Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Angry and I know it

          You know what really grinds my gears? Angry people. Angry people and stupidity. Ah! Two things that really grind my gears are angry people, stupidity and cultural intolerance. Gah! Amongst the things that really grind my gears—and I really mean grind my gears—are angry people, stupidity, intolerance, politicians, social conservatism, Bible thumpers, people who think they are above the rules, America’s lack of high-speed rail and service charges at my bank. Just to name a few; I wouldn’t have it any other way.
         People like to be angry, and here’s why: self-righteousness. The same sort of self-righteousness that we can observe in politicians, and people who try and convert you to follow a flying spaghetti monster, Lord knows how much I despise both parties. Humans like to be right. Whole wars are fought over who is right and who is wrong. Even though war only proves who is left.
         Being angry in one's own mind is really a call to righteousness. We’re angry for a reason, and gosh-dernit it’s because we’re in the right and some other person, being or concept is in the wrong. If someone were to wreck your new car, you would be angry, right? Why? The car will be repaired or even replaced at the person who wrecked its expense. Despite all of this, we’re right and he’s wrong! Ha-ha! At last we have an opportunity to really make this schmuck feel like he’s messed up.
         Humans are competitive beings; we’re confrontational for multiple reasons. Shooting at someone is far easier than trying to sort it out diplomatically. At least for the politicians it is, and really that is where the country is. Not in the hands of the people like they tell it is.
         Despite our disapproval for situations that make us angry, the actual state of anger itself is somewhat enjoyed. When I found out that there is a good chance that I will be taking PE in my senior year due to some major miscommunication and idiocy in the top levels of my school district, I suggested that we not talk about the issue because at the time there was nothing to be done about it. This request fell on deaf ears. Why? Because we enjoy being worked up, regardless of how much we wish the situation didn’t exist.
         What’s to be said for anger? We all feel it, and if you’re a normal human you probably enjoy it to a small or large degree. Embrace it, just don’t over do it, and ultimately no one really wants stress ulcers, so be angry and proud of it!

Angry, the new happy!

Thus Spoke Grant

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Burn Your Nike Shorts

       You know that warm, tingly feeling that washes over you when you put on your favorite light-blue fitted blouse that hugs your curves along with the matching flare jeans that make your butt look fantastic?

       Many-a-friend has approached me during high school and inquired of me the exact same thing:

       "Why do you bother to dress up every day? It's pointless."

       Au contraire. Personally, I believe that all the clothes we wear should give us a feeling of confidence in our appearance every day, because if you feel good about yourself, others will feel it too. I have made it a dogma of mine to never go out in public in sweatpants or workout shorts and a t-shirt, unless I'm actually headed to the gym, and always attempt to look my best. Why? Forgive me for answering a question with a question when I respond, "Who do you know that looks their absolute best in a baggy tee and flimsy shorts?" For the past couple years, I've put dressing well relatively high on my priority shelf, and if you don't already, I hope you will see the value of doing so by the end of this essay. I'll also be ragging on t-shirts and Nike shorts...a lot.

       Before I go on to argue the numerous pluses of dressing nicely, I'd like to first debunk some common arguments and misconceptions I've constantly come across.

       One of the main arguments I have met in my discussions about the value of dressing up is the supposed "sexualization" of women's fashion and the "perpetuation of gender roles" through the clothing we are expected to wear. Apparently dresses, skirts, and low-cut blouses are all symbols of our submission to our chauvinistic overlords. But how can one even reference gender roles when talking about fashion? Men and women are inherently different for reasons that we keep trying to avoid explaining to our younger siblings. As much as I believe in equal pay and equality in the workplace, I don't think we can exactly "fight for our rights" when it comes to having or not having boobs. And as to sexualization, I don't believe it's really an issue, for it can be seen in both men's and women's apparel. Guys are just as driven to appear strapping and broad-shouldered as women are to appear big- bosomed and curvy.

       Another popular one is ,"You're hiding your true self." I find this one the most ironic, because about 70% of the people who mentioned this argument were, literally, wearing a rebuttal on their sleeve. As they preached how certain fashions completely alter one's appearance, they themselves were clad in an old lacrosse or Tyler's t-shirt. How does wearing a top that flattens out your chest and makes your curves non-existent considered 'showing your true self'?
       The entire industry of makeup and fashion is centered around bringing out one's best qualities while simultaneously hiding one's imperfections and expressing one's individual taste. If you're self-conscious about your skinny legs and have a bubbly personality, pair a colorful blouse with some straight-pant jeans and you're ready to go. Have you drastically altered your exterior? No. Have you increased your self-confidence and done away with unnecessary angst? I think so. By putting some extra thought into your wardrobe, not only will you look great, but you'll also get a chance to express your inner-self. Clothing, just like one's choice in music or lifestyle, is just another way to define yourself in the eyes of those around you. We choose to wear certain styles based on how we want to be perceived by others. For example, when you see a group of college kids strolling along the sidewalk (as I've recently done), you can tell by one look at their clothing whether they're Greek Life, skaters, hipsters, or arties. Can a Tylers shirt and Sofies do that? Didn't think so.
       "But Julia, in that case doesn't certain clothing become a uniform for some groups?"

       The word 'uniform' implies a lack of choice. No one is going to force you into wearing skinny jeans and a gory band shirt, even if you are part of the metal-emo movement.  However, I also believe that just because all of your friends are wearing a certain shirt or dressing a certain way does not mean it is imperative of you to do the same. Dress according to what suits you personally, not what everyone else is wearing. By no means do I suggest that you wear skinny jeans if you have absolutely no business doing so. “Just because it fits, doesn’t mean it sits.” I don't mean to sound condescending, but if you know that you’re a bit chunky, leave the spandex jeggings at home. No one wants to see your jiggling cellulite. Only follow a fashion if it beautifies you, because some fashions can be just plain stupid, like Nike shorts, or a sudden influx of tropical fruit-hats.      
     During my stay in Italy two summers ago, I noticed that even the older women managed to look gorgeous. It was because they didn't try to wear short shorts like they did when they were 20, and they had a lifetime of experience in dressing their best. Clothing should be used to express your own rendition of any current fashion movements, and not to simply be a clone of everyone around you.
      The bottom line is: don't wear tropical fruit hats unless you know they compliment your features. I have a great mental image going there.

     Now on to the benefits, finally. You've held on this long, might as well read the rest.

    The first reason should be enough to convince most of the male populace: an increased chance of getting laid.
    A girl with decent looks and a nice rack will have her fair share of guys, regardless of what she’s wearing. However, it is exponentially easier to attract attention in a short skirt and heels than in a hoodie and sweatpants.
    Guys have it easy. For while they may be very visual creatures, women are less so. All it usually takes a guy to get a date are very average looks and a suave attitude. However, dressing the part won't hurt your chances either.
    Picture this: You walk into a bar sharply clad in a nice, clean button-down and fitted jeans to match. Hear that sound? That’s the sound of every female eyeball in the room giving you a once-over. ZZ Top knew what they were talking about when they sang "Girls Go Crazy Bout' a Sharp-Dressed Man".

    We don't wear the same clothes to a party, interview, or date. People dress up for interviews and meetings not because their suit is the most comfortable thing in their closet, but because they know they must look their best and impress their boss. As I mentioned earlier, your clothes directly reflect how you want others to see you. What you wear sends a very clear, simple message to those around you, which is why I can't understand why so many women choose to spend the day parading around in an old, neon green charity event shirt and a pair of Nike's that make their otherwise perky butt look like a formless mass.
    We play sports, practice an instrument, and try to make good grades. We all strive to get a good job with which we can buy a nice car and afford a nice house, and stuff that house with nice furniture we think others will find appealing. We put so much effort into keeping up appearances in numerous aspects of our lives, yet so many choose to neglect how they themselves look. One can be the Most Interesting Man in the World, but if he does not take care of himself, he will suffer the same fate as an expensive table with a greasy table cloth. People are going to see the stains  before they notice the hand-carved cherry maple legs.
    We try so hard to develop ourselves to get others to like us, yet we don't care enough to look pleasant to others? It's gonna be hard to convince people to be interested in what's inside if there's nothing pleasant on the outside. To me, appearance reflects not only lack of interest in fashion sense, but also her priorities. In a way, a disinterest in your appearance is the equivalent of a giant middle finger to everyone around you. Someone that puts no effort into his or her appearance sends the message that they do not value anyone around them enough to look pleasant for them, and, as Adarsh mentions in his essay "Judging by Beauty is Not Superficial", they have every right to do so.

    In several of the large, metropolitan cities I've visited, I simply felt invigorated and inspired because I was surrounded by so many beautiful people. But the fact is, people arent any more naturally beaufitul in Europe or California than anywhere else. They just simply view fashion of style as a higher priority than other cities and take the time to change out of their sweatpants before stepping outside. All in all, dressing up not only benefits you but those around you as well by presenting them with another piece of beauty in their lives. I’m not suggesting that everyone swarm Armani Exchange this minute; I simply believe that if the current Nike-short-clad crowd put in a little extra effort into their wardrobe and took better care of themselves, I believe it would greatly increase the mood of feel-good propriety among the masses. In the end, dressing up becomes beneficial for everyone and has no down-side, so why not do it?

-Julia (image enthusiast)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


                There are three errors in the title of this post.
                I didn’t use proper spelling and punctuation in anything except schoolwork until I had a crush on a girl who texted and Facebook chatted exclusively the correct way.  She’s long gone, but the habits I stole from her aren’t. There’s a quiet honesty in knowing that the same personality is expressed on essays at school and in social conversation elsewhere. Every part of me that I show teaching staff is what my contemporaries see off the clock as well. I haven’t created a fa├žade for my English teacher to read, and I haven’t stooped 2 social n0rms.
                One could have several reasons for using proper grammar. My personal favorite is the fact that there is proper grammar to be learned. It’s a mountain to climb. Like a musical instrument, the populace can argue for decades over the ‘true’ proper technique, but, for now, contemporary drummers use matched grip; guitarists strum with their dominant hand, and Americans supposedly know how to use the rules confusingly laid out in the English textbooks that no one actually opens.
                Another plug for the proper use of grammar is how clear it makes a written idea appear. I have received texts and messages from people completely sober and not under the influence of any substance which are so terribly illegible that all conversation flow must be stopped so they can retry several times. I don’t like to wait; ask anyone who knows me how impatient I can get.
                It is certainly possible that I’m an overthinker, but I see proper grammar, especially when it comes to names or important ideas, as a sign of respect and acknowledgement. I like knowing that my friends acknowledge ‘Jason,’ the proper noun expressing an individual, as opposed to ‘jason,’ a commonplace object that has as much character as a nondescript plushie on a conveyer belt in China. It’d be ridiculous to be insulted if i wasn’t capitalized (get it?), but it’s a courtesy to show others you see their individuality.
                Lastly, someone who regularly uses proper grammar can decide to debase their English for effect. When I type, “wat?” it means something distinctly different from, “What?” Someone who allows variation to seep into their writing due to lack of control denies himself or herself the ability to use improper spelling and punctuation purposefully.
                It is always important to share the opposite side of the coin as well. My high school class's valedictorian and many of my contemporaries who are much smarter than I am have atrocious grammar, spelling, and punctuation outside of their IB essays. I don't hold butchering of the English language against anyone using it in a relaxed setting; that's their choice, but I wouldn't do it.
                This is probably a boring topic to pretty much everyone in existence. Few people write as much as the authors here at QBA do, and they already write properly. The rest of the masses really couldn’t care less. I’d be surprised if they read this far. Congratulations if you did.

xkcd: Writing Styles

-Jason Rossiter

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Offending Christians

Jesus is not a bigot. I am not a bigot for following Jesus.

Deep in the backwoods of southern Appalachia, there is a small church of hicks and rednecks who were raised Christian, teach their kids to be Christian, and profess an illiterate and slanted form of a religion that is not theirs to slant. Intolerance. These people are radically locked in their own definition of the Gospel that really only applies if you are a white American protestant.

Divorced? They hate you.

Abortion? They hate you.

Gay? They hate you.

They, however, are not Jesus, and Jesus is who I am called to follow as a Christian. Before I lose the atheists, I want to specifically challenge you guys to get through this blog post. I don’t write very often for “Questions, Bar Answers.” In fact, this is my first time ever writing as a guest.

This post is not about the existence of God. I want to make that very clear right off the bat. If you want to debate with me privately, or even publically, over something deemed to be outside the realm of the Scripture, I would love to sit down and have a conversation on everything from the Borde Guth Vilenkin Theorem all the way to current affairs in this world, all of which attest to a Creator. So let me just reiterate one more time: This is not about if God exists or not. If you want to come and prove me wrong, I’ll even give you my Twitter handle so you can publicly challenge my ignorance: @jacob_dwyer.

There. Now we can begin.

There is a lot of miscommunication between the mouth of Jesus, two thousand years, and American Evangelical ears.

Mark 13:34 is pretty much a case in point.
Jesus: “So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.”

Pretty hard to just shut out what is going on here. If Jesus really is the incarnate form of God, which is sort of the backbone of Christianity, the thought of God wrapping His existence in weak flesh to abolish the 613 commandments put forth in the Old Testament is kind of a big deal.

Jesus spends a lot of time breaking down rules and very little time whipping up ordinances of His own. Single digits. Jesus takes 613 cannons and chops the list down to so few, you could probably count them on your fingers. Coming into a world run by religion and continual self-reliance, Jesus sets the stage for a new structure. Finally, it is normal and alright to not be considered enough. In fact, that is the only way to step into salvation: to recognize that the deeds of an individual will never solely justify themselves when placed in judgment before God.

When dealing with such a high standard as perfection, the slightest mistake renders the outcome of a faultless existence impossible. Jesus never discriminated by sin; Jesus never ranked men based on earthly
merit. All extremes can be washed away. All people, from Jews to Gentiles, are welcome into the newly formed church. In Acts, Peter expels what is at most a three minute sermon, but fills every word with the truth that the Man he spent a few short years with had come to relieve a standard that had been oppressing the people of God for long.

The big picture is love. Love not as you love your job or your new car, but love as the God of the universe has loved you. Love as powerfully, as the foundations of creation were built upon it. Love wholeheartedly, as the limitless willingly took on limits. Love sweepingly, as the Creator drew no lines between enemy and child as He laid down His life.

The only people Jesus met belligerently in the New Testament were the Pharisees. Every call He uttered for repentance was met with the scoffs of men who deemed themselves too holy to even consider the thought. They divided their sin from that of others; they deemed their sin dismissible, permissible, and even nonexistent, and that is why they were treated as the unsaved. That is why they sought the murder of the Man who could save them.

A prequel to every story of salvation comes through a realization of failure.
There. It might be a little rough around the edges, and may never be read, but at least I put out my individual note that seems to be joining a melody of likeminded followers lately.

Before I close this post, however, there is one more issue to take care of: liberalism.
The one risk with the message of the love of God is the removal of His justice. To reduce God to one trait is to remove the very nature of God. He is loving, but He is also just. The problem with packing away Jesus in the lone adjective of “loving” is dangerous. There is abuse at both extremes. To preach the nature of God through one element of His character is just as dangerous as the absence of preaching because both lead to an inaccurate representation of God.

Through liberalism, Christianity begins to take on a mirror like approach.

“You encourage homosexual and premarital sex? We support gay marriage!”

“You’re cool with lust and adultery ripping apart half of all marriages? We’re cool with that!”

“You want to close Hell and open up universal salvation across the board? Works for us!”

Through the lens of liberalism, what you want is what you see, which is not the case in Christianity. Yes, Jesus loves you, and yes, Jesus accepts you for who you are, but once you accept Jesus, there are rules set forth to grow closer to the Man claiming to be God. Removing the doctrine from inside the Church is just as dangerous as shutting the doors on those who need Christ the most.

The path of a modern Christian is a tough one. Calls from both sides attempt to distill Jesus’s combination of love and justice into one element entirely. One Voice, however, still calls from two thousand years back, reminding those listening that they are on the right path.

You’re doing Christianity wrong if you let the momentary thought of superiority grab a foot hold in your life.

You’re doing Christianity wrong if you elevate yourself up to guide the world rather than lessen yourself to the guidance of God.

You’re doing Christianity wrong.

-Jacob Dwyer

If you need to know anything beyond Christ to know anything about me, I am doing something wrong.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Batman, Ferris Bueller, and Jack Sparrow, Oh My!

  Note: This essay may appeal more to moral relativists than to moral absolutists. If you don't know what either of those phrases means, don't worry about it.

  It has come to my attention that Hollywood has made quite the industry out of pushing the idea that the rules may apply to everyone else, but they don't apply to the hero, or they don't apply to YOU. Whether it be Batman attacking and taking down criminals on the mean streets of Gotham unlawfully, Ferris Bueller skipping school nine times in a semester because he can't be bothered to waste a good day, or Jack Sparrow considering the rules "more guidelines, really," Hollywood seems to want to convince you that you shouldn't bother yourself with the rules if you believe in what you are doing.
  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't suggest that they are right or wrong. I was being satirical above; I DO also understand the message that they are actually trying to get across, which is that when the system is inefficient, when it fails you, you should not stand idly by, but rather take matters into your own hands. After all, as far back as 1849, Henry David Thoreau said in "Civil Disobedience" that, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." When bureaucracies fail, when hierarchies become inefficient, when, as was stated in The Dark Knight Rises, "structures become shackles", it may indeed be the right thing to break the rules for the sake of reform.
  On the other hand, I'm reminded of a quote from my favorite TV show, House M.D., where Michael Tritter says something to the effect of, "People think that the rules don't apply to them, but for 90 percent of people, they do." Cuddy, of course, replies, "What about the other 10 percent?" Tritter answers, "Everyone in the world thinks they are part of that 10 percent." The question is, how does one decide whether they are justified in breaking the rules, whether the ends justify the means, whether they are in that 10 percent?
  My band director, upon overhearing a conversation between Jason, Grant, and I on a topic similar to this, turned around and said, "It all goes back to Daoist philosophies. Daoism says that, when faced with a moral dilemma, a good man will know what to do." Jason asked, "How do we know if we are good men, then?" Obviously, he was thinking that many might think they're right about what should be done, but nobody really KNOWS. Our band director replied, "A good man would know." And so, with the ultimate self-referential comment, he ended that discussion.
  I think that I've finally come to some sort of personal consensus on how I can apply this extremely abstract philosophy to my dilemmas of "Rules vs. Ethics", though. I think what he is saying is that when someone knows that they are right about a certain position on an issue, when it becomes a matter of following the rules leading to a guilty conscience, or when the rules no longer exist except in name, then that someone should go against the general consensus and break every rule they see it as necessary to break.
  In fact, I would say that this rule has no bounds. If Hitler believes that it is unconscionable to let the Jews live and feels he cannot stand by while evil takes over, I think it makes sense that he would act on it, purely because I would hope that enough people would find it unconscionable that Hitler does this that THEY would act as well and Hitler would be stopped. Case in point, even if Chick-Fil-A donates to anti-gay foundations, even though I am very much in favor of gay rights, I'd like to point out that many of the people protesting Chick-Fil-A's actions don't donate to the opposite side. If they had the same commitment to supporting gay rights and acting against unconscionable deeds that Chick-Fil-A does, we'd probably have equality now. For that reason, I'd like to extend kudos to Chick-Fil-A for standing by what it believes in.
  Basically, I think rules are indeed "more guidelines, really." They exist for situations in which we have no compelling reason to break them, and they help maintain order by pointing out what people would rather you not do. However, if you have a principled view and cannot conscionably follow the rules or the hierarchy, then I give you permission to go be Batman and break those rules for the good of mankind. I don't think anybody's arguing that Batman is a bad guy; if nothing else, good intentions count for something. So yeah, I think the ends justify the means in such a case.

Dude breaks the rules for all the right reasons.

-Adarsh Nednur

No moral dilemmas here, no need to break the rules, just follow us on Facebook and Twitter and the world will remain in order.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Privilege or Right?

Young children with Credit Cards, iPods and greater technological freedom

Let me start off by stating that just a few weeks ago, I opened my first checking account. Along with it came a shiny new Debit Card (Cue screaming girls), and at the age of 17, that felt like a pretty big privilege for my parents to give. Yet the next day, I was disabused of the notion that I was ahead of the game by the revelation that I am actually 7 years behind.

“Can I get a high five?” is my constant refrain as I stand in the lobby of Meyerland Martial Arts Center, greeting students coming in and talking with the parents of the Little Dragons I just taught for 40 minutes (Then again, every 5 minutes spent in charge of toddlers feels like 30 minutes), and usually most kids grin and jump to smack down the hand hovering a foot over their heads.

This time, however, Aiden Portman, a 5-year-old Little Dragon who, mere minutes before, was focused utterly on every Power Rangers-esque exaggerated gesture I made, was completely absorbed by a pseudo-Minecraft app on his iPod Touch. HIS iPod Touch. At 5 years old. Apparently he got it for getting an E in conduct in Pre-K. (I never got that high five.)

That wasn’t even the most surprising encounter for me that day; when Joseph Gonzalez, a 10-year-old Blue Belt, asked if he could buy a new mouth guard (He’d lost his in his room.... how does that happen?), he whipped out a CREDIT CARD  with, as I soon learned, a $200 limit
a week; all he has to do is clean his room for it (Oh the irony).

Its been 3 weeks since then; I am now 17 years, 3 months and 18 days old, and my Debit Card (Not as cool sounding as CREDIT CARD is) is limited by my father’s co-signature rights to withdrawals and debits of less than $100 a day.

This leads me to beg the question; when did the parents of this younger generation start to give their kids so many privileges at such a young age? I knew my parents were relatively strict compared to those of my peers (My father was infamous for saying “There are no Happy Meals. Only unhappy meals.” every time I begged for one from McDonalds), but this is on a whole new level.

Before everyone starts saying “QQ more”, think about it; there are
5-year-olds with iPods. Correct me If I’m wrong, but it was only 12 years (3 months, etc. etc.) ago that I was that age, and I don’t recall having a Nintendo 64, let alone a device with the ability to surf the web, play hundreds of games, hold thousands of songs, take pictures, etc. etc., at the age when most children were playing freeze tag on the dilapidated playground at the neighborhood park and getting bruised and cut up by the sharp rocks that were used as cushioning for the more-than-occasional fall (They use WOOD SHAVINGS now, can you believe that? EZ mode.)

As an instructor in Martial Arts for kids of all ages, I can see a major correlation between the personalities, concentration and mental abilities of students and what privileges their parents treat like rights(If getting an E and cleaning your room are requirements for a privilege, it's basically a right). A good 25% of the students in any given class will immediately grab an iPod or PSP or 3DS from their parents as soon as they are off the mat, and those students are the same ones who have a hard time focusing in class, who are generally not as athletically capable as others, and who have a hard time remembering their forms, let alone my name.

Thus, it worries me how much privilege we, as a society, are giving to the most vulnerable of us; I don’t mean to critique anyone’s parenting skills (well, a little) but honestly, the last thing we should be giving kids would be greater access to technology that can be potentially damaging and can create bad habits (What do YOU think a 10-year-old will do with a Credit Card if he or she doesn’t have any responsibility for the cost?) 


My take: do what this ingenious mother did. Turn the problem into the solution by using technology and financial independence as carrots for fostering greater responsibility in kids. Done properly, it can prevent kids going rotten from being spoiled into arrogance and we might even save some children from turning into Veruca; “Daddy, I want an oompa loompa NOWWW!”

-Aadil Pappa

Hey. Name is Aadil. I'm a martial artist first and foremost, and a tech savvy guy second. I am always looking to improve myself in every manner possible, and writing essays for a blog like this is just one excellent way to do so. Unlike the regulars on QBA, the extent of my talent in "arts" is "martial arts", so I can't say that I am musically inclined whatsoever. I am a gamer, and am proud to say I played The Elder Scrolls series, Warcraft 3 and many other games before they were cool (cue hipster pose).

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grant on a Rant: The End (of Culture) is Nigh

Good evening ladies and gentlemen it’s time for a new segment we like to call Grant on a Rant. That’s right folks that’s where I, your host go on ranting about a topic that I find to be of significance. So now that we’re all ready, what’s our topic tonight? Doris, may I have the envelope please.
            Tonight’s topic is culture, specifically the end of it. Now that we’ve got our topic and I’m all fired up we’re ready to begin.

(For Added Experience listen to this while reading)

            I might be an old man at heart, but it seems as though things weren’t what they once were in terms of art. There seems to be a trend, with at least the very posh, of minimalism that is just ridiculous. Tom Friedman illustrates this point perfectly. A recent work of his can be described by the following: A dead ladybug in a Styrofoam cup. “No one would buy such a thing!” oh but yea of little faith. It was sold. It was sold for $29,900. If this isn’t ridiculous I don’t know what is.
            It doesn’t stop there of course If we look back to 1952 John Cage composed his immortal 4”33. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard this piece, my answer is you haven’t. Seeing as there is nothing to be heard as it is simply four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. The idea wasn’t even original because he was sued over the composition. Cage simply just extended the time of his most enduring work. The purpose of 4”33 is to inspire its listeners that music can be found anywhere. Perhaps that is true, but regardless you could just tell me that and not make me sit through 4”33 of silence.
            While I’m talking about music, might as well mention dancing. During my time in Germany a friend already living in the town I was staying in asked me if I would like to go to the Abiball. Basically the German prom (Yeah, be jealous, ‘cause alcohol was legal there) and I learned the Viennese Waltz just so I could dance on the second day I was in that country. I learned it maybe an hour before the dancing started. Dances in the United States pale in comparison; our dances are nothing more than jumping up and down and grinding. Maybe a two-step here and there if you’re in the South but you’re probably doing it wrong.
            This was a place where I heard waltz music in a crowded room on the dance floor, with teenagers. The best we can do is country. Musical composition of the day just isn’t up to scratch. Like the song That’s not my Name. I mean seriously people, how many brains does it take to come up with such a silly song. Then there are songs like Friday. I rest my case on the matter of poor composition. All of this music is being produced and when I would suggest that we listen to some blues people reel in horror. Our culture will dwindle and be lost if we don't take care of it.
            I’m not a culture snob. Okay maybe I am a little. Rap, pop, country are all cool I guess, just put some thought into the lyrical construction and we might not have to worry about our brains flowing out of our ears. Put some thought and real symbolism into your art projects and other miscellaneous doodlings. As far as dancing is concerned, I don’t see any hope there. Yeah that one’s a lost cause. We should try and strive to maintain our cultural heritage. Ragtime for instance is an important part of American history and helped lay the foundation for all other subsequent musical styles. Yet fewer and fewer people know this or even care. We need to protect our heritage and understand where we came from in every sense. Without culture we as humans are nothing.

-Grant Silverman

Sunday, August 5, 2012

(Don't) Blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-A-Alcohol

   What do helping decide the next leader of the United States, becoming a stripper, buying cigarettes, being entitled to minimum wage, starting a 401k plan, adopting a child, getting a tattoo, giving sexual consent, changing your legal name, winding up in county jail, and being blown to pieces in Afghanistan have in common? You can do them all when you're 18. 

   I've supported the movement to bring the national drinking age down for a while now. Blame my Russian heritage or my multiple trips to Europe, but I believe that the only accomplishment of the current '21 law'  is the generous contribution of community service hours spent picking up litter from our highways by 'underage' teens and college students. 


     Let's face it, we all do a lot of stupid sh*t when we're young. Among taking up parkour and attempting the Cinnamon Challenge, excessive drinking is no exception. We watch our parents or relatives drink at the dinner table, and in our minds, alcohol becomes just another right of passage into adulthood, like driving, having a credit card, or going to a hookah bar. However, just like with all the other rights of passage, many teens and college students tend to go a bit overboard when they are first introduced to it and find themselves waking up on a friend's ping pong table with a phallus drawn in Sharpie in across their forehead.

    Alcohol can be dangerous in large quantities, yes, but it is also used by many as a nerve tonic to help them socialize or relax. But regardless of why we drink it, I believe that the age to purchase and drink alcohol should be moved back down to 18 for the simple reason that we are allowed access to a variety of more harmful substances and practices at that age.

     At 18, we can decide to sign up for military service. We are allowed to choose to put our bodies in danger of mortar fire, shell bombardments, and machine gun fire in the service of our country, yet aren't allowed to decide whether they want to kill a few brain cells with friends? I'd choose a shot of vodka over a shot in the foot any day. Michelle Hamilton, a coordinator at an Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition in  Connecticut states that, "An adolescent's brain is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s" and that "Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence as an adult than those who wait until age 21". Hamilton seems to be very concerned about teens inflicting permanent damage to their growing bodies bodies. To this I must ask, "What has a greater potential to be permanently scarring, a couple sporadic alcohol-involved high school parties or a rocket-launcher to the skull?" The current law allows one to choose a violent death before being able to choose how many olives you want in your martini. 

    Speaking of unhealthy practices, let's talk smoking. Cigarettes can be just as harmful to one's overall health as regular, intensive drinking. However, the real harm in cigarettes comes from the unavoidable addiction that is formed when one smokes regularly. To clarify, there are two types of addiction: habit and dependence. Both alcohol and cigarettes often come with habit addiction; one gets the urge to smoke or drink around a certain group of people or at a certain time of day. But the real danger comes from the chemical dependence, which often branches off of habit addiction simply because one's body becomes accustomed to the regular intake of a substance. On average, one month of regular social smoking is enough to land a chemical dependence on nicotine. The most a month of social drinking can get you would be a small beer belly, and thats under the assumption that you're drinking some pretty lousy beer. In conclusion, 18- year-olds get  the chance to legally plunge themselves into a potentially fatal lifelong addiction before they're allowed to have a drink with friends.

   I believe lowering the drinking age would not only eliminate unnecessary scars on minor's records, but also decrease the amount of heavy drug involvement in the youth population. This is only an inference, but I predict that if college kids could satisfy their need for stupidity in minimally harmful and legal way, they would be less inclined to look for alternative methods to get a buzz. 

-Julia Chinchillia 

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Would Not Kill Osama Bin Laden.

            Thought experiments make my life enjoyable. They also are the only way by which we can test a lot of the philosophical ideas floating around because, if we actually did put a random individual in a room with a button in order to test if he would press it to kill one and save 100, we’d be in a bit of legal trouble. This thought experiment is, obviously, if I had the opportunity to kill Bin Laden, would I?
            I have to apologize to you, reader, if you clicked on this piece because of the title and expecting to read a radical position. There are certainly situations in which I would kill Bin Laden. If I was in a position to directly stop an unlawful attack against another party by killing him, I like to think I’d pull the trigger. I wouldn’t invade his house and kill him without direct evidence that I was stopping the removal of Natural Rights [see Save $ by Not Killing People]. That’s because I don’t deal in maybes. It could be the wrong house. It could be a double. The information provided to me may be incorrect and al-Qaeda is really a creation of the American government to give them grounds to attack foreign leaders who were refusing to take IMF funds and get into an endless loop of debt repayment. That’s a legitimate theory backed by quite a bit of evidence. Granted, every situation that can ever be conceived is, at some level, a maybe, the possibility of seeing an action happening in front of and misconstruing it as not a violation of Natural Law is infinitesimally small when compared to trusting third parties to do the moral calculating for me.
            The logical extension of that statement is the question of if I accept the rulings made by the court system since American law states that I must agree to rulings made by the courts. If the casual reader has asked that question, he or she may think I do not because the court system is almost exclusively made up of third parties stating their opinion on an event. However, since I have already stated that I believe an individual can make a decision about killing another human that is justified (the individual in the earlier case being myself), why would I be against a group of individuals who have ample time to deliberate and weigh facts deciding the same thing? According to Condorcet’s jury theorem, if every individual on the jury has a greater than 50% of deciding the true verdict, the probability of achieving that true verdict is greater than if I was making the decision alone. (And, by the same logic, if a unanimous decision is needed and, say, 5% of the population didn’t agree with the general opinion, there would only be a 54.04% chance of conviction… .95^12 = .54036)
            As always, I don’t expect to have changed your opinion on the subject by stating mine. Just keep in mind that rash decisions may or may not help your cause. There are cases scattered throughout history where undue suffering was created to no benefit to any party. But, if the world was full of people as cautious as I am about making life and death decisions, no war would ever be fought, and all the countries would just act like grumpy kids at negotiations… for a while anyway; I always hope for the evolution of society [see The Magic School Bus] to get us past such fickle nature.

-Jason Rossiter

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