Tag Archives: lifestyle

Inspirational quotes and Kerouac…damn you kerouac…

21 Oct

I don’t like inspirational quotes. I just don’t. As much as they’re a great point to jump off from in a search for personal excellence and improvement; they’re more often used as an end- a point to say “gee shucks I’ve read it so I know it”- and this disappoints me greatly…

“Oh!: ‘ be the change you want to see in the world’? OMG THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE YOU’RE RIGHT!!1!!! lmao roflcopter hurhurhurhur…”

As simple as it sounds, “being the change you want to see in the world” is anything but. First you have to think about and realise what that change is, then begin the long hard journey of embodying it. You want the world to be a more kind, caring and openhearted place? cool; don’t be a dick next time someone takes their time in front of you at the cash register. No, this doesn’t mean “be quiet about your dickness”, it means take a long hard look at the situation and ask yourself why you’re getting so worked up over someone else taking their time, then be cool about it all. BE COOL.

You want the world to be a fairer, more well rounded place? cool, a noble idea…here’s how you can put that into action; don’t be a self-centred/-pitying/-justifying whingebag  next time someone starts grinding on that love interest you’ve been quiet about all those years. It’s just the way things are; you had your chance and didn’t take it because you were so busy watching dawsons creek re-runs in an effort to find the perfect words to say, so step back and let someone else get on with their lives.

It takes effort. A hell of a lot of effort. It is worth it though, when all the effort turns into something you can be proud of, but let’s be honest here; it’s a hell of a lot easier to just copy and paste a quote then think absolutely nothing else of it. That’s the way things are.

I don’t doubt there are a lot of people out there who put sufficient thought into inspirational quotes and actively work on incorporating their meanings into their lives, but the reason above is why I’m very careful about going anywhere near them. I could plaster this page with quotes all over the place and get a fair few more hits every day, but that’d be letting us all off the hook.

So anyway; Kerouac, you sonofa bitch.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”

….*sigh* here we go…

I’m gonna presume that you read the book and put this quote into context, knowing full well that the book is ultimately about disillusionment with that whole beat generation movement and that by the end of the book Kerouac is well enough pissed off with everything he thought he wanted/ saw in the movement that he pretty much does a 180 on the quote above.

Unfortunately, that’s all implied. There’s no counter quote which runs something like “I’m sick of going to parties and ending up talking to that flighty broad in the corner all night just so I can get laid thinking it’s a life changing event. It’s not. It’s two sad, sweaty, lifeless bodies rustling against each other while already mentally compiling the amazing story about it they’re gonna tell their friends the next day in an effort to seem “mad to live; now, then, here, everywhere”. It’s listening to some girl drone on about her friends and what they did while she repeatedly lights cigarettes from the wrong end and cries ‘this never normally happens to me!! wow this conversation must be sooooooo deep’. It’s not thinking she’s the absolutel right woman for me because she’s ‘kooky’, or ‘unusual’ in the way she doesn’t care for things other people do, it’s just ignoring the fact that she’s incredibly boring and empty because I simply want to get laid…no… no the only ones for me are the sane ones; they’re a lot freakier in bed cos they’re not trying so hard to be wild…”

Hipsters, by the way. Kerouac’s quote applies to hipsters. Yes. Unfortunately, where at least the beat generation had Ginsberg and jazz, the modern equivalent has nothing more challenging than Alexa Chung’s musings on fashion and dubstep…

But, for me, that doesn’t go far enough. Hipsters don’t go far enough. Why simply go to a few parties a week? why not make everyday a party? That’s the real way to be “mad to live”. Start your day off with a fine wine. Knock back a few shorts before leaving the house. Why limit yourself to being “mad to talk” when your only with your friends, and only talking about things you already know? Talk to a stranger; tell them about the universe and how mindbogglingly big it is. Yell out something in the street, don’t hold back in public; you gotta be mad.

Better yet; do something Wild and far-out! make a sign; something that implies a deep and meaningful thought while being vague enough to leave the reader thinking. Stand on the street somewhere, hold that sign up high! be proud! You’re mad to live and mad to talk! You blaze a trail across all lives you come in contact with, people coo “awwww” when they see you proudly go where no man, woman, child or animal has gone before!

NOooooo no nononononono….Hipsters -and anyone who lives by this quote thinking it describes them- don’t take it far enough. What; you go out to some fashionable club twice a week and all of a sudden you’re “mad to live, mad to talk” ?! fuck no, you’re nothing of the sort. You gotta take that to the limit…

I hope by now you’ve realised the ridiculousness of all of this. Take those things to the extreme and you’ll be a homeless drunk with a nasty drug habit who routinely yells at people in the street while holding a sign that read “LEMONS!! life! Art! SHOES!!1!”…

Nope, the only ones for me are the ones that know what they’re doing. The ones who say commonplace things in the knowledge how uncommon things can be. The ones who are mad to live by all definitions and not just the “wild, far-out, weird thinking party animal” kind. The ones who burn long, soft but just as brightly as a firework. Fireworks are gone quickly and leave barely a memory behind. No; the only ones for me are the ones who are not mad to talk but mad to listen…there’s a lot more to be learned from listening.

Israeli/Palestinian prisoner swap

13 Oct

Okay soooo….yeah this is a touchy subject. Gotta be careful…

In writing this, I’m not trying to take the perspective of one side or the other; I’m simply trying to highlight something. Make of it what you will. Regardless of your views, I want you to genuinely ask yourself what you think of the question I’m gonna bring up. I don’t want you to immediately fall back on ‘your sides’ arguments or justifications…I just want you to engage with the question and hopefully challenge your view on the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do have an opinion on it all though, don’t get me wrong. Even though this question I’m gonna raise might make it seem like I’m favouring one side, It’s not. It’s just a question. You could change the parametres of the question a million ways to encompass a million different political viewpoints…but it would still end up being the same question.

Besides, when you take a far enough step back away from it all, it’s a bit like watching two drunks fighting over their shared loss of dignity. Both contributed to the circumstances, both agree it’s happened, but neither is willing to be the big man.

So anyway, in the news recently is the story of Gilad Shilat, an Israeli soldier who will be released after years in captivity. In exchange for his release, one thousand and twenty seven Palestinians will be released in your classic prisoner swap.

And there’s the question; hidden among the jubilation on both sides that their respective peoples are being returned home. I’m not gonna write anything about the conflict, the barrier, the two countries tearing each other apart from inside out…there’s no need for all that when a question this simple presents itself.

1 person in exchange for 1,027 people. 1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians.

Figured the question out yet? I don’t blame you…it hasn’t cropped up at all in the news coverage and let’s be honest here: it’s not something that would immediately spring to mind but…

When is 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others? And, more importantly, why is that 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others?

Both sides are happy with the agreement, so it seems that the Palestinians are alright with being deemed worthless enough that over one thousand of their people are the equivalent of 1 Israeli, but still…it’s a horrible question.

As I said above,; this question has nothing to do with politics, it’s about humanity. If you comment, please leave all politics at the door. We could change the parametres to “Catholics vs Protestants” in the North of Ireland, “blacks vs Whites” in 1950’s America, or even “Terrorists vs Patriots” somewhere else in the world but it still boils down the same simple question:

When is one life worth a thousand others, and why?

 

*Off topic* Economics: an incredibly simple way to change the world…

4 Oct

A few things in the news recently have gotten me thinking about economics and a book I read a few years ago which gave me a pretty decent idea of the state of the world (‘The shock doctrine’ by Naomi Klein, read it. read it now.). The events in question are the Wall street protest, and present republican muffin/possible future american fucknut Rick Perry.

I read an article in which he reasserted his opposition to regulation of greenhouse gases and pollution in general. Whatever you believe about global warming*, you can’t argue that having factories belching out smoke and chemicals into surrounding areas is a good thing. It’s not. Whatever you think about the grand scale of things, on a small scale it’s bad for us. Simple as.

*(I hope I can make this brief, it’s a big subject: Global warming is real. The majority of scientists who believe in it are well respected, qualified professionals who measure data and present their work to be peer reviewed so that any mistakes can be picked up by other well respected and qualified professionals. Those who deny climate change, usually keep their research to themselves or else have it laughed out of the community if they release it to proper scientists for review -usually because they’ve carried out that research for a dummy corporation/foundation set up by an energy industry company…yes that does happen. More than you think. A lot more. In fact, next time you hear/read about a climate change denying piece of research, do a quick search to see what company/institute it was done in the name of. After that, do a quick search to see who’s behind that institution.

Food for thought; the term “Global Warming” was phased out in the mid-90’s in favour of the more friendly and ambiguous “climate change” because, after all, who hates change? change is progress isn’t it? change isn’t bad- it’s damn good!! Lobby groups for the Energy industry used this confusion to soften the debate, and appreciated the long term decline in interest it helped contribute to…Oh, and one more thing; There is no debate about climate change. There are scientists who do their job properly, and then there are others who say what they’re paid to say. Simple as.)

So anyway; Rick Perry is hugely opposed to regulation, because it would harm the business interests of the companies involved and therefore do damage to the economy of his home state. Fair enough, he’s looking out for his own I suppose. The thing is though, that’s the exact same reasoning as that of a CEO.

The CEO of a company has a legal duty to look out for their shareholders’ interests. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? If an investor puts a chunk of money into a company, they should expect a reasonable return, right? In the beginning of the 20th century this logic was well accepted and needed because big business was only starting out. People needed to have “investor confidence” (which had a totally different meaning back then), so this logic was inshrined in law. It’s a CEO’s/board of director’s legal obligation to look out for the interests of the shareholders.

But; and here’s the rub ladies and gentlemen, the almighty rub that has our mighty planet -socially, economically and politically- slowly crumbling under the weight of its own people collectively mumbling “Hey I’m just looking out for #1, fuck you I’ll do what I want!”…

That obligation is defined in simple money. You want to look out for your investors*? Make them money!!

*Investors nowadays are a far cry from the 19th century pioneer family plowing all of their mattress money into a travelling snake oil salesman. Sure, that used to be the majority of investors: small families hoping to improve their lot by investing in business but nowadays, it’s just a bunch of bankers.

And here’s where we tie back into good ol’ boy Rick: take those energy companies operating out of his constituency. They don’t have regulations because he’s so supportive of them, so to cut costs and make money-money make money-money, they dump a little waste into a sinkhole somewhere.That waste makes its way to an underwater aquafer somewhere else and contaminates a local river. Hey, doesn’t matter; those shareholders want money, not a damn conscience! Will a conscience pay for copious amounts of Viagra and Champagne?! Fuck no!

Let’s move into the world of business: A good old american car company wants to cut costs, so that the shareholders can see a return on their investment, see their stocks rise in value a little and maybe even cut them a nice profit. How can that be done? Well I’m glad you asked because it can be done easy-peasy: Move the damn factories to China! Their labour costs are a fifth of what they are in America, so the company’s stock will skyrocket! Happy days!

Then the company naturally hires The Fonz to deal with the redundancies, because nobody can get mad at the Fonz!
“eeeeeey; your security clearance has been revoked, go live under a bridge or sumtin alright”

One of the main reasons the world economy has been shitting itself like that old man who sits at your local bar every night, is this legal obligation and it’s interpretation. Sure, you could argue greed, self justification, irresponsibility, general dumbfuckery and all sorts of other human conditions laid waste to the fragile game of Jenga we were playing (…you don’t know how fitting that comaprison is..you really don’t…) but it all comes back to that one legal obligation: the CEO must look out for the shareholders, and that is taken to mean “the CEO must do everything possible to continue cutting costs and making profit, regardless of the ethical ramifications”. Everything that comes after is just icing on the cake.

SO. there it is. one simple way to change the world: Alter the definition of the basic duty of the CEO to take into account not only the monetary obligation to the shareholder, but also the moral health and social responsibility aspect. Simple as…

hahahaha, yeah right. Never gonna happen. Here: console yourself with a sweetbeat…

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)

The secret of Frenchman’s Cove; better the devil you know than the one you don’t

8 Jul

TheFrenchman’s cove resort was a pretty big deal back in the 60’s. Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Jamaican coastline, it was used by anyone and everyone who had the money to stump up for the privilege. At it’s height it cost the equivalent of a years salary (today) for a two week stay. Steep stuff, but apparently worth it.

Being tucked away from the main hustle and bustle of the island (which was actually possible in the 60’s), it was luxuriously isolated, so much so that this was one of the main selling points. If you didn’t have the right money, you wouldn’t get anywhere near the place. Quite an attractive prospect for the monied class, seeing as they only wanted to associate with their own type and avoid all those awkward “So what is it you do? Stocks, bonds or good old fashioned national pillage?” questions…it’s just undignified. Best to go somewhere you don’t even need to ask the question.

But, the absolute main draw of the resort was its luxury: there were no menus, choices or options. You could do or have anything your heart desired. Once you paid for your stay you could, at no extra cost, ask for a boat to take you fishing, order a selection of dishes from around the world, request a specific make and model of car to use during your stay, ask reception to entertain you during dinner with a blood sacrifice etc… you get the idea. It was the first place to embody the “have anything you want” mentality of luxury.

I saw a documentary on the hotel industry recently, and it had an enlightening interview with the owner/manager of the Frenchman’s cove resort. While answering the question of his resorts attraction, success and the matter of it’s luxurious stasus, he said something incredibly canny. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of

“…well because we don’t offer any menus to our guests, they’re given the choice of anything in the world. They can ring up reception and request absolutely anything they want for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, as is usually the case when someone is offered limitless options, they almost always end up asking ‘Well, what do you have?’, in which case we end up serving everyone baked beans on toast”

It’s an incredibly insightful thing, especially coming from an industry that bends over backwards to use the most convoluted of management speak. Although in fairness, he did say this back in the 60’s; it’s probably the last known example of a hotel manager speaking truthfully.

I was struck by the statement, and how brutally honest it is. Give someone the choice of anything in the world, and they’ll probably go for what they know.

It’s a sad thing, that most people are too afraid of the unknown that they won’t try and actively get away from what could be damaging or destructive routines and behaviour.  “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”, is a classic justification for staying in one spot. It pretty much boils down to saying “Hey, it could be worse!” as a good reason to carry on letting your mind dull, your body melt and your soul wither.

And it’ll work. It’s a nice fix, reassuring yourself like this. Many, many people get through life doing it, and it works for them. They might end up feeling  a little awkward everytime they put down their friends in a passive-aggressive manner because it makes them feel better about themselves for, oh I dunno, a couple of minutes. But it could be worse. They might get a little down when they get out of the shower and notice that flab under their arms jiggling for a few seconds more than it did a year ago, but it could be worse. They might wonder quietly about the world outside, and maybe even pine for it a bit, when they accidentally catch sight of a documentary on television but it’s alright because it could be worse.

Yeah; it could be worse, but it could be better. A lot better. A Whole lot better.