements of flailing just mentioned. Flailers already look dumb (I know, I flail sometimes), let’s not hurt people in the process by elbowing, kicking, and/or slapping them. The last rule I want to throw in here quickly for the people of the second section is not to throw stuff into the stage. It puts the bands in danger and it doesn’t make you cool. The bands are working hard night in and night out and the last thing they need is for a shoe to hit them in the face.
The third section mostly makes up the back of the venue, but depending on the venue can take up space on the peripheries and can also manifest on multiple floors. There are two types of fans in the third section. The first one being the fans who don’t give a shit about the bands that are playing and are there more to be hip and because alcohol is served. The other type of fan is one that still loves music, but has grown out of the other two sections and could care less about partaking in those concert activities. They are there strictly there for the music. The third section really doesn’t need a lot of rules because most of the older fans are here. Plus, this is the section I have the least experience with although I find myself here more and more lately.
It would be convenient to have a book to teach us how to properly rock the fuck out, but alas things just aren’t that convenient for this scene that isn’t highly exposed. The scene is still a beautiful and thriving one, and so my hope is to hand it over to the next generation of young fans as beautiful and intact. Music has done so much for me and I’m sure for many people and it still has the capacity to do so much if we let it. It is truly one of the most beautiful and amazing mediums we have as proven by how eternal it is. I want to do my best to protect it and as I slowly fade into the third section, I hope music does for new fans what it has done for me.
This article will be used to review both the The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP) concert I went to in Minneapolis and their new album Dead Throne. I’ll start off with a quick album review which I will keep short because the album has already been out for two months. Dead Throne, which was released on September 13th of 2011, was the first album Adam Dutkiewicz produced with TDWP. Their previous three full lengths and their Zombie EP were all produced by Joey Sturgis. Anyone who follows the scene also knows Adam Dutkiewicz from successful metalcore band Killswitch Engage. The band only had good things to say about their new producer and you definitely can hear a difference on this album. Although, I would argue that the growth of the band made more of a difference than picking a new producer. I make this claim because the Zombie EP which was produced by their previous producer really marks a turning point for TDWP. They took their sound to an entirely new level of brutality and cohesiveness and only expanded on that with Dead Throne. I’m not entirely sure what caused such a change but I would love to figure out what inspired this immense jump as there was no hint for the forthcoming carnage on their 2009 record, With Roots Above and Branches Below. Even just taking a glance at their album art and their track titles will support my point. The album art for With Roots Above and Branches Below is a lot more “colorful” and “playful” than the covers of the Zombie EP and Dead Throne which I think are much more dark and serious. The band previously had song titles like, “I Hate Buffering,” “Big Wiggly Style,” “HTML Rulez D00d”and “Swords, Dragons, and Diet Coke.” Now they present songs with simpler names. It has been very exciting to hear this accelerated growth from TDWP and watch them morph into a more mature band. I was hoping for a song that would echo that of “Louder Than Thunder” off of With Roots Above and Branches Below, but they didn’t have anything like that on Dead Throne. I find it very exciting when a band slips in a song on the record that is a complete changeup and throw the listener off a bit. A great example of this is Underoath’s “Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape”. “Kansas” is probably the closest thing to doing that on Dead Throne as it is one of the albums slower songs, but it still remains to hold a level of brutality and darkness. If you liked TDWP’s Zombie EP, you have to check out Dead Throne.
The concert I attended a couple of weeks ago was one of the bigger concerts I have been to in a while. Bands don’t seem to go on these huge tours anymore where any of the bands could be headliners themselves. Every band on this tour was outstanding. It was exciting to see a level of production on the TDWP’s set as most bands these days try to save money because of the recession. They didn’t have too much going on, but just enough to enhance the show. Although the strobe lights sometimes made it difficult to see anything. They also did a great job breaking up blocks of unrelenting songs with slower songs to give the crowd much needed breaks. Front man Mike Hranica was all over the stage and energetic as always. Hranica really understands the 180 degree line that performing on a stage creates and plays the angles very well. He also plays along well with the lights creating perfect silhouettes when the lights brighten and blotch him out. The show was full of energy and the crowd seemed to love the entire show. However, my only complaint about the show would be the crowd itself. Minnesota isn’t known as a tough place to play, but the crowd that night lacked respect to each other and to the bands. But that’s a different article I will be writing later.
I saw The Thing a few weeks ago, so my memory of the movie is not as fresh as I would like it to be, but I felt a short review of the movie was still justified. From what I saw, there were more mumblings about the disappointment that The Thing was being remade than excitement for its release. That sentiment is fine and fair, but we should clarify now that it is not a remake, but rather a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 original.
The movie stars budding starlet Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who I happen to be a fan of. It’s good to see her getting out there and getting more roles. It seemed like the production of Scott Pilgrim might’ve delayed her upcoming as the making of that movie took longer than expected. Winstead plays paleontologist Kate Lloyd in the film who is a powerful female lead character that isn’t sexualized or bullied by her male counterparts. I’ve heard people call the character of Kate Lloyd the second coming of Ripley from Alien. I’m inclined to believe this aspect of the character appealed to Winstead as she, at least from interviews, seems to be an intelligent and articulate individual who isn’t just looking to take the easy way to the top of Hollywood. In the movie, Lloyd is recruited to work at a base located in Antarctica where they have discovered a frozen item that could change the history of the world. Things begin to become complicated at the base when protocols are ignored due to swelling personalities and the desire to be immortalized in the history books. One of the superiors of the operation takes a risky path despite Lloyd’s pleas and chaos and paranoia ensues.
I must say that the prequel probably is not as good as the original. It’s been a while since I’ve viewed the original, but if my memory serves me correctly, the original did a better job with character development. The level and density of paranoia in the original also seemed to be greater, but this could just be due to my younger age and my horror movie phase I went through when I watched the original. During the marketing of The Thing, the cast continuously harped on how the level of paranoia and psychological stress is immense, and although the movie does a great job showing the trust issues the discovery team goes through, it’s not as big of a factor to the audience as I would have liked. Another element the cast and crew kept boasting about was how the 2011 movie worked hard to tie into the original film. Although they do accomplish this, I felt like this element was a bit exaggerated.
The Thing was a decent movie, but I can’t recommend it to everyone. If you went through a horror movie phase with your buddies in high school because horror movies are sometimes the best comedy movies, then this will be a good rental for you and your pals. If you’re a big fan of the original movie, and you would love to relive an updated version of The Thing, it is worth a watch. Otherwise, just rent it on a night you have nothing else to do.
Troll Hunter has to be one of the most unique films of last year. For some odd reason, when I tell people I recently watched Troll Hunter, I’m always asked, “Oh, what’s it about?” A very fair question, but the movie is what the title says. It is about a troll hunter. The movie was released on October 29th of 2010, and got an American release on June 10th of 2011. The movie opened to mostly positive reviews.
The Norwegian film was filmed in Western Norway where it takes place in the movie. The movie was directed by André Øvredal featuring mostly lesser known actors. The film team chose to go keep the movie under the radar and attempted the viral marketing strategy. The Nordic location provided for some stunning scenery in the movie. Troll Hunter is a mockumentary employing the handheld first person camera work. So think Blair Witch Project or Quarantinein Norway and with giant trolls. The lighting in the film is exceptional, especially in the low light scenes. Using the moon as the motivator, the lighting and photography crew does a wonderful job creating accurate shadows and deep contrast. Another cinematic element they did a great job with was incorporating was the rain, mist, and the fog that rolls against the hills. The crew lit the mist extremely well to make the mist pop and have great depth (not an easy task!), allowing the audience to feel the setting more vividly. The movie also did a great job with little touches to give it a more authentic feel and to make it seem like the footage was actually found and raw. One example is when the hunter and the in movie film crew (remember, this is a mockumentary) are grabbing breakfast and we see the in movie film crew white balancing. This might go unnoticed to most, but to someone who has film experience it is a great touch. The next example would seem obvious, but other first person films often missed with this one. There is a moment in the film where the camera operator is picked up by a troll and drops the camera. Let’s arbitrarily say the camera fell 8 feet. We then see the lens is cracked. Out of all the first person films I’ve seen, this might be the first with a destructible lens. The exact opposite happened in Quarantine when the camera man viciously defends himself against a zombie with blunt camera blows. Destructible lenses are not always a given.
I won’t go too much into the story of the movie as to not ruin it. As mentioned above, the movie is about a troll hunter, and that’s the only introduction the movie needs. It might be the only introduction anyone can give. A couple of interesting discussions the movie brings up are the discussions on religion and animal rights. We can see that religion might be a big topic just from the trailer where Christianity and Islam are both raised. As an American, it is fascinating to see a Scandinavian slant on religion. The trolls are attracted to the scent of Christian blood, so before the troll hunter allows the film crew to shadow him, he probes the crew on their religious beliefs. The members all deny any affiliation with Jesus Christ. We find out later that one of the members of the film team is actually a closet Christian. It makes sense that he would hide the fact that he is Christian in a country where, in 2005, only 32% of the population believed in a god. This was extremely interesting as atheists are often bullied in America and seeing the roles reversed was quite refreshing. Animals rights, or perhaps better phrased as creature rights in this film are also observed. We see the team sympathize for sheep when they are used as bait to lure the trolls. We also see in one of the interviews with the hunter that he might also have sympathy for the trolls.
I recommend this film to everyone because of how unique and well made it is. I fully understand that Americans tend to be turned off by subtitles, but it’s time we mature and venture into a wider variety of cinema. Especially when there is a movie of this grade is waiting to be viewed.