I’m going to be 42 for a long time


If you asked me today, “How old are you?”

My response would be 42. I’ve been answering that same way for the past year.

That makes me a liar.

I was born in September of 1975.

I’m only 41. I’ve spent a whole year as a 42 year old, when I could have been reveling in my 41s.

What an idiot!

So for the next year starting September 7, I’ll be able to honestly tell people, “I’m 42.” No more of lies. No more deceit.

Here’s some news: I’ve been writing again. Almost every day. My morning routine right now is getting up about an hour or two before my wife Tina. I either make a pot of coffee or a single cup of instant coffee, packets that I picked up in France last April. Because everything French tastes better even instant coffee. Ha.  Continue reading

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the devil wants my lenses


I take a French class every week. Recently, the topic of discussion was superstitions. We talked about Voodoo, Réne Descarte, rationality, culturally specific superstitions (French superstitions vs Turkish superstitions), etc.

I find all religions/faiths and many cultural behaviors to be superstitious, and while I claim to not be superstitious, I often question my claim as superstitious thoughts creep into my head all the time.

When something happens in a pattern, science explains that sometimes — we as humans — attribute these things to something larger than ourselves, like a deity or a devil or any other number of fairies, goblins or leprechauns.

Superstitions claim misfortune might be caused by breaking a mirror, opening an umbrella inside, walking under a ladder, being taught a lesson by a parental god, being tested by a wily devil, not praying the right prayer, or simply failing to knock on wood that one time I said, “I have the best lens choices in the universe!”

Knock on wood. 

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve had to replace two lenses. These are literal misfortunes, as I feel like replacements have cost me a literal small fortune.

One of the lenses was — in a general sense — inexpensive (around $600). The other one was for my Hasselblad, which is the rough equivalent of buying property in Trump Tower.

My Hasselblad is medium format camera. Working with a medium format system is like owning a luxury vehicle like a Ferrari. You don’t take the car in for anything without seeing your wallet lighten by many pounds.

I had to buy a battery for it recently and it set me back $375. A battery for my DSLR would cost between $40 and $65, for a generic brand or name brand respectively. There’s  no generic option for Hasselblad.

Buying a new 35mm lens — which I use most for interiors or architecture — would be $5200. On eBay, you can find used ones for $1500-$4500. But that’s risky as I found out. I ordered a used one off of eBay and it was dead on arrival. So I had to send it back to the seller, which ties up several thousand dollars until the return is processed.

Because we have a big interiors job next week, I ordered another one. I don’t use credit cards, so I’m basically tying up liquid cash.

Another unfortunate lens mishap happened in my studio. I was using a camera to videotape an update. Here’s a shot below of part of the space. There’s a long strip where I can throw a ball with my dog. We occupy the area behind where my camera is for photography.

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I had my dog with me last week. I was washing my car in the shop area and I had a camera setup to record an update for a vLog. The floor was wet and it’s already very slippery.

As I was about to throw the ball to my dog, she was headed straight for my camera on its tripod and her head was facing me as she ran away. “Nooooooo!” I yelled as I sprinted after her. She turned. Started slipping. And I slipped trying to get to the camera, but it went down.

If a camera is a face and a lens its nose, it landed smack dab on its snout. The lens shattered. Fortunately the camera was unharmed (cross fingers and knock on wood).

Ha.

On the surface, it’s tough not to see these financial blows are not some kind of message from an unseen force attempting to discourage my creativity.

Is this a message from the Lens Gods or the Productivity Gods saying, “We don’t want you to be productive?”

We want to use financial stress as a distraction! 

My view, though, is to not let those superstitions to prevent, paralyze, stymie creativity. I’m pressing on. These things happened. They just happened. That’s it. They were accidents. They were and are explainable by natural causes.

My human brain might try to attach mystical explanations or place more emphasis on them because in a pattern … lens lens lens lens + money money money money = stress stress stress stress stress — that somehow is attractive.

There is no amount of prayer, of self sacrifice, of worshiping the unseen that will bring back those lenses nor would it protect my other lenses that still work.

Shit happens. And it’s when I try to attach superstition to natural events that I get caught up in distractions from creative expression.

Well, fuck that.

 

 

 

“The rise of Arab atheism”


I’m not sure I agree with the title of this piece (atheism pertains to no singular religion), but I can surely find interesting bits from which to drive validation. Emphasis is mine below. Link in title below as well.

A snip:

The issue most often cited by Arabs as their first step on the road to disbelief was the apparent unfairness of divine justice. The picture they had acquired was of an irascible and sometimes irrational deity who behaves in much the same way as an Arab dictator or an old-fashioned family patriarch – an anthropomorphic figure who makes arbitrary decisions and seems eager to punish people at the slightest opportunity. Dire warnings, constantly repeated in the Qur’an, of what would happen to non-believers had clearly made a strong impression on them in childhood.

“The idea of eternal hell was very disturbing to me,” said Mohammed Ramadan, an Egyptian. “I was nine when I asked my parents why would God punish us for ever when we live for an average of only 70 years.”

A Saudi who is known on Twitter as “Arab Atheist” was troubled by the question of why seemingly decent non-Muslims should be punished by God. Arriving in the US to study at a Jesuit college, he began to realise “how similar all religions are” in their basic teachings. “In Islam,” he said, “we are taught that all non-Muslims are going to hell. I had Jewish neighbours who were the kindest and sweetest couple and it made me wonder, why should they go to hell? And suddenly Islam started to crumble in my eyes.

The rise of Arab atheism Across the Middle East, governments are cracking down on non-belief. But Arab atheists are becoming more visible –   by Brian Whitaker   –MONDAY,  29TH JUNE 2015

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”


Just like every other thoughtful, sentient being living on planet Trump today, I’m dumbstruck by the level of holy-shit-balls-it’s-fucking-nuts these days. I’m fully aware I’m not the only person who is incapable of comparing the events in America to writings by George Orwell.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” goes through my head about once a day.

I scratched my head a bit as to why 1984 sales surged early in Trumptopia’s new regime when I feel like Animal Farm is more àpropos to the conversation.

At the time of this writing, Trump’s only been in the office 59 days8 hours16 minutes33 seconds. Barring screaming from a minority of shouting voices on the left and the right, I get the continued feeling that the self-aware among us are more oppositional to the course we’re on. There are die-hard fans of Trump’s campaign promises and republican so-called ideals that will stand on the poop deck holding on for dear life with this administration as the ship with a gaping hole in its hull descends under icy-cold water … and its captain and his family rides off in safety on a lifeboat. 

So many feel helpless. I too feel that sentiment.

Even more feel hapless. I ride in that boat, too.  Continue reading

Genghis Khan’s take on religion


Over at TYWKIWDBI, Minnesotastan posted that he’s reading a book titled Gengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and quoted the following from the book (emphasis is Stan’s):

“Eyewitnesses report that upon reaching the center of Bukhara, Genghis Khan rode up to the large mosque and asked if, since it was the largest building in the city, it was the home of the sultan. When informed that it was the house of God, not the sultan, he said nothing. For the Mongols, the one God was the Eternal Blue Sky that stretched from horizon to horizon in all directions.  God presided over the whole earth; he could not be cooped up in a house of stone like a prisoner or a caged animal, nor as the city people claimed, could his words be captured and confined inside the covers of a book. In his own experience, Genghis Khan had often felt the presence and heard the voice of God speaking directly to him in the vast open air of the mountains in his homeland, and by following those words, he had become the conqueror of great cities and huge nations.”

I don’t agree with Genghis Khan’s perspective completely, as I’m unsure of an actual supreme being. Hearing the voice of a god or gods is unprovable and likely some kind of hyperbole. But I certainly admire his perspective.

My most authentic “spiritual” experiences are during my morning meditations, during long runs outside in which the brain can do nothing but unfocus and focus at the same time (also happens during long swims) and while at large outdoor music festivals in which the entirety of thousands upon thousands of fans are deep in the fabric of shared experiences that are idiosyncratic at the same time.

That contrasts to those of the church, which I found, even as a child and teenager, to be contrived and not authentic.

I don’t believe in a god or gods (for many many reasons, but) because the existence of god is completely unknowable. One can assume a god exists, but all the evidence to it via biblical or even all around earthly experience, does not lead one to a place of “Yep, there’s an all-powerful, all-knowing dude in charge of it all.” The information the collective “we” of humanity have written in books and have stuffed into the confines of a church experience is too confining for a concept as large as something called “god”.

This is something a religious person will also agree with and explain they too look to nature for their answer, while maintaining that this mystery known as god must be worshiped or believed in. They’re also ignoring the parts of nature that do not indicate a god or gods. The message that belief in said being (or beings) would provide anyone with a reward in afterlife is surely not spending enough time experiencing life to its fullest. And is therefore limited by beliefs.

Once the unknowable is “knowable,” one tends to give up on searching out other unknowns and becomes static in so-called knowledge.

It’s sad. It causes a lack of sympathy and empathy for anyone except those with shared values.

 

 

Come in. Sit on the couch. Tell me what you think. You’ve got an hour.


Yesterday my brother called.

We shared a text conversation earlier in the day. He sent me a quote from Sufjan Stevens.

It started like this:

America,

There really is no such thing as an illegal immigrant, for we are all immigrants and refugees in a wildly changing world that is dominated by superfluous boundaries built by blood and war. We all come from somewhere else. The truest of “Americans” have either been destroyed by the white immigrant, incarcerated, isolated, held captive, or stolen and enslaved. 

Read the rest here.

I thanked him for sharing. It was a cool quote. And it even referred to Jesus (turning the other cheek, loving enemies, etc.) and also to prayer. The quote itself embodies my own politics. Even though I don’t believe in a deified Jesus. I value my root understanding of him and who he was as a radical mind.

Continue reading

See Johnny Depp run. Run, Johnny. Run!


 

I saw a meme on Facebook with Pirates of the Caribbean in which Johnny Depp’s character was being chased by an angry mob of 100 or 200 crazies, and the words on the screen read, “When you express your opinion on the internet.”

The guy who posted it is an evangelical and his Facebook posts rarely get more than a handful of likes. So it’s a head scratcher as to why he thinks his expressed opinions are so hated. I’m guessing he has a delusional victim mentality or a misplaced superiority complex. No one on social media that I can tell is oppositional to him. So maybe the lack of response causes feelings of attack.

No one ever comments on his stupid posts.

This guy was actually the principal of my Evangelical high school. He’s a guy who fed my brain so full of bullshit that I will always carry a certain level of anger that this guy was allowed at a chalkboard in front of young minds. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn anything under his tyrannical style of teaching. It’s just that the information was so far false and one-sided that once I learned about other views, and all the gray area between, I was able to determine he had little penis syndrome and wanted all young minds to never pursue a well-rounded education.

The Pirates of the Caribbean meme certainly got me thinking, though. Especially about how unwelcome his views seem to be. It’s astonishing that people bitch and moan that their views aren’t welcome in a world that has left folks like him behind. But it also is a reminder that views like his still exist. It’s astonishing.

And despite how marginalized his views are, he’ll keep posting like it’s helping his lost cause instead of learning from his failures and assimilating new ways of approach. His views are so archaic it’s like walking down the street and seeing a dinosaur, a real one. Walking, growling and munching on leaves from a tall tree.

But there’s another aspect of that Pirates of the Caribbean meme that bothers me. It’s that in the event you do express that unwelcome, archaic opinion, people like my old principal are still shocked that their “opinions” aren’t welcome.

My most popular post of all time wasn’t about religion or politics. It was about that sacred institution of quality craft called Ikea (“It’s official: Ikea is hell on earth”).

In fact, the post still gets comments despite the fact that it’s eons old and that this blog is a metaphorical ghost town. Most new comments I designate spam. I tried turning off comments years ago, but somehow they still seem to show up. I’ve even deleted comments to encourage people not to respond to other people’s hateful, mob mentality rage toward me for calling Ikea the shittiest furniture store in the universe.

There was a Pirates of the Caribbean mob mentality running after not only me, but my wife, for criticizing something so many people seem to love. I read one comment degrading Tina to her, and I found her getting really emotional and maybe even shedding a tear. It was cruel.

However I do see the hypocrisy in censoring comments on that old Ikea post. So I stare at my reflection and say, “Shame on me, too, for not understanding that expressed opinions generate responses, often nasty attacks.”

Thing was, I expressed my opinion about something a lot of people seem to like and want to defend, and the tension spilled into comments that made me want to run for cover at times.

If you fuck with other people’s “sacred” prepare yourself for pejorative responses. Here I thought we lived in a world where EVERYONE agrees that Ikea = shit. But in my bubble, I wonder how any decent human being could buy a Nickleback album let alone support a guy like Donald Trump.

On the flip, there are supporters of Trump, and Nickleback, who wonder why a person would NOT support them. There are people who think it’s funny to attack the person and not the thing.

While my point at the time of writing about Ikea was to be funny and to rail against a monster of a store that essentially steals your money in exchange for “furniture” that will be in your alley dumpster and landfills in less than 2 or 3 years.

The alternative is digging deeper into your pockets and buying something that will last 10 to 20 years … or longer … by simply investing in better quality.

But that’s not my point. My point is the whole biblical notion of you reap what you sow. If I write about Ikea being chalk full of crappy products, I should anticipate backlash.

If I post stuff that criticizes one kind of people in general, I should expect backlash.

I wonder sometimes how more people don’t understand that. If I criticize a non-person like Ikea, that’s not attacking a person. But people often misconstrue an allegiance as a personal attack.

But there are people who criticize, say, Liberals or Conservatives with false information or sweeping generalizations. Then they wonder why people respond to their views and chase them down with Internet Mob mentality negativity.

I’m done with that kind of toxic bullshit in my world, and instead of allowing it or saying, “Oh that’s okay that you’re offending me or attacking me personally,” I’m protecting myself by staying far, far away from those kinds of people.

Stick my ass with a fork. I’m fucking done.