Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A man, a plague, a book, and a journey long overdue

Borders is going out of business! Well, it has been for awhile. How does a 40-year old company with 19,000 employees go bankrupt? "A series of missteps".

It's funny how easily that simple phrase can be used to characterize any number of tragic failures, business or otherwise, that have come and gone. Take the Black Death for example. Who knew that not rushing to bury the rotting enemy corpses that were flung (by them) into your town but instead making your swift escape would bring a disease so contagious and lethal that it would end up killing a third of the population of western Europe over the next 2.5 years? A series of missteps, indeed.

Or take President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an otherwise meritiorious individual who did well beyond his duty for the good of men, who, through a series of missteps, ordered the internment of 120,000 people in the interest of "national safety", in spite of the fact that many of them were legalized immigrants and even US Citizens? A series of missteps, indeed.

Then there was this compilation of letters which became a book, from a man called Dietrich Bonhoeffer. At a young age he wanted to be a psychiatrist, but later became convinced of the need to reform the church and its institutions found in Germany. To that end he studied to become a pastor and theologian, which eventually led him to join the Abwehr, a counterintelligence organization that plotted and executed events that have been popularized in a number of films, most recently Bryan Singer's Valkyrie. Through a series of missteps, his connection to Abwehr was uncovered and he was moved from a prison to a concentration camp, and ultimately to his death. The correspondence he had (which the prison guards happily facilitated, seeing as how he was so likable) while in prison with his family and loved ones formed the basis of many modern evangelical and church-building philosophies...a series of missteps, indeed.

It makes me wonder about my own story. What journey have a I taken that has led me here? Is it so simple? Am I simply resigned to sameness and mundanity for these days until that day in which I look back and simply say, "a series of missteps, indeed"? I don't know, certainly. But there is a story left in the back of my mind, half-written, penned in some foreign tongue, waiting to be translated and read and spoken to those who may wander within range of its voice. Is it worth hearing? I can't speak for others, but I can't seem to stop hearing it. I can't seem to stop it from coming back to the forefront of my mind, and I must stop pushing it back there, hoping it will lay down to rest. Perhaps one day it will, and I will have lost my chance to tell my story, and fall simply into line after line of those who have fallen before me.

A series of missteps, indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Can't Stop, Fridayin', Fridayin'

Ok, sincerest most seriousest apologies for any of those who are reading this. I am about to mention a viral video that you may or may not be aware of, after which you have now become aware of because of my mentioning it. And for that, I apologize, most sincerely and seriously!

The video I speak of can be found here. If you are too lazy to click through a link, I've also embedded it here:

Okay, breathe. Breathe. After an experience like this, the best thing to do is to not react. I mean, what's the use of reacting, really? She's just a kid. Remember that. The car in the video is automated. Her friends are all underage. They can't even have driver's licenses. What are they doing driving a car? And those dresses. Who lets their 13 year-old wear clothes like that to a house party teeming with other similarly dressed kids doing things that only intoxicated adults would do, including record a slow-motion music video featuring underage girls and evocative auto-tuning? Is this girl being exploited? Is this a joke? Is this some sort of advertisement for a clothing line, or a beverage, or a life-changing new philosophy?

Nope. It's none of that. This is one girl's honest attempt at stardom. Produced by the recently established Ark Music Factory, this music video by Rebecca Black is a sincere and real dive into the deep end of celebrityville. According to some, she's made it out the other end. According to her, she's just doing what she loves. According to most, this is everything that's wrong with today's music, the worst song ever, and its stealing the limelight from legitimate, talented musicians.  A rather small minority though, is saying that the aftermath of it all is actually the worst part.

Personally, I'm just partyin' partyin', yeah

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Being Misunderstood in the Best Possible Way

I recently had the opportunity to read through the entirety of "Brave New World" in a single sitting. I would call it more of a privilege, but I don't want to alienate any of my readership more than I already do with my various rants and introspectives...

Not that I had much else to do on a 14-hour plane ride, but still, it was far from a chore or a bore to read the novel cover to cover. It was also the first time I had ever read it and, though I don't recommend doing so on a regular basis, I felt it was a great way to do it. Attention span deficits aside, there are so many novel-reading experiences that feel vast and epic, but I think this is in large part due to the fact that they are read over long periods of time, during which our minds attempt to fill in those blank spaces (in terms of novel-reading) with relevant or speculative information. It adds to the fiction, so to speak. But the original work itself actually remains unaltered. So, in other words what I'm saying is that most novels actually have a very narrow scope, but tend to engender a larger vision, not because of its content, but because of the nature of the way it is consumed. Having read through "Brave New World" in one sitting, I felt that I was able to better understand the narrowness of it all without getting caught up in the possible inconsistencies of its fiction or the fabrications my mind may have created while away from it.

You may disagree with me, but luckily this is MY blog, and not yours (though you may leave comments if you like!). Still, back to the point, the novel's main point is that technology, science, and logic's eventual end is the dehumanization of people for the sake of a perfect society. The most interesting sensation I found myself feeling during my reading of the book was not disgust, enlightenment, or other such emotions others have felt, but in fact inevitability. This was in fact one of Huxley's goals in writing the book. In the 1989 edition, Huxley writes in the foreword,

But Brave New World is a book about the future and, whatever its artistic or philosophical qualities,a book about the future can interest us only if its prophecies look as though they might conceivably come true.

From what I have read in other analyses and essays about the book, this feeling of inevitability, so subtly woven into the narrative and dialogue of the book, often goes unidentified. However, I submit that the feelings of disgust, shock, satisfaction, sadness, and even disappointment experienced by many readers of this book can be directly linked to this very sensation. The sensation of inevitability. Perhaps another word to describe it is verisimilitude.

Though, as he also mentions in the foreword, the verisimilitude of his story is questionable at best, because it leaves out elements he felt were reasonable and important to include in any prophetic vision of the future. Still, Huxley managed to create a believable, conceivable future in which his characters and his story unfolds.

If you ever get a chance, read through it, and tell me what you think.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

perhaps I've been too blind, please pay it no mind

I'm watching a video about "the social animal", humans. It's interesting, engaging. It's, ironically, somewhat alienating as well. I know that it seems intuitive to believe that seeing and hearing a talk about people would make me feel more connected, more human than not. But it's not. It's making me realize how little people know, how little I know, about people in general. When I'm enlightened about mathematics, or chemistry, or even psychology I feel an immense amount satisfaction, as though I've opened a large dusty volume that's been closed for a thousand years and, to my great elated surprise, find that I can read it easily and that the ideas contained therein are intelligible and in fact aligned with my own.  But not right now. Right now I feel so, so disappointed.

I feel disappointed because, if what this presentation is saying is true, then humans have fallen a long, long way from where they once were. Is it so hard to talk about emotions now? It is, I know. Is it easier and more natural for us to talk about our favorite TV shows, music, movies, and books, all while expertly depriving all of these conversations of our true feelings about them? Definitely. Part of me feels that David Brooks is being purposely facetious when delivering this bleak news, that somehow it's a joke, and we all know it. But I also think he knows that it's true. It's frighteningly true that we've, that I've grown up in a world that emphasizes shallowness over profundity, that emphasizes materialism over substance, that emphasizes the present over the future. And we are reaping what we sow. If what he's saying is true, that our attitudes today, our selfish, materialistic, consumerist ideas and actions, result from this type of worldview, than I think it gives even more weight to the argument presented to us in Ecclesiastes 3:11 --

"He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end."

Man, social animal? Perhaps. Man, eternal animal?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

forget the format, I'm going in deep

We treat women like rice because they stick to all our meat
We like cars and PCs because they use electricity
We can't write no papers or poems or autographs
But we supplement our words with abnormally accurate pie graphs

What, what, what you gonna say now
Chinese, Japanese, ain't the same anyhow
we can't always be seen, but we rock in every scene
even though we take our time we still can find
the best ways to succeed

Like copying ipods, iphones, ipads and what
and dropping phat beats that have already been cut
by the blacks and the mexicans but man who gives a damn
because when you hear it in the club it's like, man oh man
Then on the TV it's like, Ken Jeong beeeotch!

Quakes don't stop us, the shakes don't stop us,
We drive fast cars because no brakes can stop us
CNN even said it, tsunami's gonna regret it
even with 10,000 lost, we still don't let it
let it break us down, we got 1 billion plus and an army on the way
still don't mean we forget about those who passed away, no

We perpetuate tradition like the Lunar C
We cook our own food, so we don't lai see
and though we didn't wanna fight, so we didn't win the war
but we still livin' the good life, and now you know the score

Asians. Beotch.

peace out