Sunday, December 21, 2008

This Might Be Interesting...or Maybe Not

I'm reading a book right now (The Know-It-All) about a guy who read the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica - just for kicks. Well, he also has some inferiority issues regarding his father and brother-in-law, but it was, mainly, just for kicks. He's admitting, quite readily, that he's not retaining nearly as much information as he would have liked, and this brought up an interesting topic, concerning how we remember shit we read.

Do we have a better shot at remembering something we understand? Like if I read an article about some obscure legal matter, will I be less likely to remember it than, say, an article about Kobe Bryant's shooting technique? Or maybe it has to do with interest; you have a better chance of remembering if you're interested in the subject - the more interested, the better I imagine. So if I read an article about something I understand and I'm interested in it, I'll remember it better?

I have no idea.

But I do know that I'm not remembering nearly as much as I did when I was younger. I would read a book when I was 13, some Fantasy book about dragons and shit, and I'd remember everything - plots, names, events, etc. I would watch the news and remember all the stories and relevant details, and now I listen to the news and can't remember what station I was watching ten minutes later. My brain must be decreasing in ability or something, 'cause I clearly suck more than I used to.

Of course, that might be my fault. I was brilliant when I was 13, and then I stopped caring about learning and education for a good six years. I'm paying the price now as I feel like a dummmmer more often than I'd like. I spent six long years playing guitar, pretending to learn, reading only what classes assigned as homework, and playing Final Fantasy video games over and over again. I used to read a book a week, and BIG books, too, 1000 page tomes written by some author who enjoys producing treatises within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Now, I keep telling myself I don't have that much time to read, which is clearly a lie. But I'm doing better than high school, where I literally read 30 books in four years, which is awful for me. Going from a book every week/week and a half to one book every seven weeks? That's terrrrble.

But at least I'm makig progress, now. Hopefully, I can regain my brilliant prepubescent form, and remember what I read and hear, instead of barely engaging my brain when I read/hear things.

Getting old just makes you dumb, I guess. This chronology seems counterintuitive. Hmmm...Screw adulthood.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Non-Future


Print-based media is on the decline. Newspapers are filing for bankruptcy. The average American reads less and less every year. Books are being purchased at an alarmingly decreasing rate.


And I'm going to be a writer.

What the hell was I thinking? At least with philosophy I was always guaranteed a teaching position, even a meager one, in some corner of the States; people are taking philosophy classes with greater frequency (there's no change in the number of majors, just the number of people taking classes). So if I were to have continued philosophy, I was guaranteed a job, of some sort, even considering an ailing and soon to be depressed economy. But with writing, I'm guaranteed nothing but a good read every time I head to my throne (all men, in case you didn't know, are Toilet Kings). I'm going to have to work, really hard, for everything I get.

And the worst part is this: nearly every book we call a "classic" would never be printed if written today. If a book doesn't look marketable and doesn't sell right away, it's a dud, and it's sent packing. So the only feasible way of being a writer is to write trash - hence the popularity of Nicholas Sparks et al. Certainly, Sparks' writing isn't worthless, but he's nothing special. He sells, and in these trying times of print-based media recessions, that's the only thing to be.

Since I have a tendency to shy away from writing crap just so it will sell, I might not make it. But I hold on dearly to the sneaking suspicion (blind hope, really) that if something comes along that is GREAT it will sell. The logic there is that above average meal will not sell, probably, but way above average meal will sell because it's too good to be ignored. This implies that I'll actually write something that's way above average. At least I have a goal, I guess.

I could always, however, write short stories and essays. That seems to be the presiding way authors make their living in today's world. They write novels, for sure, but make their gravy through a combination of teaching and selling short stories and essays to magazines on a monthly basis. The novels they do write are only on occasion and sell mainly on the basis of the author's popularity from other ventures. So that's a possible "life design," if you will (you don't have to).

In spite of the economic woes and the downturn of general interest in literature by the American populace, I'll try to be a writer. Hopefully, I'll wind up somewhere better than a gutter in Atlantic City, wearing a dress, with a vague recollection of the night before. If nothing else, I can compare each event in my life to the previous and things should seem sterling.

And, on a related note, I have an interview with the ASU State Press. I applied to write an opinion column, and here's hoping that they let me do it.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Updates and Stuff

The Hawks just lost because Joe Johnson couldn't make a free throw. Well, they would have had to stop the Celtics from getting a shot off in under three seconds and THEN win overtime. But still, all he had to do was make the free throw...

I changed my layout. Again. I have a feeling I'll become similarly disgusted with this one, as with the rest, and it will change to something less repulsive. Maybe my egalitarian disgust with most templates I've found thus far will lead to me create my own. Maybe.

SEAN MARKS is playing in an ACTUAL REAL NOT FAKE NBA GAME. If you know who SEAN MARKS is, you'll be as EXCITED as I am. If not, just continue reading.

Philippi came over today. We had lunch. And tea. And, well, you know, that. He took a picture of a sword on my table (that's exactly what it sounds like) and now he put it on his blog. I should clearly get some credit for any additional traffic it brings.

I've been writing a lot of poetry lately, and I'm even working on an essay. It's all crap, I'm sure, but in the off chance it's something more than putrid, toxic waste, I may be on to something.

I don't know who half the players on the Hornets are. It's like after Paul, Peja, West, Chandler, and Posey, it's a series of people probably making more money than they deserve. With a lot of teams, especially the good ones, I can name whole rosters and know who everyone is and why they're (supposedly) important. But with the Hornets, that same explication is just not possible. Think they'll win a championship? Yeah, me neither.

I watched (yeah, so sue me) a special on the White House holiday decorations (now you know why you should sue me), and it was entertaining. It was on the Home and Garden channel, which, as of last week, I now have in HIGH DEFINITION. So top that, bitches: HGTV in HD. Hawesome (intentional 'h'). But it was kind of cool seeing all the things they do. Aside from the usual trees, lights, garlands, and what not, they had gingerbread representations of the houses (estates, really) of Jefferson (Monticello) and Washington (Mount Vernon). I thought these were particularly interesting. The big tree in some-specific-room-whose-name-escapes-me has an ornament from every state and they just happened to show the Arizona one, because it was especially badass or something (and by badass I mean: full of actual tomalies ['cause fake ones are lamesauce]). So that was cool.

SEAN MARKS is playing a lot of minutes in this game. Ridiculous. When he played garbage minutes in Phoenix, his most voluminous stat would be fouls and no one commits fouls in garbage minutes. So, you know, that's respectable, I guess. But he's actually a decent big-man-who-gets-paid-a-lot-because-he's-big. He's not doing too bad.

Keith's got a shindig on Friday for his birthday. Should be fun. I'm broke, but I'll manage.

And that's about it.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

That Big Freakin' Hydra

I have too many books. They're fuckin' everywhere, man. I can't get away from them, and for every one I read, two more reveal themselves from under my bed, or behind others books on shelves. It's like the Community of Books is a big freakin' hydra that won't die. And that's debilitating to your psyche, you know, because every time you want to feel that beautiful feeling of accomplishment, of progress, you discover something (more books whose existence were as yet unknown) and it totally reverses all that good shit, replacing it with futility, exhaustion, and an attraction to nihilism. That's not good.

But the Community of Books isn't like a normal hydra (normal as far as a mythical constructs go), because a normal hydra can be stopped by putting acid on the recently decapitated stumps, where heads were a moment before. In the realm of fantasy, that kills that shit right out, and no more heads pop up. So to defeat hydras, you just need a sword, some acid, and some courage. But to defeat the Community of Books Hydra, you need to stop people from writing new books, at least until you catch up to a meaningful position in the race. But that's not really possible; acid won't even help you here, even though just seems like it would help you in most situations (think about it). So you're stuck. You have to just keep reading. Maybe a stop in the purchase of books until a sufficient amount have been read is a good idea? But no, I'll still see the new books even if I don't own them. Sigh. Such is my life.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not Sure

I was going to write something deep for Philippi, again, but decided on fart jokes instead.

So, what you would call the definition of a surprise?

A fart with a lump in it.

Hahahahahahah!

So this teacher asks one of her students, "Johnny, can you use the word 'definitely' in a sentence, please?"

Johnny replies "Hmmm...Do farts have lumps in them?"

The teacher, taken aback, responds "Well, no, they don't."

"Well," Johnny begins, "I definitely have shit in my pants."

HahahahHAHAahahfhahahh!!!!11!!!1121!!!1112!12!!!

Why do farts stink? Well, God's an equal opportunity employer. It wouldn't be very nice to leave the deaf people out of all the fun.

BLAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAH

And now, one of my favorite blonde jokes. Enjoy.

There's this new blonde school teacher, and she's starting her first day at a nearby elementary school. She's really excited and wants to make a great first impression on all the kids. So during recess, while the kids are playing soccer, she sees a boy standing away from everyone else, all by his lonesome. She hears duty calling and hops to it.

"Are you alright?" She asks sweetly.

The boy quickly and awkwardly assures her that everything is fine and so she went back to where she was standing. After a few minutes, though, she noticed that the boy was still standing apart from all the other boys; he hadn't joined the group. Well, it was time for a teacher to be a teacher. She approached him again.

"Are you sure you're not feeling left out or anything? Do you want me to be your friend?"

The boy was clearly struggling with something, and through the embarrasment of it all, he responded, "Maybe. Sure."

The teacher, emboldened, continued, "Alright! So, tell me, why are you standing here all alone?"

"Because," the boy starts, "I'm the goalie."

S:LDKFJS:DKLFEIOSN:IFNFK:LDJ!J!I@U(*@Y&*(#YUHKJDNFJFE*U*#FH

That's some classic joke-telling right there. You won't here Dane Cook deliver this much gold in a single evening, much less a five minute blog post. Comedy Central should give me a 30 minute special, like they do with all the other average to poor comics. Also, I'm a winner.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Final Post from that Ridiculous History Class

I already posted something just before this class started, but then it began, and things started happening. I couldn't help but post a final blog, if only to include the following discussion that just took place.

So at the beginning of class, people (including the professor) started talking about changing the time of the final: instead of showing up at 7:30 am, we would show up at 8:00 or 8:15 or whatever. The "change talk" began because the prof decided that it would "totally uncool" if people came in late just because they didn't want to wake up early. And then it got stupid ludicrous.

First, people started calling out random times with passion and judicious authority, which meant they were whining and complaining and felt their opinion mattered. Then the prof said we should take a vote, at which point some girl, with all seriousness, said "Not everyone is here, so we can't take a fair vote."

Really? So, she was concerned with a truly egalitarian assessment rather than the fact that since everyone is not here today, which she alluded to with her statement, not everyone would know the time of the final was changed. I mean, honestly, she said that because not everyone is here, we can't take a fair vote, but she didn't think about that same "not everyone" knowing about the change we might make? Good Stephen Colbert, woman, you're in a PHILOSOPHY class.

Anyways, the professor started squinting and thinking really hard, and finally came up with "I just don't know guys. I just don't know if we can figure this out." Brilliant. And this guy wrote an incredible thesis for his doctorate on the interpretations of ancient philosophy and its relevance and importance in today's philosophical debate. No joke.

After another minute of this tomfoolery, we abandoned the cause, as a group, and moved on to the lesson he had planned for today. Now, we have a final Thursday, and he's teaching entirely new material Tuesday. That, more than anything else, sums up the absoludiculocity of this class.


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Some Thoughts about Things


I think I'm becoming more and more disappointed with Obama's selections, but I suppose I should reserve the full extent of my judgment until a few months down the road.

I think the Lakers have a more talented squad than every other team in the NBA, but somehow, they're less consistent, less cohesive as a team than, say, the Celtics.

I think Finals Week is going to be easier than I thought (I'm 20% through and that's the case so far).

I think it's funny that Philippi has finals next week. Sucker!

I think I'm going to miss my history of philosophy class ("Democrats have always been poor"; "I'm not doing anything with your best interests in mind").

I think Bush is surprising me and the world with his lack of pardons, thus far. There's always Monday, January 19th!

I think we could all use a break, even if Finals are easy. Sometimes you need to kick back and watch six hours of television.

I think December is a good time to reflect on the stupid shit we did the past 15 weeks, and why repeating it would be a bad idea.

I don't think January works nearly as well for that same reflection.

I think Christmas, or the Holidays or whatever, is a little less vivid this year, but only because I feel more frantic and busy than I did last year, or any year.

I think I might actually go somewhere with writing, and no, not to the gutter of some forgotten road in the still slightly romantic Midwest (though that would make a good story).

I think if my history teacher showed up on time, we may have actually learned something this semester.

I think if that same teacher would stop wearing a lame excuse for cowboy hat, I wouldn't mind so much that we didn't learning anything.

I think I shouldn't have to pay $100 for a passport.

I think it's funny that I'm better at speaking Chinese after one night of vaguely serious application than half of Paco's 101 class (which meets five days a weeeeeeeeeek).

I think putting a horrendous amount of extra vowels in words is ridiculous, but I do it anyyyyyywaaaaaaays ('y' is a vowel and not a vowel in the same word!).

I think I'm actually learning French.

I think it's funny how I go through ASU and never say a word to the dozens of people I see regularly whom I was friends with/knew in high school.

I think you should be able to wear a sweatshirt in Arizona to escape the frigid winter mornings and not have to worry about sweating through the afternoon hours later that same day.

What do you think?


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Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Coming Apocalypse: Finals Week


Normally, finals week wouldn't be such a big deal, but somehow I've managed to put off studying until, like, this morning. That usually means I've looked over things and attained a general idea of what I need to study and how long it will take, but this time, nothing. I've done jack and it may show in my grades.


So I devoted this whole day to studying and crapping my pants. I may eat, intermittently, and only in small portions. The less time I spend in the bathroom, the more time I have to study. And, you know, post a blog.

All of these images illustrate how I feel about the next seven days. If words don't do it, these pics will. I think my sentiments lie exactly between the "Oh Shit Them's a Lot of Guns" picture and the one below, where children find out why they shouldn't bury themselves in the sand.

So feel free to vent on this post about how much you feel like dying because of finals. And if you don't feel this way, say something anyways so we can all hate you (read: be jealous).


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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Birthdays, High School, and Retardation

In what is surely not a coincidence, today is International Disabled Persons Day.

My birthday is, like, now. I’m a year older, and they say you’re supposed to sit back and contemplate these things the more they happen. I’m 21, which is approaching geriatric, so I’ll sit down and pontificate on birthdays and shit.

I’m immediately reminded of high school, which means I’m not far enough removed to forget the Glory Days. And, let’s be honest, if you had been there for my Glory Days, you wouldn’t forget them either. Anyways, birthdays in high school were often many things: stupid, boring, exciting, full of hugs and cookies, wedgies from “friends,” and the occasional shout out in the middle of class by the teacher that you spent too much time with off school premises (whoa!).

My favorite parts about high school birthdays, though, were the reactions from people, who, inevitably, forgot. While everyone was congratulating you on another year survived, inquiring about presents and birthday parties, and wondering when would be a good time to buy you dinner (because they’re too cheap to buy you a present), these people were standing around, sheepishly, trying not to radiate the “I Forgot” aura. They failed, of course.

But what’s interesting about these reactions is that they can be broken down into two distinct groups: Male and Female. Every reaction goes one of two ways, and I’ll give general examples. The actual reaction is in quotes, and the inevitable internal commentary in response is in parentheses.

The Male Reaction:

“Ah, man, I forgot your birthday, bro! Totally sorry, dude, but I’ll make it up to you: you can forget my birthday.”

(Well, at least he understands that other guys, like me, don’t like responsibility. He’s revoking my obligation to remember his birthday because he forgot mine. Good man.)

The Female Reaction:

“Oh, it’s your birthday? I’m so sorry! I totally forgot!”

(Fake sympathy is terrible. Stop it. And, wait, do I even know you?) “Oh, I wish you would have told me!”

(You want me to go around shooting my load about how my birthday is coming up? Yeah, that’s not vain.)

“If you would have told me, I would have made you cookies! Or brownies!”

(Treats don’t make it better, especially not conditional treats that might have been. And you’re offering cookies and brownies? Why not a cake? Oh yeah, because a cake actually takes effort, and it’s meaningful. Cookies are what you do when you forget to make food for the company picnic.)

“Alright, you know what? I’m going to make you cookies tonight, and I’m going to bring them tomorrow. That’s what I’m going to do.”

(Sigh. I hate you. Go die in a ditch somewhere. Ugh! No! Don’t hug me! Gaaaahhhh…)

And that’s the other thing: it’s apparently an acceptable practice in high school to hug everyone on their birthday. People who would never think about touching you, much less coming near you, feel the sudden urge to hug you. It’s all very strange. Girls will come up and say “happy birthday!” and then do one of those Girl Hugs where their body is into it, but their mind is counting to three. Guys try to do some intricate handshake and usually end up Man Hugging you. You know, where you grasp hands and then tightly and awkwardly clap each other on the back for a few seconds until you separate and try not to look into the other guy’s eyes.

Birthdays in high school are very strange. The whole day, the person is bombarded with people hugging them but not meaning it; people hugging them, meaning it, and trying not to show it; and people trying to make up for forgetting.

I suppose this is why we all graduate in four years (unless you’re a dummmmmer!): we can’t stand having another birthday under these circumstances. In college, no one knows, remembers, or cares, and that’s a good thing, because birthdays should be left to friends and family. Who wants strangers and mildly friendly peers wishing you a happy birthday?

Unless of course it’s that girl whose number you’re trying to get. Playfully using her ignorance of your birthday to get her to pay for your next meal (and thus go out with you in public) is a totally cool thing to do.

Now some final, and general, birthday thoughts:

I’ve survived another year and I’m no better for it.

Apparently I can buy alcohol, as if they means something.

My dad’s birthday is also today. When I was born, he lost his job. Interpretation: I was the best birthday present EVER!

December is full of birthdays: Mine, my late Great-Grandmother (2nd), my 7th grade teacher’s daughter (7th), Keith (19th), my uncle (10th), my ex-step-grandparents' next doors neighbor's son (7th), and my other uncle (31st).

A bunch of people have my same birthday (and it is my birthday, not theirs): Ozzy Osbourne, my dad, Warren Jeffs, Julianne Moore, Bucky Lasek, Lindsey Hunter (old NBA player), and Marcus Williams (young NBA player).

Today, in 1929, Herbert Hoover told the Congress that the worst effects of the stock market crash were over. Man, was he a prophet.

So here’s to me: may I survive another year.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts and Things About Tolerance and Stuff

(Due to the stream of consciousness nature of this post, I’ve left it unedited. So ideas and things that don’t make sense and that don’t fit together are probably side by side. But it’s how I was thinking at the moment. So the second idea might supersede the first, though I may not have made that clear. Have fun, kids.)

There’s a prevailing idea that we should be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and ideas. There’s another idea that says that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I’ve been wondering lately if maybe both of these statements are incorrect, or at least misguided. Of course, these are just thoughts and do not necessarily reflect any definitive position on my part. I have to include that statement, otherwise I’ll be quoted as believing something I might not believe. These are thoughts, wanderings, musings, and should be treated as such. If I solidify my position on anything that follows, I’ll be sure to send out postcards letting everyone know. (har har)

It’s usually assumed that we should be tolerant of what other people think and that we should be tolerant of someone else’s opinion, even if we think it sucks. But I’ve been thinking about racism and discrimination: should we tolerate racist beliefs? Should we allow someone to perpetually hold that one group of people is inferior to another and thus deserves less attention legislatively (or whatever)? The standard response is to say that they can hold those beliefs but that their practices should be voted down by ‘the people.’ Well, why even let them hold the beliefs? If our society takes a hard stand on certain issues, such as racism, then why should we ‘let’ people hold beliefs that go against those positions? I think we can agree that the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and the Voting Rights Act of ’65 will not and should not be overturned, so why should be let people think differently? Shouldn’t they be punished or ostracized?

What is the difference between being a racist and institutionalizing racism? The difference, it seems, is the scale of effect. In the first instance, only those in the immediate vicinity are affected, but in the second, whole towns, cities, and states are affected. So should we discriminate between objects of which we are tolerant? We are being legislatively intolerant but socially tolerant. If we are going to be intolerant of legislative discrimination, shouldn’t we be intolerant of social discrimination? It seems a person should be penalized when they act in a racist manner.

I’m really not sure on any of this. The original thought stems from an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with my brother about a friend of his. The general discussion concerns marriage (whoa!) and his friend voting for Proposition 102. Jon and I have been trying to rationalize why he voted for the proposition, and other things, and we came to a place where I started thinking about being tolerant of thoughts but not laws.

This friend of Jon’s voted for Prop 102 for a number of reasons. One reason was that a school in Massachusetts apparently sent home a “diversity backpack” that included a number of children’s books that were meant to introduce children to different races, different cultures, and different ‘lifestyles’ (one book involved a child’s life growing up two fathers). Jon’s friend was afraid that if Prop 102 passed, his child might be introduced to things he either a) didn’t want his son to know about or b) he wanted to first teach his child about.

I can see his reaction, to an extent. I suppose it would seem natural to want to teach my child about something like homosexuality, sex, and so on. But then I started thinking: why? Why should I feel the need to be the first to let my kid know about vaginas, black people, and men kissing men? If I feel the schools are doing an adequate (for argument’s sake) job of teaching my kid history, math, and so on, why should I do the job myself on other issues? But this is an issue I’m not entirely certain on, so I’ll let it go.

Another thing is that I think our schools need to teach tolerance, aggressively. A lot of parents don’t want their children to know about this or that and so they fight the school until they school drops the issue. And then their children grow up hating non-whites, Jews, gays, and so on. Why should be let this continue in our society? It only seems natural that people grow up and start voting down equality if no one is educating them properly.

So why should we let Johnny Smith go through school without learning tolerance for other cultures, other ideas, other lifestyles? I think Jon’s friend’s kid should be taught these things in school, otherwise, he’s a longshot to grow up tolerant and egalitarian-minded. He’ll grow up just like his dad, voting away the rights of his fellow humans.

The other focal reason as to why his friend voted for Prop 102 was that he himself didn’t believe in homosexuality or marriages between them, and he didn’t want his kid to believe so either. It stems from his belief in the Mormon Church; he is, as is the lingo nowadays, LDS. This is what brought me to this notion of social tolerance of what our laws deem to be bad ideas. I think this man is very backwards in this thinking and that his judgment is clouded. Moreover, his beliefs appear irrational to me. But the standard operating procedure is to be tolerant socially and then vote down his ideas in the legislative arena.

I find a problem with this, however. To me, the issue of marriage and homosexuality is one of equality, and if ‘the people’ don’t vote ‘correctly,’ then inequality is being encouraged and augmented in an apparently free state. So what happens here? What happens when a majority of the electorate thinks along non-egalitarian lines? Can we have a society that works on equality? I think not. And so that’s where I get this idea of being socially intolerant of bad ideas.

This, of course, brings up the issue of what’s bad/good/etc. and whether or not each person should be entitled to live in an area that fits his belief system. That’s all nice and everything, but I sure as hell ain’t moving so some discriminatory Mormon can have all the land. But then again, why should he move? And there’s the problem: who moves? Who leaves and forms a separate state? I think he’s an idiot, he thinks I’m a sinner: and who’s right?

Well, obviously, I am.

This has been a lot of rambling and wandering. Somewhere in there I may have formed a loose connective of rational thought. If that’s the case, awesome. If not, have fun trying to fit something together.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Final Update: Might Lead to Rioting

Class just finished up, and we've talked about nothing. He spent the entire hour and fifteen minutes talking about two subjects that are not going to be on the test. Furthermore, the topics aren't even of interest, even to me. So, awesome. Another wasted class period that would have been much better spent sleeping on a bench outside.

Sweet.

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Live Update from that Philosophy Class Again


So the professor comes in late and starts messing around with the computer. After a minute or so, he decides he doesn't know how to get rid of that giant, loud clicking sound the mouse does whenever you, um, click. It wouldn't matter except the volume on the computer is at full blast, so every click is a sonorous roar. But the professor apparently doesn't know about computer volume adjustments, so we're stuck with it.

Next, he realizes he doesn't have his slides on the computer, and why? Because he forgot his flash drive, or, as he calls it "that thing (motioning a sword thrust with his hands) you plug into the computer." So we're going "old school."

This is a bad move. I'm taking notes on my laptop, and when my keyboard strokes are as loud or louder as his lecturing, we've got a problem. Even when you take into account the thunder my sausage fingers create as they rapidly tap out the veritable nonsense he's spewing, he should still be louder. It's a small room, for Stephen Colbert's sake.

Now, I made a vow (surreptitious, at best) to take good notes this class period to prepare myself for finals preparation. But I needed to type this blog. Fortunately, he spends the first fifteen minutes of every class going over what we talked about the last time (in a way that's easily as complicated and indiscernible as the first time we learned the material). So I have time to mess around, write a blog, read ESPN articles, etc.

In any case, his unnecessary preamble is nearly over. Back to the trenches kids.

Oh, and some ManLove. Well, it's ManLove if you're an awkward sadist (FILLMAN)
.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A One Room Window


I am very insecure. I’m constantly in need of someone who will reassure me of my own intelligence. When I write something, I have to read it in front of people so I can tell by their initial, visceral reactions if it’s good or not. I don’t do this for purposes of revision and critique but because I need to be told that what I’ve written is funny, or smart, or witty, or good, or whatever. It’s an obsession, one that nourishes my psyche, and one without which I would cease to function normally.

But that last assessment brings into question the normality of my state of being if I’m in a perpetual cycle where my psychology is dependent on other people qualifying my work as good. I tell myself, out of habit and from some vague defense, that I’m simply unsure of the qualifications I give my own work; as the author, it’s difficult, so I tell myself, to judge with any measure the potency of my products. This, of course, is absolute bullshit. I know something is good right away and that’s the reason I read it aloud. I feed off of acceptance and compliments that I know I’ll receive. I turn that into the energy that keeps me going, keeps my mind in a sound condition.

But again, one must then question my soundness of mind if it’s wholly dependent on the positive judgments of others. I’m partially correct, though, when I say that I’m not qualified to measure my own work, but only in the sense that I’m not a good enough judge to say, with distinction, what a piece is worth. I can give a better than general estimation of the merits of a piece, but I can’t necessarily differentiate between great and excellent. I can most of the time, but not in every case, whereas I’m able to differentiate between great and average every time. Like any skill, it’s a work in progress.


I think sometimes that it’s natural to feed off of the support of others, to find nourishment and inspiration in their kind words, but I imagine that to say as much about my psychological insecurities is to spin them in a positive way, which is probably more than I ought to do. I suppose, though, that a realistic assessment of anyone’s psyche will produce an embarrassing framework, so maybe we all find nourishment in a different event, an event that we normally wouldn’t glorify. And perhaps my insecurities are no different than those belonging to friends and strangers alike. That isn’t to say we should accept them, but that, despite what I’m constantly longing to be told, I’m just like everyone else, at least in the sense that I’m psychologically inferior to whatever golden standard we might objectify.

But that’s what makes us human, I guess, that in a broad sense we’re less than perfect, and more particularly, we’re never fully aware of our own psychology, a psychology that is always unstable and weak. We may show strength at times, and even possess the stamina necessary to undergo traumatizing events without slipping into a psychological nightmare, but at some point, we’ll discover a weakness, a glaring one that seems to outweigh, or at least out-produce, the strengths. And in this, we are all brothers.


But maybe that’s another way of comforting myself, by saying that my mental infirmity is no more apparent than anyone else’s. By claiming brotherhood in some possibly fictitious community, maybe I feel better about being psychologically dependent on others (and, in my superficial mind, weak because of this).

I wonder, though, if this argumentation, this deliberate attack on my disposition, is detrimental to my overall well-being. Perhaps our irrationality is the one thing our rationality should keep away from, for maybe it’s the contradictions inside us that make life meaningful – and livable. If we’re entirely rational, life is robotic and without the guilty pleasures of knowledgeable sin, where you knowingly do something you think is wrong, if only because it feels good. But if we live life entirely irrational, we wouldn’t have the ability to recognize the distinctive pleasures each event gives in life: every pleasurable event feels the same. We’d also, I imagine, spiral into a web of chaos that no amount of external intervention could abate.


Maybe I can explain this through example: In my logic class, which is purely concerned with rational ideas, we were learning how to identify relationships in a symbolic language we were using called predicate logic. We were translating English sentences concerning loving into this language, and a guy made a mistake in how he formed a sentence. He said Lxy (x loves y) instead of Lyx (y loves x), which he thought were the same. To this thought our professor replied “It is the tragedy of the human condition that loving is neither a reciprocal nor symmetric relationship.”

Here we were, some forty of us, sitting in a class applying the rational parts of our minds to a task requiring absolute precision and abstract detachment, and we were presented with a thought that was grounded in the irrationality of human psychology and relationships. To fully appreciate the entirety of our professor’s statement, we had to take equal parts rational and irrational and see every side. On one hand, it’s logically true, in the universe of discourse we were dealing with, that loving was not symmetric, that just because x loves y, y doesn’t necessarily love x. And on the other hand, it’s a wholly realistic concept that required, additionally, our irrational selves to identify the irony and find pleasure in such a statement. It reminded me that at any given moment, we may have to call upon both halves of our minds, though they stand in contradiction, in order to understand the world and those around us.

So it’s probably the case that my insecurities are less than desirable and that a more ruthlessly efficient life might be lived outside of them, but I think I’ll stick with them, knowing that the kind of meandering, awkward, and at times depressing journey I wish to take is right at my fingertips.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Love Clifton

Props to Biggie for finding this shit. It's golden.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A Two-Way Street: Some Philosophy for Philippi


Life is hard.

This is a fact, a certainty, and an absolute. How we define “life,” though, is nothing short of a mystery. But that’s not my focus. My focus is on life, however you wish to define it, being hard. It’s a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs. Its successes and failures ebb and flow stylistically like waves on a shore, but thematically they are predictable in an entirely different sense.

The tide coming and going is predictable to the extent that moon patterns are predictable (which they are, strongly), but life's successes and failures are much less identifiable. They would be more applicable, in terms of predictability, to skin pigmentation in newborn children.


The way they work is that a person’s genes hold the information necessary for a range of pigmentation. If, for simplicity, we take all skin pigmentation to be on a scale of 1-100, then let’s say all dark is between 80-100 and all light is between 1-20. When a person with a range of 1-20 has children with a person with a range of 20-40, the child will be somewhere in the middle of those ranges. It is random, but it will be towards the median of the two figures. So unless there is a mutation, two people with ranges of 1-20 will never have a child with very dark skin complexion or dark skin complexion at all, really.

This works for my conceptualization of life’s successes and failures. I view 80-100 (outside of the light/dark split and merely based on the numerological aspect) to be a person who works hard, prepares, researches, and educates oneself on an extreme level. 1-20, then, belongs to people who do almost no preparation, put no effort into anything, and do not make any attempt at educating themselves. A higher a person is on the scale, the greater the probability that they will have more success than failure. The ebb and flow of their life will tend to swing differently than someone lower or higher. This is not exact science, obviously, but it is a way of viewing life and the effort one puts into it.

So it is no surprise that someone like myself has successes and is “good” at a variety of “things,” for I put effort into life, or at least more effort than others. So it is no surprise that I’m a decent writer, a good reader, I’m musically talented, and so on, because I’ve put time and energy into those ventures – and it’s paid off.


But life was/is hard. It wasn’t easy, relatively speaking, for me to pick up the guitar and become accomplished. I had to spend hours and hours and hours going over scales and patterns and chords and what not. I didn’t spend a few Sundays plucking the strings; I spent an entire summer, seven days a week, six to eight hours each day playing guitar, or piano, or singing. So it is no surprise that I have the skills in that area that I do, because I put effort into that shit.

It would be easy for me to say at this point that to achieve success is merely the result of hard work. To a large extent, this is true, but there are exceptions and strange things can happen. Just as a mutation can cause drastic results in skin pigmentation, so can mutations cause drastic results in life.


An example of an analogous “mutation” would be a person who is, for some reason or another, naturally disposed to music. For that person, it might only take a single summer to become proficient on an instrument. While I believe there exist people with greater dispositions in certain fields, I do not believe that this disposition can be void, or negative. I think we all are disposed to every field, with varying amounts of disposition, but I think it works on a scale of gradation. There is no zero and only positive integers. So one person could be “highly gifted” musically while another can have almost no talent whatsoever, but they can still develop talent, albeit at varying speeds and, possibly, different ceilings. It might take more than a single summer; hell, it might take four, five, or six summers, but they can still achieve some level of success.

So failure in a particular field is merely the result of a lack of effort. Person A might need twice the amount of effort necessary for Person B to achieve similar results, but they can still achieve those results.

I suppose I should be explicit about “success” and “failure.” I’m using a broad interpretation with little relevant detail applicable to real events. When I say failure in a particular field is merely the result of a lack of effort, ‘failure’ should be interpreted not in terms of material wealth or critical acclaim, but in terms of ability. One might assume that ability, at some point, entails the previous two, but that’s not the case. Some of the greatest musicians never hear their songs on the radio.


In any case, the ebb and flow of one’s successes and failures can be, to a degree, ameliorated by how much work we put in. Even someone with huge stockpiles of natural ability in every conceivable field still needs to invest time and effort, even if the amount is relatively miniscule comparatively. Everyone must work in order to alter the natural ebb and flow of their life’s successes and failures.

It seems intuitive that we should aim for the 80-100 range. I did say that the higher one is on the scale, the greater the probability of successes outweighing failures. But perhaps one finds more meaning in life when they dwell in the lowly depths of the 1-20 range. Perhaps they find something more substantial than anything observable from the upper echelons. Or perhaps they don’t. I tend to think that every range has its own merits, its own knowledge to impart, its own meaning, and that a truly meaningful life might be lived by experiencing them all. Then again, I might be postulating using some pseudo-combination of mathematical precision and thematic chronology that really says nothing about the merits of each range and only attempts to qualify them inside my own head.


In that case, I’m wrong to some and right to others. I’m contributing to someone, somewhere, even if the road that leads me to such a person is circular.


I don’t believe all of what I’ve said here is wholly true, for theories and analogies about life can never be entirely right. Furthermore, theories and analogies about life are never wholly false. They all have something meaningful to say about some aspect of existence.

What I’ve written here is merely an attempt to say something meaningful. I realize that someone with little musical disposition will be hard pressed to equal Mozart or Beethoven in any respect, but I do believe efforts towards that end are not without meaning or substance, and are certainly not wasted. If anything, maybe more meaning is available when one reaches for the stars and fails; maybe we learn more about who we are and what this shit is really all about when we try and don’t succeed. Then again, maybe we just fail, and the only meaning lies in success. But I’m not one to judge, for I’ve found meaning in both. My failures have taught me at least as much as my successes. And perhaps the meaning inherent in success is overshadowed, in my life, by the blissfully arrogant catharsis that sweeps over me in such events. Perhaps whatever education I might have received, were I receptive, is blown away by my egoistical excesses.

And then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the only lessons are the ones found when we fail to fly.


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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Way of Life, Bitches

I should write a book. I'm going to call it "The Way of Life, Bitches" and put this picture on the front:



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Friday, November 14, 2008

Double Post! For Philippi and Co.

(The first today was really long, so I'm sure no one will read it. With my readers in mind, I put the shorter of the two second so it would appear first, thus enabling everyone to read it without glossing over the other one.)

I seriously considered writing fourteen posts in fourteen days, all of which would have been sports-related and of substantial length.

The ideal situation was that Philippi and Co. would begin to read every post out of habit and friendship; but after venturing a meaningful amount of words into the post, they would be confronted with two options: either quit reading (because they're bored as shit) or continue reading (because they've made it this far, they mise well finish).

In either future, I would have won, for I would have successfully wasted 5-10 minutes of their time. And perhaps they would have been slightly demoralized psychologically, which would have been a plus.

But seeing as how I did not implement my plan, I must suffice with telling you in order to gain the mild satisfaction of knowing that you know that I know how awesome things could have been.

I win.

Well, sort of. I win in a I'm-Tracy-McGrady-and-I'm-better-than-you-unless-it's-the-fourth-quarter kind of way.

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Let's Be Respectful but Honest

The more I learn about the American Revolution, the more inglorious it becomes. If anyone wants to have a discussion on this, I am more than willing to bite (but of course, no one cares so I’ll continue talking to myself).

Our nation views the Revolution as something of a miracle, a momentous event in history that foreshadowed all the greatness in the future of the United States. There were the self-evident truths that would later become the calling card of the country (at least conspicuously). And since Jefferson wrote those words in June of 1776, the nation has adopted them as personal mantras and the world has known, forever and ever amen, that America stands for such things (I’m jesting slightly, people).


Then there was the Continental Army, the ragtag group of soldiers that stood up to the greatest military force the world had yet seen. Headed by His Excellency, George Washington (the mythic hero of all space and time who can do no wrong [and didn’t, surely]), the army defeated a very stalwart entity and gained freedom (the catchword of the last 200 years) for the colonies, freeing them from the tyranny of an oppressive government, an overbearing monarch, and wrongful taxation.


And finally, there was unity, great and awesome unity; it sprang forth from the Well of Freedom and engulfed the Nation so readily, so rapidly, that we came together, banded as brothers and sisters among chaos, and stood up to the Axis of Evil (Great Britain and Great Britain accessories, er, mercenaries [Scots and Germans]). We were so unified it was freakin’ ridiculous, people. And though we have had trouble over the last 200 years, we have remained one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


Really, it’s a beautiful narrative, one deserving of a Pulitzer of something, or maybe the Newberry considering its childish bravado and fantasy. But in any case, the reality of it is quite comical; and by comical I mean, hella-different.

About the only thing I can agree with from the above is the first statement: the American Revolution was a miracle, perhaps even a miracle of miracles; and, most certainly, it foreshadowed all the “greatness” in the future of United States. From an outside perspective, the collective colonies were betting against the house and the house was Great Britain. And the first rule of casino gambling? The house always wins. Always. Unless you count cards. In that case, the house loses. Unless you get caught. In which case they take all your shit and beat you up. Unless you’re black. Then they kill you.

But seriously, people, it was a freakin’ miracle…at first! After some examination, one realizes that Great Britain had to fight two wars: one over land and one over minds. The war over land seemed a foregone conclusion until one recalls that America was a pretty big place back then, considering relevant spaces in Europe and such. It was a lot of ground for 40,000 British troops to secure, and ended up costing them the war. The colonies were entrenched in their own houses, and so it was very difficult to hold entire swaths of countryside because the British couldn’t control the population – they simply didn’t have enough manpower.

And the war over the minds of the people was also a foregone conclusion. A good deal of colonists were pissed off as it was, but when British troops started fuckin’ shit up, killin’ people randomly, and burning down houses, those still harboring loyalist sentiment sobered up pretty fuckin’ fast. And by sobered up I mean, grabbed a gun and started shooting back.

So the miracle of miracles is really a superficial consideration. A sober analysis reveals a less complicated plot structure. Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard and shit, but we had a lot more going for us than we all realized at the time.

But on to the self-evident truths. These awesome words guaranteed equality for all (without initial qualifications in the Declaration itself). And that’s it. Er, they were supposed to guarantee equality for all, but then people realized that they couldn’t possible let people who didn’t own land vote. Nor could they let non-whites and women vote or own land. I mean, come on, that would be preposterous, right? Oh, and let’s not forget slavery. When you perpetrate mass enslavement against a single race of people you can’t go around talking about self-evidential equality for all. But this point is well observed and so I’ll say no more.

As for these words becoming an American Mantra, I feel that is correct. We did, eventually, get a bunch of stuff right, even if it took us countless generations of obviously immoral conduct to straighten things out. We’re still a long way from a truly egalitarian society in which these self-evident truths are fully guaranteed to all, but hey, it’s a work in progress.

Now we’ve come to my favorite part, the Continental Army. We’ve been led to believe that it was made up of freedom fighters, those hardened revolutionaries who fought for justice and equality and dove nose-deep into the trenches against British regulars. This, of course, is fiction. The far majority of “soldiers” that constituted the Continental Army for most of the war were immigrants – Scots, Germans, Irish-es, and so on – who, frankly, had no better prospects. Work was scarce and the army gave three square meals a day (on most days), and so service was a good idea. A great deal of the born-in-America Americans were militiamen who mostly disregarded orders, came and went as they pleased, and tried very hard not to do much of anything. So, once again, the immigrants were doing work that no one else wanted to do. Sound familiar?

All this jabber about George Washington being the Greatest Entity in the History of the World is a far cry from the guy himself. Sure, Washington had a number of great and admirable principles that he mostly stuck to. Sure, he led the army through some awful times and somehow came out on the bright side. But he was human. He was just like the rest of us. He had his faults (SLAVERY!) and was no saint or god or king or whatever the hell everyone calls him. The faster we view him as a human, as one of us, the faster we’ll be able to realize some of his victories and accomplishments in our own time. When you put him up on a pedestal, you make him psychologically difficult to imitate.

And this goes for all the Founding Fathers, and for anyone we put ahead of ourselves on some other plane outside of our dimension, because they were so amazing or whatever. Drop the extra-dimensional superlatives and realize that they began life as a simple person, just like you and me.


A lot of the self-evidential truths we fought for, as I mentioned, disappeared into the air. The claim that we freed ourselves from a tyrannical, oppressive, and taxing regime is true. And so is this: we gained a regime that was, at times, tyrannical, oppressive, and taxing. Certainly, we were better off with the new style, but to say that we went from one extreme to the other is to misunderstand what happened.

Our Great National Unity has remained intact, so the assertion goes, since that fateful day somewhere in the years 1775-1787 when we made all this shit happen. Aside from the Civil War, whose name implies disunity, I might add, we have had our schisms, our monumental differences, and numerous episodes in which all hell could have broken loose at any moment. And those are the real miracles, the times in which we didn’t disseminate into various warring factions like so many tribes. The fact that we are still connected as a single nation is incredible and we should be proud of this. But do not assume constant unity nor a unity that permeates the whole country, at any time.

So do not say our Declaration of Independence has always rung true or that the Pledge of Allegiance speaks sacred and necessary truths. Furthermore, don’t get angry at people who point this out (like me). For if liberals are always pointing out our faults, then conservatives are always trying to hide them. (Obviously, this isn’t true in every liberal/conservative case. It’s merely a rhetorical flourish that is correct more often than not.)

What I’m trying to say is this: I’m fine with recognizing events in history for what they were, but I’m totally not fine with all the absolutes we throw around – unified forever, freedom for all, unqualified tyranny to unqualified democracy. We serve ourselves and each other much better when we throw absolutes in the trash and reveal the shifting aggregate that is history, our history, and acknowledge our faults, support our strengths, and move on to a better future.

If we continue to view our history as a sparkling, placid lake with very few ripples, most of which were minor, then we do ourselves a disservice. Make no bones about it: history will avenge itself through repetition if we sustain our current thought

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clever Title That Says Something About My Post


The Lakers/Mavericks game tonight was either a turning point or an indication of growth for the Purple and Gold, but I’m not sure which (and it’s not really important). The maturity they showed in Dallas against a team that could do no wrong for the first 30 minutes was truly an improvement over last year’s team, by a mile.


When the Lakers of Last Year were down in a game by double-digits, they, like all young/immature/bad teams would start doing things outside of their normal routine in order to erase the deficit – rushing offensive possessions, shooting errant three-pointers, and driving recklessly in the lane in hopes of drawing fouls. But great teams do none of this when they are behind. And the Lakers of Last Year were no great team. They were a good team. They should have been in the middle of the pack with all the other good teams, and the only reason they looked like a great team was because the Best Player in the World started at the 2.

And this was also the only reason they erased a number of double-digit deficits. But when they did, these last year Lakers never did so in a “good” way, a way that shows how good a team is as opposed to how good an individual player is. In erasing deficits, they never showed poise or maturity, but rather, the same qualities evident in the first quarter were evident in the next three; it was simply the difference-making of #24, Kobe Bryant, Best Player in the World, that turned the tables. For Kobe’s main goal in deficit games was to “fuel a comeback.” Usually, he would score a billion points in the last two quarters, single-handedly beating the other team, or he would spark a resurgence through a nasty three-point play or a “lick-my-balls-you-stupid-defender” three point shot. In any case, it was all about him – winning the game or lighting a fire under his teammates.

For example, against the Spurs last year in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers were down big in the first game of the series, at home in Los Angeles. In the second half, Kobe scored a billion points, shredded the Spurs’ defense, and won the game by himself. A few games later a similar situation occurred, but this time, Kobe simply made a few big plays and the rest of the team woke up and delivered a comeback win.

Last night, however, everything was different. The Lakers of This Year showed why they are a great team, and no longer the good team of yesterday. They were down by double-digits nearly the entire game, until they made a run in the third and eventually took the lead near the start of the fourth. But what fueled the comeback? It wasn’t Kobe, it wasn’t veteran leadership, and it wasn’t Bench Mob Pandemonium – it was poise and maturity.

For great teams understand that what fuels comebacks is the same thing that wins games normally: consistent play, which means sticking to the formula. When a great team goes down big, it’s usually because a number of things aren’t going well. Their shots aren’t falling, even easy ones, they’re getting outrebounded, and they aren’t drawing as many fouls as the other team. When a great team wins, the reverse is true. So all a great team needs to do is stick to the formula and play consistently; eventually, shots will start falling and they’ll get more rebounds and fouls than the other team. The negative blips, in other words, will average out over the course of a game if a great team sticks to the formula.

To see examples of this, watch the Boston Celtics against the Raptors last week or the Lakers last year where they stuck to the formula no matter the deficit and eventually won the game. Or watch the San Antonio Spurs against the Suns almost every time to see consistent play end up the winner in the long run. It’s what wins games, it’s what erased deficits in the third and fourth quarters, and it’s what makes a team great.

And this is exactly what the Lakers did last night. They didn’t do anything different over the course of the game, they just played Lakers ball every quarter, from start to finish. In the beginning, they were missing every rebound, drawing almost no fouls, and missing lots of shots, especially the easy ones. Eventually, things started to turn around and in the last quarter and a half, they outrebounded, shot a better field goal percentage, and drew more fouls than the Mavs. In the end, their game averages were the same as their season averages. All it took was time and consistent play. No Kobe heroics and no Bench Mob Pandemonium. Simply poise and maturity.

The Lakers of Last Year would have relied solely on Kobe to get something going. The Lakers of the last year’s playoffs would have occasionally relied on their Bench Mob doing crazy, unheard of things to get them through a tough game. But they never played consistent, formulaic ball. Fittingly, the Lakers of This Year do all three, and last night showed their true transcendence as a great team.

So other teams beware, especially the Western Conference: the Lakers of This Year are no longer a good team with the Best Player in the World at shooting guard; they’re a great team with the Best Player in the World at shooting guard.

You’ve been warned

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You

Your Creator told you to love. Your Savior told you to love. Your book, your beliefs, your worldviews – they all tell you to love. So why don’t you love?

You are greedy. You want love all to yourself. You want to love who you want to love and enforce legislation that disallows others the same luxury.

You are a bastard.

You are treason to your Book, treason to your God, treason to your Savior.

You are treason to the Love you so dearly profess.

Universal Love does not consist in keeping others from marrying whomever they choose. Universal Love consists in loving – and that’s it.

So you are a bastard, a horrible piece of garbage disguised as something better. You should be ashamed, but it is impossible, because to know shame is to be human. And you are not human. You are less than human. You are garbage.

Go through your Book and tell me where Universal Love requires hate. Go through your Book and tell me where Universal Love requires discrimination, the augmentation of inequality, the complete dissolution of the egalitarian spirit your Savior taught you to embrace.

Your arguments, your reasoning, and your “logic” all fail. Time and again, your “rational” theses about homosexual marriage stand inert in the face of true, rational thought. They stand inert in the face of Universal Love.

So you are a bastard, a horrible piece of garbage disguised as something better. Return to the woods and live like the animal you truly are.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Role Models and Bad Asses

Why is it that we see athletes as role models? And further, why is it that we feel justified penalizing them when they do not act accordingly?

The dominating view is that athletes are role models because they are in the national eye very prominently and children look up to them. Moreover, they should be penalized in their respective leagues for doing things not in keeping with this view. Our children look up to them and when they do “bad” things, it tells our children such an action is permissible.

So let’s examine what’s happening here. Child A looks at Person X, sees them do Action a, and decides that Action a is permissible because they look up to Person X. The child likes a person, an athlete in this case, and seems to logically deduce that whatever that person is doing must be alright for him to do, as well. And so, presumably, they do those things.

What about books? What about TV shows? There are characters involved that children could and do look up to, ones that also do things that we would consider “bad.” Should we then make our children avoid anything written by Dostoevsky? Avoid TV shows like House which has a character you love that’s an arrogant asshole? These mediums, and others, have characters whom our children look up to; and a number of these characters have qualities we would normally find deplorable and do things we would not want our children doing. So why not treat them in the same manner as athletes?

Now, some will argue that these are all fictitious entities and so they can’t be fairly described in the same way as athletes. But the return question should be: what’s the relevance? Fictitious or not, they are role models for our children.

And what about dead people whom we look up to and view as role models? Certainly Henry Ford is seen as a role model, but he was a tyrannical boss and hated Jews. Do we tell our children to hate him and not see him as anyone special or important?

No, of course not. The problem with all this is a misaligned desire to have our children pick role models who are perfect, in every way, and that’s not only impossible, but stupid. Yes, stupid. If everyone tried to have role models that were perfect they would be disregarding that part of life that isn’t perfect, an understanding of which is essential. (And don’t tell me you can just pick Jesus as a role model; if you think he’s perfect, blow me.) When children fail to recognize that life is shitty sometimes, they fail to live in the same reality as everyone. They fail to see what it means to be human, what it means to live and die in this world. And thus they fail to live correctly.

We should tell our children to respect and admire the good qualities in all people while deploring the bad ones. So Henry Ford's ingenuity and business sense should be admired, while his ethics and Jew-hating should be despised. Or Einstein's genius, and not his penchant for adultery. Or George Bush's...wait, that doesn't work.

Anyways, I want my child to look up to Terrell Owens. Yeah, he’s an arrogant dickhead, but he’s also fucking amazing. He’s one of the best athletes in the world, he’s an incredible wide receiver, and he’s a better basketball player than half the NBA. So if my kid comes home and puts his poster on the wall, good. I’ll make sure he recognizes the arrogant dickhead part, and that’s that.

So let’s stop penalizing these guys for doing stupid shit off the field. If the guy gets caught with an ounce, so what? He gets arrested, pays the fine, does his shit for society, and that’s enough. The NFL shouldn’t feel the need to further exact justice on the guy. And they shouldn't be worried about how others view their league, either, because no one actually cares if they're all criminals, as long as Sunday is still entertaining. Can you imagine a parent saying "Timmy, you can't watch football because only criminals play"? And parents shouldn’t get all pissy about someone being a “poor role model.” If you do, shut up, you’re dumb. Teach your kid how to differentiate between right and wrong.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The End and the Beginning


"[P]eople of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again."

"It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children. But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins."

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Funny and Hillary-tastic

A classic, a real gem.

At 1:22, I wet my pants.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Pistons Defense and Kobe the Asshole

So the Pistons defense has looked interesting after two games. They beat the Pacers 100-94 and the Wizards 117-109. They're defensive efficiency rating is worse than Golden State who don't actually have a defense. They just let the other team shoot the ball at the bucket a couple of times until it inevitable makes its way back to their end of the floor.

Now, the Pacers and Wizards are bad teams, but defensive efficiency doesn't lie. They gave up a lot of easy shots. Also, the Pacers scored the same amount of points against the Celtics who lost by a billion. And the Wizards, against the No Defense Nets, managed a low 85. So the Pistons are a little rusty defensively...at least that's what Keith is hoping, I bet.

And the Iverson trade? the analysis of it is simple, and boring. But I will mention that Keith cried when he found out that his new Pistons-bench-player-who-should-play-more was thrown into the trade. Goodbye Cheikh Samb, hello Keith's tears.

And now to Kobe vs. Blazers: Or, The Most Talented Asshole on the Court vs. Some Dudes From the Park

Just to annoy Jon, I’ll talk about Kobe’s greatness for a minute and then say why he was an huge asshole against the Blazers on Tuesday.

Against Portland, he really showed his developing ability to judge the game, to decide when and what to do at every turn. He was more or less a team-first player in the first two quarters: he grabbed 8 rebounds, a steal or two, 5 assists, and only scored 6 points. And his team was up by close to 20 at the half.

In the first three minutes of the third quarter, the Blazers went on a solid run. The Lakers defense was collapsing, they couldn’t buy a bucket, and things looked ugly for a minute. At around the 9 minute mark, Portland scored an easy basket to cut the lead to seven and Kobe immediately called for the inbound pass. If they had been paying attention, Portland probably would have forfeited on the spot.

Kobe took the ball up the court and went around the Bynum pick at the top of key. Przybilla was waiting for him on the other side, right next to Bynum. Instead of going around him, which would have been oh-so-easy, Kobe went right into him, hard, drawing the foul. His reaction afterwards told the story: he immediately dropped the ball to the ref, high-fived some teammates, and completely ignored Przybilla who was muttering death threats and giving him The Stare from about 6 inches away. Kobe had planned it; he grabbed the inbound pass at the other end knowing full well he was going to go hard at the first Blazer he saw, no matter who it was. He knew it was time to shed his assist-throwing nature for the moment and score some points (and be a dick about it, too).

And the next few possessions were a testament to that prediction. That same possession he calmly tossed in a three point dagger. After a wasted Blazer possession, he went all the way to the rim, right at Przybilla again, making the layup and drawing the foul, sending Przybilla to the bench. On the replay, you can see Kobe veer slightly away from the basket in order to go into Przybilla for a foul; he has a clear path for the easy dunk, but as Przybilla turns around lamely, Kobe leaps into him and makes the acrobatic layup. After sinking the and-one, he watched the Blazers screw up another possession. Kobe then taunted Brandon Roy at the other end by standing behind the three-point line two feet from the Blazers bench. He kept pivoting his foot, over and over again, and eventually threw up another casual three pointer. I suppose the Rookie of the Year Award is rarely given for defense.

So here it is, another performance that shows Kobe for exactly who he is on the basketball court: the Most Talented Asshole. He plays the game incredibly well, judges what to do and when to do it (which is a new improvement), and then when he erupts for points, he can’t help but flip the other team the middle finger. In this case, he might as well have raped Przybilla’s underage teenage sister right in front of him. I mean, he drove at the guy twice when he didn’t have to just to draw fouls and put him on the bench. Tactically, it was a smart move because with Oden out, Przybilla was the only guy on the Blazers above 6’9”, but still, teenage sister, honestly.

So there you go, Jon. Kobe earned himself, simultaneously, the awards for Asshole of the Week and Player of the Week. Oh, and the Celtics lost by a billion. Did I mention that?

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

The New York Knicks: A Shakespearean Tragedy



Watching the Knicks play basketball is painful. It’s like watching the D’Antoni Suns without all the good players…which means it’s like stabbing yourself in the eye with rusty, disease-ridden scissors: you’re immediately pained by sharp things being in your eye and you’re in a world of trouble later when you develop cancer or something.

The Knicks live and die by the three. They take three-pointers almost as often as everything else, and they miss about 70% of the time. Under D’Antoni, they’re doing a great job of passing the ball, but it’s ugly to see four quick passes in rapid succession (that’s double quick!) and then see Richardson, Crawford, or Robinson lob a bomb that inevitably bounces off the front of the rim into the prepared hands of an opposing frontcourt player. And that’s the best part: opposing big men know that the bucket is going to rim out or whatever and so they’re uber prepared to get the board, but the Knicks frontcourt? Clueless. They think it’s going in every time and so they’re out of sight before the ball is halfway to the hoop. If they just accepted that it’s going to bounce off way more than half the time, they could have a number of offensive rebounds and good, solid putbacks. Instead, they’re left with an empty possession and a fast hustle up the court to the other basket because of a fast-break opportunity. That’s painful to watch.

And all of the players on this roster seem ill-suited for, um, basketball. Or rather, they seem ill-suited for basketball that requires a team effort. They seem more prepared for street ball in Philadelphia than professional ball in New York Fuckin’ New York. Sure, I just said they pass the ball well, but that doesn’t mean they play team basketball. That just means the ball is moving hands. What happens is the ball moves hands, a lot, and then someone eventually decides it’s up to them to take the shot. So you’ll see the ball go from Robinson to Randolph to Crawford back to Randolph for the turn around jumper off the double team. Or sometimes you’ll see this weird circular passing thing that happens where the ball will go all the way around the perimeter and back until someone takes the misaligned three pointer (missing it, of course). Duhon will run up the court, stop at the top of the key, throw the ball to Crawford in the corner, who will immediately throw it back to Duhon (which the defense NEVER saw coming, right?), who will fake throwing it back to Crawford and instead “surprise” everyone by throwing it to Richardson in the other corner, who was open earlier, but not anymore, and still fires the three anyway.

What it comes down to is this half-hearted effort to take in D’Antoni’s system. They pass the ball well, but they still think that everyone on the team sucks and so each person will take it upon himself (or herself, in the case of Randolph [it’s the manboobs]) to drive ineptly to the basket or pull up short and take the jumper (because they see Kobe do it every night). The only difference is that Kobe is ridic (or Jordan, or Iverson, or Melo, or Wade, and occasionally James [at the pull up jumper specifically]).

Here’s an example that just happened: the ball movement was good, and eventually it came around to Malik Rose on the wing. Rose, in typical fashion, decided that if everyone was just going to pass it, he was going to take it to the rim (muttering “silly bitches” under his breath, for sure). So he dribble fakes, drives to the rim, gets by his defender surprisingly, and just past the rim he tries to do a reverse layup in the manner of Dwayne Wade. Unfortunately, his hand didn’t get high enough and before he could even release the ball, it hit the bottom of the rim (clunnnnggg!). Rose got fouled and so he had a chance for mini-redemption, but it didn’t matter; the damage was done.

What seems apparent with the Knicks is an influx of ego. Every player was recruited by Isiah Thomas in the past and given a bigger salary than they were worth, and immersed in an environment of me-first living, which automatically translated to the basketball court. All of the scandals and turmoil surrounding the organization over the past few years helped mold the players into solid egoistic basketball playing both because everyone else was doing it and because it was probably safer to think about your own neck in such a hotbed of shit and frustration. If you made better stats than the next guy, you had a higher probability of staying on when the inevitable roster implosion occurred. So D’Antoni has to work against this mountain he inherited, work against the entrenched psychological mindsets of his entire roster. They are confronted with something entirely new and in contrast with Isiah-ball and they’re not sure if they should open themselves up to it. They think it’s still safer, for the first year, at least, to play egoistically so when the real roster implosion occurs, they’re not cut.

Paychecks are paychecks and after a tenure inside Madison Square Garden, it’s unlikely other teams are going to pick you up before March. Anyone want aging, overweight frontcourt players? Randolph and Curry. Wild, shoot-first point guard with no respect for team games? Marbury. Awful, me-first ball players with little use for fundamentals? Robinson, Richardson, Crawford, Rose, blah blah blah the whole damn team


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