That's the spirit of the whole thing, isn't it? A place to discuss whatever is on your mind - ask questions when you have them, propose theories or explain thoughts when they come to you. An open place for conversation among many diverse individuals.


If you would like to join our community, please leave a comment, and we will be sure to add you as an author. You're also welcome to join the conversation on Twitter, just search 'weekendphilosophers'. All questions can be directed to

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best and the Rest (and everything else too)

Just like every year, here are my top CDs of the year. Because I'm poor, it's actually all the CDs I got, but you know, the intentions are there. I wish to be irresponsibly rich and spend all of my dispensable income on CDs, that would be sweet. So here we go - from worst to first in my saddest year, musically, ever.

Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album)
**Weezer has officially become one of those bands that's hard to figure out and this album really puts that into a tangent light. This album is wildly much so that the tracks by the three other members of the band actually come out as the most solid stretch. It's kind of depressing when one can't string together more than three strong songs...especially out of ten...but that's the beast we're dealing with here. The tracks, individually (like most Weezer albums) are solid enough, but far from coherent when put together. The thing is, whenever this album let me down, it had a pick-me-up almost immediately, meaning that regardless, I'll still get the next Weezer I guess it has that going for it. Check out "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations of a Shaker Hymn)"

Juno Soundtrack
**One of the big movies of the year was a huge hit in the soundtrack department too. Little known Kimya Dawson (one half of the Moldy Peaches) holds the album together while throwing in a handful of classics (a little Mott the Hoople here, a little Buddy Holly here) make it a good listen. Like the movie, it's a little out there, but it's heart is in the right place. Sadly, it's Kimya Dawson's tracks which are the thinnest in the all-star bunch and while they stand out and they are fun the first few listens, they are overall pretty thin which means they are only good for a relisten every once in awhile. What's worse, is that the original version of "Anybody Else But You" (who many swear by) is completely blown out of the water by the movie version, sung by Michael Cera and Ellen Page, which contains a lot more emotion and has a quiet grace about it. Check out "Anybody Else But You" by Michael Cera and Ellen Page.

The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
**The Raveonettes came back in '08 and released more feedback than your eardrums even knew they wanted. While easily holding the strongest opening song on any album this year (and very likely since "Seven Nation Army") in "Aly, Walk With Me" the album still lacks where past Raveonettes albums didn't...diversity. In the past, the band has recorded an album all in B Minor ("Whip It On"), B Major ("Chain Gang of Love") and then the very schizophrenic "Pretty in Black" but that's neither here nor there, the problem is that while the songs here are all great Raveonettes songs, it's very easy to put it on and let it fade into the background. Only "Aly, Walk With Me" rises above the static, while everything else while great alone, sounds like white noise in the context of the album. Since then the Raveonettes have released four digital only EPs, including a Christmas one, which I'm hoping are released via CD soon because you all know how I hate not having physical versions of my songs. The EPs show a much more experimental side, which is what "Lust Lust Lust" was lacking. Check out "Aly, Walk With Me" with your headphones's amazing the first time.

Katy Perry - One of the Boys
**Ahh, yes, my annual foray into the annals of pop music. This is a frustrating album because it's good in spite of itself. The production is often flat, the lyrics atrocious at times (see "If You Can Afford Me") and yet, it's strikingly different than anything else out there. It begs to for you to sing along with it and it's a solid album, but there's very little emotion in it which is where it comes up the shortest. Maybe next time? Check out "Ur So Gay"

The Kills - Midnight Boom
**When I first heard "Cheap and Cheerful" I thought - what is this? This isn't the Kills. The Kills have a dirty guitar and a cheap drum machine and that's it! This is borderline dance music. Last I checked in with the Kills, they were actually taking more from their minimalist approach than before...taking an almost engineering approach to their albums. So they head back to Benton Harbor and hire a producer? And bust out an album focused the drums instead of the guitar? This album flipped the band on its head and what a result! Even when it feel rudimentary ("Getting Down"), it's still a blast and you feel like you're at the best house party ever. The album is consistent, yet diverse enough that every track has it's own personality. It has all the same sexual tension of their live shows and usually more than previous albums and the emotions here are high too. The Kills debuted their softer side on "Rodeo Town" from "No Wow" but here, they nail it. "Goodnight Bad Morning" is the hangover at the end of the album and will someday accompany the final credits to some great indie film about the perils of youth. Almost like a sequel to the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning," the song is the perfect conclusion to a great album. Check it out because you'll find at least one track you like, I promise you that. Check out "Goodnight Bad Morning"

Biirdie - Catherine Avenue
**Released on January 22, this album blew me away in many ways. Where their debut album ("Morning Kills the Dark") was a sparse cross-country trip of Americana, recorded in living rooms and kitchens across the nation, "Catherine Avenue" is a return trip home in Los Angeles and if I had to associate an album with a city, this one nailed it. Rooted in the late sixties folk-rock movement, mostly the Beatles let's be honest here, the band doesn't really do anything revolutionary or new but what they do is absolutely gorgeous. The album isn't nearly as consistent as their debut, but by taking chances, the band is able to really start to carve out their own little niche in the music scene. The best example of this album comes on the one cover from the bands previous effort, "I'm Gonna Tell You Something" - originally this was a sparse song that sounded lost in traffic across the world but when the band puts a Pink Floyd spin on the song including some mad crazy atmospherics, it becomes something totally different. No longer is this star drawn couple just separated by the perils of the road but now it's their own's the day to day come-and-go which muddles everything. Then there's the album focal point, "Careless and Unconcerned" - somewhere between a break-up song, a love song and an advice for graduating seniors song - with crippling lyrics and a piano buildup worthy of its own film montage, the song is absolutely engaging. Now throw in songs like "LA is Mars" which wouldn't find itself out of place on a soundtrack like Donnie Darko, or the "Hey Jude" aping "Estelle" and this album hasn't left my car since I got it. There was a long stretch of time I'd listen to a good stretch of it daily, a la Lifted, when I first got it. Plain and simple, this album is amazing - again, it won't blow you away, but it is beautiful and worth a listen and for many, I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't require more than that. Check out "Estelle"

So that's it, like I said, this was a depressingly down year for me and music (I think my worst to date) so hopefully I'll be able to expand my '08 catalog in '09 as well as get some new stuff in there as well. Ta.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bad News for your AFL Fantasy Keeper League...

Evening everybody - couple quick topics on my mind.

1) Santa Claus - doesn't exist, right? So I've been thinking lately - it is even possible for a kid in this day and age to believe in Santa Claus? Now, perhaps I'm looking at it from the perspective of someone who knows he's mostly just a marketing tool at this point, but given all of the commercials and advertisements using his image, and given the many contradicting views these all give - how can a child still believe? I don't remember ever believing in Santa Claus, although I do remember confirming he didn't exist at some point so I must have bought into at some point. I suppose the question then is, would you or will you perpetuate the lie with your children? I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. Too often I think of Santa as a cheap gimmick to get children to behave when a little discipline wouldn't hurt. I'm a firm believer that good behavior shouldn't be rewarded, it should be expected. I'm all for boys will be boys and all that jazz, they are kids and I expect them to get into trouble from time to time - but when they are bad, they need to be punished. They need to be taught right from wrong and it's as simple as that. If we're going to go around rewarding simple good behavior, these kids are going to grow up thinking the world owes them something. "I don't break the law, I pay taxes - I deserve something for doing what I'm supposed to do" - it happens in the work place too, "I do my job they way it appears in my job description, I deserve a raise." This isn't how the world works - success comes from going above and beyond, not doing what you're being paid to do! Nobody owes you anything, you have to earn every inch in this world and I think this whole Santa Claus shtick is at least a part of this problem. Thoughts or comments?

2) The Arena Football League is expected to cancel it's 2009 season in hopes of stabilizing its financial situation and coming back for 2010. I know what you're thinking - who cares, right? Well I think it's a good measuring stick for the times. Think about it - football is currently America's past time (argue me that, please) and while many scoff at the AFL, it shares a small slice of the NFL's pie and many leagues like it are struggling as well. Why is this a big deal then? Because the NFL also just laid off 10% of it's workforce. The economy is down, the Detroit Three are struggling and guess who is the biggest sponsor of most athletic endeavors? Guess who's advertising dollars fund the sports we take for granted as entertainment? C C Sabathia isn't getting 160 million from ticket sales, I'll tell you that much. The smaller sport leagues are expected to stumble a bit and many fail in hard economic times, but the AFL seemed solid - they had a contract with ESPN and were well known, if only conceptually, nationwide. In similar news, the Houston Comets (WNBA) are folding as well - this same team won the first FOUR championships of that league. Movie theaters say patronage is up during this recession, which makes sense - if people have a little extra money and need a little escape from reality, it's easy to go catch a movie. However, sport events require a little more foresight as they are scheduled months in advance and if there's a chance I'll be laid off by the time that game rolls around, I think I'll take my $20 now over seeing the game then. I mention all of this because this is just another sign of things getting worse before they get better and while I have no doubt things will indeed get better, it makes me wonder what kind of cultural landscape we'll have when all is said and done. What sports will survive? What leagues will? The NFL was thought to be untouchable by the recession, but they feel it and are starting to tighten their belts a little in anticipation of things to come. It makes me more than a little anxious thinking about it.

3) So I work at a grocery store now and there's a few things I've come to realize, and I'm going to tie it into a proposition I made a few months ago. I asked what kind of innovations have really made you applaud the person who thought it up - at the time my inspiration was the reusable bags popping up at grocery stores nationwide. For many reasons, this idea did and continues to impress me. So a store makes a bag...a nice cloth bag, sturdy design but nothing fancy, plucks its logo on it and calls it good - probably costs a little to make, but not very much in the grand scheme of things. Next, you sell the bag to your customers - bam! Profit has been made. Finally, your customer stops the constant stream of plastic bags to the landfill by using these cloth bags instead of your plastic buy less plastic bags and now you have less costs and more revenue! Now, I know you're thinking how minimal saving one plastic bag is or how little the profit on selling those cloth bags is (by the way, one cloth bag can fit about three plastic bags worth of that I'm packing them myself, I know this)...however, add it up - you have one store which has about 2000 customers a day, maybe only 100 brings in or purchases reusable bags (I'm estimating on the ratio, although I think it's pretty close) - given an average of 10 plastic bags or 6 cloth bags per customer, you just saved yourself 1000 plastic a one store. You have a chain of 100 stores open 365 days a year - that's a lot of plastic bags...that's a lot of cost you just saved. Now naturally, all these savings are passed on to the customer via lower prices, which encourages more customers which...brings in more cloth bags and saves even more money! See where I'm going with this? Now the first place I saw these bags was at Meijer, although I would be surprised if they actually first acted on the concept, but I think in the area - this is a huge jump on competing Walmart (for those not from the Kalamazoo area, we have four Meijer and three Walmart right now). I often look to grocery stores for the best innovations because frankly...they've got the best chance and the harshest competition. Obviously, the big one people want to bring up is Walmart and how it cut out the middleman and just operates its own distribution and warehouse (Sam's Club) system, or how Walmart put pressure on manufacturers to keep prices down so they could keep prices down ("Your product WILL cost this much, or we won't sell it") - which agreed, completely flipped the chain of command on its head but makes perfect sense. I don't shop at Meijer because they sell Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, I buy Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because its sold at Meijer. So a quick history lesson - when Meijer first opened it was one of TWENTY SIX grocery stores in Greenville...a town the size of Mattawan in that day. That is some harsh competition - no? Obviously I'd account luck to that success as anything else, but since then, the innovations have been marvelous. The one stop shop...great idea. As Hank Hill put it, "I like the idea of buying my hammer and jeans at the same store so I can see how they'll look together." People are busy, one less stop is worth a lot - especially if I can get the same drill at Meijer as Lowe's...oh, and I can get the drill at Meijer at three in the morning, should I need to (you'd be surprised, but I have needed a drill at three in the morning before). Add that to the list - 24/7 - and recently, even being open part of long until true 24/7/365? I'm sure it's coming...McDonald's is already there as well most gas stations. Next we have the U-scan lanes...again, I first saw these at Meijer. Why pay a cashier $8/hour to run one lane when we can pay a cashier $8.50/hour to run eight lanes and make the customer do all the work? Anyone can scan a bar code, it doesn't take a degree in anything, and while I'm guessing (probably right too) that theft is a little higher because of U-scan (there are preventative measures in place, but once anyone gets to know how these work, it's easy to get around them), the cost of those cashiers is worth more than anything that could possibly be stolen that way. Add to the list the bagging carousel - why? Another staff cost eliminated - why should we have specialist baggers when the cashier can bag just as well? Meijer still has "baggers" on payroll, although they just push carts and shovel walkways now. Funny how that happens. I'd even tack plastic bags to the list because paper ain't cheap and if I can buy my milk or eggs for three cents cheaper across the street, I'm going there for all of my groceries and that's just the bottom line. Thoughts? Additions?

4) I had to cheat and look what number I'm on and this is the last one for tonight, although I'm sticking with the economy theme, at least for this paragraph. The other day, someone said I look like a socialist. I'm not sure what that means, but I was a little taken aback and quickly corrected them by dropping a little Ayn Rand knowledge on them. Here's my beef though - the topic came up because she was talking about how unions are the biggest cost facing the Detroit Three and while I think many different elements have gone into the failure in Detroit, unions have a lot to do with it. Let's actually do a complete breakdown of things that have gone wrong - 1) Unions...I'll get to these last because this paragraph will ultimately be about unions. 2) Management...yeah, taking private jets to DC to ask for a couple hundred billion wasn't a smooth move - and then going back two weeks later and asking for a couple hundred billion more than you asked for the first Rob Gordon (High Fidelity) would equate this to trying to touch a girl's breast and when being rejected, going up the skirt instead. 3) Technology - on this front Detroit did a couple of things wrong, the first being sticking with the SUV for far too long. This was an inevitable fad as just the simple fact that inflation would continue to make these beasts more and more costly just to own while they quickly would lose value and then, add in the green movement and everyone wants gas mileage and compact cars now, and on the other end, when they did try to go to the cars everyone wants it was clear that they just couldn't hold up to their foreign counterparts. 4) Regulations - as is better explained here, by TMQ (Gregg Easterbrook) who I would easily add to a short list of current idols of my own. However, like I said, this is about unions. I don't like unions and now that I'm in a union...I still don't like unions. I had to join the union, or else I couldn't work - it's in the union agreement (I'd be employed, but I couldn't work). Because of the union, hours are decided by seniority and not by performance - that's all well in good, except it promotes people to become complacent in their jobs...again, this is a case of doing your job so that you don't get fired is enough to (eventually) gain rank while excelling at your job gets you the same! Why even try? Why not just coast through and not get fired? Anyone can do that! Also, because of the union, the company needs to have just cause for firing know what? I don't plan on getting fired from this job's not that hard and because it's such an easy job, I think any degree of failure should result in immediate termination because you're just an idiot if you fuck this up. Yes, I'm cold hearted, but I don't care. Because of the union, I can only work in my single department...I'm sorry, I'm a pretty adaptable person and if I could get more hours doing something else in addition to my current job responsibilities, I'd be all over...but alas, I cannot. I understand a lot of things about unions - how they were formed to protect employees who were being abused by employers...I've read the Jungle and if you wanted a job before unions, you had to put up with a lot but - I guess I don't see the benefit anymore. It breeds mediocrity, it raises costs which leads to outsourcing. I think now that people are more aware of working conditions and employee morale, an environment like that in the Jungle is unlikely. If this factory has a crappy work atmosphere and I'm good at what I do...I'm going someplace else - now this factory has a crappy work atmosphere and crappy employees and...they fold. High morale will lead to success, end of story. I'd like to hear of any union right now that is making a positive difference in its industry - please.

I feel like I had another topic in me, but it's blanking my mind right now so I'm out. Ta.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ever wonder...

How some people appear to have more compassion for animals that fellow human beings? I suppose I'm probably one of them, where if I don't know the person - frankly, I don't care if they die or not (okay, I'm probably not that cold...but pretty close I bet), but say I see even an image of a dog or cat being ill-treated and it upsets me something good. What is with that?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Thoughts

"Understanding the Universe is something we, as intelligent beings, feel the need to accomplish" - that's actually more of a paraphrasing than a direct quote, but you get the idea. Discuss.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow - discuss.

The inevitable Christmas Creep saw Christmas Music spread to retailers and those quick to jump the gun radio stations to launch about two weeks ago - thoughts? I mean, discuss.

Alright - I'm out. Sorry, I'm lame. Happy Thanksgiving to my American participants, drive safe. Ta.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Lot's of Defects"

Continuing with my pop culture themes here - let's discuss some great TV shows.  Now, I don't just want a list of shows that you like or that are good, I want actual shows that are truly greats in your mind.  My own basic criteria is going to be 10 great episodes.  Some shows have great moments, or great characters, and there's some shows (Family Guy, looking at you) that I watch somewhat religiously and wouldn't consider it great in any regards.  I would like some classic shows as well and while I don't expect 10 great episodes with those, but at least some arguments for them (and feel free to refute any nominees, for sure...this is a discussion).

I'd like to start with a more modern selection and go ahead and say, Psych:
While only 39 episodes have been aired thus far, I'm more than willing to bet I could come up with more than 10 great ones.  As with any show, they've had some duds...but they hit far more than they miss and that's worth a lot in my mind.

Spellingg Bee, 9 Lives, Cloudy...Chance of Murder, Poker?  I Barely Know Her, Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast, American Duos, Murder?...Murder? ...Anyone? ...Bueller?, The Greatest Adventure in the History of Basic Cable, Disco Didn't Die (It was Murdered!), Talk Derby to Me

Season 2 is horribly underrepresented there, and it wasn't really a down year, it was an overall solid season but it never really stepped out of its safety zone either which is why they didn't get those great episodes.

Quick Synopsis:
Shawn, who has honed his observational skills thanks to his former police officer father, fakes psychic abilities for the local police department when they incorrectly suspect him for providing accurate tips on a burgulary.  (sound familiar - like the Mentalist, well this came first and is much funnier...being a comedy and all).  He works with his best friend and pharmaceutical salesman, Gus.  His father, with a complicated relationship, still helps with cases either intentionally or not so much.  At the department, he works with Lassie, the head detective who seems to loathe Shawn as much as he appreciates his help and Juliet, with whom there is slight romantic tension going on (in real life, the actors are dating - also, she played Brad's girlfriend on Home Improvement...not imperitive to this discussion, but a good point of discussion regardless).

Enjoy - more next time.  Ta.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Once I wanted to be the Greatest..."

Already, I think I'm going to flush out my idea that I proposed last night a bit. First and foremost, I am not encouraging people to give up inventing - I'm not saying that every story, character or concept has been so fully explored in the arts that attempting to do so would be utterly futile and be a waste of time. I'm just encouraging innovation. I think too often in society, as of late, it is being implied that in order to be truly creative one must do something truly unique - why? Isn't exploring different aspects of those great characters than we are already familiar with just as creative, if not more so? And yes - there will be people who hate this idea...people who expect the familiar and I understand that, it's safe and it's reassuring to think that no matter what happens in the world, James Bond will always be this stylish Lothario who always manages to do what's right...but I look at it and say - what's wrong with a gritty, more honest and human Bond? Someone who occasionally lets his emotions get the best of him (from what I'm hearing of the latest Bond, this is the most common criticism). There is no replacing those great screen characters of the past...but why not have someone repaint Darth Vader for us? His character was sprouted from a concept and he's one of the all-time greatest villains, without question, but we only get those facets that George Lucas wants us to see...there could be a lot more that we're missing, that someone else can bring out that wasn't there before. This is a slippery slope though because if we start making fan fic films an everyone gets into the mix...well, then the product will just become watered down and instead of flushing out the characters, we'll instead hallow them out and leave nothing but empty shells where they used to be. If done right, and in moderation, we can greatly enhance any movie - any character.

Watch the two Willy Wonka films. Admire Gene Wilder's maniacal control over what appears to be an insane alternative watch as Johnny Depp becomes the same character, but instead of control - just appears to be a crazy person, completely out of touch with reality.

All this being said...I think I should note that Hollywood needs to stop with the remakes already. Okay, okay - I know what you're thinking...isn't that what I'm proposing? Yes and no...I want the source of these films to be the story and the characters, not the original films. Just bringing in a different mood or tone to a film can greatly alter its perceived message and in comparing these films - wonderful honest discussion that speaks not only to our pop preferences, but also who we are as characters. Do I relate more to Tim Burton's or Chris Nolan's Batman? The gritty every man or the fantastical superhero?

Then there's projects like O Brother Where Art Thou? where a story like the Odysey can be reimagined in such a way that it hardly resembles its former self, but the same characters put in a different time and place, but with similar obstacles for our protagonist to overcome.  Another example is Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, which kept the the dialog but placed it in a time to which everyone can relate.  Cruel Intentions saw Les Liaisons dangereuses take place on the Upper East Side, when it originally exposed the French Artisocracy of its perversions.  I think it's time to admit that the plot driven storyline has almost run its course and more and more we will see character of dialog driven films that promote themselves not on the unexpected plot twists or gotcha moments but rather, force us to think and glide along in the world that the movies put us in.  At least, that's my hope.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Hi! Are you a fairy?

Is Hollywood in a creative slump? No. The problem is, the creative parts are being watered down by all the crap that they think we want...or maybe we do want it, I don't know. I've always wondered if they make it because we watch it or if we watch it because they make it. Anyways, that's a discussion for another day - I have an idea. Well, I'd like to promote a philosophy I suppose.

I'd like to see a little diversity sprouting from the same story lines. I'll explain.

I think my primary concept behind this is coming from Christmas Music. I know, I just lost you. I like Christmas Music...for like a month a year, but it drives an important point. Ever hear "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"? Of course you have, it's a popular song that time of year (in case you're wondering, I don't start listening to Christmas Music until Thanksgiving). So anyways - I have heard some great versions of that song...I mean, have you ever listened to the lyrics? Sure you can sing with an upbeat, optimistic tone...or you could take it with a somber, nostalgic tone thinking of Christmases past. Think of other Christmas songs - different versions bring out different aspects of the song...different strengths and different moods.

Let me continue on my thought process here. I would like to see Tim Burton direct the Harry Potter movies. I'd like to see Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) do the Lord of the Rings trilogy (given he's doing the Hobbit...and the Hobbit 2), but still. I'd like to see Michel Gondry do The Golden Compass and the rest of the His Dark Materials series (without restrictions from production companies). Tim Burton is already doing Alice in Wonderland, M. Night Shyamalan is doing Avatar (the Last Airbender), etc...but I want to see more of it.

Alright - I need some opinions, I need some thoughts, I want some feedback on this thought. Ta.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Hey everybody - what's going on?

So as promised, I figured I'd do a little post-election run down on my thoughts.

I'm not going to start with the main event, I'll start with the local stuff and move on from there.

Here in Michigan, we had a familiar proposition (as's been on the past three elections), Proposition 1 - medical marijuana. As always, I've voted 'no' on this and let me explain why...this is a cop-out. I would like to see marijuana legalized and taxed like cigarettes. I enjoy taxing the hell out of people doing damage willingly to their bodies (go ahead, tax alcohol...I'll pay it). Giving people this is just an argument to be used in later years like, "we already gave you hippies medical marijuana, what else could you possibly want with it?" and other awkward questions politicians seem completely oblivious too, although I know they haven't lived perfect lives so they shouldn't be. ANYWAYS, it passed and good for it. I'm doubtful marijuana will ever be legal in any other form, so we'll see where it goes from here I guess. I don't feel strongly enough against it that I'm upset, it was just my opinion.

Next was Proposition 2, which I was quite happy finally passed. This was regarding stem cell research and at the risk of sounding somewhat uninformed, I'm quite optimistic of the medical breakthroughs that can be achieved thanks to this type of research.

Here in Kalamazoo we had a familiar Public Transportation Millage which was shot down...again. For like six extra cents of taxes a year, people here in town could greatly improve our public transportation system which is pretty crappy at the moment. We could do better, we should do better, but apparently - we're too cheap of a town.

All the other major elections (Senate, House, etc...) were won by the usual suspects who have either been there too long (Upton - great guy, doing a good job, but he's been in office FOREVER) or are now official out-of-touch with the local area (Levin). Good job incumbents, you didn't lose.

Now moving on to the big picture...the presidential election. I voted Obama and I guess you could say I won. Walking into the voting station, I wasn't 100% sold on who I was voting for...I eventually looked at the top ten issues and compared ideologies head-to-head and Obama won 6-3-1 (energy was a tie and I wasn't very enthusiastic about either answer). Even so, I was hesitant of buying into the hype...questioning my own thoughts, wondering if I'd been brainwashed by a very, very charismatic politician. Not that there's anything wrong with a little charisma, but it tends to hide small character flaws that could become painfully evident while in office. Here's hoping. I am glad that Obama won for many reasons though, and me voting for him isn't one of them (although it feels good to vote for a winner for once).

1) He's not John Kerry. No offense to John Kerry, but could he have been more vanilla of a's like the democrats chose the one politician who couldn't beat one of the most disrespected presidents of the modern era. I think Hillary should have made her move here, and I'm sure in hindsight she would agree at this point. I wasn't 100% sold on Hillary this time around as winning the election seemed more important to her know...being president and while I commend her drive and...let's go with attitude...she stacked a few cards against herself as well as going up against, well, as I mentioned before - a criminally charismatic individual.

2) The peacemaker in - other nations not only a) commend us on our election of Obama, but b) his intent to make peace with the world. The past 8 years, America has had it's fighting face on and while there is certainly a time for that...if you greet people at the door with a growling dog, they aren't going to be very fond of coming over if you know what I mean. There is no question that terrorism is an international problem that not only threatens the US, but every other westernized nation and this means we need to have lots of friends...we can't do it alone, this isn't the early 1900s when isolationism is the best protection, we are in the 21st century and we have emerged as an international melting pot of nations, so we all need to work together to be successful.

3) There is also the issue of race. First, I thought little of his race prior to election as he was a candidate with ideas and concepts of the direction our nation should take. The fact that he was even half-black never occurred to me as a selling point, or a deterrent, although I was confident that in some regards it would work as a deterrent to some which made me a tad anxious...still does given his election. However, after all was said and done, it's easy for us to look back and say - we've made good progress. I make no statements of racism being dead here in the states and honestly, I'd love to see the day it finally does happen...I just don't see it as a possibility...that being said, this is a huge step in the right direction. Enough of our nation doesn't see race (at least that's my hope) that Obama was able to be elected and even more good news - he's already at work. Wait, that's 4.

4) Obama is already at work! Most president elects disappear from the spotlight until January 20th when they take office...not Obama. On Thursday he was being debriefed on various need-to-know things and meeting with his various committees to start discussing plans so he can hit the ground running once he is officially in office. Honestly, after all the campaigning he did, I'd take a day or two off, but I'm lazy and you see how my brain works, so good for him. It does concern me a bit the way our campaign system works (as in...for two years Obama was campaigning instead of working as a congressmen), but that's for another post I think.

Finally, I'd like to end on this note - what becomes of Sarah Palin? This is an interesting case because we have to look at why she was chosen...1) she's about as right-wing as they come, which is good because McCain is pretty middle of the ground. 2) she was not well known and therefore, malleable, although they clearly underestimated her personality and didn't consider that in their decision. 3) She's got looks and is charismatic too, the perfect competition for Obama...had she been better prepared for the campaign trail, they might have pulled it off. That being said - in four years, who knows, she could be a serious force in the political ring very soon. Yes, her first meeting with the nation wasn't an impressive one, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a future in the national ring. I'll be honest, I don't remember most of the past losing VP candidates and while she's a bit more memorable than most, she's got that going for her...drift into the forgotten and then come back made-over and ready to kick ass. Personally, I hate her if for nothing else than shooting animals from a helicopter...I'm not a hunter by any means, but I doubt most hunters would approve of this as most I've known enjoy the slow days in the woods more than anything actually regarding the hunt vs. beast, it has it's appeal - man + helicopter vs. beast is just lame. Just my opinion.

Until next time my friends...and feel free to drop me a line with some of your opinions, you know I'm open to hearing them. Ta.

Monday, November 10, 2008

If you Steal my Sunshine...

Good news everybody!  Well, we'll get to that in a second, let's start with an apology because've all gone on a back burner as I worked through the stresses of work and school and life in general and while I've been able to form ideas for posting...I haven't had time to pull out fully formed ideas, let alone something I could type up in complete sentences.  That being said...I've now lost my job, so expect to see a lot more of me.  I'm obviously looking for employment, spending more time with the dogs, working on the house (painting, cleaning, organizing), but I'll also be able to post more which is a good thing.  Right now I'm going to walk the dogs, but my next topic will be the election and everything that went along with it.  Ta.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Just to stay consistent with the mood of the season, watched The Happening last night which sufficiently creeped me out and held my attention, however it didn't truly impress me either if that makes sense.  Let's have a quick discussion regarding the work of one, M. Night Shyamalan.  I'll post my thoughts next week.

My apologies for this post being a day or two late, I've been lazy and I procrastinate.

So let's talk about sports, more specifically, sports in America.  Now, as many of you know, football is my favorite sport - I view it as a physical chess game where not all the pieces are equally matched, but either way you have to play to your strengths.  There are good days and bad days, and in my mind - it's the only truly team sport.  The defense cannot win without a solid offense, and the offense cannot win without a sufficient defense and each player has their place.  It's the modern sport for the post-industrialism era as specialization is key.

That being said, I have a great respect for baseball, which I'm afraid has truly been replaced by football as the American pasttime, but in the meantime, it still holds strong as a worthy sport all its own.  I think I respect baseball the most because it's so easy to just turn on and watch - I hardly follow baseball, but if a game is on, I have no problem sitting down and taking in a couple hours (especially now in the playoffs as it all seems somewhat relevant).  Baseball is a simple game to understand, whereas football - I was a fan for the longest time and I had no idea what ninety percent of what the broadcasters said meant.  Now, of course, after following football relgiously, and studying for no apparent reason - I could probably top some of those announcers (especially the D-class wannabes they get to broadcast the Lions's Calvin Johnson, not Curtis Johnson and #29 is Chester Taylor, not hard is your job?).  The point is, someone who has no concept of football cannot sit down and watch a game without...well, completely losing all grasp on what's going on.  This is probably my greatest argument as to why the sport hasn't caught on worldwide...nobody understands it.  How on Earth did these rules even come to exist?

Enough of that - of the remaining two major sports, Hockey and Basketball, I think we find two sports heading in different directions.  Hockey is on the rise - after the strike, hockey saw a major drop in fan base and ratings, and at the moment, it's not particularly easy to find a game anyone on cable television - but with the Red Wings (perennial favorites) and a few camera friendly faces (Crosby in Pittsburgh), the sport is catching some ground again.  In addition, the yearly outdoor game (this year at Wrigley - I'll go if anyone has tickets), adds a fun element to the game that people can really get behind.  On the other side of the spectrum is Basketball.  After enjoying an early 90s peak in interest, the sport has slowly declined in past years and is probably the most effected by the downturn in the economy.  The Celtics played the Lakers in the finals this past season, arguably two of the largest basketball dominated markets in the nation and hardly anyone cared...that's a problem.  When I look at the NBA right now, I see a league without an identity - no niche in the national sports world.  The Olympic team going out and hitting gold helps, but it's a minor boost - nothing sustainable.  Add into this the increased popularity of the sport in other nations worldwide, who can now afford to outbid our stars who are locked in a salary cap league get the idea.

So that's a quick rundown of sports in the eyes of Nathan - opinions appreciated.  I'm tired so I'm out - ta.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Are you sad we're missing it?" "We aren't missing it...this is it."

Are all Americans watching the debates and staying up on all the political three ring circus which is getting more and more ridiculous with every election? I hope so. I'm not going to go on a political rant or anything, as last week's was kind of in that vein.

So Friday night, Tori and I saw Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which I think I'll continue this blog's unnecessary promotion of Michael Cera.  Sure, his roles aren't exactly diverse, but man - he's got that one down.  Basically, the film is about the New York City nightlife - some kids go out to have a good time and various misadventures follow them, as is known to happen, especially in movies.  So what is my topic for discussion tonight?  The nightlife.

I've been to New York City.  My freshman year at RIT, instead of going home for Thanksgiving, I travelled East with Michael DiRoma (RIP) and Taylor.  We spent the first part of the week at DiRoma's Central Park West Apartment (seriously) and then went up to Conneticut for the holiday with Taylor's family.  So while we were in NYC, Taylor and I took off one day and wandered Manhattan island.  Taylor and I walked, unescorted, for 22 hours (over the course of 2 days) - from the upper west side to the southern tip, down the entire stretch of Broadway and by the United Nations.  We were out until 3 in the morning...lost in Central Park!  And at the time, it was the most exciting adventure I had during my college days.  In retrospect, however, it was somewhat of a letdown.  Why?  Because we did none of the nightlife things - not due to lack of trying, mind you, mostly because of lack of age (we were both 18 at the time).  I think I can also attribute this to growing up in lame towns with a complete lack of anything but grocery stores and the occassional Steak'n'Shake open 24/7.  This brings me to gripes about Kalamazoo.  Kalamazoo has a major university, a well respected liberal college and various small time colleges like Davenport and KVCC.  By no means does this translate into NYC by any stretch, however, I think it warrants us to be labelled a college town, given the amount of population being college aged.  Why is nothing open 24/7?  Why are there close to zero local bands worth seeing?  No - scratch that, where would they play?  We have a larger college aged population in Kalamazoo versus Grand Rapids, yet they have the clubs and even those are pretty crappy.  Now, for those who know me, you could argue that I make these statements although I'm not really the "clubbing" type and I wouldn't go out even if those options were there, etc...however - I've been to clubs, I've been to crappy little hole in the walls to see nobody bands and you know what?  I love that environment, I feed off of it.  Had I grown up in an environment where that option was available to me in high school, I would have been there.

I think it's time the world stops this obsession with this 9-5 cookie cutter lifestyle.  The world needs to become more global, more 24-hour based.  Why should the world close?  Side note - what is gained from bars not serving alcohol at 2?  I think that more emphasis needs to be put on diversifying our hours.  I understand - work the same hours every day, establish routine, efficiency follows.  However - why do I have to work 7-3?  Maybe I'd be more productive later in the day or earlier in the day.  Why do banks close?  I don't have money transactions at three in the morning (don't talk to me about ATMs)?  I think this another one of my half-baked ideas - what do you guys think?  Would you like to see more 24 hour lifestyles or are you good with routine?  I'd like to see the option of spontaneity out there...promote creativity, perhaps.  Thoughts?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

There are just more chocolate bars than fruits, it's a fact

First and foremost, a source of inspiration...recently in my podcast obsession I found a nice little one entitled "The Definitive Word", apart of a larger podcast blog...a blogcast, if you will (Simply Syndicated- although it would be easier to find them in the iTunes podcast store, honestly) .  Basically, it's a couple of British guys who discuss "21st Century Living" - essentially, Sociology 101 from guys who don't have Sociology degrees or anything.  They talk about a wide variety of topics from Transport, Beer, Growing Up, Fat Nation, etc...just to name a few.  Their general disposition and format of discussion is very similar to what I would like to promote maybe we just need to pick out a weekly time to hop on Skype, kick back some drinks and shoot the breeze with whatever topic we decide is to be discussed that week.  Either way, it's a good source of inspiration and opinions, as we can easily contrast and compare off of them.

Secondly, anticipate a novel of a post here as I am stripping and waxing a large area at work and will likely be within the same 20x20 square for the next 6 hours or so and a lot of that time will be spent waiting for wax to dry...oh what fun.

So jumping off my previous post - personal responsibility, dumbing down, the bailout and society's other various problems.

First, let's start with the bailout proposal, since I think this is an excellent real world situation that kind of deals with a lot of the issues we're discussing here.  Here is a pretty good summation of the bill which recently passed - House Approves Historic Bailout.  Now, I don't claim to be well informed enough to confidently say I know that this was wrong or this was right, however, based on what I do know, I have been able to form my own opinion.  If you are better informed than me and I make a mistake, or don't understand something correctly, please let me know.  So let's go over how we got to this point, the way I understand it.

1) Housing boom - people buy up houses like crazy thanks to low interest rates and relaxed credit requirements.

2) Housing crash - predictably, these people with bad credit can't pay their loans...also, the banks raise the interest rates on houses over time to turn a profit and more people can't pay.  Lot's of foreclosures.

3) Natural Recession in Economy - come on, no economy can grow continuously, so it slows down...there are so many factors involved in this, I don't even think I could imagine going into exact details (even if I knew them all).

4) Gas Price - as gas prices go up, so does the cost of all goods and services, further reducing the economy's growth potential.  The gas price increase wasn't helped by the very costly war in Iraq (not to point fingers or anything).

~I'd like to break here to bring up something...World War II got us out of the depression as the war effort in general created jobs (this wasn't the only factor at work here, but it was a primary key to the economic boom of that decade).  Can anybody think of any other American war that has actually hurt the economy any more than this one?  What's different this time?

5) Denial - so here in Michigan, we were the first to realize that we were in trouble as the auto industry was the first to fall and it fell hard (ask Port Huron, Flint, Detroit) and yet, during the primary election season, we saw commercials telling us "It's unheard of for Michigan to be in a one state regression when the rest of the nation is thriving" - really?  Thriving?  I notice now how that candidate isn't one of the two remaining candidates...probably not a coincidence because he obviously has no concept of what's going on.  For far too long, this issue was ignored.  Things were tight, but not bad enough that people would admit that the economy was in trouble and now the economy is in so much trouble that the government has to, essentially, give free money to the banking system that is struggling to hold up our economy.

So who is to blame for this problem we're in?  Is it the greedy bankers and Wall Street gurus for their get-rich-quick scheme of lending money to people with bad credit with low initial interest rates only to jack them up when the rest of the economy started getting them down?  How about the people who bought these homes and then came up unable to pay their mortgages and having to go into foreclosure?  (On a side-question - is it wrong to want the American dream of owning one's own home for their family?  I know as a fact I will not be able to own a home until I am at least 35 - pending any lottery winnings or unexpected inheritances - because of mistakes I have made in the past few years and my continued troubles with credit and money) Is it the credit system in general (wasn't this one of the main contributing factors in the great depression?)?  Is it the leaders who sent us into a costly war (without getting too far into the politics of if we needed to go in or not, although that's obviously tied in and will probably need to be discussed on another day)?  Is it the gas companies or our nation's current energy policies (preserving domestic oil, not enough emphasis on alternative fuel sources, etc...)?  Is it quite simply that we just didn't do enough, as a nation, soon enough to avoid this?  Was this inevitable or avoidable at all?  And I would like to mention now that this is a global crisis we are entering here; it's not just here at home.  I know for certain that the housing market crash is the same, if not worse, in most of developed Europe and I firmly believe we are just entering the first string of a very bad series of events that will drastically change the course of (the global) us as a society - nay, a civilization...a species.

Essentially - all of those seemingly random and rambling inquiries sums up to one question; who, if anybody, can us hold ACCOUNTABLE for the impending economic crisis?  And anybody with any political ties, I implore you to get that answer out of either candidate (townhouse debate potential?).

~Election side note - as I'm focusing primarily on the economy in this post, although it will soon be turning to more existential topics branched from this reality, I would like to mention how pleased I am with how much focus is being put on the economy in the overall election coverage.  For far too long, I feel, that the issue was ignored or sugar-coated and no longer are we seeing it with those rose-tinted glasses and we're demanding action from our next president and I think that's quite admirable, if nothing else.

Now my personal thoughts on the matter are this - we are all responsible for this mess.  Some more than others, obviously, but responsible none the less...and I think it comes down to one flaw we share - excessive spending and it starts at the top.  What kind of credit report do you think our nation would have if it were a person?  Sure it's got the income...but it's got more expenses than income.  It's already got an impressive amount of debt, very little of which has been paid back.  In the past couple of years, it's had a frightening increase in amount of debt accrued (a red flag for all credit companies if you have a sudden increase in your credit requests).  I bet we'd be hard pressed to find a good personal reference right now as well.  How do we keep borrowing money?


Now I'll be the first to admit, I have an overspending problem as well...I think we as a society have this problem.  Not only do we spend funds we don't necessarily have on things we don't need, we far outspend our own means, setting ourselves up for future failure.  What does this mean?  Well you know how the housing market crashed because people with bad credit couldn't keep up with their debt?  How are our nation’s fortunes going to be any different?  America has bad credit and our debt is reaching ridiculous proportions with only more in the foreseeable future.  Somebody in the future is going to have to pay that bill, because we've been passing that buck around for far too long and when it catches up with us...well, I hope I'm not around then because it's going to be crippling.  You think the Great Depression was bad?

~Paragraph side-note: thoughts in my mind are so muddled, I wonder if cows sleep standing up like horses, and if all hoofed animals sleep this way (looking at you giraffes, zebras) and somehow, the jargon you just read comes out.  My apologies if I occasionally don't make sense or aren't clear and concise enough to get my point across.  Questions are welcome and encouraged!  Any interaction is highly motivating for me and others to continue to writing for this community.

So let's hop back on topic to the bailout.  So the banks tell the government that because of this housing market crashing, along with the recession in the economy and whatever other determining factors...the banks are in debt.  Let me get this straight - the banks...are in debt.  Who, exactly, does a bank borrow money from?  Oh yeah - it's customers!  So the banks admit to squandering away America's money.  Already you can tell this is a great situation.  So the banks tell the government that they messed up and need a little help.  Okay...a lot of help.  In exchange for adding a devastating amount to the national debt (in the grand scheme of things, doesn't this feel a bit like paying off a credit card...with another credit card?) we, the American people who are essentially paying for this...whether it be now or later, the buck still gets passed to the taxpayers...get no guaranteed returns unless the government gets back it's share first.  There are some other political stipulations that I don't fully understand nor am in the mood to research, but that's essentially the deal to my understanding.  I'll admit, I'm putting a pretty negative spin on it, it seems, and I'll openly admit I'm biased against it and the more I understand, the more my passion for that stance grows.  So what could make this deal worse?  The individuals - the CEOs, the boards, etc...All the decision makers behind these banks are still in control!  So the government is basically saying, "Everyone fucks up, it's going to be okay."  NO!  You failed at your job!  You make a disproportionate salary based on a title and you didn't do the job you were hired for successfully!  You get fired!  If I overspent and had to borrow money I didn't have guess what...I'd be fired!  I'm essentially running a small business here, although I have nice perks like a steady income and corporate support, but the fundamentals are the same - stay within your budget and promote company growth - that's it!  Those are two main tasks of any company leader...and it's a tricky give take because growth costs, so you can't grow beyond your immediate means.  There is no reason that these irresponsible executives should be allowed to stay in control of companies they clearly have not been successful running in the past.

So now 'passing the buck' is becoming, not only the trend, but the policy?  Okay - that's a problem.  And this is where I kind of sway into the concept of responsibility.  I agree with Heather on this one - we are coddling our children too much and we are not reinforcing the concept that actions have consequences.    Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for child self-esteem and encouraging them to dream big, but in that - we need to also keep them realistic.  You're not going to graduate college and fall into a high paying - you get entry level and you get to toll away in the dregs for awhile.  Tough shit - that's life.  You're not going to get married and live in the house you grew up in - your parents worked long and hard to get there, you're not going to get there overnight.  Too often parents hide the harsh realities of the real world from their children in hopes of "protecting" them.  So the children can hold on to that innocent naïveté for that much longer...only to have it come crashing down when that bubble bursts upon entering a world where mistakes are strongly punished and jobs aren't as easy to come by as doing some extra chores for your parents over the weekend.  Essentially, we are destroying the next generation's immunity to the hardships of adulthood.  Some will adjust, sure, but most won't.  So we have an impending financial crisis thanks to America's poor credit score and an incoming workforce unable to cope with hardship.  Wow - if that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is.

I have two more real life questions to pose in terms of personal responsibility - smoking and obesity.  Let's start with smoking as the government is stepping in more and more in order to discourage this very unhealthy lifestyle choice.  I can tell you now I am for banning smoking in enclosed public areas (bars, restaurants, etc...) for the simple fact that myself, as a non-smoking patron, am not given a choice as to whether or not I want to inhale those toxic fumes.  When we're outside, as long as you're not standing in a doorway or something where I have no choice but to walk through your bad decision, I don't care - do what you want, it's your body.  However - is more action required?  Should we expect our government to increasingly get involved?  Police are enlisted whenever someone has the potential to harm themselves or others - in my mind, smoking can fall under this category, can it not?  Is there a line of fine print there that says 'potential harm must be immediate'?  I understand that this is a personal choice to smoke and, in America, you have to be 18 or older to buy which in most accepted logic, is a reasonable enough age to make educated choice in the matter.  It's this little detail that brings us to obesity...let's face it - we're fat.  I am responsible for what I eat.  It is my choice if I grab that Snickers bar or that apple.  I know that cutting pop out of my diet would greatly improve my overall health and longevity, and yet, I give in much more frequently than I would ideally.  I am an adult and if I become obese - it is as a result of my own choices.  That being said - who is responsible for the overall health and well being of the children?  Is it the parents?  The government via school system?  Food companies?  Surely we cannot hold the children accountable as we've already determined that education decisions cannot be made until the age of 18 has been reached (by the way - the concept that once a certain age has been achieved, suddenly we are much wiser and responsible is bull...just saying).  So parents, who pig out on junk food all day as part of their own personal choices feed their children the same crap regardless of their educated desire to be healthy or eat better.  The schools, stretched for money, offer a sub-standard healthy alternative or the cheapest junk they can put together.  Food companies blitz the market attracting children to their product.  Should the government step in and put regulations on food deemed unhealthy?  Obesity is a much more deadly force than cigarettes, it effects many more people and often times, goes unchecked.  Perhaps taxing snack foods and pop or offering some sort of benefit (other than good health) for buying fruits or vegetables would be enough of an intervention?  I don't know.

Jumping around to the concept of dumbing down I brought up a post or two ago, I think there is an element of this in our societal trend.  In public schools, many have deemphasized a lot of the computer based courses under the ideology that typing skills will be sufficient enough to land any high school grad a job.  We already know music and sports are on the decline for financial reasons...  I think pop culture has begun simplifying itself (not in a classic way or in a statement fashion) and people are pandering to it for lack of alternatives (or pop culture is pandering to people's lower standards...why make quality work when shoddy will sell the same?)

Okay - so topics for discussion that are bringing down America, and probably to an extent - lack of responsibility (pass the buck mentality...which isn't that far off from Rand's anti-dog-eat-dog dystopia in some respects), the combination of instant gratification along with self-entitlement (things come easy mentality) and the ideology that the bare minimums are all that's required for success (do enough mentality).  I know I didn't touch on these probably as much as I would have liked, but I think I'm kind of typed out for the night (see wicked long post you're currently reading) and I'm just about done with my project.  I hope this post kind of brings up at least a few ghosts from our past and starts some conversation.


Monday, September 29, 2008

This is going to be disappointing...

Alright, a quick post just so I can say I didn't take this weekend off.

First and foremost, not only thank you for your post, Jana, but also - thanks for leading me right into where I wanted to take this topic...what is up with the government bailout?  How does this even make sense?  Why should tax payers have to pay for a multinational corporation's screw up?  How is that our responsibility and how would them going out of business fatally wound our crippled economy?  Ever think maybe our economy is sinking faster than the Titanic because our national debt has nearly doubled in the past 10 years?  Or we're now apparently encouraging failure and rewarding incompetence?  Hopefully by next weekend, I'll have read a bit more on the bailout and come back better informed, but in the meantime, take a look at TMQ's take on the subject here and here.

I agree completely that it seems that the current generation stepping into power is better at pointing the finger of blame than actually solving any problems and that doesn't bode well for the future.

I have a lot more to add, but my mind isn't focusing as of this moment.  My apologies.  Hopefully I'll be more concious later.  Ta.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

seven, eight, nine...then seven, eight, ten

I'll respond to that. I don't know that I would use the term dumbing down. It seems like it is more of a complacency. Children these days aren't taught respect because people tell them that they are smart and capable and don't need to listen to their elders. They therefore never learn the value of what has come before them. 
I have experienced this first hand. I have watched a group of capable, intelligent people completely ruin something that was working just fine before they got there. Nothing changed about the setting and the group other than the people making it up. And yet, when it came time to be in charge these people spent more time blaming each other than trying to deal with the problems before them and fix things.
So I don't know what to call it but there is a self-destruction going on within society. Hopefully I'll be back to respond to this again later.


Good evening all. Short post this evening, and my apologies for taking this past weekend off.  So my quick question tonight, which hopefully sparks a bit of conversation - are we, as a society, dumbing down?  And if so, can we take any consolation in the knowledge of this fact?  As if conciously reducing our intelligence, as a society, somehow cancels out the negative aspect of this concept.  Discuss.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Kensey - you'll be sorely missed, you were one of the good ones...

Good evening everybody.

In today's edition I hope to touch on, among other and attraction (probably the first of a series here) and a return to horror movies.

First and foremost, let's throw out a good quote to get things rolling; “When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” - Sinclair Lewis

Second, my list of approved horror movies. I am planning on going more in depth with all of these over the course of the next couple of posts (I have to rent a few of them to jog my memory a bit). These are presented in chronological order, although I don't know if I'll elaborate on them in this order.

1. Strangers on a Train (1951)
2. Psycho (1960) - see also: Silence of the Lambs (1991)
3. Last House on the Left (1972)
4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
5. Jaws (1975)
6. Carrie (1976)
7. Suspiria (1977)
8. Halloween (1978)
9. Friday the 13th (1980)
10. The Shining (1980)
11. Children of the Corn (1984)
12. Scream (1996)
13. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
14. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
15. Saw (2003)

Honorable Mentions:
1. The Exorcist (1973)
2. Child's Play (1988)
3. The Sixth Sense (1999) - see also: The Village (2004)

So there you have it - 15 arguments for horror movies. As I mentioned, I'll get down and dirty in the details at a later date.

Moving on...what attracts us to another human being? And how does that attraction eventually translate into love? For instance, when you first look at someone, while I'm never one to believe in "love in first sight", as it were, but with some people there is that definite immediate attraction that is undeniable. And from that point we can ask ourselves - is it purely physical or subconsciously can we read something deeper? I think the root of all attraction is based in values, and I think part of us can see that in other people, whether it be how they carry themselves or how they speak or their mannerisms, to even how they stylize themselves (hair, clothing, accessories). Therefore, is the sensation of "love at first sight" the result of a spot read or am I looking too far into it and it really is just all physical? I ask this because there are some girls who I look at and think to myself, "that is an attractive person." However, on the flip side, that I look at some and think to myself, "I'm attracted to this person." What's the difference? What makes that difference? Is it a simple matter of realizing societies expectations of what is attractive/unattractive in a female versus my own personal physical preferences (I can actually tell you the precise features I find most attractive, if anyone cares)? How does this initial attraction or lack thereof play into the concept of love?

Also, I have a continued thought on the previous post which I think I left open...Gary said, "...
(The prisoners dilemma is a great example of how being selfish will catch you out. )" - now he put this merely as an afterthought, then I ignored it completely, but I think this is an important point that needs to be made upon reevaluation. As Michael mentioned, it is the responsibility of the government, in Rand's capitalist society, to protect against monopolies created through force or coercion. This policy would also trickle down to the individual level and criminals. Stealing is a method of physical force which would need to be stopped. I believe that Gary is taking 'selfish' in the literal sense to have no regard for other's...this is a common misconception. To be selfish is not necessarily to have little or no thoughts for others, but rather, act on what is best for one's self in the aspect of what is most beneficial to you without resorting to violence or 'bullying' techniques, as these would be more harmful to society than beneficial. At the moment, I'm not exactly sure of the words I'm searching for, so I'll leave it at that. My apologies for my lack of wordiness at the moment.

That's what I have for you folks tonight - discuss and respond, all input is appreciated...I'm starting to feel like a crazy person again, always talking to myself. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Reply

This is my response to the conversation found here - Cheaters. Enjoy.

"The trouble I have always found (prepare yourself for a socialist paragraph) is that parents never have time to sit down and play with their kids – like board games. When both the parents have to go out & work full time to pay the bills, it’s not as if they can come home and spend time with the children. Even if they do have the evening free, all they want to do is flop down on the sofa and watch TV. In this, I reckon that you were very luckily to spend time with your family as a child playing board games – that’s what I really like about the US, is that people have a good attitude toward the family – I kind of got that vibe from Boogieman and other southerners that were in our tribe in RIP. In Britain, not much emphasis is put on bringing up children – probably another ailment of an increasingly secular society. "

I wouldn't get off the mark thinking family is the major asset of the American cultural landscape. More often than not, our lifestyles are dictated by our jobs first and foremost, and like you mentioned - adults get home and crash on the couch to watch TV. I'm attempting to get out of that habit (although the computer is my vice, not the TV), trying to walk the dogs more, etc...but it's not easy. Society as a whole has started to promote group, physical activity - or at least doing something other than sitting and watching passively, but I've seen little to no difference in the lifestyles of those around me. The fact that I was able to sit around with my brothers' and play board games as a youngster was probably more a telling of the times than anything else. We didn't have a Nintendo yet or anything, so really, on rainy days - what options were there but to play board games? I've just kind of carried that fondness and excitement with me because I'm nostalgic and somewhat childlike, so it says nothing of our society as a whole.

"I have to say that personally I have a very low regard for the virulent, unscrupulous, and sometimes violent multinational companies that seek to force their ‘freedom’ upon us. This links into my hatred of ‘free’ markets, contractualist ethics, and rampant individualism. =)

"In this, I have little or no sympathy for western capitalism and democracy, depending on my mood. "

First and foremost, I think you're confusing yourself a bit in that you are somewhat arguing for contractual ethics, in that the governed are of course willing participants in any government intervention whereas in a truly free society, such intervention would be least to my understanding of it. Also, I'm in no way encouraging the bullying techniques of some of the world's largest companies...I'd say it is without doubt, the responsibility of the world's governments to protect companies from each other. However, the only time that intervention would be necessary is if, indeed, unfair play is suspected. It is not the responsibility of the government to balance the scales, however, if one company is just plan better than it's opposition - innovate, expand, improve...those are the keys of success, not begging the government to help you. Lobbyists are a direct result of the government's interference within the economic landscape and those people are just parasites on this world.

"I’ll explain my point of view of what the government should be, which may help to explain my view. I regard the government as a doctor, sent in to cure society’s illnesses. There is no place for ‘managerial’ government, where the government seeks to administrate the markets, and to solve disputes, making sure that all stick to a social contract. My ideal government would be in the business of leadership, giving society a series of projects that all aspire to achieve – and it’s not to ban smoking in public places!! (Done a couple of years ago here). The Atlee government of 1945-49 is a good example of the kind of government that should be in power. Pity they got voted out by a selfish and ignorant British public. The government should also be a cultural elite, not the richest candidate."

I agree with a lot of points you made here, in particular that the government's duty is to help an ailing society, not necessarily run it. People, more often than not, can be pretty impressive when left to their own devices and should be allowed to do so as often as possible. However, when you get into the government project direction, we start to differ. Societies have a way of righting their own ship when heading down a bumpy road, for instance the increased awareness of environmentalism in the workplace. The United States government has done very little in terms of setting any sort of plan or even legislation encouraging companies to clean up, despite many scientists globally, behind those sentiments. However, we've been seeing a recent run of companies aggressively cleaning up their operations. This is simple economics - it's cheaper to produce less waste, that makes perfect sense, but it applies to pollution as well. All pollution is just that...waste, the more you eliminate, the more efficient your work processes.

Then you have the dieing American car companies (GM and Ford). Foreign cars are doing much better in the market because of their insistence on good gas mileage and less emissions. This follows that same concept - for the consumer, it's more cost efficient because they can go further while buying less gas, and for the company because they are selling more cars this way. They are generally, also cheaper up front (both to make and to the consumer), so it's a win all around for these car companies. Ford and GM and now scrounging to catch up with this seemingly obvious advance in the industry. My biggest issue, after reading up on the Labor Party and the Atlee Government, is that a nationalizing industries was considered good practice. This leads me to my picture perfect government...

While it may be different in the UK, our government is extremely inefficient. Everything goes through four or five agencies, it's all bureaucratic time wastes, but necessary because they are indeed the government. So I think the government should be in charge of the non-profitable needs of society - namely police, firemen, limited education and health care. The government should also operate entities who watch the other industries to protect society as a whole, not individual companies. Things like roads and prisons can be operated by private companies, with lower costs and more overhead than the present systems in place, all while under the watchful eye of a government protector. Education should be viewed as a business, from the standpoint of administration. The best schools should get the most money, because they provide the best end product - currently, in America, there is a system of giving the most money to the public schools that struggle the most. This is encouraging failure! This is supporting a system that is leaving our children behind. If a company had a department that failed to meet any of their targets, they wouldn't get more money to help them through this tough time - the whole team would be sacked instantly and replaced! Health care should be provided, free of charge, to everyone. That being said, I think that private practices must still be encouraged to operate. If one goes entirely free, than a hospital overload (see Canada) is likely. On the converse, if one goes entirely private - most citizens can no longer afford to be healthy. Therefore, standard medical treatment should be available to all members of society, regardless of social standing, but at the same time - those who can afford it, may go into the private sector and find their own care. This is by no means a perfect system, especially when discussing health care, but it's a work in progress...I'll alter that as I think more and more about it.

"As for individualism as a theory, I believe it’s inherently flawed. It believes that all have free will, and are able to float about with nothing but self interest, determining their action. Its ignores the important point that humans are not individuals, but are social beings – they live in groups, they always have, and always will. Humans are like ants – one is absolutely useless, but taken as a whole, are a strong being. Humans are not like cats, which are indeed creatures that relay on themselves, and only on themselves. In this, it can be said that humans that are selfish are dysfunctional humans – for they are not contributing anything to the group, and thus everyone, including themselves, will suffer. (The prisoners dilemma is a great example of how being selfish will catch you out. )"

I could not agree less with this statement. I believe that all individuals have complete free will and all actions do stem directly from self interest. While humans are indeed social beings, we are in the end - individual beings. A person is perfectly capable of surviving on their own as they are in a society. We do not require one another to survive and require only one person of the opposite gender in order to procreate and continue society (although any further generations would obviously need more participation). An ant, on it's own, will likely survive a day or two, because it will find food and water, but will ultimately die without the protection and shelter offered by their hill. Humans, on the other hand, can survive alone in the wilderness indefinitely - we are capable of producing our own shelter, defending ourselves, foraging for food and water, and probably would even find some downtime to improve our primitive ways of life. That being said, I don't think there's any doubt that humans have much more potential of wealthy survival in the constructs of modern society, that society was a result of individuals realizing the potential of specialization ages ago and utilizing it. 

I'm going to use Tribal Wars a metaphor here, if you don't mind. A single village is like a person, give or take, and to start...this is a mixed village. It has to defend itself, so it produces defensive troops. In order for continued survival, however, expansion is necessary - so one needs to produce offensive troops as well. This is a decent system - this village, an a network of village designed in a similar way, would do well...for awhile. However, if the villages specialize (after the first one, this is a necessary side step, unfortunately) - one can defend both, while the other insures continue growth and expansion by producing only offensive troops. This exponentially improves the potential both village have of success. Therefore, it is in the best interest of village A, to produce defense while it is in the best interest of village B, to produce offense. It is also in the best interest of society. To kind of conclude this point - what is best for the individual, is also best for society as a whole.

It's important, however, to put the individual first in this statement though because without the individual's full, 100% willingness to participate, the society will not benefit. Society cannot demand the individual to follow what society deems is in societies (and therefore the individual's) best interest, the individual has to come freely and willingly or the final product will be compromised. To make this point even more clear is who is "society" - who has the right to deem what is right for society as a whole? Who has that authority? No individual, or council, or committee, or even general election could actually capture what is "best" for society - this is why it is vital for individuals to go only for personal gain, which in turn will benefit society, assuming fair business practice.

Also, another topic that I think got lost in the larger debate going on here - global currency...discuss.


A Quick One While He's Away

Google Chrome

Good evening - real quick, Google has released their own version of the web browser (see link above, if you Windows XP or Vista)

Also - what are thoughts on open-source programming versus proprietary software?

Another quiet Saturday night (or so it seems...), so expect a good post then.  Ta.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ahoy! Another nautical expression!

Good evening everyone, per tradition - we made it to the weekend and thus, you all get a nice post from me. I try my best to post something during the week, but I'm just far too busy, unfortunately. Also, I start school this week, so the likelihood of posts during the week, and even possibly, weekly posts, is somewhat diminished based on that schedule.

Also, I would like to thank Michael M. for his very informative comments on my conversation with Gary. Those can be found here...Cheaters - Comments. Unfortunately, Michael didn't leave an email address or anything, so I'm unable to add him as an author - so I'm guessing we won't be seeing his participation in our discussions anymore.

That being said, I would like to reply directly to those comments, just to kind of keep the conversation going. Again, I would like to thank Michael for increasing my general understanding of Rand's philosophies and objectivism as a whole. I've never claimed to be an expert, and I attempted to make it clear in my conversation with Gary (although I'm not sure if that part got moved over here), that my views are kind of a distorted version of objectivism to kind of match my own life. My only true issue with the monopolies argument, is once a monopoly arises due to course 3), how is society supposed to be protected from these monopolies from abusing their control over the market? I'm all for a company coming out and completely dominating the competition, and those companies should definitely be rewarded for their efforts. However, in a situation where they have no remaining competition due to either buyouts or bankruptcy, than there is no reason to continue innovations and the market becomes stagnant and overpriced. In markets where the upstart cost would far outweigh any potential gain from possible success, this industry standstill would continue until some kind of interference. Yes, there is some argument that consumers would stop purchasing an outdated or overpriced product at some point, but where is that line? This is my only concern regarding completely unregulated monopolies.

I think that responds somewhat to those comments, although I would very much like to continue the discussion with someone so obviously wiser than myself, so Michael - should you stumble upon this again, please leave your e-mail address in a comment (or you can e-mail me directly if you prefer) so that I may add you as an author.

I still have not prepared a well thought out response to Gary's last, although I'm foreseeing a quiet night so perhaps I shall put something together tonight yet.

Moving on to Gary's response in regards to horror movies. First and foremost, I would like to note that most horror movies released since...let's say, circa early 80s, with few exceptions have been formulaic and empty. This could actually be said about most of Hollywood's releases these days, but since we are focusing on horror - the window is much larger, unfortunately. That being said, that is no reason to write off horror as a genre entirely. Some horrors do indeed aspire to something more, like you mention with Southern Comfort (although, I've never scene that one myself, I will make it a point to keep an eye out for it).

Now the worst movies, mostly of the main stream crop, have all of the flaws that Gary mentioned - mindless characters, plots designed around further bloodshed, played out story lines and far-fetched endings. I'm not going to argue that these are a waste of time, but again - we cannot write off an entire genre based on mainstream misinterpretations.

As for the argument that we are being desensitized to violence, in many ways I agree, and yet - I am able to distinguish between fiction and reality. I find it hard to understand that others have a difficult time with this distinction. In no way would my copious hours of viewing mass amounts of bloody murders in anyway take away from the effect of an actual murder happening right in front of me. I am comfortable with horror movies because I know that the people being stabbed, shot, tortured, etc...are actually just fine. I mean, I am capable of drinking and spending time with people without violent tendencies, which you mention as an issue, but I see more going on culturally, than just an obsession with violence. Blaming modern media, while probably at least to some degree - a factor, I see it as more of a cop out more than anything. Modern media is, in theory, a representation of our society - so a society obsessed with violence will produce a violence-center medium, which in turn would likely create a more violence obsessed which case, this is an endless cycle. My biggest issue with this argument is that it takes the blame off the individual again, and places it on society. As if one person's burden, one person's inability to control their own impulses is everyone's problem. Responsibility of one's self should be reserved's self, not society or culture on a whole.

Prior to my next post (which may, or may not be tonight yet - no promises), I shall attempt to comprise a list of good horror films that may, or may not be bloodfests, but truly embody the spirit I feel horror is trying to convey. To pigeonhole such a diverse genre because of it's mainstream appearance would be judging a book by it's cover.

Damn flawed system respecting the record companies' right to distribute music as they see fit...
So anyways, tonight's list was SUPPOSED to include -

Song of the Moment: The Stills - Without Feathers (album). I wanted to include highlights "In the Beginning" (that one I found!) and "Helicopters" (that one didn't happen...). First and foremost, everyone should check out their debut album, Logic Will Break Your Heart, although if plan on checking out Without Feathers as well, prepare for a bit of a culture shock. LWBYH was a very keyboard driven album (think Joy Division) whereas WF took on a more guitar approach, with a bit of experimentation with various degrees of success. While LWBYH is likely more consistent, the highs on WF are higher (the lows are also lower, unfortunately), but I always make it a point to applaud experimentation within a formula band, so this is good. Check them out (I have mp3s and Google Talk if you would like me to send you some samples)...

Song That Makes Me Feel...Nostalgic (again): Harvey Danger - Old Hat (off of Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone). Key lyric - "I forget what my friends look like / and they forget why they like me / but that's old hat / I'm so happy / how do you write about that?" This song works in the same vein as Greetings in Braille, in that as we grow older and further apart from our childhoods (and subsequently, childhood friends), we find ourselves regrettably missing those relationships (platonic and romantic) - however, in 'Old Hat', we find our singer pleading "Call me freaky, call me childish, call me Ishmale. / Just call me back, call me back, call me back and I'll / Follow you around" indicating that those feelings have gone beyond simple nostalgia and taken a proactive precedence in his mindset...or I'm reading into it wrong - how do you take it? Lyrics.

BONUS Songs of the Moment: Harvey Danger - Wrecking Ball AND Problems and Bigger Ones.

The former is all about running away...running from nowhere, unfortunately, as nowhere always catches up. Key line - "Burn down the house / make sure the family is inside / Nothing more to tether you / also no one there to catch you crying" Lyrics. This song also works intentionally against the formerly established childhood yearnings previously indicated on the album (this is track nine - nostalgia come up as a common theme in both 'Old Hat' (track 7) and 'Private Helicopter' (track 4)) in the line "Don't let a childhood linger..."

The latter is all about a failing relationship...this is moreso just a good song, not necessarily a reflection of my present life (so don't try to read into anything). Lyrics.

Again, mp3s available to those interested...good songs, maybe in my next batch I'll have some I can actually add to the playlist.

Bonus Topic - Alice in Wonderland, in all it's variations...discuss.

Bonus Quote - "Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits."
- Dan Barker...discuss


Friday, September 5, 2008

The horror of horror!!

**Current track, Gorlliaz - Sound Check** It's my first listening of this track, so as of yet, I cannot pass any judgement on it. =/

Picking up on Nathens' post on horror films:

I am in the main, appalled by modern horror films. The endless blood-letting, the mindless characters, unimaginative stories, the unrealistic situations all contribute to me avoiding them at all costs... accept one.

The film in question is called 'Southern Comfort' and is easily one of the best films I have ever seen. The film revolves around a group of National Guard soldiers on exercises in the swamps of Louisiana. They are armed with the standard M16A1 rifles, backed up with a squad machine gun (sorry, I don't know my MG's - looks like a browning though) all loaded with blank rounds.

They set off into the swamp, following a route on the map, but come across a river that has changed course. They 'borrow' some of the natives' boats to cross the river, and leave a note. However, half way across the river, the owners of the boats come back, and start shouting at them in French. Trouble is, no one speaks French, and as a joke, MG man fires off a burst of blank rounds at the natives. The natives panic, and fire back with rifles, killing the Captain of the men.

So begins a game of cat & mouse with the locals, fighting a war that sees the men hounded and eventually killed off.

What makes this film so much better than more recent films, is that the characters act like the characters they would play in real life - the brave sergeant trying to hold the squad together as one unit, yet failing to the stronger & louder voiced men; the weapons acting as the real life weapons would - ie there are no super human efforts were a man in a bandana firing wildly from the hip is able to shoot hundreds of enemies with one 30 round clip.

The film even has a critical, political undertone - ie Vietnam - now name me one modern horror film that seeks to do that!!

Anyway, enough on the art, that is the film Southern Comfort.

Another point I have on modern horror movies is that they are desensitizing many people to violence. See the often brutal and common beatings that result from a Saturday night drinking in the town - and it’s not just young men - its women as well. Over here they call it 'Ladette culture'. Personally, I see it as a new equality between the sexes.

But I digress - the point is, is that a society that is desensitized to violence is a bad society indeed - and here’s the next clichéd sentence: someone think of the children!!

What kind of example is it setting to them!?

In conclusion: treating humans as mere objects, for cutting up, for sex, or for your own monetary gain is wrong, and the morality of this should, and in my opinion, needs to be questioned in our 'modern' society.

((By the way - notice that the characters in Southern Comfort are not treated as objects - they are treated like ordinary people put into extraordinary situations, though their vices, and also though their virtues, they got into this situation)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


So Gary and I have been cheating on you all by having an intelligent conversation behind your backs. We're sorry. Here's what I've got thus far...

Nathan - As for technology, I think I'm a little jaded by my youth in that I've only really seen the Internet explosion, home PCs were somewhat common for most of my youth and while I didn't get my own until I bought one in high school, my family had one since I was a wee little lad. Heading into the future though, I don't know how anyone couldn't be excited about things to come. With the advances in nano-technology and flash storage, we're entering a whole new realm of computing, we're going to see a lot of exciting things, very soon.

I've actually never thought of myself as being dragged down by the machine, because it's typically those systems that help me think outside of the box, or however you want to look at it. I've known for sometime that ideas and theories can only carry you so far. I've always been a world-view kind of guy though, always looking and trying to understand everything that's around me and how it all interacts, that's probably one of the elements that draws me to TW.

Gary - I have found that having a world-view is very inadequate to explain ones’ opinions – it does not allow one to have an imagination & to think outside of the box – for example, my world- view used to be that of a socialist – I ended up ignoring it after a while, as I found that it did not reflect my true opinions, and no amount of flag waving could make up for that.

One of the most important of my opinions is that I believe in a social elite, however, by very definition, socialism disregards that, and seeks to rid society of the social élite. (Or the ‘bourgeoisie’). I think when it comes to this kind of thing (world –views), I am also influenced by a passage from a Haruki Murakami book, Kafka on the shore.

(I am sorry, but I have been waiting to bounce this passage off of someone, but no one has ever shown any interest – so you are going to be the unwilling victim of my digression!! =D )

[quote] “that’s it,” Oshima say. He taps his temple with the rubber end of the pencil. “But there’s one thing I want you to remember, Kafka. Those are precisely the kind of people who murdered Miss Saeki’s’ childhood sweetheart [murdered by a student union in their ‘revolution’] . Narrow mind devoid of imagination. Intolerance theories cut off from reality, empty terminology usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear & loathe. Of course it’s important to know what’s right and wrong. Individual errors in judgement can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change the form and continue to thrive. They’re a lost cause, and I don’t want anyone like that coming in here”.

Oshima points at the stacks [of books] with the tip of his pencil. What he really means, of course, is the entire library.

“I wish I could just laugh off people like that, but I can’t.”[/quote]

I interpret what you said in your last mail ( [quote] I've always been a world-view kind of guy though, always looking and trying to understand everything that's around me and how it all interacts, that's probably one of the elements that draws me to TW.[/quote]) as on of those people that’ll probably agree with what I say here – what’s your opinion??

Nathan - As far as that passage goes, please, I'm sure I'll be dropping quotes on you eventually, so hammer away at me as much as you please. I did enjoy the passage though and I do indeed agree with what it's saying, for the most part. Systems need to be fluid and thoughts malleable as we live in an ever evolving world and what worked yesterday, probably won't work tomorrow...the whole theory of entropy, etc...

However, I do somewhat disagree with your socialist aspect. I'm actually an objectivist, to some degree...altered to fit my own life and situation, but the philosophy more or less, is the same. While I agree that the trouble with inheritance and simplicity of life for those in the social elite versus those in the gutter is quite drastic and gives an unfair advantage to those who start out ahead, in an ideal society - hard work would be paid off appropriately. That is my biggest qualm with socialism, that one is rewarded the same for giving 100% and giving 10%. I hate to say it but it's just human nature to take what they can get and give nothing more if they don't have to.

Probably the two most influential things in my personal philosophy was my childhood psychologist and Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." As I already mentioned, I'm an objectivist to a degree, which is where AS comes in, but I think it was my psychologist who set me down that path with a very simple metaphor - "Why does a father run into a burning building to save his son?" "Because the pain and guilt of losing his son would hurt much more than any fire could do to him" - it was that statement that made me realize, everyone is self-serving, to some degree. Every action can be traced to some self benefiting result, whether it be conscious, or not. I don't know if that makes sense, I still haven't really been able to articulate my actual philosophy into words, but I'm getting closer it seems.

Gary - As I said before, I am most defiantly not a Socialist – but I disagree with what you say – Marx actually commented that one should be rewarded proportional to the amount of work done. I am not exactly sure how, but that was the upshot of the very same discussion in my politics class once.

I read a bit about the book on Wikipedia, and it seems to me that Rand was just trying to justify Western Capitalism & individualism… Perhaps this book should be added to my reading list. =)

Quick digression – you had a childhood psychologist?? If you don’t mind me asking – why?? (Just ignore this bit if you don’t want to answer ^^ )

I don’t like the idea that all action is motivated by self interest. For example – why does a father run into a burning building to save his son?? Answer – because he loves him & does not want to see him hurt.

I give you that there are simply selfish actions, like if I take my sisters sweets without telling her, for example. But, it’s all in moderation – if one is too concerned about oneself, then one is selfish; however if one cares too little about oneself, then one is selfless, which is a vice as well.

If you’d like me to dig out my philosophy teachers’ theory of action, I’ll send it over for you to have a look at.

Nathan - Remind me later in Weekend Philosophers to bring up the benefits of a global currency. Also, I was wondering if it would be alright with you if I took our ongoing conversation regarding societal policies, and edited into straight conversation form and posted it on WP, hoping to strum up some dialog that way. I understand most people don’t have the hour or so it takes to write up my ridiculous posts, but I’m trying to encourage people to write a little bit, at least on a somewhat regular basis, if nothing else.

I’ve heard good things regarding Chekov, although my own personal reading hasn’t taken me that direction as of yet. Right now I’m drifting towards the utopian writings, like Paradise Lost, and such. I’ve always been interested in the concept of a Utopia, not as an actual goal to aim for, but the fatal flaws of attempting to develop a perfect system. I enjoy discovering the cracks in a societies veneer…somewhat justifies the corruption and weaknesses I note in our own government systems.

When speaking specifically of socialism, I’m not speaking directly of Marx’s theory, per se, as in theory – it’s an excellent work of art. However, the implementation of it is, and has been, difficult at best. China gets away with it through a Big Brother-esque military system keeping their people in line and that’s the only reason they have a thriving communist economy. Most everything is somewhat fictionalized, at least to my understanding, and how can man be as productive as to his potential when he doesn’t even know what’s real or not. Rand does indeed encourage a western capitalist system – she grew up in communist Russia before fleeing to the US, and that has obviously greatly influenced her. She encourages a system that more or less, has never existed in that there would be no government influence whatsoever. While I disagree slightly with this aspect, as we cannot allow monopolies to go around and the place thus some regulation is required, however – as of right now, the government in all parts of the world have too many fingers in the economy, and this only leads to further forms of corruption. This is in stark contradiction with Rand’s concept in which hard work and innovated business practices lead to economic success whereas mooching off others or looting the latest trends, will eventually lead to failure. Rand’s other well known novel, “The Fountainhead” is a brilliant piece of work in its own right, focusing on the power of the individual, and the potential of man as a whole – it’s really more person based rather than society, like “Atlas Shrugged.”

As for the argument as to the motives behind anybody’s actions, it’s an impossible argument one way or another – there are always two sides to the coin, one can say the father is risking his life for personal gain (or avoidance of personal loss) and another could argue just as strongly that he is risking his life for another whom he loves. However, because it’s impossible to have any insight as to what motivates this action, we’ll never know. In all honesty, do we know why we do most things we do? Do we know our own true motivations? How much of it is subconsciously influenced in ways we can’t even comprehend at this point? Rand promoted “rational selfishness” which was more based – not on whims, like stealing candy, but rather on well thought out and executed plans. Basically, she’s asking us to not be guided by God or society, but by our own internal compass.

Gary - A global currency… hmmm. I reckon that the economics behind that would be really complicated… sure would make things easier though. The only example I can think of is the Euro, introduced back in the day in the EU (we didn’t join in though, *insert bitching about British mentality of being an island, here*) the countries with strong currencies such as Germany & France lost out ( I am not too sure of the economics behind it) where as it was much in the benefit of countries like Italy, who had a weak currency. What I am saying is, is that at the moment Britons do very well, when we buy online from other countries – see previous example for details – I sometimes make a point of buying books from the US, because the exchange rate makes it stupidly cheap for me… I am not sure if I would like to give that up.

It’s interesting to hear your taste in literature is more for the utopian. I figure that some of the best art is set in these, and in dystopias. I am still finding my taste in Literature at the moment –it is mostly inspired by role models I have. I don’t think I’ll know exactly what I like until a couple of years worth of reading down the line. After all, literature is not like music – it takes longer, and is more expensive to get hold of. That and, one needs a certain amount of cultural capital in order to hear of it – kind of like Classical music – one needs someone to tell you about it, as it is not in the mainstream of everyday life. In conclusion, I guess one has to look for art that is good, not wait passively for it to come to you on the back of a massive corporate campaign, or hear of it on TV, when watching something that has nothing to do with Art.

The trouble I have always found (prepare yourself for a socialist paragraph) is that parents never have time to sit down and play with their kids – like board games. When both the parents have to go out & work full time to pay the bills, it’s not as if they can come home and spend time with the children. Even if they do have the evening free, all they want to do is flop down on the sofa and watch TV. In this, I reckon that you were very luckily to spend time with your family as a child playing board games – that’s what I really like about the US, is that people have a good attitude toward the family – I kind of got that vibe from Boogieman and other southerners that were in our tribe in RIP. In Britain, not much emphasis is put on bringing up children – probably another ailment of an increasingly secular society.

I have to say that personally I have a very low regard for the virulent, unscrupulous, and sometimes violent multinational companies that seek to force their ‘freedom’ upon us. This links into my hatred of ‘free’ markets, contractualist ethics, and rampant individualism. =)

In this, I have little or no sympathy for western capitalism and democracy, depending on my mood.

I’ll explain my point of view of what the government should be, which may help to explain my view. I regard the government as a doctor, sent in to cure society’s illnesses. There is no place for ‘managerial’ government, where the government seeks to administrate the markets, and to solve disputes, making sure that all stick to a social contract. My ideal government would be in the business of leadership, giving society a series of projects that all aspire to achieve – and it’s not to ban smoking in public places!! (Done a couple of years ago here). The Atlee government of 1945-49 is a good example of the kind of government that should be in power. Pity they got voted out by a selfish and ignorant British public. The government should also be a cultural elite, not the richest candidate.

As for individualism as a theory, I believe it’s inherently flawed. It believes that all have free will, and are able to float about with nothing but self interest, determining their action. Its ignores the important point that humans are not individuals, but are social beings – they live in groups, they always have, and always will. Humans are like ants – one is absolutely useless, but taken as a whole, are a strong being. Humans are not like cats, which are indeed creatures that relay on themselves, and only on themselves. In this, it can be said that humans that are selfish are dysfunctional humans – for they are not contributing anything to the group, and thus everyone, including themselves, will suffer. (The prisoners dilemma is a great example of how being selfish will catch you out. )

So now you know my opinion on current society – I hope I am not too muddled on it.

So that's where that stands, I am yet to reply as I am forming my rebuttal. For anyone wondering - this is exactly how I foresee conversations going here, as time rolls on. So there you have the set up - take it from there, and I'll try to narrate this conversation once Gary loses Internet (we are going to use snail mail).