Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.- Vince Lombardi

See growing up is an adventure. For the first part of your life, you are basically told how to live and told what is good and bad. Often you don’t even question all of what you are told to do. Some people do question and they get labeled rebels and outsiders. Then as you continue to grow older and responsibility and expectations get set upon you, you start to see who you really are. What happens when the training wheels of life are taken away? What happens when your pedaling and steering on your own? See society and life are both scary monsters. Life is unknown, and society is often unpredictable.

Growing up requires confidence and belief. I grew up in a society where people want you to be perfect. When a teacher called on me, I couldn’t be wrong. When I played soccer, perfection was expected out of me. When I graduated high school, if I hadn’t gotten six academic excellence awards it would have been a disappointment. Spending the first 23 years of my life in school, As were demanded. There was no other option for me but perfection. We now live in a society of fact checkers and private lives becoming public because of the internet. Perfection is demanded even more than it used to be.

Growing up doesn’t always mean maturity. Sometimes a body grows up without a mind making equal strides. It is difficult to find maturity. It doesn’t always come naturally. It has to be worked at and a constant effort must be made to mature. See here is the funny thing about perfection: to achieve perfection you have to admit you aren’t perfect. Call it irony. You have to figure out what isn’t perfect to be able to fix it. So in a society that demands perfection, do we allow people enough time to figure out what is wrong and fix it? Or when are we just going to accept that perfection doesn’t matter because in the end it is unattainable?

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You ever go to the library just to get out of your house? No? Well that is okay because I do it enough for both of us. It is not socially acceptable to completely ignore everyone else around you in any other place besides the library. Currently I am sharing a desk with a girl who is probably 18. I was never good with telling age, and its like they can perform plastic surgery with makeup and add ten years in five minutes anymore. Wait who am I joking? This girl is at the library at 3:30 PM on a summer Wednesday, she doesn’t wear makeup! Do you wear makeup?

But back to what I was discussing. We are currently facing each other, not because we are trying to catch each other’s eye and spark a romance, but because that is how the desk is set up. Which is the worst set up ever. We are currently both on our laptops, but what if we were reading? When I read I like to relax and take it easy. All I would see is her predator eyes lurking over the top of the book trying to catch glimpses of me. There is nothing less comfortable then having a book lurker. Maybe I have watched too many Lifetime movies with my mother.

We are both using our laptops and I can only assume this girl is watching some sort of funny video on youtube, probably something to do with animals and musical instruments. Now when I am sitting alone in my room, and not having an out of body experience, I can’t tell what I look like when I am using my laptop. I never realized how dumb it is to see someone sitting at a little rectangular object and randomly laughing, while not being able to see what they are looking at. That would having a family movie night and your family making you stand behind the TV so that you just had to guess what they were watching, and before you ask, no that did not happen to me. Maybe.
So every time I hear a giggle, I give her a look without actually fully looking at her, but she still knows that I’m looking at her. So here I am, in a place of knowledge, completely judging a random stranger for doing something that I always do. Not to mention her annoying giggling interrupted my serious blog I was writing. Oh well. This is better anyways.

So teaching a psychology class has made me start looking at my life differently. We just so happen to be watching a bunch of the True Life program from MTV. It has made me feel like my life is somewhat in control compared to other people out there. Well that was until I stopped and looked at one aspect of my life.

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Desk

When I went to Sonoma State, I used to go to nearby downtown Santa Rosa for a book store there. Treehorn Books was located on 4th street. It was amongst a bunch of other shops such as a candy store and a fair trade goods store. This shop couldn’t have been more than 20 feet wide, but it was at least 50 feet deep. It was stoked from the floor to the ceiling with books. The books were in some sort of order, but there were massive amounts of them. My favorite sections, the history and social science books were actually divided from the other sections of the store and in cubicle like rooms of their own. I would spend hours in this store. I would grab one of those little step stools that are so common in bookstores and sit on it and browse the books. I wouldn’t read them in the store, I would just grab them, flip through them, hold them in my hands. There is something significant about holding an item in your hands that another person has spent years researching and writing and a lifetime forming opinions about. Whenever I got a chance I would buy a new book. Now when I say new book, I mean new for me. Someone else had used it before and absorbed its knowledge before me. Books are the ultimate second hand items. The cover make get worn and the pages may turn yellow but the knowledge and stories inside will almost never disappear.

Bookshelf 1

            As the son of a librarian, I grew up holding books to a higher level then many other people around me. I knew the importance of a good book and treating a book right. I knew the importance of showing respect around books. I learned from my mother to be quiet around books. A library is a place that demands silence. Even though bookstores are not libraries, people who go to small bookstores act the same way. They treat it like a library. They are consumed by what they hold in their hands, deep in thought and concentration. That is why I have a hard time going into large cookie cutter bookstores. Barnes & Noble is amazing. It has tons of books and offers them in an appealing way, but there are too many people there. It is too loud. I can’t concentrate enough to even begin to search for a book that I want to spend hours with. The quaintness of a used bookstore will never disappear. There is a companionship between used booksellers and buyers. It is an unspoken fraternity. The silence shows respect to the books and to each other. Don’t think that I am some sort of guy who wants to keep the books for myself and doesn’t want them to be shared with anyone. I want to share my books with everyone, but there are rules that need to be abided by when dealing with books.

Bookshelf 2

My love for books does not stop with traditional written books and novels, it continues to comic books. My favorite comic book store is Fantasy Books and Games. Now a comic book store has even more unwritten rules than a normal bookstore. The level of devotion and love that the customers of these stores show to the products being sold borders on obsession most of the time. Comic books are often looked at as nerdy and immature, but they can contain some of the most mature and thought provoking material out there. I could spend hours in this comic bookstore, but I usually get a headache from over stimulation. There is too much going on and too much I want to see.

Random stack

Reading a good book is a full sensory experience. You can feel the book in your hands, see it with your eyes, hear the voices in your mind (okay that is a little bit of a stretch), smell the pages as they get older, and if it is old enough, you can taste the dust as it falls with every turn of the page. With that being said, it is obvious I am old school. I may eventually break down and get a Kindle, but it won’t be because I like the idea. I hate the idea. My book collection is already over flowing into parts of my room not designated for books. A Kindle can collect numerous books in a package smaller than a traditional book. Books just spew out wisdom and knowledge. Having a bookshelf is a sign of intelligence and dedication. You don’t have friends over and have them comment on the full capacity of your Kindle. You cannot decorate your home and coffee table with Kindles. You can’t pull out your Kindle and show your grandchildren the history and the love that your Kindle itself represents.

Books may be dying out. Books may be under utilized and seen as relics of the past, but for me, they represent hard work, dedication, patience, imagination, fantasy, biographies, science, photography, fashion, gardening, cooking, and knowledge. I buy books and read at any chance I get. So my only question left is, “Who wants to join my book club?”

I always watch the 5 O’clock news. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the news and a report about the death of Davy Jones came on. No not the Squid-Guy from Pirates of the Caribbean but a member of the Monkees. My mom leaves the kitchen (she was actually in the kitchen, I’m not being sexist) and stands in front of the TV. She turns to me and does, “I had such a crush on him.” The look is what will stick in my memory though. My mother had looked at me like she had just heard about the death of the first boy she ever kissed or her first middle school crush. She had such emotion in her eyes for someone she had never even met. I have always thought those screaming girls trying to touch Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers were ridiculous and stupid. Now I have to live with the fact that my mom may have been one of those screaming girls’ forbearer.

There are certain days in my life that I remember clearly. There are the obvious ones like graduations, vacations, special dates, September 11th, and Obama’s inauguration. Then there are two days that I remember that I probably have no business remembering. I remember being 9. I remember sitting on my couch watching MTV. I remember hearing the little ditty that signaled that an MTV newsbreak was coming. I remember Kurt Loder coming on the television. I remember him announcing that Tupac Shakur had passed in the hospital away after being shot.  Now, since I was not a ghetto 9 year old, I did not have a large understanding of Tupac. That day inspired me to look into the life and art of Tupac Amaru Shakur, but there will be more on that later. The second day is a bit easier to recollect. I remember being at work. I remember getting a text. I remember other coworkers getting texts. I remember no one believing it. I remember getting off of work, going home, and turning on the news. I remember them announcing that Michael Jackson had died. I remember this as clear as day. Why are these days mixed in with other days that shaped my life and changed the world? I know when I get older, my kids and my grandkids are going to come home from school, well if school as we know it still exists, and ask me. For their homework, where I was and what I remember about 9/11 and the aftermath. I will recall that my mom woke me up early to tell me that something bad had happened. I will remember the school not letting us watch anything on TV. I will remember being scared. I will remember the decision to send troops to Afghanistan. I highly doubt that any teacher will send the future generations home with questions for their parents and grandparents about where they were when Tupac died.

See, I have an obsession with Tupac. He got me interested in rap music. He got me interested in Black history. He got me interested in activism, poetry, using words to actually mean something and being human. It took a while after his death but I slowly opened myself to the world of Tupac’s music and art. I tried to understand him and the people in his music. Being a kid from the suburbs, this opened my eyes to a world I didn’t even know existed. I even bought a shirt with Tupac on it. Now for a man to wear another man’s face on my chest, there has to be some love there. There are only three men I have shirts with their face on them. All of them can be identified by one name, Tupac, Kobe, and Obama. I loved Tupac. I watched movies, listened to music, and read books dealing with Tupac. Much like to many others, I elevated him to a sort of Thug Angel, like Michael Eric Dyson calls him. I even wrote my senior capstone paper on the connections between Tupac and the Civil Rights Movement. And here I was thinking that screaming girls had something wrong with them. I rationalized it by saying Tupac stood for something. My love for him is more substantial because there is something behind it, something besides looks.

Society hasn’t just started to worship celebrities. It may be more extreme now, but it is nothing new. The infatuation with celebrities is the common belief by not only us (the common folk), but also them (celebrities), that they are perfect. We see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or read their words and because of this all their actions have a sense of invincibility, a sense of perfection. We hear about all the money they make and fantasize about being them, but that is not why we watch. We watch to see them become human before our own eyes. We elevate them to godlike status and then watch as the human on the inside begins to crack the god on the outside. We watch as we realize even with all that money, they are still just bones and flesh. Even with everything at their disposal, they still make mistakes.  This is why Bono does not have the following that the Kardashians do. Bono does almost everything right. He uses his money and status to help. That is why people see Bono as pompous and arrogant. His actions seem almost nonhuman compared to others. This fallibility that even the celebrities show, it is why I can idolize a convicted sexual criminal (Tupac) and an alleged sexual predator (Michael Jackson). Their sins don’t kill them. They only make them human.

Look at Charlie Sheen. He suffered one of the most public downfalls in recent years. All those years of acting like a god, doing mountains of drugs and women caught up to him. All that WINNING was actually losing. Millions of people were caught up in his seeing that having tiger blood and being a Vatican assassin were slowly breaking his godlike persona. I was wrapped up on the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, where he appeared more human and down to Earth than the roasters who were supposed to be bringing him down to Earth. Lindsay Lohan is another case. She is my celebrity crush. I saw Mean Girls seven times in theaters. It kills me to see her keep falling down the rabbit hole and not figuring out how to get back out. We don’t like to watch people fail. We like to watch people realize who they truly are.

See people like to say that kids do not have idols anymore. There are few people in the public realm who display the morals for children to look up to. If our society has come to the point where we are looking towards celebrities for role models, we may have gone too far. Celebrities can inspire us. They can speak to us with their performances and their words. They can help us escape the realities of the world. That being said, just because they are in the public eye, does not mean that they have a degree in manners and morals. If you want to complain that kids have no one to look up to, I have one thing to say to you, “Be the idol that you want your kids to have.” I want to go back to the days when elementary school kids would paint a picture of their grandparents and say they were their heroes. I miss the days when all kids wanted to be when they grew up was their dad or their mom. If there is a lack of idols in the world, it is because the parents and the older generations are not teaching their kids that celebrity worship is acceptable up to a point and not providing them with someone who is an idol. You may feel like you know your celebrity crush personally, but you don’t. So do you want your kids idol to be someone they don’t know?

Every person has their demons. Every person is haunted by skeletons in their closet. And often, it is easier to close the closet door than to open it and see what is in there everyday. It is easier to bury a demon than it is to try to figure out what is fueling and driving it. See the fact of the matter is that skeletons and demons are ugly. We live in a society where everything is expected to be perfect, pristine, unblemished, high quality, and mistake free. We live in a society where those who deal with their demons are looked down upon, while those who hide and pretend to be perfect use a judging eye. “Oh he went to rehab,” they whisper. “Oh he is in therapy,” they condescendingly note. Yet those are the people, whether being forced to or not, are trying to make their own lives better and fix problems rather than just hide them. “But rehab is only for people with real problems.” We all have real problems, we just rationalize them in our heads to the point where they aren’t problems anymore. Or maybe society doesn’t think your addiction to religion is a problem a problem that needs a solution. Maybe society doesn’t look down on the fact that you get a headache from a lack of caffeine. Maybe your unwavering political views are praised and not seen as ideologically blinding. So in a society scared to be anything less than perfect, people choose to run. Run from the ugly, run from the solutions, and run from actually trying to obtain perfection. Now I know as humans we will always be flawed and never be perfect, but there is nothing wrong with setting yourself down a road of betterment and seeking perfection. It is easy to see what people are running from. People run from death, police, emotions, responsibility, people, trials, and tribulations. It is more difficult to see what people are running to. Is it always negative? Is it always drugs, alcohol, and abuse? Can it be to exercise, talking, and friends? There are always healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with situations in life. There is a tendency to focus on the negative and the unhealthy choices, rather than the times people run to the healthy choices. So what are you running from? Or maybe in this society the better question is, “What are you running to?”

Routines of Freedom

Posted: February 6, 2012 in Rant
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Whether we realize it or not, much of our day is set around routines. Everyday you wake up. Boom. Routine. Going to work, eating, going to the bathroom, all of these are routines. The time of day and the content of what you eat may change, but the act is the same. By necessity, much of human life is set up by routine.

As a substitute teacher, it is funny to see routines. Students, especially the younger ones, are dependent on routines. When I come into a classroom and say something, I get the precise way it is to be done by twenty-something children. If I do it slightly different, all hell breaks loose, and I hear it from the students that I am doing it wrong. It must be done the right way. Some would call this indoctrination. Teachers use routines to keep to and let students know what is coming.

There is a fear of the unknown. People do not handle what they don’t know  or expect very well. The worry of what is to come can cause anxiety. If you don’t know what is coming, there is no way to be in control or have control of what will happen. Routines are ways for people to semi-know what is coming and semi-control the outcome of said event.

At the same time, routines take away freedom, but freedom can be scary. The freedom to walk down a different street or try a new restaurant comes with unknowns. If every Friday I go to the same Mexican restaurant and order carne asada fries, I know what I am going to get. The unknown may be scary, but that does not make it instantly bad. Maybe that street has a beautiful mural and street musicians. Maybe that restaurant has a dish that will become your favorite. The road I am not walking down will create new routines. Is it ironic that freedom creates new routines?

We have been training our children, for a while now, to follow routines. They know instantly what to do when the lights are turned off, when they see a sheet with bubbles filled with letters, and how to find an answer that is explicitly stated in a piece of writing. What have taken away the freedom in education and it has leaked out into life. We have taken away innovation and critical thinking. We are obsessed with routines, with keeping order, and with finding a way to control what we shouldn’t be able to control. Break from the routine, adventure, challenge your freedom.

Modern day life is crazy. Not only are we as humans connected in ways people in the past would never dream of, we broadcast ourselves to friends and enemies alike. The advent of social media has created a new aspect to life that takes anonymity and spits in its face. Right now, my life and my words are being broadcast across the continents and to random strangers. The crazier part is that I choose to allow people to see into aspects of my life that in generations passed were very private.

So why do we do this? Will my videos on youtube ever get me a record deal? I can emphatically say no. Will my blogs ever get me a book deal? Most likely, no. Will my pictures of me getting drunk get me into trouble? Eventually. Will my big mouth status updates offend people? They usually do. If we as a society are gaining no tangible benefits from social media, why is everyone so hooked?

It may have something to do with validation. It may have something to do with a human feeling of boastfulness, of pride. It may have to do with the need to be liked, pun intended. It may have to do with boredom, or it may be for straight entertainment.

Gossiping has long been a form of entertainment for both men and women. It may vary how each sex does it, but both still attempt it. The difficult part of gossiping is that it requires someone else to gain new information or share the already acquired information. I am using the term information loosely. Gossip is hardly information. Occasionally it may lead to some juicy nuggets, but most of the time it is just rumor. Social media has taken the need for another person out of the gossiping equation. I can now lurk any of my friends and make assumptions about their actions, their lives, and their significant others. I can “know” someone without actually staying in physical contact with them. People get entertainment out of knowing about other people’s lives.

We have put our private lives into the public domain more than ever before. It is far our own entertainment and the entertainment of others. Individuals are now more open and as a result more vulnerable to fraud, gossip, and punishment, but so is everyone who also uses social media. The question is, “Are you not entertained?”