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America the Violent

America is a violent country.

Murders, killings, loss of life, manslaughter, homicide.  The words we have to describe the extinguishing of life seem as numerous in our culture as the Inuit have words to describe snow.  That another murder will occur today in our largest cities is as sure and expected as the sun is to rise in the east.  

Murder in the USA is not simply common but it is also celebrated.  This is painfully and horribly obvious in the movies, television shows music and just about every other media venue available today which the population of the USA happily and greedily consume without moderation.  Many will point out that these macabre art forms are not real, they are just for pleasure!

Then one will turn on Fox news at the start of a war and feel a rush of exhilaration as their entertainment and blood lust cross over into reality.  Greedy eyes scan the screen for an updated and real time body count which as it mounts, 100, 120, 150 almost becomes similar to sexual arousal as the faintest glint of morality gives way to our innate and violent animal urges which evolution has not had long enough to shed.  

Evolution has given us however, a larger brain which we use to try and process, try to explain and reason out these primal thoughts.  When a murder has taken place we almost always have a need, a great desire to know why.  There simply must be a logical reason: insanity, the righting of a wrong, uncontrollable anger, terrorist, protecting freedom.  One reason that we will simply not allow any room for is simply that the urge to kill was necessary for millions of years in our evolution.  As I read history it seems the furthest we can go back to some sort of civilization is only 10 thousand years or so where one can reasonably expect people began to realize that murder is not a good thing.

Ten thousand years is a very short time in terms of the evolution of mankind.  The amount of time is even shorter when a rule was made “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” that seem to spread rather quickly (2000 years) as humankind forced their particular religious brand among the people through the extremely effective method known as war and a persuasion where the only other option was death.  

However, many cultures have matured and after many orgies of great destruction have, for the moment, pacified their blood lust.  The United States is not among these.

As our culture is awash in violence there are periodic outbursts which seem to be a culmination, an apex which like an exploding volcano releasing a bit of pressure.  We are shocked by the tragic results, reflect a little then go back to the status-quo.

This is quite unfortunate but what is truly shocking to me is that we are unable to use our brains and logic to correct this.  Changing an entire culture is not something that can be done just by making a new rule.  

Instead, it is like the alcoholic that must enter an AA program and take specific steps to rid himself of the affliction.  

Step 1:  Admit you have a problem

In the USA we cannot get to step one.  Admitting we have a violent culture is not something that has entered our collective consciousness.

Why?

Because it has been drilled into our brains that America is the best.  Admitting that we have a culture of violence is not compatible with the view we have of ourselves.  America is the protector of freedom, it is the country that wins the most Olympic gold medals, America invented the car, the airplane, the computer and just about every good thing that has been invented since America was founded!  

In fact, if America was a man, then it is obvious that second to “Uncle Sam” America would be represented as, well, Captain America!  When a culture has an image of themselves as the “doer of right” there is no room for a problem.  If there is a problem then just like the alcoholic it must be hidden away, or there must be an explanation.  

“I drink so much because you make me this way!”  

I have not come to this conclusion simply on a whim or by daydreaming.  It is presented to me on a daily basis by that grand sociological experiment known as Facebook.  This is the medium where once taboo subjects, those issues which usually call for a bit of decorum are now laid bare like an overweight Brit sunbathing on a beach in Spain.  It is simply shocking yet as the pasty Brits continue to flock to Spain, so do people in my network post their naked and untempered opinions.  

On a continual basis something occurs in our society which gets everyone very worked up and people take to the social networks.  If I were to take all of these posts personally then in the past week I have been:

1. Threatened with an unfriending if I did not agree or dissented 
2. Pleaded with to “simply understand” that their opinion is correct
3. Told that I am flat out wrong

These were not directed at me personally but instead were just random posts.  I do not use social media as a soundboard to persuade or threaten my friends.  To me, this is best left to those who allow their emotions and animalistic selves to overtake their rational, thinking side.  

Now, as is characteristic of this blog and where I do let emotion and my opinions rush forth, let me dive completely in.  

The USA has just had the absolute worst incident of violence it has ever had.  Adults are killed all the time in our culture, it is expected.  But children at school at their desks is the worst thing I can possibly imagine.  There can be no worse example and for the first time in a long time I am so severely affected that I cannot and do not want to read the news about this.  I think about them, I think about their souls and where they are now in the afterlife.  I think about their parents and how I do not think I could bare it.  I think that if something like this happened to my child I just might prefer to shoot myself.  I am not afraid of death but I am afraid of the pain these parents are experiencing.  I cannot dwell on this too much or it will drag me down so low it will take a while to come back out of it.  

Instead, let me tell you how disgusted I am with the reactions we have had in our culture.  On the social networks this has been said in various ways but can be summed up and accurately represented by this.

I am sad but…….

What came after the “but” was a selfish proclamation, a gauntlet thrown down (to all their friends!) that no situation, no matter how utterly unthinkable would affect their ability to own something.  

That something is a gun.  The blood was not yet dry from murdered small children and here we have half of the population defending their right to own an item that’s singular purpose is to kill or at least severely wound.

Thinking of this triggers another innate human reaction deep in my gut.  The reaction is in the face of something so terribly incomprehensible and sad I chuckle at such blatant idiocy.

I can think of no situation better suited for those who enjoy possessing firearms to keep their mouth shut.  

But no no, this is America where an individuals right to do whatever the fuck they want trumps everything else.  There is no “we” in the USA anymore, it is simply “I.”  It might do well to take “We the people” out of the constitution!  It should be replaced by “I the individual!”  

Hell, now that I think about it “We the people” sounds so Communist!!!!  There you go Fox News, I just gave you a GREAT argument for your stupid viewership.  

Even if one does not like the idea of getting rid of guns completely, then perhaps a rule could be set down that if one is able to kill X number of humans in Y seconds then it could possibly not be a great thing to have on the market?  

You see, if you have an urge to kill then you should really use a knife.  Using a knife takes COMMITMENT!!  You have to get up close and personal with the victim and really DIG INTO IT!   

With a gun murder is so impersonal.  You can just close your eyes and squeeze the trigger.  It takes absolutely no effort and you don’t even need to get your hands dirty.  

I’ve heard people say that criminals don’t follow laws so banning guns wouldn’t work.  We also have so many guns laying around already so what would a ban really do?  

Again, we go back to my argument about the alcoholic.  There is no one simple solution, no pill America can pop to simply make things better.  However, limiting the amount of alcohol might be a good first step!  Or if we need to step down slowly how about just having him drink beer and stopping sales of the 50 proof?  

Or hell, how about slapping a 5000% tax on the 50 proof?  

But no, America cannot take the first step.  America doesn’t want to take any steps at all!  Those that scream about their right to own guns, and all types of guns offer no solutions.  At least the anti-gun folks want to do something.  

As for my personal opinion, I’m not against hand gun ownership.  I am against assault rifle ownership.  In our society we are having too many instances of mass shootings by one individual.  I am against guns that can kill X number of people in Y minutes.  I think there should be a limit or at least a very very large tax.  

Finally and to reiterate, I am shocked by how uncivil our society has become.  For the record more people in my social network did not comment about gun rights after this tragedy.  It was mostly the Fox news viewers and they remain in a perpetual state of rage no matter the circumstances.  

As Romney said, 47% of the population can be written off for the Republicans.  Well, 100% of the Fox News viewership can be written off as they are not intelligent, thinking people.  

Right now the society of the USA needs to take a concrete step in the right direction.  I do not know what steps those are but I would hate to see this society fall further than it already has.  

 

 

 

 

The Truth about Thanksgiving

America always has the best holidays.  They are of a different nature when compared to European holidays in terms of the level of enthusiasm, participation and excitement.  America is like the young child, bursting with anticipation for their fêtes while Europe would be the slow lumbering adult who smiles with muted amusement and in no particular rush towards their holidays.

The one thing about America however is due to its youthfulness it has been able to recreate each holiday according to its will without much regard to the actual origins and in most cases turning a complete blind eye to actual fact.  

Such is the case with the holiday we celebrate today.  We call it Thanksgiving and for most it is the time to eat turkey, watch football and take long naps.  If you ask most Americans about the origin they will tell you the story about the “Pilgrims” who are these people in top hats and buckle shoes who were helped by the Indians (Native Americans) when they didn’t have enough to eat.  

They will remember from their childhood drawing pictures of smiling pilgrims and Indians sharing a table and being good friends.  Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth by the simple fact that as I look around I do not see one Indian anywhere but I do see a lot of non Indians.  In fact, the world has spun around the sun so many times since the first Thanksgiving that I actually see many many Indians from Indian but *not a single* Native American.  

As this blog enjoys pointing out truths that have either been forgotten or are just completely ignored, I’d like to share an excerpt from a very good, historically accurate book.  Enjoy.  

Book: The Hidden History of Massachusetts
Author: Tingba Apidta
Link:  Amazon.com

The Real Thanksgiving

Much of America’s understanding of the early relationship between the Indian and the European is conveyed through the story of Thanksgiving. Proclaimed a holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, this fairy tale of a feast was allowed to exist in the American imagination pretty much untouched until 1970, the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims. That is when Frank B. James, president of the Federated Eastern Indian League, prepared a speech for a Plymouth banquet that exposed the Pilgrims for having committed, among other crimes, the robbery of the graves of the Wampanoags. He wrote:

“We welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.”

But white Massachusetts officials told him he could not deliver such a speech and offered to write him another. Instead, James declined to speak, and on Thanksgiving Day hundreds of Indians from around the country came to protest. It was the first National Day of Mourning, a day to mark the losses Native Americans suffered as the early settlers prospered. This true story of “Thanksgiving” is what whites did not want Mr. James to tell.

What Really Happened in Plymouth in 1621?

According to a single-paragraph account in the writings of one Pilgrim, a harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, probably in mid-October, but the Indians who attended were not even invited. Though it later became known as “Thanksgiving,” the Pilgrims never called it that. And amidst the imagery of a picnic of interracial harmony is some of the most terrifying bloodshed in New World history.

The Pilgrim crop had failed miserably that year, but the agricultural expertise of the Indians had produced twenty acres of corn, without which the Pilgrims would have surely perished. The Indians often brought food to the Pilgrims, who came from England ridiculously unprepared to survive and hence relied almost exclusively on handouts from the overly generous Indians-thus making the Pilgrims the western hemisphere’s first class of welfare recipients. The Pilgrims invited the Indian sachem Massasoit to their feast, and it was Massasoit, engaging in the tribal tradition of equal sharing, who then invited ninety or more of his Indian brothers and sisters-to the annoyance of the 50 or so ungrateful Europeans. No turkey, cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie was served; they likely ate duck or geese and the venison from the 5 deer brought by Massasoit. In fact, most, if notall, of the food was most likely brought and prepared by the Indians, whose 10,000-year familiarity with the cuisine of the region had kept the whites alive up to that point.

The Pilgrims wore no black hats or buckled shoes-these were the silly inventions of artists hundreds of years since that time. These lower-class Englishmen wore brightly colored clothing, with one of their church leaders recording among his possessions “1 paire of greene drawers.” Contrary to the fabricated lore of storytellers generations since, no Pilgrims prayed at the meal, and the supposed good cheer and fellowship must have dissipated quickly once the Pilgrims brandished their weaponry in a primitive display of intimidation. What’s more, the Pilgrims consumed a good deal of home brew. In fact, each Pilgrim drank at least a half gallon of beer a day, which they preferred even to water. This daily inebriation led their governor, William Bradford, to comment on his people’s “notorious sin,” which included their “drunkenness and uncleanliness” and rampant “sodomy”…

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, The Original Scalpers

Contrary to popular mythology the Pilgrims were no friends to the local Indians. They were engaged in a ruthless war of extermination against their hosts, even as they falsely posed as friends. Just days before the alleged Thanksgiving love-fest, a company of Pilgrims led by Myles Standish actively sought to chop off the head of a local chief. They deliberately caused a rivalry between two friendly Indians, pitting one against the other in an attempt to obtain “better intelligence and make them both more diligent.” An 11-foot-high wall was erected around the entire settlement for the purpose of keeping the Indians out.

Any Indian who came within the vicinity of the Pilgrim settlement was subject to robbery, enslavement, or even murder. The Pilgrims further advertised their evil intentions and white racial hostility, when they mounted five cannons on a hill around their settlement, constructed a platform for artillery, and then organized their soldiers into four companies-all in preparation for the military destruction of their friends the Indians.

Pilgrim Myles Standish eventually got his bloody prize. He went to the Indians, pretended to be a trader, then beheaded an Indian man named Wituwamat. He brought the head to Plymouth, where it was displayed on a wooden spike for many years, according to Gary B. Nash, “as a symbol of white power.” Standish had the Indian man’s young brother hanged from the rafters for good measure. From that time on, the whites were known to the Indians of Massachusetts by the name “Wotowquenange,” which in their tongue meant cutthroats and stabbers.

Who Were the “Savages”?

The myth of the fierce, ruthless Indian savage lusting after the blood of innocent Europeans must be vigorously dispelled at this point. In actuality, the historical record shows that the very opposite was true.

Once the European settlements stabilized, the whites turned on their hosts in a brutal way. The once amicable relationship was breeched again and again by the whites, who lusted over the riches of Indian land. A combination of the Pilgrims’ demonization of the Indians, the concocted mythology of Eurocentric historians, and standard Hollywood propaganda has served to paint the gentle Indian as a tomahawk-swinging savage endlessly on the warpath, lusting for the blood of the God-fearing whites.

But the Pilgrims’ own testimony obliterates that fallacy. The Indians engaged each other in military contests from time to time, but the causes of “war,” the methods, and the resulting damage differed profoundly from the European variety:

o Indian “wars” were largely symbolic and were about honor, not about territory or extermination.

o “Wars” were fought as domestic correction for a specific act and were ended when correction was achieved. Such action might better be described as internal policing. The conquest or destruction of whole territories was a European concept.

o Indian “wars” were often engaged in by family groups, not by whole tribal groups, and would involve only the family members.

o A lengthy negotiation was engaged in between the aggrieved parties before escalation to physical confrontation would be sanctioned. Surprise attacks were unknown to the Indians.

o It was regarded as evidence of bravery for a man to go into “battle” carrying no weapon that would do any harm at a distance-not even bows and arrows. The bravest act in war in some Indian cultures was to touch their adversary and escape before he could do physical harm.

o The targeting of non-combatants like women, children, and the elderly was never contemplated. Indians expressed shock and repugnance when the Europeans told, and then showed, them that they considered women and children fair game in their style of warfare.

o A major Indian “war” might end with less than a dozen casualties on both sides. Often, when the arrows had been expended the “war” would be halted. The European practice of wiping out whole nations in bloody massacres was incomprehensible to the Indian.

According to one scholar, “The most notable feature of Indian warfare was its relative innocuity.” European observers of Indian wars often expressed surprise at how little harm they actually inflicted. “Their wars are far less bloody and devouring than the cruel wars of Europe,” commented settler Roger Williams in 1643. Even Puritan warmonger and professional soldier Capt. John Mason scoffed at Indian warfare: “[Their] feeble manner…did hardly deserve the name of fighting.” Fellow warmonger John Underhill spoke of the Narragansetts, after having spent a day “burning and spoiling” their country: “no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs.” He concluded that the Indians might fight seven years and not kill seven men. Their fighting style, he wrote, “is more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies.”

All this describes a people for whom war is a deeply regrettable last resort. An agrarian people, the American Indians had devised a civilization that provided dozens of options all designed to avoid conflict–the very opposite of Europeans, for whom all-out war, a ferocious bloodlust, and systematic genocide are their apparent life force. Thomas Jefferson–who himself advocated the physical extermination of the American Indian–said of Europe, “They [Europeans] are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of labor, property and lives of their people.”

Puritan Holocaust

By the mid 1630s, a new group of 700 even holier Europeans calling themselves Puritans had arrived on 11 ships and settled in Boston-which only served to accelerate the brutality against the Indians.

In one incident around 1637, a force of whites trapped some seven hundred Pequot Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, near the mouth of the Mystic River. Englishman John Mason attacked the Indian camp with “fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk.” Only a handful escaped and few prisoners were taken-to the apparent delight of the Europeans:

To see them frying in the fire, and the streams of their blood quenching the same, and the stench was horrible; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave praise thereof to God.

This event marked the first actual Thanksgiving. In just 10 years 12,000 whites had invaded New England, and as their numbers grew they pressed for all-out extermination of the Indian. Euro-diseases had reduced the population of the Massachusett nation from over 24,000 to less than 750; meanwhile, the number of European settlers in Massachusetts rose to more than 20,000 by 1646.

By 1675, the Massachusetts Englishmen were in a full-scale war with the great Indian chief of the Wampanoags, Metacomet. Renamed “King Philip” by the white man, Metacomet watched the steady erosion of the lifestyle and culture of his people as European-imposed laws and values engulfed them.

In 1671, the white man had ordered Metacomet to come to Plymouth to enforce upon him a new treaty, which included the humiliating rule that he could no longer sell his own land without prior approval from whites. They also demanded that he turn in his community’s firearms. Marked for extermination by the merciless power of a distant king and his ruthless subjects, Metacomet retaliated in 1675 with raids on several isolated frontier towns. Eventually, the Indians attacked 52 of the 90 New England towns, destroying 13 of them. The Englishmen ultimately regrouped, and after much bloodletting defeated the great Indian nation, just half a century after their arrival on Massachusetts soil. Historian Douglas Edward Leach describes the bitter end:

The ruthless executions, the cruel sentences…were all aimed at the same goal-unchallengeable white supremacy in southern New England. That the program succeeded is convincingly demonstrated by the almost complete docility of the local native ever since.

When Captain Benjamin Church tracked down and murdered Metacomet in 1676, his body was quartered and parts were “left for the wolves.” The great Indian chief’s hands were cut off and sent to Boston and his head went to Plymouth, where it was set upon a pole on the real first “day of public Thanksgiving for the beginning of revenge upon the enemy.” Metacomet’s nine-year-old son was destined for execution because, the whites reasoned, the offspring of the devil must pay for the sins of their father. The child was instead shipped to the Caribbean to spend his life in slavery.

As the Holocaust continued, several official Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed. Governor Joseph Dudley declared in 1704 a “General Thanksgiving”-not in celebration of the brotherhood of man-but for [God's] infinite Goodness to extend His Favors…In defeating and disappointing… the Expeditions of the Enemy [Indians] against us, And the good Success given us against them, by delivering so many of them into our hands…

Just two years later one could reap a ££50 reward in Massachusetts for the scalp of an Indian-demonstrating that the practice of scalping was a European tradition. According to one scholar, “Hunting redskins became…a popular sport in New England, especially since prisoners were worth good money…”

References in The Hidden History of Massachusetts: A Guide for Black Folks ©© DR. TINGBA APIDTA, ; ISBN 0-9714462-0-2

 

 

Corporate Passion!

Traveling to a foreign country for the first time is an experience that usually leaves very deep impressions on people. The culture and customs seem very exotic as one comes to the realization that not everyone lives as they do.

One can have these same experiences upon returning to their home country if they have spent more than a few years overseas. You see your culture from the outside for the very first time. In some cases this is known as “reverse culture shock.”

Well, this reverse culture shock seems to be an ongoing experience for me. Most recently it has to do with corporate culture as the MBAs churn out ever more initiatives, goals and theories for the rest of the organization to adopt.

Once adopted, it becomes part of the culture and actually changes the behavior of the employees.  When this happens it is derogatorily referred to as “drinking the kool-aid.”  There of course is many different flavors of Kool Aid depending on the company but one flavor that seems to be quite prevalent is “Passion!”

No matter what industry one is in, it is now a requirement in Corporate America to have a passion for what you do.  That is to say that by directive of the upper management you must actually love and become emotionally excited  with your work.  This is especially true for the sales department but easily spills over into other departments and is absolutely vital if one wants a promotion.

Golden Rule:

YOU MUST HAVE PASSION IN LIFE AND IT MUST BE WORK RELATED.

I don’t remember “Passion” being part of the business curriculum when I was in college so I’m pretty certain this is a relatively new idea.  However, the idea has caught on so strongly I’ve had grown men tell me they are passionate about these:  sanitation, paper, industrial supplies, medical devices and so on.

What is a bit scary is I believe these people have honestly convinced themselves they are passionate about the mundane objects they are selling!  I’m being completely honest when I say I had someone tell me they were passionate about not only paper but toilet paper and paper towels!

For me to make a mockery of this type of passion is actually a cardinal sin in corporate land.  If you do not drink the kool-aid, you do not get promoted and if you are not getting promoted then you will eventually be fired in today’s environment.  It is not dissimilar from an actual cult in that you must adhere to the corporate line of thinking and there is very little tolerance for those who do not conform.

Thus I remain in a state of shock which I cannot seem to dispel.  At least once a month I hear grown men tell me they are passionate about some aspect of the corporation which really should inspire no emotional reaction in any human being.

Finally, here are some corporate words that bug me.

1. Challenge = Problem – Problem is a dirty word, you’re simply having a challenge!
2. Actionable – As so much junk is thrown your way during a typical work day “actionable” is like a red tag attached to the item which tells you you must do something and not just file the e-mail away.
*Junk (work/communications others have created that they have to send to someone else in order to be seen as productive.)

****Update****

After I published this post I opened up the New Yorker and read a book review called “The Iron Curtain” which examines the daily life of living in the Eastern European states under Soviet rule.

One sentence in particular really stood out which said that people are not so easily socialized, which was referring to turning the citizens into pure Communists.

You know where I have heard this word before?

Yep, in corporate america at my former company.  You see, when the MBAs’ rolled out yet another initiative that would invariably make our lives much more difficult they first went to the regional leaders who were to socialize the new concept/idea/initiative.  This is the exact word they used and when I saw it referring to Communism I had to look it up to make sure I knew what it meant.

Socialize:  Make (someone) behave in a way that is acceptable to their society: “newcomers are socialized into our ways”.

Since this coincided quite nicely with my post I had to add this update and wanted to finish with a story about how the corporation tried to socialize us.

1. Psychological profiles
- No kidding, we all had to take an hour test to determine our profile.

2. Berating by leadership in front of peers
- This was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and one of the reasons I decided to leave.  They gathered us in a room for two days and we all had to stand up in front of everyone and present what we had done and were doing with our customers.

It was the leaderships job to point out all of our faults and continually grind away until we admitted we had not done a good job.  The leaders justified this by saying they wanted to “help us.”  If you did not admit that many of the things you had done were wrong then you were in for a very rough ride as they would basically try and break you.

And you know what?  This was all seen as normal behavior!  The leaders actually had drank the Kool-Aid and honestly believed what they were doing to us was not degrading but actually “helping.”

Well needless to say my former company has had extremely high turnover.  In fact out of 25 or so people in my immediate area I can only name one or two that are still with the company.  A gulag it was becoming indeed!

Wrapping up this post, the next time the MBAs’ propose you drink yet another flavor of Kool-Aid, perhaps you could propose that they give this beverage a try instead.

 

Romney, Republicans, Petraeus and Israel

Again, it has been a very long time since my last post.  The reason is laziness, pure and simple.

But tonight, as I glare into the never ending stream of news on my Iphone I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of stupid I am reading.  As I am still very much in lazy mode, I really do not feel like putting too much effort into this post.  I simply want to do a quick brain dump and get back to my magazines.  My blood is boiling though and I don’t think I’ll be able to rest until I get it out of my system.

A.  US Election

Obama wins the election and the Republicans throw a fit.  In their own words they tell us that Obama won due to the young, the minorities, the educated, the women and so on and so on.

So who voted for Romney then?  Well, let’s take a look at the map.  Do you see anything interesting here?  The states with a more intelligent population (California, New York, Washington etc) all voted for Obama.  The States with a massive amount of farmland and much less education (and the South, no surprise) voted for Romney.

This really isn’t rocket science – areas with more education voted blue and those with less voted red.  It is as simple as that.

Furthermore the Republicans cannot stop saying extremely idiotic things.  It does not matter who said what but let me just jot down a few things from memory.

1. Legitimate Rape – Female body has ways to shut the whole thing down
2. Too many black people were voting in areas that don’t have many black residents
3. Obama bought the votes of the young and the blacks.
4.  We want to secede from the United States!

It seems the Republicans have a complete monopoly on idiocy since all of the above have come from the Republican camp.  Perhaps it is akin to a young child throwing a tantrum when things do not go his way.  Little Johnny didn’t win the basketball game so he not only throws the ball into the neighbors yard but starts running in circles screaming incoherently.

So let’s sum this all up.
1.  The states with smarter populations (computers, finance, rocket science) voted blue.  The states with plenty of farms and the South voted Republican.  (No surprise from the South for obvious reasons.)

2.  Republicans cannot seem to stop saying very idiotic things.  One of the dumbest things said happens to come Mitt Romney who only a few weeks ago happened to be their champion and who they now cannot get far enough away from.

3.  More than a few would like to secede from the Union.  I say give Texas back to Mexico and let’s watch those idiots have a complete brain hemorrhage when they realize they are now surrounded by people who are NOT English speaking 45 year old white men.

B.  Petraeus

First let me say that in regards to his affair I wish the USA were a bit more like France.  Petraeus did turn a war around and by all accounts was a very good General.  I’m sure he can and did do a fine job at the CIA.  If he wants to have a little something on the side in his private life then it should stay private.  Unfortunately we are all still very much Puritans in this country and therefore we must expose these fornicators and publicly shame them!   (Then we can return to whatever sex themed sitcom happens to be our favorite which ironically glorifies a loose lifestyle.)

Regarding the Benghazi Attack – Petraeus is called to testify and says it was terrorism.  Here is a newsflash.  It was terrorism.  The Obama administration needed time to get the facts and even after they had them they did play down the fact that it was terrorism.  Why?  Because it would make them look weak on security and given the Republicans something to  use during the campaign.  Why is the US having a congressional committee on this?  Because the Republicans absolutely hate Obama and want to attack him in any way they can.  It is all political theater.

Hopefully, some leaders somewhere are actually doing the right thing and instead of playing politics are strengthening security no matter what the Republicans or Democrats say.

C. Israel and Gaza

Here we go again.  In this part of the post I am only speaking to those who are worldly and educated enough to just feel sad about this whole conflict.  Israel has a right to exist and defend themselves.  Unfortunately, in doing so they oppress, enslave and murder an entire group of people.  The oppressed become the oppressors.  There is no right answer here and I feel very sad for all of the death.

What I hate most of all is how in the West we will never read about any of the Israeli guilt in these conflicts.  The media will always fault the Palestinians.  Furthermore, I hate how we no longer just read about all of this, but now we have video so we can feed off the sorrow, the death and destruction for our own entertainment purposes.  This is our dark side.  We want to press the play button on the video, we want to see a missile strike and we want to see dead bodies.  This is something most people will not admit to themselves, they will suppress the modicum of guilt deep into their gut as they hit the play button and enjoy the adrenaline as they wait for the missile to strike and death to happen on their Iphone.

This type of media gets the population excited and thus it gets clicks which add to the bottom line.  I cannot think of anything more American than showing actual death, happening thousands of miles away in order to make a profit.  It is capitalism at its finest.  Cameras in place to stream the carnage by satellite directly to each and every device where we gain a rush, and a dark satisfaction from real live death, while in the corner of our eyes an advertisement for Coca Cola creeps into our subconscious.  Such a marriage of technology, death and profit is almost like a beautiful requiem, so much so that it almost brings a tear to my eye.

I should stop reading the news.

Embassy Attacks

I just wanted to write down a few thoughts about the embassy attacks that are occurring.

The first is that I find it completely despicable that Romney has used the events to score political points. That was a very stupid move which all the pundits pointed out the day after he made it. I just heard on the news this morning that some are starting to agree with him as the attacks continue to spread.

They say that the Obama policy has made America weak and these attacks are proof of that.

How completely idiotic can we get? The reason that the USA is unpopular in Muslim countries is due to the support of Israel and the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are the two principal reasons (bar none!) and even though they are 100% apparent it is something you will not hear much on the news here.

And guess who started the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

George W. Bush – Republican

Who has supported Israel? – Well every single administration has so no blame there. Obama has in fact taken steps to stand up to the Israeli lobby unlike most of his predecessors.

After reading the above, a Republican would think me an apologetic liberal. Keep reading and you will see this is not the case.

My second thought is how far the Muslim world has fallen from their days of glory with the Ottoman Empire and occupation of Spain. Spain is what I know and I know that the Muslims brought science, math and much learning to the rather uncivilized Christians of the time.

My how things have changed.

I try hard to come up with reasons for these attacks and can only guess that they may be related to the following.

1. Unstable Governments – These countries really have no or very rule of law at the moment
2. Thugs and terrorist groups have more leeway now that the dictators are gone and can run amok.
3. Due to the dictators, their societies have really not progressed in the past 40 years or so and have actually digressed.

On one hand I understand that a society needs time to adjust and terrorist groups would take advantage during time of weak government.

But in the end, these reasons and excuses have to stop. Much of the Muslim world needs to take a hard look at themselves and yank their societies into the 21st century.

To put this into very blunt perspective let us look at this example.

The most notable achievement of one society is that it has just put a robot on Mars to conduct scientific analysis.   The most notable achievement of a few other societies are that they go berserk at something offensive on the internet (imagine that!), burn buildings and kill people while screaming about God.

The people (young people especially) of those countries are going to have to fight their own terrorists in order to drag their societies into the 21st century.

The internet is full of offensive material. I can assure you it is not just Muslims for those of you who have never used the internet before.

Just had a thought pop into my head. I wonder if the TV reporter in Egypt was just being careless with this story and didn’t realize how much havoc it would create or if it was done on purpose.

——-

*9.29.2012 – Update – Well, had some issues with the blog and this post got erased.  Trying to put it back as it was but the story in Libya also keeps changing.  Apparently it was a terrorist attack by various religious zealots.  So, as of 9.29.2012 I only have two comments.

1.  It looks like regular Libyans are grateful to the USA for helping them get rid of Gaddafi.  I was highly encouraged by these two articles.

1.  Hundreds of Libyans hand over their weapons – USA Today
2. After Quaddafi – Foreign Affairs

And finally, I still find this extremely funny:

Following Cultural Awareness Class, Marines Burn Down Own Embassy

Solipsism, Politics and Facebook

I read a lot.

This is not meant as a brag or a boast but rather something that has occurred with this addiction I have formed to my tiny black information box called the Iphone.  Over the past couple of years I have come to the habit of repeatedly pressing the home button, entering my code and then staring at its bright beautiful screen.  

These actions often occur by themselves and I wonder why I am looking at my Iphone, what was it that I definitely need to know?  It is at this point that I find myself opening the folder with all my various news outlets of which I read not only one or two, but usually four of them plus a few articles of a magazine.  

In the past I would have set aside a specific time to read the news or magazine.  I would have sat down in my favorite chair and spent the next thirty minutes to an hour doing nothing else.  

With the Iphone however I find myself checking the news in 5 – 10 minute spurts repeatedly throughout the day.  Through such tiny yet frequent feedings of my intellect I come to feel as though I have satisfied my addiction only until I find myself pressing the home button again because some random thought passed through my mind and I need to know the answer.  

When one reads as much as I do and has studied languages one pays special attention to the types of words that are used.  If there is a word I do not understand, I take the time to look it up and examine its parts.  

One of these words that I have noticed appearing quite frequently is “solipsism.”  The word usually spreads quite quickly when used in a major publication like The New Yorker and soon we will see that word over and over again.  I imagine part of this has to do with the news subjects of the day and a specific word just being perfect for the topic.  But I also imagine that writers just like to use big, fancy words and when they see a big, fancy word appear in another article it gets added to their list of “ready words,” at the front of their brain and so more easily spills out onto the page.  

Lets deconstruct Solipsism! (If you haven’t read Speak American – Fun Lesson in Language you should and will understand my obsession with language.)

Sol = self.
– Spanish – solo
– French – seul

Definitions:
1. the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist
2.  extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

I am most concerned with the second definition.  

It has occurred to me that we are all solipsistic.  It simply cannot be any other way!  We live our own life, have our own experiences and process them through our own unique thoughts.  

I cannot see your thoughts anymore than I can see what goes on at the center of the earth.  Conversely you cannot see my thoughts either.  

As I re-read the definition and examine each word carefully perhaps I am stretching my meaning of Solipsism a bit.  I imagine a Zen monk can dispense with feelings and desires quite effectively.  However, I think we have no other choice but to be “self-absorbed.”  I only have one consciousness and I cannot experience any other firsthand.  Even if we take someone who is constantly doing good for others, they do so because in their own mind it pleases them, it is what they wish to do otherwise they would not do it. 

Scientists tell us that one of the emotions that separates us from the animals is that of empathy.  Yes, I understand we can empathize with others and feel their pain but it is rather weak compared to the emotions of the person with whom we are empathizing.  We are still self-absorbed but we can dip a toe or even a whole foot into the minds of others.  

It is this talent that I hope evolution will strengthen and fortify.  We are quite terrible at it now and I believe that advancement and progress means being able to relate very clearly and strongly with one another.  

If you’ve seen the movie Avatar it would be like the natives plugging into their horse which enables them to experience everything the animal experiences.  

As I’ve said, we do not do this so well in the year 2012.  

I’ve told you I read a lot but I also watch a lot of documentaries thanks to Netflix.  I rehash the horrors of war, the pain of the civilians and as my metaphor above states, I “dip my foot in.”  

It is at this point I realize just how primitive we are as a species.  I realize how quickly we can be convinced to kill.  I try to tell myself that the wars I am watching were during a different time, that we are much more advanced and educated now. 

I then see another drone strike on the news and read in my social networks that we kill in other nations to “protect our freedoms” and “keep us safe.”  

There is no empathy here for the dead.  There is not even any inquiry so long as our news tells us the dead were “terrorists.”  Our minds do not ask if there were children killed or even what these “terrorists” did to be labeled as such.  

We are also apt to simply take sides.  If one prefers Israel than a dead Palestinian is no big thing, they were probably a terrorist anyway.  If one prefers Palestine than a dead Israeli soldier is just a consequence of the rotten occupation and oppression.  

It is during these times that our empathy simply does not exist.  We do not dip even a toe into the mindset of those we consider wrong.  And in terms of geopolitics, drone strikes, and even all out war, we justify all the death and carnage to whatever slogan the government has told us recently.  

Protecting our freedoms indeed. 

Well, I really did not mean to get that deep into the meaning of solipsism or take it as far as I have done.  I meant to dive into Facebook much more quickly!  

Now we have the social network which is simply a small soapbox with the magical powers to reach everyone you have ever known.  If we were told we would have this power only 5 short years ago, I imagine that many of us would have more than a bit of stage fright!  

What would we say to everyone we have ever known?  Would we try to come up with something profound or would we tell a joke?  

I think this experience would have been akin to walking out on a large stage with bright lights shining in your eyes so everyone can see you clearly.  Only you cannot see your audience’s (family, friends, acquaintances, met once) reactions so perhaps you start off with something light, something funny.  Then as you speak more and more you become more comfortable and throw out EVERY SINGLE THING THAT CROSSES YOUR MIND INCLUDING SUBJECTS YOU WOULD BE MORE CAREFUL WITH IF IT WERE AN IN PERSON CONVERSATION AND SOME OF YOU WRITE IT ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS WHICH IS HIGHLY AGITATING!

Now being an election year and the state of politics being as it is I find more than a few political statements being thrown about online.  It is kind of like crack/cocaine; the first time we are a little cautious but as we do it more and more we find ourselves almost to the point of an OD with long rambling posts that simply echo whatever talking points were heard last.  

As for me, I have stopped posting anything political or religious in the social networks.  I have realized that these people are my friends/family and are in my social network because of this fact.  I have no need for each of them to see eye to eye with me politically or religiously.  I am always up for a good debate but I just hate to do it online as the tone of the conversation is much more difficult to moderate when so many of our natural social skills have been taken away and we must rely only on the written word and occasional smiley face.  

For an ever increasing number in my social network they appear to be going in the opposite direction.  The posts have become more direct, more confrontational and much more bellicose. 

In our current environment, the moderate tones have been washed away by a deluge of extreme viewpoints all wrapped up in various talking points, statistics and other outright lies.  The only moderates I have seen in the past week are quite spineless with their declarations that “All politicians are clowns!” 

What we are seeing is not only the advancement of “solipsism” but the eager willingness to let everyone you have ever known know exactly how you feel about subjects that were formerly taboo or at least handled gently.  

The Sonorous Solipsist?  

As I mentioned above, I do not believe we can be anything other than a solipsist for the reasons previously mentioned.  But should we want to evolve and increase our understanding, it would do well to dip that foot into the mindset of someone who completely disagrees with us.  

As this can be very difficult for the beginner let me give you a few things to think about.  

1.  Political affiliation

- Weather Democrat, Republican, Independent or other each group compromises a very large amount of people.  Within each group it can be said that there are large amounts of rather intelligent people!  

How prideful and self confident we must be to simply think that all of these people are wrong!  To make matters worse we judge them not through meticulous study of the issues but rather what we heard on our cable news channel of choice!  

We then take these talking points to our social network and repeat what we have heard in effect saying “You are wrong because cable news station X told me Y.”  Then, your conversation partner says “No, that cannot be right because cable station Z told me A!!!”  

We believe we are actually thinking but in fact we are not.  We are simply repeating what someone has told us is true, comparing and contrasting that with another option someone else told us was true and then and thennnnnnnnnnnn

MAKING OUR DECISION BASED ON WHAT OUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, COMMUNITY OR RELIGION HAS TOLD US TO!    

Ok, this may not be true for some but it is certainly true for most.  I would say that only 15% of the population has shed the barriers of family, community or religion and actually think for themselves.  The problem is that everyone is going to think they are part of that 15% who think. 

A great example to prove my point is the Red state Blue state separation.  If everyone thought for themselves then wouldn’t it make sense that every single state would be a swing state?  After a really great convention each state should get a bounce one way or the other as people digest what was said and we should see each state changing from red to blue quite frequently!  

But no, red states tend to stay red states and blue states tend to stay blue states.  Even if we get down to the micro level with all the gerrymandering (rigging of elections) we see it for what it is.  It is the grouping of certain communities who have been told how to think.  If everyone thought for themselves than even at this level we should see a bunch of red and blue dots all mingled together.  

2.  International Experience

- Let’s use Japan for this example.  Say we send a couple of Midwesterners to Japan and have them do two things, eat natto and pray in a temple.  Almost 100% will not eat the natto because to them it looks bad, smells bad and probably tastes worse.  However, almost 100% of Japanese people eat natto.  The Midwesterners will not eat it because they have been trained to only like specific foods and will refuse to try something so completely different.  If they used logic and thinking, they would know that it is a highly nutritious food and one can actually come to like the taste of it!  

But they will never get there, just like in our current political environment, we have simply fortified our own opinions and will only listen to those that agree with us.  The Midwesterner will look to his buddies and they will all agree that natto is gross.  

As for praying in a temple, some will downright refuse as it is not their religion while others will be respectful and perhaps say a prayer to their own God even though it is in a house constructed for another.  

Push come to shove the Christian Midwesterner will have to admit that just about the entire Japanese race is praying to the wrong God.  

What is my point here?  My point is that we do not compare and contrast very well, we are self-absorbed (solipsistic) and mostly believe in what we were born into, raised with and what our communities and friends believe. 

So what do I think personally?  

I think this post has gone on quite long enough and I should end it with a bang.  

In order to escape from the prison known as self-absorption one of the best things to do is travel.  Get out of the familiar go somewhere completely foreign and stay there for a while!  

Learn a new language as in doing so the thought process will change!!!  The feeling of traveling, as my fellow international friends well know, is that of escaping from a small, musty house to the great outdoors!  The senses become incredibly stimulated and without realizing it old biases and opinions start to slip away.

To experience a foreign culture for a great length of time and learning the language is almost akin to being reborn.  You have changed and do not remain the same person as when you entered.  

And what do these enlightened people become?  

LIBERALS!

These are the people who are not afraid of change, who have had their minds opened! These are people who have adapted to great change and become stronger!

Let us DEFINE Conservative!!!   

- Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

These are the same people who will crash and burn in another culture.  These are the people that do not hold passports, these are the people who get upset if you change their vanilla ice cream for chocolate!!!!!  

Conservatism means that people want things to stay the SAME!  They are afraid of change, afraid of the new, afraid of anything different. 

“No, no” they say.  ”Things are just fine the way they are!”

Things were fine during slavery, things were fine when women couldn’t vote, things were fine when the US was at war for a lie!  (Gulf of Tonkin, WMD)  If Conservatives had their way we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages as things were JUST FINE THEN TOO!  

Being an international person, ie. Global Citizen is incompatible with conservatism by definition.  They are not open to the new and should just stay home.  

I take that back, they should get a passport, travel and let the metamorphosis take place!  

I would say that 90% of the “international” people I have met while living in other countries would be considered “liberal.”  They are open to change as proven by their life in another country.  They support gay rights and healthcare for those that cannot afford it.  They are against war.  They have a greater understanding of history.  They enjoy learning and experiencing.

I would say the current extremist GOP is against or on the other side of all of these things.  

Moving forward and evolving means breaking free of solipsism as much as possible and strengthening our empathy.  Pure understanding, compassion and the noble idea that we are all one (we are brothers for you religious folk) should be our final goal.  

We cannot reach this goal if everything is fine the way it is now can we.  

Liberals are the way forward.  

So come ye, one and all to the light.  Put away the hatred, the bias and the selfishness.  

There is a party that encompasses these things and one that does less so.  

I would choose the less of the two evils come November.  

Heavy Thoughts

It is Saturday night, I have had a productive day and am now treating myself to a few glasses of wine.  

You know what happens when I do that.  The thoughts flood into my head and I feel like writing.  As usual, please forgive me if this post does not flow properly, the paragraphs are incongruent and I come to absolutely no point at all. 

In my previous post I feel that I really shot down the conservatives and was a bit mean.  I don’t mean to be mean.  

*Language sidebar:  Isn’t it funny how in English one can use “mean” in two different ways in the same sentence?

I’m being completely honest about this and rest assured it is no snide, backhanded liberal trick either.  The reason my heart has softened is I saw a woman today at a Thomas the Train event,,, yes the Thomas that kids like (I have a little boy) and she was wearing a “support your Union” shirt with an American flag and an eagle on it.  

Now this shirt in itself might be a little confusing politically since liberals are usually identified with the Unions and conservatives like to wave flags, show the eagle and take pride in America’s military ability.  

But for the sake of argument, let us say she is a conservative because, well, the shirt had a flag and eagle on it and I just feel that is something conservatives would wear.

And you know what?  I like Conservatives.  

*Warning:  I am going to severely generalize and stereotype here.  

I happen to live in San Francisco and sometimes I feel that Liberals can be self righteous, self-important, snooty, and just downright off putting.  

It is the Conservatives that wear shirts with American flags and eagles and I kind of like that.  These are also the same people that over decorate their houses at Christmas (and every other holiday) and are just down to earth people.  They have no qualms about planting  a big American flag on their front lawn, taking their kids to a Thomas the Train event and doing something as uniquely American as going bowling.  

I like all of those things too!  

So here I find myself painting a very wonderful picture of Conservatives and I wonder to myself when it was that idiots like Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, Bachmann and the rest of the nincompoop squad hijacked the Conservative camp.  

See what I’m doing here?  I’m actually convincing myself that I actually like Conservatives when the fact of the matter is that I DO actually like Conservatives on many many many points!!!!  I’m just over stereotyping I guess.  

So what can I do in this situation?  Perhaps I can just call the politicians and media on both sides of the ideological isle Sons of Bitches for poisoning the well and making us hate each other.  

Now let’s switch gears and talk about the American soldiers.  

As a person who has lived in many different countries I’ve seen a lot of things.  My last foreign country I lived in was Vietnam and I don’t think I have to tell you that one will not like war very much after understanding what happened there.  It will soften all hearts.  

So let me just say this.  In America we keep talking about “protecting freedoms” which is a very good phrase to justify attacking other countries no matter the actual reason.  

The soldiers on the other hand, my heart really goes out to them.  We as a country really do not understand the sacrifice these men and women go through.  

Only on occasion do we see the flag draped coffins in some picture only to forget it 5 minutes later as we go about our daily lives.  That coffin was a consciousness, a human, a living being snuffed out.  For every one that comes back in a box our hearts should all completely break.  

Those where men and women who were trying to do the right thing, protect the country, get ahead in life.  No matter the reason they joined the armed forces, I’m certain that the majority what to do good or at least get ahead in the best way the know how and was available to them.  For all my “liberal” ramblings I will always have a place in my heart for those young people.  (On both sides)

It is their leaders that I want to chastise and have done so many times in this blog.  

But now, let us add a twist.  

What are we not seeing?  Do any of us weep for the foreigners killed when we deploy our soldiers overseas?  Do we really understand the death and destruction?  Do we cry for the family just wiped out by a drone’s missile?  Did we even know the family existed?   

How many missiles were launched today?  How many beings snuffed out?  And we cheer when we see this in the news?  How can we call ourselves human beings?  How can we cheer death and destruction and simply chalk it up under “protecting freedom?”  

How can we be one of the most educated nations on earth yet accept the death of so many under a simple slogan?

And we think ourselves more informed than those in the “oppressed” countries?  We simply say “We are protecting our freedoms!” When next to nobody knows what the hell that means.  

I think this is a good time to quit this post.  

Moral of the story:  I think conservatives make more trustworthy neighbors.  I’d rather talk about international stuff with liberals though.  

 

Chick-fil-a – A debate between my conservative and liberal sides.

I sometimes wonder if the events that happen on the national stage are real or imagined.  This has been occurring with much more frequency in the past five years than ever before, so much in fact, that I have begun to question my own sanity.   Certainly so many hundreds of thousands of people could not be this absurd!  

Perhaps I am living in some sort of computer program that is set to have events become more and more bizarre until the subject (me) either has a breakdown or realizes that what is occurring simply cannot be reality.  

Chick-fil-a

This fast food restaurant has been all over the news lately and if you haven’t heard of them, well, you should read more news.  

No, I take that back.  The news is what propagates the stupid.  Better to read a good magazine instead.  

I thought about how I would explain this news to one of my former English students in Japan.  They would ask what it is about and I can imagine the conversation going something like this.  (Level 2 or so in the NOVA ranking system)  :)  

Student:  Why so many people at fast food restaurant?
Me: They don’t want gay people to get married. 
Student:  eh?
Me: Yes, the owner of this restaurant gives lots of money to political campaigns against gay marriage.
Student:  So many people want to eat his chicken?
Me:  Yes.
Student:  Why?
Me:  It is America.  
Student: Americans not like gay people so want to eat the chicken?
Me:  No, they just don’t want the gay people to marry.  And they like chicken.  
Student:  Why eating chicken stop gay people from marry?  
Me:  They can buy the chicken and the owner of Chick-fil-a will get richer and can give more money to stop gay marriage.  
Student:  I cannot understand.
Me:  Me neither.   

After a while it is just funny to think about.  It is funny somehow a fast food restaurant has become the focal point AGAINST a social movement!  The focal point is not a politician, it is not a murder or violence, it is a FAST FOOD PLACE AND A CHICKEN ONE AT THAT!  

That is SO AMERICAN!  I tell you we Americans must look like absolute philosophers with absolutely stellar minds to be making our arguments by EATING!  And it could not have come at a better time!

It is the Olympic season, the time when we look up to our role models, the absolute best of our athletes and marvel at their exquisitely sculpted bodies.  It is at this time that the cream, the absolute best of our corporations have convinced us that sugary, fatty foods are synonymous with athletic prowess.  

 

Only in America.  

It is perhaps only here that completely contradictory messages have the ability to become one and to be accepted by a relatively educated population.  

Protecting Freedoms = Attack another country
Olympics = McDonalds
Private sector economic crisis = the fault of the (public) President
Sarah Palin / Michelle Bachmann = Intelligence and great leadership

I could go on, but I’m getting silly.  If you’re reading this and are a conservative, you would probably think I’m a liberal.  That has been more true than not lately but you wouldn’t be entirely right.  I’ve jumped on the liberal train as of recent but often change my mind and could easily swing into the libertarian camp completely bypassing the Republicans.

Why bypass the Republicans?  Because Republicans have gone bat shit crazy in the past decade.  I’m sorry but I cannot put it any more eloquently than that.  But this does not mean I cannot see the conservative point of view.  I spent 12 years in Catholic school so of course I can see the conservative view as clearly as I can see the tree in my yard!  

Without further delay, let’s have some fun!  It has been a while since I’ve debated myself and let’s do it about Chick-fil-a.

Before I do however, what the HELL does “Chick-fil-a” mean?  This is the dumbest name for a fast food joint that I’ve ever heard!  Now being a constant foreign language student I’m used to figuring out words and meanings that might be new to me.  I can quickly deduce that “chick” is just a shortening of chicken.  I don’t think they mean chick as in a baby chicken.  Baby chickens have very little meat so it would not make sense to want to “fil-a” a baby chicken although I cannot be sure.  I would also imagine that fil-a means fillet except was written by someone who was illiterate?  

Now, why would this be a good name for a fast food joint?  If I was on the Chick-fil-a board I probably would have voted this name down unless of course we were targeting the the less well off areas.  

I’m not trying to be snooty here at all, it is my guess, without knowing anything about Chick-fil-a, that this is the reason they chose that name.  I’m being completely honest.  

*Side Note: I couldn’t resist looking up fillet which I know comes from French as the t is silent.  The French spell it differently (filet) and I was curious how they came up with that word.  Apparently it comes from “fil” which means “wire” or “thread.”  Thus, when we “fillet” something it has all those burn line marks in the meat just like a thread.  

Wasn’t I going to debate myself?  Let’s get started for REALZ this time.  Well do it in a stream of consciousness format because I’m lazy.  

Those against gay marriage have an absolute right to their opinions.  They also have the right to eat as much chicken as they like in support of their beliefs.  After all, the liberals like to push everything down everyone’s throat.  The “liberal” media is just that, liberal.  The main outlets except for Fox rarely print the conservative point of view and liberals on the overall are snotty people you wouldn’t want to drink a beer with.  

By eating chicken the conservatives can finally make a non-aggressive point that NOT everyone supports gay marriage and this is a rather easy (and tasty!) way to express their feelings.  

The liberals are always comparing this to the civil rights movement and interracial marriage.  

*Now, if we went back in time it would be the conservatives who are against interracial marriage.  BUT, we are not going back in time, we are staying in the present!  Gay marriage just AIN’T the same thing as interracial!!!!!   Two people of the same sex just AIN’T natural and the Bible says so!  

Now hold on conservative me!  Perhaps your problem is that you just don’t know any gay people.  If you did you would realize that, as Lady Gaga says, they were BORN this way, no matter how gross what they do in bed is.  (did I just say that?)  Well, no matter, it is gross and I’ve expressed the same to my gay friends while hanging out in the Castro at the Lookout bar which of course is as queer as a gay bar could possibly be.  One night they were selling porn where two guys box each other then get it on.  

I was absolutely grossed out.  I mean how can those guys do THAT to another DUDE?  I think doing THAT is gross when straight people do it so maybe I’m just more of a traditionalist?  

Wait, where was I?  Wasn’t I supposed to be arguing the liberal point of view?  Or perhaps someone’s views cannot simply be placed in this camp or that.  Perhaps they can be mixed!  And you know we Global Citizen types certainly like to be seen as complex/mysterious/unique and many other adjectives that make us seem sophisticated.  

BUT, as I was saying, gay people were born that way, it happens in other species, it happened in Rome and it probably happened in the Catholic Church down the street so what’s the big whoop?  It is part of nature and these people should not be discriminated against so let them marry!

Besides, what is marriage anyway?  Is it a right conferred by the State or is it a religious thing?  If it is a religious thing then what if they don’t belong to that religion?  Last time I checked married people get benefits from the State so if being queer is part of nature and is thus “natural” then why is the State being so stubborn?  Oh yes, conservative people.  

Didn’t I mention something about protecting freedoms above?  We have freedom = war = no gay marriage.  I don’t even know what to do with that last sentence.  I suppose we could just throw it to Sarah Palin and she could come up with something.

And where the hell has she been anyway?  Is her show about Alaska still on?  I’d like to check it out.  

Ah but Conservative me makes a comeback!!!!!   Well, I still don’t agree as I think it is not natural and I don’t care what you say liberal me.  Besides that, we now have public officials saying they will not let Chick-fil-a operate in their cities?  What is this, Russia?  

*Liberal me interjects*  -  You mean Soviet Union?

Conservative me – Yea Russia!  Since when has a politician been able to block economic activity only based on a social issue????

Liberal Me – Civil rights era.  

Conservative me – You’re a snooty asshole liberal me!  It AIN’T the SAME THING!  

Well, I’ve made myself angry.  I guess the moral of the story is that liberal people are a bit snobby and try to ram all their new and crazy ideas down everyone’s throats.  This is very uncomfortable for the conservative types who like things THE WAY THEY ARE and really haven’t wanted to change anything since the Middle Ages AND been dragged kicking and screaming decade after decade, century after century until at last we arrive in modern times.  

It would be interesting to point out that a “conservative” society is Saudi Arabia, Iran and just about everyplace where the women have to cover themselves completely.  These are the countries that never ever let someone like Elvis get away with hip shaking and still go to church every week.  Hell, sometimes they pray 5 times a day!  

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be so interesting to point out so I won’t do it.  I just do not want to make conservative me any more angry than he already is.  

Maybe I’ll go eat some chicken.  Wait!!!  I actually just had chicken tikka masala for dinner!  Sorry conservative me, that sounds very suspiciously like liberal food.  I promise you, conservative me, that next time I’ll make some chicken prepared in the “fil-a” style.  

Love you.

-Me  

 

 

History is Alive

In my short 35 year life I have had the great fortune to travel a good portion of the world and experience a great many things. Most of these travels occurred during my twenties but it was not the travels alone that contributed to these fantastic experiences. It was the study of language that gave me very deep insights into the various cultures and changed me forever.

Find here the music which sets the tone for this post:

Once you have enjoyed the music you can find the historical reference here

These languages which changed my life were Spanish, French and Japanese. Spanish and French gave me unique insight into the history of Europe and gave me confidence. That is to say, I thought I actually new something after becoming proficient in these languages. Yet, it was the study of Japanese that really humbled me and taught me that the more I learn, the less I realize I actually know. With Spanish and French I had only learned about the European part of the world. With Japanese I made a small splash into a completely different and wonderful world known as Asia. I was amazed by the insights learning Japanese gave me. It was then I realized that language can really open up a different way of thinking and change how one views the world. I now knew four languages but out of the 6800 or so languages in the world I could only comprehend the mindset of very few.

Furthermore, I never felt as though I mastered any language other than my native English (and that is debatable as well!) No matter how good you think you are at a language, the natives are better.

This post however is not a biography on my experiences and discoveries. Rather, it is something that carries a bit of the same magic that one can experience in their own home without setting foot in another culture.

Almost.

There is nothing that will take the place of travel and learning other languages. One gains so much insight that it is near impossible to explain to others who have not had the same experience.

But, one can come close.

This post is about Netflix and the historical entertainment it offers us. Never in the history of mankind have we had such access to history portrayed as entertainment. Yes, yes, the plays and theatre of old are spectacular yet, those performances were never on demand, starting at the push of a button. Never have the masses as a whole had the access that they do now to rather accurate historical entertainment.

Unfortunately, even though such entertainment is now available, I wonder how many of the “unwashed masses” actually pay attention. There are so many other shows (of rather stupid subject) that history and historical fact now have to vie with the vulgar prancing around hoping to draw even more attention.

Forgive me, I continue to be extremely upset that even though we have more access to knowledge than ever before in the history of mankind, my brethren choose to entertain themselves with the equivalent of a Cockney lass with huge boobs who just happens to dance or sing surprisingly well. This cockney lass comes not from East London but from Jersey, the new one.

That was cruel. Some are actually very talented. My anger, nay, my disappointment stems from the seemingly endless support for current wars when most of the population do not understand history and choose not to educate themselves, preferring to watch henceforth mentioned Cockney Lass equivalent from Jersey, the new one.

Makes me upset. People are getting killed and the only people that could stop it choose to watch dancing and singing.

I digress. As you know I rarely stay on point and enjoy the frequent side-tangents. :)

Regarding Netflix, it has given me access to a lot of history that I can use to supplement my previous travels. In fact, it brings it alive!!

Yes, I know it is entertainment, but being a big fan of history, I use my Iphone to check the accuracy on Wikipedia.

*Sidebar – I wrote an argument Wikipedia Inaccurate? when many were calling it inaccurate back in 2006. Just wanted to give props to myself in that my judgement seems to stand the test of time in this case. :)

So I check Wikipedia and see that the historical truths match up pretty well with what I am seeing on Netflix.

So what am I watching on Netflix? Enough of my rambling already, lets get to the good stuff!!

The shows I’ve recently watched are the following. I thought a Youtube trailor might be able to give you a better impression than my simple explanations.

1. The Tudors

2. The Borgia

3. Rome

4. The Virgin Queen

I think four examples are enough to show how efficiently this new service called Netflix can really bring the past alive!!!

I would imagine there are two schools of thought on this. The first being those that prefer not to study at all and simply watch a show and believe they know something. A show is just a show and does not really confer any knowledge. Well, maybe a little knowledge but it really helps to read a quick biography and historical account about the show to really know what is going on

The second school would be the detractors. Those that believe they understand too much and will not give any standing to some theatrical performance infringing on their focus of study.

Not being an expert myself, I would imagine that the screen writers and movie studios employ enough financial firepower to employ those that do have expert knowledge in these historical matters and thus keep the story pretty accurate n’est pas?

So, for a plebeian such as myself, albeit a rather well traveled pleb and one who knows how to use his Iphone, I am inclined to believe these historical shows so long as they match up with what I read in Wikipedia.

What this does for me is absolutely brings the past alive!!!!!! The past was never brought alive for me in school as it entailed simple words on a page, ideas, places, people that meant nothing to me and were simply things that I must memorize to pass a test.

This changed of course when I actually visited such places.  However it was never brought alive as much as it has with Netflix!

It is now time for picture sharing.

Welcome to the Tower of London.  I did visit, I took the tour and I payed attention to everything my “Beefeater” guide said.  I also read my “Let’s Go” book to inform myself about the history.  Yet, the history of the place never came as alive as it did with the Tudors series and Elizabeth the Virgin Queen.  I could read a thousand historical books and I believe nothing would leave as deep an impression on me as these various TV (Netflix) series.

I think it was Ben Franklin, although I could be completely wrong, but one of the founders predicted that with the invention of the moving pictures books would no longer be necessary.  I have it in my head that it was Franklin but of course I could be completely stupid on this one.

My point is, I visited the tower of London, I tried to feel the ghosts there, I tried to feel the history.  I understood what happened and I tried to let it in.  I didn’t feel anything. It really didn’t come alive for me.

The only time I ever felt “ghosts” and the sense of history completely washing over me was in Toledo, Spain and I described the ghost part rather clearly in my post Ghosts.

So where else could I find “ghosts” and a real sense of history?

No, I didn’t feel anything in Rome.  I experienced neither Cesar nor the Borgias in Rome.  I just experiences ruins and various vagrants trying to seal my wallet. The glory of Rome has indeed vanished.

Actually, I did enjoy meeting a lot of young Italians at Piazza di Spagna but that was a rarity.  There were more opportunities for bad people to take my wallet than for me to meet the young vibrant youth of Rome at that time.  :(

Well, as you know my posts are never long and I grow tired after a few short paragraphs.  I guess the lesson for this post is that after watching so many shows about medieval Europe I can now more clearly understand the roots of Catholic vs Protestant, English vs France vs Spain and so on. By understanding the origins, I am able to much better understand the present.

***Quick mind dump ***

I grew up Catholic, a descendant of the Irish who were long oppressed by the English.  Why did I grow up this way?  Well my ancestors escaped the potato famine and came to the USA.  The English on the other hand used to be Catholic but Henry VIII decided to not be Catholic anymore because he wanted to marry another.  Throw in a bunch of politics and England didn’t want to be under the Pope anymore.  The Pope had gained his authority from an ancient “Cult of Christ” from long ago Rome that never really went away.  It was the religion that like the Duracell battery refused to die.  Since it was the only one that stood the test of time people took it as the truth.  And oh yea, it was the one that had the most military force behind it, so if you didn’t convert, bad things happened.  But even before bad things happened most were convinced bad things would happen after they die if they didn’t believe.

So anyway, our friend King Henry the VIII didn’t like the pope telling him what to do.  Some people agreed (Protestants)and over time these people eventually came to America.  These are the same folks that become our Presidents.  Well, except for JFK but he got shot.  After that we had more Protestants. Now we have Barack Obama who many believe is Muslim (lol).  The Republicans are still crazy incensed that he got elected and have now gone off the rails.  Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann?   For God’s sakes, all you supporters of them should never be allowed in a gentleman’s club again. Wait, the GOP is no longer a Gentleman’s club you say? It is full of idiotic hillbilly Jesus freaks you say? Boy, I really miss the old GOP. The heathens and unwashed are not only at the gate but have been invited in to sit down to dinner! >:(

I’m sorry, I’ve gone off the rails again.  I’m terrible.

I’m also tired and become tired of this post.  I really should write a book but am absolutely sure it would offend so many that it would stand no chance of being published.

No matter, I live in my own world and prefer to keep it that way.

I guess I’ll end this post with the truth that there is so much to learn. The trick is to keep it interesting which is something these shows and Netflix is very good at! They bring the past alive and make learning about history much more entertaining!

Importance of an Open Mind

I’m sitting here this morning listening to music called “Ancient Temples” by the artist High Priestess. It is just peaceful music of the fantasy genre and I found it to be a suitable selection for the morning.  I discovered it just the other day through last.fm when I followed a chain of suggestions stemming from The Hobbit soundtrack.

As I drink my tea (high grade from Chinatown) and listen to this soothing music it occurred to me that I really like fantasy and the magical. I like to try and imagine the world from a child’s point of view and how wonderful a world it can be when you use your imagination.

 

Or, for those who take life a bit more seriously, we could frame this is a Zen, universe, theoretical physics sort of way and say we are just opening ourselves up to possibilities! 

I think adults often forget that. The simple magic of being alive and discovery is either completely lost or severely dimmed.  As for me, I cannot say exactly when or where my mindset changed but for the past couple of years I have really enjoyed discovery, trying new things and simply enjoying the world around me.

Perhaps I am taking a cue from my little boy who is interested in EVERYTHING!  I try to imitate his wonder and suddenly realize that I do not know very much about ants, plants, rocks and so on.  He becomes very excited when he finds a new type of bug and it dawns on me that I do not even know what the bug is called!

I’m not sure if I can describe the feeling or these vivid, wonderful thoughts I have when I tell myself to start paying attention and see everything with fresh eyes.  What I can say is that life becomes wonderful, it becomes magical!  Just by changing my mindset I now open myself up to ever expanding possibilities.

To bring this down to earth a little I can tell you that through this love of discovery I suddenly had the urge to buy a mountain bike last week.  Now I find myself getting a LOT of exercise and am really enjoying being able to cover a larger range.  I think it also may help quite a bit that I live in a beautiful place called “Pacifica” where there is plenty to explore.

Now how many adults no longer feel the need to explore?  It is not that you need to travel long distances or live in beautiful places to explore (although it helps.)  As I mentioned above I can explore my own backyard with my little boy as I’m quite certain there are many more bugs out there to be discovered.

It has also just occurred to me that perhaps technology has really encouraged this type of thinking for me.  Perhaps it is not just faerie music and extremely caffeinated tea after all.  My Iphone is a magical device which connects me to all of human knowledge.  Therefore, when I find that strange bug or weird looking plant I can look it up and know what it is!

Yes, yes, that is the magic brew!

1.  Keeping the curiosity of a child
2.  Seeing the world with new eyes
3.  Being able to actually tap into all of human knowledge to really understand what you are  observing!
4. AND faerie music does not hurt.   :)

Believe it or not, this was not my original conclusion or what my main point started out to be.  Sometimes I go in completely different directions and it is a rarity that my posts retain any sort of cohesion.

My original thought was about the perceptions people would have if say, I wrote my profile on a dating site or something like that.

1.  Listens to fantasy music
2. Drinks tea
3.  Likes to explore his own backyard
4.  Previously played too much Warcraft
5. Attends the Renaissance Festival every year.
6. Favorite Book:  Don Quixote
7.  Favorite Movie: The Lord of the Rings

How many responses do you think I would get and what conclusions would people draw about me?

Now I ask myself the same question.  What conclusions would I draw if I were to read a female’s profile of the same type?

(Luckily I don’t need to do this anymore as I’m married and my wife likes to attend the Renaissance Faires with me.  My little boy does too but actually he likes everything.)

I guess in conclusion, keeping an open mind is something everyone says is a positive thing to do but in actuality is quite difficult.  By limiting ourselves to our own biases and set opinions we are limiting the experiences we could have, we are limiting the possibilities!

It would be akin to looking at a menu in a restaurant and that you will only look at the plates with beef.  Not just beef but only beef that comes with sauce.  Not only that, but the price must be above $20.

Terrible metaphor I know but I believe it accurately describes how we go about living our lives.  There is so much to experience (and re-experience) but the main impediment isn’t money and it isn’t time.  It is ourselves.

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