Archive for November, 2011

Keyboards and Coffee Shops; A Love Letter To Absurdity and Lattes (TheByteWeek Issue 8 )

There are certain aspects of human existence that are universal; love, hate, war, peace, tragedy, and comedy are all topics we can relate to in some way, shape or form. The beauty of sentience has made it possible for human beings to experience seemingly different events and categorize them within an almost universal internal database available for anyone else to understand. Be that as it may, there’s a single aspect that I adore more than any other because of it’s ability to truly and genuinely appear in every single event that occurs in this universe. In short, absurdity is the tiny nugget of data that always manages to make itself present, no matter what the situation may be. That being said, yesterday, I managed to secure myself a new keyboard and I’m glad to say that I can finally type without being inhibited by the lack of a working space bar.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair of me to say that my old keyboard didn’t work, because it’s been doing an absolutely fantastic job, it’s just that two or so weeks ago my most important piece of technology decided to conk out and since then, it’s refused to provide me with an easy way to type. In essence, for the past two weeks I’ve been treating my space bar like a bad tennis player treats a tennis ball – with fury and power that only the Hammer of Thor can withstand. No, seriously, while typing, I’ll often find myself quoting a line from Up in the Air “Has your keyboard done anything to hurt you?” and to be fair, it has done something to hurt me. It’s decided to stop working properly, forcing me to engage it in a duel of both wits and physical fortitude everytime I want to accomplish any task that requires a great deal of writing (considering my self designated title, one can only imagine how deep this problem has run).

As interesting as my old keyboard might have been (none at all, for anyone interested), the truth of the matter is that my new one is far more sensitive, and now I find myself having to cradle each key as I would a lost puppy or kitten – with love and respect (in addition to an annoying amount of discipline). I’m not kidding when I say that any given keystroke makes me cringe, especially considering that it was my own callous and inattentive hands that managed to ruin my old QWERTY compatriot. Quite frankly, I refuse to let history’s cold and meticulous hands exact it’s comeuppance. Quite frankly, my keyboard dilemma (though incredibly thought provoking and hilarious) is absurd as any situation can get. Interestingly enough, however, as absurd as the keyboard dilemma may have been, this week played host to an even more difficult duel; one of sharper wits, wilier tongue and more decisive action. This week, unlike any other week, I went to Starbucks and ordered a latte (a Caramel Brulle Latte with whipped cream, to be precise).

Under any given circumstance (please note the segue) accomplishing such a task would not have been beyond the realm of the norm (nor the possible), except that this was my first time in a Starbucks coffee shop without someone there to help guide my hands to the right choice. With all my courage (and the innate talent) that I had gathered through my years of ordering coffee, I had never been prepared for the absolutely nerve wracking experience that Starbucks managed to put me through.

For a moment, allow me to extrapolate upon a minor detail that I’ve been withholding; I live in Canada, specifically Ontario, where the majority of the coffee market is dominated by Canada’s defining coffee shop: Tim Horton’s. In terms of service and reliability, Tim Horton’s (hereby affectionately referred to as Timmy’s) is absolutely and utterly average. It’s not that they don’t provide decent service, with tasty coffee and various confectioneries to delight the pallet of most consumers, it’s just that they do so in a relatively average way. You order your food or drink, pay, wait for it to be prepared, and you walk out with your purchase.

At no given moment are you expected to parlay with your cashier or negotiate a means in which you can release the food as if it were a hostage being held in a poorly written bank scene from a thoroughly detestable Eddie Murphy movie.

The menus at Timmy’s are comprehensible instead of comprehensive, and their staff smile at you when you’re confused. In comparison, my “Barista” at Starbucks provided neither a friendly attitude, nor any help when it came to deciphering the ancient script that they had laid out near the cash register. I understand that each drink size is named in a logical way, but moving from the “Small, Medium, Large” paradigm to the more confusing “Tall, Grande, Venti” algorithm was akin to asking me to forfeit everything I had ever known to clear my mind for a more important set of instructions. By beginning my journey into the Starbucks, I had effectively forced myself to wipe out everything I knew about ordering coffee. As I continue, though, please note that not all Starbucks employees act in such a rude and aristocratic manner. In fact, I’ve now become familiar with the menu and ordering style, and have met more than several kind and warmhearted employees.

I just had the bad luck of encountering a former member of the British House of Lords on my first trip across the pond, and it was inappropriate of me to treat him in any other way. I was sneered at – genuinely sneered at – for not knowing how to order coffee, though I do digress. Ordering the drink was an almost impossible task unto itself, since my genuine fear of the Barista managed to overpower all of my cognitive functions, and being asked whether I wanted whipped cream with my latte actually sent a surge of paralysis through my mind. I was unable to speak for a few seconds which, evidently, was a few seconds too long for the former British lord. When I finally regained my senses, I noticed, almost immediately, that he had grown even more infuriated with my apparent steadfast determination to ruin his afternoon. I had upset his balance; I had entered his realm without understanding the rules that I had to play by.

Of course, all my fears were assuaged when I actually drank my coffee (I ordered a Grande to stay on the safe side. As it turns out, the Grande’s are relatively grand; it was at that moment that their algorithms made sense to me) and the delicious caramel flavour caressed my taste buds in a tragically romantic way; I knew I was in love with the drink as soon as I had it, but I was terrified of potentially ordering another when I was done, so I did the only logical thing I could think of. After finishing the latte, I threw out my cup and left. In a sense, the absurdity of the situation didn’t really register until after I left the coffee shop; not only had I become terrified of the Barista, but my fears went far enough that I had become scared of the brand itself.

Since the incident, I’ve overcome my fears and I’m proud to say that I love Starbucks. No seriously, I love everything about it, and knowing that the name derives from Herman Melville’s magnum opus only served to accentuate my infatuation. Granted, I still go to Timmy’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that the better coffee (albeit at a higher price) remains at Starbucks. It’s absurd, honestly, to state that I was afraid of the brand, then again, it’s even more absurd to believe that I was scared stiff of an upset Barista, who almost certainly had a superiority complex to rival that of any low ranking Lord from Empirical Britain.

I began this article by stating that I adore absurdity, and despite my experiences at a normal coffee shop, I maintain my stance. Absurdity is the most integral part of human existence and every aspect of our lives is defined by it. The absurdity of paying 5 dollars of coffee, though less substantial, still exists within the same realm of absurdity that protesting for weeks without an articulated creed provides. Yes, it’s absurd to compare being scared of a Starbucks Barista to the Occupy Movement, but the absurd part is the fact that that’s point.

We must embrace the absurdity of our daily lives and (first of all) relish it, then (second of all) learn from it and (finally) adapt to it in whichever way possible. In my example, I went back to the same coffee shop, with the same Barista and proved to him that, despite once being an avid follower of the Timmy’s school of thought, I am more than capable of handling myself in a more “Intellectual” venue. The Occupy protestors have, hopefully, learned how to organize better rallies and, most importantly, my Barista learned a lesson in basic customer service, specifically: don’t treat a customer like he’s am absolute and utter moron when he’s the one who decides whether to stay or leave. Suffice it to say, my new keyboard works like a dream, though the absurdity of complaining about a keyboard when the world I live in is, quite literally, trying to tear itself apart at its seams isn’t lost on me either.

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!


The Ides of March (TheByteScene Review)

3-Peeked-Political-Minds out of 4

Leaving the theatre, I found that I had difficulty comprehending this film. I tried my best to like the movie; I tried my best to produce stimulating conversation with my fellow movie goers while we exited our auditorium. I tried my hardest to feign some interest in American politics and I tried my hardest to view George Clooney’s performance as a democratic Governor, hoping to be president no less, as an allegory for both President Obama and all future candidates. I tried my best to make myself believe that this film wasn’t released because next year (2012) will be the scene of another presidential election.

Sadly, however, I couldn’t do it, but it’s not because I didn’t like the movie (which I did); it’s the way the film played out. Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen Meyers (a junior campaign manager for Clooney’s democratic candidate Mike Morris), discovers that the man he’s spent an unknown amount of time supporting has cheated on his wife, his supporters and his campaign by doing the one thing no politician is allowed to do. Meyers reacts, everyone else reacts, and the plot thickens in ways only a Clooney directed film can. The audience is left asking themselves questions that they should always ask themselves; we’re forced to wonder aloud about the state our society is in. We want accountability from those responsible and we talk with our friends about what scenes meant and why characters were played the way they were.

The problem with the film isn’t that it’s not a good movie, or even that it isn’t engaging. The problem was that the film played out in an obvious manner and, the more I reflect on it, the more it becomes clear to me that the film continually asks the audience to be cautious of who they vote for and who they place their trust in. There’s no doubt that the political state of America (and the world) is poor, at best. There’s no doubt that the world’s politicians have made mistake after mistake. There’s no doubt that voters have also made mistakes, and it’s there that the film’s hidden message makes itself clear: be careful who you trust and be careful who you believe in, because America has an election next year and everyone’s expecting the best.

I began by stating that I had difficulty comprehending this film, and I still do. However, my confusion is not thematic, but merely practical. Under every conceivable circumstance, this movie is amazing and I no doubt see Ryan Gosling going far in Hollywood (his other venture this year proved that considerably). The Ides of March, however, plays out like a public safety announcement on safe voting. “Be careful who you vote for, because even the white collar democrat can have his secrets.” The message is reasonable, and coming from the staunchly liberal Clooney, it’s difficult to believe that the character of Morris does not have basis in Clooney’s own beliefs. Throughout the film, Morris’s stance on world, and national affairs reflects Clooney’s own beliefs and, as such, the film’s message leaves a powerful impact on the audience.

I have to state that I’m not saying that George Clooney directed a film based solely on picking the right candidate for next year’s election, I just find it incredibly difficult to believe that it was coincidence that he chose to play a democrat that was such a clear allegory for Barack Obama (secrets notwithstanding, of course). That being said, I would highly recommend the film; it’s difficult not to when the cast plays out each role with relish and a hearty decadence that is an absolute pleasure to watch.

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!


Giving Up; With Help From An Avid Blogger

I’d like to clarify a few points; I’m a blogger, not a writer. I merely opine about movies, books, and music, and then give them ratings out of four, I’m certainly no critic of any kind. When I discuss day to day occurrences, I do so to illustrate either the humour, absurdity, or heartwarming nature of the event because I definietly have no expertise in the fields of either sociology, or psychology (I also, interestingly enough, abhor the word “Expertise” with a burning passion that I’m sure that both Jung and Freud would relish analyzing). Additionally, my grammar has a tendency to be impeccable, while my punctuation can be lacking, and furthermore my introductions are weak. Of course, these are all details that can be gleaned by reading my articles, and any analysis of my character would no doubt reveal these same facts. Before I move on, I’d merely like to point out that I once wrote an article on writer’s block that was absolutely horrible for these exact reasons.

The article can be found on the blog (I won’t hyperlink it, for obvious reasons), and it was written during my vacation in Vietnam. At the time that I wrote it, I was tired and jet lagged; I was excited at being in Vietnam for two months, and I was also nervous (excitement works in humorous ways, I’ve always found). That being said, I’ve always had the option of not writing; this blog has never been and most likely never will be a paying job. I was never forced to write anything, and everything that I have written (and subsequently published) was done because I wanted to. In short, there was nothing forcing me to publish the aforementioned abysmal article, except for my own mind. Though, when I first started blogging, I made it a personal habit to publish one article a day (at least), and as I continued on (with the days turning to weeks, and the weeks turning to months), more and more events required my attention.

Once everything was dealt with, I returned from the hiatus with a few articles; some were good, most were bad. Writing this blog has always been a cathartic process that allows me to discuss my opinions in a relatively calm forum. Suffice it to say, I love blogging, and I thoroughly enjoy the writing/blogging process. What happened for some time, however, was a matter of mixed interests. Simply put, I started to use the blog as a means of defining who I am; I’m a writer, I’m a blogger, I’m a critic, I’m an observer of the human condition, I do this, I do that, and for the longest time, the only thing I did was write for the blog. In short, I used the blog to define who I am. Put in the most basic terms imaginable, I let a single occurrence define every aspect of my existence.

That being said, phrasing what happened like I just did makes it seem like something of an addiction, though the lines between addiction, enjoyment, and obsession are disappointingly close, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the true definition lay between one of the three. I like to think that I wrote out of pure enjoyment, but the truth is that I started writing articles out of compulsion, and not absolute fun. I remember telling myself that I had to write an article, and when I now ask myself “Why?” I find that my answer is almost nonexistent. I didn’t have to write, and I will never have to blog. I merely wanted to, and want to.

Of course, all of this information is trivial if there’s no genuine application, and therein lies my point: sometimes, giving up is an acceptable course of action. For a moment, I’d like to discuss a previous article that I was planning on writing, a discussion on letting go and giving up. I had planned on writing this article sometime after returning from Vietnam and I found that as I tried more and more to actually produce something, I couldn’t create anything. The article that I was planning on publishing just wasn’t writing itself, so I did what any reasonable individual would do; I gave up on writing it at the time, and I moved onto discuss other topics. Any observant individual could see a stark difference from the blogger who had spent hours forcing himself to write drivel (on writer’s block, no less), and the individual who merely choose to accept that he couldn’t write (about letting go and giving up, ironically).

The truth of the matter is that there is nothing wrong with giving up and despite this fact, it’s an almost intrinsic quality of the human species to frown upon doing so. Characters on television, in movies, and books constantly face difficulties that they must overcome and giving up is seen as weak (or worse, being poorly written). At any given moment, characters such as Ichigo Kurosaki, Harry Potter, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Captain Ahab, and even Starsky and Hutch had the chance to give up and let their circumstances get the better of them. Suffice it to say, they didn’t; they tried their hardest to make sure they could succeed and we, as readers and humans, cheered them on, wanting them to continue succeeding (Captain Ahab being an obvious exception to this rule) The point is, they didn’t give up, because giving up would have meant the end of civilization and, more importantly, the story.

Giving up is seen as the point of no return, where one cannot continue from. If we give up, we are weak willed, and faulted. If we give up, we are a disappointment to not only ourselves, but to everyone around us. We have no purpose, and no reason. This, obviously, is wrong. For a moment, allow an avid blogger to opine the truth: giving up, if the continued action will yield no positive result, is not wrong. Giving up, if it means saving our sanity and upholding our self image, is acceptable. Giving up, if it means being able to stand up and live another day, is the best and most logical action to make. Any individual who states otherwise has been saturating themselves in too many Saturday morning cartoons and must, at once, be sat down and analyzed in case of blunt force trauma.

You see (and yes, I do know that I’m violating the one rule of writing by breaking the fourth wall in a non purposeful way), giving up is not this diabolical, disappointing event. It’s quite the opposite really; moving on and continuing with a course of events that will yield no result, no data, and no difference is the mere definition of insanity. There is, however, a point that must be made; before one can even think about giving up, they absolutely must try even if the only purpose is to see what happens. The blog has been eye opening in that way as well: after publishing the writer’s block article, this overwhelming fear would find its way into my mind, and I’d always worry about whether or not any given article would be viewed enough, or good enough, or even whether it was worth clicking on. My introductions (and therein lies the corollary) would always stop me from continuing specifically because I knew that they were my weakest points. I wouldn’t continue because of this inhuman fear, and I’d merely give up, without even trying. Luckily, thanks to repetition and practice, I’ve found an introductory groove and, while the fear is still there, I’m not paralyzed with it.

That, in summation, is what it all comes down to; fear, giving up, writer’s block, bad introductions, poorly written articles, letting go: these are all things that should be in our minds. These are things we should consider and always think about, but we shouldn’t be afraid of them to the point of paralysis. We should always have enough fear in our hearts to try to be better, but not enough that we give up before we even begin. After all, that’s the thing about giving up, there’s nothing wrong with giving up in the end, but there’s everything wrong with giving up at the beginning (especially because things are difficult). There’s everything wrong in giving up without even trying.

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


Interpretation and Mathematics; Recognizing the Interconnected Nature of Human Thought

While discussing philosophy and physics with a friend a few days ago, I was informed (in a rather rudimentary way) that mathematics is the center-point of human education. Having studied the subject for years, and being constantly fascinated with the power that mathematics holds over human intellect, I continued the subject only to discover that my friend’s hypothesis was, in fact, entirely accurate. To be fair to my friend, I didn’t entirely understand his hypothesis (for several highly intellectual reasons) and for a while, I dismissed it as genius that was beyond my comprehension. Suffice it to say, my friend is right; mathematics serves as the basis for every aspect of human education.

Of course, to those who subscribe to the various literary and artistic schools of thought that exist, not to mention those who follow the other humanities and far more social sciences, the mere thought that math is the basis of these theories can seem almost insulting. The truth of the matter, however, is that mathematics serves as the basis for every following train of thought in a strictly 2-Dimensional pathway. That being said, if math can be described as zero on a number line, every other school of thought branches out into the negative and positive integers. To those who don’t know what I’m talking about, math is at the center and everything else merely branched off from it.

Mathematics, up until recently, served as a logical framework, and I mean that in the simplest sense. The numbers one and one cannot add up to anything more than two (again I say, simplified) and cannot be subtracted to form anything other than zero. In this sense, one can reason that mathematics merely proposes a logical backbone to stimulate thoughts. In this fashion, mathematics serves as the hand of logic to answer the questions that branched off as a result; question like “Are we alone in the universe?” “What is the worth of a human being?” “What is purpose?” “What is reason?” and so on and so forth. These questions, incidentally enough, serve as the backbones of two major schools: Philosophy and Physics.

Therein lies the branched correlation; while physics attempts (and will continue to attempt) to answer these questions using mathematics, philosophy proposed a more human solution. Philosophy takes (and will continue to take) a very moral and ethical viewpoint, combining thought and intellect together. Likewise, physics and philosophy are essentially the same subject, albeit with different mediums, and schools of thought. The other reasonable addition to this statement is that physics continued with mathematical logic in mind, while philosophy moved on with human emotion at its core.

It stands to reason that the so-called “Original” philosophers were also mathematicians and scientists; the subject at the core of both of these disciplines is a shared one: mathematics. The theory shared by my friend and I extends beyond once one takes into account that most philosophical teachings have a simplistic “if x, then y” approach. Certainly, even contemporary philosophy continues to attempt to solve the questions that have been at the backbone of human thought with a relatively mathematical approach behind the human core.

Catch-22 logic, coined by Joseph Heller in his 1961 novel Catch-22 is a brilliant example of this. This logical construct states that for one to achieve a goal, they must end up in the same spot from which they started, thereby making it impossible to truly achieve a goal. The example provided within the context of the novel is one that allows an individual to escape flight duty. For one to avoid flying, they must be proven insane by a requested examination. However, the physicians reason that only a sane person would question their sanity, and thusly, only a sane person would request an examination. Therefore, if an individual requests an insanity examination, they must be sane, because only the sane would fear insanity. To truly understand Catch-22 logic, mathematics can be applied using variables to denote each instance as a separate case within the whole set.

Suffice it to say, mathematics is the backbone of human education, there can no longer be any doubt in the minds of the human collective that this is fact. The true question, therefore, becomes: where does this knowledge lead humans, as both highly evolved apes, and as intellectual creatures? The most obvious point is that of inter-connection and correlation. Specifically, every school of thought is connected to another in some way, shape, or form, and as such the only true way to understand one’s own school of thought is by understanding opposing and conflicting ones.

This understanding extends far beyond the simple barriers of science and religion (both share faith as their primary tenement; faith in scientific or theological theory); this understanding reaches the most important core of human learning: that everything is, and always will be, connected. Arts and sciences are merely the same subject perceived from different angles and analyzed from different quadrants. The humanities are not merely the byproduct of general human inquisitiveness, but the desire to search for answers that science itself could not answer. Likewise, sciences are merely the exact devices that provided answers that didn’t satisfy emotion, and so on and so forth. In this regard, the most basic question of “What am I?” when asked to a philosopher or physicist will yield the same answer, but with a different interpretation.

I suppose, when the matter is observed finitely, that is the only logical conclusion: no matter what the question, regardless of the real answer, it’s the interpretation and perception that matters the most. It’s the exact reason that an Avid Blogger can state, in a fool-hardy way, that mathematics is the backbone of human education and more or less get away with it.

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!


Disagreeing With Northrop Frye; The Right to Speak and The Responsibility to Listen

Having first been introduced to Northrop Frye through the internet, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually read anything written by one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Frye’s The Educated Imagination was a piece of literature strongly recommended to me, and when I finally first began reading what was (and still is) a deconstruction of language and literature as a whole, I made it a personal habit to note every instance in which I disagreed with Frye. That being said, I maintained a “Frye is wrong” journal and I made sure to update it with each disagreeing thought. It’s specifically because of this journal that it annoys me and amuses me that Frye is slowly becoming my personal hero. To put this feat into perspective, my previous so-called heroes included Alexander III of Macedon, Louis Riel and fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

The truth of the matter, I suppose, is that Frye was (and still is) right about almost everything he wrote; not just in his point of view, but also in his analysis and deconstruction of literary conventions. Of course, to the far more educated collective, such a fact is just that: a fact. Frye is right because he was a literary icon; his knowledge extended far past his ability to merely deconstruct, submit, and publish an original book on William Blake and it’s due to this worldliness that he can be so accurately wordy. Part of my dislike for Frye was the result of a minor sense of jealousy; originality is difficult to achieve at a base level, but being original and having people agree with your originality is an even more troublesome and daunting task, and Frye accomplished such a task within his life span. Though, primary school jealousy notwithstanding, my dislike for Frye extended far past his opinion; Frye’s writing maintains a level of patronization and condescension that only a mind as gifted and praised as his can produce. Suffice it to say, the man sounds pompous and it’s because he’s so colloquially “Smart” that his arrogance can be disregarded and considered a side effect of having literary experts constantly agree with you.

Of course, an individual’s appropriate pomposity is certainly not reason enough to rank them as a personal hero. As such, Frye stands as something of a beacon of hope to me; a goal to strive for and an existence worth trying to achieve. In short, people listen to Frye. There is no possible way to avoid such a factual truth: Northrop Frye is not just a respected speaker or writer, and he certainly isn’t merely a respected Canadian. Certainly, Northrop Frye is more than a respected man, or collection of particles; he is a respected mind and, most importantly, he is listened to.

When I first read the aforementioned novel (regardless of my disagreements and opinions on Frye himself), I found that when I brought up his name and my challenges of his work, my own opinion was not as accepted as I had hoped. Obviously, the main reason was Frye’s own accuracy. If the first point that one can make about Frye is that people listen to him, the second point that one must make is that Frye is right. Having spent days analyzing and comparing different literary mediums and applying Frye’s reasoning to all manners of literary works, I can no longer deny that Frye is right.

Frye’s accuracy, however, was only one of the reasons why my opinion wasn’t as accepted. The complementary reason is the same that I find reoccurs throughout education (whether theological, mathematical, scientific, literary, or artistic) as a whole; disregarding their own opinions of the topic, individuals agreed with Frye specifically because he had history defending his reputation and intellect. In essence, many individuals were agreeing with Frye specifically because he was Northrop Frye; a literary expert, a literary critic, a genius of the English language and a mind worth respecting.

Reflecting on the events that took place, I still find it difficult that alternative points-of-view or differing opinions weren’t as accepted. Perhaps those who I spoke to didn’t enjoy my company, or perhaps they genuinely believed that Frye was right, but regardless of the reasoning, I was wrong and Frye was right, and there was no discussion about it. Of course, there were also those who agreed with Frye and had a strong opinion as to why, which also helped me discover the fallacies in my own opinion, but (as is often common) these voices were the minority.

It’s not that the minority was necessarily right (as my presence would indicate) but it’s that the minority was actually using its voice to make some sort of noise. Of course, speaking and listening are events that go hand in hand, but if there’s one so-called “Moral” that can be drawn from my experiences with Northrop Frye, it’s that humans have a right to speak, and a responsibility to listen if we wish to advance further in our collective universes. Speaking amounts to nothing more than having an opinion and discussing it, and listening amounts to nothing more than listening to the opinion of others and respecting it regardless of agreement.

Therein, incidentally, lies the ultimate point: if we wish to educate ourselves, or continue to survive and adapt, we must take it upon ourselves to challenge every conceived notion to ascertain the purpose and benefit of the defined article. This challenge, however, must not be done with hate and exclusion at the head of reasoning and must be carried out without prejudice or condemnation. Quite the contrary, the challenge of preconceived notions must be done to allow education, and intellectualism, to prevail in a world that continues to be defined by its inability to think rationally (let alone without the intervention of extreme thought with a complete disregard for logic). In essence, we have the right to challenge everything (and must do so), but, above all else, we must be responsible in insuring that prejudice and persecution do not arise in the presence of these challenges. We must speak to challenge everything, but we must listen to insure our words are accurate and, most importantly, to insure that our companions have not been deafened.

Otherwise, we will be no better than the childish mind that hoped to create an original thought merely through disagreement with Northrop Frye.

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!


Remembrance Day; Proving Time Is Relative, With Help From Yann Martel and Shifted Perception

On November 11th 1918, around 11:00 AM, a ceasefire was agreed upon by the leading political powers of the time. The actual day that is known as Remembrance Day (Poppy Day and Armistice Day elsewhere) wasn’t ultimately drafted until 1919 when King George V proposed a day to honour those who had passed during the Great War. To this day, schools and government institutions in Canada hold a moment of silence to honour the passing of the men and women who have fought, do fight, and will fight for their countries (and the freedoms that their people hold).

Today is Remembrance Day and while honouring the moment of silence dedicated to the fallen soldiers, I remembered the words of a fellow student during my younger years. To say the word student would be making light of our relationship, as we were close friends, and the paradigm he questioned wasn’t done in defiance, but more so in genuine wonder. The question was, and still is, relatively simple: Why do we only honour the fallen soldiers once a year, instead of everyday?

Certainly, the question has a logical basis; while most schools in Canada offer a moment of silence after the mandatory listening of the anthem (whether the students choose to sing or not is an entirely inconsequential point), this time is usually not spent thinking about past wars. The soldiers who fight for the freedoms and liberties that most students every day are also not in their collective minds either. This is why today, while in a moment of silence considering humanity, war, fate, freedom, liberty and several other words that are thrown around (by those who understand, or who don’t), I also thought about time and motivation.

A few weeks ago I discussed the possibility of doing something out of the ordinary with another friend of mine; the planned event was irrelevant and it soon became a session to come up with the most impossible scenario imaginable. At one point, for example, building a hot-air balloon and flying it around the world was considered; I can personally guarantee that neither my friend nor I have the insight nor knowledge of aerodynamics to even consider such a feat (even though we did think it a fun endeavour). Of course, the real problem wasn’t our lack of physical and chemical knowledge, but a lack of time on my part to learn about hot-air balloons, coupled with a complete lack of motivation on his. It still annoys me to admit it, but I’m afraid I must: my friend didn’t have the motivation, and I didn’t have the time.

That being said, our dilemmas were infinitely related, but were ultimately polar opposites and, incidentally enough, I’ve noticed that this dilemma extends past the two individuals who want to recreate a landmark moment in history. I’ve found that those who have the motivation to act don’t have the time, and those who have the time to act, are not motivated enough. Simply put, while I want to do everything, I simply don’t have the time to do anything, and while my friend has all the time in the world, he doesn’t want to do anything to begin with. I’d like to mention that no matter how much I defend myself by stating that I have something that I want to achieve, I am no better than my friend. The truth of the matter is a simple argument of perception: if I have enough motivation to do something, nothing short of universal intervention should stop me. Of course, obvious restrictions like money, government permits, and the intervention of NORAD ( the North American Air Defence Command) stand in the way of my aeronautical dreams, but time certainly shouldn’t be my primary concern.

Therein, I believe is where the paradigm of time in regards to motivation begins to become more than just trivial: with enough motivation, one can make time for their goals and achievements. Yann Martel, a Canadian author, is a perfect example of this. In 2007, Martel began the What Is Stephen Harper Reading? project; he sent a single book to the Canadian prime minister every two weeks and provided a letter to compliment the literature. The works he sent varied and each book had to do with a different aspect of human psychology (as a good book is wont to do) and while Martel only received two or three responses from the Prime Minister’s office (Harper was busy with foreign affairs; motivated with all the time in term, of course) he continued carrying out bi-monthly acts of political “Pestering” as an act of civic duty. This article’s point, however, is not that we must all be like Martel and stimulate educated and imaginative responses from our leaders, but that time should not be a constant that hinders our motivations.

I use Martel as an example because, in the forward of the book that aggregated his letters to the Prime Minister, he specifically singled out time as the reason he assumed that Harper was unable to respond. I use Martel as an example of an individual who acted on motivation, without the general anxiety that time places on those who have ideas. Suffice it to say, Martel had an idea (or motivation) and ran with it, without regard for time. In summation, I use Martel because he ultimately answers my young friend’s question; we don’t think about the soldiers forfeiting their lives and futures for the liberties we hold dear because we feel we don’t have the time. Rather, we feel we don’t have the time because we simply haven’t adjusted our perceptions to accommodate for this shift in ideology.

It’s not a matter of politics or humanitarianism, and it certainly isn’t because conflict resolution is the single most difficult human event to acknowledge; it’s a physical truth: time is relative. Therefore, I’d like to to propose a paradigm; everyday, between the time we wake up and the time we carry on with our daily routine, I propose that we do something extraordinary and take a moment (a single, fleeting moment) to think and remember.

It doesn’t matter what we choose to remember and the moment we take certainly doesn’t have to be one of reflection, but merely one of thought: every single day, before the routine begins, remember something. I believe that this will prove that, given the fact that we can make enough time to remember a single moment, time is not the primary inhibitor when it comes to motivation. That honour goes to perception.

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!


Adapting Opinion; With Help From Roland Emmerich and William Shakespeare

An opinion is a dangerous thing to have and an even more risky thing to reveal; given the circumstances, an opinion can place an individual in the highest, or lowest lights imaginable. I, for example, have a profound distaste for both Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, directors known for regularly pumping out Hollywood Blockbusters that lack principle, taste, class, and basic cinematic features like coherent plots, amiable and relatable characters, in addition to cinematography that doesn’t make the viewer cringe at the very site of CGI.

Despite my prevalent opinion that the aforementioned directors be forced to retire, however, their films continue to make absolutely stunning amounts of money and, for whatever reason, potential movie goers continue to clear their respective schedules (and wallets) to make sure they can see the latest monstrosities designed and pumped out by two (quite frankly) mediocre directors. Regardless of this fact, however, my opinion that Bay and Emmerich are bad directors isn’t one that can’t be changed. Recently Emmerich released Anonymous, a film that takes the side of many new-age literary scholars by postulating that Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, did not write the works that he has become celebrated and revered for. Instead, that honour goes to 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

Suffice it to say, the film is not a masterpiece, nor is it an opus by any standards. It is, however, a sign of genuine improvement on Emmerich’s part in that the plot is enjoyable and understandable, the characters are genuine, and the actors perform valiantly and naturally. That being said, the actors don’t, miraculously, appear to be cardboard cutouts designed to read words off a convoluted script in the hopes of profiting from a movie designed to numb the minds of those who view it. Succinctly speaking, while viewing the film, my opinion of Emmerich changed (if only slightly) and I felt proud knowing that the man who created such disasters as 2012 and 10,000 B.C., was capable of producing pieces that are equally thought provoking and entertaining.

It’s actually thanks to my opinion of Emmerich that I’ve found that changing an opinion, though only logical once one considers the nature of truth and the continuously altered state of fact, is not an occurrence that is easily accepted. It’s quite strange to say it out loud, or on paper, but a person changing, or revising, their opinion to suit new data and a different outlook is not as commonly accepted as one would hope. The reason is simple and annoyingly obvious: a lifelong member of school A cannot switch to school B specifically because the tenements and doctrine of the new school conflict and appear contrary with those of old. It wouldn’t make sense for an individual against abortion to change their opinion and it wouldn’t make sense for a right wing activist to switch their point of view to the far left.

Of course, it’s not that the opinion merely changes, but that it adapts. Without a doubt, a pacifist will not merely wake up and embrace war without a specific and motivating reason; their contrary point of view is a matter of adapting their interests and beliefs to suit what they feel is a more reasonable opinion. So the question becomes, yet again, why is it so wrong for an an opinion to change (or, more accurately, adapt)? In short, the answer is that it isn’t wrong, and being able to admit a mistake, or logical fallacy is an admirable quality. Furthermore, if one is capable of carrying out such a decision without succumbing to pride or vanity, the reflection on their moral character is even more defined.

The fact of the matter, however, is that pride and vanity do come into play with opinion and once a discussion begins, it’s quite easy for two parties to pick apart their partners, instead of their opinions. Simply put, instead of challenging the accuracy of the facts that create the opinion, the existence of the speaker is instead targeted. Within moments, a discussion regarding the merits of stem cell research can break down into nothing more than unreasonable (and childish) squabble. The reason being, of course, that in a position of weakness, we often resort to school yard tactics to prove ourselves right; if we, as a pillar of opinion, are incapable of defending our own intellectual strongholds, we merely attack those who criticize us to appear strong and valiant. Instead, we appear weak and ill prepared merely because we were incapable of defending a position we’ve held for time.

Worse than a position of weakness, interestingly enough, is a position of strength. Feeling superior can lead to feeling contemptuous and no discussion can end faster than one where a speaker feels they have some sort of intellectual leverage over the other. The problem isn’t that weak points are made, but that the points being made are weak specifically because we feel the attempt is unnecessary. After all, why must kings converse with paupers other than to assert their undeniable supremacy? We are, obviously, not intellectual kings, nor are we intellectual paupers and all opinions are subject to criticism in order to observe the strength of the position and those that defend it.

I suppose the ultimate question becomes, how do we avoid such circumstances occurring? The answer is as simple as the problem: we listen, we speak, and before we succumb to childish impulse, we stop ourselves and think about why we’re about to shun another human being with an equally important (to them, at least) opinion. Under every given circumstance, there will be no reason no outright denounce an individual and, hopefully, we will stop ourselves. Unless, of course, we find out that our own opinion is poorly chosen, and we decide to adapt said opinion. Quite frankly, I’d like nothing more than to be able to admit to a logical fallacy without having my existence challenged.

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!