Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mario Savio on the operation of the Machine

So, like the rest of the latest generation, I first heard a piece of this speech as a sample from the Linkin Park song "Wretches and Kings" off of their latest album "A Thousand Suns". Mario Savio, presented in this video, was the leader of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960's, a campaign of protests in Berkeley, California by the students of Berkeley University against the university administration for free speech and academic freedom on-campus (against which, there was a ban).

I was so moved by it that I was compelled to designate it a blog post of its own. So, here it is (needless to say but being said anyway: Mario Savio is the 2nd speechgiver):

Saturday, December 11, 2010

10 All Souls Questions

So, I came across The Pixies’ blog today and, on his most recent blog post, read answers to 10 random questions that were posed to one of his friends on an All Souls College exam, which he decided to answer himself. I was quite intrigued and stimulated by the questions and wanted to provide answers that were different then what Pixies put. I went to the site where a PDF of the questions were posed, and there were 10 sets of them, tackling all kinds of issues.

So, I wrote down the range of number of questions in each set and asked my mother to pick a random number in each range. Here is what she wrote down.

So here is what I answered:

2) Do we need a written constitution? European or other?
Most certainly, if not for the God-less literalists who ask dumb questions like “There’s nothing saying that killing people is wrong, so why shouldn’t I do it?”, then just for the sake of any given nation’s people being united by the document that declares the basis for what is considered a civilized and law-abiding person in their country.

24) What difference should it make to feminism whether gender differences are natural or socially constructed?
A rational feminist fights for equal opportunity in labor, school, and any other infrastructural or social position, as well as equal weight in their say of the direction of the country or world. If the gender difference is socially constructed, then the fight is against humanity’s stupidity. If the gender difference is natural, then the fight is against their own physical limits.

31) Should we regret the establishment of the green belt?
Most certainly not. If anything, some green belts should re-created.

30) Does archaeology allow us to assess standards of living?
I was under the impression that it did. I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

19) Can happiness be measured?
In very general, socially perceived ways. Not scientifically, unless there is specific biologic actions/reactions that occur when the body believes happiness is present (most of this can be observed during sex). I think a good start is finding out if the individual is happy – generally satisfied, happy – in good spirits, happy – appreciative, etc., and go from there.

17) If the world were run by economists we would not need a World Trade Organization. Discuss.
Economy is not my strong suit, but I suppose this is the same as saying “If America were run by Wall Street, we would not need government regulation.”

15) Should governments support scientific research when there may be no technological benefit?
Why must the only benefit be to technology?

4) Is there anything a historian of literature can learn from soap-operas?
Soap-operas can make just as much of a statement about their current time and social context as literature can. So, the historian can learn from it the same things (s)he learns from a thorough study of literature.

7) Does contemporary aesthetics need a concept of beauty?
Tricky question, much trickier and in-depth than what I'll give here.
By establishing a central concept of it, beauty can be subject to innovation, agreement and union amongst a majority, standards, and can just be something tangible in everyday communication. Of course, the downside of this is that if there is a solid concept of beauty, you, by default, designate a solid concept of ugly.
In response to this, multiple types of beauty concepts can be constructed, but regardless of how many there are and the number continues to grow to, there will always be someone who doesn’t fit any of them.
So, I will lean in the chaotic direction and say no.

29) What does sovereignty mean today?
Today? It means “rich businessman”. Note: this word is also interchangeable with the adjective “corrupt”.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and believe I will pick another random 10 questions to answer in another blog post!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


First: Today is the day when, in the Year of Our Lord 1621, there was a 3-day harvest feast in the Plymouth Colony in America, attended by 90 Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe and 53 Separatist pilgrims from Europe. I think, if I or this country were to progressively affirm the harvest feast of American Thanksgiving, it would be celebrated by re-establishing a relationship with and strengthening the presence of various Native American tribes whom are now suffering greatly in many aspects due to the almost non-existent assistance from government, business or societal entities.

But enough of that........ this particular blog post is destined for a bit more loose and frivolous blabbering than what you are normally used to on here. Today, instead of reiterating my personal battles with stiff, rich knuckleheads who put their own savings and profit over giving other people jobs, I’m going to answer a question I got from, a site that poses random questions for people to answer in order to inspire thought, emotion, whatever. The question I chose is:

The zombie apocalypse has arrived. What do you do?”

Well, to be extremely childish in my honesty, the first thought that comes to mind is the opportunity to be a make-pretend Ninja! I mean, zombies do not require special skill to be attacked and put down. A 10-year old with her father’s pitchfork could squash a relatively small army of them. I’ve always relished the fantasy of being a lightning-quick, direct-hit death machine with the agility of a panicked squirrel and the fatal effect of an infant forced to smoke crack at birth. I actually have neither of these strengths, due to laziness and real life not having the same existential fabric as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, but the zombies wouldn’t know the difference. They’d just be busy toppling over from the furious force of a foot, fist, baseball bat, barbell, printer, Android phone, Grandmother.

I also think about the stereotypical scene in any given zombie film where a character is fighting off a horde or two, but realizes they’re trapped in a gruesome circle of undead and reacts by making an idiotic face of horror before fatally submitting to the zombie’s hunger for flesh. This is, has always been and always will be, stupid……although I guess it depends on where you are. If they’ve trapped you in your garage or room or something, I guess that’s different (and even then, you could probably fight your way out). But you could climb on top of a light fixture or a car or something and wait until help arrives. They usually come in thick packs, stumbling over each other for dinnertime access to your innards: I’m sure simple amateur ballerina moves will allow you to walk on their heads and escape to less claustrophobic areas, which is a better defensive move against zombies than just standing there and screaming from being overwhelmed.

Perhaps the realism of such situations escape me, but hypothetically speaking, that’s where I stand. What say you?

*The title of this post is in reference to a line said in this film commercial.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In Spite of Spite or The Unemployed and the Anxious

Have you read "The Courage to Be" by Paul Tillich? Quite the pivotal read for me. In it, he speaks having the courage to be [yourself] in spite of the things that antagonize or the dark consequences that may come out of having such in attitude. He speaks of having the courage to have hope in spite of things seeming hopeless. The courage to affirm your individual life in spite of it being social fabric-death.1 I struggled with writing this blog post because: 1) I wasn't really sure what point it had, 2) I am always reluctant to be more than a certain level of personal on here and 3) of the possibility of hurting my working-man future. But in spite of these things, the reality is that a certain matter or idea comes up in my life and begs me to be written. I then have to fight with finding how to properly word it and then putting it on loose-leaf paper/blog page/toilet paper2, which in this case is my recently acquired unemployment status. I cannot have lunch or go to work or even work on my novel in peace without putting it down and expressing it satisfactorily, in spite of a missing point or a fear of a perception of self-importance. Spite, however, has been an unfortunately common theme in the recent areas of my life, and not in ways that inspires courage.

I have to move out of my house. Not in a my-lease-is-up-and-they're-raising-the-rent sense, but an it-is-sometimes-absolute-torture-to-live-with-my-mother sense, or an I-am-way-too-old-to -still-be-here-sense. And there was a tangible fight to change these conditions embodied in me working at a furniture store company in Tribeca, Manhattan, with a company that I've been employed by for 10 years. My job as customer service was fine and I worked very hard I might add, not just on the job but with myself in reducing what I spend money on so that I could save up and be gone, but tons of individual factors were a bit more than frustrating to deal with.

Customers would come up and ask for things that were clearly against the store's policies, such as returning a piece of furniture way past time the allowed time to do so or asking to purchase a table for more than half the price the store was asking it to be purchased for (excuses used including "You know that if you don't let me buy this table now, it's just going to sit here for years and years afterwards and you'll lose money. It is impossible for any other single person in the world to be interested in purchasing this table." or "I've been shopping at this store for years. This, in my mind, means I have complete control over how you conduct business"). Of course, I do not have the authority to make decisions on these kinds of matters; the customers have to talk to managers. But, in spite of the fact that it is their job to be present for such times, half of them would usually be nowhere to be found. I would actually go as far to say that one particular manager would purposely hide somewhere or have a cigarette or feign being busy with absolutely nothing just to avoid dealing with customers like he's signed up and obligated to do. So the customer frolics around in their own frustration and I'm forced to tell them to wait while I fetch someone to make a decision. And if the customer ultimately ends in being unsatisfied, the blame falls on us, in spite of the fact that I’ve done all that I could to ensure satisfaction.

If not entrapped in this, I'm usually busy doing tasks assigned by the President of the company that are obviously in someone else's talent to do. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem at all doing tons of things outside of the jurisdiction that the company has hired me for, I've been doing it for years. But I mean that, following the resignation of an office worker, the President would just ask us (the team of customer service people) to pick up her slack without actually considering whether we were capable of doing such things or not. In addition, he would demand that huge tasks that obviously and inevitably take some time, due to the disorder that the authorities persistently and lazily kept things in, be done in a matter of minutes. As a matter of fact, I remember certain times when he'd ask me to look up records for a customer whose name he did not have and whose files were buried somewhere deep in a pile of old binders that require Indiana Jones' efforts to dig out, then walk away and turn around literally two seconds later and ask me if I've found it.

At any rate, after applying and sending out resumes by the thousands, a museum finally decided to give me a face-to-face chance and, after 3 interviews and periods of nerve-wracking and frustration, I got the job! I finally obtained an opportunity to move on with my life!...........only to be fired two weeks later.

My immediate boss, a savvy, intelligent and understanding young woman, was fine. She always worked with me and answered any questions I had about things in the office. I would’ve proudly tied her shoes and spread jelly on her bagels in a clockwise motion every morning if she wanted me to. Unfortunately, she herself was under the employment of an illogically manipulative, narrow-minded and unskilled moron who had the highest expectations for employees, in spite of himself being nowhere near able to fulfill these things. In spite of just coming from a 10-year employment in one place where they have their own way of doing things, he expected me to come in and learn all the specifics of working in that office in a matter of just 13 working days. For the most part, I did, but this apparently wasn’t enough for his infinitesimal amount of patience. He criticized membership letters for new members of the museum that I printed, in spite of the fact that I printed what he and employees before me have been using for however long that company was there sans me adding the date of that day and the new member’s name (and I mean he criticized things like there being one space more behind someone’s name, or a semi-colon being where a comma should be). He criticized the way I stapled some papers; apparently it was done too sloppily (it went into the paper too deep), in spite of the fact that he had drawers filled with files that were stapled in all sorts of disorderly ways. He fired me because “my performance is not what the company needs right now”. My mother and a friend told me that I should write him saying how unfair he was, but for reasons I don’t fully understand myself, I decided not to. However, I still fervently believe that that idiot belongs in a place particularly designed by our favorite 14th century poet.

So, I am now still stuck with a mother who is constantly trying to tell me what to do with my life instead of respecting my decisions and is constantly getting upset because I don’t follow her instructions on how to live. She believes her living longer than me and being “experienced” somehow means that I don’t know what to do with myself. The consequences I have been dealt make her believe she’s correct, because I’m not living somewhere on my own with an income of thousands of dollars a month (like I’d like to be). But she has no clue about trying to move on in life and desiring some sort of change and independence. Desiring to be in a place where I can help others who are in need of food or money (which I can still sort of do for now). I used to try diplomacy with her, but it just turns into her yelling and telling me what opportunities she thinks I should’ve taken in the past and how I should’ve listen to her. No more of her crap. I just need to move out.

I was reading an article on a Pre-rally for the Unemployed assembling a few days before the One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial, and it mentioned a promo video for them which showed footage of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch proposing to drug test everyone who applies for unemployment because “you know, we shouldn’t be giving money to people who……basically are just going to go blow it on drugs…..and not take care of the children and their own families.3 He’s just doing his job as a Republican, which is to just take miniscule problems out of thin air, magnify them, put them in contexts where they don’t belong and then push for adverse and ridiculously wasteful/unnecessary solutions. But in spite of businessmen hiring and firing people at will for the most absurd reasons or even no reason, and demons like Hatch who want to continue people’s misery in struggling to keep a living, I am fighting to be working again. Because in spite of hope seeming like it moved out long ago, I am trying to choose to believe it’s still there.

1) He, of course, means for people to pursue this rationally and with consideration for others. He also goes through pains to define the word “courage”.
2) I confess that I am a reference fiend. I don't know why, but it gives me the illusion of depth in writing. That particular reference was to a part of this graphic novel.
3) When I originally seen the clip of him saying that, it was in a promo for the Pre Rally, but they cut it up and made it seem like he said that on The Kudlow Report, which I disagree with.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Transparent Ground Zero Mosque

A vision of the Cordoba House

The religious take on this sort of thing presents itself clearly, I mean, the take I’m charged to have presents itself clearly, although civility will not let me embody that viewpoint wholeheartedly, so I will just talk about this here on a cultural level (I believe I will talk about it spiritually in my other blog).
So what’s this now? An Islamic mosque, named Park 51 or the Cordoba House, is being built two blocks away from the World Trade Center, Ground Zero, the place where, on 9-11-2001, two commercial passenger jet airlines were hijacked by terrorists claiming to be adherents of Islam and steered into the Twin Towers, both of which imploded and collapsed, killing 3,000 people?

Perhaps at the forefront of general reactions to new development is that this is in bad taste. It seems an insult to the people who were tragically killed that day and is kind of a ballsy move on the part of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, author and activist who works to bridge the gap between the West and Islam, as well as co-owner of the Park 51 property with Sharif El-Gamal who purchased it in July 2009 and was originally going to make a condominium until Rauf convinced him otherwise. By building the mosque, which will also have an auditorium, fitness center, swimming pool, childcare services, bookstore, amongst other stuff, Rauf and his partner’s are claiming to establish “a center for cultural learning” for people of all religions (the name “Cordoba” itself refers to a learning center in 8th to 11th century Spain that Christians, Jews and Muslims attended, but can also be a reference to the invasion of the Spanish Christian city of C√≥rdoba by Muslims in the 8th century). His stated goal doesn’t really seem to pacify concerns over the mosque’s location, especially in light of the fact that he reportedly has questionable connections to Islamic groups who have voiced anger against America in the past (he himself says that works towards nothing but peace and diplomacy), or the fact that he once said funding for the project will come from American Muslims but later said it will come from foreign Arab and Muslim nations. He could’ve built the mosque anywhere else without (understandable) protest, but chose this location, on which a piece of one of the crashed airplanes from 9/11 fell, to show that he wants to “push back against the extremists” and send “the opposite statement of what happened on 9/11”.

The feeling of this project being a deep national insult is indeed overwhelming. But however, a few other things come to mind:

If one urban black gang comes and shoots up your house, killing some of your family members, the rational reaction is not to suddenly believe all random groups of urban black people have no right to live in that very area. And I’m not saying that it won’t understandably be your reaction, I’m saying that it isn’t the one on which furthers thoughts and decisions should be based. The Muslims who are building Park51 aren’t automatically the same Muslims who flew the planes into the World Trade Buildings in 2001. Of course, I think, in this emotional and symbolic context, Abdul Rauf should be fully transparent and accountable with his funding, activities and personnel. If he is absolute about building the mosque here and expects it to thrive without violent attacks to bring it down, it cannot be with an indifference of the history of that particular spot in New York City, or even Manhattan alone. This project will certainly be an irrefutable and uncontestable insult if he decides to do whatever he wants without a strong attempt to gain the trust of the people who live there as well those who have had relatives and friends die in the 9-11 attacks.

Secondly, I have a bit of a problem with the idea that the relatives and friends of 9-11 victims suddenly have the authority to declare what is right and wrong for construction by any set of people in any given place. In the 17th century, The English hopped on their boats and came to America, which was already inhabited and cultivated by Native Americans. Indians were more than happy to do trade with the whites, and the whites in return destroyed their land, took their food supplies and burned down their houses. This kind of behavior lasted all the way up and after Andrew Jackson order the removal of Indians from their own land in the South in the 19th century, sending them through tribulations of death, starvation, disease and famine to the West.
The 8 or 9 Native Americans that are left today have to look at the buildings and temples constructed by European decendants on their own land everyday, and now the descendants are crying insult and indignation at this one mosque being built in the name of communication and community.
I mean, for Pete’s sakes……………there are White Supremacists bases IN AFRICA.
What single human can possess this much testicular fortitude?!??????
At any rate, I’ve never seen people in the States protesting this, and not even a meteor the size of Saturn on a 500-mile an hour speed course towards Earth can match the magnitude of that insult.

And no, my second point does not contradict my first. I know that today’s white Americans, the descendants of the imperialistic Europeans, are not the same people as their ancestors. But with this being the case, what kind of real effort by today’s “Americans” have gone to giving the Native Americans back at least most of their land and opportunity to persevere? How many popular Native American actors or authors or politicians do you know? Can you even count on both hands how many of them you’ve even seen in the last decade?

At any rate, despite my reservations about Park51, I say that they have a right to build it. But also, that their operation should be fully transparent, as putting an Islamic mosque right next to a place where Muslim terrorists killed 3,000 people and telling people that they should mind their own business will surely accelerate an understandably violent reaction against them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Arizona SB 1070

So, you may or may not have encountered the recent upsurge of controversy over Arizona Immigration Law, also known as:
-Arizona Senate Bill 1070
-Arizona SB 1070
or my personal “patriotic” fave –Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act

signed into the Legislature of the State of Arizona by Republican Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, as a reaction against the rapid sex and drug trafficking committed by Mexican gangs and criminals who cross over from Mexico into Arizona illegally. If you have not, here is a view of what went into legal effect on July 29th:


I was a little confused about this Arizona Immigration Law; I read some of the bill, particularly the underlined part above, and I wasn’t sure if it meant that the police in Arizona are now obligated to check people they stop for previous crimes (running a red light, jaywalking) for the proper papers saying that they’re in America legally, or that meant the police were able to just look at someone who is Mexican and say “You know what, I’m pretty sure he/she has a nice ripe kilo of coke stuffed in his/her pocket, or is probably muling it up their ass or in their stomach. Reasonably suspicious enough for me. Lemme go check it out.” Sadly, but expectedly, it’s the latter.

According to polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a conservative public opinion polling firm, the majority of America is in favor of this law going into effect. It was a racist sentiment that had been brewing for a long time in that area, and the Republican steam had finally burst out of the teapot when the news that Robert Krentz, a rancher who lives 19 miles from the Mexican border was supposedly shot by a illegal Mexican immigrant on March 27th (they found a set of footprints that came from the Mexican border, and this is somehow enough to say that not just a Mexican, but an illegal one at that, did it).

This now begs the question of how Rasmussen was phrasing the questions in said polls, although they’re claimed can be backed by the fact that the bill received something like over $100,000 in donations for support. America is confused. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a “melting pot” or have a solidified racial identity. I think this is because Repubs say they’re ok with the former but vigorously push for the latter. I guess the true questions they ask themselves is “Which will benefit us?” or “Since we don’t feel like trying to understand it, can we kick it out?”. Arizona Sheriff and long-time knucklehead Joe Arpaio says that the cops don’t just go around arresting anyone who “looks illegal”, and SB 1070 isn’t expressly racist, but what people are having problems with is the fact that it gives permission and license to the xenophobic temperament of narrow-minded policemen.

The cops down there use and express their experiences in having to keep criminal activity from illegal Mexican immigrants happening as the basis of this law being the justified move. So, the reaction to illegal Mexican immigrants causing crimes in Arizona is to make it lawful for cops to randomly pick up any ole’ Mexican they see on the street and ship them back to Mexico. Regardless of the fact that many of them also do the hard jobs for big corporations (construction, working in meat factories, etc.) that “naturalized” Americans (I guess) don’t want to do because they are too dignified.

Speaking of which, these American politicians and business owners are against foreigners physically being in our country without the proper paperwork (that it sometimes takes years to get while these people live in run-down, corrupt countries that poor and crime-ridden that they’re desperately trying to escape), but they have no problem outsourcing their labor to other countries. The labor it takes to make AT&T and however many other corporations run doesn’t require paperwork for legal country status, just teams of people from other poor countries toiling away at the menial tasks for cheap costs. Not to mention that many illegal immigrants get here because they are forced through sex trafficking. They are dragged here for sex with strangers, and the American response to that situation is to kick them back out?

Not all or even most illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals, and not all criminals are illegal immigrants. Not all illegal immigrants are Mexican or Hispanic at all, but you wouldn’t know this by the conservative media’s focus. This whole thing is absurd and a waste of money and attention, like virtually all conservative ventures are. As a matter of fact, I just came across an article describing the escape of three white dangerous murderers from prison who are heading to Mexico while the stupid police are putting all their focus on ridding Arizona of un-papered Mexicans! I can also tell you right now that there is no Christian basis for this in the least. Christ would be vomiting pure insults at the entire group who thinks it’s ok to boot foreigners out of God-created land that people think belongs to them. But don’t take my word for it, have a look at the people in Arizona fighting against this:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Let These Detective Show Ideas Help You

In our recession, it seems to me that television studios are constantly deeming it wise to produce and fund detective shows that are the same as everyone before them but with some sort of ultimately lifeless twist. There is no longer simply a “Murder, She Wrote” there and a “Matlock” somewhere else……..

There is now “Monk”, the detective who solves cases with OCD and social idiocy, “The Mentalist”**, a former con-man who helps detectives by continuing to think like a con-man, “Castle”, a mystery writer who helps the cops solve crimes because they decided to give a shit about him for some reason, “CSI: Miami”**, where crimes are solved by David Caruso putting on his sunglasses in a cool fashion before setting Guinness World Records for saying the most useless things ever, “Rizzoli and Isles”, crimes solved by a pair of women who just do what women and men have been doing before them for years……..on and on the list goes.

The central focus seems to be bringing in people who see things in a different way. So, with the huge chunk of Americans still looking for jobs and new-but-still-old detective shows seeming to be a way for easy cash, I thought I’d offer you guys a few ideas to pitch to studios for the future:

1) “French Fried” – About a detective who was employee of the month for 5 years straight at McDonald’s before being hired to work for the police force. They solve crimes by matching which psychological profiles line up with which Happy Meal toy and examining which suspect Super-Sized what. Catchy lines can include “Well, pal, that’s the way the McNugget is cooked” and “I guess his Big Mac didn’t have special sauce.”

2) “Daniel Microsoft” – About someone who solves crimes from their living room couch by using their mother’s credit card to order anchovy pizza every week and renew their Xbox live subscriptions, the catch being that they can only solve crimes that look like something that can happen in “Grand Theft Auto”.

3) “Tree-Huggers” – About a varied-but-familial investigative team that solve crimes by measuring how the suspects recycled their beer cans, seeing their reaction when threatened with Global Warming, and questioning vendors at Farmer’s Markets. The tagline for advertisements can be “Although they eat locally, they can track your carbon footprint anywhere!”

4) “So You Think You Can Solve Murders?” Uh-oh! Brooklyn pop-and-lock duo DirtyFlow and BubbleFace backflip into the police station with a boombox blasting a generic dance song, convincing NYPD that they can clean up the crime rates of all 5 boroughs and joining the force. DirtyFlow investigates suspects while doing the best robot the world has ever seen and BubbleFace scans Medical Examiner results for clues while spinning on her head for hours at a time, without even a hint of a nosebleed.

5) “Courtside Crimes” – About someone who becomes a detective after having a long career as a popular and very well-paid NBA player. He wouldn’t actually solve any crimes, he’d just go around screaming to people that LeBron James is a backstabbing bag of horse manure.

6) “Ku Klux Khris” – About a guy named Khris who uses his 8-year stint in a white supremacist group to help police solve crimes vengefully after suffering the loss of his brother during a Civil War reenactment in Virginia. He only asks that the police pay for a new moonshine jar for him to spit in and a new 6-foot Christian Cross to burn every week. He, however, is always sure that a Black or Jewish person has committed the crime, even when neither one is existent in the episode………or entire season for that matter.

7) “Gaga in the Underworld” – Mega-Pop star Lady Gaga has decided to leave the music scene behind and fulfill her duty to put criminals behind bars, bringing her talents of wearing costumes designed by a team of LSD abusers and using choreographed dance videos as an excuse to show people that she can hump inanimate objects. Mel Gibson can co-star as the lead gay LSD-head designer while Ozzy Osbourne can occasionally cameo as an inanimate object.

8: “MySpaceBook” – Centuries ago, war was declared between two Egyptian tribes when one tribe member rejected the Friend Request of another in hieroglyphics on a Giza pyramid. Today, glamourous, rich and pointless celebrity Lauren Conrad has accidentally come across a conspiratorial plot against New York City in this continuing secret war by joining a Facebook group called “Everything I learned about Black Culture I got from watching Tyler Perry movies” on her iPhone. Now, she must use the weapons of her animal-tested perfume and brain-damaging reality show to investigate and bring peace to the warring tribes.

To go directly against detective gimmicks, you can have a detective show that focuses on having no gimmicks. But paradoxically, having no gimmick would in itself be a gimmick. Counter-culture fail.

So, I can only hope these ideas carry you well on into Hollywood success and long careers, paving the way for someone else to just copy what you did and add something meaningless to it.

Be well.

**Ok, ok, I watch this show. But still, my point stands……..

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freedom of InterSpeech

Alright, so this constant monitoring by employers into the social networking sites of their employees is beginning to feel a bit like McCarthyism, if only because they search the personal information of their employees for insubstantial things that have no real bearing on the validity of their employees’ occupation at the business, and fire them for it. Keeping a constant eye out for “subversion” or “un-business like activity” or whatever kind of policy phrases people want to use is ok I guess for big executives and assistants to big corporate players, but it’s kind of absurd when people at a day job in a corner store or a clothing store are getting fired for stuff that’s not even any kind of serious threat to the business’s image.

First, the sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, as well as the blogosphere are places where individuals can freely sign up, set up a profile to connect with their own friends, and express their (emotional, physical, religious, etc.) status at the time, in their own space and leisure. It’s not something that’s funded by the business (unless that business starts to advertise one of those websites at its location) or is depended on by that business to bring in income or is connected to these things in anyway. So, there is no real reason or ownership of any content for businesses in these areas of life. The social networking sites are their own enterprises, and the individual’s expression through them are completely within the individual’s right. Their participation and expression of what’s going on in their life is its own hemisphere and separate from anything businesses should be allow to touch or monitor.

Now with that said, it’s a bit different when said hypothetical individuals act stupid and put themselves out there or do directly subversive things on purpose. But I don’t think companies, especially in these times when they possess jobs position and can easily replace anyone they don’t like for the slightest reasons (scary prospect), are too discriminatory in their judgments in what’s considered “subversive”. There was one story in someone’s comment I’ve read about a girl who worked for a popular charity and was selling the personal information of its donors to other top rival companies. Firing her is understandable. Then there are the reports of people that take pictures of themselves with some huge bag of marijuana or some sort of gleaming Smith & Wesson or whatever suggest pride in intoxicated or violent activity. Firing them is understandable. If you have an employees that post racist content against Blacks or Hispanics or Native Americans, especially while working for a company that puts “[So-and-So is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Minorities are encouraged to apply.”] in their job posts, they should definitely be fired.

But reading about a girl who was fired from her job at a pizza store because she expressed frustration at customers in her Facebook status for making her stay an hour past the time she was supposed to leave? Or about a mascot for a baseball team who was fired because he blandly criticized the team’s terrible coaches getting extended contracts? Or a girl who was fired from an administrative assistant job because she quipped in a status here and there about being bored? That is extreme, unnecessary and tyrannical. This is addition to companies who fire people because they talk online about corrupt practices the company is engaging in, instead of fixing their own morals (“we’re here to make money, right?” I can hear someone saying to me). Even the people who put posts online making fun of their bosses should be fully protected by Freedom of Speech if the post does not have a direct name or the poster’s profile does not name the company they are criticizing. There should be a new amendment to national job laws where businesses have to have tangible proof that status or a blog post online did some kind of damage to the company’s reputation or money. Otherwise, there’s no telling where the limits exist to how much employers can control their employees lives.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BioShock in BP

Disgusting, isn’t it?

More than three weeks ago, British Petroleum, the oil company, had an accident at an oil rig they were leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. Gas built up in a well 5,000 feet deep in the ocean and exploded. The oil went to the surface of the water, where it erupted and sank an oil rig, killing 11 workers on it in the process. The broken well has since not been fixed, and there is an amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Jamaica and growing from the 5,000 barrels a day that continues to leak out without stopping. Every day that passes, there is a news report on how close the oil is beginning to come to various shorelines in the most Southern states of America. What did Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, have to say about this (actually about deep-water drilling)?
"Apollo 13 [the unsuccessful third mission to the moon in 1970] did not stop the space race," he said. "Neither did the Air France plane last year coming out of Brazil [which mysteriously crashed] stop the world airline industry flying people around the world. It's the same for the oil industry."

Hmph. You know what this reminds me of? “BioShock”. Have you ever played the game? It’s very well written and designed. In this first-person shooter fantasy action title, you play the role of a plane crash survivor in 1960, who ventures to an underwater city called Rapture to find out about its origins and consequent destruction. A main character in the game is a man named Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture. He built it as a place of the greedy capitalist’s total paradise: people were allowed to “pursue greatness” and flourish successfully without morality or regard for other people’s lives antagonizing that greatness. That’s what Hayward’s comments bring to mind.

It doesn’t matter that the fishermen who work in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters to bring in food, sell it on the market, and make a living for their homes and families are now out of work. Even when they offered to work for BP by helping to clean up BP’s mess, there was debate on whether they should be paid for it or not. It does not matter that the oil being vomited out this broken well is sinking deep into the ocean, killing off the ecosystems and endangered marine life that have been living there for God-knows-how-long. It does not matter that the deaths of the 11 workers is a single incident in a line of accidents BP has a record for. All that matters is the refining process of the oil industry to rake in those crude oil bucks.

As to why Obama let offshore drilling continue a while back, I have no idea (it has a clean record? Oh please.....), but as long as Mr. Hayward and BP (as well as other oil companies) continue with the delusion that they can compare “the offshore-drilling technique”, a practice that in itself is immoral, with the Apollo 13 mission or public transportation, they will continue to “destroy, baby, destroy”. And this delusion is held up by the money they make from us putting their product in our gas tanks. I can only hope an official nationwide switch to alternative fuels rides the fervor of this oil spill.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bullets and (Star)Bucks

You know, Pro-NRA people have the collective I.Q. of a stuffed ash tray, thinking that the world would be a better place if everyone bought groceries or went to work whilst packing a .45 in their waste or baby carriage. This makes a society of tension instead of safety. A room full of people shooting at each other is not the ideal way to bring down a victim count. But naturally, it looks like there are corporations that want to help you foster your nightmarish environment for your placation.

Apparently, Starbucks retailers in Northern California, as well as in Virginia and some other places, recently (beginning in January) started allowing people who owns guns to walk into their baristas with the weapons out in full display, to buy coffee or some variation of., a website for extreme pro-gun activists, started using this nihilistic policy to organize group walk-ins to Starbucks with their weapons strapped at their sides in the name of the “Open Carry” movement, an ideological statement to “normalize” their right to carry guns. Because, you know, the way “law-abiding” citizens should exercise the Second Amendment is by walking around with objects created to destroy everywhere they go.

When asked about this decision, execs representing Starbucks say that they defer to federal and state laws concerning the issue. Federal and state laws say that Starbucks has the ability to ban people from bringing guns into their stores, just like they ban people from walking in with bare feet (it’s Cali! Isn’t there people that surf and walk in from the beach?) They then said “we would be forced to require our partners [employees] to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.” So then you are aware that these pistol-packing shitfaces can become a threat to your store and the people in it?

Forget that there have been plenty of studies showing that more citizens with guns generally make people feel less safe. Forget that plenty of studies show that more guns into a community means more crime. I first ask why Starbucks would think that their new policy would keep their sales and customer numbers high? Have they looked at most of the demographic that shop at their chains? Screenwriters, novelists, architects, programmers, designers, musicians. People in the arts world who are [relatively] civilized, cultured peaceful customers that actually gave up on complaining about the fact that they charge an arm and a leg for your extra strong, corporate formula slag. I highly doubt this original fan base will want to suddenly start clashing with knee-jerk cavemen that spend their whole lives idol-worshipping John Wayne everytime they stop by for a vanilla latte.

I’ve seen comments below the articles I’ve read from teams of weapon-loving meatheads saying that people who buy these guns are trained in the ways to use them. Of course, I’ve also read in plenty of places that Gun-Morons are working on softening federal and state laws so that background checks on people who purchase firearms are more lenient. What these people who prefer using their triggers instead of their brains fail to understand is, a person’s intent with a weapon is not always easily determined, so the more investigation there is into the psychology and history of the gun-carrier, the better and more sure of the choice to arm them. These guys are constantly comparing themselves to cops, saying that cops make mistakes in judgment too, and therefore don’t see the difference between giving police and civilians guns. Extra thorough psychological, physical and emotional background checks are conducted on applicants, as well as there being tests to pass with perfect scores, before becoming police officers, which explains why they are charged with representing and enforcing the law. In any given hypothetical year, how many mistakes will police make, and how many mistakes will civilians make?

With lowered background checks, it is fully possible for someone to go through all the bootleg, shallow training civilian gun-carriers can put them through and be granted a shiny certificate indicating they are proficient in
killing people
defending themselves, and still decide to go on their own homicidal task. Other people can stop them with their own guns, only for the bullets to accidentally hit bystanders, not to mention the many ways a dedicated killer can simply get around being attacked by “law-abiding” gun carriers. Training your aim doesn’t stop people from panicking and moving, running into the path of a bullet instead of avoiding it, nor are guns the only way to stop crime1. As I’ve said, a room full of people shooting is not an ideal situation for lowering victim count.

All of these excuses, from “a gun takes seconds to access while the police take minutes”, to “I am the only person that can protect myself” all come from fear. Fear that they will walk into a situation with a violent offender where no one can save them. And that’s understandable, but it isn’t really the place in themselves from which they should be making decisions, is it? That fear is exactly what divides you from the police. Although both may get scared, a policeman is trained to be cool and calm and observant, working to bring a volatile situation to an end without violence. A civilian just reacts in panic. I can only hope that a large majority of businesses will act like California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Tea and Coffee, and refuse to let these nuts walk into their store with weapons. Links to articles on this are below.

1) Meaning, guns are small tools in the bigger movement against crime, not the movement itself.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Worship the Hero Worship

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World , Kick Ass, Defendor, The T.V. show “Fanboy and Chum Chum”. Heck, even the adaptation “Mystery Men” from years ago.

I feel like there’s this sudden influx of films not about super-heros, but about hero worshippers wanting to be their idols. Or, the films are no longer about mythical figures, but about the people who participate in the cultures these stories of mythical figures create. Or, sometimes they mock the movies, but underneath show homage to them.

I’m not entirely sure I’m interested in stories about the fans. Yes, the fans are important. Yes, I myself am a huge fan of the Batmans and Hulks and Matrixes and Star Wars, but the fans aren’t characters that can bring the bigger, more abstract ideas to life. Batman, for instance, explores revenge, insanity, and vigilantism vs. respect for the law. A film along the lines of “Kick Ass” can try to explore these things, but of course won’t take them seriously or will not be theoretically logical. I’m sure “Kick Ass” is not trying to be any of these things or anything more than comedic entertainment with commentary on being a hero.

The super hero films, particularly “The Dark Knight” and “Watchmen”, take the mythical figures and attempt to place them as an actual reality people have to face in the world. These stories bring unique and abstract issues to light. The other films usually just end up being about characters with fantasy worlds in their heads having to confront reality. I don’t know. I haven’t read “Kick-Ass” the graphic novel, but Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 95% approval rating. The writing and directing looks pretty shoddy, but I’m interested regardless. Perhaps this new sub-genre of hero films have something to say that I’m completely missing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Parental Advisory

A little while back, my father told me about something he witnessed while at a basketball game with my little brother (who was playing). There was another boy on my brother’s team who reportedly wasn’t playing hard enough defense or not passing or whatever. His mother, who was sitting in the stands watching, called that out to him. She told him to push harder, and in response, the boy gave his mother the middle finger. Neither the mother or father (who was also there) did anything about this. I, on the other hand, would shortly afterwards be on trial for assault and battery against a minor*, but this article at the Huffington Post says I would be wrong.

The article by Ellen Galinsky, about preventing aggression in children and refraining from responding to aggression with aggression, says that you have to show physical affection (hugs and pats on the head and s&%t), have to be vested in whatever your child is trying to do with themselves, reward them for their achievements.

I think any realistic person will say that raising a child has to be a mixture of love and discipline, serving the child but at the same time mentally and emotionally strengthening them to stand on their own, or to be civil and respectful people rather. Being warm and sympathetic and hippie to your child 24/7 fails to teach that child any kind of respect for anything, since their will is unhindered by any kind of discipline for destroying things or taking them or corrupting them in some sort of way or fashion. But also, you can’t completely invade your children’s will and thought. You must teach them to be able to assess decisions for themselves.

You shielding your children, keeping them ignorant and in fear of losing your love if they don’t follow your rules seems to me like a display of your own fear. Perhaps, for some parents, it’s easier to keep their children in the world of things they know themselves. They have not fully inspected or have come to understand the world, and so, are not fully aware of what will or will not hurt their child. But perhaps your child can teach you things; can come to understand things about the world that you would not perceive from your viewpoint.

I watched an episode of a reality show called “The World’s Strictest Parents”, where two kids, a constant martini-drinking and cigarette smoking girl and a cursing, disrespectful gay teenage boy from England flew to the American Deep South to live with two extremely conservative Christian parents. After the first hour or so that the Brits came into the house, there was sharp tension. The Christian father, who was strict on inspecting every piece of media, from songs on their children’s iPod’s to the T.V. shows they watched to the detail of every turn and stop their children made when out driving the car, went through the British boy’s bag and looked all through the pictures of his camera. Of course, the boy voiced his rebellious opinion about this, and all the father would say is that in their house they have strict rules about what content is there and what isn’t (the mother said that if she listened to a song on her children’s iPod during “inspection” and heard just one word she didn’t like, she would delete the song).

I’m not a parent nor a child psychologist or professional, but I am always a proponent of the belief that good ideas about subject come from brainstorming as well as the hands-on approach. And in some situations, a solution to a problem becomes obvious to both sides. The two teenagers were reckless brats and the parents would’ve been great Nazis during World War II. The personalities don’t have to crash together like this, because that seems to be about conflict. And I think to prevent this, there has to be understanding and civility between the parent and child. The child should respect the authority of the household, but the child should also have an opinion in things.

*I joke, but I’m trying to say that there would have been some severe disciplining for that.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Haiti and Hope

Just my rambling again, but many of the problems brought on by the earthquake can be solved in a relative cinch if everyone had the right hearts and minds.

3 months for temporary shelter and a year for transitional shelter in Haiti is the reported plan for recovery. How quickly this would all be left to emotional trauma, jarring memories and fodder for historians if we and they all worked together, instead of thinking about the self. I mean, nothing can allay the shock of the massive death toll for the communities, but I’m talking about getting the country’s infrastructure back to what may even be a better existential basis than there was before the earthquake.

And by “thinking about the self”, I mean the people who see items in a dilapidated apartment or destroyed store and hurt other people to get it for themselves instead of sharing the items. I’m talking about the profit and non-profit organizations from every country who swarm to Haiti by the hundreds (good thing) and compete with each other to do services for Haitian residents to get their names in the media, using up time to argue amongst each other instead of helping (bad thing). I mean the government arguing amongst themselves to see who will head the rescue effort and draw up a plan, instead of collaboratively drawing up a plan and just sending whoever is equipped to whatever function to work.

A friend at my church who works in engineering told me one chilly night of the different ways companies build foundations for buildings to stand up. He told me of there being a way to put something like wheels under a building, so when in a natural disaster, the building can just roll back and forth across the land. Or, engineers can put something like a spring under the building, so that when there is an earthquake, the spring can absorb the shock and leave the building intact for the most part. These things can prevent large disasters like the one Haiti has now, but they are costly and mainly given to contracts and projects that can afford them. Anybody with a heart and 7th grade education can see that these things should be standards that go into the construction of buildings in places such as Haiti, India, the U.S. west coast, wherever.

The Haitian government, particularly Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, is saying that they need emergency short-term relief. Housing for the people, safe water to drink and wash in and food. But looters who are still in this competitive mind set, who put three things our pastor talked about last Sunday (Take, First, Do)1 as their primary motives of action, antagonize the healing process and make things worse.

Besides flying into the Dominican Republic and taking available roads into Jacmel and possibly Port-Au-Prince, what can we do about Haiti from here? We can donate money and supplies. Of course now, there is negligence in that area as well. Money/supplies can sometimes takes years to get to the designated causes. In the meanwhile, things keep decaying. And even when the money gets to wherever, it is seldom fully spent on what it's supposed to be spent on, in addition to the fact that only a part of the whole sum actually shows up. So things only get half done. Roads are relaid but not sealed. Areas of debris are just left to rot. And no one, for some reason, can account for where the other chunk of money has gone. Sending the money in text, or giving it to representatives of organizations on the street asking for it is great, but I think we should also begin to find ways to see if the cause or organization is holding itself accountable to the promised tasks (somewhere or other, I imagine someone is reminded of Obama with that last sentence).

Whenever there is a disaster, people rush to find out ways to secure their own wealth, which puts national/global/communal security at risk. But I think that, the less you think about yourself, the quicker you will be restored.

1) Just take what you want; Me first; Do something just to keep busy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Forced on the Dole

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my bosses, a man of Hong Kong descent who drives from New Jersey to get here in the Lower East Side and manage employees. We began to, or I should say he began to, talk to me about a salesperson’s survival in the individual business we worked for.

The salespeople have a quota, a certain amount of sales that have to be made every month to be considered a worthy salesperson. I think, the (hypothetically) worst salesperson in there sells enough merchandise to make $50,000 - $55,000. To the impoverished and modest of heart, this would be a delicious annual earning [or maybe, just to me]………but it is not quota. There are (in reality) salespeople in there that make six-digit earnings, and others somewhat under that, and under, down to the 50’s. The mid-section of that whole spectrum would be the quota. If after a certain amount of months you rank in the bottom level, a manager takes you into their office to issue you a warning about staying on the bottom ranks, and urges you to be aggressive in attacking customers and forcing money out of their pockets for the sake of your sales increasing. If after another few months your sales do not increase, you’ll be “back out on the dole” as The Streets would say.

Of course, the problem here with the boss’s (who explicitly stated he’s only concerned with money and numbers, as is the person who runs the company) is that this shallow idealism crashes with reality and causes victims inevitably. Only about 10 – 12 customers come into the store per day. Half of those, if even that low of a number, go past the “window shopper” phase and actually buy some of the merchandise. The other half usually are returning stuff or canceling purchases. So, the salespeople, which number about 10, are structurally setup to step on each other for those 5 customers. Systematically, someone is forced to not make the cut for the next round. This kind of working environment is good………no, never good……..valid in a financially prospering nation where someone who doesn’t became some scavenger Spartan salesperson and just wants to make a living can fall and find another job somewhat quickly. Or more easily than they would in this economy, where forcing there to be employees for the cutting floor is ridiculous and anxiety-building.

There was a blog post on the Fox News website about how employers are swamped with hundreds or even thousands of resumes from people answering job posts that those employers put out1. Some companies have resorted to having programs on the computer that search for keywords in resumes and select those, then throw the rest out. One of the comments written on the post railed about how people who e-mailed applications were losers and that real people should be out networking with big wigs for opportunities. They railed on to say that people that thought things should just be handed to them had a really “false sense of entitlement”. And while I left whoever that was to figure out that this isn’t late 1930’s Germany, I started to think that if people aren’t entitled to a living (shelter, food, works), then this would mean that they’re entitled to being left out on the street to starve and have no input on anything. No voice or action. And if we’re to think that they’re not entitled to anything, we can deduct from this belief the subsequent one that there are people who are born to be meaningless to society. But I digress.

These kinds of beliefs and economic systems are setup for those who enjoy destroying other people’s living to make their own. I think it’s pretty obvious that this needs to change, but I feel like people are so used to things being this way that the word “change” frightens and unravels them, regardless of the fact that they know it would be for the better. Bloody hell, the creature of comfort will always be worse than the civilized person of revolt.

1) Why put out an internet post asking people to apply for a job, and then ignore them when they do? Jobs are scarce. If there is an open one and you ask people to apply for it, how many did you think you would get? If you don’t want people to e-mail or fax you their resume, why ask for it that way? Just to see who can get creative with getting your attention? Since when is the job hunt turned into “American Idol”?