Saturday, March 12, 2011

Music and Film "Expertise"

I feel like my generation is plagued with an overabundance of “artists” or “critics” that unjustly hold their own opinion in the highest regard. This isn’t to say that their opinions don’t matter—on the contrary, art is subjective, and your own personal reactions to it are more important than anything else anyone could ever think or say. What I’m talking about are the people that try to assert that their analysis of a particular song or movie is correct, and no other interpretation could be worthwhile. What’s worse is these people usually try to flaunt their alleged expertise to make them seem more intelligent.

Perhaps I should refer to my post on Hispters, as this is a common Hipster trend. These people often believe that their experience and their tastes are more developed and therefore more worthy than yours—but regardless of whether they sincerely believe this or not, they feel it is their duty to make sure you know exactly how much expertise they claim to have. They’ll often intentionally make references to obscure bands or unpopular movies in an effort to establish their credibility, and try to hold it against you if you haven’t experienced them. They may also try to bring in some arbitrary means of qualification—for instance, one of these types may take a single music-related academic course and gain the confidence of a postgraduate Music Major. Or they may have dabbled in cinematography and now fancy themselves a directorial superstar.

Odds are they don’t really know any more than you do. Even if they read up on complicated terminology on Wikipedia or try to mimic what they read in a professional review, they still won’t be able to implement them properly. Don’t let these people be arrogant; their pretentious opinions and insubstantially complex language doesn’t mean a goddamn thing. Their opinions are just that, opinions, and they’re every bit as entitled to them as you are to yours. Don’t forget that.

This is another sign of our cultural, and perhaps generational, adherence to blind arrogance. These people often select what songs and films they like artificially, choosing whichever array will make them seem the most knowledgeable or the most distinguished. But don’t be fooled, most of this is a ruse. Even if someone does appear to be developed, odds are high that they’ve worked hard to establish that image for the image’s sake alone. You, the natural listener/viewer, have a less polluted and stronger sense for art the way it was meant to be seen—unfettered by outside bullshit.

Oh and just for the record, I am aware I generally fit into this category.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Optical Illusions

Optical illusions are the shit. I wish I knew more about the cognitive mechanics behind their perceptions. They’re almost drug-like in their ability to entrance and perplex.

When I was a kid I had this gigantic book of optical illusions. There were paradoxical drawings of impossible structures, strange patterns that seemed to pop out or resonate or spin if you stared at them long enough, and quiz-like ones that tried to make two distinct colors or lines seem different when in fact they were the same. It wouldn’t matter how logically I thought about them, or how long I tried to stare at them and use my eyes to ‘force’ them into a strict visual logic, they would still always captivate me. I think I still have that book, though the vast number of optical illusions on the internet has made it somewhat obsolete.

Today I still find myself fascinated by them, in one way or another. I’ve long since discovered artistic works, like those of MC Escher, which capitalize on paradoxical designs but also imbue their work with an aesthetic and artistic integrity that only enhances their awe. Mathematicians and computer experts have developed some sort of algorithm that can generate those spacey eye-fucking patterns and colors. And movies and models try to capitalize now more than ever on angles and lights to trick our minds into seeing things differently than they actually are.

It gets me thinking how many perception-warping tricks pass us by without our notice. How many ideas we have or images we see that are simply untrue… optical illusions are fun when you’re aware of them, and entertaining yourself by consciously acknowledging their characteristics. But they can be developed and harnessed to warp our cognition and help lean our minds in whatever direction their creators intend.

Still awesome.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Little Lazinesses

It’s amazing how many little things are affected by my laziness. Sure, there are neglected professional and academic responsibilities from time to time, but these are extremely rare. I am able to motivate myself to get necessary things done, so my laziness manifests itself in smaller, arbitrary tasks.

If something’s on television that I don’t like and the remote control is too far away, I leave it. It would be too much effort to get up and fetch the remote or, God forbid, change the channel or adjust the volume on the actual set.
There are video games I absolutely love that are merely collecting dust because I don’t have the gumption to hook up the old system—yep, too lazy for video games.
If I’m in the mood for cereal, but there are only unopened boxes, I go without. Tearing open those bags are brutal.
If my laptop battery’s dying but the cord’s too far away, I simply cut short whatever task I’m doing and move to something else.
If I’m hungry and I start cooking something, I find a snack to satisfy me while I wait—even if it’s only for a few minutes in the microwave.
I refuse to buy a new tube of toothpaste until every last observable particle has been extracted.
Fucking forget about replacing the toilet paper.

There are hundreds more I can’t come up with right now. So there may end up being a sequel post. I’d be willing to bet a majority of you are able to relate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Literal Day

At my place of work, we are going to declare a “literal day,” in which all words, phrases, and expressions are to be taken literally. Within reason, of course—if somebody uses the phrase “I’ll kill you!” as a colloquialism, we certainly wouldn’t want them to make it literal in adherence with the policies of the day. So, everything is to be taken literally except that which would break any law or cause any unjust harm.

This means phrases like “Just a second” would frailly collapse. People would have to think very carefully about everything they utter. Yes, it’s incredibly pretentious and quite possibly biased against the inarticulate, but it will force people to use the linguistic portion of their brains much more than they usually do. And it’s only for a day, too. I would certainly be against a perpetuation of this kind of thing.

I’m actually very fond of figurative language. But too much of it has evolved to become commonplace and immediately accepted by default in our everyday language. Hopefully people will learn about their language and themselves during Literal Day, and quite possibly mention the idea to those around them. If Literal Day spreads, it could become a national celebration like April Fool’s Day. But while the fun and mocking nature of April Fool’s Day would be transferred, Literal Day would actually carry a larger function. It might get people to more accurately and more thoughtfully address the words in their heads before they come out of their mouths.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Depending on how you define them, I don’t think miracles exist. Most people would agree that a miracle is something that occurs against extraordinary odds, and in most cases they’d agree that some divine or otherwise supernatural force was responsible for its occurrence.

I have two problems with this. One; if you define a miracle as something that happens despite unlikelihood, then why is it only positive occurrences that receive credit as miracles? If your son has a 99% chance of dying during an operation and he lives, then you might consider it a miracle. But if he has a 99% chance of living, but dies, then nobody would consider that a miracle (unless your son is some crazy dictator or something). So is chance not enough to qualify something great as a miracle? Or do unlikely bad things that happen just not receive as much miraculous attention as they, by definition, deserve?

Let’s ignore that statistical aspect of the argument for a moment. People define miracles often—especially in the case of illness recovery. Growing up in a popular church, I’ve heard far too many people attributing the recovery of their loved ones to “miraculous intervention.” They honestly believe that God overcame the overwhelming odds specifically to save their loved one. Maybe that is true; who am I to say it isn’t? But I can’t help but wonder why God would choose to save the life of a single, 90-year-old arthritic woman over any one of the thousands of children in the world that starve to death every day or the innocent women that are habitually raped and abused in tumultuous countries.

Either we need to redefine what constitutes a miracle, or God has some fucked-up priorities.

Monday, March 7, 2011


A significantly less serious post for me, but I’m really grateful for treadmills.

I’m an avid runner, and really love to run outside, but living in the northeastern US, sometimes it’s virtually impossible to get outside. After an unfortunate frostbitten incident about a year ago, I lost my will to brave the cold, even with multiple layers. And during ice storms, the moisture damage to my shoes and the risk of slipping are far too much for me to comfortably handle. Fortunately, the treadmill offers me a consistent way for me to avoid the bitter ferocity of the outdoors but still keep my legs from atrophying.

It’s boring, yes. Very, very boring. But it’s better than nothing. I can still listen to the rhythm of my feet, and the fact that there aren’t any cars or other people around makes it easier for me to completely lose myself in wandering thought. I can almost seamlessly leave my body and forget about my unchanging surroundings. And of course there’s the occasional luxury of earphones, too…

I find it easier to push myself on a treadmill. If I have a specific goal, it’s harder to pace myself outside (especially since I rarely carry a timepiece with me). But on the treadmill, I can simply set the speed to exactly the level of performance I want to accomplish, and see if I can last.

Now, I know the treadmill isn’t ideal. It’s flat, so it doesn’t offer the natural challenge of hills and valleys of the outdoors, and since it’s a running feed, you’re technically not propelling yourself forward (only getting yourself pushed back). But it’s still challenging if you compensate for it, and it’s amazing as a last resort.

That’s it. Nothing deep or opinionated or maybe even insightful, but I had a good run today and I wanted to pay thanks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Drop-Down Menus

Drop-down menus are terrible. You understand what I’m referring to—the arrow-initiated list of options that appears when you’re filling information in online, on anything from goofy personality quizzes to serious job applications. They’re abysmal, and this is why.

Life isn’t multiple choice. Okay, yes, technically I suppose you could qualify it that way; but what I’m getting at is there isn’t a finite range of options available to you in describing yourself either concretely or abstractly. I thought it was bad enough when the license bureau forced you to select a single color for your hair or your eyes. Now every characteristic you could possibly have is rapidly being only definable through drop-down menus. Sure, a few of them may be accurate. But no amount of pre-determined options could possibly be enough to cover the spread of uniqueness in the world.

People need to be able to define themselves abstractly and specifically. Instead of just putting “brown” for hair color, wouldn’t it be more accurate for me to say “a transitional light brown, with fleeting shades of blond.” Or instead of saying “no degree,” saying “in the final two weeks of my four-year college education.” Everything is becoming oversimplified and overcompartmentalized—it’s a way of both limiting the way you can describe yourself and segregating people into classes. It’s as if more and more, the common belief is that people can be arithmetically sorted into groups.

While there are advantages to this kind of sorting, and accuracy within drop-down menus as a whole, I think it’s a dangerous direction for us to head in as a society. It’s probably a little fatalistic to think that this could lead to further rigid classifications in real life, but we have to imagine it as a possibility. The day may come when we all have numbers instead of names.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I went shopping at a Menard’s yesterday. I was reminded of that movie, Idiocracy, in which everything from basic groceries to a college education can be purchased in one, gigantic supermarket.

Walmart’s taken on the role of a superstore for several years now. The company is still often vilified for its business practices and over-corporate image, but I was always somewhat satisfied by the unbelievable selection of products available. I thought to myself, “this place has electronics, clothing, and groceries—what more could I need in a store?” I thought that Walmart was the end of the expansion of the supermarket. Oh, how wrong I was.

Enter Menard’s. It’s advertised as a home improvement store, so I went into it thinking it would have the same set-up as a Lowe’s or a Home Depot—and to an extent it was very similar. But I immediately noticed it was far, far larger—as big if not bigger than our entire mall. There are separate buildings on the outside housing an ungodly amount of lumber, drywall, and rental construction/repair equipment, a gardening section around the outside, and an interior that you can (and will) literally get lost in. I found the usual home improvement stuff—nuts and bolts and wires and anything and everything to DIY your home into whatever the fuck you want it to be. But there was more. More appliances than I’d ever seen before, toys, furniture, entertainment, and groceries—yes groceries! It’s as if Walmart had kept its intimidatingly large selection and grew a back doorway to a Home Depot.

Right now Menard’s stores are only located in 13 states, but if I were a betting man, I’d say it’s set to grow further. And it makes me wonder… how many more stages in the evolution of a superstore can there possibly be? I thought Walmart was the end of the line, but apparently the market progression is still advancing. How much bigger can stores possibly get? How many more products and services will they be able to cram in there? And how long until competition slowly fades away, leaving only one, city-wide store to supply us with anything and everything we could ever need or want?

It’s scary to think that far ahead, and it does seem logically unlikely that economic competition could ever truly die out. But I’ve been wrong in my company instincts before… so I have to acknowledge it as a genuine possibility.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Best you can Be

I have trouble accepting the best I can be. It’s an interesting and confusing topic for me to think about. In one sense, technically we’re always the best we can be. If we’re limited even only by our own level of motivation, then we’re still doing the best we can. If a student fails a class because he was too lazy to do his homework, he’s still the best he can be (taking into consideration the obstacle his natural laziness had).

But on the other hand, we’re never the best we can be—there’s always some other course of action we could have taken. We could have studied for ten more minutes, or we could have accelerated a bit more through the yellow light and gotten to work on time. This especially comes into play during my continual strive for fitness. I feel like I’m never the best I can be—I could always have eaten a hundred calories less, always have run just one mile further. It’s absolutely haunting.

I can’t seem to accept myself for what I am, and I think that’s a commonality in the population. As Americans, we place a great deal of pride in becoming everything we can be—achieving our greatest potential. But it’s maddening to always know you could have done just a little bit better. You could always be just a little bit more than you are. It’s a nagging perfectionism that’s never okay with your present self because your potential isn’t 100% realized.

Like many people, I need to take bits of sentiment from the first argument I made—in a sense, we’re always the best we can be, limited by whatever agents are our detriment. Thinking exclusively in this way can lead to apathy or excusing laziness, but taking it in moderation with the second argument can lead to a more peaceful kind of existence.

Be all you can be. But you’ll never be all you can be. And you’ll always be all you can be. Fuck it, I have to stop overthinking things.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Job Satisfaction

I saw a truck driving the other day with a design on it that read “Job Satisfaction this way” and an arrow pointing forward. Perhaps it was supposed to indicate that job satisfaction was closer than you’d think, but the message struck me as very sad. I thought of Tantalus, yearning for food but having it constantly out of reach. No matter how fast or how far the truck travels, the arrow isn’t going to change. Job satisfaction will be perpetually out of reach.

I kind of feel that job satisfaction will always be out of reach for most of us. No matter how far we progress in salary or authority, we may always feel like we haven’t done enough. It’s that perfectionist attitude that seizes this country’s work force (or at least, the ones worth mentioning)—it’s healthy and productive to continually strive for improvement, but if that urge is too strong, it means there will never be any sense of satisfaction. It’s a continuous, tantalizing hunger that will never recede.

It’s also, in part, a “grass is always greener” mentality. Maybe someday, you’ll be able to achieve a high enough position to quench your sense of worth. But you may always wonder if perhaps another field or another realm would be better for you. It’s sad to think about, and difficult to remedy even if you can recognize it in yourself. But the rewarding complacence of job satisfaction may forever elude us all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I think graffiti is the purest form of art that exists in the world today. So much art, in any medium—music, film, poetry, literature, paintings, sculptures, whatever—is compromised either by its intention, its motivation, or its reception.

It’s common nowadays to accuse an artist of “selling out.” While the sentiment is understandably contested by some who insist that money doesn’t necessarily change someone’s artistic perspective, it’s tough to deny that it may have an effect. Many artists produce work solely for monetary compensation, and it’s often clear that the piece was motivated by finance rather than emotion or integrity. But nobody pays graffiti artists—they supply their own materials, and receive nothing other than their own personal satisfaction.

Another compromise can sometimes be personal reputation. An artist may avoid working with a subject they fear may endanger their public reputation, or the reverse, they may choose to attempt a specific kind of material just because they think it will make them popular. But graffiti artists (at least the ones that don’t tag their name) are almost unanimously anonymous, and are therefore free from those traps.

Whether it’s a large-scale mural on the side of a city building or a simple message on the back of a bathroom stall, what you’re looking at is an illegal defacement—but it’s also the most sincere and uncompromised form of artistic expression that exists in the world today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I struggle to come to terms with a statistic I saw the other day; over 50% of American citizens believe in angels operating on Earth.

Over 50%. I realize by chastising this, I’ll be alienating half the nation, but if over 50% of the population believed in unicorns, there would be a lot more attention drawn to it. So why are angels different from any other supernatural, intangible or mythical being? Goblins, leprechauns, or genies never get any attention. Show any hint that you could even remotely believe in one of these beings, and you’ll be laughed out of any sane and reasonable forum. But claim a belief in angels, and apparently half the population will welcome you with open arms.

So is it because angels are Biblical beings? More than two-thirds of our population is Christian, so if they believe in God I might see why it would be reasonable to assume they believe in angels, too. But why don’t people believe in demons operating on Earth? Wouldn’t it make sense that, maintaining the balance of the world, some sort of malevolent being would have to exist in order to counteract the angels?

But faith can never be disproven by logic. So let’s assume that angels do exist. Why would they operate they way they do? I’ve heard of people surviving terrible car accidents thanking their guardian angels for letting them escape unscathed. So was it your guardian angel that got the other driver drunk or made you swerve into the other lane? Or was that one of the demons? So what if you were paralyzed in the car crash—would you blame that on demons or coincidence? 1700 children die of hunger every hour. Every. Fucking. Hour. Where are their guardian angels? Apparently making sure you don’t get scraped from operating your Cadillac negligently.

Forgive me if I intrude upon your cherished beliefs. But I don’t find angels to be reasonable beings. There is no more support for the existence of angels than there is for fairies or satyrs or griffins—or especially their demonic counterparts. And even if they did exist, I think they would or at least should be helping the people that really need it—not wasting pseudo-miracles on the ignorant, spoiled, fatass religious adherents that seem to be overwhelming this country.

Wow, I sound like an asshole. But why hold back? Maybe my angel’s on vacation.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Black History Month

I suppose I should have written about this at the beginning of the month rather than the end of it, but it’s better late than never…

I don’t like the title “Black History Month.” It makes it sound like all black people have a history and a culture that is completely independent of mainstream history. It’s as if “black history” is different than “history,” and that without a month dedicated to acknowledging it, it would go completely ignored. I hope I don’t have to explain how ridiculous that thought is.

But there isn’t really a White History Month or a Mexican History month. I think there are Black History and Black Studies classes offered at a university level, but the curricula there tend to focus more on culture than actual history. And the same with the month—it seems to me Black History Month is all about maintaining and sharing new and old traditions of black Americans, and I’m glad that opportunity for diversity and celebration is there. So why not call it Black Culture Month?

Perhaps I’m wrong though. The concern may be about focusing specifically on Black History—but that seems so broad and so… pointless. I’m not saying black Americans or black people in general have a pointless history though, on the contrary—the history and accomplishments of black Americans has been long-standing and seamlessly interwoven in all aspects of American history in general. So why do we need to separate that mutual existence? Why do we need to tear apart the multifaceted fibers of American history and focus only on one race’s progression?

I suppose there are benefits to it, but ultimately I think it just furthers a dying but still-burning notion that people of other races are to be treated as separate. Then again, I do believe Black History Month is more of a cultural celebration than a historical one… either way I think we need to rethink the title and reassess its characteristics and its importance.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time Currency

I was thinking about how I spend my time the other day, and I decided to take the phrase literally. What if time functioned like currency? We were able to spend a finite amount of paper slips, each corresponding to a certain amount of time. We’d spend a third immediately on sleep; this would be the equivalent of rent or food or something. We’d spend a third on work, which is all the other various necessities of life. Then we’d be left with a certain value, and have to prioritize.

I feel like having a time currency would make our time more tangible and thus, more valuable. It would make us think much harder and more in depth about how we choose to spend our time. Oftentimes we chastise ourselves for how “time got away from us,” how we didn’t realize how much time we’d spent on arbitrary projects or procrastination. But if we had to spend tangible time-money, perhaps we would be able to more correctly identify where we’re spending too much.

Of course it could never happen like that outside of a role-playing game or something similar. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll make a game like that for a demonstration of the idea. But it’s something interesting to think about if nothing else.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


One of the strongest pieces of evidence for the continual mechinization of our society is the ubiquity of obsession with numbers. They’re everywhere, these finite and quantifiable descriptors and limiters. Everything from the speed limits on our highways to exam scores to salaries to our weights when we step on the scale… every qualitative analysis seems to be based on numbers.

You might argue that human relationships avoid, or at least strive to avoid, such an overnumeration—but many of us still rate the physical features of potential mates on a scale of 1 to 10 or count the number of times you call each other or some other arbitrary feature of a relationship that could be counted. Numbers yield the processes of cold, calculating logic: of machines, of computers, and of detached, impersonal evaluations. Any implementation of a number-based system immediately diminishes (if not destroying) all humanity in an evaluation or in a behavior.

It might not be so bad if we didn’t become so obsessed with these numbers’ functions. We constantly suffer the thought that everything in our lives would be better if we could just achieve better numbers… if we could be 10 pounds lighter… if we could make $1000 a year more… if we could get 2 more points on the ACT…

Granted, the quality of our lives is often dictated by the status of these evaluative numbers, so attempting to improve them is only natural. But do these numbers really have to exist? Does everything have to be so objective, so qualitative, so unemotional and dismissive of undefinable characteristics?

I just wish I could overcome the haunting nature of these numbers. Not think about my weight, or the money I make, or even my goddamn high score in Super Mario. But at the moment it seems inescapable.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I think pornography is the target of a lot of criticism. Common arguments against its distribution include inciting unnaturally forceful sexual urges, drawing away from current relationships (which could also lead to an obsession), and the objectification or degradation of women. I don’t look at pornography with any regularity, but I’ve watched my share of it in the past and I have to say I think these arguments have poor evidence.

I think pornography helps curb unnaturally forceful sexual urges, rather than encourage them. I’ve heard people make the claim that people who view pornographic films are more likely to engage in rape or other form of sexual abuse. I’m not going to make the claim that there’s no evidence for this since I don’t have the study handy, but I do believe there is a lack of research that can prove this connection. I remember seeing somewhere (again, this is invalid since I’m not producing a link) that the higher access a population has to pornography, the lower the rate of sex-related crimes. I think it serves as a safe release for urges that are already there, not a risk for creating new ones.

I could see where porn could take away from relationships, but this works on a much more individual basis. People with an addictive personality could easily lose themselves in the vast availability of videos and images, especially now with the ubiquity and anonymity of the internet. But I think porn could be a healthy outlet for built-up sexual tension or even as a mutual breeder of desire—as they say, it doesn’t matter where you get the appetite as long as you come home to eat.

The degradation of women? Sure, there are lots of shockingly abusive videos out there. But every woman featured in a pornographic film has fully consented to its contents and been reimbursed accordingly. Objectification? Men (and in many cases, women) have always and will always be lustful for the sex to which they’re attracted. Take away the videos and the images, and we’ll still be thinking about bare breasts and vaginas, and fantasizing about equally scandalous situations. But thinking about someone sexually doesn’t instantly and immediately remove all hopes of truly loving someone. It’s possible that lustful obsession can be manifested from physical desire, but again I think this functions on an individual basis.

For the most part I’d say the problems people say originate with pornography either have no correlation or would exist no matter what. So watch on guilt-free, fappers!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gift Giving

I think gift-giving is rather awkward, for multiple reasons. I think I’ve always felt like that, even as a kid. Most kids are excited to get gifts (and most adults, too), but I always felt and still feel a tinge of reluctance and timidity in those situations, regardless of whether I’m the giver or receiver.

I think part of it stems from anticipation. There’s the anticipation of the gift-giver, especially when they have something they think the receiver will really like. They imagine that the person will be incredibly excited and enthusiastic upon receiving the gift. However, and especially in the cases of overly optimistic and anticipatory people like me, I think it’s impossible for any reaction to live up to the expectations of the giver.

There’s also the anticipation of the receiver. In most cases, especially among adults, there shouldn’t really be any expectation on what to expect for a gift—but inevitably there is, in one form or another. It could be a very vague expectation, as simple as “this gift will be great!” but still the mind wanders, and it’s difficult to avoid a let-down, even if the gift truly is incredible.

Then there’s the show. Now here, I can only speak for myself with the suspicion that others feel the same way. I’m not a naturally emotionally responsive person. I tend to only smile when I’m trying to be polite, and in gift-giving situations things are no different. When opening the gift, I feel all eyes are on me. I already feel a tremendous amount of pressure in preserving polite and indulgent social interactions, but having that anticipatory attention makes things many times worse. Then, I’m forced to react simultaneously surprised and enthusiastic to preserve both the feelings of the giver and to ward off any inference of ingratitude on my end. And of course I’m left struggling, wondering how long I have to keep my smile on before it’s okay to relax to normalcy.

It’s a pain. If it were up to me, I’d do away with receiving gifts. I appreciate the sentiment, but I feel like expected gift-swapping is just a chore people go through. Oddly enough though, I do enjoy giving gifts to people. But I awkwardly request that they open it away from other people.

…yeah, I’m guessing I’m a total weirdo when it comes to this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I don’t understand the fascination with alcohol. I don’t enjoy the taste of it, but I can understand if someone does. What really confuses me is how people enjoy the drunkenness. So many people, especially those my age, go out every weekend with the sole intention of losing their ability to make conscious decisions and behave in an acceptable manner. It’s like saying to yourself, “You know what? I feel like becoming an asshole for a few hours.”

This of course doesn’t even mention the vomiting, the hangovers, the sick feeling you get throughout the evening, or the gluttonous amount of calories contained in most alcoholic beverages. It serves no real function other than perhaps to cognitively distort. So why are so many people engaging with it so violently and so regularly? Is there really no other excuse people can have to get together?

Sometimes I think it’s for people who are incapable of making meaningful human interaction on their own. Either they’re too self-conscious to mingle without some sort of inhibition-releaser in their system, or they’re just too unsophisticated, inexperienced, or otherwise retarded to come up with any decent hobby or social gathering. These are the people you typically find repeating variations of “dude… I’m soooooo drunk… hrm… ugh… dude, I’m wasted…” This lack of articulation remains solid evidence for that retardation assertion I made.

People call it an escape from their troubles. But it’s a goddamn depressant. And most people’s troubles are rooted in lacking relationships or money issues. With alcohol oftentimes worsening current relationships and draining away money, these problems can only grow worse. And if these people spent some time working or researching or seeking other solutions, the problems might actually go away instead of simply being masked by the obliviousness of intoxication. Want an escape? Read a book, or have a meaningful conversation with somebody.

I’m just sick and tired of this country’s college population’s obsession with consuming alcohol. It solves nothing. It produces nothing positive. It’s an excuse for people to act foolishly and brag about it; it’s a substitute for dunces who lack the diversity or the intelligence to pursue something meaningful. It’s a barbaric waste of money, time, and human potential.

That’s all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Sometimes I question the mass appeal of sporting events. As far as engaging in them, I can see the allure. Competitions are, quite simply, fun for a lot of people. Plus most physical activities are great ways to alleviate stress and attain a level of physical fitness. But as far as watching them, I feel left out.

It’s some token masculine characteristic to be involved in keeping up with one sport or another. I often feel like I’m missing some necessary quality in the societal construct of ‘manhood’ because I don’t keep up with any sports. But why is it that way? I suppose there could be a sense of community hearkening back to instinctual urges that relate to tribalism—knowing a certain team represents your city or state makes it seem like it’s you out on the playing field. Perhaps it’s the physical display that encourages most onlookers—but then again, these seem few and far between in the actual gameplay. Or maybe it’s the rule structures—my dad is notorious for justifying his fascination with sports as being rooted in an appreciation for the in-depth strategies that supposedly go along with them. So why not watch Chess or Go or even competitive Pokemon battling? It seems to me they share an even greater amount of strategy.

I can question the logic behind watching sports as much as I want; it wouldn’t change anything. Although I don’t really want to change anything to begin with. I’m fine with other people liking sports, I’m just perplexed at the rationale (or lack of one) behind that enjoyment. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how many hobbies I have in my life that can’t be explained by logic. Sometimes logic can’t explain your amusement.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Sandwiches are amazing. Two pieces of bread, an assortment of meats and cheeses, and some vegetables and condiments to pull it all together. The sandwich offers an infinite amount of culinary possibilities, and I’m glad to say for the most part it gets the appreciation it deserves.

Oftentimes the Earl of Sandwich gets credit for inventing the item—something about avoiding dirty hands while playing cards—but in the multitude of possible sandwich-categorized food items, it seems to me that every culture has come up with some variation of a sandwich, and no one person can be credited with its discovery.

Let’s examine what qualifies something as a “sandwich.” I’d call it an item with some form of meat and/or cheese accompanied by optional condiments and vegetables, and wrapped or contained between one or more pieces of surrounding bread or similar starchy solid. So we have the typical sandwich, and of course, our beloved American hamburger (which isn’t really American, but alas…). In Mexico there are tacos—which if you accept my above definition do qualify as a sandwich item. Meat, cheese, vegetables, and condiments contained by some form of bread. While oftentimes considered more sophisticated, Japanese sushi can also fit this definition as long as you consider rice a bread-like product. Then there are Greek gyros, Italian pizza, Chinese egg rolls (I’m stretching it there, I know), Middle Eastern Falafel… the list goes on.

There’s no real point to this. Just something somewhat interesting I pondered as I devoured my standard turkey and cheddar.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Writing Loss

I almost lost everything again. Let me explain. Back in November, my then-laptop crashed. Foolishly, I hadn’t backed anything up, and so everything I’d written was completely gone—nobody I talked to was able to restore the information I’d lost. Pictures, music, games—I didn’t care much for those things. The devastation came from the lost year of journaling, short fiction, poetry, school work, and other creative documents that were suddenly stripped away. For a time, I was inconsolable, and didn’t even try to think about the notion of replacing the hundreds of hours of work I’d poured into them.

But eventually, I got this new laptop and did my best to move on, backing up my writing at least once a week. I backed up my files last night, without delving into much. Then today, I tried to open one of my papers, and my computer gave me an error message. Panicking, I quickly moved through my other creative folders. Nothing was opening. I hadn’t fallen off the edge of worry yet, but I could feel absolute despair beginning to well inside me. I was concerned that the files had become corrupted, and in my blind copy last night, I had also corrupted my backup files.

Fortunately, a friend offered to let me use his computer to check my flash drive, and from his computer my files were fine. Thank Christ. If I would have lost everything again, I probably would have given up writing for a long, long time. There’s still a problem with the word processor on my laptop, but at least my work is safe.

Close. Fucking. Call.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I’m unfortunately cursed with a nonexistent fashion sense. I dress from an exclusively practical standpoint, being unable and apathetic to address any sort of aesthetic quality to the outfit I put on for the day. If it’s hot, I dress light, if it’s cold, I dress in layers. I wear shorts to run and shoes that feel comfortable. No more, no less.

The amount of emphasis that is placed on a man’s (or woman’s) clothing is astonishing to me. An underqualified candidate can attain a job based on the quality of the suit he wears. Honest people can be followed around in stores under suspicion of shoplifting if they appear disheveled. Incredibly attractive people can look terrible in the wrong clothing, and incredibly ugly people can look amazing in the right clothing—or so I’m told. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to people’s clothing, and it really puts me behind in the collective social analyses that occur on a constant basis.

If socks and sandals are comfortable, so be it. I don’t care how much your clothes cost or what color goes with what. If you’re protected from the elements and comfortable enough to perform whatever daily tasks are required of you, why should anything else matter? Overtly trying to dress yourself in accordance with the latest trends is an admittance to the defeat of your individuality, and a decision rooted exclusively in vanity.

I’m guilty of my own obsessions with vanity, in multiple facets of my life. And because of this, I pass no judgement on those who dress as sharply as they can. But I still think clothes are a poor reason to hold an immediate impression of somebody—even if that’s only because of my own inability to recognize it.

If I could take classes on fashion, I probably would, but as it is right now—I say we all just go naked.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I don’t understand why people smoke. I’d be offering no new knowledge or unique arguments by rambling about all the toxins and dangers that cigarettes offer, so I’ll skip that part and get to my (somewhat) worthwhile point.

Someone came into my main place of work today complaining of a bacterial infection that was negatively affecting their lungs. This person coughed most of the day, and I genuinely felt sorry for them until I walked outside a few hours later and witnessed said person smoking a cigarette. I understand nicotine is addictive, and that even a person who wants to quit with every fiber of their being can find it near impossible to give up the habit. But it seems to me the generations that didn’t have access to tangible evidence of tobacco’s harm are long past, and anybody that’s picked up smoking in the last 40 years or so has had no legitimate reason for doing so. This has led to me to essentially abandon any sort of sympathy I would have felt for the inferior health of all smokers. Addiction is a serious and difficult issue that complicates matters, but for the most part I see people like that previously mentioned person, standing outside putting poison in their lungs and wondering why the hacking fits won’t stop.

Another issue I’ve been having is smoke breaks. I work at a restaurant part-time for extra money, and every shift I’m there, at least four or five people take multiple smoke breaks—on the clock. Being a non-smoker, I get no equivalent kind of break. While I suppose there are greater inequalities I could complain about in the workplace, I do feel that something should be done to balance it out. If I was addicted to sex, would I be allowed a handful of free ten minute masturbation breaks? Frankly, I think I could make a powerful argument. Perhaps I shall try to seek a middle ground with management. Since I have no truly hindering addictions to use as an excuse, I might make the case for something equally arbitrary. Perhaps a yo-yo break or a four leaf clover-hunting break.

We shall see.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Last night was the final “Watson” match in Jeopardy! last night. For those of you that don’t know, Watson is an IBM-created supercomputer designed to compete in Jeopardy! against human competitors, in this case the two most celebrated contestants in the show’s history—Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson has no internet access, and makes carefully calculated decisions about whether or not to buzz in and what answer, out of the millions of possibilities, it should give. It also “learns” the patterns of answers that emerge in each category and makes wagers based on its and its competitors’ standings.

The marvelous thing about this machine is that it’s a counterpart to Deep Blue, the computer that beat Gary Kasparov in a chess match. But chess is a far more mathematically-oriented game while Jeopardy! is more linguistically based. Regardless of whether Watson won or lost, the very fact that it was able to compete successfully against the two powerhouse Jeopardy! champions is a testament to its frightening technological advancement. It has no consciousness, but it’s still able to generate abstract processes as opposed to strictly algorithmic ones.

I don’t think it’s the start of the robot revolution, but I do think it’s something to marvel at. And, impressed as I am with the achievement, I cannot help but wonder why so much technology and money and effort was put into a machine that plays an arbitrary game. If this technology was going to be developed, why was it generated solely for exhibition? It seems strange to me, though I can’t deny the enjoyment I felt in watching the 3-day event.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Unintentionally Stolen Ideas

I know I can’t be the only one that’s experienced unintentionally stolen ideas. It’s when you come up with an amazing, nigh-revolutionary idea and start basking in your own sense of self-satisfaction, maybe even bragging to your friends and family. You relish and possibly even broadcast this idea for some time… before realizing that this idea has already been implemented, in one form or another, by someone else who beat you to the punch. God. Damn it. You didn’t mean this. You didn’t intentionally plagiarize anything. Now you have to suffer the embarrassment, the burst bubbles of hope, and possibly the ridicule of your colleagues because of your unintentional intellectual theft.

There are two ways this could have happened. Case one is the “great minds think alike way,” in which you and the original proponent both independently and sincerely came up with the same idea. They simply put the idea into production before you had a chance to, possibly thousands of miles away, possibly decades ago. Case two is the subliminal inspiration. You see the idea, or maybe just a shade of the idea at some point in your life and consciously forget about it—but your subconscious holds onto it, and maybe even develops it. Days, months, years later… the idea spontaneously resurfaces, free from its association with the original discoverer. You think it’s yours, but in fact, it was spurred on by the image or demonstration you saw so long ago.

Neither is pleasant, and neither is worthy of blame. But it’s an embarrassing and frustrating experience for everybody who’s gone through it. My many times with this unpleasantness has taught me a paranoid sense of humility. If I have an idea I think is brilliant, I keep it to myself until I’m absolutely, positively sure that nobody else had put the idea into use.

What’s funny about it is no matter how far in advance somebody preceded you, when this happens, you can’t help but feel a sense of scorn for the original inventor. No matter how logically you look at it, you still can’t help the feeling that you were wronged, and it was your idea that was stolen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cover Songs

For the most part, I don’t care for cover songs. I feel like they’re a bastardization of a band’s original intention. Especially when the songs are half-heartedly gimmicked for some unrefined and oblivious show, like Across the Universe. Singers often just go through the motions of repeating notes and words, without even attempting to feel the genuine emotions that originated them. They leave out entire parts, fabricate others, and generally rob whatever subtleties made the song special in the first place.

A friend once told me she likes cover songs, because it allows her to see what another band saw in the original song. It’s a way for a band to emphasize everything they thought was special in it, and show that to other people. If a majority of bands worked this way, I could appreciate that sentiment. But the harsh reality is most cover songs are born out of neglect or apathy or a lack of creativity.

If you see something special in a song—an emotion, an image, a thought—why not truly make it your own and create your own song to expand upon it? Why simply distort someone else’s carefully crafted masterpiece in order to save yourself from the burden of artistic creation? My cynical answer is probably because most singers doing covers lack artistry (see my post on American Idol).

Some cover songs have true passion, merit, and respect—like Joe Crocker’s widely known and rightly appreciated cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from my Friends,” or Jeff Buckley’s serene and soulful rendition of “Hallelujah.” But for the most part, covers are poorly thought-through disrespectful attempts to capitalize on someone else’s work. And I generally try to avoid them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

I’m certainly not in the minority when I accuse Valentine’s Day of being a largely empty, fabricated holiday. It’s no secret that it was practically conjured out of nothing by greeting card companies in an effort to stir up some revenue.

So many people hate Valentine’s Day for its overemphasis on relationships—call it singles’ awareness day—and I can feel their pain. After all, for the last twenty years I’ve spent every single Valentine’s Day alone. The “generosities” and “affections” of happy couples only make it painfully obvious for people without a significant other.

But is being in a relationship on Valentine’s really all that special? You take turns saying “I love you” and “Happy Valentine’s Day,” kiss, go out to dinner, etc… because it’s Valentine’s Day and that’s what you do. Most people buy chocolates or flowers because that’s what’s anticipated from them. It’s an insincere and uninspired process—you feel an obligation to purchase trivial gifts culled from the simulacrum, tired symbols that every person has access to. If you want to make a gesture of love, why do you have to wait for a specific day of the year to do it? And why does it have to be an indistinguishable piece of the mass markets of bullshit? Write a poem (a real one, not one of those sappy or uninspired pieces of forced shit), make a scavenger hunt, plan a unique activity. Do something fucking creative! But even then, if you don’t get flowers (like I didn’t), you’re probably fucked—and not in the way you’d want to be on Valentine’s Day. You didn’t conform to the unsentimental and painfully ordinary traditions of a bullshit holiday, so you’ll probably receive endless scorn. Flowers are supposed to make someone feel special. How? They’re the most recycled and overused symbol of sentiment in existence.

In my first-ever Valentine’s Day relationship, I’m struggling to do something meaningful that departs from the monotonous and predictable paths of the population’s majority. Odds are, it’s going to bite me in the ass one way or another. But to all you gorgeous souls out there without someone to share Valentine’s Day with—take comfort; it’s a shitty, awkward and tiresome “holiday,” and even though you might be lonely, you’ve no obligations or expectations.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Hipsters are running rampant in our society, particularly in the college crowd. I have mixed feelings about hipsters.

In general, I think counterculture movements tend to start out with good intentions and slowly decay as their fashions and ideals become fetishized and consumed by the masses (case in point: beatniks, hippies, punks, goths, emo kids, etc…). At some point, society accepts them as a kind of blended normalcy, and adornments and attitudes once unique to a particular social sect start becoming brandished by “posers,” trying to establish some sort of rebellious credibility. This spreads. The movement becomes cheapened, and eventually nobody respects the movement any longer. Be it tie-dye shirts, mohawks, or baggy clothing, the symbols of energetic movements based on individualism eventually become marketable lifeless tokens of imagery.

But hipsters are different, at least they seem to be. Or want to think that they are. It seems that modern hipsters put an emphasis on individualism far beyond compliance with even countercultural “norms.” This is evidenced by the continued assertion that admitting you’re a hipster immediately excludes you from being a hipster, and in order to maintain your hipsterdom, it’s almost necessary to denounce other hipsters as being hipsters. Confusing, yes. Somehow the mustaches and fedoras and corny glasses seem to make more appearances within the crowd, diminishing their struggle to avoid any distinguishing characteristics, but for the most part I think this movement has held up.

The one issue I find is that hipsters often tend to like things or wear things or say things simply because nobody else is engaging in them. They make their choices based on the opposite of what most people would expect from them. And while a kind of rebelliousness against conformity is admirable, I still cannot help but feel insincerity from it (in general, of course). You see, truly being an individual means disregarding society’s trends, not simply trying to work against them. Even though you’re resisting succumbing to the collective pool of normalcy by coming out against it, you’re still making your decision based on what others think. To truly be an individual, you can’t take what society wants into consideration at all—which is something, I think, beyond any of us.

As far as counterculture movements go, I feel like hipsterdom is keeping its pace. But the decisions they tend to make are still not independent, even though they’re rooted in rebelliousness, because they’re still in essence based on cultural beliefs.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I think the GEC system needs to be reworked, at least the way it functions at our university. If you aren’t familiar, GEC stands for General Education Curriculum, and sets the minimum standard class requirements for graduating across any major.

I like the idea of the GEC. I really do. I feel it allows people to graduate from university with a diversified background of knowledge, ascending people to a higher level of all-around fortitude rather than a pigeonholed field of specialty the way trade schools can sometimes work. I also feel that it presents an amazing opportunity for incoming students to explore opportunities of possible interest that they might otherwise forgo. After all, most college students end up changing their major several times throughout their career—so why not help subdue that indecisiveness with a plethora of diverse classes, and help give students a more in-depth acquaintance with as many different areas as possible?

However, I feel like the system of requirements is far too rigid. You’re forced into specific classes, especially as you get further into your degree program. I feel like GEC requirements should be categorized more broadly. A “physical science” course should be required instead of a “two-level consecutive introductory chemical-based course that includes a lab.” Of course I’m biased, being a fourth year English major that’s forced into taking an upper-level Chemistry course that will provide me with essentially no useful information in my future career field, but my point is still valid. Virtually everybody I know is at some point required to take a course that provides almost no practical information for their given field. If the range of options were broadened, perhaps they could find a course more relevant to them or their chosen field.

As it stands right now, the system does help to diversify the majority of incoming students. But it definitely needs to be reworked in order to ensure its relevance. I’m one of many, many students that feels they are wasting their time and money by attending a class that has nothing to do with their future career.

But it’s my last quarter of study, so I suppose my endeavor will not last long.

Friday, February 11, 2011


So I’ve gotten a hundred followers! Hooray for me. I will qualify this as a landmark achievement, and replace my planned post for today with a short and non-contributory spiel about reaching a large and even number of followers.

I’ll continue to keep daily posts as long as I can muster the creative energy and mental motivation, and optimistically hope that my followers continue to support me—and maybe garner a few more along the way. Thank you all for following me, and commenting on my often pretentious, more often rambling, yet somehow esoteric posts. My appreciation exceeds your numbers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Semicolons get a lot of abuse, both in their explicit use in academic and professional writings as well as in the scorn they get from linguists and occasionally educators. But personally, I feel as if the semicolon is one of the most useful punctuation marks available to us; it’s nowhere near as ubiquitous as the period, or the comma, or the question mark, but it serves a unique and necessary function that can really drive home your sentences if used effectively.

Now I will concede something; the semicolon is heavily misused in our society. As a writing consultant, I often see it used in lieu of a simple comma or as a way to abbreviate run-on sentences. But the semicolon is a sophisticated connector, and requires a specific scenario in order to be used properly. Let me use a metaphor to illustrate it. Think of every sentence as a different person. Periods, question marks, and exclamation points are used as indicators that a sentence has ended. They let you know that one person has come fully into existence, and the next one is about to begin being shown. Commas are used like clothes and accessories, to make sure each person is presentable and easy to look at coherently and in the right context.

Within this metaphor, we’ll look at semicolons as like periods in the sense that they’re used as symbols to distinguish between two different people—with an added requirement. Semicolons join two independent clauses (meaning each clause could function as a sentence, or a person in this case, by itself) that are related in some way. So using the semicolon is like indicating two people holding hands. In order to do this, the clauses have to be agreeable enough to warrant that kind of connection. Two people that wouldn’t get along together wouldn’t hold hands; likewise, a sentence about alligators and a sentence about rap music (under ordinary circumstances) wouldn’t be joined by a semicolon.

It’s a way to shake up the overuse of periods, and help your writing from appearing too choppy if your sentences are naturally short. They can help maintain a naturalistic and guiding flow to your connected sentences without erring on sides of run-ons or overly short thoughts. They also can help strengthen relationships between clauses that a reader may otherwise underemphasize, and if used effectively, quite possibly make your linguistic technique seem more developed.

So go forth and spread the majesty of the semicolon; when utilized correctly, it’s a far more advantageous tool than most people give it credit for.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Birds and Fish

A lot of people like the idea of being able to fly. They associate it with freedom. As such, birds get a lot of attention in our society as representing total freedom of movement. I was thinking about this.

I think the freedom we perceive is a result of the birds’ ability to move in three dimensions. We can jump and lift ourselves up, but realistically the trap of gravity only allows us to move forward, back, side to side—all variations of two dimensions. Birds are capable of all this, plus lift into the air. They aren’t hindered by two-dimensional obstacles like trees or buildings that otherwise get in our way. I can see this, and understand the appeal.

But birds aren’t the only creatures that are able to move freely in three dimensions. Fish are able to move upwards and downwards as well, through the water. So why aren’t fish as commonly equated with the idea of spatial freedom? Is it because of the restriction of the water—the realization that eventually the river or ocean must come to an end? Birds are similarly limited by the shield of the atmosphere. Plus, they can’t venture underwater and have to generate a greater amount of work in order to move into the air.

Birds are a completely justifiable symbol of free movement. But I think fish deserve a closer look, too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Word Diminishing

Words tend to diminish with overuse. This is obvious. The broader and more frequent its use in society, the quicker it falls out of its original meaning. This is one of the many reasons we need to diversify our linguistic capabilities.

On a small scale, take the word “like;” we use it colloquially as a sort of filler word, worsening in intensity as you move down through the younger generations. We do it so often now it’s hardly noticeable, and the word “like” essentially means nothing. There are many problems with this trend, largely untreatable, but the one I’m going to focus on in this post is the degradation of the word’s significance.

The one example that immediately comes to my mind is the word “epic.” Epic used to be a legitimately powerful word, held back to only describe the largest and most impressive events or situations. But through continued abuse in everyday speech and internet memes, the word “epic” is now only a shadow of what it once was. Use the word “epic,” and most people will only equate it with some kind of loose positivity.

As with the word “awesome,” and I’m very guilty of abusing this. People use the word “awesome” to designate anything that’s remotely pleasing. “Awesome” should be reserved for things that are truly capable of inciting awe. But it gets thrown around like “like,” to the point where its power is lost.

That’s why I think sometimes it would be nice to have word thresholds, in order to preserve the natural power of a word’s original meaning. People would be limited in the number of times they could use a certain word in a certain day. It might create some conflicts with Freedom of Speech, but damn it, our language would be far more significant.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is almost inarguably the biggest television event of the year. Every fan of professional football surely watched it, as well as the countless thousands that tune in just for the hype, or the halftime show, or the advertisements. It seems as though part of its widespread appeal is based upon its own widespread appeal. The fact that it’s so heavily anticipated makes people anticipate it even more.

I never saw the appeal of professional football. Perhaps I’ll address that in a future post. I didn’t pay attention to a single game this season, nor to I have even the slightest allegiance to either competing team. But sure enough, my television was tuned to it all last night. And I enjoyed it, too, if for no other reason than being part of it. It almost seems necessary.

It made me wonder what could have taken the place of the Super Bowl. If professional football had never developed, would some other sport have taken that niche of most-watched television event of the year? Would we be watching the World Series for its commercials alone? Would we develop a national fascination with curling?

In a parallel universe I think, eventually, something incredibly obscure could be built up to that level. Perhaps Japanese Bug Fighting would eventually engulf our attention as the final two competitors clashed for a title. Hell, I don’t even think it would have to be a competition. Just some annual and ever-evolving event that would build in popularity until that self-perpetuating cycle of public attention eventually warranted that sought-after position. Some parallel universe is collectively and unanimously pooled around some televised event that we cannot even comprehend. And they probably think football is completely retarded.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Couch Forts

I wonder if any other adults ever get the compulsive urge to build couch forts? I know I do. If you’re unfamiliar with couch forts, I genuinely lament your unprivileged childhood. They’re furniture/blanket/pillow-based structures often assembled in living rooms with the assistance of other children. With an active imagination, a couch fort can be anything from a fortress of solitude to a submarine to a lunar module. It’s a cozy refuge with a significance and a comfort far beyond its scrappy-looking exterior.

I’ve recently had the privilege of building a gigantic couch fort with my girlfriend. I felt childish, having the sudden impulse, but was encouraged by a similar accompanying mentality. With greater dedication and access to more resources, I’m proud to announce that our couch fort was truly epic—and I don’t use that word lightly. To a more “mature” outsider, the notion and the thrown-together shape would appear impractical and unsightly. But to us it was a cave to our childhood.

It’s a unique and temporary way of creatively applying your cushion-related resources, and letting your inner kid run wild without jeopardizing your property or reputation. It’s cozy. It’s warm. It makes you feel like a king, or an astronaut, or whatever you can imagine yourself to be. I recommend fort-building to any age, but especially to those of you that like to imagine you’re beyond your early youth. It will have some sort of impact on you as long as you go into it with the right mentality. I guarantee it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe in ghosts, aliens, bigfoot, ESP, angels, God—none of that. I think skepticism is one of the most important forces working to improve our society. But don’t get trapped in thinking that being a skeptic is defined by immediately giving up all beliefs that involve the unseeable or unknowable; skepticism simply implies a questioning nature, one that isn’t naïve or gullible.

When we question things around us, it allows us to think freely and critically about our surroundings. If something doesn’t work or imposes some sort of harm, we’ll be able to more aptly identify and correct. Science is constantly moving forward in technological and biological advances because researchers are constantly questioning the work that came before them. If we simply accepted everything that was presented to us, we would remain forever stagnant and ignorant as a society.

I think it’s detrimental to accept anything on the surface. This could be as small as a “free” offer—that you impugn by an assertion that nothing is truly free—or as large as analyzing governmental progress and working to make an effort to change things. As a citizen, I think it’s our responsibility to think about things as much as possible, even if they seem flawless or unquestionable.

Question everything. It’s the only way anything gets improved.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Nostalgia is such a bittersweet sentiment. Approaching the third decade of my life, I realize I’m still very young to be talking about my youth in retrospect, but at the same time I’m experiencing a temporal distance in my memories that I’ve never felt before. My childhood seems so much further away than I ever thought it would, and even actions and events in high school are starting to seem like distant memories.

All it seems to take is a specific design, perhaps a character from an old television series or the logo on a milk carton to send me into an indescribable wave of retrospection. But it isn’t just an objective analysis of memories I still have; it’s almost as if for a second, my mind has traveled back to that exact period of time, and as I return to the present, the emotions of the past fade slowly like an ebbing tide. Sights, sounds, and feelings all can evoke fragments of temporary temporal relocation, but what really gets me the most, like for many of you I’m sure, are scents. A kind of food you ate in elementary school, your grandmother’s house, your ex-girlfriend’s staple perfume—these are the keys to spin you in a whirlwind of vivid lucidity.

So I’m thinking of undertaking a project, to help establish portals into my present psyche when I’m long into the future. I plan to obtain dozens of unique scents, each bottled—perhaps various kinds of unique perfumes or air fresheners—and set aside for a specific period. I’d label one for every three months or so of my life. And every time I’d come home for the day I would take that specific scent and smell it deeply while going over the day’s events in my head and reflecting on the current atmosphere of my lifestyle. Then five, ten, thirty years in the future when I’d want a passage to my 20s, I would simply be able to pluck the appropriately labeled bottle (Winter 2011 for example) and take a whiff to spiral me back to this place.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I don’t think enough people appreciate silence, in public or in private.

Conversationally, people in this society seem afraid to allow silences to fill conversational gaps. A famous scene in Pulp Fiction comments on this, suggesting that when you find someone with whom you can share a truly comfortable silence, you’ve found a worthwhile connection. I feel the same way. Not every second of a social interaction needs to be filled with dialogue. It kind of goes along with my earlier posts on narcissism and false sincerity; we feel obligated to use speech to make things as dense as possible. But I think silences are crucial—they not only allow for moments of true and thoughtful reflection, but they also contribute a sort of juxtaposition, making speech all that more meaningful.

In our private lives, most of us are obsessed with avoiding ambience. For some, this is a way to escape loneliness or perhaps to diminish a fear (especially if they live alone). But it seems like my friends, my coworkers, and my relatives seldom allow themselves to remain in silence upon entering their house for more than a few seconds. They enter the door, then immediately turn on a stereo or a television. Again, I understand the appeal, but I think it’s a habit that basically prevents us from appreciating otherwise pure moments, and diminishes any sort of period of reflection we may have had.

And especially in public, people are generally far more obnoxious than they need to be. At the risk of sounding biased on age, I feel like young adults are the worst at this, when in groups of three or more. Too many public groups feel the need to repugnantly project their voices and laughter as loud as possible. They hold no regard for the people around them and seem almost dedicated to making as much noise as they can. Perhaps it’s just my own selfishness and easily-distractedness that’s making me feel this way, but I think society could stand to lower the volume a notch or two.

Then again, “if the music’s too loud, you’re too old.” It’s likely just the crotchety old man in me shaking his fist at whipper-snappers that can concentrate more easily in loud environments. But I hold by my point that most of us could do with a little more silence in our everyday lives. It’s serene, and generates thoughts that may otherwise be unexplored.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mornings, pt 2

My post yesterday about the difficulty of getting up in the morning, naturally combined with the disorganized blur of preparation I experienced, have led me to analyze the overlooked complexities of the morning routine. At least mine.

My ordinary routine goes something like this; I wake up, lay in bed a few minutes, then get out, stretch, and dress for a work out. I exercise, cool down, and shower. Afterward, I apply any sort of necessary bathroom products (e.g. deodorant), and dress myself for the day at hand, carefully selecting which piece of attire would be most appropriate for the circumstances. I pack my lunch from a carefully balanced and portioned meal group, and double check my bag to make sure everything I need is present. I cook a full breakfast, take care of my pet dog, and then brush my teeth and do a final quick inspection in the mirror before heading out the door.

Boring. Yes. But predictable and calcuable. I try to achieve every possible minute of sleep I can, so I allot a specific amount of minutes for each activity and set my alarm accordingly, making sure I leave precisely on time. My “OH SHIT” alarm (mentioned in the previous post) is for cutting my workout and shower in half, and speeding through the rest of my daily activities.

And then there are the days when the “OH SHIT” alarm fails, few and far between, but dangerous and met with a whirlwind of desperation. On those days, my routine goes something like this (though my memory often fails me in such a panicked state): lay peacefully, then suddenly realize what time it is. Yank on whatever clothing is nearest the futon and take the stairs down two at a time. Throw some food in the dog bowl, scoop nearby items that look consumable into a lunchbox, grab something I can eat in the car, then snatch my bag and pray that most of my shit’s in there.

I should work the two meticulously planned and spontaneously flurried routines into one, natural, unrushed, unforced yet smoothly moving mechanism that not only carries every necessary morning function in one efficient package, but also grants me extra time to sleep.

Who am I kidding? Mornings are always going to suck.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mornings, pt 1

Waking up is an incredibly difficult thing to do in certain circumstances. This morning I was laying in bed, which was cozy and warm under a thick, thick blanket. But my room is freezing. The temperature difference is almost enough to cause physical pain upon emerging from the organic shell of comfort that is my futon. No amount of motivation could get me out, especially not with the shit I had to do.

I’ve done several things to help me wake up more. The old classic for me was multiple alarms. I’d set one for an “ideal” time, and one for a “OH SHIT—but I can still make it” time just in case things went awry with the first one. I still do this nightly (this morning even the OH SHIT alarm eluded my efforts). Or, I’d try to trick myself by setting one alarm for twenty or thirty minutes before the second one—as a way for my morning self to somehow be more content by feeling like he received the gift of “bonus” sleep. I’ve also tried placing alarms at various points in my room, even hiding them to force myself out of bed. But I simply let them go, turn them off and go back to bed, or MacGyver together some scrap of random objects around me to use as a reaching device. Then there’s the Psychological approach I used—I spent several sessions lying in my bed with eyes closed (in the middle of the day while fully awake), then setting my alarm and springing up immediately when it went off. It was an attempt to condition my body to automatically respond to the alarm by snapping out from under the covers. But alas, my behavioralist scheme was no match for my desire to lay in bed.

I wonder what it is that makes my body believe it needs so much more sleep. I make my 6-8 hours of sleep every night a priority, so I cannot help but feel angry with my body for being so ungrateful. I would blame myself for simply not having the discipline to get up, but I feel as if my early-morning consciousness is somehow distinct from my wakeful consciousness. I don’t respond to things or act in a way that resembles my normal self, and I literally don’t remember most things that happen in my day until a good ten to fifteen minutes in. This morning is an absolute blur—the only reason I know I had a banana for breakfast is the leftover peel in the seat of my car, and the only reason I found my car was the revealing sound obnoxiously spurred by my remote panic button.

But I did make it on time. Relatively speaking, of course. I was able to instinctively avoid all unnecessary facets of my morning routine in order to most efficiently prepare myself for the suddenly imminent day. It’s an interesting process, and though my memory of it is a blur, I do realize that this happens more than I’d like to admit, and I believe it requires some further analysis.

This post has gone on long enough, though. I shall follow this up tomorrow with “Mornings, pt 2”

Monday, January 31, 2011

American Idol

I, like many able-minded music enthusiasts in the country, firmly assert that “American Idol” is antithetical and destructive to the artistic forces that render musical progression and even creativity.

Producers, judges, and even a percentage of the blindly following fanbase all seem to be in relative agreement that the competition is one not based solely on musical talent, but also charisma, demeanor, and various other superficial qualities. American Idol is primarily a popularity contest rather than a talent competition, but I suppose the fact that most Americans accept this is enough to repudiate an argument that this immediately removes any integrity from the show. But too many people seem to adhere that someone could conceivably get by on their musical prowess.

Too many hopefuls, contestants, and even winners have been described as “artists,” which is, more often than not, a misnomer. The more appropriate term seems to be “model.” In order to advance, adequate singing seems to be a requirement secondary to fashion, behavior, mystique, attractiveness, etc… Performances are based largely on visual display rather than audible projections, further diminishing any claim the show may make about its musical focus. Now, everybody sings on that show, and their vocals are criticized. But nearly every song performed has come from a previously established musician, restricting the possibility for originality and thus, artistry. Can a performer take liberties with an already existing song? Absolutely, but not without appearing as a hackneyed rip-off or distorting the song’s original intention. I reassert that these people are models, putting on somebody else’s work to see how good they can make themselves look instead of showing anything of their own.

I’m sure there are holes in my argument. I’m sure you could make a case for a scant few contestants who have displayed talent and creativity on the show (even though they’re still being judged as models). But even beyond that, the show is a farce. The judges are underqualified and rarely, if ever, address performances with thoughtful or direct criticism. Simon and Kara (now, of course defunct, in the show’s progression toward degradation) had respectable clout, offering genuine insights to aspiring hopefuls. But the rest of them seem either completely oblivious or ignorant to any sort of sophisticated critiquing skills—that is, critiques of musical talent. When it comes to analyzing a person’s dress, character, style, and overall appearance, they all seem to know what they’re talking about, as that is the true basis of the show. But that’s all they seem to successfully deconstruct.

Then, of course, there are the thousands of people who show up only in the vain desperation to appear on national television. The dress-uppers, the character actors, the ludicrous undignified, the obnoxiously arrogant—the pretentious and shallow hordes that realistically know nothing about music or its artistry, and show up only for attention. You could make the argument that the entire music industry has devolved into that kind of superficial façade, but I think it’s especially evident in the program, especially when people try to argue for its music-oriented justifications.

…Maybe I should just change the channel and shut up.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Optional and temporary anonymity is, I think, a tremendous benefit for our society. Especially with the momentous role the internet has begun to take in shaping our everyday lives, the ability for anonymous self-expression is helping to encourage a creativity and sincerity that would otherwise go unspoken.

Now, I know the downsides; illegal actions, brutal deliberate offense, and lack of accountability, but I feel these are far outweighed by the advantages anonymity can offer. Piracy and illegal content distributions will occur one way or another. And offensive content is sometimes necessary for heightening expressive works; racial slurs in Huck Finn, profanities in Catcher in the Rye, and sexually charged graphic violence in A Clockwork Orange all added to the intensity and value of their production.

But creativity isn’t limited to fiction, or prose, or poetry. Creativity can manifest itself in any form of writing or pictoral depictions, and absolute freedom is often necessary in order to preserve that expressiveness. Oftentimes we find ourselves in situations in which we are forced to don an emotional or responsive guise that doesn’t reflect our true feelings (take my post on Fake Smiles for instance), but in certain parts of the internet, we are able to life those masks. We are able to say things we wouldn’t be able to say in any other circumstance, and brandish our truth in a purer sense than any other realm could tolerate.

Sure, there are those taking advantage of the cover by pursuing degrading or damaging activities. But speaking anonymously, these people are revealing the most sincere and intentional flows of thought and feeling of which they are capable. And I think we can progress as individuals and as a society only when we are true to ourselves.

So I’m thankful for this front, to help relinquish my stifling societal fears of true expression. And for my sake, your sake, and the sake of artistic development, anonymity remains a clear and true sanctuary, on the internet if nowhere else, for years to come.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I think the ruling characteristic in America is narcissism, and it’s slowly unraveling the fabric of our society. I realize in writing this and publishing it to a personal blog, I am displaying a kind of narcissism myself, and that act can be construed as a kind of hypocrisy. But at the same time, I haven’t necessarily excluded myself from the diagnosis of the plague of narcissism that’s taken a hold of us all.

You can see it, I’m sure in nearly every interaction you face day-to-day, from the strangers that ask “how are you?” and move on without even waiting for a response, to your best friends that converse only in personal relations. “I think this” “I’ve done that.” It extends from young children to the elderly, but is probably most prominent in the young adults of the world today, especially with the onset of attention-span depreciating forms of new technology. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… these were all, in essence created as a tool to keep people in contact with one another, a way of maintaining equal social interactions. But in the hands of this nation and this generation, they’ve all turned into self-absorbed pleas for attention in the world.

Everybody believes they are inarguably special, that somehow they’re better, smarter, stronger than everyone else around them. And this arrogance manifests itself in a complete and total lack of acknowledgement and sympathy for others. We all need to learn how to listen more and speak less.

Of course I realize the irony of posting this is a blog. I did say I was no exception.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Modern Haiku

Let me rant about haikus for a moment.

I feel like haikus are a bastardized poetic form, often usurped and violated by uncreative creative writers who want to make their words seem more significant than they actually are. Now before I continue, let me say that I do respect the haiku as a form; the source of my irritation lies with the people who misuse it.

Since the haiku is so short, it makes people feel like they don’t have to put much thought into their work, when writers with more experience and more integrity realize that a shorter form requires more concise words, not less thought-out ideas. People somehow think that restricting the number of syllables in their sentences automatically imbues their writing with a poetic quality, often arbitrarily choosing words in order to fit the structure and wrecking any decent intention they may have had.

“I wrote a poem! It’s a haiku.” I hear this and shudder. I’ve seen a share of acceptably written haikus in my time, but the vast majority (especially from adolescents and young adults) are uninspired, insignificantly constructed, and for lack of a better word, offensive toward an otherwise delicate and majestic art form.

Let me punctuate my argument with a satirical piece of hypocrisy:

Just because you count
Syllables, it doesn’t make
You a damn poet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fake Smiles

I’m getting sick of faking smiles. It seems like every form of social interaction, be it between family members, friends, or coworkers, generally warrants some sort of façade of enjoyment. Now, I’m not saying every discussion I have is painful, but for the most part people expect to see a reciprocated sort of delight when communicating, and personally I think it’s bullshit.

Emotional conveyances (tone, inflection, facial features) evolved so that we could perceive and acknowledge one another’s feelings and responses. And now that we’ve “developed” more as a species, it seems we have an obligation to fake these responses in order to maintain group dynamics. It’s contrary to our nature. Emotions should be reflexive, not fabricated. But then again, social dynamics are far more important now than they were in our evolutionary ancestors.

It would be much easier just to maintain my boring-ass apathetic glare and speak only when I feel I have something to say, rather than contort myself into a face that would make the other person feel as though they are entertaining or interesting me. But the more I think about it the more I realize most people are probably paying me the same burdensome courtesy. Alas, so it is in our society. I really shouldn’t complain about having to be polite. I suppose I just long for a greater kind of sincerity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've submitted several poetry manuscripts to various publishers for editorial consideration. I've received my first response--a rejection.

I've been afraid of rejection, not like most other people in the world, for an uncomfortable portion of my life. It's what's mostly kept me from being able to pursue non-anonymous creative endeavors. A recent spark in my creative output has prompted me with the confidence to actually try and get my work out there, but I still haven't told any of my friends or relatives. It's the fear of embarrassment that would come when I have to tell them "No one has accepted my work." But here on the wonderful anonymous internet, nobody knows who I am, and nobody gives a flying fuck whether I'm successful or not. It is a great feeling.

Bruce Lee once said "Do not fear failure. Not failure, but low aim is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail." I try to keep that quote in mind any time I undertake something that I fear may result in humiliation. Despite realizing that rejection should be acceptable, I cannot help but find that inner block every time I think of making an attempt at creative output, physical exertion, academic construction or even social engagement. I think once I'm able to stop fearing rejection and failure, my life will be much more significant, and my efforts will be far more fruitful.

But that level of maturity is a long way away.

...a Post on the importance and function of anonymity is sure to follow.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting things going

I always struggling to get things going. I'm not an initiator. Be it academically, professionally, or even in the context of my interpersonal relationships. For assignments, I generally follow a generic prompt. I wait for others to make plans to socialize instead of making them myself. And when it comes to creative writing, I have to force myself to do things or else contribute to what other people have already started.

I don't really know how people get the inspiration to begin creating something from nothing, because I've always been more of a contributor, a kind of accelerator; the catalyst or exponential momentum that takes an idea and runs with it. I suppose time will tell whether I'm able to eventually find the means to matterlessly create rather than creatively embellish or otherwise expand, but for now I'll just pick up the ideas as they come externally. I guess in a way that's all any of us really do. No matter how independent or unique or anticonformist any of us strive or claim to be, we are all constructs of the society into which we were thrown. Every idea we've ever had, every word we've spoken, and every action we've initiated has had its roots in something somebody else has already done. Sometimes it's mimicry, sometimes it's expansion, sometimes it's a direct contradiction in one form or another, but it's always a result of what already exists.

So don't accuse me of being unoriginal. Feel free to accuse me of incoherently wandering from one topic to another though.