Archive for October, 2011

Negative Criticism and Our Fears; Solving 99% Problems With Words From An Avid Blogger

Since I started writing this blog, my reasons for doing so have constantly changed. I began, quite honestly, because I wanted to complain about a Taylor Swift song (I’m not joking, by the way; You Belong With Me is still my least favourite song of all time) and soon it grew into more than just a hobby. The blog became a kind of therapy; I wrote about things that bothered me, or made me smile, and it brought a sense of closure to the matters. As time continued to pass, however, I found that writing for the blog was more than just a strange method of therapy, but a way to let my opinions be voiced and, more importantly, a way for them to be presented in a reasonable manner.

It’s specifically because of this reason that I feel that negative criticism towards the blog is infinitely more important and useful than positive criticism; when someone says they disagree with the blog, or that it’s uninteresting, I find that I don’t get disheartened as much as I get ready to write. That being said, I also find that negative criticism is helpful in that it allows me to fix the way I write, to make sure that it’s more logical and that there’s a better flow, or that my opinion is more thorough and strong. To this day, when I read the Taylor Swift article I get goosebumps, not because the words I used were educated and introspective, or even because the subject matter was powerful and thought provoking, but because it amazes me to think that using all-caps in an article was once a reasonable thought in my mind.

I’m not joking when I say that my first article, even though it helped me start writing, is perhaps my weakest yet. However, when people tell me that, I don’t disagree with them and I always nod and smile because I know that I’ve learned to be a better person and writer than I once was. Oddly enough, however, not everyone takes negative criticism like I do, though that isn’t fair to say; I’ve found that to some people negative criticism isn’t a way to fix themselves, but a way to attack the critic (please, for reference on the difference between criticism and attack, read this article here) and to challenge not their opinion, but their very being.

Ever since they started, I’ve used the Occupy Protests as such an example. In case the readers of this article have been in hiding, the Occupy Movement has been a series of protests in North America and Europe by the proverbial 99%; the number of the population that has no control over the way their countries are run and, most importantly, the group of people without the money to do so. Moving forward, the 99% feels that the 1% that does have the money has acted irresponsibly (which is an understatement all to itself) and that they should be held accountable for their actions. Suffice it to say, this is a matter of accountability for responsibility and the 99% feel that’s the 1% has been responsible for most of the problems and have been held accountable for none.

Despite this clear belief, the 99% has faced severe criticism for not providing a solution to the problems they have outlined; news agencies, government officials, and even those part of the 99% who haven’t joined the protests have yet to find a clear underlying solution to the problems the protestors have agreed upon. Furthermore, different protests around the world have raised different issues and it’s become evidently clear that if the movement is to gain any true momentum, it will require fervent doctrine and leadership. I must be allowed to state that, despite the fact that the Occupy protests lack leadership and ardent organization, they are simply carrying out the universal right of freedom of speech. Interestingly enough, however, I can safely say that, if all else fails, the protestors will not feel that they have wasted their, or anyone else’s time specifically because they’ve used their voices and proven that there is a problem that is worth fixing.

That, however, is clearly not enough as merely stating a problem is incredibly easy (for example, I feel that Michael Bay should not be given funding for anymore of the travesties he calls films), but providing a solution is difficult (for example, I don’t have a solution to my Michael Bay problem. Actually, that’s not fair, but building a lunar colony for him to inhabit is both illogical and unfeasible, and while I feel that space agencies all over the world would work faster and produce better results just to make sure he can’t make anymore movies, my local representatives have all agreed that my idea is hokum and lacks reason). For a moment, however, allow me to discuss my blog once more. When I first started writing, the greatest piece of criticism I received was from a writer friend of mine. He said that my work wasn’t interesting and that, if I truly want to get better, I’d have to make sure that my readers were emotionally invested in my work. I’d like to point out that, despite my doing so, he never really told me how to make it interesting; the only advice he gave me was “Make sure that while you’re writing, you don’t fall asleep.”

Suffice it to say, after hearing from him, I did everything in my power to make my work interesting and, one day while vacationing in Vietnam, I discovered a problem (quite possibly the largest, I might add): my writing lacked organization. I would jump from topic to topic all the while claiming that my next discussion point would be the final one I’d be making. The memory is foggy, but I once managed to link the sea breeze (not the alcoholic beverage, but the actual breeze of the sea caused by rising air pressure) to Tamagotchi’s (a toy created by Bandai, a Japanese toy company, in 1996). My writing, and my blog, the two things that I cared about more than almost anything else lacked organization and doctrine (again, not unlike the Occupy Protests). To this day, I still have no idea how to make my articles interesting, and I still refer to the advice I was given because, quite frankly, it holds true to absolutely everything, especially tackling and understanding negative criticism in regards to problems and how they can be solved: make things interesting and people will listen.

So long as the topic can catch the interest of even one person, it is worth discussing. I’d like to bring up the Occupy protests once again, though I’d also like to discuss a Canadian film released in 2009, The Trotsky. The film stars Jay Baruchel as a Canadian student who believes he is the reincarnation of the Marxist leader Leon Trotsky. Hilarity aside, the film raises a stellar point about civilization by using modern public schools as an allegory; things are bad, but they don’t need to be bad. I’m not joking when I say that of all the themes the movies brings to the attention of its viewers (including romance, death, life, the state of the government in modern society, Communism vs. Capitalism, Socialism and its application in real life, the correlation and comparison of Apathy and Boredom, and even, at one time, Jewish mentality in a Christian world) the film hammers in the fact that things are bad when they don’t need to be.

The interesting point about the movie is that it raises no real solution; over the course of its 120 minute running time, the film tries to get across two main points: things are bad when they don’t need to be and we are not inactive because we are bored, but because we are apathetic to the things that happen around us. We don’t care when we need to care and when someone genuinely raises a concern, we hide behind a veil of disinterest because that person hasn’t proposed a solution to the problem they brought up. Therein lies the worst part; we don’t act because we know things are bad and everyone knows things are bad, so how do we fix things? I think that’s the thing about negative criticism: it’s not that we don’t want to hear that something’s wrong. We want to hear that something’s wrong, but that it won’t be wrong for much longer. Of course, then there’s the fact that we want the easiest possible solution, but I’ve learned (and yes, I learned this through my blog) that sometimes, there is no solution.

Sometimes, it is enough to say that the cafeteria food tastes bad, or that the principal isn’t doing a good enough job, or that the 1% of the population with the money has absolutely screwed up, or that the way the McRib is released is great for PR but bad for those who love the sandwich because when it all comes down to it, even if nothing is accomplished or proposed immediately, at least the problem has been brought to the attention of the general population. Even though we’re nowhere near reaching our expected goals for reducing Carbon emissions, at least we’ve gotten somewhere further than we were when no one knew about the problem. Even though we know jail time does nothing but increase the probability that an offender will be jailed once more, at least we’ve gotten somewhere further than we were without this information. Even though we know that protests almost always lead to no success, at least they do something.

I think (or believe, or feel, whichever makes you pleased in a literary way) that’s the thing about negative criticism; even if you don’t like it, at least one person is trying to change or fix the problem. I’m not saying that one person can make a difference; then again I am saying that all it took was a single voice to make one person grow to one million people in Egypt in early 2011. I suppose what I’m trying to say with today’s article (the main point, if you will) is that negative criticism scares us the most not when someone brings it to our attention, but when they don’t have a solution. We don’t want a problem without a solution because the possibilities scare us. Quite frankly, I refuse to stop bringing up small problems and I refuse to stop writing about the things that upset. Mainly because it’s an odd form of therapy, but because I know that even though I don’t have a solution to Taylor Swift’s lyrics, someone else does, and that someone else will invariably find a way to fix the problem, and include me in the writing process (I hope).

It sounds selfish and privileged of me to say that someone else will solve my problems for me, but the truth is that someone will always solve our problems for us. We just need to make sure that we speak up and, most importantly, stand up with them and for them.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Birthdays, Stutters, and Difficulties; Knowing That We Are Not Alone

A few days ago I celebrated my birthday with a few friends and I came to the startling realization that I had no idea what I wanted as a present. I understand that saying something like that reveals a level of entitlement and ease that many don’t have the pleasure of experiencing, but that’s beside the point; I was unable to make a decision and, quite frankly, for the past few days I’ve been unable to make any decision with any sort of ease. Whether it involves meals, how to waste my time, what to write about, or even which movie to review, I’ve been unable to make up my mind.

Looking back and thinking about it further, I’ve also been noticing a trend with my speech; I’m unable to formulate proper sentences and, quite often, I’ll find myself stuttering or lacking the overall vocal ability that I once had (even a few years ago). Some might argue that my inability to vocalize my thoughts is a saving grace, as they are spared hearing the sound of my voice chiming in every few minutes and, while such a point of view is humourous (to say the least), the fact remains that I have been unable to make up my mind (and thus, have been unable to make a decision). Moving past my inability to make a decision, however, my occasional stuttering has also revealed a deeper problem; I’m unable to focus on a single topic.

I should explain, though, that my inability to focus does not manifest itself as an inability to remember events or dates but, rather, that I’m unable to pinpoint a single topic and tackle it fully. I’ll find that my conversations will veer from one point to another with each having very little correlation between breaks, all the while returning to the original topic at hand. Simply put, imagine discussing politics, but then quickly moving to cooking, then returning to politics, while jumping to movies and television, finally concluding with some quantum mechanics. I must confess that it’s because of my wild train of thought that I’ve been putting off writing anything for the longest amount of time. I’m scared that if I write something, it won’t live up to my expectations (let alone those of my imaginary audience), and I’ll enter a rut, not unlike the one I entered a few months ago.

Though, my real fear isn’t so much not writing, as it is writing something that won’t be read which is, ultimately hilarious considering my current set of beliefs. It’s more than that, however; I’m afraid of disappointing others and, most importantly, myself. I’m afraid of not being successful; whether in the eyes of those around me, or myself, I’m just afraid of not being good enough. This article, for example, has undergone twenty revisions and I’ve yet to actually make it past this paragraph. I’m not joking when I say that this is the 21st time I’ve written this one paragraph and I’m most likely going to rewrite it afterward (though I’ll keep this line because I like the way it sounds), not because I’m not pleased with it, but because I worry that my imaginary audience will not like it (I feel obligated to point out the irony in being afraid of an imaginary audience not reading your work, though I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a digression).

Interestingly enough, however, I’ve been smiling for the past few days more than I’ve ever smiled before, and they aren’t fake smiles either; I’m smiling genuine smiles and I’m actually quite happy. Some might suggest that the reason lies within my discoveries. I know what I’m afraid of and therefore I can work toward dealing with the problem. Others might suggest that I’m slowly losing my mind; descending into a state of calm oblivion. Some might even recommend that I’m at peace with my fears and insecurities and that I’ve come to terms with my future and indecision. Where does the correlation lie? What is the meaning? What is the point?

Allow me to reveal some minor details that I’ve also learned over the past few years. Life is difficult; so difficult, in fact, that at any given moment something bad can happen and we have absolutely no control over it. Yes, we may think we can control them, but we really can’t; they’ll happen and that’s the end of that. There will be no discussion and there will be no argument; no forms will be filled out to complain or to provide further detail and, most importantly, this spontaneous event might not even effect you. Therein lies the truth behind my discoveries over the course of my years (however young and eventful): life is 50% Universal Randomness and 50% Free will. This means that, no matter how hard we may try, the universe could still decide to be rude and bothersome and, under every circumstance, it could plot toward our downfall. It’s at precisely this moment that the entire human collective emits a loud groan and asks “So then why even bother?”

We bother because, despite the fact that half of it is random anyway, we have the ability to actively shape our own destinies (or fate, depending on the school of though you subscribe to). Under every conceivable circumstance, we are capable of determining our lives and the directions they may take and that, specifically, is why we “bother.” It’s because we’re capable of determining what is right and wrong and, more importantly, it’s because we’re actually capable of standing up to do something about it. Life is tough, yes, and there’s no doubt that genuine tragedy occurs far more often than comedy, but the one thing we often discover is that we are not as weak and ineffectual as we may believe and we are capable of learning, or adapting to suit our environments. I am afraid of failure and I have no idea what my future looks like and it’s because I know what my problem is that I’m capable of solving it. Not on my own, of course, because I certainly can’t do it all on my own, but I know that I can do something about it.

Though, allow me a final moment to point out a final universal truth: we are not alone. In fact, I can safely say that unless we force others away from us, we will never be alone. In poverty, sickness, heartache, and great devastation, we will always have someone else around us and, so long as we make an attempt, they will be there for us. That, hilariously enough, is the reason why I’ve been smiling so much. Even though I have no idea where I will go or what I will do, I know that I’m not alone.

As always, this has been the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Truth and Lies; A Discussion of Morality and Ethics With Help From Telepaths and Priests

Theoretically speaking, telepathy is one of the greatest superpowers ever conceived. If an individual could control the mind of another, paradigms such as super strength, flight, invisibility, teleportation, a magic ring, or even an advanced suit of armour would be entirely useless under the influence of that telepath. Given enough mental capacity, a telepath would be able to control the minds of a monumental gathering of people, change certain personality traits and characteristics, and, effectively, render the concept of free will obsolete. That being said, if a telepath were to exist, nothing short of Deus Ex Machina (divine intervention) would be able to stop them from recreating the world in their image.

Therein lies the problem with telepathy as a plot device (since the idea’s inception); under every conceivable circumstance, a telepath cannot be stopped without a stronger mental force, or a device designed to impede telepathy. The main reason being that, if a telepath is the hero of a story, nothing can stop them from ending every conflict in existence; an evil telepath, contrarily, has no adversary. Except, of course, for the McGuffin. Charles Xavier, a heroic Marvel telepath from the X-Men universe is one such example. Despite his near omnipotence, Xavier’s only weaknesses are actual Gods, more intelligent characters (though, simply put, no human is smarter than Charles Xavier) and the helmet of his lifelong antithesis Erik Lensher (also known as Magneto). Possessing a helmet that impedes telepathic waves, Lensher is impervious to Xavier’s psionic powers; specifically speaking, Xavier can neither control, nor read the mind of Lensher.

Magneto’s helmet, of course, is absolutely unnecessary as Xavier’s ethics specifically stop him from invasively reading or controlling the minds of villains, so-called “Bad guys,” his students, friends, and companions. His moral code comes and goes with the writing staff, however, and, while some instances have Xavier doing anything to stop a villain, others have him reading their minds and ending his input outright. Disregarding these creative interferences, Xavier’s ethics and moral codes help raise a rather interesting philosophical point: if a human being had the power, is it right for them to change the world? Though, this situation alludes to an individual, or character, knowing that something is wrong and it is this concept of “knowing” that leads to a new situation altogether.

Priest, for example, is a film where the main character is a vampire hunting priest led to believe that the vampire menace he, and his fallen comrades once faced, has been eradicated. Through a series of poorly written turns and plot based jumps, the main Priest discovers that the vampires have returned. It is evident that his superiors are aware of the development and, while it would be far more logical to alert the general public to the potential danger, the clergymen refuse to publicly (or privately, for that matter) acknowledge the return of the threat. The questions the film poses (and never acknowledges, let alone answers) are still topics of popular debate. The Priest discovers that vampires still exist and his superiors (despite the fact that the clearly know this is the truth), disregard and dismiss his theories as maniacal and blasphemous. To insure the salvation of the people he once protected, the Priest risks his life, once again, and goes against his superiors to stop the threat.

Despite this being a staple plot for the desperate writer, the situation raises a very important question: if there is something else that can handle the job, should we, as a collective, be aware that a problem exists? For a moment, allow me to provide an alternate scenario: if I broke a vase, but I was able to fix it in a way that would leave no evidence of the act, should I bother telling the owner of the vase? Should the owner of the vase be told the truth, that their vase was, at a point, broken? Or should they be left believing a lie, that the item that was once whole, is now nothing more than a collection of pieces and invisible (and incredibly powerful) glue? Notice that I used the definitive terms “truth and lie”, because that really is what it comes down to. If I don’t tell the owner, I’m lying to them, but if I do tell them, I’m speaking the truth and I have not broken my moral and ethical code; therefore, my conscience is clear. Despite this sense of spiritual bliss, the opinion that the vase owner once had of me has now been eradicated. I have broken one of their possessions, fixed it without consulting them first, and have lied to them outright.

So what do we, as a collective, do about lies? More importantly, is it right for us to take action just because we can? Most importantly, if we can, should we review and change situations to suit our own visions? Is it “right?” Is it “acceptable?” I don’t know and, honestly speaking, the concepts of morality and ethics cannot boil down to a matter of “right” or “wrong” because when applied to a large scale example, or any example really, the concepts of “good” and “bad” or “the truth” and “a lie” depend entirely on the judge and the jury. Therefore, I would like to conclude with a rather straightforward sentence, once again reflecting this month’s theme of life’s difficulties. Life is undeniably difficult and confusing, but don’t waste your time by letting someone else live it for you.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (TheByteScene Review)

0.1 ruined-childhoods out of 4

0.1 ruined-ears out of 4

0.1 annoyed-reviewers out of 4

0.1 Freudian-worm-beasts out of 4

0.1 upset-fanboys out of 4

Calling Dark of the Moon an assault on the senses is a massive understatement. Calling the third Transformers film an audio/visual travest is being too soft on the film. Calling the movie the worst one ever made is the closest thing to the truth.

Though, it would be far too easy for me to attack the movie without discussing exactly what makes it so bad; in lieu of this, the first major problem is the plot. Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf) has now graduated college and is forced to get a job. Throughout the course of his post graduate life, he manages to get caught up between another battle between the Autobots and the Decipticons, a warring race of giant robots that is somehow capable of transforming into machines. Along the way, a series of humans become involved and there’s also mention of a bridge that teleports planets. Loosely speaking, the plot of this movie is straightforward and basic; no amount of time was spent in writing the script and it shows. Major plot points, cliffhangers, and an overall lack of sense plague this film like a Babylonian wall.

Why are the Decipticons only revealing their master plan now? Why has NASA (or whomever is in charge) refused to divulge the most important information they have ever withheld to the specific group of people who exist specifically to help them deal with their giant robot related problems? Why did Megatron spend so much time worrying about the Allspark in the first movie, when all he had to do was find the location of this movie’s McGuffin (the Spacebridge that teleports planets and armies)? More importantly, why even bother with the McGuffin from any of the movies if the only device worth discussing is the bridge that is capable of interstellar conquest?

These are only a tiny fraction of the thousand or so questions that the viewers of TDOTM are faced with; though almost none of these questions are asked by any of the characters (except for Optimus Prime and even he doesn’t ask these questions with any real interest. Peter McCullen voices the Autobot leader with enough enthusiasm to show that he cares about the things that really matter; like his paycheque, for example). No, really, this movie has characters other than the giant robots and the hilarious bit is that the humans emote less than the machines. Though, therein lies a major distinction: the motivations of the humans and robots, though meant to be the same, are largely different. While the humans run around being ineffectual, the robots run around killing the humans. While the humans die in cities and towns around the world, the robots dance and continue shooting each other, all the while killing the race they have sworn to protect. While our heroes manage to blow up most of Chicago, we, as humans watching, are expected to cheer for them to continue.

I’m not joking when I say that more humans died due to the good Autobots than the bad Decipticons; I only wish that the script writers thought of this before they put pen to paper because the philosophical nature of Good and Evil would have been a far more interesting concept to watch than Shia LaBeouf running around screaming. That’s all he does; in fact,that’s all anyone does in this movie. First they show up, then the audience is expected to point and say “Hey, it’s that popular TV personality that we all know and love!” The characters then showcase their talent by being racist, heavily stereotypical, or brutally obnoxious, all in the least funny ways possible.

Popular (and amazing) actors such as John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, and Ken Jeong (who has the potential to be one of the funniest comedians to ever make it in Hollywood, if used properly) are all on screen for less than 2 minutes (excluding Dempsey) and as the audience is forced to sit through their exposition, they run around a set, do something immature or childish, and disappear (Ken Jeong is thrown out of a window and John Malkovich spars with a robot and is never seen or heard from again). It amazed me that an actor as developed as Malkovich was so thoroughly wasted. I suppose that’s one of the problems with a genuine summer blockbuster, however, there is no plot, and the audience is only there for the big names and special effects. I ask, however, is this what we really want? As a species of highly evolved creatures, capable of rational thought, do we really want directors like Michael Bay spitting out abysmal creations filled with nothing but loud noises, ugly explosions, and brilliant CGI?

I’ll get back to that in a moment, because so far, I’ve made a point of avoiding the film’s special effects, not because they’re terrible (they’re not), but because a good movie can no longer be judged on its special effects. In a day and age where technology has advanced far enough that humanity will most likely cross the uncanny valley within the next few years, a movie can no longer be allowed to be abysmal, just because the special effects are amazing. Therein lies the correlation to my earlier point; as a species of intelligent and evolved beings, do we really want directors like Michael Bay producing blockbusters with no redeemable quality, apart from the special effects? Considering that TDOTM managed to make over one billion dollars, my answer seems incredibly clear, but am I really asking for much? All I want is a decent summer movie with a coherent plot, good special effects, relatable characters and dialogue that doesn’t make me cringe everytime I open my damaged ears (from the last car that blew up for no good reason).

I understand that there are good summer movies, and I also understand that I don’t need to watch a movie, but I went into TDOTM with high hopes, even though the second film in the franchise disappointed me. I had hoped that Michael Bay would be able to bring back to vigour of the first film; I had hoped for an action movie with depth, and not an assault on the senses. I wasn’t expecting the film to be good, but I was hoping that it would amaze me in some way. Sadly, it did; I’m amazed that anyone allowed this travesty to be created.

Speaking honestly, I watched this movie a few months ago, when it was still out in theatres, and I tried to write a review then; I wasn’t able to sufficiently produce the review due to an altered state of mind (you’ll soon find out why). However, despite this fact, I recently watched the film again, except on DVD, and am now able to provide my opinion on this dreadful waste of time, money, and intellectual space.

Don’t watch this move. No, seriously, don’t watch it; you might just lose some brain cells in the process. Or worse, you might lose your entire head. This movie exhausted me both times I sat through it. In the theatre and on DVD, I was physically exhausted watching the film because it was so bad that my mind, quite literally, forced me to rest and recover from the barrage on my senses. In summation; this movie was terrible, but the effects were decent, and if you absolutely must find a way to throw away money, time, and brain capacity, please, by all means, watch Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Universities and Opinions; I Honestly Have No Idea Anymore (TheByteWeek Issue 7)

It feels like I haven’t written a new TheByteWeek in the longest time and I’m actually a bit concerned that my writing ability has diminished in that regard. It’s not that I’m afraid that I can’t write, I’m just afraid that I can’t write about myself, which, quite frankly, would be a travesty altogether. As it turns out, I haven’t written a new TBW in over a month; seriously, the last one was written on 11th September, 2011, one month and one day ago. I don’t completely understand why I’ve taken this hiatus, though considering I haven’t updated the blog in over 5 days, I think this is the perfect time to discuss some of the stuff that has happened to me personally (and yes, I understand that by using the pronoun “me” I don’t need the adverb “personally;” it’s redundant and poor form, I really do understand).

Assuming anyone pays any attention to TheByteCorner, the blog’s twitter feed, they’ll know that I recently went on a trip to McMaster University for the annual McMaster Engineering Olympics. Suffice it to say, the day was eventful and while I got to sit in on some of the competitions, I also had a chance to speak to some of the students there. I got their opinions on various world events, I spoke to them about their beliefs on their future, and the future of the planet, and I discussed with them their possible career choices. I proceeded with the assumption that students studying at such a prestigious university (and being forced to spend such exorbitant amounts on a so-called “quality” education) would have an idea about their futures.

Interestingly enough, I received a split response; on one hand, they knew what they wanted, and on the other, they didn’t. I genuinely don’t know what to make of this information, as the concept of university is one of higher education and decision making. Specifically, you go to university because you feel that such a mode of higher education will lead to success in your future. I provided such a general definition because, as I noticed while talking to the students, the concept of “future” has become incredibly vague, and university is being used as a pitstop between high school and the career based world; you go to university to figure out what to do, and it’s not necessary to have a final destination in hand.

I bring this up because I genuinely have no idea what to make of this educational dilemma. Venturing online has certainly brought me no closer to a solution, as the split is created there once again. The only solace I’ve found is a rather basic one: university degrees are important for the “Important jobs.” Hilariously enough, these “Important jobs” are not discussed at great length, and the split perspective is left to the wonder and confusion of the readers. I cannot deny that this is a sign of the times, and there is definitely an article in there somewhere; something about “decisions” or something like that, but at the moment of this writing, I have no idea what decision to make, or what opinion to provide. I suppose, therefore, I will merely side with the straightforward: university is necessary for the “Important jobs” (though what such a statement means is left to the distinction of the entire universe).

On a quick note, certain changes have been made to the layout of the articles written; instead of having the column that the article belongs to, the blog name has been provided. I am now signing off as your Admin, the Avid Blogger, and if ever there appears a massive delay between articles, I can guarantee something far more pressing and urgent has appeared to steal my time.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Nothing Ever Changes, Except for The People

A few years ago I tried to develop an idea to humour myself. I theorized that human beings never change, they only adapt. I reasoned that, as is commonly believed, humans being don’t really change their personalities, as they merely adapt to their emotional surroundings; undergoing a type of psychological evolution to be able to survive and live in an increasingly difficult world. My train of thought was that, given the events that occur around us on a daily basis, complete “change” would be impossible as this would supersede the primary step in the process of learning. That is to say, if a human being were to “change” their personality, they would not understand, they would merely deconstruct and reconstruct (I really hope someone gets that thinly veiled allusion). In contrast, if a human being were to understand, and then deconstruct and reconstruct their psychological state as a way of learning and maturing from and past the events they view, they would “adapt,” and therefore grow.

For the longest time, this was my train of thought and whenever friends, colleagues, or family members spoke to be about people they knew that had “changed” I would try to present my theory. I’d reason that it would be impossible for the people they knew to have miraculously “changed” and, instead, that these individuals had adapted to an event that had forced them to undergo a process of psychological evolution. Frankly, to this day, I have no idea why I even bothered because arguments of semantics very rarely have any bearing when the concept of human psychology comes into play (especially when your friend is trying to explain to you why he thinks getting back together with this ex-girlfriend is a logical idea because she’s “changed” and I “don’t understand what she’s gone through” because “she’s learned to have grown as a person.”).

I always found that, once I tried to present an idea that seemed out of place or insubstantial when compared to the matter at hand, I would be snubbed or disregarded until I returned to the topic that was being discussed prior. I understood that my theories of change and adaptation had no place within the realms of the psychological, but I was still annoyed that my point of view was being ignored. This cycle of ignorance and annoyance continued to the point where I decided upon two things; (1) Nothing ever changes and (2) Problems make the world go round. To be fair, I was wrong about the first point, but more or less right about the second, though it’s best to combine the two to gain a complete understanding of my discovery.

The truth of the matter is that problems that make the world spin never change; famine, war, disease, hate, discrimination – all of the afflictions that humanity, as a society and species, goes through on a daily basis does not change. Discrimination today, though not as focused on a single culture, is still rampant, and war today, though far more “civilized” and “modern” is relatively the same. Suffice it to say, if we don’t like something, a conflict will form, though this article isn’t about the difficulty to maintain a truly pacifistic outlook; it’s about accepting that problems and conflicts we have never go away, though the way people deal with them will continue to change and evolve. Therein lies the corollary between my new discovery and my older theory; human beings (as a society or species) will continue to evolve and find new ways of “dealing” with the negative aspects of their existences. Though war and disease exist today, we don’t fight like we used to and we certainly don’t die of the same diseases as our ancestors had the difficulty of experiencing.

I find it interesting that I’ve developed this train of thought because I’ve commonly shared the generally accepted notion that human history repeats itself at an astonishing rate, because it does; wars breed more wars, politics breeds more distrust, money breeds more greed, and the cycles and chains of life continue on. However, and this point I cannot emphasize enough, our problems continue to be the same, but the way we recognize and attempt to resolve (or absolve) our dilemmas continues to evolve and adapt as we do (psychologically of course; the day human kind evolves a symbiotic connection, not unlike in James Cameron’s Avatar, will be the day that everything will come together, or fall apart in a devestatingly spectacular fashion; though I digress once again, because a host mind is not the topic of the day).

At this point, I’m sure that many members of my imaginary audience are finding themselves quite annoyed at my words; I’m sure you feel cheated due to what I’ve said and due to your own beliefs, which is why I must be allowed an explanation. I’m not suggesting that the world will never change or grow past its infant-like state; with the right application of luck, persistence, and general insanity the world can change. What I am suggesting, however, is what Northrop Frye suggested in the book I so thoroughly despised – humanity, like literature, very rarely comes out with new stories. Instead, we repeat tales and legends from our past, but constantly improve upon the formula, adding new characters, new themes, new settings; often, we change the equations of our world, but the stories remains relatively the same.

This is not a bad thing because we have yet to truly solve any of our greatest dilemmas. I stated earlier that war, famine, and disease still lurk in our cities and countries, but it’s not just these dramatic players that wander our stages; the desolation of discrimination and domestic abuse, a poorly educated work force, a poorly educated culture and, worst of all, a culture that is ignorant to the pleas of its own people all exist within our civilizations.

These are not the only problems the world has, of course, and I’m sure anyone else can add a substantially greater number to the ever growing pile, though the fact is that they still exist. Despite this fact, humankind’s understanding and actions regarding our problems have differed and changed. At a time in our history, we would have ignored such lists as miniscule and inconsequential; I’m sure many would disregard my writing as infantile and derivative; I’m sure many wouldn’t even care. Now, however, we understand that we cannot continue forward without considering more than just ourselves. A few days ago I wrote an article about how life is difficult and I feel that’s going to be this month’s main topic (last month was opinion and understanding; opinion, though, will always be the topic of the month, it might not get all the attention, but it’s always there and being talked about), because life is difficult, but it’s also getting better.

It will also continue getting better, so long as the problems we have are reflected upon and taken into considering. It will continue to get better, so long as we as a species continue to evolve and learn. I leave my imaginary theatre with this final thought: Nothing ever changes, except for the people, their thoughts, and their actions.

As always this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

It Gets Better; A Discussion of Life, Skittles, and Difficulties

Some time ago, someone commented on my article about my Evening With The Critic by stating that “Lifes not all beer and skittles.” At first, I was taken aback, not because of his blatant disregard for the one thing I love in this life more than skittles (Grammar), but for the abrupt and blunt manner in which he spoke. Though, at the same time, I wasn’t entirely sure if my literate acquaintance was a spambot or not; I reasoned that, if he was a spambot, clearly he was of a philosophical and pessimistic persuasion, (not to mention he was a reasonable creation), which is why I responded by agreeing with him (or her, or it I suppose) and providing my remark. However, it wasn’t until I thought about it more, a few hours later of course, that it dawned on me how wrong my answer was. Once again, it wasn’t because what I had said was wrong, but because I misinterpreted my own thoughts on the matter.

The commenter was, and still is, right; life is not all beer and skittles, though for the purposes of this article, allow me to provide my own interpretation of his beliefs by changing the second clause in the sentence. “Life is not easy.” This is an almost universal truth and to be completely honest, life will never be easy because there will always be some problem in the world that needs solving and, most importantly, there will always be someone or something harming someone or something else. It doesn’t matter if an economy is being destroyed, or a country is being bombed, or a person is losing their job, or even that a a child in a first world country is complaining because their parents are only letting them online for an hour a day, because at some point, someone will be wronged and someone will be hurt.

An important matter to consider is that the concept of “bad” changes from person to person. I must apologize for not remembering the exact quote, from the exact page of the exact chapter, but during a particularly thorough monologue, a character from the popular Jump manga One Piece stated that “…a child growing up in poverty does not have the same definition of fear as a child growing up in wealth,” which is entirely true, quite frankly. A child growing up in England will not have the same concerns and fears as a child growing up in Zimbabwe and, until a point where the child can understand the “truths” of the universe that they live in, this will not change. That being said, however, the comparison of war and peace is one that is far too simple to make, because even those lucky enough to live in a safe, first world country will know that “bad things” change as we grow older and experience more.

As a child, I remember complaining and whining to my parents when they wouldn’t buy me a certain toy or present, and as I reflect on my actions and thoughts at the time, I’ve come to the realization that the sadness and despair I felt then still exists now, though my fears and insecurities no longer manifest themselves as physical, but as psychological, and yet the fear of never getting what I want is a deep-rooted one. The same can be said for my Zimbabwean counterpart, though while I shed tears over an action figure, he shed tears over his country. The contexts are largely different, though the pain and sadness we both felt was the same; it was one of longing and desire, of not getting what we wanted, of never getting what we felt we deserved. It was the fear of complacency and indifference, and while my Zimbabwean counterpart had a more important reason to be sad, our emotions were relatively the same.

I digress, however, because my point isn’t that the pain was the same, it’s that my concept of “bad” was different from his concept of “bad,” and that it always will be, no matter how much I try to reason it out. Once again, I digress, because my point isn’t that my Zimbabwean counterpart and I will never be able to relate, because we will. There will always be a unifying point between the two of us and there will always be something that relates us and brings us together. I suppose, if anything, my point is that there will be a point in all of our lives (and please excuse the generalization, though the statement is true) when the universe will decided to sucker punch us in some way, shape of form.

Whether it’s the loss of someone we love, a failing economy, an ineffectual government, war and famine, the loss of family, or even if it’s as simple as watching Zac Snyder’s Sucker Punch only to realize that the entire film is nothing more than an amalgamation of special effects and Snyder’s dreams and desires as a child, the universe will, at one point or another, sucker punch us. This September was an exercise in futility; without getting into too thorough a retelling of the events that transpired, allow me to state that when September ended, I knew that one of the worst months this year, if not this decade, had ended and that my life could not get any worse. I suppose, if anything, it got better, and that is my overarching and ultimate point: It gets better.

Not just for the Gay or Lesbian students being bullied at school, or for the National Democratic Party of Canada members, and their voters, who are recovering from the loss of their leader, or for the immigrants moving to new countries for better futures, or even for the children being forced to endure the tyrannical rule of a Tiger Mother, but for everyone, everywhere. This is directed to everyone, including my nonexistent readership: It gets better. Though, not all at once of course, and certainly not without your input. Considering my previously stated point of views and beliefs, the aforementioned statement should not be surprising because it’s only once we try to fix ourselves that the world, and the universe, starts to fix itself.

Life is not easy, and there are times when the universe will try to sucker punch us for no adequately explained reason and, most importantly, it gets better. I however, ask but one thing, when you look into the abyss and feel the darkness staring, do not blink. Under any, and every circumstance, do not lose hope and do not allow the pain to get the better of you; quite the contrary, endure and focus on the single point that everyone must understand: it gets better, and all it takes for it to get better is a single voice to be heard.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

Rough Drafts and Challenges; A Discussion of Face Value and Opinion, With Help from Neil Postman and Micky Flanagan

Ancient Greece, specifically Ancient Athens, was a place of great honour and distinction; poets, philosophers, mathematicians, physicists and theologists developed theories and paradigms so absolute and extensive in their structure that even to this day, these ancient minds are regarded as geniuses and experts in their fields. These metaphysical spheres of knowledge were so final in their creation that despite technological and intellectual expansion and advancement, modern humanity has yet to find true alternatives to the postulations posed by the Ancient Greeks; it is possible, therefore, to say that the biological and cultural decendants of the Ancient Athenians have done nothing more than prove and expand upon the minds of the Ancient Greeks, often doing nothing more than proving a point that has existed for millenia. The basis of modern democracy, mathematics, art, language, and science can all be traced back to a single individual, or group of individuals, all having been born in Ancient Athens.

The Visigoths, in comparison, provided nothing more to human civilization than proof that killing someone absolutely ends their physical life; doing nothing more than acting as selfish barbarians, the Visigoths are remembered today as a kingdom that enjoyed proving its superiority over other, weaker, existences.

The real question quickly becomes, “Where is the correlation between the two cultures?” Former professor of Communication Arts, Neil Postman, provided his readers and audience this correlation in his satirical graduation speech, aptly titled My Graduation Speech. The speech is a 12-or-so-minute talk discussing the comparison between the two previously detailed cultures, using them as an example of the two kinds of individuals that modern humans can, and often do, become. On the side of the Athenians, humans can grow cultured, worldly, and social, choosing to take interest in the well-being of others, while the humans that are born Visigoths, and who do not evolve past this primitive state of mind, are selfish, brutishly minded individuals, who choose to suffocate in their lack of interest in the progress of those around them.

It is interesting to note that Postman makes a point of stating that humans are born Visigoths and must grow, and quite possibly evolve, into Athenians; unless one is born with a belief in agapism, one is not an Athenian and must learn to overcome their selfish desires, or so he postulates. Despite this statement, one does not necessarily need to be cultured or educated to be an Athenian; quite the contrary, as many Visigoths, Postman admits, that many intelligent and educated humans from well-known universities working in high paying jobs are Visigoths, “And I must tell you, as much in sorrow as in shame, that at some of our great universities…there are professors of whom we may fairly say they are closet Visigoths.” To be an Athenian, one must have nothing more than an interest in their society and must be willing to contribute opinions and ideas that will benefit those around them.

In this regard, English comedian Micky Flanagan, despite his so-called brutish behaviour, his unrefined sense of humour, and overall unconventional academic career, coupled with his remarks about his uncultured behaviour, is a perfect example of an Athenian, owing entirely to his opinions and ideas regarding society, the arts, and education, in addition to his poignant views on culture. Suffice it to say, when an individual mentions culture, literature, music, travel, philosophy and so forth, the image of Micky Flanagan does not readily associate itself with the idea, though therein lies the truth of the matter because, unlike genuine intellectuals who spend hours arguing their points of view and do nothing more than talk about change, Flanagan approaches the concept of social growth through his comedy and involves his audience in the process.

So, as we’ve just finished discussing, Micky Flanagan is an Athenian who many believe is a Visigoth. I’m going to spare my imaginary audience the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” speech because I talked about that point of view in an old issue of TheWeeklyReview, the now nonexistent column I used to write (specifically, this article here). What I will say, however, is this: don’t take things at face value, think beyond what you see, and challenge absolutely everything (and especially challenge what I say, and what others tell you). I’m sure many have gotten this talk before, from teachers, parents, and friends, but the common agreement is that, despite the insistence on us challenging everything, we must not challenge authority.

This is in good reason, though the topic of challenging the police, or government officials is far too political for my liking, which is why I’m going to make sure that everyone understands that I when I say “Challenge authority” I don’t mean get into a fistfight with a police officer over the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, I mean that, when reading or listening to others who lecture or try to educate you, pose questions and try to form your own opinion on matters. I can understand the hypocritical nature of my telling you to do so, and if you are challenging my words right now then I’m glad that I’ve gotten somewhere.

I digress, because my point now, as it will always be is that opinion is the most important thing in the world and that, without it, society, culture, science, and so forth, especially what we have today, would not exist. Worse, it would exist, but it would be covered and cluttered with opinions and thoughts from older times. Without opinion, the world as we know it would not be the world as we know it, and the mere fact that this statement is able to be challenged proves my very obvious point.

The opinionated, and Cosmo Kramer like fellow I had a chance to spend an evening with, The Critic, offered me a bit of advice while we discussedThe Tree of Life. After revealing that I had to view the film twice to understand its meaning, the second time with an analysis of the work at my side to help me with the “translation,” The Critic informed me that I mustn’t take a single opinion to use as my base. Quite the contrary, I should take several opinions and form my own and then, and only then, can I truly come to close to beginning the process of understanding. At the time, I challenged him, admittedly unnecessarily, because he was and still is right. We cannot take a single person’s opinions and ideas and use them as our own, not because it’s plagiarism, but because otherwise, we won’t go anywhere.

The reason the Ancient Greeks are so highly regarded is because they provided the basics for almost everything we have today and it’s because of this that one finds that it’s difficult to challenge their opinions. Of course, in the process, we almost always forget that, during their times, the opinions that Greeks such as Plato, Aristotle and Democritus (the three greeks that Postman used in his essay) were challenged to no end specifically because the ideas they were providing were new and previously never thought of (assuming intellectual theft didn’t occur, of course).

My ultimate point is that we must, challenge every new idea, thought and opinion so we can, as an intelligent species, continue to grow and evolve. My ultimate point is that, even though Postman is partially right in his description, not every individual who acts like a Visigoth is a Visigoth. My ultimate point is that opinion is the most important thing we have in this world, next to words to express them. My ultimate point is that we cannot possibly take things at face value when we need to challenge thought to evolve thought. My ultimate point is that Micky Flanagan is an Athenian.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK