Sunday, October 28, 2012

Balance?

            Balance, they say, is healthy. Do too much of something, and you’ll burn yourself out. You’ll drive yourself mad. You’ll send yourself to an early grave. Without balance in your life, you will be a stressed and miserable excuse for a person, teetering on or flying, screaming, over the edge of insanity. Everyone needs time to relax, time to think about other things. No one can focus on anything forever. You’ve got to recognize that you’re human and accept that. Cut yourself some slack. Go easy. Step back and firmly inform your harried mind that it is not a robot and, being such, cannot act like one. Even if it wants to try. We are all human, and humans are fallible, and that is perfectly fine and normal, and you’d terrify everyone if you were perfect all the time. And they tell you this over and over again, and pretty soon you can reach back into your head and press a little button, and a perfect audio recording of them saying it plays back in a practically endless loop because you can’t find the button that makes it stop. Then you wish you’d never pressed play, but you get the irritating feeling that it would probably have switched itself on even if you’d never touched it. 
            No one likes being told that they aren’t capable of things, and now you’ve got that stupid tape going in your head, and it’s even less willing to stop telling you you’ve reached your limit than the actual person was. Clearly, drastic measures are needed. Let’s look at the options available. The one the voice seems to like the most is giving in. Admit that you’ve stretched yourself too far and actually do something about it. That, however, is unacceptable. It would be way too hard. You know you’re right. If you were to even consider that you were wrong… No. Those thoughts are locked away in an underground vault with twelve-foot thick walls of reinforced concrete for a reason. The doors, though, are in terrible shape. You distinctly remember ordering that one twelve-inch steel door be put in place, but somehow during construction, you ended up with seventeen splintery wooden doors plus a rather inexplicable yellow plastic cat flap. They’re holding, but you’d rather not get too close. Besides, you’re not supposed to listen to voices in your head. Obey them once, and pretty soon they’re telling you to brutally murder everyone you love. 
         What else is there? Becoming that robot everyone says you aren’t seems like a pretty attractive possibility. Of course, even robots have flaws. Walking, for instance. Even the ones that are capable of walking aren’t fantastic at it. The band director would be extremely displeased, and he’d probably kick you out which, if you think about it, would reduce your workload, thus obeying the voices. Robot’s out. Time travel? Lovely idea, a shame it’s still in the gruesomely imperfect testing stages. Besides, the risk of destruction of the universe or, at the very least, discovery is simply too high. Also, more time for the same amount of work would be basically the same as the same amount of time for less work, so that would probably please the voices, and we really can’t have that. You want to crush them, not appease them so they leave you alone. So no time travel either. 
          Let’s see – gah! Look at the time! And you’ve still got a physics worksheet and history reading and a chapter of chemistry and those pre-cal problems you should have finished a week ago and that English project you were assigned a month ago and haven’t even started working on! You can’t waste time thinking about whether you’ve got more work than you can handle, you need to get it done! How could you let it go like this? Forget about the stupid balance issue, that pesky sanity thi – Wait. Forget about it? Yeah, OK. Ignore it. Maybe it will go away? Stop thinking about it. Right. Physics. Let’s see… 
         One moment. Is that… laughter?



-Emma Foster

QBA is on Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Honey Badger Don't Care

            In this essay, I intend to supply the reader with an opposing view to the one expressed by Julia in Burn Your Nike Shorts through use of philosophical argument and poking holes in the logic Julia used to piece together her argument. At no point will I oppose dressing up; I absolutely love fancy suits, bright ties, etc., but I want to challenge the idea that one must dress up to feel confident in his- or herself.

            The largest issue with BYNS is actually hidden in a premise that makes up its foundation. Always looking good requires that everyone agrees on what looking good is. Marilyn Manson and Mark Zuckerburg have almost diametrically opposed ideas on this concept; the prior is rarely seen without makeup and leather while the latter is known for wearing jeans and a hoodie to meetings with business executives who are dressed to kill in suits that cost more than my college tuition. Unless all of Mankind agrees on what “looking one’s best” actually is, it is impossible to fulfill BYNS’s initial point without breaking its second rule, “Dress according to what suits you personally, not what everyone else is wearing.”
            Yes, BYNS' statements leave a gray area where looking good meets and meshes with looking how one wants to, but I say that the idea of an overlap must be false because it implies that everyone everywhere agrees, at least on some level, what looks good. Any old paintings or photographs of Amazon tribes show in great detail the difference time and locale has on what "looking good" means to Mankind. 
            Now that the logical fallacy has been exposed, the second issue I have with the ideas of BYNS is that clothes should not be a crutch onto which an individual leans for confidence. As I said in No More Blue Pills!, no one wants to hire someone whose security blanket can be taken away as easily as one can spill ketchup on their new $50 name brand button-up. The only safe place one can base their confidence on is something that is more lasting than looking good; mine is placed on religion which allows me to be completely devoid of care for how others perceive me.
            To answer Julia’s rhetorical question, “Who do you know that looks their absolute best in a baggy tee and flimsy shorts?” I say that anyone at their absolute best can look their absolute best in anything. It is certainly possible that I’m biased though. Due to my body type, it’s almost impossible to find pants that fit (27”-28” waists seem to be a myth in American clothing stores). I spend very little time in the category of looking good by the standard of most Americans, and I’m absolutely okay with that. Honey Badger don’t care.
            HOWEVER, if the arguments from grammer, are applied to clothing, then there is adequate reasoning to warrant the occasional spiffy outfit. Looking like what society has deemed good can be a sign of respect to those you are working with, and it can occur just to prove that one can look someone else's good. Dressing up just for acceptance and to have others you may never see again who pass you on the street think you're pretty though, that just seems the epitome of fickle.


-Jason Rossiter

QBA is on Facebook and Twitter!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Meaning of Life (Part II)


            “That’s simply not good enough!” you protest. Well fine, I’ll try to shed some more light on the situation. Little things much like big things matter, humanity is a little thing when you think about it. How strange we might appear to some alien being floating high above our heads. We are born, we toil, we die. So many people go through life without taking a moment and stopping to smell the roses.
            If we don’t stop to smell the roses, in my opinion, life has little meaning. We should all take heart in the greatness that we have achieved as a human race it is through these moments these moments where we can stop and appreciate the grandiose  nature that can really lift you up. These moments inspired by some little ditty written by Beethoven celebrating everlasting brotherhood—or something; maybe the world’s tallest skyscraper. These are the big things. These are the bringers of hope to humanity. Maybe, just maybe humanity isn’t such a big mistake after all.
            Then there are the little things. These are what I feel are really important. It is the little things that remind us that we are in fact humans not robots bent on world domination (a feat that we have accomplished many times over). It was one of my last days in Marburg, Germany when a young woman turned to me and said (in German of course) that there were fresh strawberries in the market place. Being caught off guard I answered stupidly by saying “sorry?” Despite the fact I knew exactly what she had said. Then she said it in English. For those of you that don’t know Germans, Germans are somewhat cold and hard to make friends with—at least based on my experiences. So the fact that a German randomly turned to me and told me that there where fresh strawberries made me feel kinda good—almost warm and fuzzy on the inside. Of all my amazing experiences in Germany this is one of my favorite stories to tell. It makes me feel good for some inexplicable reason. This is a little thing and it makes you realize how shockingly human we can be.
            Making someone’s day, intentionally or accidentally, is one of the most powerful things you can do.  So yes sweat the small stuff and take it and realize how our humanity can be the best, not the worst aspect of our grand human experience.
            It would be unfair for me to drag along through this and not offer any hope, but who said anything about life being fair? You’re just going to have to keep reading this little miniseries I have going.


Strawberries are delicious, especially when in cake form

Grant

Like QBA on Facebook, and follow on Twitter as the meaning of life continues to be revealed. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No More Blue Pills!

           Twice a month, Adarsh and I have a conversation that inevitably ends with him telling me I'm masochistic for saying that I wouldn't trade in my knowledge or thought if it would provide me with a modicum more peace or happiness or some variation on that central theme. These conversations also end with his command for me to read Flowers for Algernon (SPOILER ALERT, link to summary) by Daniel Keyes with the promise that I'll understand and sympathize with his point of view afterward. (There's also a movie based on Flowers for Algernon called Charly. It doesn't go into as much depth as the book, but it is a good movie nonetheless. Unless you like action movies, then it sucks.)
           Well, I've read it, and I still disagree.
           In the case of Flowers, Charlie Gordon seems to be faced with the choice of happiness or intelligence; I argue that blind happiness is not what any individual capable of understanding this article should strive for, but I also don't believe that one should blindly pursue knowledge either. My go to quote for this situation is John Stuart Mill's, "It's better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied." (which can be found in its entirety in paragraph three of [Don't] Lie to Me)
           I'd like to point out several factors in Keyes' novel which keep it from fully supporting Adarsh's ideas, and I will try to do so without spoiling the story for anyone. First, Charlie's 'happiness' when he is in his mentally diminished or 'ignorant' state is due to the lack of ignorance in those around him. In other words, in order for 'ignorance is bliss' to work, there must be others behind the scenes who know the whole picture to keep ignorant people happily ignorant... or ignorantly happy. As long as Charlie surrounds himself with people who pick on him but still say they're his friends, he's happy. Those friends of his know that they need to tell Charlie that they are friends to keep the peaceful charade going. As soon as someone new enters the scene who picks on Charlie before stating that he's Charlie's friend, Charlie feels unsafe and scared, certainly not blissfully ignorant. Secondly, a large portion of Charlie's distress stems from an undeveloped emotional mindset meaning that situations which would distress adults without leaving them incapable to work leave Charlie in an unmanageable state of despair, or they make him soil himself. Highly emotional individuals are kept 'ignorant' in order to avoid harm to themselves or others (either physically or from emotional duress). Ignorance is a veil for those who are incapable of understanding the deeper meanings and workings of the world, but to hold on to it after one has matured is like going to one's first job interview with the security blanket he or she had to sleep with as a baby. Yes, security blankets are no harm in it of themselves, but when security blankets can be so easily taken away, no employer would hire someone who still needed one.
           Happiness hasn't been a driving force in any of my activities for as long as I remember. I've found that ignorance in any realm has been more detrimental to what, I guess, could be called 'inner peace' than any suffering I've gone through in search of understanding or achievement. This isn't to say that I view everyone who lacks the pervasive curiosity I have that came from genetics and environmental factors as incomplete or misguided, but I feel that America as a society, or at least my generation and the one to follow it, would lean more toward taking the blue pill than the red one.
           Ignorance, be it through intentionally ignoring the world around one's self or drugs or what have you, is an all encompassing extension of Marx's "Religion is the opium of the people." But, you may ask me, if 'ignorance is bliss' is an extension of 'religion is the opium of the people,' how can I claim to be a religious person and harp on people who wish to be blissfully ignorant? That's an easy one; my religion isn't used as a crutch to make life simpler or to paint over holes in my understanding of the world. Christianity based in a reading of the Bible that doesn't contradict itself requires me to seek out understanding, and ask questions, and achieve.


-Jason Rossiter

No pills, but we have Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

God(dess)((e)s)?



            Religion is one of those things that I have never been able to hold a concrete belief about for very long. I think my record for definitely believing a single thing was about three years of atheism. But as of about a year and a half ago, that period came to a slightly regrettable end and left me entirely unsure of what I believed. Again. So, here is my vague, uncertain, and ultimately less than conclusive two cents about what might be out there watching us.
            A god that would observe the problems of the world and fix them in response to prayer can surely not be real. With everything wrong with the world today and throughout history – the pain, suffering, and injustice – how could a god that responds to the pleas of mankind exist? Perhaps faith could give you hope that things would get better, but what if they did not, as is often the case? Would you lose your faith or maintain it, having your hopes dashed again and again as things did not improve? I cannot believe that a god that listens to us and  works to help us could possibly be real.
            Then what of a god who influences history on a larger scale, a god with a grand plan laid out that we may only be a small and hardly significant step in? Begging for help and change would elicit no response, for such a god would not alter what it had mapped out merely to improve the lot of a tiny person. Ruled by such a god, our suffering would be nothing more than one of a multitude of side effects of events that would further its master plan. The idea of fate has the potential to be comforting, I suppose, as you would be able to know that no matter what you might have done differently, events were destined to play out as they had, rendering you blameless. I find it terrifying to think that nothing you do has any impact at all and that every bad thing that has ever occurred was fated to do so. The ideas of a fated existence and a god that would govern it frighten me too much to allow me to believe it possible.
            But suppose that a god had created the universe and stepped back, impartial and refusing to interfere. Such a god might watch us, but human history would play out as we caused it to with no one to blame but ourselves and no one to thank but each other. Choices would have consequences, and the only ones we could look to for help would be one another. This god would not help us, but nor would it hurt us. We would be left to fend for ourselves, and our doings would have meaning. Humanity would govern its own fate without divine interference. Such a god I could believe in if ever I found any reason to think that it was real.
            There is no single true god or faith, for in ideas of that nature, ideas that cannot be proven, truth is different for every individual, colored by who they are and how they see the world. At the moment, there is no religious truth for me. I am undeniably confused. For the most part, I do not believe in a god, but I wonder. And I don’t know. Even if I do not believe in the existence of a god, the only god I can even imagine existing would not punish me for that. The only god I could ever believe in would not punish me for being uncertain or somehow wrong.


-Emma Foster

Two things you never have to be uncertain about: QBA on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Argument Against Phone Covers

  They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Forrest Gump thought Jenny was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. In American Beauty, Ricky Fitts thought the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen was a plastic bag in the wind. My friend, if you asked him right now, would probably say that the most beautiful thing is his new Samsung Galaxy S3. No joke.
  This friend and I were talking the other day, and he mentioned that he sort of wanted a phone cover, but he didn't like that it would ruin the sleek beauty of the phone. I, of course, responded, "Yeah, the full experience of the beauty, even if it is transient, is worth the risk of destruction." (I do indeed talk like that occasionally in my everyday life.) I thought that was an interesting idea, though, so I wanted to talk about it. (This may get a tad ramble-y.)
  Note: I'd suggest, in reading this, you keep in mind the most beautiful thing YOU'VE ever seen/experienced/whatever, and imagine losing it. Imagine that girl with the eyes that look right through you moved away or you couldn't listen to that song that always makes you cry ever again or you totalled your Ferrari beyond repair or, you know, whatever else.
  In economics, there's a thing called cost-benefit analysis. Basically, if the benefits outweigh the cost, then you go for it, you take the risk; if the costs outweigh the benefits, you play it safe. I don't think beauty works that way, though. I think, with something beautiful, the benefits always outweigh the costs, the risk is always worth it. I think that if my friend only has his phone for a week, after which he drops and breaks it, but in that week he experiences true happiness and beauty, it's worth it.
  I suggest that most people think the same way. In fact, I think that this is the reason that most people don't commit suicide; everyone is willing to risk the misery they may feel now or later for the euphoria they may feel one day. Other than religion and avoiding hurting your loved ones, this is the third-most prevalent reason I've heard for not committing suicide to avoid suffering. (I'm not religious and I referenced the fact that I am not averse to being selfish in my essay Screw Charity, It's My Money, so this must be my reason as well.)
  I'm not in a position to decide whether transient beauty is worth risking everything, but I think I must prefer higher highs and lower lows to a life of continuous mediocrity. Mediocrity's just boring, and boring is my least favorite quality in the world for anything to be. I personally would risk anything to experience true beauty. It's the "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" logic. Please comment and let me know if you disagree!

Beauty? Okay, if you say so.
- Adarsh Nednur

Risk it all, take a chance, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We'll make it pay off, we promise.

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's All Your Fault



You have a bad credit score because your bank is evil.

You failed the test because you have a bad teacher.

You’re messed up because your parents didn’t give you enough attention.

Nothing is your fault. Life is just a b*tch.

               As valid as some of these claims may be in several scant cases, they can generally be thrown aside along with the other hundred excuses that we hear every day of the week. Many things we blame others for are either directly our fault or could have been avoided if we had put in any effort to stop them.
               The truth is, we loooove to not be responsible for our own actions. It’s just so much easier to find a scapegoat for everything that goes array than consider that we had any role to play in it. Maybe you just didn’t pay your bills on time. Maybe you stayed up playing Halo instead of memorizing the presidents. However, that’s not a side we like to take. The ability to blame others is like a grand release from the stress of having to fix the problem at hand because you are no longer the cause of it.  It also becomes acceptable to release any and all frustration with your current situation on the ‘true’ cause of the problem.  It’s alright if your grades continue to plummet, because your teacher is stupid and you can hate him/her for not knowing how to teach. It’s alright if you didn’t get into college because your parents didn’t motivate you enough, and you’re allowed to hate them too.
This past month I’ve been occasionally turning an ear to the recent presidential debates and the influx of everything I did and didn’t want to hear about both candidates. I personally know very little about any issues other than Israel and welfare, but I listened nonetheless, and I noticed a seemingly obvious yet disturbing trend.  
In their fiery speeches before hoards of admirers, the candidates would reference the crumbling economy, the troubles overseas, and the instability in the job market. There was an almost palpable sting in the air as their words evoked the painful memories of debt, worry, and uncertainty from the audience. Then, in one fluid transition, the speaker would point an angry finger at his opponent and accuse HIM of bringing about or failing to stop the crisis at hand.
The candidates would work to capture the pent up frustration in the masses and convince them to direct their blame and anger at the other party or nominee. The audience would clap and whistle with relief as they shed their problems right off onto their newfound scapegoat. However, this euphoria was not limited to the people in the crowd. Facebook, Reddit, Youtube, and other social media sites are simply exploding with frivolous political themed arguments and flame wars where the users practically threaten the lives of the candidates while making references to their co-debater’s mothers.
Throughout history, there has always been a plethora of negative emotion and hatred associated with elections and decision making as candidates would rally their supporters and attempt to convince the undecided that their opponent is nothing short of the devil incarnate. You’d have thought that with the blossoming of the internet age and the sudden availability of terabytes of information on any and every topic, we’d have a greater sense of clarity that comes with being informed, and be able to calmly deduce our own opinions.  Yet it seems that we’re stuck in a vicious cycle of allowing ourselves and our anger to be manipulated through our own ignorance of the issues at hand by those that we trust to draw a big bull’s-eye for our blame and hatred.
In my opinion, the only thing worse than blind anger is blind anger at those who don’t deserve it. As I listen to the hateful speeches and high-strung debates, I can’t help but think back to the pogroms in the Pail of Settlement and 1940’s Germany, where blame was all the rage (see what I did thar?). Scapegoats were needed, and they were found, just like they are today. Obama failed to do what he promised, and Romney is a one-percenter. I see very little difference.
 The continuation of this mindlessness in our modern day politics goes to show that we are yet to rise above the senseless bigotry that is entrusting our opinions and emotions to anyone but ourselves. And we only have ourselves to blame for it.


-Julia

I'm not feeling creative enough today. Facebook. Twitter

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Grant on a Rant: Everyone Does the Color Shout!


         Good evening ladies and gentlemen it’s time for the segment you all know and love 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 "rule following." Now that we’ve got our topic and I’m all fired up we’re ready to begin.

         The band’s favorite cheer at football games is the color shout. If you’re not familiar with it, it goes:

“What about, what about, what about our color shout
Red, red, red, red. White, white, white, white, white, white.” x3

         It’s probably the single greatest cheer ever cheered; the entire band does it. Or at least the entire band used to do it. So there’s this guy in band we’ll call him Steve, and he doesn’t do the color shout. He doesn’t understand because:
         Everyone does the color shout.
End of story, no ifs, ands, nor buts are allowed where the color shout is considered. Yet Steve still just doesn’t get it. Even as our Director Mr. Hardy has a nearly constant mantra of “no except for me” Steve continues not to do the color shout. Lucky for him I sit right behind him at most games so when the color shout starts I always make sure to yell it over his head.
         “But, Grant, it’s just a cheer, does it really matter?” you ask. The cheer itself perhaps not, but this is representative of a larger issue I find rather annoying. People need to follow the rules, simple as that. I have low tolerance for people who don’t. Why’s that you ask? Rules are rules and they are in place for good reason. If there weren’t rules, well let’s just put it like this: How would you're local interstate highway look if there were no traffic rules?
         Generally people follow rules of a given topic so when people break these rules they are stating that they have no respect for the people who made them or the others who are following those rules. It fits nicely in with the “there’s no except for me,” especially when you’re talking about an organization like band. If people are allowed to think they are above the rules then the band, as a whole, will suffer. A large organization is only as good as each of its components and only as strong as its weakest link. The “Except for Me” syndrome causes a pretty weak link.
         Rules are meant to be followed, they usually have purpose so just go ahead and follow them, what makes you so special?


What about our color shout?

-Grant

Like QBA on Facebook, and follow on Twitter lest you cause Grant to Rant!