"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller
October 31st, 2008
The election is only a few days ahead now. If you haven't decided yet or know someone who hasn't AND they are leaning towards voting McCain, please forward the following links to them:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEtZlR3zp4c (or McCain's education in economics)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4egXbhSOhk (McCain undready and flip flopping on economics)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouKJixL--ms (a review of "fair and balanced" highlights of Fox's coverage of Obama)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioy90nF2anI - (McCain's "Straight Talk")
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5mdIPNB8t8 - (examples of the McCain Campaign's intentional and institutionalized slandering of Obama over the last six months)
While I respect every citizen's right to vote their conscience, I have a hard time believing anyone could watch these videos and vote for Senator McCain, especially if one has such a black & white perspective on the world. Flip flopping, bigotry, racism, accussations of terrorism, you name it, and the McCain campaign has gone there as of late. Is this really the person you would want sitting across the table from leaders from across the world?
P.S. For those who believe in the terrorist affiliation accussations you might do some research, the "friendship" McCain claims Obama has with certain x-terrorists...well, those are the same people McCain has given nearly half a million dollars to over the years in funding. So if we're to hold McCain to the same standard he holds Obama...well put it this way, what's worse: possibly being at a party with someone who once committed acts of terrorism or giving gargantuan amounts of money to said person? You tell me.
P.P.S. For those who love ghost stories tune into Coast to Coast AM tonight at 10pm PST for "Ghost to Ghost AM", a night of spine tingling true ghost stories.
October 24th, 2008
I stumbled upon this picture today while browsing photographs from one of World War II (one of which I loved so much I plan on framing it for my art room).
For those of you who don't understanding the meaning behind this photograph I'll explain. This photo was taken in WWII immediately after the liberation of France. To my knowledge everyone in this photograph is a French citizen. The man lifting the woman's chin is, I'm guessing, a member of the French Resistance (I base this from the armband). The woman, also French, is having her head forefully shaved as a result of her giving favours (most likely sexual) to the German occupiers.
Such was the scarlet letter imposed on those women who associated with German soldiers during the war. While I've observed this scene in various movies, such as Band of Brothers, this is the first actual photograph taken of the real thing, a woman punished for using her natural beauty to attract survival.
Many things churn through my heart and mind as I look at this photograph. Was this woman, who probably spent her evenings with Nazi soldiers, a traitor? Or was she, as I alluded to before, simply attempting to survive a war that left most people hunkered in bomb shelters, their stomachs grumbling for food? Did she sleep with her captors and if so, did it disgust her? Did she smile as she lay there making love...feeling raped? What did she get out of it? Food for herself? Her family? Perhaps protection? A safe place that likely wouldn't be a attacked, protection for her younger brothers and sisters? Perhaps she's of Jewish decent and her act, however you choose to judge it, kept her from being shipped East to concentration camps only rumors escaped from. Whatever the case, I view this photograph as an opporunity for compassion and understanding.
I wonder how many women were shaved in such a fashion. A hundred? A thousand? Tens of thousands across the entirety of Europe and Western Russia? I doubt there are any numbers on it. There are no documentaries detailing the lives of these women who, as so many others, made choices in order to survive--and one might argue, a more peaceful and creative strategy (one must ask how many thousands of Europeans now owe their existence to the consenting union of Nazi soldiers and the women of countries they occupied). True, sometimes the Hollywood film shows the American's driving Sherman's through the villages, people screaming with adoration, waving flags, and showering their liberators with hugs and kisses, sure you see women's heads behing shaved by small mobs of angry men, but never, in any film, non-fictional or otherwise, have I seen what happens to these women as they try to walk down the street to get a loaf of bread, completely bald, a signal to everyone of their transgression. How many insults were screamed at them? How many eggs exploded against their skin? And how many were raped by men loyal to their contries, rationalizing that there acts were legitimate and moral?
If I were to make a documentary, this is the one I would make. I would travel to Europe, hire translaters, and begin searching until I found a dozen or two women who had undergone such a penalty for the transgression of opening their legs for the enemy. I would want to hear their stories, understand why they made the choices they made beforehand, how they survived their punishment, and what their unique perspectives on the war, and life, are. I would apture this on film to break through and tell a story of WWII that the world hasn't heard, to humanize these woman, and to make two main points: we are all trying to survive and we are all human, deserving of respect, dignity, and understanding.
October 23rd, 2008
Most of you probably aren't aware but the past few weeks have been the hardest of my entire life--and that says a lot for someone who's survived a decade long Depression. I haven't really written about it here and have only opened up to those few I knew would provide unconditional support and love. Events culminating on Tuesday evening forced me to make a heart breaking decision, the hardest choice I have EVER made, and it was only the support of those who love me, a decent serving of Grace, and the strength of someone I love dearly, that allowed me to ride a tidal wave that I feared would destroy everything I am, everything I value, everything I hold dear as a human being and as an individual.
While the difficulties I have faced are not over much of the weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Sure, things are not as I wish them to be and there are many miles to go before I sleep but there are promises to keep; I am dedicated to mine for the rest of my life. As to relating with those who lack the basic integrity to keep their promises, to those who demonstrate they are more interested in their own well being than anyone else's, to those who use slander to promote their agendas, to those unwilling to honor financial debts, to those who manipulate, who pressure, who guilt trip, who yell, and who let dishonest words escape their lips: our eyes are open. Truth lights the way and hope keeps our dream alive.
I wish to share something I read in an article that psychologists have determined as the five most important behaviors leading towards happiness. These are dedicated to someone I love dearly, someone who has made me proud and earned my respect:
Connect:Developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support
Be active:Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will make you feel good and maintain mobility and fitness
Be curious:Noting the beauty of everyday moments as well as the unusual and reflecting on them helps you to appreciate what matters to you
Learn:Fixing a bike, learning an instrument, cooking the challenge and satisfaction brings fun and confidence
Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding
This will be my path, may you make it yours.
October 22nd, 2008These are things I learned while listening to the Rush Limbaugh show this morning:
1. Communism = Socialism = Racism
2. Senator Obama will raise taxes on most of Americans.
3. Senator Obama will dismantle the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist one.
4. Liberals are responsible for the financial crisis
5. All media outlets besides Fox and the Rush Limbaugh show are owned and run by lying liberals.
6. NPR and other news outlets are actively engaged in "suppressing the truth".
7. In general liberals are not interested in the conservative point of view (and want to suppress it).
8. Liberals are actively engaged in voter fraud and tampering.
9. Conservatives who criticize Governor Palin are morons and not "true conservatives".
10. It's a good thing to call liberals things like "stupid", "immature", "ridiculous", "absurd", "scared", "idiots", "tree hugging hippies", and so forth (after all, these are "facts" that can't be disputed).
11. It is a negative thing to be an educated intellectual and we should dismiss the views of such people because they're all a bunch of snooty know-it-alls who are only interested in satisfying their weak egos.
Here is my rebuttle:
1. Communism != Socialism != Racism
2. Senator Obama will lower taxes on most Americans. Only those earning more than $250,000 a year will have their taxes raised.
3. Senator Obama has never made any statement indicating the capitalist system should be dismantled, only that it should (at least in terms of the economy) be better regulated. He has not even been in favor of socializing health care.
4. Republicans in power during the Reagan and Bush administrations, including John McCain, actively deregulated the financial markets and most economists, both liberal and conservative, agree that this, in large part, lead to the current crisis.
5. NPR is a great counter-example. 40% is owned by the government which is comprised of both parties and the other 60%+ is owned by the public. In regard to the latter, NPR has a significant following from the Republican and Democratic parties as well as Independents, Green Party members, Libertarians, and so on.
6. I find it interesting that Rush's show is the only one where I hear someone repeating "This is the truth, I'm telling the truth here!". My personal experience is there's an inverse correlation between honesty and the number of times someone says you need to believe them because "these are the facts" and "I'm telling you the truth!!!". Why don't sources such as the BBC, CNN, and NPR need to remind us they're giving us the facts? Simple. They don't need to. Go to their sites and quickly find supporting stories, links, and "facts" so you can verify the correctness of their reporting yourself. Likewise, you can easily verify their "facts" through the AP or other resources. The same cannot be said of Rush's "facts".
7. I rarely meet a liberal who isn't interested in all perspectives, including the conservative one. Likewise, most liberals I know understand the conservative point of view but that is generally not true in the reverse. More on this dichotomy in a bit
8. In the last eight years I haven't heard any substantial evidence to support this. However, there has been significant evidence that conservatives have been regularly and systematically involed in disenfranchising voters, especially in areas that include a significant number of poor and coloured minorities. For instance, they own the electronic voting machine companies and refuse to allow other parties to confirm the correct functionality of their machines (which it has shown can be easily tampered it--by members of any party). In 2000 and 2004 there is significant evidence Republicans actively engaged in voter tampering, fraud, and throwing out legitimate votes. On the flip side, what one member of Acorn did was engage in "voter registration fraud" and they did so to get paid for work they didn't do; this is largely different from what Republican's are making it out to be and is not much different than a McDonald's worker stealing out of the till when management isn't looking...except Acorn was looking, caught the perpetrator, and promptly fired them!
9. I find it interesting that Republican's who buck the party line are quickly labeled and thrown out of the tribe...hmmmm, speaking of being able to accept alternate points of view...
10. Can anyone say "projection"?
11. This is a great way of dismissing anyone who might know what they're talking about and likewise allows Rush to reach out to those who haven't had the opportunity to become more educated. Sorry, education is not a sin and the appeal is one to vanity, artificially separating "regular" Americans from those fortunate enough to have a college education. We wouldn't dismiss the opinion of a rocket scientist when we're, say, spending a billion dollars on a probe to explore Mars, so how does it make sense to dismiss an educated economist simply because they're a liberal "elitist intellectual"? The logic doesn't follow; dismissing the opinion of the educated and informed is simply a Republican form of class warfare based on nothing more than fearful tribalism.
I've often wondered what the difference between the conservative and liberal brain is. Me? I'm proud to be a tree hugging liberal. I enjoy hearing other points of view and value digging, turning over every stone, until I have an educated opinion--and then I continue digging because learning is an always evolving process. On the other hand conservatives I have spoken to tend to have views based on ideologies and traditions that do not easily allow for open debate or the inclusion of facts that do not conform to their world views. Why is it so difficult to have a conservation with a conservative I do not agree with? I understand their point view. I agree with parts, disagree with others. Why do I not generally receive the same simple courtesy in return?
Take the following psychological study at: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v10/n10/abs/nn1979.html.
The abstract states:
"Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern."
In layman's terms, or roughly translated, liberal's brains are open and able to base new opinions on new and often conflicting information while conservative brains tend to base opinions on habitual patterns, i.e. on what they already believe to be true. Other studies have demonstrated that the conservative behavior is similar, neurologically, to a drug addict's; in other words, they are more likely to rationalize their behavior to promote proper dopamine production in their brains while liberals are willing to go without the dopamine in order to examine information that causes cognitive dissonance (i.e. the feeling that one is being pulled in two different directions). (Personally I believe liberals experience more cognitive dissonance when attempting to avoid the truth thus they must resolve the lesser of the two uncomfortable sensations, that is, examine the new data, resolve the conflict, and establish a new, better informed, world view, thus resolving the greater discomfort, that is, the sense that they're avoiding what's in front of them; an interesting side question: why do most Buddhist lean towards liberalism?).
As a side note, there are liberals that do not fit into this mind set. I have, for instance, known a member of PETA who's beliefs were so strong (and arguably "terrorist-like") that no alternate point of view, no matter how factually based, was worth acknowledging. Likewise, I have met a few liberal "Rush Limbaugh"s who are unwilling to believe any Republican has a valid point of view and that they're all involved in a deep conspiracy to destroy all government programs and run off with all the money. While more rare I find these liberals equally frustrating to have any kind of open and intelligent conversation with as their conservative dopple-gangers.
My world view, while far from objective, is much more open than that.
Traditions and values are important, however when those values and traditions conflict with reality and when our decision making process is primarily based on them...that's a recipe for disaster. Can you say George W. Bush? Rush, as a perfect example of this mind-set, has demonstrated that psychological strategies such as the appeal to authority, the appeal to vanity, unfounded character attacks, and tribalistic "us" vs. "them" arguments, are very effective in convincing those who's brains aren't wired to examine new data, but these are not useful if our goal is to create a more positive world based on objective facts. Isn't that the world we want to give our children? One where we examine every fact, difference, where we listen to the experts, whatever their leaning or education, where we open ourselves to alternate ideas, and only then, move forward towards solutions? Don't we want to create a world without prejudice, hatred, ignorance, and spin?
Listen to Rush, but with a grain of salt. Same goes for NPR, the BBC, etc. Think. Listen. Examine. Question not only what you learn but your own beliefs. Wash, rinse, repeat.
P.S. A few hours after writing this entry I stumbled upon the following news article (in other words, I'm not the only one recognizing "the Right" is using code words to obfuscate racist and biggotted views these days): http://voices.kansascity.com/node/2493
October 16th, 2008
On thing you'd have think I'd have learned by now is to never commit to writing anything on a specific day. As a general rule I tend to do my best writing when I feel passionate about whatever it is I plan on writing about and right now Star Trek, a series I was passionate about growing up, isn't exactly the first thing on my mind. However a promise is a promise, even if it's a few days late, so here goes my best.
1. Winning over the fans
Obviously the most difficult thing TNG had to do is win over fans of the original. Classic Trek at the time was several decades old and while there were only 76 or so episodes these were burned into the minds of the fans. TNG did this by keeping the important remnants of the old show while distingiushing itself. For example, instead of a 5 year mission the new crew was on an "ongoing mission". Instead of "Where no man has gone before" it became "Where no one has gone before."
2. New-unique characters
People loved Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, so how was TNG to make characters that might become equally loved? After watching the first episode I, as many other Trekkers, were a bit critical. Superficially it seemed like they'd just chosen to create a bi-racial cast (as the original) and try to simply replace the previous characters (esp. Data--the name itself which I found completely rediculous for the entire first season). The scripts stumbled around a bit but by the third season every character had become polished and believable. Data, while similar to Spock in many ways, was his own unique being. Picard, while being a strong and passionate leader as Kirk had been, was more "heady" and arguably more idealistic. For the first time we had a first officer (who wasn't doubling as the science officer) and this created an entirely new dynamic. Worf gave us the sense of cultural diversity, Geordie moved down to Engineering, Crusher came and went, and Wesley--well, there's a reason there was a chat room called "Die-Wesley-Die-Die-Die". And unlike the spin-offs I didn't feel there was an underlying assumption we, as viewers, should simply love the characters because they wore Star Trek uniforms; they actually had to earn our respect.
3. New technologies
TNG was set about 70 years after the expiditions of the original enterprise crews so it was necessary to add new technologies to the universe. The communicators and halo deck are two of the major examples that came to my head. This gave the show new life and gave the writers new areas to play in. Unfortunately, it has always seemed to me that over this period the Federation made very little technological progress, a characteristic that was endemic to the later spin-offs.
One one the show attempted to reinvent itself was through the use of profanity. While I grew up in a family where cussing wasn't abnormal I didn't like this aspect of the first season of TNG and fortunately they changed this. Now, when watching some of the first season, I cring whenever I hear someone say "damn" or "hell". That said, one aspect where the show demonstrated its strength was the ability to acknowledge where it had "fucked up" and improve upon it. This is, I feel, an integral aspect of good writing.
5. To hell with it...To be honest I'm not really interested in writing about why TNG succeeded. It did for many reasons including there was enough time between it and the original series, there was good writing, a strong cast, and so on. What I want to write about, which I plan on doing before the end of the month, is some high level ideas for what I believe will make a new Star Trek series succeed and possibly even blow the previous encarnations out of the water. It simply means some hard work, much thinking, writing, and creativity, and to get the ear of Rick Berman. Again, I know that's a little cocky of me to say I'm capable of, but Star Trek is something I grew up loving and as one of many fans who has grown to dispise Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, I am dying for a new show that has the balls to get it right, just as much as the latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica has. That said, I hope that somehow, someway, someday, Berman stumbled upon my next entry and is open to contact me: I'd love to share the whole speal with him and, given the opportunity, put a team together to create a program that would make Gene Roddenberry proud.
P.S. I don't know why I wrote that. Next time I'll simply get to what I'm passionate about writing about, in this case, my ideas for a new Star Trek series (or at least the elements I believe it MUST have to succeed).
October 8th, 2008
On the evening of September 28th, 1987, I was home alone laying in front of the TV with a freshly popped bowl of popcorn. For some reason I was alone that night which was unusual for me, being in sixth grade at the time. I lay there, head propped up by a pillow, in giddy anticipation for the first episode of a new television program that I had been waiting all my life to see: Star Trek the Next Generation's two part pilot episode, The Encounter at Farpoint.
I grew up on what I lovingly refer to as "Classic Trek". Must have seen every episode two dozen times by 1987. I loved the stories which taught lessons about integirty, friendship, hard work, and what it means to be human. I loved Kirk, his ability to lead, fight for a good cause, and bring people with widely different points of view together. I loved McCoy, who's passion and down to earth human qualities reminded us that what we build today will be a part of the future of our species. I loved Scotty, who could damn well fix anything. I loved Uhura, who could always be counted on whatever the situation. I loved Sulu and Checkov, who demonstrated hard work, unique talents, and were team players. And my favourite, of course, was Spock who encouraged me to learn, be curious, and likewise I empathized with his being different than everyone around him and as a youth emulated his strategies for dealing with these difficulties. And lets not forget the incredible music which was so well done that even non-Treckers recognize it today.
There I was laying on the floor, television tuned into channel KPTV-12 out of Portland, Oregon (back when Rambling Rod was still alive and kicking), nearly salivating as I waited impatiently for the commercials to end and the show begin. And then I heard the voice of a new Captain, someone who many would come to love more than the original, Captain Jean Luc Picard, I saw the globulous lines of a new Enterprise, and my excitement doubled as I was introduced to new characters, situations, technologies, and the like. It clearly wasn't the only Trek but I knew in the first five minutes that it would steal my heart for life.
Forget for a moment that TNG (The Next Generation) would immediately be compared to the original series which was and is enormously beloved. Forget for a second that the series became a success and likewise resulted in a number of movies. Forget that for a few minutes and imagine you're there with me on the carpet watching TNG for the first time.
Why did it all work and more importantly, can it be done again?
Tomorrow I plan to discuss why the series became a success and the obstacles everyone working on the show had to overcome to, "Make it so." Next I plan to explain why the other spin offs, specifically Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and finally Enterprise, lost increasing numbers of viewers, putting the Star Trek franchise in jeapardy (which may or may not be made worse depending on how the upcoming movie pans out--and I think most fans will agree what they've proposed, while an exotic idea, is extremely risky). Finally, I plan to articulate a high level proposal for the series which I believe would give it new life and make it just as successful, if not more, than TNG ever was. Do I sound cocky? Absolutely! But then this isn't your average idea or half-cocked fan-fiction and I honestly think it's worth Rick Berman's attention.
Anyway, for now I must rest. Goodnight.
October 7th, 2008
Not too long after the U.S. government loaned $85 billion dollars to bail out AIG executives of the company headed to the St. Regis Resort where they spent more than $440,000 on a huge party including $150,000 meals and $23,000 at the spa. You can learn about this at ABC News.
Almost a decade ago I worked for an unnamed dot com company. Most of our income was a result of wealthy investors and we had a long way to go before we'd demonstrate a profit. And yet one spring the company went to the Oregon coast for a weekend for a restreat at a golf course resort.
Given our financial status and likewise the volatile status of the dot coms the outing didn't exactly feel "right" to me but it was required as we'd be attending an occupational seminar on Saturday. For one thing, I'd been through a dozen layoffs (having survived all but one) immediately after graduating from college so anything that threatened the long-term viability of my paycheck made me nervous. And who, I might ask, decided to spend thousands of dollars for a golf course? I had no doubt then (and now) it was probably a decision made by the upper-ups in the company, executives who enjoyed engaged in what George Carlin referred to as an "evil elitist sport". Lastly there was the ethics of the whole thing: did we have any moral right to spend thousands of our investors' dollars so we could enjoy an open bar?
Our company, as you might have already guessed, didn't survive much longer. Indeed, not too long before 9/11/2001 I was back on the streets, as I had been just a year and a half before, looking for another job. It would not make sense to point at this one weekend as the cause for the company's final demise. Compared to the millions budgetted every year we'd only spent pocket change. One cause was that the stock market wasn't doing well and investors were becoming nervous and even if we'd survived until September the terrorist attacks, which caused the entire market to tank, would have been our final death blow.
No, the end of this company which was comprised of dozens of smart and talented folks who really wanted to succeed, was, in my opinion, the result of two distinct but related characteristics: a lack of focus and sometimes questionable ethics.
The company's lack of focus was readily apparent my first day at the company. I arrived early in the morning, met with the HR representative, and then was dropped off at my desk which was empty of a phone or computer, the later being somewhat necessary given I was hired as a computer programmer. I sat there for some time waiting for my manager who I'd met during my interviews a few weeks before. Every now and then I'd see him rushing about obviously stressed. Now truth is I was scared to death. I'd just gotten a divorce a few months earlier, experienced a mass layoff not too long after, had spent the last two months spending every last penny available to me driving between Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, interviewing with a number of companies including Adobe and Microsoft, and I'd just moved from Eugene where I knew a few people to Portland where I knew nobody...I was scared. Finally, after some internal talk, I gathered the courage to track down my manager and ask him when I'd get a computer and in the meantime what he'd like me to do. His answer? I don't recall, but it was something like, "Your machine will be here soon, uhm, go ahead and read up on something having to do with computers or something."
I didn't get a machine for two or three weeks later. During that time I met many of the various co-workers running up and down the hall looking stressed and unfocused. I began to wonder if I'd made the right choice, should I look for another job? Sure, I was making good money ($40k a year--twice as much as I was making in Eugene for the same level of work)--and I needed that money badly--but I'm not the kind of person that likes to get something for nothing. I wanted to learn, contribute, make a difference, help the company be successful, so on my second day I arrived with a large programming book and began to learn Microsoft Visual Basic 6 (I had not, prior to this, ever written in a visual or event driven language thanks to the "theory" based Computer and Information Science program at the University of Oregon). Once my machine arrived, an IBM Thinkpad 660E (beautiful machine which is now in my dad's care), I began tinkering with VB6 and wrote my own simple MP3 player with a custom skin covered with flames.
After a few months I began to see the company didn't really have direction. Small groups of developers were working on very different projects, communication was often poor, and some were clearly there to get a pay check and work on their own things (isn't that what a Master's program is for?). By this time I was put on the research team and sat in a room with two or three others and a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. I spent most of my time learning new technologies and every now and again my manager would ask me to research such and such, I'd spend a few days or a week learning about it, then write a white paper on whatever technology or methedology so the application developers could incorporate whatever it was into whatever it was they were working on. Later, having programmed installs in the past, I became the build engineer and install writer, got an office to myself, and focused on insuring our products could be quickly compiled and delivered to what customers we had. I typically worked from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed (yes, I took the laptop home) and often spent my weekends working after all, I didn't know anybody in Portland and my fear of the company failing kept me up nights.
I firmly believe, to this day, if everyone in the company had been focused on the same goal, specifically one product that customers might want (instead of one they wouldn't, which was the case, in my opinion, of our last ditch attempt to keep things afloat) then our chances of surviving would have easily tripled, if not quadrupled, and I might be working there to this day.
What I've just described is a problem with many companies and is usually solved by good leadership.
The other cause of the company's collapse was questionable ethics.
Now before I go into this I want to say the thing I loved most about the company was the creative atmosphere and talented people I worked with. Work was fun. We had a pool table in the lobby which people used during breaks. Many of my co-workers played instruments so it wasn't uncommon to hear music coming from somewhere down the hall. Our internet usage policy, as the CEO or someone else had once said, "I don't care if you're surfing for donkey porn as long as no one else sees it and you're getting your work done every day." Last but not least, quite a few of us had bars in our offices so a cup of coffee with a shot of Jack Daniels wasn't unusual first thing in the morning (again, as long as we didn't over do it and got our work done). While many who've heard me share this have used my description as a quick and easy scape goat, this actually kept the moral of the company high, regardless of what financial straights we went through, and won the commitment and devotion of every employee. Me? I absolutely loved that I could dye my hair purple, red, and blue and come to work in ripped Levi's or my kilt, it was a benefit that made working on the weekends sometimes worth all that extra effort.
The problem, as I saw it, was in how money was often spent. Need another computer? Sure, just fill out the proper paperwork. Need eight? Just ask your manager, you'll probably need it next week. Want a Palm computer? Why not? (I actually received one when I got the laptop but never used it for anything but playing cribbage) People hungry? Head to CostCo and throw it on the company credit card. Want to golf for free? Bill it to the investors who are betting thousands, if not millions, that the company won't tank.
Focus and ethics are, in my view, necessary for any company--any type of human organization, government, or relationship, to succeed. So as the U.S. economy begins to tank I'm not entirely surprised that executives use bail outs as an excuse to party. Why not? The focus is not the customers, the focus is not long term success for investors, the focus of the rich and powerful is to live the American dream has become polluted. Where it was once about making one's dreams come true through hard work it is now about getting as much money and power regardless of the consequences, regardless of who gets hurt, the American dream has become selfish, short sighted, arrogant, and all about the now. A bigger house, two, three, seven houses, a nicer car or two or ten or fifteen, a yacht, and the coolest home theatre system on the block. And what do we do once we realize almost every American is in debt to a form of oblivious and frivolous "self betterment"? We teach it to our children who cannot find happiness without a new cell phone, the latest game console, a new car, we hand these things to them without many expecations and when they screw up? Well, throw them a party.
As a society we have forgotten what has made this country great, we have forgotten how to truly become better people living with intention, integrity, honesty, and all the other character traits that make a person, an organization, a company, or a government, whole, satisfied, and healthy. We've lost the ability to make good choices because it doesn't matter unless someone else pays for our choices.
My fellow Americans, we have lost our way.
October 6th, 2008
"I wanted to communicate: 'Yelling louder does not help me understand you any better! Don't be afraid of me. Come closer to me. Bring me your gentle spirit. Speak more slowly. Enunciate more clearly. Again! Please, try again! S-l-o-w down. Be kind to me. Be a safe place for me. See that I am a wounded animal, not a stupid animals. I am vulterable and confused. Whatever my age, whatever my credentials, reach for me. Respect me. I am here. Come find me."
These are the thoughts and feelings of Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. just after she had a major stroke damaging major portions of her left brain, a response to how many people treated her during the period where she was unable to interpret language or communicate with the outer world.
It is no different for the rest of us.
October 3rd, 2008
When I was 18 or so I read Adolph Hitler's book Mein Kampf. I didn't read it because I was a neo-Nazi, I didn't read it because I was racist, and no, I did not read it because I was bored.
I read it because I wanted to know what the most reviled human being of the century's thoughts were.
I got a few weird looks too as I used it as "reading material" during my breaks while working at McDonald's. No one ever said anything and I doubt, knowing how "goody-goody" I was that anyone would have thought me a racist. Me? I had it all planned out, if anyone asked I'd just say, "I'm curious," but truth is back then I was fairly anxious about doing anything to rock the boat, socially speaking.
I don't recall much but I do recall this: the book was several hundred pieces of pedantic and irrational rambling from a deeply wounded individual trying to pin all his (and his country's) woes on groups of arguably innocent people. Did I believe he believed what he was saying? Absolutely. Did that mean he was actually thinking rationally or basing his views on solid facts? Absolutely not.
Having shared that I must admit something to you which has plagued me as of late, a shortness of patience, an inability to easily listen to people who are not (in my view) "thinking".
One such conversation occurred the other day. I'd mentioned that I didn't like Obama's unwillingness to support gay marriage, a stand I firmly believe is more about keeping votes than supporting something he probably knows is right and just. A conversation was then started in which it was stated to me that, "Some people just have different views, it doesn't make them wrong."
Call me crazy but 2 + 2 = 4, it will always equal 4, and it will never, no matter how much someone believes or prays or hopes, equal 3.14 and a pink and purple striped ponie on a unicycle. Likewise, while bigotry is a point of view (one that I can't argue doesn't exist), it does not mean their belief is objectively true, based in fact, or socially healthy.
And so we come to this evening's entertainment, Bill Maher's Religulous, a film that is premised by Bill Maher's attempt to find some type of rational explanation for religious beliefs, particularly those that superscede objective fact and those that often lead towards ignorance, bigotry, racism, genocide, and religiously motivated ostracism and violence.
I must first admit a disclaimer: I like Bill Maher and generally agree with his views which I generally find well thought out and unbiased by the need to satiate others'. That, however, doesn't prevent me from being objective: I spotted at least one factual flaw in the movie with negated an entire interview he was having in regard to Iran (specifically the quotation used to assert that the Iranian President wanted Isreal wiped off the face of the earth which is a complete and probably purposeful mistranslation of him saying over the course of history Isreal will only be a footnote--a far cry from the war rant it's been made out to be by the Bush Administration).
What I liked most, and possibly needed most from this film tonight, was the call to think, to dig, to investigate, and to research until we have something that more closely represents "the truth". What can I say, I'm a truth junkie, and it's always bothered me how quickly most people will settle for what's comfortable over what's accurate. Examples in the film include but are not limited to the widespread use of virgin births in cultures throughout history and how that and other related mythical facts demonstrate a clear evolution of religious stories from one culture to another. Another is the investigation into science and using reproducible phenomena to guide our senses rather than believing the stories we heard as children simply because someone we trusted taught them to us (I believe this is the logical fallacy of authority). After eight years of listening to Bush explain that our foreign policy is largely based on Biblical interpretation I, for one, found it refreshing to hear someone say it's time leaders with nukes started using their brains a little bit more than their often incomplete understanding of whatever religion they follow.
Granted, I didn't agree with his final conclusion that there is no place for "healthy" religion in the world, but I do agree that religion without constraints, Faith without rational thought, is a mistake that has, does, and will, lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths.
Bigotry is bigotry, even if Leviticus says laying with another man is a sin. And for those that don't know Leviticus is actually an ancient document detailing the legal code of an ancient society, it was never meant to be a moral guide, and while much of what it has to say contains great wisdom for our day most of it is irrelevant and sorely out of date. For those who would quote it, take a look at what your clothes were made of; wearing two different materials? Sinner!!! I doubt any modern Christian would seriously want the laws prescribed in that book applied today as it would mean death to almost everyone (or at the very least a serious beating and/or banishment).
I think Bill's correct that it's time we moved on and found better ways to relate to one another.
One last thing before I head to bed, the modern idea of "sin" has evolved over two thousand years and has been contorted to mean something entirely different than was the meaning used by the Jews of 2000 B.C. In Hebrew the word meant "abomination" or more accurately the act of breaking the law. Historically speaking, speeding is a sin, cheating on your taxes is a sin, and so on and so forth, it's just that we call them misdemeaners and felonies and we don't stone people for not yeilding anymore.
Cha cha cha.
October 1st, 2008
If you read my journal I have a request of you. Read the following proposal by Michael Moore, a proposal about the current economic crisis which makes enormous sense regardless of whether or not you like Moore or not. Read it then immediately e-mail or call your local representative, senator, governor, or whoever you can, and tell them that you absolutely do not support what's going on in Congress right now. You should not be made to bail out the fat cats who have created the current economic crisis. Make your voice heard and put a stop to this insanity!