The Blasted GRE – Round 1

So, I’ve run up against another barrier to my writing.  I have taken on the mighty task of studying for the GRE in order to make myself graduate school worthy.  (I want to enrol in a Masters of Education program).  Now my free time has been filled with studying, editing, child playing, and not enough sleep.  This leaves me with zero blog time.

However!  I do have to practice for the writing prompts, and as such, I thought I would post them as prompts for anyone wanting to take a crack at boring old ‘analytical writing’. Continue reading

Of the Divided States of America & Redux

Another week in the United States and another tragedy at the hands of a firearm. 

Not to kick a dead horse, but I feel like I’ve been here before…

Then I was told that guns aren’t the issue with Alton Sterling or Philando Castile, or the Dallas Police officers for that matter. 

It’s about Obama and the death of America.  It’s about division.  

Then we were told Alton Sterling was shot because he was reaching for his gun. 

So he was shot with a gun because he was reaching for a gun, but it’s not about guns.

I’m confused.

Police Officers are armed to defend themselves against the citizens who carry guns.

Some of those same citizens carry guns because they fear brutality from police officers who carry guns.

It would be dismissive and ignorant to claim that people of colour, especially those from neighbourhoods with higher levels of crime and thus greater interaction with law enforcement, have no real history from which to base their fears. 

Police officers have been convicted and sent to prison for brutalising and murdering people of colour.

People of colour have brutally and senselessly murdered police officers

So this is a war, and every American has been asked to take a side.  Who’s right? 

Does no one seen the gun correlation?

If America banned guns would the police still need to carry them?

Alton Sterling doesn’t have a gun because he hasn’t grown up in a culture that taught him he may need it, thus he has nothing to reach for, and – assuming the reports are true that that IS the reason they shot him – the officers have zero reason to kill him. 

But the fears of both sides are real and justified, however much we want to close our eyes to it. 

Thus, another in a long list of lines are drawn in America, leaving the population divided and blind to the fact that the enemy they think they are fighting is the wrong enemy. 

The real enemy is ourselves. 

Blinded by sensational media from both sides of the fence that are forcing people further and further apart, yet both sides point fingers at the other side’s ‘sensational media.’  And round and round and round we go, with no one getting any wiser to the real problem. 

American is a selfish nation full of individuals who are too easily manipulated by fear.

It also doesn’t help that Americans deal so frequently in absolutes. 

One cannot respect and honour the men and women of law enforcement who go out everyday of their lives and sacrifice their own personal safety to make America a safer place and also hold them to a high standard that says, ‘if you cross the line you must answer for it.” 

One cannot be shocked and saddened by the recent loss of life and not be considered a ‘cop hater’. 

One cannot also be disgusted by the amount of crime and violence on the street without being ‘racist’ and ‘blind’ to the fact that I’m of a skin colour that denotes privilege and thus have no right to speak.  My skin colour is often the very root of that problem.

I have to feel bad for the colour of my skin because it means my life was easier.  So, we don’t want an end to shame, just a reversal of it. 

It’s these same absolutes that lead decent people to claim that Donald Trump becoming the president of the United States is not evidence that bigotry is acceptable as long as that person is the representative of ‘my party’.  But the division isn’t their fault.  It’s the OTHER guy. 

That pointer really is handy as a finger, ain’t it?

American has their lovely two party system and it’s what leaves people feeling like they have to pick a side.

The sad truth is that neither side is really the side of progress for the whole.  It’s all self serving and the majority of people live in ignorance of that fact. 

The majority have also never stepped out of their own little bubble to truly understand the width and breadth of their own country.  How can you truly say you know what’s best for America when you’ve only ever lived in one place?  Put yourself in the shoes of someone living on the other side of the country from you, facing wholly different problems…

“But those aren’t my problems, I have to deal with….”

Your own shit.  That’s what American’s care about.  The three feet in front of their face.  The context from which they understand their own individual life and circumstance. 

So, two people of colour and five police officers died and we fail to acknowledge that this is a war we’ve allowed to boil over for years, and neither side is solely to blame. 

The real blame falls on the people, because we refuse to take the guns out of everyone’s hands and try to bring the violence to an end.  We refuse to actually be, in fact, united.

“It wouldn’t stop the illegal guns though!” 

No.  But it would be a start.  Stop focusing on why it won’t work and start trying to help find a way to MAKE it work.

America needs to start being know for something other than violence.  Military might and guns.  That is America.

I had a girl in my preschool class last year who was talking to me about where I come from.  We nicknamed this girl “Katy” after Katy Perry and everyone in the class often called her, “California Girl.”  She said she wished she could visit California one day and go to the beach.  Then she made a sad face. 

“What’s wrong?”  I asked.

“I want to go, but I can’t.” 

Confused, I stabbed at the reason she was saying this.  “When you grow up you can go wherever you want.” 

She shook her head.  “I’m afraid of going to America, I don’t want to be shot by a gun.” 

That’s from the mouth of a 6 year old Japanese girl.

That’s the image America is selling.  That’s what people see when they look at America from the outside. 

We should all be ashamed.

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa are all dead now because we cannot see how divided we are.  Because we stand on our side of the line, clinging to our righteousness, and refusing to understand that change doesn’t come without a willingness to concede the need for it… from BOTH sides.

Instead of looking to pin blame, we should be looking for the root of this problem and finding a way to stop it form ever happening again.  How can we do that if we are too busy trying to prove it isn’t our side’s fault while blaming the other side for pointing the finger at us?

Like any dispute we must be willing to accept our own culpability, carry our share of the burden, and cross the line to our so-called enemy and ask how we can end this.  Until we can share the burden equally we’ll always be divided.

That very concept runs contrary to the name of the country and so few want to face how disgraceful that is.

So there’s your problem.  Now how are you going to fix it?

Of Guns & Control

America sure does love its guns. 

Well, some of them don’t, but those are just the bleeding heart liberals that don’t understand the necessity of deadly force when an intruder comes for your loved ones.  Could happen any minute now, so we gotta be prepared. 

The simple, ‘violence begets more violence,’ never crossed anyones mind I guess. 

The issue is complex and I don’t mean to make light.  Many people have lost their lives due to America’s stubborn refusal to take a good hard look at not only why guns are such a problem in the US, but how they became one. Continue reading

Childhood is…

This is a post in response to the daily prompt:  Childhood.

I compiled a list of things that came to mind as soon as I read the word, and it’s in no particular order.  I am sure some of them will relate, depending on your age, and others will have a similar link but a different name.

Still, the idea of childhood brings with it a very visceral response that ignites memories of a day when things seemed so much simpler..


Continue reading

Of Politics & Division

The United States is in the preliminary process of electing a new president.  The great debacle otherwise known as…

The Lesser of Two Evils: 

A Game Where We Pick A Winner and Everyone Loses!


That sounds like pessimism, and I am sure there are a whole slew of people pipping up to give me all their reasons why their candidate isn’t all that bad, but the reality is – in my humble opinion – that the two party system in America is a system built to breed division. Continue reading

Of Racism & Pride

Race and racism is a complex issue.  I can readily admit that I lack the proper skill to tackle the entire beast in one post.  However, there is something that has occurred to me over the past few years that I would like to put out in the world.

Until we learn to completely disregard race as a factor, racism will never die. 

Continue reading

Of Hollywood & Diversity

I read on a friend’s Facebook post the other day that they are making a biopic of Michael Jackson’s life and that he will be played by Joseph Fiennes. 

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This lead to a debate of needing to give more people of colour the opportunity to star in major films. 

To be clear upfront:  casting a caucasian man to play Michael Jackson, who was African American, is absolutely ridiculous.  Regardless of what Michael might have looked like toward the end of his life. 

That being said, there is a reason behind why this happened and I am going to attempt to address it.

1. The Problem of Miscasting Goes Deeper Than Race.

Continue reading

Battle Royale: Star Wars – Round 2

With Episode II rightfully flattened last week, we move on to round 2 with Episode I still standing on top of the hill!

For details of how this king of the hill battle works, please check the previous post here.

Round 2:

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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versus Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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Why Episode I Lost:

1: Midichlorians, Immaculate conception, and Trade Disputes.

In The Phantom Menace, George Lucas tried much to hard to create an overly complex story with elements that left the audience asking, “why does this matter?”  The characters were wooden and all the banter and connection felt in the original series was destroyed by his need to over tell the story. 

a8ac315baa675b0caaba96ce570a728ffc8a7b97924cd0a7df932f7c493a97c9As to Anakin, all that needed to be said was, “I’ve never felt such a strong presence of the force.  Even from a fully grown master.”  We don’t need midichlorians, or associations with Jesus.  Please.

“He’ll bring balance to the force… by dying for all of our sins…”  Ugh.

The empire was a vast, overpowering, tyrannical machine that suppressed the people.  That is a theme almost anyone can understand and sympathise with.

A trade dispute, on the other hand, sounds petty and, well, just boring.  Grand Moff Tarkin was a man one could respect as a serious man of purpose.  Viceroy Gunray is a douche. 

2. Baby Anakin Is Even Worse Than Teenage Anakin.

“Cho skrunee dopat, sleemo.”  Yeah… Almost everything Anakin said in Episode I is cringe worthy.  “Are you an angel?”  “I wouldn’t have survived this long if I wasn’t so good at fixing things.”  “Yippee.” 

pleased-to-meet-you

Many people have tried to blame this on Jake Lloyd and that is unfair.  The assumption has been, “It can’t be George Lucas’s fault.”

Yes, it damn well can be. 

This was quite possibly the worst child acting I’ve seen in all my years of watching films.  But I have to also admit that it’s the worst performance I’ve ever seen by Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman as well, an actor and actress whose body of work is incredibly impressive.  So, if two Oscar level actors appear unable to act… who is to blame? 

The douche bag who spent too much time obsessing over the sound effects and flashing lights. 

Little personal note to Mr. Lucas:  No one gives a flying shit about ship noises.  Well, no one but you.

3. Stealing, absolutely not.  Gambling with a child’s life?  Sure.

Oh no, the hyperdrive is broken!  What will we do?  They land on Tatooine.  There’s a slave holding scumbag that has one… but mind tricks don’t work on him (making his race equal to19fe5dfc3adb3101e8ec5dc67bdc9056de7c85ec6d64bef879555c096b104300 Hutts… which begs the question, why not just use a Hutt instead of increasing the number of beings impervious to mind tricks??). 

Stealing the hyperdrive was out of the question.  They were on a Hutt controlled planet! 

With two Jedi, I find it hard to believe they couldn’t have worked this out.  Then, to assuage your conscience, you bring back a brand new one when you are finished escaping with the queen.

Nope.  We are going to gamble with a child’s life in a race that leaves many people dead.  That is much more sensical.  Que the, “Who needs logic,” soundtrack. 

4. “I’ve Got the High Ground” Only Applies to Good Guys.

Darth Maul was awesome.  He was intimidating, fast, and totally fit the role of series bad guy.  Then he died… in the stupidest way possible. 

I contest that one of the major faults of the prequels was their lack of a consistent bad guy.  Think of what having Darth Vader for three films did.  It built his character slowly, showing you different sides of him and made you grow to dread him while at the same time secretly respecting him for his badassery. 

Every one of the prequels had a new ‘sidekick’ to the emperor…and they are increasingly lame. 

So Darth Maul kills Qui-Gon and then Obi-Wan rushes in, all filled with rage and hate, and fights him like a serious bad ass.  That sequence is by far the best lightsaber fight ever captured on film.  The successive films lost their focus on how to film these well and they sucked.

Then Obi-Wan gets knocked over the side of the vent, loses his lightsaber and is hanging on for dear life.  Darth Maul toys with him a bit and, somehow, can’t sense that Obi-Wan is reaching out for his master’s lightsaber (some force user Maul was… despite how well he fought UP to that moment)

Then what does Obi-Wan do?  Leap straight up in front of Darth Maul, flip over his head, land behind him and cut him in half.  And Darth Maul… never… moves… a…. muscle.  A force user who proved to be impossibly fast couldn’t think to even put his blade out, which is all it would have taken. 

This is made even more ridiculous when you factor in that, having the high ground (as Maul did) is the VERY THING OBI-WAN USES TO DEFEAT ANAKIN! 

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Again, ugh. 

5. All The Wacky Antics.

I am not going to blame this all on Jar-Jar.  That character was a mockery in and of itself.  Many people felt the same vitriol toward C-3PO when the original series came out though.  Likewise for the Ewoks. 

George Lucas, and I am certain he gets this from his buddy, Mr. Spielberg, loves to create childish and stupid characters to play the comic relief.  Then have thtumblr_m9n4e7djcu1rcl33co1_500em do stupid things stupidly to lighten the mood. 

I don’t really like  it when Spielberg does this.  I hate it when Lucas imitates it. 

Jar-Jar was the recent version.  As were the battle droids. 

Riddle me this, what good did it do for the movie having stupid droids?  Why does that even make sense?  It’s a robot. 

So Jar-Jar was stupid.  The droids were stupid.  All the Gungans were stupid.

Unfortunately, so was most of the movie. 


 

Honorable Mention:  Jedi’s are supposed to be tranquil.  Anger leads to the dark side, right?

Why the hell was this clown a Jedi then?

bfbc98a847563208afff3041c38ec2266a35afcfb488da08a4a5f00255e97ae1

Creates Angriest Characters in the History of Film… Picked to Play a “Peaceful” Jedi.

Episode I, you are the weakest link.  Goodbye.

 


 

A new Battle Royale! will be published each Saturday.  Next week I will be pitting Episode III of Star Wars up against Episode IV.  The movies will duke it out until we have crowned a king of the mountain.  As always, I appreciate any comments or feedback… especially if you disagree with my point of view.  Let’s hash it out, bro!

Of Celebrity & Judgmentalism

My daughter is 4 years old and she loves Taylor Swift.  I am okay with this.  My wife, not so much.  She doesn’t actively dislike her, but we got into an interesting debate the other night and it inspired me to write about it.

My daughter is currently aspiring to be a singer when she grows up.  She’s a bit torn though, as 4 year olds tend to be, between being Taylor Swift and Merida from Brave.  I am 100% responsible for that last one.

As we were watching Shake It Off on Youtube the other night my daughter said, “I want to be Taylor!”

I said, “That sounds like a good plan.  She’s a very popular singer and she started really young!”

My wife replied with, “Don’t be like her, she’s slutty and she can’t keep a boyfriend.”

That really got me thinking.  The debate got a bit heated because, while my wife was making an offhanded and only half serious remark, I came back at her in full, “this is why that is a ridiculous thing to say,” mode… and any man who has come at their wife in this mode knows that the fight ends with me on the couch thinking, “I was just trying to make a point…”

Here is what that point was (proving that men never learn their lesson about shutting up and letting things lie 🙂 ):

1. Money Changes People 

Money, sadly, makes the world go ’round.  For those familiar with Pink Floyd’s famous song, Money, it is the root of all evil… but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away. 04a7cc0c6176ac4bb1a6232c83122802acbb00cf5e77f9b031042e649c7d2a61

Being relatively poor most of my life, I’ve dreamt of being rich and how wonderful it would be.  Who hasn’t at one point or another?  I imagine that if I were to become a superstar right now I’d have a good head on my shoulders about it and be able to handle the pressure.  I’d be smart, or so I tell myself.

If I became rich like Taylor Swift did I am not so sure things would have turned out well…

Taylor Swift made her first record at 16.  According to wikipedia, “she is the youngest singer to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the Hot Country Songs chart.”  She then went on have the best selling album of the year in 2009… at 19.  At 26 she is now making 80 million a year and has a net worth of nearly 200 million dollars.  

She is a year younger than my wife.

I asked my wife if, at that age, she had been given that kind of money, how she thought her life might have changed.  She claimed she would not have been different.  I think that is almost impossible.

41embdo202l-_ux342_I can tell you that, as a 36 year old man, I have yet to finish maturing in many ways.  At 19 years old I was quite possibly one of the dumbest people on earth.  If I had been given millions of dollars at 19, I can guarantee my life and my per
sonality would have taken a whole different road.

I would have gotten myself into a whole heap of trouble because the stakes are so much higher when you have the cash to open doors that are closed to most people.  Money turns wild ideas into reality.  At 19 I thought some pretty insane s**t.  Put into that kind of place I think I would have made a lot of decisions I would grow to regret.  Not because I was a bad person at heart, but because given that kind of freedom, power, and pressure at an age and maturity where I wasn’t equipped to handle it would have tempted me past my better judgement.

Many people try to argue that they would be the same person, but I think this is a lie we tell ourselves.  Human beings are defined by their struggles.  All the failures you’ve had to overcome have moulded you into the human being you are.  True, some base form of your nature may remain, but having that kind of money would drastically alter the type of struggles you would encounter.  Which leads me to point number 2…

2. Trust Is A Complicated Thing

My wife argued that she would not have gotten into so many strange relationships with men no matter how much money she had.  I tried to argue that trust is a perilous thing even in the best of circumstances.

Show of hands here from the people who have been burned by someone they trusted.  Keep them up if you have been burned by someone you were in a relationship with.  Now think about how much more complicated that situation becomes when you are world famous and have a heap of cash at your disposal.  Think of the number of flies you would have to swat at daily.  Think of all the work you would have to do to shield yourself from the people who were after everything but the you you so desperately wanted them to know and see and love.

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This.. is… Taylor?

How isolating and frustrating must that be?  The only people you would be able to truly bear everything to would be the ones who were around before it all blew up.  Very few people have lifelong friends that they grow to trust implicitly at age 16… let alone loves of their life.

Putting myself into a situation where I was 19, rich, famous, and surrounded by people who had to be strangers, I can see how I might end up going through a rollercoaster ride in my relationships.  Hell, between 16 and 26 I did go through a rollercoaster.  The difference is, no one cares about my rollercoaster.

3. Monogamy Is A Choice. 

Before I get too many people ready to shoot fireballs at me, let me explain.  I am a happily married man and I have no desire to be with anyone other than my wife.  I love her with all my heart and I am happy to be with only her till I die.

That being said, that lifestyle is what works for me.  If a celebrity, or any other person for that matter, is living a lifestyle that you do not approve of or prescribe to than you are free to voice your opinion, but keep in mind the words of Charles A. Dana, “Fight for your opinions, but do not believe that they contain the whole truth, or the only truth.”

Since the rise of western religious doctrine the norm has become, “one man, one woman.”  That does not mean this is correct for everyone, even if the majority feels it is.  Human beings have to learn to let other people live how they feel comfortable, even if it makes us uncomfortable.  It isn’t our life.

4. You Cannot Really Know.

One of the oddest things about celebrity is it brings about an open invitation to have your life evaluated and picked apart by any and all human beings.  Why?  Well, you asked for it, putting yourself up there on that pedestal.

Is that really sensical?

I listened to someone ripping another person apart at work the other day and I had to interject and ask how much they really knew about her personally.  The answer was, “you mean outside of work?  I don’t know anything about her.”  But he felt totally justified in lighting her up like Times Square on New Years because she did some things he thought were silly.

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This is my picture of him.  He is 100% this person.

The truth is, we all have a story.  It’s complicated and convoluted.  It has many twists and turns and there are millions of little bits you hide from the majority of the world.  A select few know the real truth about you, and those people are the diamonds in the rough.

Now, hands up again if you’ve ever been laid into by someone who knew f**k all about you, but still took it upon themselves to assume.  How pissed off did that make you?

Thinking about celebrities, none of us know them even the slightest bit, but people love to talk as if they do.  We think that because we read something about them online or in a magazine that we understand the width and breadth of their life and are free to pass judgement on it.

That was the part that got me fired up, to be honest.  How in the world can we as rational, intelligent human beings assume to know the first thing about someone like Taylor Swift?  Let alone enough to be able to say, “she’s a slut.”  Really?  Do you hang out with her?  Does she confide all the deep dark secrets of her soul to you?  No?  Then knock it off.  You don’t know her any better than you know Santa Claus or Mickey Mouse, so what gives you the right to throw off judgement?

I have my own life to live and my own baggage to carry.  You have yours.  Taylor Swift has hers.  My feeling is, why am I going to judge a life I am not living?

Which brings me to my last point…

5. Society Loves To See People Fail.

The reason why so many people are willing to cast judgement on celebrities they don’t know is because human beings take some twisted satisfaction in seeing people fall from grace.  We like to drag people down.

One of my favourite bloggers, empress2inspire, wrote a wonderful piece on empathy that bolsters this point I feel.  People simply lack the desire to empathise with other human beings, especially if that person is perceived to be higher on the totem pole.  Why?  Well, they got all the way up there, so why am I going to feel any compassion for them?

Because they are human, and so are you… I hope.

Bringing others down or judging them, especially when one knows next to nothing about them, will never help one move into their place.  I wish we could learn to stop doing this because it’s just sad.

Newspapers and the internet are trying to get readers.  How do you do that?  Sensationalism.  That’s a fancy word for making something bigger than it is, or even making something of nothing.  If you need a visual, it looks like this: disney-graphics-pinocchio-329861

And people eat it up because we, as a society, lack compassion.

We have no shortage of judgement though.


 

My advice to you is this:  Think back to a time when someone said something hurtful about you and hold that feeling in your heart for a while.  Then, the next time you start bashing another human being, celebrity or not, remember that hurt.  Remember that, innocent or not, you are attacking another human being that you might not know well enough to really be making those judgements about.

Next time, try and think well of them, even if they’ve given you no reason to.  Why?  Because focusing on the good only makes your life more positive.  I would rather think the best of people, as naive as that may sound, because thinking negatively only makes my own life that much darker.

As far as celebrities go, feel free to dislike their work.  But don’t be so brazen as to think you have a right to judge their life as if you know anything about it.  You don’t.  You can’t.  What you know was fed to you by a writer with an agenda.  Be smarter than that.

More importantly, be more compassionate than that.