Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Silly Grown Ups, Flying is for Kids

            Very few live action movies make more of an impression on me than their cartoon counterparts, but Peter Pan is an exception.
The animated version paints Peter as a boy with an insatiable craving for adventure. However, the live action version goes a bit deeper. In it, Peter displays childish giddiness, but also the inability and refusal to feel emotions such as guilt and love or accept the consequences of his actions. Also, he, unlike the 19th century grown up Londoners back on earth, is free of worry, responsibility, and grief, and because of this, is able to fly indefinitely, running on an endless supply of happy thoughts.

            This got me thinking: Is J.M. Barrie correct in suggesting that the tradeoff for growing up is the loss of the ability to fly, in other words, being truly happy?

            To answer that, we first have to define growing up. To me, it’s the acceptance of responsibility and the consideration of the effect that our actions have on those around us. All in all, restricting our impulsiveness to get along with people. But how can that in itself make us unhappy?
Accepting and listening to others is hard, because it means having to think and consider other peoples needs and sometimes place them above your own. As we grow older and become involved in activities that require us to work with more and more people, (school, college, work, etc.) life is not so simple anymore. All of a sudden, we become aware of the stares we get in public if we cry, shout, or break into song. We can no longer do the things we liked to do without wondering what others might think. And don’t give me that “I don’t care what other people think of me” crap. I’m pretty sure that if I said exactly what’s on my mind when I spoke to people, I’d be dead by now. And in an extreme case, if someone decided to drop their pants in the middle of a busy intersection, he’d probably be taken in for public nudity and disturbing the peace if he isn’t run over first. Basically, you adapt, or you’re shunned.
When it comes down to it, I believe the phrase “childhood bliss” is synonymous with “ignorance of everyone around you”. During infancy, no one else matters except you, and anyone who happens to exist is there to make you happy. You are free to do practically anything you want without having to worry about the social consequences of those actions. The reaction you would get when you tell your friends about the time you ran out of the house in your birthday suit at 5 would be slightly different than if it had happened last week. With this ultimate immunity, we are all in a way Peter Pans till a certain age, born with a liberating freedom that lets us float right off the ground.

            However, if this is true, we can concluded that the root of all sadness lies in the difficulty some may face in getting used to the millions of eyes that bore into us every waking minute, and the pressure we feel to keep up our reputations and meet the requirements demanded of us by our families, friends, and superiors. In A Doll’s House, the protagonist, Nora steps out of her childish existence when she takes it upon herself to borrow some money for a medicinal trip to Italy for her husband Torvald. She prides herself in this act until he finds out and makes her face the consequences for overstepping her role as a subordinate wife. With her brief journey into adulthood, Nora sees that taking fate into her own hands, even for benevolent purposes, can bring conflict and resentment. This is what makes me believe that children are the only exception in our dissatisfied world. Just like Nora in her ignorant days, they are free from this worry, free from this stress. There’s a reason why no one has heard of a 3 year old committing suicide because he or she gave up on life out of frustration.   
Adulthood in itself turns out to be a package that has some perks: a debit card, driver’s license, the ability to drink, and a weekly paycheck, but at the same time a thousand and one problems one must face every minute of every day. You are no longer Peter Pan, circling above Captain Hook with a grin on your face. You are the lone protector of Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys, and you are aware that if you don’t defeat Hook, they will die right along with you. I agree with Adarsh’s theory in his essay “The Grass is Only Spray-Painted Greener” that happiness in adulthood can be achieved with the absence of the desire for greater things, but I also believe that to be truly satisfied with life, one would have to renounce all dependents and critics or be obnoxiously self-assured.

-Julia Chinchilia

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Validate Someone's Existence in Three Easy Steps

  To start off this essay, I'd like to quote George Carlin: "You wouldn't know it, from some of the things I've said over the years, but I like people." And it's true, I do indeed. Life may depress me, but people... People fascinate me. All too often, I'll find myself sharing my deepest thoughts, dreams, fears, goals with someone in the first conversation I've ever had with them. I know, I'm naive, but that's my nature. And sometimes, I think it's everyone's nature.
  See, I, when I'm bored, ask my friends what their biggest fear is. Two things fascinate me about this: first, that people almost always answer, and second, that 99% of the time, their answer is usually either "failure" or "loneliness", both of which reduce to "insignificance" (Heck, my answer is "loneliness" too). That's mind-boggling to me. I mean, firstly... Here are people who I may not have had a serious conversation with in my life volunteering their deepest insecurities to me, hardly the most trustworthy person ever. And secondly... That we all fear that, at the end of our lives, we won't have made any difference, that we won't have mattered (Sometimes, I think that everyone in the world needs an "It's A Wonderful Life" moment). A quote from the final Oprah show: "I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?" A friend suggested to me the other day that maybe that's the reason that people fear death: because, when you die, in your mind, you stop mattering to other people. That said, I want to give you what the title promised. They may not be easy (okay, so I wasn't completely truthful, but I'm pretty sure it's Marketing Strategy Number ONE that pithiness is more important than accuracy), but they ARE worth it, I think.

  1. Listen more than you speak. - It's almost never interesting to talk to someone who rambles on for days without letting you get a word in edgewise. At any rate, sometimes, if you listen to people, they can sincerely surprise you. I'll admit that I have trouble with this, being the most talkative person alive, but I always try to let people have their say, especially in serious conversations. It may be cheesy, but it should be said anyways: people can die, but ideas can't, and by listening, you're allowing someone to leave their mark on the world.
  2. Be willing to share yourself with people. - I don't suggest you walk around telling complete strangers your deepest, most private thoughts, but living in a shell or bubble is the easiest way to ensure that your existence won't matter. Also, when you share yourself, you make it easier for others to share themselves with you, and that feeling, of two people meeting in the middle, is wonderful. It feels like two diplomats meeting in the middle of a battlefield, completely vulnerable, and yet... risking everything, going out on a limb, to make a connection where there wasn't one before. The feeling when it does work out is worth the pain and heartache when it doesn't. (I suggest you guys watch this video; Sarah Kay is lovely and explains it more eloquently than I could ever hope to.)
  3. Go to the funerals of the ones you love. - Funerals are depressing. That's the sad truth, they are. There's no way around it. But (SPOILER ALERT for The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite books ever) there's a reason Gatsby's funeral scene where almost no one shows up is the most heartbreaking scene of the whole book. THAT is my biggest fear: that I will live a life that will lead to a Gatsby funeral. I want to know that, even in death, I matter, and I am remembered. If you can't show the ones who have passed away (which you may believe you can or can't, depending on your religious leanings), you can at least show the rest of the world and tell them that this person was good, and that they did matter. Funerals are a good place to start.
  One final note: I wanted this essay to be an optimistic one, as used to my usual miserable stuff about the nonexistence of happiness. I hope you can see that this is really a beautiful thing. We're all the same, trying to hide our insecurities and fears and goals when all we really want to know is that we've made a difference. Tell someone that they've made a difference in your life. They may be confused now, but years from now, that knowledge will be the thing that assures them that their life was worth living.

-Adarsh Nednur

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Go to School Naked

            One of my many pastimes is to point out ridiculous rules and regulations that can only exist because whoever was in authority to make rules obviously didn't take them to their logical conclusions. I certainly don’t expect the proceeding rant to alter anyone’s views significantly, but if one reader turns into a rule-maker later in life, I certainly hope they will remember at least part of the opinions stated here.
            Before I can make my statements, we must first agree on several points. Is the picture of an action the same as having that action committed? I would say yes, for the most part, or no photos would be allowed in court cases. This logic is also why child porn is illegal. A picture of illegal firearms found at a crime scene presented to a judge would be considered the same as handing the firearms to the judge for him or her to examine. This is, of course, assuming that there have been no alterations to the picture since it was taken. Next, do we assume that written words should be treated the same way spoken words are? Again, I would say yes as long as the proviso that they are not altered is met. The very reason we (humans, not Europeans or Americans) created a written language was to effectively speak to others without needing to make any audible noise or be in their presence at the time the message was received. If those two prerequisites have been satiated, let’s continue. If they haven’t been, please leave a comment telling me why they aren’t. I love reading dissenting opinions with legitimate reasoning behind them more than reading those of people who agree with me. A brief discussion on this topic with a member of the school staff has shown that the administration does not believe photos are the same as actions.
            Our yearbooks came out recently, and I would approximate about half the photos, excluding the headshot class photos, contained either a student breaking dress code or participating in an activity that would be deemed against school rules like texting. This leads me to ask two questions: Why was this yearbook allowed to be published when it contained what would be considered too lewd or evil in public in photographic form? and why weren't the students who took the photos punished for assembling such a yearbook since they spent a large amount of time using school computers to compile pictures of girls in Nike shorts, shirtless guys playing ultimate Frisbee, and students with their phones out in class?
            The school system has created rules by fiat that obviously have no beneficial effect on the student body. If not allowing students to expose parts of their body, a body that in no way is owned by the school system, in ways that aren’t even against the laws authorized by the country is supposed to in some way make school a more congenial learning environment, it is nullified by allowing the students to dress how they want outside of school since they are still students until they graduate, and it is again nullified by allowing those students to be free from dress code when participating in physical activities. Basically, the school says gorgeous legs are only a distraction to guys if the guys aren’t in PE at the time. Right, because that’s exactly how hormones work. I won’t even start on how athletic uniforms are exempt from dress code regulations; everyone knows more fantasies happen at the sight of a cheerleader skirt than at the sight of last season’s Abercrombie jean shorts.
            We now move on to literature. I've read Beloved for English, and the book is rife with graphic scenes of rape, violence, and language. However, if I chose to have a casual conversation with a friend in class about his or her sexual encounter last night (I’m straight edge so it wouldn’t be me we were talking about), we would be reprimanded. It isn’t any different than what we’re required to put in our minds by the school. The only difference is that the words are being spoken and not written. Apparently what a teenager can be required to read and be tested on he or she is not allowed to repeat, even to the teacher who required the teenager to read the material in the first place.
            The preceding statements leave the establishment with two logical choices: enforce strict rules pertaining to what every student can read, listen to, act like, and wear until they graduate or remove the rules that aren’t even legitimately enforced in the first place. If they do nothing, the establishment appears unintelligent on several levels because they can’t even consistently decide on what is a transgression and what is not. My hope is that the generation after my own steers them toward the side of more freedom, because I’m done with high school tomorrow, and I wouldn't want to be part of the bloodshed if they tried to limit the freedoms of youthful spirits.

I am not condoning lascivious or perverse speech or attire. Personally, I'm very conservative in  my language and clothing except for general bathroom humor and a propensity for tank tops. There just is no reason for someone else to dictate how others should live.

-Jason Rossiter

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Starting your Own Country: A Users Guide

      They exist all over the world. International organizations and larger governments recognize none formally, yet these nations continue to exist and in some very notable cases thrive. So what can the micronations teach the world of sovereignty and indeed what it actually means to be a country? These quirky little nations are comprised of little to no land, no official recognition, a handful of people, and a lot of spunk.

     The year is 1967; Pirate Radio operator Paddy Bates has just declared Roughs Tower to be an independent nation—free of any other rule. Styling himself as Prince Roy I of Sealand he is determined to keep his nation independent. He fights his battle on the sea where there were several instances occurring with the Royal Navy in which Prince Roy fired warning shots towards a British warship. The case was taken to court where it was ruled that the British had no jurisdiction over the fort, and what had been achieved was a sort of de facto recognition. So what effect, the reader may ask, does this have on political philosophy and, indeed, the validity of nations? The fact that a nation can have a sort of de facto recognition is a large step forward in undermining the traditional view of what a state actually is.

     Now that the definition of micronationalism is established, and a good example of the circumstances of the creation of a micronation has been given: where do these states exist? How do they come to occupy the land that they do? According to an article that appeared in The Futurist, a micronationalist has more or less three options to obtain land for his country. He can either claim it, as is the case with Sealand and Molossia (whether or not that land is already claimed by another entity is an entirely different question). A second option of the micronationalist is to rent an island where they can have the realm to themselves “until the bill arrives that is” the article states. The third and final option the article has to offer for those wishing to be involved in micronationalism is to build islands as is being done in the Red Sea. Dubai—according to an article in The Futurist entitled Own your own Island Nation—looks to profit handsomely from the activities associated with building islands. Indeed other countries can learn much from the country that helps to establish up and coming nations as completely independent entities. Industry in Dubai would also profit nicely from all of the necessities that would have to be imported into these new countries. One option that is not mentioned in The Futurist is the possibility of online nations and nations without borders similar to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, though these seldom have the same influence or prominence that territorial nations have. So clearly the idea of micronationalism is not totally worthless. The idea of creating artificial land for a home is not a recent idea either. Since the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, people have created artificial lands for protection against hostile tribes or rival city-states, writes McKinley Conway for The Futurist in an article titled The Case for Micronations and Artificial Islands.

     An important document in the arsenal of any micronationalist is the Montevideo Convention, a document which states what a state ought to have in order to exist. In article 1 it proclaims, “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” It also claims in article 3 that “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states. Even before recognition the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts.” Because of this many micronationalists have found a sort of loophole in which by a technicality their countries are allowed to exist. A notable example of this loophole in action is the Republic of Molossia in which President Kevin Baugh has declared his Nevada home to be an independent sovereign nation. He refers what would normally be taxes as foreign aid, saying, “Have you seen their [the United States'] roads?” But what does it actually mean to be “sovereign”, one may ask. According to Gene Owens writing for The New American, states are sovereign within their own realm. As it was defined in the Montevideo Convention, states have the right to exist and defend their existence regardless of outside recognition.

    Even with the Montevideo Convention, larger nations refuse to recognize these small entities for various different reasons. The largest of these is that Micronations are not recognized nations. For recognition to be obtained by a new state it seems as though a country should already be recognized. This does not stop their creators, which seem to be driven by a multitude of factors. Some of these nations who have been snubbed by the government as is the case in Australia where Prince Leonard of Hutt River declared independence over a wheat quota. The interesting thing about his case is that a commonwealth law allows people to declare independence if such a case were to arise. So the Principality of Hutt River is now “the second largest country on this continent” (PrinceLeonard).

    At this point the reader may think that the idea of micronationalism is a silly escapade driven by eccentrics who have nothing better to do. This may be true; however, the micronation makes about as much sense as any “macronation”. The idea of an omnipresent federal government breathing down the necks of people of a specific region can be seen as outrageous, which can drive some to create their own model states. For some reason the idea of a micronation is ridiculous to most people, and even still the idea of a similar entity on a larger scale is not. All of this raises an important question regarding micronationalism: does the modern state matter anymore? With increasing interdependence and globalization, modern states have, to an extent, lost their borders, and cultures have become diffused. The micronation seems as valid as any; if the idea that a political entity can draw a line in the sand and that will be the border of the country is somewhat absurd, one only needs to look to Africa to see how arbitrarily drawn lines have divide cultural groups and caused genocide. For this reason we are forced to conclude that the micronation is just as valid as any other nation that is recognized.

    Micronations arise for many different reasons, be it economics, or boredom. We can now safely conclude that the micronation is as valid as any of the larger nations because of recent globalization. They inhabit all parts of the world and beyond as some of the micronationalists have claimed parts of space in attempt to find more unclaimed territory to validate their nations. Will these entities ever be recognized? The answer is almost certainly no. However, for the time being, the micronationalist in all of his endeavors may find peace in the very simple fact that the micronation to a large degree is just as valid as any other recognized nation, provided they could establish themselves in agreement with the Montevideo convention as well as establish a semi-independent culture from the country they broke away from. The micronationalist should not be concerned with recognition, he should be concerned with enjoying the pursuits of having a very tiny nation and use it for an excuse to take part in such whimsical activities like throwing a dinner party or creating a sports team all in the name of one's own nation, in the name of fun. One is limited only by their own creativity in terms of events to put on and fun to have. That is the aim of true micronationalism, that is how to establish your own country.

Just think, this could be you!


Hello, I'm Grant and I'm probably one of the least sarcastic people you could ever hope to meet. That aside I play the saxophone and piano and enjoy composing music. I enjoy discussing philosophy, especially existentialism which is not as depressing as you might think.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Have No Idea What the Hell I'm Doing!

            I have absolutely no clue what in the hell I’m doing. I’d wager that most of you don’t know what you are doing either. What is your life’s purpose? It’s not an easy question to answer, it strikes at the very core of what we as individuals have been, are, and will be. Today I was reading a fascinating article about the incredibly talented band Code Orange Kids (you can check the article out here). The first thing I noticed about Code Orange Kids when I first saw a video of them performing live was how young they all are. Every single member of the band is in their teens, freshly graduated from high school, and they just got signed to a respected underground label. As the author of the article said, “What the fuck was I doing with my life that these kids seem to have it so figured out?” Four teenagers, the same age as me, have crafted a unique and cohesive artistic vision, and they have even achieved success with that vision. Seeing other people your age achieve something tangible has a way of making you feel like shit. But on the bright side, it forces you to confront the question that hovers over us all the time like an inescapable rain cloud, What is the purpose of my life?
            Various people have different answers, but in my experience most people fall back to a couple of core answers that serve as placeholders until they can really figure things out. The most common answers to the question of one’s life purpose are: personal happiness, helping others, serving God, or being remembered. To me at least, those are all very unsatisfactory answers. I don’t mean to imply that any of those answers are wrong, they just don’t satisfy me. There is a deep seated existential fear that everything we have done, are doing, and will do is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. What makes that thought especially subversive and menacing is the fact that I can’t really refute it. Everything and everyone dies and is forgotten eventually, even the titans of history will one day cease to exist even in the minds of others. That covers the tangible world. Now, I believe in the afterlife, but even with that belief, the question of “Does anything really matter?” still worms its way into my thoughts. In the scale of the infinite, where there is no final state of existence or definitive end to the chain of cause and effect, it is hard to see how any action we could take would matter. Since actions are judged by their consequences, how can they have meaning if there is no definitive end consequence? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t tell you why anything we do matters at all.
            Hold on, I wouldn’t leave you on that note, with nothing to mull over but a nihilistic uncertainty. Actually, that is absolutely something I might do, but not today! Let’s look back at Code Orange Kids. I don’t know them personally (I wish I did), but I am pretty sure they don’t create their music with the intention or belief that it will last forever and alter the universe, but that doesn’t diminish their purpose. We get through life day to day without being crushed by the weight of insignificance because we don’t focus on it, we do things. I can’t tell you what the purpose of your life is, or even how to find your purpose (I can’t even fully figure it out for myself), but I can tell you that you should find something to sink your teeth into. Do what you love, live the life that helps you best satisfy the ravenous desire for importance that burns us all up. In the end, what else can you do but look to the horizon and move forward.


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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Don't Have Sex Until You're 12

Maybe you’re there because you’ve grown out of your favorite cocktail dress, or because you’ve recently realized that you only have 12 pairs of summer sandals, or, as most teenagers strolling past you, you’re simply bored out of your skull on a hot Houston Saturday. But regardless of your reason, you and your fellow shoppers all come across the same things on your journey through the linoleum walkways: A Victoria’s Secret model swooning as she gracefully arches her back. A shirtless guy and girl rolling around in the sand on a Hollister billboard. Leonard DeCaprio clutching a Rolex as he stares you down. A close up of the lips of a Sephora model as she seductively licks a lollipop.

Who needs Maxim when you have the Galleria?

As contraceptives gained popularity and the world became more liberal, the subject of sex progressively pulled out (haha) of the shadows. Sex was no longer an activity restricted to the married population, but a subject common enough for table-talk, enjoyed and giggled at by all. Teenagers obsessed over it, twenty-somethings bragged about it, and the older generation laughed about it.
Realizing this, advertising companies starting using sex as their main sales pitch. For guys: Use Axe body spray, you’ll be chased by a band of girls. Buy McDonald’s chicken nuggets for a hot chick, she will screw you on the counter. Drink Fanta, 4 skimpily-dressed girls will start dancing on the hood of your car. When I was leaving the airport in Rome, I even saw a billboard of a completely topless girl advertising what appeared to be car insurance. For girls: Use Someday perfume, Justin Bieber will teleport to your room. Buy Secret antiperspirant, you will be hit on by every guy at a club. Eat Yoplait yogurt, you will shrink 40 pants sizes and men will propose to you on the spot. Hell, you probably decided to read this article because of the title.

Sex is now everywhere, but sadly this bombardment of boobs and Ryan Reynolds not only holds our attention, but also that of the even-younger generation. Personally, I have no problem with kids being educated about sex when they are of age, but when I found out that my 11 year old cousin knows what road-head is, I started to worry.   
The danger of exposing the youth to the world of sex is that it has the biggest influence on them. This early exposure has increased the demand for certain commercialized products, yes, but it has also had many negative effects. Like what?
Think back to when you were 12. Sex was like a secret club, a worldwide phenomenon catered to by the media that you were missing out on. But no one likes to miss out. The earlier we expose kids to sex, the earlier their patience for being excluded will run out, and this time may come before they are educated on the proper methods of protection and contraception. I agree, to an extent, with the older generation’s views that sex should be an activity reserved for adults, or, as I frame it, those who are mature enough and psychologically ready. Some are ready at 16, some at 22, but never 12. Yes, there are mature 12 years olds, but you can probably count them on your right hand, and I still doubt that any of them would be able to face the implications of the activity, which I won’t go into right this minute, or be able to indulge in it safely.

However, despite the negative effects of sex-infused advertisement, I doubt that any major company is going to change their advertising techniques or that Victoria’s Secret models will start posing in burkas. But I think it would benefit everyone in the long run if they stopped relying on our basic instincts and became a little more prudish.

As usual, leave your thoughts in the comment section below if you wanna share them. If not, go eat a cookie. Maybe that will inspire you to indulge me with your opinions on the matter, and your day will greatly improve.


My name is Julia. I come from a family of pessimistic Russian Jews, and I love debating about social issues. Thanks for reading. If you liked it, leave a comment, share the blog with friends and all that jazz :)

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why I Once Thought Love Didn't Exist, And Why I Am Now Not Sure

  So, if you ask any of my friends, I happen to be THE girliest guy you will ever meet. I cry in movies regularly (and not just Toy Story 3 and Lion King either, in movies that most people don't cry in as well), my female friends come to me to talk about their feelings rather than any of THEIR female friends, and one of my female friends has even taken to coming to me for fashion advice. Above all, I am the biggest hopeless romantic you will ever meet. Or at least, I used to be.

Yes, this is what I look like in a sad movie. Or a happy movie. Or pretty much any movie.

  You see, ever since I learned about the concept of "Chemical Love", I've become somewhat cynical. That is, the idea that love is actually just an emotion that is produced by a certain combination of chemicals, and is really just a physical/"emotional" manifestation of our biological imperative to propagate the human race. As I said in my introduction forever ago, I am agnostic; however, "love", for me, always filled the holes that religion left. It gave me something "bigger than life" to believe in, something that seemed off-limits, incapable of being understood. The idea that "love" as we understand it is just a social construct, a romanticized version of what is really just, as I once heard someone describe it, a "glorified sex drive", bothered me deeply. I read about an experiment conducted by a scientist who got 8 pairs of straight strangers of the opposite sex, had them talk for half an hour about goals, dreams, fears, memories, whatever. Then, he had them stare deeply into each others' eyes for 4 minutes. Supposedly, these actions activate the chemicals involved in "love", and six of those eight pairs got married. This totally changed the way I saw things; I've gotten pretty reductionist and deterministic since then.
  I know, I know, I'm boring you. I'm getting to the interesting part, though, I promise, so bear with me. I was discussing these views of mine with a friend one day, and I said something along the lines of, "Love doesn't exist inherently, because anyone who had never heard of love or the emotions associated with it would not feel those emotions. It's not like happiness or sadness, which are inherent to how humans evolve." My friend's response was, and I quote, "So?" His argument was that something being a social construct and not being inherent to human nature doesn't make it any less real. He said that, if people had truly convinced themselves that love existed in its totally romanticized version and that they felt those feelings, that wasn't really any different from love being "real".
  So, now, a question to you, reader: does the fact that something is a social construct, that something isn't inherent to human beings, make it any less real? Is Santa still real for the kids as long as they don't realize it's just their parents in a fat suit? Please comment, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts.

Love = Santa? Perhaps.

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-Adarsh Nednur

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Artist & The Critic

The Artist

            As I get older -yes, I’m allowed to say that even though I’m only eighteen- I’ve noticed I’m losing the ability to define what I like and don’t like when it comes to artistic endeavors. Probably until the end of sophomore year, I could tell you what genre I liked. In elementary school I liked oldies. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single song that I enjoyed in that period. In middle school I liked country; in the first half of high school I liked any genre ending in –core. Now… well now I don’t care if I’m listening to Lamb of God or City & Colour because both artists create a feeling with their work. I don’t have a favorite painter, sculptor, or time period that defines the artwork that came from it because I can’t draw the lines to separate them. I see everything in terms of the effort that goes into making it.
            One time I took “Jack” to see a play. The Voyage, something like that. It was the first in a three part series about Russian philosophy. Needless to say, a lot more of it went over my head than his, but we both enjoyed it. Upon leaving the theater, we had talked about why we liked the play. I saw a dozen thespians, several of which had a day job on top of the acting they did, that memorized pronunciations of Russian words and philosophy to regurgitate it all in an understandable manner for a three hour performance. I learned from the play and appreciated all the work put into it. “Jack” saw how well the progression of 18th century Russian thought was portrayed and made comparisons to the other pillars of Russian thought, like Dostoevsky, and how it compared to Western philosophy. See the contrast?
            I’ve sharpened my teeth on the miniscule music scene around where I live, and I know how long it takes to write a single page of a novel. As an artist in the most general sense of the term, it’s built into my system to appreciate raw talent, to respect any work done to hone a skill, and unadulterated worship for those with raw talent who spend the hours necessary to create a pristine final product in any genre or medium of art. Who am I to call one thing better than another?

The Critic

This essay stems from a conversation that I have had with Jason on several occasions. Be it music, theater, literature, or art, Jason and I may enjoy the same things, but we always discover it is for fundamentally different reasons. Where Jason sees art in terms of the effort poured into its creation, I view everything in terms of content and meaning. In this sense, Jason has the perspective of an artist and I have the perspective of a critic. I'll continue Jason's example of music, since it illustrates the difference quite well. Like Jason, I too have a rather eclectic music taste that encompasses many different genres. Unlike Jason, talent and technical prowess don't interest me as much as the content being conveyed. Interpretation, analysis, and response color my opinions. Jason and I once attended a La Dispute concert (fantastic band by the way), and though we both enjoyed it, we walked away with very different impressions. After the show, Jason commented on the musical skill of the band members, while I walked away in complete awe of the complex lyrical themes and emotional, though not technically perfect, performance. Jason appreciates the effort and skill of composition; I appreciate the thought put into the meaning of the art. Another area in which this distinction between artistic and critical schools of thought comes into play is painting. An artistic thinker would appreciate the technical prowess of illusionistic painting. The precise skill needed to be able to represent forms as three dimensional on a two dimensional medium is impressive, but it isn't of as much interest to the critic. Styles such as Abstract Expressionism and Postmodernism are more appealing to me than the Renaissance or Realist masters (more on this in The Value of Ugly Art). The skill of illusionistic painters, while certainly worthy of praise, doesn't appeal to me as much as the thoughtful expression of idea and concept in more abstract forms. Really, the difference between Jason and I isn't that significant. We both like most of the same art, but the difference in appreciation, while miniscule is interesting. To use a traditional metaphor, Jason sees the individual tree of skill and detail, and I see the forest of theme and effect. Neither perspective is more correct than the other, and I believe they actually complement one another quite nicely. So now its your turn, what's your point of view, are you an artist or a critic?

"The Critic, Young Aspiring Artist Examining Oil Painting At Museum" by Norman Rockwell

-Jason Rossiter, "The Artist"
-"Jack", "The Critic"

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Macbeth, Tragic but no Tragedy

            Scotland in the 1050s was a scary place fraught with violence and political instability, or at least this is the image that Shakespeare’s play Macbeth would have us believe. The true essence of the tragedy in Macbeth lies not in the ultimate demise of the titular character but in the people he brings down along his rise to power. In this, Macbeth’s death is not the tragedy, but King Duncan’s is tragic. Macduff, who finally dispatches King Macbeth at the end of Act V can now be seen not as the antagonist but rather the protagonist. What Macbeth really indicates is how power can corrupt and how when that power is misused an entire society can come crashing down from its formerly lofty position. 
            It is commonly thought that Macbeth is the “Good guy,” but on close examination is he really? Throughout the entire play he does nothing but bring political turmoil, death, and destruction to Scotland. In the end his own hubris causes his demise. Thus the traditional view of Macduff as the antagonist must shift instead, to the just and noble agent of providence. So in this case the protagonist is not simply the main character, but rtather the one who does good—obviously this is Macduff. The antagonist must then be Macbeth who contributes nothing positive to the plot of the play. It was after all Macbeth who had several of his peers murdered so that he could keep the crown for himself. In short, Macbeth was a greedy and paranoid man who was in no way fit to rule. His rule caused several unnecessary deaths. This is where the tragedy lies within Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, not in the supposedly tragic figure that is Macbeth, but rather the entire situation of the ruling class of Scotland at the time.
            So why is Macbeth undeserving of our pity? He is a monster. Allow me to digress for a moment. In the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life, there is a sketch in which a morbidly obese Mr. Creosote abuses the wait staff of a restaurant to the point where he vomits on a woman cleaning the floor (which had been soiled by Mr. Creosote’s vomit). According to an essay by Noël Carroll that appeared in the book Monty Python and Philosophy, “He [Mr. Creosote] also resembles that slapstick comedy, the clown. The clown is not exactly human, the clown is either too fat or too tall, too thin or too short…he is a misporportioned human. Nor are his cognitive skills near the norm; generally he is too stupid…we can laugh at the way in which his body with its incongruities taunts our concept of the human…We need not fear for the clowns; nor in the standard case, need we fear clowns.” It is this same idea that can be applied to Macbeth. While in no way is Macbeth a humorous character, his inhumane activities allow us to not take pity on him at his demise. It is this realization that shifts the tragedy from Macbeth to the people of Scotland and makes the antagonist Macbeth instead of Macduff.
            When reading Macbeth it is important to keep in mind that things aren’t as they appear. It may seem as though he had little to do with his downfall and his rise and fall were unpreventable, but Macbeth caused—perhaps indirectly—everything that befell him. So with this notion Macbeth becomes the villain who while his intentions may have been positive—if only self-serving—he still in this notion is the antagonist. Much like Mr. Creosote we don’t have to pity Macbeth. He like Mr. Creosote in the end gets what he deserves. Why do we laugh at the scene with Mr. Creosote? Because he is not in our eyes human, much like the example of a clown isn’t human. Not only that but his treatment of the wait staff is so terrible that when he explodes at the end of the sketch it is humorous, not horrifying. Macbeth is the exact same example, while he is very much a human, his actions make it hard to pity him. Just as Mr. Creosote gets his comeuppance in a highly ironic fashion, Macbeth also gets his. He kills to become King. In the end he is also killed. After ruining several lives in what is Shakespear’s darkest play.
            So is Macbeth a tragedy? For Macbeth, no, for Scotland, yes. Macbeth is a prime example of how greed can corrupt. It also serves as warning for those who have too much pride as it was Macbeth’s hubris that allowed Macduff to kill him. The witches who predict Macbeth’s rise to power were the only cause that spurred him to kill King Duncan. Had Macbeth never come across the Weïrd sisters he would have never heard the prophesy and thus never killed the rightful King. The death of Duncan and of Banquo and his son, and of the Macduff family is tragic. The death of Macbeth is a blessing. 


Hello, I'm Grant and I'm probably one of the least sarcastic people you could ever hope to meet. That aside I play the saxophone and piano and enjoy composing music. I enjoy discussing philosophy, especially existentialism which is not as depressing as you might think.

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