Friday, August 24, 2012

The evil that cell phone companies do

My name is Sponge Freddie, and I'm an Electronic Crackaholic.

I used to scoff at everyone madly texting with electronic devices.

"I'm so glad I'm not a slave to that ridiculous electronic crack," I would contentedly remind myself, every time I witnessed the compulsive obsession a passerby or acquaintance would be experiencing with his or her device.

I only consented to a cell phone because when I got married, I reasoned that my wife might need to get a hold of me for some reason, so I should probably have one. Once I made that decision, I purposely opted for the most primitive phone possible at the time. I had absolutely zero interest in the latest and greatest electronic waste of my attention.

After quite some time, my wife and I started texting little messages here and there when we were apart. We discovered that even though we both found the whole "texting" thing irritating and objectionable, lo and behold, we had fun texting each other. A lesson was learned, in terms of the actual usefulness of the device versus the perceived usefulness.

This texting activity culminated the day when my wife happened to find an allegedly "amazing deal" on two matching cell phones with slide-out keyboards that we could acquire for free, just for making a small adjustment to our already existing cell phone plan.

So, another lesson learned; I found that I loved the many features of the new phone, such as big, colored characters, a nice screen I could put a picture of my wife on, and easily adjustable font size in the text window.

But then, something happened, which caused a string of events, making me realize that cell phone companies are not just companies making money, but evil.

I accidentally placed my cell phone into a ceramic cup of soda pop.

After the prescribed attempt to revive my phone (taking battery out, rinsing phone with water, blowing out with air, drying out for several days in a container of dry rice), I resigned myself to buying another phone. I had a very unpleasant surprise waiting for me, however.

First, I found out the model my wife picked out for us has been discontinued; no more green, now it's "Charcoal Gray" or "Charcoal Yellow." But, I can live with a cosmetic difference. Then we went shopping.

At T-Mobile, the Samsung Gravity Txt phone  was $139.99. At Target, where my wife initially bought our phones, the same phone was $224.99. However, the most insidious development was yet to come.

Observe carefully the following page:

T-Mobile Samsung Gravity Txt

Eventually, when the phone is discontinued, the pricing and interactive portion of the web page will most likely be disabled, so here are the particulars of their pricing scam, in terms of how much the actual phone will cost the customer:

A New T-Mobile Customer with an Individual Plan: $0.00.
A New T-Mobile Customer with a Family Plan: $9.99.
An Existing T-Mobile Customer to upgrade phone with new contract (Individual Plan): $0.00.
An Existing T-Mobile Customer to upgrade phone with new contract (Family Plan): $0.00.

And now, drum roll please...

An Existing T-Mobile Customer to replace phone without new contract: $249.99.

So what does this mean?

It means that cell phone service providers are more like drug pushers than legitimate businesses earning an honest living.

How does a business normally treat its loyal customers? Not like that. We are existing customers of T-Mobile, and are already paying $2,280.00 over two years, via the mutually agreed-upon contract we signed when we received the phones.

If you are a new customer, the cost of the requisite 2-year plans far exceeds the cost of the $250 phone you got for $9.99, so in effect, no matter how you slice it, the cell phone company is going to screw you in the wallet every time.

A drug pusher will always let you taste the wares "for free." It's the hook that drags you into an extended buyer-supplier relationship that typically leaves the buyer penniless, sick, dead, or if he or she is "lucky," a recovering addict.

While the cell phone user may not end up as tragically as the drug abuser, the fact remains that once you have been suckered into the culture of being "plugged in," it is only the most extraordinary individual who can rise above that artificial encumbrance.

Does a company deserve remuneration for products and services provided?


Does a customer deserve price fixing and horrendously overblown charges?

Absolutely not.

What was my solution to my particular problem?

I went back to using my relatively featureless old cell phone. I'm not paying $140 to $250 for a cell phone that could have just as easily been sold at cost by the Cell Phone Pushers, er, I mean Cell Phone Companies, especially since we're already on a 2 year plan and now we don't even have one of the two phones we were enticed with to sign up in the first place!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Freedom Of Speech?


So when an atheist parent gets upset because his or her child is "forced" to be in the same room while others seek to pray to or discuss God at school, the parents of the "offending" children are subject to legal pressure by the ACLU, et al. Apparently the right to free speech does not apply to someone who wants to pray or talk about God.

And if a fast-food restaurant chain's CEO says he does not support gay marriage, then that's a cue for some gay activist organizations to schedule a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day."  The sole purpose being an opportunity for homosexual couples to put on a kissing exhibition at their local Chick-fil-A restaurant, and in effect, rub those "intolerant" noses in it. Apparently Dan Cathy is also not allowed to exercise his Constitutional right to free speech.

I fully support these organizations' rights to express their opinions publicly, but swapping spit in public is not the most mature, nor effective, reaction to the opposing viewpoint. If the parents of a praying child were to react to legal pressure by bringing in a busload of altar boys to the classroom to sing Amazing Grace during science class, I think it would make about as much sense.

It's also interesting to note that although there is no discrimination against gay employees at Chick-fil-A, nor is there any existing directive to discourage gay people from patronizing the stores, the dependable buzzword "hate" has automatically cropped up from the "support equality" side of the imbroglio.

Witness some of the propaganda:

If you wish to view more of these strategically inflammatory aspersions yourself, and the web sites they come from, just search the terms "hate gays chick fil a" and select "images" instead of "web." You'll have plenty to choose from.

What I find most interesting in all this though, is that customers are lining up, sometimes nearly around the block, to show support for Chick-fil-A, despite the efforts of others to drag the business down. As a result, Chick-fil-A is experiencing record profits.

What this means is that despite specific organizations and individuals who live by the sword of fear-mongering slander, the public at large will not relinquish their natural birthrights to think or believe what they wish. I'm willing to bet that a lot of people standing in line at Chick-fil-A may even support gay marriage, or are ambivalent. They just don't want a bunch of cunning harpies with libelous hammers to dictate to the world what is proper to say in public.

This effect has also played out in legislative arenas. According to the New York Times, to date there have been 32 ballot measures that would have legalized or banned gay marriage, and that opponents of gay marriage have won all 32. What is this saying? Do you really think it means that lots of people hate gays? Take your own personal account of all the people you've ever met; the numbers just don't match what the militant gay organizations would have you believe.

One of my wife's best friends has a same-sex partner who laid out the solution so elegantly to us one afternoon, that to this day I still think he has the superior perspective.

To paraphrase, he said that pushing for gay marriage is a pointless waste of time. He believes that instead of taking on an institution like marriage, which is traditionally a ceremony where two people say their vows before humans and God, he said it would be wiser and more appropriate to lobby for civil unions instead. In this way, the same-sex partners would still retain all the rights and privileges from the State that married couples do, but they would be leaving God out of it.

Let's face it. It's not hateful to observe the gigantic irony of pushing for a religious ceremony whose presiding Authority's intention is the propagation of the species. If God is supposedly so intolerant and hateful toward gays, then why would gays even want to take part in a ceremony that is ratified by the same God? It just doesn't make any sense.

And guess what? My wife and I also have another two friends who are a same-sex couple, and they were married in Quebec. I care for both of them a great deal, and the idea of hurting them, or trying to take away their marriage, or anything of the sort, is ridiculous to me. They were happy with their decision, and I was happy for their happiness.

But if I feel like eating at Chick-fil-A, I'm bloody well going to do so, no matter what the thought police do to dissuade me.

And... I'm not going to boycott over their 2.5 million dollar contribution to "Washington United for Marriage." Jeff Bezos is just as entitled to free speech as Dan Cathy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

YouTubers Anonymous

I have a confession to make.

Against my better judgment, and regardless of previous negative experiences, now and then I make the mistake of engaging other human beings in the comment sections of various YouTube pages.

Granted, I don't know any of these people personally. They could be from all walks of life, all levels of intellectual acumen, and completely spanning every kind of culture and subculture that exists. The one thing many of them have in common, however, is a desire to castigate what they view as idiocy, despite that oftentimes their targets are merely expressing different points of view.

More vexing to me than their acrimonious or vulgar commentary, is why on earth I am still sometimes moved to leave any comments at all. "Put your hand in the fire," and so on.

In the interest of total honesty, I can't recall if every comment I've ever left was positive at the onset. I can say that the greatest majority of my past comments started out as thoughtful and benign, but thanks to others who think it their duty to put me in my place, I have sometimes sunk to arguing.

These exchanges never end well, and I am always left with a similar dirty feeling that a recovering addict feels when he or she backslides into the addiction. I feel disgusted with myself if I dwell on how much I have in common with these faceless YouTube pseudonyms, whose cognitive dissonance appears to completely obscure their own proclivities.

So, as a form of self-improvement and repentance, from this day forward I will attempt to refrain from leaving comments on any more YouTube pages.

The best way to rise above the muck is to simply not stomp around in it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I was going to rant about how much I dislike my job, but then I realized among my other faults, I would have to add "complainer." So I won't carp about the job; no one would listen or care anyway, because most people aren't fond of what they do for a living. Why should I get any special consideration?

Instead I would like to count my blessings:
  1. Life.
  2. Love (my wife).
  3. Family.
  4. Good health.
  5. Plenty of healthy food and water.
  6. Relative peace and safety.
  7. Member of a great rock band.
  8. House to live in.
  9. Clothes.
  10. Automobile.
  11. Book projects.
  12. Programming project.
  13. Music.
  14. Movies.
  15. Books.
  16. Video games.

Although I appreciate that I have a method of legally obtaining income, my job isn't even on the list. It's not so much a blessing, but a necessary thistle I must cultivate to survive.

How many blessings do you have?

No matter how bleak life may get, there are always bright spots somewhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The snare of pride

There was a plaque that my mother used to hang on the wall. It said, "Never answer an angry word with an angry word, it's the second that makes the quarrel."

In life, sometimes the most difficult thing to do is simply shut one's mouth and walk away.

When a human being demonstrates that he or she wishes to argue (as opposed to discuss), the decision is made to engage in a negative exchange with another human being that rarely ever ends in mutual edification or satisfaction.

Where does this desire come from that makes us want to "make our point" at the expense of someone else's ego?


"He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."

Monday, July 23, 2012

A moment of pondering

If anyone is to take a few moments and read a few pages of Netflix reviews, or YouTube comments, or even forum posts regarding controversial subjects, one will quickly encounter a principal problem with the human race.

As I write this short essay, I am painfully aware of how much I belong in the group of those who think their own opinions or thoughts are worthy of sharing with the world. In that capacity, I am no less guilty than anyone else who gives their opinions in public.

In earlier days, I used to ponder about something that I'm a bit ashamed of now. I used to ponder what pleasure God could possibly derive from idiots.

As you can well surmise, that statement alone automatically places me in a precarious position, simply because anyone's true idiot status is not for a single human being to decide.

Even still, I did ponder.

In daily life, there are so many encounters with the inconsiderate, the rude, the thoughtless, the selfish, the aggressive, the histrionic, the melodramatic, the angry, the sarcastic, the nihilistic, the pessimistic, the deranged... the list is exhaustive and exhausting.

At any given time, to be blatantly honest, any one of us could commit some single act that would fall under any one of the descriptions in the previous paragraph. So perhaps that's why we're not supposed to judge others; if we actually believe we're free of objectionable behavior, then we're also free from honesty regarding our perceptions of ourselves.

I no longer question such a thing as what possible pleasure God could derive from idiots. I realize it's a fool's train of thought, as I'm sure I've played the idiot on more than one occasion in my life.

These days, I tend to ponder things like this:

How can anyone look at the entire world's behavioral track record, including his or her own behavior, and persist in deriding the concept of original sin?

That's the ugly side of subjectivity: our cognitive dissonance keeps us blind to whatever the truth might actually be.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Monkey on our backs

The most succinct definition I could find of the idiom "monkey on your back" was the following:

A serious problem that will not go away.

There are more specific definitions that identify things like drug addiction and duties we don't want to deal with. The summary above pretty much covers them all.

The complete etymology of the phrase aside, it's safe to say the concept has been around much longer than the phrase itself. Before we said "monkey on your back," we certainly had other ways to express the phenomenon of having to constantly struggle with something in our lives.

There is another explanation that was once used, and it originally was intended in a literal sense, then through time and psychoanalytical desensitization and misdirection it became a figurative reference: demons.

When we use this term today, we mean someone has an internal struggle that wreaks some level of havoc in their emotional, intellectual and sometimes physical lives. Usually, the reference comes with qualifiers, such as "inner" demons or "personal" demons.

One of the powerful traits of the human mind, as compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, is our innate ability to think in the abstract. That's why we're so good at things like math and poetry; we can create and understand things like concepts and analogies. Everything does not have to be literal for us to comprehend it.

And so through time, as we understand more about our universe and how it works, we take what was once literal, and relegate it to figurative status. Before we 'understood' the human mind, as we believe we do now, we thought inexplicable self-destructive behavior was the result of being possessed by demons.

Now that we are 'enlightened,' the idea of literal demons (actual beings who could influence our thinking) produces elevated eyebrows and sarcastic remarks about ignorance. Now that we are so much wiser to the ways of human behavior and the official 'sciences' of the mind, the only places literal demons are appropriate are in fiction books, songs, plays and movies.

I'd like to temporarily pause from the flow of this essay and ask everyone a question.

Do you know anyone, other than a very young child, that is completely free of any sort of mental compulsion that manifests itself in some form of self-defeating or destructive behavior?

Despite the typically inaccurate perception we have of others doing better than ourselves, we must, upon astute and thorough scrutinizing, come to the conclusion that there is no one who is completely free of the back-riding monkeys that plague us all to some degree, however slight or great.

Now I'll ask a short but important question.


The most typical answer will be some form of, "Because human beings aren't perfect."

Okay, let's run with that ball for a bit.

If there is some standard of perfection we can conceive of, why does it appear impossible for anyone to achieve it? Anything is possible; isn't that what we're taught from grade school on? If so, then why is every man, woman and non-toddler on planet Earth saddled with some sort of mental or physical affliction that keeps them from this struggle-free existence that perfection would imply?

To temporarily help us forget or avoid our internal struggles, some of us drown ourselves in a bathtub of gin, or a haze of marijuana smoke. Some of us troll singles bars or the Internet for sexual gratification, be it via self-stimulation, escorts or other randy trollers. Some of us cripple ourselves with anger, some with apathy, some with depression... the list goes on.

Some of us decide to take the "high road" and become members of the clergy, monks in an isolated haven, fanatical proponents of exercise, meditation or yoga, or just prostrate ourselves continuously before God, in an attempt to purge the darkness from our lives.

But even for those who seem to have their spiritual lives in order, the internal struggles remain. Like Alcoholics Anonymous famously declares, there are no ex-alcoholics, only recovering alcoholics.

Now I'm dropping that ball and returning to the point of this essay.

Mental and physical maladies are at an all-time high. The statistics for mental illness and physical infirmity are easily accessed on the Internet, and they are sobering to say the least. The expensive medications prescribed for these allegedly organic problems are also legion, and show no signs of being replaced by any non-chemical resolutions.

Next question:

If our collective knowledge about ourselves is so advanced and accurate, then why have our relatively modern solutions not only failed to lessen our internal struggles, but could be suspected of making them worse?

Having a common enemy can galvanize a populace. The solidarity that occurred in the United States immediately after 9/11 was palpable. Through time however, things went back to selfish business as usual, as a matter of course in the human experience. Why do I bring that up?

We are more unhappy, more unfulfilled, more tortured and more self-defeated than ever, even in this astoundingly technologically advanced year of 2012.

Somewhere along the line, we lost humankind's common enemy. It was replaced by theories, conjecture, sophistry, and the pharmaceuticals produced to address these potentially spurious explanations.

Make no mistake, we all have a mutual enemy. The worst part of it is that the greatest tool we had to fight it was our own belief that it existed. No one checks under the bed for monsters they don't believe are there.

What was the original phrase that spawned so many popular versions?

I believe it was Charles Baudelaire, in a poem called The Generous Gambler:

"My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil's best trick is to persuade you that he doesn't exist!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recent developments

As I sit here typing this blog entry, I'm listening to a makeshift compilation of all the current mixes of the rock band I'm the lead singer for, Continuous Audio Transmission. The other two esteemed members of the band are Jeff Smoots (guitars, bass and drums), and Wayde Cooper (guitars, bass and drums).

The link for our band web site is here:

Continuous Audio Transmission

We are about to release our first single, after three and a half years of work. This is somewhat misleading; we haven't worked on the project continuously for all that time (despite our band name). All three of us have day jobs and various adult responsibilities, so finding time to work on our parts is a bit of a challenge at times. We also all coincidentally work in information technology jobs. I finally jettisoned my erstwhile career in restaurant serving about three months ago, and returned to work more suited for my analytical sensibilities.

Despite the time-eating, necessary evil known as work, here we are, about to release the first single from a collection of ten originals and one cover. We three have quite a history together, and it goes all the way back to 1991/92 when we were in a band called Axis, that played rock clubs all over Seattle during that time. If you remove me from the mix, the collaboration goes even further back, to 1986, when Jeff and Wayde first met in school.

I prefer to maintain my wife's and my privacy, but I felt this was an exceptional moment in my life. In truth, I had been writing, recording and performing music from 1980 all the way to 1998, when I had finally had enough of banging my head against the wall in attempts to "make it." Back then, I was so fed up with trying to become a rock star, I was glad to shed myself of anything more musical than singing in the shower or car.

But my philosophical odyssey in Columbus somehow managed to get my head screwed on properly about music. Music should never be explored for the sake of fame or fortune; it should only be pursued for the honest desire to simply enjoy it. Anything other than that is a sham and a waste of the everyone's time.

So what will happen to Continuous Audio Transmission?

I no longer harbor the self-indulgent rock star dreams of youth. Whatever the world may make of our music, good or bad, I have experienced a considerable sense of pride and accomplishment in the music that Jeff and Wayde and I have made together. In the process, two extremely talented individuals who were nothing more than a pleasant memory have become my friends and respected colleagues.

What more can one really ask?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Balancing the scales

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

The world has always been a beautiful place. If you removed human beings, all the pollution and unnatural destruction would be completely gone in a few thousand years.

We are here though, so those speculations are pointless.

This essay isn't about anything as controversial as the contention that Earth must be saved from the likes of litterbugs and people who drive automobiles. It's about something much more intense and real.

There is great evil in the world. For most of us, the greatest evil we ever experience is a broken bone or a cheating spouse. For some of the highly unfortunate, the evil they fall victim to stinks so horrendously that it extends all the way to a place we can't even reach.

There are wicked human beings in the world who sink to the lowest depths of depravity for the sake of money. Kidnapping women, girls and boys to sell as sex slaves is not just a disturbing subject for movies like Trade or Taken; it actually happens. The victims number in the millions.

In some countries, families are coerced into giving up their prepubescent daughters to avoid death or ruination by the twisted brutes who impose this upon them. And what about those who purchase and keep these human beings as sexual pets? Do these 'masters' deserve understanding or mercy? Do they deserve the mercy they have not shown to others? Do they actually imagine that treating their 'property' well will make a difference when their reckoning occurs?

These things do happen. There are real human beings who are drugged, sold, raped, used, kept as sexual servants... and after possibly years of this irrevocable torture, they are permanently discarded. To put this in perspective, simply imagine your own daughter, sister, wife or girlfriend forced into this situation, and never seeing her again.

That's not how the story ends, however. Whether it is today, or tomorrow, next week, next year, no matter; those who do such evil will be burned. Burned through and through, until all that is left is an unfortunate memory that will be forgotten in the shining light of love, truth and justice.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

As some are quick to point out, this recompense will not repair or replace the lives destroyed. In the interest of waxing wise and temperate, these lukewarm Yodas prefer to remind us that 'revenge' is nothing more than a perpetuation of evil. But what I'm referring to is not the revenge of an angry man or allegedly malicious God. It is the inevitable machinery of a universe providing uncompromising balance that extends beyond our fragile blink-of-an-eye lives.

The universe is the same as our planet. As Earth is a perfectly engineered, life-creating and life-sustaining biosphere, so the universe is alive and perpetual, with the perfect combination of mass, movement and gravity. One blade of grass moving in some deserted plain is as relevant as a distant supernova, and just as worthy of note. It staggers the imagination that some people actually think something as significant as the trafficking of non-consensual sex slaves will go unnoticed.

As these kidnappers and sex traders continue in their disgusting daily activities, it surely must seem as proof positive to them that they will always escape any sort of retribution. Their money and their guns are firmly placed in their pockets.

But the scales will not remain unbalanced, because the lives they willingly stole cannot be restored.

The people I'm speaking of aren't merely sad, like burglars, swingers or alcoholics. The people I'm speaking of are the excessively wicked; those who willingly destroy the lives of others for personal gain. And make no mistake; they always have a choice, regardless of their personal history.

Every single one of them, from the smallest to the greatest, is going to burn.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where can we go from here?

"You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire, you build egos the size of cathedrals, fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse, grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own god; and where can you go from there?"

The astute preceding paragraph is from the screenplay adaptation by Jonathan Lemkin of a book by Andrew Neiderman, called The Devil's Advocate. The dialogue in quotes was delivered proficiently by Al Pacino, playing the Devil disguised as lawyer John Milton. I apologize if any dialogue I attribute to Lemkin was originally penned by Neiderman; I haven't read the book.

Here's the YouTube video of that scene in the film (warning: some adult language):

D3vil's Advocate- Eddie Barzum

Like a piece of art, the interpretation is up to the observer. However, any artist, unless he or she is being disingenuous for the sake of monetary gain, generally has a specific meaning or meanings intended by the work.

The Devil's Advocate is a clever story, and is about as accurate as you can get regarding the alleged status of Satan. That status being not the traditional Halloween monstrosity, but the proud and rebellious individual who once held a high position in the presence of God. He is the once-perfect being whose heart was lifted too high by the magnitude of his beauty, and whose wisdom was corrupted by his brightness.

While the book and movie are works of fiction, and I am ignorant of the contents of the book, I will observe that the screenplay was exceptionally effective in portraying not only Satan's place in the universe, but Man's as well. We, the proud creatures who also fell from grace due to our arrogance.

As we move further into the 21st century, there are so many things we take for granted in more advanced and socially progressive countries. We assume that we have natural and guaranteed birthrights to happiness. We assume that our egos alone are justification enough for our subjective opinions regarding what is good and what is not. We assume our own assessments of morality are the correct ones; furthermore, we assume that those who disagree with us are either idiots, or just plain wrong.

Take a look around. Believe it or not, despite every technological development from the wheel to the personal computer, human beings are exactly the same as they were back in ancient Mesopotamia. Our interactions, our joys and sorrows, and all of our worldly and daily concerns have not changed one jot since the beginning of recorded time. Our clothes, homes, automobiles and endless gadgets are truly impressive, but strip them all away, and the naked humans left standing are no different than their 'primitive' predecessors. Knowledge can only build on itself; we are merely at a place in history that exhibits the exponential technological fruits of the passage of time.

We gawk at those who make public statements about this 'imaginary entity' called God. We spend every waking moment fulfilling our own inclination to pretend there is no greater measurement of right and wrong than the one between our own ears.

We have bought the lie. We actually think we are our own gods, that all that matters is what we think, and that the pursuit of personal gratification is the most important endeavor toward which a human can aspire. 21st century human beings believe they are more evolved, more enlightened, more wise than ever before. Yet the rampant selfishness and great sorrow that it produces are tangible reminders that we're only deluding ourselves. The human experience is the same, from the beginning until now, and shows no signs of changing other than in our own misinformed imaginations.

We have bought the lie; hook, line and sinker. Like fish that will always snap at a dangling worm, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by 'non-existent' beings that we have been brainwashed to believe are nothing more than horror-movie bogeymen in our imaginations. At the same time, we also allow ourselves to be manipulated by the whims of the detached elite and social provocateurs of dubious character.

It is far easier and acceptable to pretend the universe exploded from nothing all by itself, therefore erasing any moral codes other than ones we may dream up on our own.

It is much more difficult to attempt passing through the strait gate; especially when most of the world will try to guilt, deride, condescend, trick and persuade you away from it.

Why would anyone want to 'endure' such a narrow path, if all signs point to more worldly pleasure if you don't? What kind of 'sad and ignorant fool' would fight to retain his or her honesty and integrity against all odds?

For many are called, but few are chosen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Who's doin' this?

In the 1998 remake of The Thin Red Line, a character voice-over says the following:

This great evil; where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doin' this? Who's killin' us? Robbin' us of life and light? Mockin' us with the sight of what we might've known? Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?

The most important question in that paragraph is "Who's doin' this?"

The answer is just too humiliating for 'modern' human beings to accept.

I'm not a secular humanist. I do, however, believe in the intrinsic goodness of mankind (or the more politically correct term, humanity). The paragraph from The Thin Red Line is more relevant than most of us realize. Our shared predicament is not a result of a handful of evil men, although a handful of evil men certainly perpetuate misery on the planet based on their own agendas of greed.

Why hasn't our ever-expanding knowledge made us more wise? Why is it we have increasingly fantastic examples of human ingenuity, yet the so-called primitive aggression of generations past has not left us at all? If the social scientists are correct, and we are now so much better off because of our ever-growing collective 'enlightenment', then why were the worst wars in human history fought in the last 100 years?

Why are wars still being fought in the twenty-first century? Why do we still allow individuals in certain positions to poison our minds with hatred of others? Why are we still so ready to believe there are enemies everywhere we turn? Why are so many still willing to pick up a gun or a bomb, and end the lives of others who are doing the exact same thing for what they also believe are good reasons?

The sadism of leaders of strife-torn countries is clearly evident to the world. Does the world truly see us as their unofficial police officers, or are we complicit with murder every time we fill our tanks with gas?

Why has the United States, the beacon of freedom to the rest of the planet, spent so much time displaying their military prowess on the soil of other lands? Why do so many still trust that the leaders of our country only have goodness and righteousness on their minds when they send our brave soldiers to die?

With all our knowledge and with all our collective experience and history, how do we address these real and tangible horrors?

We throw our hands in the air and say, "That's life."

Well I say to you:

This is not how the world was meant to be. This is not the natural result of human nature. This is not an outgrowth of our supposedly primitive past.

This is a system-wide, all-reaching, purposeful implementation, whose obvious goal is the ruination of everyone's lives on this biosphere.

Human beings are not irrational, ignorant and savage. We are creatures capable of goodness and greatness, but apparently we can be manipulated into justifying our own selfish desires.

For those of you still quoting Freud or Nietzsche, or hopelessly enamored of the likes of Dawkins or Darwin, you may skip this and continue on your not-so-merry way.

For those of you who want a real answer to who is destroying us, try looking beyond the mirror, beyond the limitations of physics, and beyond the siren song of psychoanalytical brainwashing.

Look closer. Think deeper. Open your mind.

The truth may not be attractive to you, but if you revise it, the only person you fool is yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The liberation of humanity

Seventy-two years ago, a dramedy starring Charlie Chaplin was released, called "The Great Dictator." There is a speech that Chaplin's character gives toward the end of the film, and this speech has regained popularity. Give it but one listen, and you will appreciate why this septuagenarian moment has just as much, if not more, relevance in 2012.

Someone has taken the film excerpt and inserted Time by Hans Zimmer, adding to the deep emotion the words themselves already evoke:

The Great Dictator speech

The coming economic collapse will force "common" people to stop buying the lies that keep us all enslaved on a treadmill. At that moment, the true value of the words of this speech will be fully realized by those who have heard it. When you have nothing left but your life, the life of your loved ones, and there is a brutal and inescapable pounding at your front door, suddenly God, who has been ignored, falsely vilified, and abandoned, will become much more than a myth of the ignorant.

Here is the transcript of the speech, in its entirety:

I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor, that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, gentile, black man, white.

We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich, and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent, and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children; victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people; and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel; who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder!

Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men! Machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate, only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, "The kingdom of God is within man." Not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men!

In you! You, the people have the power!

The power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure! Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power, let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world; a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!

Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A slave to doubt

Yesterday I was haunting the clearance section of Half Price Books, as is my custom. While trying to mind my own business and discover a non-fiction treasure sandwiched somewhere within all the dross, I was treated to an escalating debate between two men.

I should point out that although both men were speaking, only the tall, nervous fellow felt it necessary to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the other. The other man merely swatted away the tired old objections with calm and even responses, as he continued, completely unfazed, to peruse various books.

They were 'discussing' religion, or more exactly, the calmer man was fielding the nervous tall man's endless barrage of textbook atheist squawks.

I listened for as long as I could stomach the tall man's petty desire to debunk the existence of God, via the unreliable traditions of religion. At one point, the tall man decided to assert misinformation, e.g. the Bible being written in the Middle Ages. Perhaps he had the Hebrew text confused with the Koran?

"Excuse me," I said, "What about the Dead Sea Scrolls?" I was referring of course to the Biblical texts that were scientifically dated before the existence of Christ, who certainly wasn't walking the roads of Galilee in the Middle Ages.

My observation was of course a mistake, as the tall man immediately pulled out his best possible weapon against the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was that the entire Hebrew scriptures weren't represented in them, and other documents were found that weren't included in the Jewish Canon. Just exactly how this logically leads to the conclusion that the official Hebrew Scriptures are spurious machinations from the Middle Ages, I'm at a loss to appreciate.

At this point, the nervous man's harangue became more shrill, and despite the fact that I hadn't had a chance to fully examine the clearance section, I succinctly announced that I had had enough, and left the area. And lucky me, the nervous man decided to follow me part of the way, eager to make his point to one more ignorant believer. I easily eluded his desperate train wreck, paid for my copy of Shadow Warrior (a game collector's prize indeed), and left the store with very little on my mind but heading to McDonald's.

Those who fancy themselves the sober agents of intelligence often misinterpret a belief in God. Where the nervous man makes his mistake is in why he feels the need to shed light on the 'blind and ignorant.'

The most significant difference between the two men wasn't their respective demeanors or their different points of view; those two items are just a result of being two different human beings. Subjectivity isn't just a cage; it's simultaneously a gift.

The important difference between the two was that the calm man understood that his own belief was grounded on his natural inclination to observe the obvious; that's why his answers to the nervous man were not laced with an urgency to change the nervous man's mind.

The nervous man's point of view was based entirely on doubting the beliefs of others, and he clearly had a strong desire to convince the calm man that believing in God is the product of ignorance.

Truly, the person the nervous man was trying to convince the most was himself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peculiar Integrity

Something interesting happened at the restaurant the other day.

Five young men were seated at a table in my section, and as they walked in, I judgmentally perceived them as thugs. At most restaurants, you get all types of people, and right or wrong, you learn to quickly categorize them in order to interact appropriately.

These fellows wore very casual clothes; jeans, clean shirts, and a couple wore caps. As I walked over to the table to greet them, I got a closer look, and they were covered with recognizable tattoos. They were members of a Hispanic gang, whose name is not important for this essay.

I took their order, brought them their sodas, food, and eventually the check. The leader of the group, who was easily discernible, casually gave me a $100 bill, no change needed. They left, and as time went by, I began to ponder a few things.

First off, I had a sense of who and what they were from the moment we started to speak. There were no 'hard' looks, no cliché dialogues, no pretensions. Those kinds of affectations are common in movies and television, but entirely unnecessary for the real thing. These guys were instead very friendly and gracious, and even used my name respectfully while talking with me.

They were laughing and having a good time, no one was acting like a bad-ass... but I had the very palpable feeling that I would never, ever, want to cross them. Not that I would ever have a reason to do so, or that they would seek to force that kind of interaction; it's just that people who live with that level of intensity are not prone to pretending they're crazy or out of control. On the contrary; their daily lives eliminate the need to generate false demonstrations of machismo.

Secondly, I felt an odd sort of kinship with them, which puzzled me a great deal. I have no interest in drugs or drug culture. I have no interest in involving myself in illegal activity. The shared Hispanic lineage may have contributed to the feeling, but on a very low level, as my life growing up was very suburban.

I think what may have caused me to identify with them despite their method of making a living is that I could sense a strict adherence to a set of rules, a code of honor amongst themselves that not even death would make them violate.

Yes, it's true: I don't think it's wise for human beings to buy or sell substances that may do long term anatomical and behavioral damage. I certainly don't want my future children getting involved with drugs or gangs. The fallout from such lifestyles can sometimes include the injury or death of random uninvolved people. All that, yet it is hard to look at such a strong obedience to an oath of loyalty with a censorious eye.

The purpose of their allegiance may be ultimately destructive, yet the fact remains that they would rather die than break the rules or betray their fellow members. I doubt the same can be said of many people who claim to worship God and obey His commandments.

Some of the most honorable persons mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures were courageous souls who fought incredible odds in battle, always risking their lives. They killed many in the process, simply because a God (Who most back then didn't even believe in) told them to do so. Think about what that means... taking a human life is not an easy thing to do. How much more difficult would it be when an Entity you can't even see or understand is ordering you to do it.

Coming back to my experience at the restaurant, I am left with the following thoughts:

Is what these truly dangerous men do for a living considered moral? Perhaps not.

Do I wish to personally embrace their lifestyle? Not really.

Interacting with them was sort of like looking at a National Geographic episode devoted to lions in the wild. Do I want to risk my life trying to join the pride? No. Do I want to have them all caged? No. Do I respect them, despite their sometimes ruthless activity? Yes.

I admire their devotion to their unbreakable code of ethics.

What does integrity mean anymore in a world where so many willingly sell their souls for money or attention? At least these young men are not liars and cheats.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Forgiveness requires sincere remorse

Anyone reading my essays (all two or three of you) is familiar with my occasional references to God. Sometimes I write about concepts, sometimes things in my own life, and sometimes the world in general from my own exposure to actual text from the Bible.

In my 'real' life, while I am glad and happy to discuss matters concerning God and spirituality, I don't seek to push my ideas or theories on anyone. My policy is yes, I'd love to talk about it, but only if you want to do so. I am not an official 'representative' of God, so please remember: if you truly seek truth about God, you should always look in the Bible yourself. You may be surprised what you find if you search with sincere intentions.

That being said, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on one of the classic problems people encounter when they're trying to reconcile the Bible with what they view as their own correct conscience. That problem being the question about who can be truly forgiven by God. For certainly, if you believe in the God chronicled in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, you may be quite puzzled about all the arguing people do regarding who gets 'saved' and who does not.

First off, I will dutifully point out that no human being knows or can know the mind of God. This is supported by the writing of Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Even still, there are those who will try to tell you that God wants this or that. All I can say to that is, if you don't find it on the printed page between Genesis chapter 1 and Revelation chapter 22, then you'd be wisest to just dismiss it as the undependable opinion of whomever is doing the 'teaching.' And that includes church elders or anyone else who is supposedly in a position of authority.

Secondly, there is much controversy in the Abrahamic faiths about what it takes to gain the good grace of God. Faith, works, faith, works, faith and works, etc. To please God, true intentions seem to matter a great deal. If you attend church and observe the rituals of your chosen religion, but still offend God by your behavior, and write it off with no genuine remorse... well, you're only fooling yourself. The God who gave you life and constantly sustains it every second of every day is not fooled at all. Ever.

King David wrote:
"O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether."

David experienced this firsthand when God allowed David's child to die for David's theft of the wife of a loyal soldier. The soldier was a man named Uriah, and David sent him to the front lines to die on purpose, just so he could get busy with Bathsheba. Nothing escapes the eyes of God, and God does not give free rides to even his most favorite human beings.

Thirdly, what is one theme that seems to follow references to forgiveness?

Genuine repentance.

Since only God seems to truly understand the heart of every person, only God is qualified to judge anyone's true character. But the delusion of subjectivity is that it becomes very easy for many to talk themselves into the mercies promised by God by theories that make the most sense to them. Even many who will readily admit when they are wrong will still stubbornly think their sacrifice to God is more than sufficient.

Here is a short parable that was spoken by Jesus:
"And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

What could all that mean? Is God just a lover of irony over justice? I doubt it.

The only way to discern between the Pharisee and the publican in that parable, is to trust the ability of God to see what's really going on in their hearts. That aspect of human beings is hidden from other human beings. That's why we often do such a lousy job in our judgments of others. We usually see only the part of the picture that we want to see, good or bad.

Bottom line...

Who can be saved from the wrath of God when all of us commit sin on a daily basis?

Only those who are truly sorry for what they do, and seek to the best of their abilities to steer clear of the sins that make them guilty.

Anything less than that is just useless rationalization and worthless theory, because in the final analysis, God knows the truth of each of us, even when we lie to ourselves.

"For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden."

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tired of swimming against the DRM tide

I decided to remove three previous essays, which were basically just acrimonious rants about Steam and DRM.

After much consideration, I've come to a sensible conclusion:

I will, like everyone else, quietly vote with my dollars. If a game has unreasonable DRM, such as the upcoming Diablo III, I simply won't play it. I won't even set sail for the newly christened "The Promo Bay," also known as "The Pirate Bay."

I won't bother downloading it for free, like everyone else who thumbs their noses at Blizzard for being draconian lunkheads, because it's just not worth my time. The previews may look great and the buzz may be considerable... but in the end, I choose not to reward Blizzard's products with any attention for showing such a lack of respect to their honest customers.

There are so many awesome games to play, why waste my time on one more DRM headache? Am I really missing out? Nah.

For those of you who don't mind being made to dance like marionettes, enjoy! I will continue having the time of my life at my brother's LAN parties, playing older, DRM-free games that would surely cause you DRM lovers to heartily scoff.

Ultimately, I realized life does not require you to acknowledge the loss of your dignity, and it's not my job to help you regain it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The living sacrifice

Just what was Paul talking about when he spoke about the living sacrifice?

The first three verses from Romans 12:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

When one references passages from the Bible, one always runs the risk of interpreting something differently than someone else. For this reason, I would like to make it clear that although my thoughts following this paragraph are definitely what I believe, I can in no way insist to the reader that I am more correct than anyone else on the matter. I have always recognized that everyone should look for themselves, and not just automatically accept the interpretations of other human beings. If there is truth to be found in the Bible, one can discover it best by searching sincerely alone, without the influence of a so-called 'person of God.'

Disclaimer delivered; let's proceed.

Living in the 21st century has allowed us to better see the dark side of humankind. Improved forms of communication and information dissemination are the main reasons for this clearer view. Some say humans are 'worse' than they were before, and this may be true, but something tells me that there have always been those who prefer to dismiss the well-being of others.

There are myriad ways to take something good and twist it into bad by selfish intent. This happens every time a greedy entity squeezes another unnecessary nickel out of your pocket. It happens every time someone cuts you off on the freeway. It happens every time a sick individual kidnaps a young child for who-knows-what sort of depravity. It happens when someone decides that he or she is more deserving of the better seat than someone else.

It happens every day, all day, around the world. To imagine a world where people didn't treat each other badly, or take advantage of each other, or use each other in a selfish manner... well, you might as well believe in the Tooth Fairy.

So, because selfishness is so prevalent in the world, it is of course the path of least resistance to simply become a part of the machinery, so to speak. Why not make even more money by charging more than you have to? Why pass up the chance to be the big cheese? Why spend any time considering how your decisions affect the lives of others? Who cares about the people you stepped on and over to accomplish your goals? Someone has to be the winner; why not you? Someone has to be the loser; why can't it be the other person?

People often think daily supplications to a higher power, or weekly attendance at a physical structure designed for the aggregation of the religious, will flip the switch of God's favor to the 'on' position in their lives. Many are fond of pointing out that faith in God is essential; works themselves are not sufficient to gain the favor of God.

I would say yes; faith is important. But out of a person's heart comes his or her actions, and no amount of philosophizing or tithing will set the balance right if one's true intentions are in opposition to the Law.

What is the "living sacrifice?"

In the 21st century, it is the strenuous and humble avoidance of the endless selfish rationalizations of the vast majority.

Unpopular choice? Indeed. Not as 'smart' as going along with the crowd? Perhaps.

It really comes down to a very simple question: do you give deference to God or the flesh?

Despite the self-deluding power of sophistry, you will never find a way to do both.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Complicit Puppetry

Human beings (that means you and me) spend a good amount of time wanting. Mind you, wanting some water or food in your belly is merely par for the course for a biological creature. Wanting rest when you're tired, wanting activity when you're bored, wanting company when you're lonely... these are all predictable results of the experience of being anatomically and emotionally structured as human beings.

However, there is a different, exceedingly larger collection of wants that has nothing to do with survival or requisite fulfillment. This seemingly infinite list of personal desires not only has nothing to do with what humans require for happiness or fulfillment, it actually has much to do with the production of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

That an entire industry of ambitious mountebanks have risen to prominence by dangling these needless carrots in front of the Pavlovian masses should be no surprise to anyone paying attention. Does it truly require a marketing degree and six-figure salary to realize that human beings generally will want whatever is placed in front of their noses? This is not any sort of science; it is transpicuous manipulation.

Typically, those who stand up and shout from the street corner about this insidious puppetry are thought of as lunatic fringe. "What's wrong with a little excitation of the human proclivities known as conquest and acquisition to stimulate consumer activity?" the oily penguins known as 'marketing executives' love to ask.


Take for instance the concept of physical beauty. While it is conceptually true that beauty resides in the eyes of the beholder, there are also seemingly universal standards that spawn an implicit hierarchy of beauty among the vast majority. This hierarchy is arbitrary and subjective, yet most can somehow agree that person 'A' is attractive, and person 'B' is comparatively not as much.

Most people tend to think it must be wonderful to be considered very attractive. To the average student in high school or college, this is a 'no-brainer.' Cultures across the globe breed us to desire popularity in order to establish our identity and importance in the eyes of the world. Tabloids and magazines at the checkout stand are icons of this mentality. Television, movies, shopping malls... these all constantly reinforce the idea that our existence is firmly founded and celebrated by how many 'friends' we can congregate to our Facebook pages, for example.

I submit to you this radical point of view: exceptional physical beauty is a curse.

Why do I look at physical beauty with such a seemingly odd perspective?

A whole host of psychological maladies have arisen from the idea that we must compete with others to be as attractive as possible. We are in competition in this area because it is by comparison that standards are established. Therefore, by either a quirk of nature, or perhaps extensive employment of trickery known as makeup and grooming products, some will rise to the 'top,' but many will tumble into the undesirable bargain bin of social leprosy known as The Unattractive.

However, and this is the twist, just what is gained by being at the top of the beauty heap?

Constant attention, whether you want it or not. As anyone who is 'blessed' with exceptional beauty will tell you, it's no picnic. To have your physical aspect praised and worshipped may stroke the ego, but ultimately it overshadows and all but buries the most valuable asset you possess: who you truly are inside.

For the blowhard and sociopath, being attractive is an endless source of pride and joy. For the rest of us, it is a pursuit we're pressured into from earliest youth, and must comply with continuously for the entirety of our lives, else suffer the consequence of deliberate rebellion against the standard. That consequence being, of course, social irrelevance.

For me, to be able to go to the store in my bland but clean clothes, sporting my unfashionable but clean hair, driving my boring, unsexy, but quite reliable vehicle, and not be pestered by the attentions of people I don't know... well, now that's what I call a blessing.

But then again, I don't measure my relevance by the opinions of others.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The significance of perspective

My wife kindly reads my essays, and she usually approves. The one just previous to this one, called "Father Albert should turn in his collar," was not as amusing to her as I thought it might be. In fact, she brought up some compelling points, which I will now share in italics, with my own thoughts following immediately after each:

"I am not convinced she doesn't misuse statistics..."
This is a wise comment, as statistics are often manipulated to one's own purpose. Whether or not Ann Coulter's use of the statistics in this case are more objective or more personally biased may certainly be subject to debate.

"... I don't think the answer is adoption. It is an extreme solution. Just because the disadvantage increases doesn't mean all women have to give away their children."
I agree. While the unwritten societal policies in America that were still present fifty years ago did effectively stave off our current travesty of family structure, it would be a bit extreme to compel all mothers to give their children up for adoption as the best possible solution. The bond between mothers and their children is supernatural, in my opinion, and not easily given to severance. Thus the level of calamity possible by having sex out of wedlock is exceptionally high.

"Risk for bad things to happen is often poorly misunderstood, because risk is often relative."
Again I agree. One thing that seemed to have happened during the video segment in question is the audience and host himself appeared to misinterpret the statistics quoted. Although the statistics support the premise that it's not a stellar idea to choose to raise a baby by yourself, each individual case is of course unique and should be subject to relevant decisions.

So in conclusion, although I wrote the 'Father Albert' essay to mostly amuse, I will now take a moment to remind anyone reading these essays that my support or non-support of anyone else's opinions is entirely based on the evidence I may encounter. While I am still not an official Ann Coulter cheerleader, I rarely find objections to her ideas that are not steeped in angry emotional bias. In our attempts to view the world reasonably, angry emotional bias is not usually of much practical use.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Father Albert should turn in his collar

I keep insisting I'm not an Ann Coulter fanboy, but here is yet another essay about her often erroneous opponents with their penchant for argumentum ad hominem. I simply couldn't resist; YouTube has turned out to be a seemingly limitless source of Ann Coulter video controversy. Much to my amusement, I found an entertaining bauble called:

Ann Coulter Says Single Parents: Put Your Babies Up For Adoption

This is an excerpt from a television show I've happily never heard of until now, and if what I've seen is any indication of its average content, I will blissfully continue to ignore it. It's called "Father Albert," and it hangs its greasy collar on the Fox network. Father Albert is the showbiz pseudonym for Alberto Cutié, a former Catholic priest.

As you will see by watching the video, Father Albert is "hot under the collar" about Ann Coulter's conclusion regarding single mothers in America, based on U.S. statistics. Coulter is promoting her book "Demonic," and apparently there is an entire chapter that uses illegitimate child statistics to impugn the selfishness of choosing to be a single mother (as opposed to being divorced from the child's father, for example).

What I found most interesting in this emotional and blunt attempt to demonize Coulter, was that the objections to her conclusion were based on nothing more than subjective opinion. Time and again, Father Albert dismisses the depressing statistics that Coulter is citing. Instead of honestly acknowledging them and risking the ire of his mostly female audience, he instead waxes indignant with consistent misdirection that seeks to avoid the fact that, statistically speaking, a child is at a significant disadvantage in life by being raised by a single parent.

Fifty years ago it was still a scandal to have a child out of wedlock. Apparently the unmarried mother in America is now so sainted that any negative words aimed in her direction are sacrilege. The Good Father and the audience were so concerned with rejecting any criticism of single motherhood, they were apparently misinterpreting the statistics. Coulter never said that 70% of all children of single mothers become society's problem, she said that 70% of problem children come from single parent homes. The show's editors would often cut to the women's faces in the audience (many of them single mothers, I suppose) that carried various degrees of incredulity at such a preposterous affront. How dare anyone accuse a single mother of being selfish and narcissistic, when "they really are going out of their way to provide for their kids"?

The permissive public ethos that fosters the celebration of single motherhood is the most significant factor in the ruination of the American family unit. Is anyone shouldering the blame for their own contributions to the destruction of our society's nuclear family? Not really.

They're too busy exercising their individual rights to pleasure without responsibility, thus giving much less thought to the well-being of their future children than they will ever admit. But I suppose modern, emancipated women have never been very fond of being told they shouldn't give the milk away for free. And shame on the insemination machines that refer to themselves as 'men,' who willingly participate in this tragedy.

The unborn children, who are left with the rest of their lives to deal with the fallout of the irresponsible and selfish decisions of their 'parents,' had absolutely no say whatsoever regarding the dispensation of their developmental environment.

Here are some of the Blessed Father's spiritually wise commentaries (in italics), my observations immediately after:

"[...] we're singling out the single mothers, [...] but we're not talking about these absent fathers."
Perhaps Alberto has forgotten what so many single mothers also seem to have lost track of; for the Johnny Appleseed deadbeat-dads to commit their irresponsible deeds, they first need willing sexual partners. Could it really be true that a person who is conscious enough to contemplate sexual intercourse is somehow mysteriously bereft of common sense? Just what exactly does a woman think will happen if tab A is inserted in slot B without benefit of a wedding ring?

"There are so many great moms that are trying to be mom and dad to their kids, I know that they cannot be emotionally mom and dad. But they really are going out of their way to provide for their kids."
So once the single mother has made the selfish decision to raise the child on her own, her obligatory Herculean efforts somehow erase the emotional deficit of a missing dad?

"I think you're talking about maybe the Casey Anthonys of the world."
So a single mother must be brought up on charges of murdering her child in order to be thought of as selfish and narcissistic?

"A lot of single moms are being responsible with their children."
If someone makes lemonade out of lemons, does this mean that the sugar negates the fact that the lemons are still sour?

"See but the problem is, it's good to get rid of those stigmas. Because we would put people always in a box, you know. This is the way you have to be, this is the way it works out. You know, this is not an ideal world Ann. You're talking about an ideal world. Oh, in an ideal world, by the way, everyone has a mom and dad, we're going back, you know, to the days of Happy Days [...]"
Ol' Pappy Alberto really loves his pop culture candy. No wonder he left the Catholic Church; who wants to deal with all that guilt? But of course, what better way to react to an imperfect world than to just throw up your hands and surrender? That's the absolute best way to turn things around.

"I mean, I think that when you, when you say things like that, I mean kinda make these blanket statements based on statistics, I say to myself, gosh I know so many good single mothers, so many heroic single mothers, I just can't agree with you on that, I really can't."
Of course he can't agree with Coulter on this; that would mean he was trading popularity for honesty, and how's a poor clergyman supposed to make a decent buck in front of the studio cameras?

I was going to address the audience's comments as well, but this essay is already running too long. Their contributions were mostly emotionally charged portraits of subjective denial anyway. Let's sum up:

Father Albert was once a Catholic priest, but he told the Catholic Church to stick it, so that he could kiss women and become an Episcopalian.

Father Albert, why don't you jump ship again, and this time become an Epicurean? At least then you wouldn't be considered an unctuous hypocrite for your politically correct sensibilities.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christopher Hitchens, rest in peace

On December 15th, 2011, Christopher Hitchens passed away from the effects of cancer. My reaction was not quite what some who read this blog might expect.

I never met the man. I didn't know him personally. I am not familiar with his entire body of work or all of his prolific contributions to the world of opinion, but I am very aware of one of his former points of view, which I disagree with most vehemently.

Hitchens could be quite aggressive and caustic in his accusations and railings against the concept of God and even the proponents of (and believers in) God. That I disagree with his activities in this regard is an understatement. He spent most of his adult life trying to convince approximately 97 percent of the world that they were merely deluding themselves by thinking that there could possibly be something as ridiculous as a supreme being. He was passionate about many topics, but this one was probably the most prominent in the public's imagination.

What little I know of his personal life could fit on a postage stamp, inscribed with a large font. But, it seems clear that his excessive consumption of cigarettes and alcohol was evident. While I believe that every human being should be allowed the freedom to use (or abuse) their bodies in any way they wish, I find the deliberate abuse of one's body to be just one more indication that one's powers of ratiocination are somewhat impaired. To what degree this impairment existed for him, I couldn't say.

That last paragraph was by no means meant to reduce Hitchens to a foolish self-destructive individual. I am merely pointing out the obvious. Hitchens was known to have defended his chemical dependencies with the concept that many great writers did some of their best work while under the influence, but I suspect the true nature of his self-abuse went far deeper than that. That particular knowledge probably died with him, and to be frank, it was not anyone else's business anyway.

Also, please note, I am much like Hitchens, or anyone else on the planet, in that I have my own burdens to bear in the arena of self-defeating behaviors. So please don't make the mistake of thinking that the purpose of this essay is to judge Hitchens. Along with everyone else in the world, I am in no position to judge.

I have experienced a few moments in my own life being irritated by some of Hitchens's former antics, as well as other prominent individuals who share his opinions regarding God. These fellows are easy to identify, as they are usually grouped together when one wants to quickly list the poster boys for atheism: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Hitchens. At one point they were actually referred to as the Four Horsemen, which I admit was amusing.

So one might think, upon hearing of Hitchens's passing, that I might feel some sort of perverted sense of relief or pleasure.

Quite the contrary.

My own father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer near the end of 2003. He was fortunate enough to survive chemotherapy and the removal of his entire esophagus. I was there the whole time, watching him go through this grueling process. I am sorry Hitchens had to suffer a similar fate, and then not survive it. Cancer is a grim reminder that life is often not fair, and that our lives are more fragile than most of us feel comfortable enough to admit.

Hitchens was passionate, and he acted on his passions. He sought to captivate, motivate, irritate and yes, even to illuminate. His life's work and efforts were impressive and stand forever as a testament to one person's desire to make a difference. For all these things, I respect the man, regardless of whether or not I disagreed with some of his ideas. He was unlike the lukewarm masses; he took up the sword and fought for what he believed in, instead of merely catcalling from the sidelines.

I am very sorry he passed away in the fashion that he did. We all have to follow him at some point, but it's always sad when someone dies of disease or illness. It's as though something was taken from them unfairly.

Hitchens, near the end of his life, could not have believed that his life was being taken from him, as that implies that something was 'given' in the first place. His denial of all things God-related would imply that his death was nothing more than the relatively unimportant event of providing more nutrients to the biosphere's soil.

Following this train of thought, as we are all merely fertilizer-in-waiting, the most brilliant, moving and world-altering personal achievements are merely meaningless events, arbitrarily attributable to an individual biological entity that ultimately has no greater significance than briefly furthering the mindless cycle-of-life that is our evolving planet.

I choose to believe he was wrong about that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

All Hail Otto West!

(Announcer, speaking in an excited, somewhat hushed tone): We now bring you to Mount Olympus, where Grand Master Debater-In-Chief Otto West is about to give his address!

[Enthusiastic applause.]

(Announcer): All eyes and ears are on West as he steps up to the podium.

[Awed silence.]

"Thank you for joining me today on this auspicious occasion. Today, I will reveal for the first time ever, the secret of my success as Supreme Logician of the Universe."

[Audience erupts in applause and cheers, which drown out West for no less than sixty seconds.]

"As you all know, there has been no one on planet Earth with the intelligence, tenacity and exceptional gift for Internet mouse-clicking as me. No one researches more than I, no one studies harder than I, no one dares to challenge me on any subject I deem worthy of my intrepid attention."

[Reverent silence.]

"Furthermore, as the entire world has noted for many decades, no one has ever been able to refute a single proposition or premise of mine. Not one person, not even once, not ever. How did I accomplish such an amazing feat of intellectual prowess? Well, as I am feeling generous of late, I will actually share with you my most cherished secret. A secret that has allowed me to hold sway in every argument, on any subject, with any individual or group who has dared be foolish enough to challenge me."

[West scans the crowd, basking in the rapt attention he has generated.]

"Here is how any one of you can successfully experience unblemished perfection and victory in every argument you ever construct:"

[The entire crowd leans forward in its chairs with breathless anticipation.]

"First, you must always interpret any situation or event in the way that you see fit, regardless of other opinions that may exist to the contrary.

Second, using said interpretation, you must formulate an impervious proposition by summarily dismissing the possibility that your interpretation could be incorrect.

Third, you must click your magical Internet mouse until you've gathered enough corroborative material to overwhelm and impress average dullards who are too lazy to do their own magical mouse clicking.

Fourth, you must open a public forum and challenge any and all opposition to dispute your proposition.

Fifth, and this is key, if anyone even comes close to poking a hole in your argument, you must delete their input in the public forum with a click of your magical mouse.

Sixth, and never forget this, if deleting their input doesn't quell their resistance, then simply deny any legitimate point was ever made by them. Reinforce this accusation by continual verbal repetition of the original challenge; this makes the challenger appear to have misunderstood, and therefore makes his counter-argument seem illogical and irrelevant. Remember the tried-and-true 'rule of seven' used in marketing.

Seventh, and last, always maintain an air of uncontested superiority. If people think you are victorious, then you are. That's the power of positive thinking!"

[West stops and waits.]

[The audience stands in unison and erupts in deafening cheers and applause.]

[West walks offstage.]

[The curtain draws closed.]

[The entire audience returns home to watch reruns of "Deep Thoughts by Al Franken."]

Friday, January 20, 2012

The irresistable power of delusion

First and foremost, before you read the successive paragraphs, I wish to remind the reader that I am not defending Ann Coulter in particular, with this spontaneous series of essays. What began as my intent of simply pointing out that YouTube viewers need to be wary of misleading propaganda has now transformed into a case study of the phenomenon commonly referred to as "delusions of grandeur."

Also, I would like to point out that in the big picture, as it were, this silly little argument is about as important to the overall scheme of things as someone's favorite color. That being stated for the record, let's proceed.

I'm not the only person who was moved to create an Xtranormal video concerning the Ann Coulter interview on CBC Newsworld. A YouTube user with the pseudonym "Theobrothers" has also created one, which can be viewed here (and his stance is decidedly anti-Coulter):

History For Morons (Ann Coulter Edition) - Canada and the Vietnam War

Just in case Theobrothers eventually thinks better of his sarcastic phrasing, and removes or alters his video explanation, I have saved the original (as of January 19, 2012), grammatical errors included. I have also exactly transcribed the entire text of his video, for later release on the Internet, should he change his mind and remove it. Furthermore, I have downloaded the video and saved it for others to repost as well.

I will maintain permanent record of these items, because I believe in enforcing integrity, and not allowing perpetrators of agenda-ridden propaganda to run away and hide their misdeeds when the temperature rises. As I pointed out in an earlier essay regarding Tom Green's hypocrisy, in the digital age, forever means forever, not just until lawyers come calling.

On to the meat.

While there is no doubt that Theobrothers has done a decent amount of research on the subject of whether or not Canada sent troops to Vietnam, it should be observed that his bias is philosophically no different than a conservative 'vetting' the same subject with the opposite intent. In other words, just like the purposeful manipulation of statistics, the results will vary depending on the direction one wishes to take one's conclusion.

In this case, Theobrothers apparently wishes to help inspire the angry liberal mob that seeks to vilify Ann Coulter. So, despite the easily verifiable fact that Canadian troops were deployed to Vietnam in 1973 for peace-keeping duties (see my previous essay's video for more details, including some linked sources), he spouts a wearisome collection of miscellaneous facts designed to detract from the main point of contention.

How does Theobrothers seek to inspire? With insults and arrogant proclamations, of course.

Some examples of his invective he included in his YouTube video description, along with my comments in blue:

This video is for all the special people who can't seem to understand what actually happened during the Vietnam War.
I hope he's referencing the aspect of the word special that means unique or superior, and not comparing those who disagree with him to special needs persons.

I especially made this for Ann Coulter, Bill O' Riley and Fox News fanatics although I admit that this is quite illogical as facts and logic is philosophically inverse to their religion of idiocy.
Here he makes the classic blunder of assuming all those who disagree with him must be idiots. A typical earmark of those suffering from a superiority complex.

Please don't hesitate to leave your fallacious arguments, illogical standpoints, and erroneous information below in the comments section for all those who have never seen an insane viewpoint and debate style in action.
Again, a textbook example of grandiose delusion. All opposing viewpoints must be wrong right out of the box. Not exactly a hallmark of an open mind.

Watch how anxiously she attacks the pen in her hand and how much she stutters, as she is forced to admit she was wrong, and then attempts to qualify her wrongness with asinine points.
I can appreciate hyperbole to make one's point, but Theobrothers is making erroneous statements. I have seen the C-Span video he's referencing here, and Coulter's points were not nearly as "asinine" as the ones Theobrothers makes.

Theobrothers lists quite a few links to source materials at the bottom of his video description, lest someone accuse him of committing the cardinal sin of passing along information without exhaustive links to prove that the effort expended was sufficient. The last two links are his attempt to mock a fan of Ann Coulter who may not be as research-obsessed.

However, despite Theo's challenge to all viewers to leave their "erroneous information below in the comments section," he apparently only allows the comments from easily refutable users to remain posted on the page. How do I know this?

As of the public posting of this essay, there were 98 comments on the Theobrothers page in question (see the fourth paragraph of this essay). However, there would have been 100, except the supremely infallible Theobrothers saw fit to delete the two I left there yesterday. Here they are in their original entirety:

First comment:
Nice try... CBC's *own digital archives* support Coulter's statement. See here: watch?v=Q6KiCcixVBI
Your problem is you obsess yourself with defending the official position of the Canadian government, but then easily dismiss the HUGE support the U.S. government gained from Canadian businesses (owned and run by citizens, just like you), benefiting Canada with BILLIONS of dollars. U.S. involvement elsewhere was not the issue.
Coulter said troops were there; she didn't say why. Grow up.

Then, I felt that simply offering my video was not quite enough to get surfers to look it up, so I took a moment to spotlight his venomous bias.

Second comment:
And one more thing, genius: rudeness and arrogance are not equal to intellectual prowess. By assuming your opponents are idiots, you automatically open the door to unpleasant surprise. Though not a diehard fan of Coulter myself, I expect she would dance circles around you in a live, open forum. You publish YouTube opinions; Coulter writes books and devotes most of her waking life to researching the topics she speaks and writes about.

What do I mean by Theo's rudeness and arrogance? Well let's start with the video's transcript.

Digital actress representing Ann Coulter:
"Yeah. That makes perfect sense. I guess I'm happy I learned all this now before putting up some stupid ass video claiming Canada actually sent troops. Or got into an asinine debate because I thought my fallacious argument was enough to prove I was right. Thanks Theo."

Digital actor representing Theobrothers:
"No problem Ann, anytime. Just make sure to check your facts from now on. And maybe try admitting you're wrong once in a while. Otherwise, you might look like a know-nothing c**t."

I added asterisks in order to censor the excessively vulgar word Theobrothers felt necessary to include. His virulent hatred of Ann Coulter is obvious; why he needed to sink to that level is not. But this inappropriate gaffe is only the tip of the iceberg.

Next example...

I posted a link to my refutation video in someone else's YouTube page, and since Theo couldn't delete my comment from someone else's page, he instead posted this reply to my comment:

Erm... Perhaps you should fully read the comments section of my video. I couldn't possibly "gloss over" what wasn't her argument. Whether governments help each other covertly, and against their peoples knowledge and sentiment isn't what she was arguing. She was arguing a specific position, "Canada's involvement, openly and friendly, for war in Vietnam by sending a fighting or support force", with a specific contrast, "Our non support for Iraq" LoL, my try is 100% correct.

And then he immediately added his 'masterstroke':

Also, your video, lol, makes claims based on what 3 general links with no real details. My video has like what 30+ links, refuting every last bulls**t excuse used to defend Ann. Your 1 hour of work can;t compare to my obvious scouring of the net regarding everything on this subject. Get over yourself. LoLz [profanity censored by me]

Never mind that those three "general" links he's referring to actually carry a great many pertinent and factual details to my counter-argument. Apparently we are all supposed to be so much in awe of his clearly superior research that we shouldn't take notice of someone else playing by his rules and succeeding.

Witness excerpts from his own YouTube page, from his own hand to visitors who disagree with him (my observations in blue):

I like how you stated, "I can't debate the facts", while still claiming yourself as right. I'm paraphrasing of course as your statement was much more long winded and nonsensical. You have learned well from the Fox school of regressive thought.
Anyhoo, good luck with that form of argumentation. It doesn't work for me but I'm sure among your pals you are considered "the smart one" and looked towards with much reverence.
Long winded? Theo's reply actually contained more words than the other user's post.

I really wrecked him, lol, was pretty funny.
Theo making yet another pronouncement of Theo's unassailable superiority. And it wasn't all that accurate.

Concession by refrenation. You do not need to admit you concede as you already have by your actions. Braggart, I am not. The truth? I have proven my point and without contestation.
Theo does not have to admit being a braggart because he has already done so by his arrogance.

You have proven what I desired, that you are essentially a wind bag, full of hot air, and empty of substance.
Translated: Anyone not including multiple Internet source links to buttress every point is clearly not worthy to step into the arena of discourse.

I won't allow you to spam my comments section further, either put up a valid counter to the premise that has been provided or stop responding and concede defeat.
An impressive challenge, albeit without any genuine intention to follow through. Point in fact: I presented a reasonable video response to his premise, and was rewarded with the deletion of my comments.

You are seriously questioning my understanding and use of English? Especially in comparison to yours? Are you a comedian?
Theo's grammatical errors elsewhere notwithstanding, of course.

Any tangent is simply in response to your comments, I have no use for tangents, as I've proven my proposition, it's up to you to knock it down. If you can't you have lost the debate.
Actually, Theo has proven nothing but his stubborn refusal to consider opinions other than his own. And in all practicality, no one need knock his proposition down, as it willingly prostrates itself to the unyielding power of truth: regardless of what he perceives as Coulter's original intention, there were in fact Canadian troops in Vietnam in 1973.

Again, Ad Hom is fallacious. Why continue using it? LOL Do you know what a fallacy is?
Ad hominem is only fallacious when it is in opposition to fact. An argument simply being ad hominem is not proof of fallacy; only that the debater is moved by possibly great emotion. Perhaps Theo fancies himself a robot. Only passionless logic could possibly motivate someone to expend so much time and energy researching and debating an insignificant event like Coulter's comment, right?

"Either Canada sent troops to Vietnam or they didn't." is what we call a strawman. That is and has never been the premise of this debate. Again, quote my counter premise to Ann's, then make your counter to mine. If you can't do that then you are admitting defeat. Here, I'll help, Wiki search these terms; Counterargument, Rebuttal, Inference objection.
Yet another shining display of self-congratulations, replete with pedantic Logic 101 minutiae.

Ok, so are you stating the sky, seen through our eyes would not be determined blue? See that's Ann's argument, she is stating it is not blue, lol, I just pointed out that it is.
Could this be another example of a straw man? No wait! It can't be since it's Theo's own analogy.

That's the entire point, when under a peace agreement there is no "combat zone". Do you understand English? I'm serious, do you?
Try telling that to the people who were shot and killed in that same zone during the peace-keeping troops' occupation.

The debate isn't about the facts. Hmmm, maybe this is where you are lost.
I am suddenly stricken with the nauseating possibility that I've given my attention to a person who cries fallacy in counter-arguments, then claims the debate is not about the facts. Call me dull, but I'm not quite sure what could possibly be debated without some reference to fact.

Very juvenile of me to point out that claims of being right without evidence are merely claims and in no way prove victory on a particular subject? Hmmm...
Could this evidence that Theo seeks possibly be related to the facts that he previously stated were irrelevant?

See, you are so hell bent on winning that you could care less about the truth. I feel sorry for you.
At this point, Theo's 'argument' degenerates to projection, and he briefly feels the emotion most of us already feel for him.

Well I'm glad you see it that way. For if you have cited all you can, and I have destroyed from a logical standpoint all those citations in my comments section, well then I guess you must admit defeat. Thanks for playing "I should understand logic and context before debating".
All hail the fabulously perfect and unassailable logic of Lord Theo!

Logic prevails son. LOL
Translation: the only valid forms of logic are the facts as synthesized by Theo.

I was getting sick of watching people defend her and disregard all logic and evidence while doing so. Thus I created this video, so that people with logic could come here, see that ALL the claims in the video are backed up by facts and links in the comments section, and feel the argument has been clearly won. No more need to waste time on those other biased unevidenced video's.
Translation: I was getting sick of people agreeing with someone I hate. Thus I created this video, so that people who agree with me can pat me on the back for my amazing and perfect logic, which I back up with facts that I have stated elsewhere have no relevance to the argument. No more need to waste time on those other videos that present reasonable opposing evidence, so I wisely delete references to them in my comment section.

Well, I'm finally done.

And Theobrothers... so are you.