Friday, March 29, 2013

Doctor Who Is What Twilight Should Have Been

Below is a guest post, written by Colt Baldridge    

   Of the many pieces of popular culture today, few have enjoyed the broad success of the Twilight franchise. What began as four novels has grown into a multibillion dollar franchise and has gained the fascination of the multitudes. The tale of Edward, Bella, and the paranormal culture they live in shall not soon be forgotten.
            When I first watched Twilight in 2009, I walked away with an overall dislike of the film, not because it was a romance with vampires, but rather because I didnt believe Twilight had the necessary caliber to be considered quality media. It wasnt until three years later that I began watching Doctor Who and started noticing an increasing number of holes in the vampire movie.
            The root causes for Twilights mediocrity are several. Primarily, the characters are shallow, lacking the necessities of a compelling personality essential for a developmental arc. While the Edward that expresses undying affection for Bella gets screen time to no end, viewers get very little exposure to an Edward full of personal flaws in need of correction. As Matt Inman of The Oatmeal wrote an intelligent article explaining how Twilight, the book, works, Edward is the manifestation of perfection. This person, who has excellent looks and superhuman abilities, cares exclusively for Bella, the fumbling, awkward high school sophomore. But, for all of the time spent depicting his positive qualities, very little is dedicated to fleshing out Edwards character flaws.
            Maybe this was due in part to inferior acting, but viewers are not given much to believe that the vampires of Twilight are creatures to be feared. Even though Edward explains to Bella that he is the worlds most dangerous natural predator, there is little else he contributes outside of that particular scene to demonstrate that side. Never, while in a moment of coupled bliss, is Edward shown struggling to stop his internal predator from devouring his love. Viewers do not come to the realization that he is a savage time bomb whose bloodlust for Bella puts her in increasingly greater danger with each passing day they spend together, for that flawed characteristic is handed to them through unconvincing exposition. And because the crucial element that could have made Edward a complex character is so effortlessly handed out, the viewer is robbed of the emotional experience that might have come with the revelation of what he truly is.
            As a result of this wasted potential of character flaw, the relationship between Edward and Bella suffers as a result. Instead of being a platform for character development, their romance exists for the sake of itself. Edward intensely listens to everything Pants [codename for an under-characterized Bella] has to say, even if she's bitching about she had diarrhea on Christmas or her preferred method for cutting a sandwich in half. writes Inman in his article.  As far as the reader is concerned, Edward cares about nothing in the world more than Pants. What the author has done is created a perfect male figure - a pale Greek statue which the reader can worship and in turn be worshipped by.
            This relationship could have been a springboard for a variety of social topics, much like what George Romero did with the zombie genre. Given that Edward is over a century old and Bella is sixteen, Twilight could have easily addressed the topic of pedophilia, either as an in-story conflict or as a social message. Yet, nobody, either human or vampire, ever questions their difference in age. Meanwhile, Edward and Bella spend the night cuddling in her bedroom.
            As with the pedophilia, the film could have made an excellent commentary theorizing what might happen when an immortal vampire falls in love with a normal human. Eventually, Bella would have be torn from Edward by the hands of Death while the vampire lived on in perpetual youth. Additionally, the movie could have enhanced this theme with the implication that Edward could have had several lovers throughout his lifetime due to his immortality, each meeting the same fate Bella would have to inevitably face.
            In general, the Cullen family doesnt seem to be managing their immortality very well. Having enhanced speed and strength along with telepathy and the ability to tell the future, not to mention outstanding physical looks, tremendously increased the Cullen familys opportunities to achieve anything they wished, and with immortality, they had an unlimited amount of time, an incredible resource itself. Yet, of all the career paths available, they chose to continuously repeat high school. Unless the family had a particular interest in free education, this seems to be a waste of time and resources. Considering this logic hole, Twilight thus seems to adopt a Panglossian logic; if Edward had not repeated high school dozens of times, he would not have met Bella, the love of his life.
            Ultimately, Twilight is literarily bankrupt. The plot finds entertainment value in an unrealistic version of high school romance while neglecting those elements which would have made the story more worthwhile of the viewers time.
            Meanwhile, Doctor Who excels where Twilight fell short. The story is populated by fleshed-out characters who build upon each other for development. The Doctor, a charming, enigmatic Time Lord, takes viewers on a journey spanning all periods of time, encountering exotic creatures, notable historical figures, and ideological extremists; and showing the vast expanse of the universe. At their cores, Twilight and Doctor Who share a similar premise: a normal girl meets extraordinary man who changes her life forever.  However, the approach each production takes is vastly different. While Twilight focuses on the relationship of that premise, Doctor Who, much in part to the brilliant writing done by Russell T. Davies, puts an emphasis on populating its universe with fully developed characters, which in turn makes for a more fulfilling story.
            By far the most powerful theme present is irony. Like Edward, the Doctor is powerful.  Being a Time Lord, the Doctor is universally acknowledged as a part of one of the greatest races that have existed, and as a result carries considerable influence wherever he travels. But unlike Edward, the Time Lord has an outgoing, conspicuous personality and conveys an overall likability. His compassion toward the human race puts him in danger on a regular basis, but he shows undying loyalty for his companions as he shows them the expanse of the universe and beyond.
            However, his jovial attitude and antics are not wholly without motive, for the Doctor possess his share of negative qualities. Despite all of the variety of life the universe has to show, the inescapable fact remains that he is the last of his kind, another major theme in Doctor Who.  Below the smile and underneath the charm, The Doctor is an individual haunted by a war that drove his species into extinction. No matter where he flies or how far back or forward into time he goes, he can never escape the ever-present loneliness.
            Thus is why he chooses to bring people along for his journey; he is a character who needs company. Each of the Doctors companions has their own their own three-dimensional personality with a believable background. Rose was working as a department store clerk, living with her widowed mother. Martha was a medical student amidst a dysfunctional family going through a drama-charged affair. Donna lived a completely superficial life whose height of existence was the new yogurt flavor or the latest reality show. For these women, the Doctor provides an escape from the hum drum of reality to an extraordinary tour of the cosmos, experiencing adventures that the rest of Planet Earth could never hope to have.
            Yet, as amazing as the journey is, the show constantly reminds viewers that the adventures have to, and inevitably will, come to an end. The inherent danger of travel in the TARDIS cannot last, and the companions become burned as a result of standing too close for too long next to the fire that is the Doctor. Never is the question if these companions will meet their end, but rather when. Rose gets trapped in a parallel universe, unable to reunite with the Doctor. Martha grew fond of him during their travels, but he never showed indication of likewise, prompting her eventual departure. While saving the universe, Donna gained the mind of a Time Lord, but such a consciousness could not exist within a human brain, and the Doctor had to resort to wiping all her memory of him. This is the irony found in Davies Doctor Who. No matter how wonderful, how fantastic a journey with the Doctor is, the voyage always comes to an unfortunate end, leaving the Time Lord once again alone.
            Qualities like these are what make Doctor Who superior to Twilight.  The Doctor and his companions are more compelling than Edward and Bella could be, the more talented writing provides a more interesting, solid plot, and the acting talents of David Tennant and Matt Smith (who played the 10th and 11th Doctors, respectively) surpass what Robert Pattinson did with his character. Should someone decide to rewrite the Twilight Saga long after we all are dead and the copyright has expired, putting the books into the free domain, he should take notes from the man in the blue police box, and maybe Twilight will one day be accepted as quality literature.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Christianity, Women, and Game

There were some gems over in the comments section at Vox Day's Alpha Game post Game and the Decline of the Church that I couldn't resist to repost.

King A (Matthew King):

Game and Christianity are held to be at odds for three reasons.

1. Individual interpretation. While Christianity is a fairly straightforward set of "I believe" principles made explicit in the Nicene Creed, game is largely an empty vessel into which enlightened chumps pour their frustrations. So you get citations of Roissy's Poon Commandments for lack of a formal dogma, and they are set against uneducated assertions of what constitutes proper Christianity (a confusion resident in that insipid neologism "Churchianity," another all-things-to-all-people term).

As a result, you will see monomaniacs like GBFM on Dalrock's site preaching sophistry about how his understanding of game is irreconcilable with his understanding of the church.

2. The proper use of power. Game narrowly understood as evolutionary psychology deployed for the purposes of promiscuity has the greatest currency on the internet. Of course it does; "game" (what used to be known as savoir-faire, aplomb, suavity, confidence, mastery, sangfroid) and the "alpha" attitude (what used to be known as manliness, leadership, and thumos) was first put into practice against modern feminism by pick-up artists, motivated by pussy. This is how revolutions in ideas proceed. They begin in dark corridors motivated by low passions, because it is the potential satiety of those passions which give them the courage to be transgressive against the prevailing regime. But eventually the ideas are refined when the initial courage reaches enough of critical mass for it to be expressed openly, more generally, and without fear of reprisal. For a while euphemism and "dark arts" and samizdat are essential.

But, as in all matters, the Christian is suspicious of the use of power, though not allergic to it. Game is the first hint of a new, paradigm-shifting power, distinguished by its application to picking up drunk coeds. Since its modern rediscovery is rooted in the pussy pursuit, the cunt hunt is regarded as central to the creed. The Christian is enjoined not to sin, but he is not prohibited from wielding power. So the Christian will have disagreements about the ends to which game power should be applied, particularly since the undisciplined endless tail-chase of better orgasms is unworthy of an incipient power with the capacity to fell the cultural tyranny of our age, feminism.

This Christian approach leads to disagreement and confusion about whether the power of game is at odds with Christianity itself. But there is no contradiction between Christians wielding game for righteous purposes any more than there is between Christians wielding firearms in a just cause. That said, ignoramuses on both sides will insist on an eternal incompatibility.

3. The Christian roots of feminism. Without Christianity, women are chattel. Period. They were a man's property everywhere before Christianity obtained, they are his property everywhere that Christianity has not yet obtained. Christianity is the revolution in theo-political thought that universally calls for (among a very many other things) the dignity of women.Of course, we have recently deracinated the faith from its divine soil and subtracted the Christ from Christianity. The result was the sprouting of secular substitutes which must end up, as Nietzsche taught, withering in the nihil: Marxism, feminism, environmentalism, pacifism. Absent the grace of a divine foundation, every -ism eventually devolves into a fight to the death for power.The first Mosaic commandment is, "I AM the LORD your God..." The first Christian commandment is, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind..." These precede more specific directives and thereby frame those ancillary applications, such as "Do not murder," grounding them in the most essential thing. The secular substitutes such as feminism believe they can begin with the unaided assertion to "love your neighbor as yourself" independent of that grounding, or with the declaration that "all [wo]men are created equal" without referring first to "Nature and Nature's God," which dignifies it as something more than a fervent and impossible wish.

Christianity therefore shares many of the ends of its secular substitutes. But absent the understanding of how Christianity diverges from feminism at their essences, most will see the shared goals and assume both creeds to be in alliance. This is certainly true with evo-psych atheist PUAs who have no mental acuity to distinguish among whom they regard as their allied enemies.

It is a damnable weakness for MRAs and PUAs and MGTOWs and all them to contemplate the equal (infinite) dignity of women, simply because they are beleaguered by a feminism that has usurped the name of "dignity" as an instrument to reduce men. Can't risk giving aid or comfort to the enemy! But in the last analysis, we are all made in the Imago Dei. Women have dignity qua women within their submissive role, just as men become "no longer servants but friends" of their Lord by submitting themselves with all their "heart, soul, strength, and mind" to Him. These subtleties confound the game evangelists who adopted their creeds through half-baked seminars and websites, creating binary categories and inflammable straw men. But within those subtleties are the elements of reconciliation 

And from Vox himself:

Everyone understands that men are fallen, even the Churchians and feminists. But the Churchians and the Average Frustrated Chumps believe that women are less than entirely fallen and that they are the moral superiors of men rather than the fallen moral inferiors, as both Game and Christianity teach.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The morality of cursing

There has been a minor eruption in the interwebz on the morality of cursing.  Specifically, the Christian ethic with regards to the use of cuss words.  Is throwing the f-bomb OK, or unequivocally wrong? 

First, I note that I don't like hanging around foul-mouths. They're often annoying, and, simply put, don't know the trade  But right now I will delve into the morality of it.  Here it goes.

There is no specific verse in the Bible that forbids swearing, only warnings against speaking “dirty and unwholesome” words.   The question then, is whether a cuss word need be a dirty word.  Obviously, there is a substantial amount of material evidence that many acts of cursing are immoral by the Biblical metric, evidence that is so abundant it would pointless to cite.   But if most are wrong, are all?  Consider this verse from Ephesians:

4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
There you have it.  The standard by which you judge the morality of your words – any words – is whether it edifies. 

Now here’s the question. Have you ever been edified – encouraged, inspired, built-up – when you have heard a curse word used in one fashion or another? I sure know I have.   Sometimes *crap* and *heck* just don’t cut it.  Moreover, it’s amusing to see many anti-cussing Christians liberally use euphemisms in place of cussing (darn, crap, etc.) as if it was any better.  Well guess what, it’s the same thing. The thought is there, the mental attitude is there, and people know exactly what you’re saying.  Putting a * instead of the appropriate letter (spelling the s-word like sh*t) doesn’t elevate you on some moral high ground.  It may be more socially acceptable, but, and it pains me to have to point this out, acceptability is not morality.  (That doesn’t mean there’s never a place for the * or -.  I still use them, because manners and good-faith still matter). 

Actually, let me qualify that one.  There are two elements to the edification metric.  When you speak, you affect both others and yourself.  The end goal of words is to edify both.  Yelling *crap* when your frustrated is little different than yelling the s-word if 1) your mental state is the same and 2) the effect it has on other people is the same, as per the apostle Paul when he says do not make your brother stumble.  With regards to 1), we must have OWNERSHIP of ourselves, self-control in all things, especially in what we say. If swearing means victory of the flesh over the spirit, the prevailing of bodily impulses over your conscious, then it’s wrong.  There is no action that doesn’t affect one’s character – not one – because even the most trivial thing you do is either an exercise in self-control or indulgence.  And if character is the ability to do the right thing even when one doesn’t feel like it, then character is made through self-control. 

As for 2), there are times when using a euphemism has less of a negative influence than spouting the real thing,  particularly in front of younger, more impressionable kids, much more so than say, if you were with the military.       

So, while the overwhelming majority of cussing is an abuse of the tongue, and is thus immoral, there are times when it produces a positive result.  For me personally, I have many pithy motivators that I recite to myself for the purpose of spurring a specific mindset or action. This is called auto-suggestion, and some of them contain swear words. A particularly effective one runs in the voice of one of my role-models:  

“You got one life to live, why wait tomorrow to start it? Right the fuck now! Today begins, tomorrow continues, and it never ends, until you’ve reached your goal and crossed the finish line, with your hand held victorious.” 

Could I just say friek? Sure, but it simply wouldn’t be as effective.   It wouldn’t produce the same sense of urgency.   In this case, the f-word doesn’t tear people down or represent a cancerous state of mind.  It’s just a word. And like all words, it can be used for good and evil, some just one way more than the other. 
Swear words are extreme tools, be careful when you use them.  In most cases using them is wrong, (not only wrong – they can make you sound like a moron, because most people who cuss liberally are tools),  though in other cases they are appropriate, according to the need of the moment.  But the problem is usually cussing too often, not too little. Many people need to be chastened for swearing too liberally while rarely does one need to be chastened for swearing too little.

Exercise self-control in your speech, maintain a positive and healthy mental attitude, and edify others by your words.  Swearing should be used to fit in that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hard times sow opportunities for greatness

I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the characters of the late-19th/early 20th centuries, individuals such as Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Einstein, Andrew and Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and Theodore Roosevelt.  Although it may just come from the perch of hindsight, it seems like there really were more great heroes at that time than there are now, unless you’re inclined to idolize the likes of Beiber, Pitt, or Lebron James that is.  

I believe the reasons for this are twofold: First, industry was exploding.  Unfettered Capitalism unleashed atomic levels of potential energy within industry.  In a matter of fifty some-odd years, the West was transformed from a mostly rural, simple, village-like complex into an electrically-powered metropolis where the sky really was the limit.  For the first time ever, both the economic and epistemological conditions conspired together to create an innovator-friendly climate, as there was great economic incentive to produce as well as a vast but reachable sea of knowledge waiting for grabs.  To illustrate the latter notion, look at the modern physics community; despite the best and brightest minds laboring for decades, no significant physical theory has been developed with any predictive power since the seventies, with part of the reason being that the remaining knowledge is simply too complex for the human intellect to grasp .

Second, times were tough. With two world wars, a Great Depression (along with many lesser recessions), widespread plague, and revolutions churning left and right, the world was an interesting mess.  But with great challenges come great men to meet them.  Primal cues, the environmental pressures that threaten our well-being and sometimes our very survival, provoke extreme reactions, ranging from suicide to the highest levels of triumph. 

This is why I’m relatively optimistic about the future, not because I believe things are going to be just fine, but because of Man’s ability to overcome the adverse.  It is almost axiomatic in this sphere of thought that the world is in for tumultuous times.  The economy isn’t getting better any time soon.  Feminism is still castrating the drive of men.  American industry is evaporating, leaving blue-collared workers unemployed.  Racial tensions are intensifying.  Technology, even with all its miracle-working powers, is stabbing its double-edged sword into the souls of people.   And the current Ruling Class, in what seems to so reliably befit its character, is blindsided by the debacles created by them and their parents before them.   Much of this is out of our control, for not even the most dedicated central planner can align circumstances entirely to his will.

When the Jews were bused into the concentration camps en masse, they were stripped of all their possessions; their clothes, books, furniture, reputation, property, status, and everything they had worked for were expropriated by their Nazi oppressors.  They were reduced to their primitive, naked existence.   
There was one thing, however, that the Nazi’s could never take away from them, and that was their reaction to their plight.  Philosophers from Jesus Christ and Marcus Aurelius to James Allen and Napoleon Hill have harped about the boundless powers of the mind.  Our thought life is everything.  Rudyard Kipling says it best in poetic fashion:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating….
If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you…
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

The Powers that Be may screw us over to no end.  They may corrupt our cities and our tribes .They may take everything we have.  The proles may continue pull us down into their narcotized bliss. But the one thing that will thwart all their efforts to enslave us is the same thing that gives us inherent power as human beings: the power to choose our thoughts and reactions through self-control. This is the most pure and noble form of power there is.  The ruler who reigns above his subjects with an iron fist but possesses no power over his flesh is the juiciest and most ironic exemplar of impotence ever endured.      

There is a story about a preacher working on an idea for a sermon. It was a rainy day, and his wife had gone shopping, so his little boy Johnny, restless toddler that he was, was anxious for something to do.  He begged his father so the preacher finally thumbed through a magazine to find something for his boy when he came across a map of the world.   He then scattered it on the ground after ripping it to pieces. “ There” he said to Johnny, “if you can put the pieces back together, I will give you a quarter,” thinking that handing down this tedious task will give enough time to work on his sermon.  But within a mere ten minutes Johnny knocked on his door with the puzzle finished.  “Son, how’d you put it together so quickly?” the preacher flashed back.  “Oh, it was easy. On the other side was a picture of a man. I just put a piece of paper on the bottom, put the picture of the man together, and flipped it over.  I figured that if I got the man right, the world would be right.” His father smiled and handed him a quarter.  “And you, my son, have given me my sermon idea for tomorrow: If a man is right, his world will be right.

There is much to recommend to this idea.  The future will be marked by great hardship, that much is a given, but we don’t have to see it that way.    Even though poor prospects are customarily met with dread, it would behoove us to take after the triumphant man, who sees the future not as something to be dreaded but as a world teeming with opportunities. Our mental attitude is everything.  That is what dictates the destinies of men.  The individual with a negative mental attitude will rail at the world about the injustices he suffers, pointing the finger at others as the source of all his problems.   He will surrender his power to the world by letting it corrupt his thought life; if he finds himself to be a victim, it is only because he has allowed himself to be victimized.  On the other hand, the individual with a positive mental attitude, when he witnesses injustice and calamity and strife, will acknowledge their existence but nonetheless harbor pure thoughts. He will overlook the negatives because he is too busy working with the positives, however scarce they may be.      

His reaction won’t be marked by depression, indignation, or hollow rage, but by inspirational dissatisfaction.  Hard circumstances will only push him to work harder.  It is circumstances like these that sow the seeds for great men.

It is all of a piece then; self-improvement and pessimistic politics go hand-in-hand.  Whether one endeavors to transform the system for the better or simply wishes to shield himself from the radiation, the first thing a man changes is himself.   The steveo/manophere’s fascination with improving one’s social standing (game) and health (Paleo diet) is but a consequence of their Jeremiahian outlook (although they would do well to put more emphasize on self-control.  I guess the hedonism gets in the way of that.)

The solution to our problems is a profoundly personal one.  And it is something we can all do.  Instead of seeing it as a hellhole for us to fall in, see it as an opportunity to grow, lead, and shine.  It’s the same old choice: the Dr. Pepper or the six-pack.

Let us not give up hope for the future.  Instead let us build fortresses in preparation. And thank God we did because we were ready when the storm came.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Arts of the Cultivator's Lifestyle

A recurring theme this blog has been relaying is the inadequacy of a consumerist lifestyle.  The problems with which are more than economic; this isn’t some plea to “create more than you consume” because of economic justice or to play fair in the capitalist game.  Economics has nothing to do with it. Because despite the fact that most people create more than they consume by the economic definition (selling one’s labor for the market price), more than a handful of Americans feel the misery of a consumption net surplus because their minds are bent toward getting the next material fix, not in creating something.  They neither derive a sense of accomplishment from the economic value they produce nor use the pay they receive toward the act of creating.  That then is what determines whether a lifestyle that is consumerist. 

But consumerism is the way of the mediocre.  It’s the lifestyle that stresses free enjoyment via entertainment instead of achievement through blood, sweat, and tears.    It’s the path of short-term gratification with zero long-term benefits.  Thus, as I hinted a few blog posts back, the extent to which one is successful relies on how well he steers clear of soul-crushing, myopic materialism. The truly happy man then fills his day with work towards an endeavor of material achievement.

So, unplug the tv and video games, and hold off on buying the next item on your shopping list, because if you want to be a player in the game instead of a spectator, you better incorporate at least a few aspects of the creator/cultivator’s lifestyle.   Below are examples of endeavors creators spend their days doing.
  •   Play a musical instrument, even if you don’t perform.  Remember, you’re trying to improve or to create something.  You’ll find that even though it takes effort to learn and improve, you will feel mentally empowered after a practice session for that very reason.  Performing is a double bonus that also gives an amazing high.  
  • §  Draw for fun.  So instead of toying with your iphone when you’re waiting at the doctor’ office, pull out a pencil and drawing paper and start sketching, either a figure from your imagination or something in your surroundings. 
  • §  Write habitually.  Keep a journal and a blog where you document your thoughts, experiences, and fantasies.    Your written musings shouldn’t be for some descendent living 150 years later marveling at ancestral genius, or even for present readers.  The benefits to writing are in the process itself and the sense of achievement it brings.
  • §  Read constantly.   While not an act of creation per se, reading cultivates the mind, providing the necessary knowledge and inspiration to accomplish any endeavor of life.  And if you don’t say you have time to read, I don’t want to hear it.  I carry a book with me everywhere I go – squeezing a few extra pages here and there – while others hang around idle.  Moreover, saying that is complete BS, pure and simple.  Each one of us is allotted the same amount of time as everyone else.  It’s never about time; it’s about priorities.   That excuse is nothing but a method to rationalize your laziness.  If you’re sane, then you read, because there is no way you can figure everything out all by yourself.  Just think of this way:  If knowledge is power, and if there is a near-infinite amount of knowledge ridden in books, then if you don’t read, you’re a tool, vulnerable to the multifarious abuses the world will scrap you with. 
  • §   Compete in sporting games or races, because winning feels so good.
  • §  Start body building. There’s a reason people love working out, and it’s not just about the vanity in the mirror either.  It’s the high you get when you put conscious, labor-intensive effort into creating a better mind and body. 
  • §  Have a hobby that involves building things with your hands.  A few such hobbies are woodworking, pottery, gardening, building models, or tinkering with machines.  Overall, just build something you’re proud of. 
  • §  Don’t just cultivate your own life –make an impact on others by assuming a mentorship role.        
I could go on, but the general theme leaps out, giving the reader examples that form a clear, crystalline understanding of the things creators spend their time doing.  These activities scare the amusement-seeking American because they require work, intelligence, and discipline, even as it is from this very reason that the ambitious individual so actively engages in them.  A sense of accomplishment and self-worth comes from avoiding the easy and partaking in the difficult.  The cultivator then has little need for indulgences because he has lifted himself up on a higher plane of existence, where his pleasure is derived from the nurturing of his soul and the reinforcement of his self-worth.  His is the lifestyle that revolves in a virtuous circle.

 You may harbor doubts about surviving from the consumerist sinking ship, but be consoled from the examples of others who have thrived on in dangerous waters.  If they can do it, you can too. And I applaud anyone who makes that leap.     

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Importance of Setting Daily Minimums

If you are a normal human being, then you've probably had goals that you’ve been struggling with.  You climb and climb, but no light shows itself at the end of the tunnel.  But more often than not, the light remains elusive because we stay put where we are, lacking the consistent effort to practice day in and day out.  It’s easy to work hard for a week, but laboring for months and sometimes years for a pursuit that isn’t even necessary at the time requires a soul that lies on a higher echelon of caliber.  So most of us endeavor to push our boulder up the hill, only to give up half-way and watch it roll back down. 

In this post, I’m here to relay a specific method that will empower you with the consistency to roll that boulder all the way up your chosen hill of achievement.  Here it goes:

Set a daily minimum – a short, easy-to-do minimum.  So easy that, no matter how busy your day is, you can’t possibly have a BS excuse for not doing it.   I’m talking 10-15 minutes, the time it takes you to take a dump.  An alternative would be to set your minimum on a different metric other than time.  For example, instead of writing 15-30 minutes per day, write 150-300 words a day. 

Now, if you have any ambition at all, then you better being doing more than your minimum. A lot more.  But the point of this is twofold. First, setting a minimum breaks unwanted inertia.  Some days you just don’t feel it, so the only way you’re going to get off your ars is if you know you won’t have to do it very long.  And who knows, once you get in the rhythm, maybe you won’t want to stop.  Second, making your decision to fulfill a daily minimum beforehand, not susceptible to the momentary whims of the day, you’ve multiplied your productive labors considerably.  Let me explain.  Everyone is allotted 365 days a year to work on their goals.  However, depending on the person, as many as 100 days are wasted just because we are either too lazy or too busy doing other things.  This is why setting a minimum is so important.  It turns those 100 some-odd days of inactivity into 100 days of practice and improvement.  Those days may not be filled with much, but that’s another 25 hours on your craft – and more if you add the synergetic effects of consistent practice and subtract the regression inherent in inaction.   

Minimums are even more effective when applied to areas where your ambitions are merely modest.  If writing, playing music, or art, to name a few among many, are only endeavors you have no aspirations to be great of but nonetheless things you want to be somewhat decent at, then take a meager 15 minutes to work on them.  You won’t be an expert, but you’ll be pretty darn good, especially if you hack at it for several years. 

Obviously there are caveats -not every anvil lends itself to beating every sunrise.  Lifting weights is one example where one or two rest days per week are necessary.  But most activities can and should be partaken in everyday for a period of time. 

This isn’t some magic formula to mastery – you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that.  It’ll simply provide the benefits of consistency and more practice as well as fight the oxidizing residues that come with slacking off.  

One last note.  You should be doing this already, but write every thing down. See how long you can keep it up, and take pride in not letting down.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amusing Ourselves to Death

     It’s been twenty seven years since Niel Postman wrote his excellent book Amusing Ourselves to Death.  And while it has sold a quarter million copies, its influence has been marginal, as America’s love-affair with the TV has only swelled to new heights since Postman first decried it.   But if Postman attempted to reverse America’s favorite pastime, one cannot fault him too much for failing, as stopping it’s tide is about as difficult as preventing a flood with a bucket of sponges. 

     Why is this the case?

     Because if there is one problem with American’s, it is this: We are addicted to amusement and entertainment. 

     Every educated high-school kid should have read both George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.   Although both of these authors warned of totalitarian control, the dystopias they articulated are profoundly different.  Orwell described individuals being oppressed by outside, active control.  Huxley, on the hand, described individuals voluntarily forfeiting their rights in return for circus and bread.  If the people don’t mind the State dictating their lives, it is only because they have been narcotized into bliss.  The question is, which scenario will pan out, if one at all? 

     Postman argues that the answer to this question does not revolve around which policies the Government will implement, but rather the environmental influences technology will exert.  Specifically, he argues that is the Television that will ultimately prove Huxley right; if we do ever get swept into oblivion, it will be because we dance and dream into it, rather than march into it single-filed with handcuffs.   

     In his indictment of TV, Postman rips to shreds the notion that all technology is “morally neutral.” Technology does more than just increase economic efficiency; it straddles intellectual and moral implications as well.  The specific medium (technology) a society uses for its inter-communications has radical consequences for the level of discourse it has. A strictly oral culture will feature different legal and intellectual structures than a culture dominated by the printing press, which in turn will be different from one dominated by TV and radio.  For example, if one were to settle a dispute in an oral society, one would seek a seer who had memorized thousands of aphorisms, which he would cycle through until he found one that is applicable to the dispute.  In a world with the printing press, a dispute would be settled by consulting a lawyer who had devoted his lifetime to studying the written, systematic law. The world of TV would do the same, with the added benefit of televising it for entertainment. 

     The technological medium also exacts its toll on the national discourse as well.  The written word allows someone to convey far more complex concepts than the spoken word.   The printing press changed the world by flooding it with novel ideas, complex concepts, and thus created (relatively) rational discourse. The medium not only spread the available information to a wider audience, it changed the character of the content as well.  In the case of the printing press, the character of the content laid the groundwork for advancing civilization. 

     The advent of TV also had consequences for society.  When information can be transmitted at the speed of light, the news is going to be far more trivial and present-oriented (more ephemeral and less important) than when it takes a week to send by messenger.  And information that is clouded by a vast array of visual images will be different from the information contained in a book.  Technology has consequences, and not always good ones. 

     Television makes you stupid.   It’s inane, trivial, and mind-numbing.  And it’s not just the junk either; what’s surprising is that the more serious its subject matter, the more it will corrupting its influence will be.  Everybody falls for entertainment.  Entertainment under its real name won’t be the death of us, (no, just for you). But entertainment under the guise of intellectual discourse will be. 

     Earlier this morning, I heard someone talk about how the Obama administration criticized the fact that Romney had strapped his dog and its cage on top of his car while on vacation.  (OK, I probably have a few details off. Who cares?) After hearing this I couldn’t help but think that we are amusing ourselves to death.  Why on earth would the media mention this? Why would people listen to it? Certainly not to deepen one’s thinking or to expand one’s applicable knowledge base.  The only purpose this political gossip serves is the same as celebrity gossip: Entertainment. 

     That’s just it.  TV will turn anything it touches into pure, mindless entertainment.  It’s so much easier to watch shows concerning politics, religion, economics, sports, history, and education than it is to read books about them because the former is invariably dumbed-down to exist for your own amusement.  Hence we believe that we are discussing serious matters even when we’re not thinking at all. 

     And there lies the problem the TV poses to America: TV is Reason’s kryptonite, as it enshrouds even the most intellectually-stimulating matters with an acid cloak of superficiality, entertainment, and free-goodie, destroying in the process every remnant of rationality and deep-thinking.  TV, by its epistemological nature, can never be the medium for rational discourse that the written word is.   

Some of you may take refuge in the argument that TV is good because it makes good information wide and available.  I will dismiss such naiveté with a quote by Hannah Arendt:

     "This state of affairs, which indeed is equaled nowhere else in the world, can properly be called mass culture: its promoters are neither the masses nor their entertainers, but are those who try to entertain the masses with what once was an authentic object of culture, or to persuade them that Hamlet can be as entertaining as My Fair Lady, and educational as well. The danger of mass education is precisely that it may become very entertaining indeed: there are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say." 

     Although referring to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, she may as well have mentioned political theory, religion, history, sociology, and education as well.  Things can survive neglect, but can they retain their integrity when they have been made compatible with the TV?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Escaping consumerism, riding to greatness

Probably the most effective key to success, aside from harnessing the powers of the mind as advocated by self-improvement gurus such as James Allen and Napoleon Hill, is climbing out of the materialistic hole of consumerist culture.  I’ve written before of the utter vacancy of American consumerism, and how swimming in its streams will award you a ticket down the path of unhappiness and misery.   In this post, I endeavor to take this one step further, and argue that consumerism is like quicksand, dragging you down into its pits farther away from your spot in the sunlight and farther away from your goals.  No man ever achieved a goal worth fighting for by being a consumer, just like there are no great men who are remembered by being consumers.  Newton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Da Vinci, Gates, the list goes on... were all individuals who acquired greatness because they created, not just consumed.  Consuming is easy; creating is hard.  Anybody can indulge in mindless entertainment, whether that takes the form of watching TV, eating junk, or buying the latest fad.  Not everyone can create something worthy of merit, not without effort that is. 

Although men are primarily driven by the sense of accomplishment, this drive will be usurped by the call of short-term gratifications.  Once he takes the bait, he will be sucked in an acid vat of vacant tail chasing, always striving for more because enough is never enough.  It’s like the fattie who eats more food to feel better about himself; it’s a temporary balm with negative long-term consequences.   Man’s drive toward accomplishment is then zapped, being overridden by his exercises in self-indulgence.  His pleasure lasts only until he amuses himself to death. 

Moreover, the consumerist pressures society imposes mark the most significant hindrance to any aspiring individual.  The key is escape them.  Jesus of Nazareth was right all along.  The gates of hell are wide and the pearly gates of heaven narrow. One must escape this world to succeed.  Your plan of self-improvement is a direct boycott of consumerism. 

What I’ve said before merits repeating: Build, create, and refine, not just consume.  This is something that we all, especially myself, need to put more effort into.  Society has dumbed our standards down so low that we are often under a false sense of complacency.   

In whatever case, be the guy who sees the crowd from the field’s view. Don’t be the critic Theodore Roosevelt scoffed at. Consuming offers neither the glory of victory nor the blow of defeat.  Instead you have to put yourself at risk, knowing that you will fail again and again.  But on the back of failure rides success.  You will have haters, and you will revel in them. But most of all, you will feel a high that no consumption of entertainment, substance, or thing will ever give you. The high of achieving, the sense of accomplishment, and the splendor of action will spur you on to the road of greatness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

On my lack of posting

The posting here has been nonexistent the last couple weeks.  The reason is that I have been out of town, and even when I'm home I'm minimizing the computer.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still reading the blogs to keep up, but nothing more. 

At any event, after the trip to New Orleans this upcoming week, I hope to resume the posting schedule.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The morally (un)credible Santorum

 "Santorum is the only candidate who cares about the moral breakdown of society"

Me: "He cares? What is that worth? I want a president who will actually address the core issues.  No more reflexive and fruitless odes to traditional values.  So what, exactly, will he do?"

"He's against abortion. And he'll serve as the moral inspiration for Americans to follow."

Me: "Ok, ok.  First off, nobody's ending abortion.  Second, it doesn't work like that. Leaders have the potential to do great things, but they can't shift a decades-long process that is unfolding due to the immutable laws of human nature and human society. Even if it were possible, Santorum doesn't have the charisma to be that man."


I was arguing with a friend about feminism, women's rights, and the moral disintegration of the West. I replayed the various ills feminism has wrought: he spouted politically correct platitudes to the tee.   I offered nothing original, just pointed out the verifiable effects of women's economic and political empowerment, but he still failed to grok the connection between women's rights and societal breakdown.  After a few minutes of fruitless bantering, the conversation made way for the subject of political elections when he, against all reason and rationality, he had the chutzpah to defend Rick Santorum because of his unwavering "defense of moral values and hard position on abortion." Talk about not getting it.

I replied that restoring moral value to the country and outlawing abortion was a whole lot harder than anyone imagines, a task Santorum or any of the candidates would be impotent in implementing, not with the technological miracles of contraception and reliable abortion, thinking at the time of Ferdinand Bardamu's excellent post on technology's intractable caper on hedonism. 

On second thought, the only way to restore moral sanity to the U.S would be to hand it a one-way ticket to economic abyss, so it looks like Barack Obama would be the best candidate after all.  But I digress.

Of course, technology isn't the only source posing problems, so the moral argument for Santorum may still have some relevance. In that vein, I will present a few policy prescriptions that, if it could be demonstrated that Santorum not only would support, but would do his absolute best to implement, then I will publicly endorse him for President.  Here it goes.

End no-fault divorce.

End female suffrage. Alternately, limit the suffrage to weed out parasitical voters.  

Provide women significant incentive to leave their corporate job to become stay-at-home mothers. No one is exempt from tradeoffs.  If women devote all their energies in competing in the endless horse-race that is corporate America, the necessities of the home and the nuclear family, the self-evident foundation for any moral society, will be neglected and its function will deteriorate.

End to Alimony and other single-mother welfare programs.   

In other words, he pretty much just has to spot the elephant in the room, an elephant that is conspicuous to any thinking person but remains invisible for the self-serving cyborg elite.  So while a great deal more policies are necessary to remedy our moral plight, any politician going this far would be so out of the mainstream that he would merit my vote.  Santorum, man up!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why you should never work out with more than one person

The small sign that read Fitness Connection hung over a narrow door,  giving the gym an unassuming appearance, one that belied it enormous size.  It's like a warehouse, with a line of fifty-some-odd cardio machines at front with just as many weight machines in the middle.  The long rack of free weights, from 5 to 150 lbs, lied in the back.  You don't have to wait for a machine. 

One of the things I like about this gym is that everybody is serious.  And while it doesn't host VIP's like some of the gyms in Mami or Santa Monica, there is no shortage of individuals who could enter the WBFF. 

But much like you don't realize how loud a constantly-beaming generator is until it turns off, I didn't fully appreciate the caliber of the gym I work out in until I got up from a set of inclined bench press and saw three kids, no older than 17, walk to a bench press near me.  One couldn't help but noticing the incongruity. They were guffawing as if they were at the arcade while they sipped their Monster energy drink. WTF? They probably think Monster is healthy for them because it has vitamins. 

Being in the zone, I didn't pay much attention to them as I went back and forth doing my chest and back super-dropsets, but from what I saw it was apparent that they weren't working out like they thought they were.  When they weren't chatting up a thoughtless storm of words,  they were lying on the bench trying to see how much they could max, as if that does anything other than fill some void. 

This is why you should never work out with more than one person.  You end up getting distracted.  While one is working on his set, two guys can talk to each other.  In eye of memory, whenever I work out with more people beyond my usual workout buddy, epic failure ensues.  The workout isn't so much as poor as it is nonexistent.  So, while you should have one partner that will be there to keep you accountable, having anymore more than that will, unless their extremely motivated people, jeopardize your workouts.    

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Europe beat China

In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond outlines a convincing case that geographical differences in certain regions serve to either hinder or jumpstart a society’s overall progress.  Early success then generates more success, and thus a little head start can lead to the difference between a Civilization capable of seafare, metallurgy, and centralized government, and a huntergatherer tribe whose main characteristics are, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish, and short.” Diamond highlights the geographical sweetspots to be the Fertile Crescent and Asia, which accounts for the rise of two superpowers: Europe and China. 

However, his explanatory model, which precludes any nongeographical  explanations, has gaping holes when it comes to comparing the relative success of Europe with that of China in the middle ages. 

More than anything, a society’s ascension is based strength of its technological base.  Much of what can be attributed to Europe’s ascension can be numbered on a list of new inventions.  Including:

The water wheel marked a huge improvement in productive efficiency, allowing workers to labor on something else, either on more concrete appliances or intellectual endeavors, such as reading and writing.

Eyeglasses doubled the working life of a skilled craftsman.  Whereas before an artisan’s skill would plummet with the decline of his sight, rendering him all but impotent by the age of 40, eyeglasses allowed fine workers to continue their vocation decades longer.

The importance of the printing press can hardly be exaggerated. Although originally invented in China, the printing press never caught on because of the inflexibly of the Chinese Block type.  But when Gutenberg invented the printing press for alphabetical languages, the world would never be the same.  The literacy rates shot up, people began to read and think more, productivity increased from more reliable documentation and communication. 

For all the progress that Europe witnessed in the centuries preceding the Renaissance (11-1300’s), China was actually its superior at the time.  The Chinese invented the wheelborrow, stirrup, compass, paper, printing, and gunpowder.  But as Europe witnessed progress going into the Renaissance, China endured a steep decline.
Therefore, the question of why Europe, as opposed to China, emerged as the world’s premier superpower can be restated as to why Europe was more amendable to invent new technologies than China, and why China actually went backwards.  As for China’s regress, the Hungarian sinologist Etienne Balazs attributes it to its totalitarian constraints on private initiative, where monopolies reigned, bureaucracies were all-powerful, and Chinese ingenuity was sapped by the prevailing regulations that gripped its citizens from cradle to grave, all creating an artificial plateau that the Chinese could surmount.

As for Europe’s relative success, David Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, attributes it to several factors. 
  • ·           "The Judeo-Christian respect for manual labor, as summed up in a number of biblical injunctions.” He gives the example of when God warns Noah of the flood, and how God doesn’t just save him, but instead tells Noah to build an ark.
  • ·        The Judeo-Christian conception of Man being in control of nature, contra pagan nature worshippers.
  • ·         But most importantly, just as China’s decline could be extrapolated from its command economic system, Europe ascended due to its relative economic freedom. The institutions of private property and free enterprise gave the Europeans more incentive to innovate and create than the Chinese. It wasn’t the pure, Laisse faire Dickinson capitalism, but it was sufficiently close to it.
Admittedly, this article only scratched the surface of the issues involved, but intentionally so.  One has to start somewhere.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Socrates has to teach the GOP candidates

More debates, more empty showcases.  The race has advanced to the final four, leaving only the candidates that have passed the vox popoli.  Despite the bid being a weeding-out process, it has not selected for the better, and the discourse is every bit as shallow as its ever been.  Despite what most people believe, its not just Rick Perry who is a poor debater. Every single GOP presidential candidate, to greater or lesser degrees, doesn't know how to debate.  Don't get me wrong, they're all good orators, and they're all, with the exception of Rick Perry, quick witted and possess a modicum of communication skills. Newt Gingrich, in particular, has shown himself to be the master of the riposte.  But no, I'm not talking about that. Rather I'm referring to their complete inability to win an argument in a unanimously satisfactory manner.

Think about it, in any of the debates, when have you ever enjoyed the silence of someone's defeat, the silence that calls for pity onto the interlocutor and his hapless argument?  Even with all my biases in favor of Ron Paul, I have yet to see him demolish his opponents to a breathtakingly conclusive extent.

In all fairness, this is partly the fault of the debate forum.  The debates number in the double-digits, and with the sole exception of Mike Huckabees recent Q&A, there has been no change in the debate setup, no variety that could reveal truths that haven't been exhausted before.  It is a testimony to how unimginative the mainstream media is that nothing different has been proposed and tried upon, which is why I was bummed when the Donald Trump debate never panned out.  Ron Paul simply dismissed it because a celebrity show host would be unfit to host a presidential forum, as if delegating that role to a collection of self-serving, establishment-promoting media heads was any better.

Since I have decried the lack of imagination in the mainstream media, I will take the time to offer my own proposal.  Simply put, I am suggesting a Socratic dialogue. All previous debates had it where the moderator (or some twitterer) would ask a question, allowing the asked candidate to answer. The questions were almost always as broad as the dawn and as shallow as a kiddy pool, leaving the candidate sufficient room to contort, evade, and redirect. Sometimes this would make way for another candidate to dispute the answer, but the dialogue would eventually devolve into a he-said-she-said argument, a spectacle that no one cares about.  And then it's over; thank goodness because I know someone's brain hurts.

This is why I am proposing the moderators change their routine entirely, and make the GOP runners use the Socratic method.  If my plan were implemented, candidates would have the opportunity to ask another competitor of their choosing five questions building up to a specific topic.  The asked candidate would be forced to answer the question in a concise, unevasive way, lest the next question be hurled to cover the avoided nuance.  The role of the questionnaire would rotate between candidates and moderators until every possible combination is tried, in which the cycle would repeat itself.

The reason the Socratic dialogue is superior is because constantly asking questions exposes the gaps of recipients arguments and knowledge base.  No longer can they ramble on with what they're comfortable with.  No longer can they substitute hard honest answers for talking points or attacks on Obama.

Ron Paul in particular would profit from utilizing the Socratic method. As much as I admire the man, he is a very poor persuader.  The only thing saving him is 1) the weight of his ideas, and 2) his fans know how to get the word out and create advertisements. It's not just that he lacks the powers of appearance and oratory, its the interpersonal techniques he uses.  He rarely asks the much needed question, preferring instead to reiterate his libertarian and often-times correct arguments.  For example, he would do well if he simply asked the question is maintaining an overseas empire, throwing out every evil dictator, and attempting to eradicate world terrorism compatible with a small and limited Government? The ideal Conservatives are so enamored with?  I have asked that question numerous times in forums around the internet and guess what answer I received? Nothing. They couldn't be bothered with it. But instead Paul converts the question into a positive statement, which is only met with evasions and arguments from necessity, like we have to fight this war, or whatever. And Paul could ask dozens of such questions regarding the Constitution, a declaration of war, who predicted the crises and what that means,  the role of the Federal Reserve, the bankers that Republicans never talk about, the list goes on.

Questions demand accountability and precision, something that is severely lacking in the mainstream political discourse.

Why this won't happen. There are many reasons why the Socratic dialogue will never be tried.  For one thing, it takes away the powers of the moderator, putting it into the hands of the better, more knowledgeable and logically sophisticated candidate.  Devising questions that run five levels deep isn't easy; more than anything it demands a strategic and logical mind.  No doubt the candidates would need more preparation and effort devising and preparing to answer multi-tiered questions than working on spewing the same old talking points. And secondly, it probably wouldn't be a crowd-pleaser.  Viewers want to see rhetorical gustos confirming their beliefs, not craftily constructed examinations that delve into complicated nuances of a viewpoint.

Let it not be said that the current debate forum doesn't have its merits.  That's not the point.  The point is that it is way overused; its now defunct as it has exhausted its capacity to spark new, meaningful conversation.  Whoever devises these debates needs to get creative.  I outlined one proposal, and I'd like to see others implemented as well.