Friday, February 28, 2014

Too Much Noise

I had a weird feeling the other day -- like the reaching of a limit. Some of the things I had written
Shel Silverstein
this week got attention, all at once (a lot by my standards, not by James Patterson's, of course), and a lot of issues were coming at me on a personal and professional level and I felt a little like I was being surrounded zombies had forced me into an alley with one of those caged lights swinging overhead. I felt the beginnings of a kind of mild panic.

I've been busy before. I have been overwhelmed before. But this was different, especially on the writing end. You spend time trying to develop an audience, so, when they respond, you figure it will be a reward -- and, it is, usually, but, it felt like a line had been crossed, all of a sudden. Coupled with the whole busy life thing, I guess it the "mild panic" sort of came in like a Ninja before I knew it.

(No -- this doesn't mean I want you to stop commenting on my posts. Seriously.)

It's a lesson, though. One from which I should be able to extrapolate some wisdom about my future self. I won't bore you with my conclusions.

Part of the panic was a metaphoric and literal noise issue. I find that when I cut some of the literal noise, that much of the metaphoric cacophony lessens, so I have been driving with the radio off. A half hour to and from work, no radio; no music. Decompression, if you will.

For me, it is like putting my brain in a hot tub with a nice sunset view. Sometimes we need to retreat, I guess. But I think it is more than that for me. I need to clean out some of the clutter lying in the path of my days. I'm starting to feel claustrophobic.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Weak Arguments About Valid Points

Alright. Deep breath. I'm going to do this.

I am going to set up carefully before I do it, but I know, regardless of what I say, here, someone will read this as a piece condoning the exclusion of gay people from the workforce. No. I am just trying to point out something that happens too much when people argue: flaws in reasoning.

Did everyone get that? Raise your hand if you didn't get that. Because if anyone responds to this by calling me an unfeeling monster who thinks it is okay to keep someone without a means of sustenance because of his or her sexual orientation, I am not responsible for how I may respond. No -- come to think of it, I will just delete such comments, though I have never once done that in the three year history of this blog.

So let me reinforce this: this is a post about logic in argumentation, not about a social issue, though a social issue is at the center of the argument in question. By attacking this argument, I am not saying that the gist of the point that is being made about the issue is not right. I am simply saying that the way that is is being argued is flawed.

Okay? Anyone still a little unsure? Just let me know... I'll wait.

Right. So, consider this meme I just saw on Facebook:

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Circus of Human Failure

You know the old story about the wizard who puts a spell on the well in order to enchant everyone in the village? The people fall to the spell, one at a time, until there is only one guy left and when he realizes that he is the "crazy one," after days of having tried to convince everyone that there is something wrong with the well, he drinks and is congratulated for finally having come to his senses.

I'm always reminded of this story when it comes to the old Sandburg quotation: "Someday, they are going to give a war and no one will come." Will this ever happen? Not if everyone is drinking from the well. (Or not unless the right wizard poisons it.)

Photo by Robert Capa; Spanish American War
So, here's the problem: war is absolutely absurd. It defies reason. It is something that should only happen in nightmares. Yet, we talk about it each day as matter-of-factly as we discuss the wins and losses of our favorite teams. Why?

Because although we teach our kids that war is a bad thing -- something to be avoided -- we don't go the extra step into convincing them, in their deepest hearts, that it is an abomination; a ridiculous, pointless, incomprehensibly stupid circus of human failure.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"You'll still know nothin 'bout me"

Fortunately, I have a wife who does whatever the heck she wants to, regardless of my constant spewings of what is incontrovertibly wrong about the world. I really, despite my strong opinions about things, always wanted to be married to someone who respects me and who listens to what I have to say but who doesn't feel obligated to subscribe to everything I think (or to pretend to). (My experiences in early life, let it suffice to say, have brought me to this point.) I need to express, but I do not need to control or bully. It could, very well, have come out differently -- again, based on past experience that I don't wish to detail.

"World's first selfie": RETRONAUT
This is all a prelude to my writing about something that my wife (who reads my blog every day -- love you, my little cheese-puff!) does participate in that I think is eminently absurd: the "selfie."

(No, I don't really call her that. Who am I, Torvald Helmer?)

Anyway: the "selfie." I just can't help it. No matter how ubiquitous it is now, I can't help but think it an absurd practice. Perhaps it is another step to my not-so-slow alienation from a world in which I am not-so-slowly becoming an elder.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Intensifying the Already Awesome: Why?

Original Paget illustration
Sherlock Holmes, on the current BBC series, Sherlock, is a "high-functioning sociopath." (He has said this several times throughout the series.) I love the show, but, as a repeated reader of the old Holmes tales, I can tell you that there is no indication of his being quite a sociopath. He is a genius, for sure. He is quirky. He has issues, including an addiction (one that was common in the era). But, of course, in order to make something work with a modern audience, the writers "amped" thing up. Also, the comfortable, often teasing relationship he had with Watson in the stories has become an intense, almost inexplicably strong near-obsession with the good doctor and his well-being.* (Spoiler alert: Holmes blows someone's brains out at point-blank rage in order to protect Watson's wife's reputation.)

Does story, today, need to be so intense in order to work? The Holmes stories have remained somewhat popular in their original state, so, it makes me wonder if we're not stoking a fire that is already burning plenty high.

Rathbone and Bruce (Watson as a dolt)

Every ad or promoted post on Facebook is billed as "shocking" or "hilarious." "Extreme" has been the catchword, in advertising, for everything from particular sports to snack chips for more than a decade, now.

A few years ago, McDonald's even went so far as to refer to a "decadent drizzle" of chocolate on their sundaes. ("Uh, yes, I'll have the Frozen Oxymoron Treat...")

I was watching the season finale of The Biggest Loser a few weeks ago. I vowed I would actually go back and count them, and didn't, but, the host of the show and the contestants must have uttered the word "amazing" four times a minute. (I don't mean this to be hyperbole: I really think that must have been the case; it was live -- this is what happens, I suppose.) "You look...amazing... What was it like living on the ranch?" "It was...amazing...I learned so many amazing things and Dolvette was...amazing."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sterile Does Not Equal Peaceful

You know how, in bad science fiction movies, everyone seems to be wearing plastic and tinfoil uniform jumpsuits? Maybe that was a more apt metaphor for the direction of our world than it seemed at the time (or that the filmmakers intended, consciously). I say "metaphor" because rather than a prediction that people would actually dress like that, maybe the art designers were subconsciously reflecting the direction in which they felt the world moving in terms of its mood.

Cold. Metal. Plastic. 

Ray Bradbury, in an interview many years ago, said he was out to "prevent the future." Near the end of his life, when asked about that, he said, "they didn't listen to me."

It feels to me like we are distilling everything; attempting to move toward a perfection of social interaction that we can never achieve and that we are attempting this by sterilizing every dynamic of human intercourse. 

I am empathetic to the idea of trying to create Utopia. Really. But, if Utopia means the total absence of varied viewpoints; of natural sexual dynamics; or, if it means that the average (groupthink-oriented) mind is going to continue to try to "interpret" the statements of others and find within those interpretations evil thoughts, I don't want to live in it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chasing Dinosaurs: On the Body Image Myth

Girls and body image: another problem caused by the magnifying glass of media. We know this; we talk about this; we post touching videos about it. But it seems to me to be another thing we can fix if we think more about the person and less about "the community."

For our daughters, we need to shut down the idea that TV and magazines are reality. I'm not just talking about telling them about Photoshop magic and the like. I'm talking about really showing them the the old cliche stands up: beauty is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder and it is not dictated by the eye of the photographer or of the fashion designer or of the producer.
John Singer Sargent

Men have a more varied view of feminine beauty than the mainstream media give them credit for. Sure, we all react to the Sports Illustrated models (are we not flesh and blood?) but, unless we are deluded fools (and some of us are, granted) we find beauty in many other forms and even in what others would have us believe is "imperfection."

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Joy of Being In Medias Res

Each night, my sons and my wife and I all say, before bedtime, what we are thankful for. To Karen and me, this is important for reasons that include more than just the theological angle; it's important in fostering an understanding, in our boys, of the things that are going right in their lives. I know, for one, there are times in my life when I take stock and realize how absurdly grateful I should be for the way things have gone thus far, even in the face of trials and the occasional sufferings... (We all have them.)

I don't ever want to be all slap-happy and google-eyed about it, though. And I admit it grinds my gears a little when I hear people say they are "blessed" -- sounds like they got a free gift that I didn't. (Admittedly, this is a flaw in personal perspective...)

While we are on the subject, though...

Wait... "We"? Sort of lame to start a subject and then use that phrase: "While we are on the subject..." I mean, I put us there. It's not like I just got lucky and something came up, at a party, that I was happy to talk about...

(Hold on -- this is going to be a rough ride, this blog post...)

In Medias Canoe.

Be that as it may, while I am dominating, dictating and wallowing in my self-abosrbed subject, it occurs to me how good it is to be in medias res. (Oh, give me a break -- it is one of the only Latin phrases I know. I even linked to its definition so I could look like a scholar. Granted, I used it literally and not in the literary sense...but that's not important right now...)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Horses' Legs

Horses' legs.


Elegant or silly?

If miraculous proof of God,

Proof that God can laugh.

Horses' legs.




Since science






Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hatred Versus Haha: The Battle of the Sexes?

Does anyone still think it is amusing to poke fun at the opposite sex? I think it is okay sometimes. I know that is horrifying, especially if you are cocked-and-loaded about the issue already. But that doesn't mean anyone has the justification to go to extremes about it. Sadly, some do.

Last night, my guitar teacher, who is a woman, followed up my long-winded, educationally-based explanation of why I was failing to master a particular technique on the guitar, by saying: "No. I think it's just because you are a man." I laughed. In fact, she was right. My dude tendencies were getting in the way.

Now, one could argue that, because I am a man, I have no problem being teased, because we dudes have had all of the good stuff for centuries. And I do understand why women would be more easily offended by stereotypes than we males, particularly if these stereotypes are ones that have helped to keep women subordinate over the years.

King and Riggs. She won.
But, I recently heard a woman call a group of men, who were making jokes on a Facebook post, "misogynists." The post (put up by a woman, in fact) asked how the plot of Lord of the Flies would be different if it were a group of girls, instead of a group of boys, were stranded on the island. Several men chimed in with over-the-top stereotypes and a female friend of the post-maker was offended to the point of calling the commenting men "misogynists."

Misogyny is a hatred of women. Talk about over-the-top -- especially when the woman who created the post was clearly looking for some fun banter about stereotypes of women, versus the ones about men that already exist in the book...

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Goofy Road to Possible Doom: On the Stupidity of Recreational Drugs

Now Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead. Another one on the list. Sad. Definitely sad.

But, you know, it occurs to me that no one would die of recreational drug overdoses if everyone would just stop using them.

I have always thought recreational drug use was, at best, silly. I'm not going to take some high-road moral stance about it. To me, it has always been embarrassingly inane to do something in order, simply, to make one's self feel goofy. It seems so damned puerile to me.

People will argue about the whole "opening of the mind" thing. Of course, everyone who is not someone who is trying to make a dignified excuse for making himself feel goofy is aware that this is nonsense. Drugs artificially open and expand the mind, then they leave damage and residual confusion and mental instability in their wake, if not worse. And, often, they leave people dead, in which state it becomes fairly irrelevant as to how open the mind is, what with it being non-functional. So there is that.