Archive for February, 2013

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Three Minutes Fifty-Three Seconds

28/02/2013

Three Minutes, Fifty-Three Seconds. That’s all the time I need to take me from a melancholy mental state to one of contentment. To raise me from the precipice of self-loathing to the highs of a smile. To bring me from the point where I feel as if it can never get better, to the point where I know nothing can stop me. Its no coincidence that Three Minutes, Fifty-Three Seconds is the precise length of the song This Year by The Mountain Goats on Spotify.

Have you ever fallen head over heels for a song? I hesitate to call it ‘love’, but that’s kind of what it is, isn’t it? Maybe not as serious as love for lovers, or love for friends, but love all the same. A song can bring you such great, great joy, or such painful and terrible heartache. It’s a microcosm of relationships – an amuse-bouche of what one experiences in all the good and bad that comes along with love. A song you fall in love with has a ballistics arch – it’s a shooting star of power, of hope, of joy…only to fizzle out, crash to earth,  only to have you turn your gaze back to the skies in hopes of that new, amazing, brightly burning shooting star to infect your mind with its melodies.

When I fall for a song, it’s constantly in my head. Whether literally blaring through my ear buds or on repeat in my brain, it remains. I find myself humming the melody on the way to meetings, drumming along to the beat idly at my desk, or writing out the lyrics knowing that the words the artist uses speak so directly to me, that if I just get them down on paper I can unlock, or at the bare minimum recognize the point where this piece of art so infected my life that it’s almost as if the song was written just for me. With This Year, it was the opening bass line progression that really hit home – it ascends, inspires, and blends itself so effortlessly into the overall scope and beauty of the song that it seamlessly makes itself a constant fixture in my head.

Of course, I know it’s not to last. Eventually, those Three Minutes, Fifty-Three Seconds will start to wear on me and I’ll skip the song when it comes up on iTunes. After doing this a dozen or so times I’ll realize that it’s as a result of my psychological evolution and emotional need, and I won’t feel the desperate need to hear the song at all times, or to start my day, or before I go into an important meeting at work. Sure, it might come up on shuffle in a few months and I’ll remember how much I loved the song, but it won’t ever be like it was those first beautiful, magical weeks when I first heard lyrics that hit like a sledge, a guitar riff that sings, and drums that make me tap my feet involuntarily. No, it’ll just be a song…one I enjoy, but not one that is a compulsion to hear.

There have been a few occasions where the relationship, that love, has rekindled after an extended absence from each other. I remember the first time I’d heard the song The Twist by Frightened Rabbit after a six month absence from my iPod – it was like the machine knew we needed a break. But that first time I heard it again…it’s such a powerful song. The lyrics say everything I wanted to say to a girl I was in love with in high school, but never could. It made me reminisce, think back, and enjoy those memories of spending time with her. The song and I flirted for a time, even getting to the point where I made sure I’d listen once or twice a day, but eventually – as with many rekindlings – the spark faded. The emotion wore thin. And I remembered why I’d moved on in the first place.

I think, though, that everyone has a few musical true loves. And I think that it’s almost genre or emotion based – it’s that one song you immediately go to when you want to hear a particular kind of music. Sunshine by Minneapolis based Atmosphere is a song that’s timeless to me – a hip hop anthem for letting the serious shit go, for being appreciative of the people and places around you. 3 Rounds and a Sound by Blind Pilot is that song that instantly makes me think of my wife, a love song that is so perfectly suited for our relationship and lifestyle that I can only wish it was written back in 2001 so it could have been played at our wedding reception. If I’m feeling destructive or aggressive, I’ll listen to nothing but the Sex Pistols for the afternoon – rotating between My Way and Holidays in the Sun.

So yes, I’m fiercely in love with a song. I’ve listened to This Year six times this morning, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. It is, at the same time, both a warm blanket of comfort and a call to arms to not give up, to keep pushing forward. When you can be inspired or boosted up, or at the very least made to smile by an artists work…if it can make you feel love, then it’s the perfect thing at that moment. We should all be so lucky as to be completely in love with a song. And much like with a person…sometimes all it takes is Three Minutes, Fifty-Three Seconds to be completely captured, dumbfounded, and head over heels in love.

I drove home in the California dusk.
I could feel the alcohol inside of me hum.
Picture the look on my stepfather’s face,
Ready for the bad things to come.

I downshifted as I pulled into the driveway.
The motor screaming out stuck in second gear.
The scene ends badly as you might imagine,
In a cavalcade of anger and fear.

There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year.

I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.
I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.

Thanks to Peeta and Squaresville for the inspiration on this piece.

Jay Malone

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Why Can’t We Be Friends

27/02/2013

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Over the last two days I have talked about why MRA’s are wrong but not idiots, and I have written an Open letter to MRA’s.  Today I would like to bring these two articles together by talking about why even if we can’t be friends we can still be civil to each other.

Now I kind of touched on this a bit in the first article about how even especially when we don’t agree with somebody we should strive to understand their point of view.  Now a commenter on my first post made the comment that “If someone is espousing a sexist, racist, or homophobic viewpoint, DO NOT EVER make them feel like their point is “legitimate”. The only way to prevent such attitudes is to make it known loud and clear that such viewpoint are hurtful, degrading, and NOT okay.” and I agree. (This is not the whole comment, for that please read it under my first post on MRA’s)

I am not advocating that every point is legitimate.  I am simply advocating that you listen to every opinion and respond in a non hostile way and acknowledge that especially when the other person is wrong they may feel they are coming from a legitimate place.  I say this of course because it is true.  People who seem to have crazy opinions do not magic themselves into an opinion.  They get there the same way everybody else gets to their opinions.

Before I go on I want to be very clear.  There ARE people out there that no matter how many times you listen to them and try to calmly explain your point of view all they are going to do is scream and shout at you.  Those people are not worth your time. Everybody should try once, and you are a saint if you try it again.  But for those insipid people who will not even listen you when you are coming from a loving place they can take a long walk off a short cliff.

To me it is very simple.  If you are part of the establishment and you scream at any minority then you are are going to do is make yourself look like an asshole.  And likewise if you are a minority and all you do is scream at the establishment all you are going to do is cause them to build thicker walls and stronger doors w/reinforced windows.  No matter which side of the issue you are on screaming usually accomplishes little.   So, instead of figuratively screaming at each other I still suggest using the 3 step process.

  1. Acknowledge: Let the other person know that you heard what they are saying, as in the actual words
  2. Empathize: This means you make an attempt to get into their shoes and understand where they are coming from.  This DOES NOT mean you agree with them, it means you are just trying to understand them.
  3. Tell them why they are wrong in your opinion.  This is the trickiest part because it will be better to use I statements rather than you statements, but with practice it can be done.  Examples?  “You are wrong because…” or “You cannot say it that way because…”  vs.  “I feel a better way to say it would be…” or “This is how I see it…”.

I understand that step three is going to seem a bit awkward at first but if you work at it I promise it will be better in the long run.

I also want to point out that those folks who are knowingly coming from a place of hate are the worst offenders.  It happens on both sides of any issue so please don’t think I am singling anybody out here.  But, when somebody says to themselves, “Well they are screaming at me so I am going to fight fire with fire and scream right back” then you are doing NOTHING to help at all and you just need to take yourself out of the equation.  Coupled with that are the people who say “Their opinion is wrong and I am right so I am NOT gong to sit here and let them be wrong.”  But, remember they think the same thing of you and they are allowed to have their opinion just like you are.

If we can follow these steps, and keep the other info in mind, then usually you are going to get an outcome that will change something.  Granted the person you are debating is unlikely to fall on their knees and beg for your forgiveness right there on the spot but, if you can have a civil discussion they will be way more inclined to at least think on some of the things you have told them.

Peeta

Tomorrow: Falling in love

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Open Letter to MRA’s

26/02/2013

Before I start…

Why am I writing an open letter to Mens Rights Activists?  What qualifies me to create such a letter?

Well I am writing the letter because I want to approach the topic a bit differently than the status quo, which seems to be standing on the opposite of any issue brought up by a MRA(who lets face is are primarily males who are white) and figuratively screaming at them about it.  As far as qualifications go I will state again for the record that I am a cis-gendered white male who once  thought there was merit to what MRA’s say.

And with that here is my imperfect letter to folks who identify as MRA’s

Dear MRA’s

Firstly, I want to say that I can understand where you are coming from.  Being a male sometimes it can feel like every time you turn around you’re being told you are doing something wrong.  This sucks, a lot.  Nobody likes being told that they are wrong.  However being told you are doing something wrong and being able to get out of that situation is not the same as living your entire life thinking you ARE wrong.

However MRA’s  need to stop comparing the minor inconveniences men sometimes face to the marginalization of entire sexes and races.

A rather long comment (2nd comment) from yesterday’s post outlined all the issues that this particular single dad faces when out in public.  These are legitimate concerns because this guy is obviously a great dad who would do anything for his kids.

His concerns are legitimate in the sense that they are real issues that are being faced.  But why is he facing those issues?  Is it because of how men are portrayed in the media?  Not likely because for every sitcom dad who is bumbling around the screen the writers always make sure the dad says or does something that redeems himself, usually before the end of the episode.  Is it because single dads somehow have less love for their children than a single mother would?  That is just silly.  What I think is more likely is because when boys are growing up to be men they are told things like “stop crying, don’t be such a girl”, “Suck it up [insert obvious girls name here]”, and finally my least favorite “stop being such a vagina”.

When you grow up hearing these types of things over and over again it becomes clear that boys and men should want nothing to do with being a girl, or a women since that is what girls grow up to be.  How does this affect the commenter?  Well because they are performing a task that is typically associated with women and therefore they must be less of a person.  This is not okay.

To my original sentence of minor inconveniences vs. marginalizing; what do I mean by this?  Well, I mean  the original commenter who is male can go to his friends and family who know him and understand him and are likely to give him a place of shelter from any questioning glances.  And for every questioning glance received I would be willing to place money on the fact that he receives one to two glances of admiration for taking up the banner that is being a single father and therefor super dad.

The opposite is true of a single mother.  Not only is she often questioned for what she did to chase the dad off but she also has the question of when she is going to get another man in her life to help take care of her kids.  Single moms are after said to be looking for a hand-out and just an all-around questionable person because she doesn’t have a man.

So please, if you are a MRA and think that men are dealing with an unprecedented level of sideways glances know that you are probably right, but this is not because men are suddenly being oppressed.  It’s because  gender roles are starting to level out the misogynistic society we live in; and we still have a long way to go before it is fixed.   Again, you are necessarily wrong, just tackling the wrong root of the problem and since the fix isn’t going to come easy or overnight I think it’s best if we are all trying to solve the same problem.

~Peeta

Tomorrow:  Is there a way to solve the communication problem we as a society seem to have?

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Men’s Rights Activists are Wrong, but Not Idiots

25/02/2013

While I don’t agree with the “Men’s Rights” thing at its core, I think there is some concern to be expressed about summarily dismissing a legitimate question because it is not framed in a light that is “issue of the day.” There is a surge of these posts recently talking about the illegitimacy of anything that has a hint of being MR related.  It is crap they way that straight men are portrayed in the media.  That doesn’t suddenly invalidate how anybody else is portrayed, but its still a thing that is addressable.

I think rather than just commenting “PFT! suck it up buddy, been happening to (enter X group here) longer than you so deal with it!” it might be better to do what is considered customer service 101.  Acknowledge that the person has a legitimate concern… especially if you don’t agree.  Empathize and explain that you can understand where they are coming from.  Then, explain to them why they are wrong.  I don’t really think that anybody who expresses an MR point of view is right, I just also don’t think that most anybody is handling the response properly.

I also want to be clear.  I don’t think that MRA’s have any kind of platform to stand on but standing opposite of them and screaming at them about how stupid they are is going to actually accomplish the opposite of what some are trying to do.   Especially as nerd fighters how does this help decrease world suck?  I obviously vote that it does not.  I would not have the perception I do today (trust me, even if you don’t agree with me, its better than it used to be) if it not had been for a Nerd Fighter taking the time to set me straight on a few things in a caring manner.  So, please, take a moment and remember that you are not just fighting an idea, you are fighting a person, no matter how wrong they might be.

Peeta

(inspired by : http://seriouslyamerica.tumblr.com/post/43949215595/to-the-dads-from-a-mom)

Tomorrow: Open letter to MRA’s

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My Relationship With Nerdfighteria

24/02/2013

I first heard about Nerdfighteria when my English teacher from ninth grade recommended I read John Green’s first novel, LOOKING FOR ALASKA. At the end of the book, there was a page with the Nerdfighter website. I didn’t immediately join because it seemed so daunting and so many people were involved. It seemed like a huge thing that I didn’t know how to make sense of it all. I wasn’t very outgoing back then and too shy to try to connect with people, even on the Internet. So I decided it just wasn’t for me.

Eventually I began watching charlieissocoollike on YouTube thanks to my best friend. In one of the videos he mentioned Nerdfighteria and the Vlogbrothers. This was probably a year after reading the book (I know, right? A year!). Of course, I had read John Green’s other novels. How could I not? But it was in that video that I decided to give Nerdfighteria another try and began watching the Vlogbrothers. That was, quite honestly, one of the best decisions of my life so far.

I say that because Nerdfighteria has really helped me become a better person. So many other people, some my age, some younger, and some older, willingly come together to make the world a better place (or, as is said, reduce world suck). Seeing them continues to motivate me to wake up, get out of bed, and simply do the right thing. Whether it is helping others, donating to project for awesome or the kiva group, or starting their own projects, there are actual people out there that truly want to make a difference. Not just that, though, they are having loads of fun while doing it!

One of the best things about Nerdfighteria is that you will always have a friend. Whether it is on the internet or at a gathering, you get to meet so many people that you share something big and amazing with. Just last week I saw a girl wearing a FAULT IN OUR STARS shirt and, when I smiled at her and complimented her on it, she gave me a huge grin and a high-five. It felt great meeting someone that knew what it felt like to be a Nerdfighter. We are all connected through this thing and most of us don’t even know each other. Except, that doesn’t really matter, because, once we meet, it’s all we need to form a bond.

I have come a long way since first reading LOOKING FOR ALASKA despite it only being three years. I know that, had I not decided to give Nerdfighteria another try, I would not be the same person I am today or have some of the great friends I have now. If you’re new to Nerdfighteria and feeling a little lost, don’t worry. The best has yet to come. There are so many awesome things waiting for you and I know you will enjoy almost every single one of them. This is a community that is pretty accepting and always glad to have more people. More people means more Nerdfighters doing what they do best, and that is to reduce world suck.

Celene

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Making My Way Downtown

22/02/2013

The other day I found myself alone downtown, an often scary place in the wrong areas, waiting for a ride that was late. Though I was cold and it was raining, something propelled me to go for a walk instead of seeking shelter in the nearby Theater I had just come from. Now, when I walk, I often keep my head down as much as possible, mostly to keep myself from tripping over something unexpectedly, but also to keep from looking anyone in the eye. But that day I decided to look up instead. As I walked I noticed a cast of characters that interested me.

For start, I passed two elderly men dawned in casual suits and stylish hats, they almost looked as if they had just stepped out of the Jazz age. They were laughing and all together enjoying each others’ company as I walked slowly behind them, and when one man reached his destination the two parted ways saying “Peace and Love. Ciao.” Which would was probably one of the most interesting exchanging of words I had ever heard.

Second, I noticed a man sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. For a second I thought he was homeless. He had a long unkempt hairstyle and beard combo, and a general demeanor that showed he could have been through a lot in a short amount of time and that he possibly didn’t trust anyone. But as I got a closer look, I noticed that his clothing looked clean, new and they could possibly have been name-brand rather than something you might find cheap at a thrift store. And as I passed him he tipped his head to me saying “Hello ma’am” (although it sounded vaguely like mom, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt.)

Lastly, when I stopped to wait after a while of walking I was approached by an elderly man caring a recycled grocery bag. He said hello pleasantly and asked how I was doing, pretty much the normal greeting given to someone you might pass on the street. But then he said something I did not expect: he asked me if I liked poetry. Of course I like poetry, I spend most of my time analyzing most forms of writing for school and I plan to write professionally one day.

“I ask” he said “Because I’m a poet.” Then he brought over his grocery bag to where I was sitting and pulled out a green spiral notebook “Would you like one of my poems?” He asked me. Of course, I love the idea of reading other people’s work, especially poetry, so I told him I would. He picked out a special poem he had written about brown eyes based on the colour of mine. “They say that your eyes are the gateway to your soul” He told me “And I believe that. If you look someone in the eye for long enough, you can know a lot about them.” A beautiful statement on its own, but then he added something that still sticks with me. He continued talking about how nobody looks anyone in the eye anymore; He said “Nobody knows who anyone is anymore, because they never look each other in the eye long enough.”

This was said in a very “back in my day” way that is common when referring to conversations with the elderly, but in a way it is true. People don’t pay attention to their surroundings anymore; everyone is so absorbed in their own agenda that they never even look up as they walk down the streets, me included. If we all spend our days looking at our feet as we walk, we miss out on moments that could make your day so much more interesting. If I hadn’t chosen to look around while I walked, I would not have seen the two men from the Roaring Twenties, or the Homeless Impostor  And I would not have met the coolest Poet I have ever seen.

His name was Dennis, and he walks around town handing out poems to anyone who would stop long enough to listen to him. And even though my ride didn’t show up until long after we had planned, and I managed to get a nasty cold, I’m glad I chose to explore my city that day.

 Reaga
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Johnny C’s In Trouble

21/02/2013

I have a confession to make: I loved the first season of the show Glee. As a theater kid in high school, I could very easily relate to the loser mentality the McKinley High Glee Club was subjected to week upon week – and while our little theater troupe was never as talented as what New Directions showed, we’d still pull it together in time for our performances of Li’l Abner, Oklahoma!, or Bye Bye, Birdie. I related to those kids, I knew what it was like to be the underdog.

Since then, though, I haven’t watched. I felt that Glee was perfectly told in one season – the story of losers who lost a competition, but ultimately ‘levelled up’ in their own lives, for lack of a better term. I saw a few episodes of season two, and nothing over the last two seasons. It seemed overkill to keep investing in the lives of these kids who, in my eyes, had reached the apex of their character development – and from what I’ve heard, that’s fact. Kurt is still Kurt. Finn is still Finn. Rachel is still a psycho diva.

Over the last couple of weeks, however, I was drawn back into the world of Glee, but not because of a stunning plot point or character beat – rather, it was because of theft. The musical director and producers of the show saw fit to cover a version of the song Baby Got Back that had been performed by independent musician and geek god Jonathan Coulton – which would be all well and good, had he been credited, mentioned, hinted at, or even just given a good old fashioned ‘Sup’ on the Glee on Fox Twitter feed. Instead, Fox and the production and directorial staff of Glee have instead either taken a radio silence approach at best, or at worst an antagonistic, ‘He should be thankful for the exposure’ bully mentality.

Am I taking this personally? As a long time fan of JoCo, I am, so looking at this objectively is difficult. Was it slightly thrilling to hear the telltale chord progression of Coulton’s cover of Baby Got Back when I was gleefully (see what I did there?) ignorant of the situation? You bet it was – my head swam at the idea of maybe having an entire episode of Glee  covering JoCo and Paul & Storm songs – I’d love to hear the talented singers and musicians cover songs like Nun Fight, Furry Old Lobster, and A Talk With George. But as I read more and more into the situation, I realized that this was another case of a corporate 500 pound gorilla throwing its weight around against a 150 pound chimpanzee. (On a somewhat related note – I would have loved to have heard a cover of Code Monkey being performed as the kids attended a computer science class, or something along those lines.)

While it doesn’t appear as if there’s any legal action that can be taken – unless it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Fox and Glee completely lifted his instrumental track – the justice delivered in the court of public opinion has been swift. Geek sub-culture icon Wil Wheaton has been particularly vocal on the matter, as have been Paul & Storm and Hank Green. Glee musical director Alex Anders made an off handed remark on twitter about people needing to see things as an ‘opportunity’, and subsequently deleted the post when people had a negative reaction. (Though you can still see the backpedal tweet here.) It’s a downward spiral, and one I personally don’t feel that Glee will easily recover from. Wired has reported that other independent artists – DJ Earworm and Greg Laswell are noted in the article – have also made identical claims to those of Coulton.

As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t appear as if legally there’s much that can be done about this. However, where legality ends, opinion reigns. And I can say without hesitation, that opinion here is heavily in the corner of Jonathan Coulton.

Jay Malone