Sunday, June 14, 2009

Well, well, well...

Go here. Don't ask questions. And don't be too sad I'm abandoning


Hard Ticket to Hawaii = Must See Movie

So we just watched Hard Ticket to Hawaii, a movie that, if any better, would be unbearable to watch.

Here's what I mean by that: it was soooooo bad (and I think intentionally so) that it was funny and just absurd and great to watch. If it had been simply putrid trash (like Transformers) and not the actual feces of a herd of gorillas, it would have been just bad and not good. Thankfully, it was nothing close to Transformers.

It was written, directed, and produced by Andy Sedaris, and he presents an interesting story. He was a pioneer in television, specifically sports television. He directed hundreds of sports events and even won Emmys (freakin' Emmys!) for them, including the 1969 Summer Olympics. And you know that shot during football games where they just point the camera at the cheerleaders for a minute? Yeah, Sedaris invented that, even coining the name: "honey shot." Just ridiculous.

So somewhere in the early 80's, Sedaris got the idea to do a string of movies under the group title "Bullets, Bombs, and Babes." They were to include 1) Shitty no-name actors (one of which who went on to a 27 year and counting run on The Bold and the Beautiful); 2) Bullets, bombs, explosions and all those things that make Michael Bay movies so terrrble; and 3) Playboy Playmates. That's correct: everyone has Playboy Playmates - and they're always naked, all the time.

These movies have some of the worst dialogue, the worst acting, and the worst plots that have every graced a TV screen, and that's saying something considering we're including things like "Lost" and Armageddon. But that's why they're great, because stuff that bad is just so hilarious that if you don't laugh, you're clearly missing what's going on.

How the hell did Sedaris go from pioneering sports broadcasting to bullets, bombs, and babes? I have no fucking clue, but it's god damn awesome.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

So....... (or "The First Blog Post after a Long Absence")

This the first blog post after a long absence. I didn't bother to fact check, but it's something like forty years. Maybe fifty. It's hard to tell, really.

Anyways, these blog posts feel a lot like meeting your ex-girlfriend for the first time after breaking up (" are things?"). Always a terrible experience. And this is very similar because the relationship between Blogger and Audience is in some ways akin to Girlfriend and Boyfriend (or whatever interchangeable genders fit your style): the Blogger puts out shit, the Audience reads that shit, and then comments with their own shit, and a cycle is born. In the same way, the Boyfriend (or whatever) puts out shit and the Girlfriend reads it, and gives back some more shit.

Now, what happens with the Boyfriend/Girlfriend can happen with the Blogger/Audience: shit gets ugly, one side gets upset/depressed/stupid/etc. and things, perhaps, come to an end. I suppose that's what happened here. I got tired/bored/stupid/depressed/whatever and stopped blogging. I'm pretty certain no one reads this thing, but potential readers operate in much the same way as actual readers, with concern to the Blogger.

Anyways (again), I suppose I'll write some more stuff. Thankfully for all readers, actual and potential, the NBA Finals is pretty much over, thus basketball is over, so the only sports writing will be baseball related, and I doubt I'll be writing much about America's Favorite Pastime, so there is, maybe, a God, I guess.

As for me, I found out (that is, I came upon this realization, rather than decided in any sort of autonomous fashion) that I pretty much hate most other people. Sure, there's a lot of people I really like, lots of cool people, but most of the people I meet on a day to day basis tend to suck. But then again, don't I suck, too? Aren't I just as retarded and stupid and ugly and not nice as they are? Is it all that, though? Or is it that everyone I meet doesn't give a shit about anything other than A) what's between their legs; or B) what's between their shoulder blades (their heart). You see, it's all about penis/vagina interaction (and some anus, obvs) and "how my heart feels." But isn't there a third part to that? What goes on between the ears? Shouldn't thinking and reasoning and learning be on a par with sex and love?

The world, apparently, doesn't agree.

But let's step back. Aren't I just like everyone else when I complain that the world doesn't adhere to my views? Yup. I'm just as much of an asshole as everyone else. So my complaints are stupid and don't matter and there's really no reason to voice them.

But then how do I relate? Because that second part (love) is all about relating to and with other people in a way that's more significant than "Would you like fries with that?" And how do you relate to other people when you're so distanced psychologically from them?

I don't know. That's my difficulty at the moment. That's my "conundrum" (I hate that word, btw). I'm having trouble relating to other people - fulfilling Need #2 - and thus I'm having trouble living.

It kinda sucks, you know?


But most people will misinterpret this post as depressingly hateful/potentially suicidal. Sigh. So, relating to and with other people is like standing in a dark room trying to figure out who's standing in front of you - and the whole time you're not certain there's even somewhere there.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Colbert Raps and Michael Steele Rap

Michael Steele said he wanted to bring it to the urban, inner city hip-hop crowd and so Colbert invited him to a rap battle. Steele has never come on the show but Colbert brings it rather hard in this clip.

He raps, people. He freakin' raps.

And then Michael Steele raps.

Seriously. It's ridic.

But the video won't embed correctly. Comedy Central uses some html tags blogger won't support. So go to this link and watch it there.

Do it.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

This time it's Kelly's fault

I can't stay away from lists, and she was doing a list she stole from someone else. Apparently you just write down thirteen things you did today, because it's "Thirteen Thursday," or some such nonsense.

1. I wondered about how easy it would be to hit someone in the bike lane on Washington just East of Mill because at night (tonight, in fact) you can't see them in your review mirror when you're at the light and start to turn right on Scottsdale/Rural. There were two of them. Thankfully I had this thought 50 feet before the light.
2. I slew the president of Mozambique with a chainsaw. I couldn't find a samurai sword.
3. I went to Starbucks and got free Starbucks because a guy I had a class with two years ago works at Starbucks.
4. I thought about going back to Starbucks later to get some more free Starbucks from the guy who works at Starbucks.
5. I didn't go back to Starbucks.
6. I considered staying on campus after class to listen to a speech by a philosophy professor from Princeton, but I got hungry instead.
7. I tried to go to Jon's choir concert tonight, but I swear he said "turn on Mill," and after spending ten minutes looking around Mill and it's offshoots, and since Jon was already in it (I was late) and couldn't respond to texts, I went to Borders instead and bought a David Foster Wallace book for an egregious 16 fuckin' dollars.
8. I vented to nobody in particular about the ridiculous fuckin' prices for a new paperback book nowadays. 16 dollars? Really? And a 57 page book of poetry by an old professor who works at ASU is also 16 dollars? Unreal.
9. I wrote a very facetious one page response/thought/thingy for a lit class and I'm a little afraid that my teacher might actually seek me out for the purpose of securing reparations for having had to read the response.
10. I wrote a blog before this one.
11. I read some stuff from the April issue of Harper's Magazine, because I somehow convinced my mom to buy me a subscription, and it came today.
12. I thought about how much of an asshole snob I am for having a subscription to both Harper's Magazine and the Sunday Edition of The New York Times.
13. I listened, throughout the day, to a lot of Dr. Dre. The Chronic and 2001 are, ahem, bombass muthafuckin' albums, biotch. Suck deeeeez nuts!


Some things I've overheard around campus lately

Well, first, these two education majors in one of my lit classes are talking about where they want to student teach and, apparently, it's quite popular nowadays to go overseas, particularly to places like Costa Rica, and teach there. From what I know of education majors (and there are significant disaporas in all of my lit classes) I'm afraid for the denizens of places like Costa Rica.

But that's not what's important. What's important is that the following bit of dialogue took place:

"Oh cool. What are the other two."

"Nicaragua and Chile."


They both nod knowingly.

"Where is Nicaragua?"

"I don't know."

- childish laughter -

"I was thinking it was in Africa, but that must be wrong," She pauses. "Right?"

"Year, or well, I don't know."

I had to say something.

"It's south of Mexico."

"Oh, cool. Thanks."

"Yeah, great help."

Alright, so I don't much care that they didn't know that Nicaragua was south of Honduras and north of Costa Rica, but they should have at least known (1) it's NOT in Africa and (2) it's south of Mexico. Or, hell, South America would have been acceptable.

Here's the other thing I overheard, and, really, I hear this a lot. So many times around campus I hear the following sentence in almost the exact same form: "I like to read, I just don't have time for it."

Really? You don't have 30 mins a day? I mean, if you don't want to read, cool, fuck it, I don't give a shit. Really, I don't. But please don't say you like to read but don't have time. Unless you're a triple-job working single mother of three, I'm pretty sure you have 30 mins a day.


Monday, March 16, 2009

It's All Andrew's Fault

Andrew linked an article about gay marriage to me, so the entirety of this post, including the motivation, is clearly all his fault. He's wholly responsible and should be, obviously, destroyed.

The article he linked me was this one and it got me thinking about just what the hell anyone ought to do about the whole thing.

Now, I've got an idea that wouldn't work: make marriage available to any combination of two human beings (man/man, woman/woman, man/woman, or any other transgender fun you can imagine). It wouldn't work,, because people would just lose it over such a liberalization of something so sacred [sic] and wonderful [sic] as marriage, something that's timeless [sic] and totally great [sic] and has always [sic] led to great [sic] and wondrous [sic] joy [sic].

Andrew's article discussed an idea by two lawyers on opposite sides of the California mess arguing that marriage should not be governed by the government, only by the churches. What they would like to see (really just to compromise and bring an end to the whole thing) is the government grant civil unions to anyone and then allow whatever religious organizations out there that have the desire to grant any kind of supplementary title like "marriage."

But why sacrifice the word "marriage?" I think that would just piss everyone off even more. And it seems a little strange to more or less guarantee that marriage is then a religious thing. A lot of people, religious and otherwise, would be pretty upset about that inevitable label.

I say we just try to force through my original plan: making marriage available to any combination of two human beings. It would take money, time, and a fair amount of violence, but hey, what are things like equality and justice for if not to fight and die for?

This always makes me wonder about bigamy. Is it really a bad thing? Andrew, Philippi, Fillman, and I had a chat about this a few weeks ago and I think the general conclusion we came to (at least I think it was "we"; it might have just been me, I guess) is still significant: that the follies of marrying multiple people are the result of the person and not the situation. That is, the reason so many bigamist marriages are fucked up and evil and wives get beat up or abused or not taken care of is because people are messed up, not the marriage itself.

And really is there is anything different that occurs in a bigamist marriage not in a regular ole' man/woman marriage? Surely domestic violence happens in both and surely bad shit in general happens in both. It may be that more bad shit happens with bigamist marriages, but that's probably due to the type of people that try to live bigamously, which is illegal. I can't imagine all men and women who want to marry multiple people are awful, turrrble, and just all-around shitty human beings.

It's worth a thought, I suppose.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lakers and Boats and Stuff

I realize this sort of effusion is not what everyone likes to hear but I just watched the game and I had to say something, even if it's just to the vast Intar-Web-Net.

The Lakers had a casual, 15 point lead on the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter about an hour ago and then, in typical 2008-2009 Lakers fashion, they let it slip away and by the middle of the fourth quarter, they were down by six - at home, against the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas, btw, is the same team that gives lots of minutes to people like Brandon Bass and James Singleton.

So there's the big negative against the 2008-2009 Lakers: they get casual, all the time, and let games get away from them. A positive, though, something Keith and Jon have heard me say so many times they probably wish I would just die, is that the Lakers, when they shed their casual attitudes, are the deadliest, most wicked team in the NBA. And they shed it in the middle of the fourth, just like I hoped they would, and won by seven.

But it's that type of casual attitude that gets them in trouble, the same attitude that made them lose 13 times this season instead of only 6 or 7. They're not worlds better than Cleveland or Boston, but when they're on, they're better than anyone (except maybe Detroit when Dtown actually plays zone defense; Zone D kills the Lakers and you'd think more teams would employ it against Gasol and Odom and Bynum and Bryant and just about everyone the team).

So today's game showed the best and worst of the Lakers: the casual attitude that loses big leads and puts them in three possession holes, and the intensity and brilliant skills that allow them to overcome those same holes.

And, uh, enjoy this:


Sunday, March 8, 2009

The acidity of anger and why it blows

They say anger is corrosive and it's fucking true. It just eats away, rotting your insides like cancer. It just blows ass. I was really mad at a friend earlier, and maybe I still am - I have no idea - and it was awful, because being mad just really devours any sense of pleasure or happiness, so you just walk around being all terribly depressed and then further anger is spawned towards that depression and you just spiral into this abyss of rage from whence it's fucking difficult to get out.

So it's no surprise, then, that I have a huge problem (is it a problem?) staying angry right now because (1) anger eats me up and I feel awful about harboring such strongly antipathic thoughts (it makes me sick, basically, and I start feeling psychologically screwed up) and (2) it's directed towards a friend, a person whom is surely displeased/annoyed/pissed off at innumerable things I've done, so my anger justification erodes significantly in the face of my own obvious asshole-ness.

Driving home tonight, I was going over and over and around and around in my head about it all and I started feeling totally lost, this ultimate despair that nothing made sense, because I think I was justified in being angry but then I started questioning all that and finding reasons for not being angry, which made me wonder: is there a time where anger is not only justifiable but preferable? Are there events that elicit anger rightfully? Or should we disregard and try to suppress most of the irascibility we find welling up inside? I started wondering about choleric feelings and about how they just don't sit with me anymore like they used, and that maybe I was morphing into some giant vagina, or that I was becoming more sensitive or something - and I don't know if that's bad or good or neutral or what. I had the radio off purposely to induce a thinking atmosphere and so there I was driving down Hayden, the only sound that of other cars and my own tires on the pavement and my head is going fucking nuts. I'm going around in circles, I'm experiencing this awful mixture of anger, remorse, confusion, and some serious existential "wtf?" shit. Making it home was a little more difficult than it probably should have been.

But still, what the fuck? I'm no longer angry, I think, but I'm confused, utterly. I'm still convinced my anger was originally justified but I don't know if I had good enough reason to sustain it, or if it even mattered considering how much I must piss off my friend, or how much I must piss off everyone. I mean, I'm loud, I'm obnoxious, I latch onto something and repeat it over and over and over because I derive much pleasure from it - but I know other people wish I would just shut the hell up - and I'm arrogant, hubristic, not as smart as I wish I would be/think I am, and I just basically run everyone's nerves up the wall to the point where I'm not even sure why I have friends or why people put up with me. So do I have any right to be angry? Or still be angry? Or even be angry initially? Obviously without details of the specific incident you can't answer those questions in the particular, but the general bothers me quite a bit. It's fucking with my brain and I can't sleep.


Friday, March 6, 2009

This is not good all

I have a deep, serious, and terrifyingly frightening problem, one with potential existential implications:

I feel intellectually isolated in the most severe way at Arizona State University...

...and it fucking blows.

A "potential existential implication" is that it's mind-fucking me to the point where I love school (because I do and stuff) and I hate school (because it's like a goddamn wasteland of washboard stomachs and pure vapidness to an extreme degree). The insipidness of overweight people who look like life used to mean something but it doesn't anymore and the awful and vast "ugh!" I feel every time I see someone wearing clothes that would probably prefer a nightclub setting - this and more makes me want to scream, in the way that guy is screaming in that famous painting called "The Scream" where his face is all contorted and he looks like he just saw the one thing that would make him, specifically him, have the worst kind of heart attack, the worst kind of desire to just die0.

And it's not just the normal shit a lot of people complain about - the party aspect, the dumb people, & c. - but it's also (and more importantly) the complete lack of desire for anything school related that just surrounds you like this fucking sludge that you can't escape, you can't elude, and you're just in it and the whole time you feel like dying or getting away or screaming or doing something potentially violent and/or absurd in that I've-just-realized-that-all-there-is-is-nothingness-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do kind of way. Imagine being caught in a tornado: it's just whirling debris and vertiginous shit everywhere and you have no control and can't do anything and it's not at all what you expected or wanted or hoped for and you wonder why they hell you even thought it would be any of those things in the first place - and what the hell do you do?

I have no idea. No one seems to care about anything at school. No one seems to have that deep passion for learning that makes life worth living, that uncompromising desire to learn and to think and to be wrong and love it and to get right answers and to want to know so bad it hurts. No one, no one is like that. I'm sinking in this wasteland of cornucopian drudgery, but what do I do? Do I suffer it for another year and graduate and then hope grad school offers better prospects? At this point, if grad school doesn't offer a number of people in close proximity with the above outlined passion, the kind of desire that kicks you in the ass if you get in its way, then what the hell is everyone doing with their lives? Why are they living? Why are they even getting up in the morning?

And why am I even here to see this, recognize it, and despair so urgently, desperately, so profoundly? What the fuck?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

YouTube Videos! Yay!

A "travel" in the NBA, in the general sense (there's some confusion with the technical aspects of it) is when a player takes more than two steps after picking up the ball or before dribbling, or if he establishes a pivot foot and then moves it. Watch the following and try not to die:

Here's that same one in game. It won the game, by the way - it was the final bucket that gave Cleveland a road playoff win. Look how close the ref is.

Here's some crossovers that are pretty sweet. Nothing to do with traveling but I found them in my YouTube browsing.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"The First Half is Safe, Philippi" a.ka. "Street Preachers Part Two"

(My answers to Ben's questions are at the end of this. I thought, in the interest of keeping Philippi involved, I'd put the more accessible stuff at the beginning, which doesn't require any sort of foreknowledge of the other post.)

Ben posted an interesting response to that "Street Preachers" post I had a week ago and I thought I'd respond more fully in a post, rather than cram a bunch of words into a comment section. Besides, I'd rather bore everyone with this sort of talk rather than just those unlucky victims who wander into the comment section of an old post.

I suppose it's worth regurgitating the stuff I talked about in that old post, but I'd rather not. It's right there if you want it.

Why I’m Interested in Religion et al.

I think I can truly say I’ve never had any serious rumblings about God existing or whether the whole thing might be true in some fashion. I’m not sure why I say this in the beginning except to direct this explanation towards other people as opposed to myself and maybe that’s wrong. But I’m not sure.

It’s true, though, that I’ve never sat down and prayed or seriously imagined that God was real – any god, mind you, any deity or supernatural entity. It all seemed so fantastic, so other-worldly, and not the least bit true.

But as to my deep fascination with religion and the potential existence of any deity(ies): I think it has more to do with my deep desire to understand the way other people think and operate. I find the belief systems of other people so terribly fascinating, not necessarily why they do certain things but why they believe certain things. (Why they believe is more important than why they do stuff, I think, because belief, to a large extent, informs action.)

Like why people believe supply-side economics is a great way to run financial systems when they know nothing about it. Now, if they were economists or had some training/background and had a grasp of the science, that’s a different story. But so many people feel supply-side economics is the way to go without understanding the technical aspect of it one bit – and that’s fascinating. I myself only understand the science to what I would deem is a passable extent, but even that might be not nearly enough to hold a claim. Maybe it's all about belief in authorities, maybe we can't ever know a lot of stuff and so we have to put our belief in someone we think does.

This is the large reason I find belief in religion fascinating, because so much of it is predicated on very little knowledge or substance of the religion and its logical implications. So much is based on very little information given out at church or at home and yet people believe it, readily, and without much awareness of their lack of knowledge.

And that’s fascinating! I can understand why a trained missionary with a sufficient background in theology and the philosophical implications of such would believe in a God/religion. They have reasons and the reasons make sense them. But for most people, it boggles my mind. They just believe, without much care and without much to base it on. And it’s not like they’ve read the whole bible: they’ve read a few books, maybe, been told a bunch of stuff, and God just seems like an okay dude.

Perhaps it’s fear, fear that the people predicating belief on so little have the ability to affect my life in tremendous ways. I’m less afraid of the missionaries with lots of training than of the proportionately greater number of people who just believe, because if they justify belief on so little, then what else? Hating gays? Blacks? Supply-side economics? Voting for the guy who talks better? Becoming an extremist? Of worse: getting passable knowledge informed by liberal views and then hating all conservatives. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?

That’s what interests me so much, that’s what drives me. If I can understand why people believe in God/religion with so little to go on, then maybe I can understand why people believe other things in the same manner. Of course, why not study someone’s largely unfounded belief in supply-side economics instead of their belief in God? I focus on the religious belief because we can only have so much to go on in that realm, whereas in economics we have graphs, charts, years of study and data, and lots of experts who really know what they’re talking about. Whereas with God/religion, we have a bunch of thought, some of it logical and rational, being spewed by various people claiming authority – there’s much less solid ground to stand on. Certainly economics is not infalliable, and it certainly has errors, mistakes and such (because it's an evolving science) but there's much more to rest my life on than with religion.

I’ve always wondered, too, about how to approach those who say they feel God, or it all just feels right. I’m never sure if I can just toss this thinking into the “psychological not mystical” trash heap or if it means something. I suppose it’s necessarily the most convoluted and misunderstood reason for believing because it’s so personal – only you can know, no one else can experience it. Every time I think about it, I dismiss it with the thought that if it’s so personal then I can’t possibly be involved in it and nor can anyone else. If I experience it, I experience it. If they do, they do. What can I say? I sometimes feel that my belief in God's nonexistence is visceral in the same way: it just feels right, sometimes, like it can't possibly be wrong. What can I say?

And by the way, I should talk about the background that missionaries receive, at least to my knowledge. Jon and I had various encounters with a pair of Mormon missionaries a few years ago, when they came to our house every Wednesday for a chat and what not. I’m not sure why we obliged them at first, but after a while, when our interest was clearly waning, they kept coming and that was kind of annoying. But whatever, they came. I had always heard they were schooled in basic religious philosophy – the logic behind their beliefs – but I never noticed this. I asked them some questions along logically-related paths and the answers were either vague or so far removed from logic as to appear irrelevant to my question. Now, I can’t say anything with regard to Catholic missionaries, but at least for this hapless pair of Mormon missionaries, that was my experience.

So, to encapsulate the above peripatetic thinking: I’m interested in God/religion because the reasons people believe fascinate – and infuriate – me. If they believe with such little evidence (including those well versed in the arguments) then what else will they believe?

Reading over this, I’m beginning to realize, Ben, that you’re revelation (no pun intended) of why you had such a strong interest in God/religion is turning out to be much more powerful than mine, which is based largely on why other people believe rather than why I don’t believe. Harumph – that’s sad.

Does this mean the elimination of desire begets perfection?

Nah, I’m not Buddhist. To want is to lack, and to lack is be imperfect. In other words, to not have something, whether that be strength, some sort of object, or an intangible thought for the way the world ought to work, is to lack something. And if one does not have everything, then one is imperfect. It’s an odd claim, and certainly to say that God can’t desire makes for an interesting Christian worldview.

Does this mean perfection in its entirety is an emotional state of being?

Nah, as well. I would actually think that to be perfect would be to lack an emotional state of being, for to have emotions is to be in a state in which you might lack something. Of course, to not have emotions means God can’t love (but to say God can’t want is to say as much, I suppose).

I guess this really just speaks to the incomprehensibility of God’s supposed perfection. It’s so complicated and full of potential (and actual) paradoxes and contradictions that it’s either A) horribly inconceivable both in our minds and in reality or B) something real that is, however, beyond our comprehensibility and thus we should just stop worrying about it. The latter claim is often employed to say that we can’t know God in the same way we know our neighbor Bob and so we shouldn’t try to understand him up to a certain point. Of course, this begets the question: why should I care about him at all?

Does one have to have the capacity to want without having the want to achieve perfection?

An interesting question. In some muddled form of perfection (they’re all muddled, really) it would seem that this could be the case, especially if we ascribe omnipotence as a quality of perfection. Speaking of omnipotence, I had an interesting question about it that came to me once while reading something for a philosophy of religion class: Has God done everything, committed every conceivable and inconceivable action?

If I recall correctly (and I very well may not), the logic went like this: if God is omnipotent then he has to be able to say anything and mean it – he has to have the ability to say anything and make it true. So God then would have to be able to say “I have done everything (like, say, kill babies).” And if he has to be able to say this and it’s true, then that means God has done everything (like, say, kill babies).

I remember spending days thinking about this and I never worked up the courage to ask my professor, because I was always (and still am) too insecure to approach a question I might be completely wrong about. I was always afraid (and still am) that I would be so off base I might as well quit life. I also thought I might have been on to something, which was scary.

As to my apparent equivocation of want: you might be on to something. I’m thinking, though, about your example of wanting a woman to love you and a woman loving you (alongside that want). So you’re saying that while the woman is loving you (it seems odd to say) you want a woman to love you? Hmm. I’m imaging a constant action of a woman loving you (emotionally, now, mind all those perverts out there – [that would be me]) and you desiring that a woman love you. It seems that at some point your desire would be fulfilled. I’m having a hard time reconciling the notion of you wanting something that is currently being had by you. But again, my confusion may lay in my conception of desire (hence the supposed equivocation).


Monday, March 2, 2009

My Teacher the Role Model

Now, I'm not going to mention this professor's name nor the class he/she teaches (that would give it away, silly!), but I have to put this somewhere. It's too delicious a quote not to be put somewhere. Hell, maybe I'll write an article about it and other similar quotes. But honestly, feast your eyes. It really needs to contextual preface:

"I lived in a one-room studio apartment, which at 23 was pretty cool. I needed the one room, though, because I didn't want stupid roommates stealing my food and my dope."

Yes, he/she said this, in a class. Delicious. I realize that extraneous talking and things that aren't necessarily appropriate have a place in the classroom, and indeed, should thrive in that environment, but something about this particular one seemed extra-awesome. Usually, teachers talk about cannabis abuse in passing, as something "from way back when." But this guy/girl, he/she made it sound as if he/she hasn't stopped - which is kinda cool, I guess, though I myself don't dabble in the stuff (but as Jerry and George would say: "Not that there's anything wroooong with that!").


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bobby Jindal Is A Moron

I actually think he's an idiot. Seriously. I'm starting to think that all the Republicans are idiots and not simply a deceptively group of nasty individuals. Who can be this stupid?

But then I remember that the American People as a collective - an aggregate of guttural torpidity -is stupid, too, so it makes sense that politicians would say monstrously idiotic things, because they know people will believe them.

But whatever, here's what Jindal - the de facto head of the Republican party it seems - said last night in the traditional other-party-rebuttal after Obama's speech to Congress:

“Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina — we have our doubts.”

If it's not obvious, wasn't it George Bush who ran things when Katrina struck? And wasn't the government's poor response the fault of the leaders of both parties at every level - federal/state/country - and not the government's structural inability to respond?

Yeah, Bobby Jindal is a moron. Tell everyone. Seriously. Ask your fellow Republicans what they think. I can't say this enough but the GOP lately has been wandering around saying horribly unintelligent things. If you support this party, please comment and tell me why. I can't understand it.

(To be fair, the Democratic Party hasn't been terribly impressive either. While they've been as legislatively ineffective as their elephantine cousins, though, they haven't been saying things that make you question reality.)


Monday, February 23, 2009

Street Preachers at ASU

For the last 8-10 days, two guys have been making regular appearances on ASU's campus engaging in what is colloquially referred to as "street preaching." I've listened and dialogued with them multiple times (more listening than dialoguing) and a few things they've said have peeked my curiosity. The guy I talked to was John, and I never found out the other guy's name. John has crutches because he tore his right ACL, which probably sucks. Also, they were out in front of Coor Hall today accompanied by a number of police officers. I'm interested to know if the cops were preemptive or if there had already been an incident. Whatever.

(I'm going to say right here, just for Ben, that there will be metaphysics in this post as I talk about God and stuff. See, Ben, I DO love you.)

One thing that was very much apparent listening to John and his friend over the course of a week and a half is the belief that God wants us to go heaven, a common notion and one held by John and his friend. What bothers me is the logic, which I'm sure many Christians don't attend to: to want something is to lack that something; to lack something is be imperfect; God is a perfect being; thus, God cannot want us to go to heaven, or else he's not, as normally presumed, a perfect being.

There are those who would assert that logic, like everything, is the product of God and thus he is not susceptible to it. Of course, God gave us things like logic, speech, curiosity (and free will?) so we could discover for ourselves various conclusions about our existence. Obviously he's hoping we'll lead ourselves to faith in him. So, in the course of things, we will necessarily be employing a bit of logic (hopefully a lot) and naturally God will, at times, be in the hot seat. He must realize the limits of faith and so it seems a foregone conclusion that logical reasoning will constitute a large sum of our investigations. Hence his susceptibility to logic; otherwise, what the hell's the point?

A second idea that snatched my interest is the notion that God made everything and controls everything and so we are all subject to his will, a passage that John's friend was apt to repeat at the end of every segment he presided over (which got kind of annoying when he was attempting to draw in people at the intersection of College and University because he would say it every 45 seconds). Aside from what I already mentioned previously about God' seeming inability to want (How does he have a "will" if he cannot want? Further, if he lacks a will, is he perfect?), a few things jump out of my skeptical brain.

First, I wonder about the leap from God creating and controlling everything to our being supposed to submit cosmic authority to him. Just because he has the biggest stick doesn't mean he's right - a la Stalin, Caesar, Reagan, Bush, other dictators/totalitarians/fascists/bleh.

Second, this seems at odds with the notion that God gave us free will so we would come to him of our own accord. It's well-documented throughout the latter half of the Bible that God wants us (if he can want...) to choose him freely, without being forced. So then why isolate and emphasize his absolute power and control? Or that we're all going to hell for sinning (which is another favorite mantra of John and his friend)? This is the same tactic rulers use to subjugate populations, to bring them under an iron heel. It forces us to believe: if we don't then it's our loss and we go to hell - which blows. So aren't I forced to believe in him? (Enter Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov...if you like that book, I guess. Ben does, if I recall.)

A third point of interest was what John and I discussed while standing outside Coor Hall today: objective morality. He dialogued in support of an objective morality, "proved" by God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. I tried to wrest the conversation away from a particular instantiation of objective morality towards a more general conversation about whether objectivity exists or matters.

His view was typical (and I don't mean that condescendingly but literally): God gives us objective truth: without him we wouldn't have it; thus, we need him (notice how this doesn't argue for God's existence but for God's necessity; just because we need him doesn't mean he's there). My view was that objective morality might not exist. He rejoined with a question about how we, in that case, determine right and wrong, good and evil. I suggested the bigger club would write the history. Naturally, he wasn't pleased.

So I talked at length, explored really, about some ideas floating in my head. I thought about how we humans are so afraid of a nonobjective reality that we refuse to entertain subjectivity. We refuse to ask "What if?" We're probably afraid, I suppose, of navigating a world without a safety net from which to operate. Objectivity gives us that net, for if we have a solid, tenable base from which to work, self-justification becomes that much easier (and humans must have self-justification or we explode).

Moreover, how do we convince people to help each other if all we can rely on is power and not objective reasoning? I'm not sure. Humans have spent a great deal of time killing each other and wandering within religion rather than considering subjective realities.

And why not develop a system based on nothing and try to argue cogently for its instantiation? Certainly any tenacious skeptic will refuse to entertain anything grounded in subjectivity (even if backed up by copious amounts of logic), but we only have to appreciate them to a point. It's not a perfect system, but we've just seen that nothing will be perfect, maybe not even God, so we should all just pick something and run with it.

John, however, didn't seem to appreciate my ideas, but he was clearly aware of their severely rational nature, as evidenced by his tactic of slightly altering the subject or calling out to other people in the crowd that had since gathered to listen to us talk (it's really interesting how many people just stop by and gather closely, occasionally jumping in to vigorously and aggressively defend one side or the other). I'd apparently stumped him a few times, or at least moved too fast for him to put it all together (which isn't fair I realize - and I sympathize with him for I find myself unable at times to process everything presented to me; I sometimes need to write it down so I can properly digest it as a whole). I imagine it doesn't help, as well, that I've spent a lot of time considering God and religion, and many more ideas, perhaps, than John has come into contact with.

On that last point: I've listened to a lot of street preachers, more so since coming to ASU - they're everywhere. I'm very familiar with what they're going to say both initially and in response to various attacks and arguments. I'm also aware of the rhetorical tactics they use to get people to think twice about what they believe, especially about right and wrong. For instance, John gave me an opportunity to walk up and start talking to him by asking the passing students if they were any atheists around. I responded affirmatively and knew that he was going to immediately ask about how right and wrong are developed for me and all sorts of things about Hitler and the Nazis to whether or not I've broken any of the Ten Commandments. They tend to run through the same lines of thought while trying to deconstruct the non-Christian's views to "show" that they're of little value. Having this knowledge, it was easy to see where he was going and thus direct the conversation to my advantage and whims.

In any case, God and his Bible have a lot to offer in terms of logical puzzles. Most of them are irresolvable (as far as I can tell) and leave one in a state of constant perplexity. Sadly, many Christians (and let's not forget Jews and Muslims and they're attendant religious paradoxes) don't bother to work through them. Of course, this is really a critique of most religious people, even "hardcore" ones, who are completely ignorant of their own system of thinking. They say they're Christian but are unaware that they've admitted to the severe subjugation of women and the idea that slaves should not rise up against their masters but should sit tight and wait for heaven.

People will argue, naturally, that such notions are era-relevant, meaning they don't relate to modern times (most of the stuff in Leviticus is usually lumped into this group of "outdated precepts"). An obvious rejoinder is to question which precepts are phased out and when; also, why were they accepted into the Biblical cannon if they were time-sensitive? Why didn't God talk to someone and get things updated during, say, the 18th century? Why wasn't there a prophet every hundred years or so that would take the old and the new and save the wheat/cut the chaff? Certainly God with his limitless magisterial powers could make any of the above happen. He sent Jesus, didn't he, floods and all that stuff?

But it doesn't appear that John nor his friend have taken the time to sort all these things out, though, to be fair, I didn't directly talk to John's friend, but from what he was saying I could imagine the similarities to John.

John asked me at the very beginning why I was an atheist. I told him that all decisions are made on the basis of probability because nothing can be known with absolute certainty, a notion to which he assented. I then said that based on everything I've seen, read, discussed, and digested, it was more likely that either God didn't exist or if he did, his nature was radically different from any evident within the Western religious tradition.

After agreeing to the original idea about probability governing decision-making, he didn't appear to feel qualified to respond. I think he asked the girl next to me about Hitler.

(I should add here that Eastern religions, with their courage to embrace and revel in the contradictions and paradoxes obvious in our existence, get closer to the mark, I suppose.)


Bush, Bush Go Away

Another State Press article: It was my second one. I recall it being pretty solid until the paper printed it, at which point it lost some luster after unnecessary (and somewhat puzzling) edits and cuts. But whatever. It was still pretty good after that. I suppose one should bear in mind that it was run just a few days after Obama's inauguration.

If you’ve been paying attention to the opinion pages of some of the popular (i.e. larger) newspapers during the week preceding the inauguration and the days that have followed, something will have been painfully clear: we, as a nation, want to forget George W. Bush and just get the hell on to the next guy.

The popular (i.e. larger) newspapers I’ve been perusing (which I’ll name so you can laugh at me for thinking they were/are worthy of reading) are The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Excluded from the latter group’s susceptibility to derision, of course, is The State Press.

A statistical analysis (one I won’t bore you with) shows that the opinion columnists are more concerned with what Obama should do than with showing Bush the door; or with ruminating nostalgically on inaugurations; or prognosticating. Or pretty much anything other than Bush.

If we grant that opinion pages tend to follow the American psyche (because opinion columnists are a part of that psyche and are unique in that they operate outside of normal journalistic constraints on bias and neutrality), then this seems to be pandemic throughout the nation.

The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in “Exit the Boy King,” describes the inauguration crowd watching Bush’s helicopter fly away: “They wanted to make absolutely, positively certain that W. was gone. It was like a physical burden being lifted, like a sigh went up of ‘Thank God.’” She goes on to relate it to the catharsis of Greek drama, the emotional/spiritual release of, well, all that stuff people felt the last eight years, from the opening tip (the 2000 [stolen?] election) to the final buzzer (the crowd chanting “Nah nah…goodbye” at the inauguration).

By all accounts, the nation wants to forget. People are tired of thinking about anything Bush-related and they’re pushing him out entirely. Such categorical defenestration, though, means the national memory is ridding itself of not only Bush mistakes but also Bush successes.

But we shouldn’t forget, we can’t forget. If we do, it’s a disservice to all those who suffered the mistakes of the last eight years. I’m not, though, advocating war crimes tribunals against members of the Bush administration, but merely positing that a sweeping refusal to remember the past is a preemptive condemnation of the future.

A week after the inauguration, it’s easy to use Obama and Optimism to push past the Bush-saga, but the lessons history offers are irreplaceable and free. We need to take what we can get, learn from it, and work to make a better future.

If we push the Bush years away so absolutely, then we’re going to repeat the same follies that made us want to forget in the first place. Scary as it sounds, in four to eight years we might find our National Psyche suffering from another mismanaged presidency, making strong attempts to wipe it away. We can’t allow that to happen.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Channelling Mr. Wallace

Horne wants me to start putting my ASU State Press articles on here and, as usual, I can't say no to him. I'll put up the ones that have already run in some sort of loosely constituted chronology - which means whenever I just get around to throwing them up, adding some pictures and clicking buttons.

David Foster Wallace, in “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,” spends a good deal of time talking about the nature of television consumption and the effect it has on people. He presents, to us, that we’re being watched, a lot. Every time we leave the house, other eyes look at and judge us, wonder about us, he says. We’re aware, though, because we, too, stare and ogle at strangers on the subway, in their cars, on sidewalks and in restaurants. We watch and are watched in turn.

And some are better than others at being watched. Some can take the light of the stage, the prying eyes of a faceless crowd – and others can’t: they fail, flounder, at the thought of anonymous voyeurism. In the same way many of us fail miserably in front of the camera, the man with a clipboard encouraging us to ‘act natural’ (and us struggling to make that contradiction a reality), the same way many of us feel under the gaze of strangers, wilting in the heat of other humans.

Wallace describes the ability of those people who can stand the heat as “watchableness”; they appear “unself-conscious,” able to “bear the psychic burden of being around other humans.” While they may be a wreck internally, externally they’re able to operate as if under no pressure at all to live up to the expectations of others, of society – and regular self-conscious people decline to bear this burden.

According to A.C. Nielsen and Co., 99% of American households own a television and it is on six hours a day; the average American (in all households, television or not) watches nearly four hours of that total six. When we watch television, we see people who are unself-conscious, acting natural in front of millions of people who are gawking and gaping at their furniture. They possess the watchableness we only dream about. And the more television we consume, the more we’re convinced that, in Wallace’s words, “the most significant quality of a truly alive person is watchableness.” Bearing the psychic burden of others appears, to us, integral to the pursuit of a meaningful, human (i.e. social) existence.

As television consumption emphasizes our social liabilities, our individual realities become more unpleasant. Our self-consciousness is intensified after consuming daily reinforcements of our own inability to respond naturally under observation, four hours a day, twenty-eight a week, one hundred and twelve a month…you get the picture. This increasing self-consciousness makes reality more unbearable, and so we seek escape (perhaps, more escape). We desire other worlds, fantasies, places to which we can flee to get away from it all, our nagging wives, nagging jobs, distant children – everything; we escape, if only for thirty minutes.

And that’s the hook: we begin to escape from reality to television because television made reality more unpleasant. That repudiation of social contact, which originally led many of us to television, is exacerbated by it, so that we’re reliant more and more on television to help us escape. It’s the irony of ironies: the very object that prolongs our suffering eases it temporarily. It’s like a salve that reopens the wound as soon as it’s done working: there’s no restorative effect – it’s a tourniquet for the pain of self-consciousness, unwatchableness.



So I think I might throw some Google Ads up on this baby and see what happens. I realize how aesthetically unpleasing it will be, or should be, but I've been talking to some people and I thought I'd give it a try. It's not guaranteed to give me much of anything, but I mise well try.

So, you know, don't throw up when you see them, I guess.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where's the line between funny and racist?

I'm not sure if this is a racist photo. I don't think it is. I think it's funny. But then I have to ask myself "Why is it funny?" My answer: I don't know. Maybe it's the frowning black people (frowns are funny and the deeper and more ridiculous the frown, the funnier it is; and maybe black people have a better physical makeup so that frowns are deeper and more ridiculous; does that make me racist?). The word "shenanigans" is clearly funny in itself. I think what might make it funny as well is this: a bunch of serious people wearing serious clothes, frowning, and the word "shenanigans" is like BAM. Is it funnier because they're serious and black? I don't know, maybe. Is that racist? I don't know.

Then again, why is there a random white guy in the back right? Am I racist for thinking he's a little out of place?

Would this be nearly as funny if it was all white people frowning? I'm not sure. I think "no," but why? Why is it funnier if it's a bunch of black people? I think it falls back to the notion that "black" physiology makes for deeper, more ridiculous frowns. Also, maybe it's that we always think about black people protesting something or other and so we think of older black people as frowning all the time (because racism gets better only slowly). Of course, is it racist to think of older black people as frowning about racism all the time?

I just don't know. But that picture is damn funny.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Told You

So you know how people are always crying about how dangerous football is? About how too many people get injured and that they almost die and that stuff is really serious and awful?


By proportion, in America, a greater percentage of people die in horse racing than any other sport. Yup. 128 deaths per 100,000, which beats out skydiving (123), motorcycle racing (7), and the Pussy Sport boxing (1.3). So yeah, football's not dangerous at all. And that's logic. [Please, someone understand I'm being facetiously stupid, here?]

I need to say this next one because it speaks to all the dumb white people out there, because only dumb white people 'play' this sport. 180 people die a year, worldwide, due to sports fishing. Let me repeat.

180 people die a year due to sports fishing.

And, as we all know, only white people get into boats and run around a lake speed fishing. This is the highest number of deaths per sport per year. Dumb white people drink and fall over the boat, hit their head and drown. No joke. That's the given reason for the high death rate. That's the leading cause of death in the Official Dumb White Person Sport. Falling into a lake. And dying.

So take that football. Pssht. Pussy sport.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Doug Collins Everybody...

"Anytime Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team to below 100 points, they almost always win."


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Something that Needed to be Said

Kevin Durant is incredible. It's a shame he's not in the All-Star Game.

That is all.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

But I love taking notes...

So there's a couple of people in one of my lit classes who doodle and draw, all the time, the whole time. Occasionally they slump in their seats as if to change the inevitably monotonous routine. They seem mirror images of one another until you look closer, though. The first one, the guy, only draws outside of the margins of the notebook paper he's using for "notes." He clearly thinks he should be writing something down, so he keeps the white space clear just in case he feels like being a student. He even asked me today what he missed in class on Tuesday, as if some external action might contradict and change the internal mechanism. But of course he knows he won't actually take notes. He's just going to continue drawing. (He might, ahem, love coloring [even if it's spelled all British-like in the picture].)

The second one, a girl, draws everywhere. She's inside the margins, outside, up, down, everywhere. I swear I've seen her almost draw past the page onto the desk a few times, though she caught herself each time. This girl is not deluding herself at all. She's not taking any notes, and she knows the future is bleak for that situation changing. If it makes up for anything, though, she does draw class-related things. Today she was drawing "Huck Finn" in beautiful, calligraphic lettering with a light purple pen that she bought who the hell knows where. We've been on Huck Finn/Mark Twain for a two weeks now so her last few pages are riddled with "Jim's" and "Huck's" and "Twain's" within and without the margins.

But hey, at least she's not deluding herself. Notes are for losers, and she knows it.


Awesome cartoon from around the time Israel killed itself some Palestians


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some Updates and Thoughts

The Delay. I've been away a while, obviously, and it's really been the fault of the new semester. I have one more class than I did in the Fall, but that's not quite what's keeping me busy. It's that I'm taking four literature classes and a 200 level French course - so I've got at least 60 pages of reading to do every night, with the occasional writing assignment (which come often, considering the volume of classes with involved writing elements), and all the while I'm studying French and trying to sound less and less like some stupid white kid trying to speak a foreign language. Certain words and phrases are coming along better than others. If it involves a "tr" or a "pr," then fuckin' forget.

Obama. What to say about Obama. Well, he's done better than anyone could have expected, considering what we all thought about his naivete with Congress and what we perceived as a steep learning curve. He's pulled only one punch thus far that I've noticed, and that was his refusal to call out the centrists on Capitol Hill for destroying a stimulus bill that was already too weak to begin with. But hey, before that he said "I won so stop bitching, GOP," "My bad, I take responsibility," and "Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world." And yes, he actually said that last one.

But where did Obama go wrong? Well, it came rather late into his Presidency, thus far - meaning a few days ago. He said, roughly, "Pass my stimulus bill or there will be catastrophe." Now, that's fuckin' bullshit, Obama, and you know it. Fear-mongering is never a good thing; it's always bad. If you have to use fear to further an agenda, then you should let that agenda slide, or, if it's the only way you can convince people of what you're saying, then fuck the people - they don't deserve whatever it is you're trying to push. So, please, no fear-mongering. Those ball sucking bastards for the last eight years gave us enough of that shit.

Philosophy. Another thing I've been pondering is probably more in line with what Philippi's been suggesting lately: some philosophy. Now, this is religious philosophy, and maybe he wasn't interested particularly in that aspect of philosophy, but that's what he's getting.

I've been thinking about the Grand Inquisitor's story, a passage (a long one, too) in The Brothers Karamazov (a book by Fyodor Dostoevski) where Ivan Ilyviecheksfiehfiejsl tells a story about Jesus coming back to Earth because he sees mankind suffering and wants to end it. Aside from not raising the question of why he waited so fuckin' long, the story talks about the central issue in Christianity, a question that all Christians need to answer before they continue putting their faith in whatever the hell it is they put faith in:

Why do humans suffer?

It's that simple (and complex) of a question. You can't be a Christian without answering this question. And if you "are" and haven't, you're a moron. But think about it: why do humans suffer? How can religion, Christianity specifically, account for the horrible horrors humans have suffered for, um, ever? In the story above, the Grand Inquisitor asks this very question, repeatedly, of Jesus, who says nothing. Eventually, Jesus walks up and kisses the GI and then leaves. The point is that love is the answer, and always will be, but that doesn't really answer the question, and I think Dostoevski knew that. He was just as confused as the rest of us. He was attempting to be a good Christian but had doubts, lots of them, because he's really fuckin' smart, and smart people read the Bible and wonder about a lot of things.

In 1981, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner attempted to answer this question and wrote a book about it called "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." His basic premise is that for humans to be human we have to have the free will to choose between good and evil. That, he sort of assumes offhand, is what makes us human. And for this to obtain, God has to let there be evil in the world; he has to let us choose for ourselves. Thus, bad things happen to good people because humans make bad choices. (Notice how nothing is ever God's fault? I've yet to see a theologian come out and say "Well, shit, guys, we never thought of it: a BAD god! Why, we never thought that was even possible!")

Aside from annoying the shit out of me, I think Kushner's got some problems. First, he assumes that free will is what makes us human, and I'm not so sure - about what makes us human, that is. He may be right, but being "human" seems to be so complex that to sum it up with a simple idiom about free will seems dissatisfying. And it also negates the very real possibility that we even have free will. Read up on determinism and see if you're not a little bit interested.

Second, he assumes that God has to be an inherently good figure, a premise for which there's little evidence. Of course, there's little evidence for the contrary, that God's an inherently evil figure, but that's the point: we got nothing. We've got a shitload of good things going on and a shitload of bad things going on: who's to say he's one or the other with any certainty? Who's to say he's even there at all?

And third, he assumes an omni-benevolent God that somehow gets around the paradox of watching bad things happen to humans while having the power to stop it. If a God is all-good, then he can never do anything wrong or evil or bad. Thus, he can't possibly watch us all suffer; it would go against his nature and his ability to do something about it. So belief in a God that's omni-benevolent seems difficult: God loves us unconditionally and can never do anything wrong and yet lets us shit on ourselves with reckless abandon.

In the scheme of things, this is just another paradox that theologians know about it, everyone one of them, but refuse to talk about it. Seriously, ask a pastor/preacher/religious-guy-waving-a-bible-in-your-face about some paradoxes involving God's perfections and he'll give you the run around - or better yet, he'll say we can only understand God analogously, and thus we can't know the answer to everything. But we can still put unconditional faith in God?

You might not be interested, but if we presume to know God analogously, then we might as well give the whole thing up: analogical predication can't work. Ask me later if you're interested in the ten minute explanation.

So this all gets us back to why humans suffer and how a Christian needs to satisfy the question before adopting supreme faith in God. Kushner's got some funky ideas that are easy enough to understand to get him on the best-seller's list but he doesn't really satisfy. His system would work, I suppose, if we consider God to be imperfect, to be one of us. Maybe he's just really powerful, but not ultimately, (WARNING: Latin phrase ahead) in extremis. He wants us to live and be free and so he watches us, like an ant farm, and intervenes occasionally but makes everything difficult to know and understand, even himself, and so we're left to wander to the world wondering if he's there at all.

That's a possiblity, and certainly one that's been entertained on occasion, but here's why it bothers me: if God is this way, just a watcher and an occasional actor with finite power, then why should I even care what he thinks? He's just me but with a bigger stick. He's another powerful politician. He needs to do something to get my vote, and until he starts feeding the poor and fixing that big hole in the middle of the world called Africa, I'm not voting for him.

Now, normally I would introduce another religious question and talk about it...and then another one...and probably another one. But I'm sure I'm the only one interested in this stuff. Hell, most Christians don't give a shit, so why should anyone else? Anyways, here's a photo for you.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Tears for Keith (And Hopefully Nadal)

I'm staying up again to watch tennis. I had a feeling Nadal would struggle against Verdasco so I stayed up, hoping to be rewarded. It paid off. The match isn't over, but it's 1-0 Verdasco and a 4-5 Nadal lead in the second set.

But that's not what's funny. Here's what's funny: a commercial came on advertising the basketball game this Sunday between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons, referring to the teams as "Eastern Titans."

That's funny. Detroit stopped being an "Eastern Titan" about two months ago. Just ask Keith. Wait, don't. He might cry.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

FeDeReR Roxxors My Suxxors

After closing out the second set with Supreme Authority (and going up 2-0 against Roddick), Federer spent the break in between admiring the replays of himself on the Giant Screen in the arena. While Roddick tried to collect himself with internal (though very audible) admonitions and rebukes, Federer leaned back in his chair and smiled as scene after scene on the Giant Screen (really: it's probably about 20ish feet wide) showed his tennistic* prowess from the last set. He may have imbibed some water. I think, though, that replays of his own Insane Ability may have satiated any bodily desires he may have had.

*Probably not a real word.


For the Love of the Game?

I'm staying up late to watch the Australian Open Semifinal Match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. Because of the time difference (I think it's 18 hours ahead, as in , tomorrow [er, well, tonight for them]) it's on at 1:30am. So here I am, school and everything, preparing for what's hopefully an epic tennis match.

Just to spite me, I bet God will make the match a straight set doozy...meaning my staying-up adventure will be for naught.

But that's not likely. Federer has regained his legendary form (The Velvet Sledgehammer!) and Andy Roddick is playing out of his mind with a serve that could, literally, kill someone. He's consistently serving at around 120mph or something - which means people could die and shit.

But Federer has consistently crushed Roddick. In fact, if not for Federer, Roddick might have four Grand Slams instead of one. He's been to four finals and lost three of them - all to Federer. He's lost nine single's titles to Federer. So, without Federer, Roddick might have had three more Grand Slams under his belt along with three ATP Masters Series Tournaments and six tournament wins.

Tough luck, I guess.

For juxtaposition's sake, here's what Federer has been doing for the past few years: out of a possible 20 Grand Slams over the last five years, Federer has been to the Finals in 16 of them and won 12. The four he lost were all at the hands of Rafael Nadal...meaning he might have gone 16/20 if not for that Spaniard. Crazy. He's got 13 Grand Slams, one less than Pete Sampras who holds the record, and he's still 27, which, while not young for tennis standards, is still a ripe age, especially when you're sicktastically good. Aghassi won a Grand Slam at age 33 (which is stupid old) and Sampras won one at 31. So he can keep it up, I think.

Federer won 13 Grand Slams in 39 attempts whereas Pete Sampras won 14 in 54 attempts. So, yeah, I'd say he's retardedly-good, as in, I'm-a-savant-and-I-play-piano-really-well-and-drool-at-the-mouth. Some people argue about whether he's faced as stiff of competition as Sampras, but whatever. I'm just gonna sit back and watch.

For the record, I don't care who wins. Roddick was always cool, even when I never really paid attention to tennis, and Federer is just unreal and beautiful, in that way that's difficult to look away from. Besides, I want him, badly, to break Sampras record, by, like, three or four slams. I think he can do it, considering his talent and his age.

Whatever, it's 1:35 and about to start.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Teachers that Don't Think

Three of my English teachers have administered mini-lectures on their anti-"inappropriate use of technology in my classroom" stances. It's been pretty blah. Here's what they say, more or less, about laptops specifically:

"If you use laptops to look at Facebook, Myspace, or whatever, other people can get distracted by that. They look over and see you on websites and what not and they get distracted."

So basically, looking at websites is distracting to other students because those other students will look at them over your shoulder. I gues that makes sense?

Well, as much as I'd like to dispute other students being distracted by someone engaging in non-note-taking activity on their laptops, let's grant that it's entirely, 100% true, all the time.

Students, then, are distracted and so you shouldn't be allowed to do anything on your laptops other than take notes. Well, in that case, typing shouldn't be allowed because in a classroom filled with, at first, only the teacher's voice, even one person typing can be loud as hell. So, right away, typing is out. That, or people have to type really softly. Try that sometimes, and keep in mind you have to keep up with a teacher who's not going to pause much.

But here's my favorite consequence of this anti-"inappropriate use of technology" stance: you can't let people with nervous ticks in the classroom. Yes, I just. Said. That. If other students are going to be distracted by Facebook on someone else's laptop, then anyone with a nervous tick is going to be just as much as a distraction. So there you go: teachers who adopt this stance for this reason have to put a disclaimer in the course catalogue: "No nervous ticks. Drop them or drop my class."

I may be a dick, but seriously, just sayin'.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Curious Case and Some Curious Reactions, Which I Expect No One To Read

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I don't know who all has seen this movie among people I know, or what their reactions were, but I liked it. Broadly, it was tender, excellently crafted, and - most significantly - beautiful.

But a bunch of people disagreed. It was received favorably from most critics, but a number of them couldn't forgive what they saw as a "lack of passion" in the movie, specifically between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. I think they simply misread the parts and the people, but I'll leave that till later.

What prompted this post, really, though, was the awful review (both in terms of perspective and execution) offered by a fellow opinion columnist at the ASU State Press. His reasons for disliking the film consist in pointing out that it didn't make much money and that it doesn't "feel" as good as other top-winners at the Academy Awards - he mentions Titanic, The Godfather, and Ben-Hur approbative examples.

Well, first, box office gross is a notoriously misguided and stupid angle to take when critiquing a film (emphasis on 'stupid'): not only have a number of low-grossing films won awards/been nominated for awards (how about last year's No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood?) but the only way it reflects on a movie's quality is in the summation that "it wasn't interesting to the American public." And, for fuck's sake, when has that ever mattered? Geez. That's pretty much an affront to art everywhere, in any time.

And second, what can we draw from this idea that it didn't "feel" like other big winners? I'm not sure. I can understand a certain feeling that the films he mentions might elicit (though not Titanic; that movie was good, but it wasn't deserving of a bazillion awards [it had the fortune, though, of competing in a weak year for cinema - seriously, check the list: As Good as it Gets, Good Will Hunting, LA Confidential, and The Full Monty; solid films, but none of them quite legendary or unique]), but "feeling" is certainly a bad way of judging a film. Any film by David Lynch is guaranteed to draw ire for being nasty, strange, disturbing, but that doesn't mean the films are bad, just different than mainstream.

It seems we can easily dismiss this weak attempt as, well, something, though I couldn't say what. Perhaps it merits a response next week in my own column.

The top critics that have reviewed it have offered unfavorable sentiments that consistently point to a few things: 1) the acting chops of the cast; 2) the lack of "passion/chemistry" between Pitt and Blanchett; and 3) the film's familiarity and similarity to Forrest Gump (which was written by Eric Roth, who also wrote Curious Case).

1) We can first look towards the Academy, comprised of over a thousand members, people who act, direct, produce, write, and so on, who nominated multiple members of the cast for awards. They aren't always correct in determining winners, but they do a fine-excellent job, for the most part, in selecting nominees. Aside from the Academy, we can look to our own sense of the film's acting. Curious Case didn't include acting performances that we normally consider "great." That is, it wasn't like The Godfather where scenes were tense and crazy and wild and angry and passionate and just really all around front-of-your-seat wow. And it wasn't like No Country For Old Men where scenes were so weird and and full of intricately constructed dialogue that we were forced to concede "greatness" because of the sheer ability it takes to execute such scenes with the kind of precision and delicacy that Josh Brolin and crew provided.

Curious Case was different, though. It's power emanated not from Al Pacino scream-fests nor Javier Bardem creep-fests, but rather, from tender, tranquil scenes that required nuance beyond the capabilities of even your run-of-the-mill strong actors. Button's father had to engineer a performance that spoke to a man beset with copious amounts of guilt, the kind that eats away at you in a way that makes you want to melt, as opposed to blow up. Tilda Swinton, an affair of Pitt's, had to show a sort of stern and aloof tenderness that didn't require over-the-top acting, but a kind of reserved passion, an adulterer who didn't want to give too much away, even though she was loving and reveling in every minute. And Pitt himself was a paragon of reservation, but I'll get into that later with 2). Other parts merited large amounts of acclaim, but to save time (and fascination) I'll leave it to you to see the film and judge for yourself.

2) And here we are. The claim that there was little or no passion/chemistry between Pitt/Blanchett seems to disregard both Button's character and a number of scenes in the movie. Button's character was a walking exposition in how to be reserved yet precise and assertive. Button, possibly because of his unique situation, constantly sat back and observed everything and everyone around him. So, a portrayal of such is going to give a non-detailed watcher the feeling of a lack of passion/chemistry. But Pitt's character was always observing. What made the film so great was the fact that Pitt's character grew emotionally and psychologically. By the end of it, he was the one giving advice as opposed to being the ever-ready listener. To miss this seems strange because it was pretty important to the overall story arc.

And there were many scenes full of chemistry. Every scene before the full-on "we're totally in love with each other" part towards the end was drenched in reservation on Pitt's part and the friendly, immature, self-consciousness of Blanchett. As it progresses, you see spats between the two, and a sort of defiance in Pitt as he tries to continually win her love and stay by her side. Eventually, they fall totally in love, to the point where they're so comfortable with one another that a mere look or a few words will say everything at once. So I can see critics mistaking this sort of peacefulness for a lack of chemistry, but it's still a mistake.

3) I'm not sure how this one detracts from the film's overall awesomeness, but I'll try. I think the claim is that because it seems similar to Forrest Gump it's somehow less cool and less unique (and thus less good?). Eric Roth did write both, and there are similarities in terms of plot and narrative structure, but there the similarities end. Where Forrest Gump concerned itself with intertwining one guy's life with the historical events of his time while exploring that guy's place in society, Curious Case explored everything and more without putting too much emphasis on historical context. Benjamin Button's life involved the complexities of race, prejudice, love, passion, struggles, and the overarching thought that life is dragging you someplace and though you have some control, you're largely at its whim. A big point in Curious Case was that we're put in situations we can't always control and it totally sucks balls to have to make any decision, much less the right/best one. But, as usual, we do the best we can.

So where the two films part is where they become unique. In fact, I think Curious Case explores much stronger ideas and themes than Forrest Gump and, partly because of it, is a better film. Eric Roth seems to have shed the somewhat superficial nature of his earlier film for the strong, yet strikingly placid, temperament of his latest.

I could say more, but this post is already long past the point of normal motivation to read. And I think I've proved my point, or at least drubbed the points of some other people. Of course, watching the film is the best way to decide for yourself. So, you know, find three hours and give it a go.