Category Archives: Tangents

The Correlation of A and B

So yet again I was taking a jog around this wonderful neighborhood called WordPress when a commenter on a post caught my eye, and I decided to check out their blog.  That led me to this post:

http://cboye.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/pulpit-freedom-sunday/

I’ll give you a second to read that. . . . And I agree with her (or him . . . I’m not absolutely sure, but with a name like “Katz,” I immediately assume “her”).  I’ve actually written several blog posts around and related to the same idea, such as how Republican and Christian are not synonymous, or how a commenter on a particular documentary hit the nail on the head, or what bugs me about Christian magazines, and how a movie from my childhood perfectly illustrated some of the misdirection that many Christians seem to have on issues with the occult.  (If, as you find  yourself reading this, would like to see anything I could have written on subjects such as these, I suggest looking at my “I’m a Christian” category.)

Let’s step to the side, now, and discuss a separate-but-related topic, which I will drive into the previous one in a minute.

Relativism, and also pluralism in a philosophical sense, is increasingly common in Western culture.  This means that it is more and more believed that “whatever you want to believe is true because it’s true to you, but you can’t tell someone else that what they believe is false, because what they believe is true to them.”  This runs in direct conflict with most religions, when they are followed as they are taught, and Christianity is certainly included in those.  The problem that this worldview has is that it’s internally contradictory, as I discussed in my post from a few months back, “The Inconsistency of ‘Tolerance.‘”  Every religion can’t be right because most religions claim others are wrong, or their teachings contradict each other; you can’t take the buffet approach and expect that to be true, because we live in a world of absolutes, besides the fact that your emotions and desires do not determine reality; saying everyone should just accept what anyone wants to believe is self-defeating because that excludes the people that hold to creeds that claim to be the one truth.

Yet regardless of the clear problems with such a theological and philosophical approach, it is held by a vast amount of people.  Consider some comments on an article written by once-Christian-then-atheist-now-Christian-again A. N. Wilson on the reason for his re-conversion that toss out anything he has to say because they don’t, ” . . . understand […] why people (theist or atheist or any-theorist) have the need to prove that what they have is better than what the other has;” or “Those who believe in a g/God have a need to do so. Those who have no such need tend not thus to believe. At present Mr Wilson has a need.” I also saw some negative reviews on Amazon for books defending Christian faith, such as Ravi Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, making statements like, “In an era where our teachers and ministers alike are striving ever harder to imbue our children with a sense of the beauty of cultural diversity and concord among the peoples of the world, Johnson and Zacharias’ contribution to children’s literature is shameful and backward,” or “I don’t see any difference at all in the real teachings of Jesus, Budha, or krishna [sic]. They all teach Love, Compassion and unity w/ all that is … i.e. god.” Then there were the comments on a post around which I based one of my own posts, in which the author asserted that Evangelical Christian alliance with Mormonism is a bad idea.  Some said things like, “. . . Who are you to say what is right and what is wrong? If you study the orgins [sic] of Christianity from Constantine, you’d be running the other way asking, ‘where is the true Church of Jesus Christ?’ […]  Who is to say the Mormons are wrong? A bunch of preachers in a bunch of Prostestent [sic] Churches that get paid well for what they preach? What did Christ or any of his apostles get paid?  I could go on, I just get tired of seeing people bash other religions when they really don’t have any basis for what they say other then some concocted interpretation of the scriptures . . .” (Fun feature with this last article I mentioned–Jay North commented on it.  As in THE Jay “Dennis the Menace” North.  He’s Mormon.  Okay, moving on.)

Not only is a serious Christian faced with the obstacle of people tossing out what they say entirely based out of this modern idea of “everyone’s right, no one’s right”, thus making sharing our faith very difficult, but we have to stand tooth-and-nail against that approach making its way into our churches and teachings, which seek to sterilize the world-changing message of the Gospel.  This gets to be frustrating.  It’s frustrating to try to express your honest tolerance of the existence of other belief systems, but your unwillingness to accept them as equal to the teachings of Christ, and have people therefore write you off as closed-minded or a bigot.  When that happens, it becomes very tempting to scream “unfair!,” because, regardless of whether people want to admit it or not, people and organizations in America do bend over backwards to try and play nice-nice with many religions (especially Islam) but don’t bat an eye at disrespecting Christianity.  (Please refer to the above blog post by Katz for my final response to such issues).

Now let’s head back to the beginning of this post, where we find those claiming the Christian faith are, on one hand, fighting for “their rights to be Christians,” and demanding respect from the world because they are Christians, while on the other hand, they are trying to resist the worldly pressure to “just say that your belief is one of thousands of ways to be a good person, nothing more.”  Are you noticing a correlation here?  I am.  I’m going to step out on a limb and declare causation, too.  A very logical conclusion is that (B)–widespread acceptance of relativism has led to a great deal of, if not all of, (A)–Christian culturism and the digging in of heels.  I think this is a good thing to notice, because it helps give me a better understanding of where someone who equates their Christianity with conservative social movements is coming from, and also gives me a better awareness of how a non-believer may see me as “just as bad as them” since I don’t think Mohammad and Jesus basically said the same things.  Interesting how this leads me back into that place of “the radical middle.”

As is often the case, I don’t have much discussion prepared on this beyond the initial observation.  So please share thoughts with me in the comments if you want to expand more.

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But the PARENTS!

So I’m a big fan of the show The Commentators, which is a radio talk show that plays on KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM here in Seattle.  I’m pretty moderate when it comes to political and social issues, so it’s the perfect show for me, since the two hosts, Ken Schram and John Carlson, typically approach their topics from the left and right, respectively, and debate on local issues and news stories, and base the show around calls from listeners.  Since I had recently become bored with listening to my music at work, I decided to listen to recordings of their show available on the KOMO website.  Several shows over the last two weeks have dealt with issues involving school, in some fashion; this is likely due to the fact that school is getting ready to start again.  The Commentators opened up discussion on things such as a school district asserting its right to search a student’s cell phone if it is confiscated and they have reason to believe rules of some fashion are being broken, another school district that will search student’s Facebook profiles if it’s brought to their attention that something against school rules is mentioned on there.  The cell phone one came up twice.

We could sit here all day and debate whether the school has these rights, whether the students should be allowed this much privacy or that much privacy, etc.  What I’m interested in today is the common refrain brought up by callers who were viciously against the school checking cell phones and Facebook profiles.  “This is not the school’s responsibility; the parents should be more involved in their kids’ lives!”

Now I completely get and understand where they’re coming from, as most reasonably intelligent modern adults would.  Bad parenting is an epidemic.  We can put blame on absent fathers, on permissive parenting, dismissive parenting, teenagers with the mentalities of 8-year-olds having babies, and so on, all resulting in children and teenagers with no respect for adults or authority or common sense rules.  (I could run off on tangents about how the last 30 years or so have taught a couple of generations of kids that “self-esteem” and “trying hard” are all that’s needed to succeed in life, but I’ll save that for another time.)  Yet there’s this contradiction in spirit with some people who hold to that understanding because they also insist that no one BUT the parents should have authority over their kids (and some even still insist that the parents have limited authority, too; but, again, some other time).  The problem, I think, has been that we have developed this unholy mix of “we know there are lots of bad parents out there” and “but the kids have rights!”

Let me be more precise to what it is that I’m referring.  Let’s take the topic of the school searching Facebook pages.  The stance is that they will search a Facebook page if it is brought to their attention that some kind of activity that is illegal or against school rules is discussed on the site, such as a bully threatening someone on their wall.  (The question has been raised about, “what if they say bad things about a teacher?” and the answer was not concrete).  Many people who called in to The Commentators that were hard-lined against the school’s “right” to do this cited the fact that “this is the parents’ responsibility!  The parents should be the ones speaking up and taking action!  The parents need to know what their kids are doing online!  This isn’t anyone else’s business!”

But hold on a second.  How long do we put up with snotty, entitled kids and their attitudes and people insisting on their “rights,” while simultaneously complaining about how snotty and entitled they are, and insist that their parents “fix” them when we know they WON’T?  I feel like a lot of people could use a serious reality check.  Bad parent’s aren’t going away.  And it’s extremely unlikely the problem will get less severe in the years to come.  So while we don’t give up on the idea of insisting people be better parents, I really don’t think that we can wash our hands of what the kids do in the mean time.  And that means giving schools authority about school-related issues.

Let’s discuss this briefly in another, related area.  A recent Seattle news story: a 10-year-old boy got shot on a bus–turns out he was the ring leader of a small band of other kids holding up another kid, and the gun “belonged” to the 10-year-old, and he’s been in trouble with the law since he was 8.  His mother’s attitude in court has been, “What right do you have to bring my baby to court?”  Juvenile penalties, especially in the state of Washington, are very lenient (the penalty for a juvenile possessing a gun is 0-30 days detention for the first FOUR offenses).  Yet when one person mentions making the penalties stiffer on bad kids, someone inevitably will speak up and say, “Stay out of it!  THE PARENTS should do a better job with their kid!”–yeah, and also people shouldn’t steal things.

I don’t really don’t know much about the iconic Hillary Clinton book, It Takes a Village, but that title alone speaks a little bit of truth.  We really cannot continue to cite better parenting as the only solution and only option when the parents won’t be better parents, no matter how much we say they should.  Of course that doesn’t mean that we toss out a parent’s authority, but it does mean that I think we could do well to set up a more stringent series of ultimatums.

the end.

Well . . . mostly . . .

I highly recommend taking twelve minutes to watch Keith Olberman’s monologue on the outcry against the “mosque” that is planned to be built “at Ground Zero.”

I don’t know when this originally aired, but the You Tube post from which I embedded that was put up on August 18, so it’s been nearly two weeks, at least.  It was about that time that I first heard some of the facts about this “mosque” that Keith has pointed out:  it’s not a “mosque” but a community center with prayer rooms, a basketball court, and a culinary school, it’s not “at Ground Zero” but several blocks away, and the Islamic community behind it has been in New York for decades.  While I didn’t rise up in righteous furry when I first heard about the mosque at Ground Zero, I certainly wasn’t a fan of the idea.  Then I heard the truth behind it and quickly realized that it’s nothing to be upset over; I fear that far too many more people’s pride won’t allow them to drop their anger so easily.

I understand and agree with Keith’s warnings of the possible consequences of allowing anti-Islamic violence in America to continue unchecked and ignored.  I think the most powerful part of that whole speech was his quoting of Martin Niemöller.  I want to add to Olberman’s dissection of it a Christian perspective–

Christianity and conservatism/The Republican Party are not synonymous.  “Christian” and “church-going American” are not necessarily synonymous.  “Christian” and “Oh sure, I believe in Jesus and God” are especially not synonymous.  And this time I’m not meaning it from the angle of “being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to protest abortion clinics and vote Republican,” though that is true.   What I mean is when Gingrich or Palin or Beck spout something off as truth and try to sound like they’re on the side of Christianity, realize that they are after their own agendas, and on their own missions, not following Jesus.  They are not our spiritual leaders.  They are politicians and pundits seeking votes and viewers, not to advance the Kingdom of God.  If you make an effort to understand the vast divide between the them and Jesus, you’ll find yourself having to choose a side.  Not between left and right, not between donkey and elephant, not even between pro-choice/anti-abstinence/evolutionist and pro-life/pro-abstinence/creationist, but between following man or following Jesus.  And that’s good.

But there’s another side to this, still.  Olberman and the Left, and those on the Right, all make a broad assumption as to what I, a Christian, should value most.  They assert that I should value what America values first; that my first concern should be defending and upholding this country’s freedoms (in various interpretations, depending on who’s talking), and that I should stand proud next to my atheist, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Unitarian, etc., brethren as Americans and say, “Freedom is important most of all.”

Well, I don’t believe that.  I understand the value and privilege of living in a country like this, and try to keep in mind not to take for granted what I have in that.  But my first concern is living my life for God and following  his commands, and part of that is spreading his message to all people.  I don’t believe at all that “whatever  you believe is fine as long as you’re a good person.”  I believe that without accepting Jesus’s sacrifice, one cannot be justified before God, and will therefore spend eternity in Hell, separated from Him.  At that point, one’s thoughts won’t be, “But at least I was ‘Free.'”  And this is where a lot of Christi-conservi-publicans find themselves, and use that to justify such things as demanding that the people behind an Islamic community center renounce the Koran to get the building permits.

Now let’s flip that on its head to bring this post full circle.  Jesus did not raise up a military against the Philistines.  Paul did not lobby the Roman Empire to accept The Way.  James did not organize protests outside the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  They spoke truth, took care of each other, invited others in, and loved and prayed for their enemies.  That is what Christians do.  That is what far too many are not doing.

There’s not much more I can add to this.  I hope I got my point across.

A True Sign of Increasing Age

So maybe you’ve heard about this, where someone took a Justin Bieber single and slowed it down by “800%” and made it end up sounding like something Sigur Ros would do.  (The number is in quotes because there’s some debate on it, though there is no informed debate about the song actually being a Bieber single).  Personally, I found it awesome.  I listened to all 35 minutes of it at work.

This brings up an interesting topic.  Not the act of slowing down pop songs to make them sound like the orchestrations of Icelandic post-rock groups, but Justin Bieber.

Ágætis Bieber

So how about a quick history lesson for those of you who still have never heard of him?  He had a Youtube channel and was discovered by some music guy, who promptly introduced him to singer Usher, who, along with other industry people, have opened up some checkbooks and turned him into a teenie-bopper pop sensation.

Because he is so successful, he naturally has attracted a lot of attention; a lot of which is not so desirable.  The internet is rife with Bieber-hate these days.  I first became aware of him probably five or six months ago, spending too many unemployed hours in a day on sites like Failblog, and began to notice the hatred of acts like The Jonas Brothers shifting to this kid.  People knock his alleged androgynous appearance, his higher-register voice, his poppy music, etc.  It’s really the standard stuff.  But there was something about all of that which I noticed.  I first began feeling this particular way when I observed the large amount of Jonas Brothers hate, but now that it’s Justin’s turn, it’s completely realized and confirmed.  The feeling is . . .

I don’t really get why people hate this kid so much.

You know, I was someone who was passionately anti-Boy Band in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  I was sure that acts like theirs would destroy music.  I was convinced that their fans would grow up to be mindless corporate slaves.  Yet they all faded away, music is just the same as it was then (i.e. the good stuff is seldom the popular stuff), and I’m actually good friends with several intelligent, well-adjusted girls (excuse me: women) that recently went to a Backstreet Boys reunion concert.  Yes, that’s right: Backstreet’s back.  Alright.

So I guess I should re-phrase my previous statement.  I know why people hate him so much, but I have absolutely zero understanding for it, and have even less amusement from it.

The rest of the Aughts focused its pop enthusiasm on solo diva acts and poppy “punk” or “emo” groups until Disney® became, I guess, a record company and we end up with groups like Hannah Montana* and the aforementioned Jonas Brothers at the top of tween and teen girls’ squeal list. Well it seems that all of those guys just paved the way for this 16-year-old sensation to take the market by storm, as well as becoming the object of many an internet user’s ire.

The first time I ever actually heard anything by him was right before hitting play on that slowed-down version of his song “U Smile” (read: yesterday, around 4:10 p.m. PDT).  Let’s talk about this for a second.  First, it’s very poppy and I could only get about a minute into it.  But not because it’s bad per se, but because it feels like way too much chocolate cake and ice cream.  But the kid can actually sing (admittedly, though, I don’t know how much Autotune was used).  He can sing well.  If you think differently, then you don’t really understand singing.  He’s good.  I also read up a little on him on Wikipedia, and found that he is also a self-taught musician that can play guitar, piano, trumpet, and drums.  He’s 16.  At 16 I was a failed trombone player and in my seventh year of piano lessons, but only at level 3 in the Bastien Piano Books series.  At 16 my older brother, who has yet to be topped in the rankings of “people I know that are insanely good with music,” had been playing guitar for two years and was really good, and I think may have dabbled in piano by that point, but was really a one-instrument person.  This kid has learned four.  I don’t know how good he is at all of them, but to have a basic understanding of more than two without training (heck, even with training) demonstrates not just talent, but intelligence.

I could go one-by-one through the kinds of insults and large-scale pranks pulled on him (some apparently by the ever-classy 4chan group), but there’s no need to.  Just read any string of comments on anything about him and you’ll get the idea.  I see that stuff and think, “Why?  What’s the big deal?  He’s a flavor of the week and will fade away within the next year; two years, tops.  Anybody can see that.  So I say let him enjoy his ride and be a decent human being and hope he doesn’t end up wrecking his adult life like so many pop stars before him.  There’s no benefit in belittling him, and doing so only puts on clear display your own insecurities and jealousy.”  But not everybody understands that.  I didn’t understand it in 1998.  Nor did I understand it in 1991 with the New Kids on the Block.  I’m actually a fan of Donnie, now (via Band of Brothers, of course).  I’m pretty sure it was the same thing with Leif Garrett and David Cassidy and Ricky Nelson, too.  It’s weird to say this with the utmost and honest-to-goodness sincerity, but I’m too old for that kind of crap anymore.  I’m certainly not going to be picking up any Justin Bieber singles anytime soon, but I’ll be where I am now, secretly hoping the kid busts out some indie-cred in the next few years and ends up becoming the voice of his generation or something.  I’d laugh, for sure.

So would Justin.

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*Yes, I know Hannah Montana is not a “group.”

Hipster Syndrome

Let’s start with a joke.

Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: It’s this really obscure number, you’ve probably never heard of it.

Now let’s move on to the disclaimer.  While I never have and likely never will consider myself  a “hipster,” I’m certainly a fan of things such as movies and songs, etc., that aren’t immensely popular, or that are somewhat or largely unknown.  I prefer to go to the small-guy-owned music store or video game store, and have paid more than I could have in a few situations to support them.  The same goes for certain brands of food and drink (micro-brews, anyone?  Am I right?).  I’m by no means exclusively “anti-mainstream” with any of this stuff, but I operate out of the understanding that popular does not always equal good.  Especially these days.  These days, popular means that it’s been marketed a certain way, and said marketing is backed by some deep pockets.  Quality is an entirely different issue.  Music is the easiest example of this.  The acts that sell out arenas today almost always fit into one or more of these three categories:

  1. They are an act that has been around for at least 25 years and revolutionized popular music in some fashion at some early point in their career;
  2. Their primary fan base is composed of girls somewhere between the ages of 8-18;
  3. Their image, songs, and performances boast some kind of faux, extreme sexual identity, drawing on nothing else for artistic inspiration.

Notice that none of those indicate quality.  They instead 1) give you what you already know; 2) exploit the impressionable, and/or 3) appeal to the most primal of human urges to keep you from noticing the lack of talent or originality.

Now, let’s move on to my main point.  I hope that my reasoning for that was driven home in those few sentences, because that’s all the time I’m spending on this side of the discussion. There are actually hundreds of different ways to approach and discuss this kind of topic, but I want to focus on one specific side of it:  when an individual decides that they do not like, want nothing to do with, and will stand against any celebration of something that is popular, based on nothing more that the fact that it is popular. I’m going to call this “Hipster Syndrome,” because I honestly tried to come up with something better but couldn’t.  If you’re not sure what a “hipster” is, go back to the beginning of this post and read the joke again.  That should give you enough basis to be able to follow my logic, because, honestly, this isn’t specifically about “hipsters” at all.

Sorry.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon for a very long time.  I certainly noticed it in myself, but was more amazed at how I saw it in others.  (In fact, it might be that I did see it in others that made me become more conscious and averse to it in myself.)  A few days ago I read a blog post by someone on the East Coast that told their story of their first, and possibly only, visit to an IKEA store.  You can read this post here.  Before proceeding, I want to make it clear that I am meaning no disrespect towards, or attack on, the author of that post.  But I am using him as my guinea pig.

Most of the commentors seemed to take from the post exactly what the author intended–a humorous and somewhat negative observation of IKEA stores and products.  I found something different.  Notice that he decided on his personal boycott of the IKEA store based off of nothing other than the fact it got lots of local media attention.  He justified it further by hearing other people tell “(stories) of how wonderful the store would be,” and seeing people line up for days in advance leading up to the opening of the store.  If that’s not striking  you as odd, let me explain to you why it should.  Logically, when one sees other people getting excited about something and talking at length about how good it will be, the reaction should be intrigue at the least, if not equal enthusiasm.  Certainly not disdain.  So why does this guy experience the opposite?  Why did I decide I hated any ska bands that made it on MTV when I was in high school?  Why did that one guy at that birthday party I was at a few years ago hate video game consoles?  I don’t think the IKEA guy hates furniture or Sweden.  I loved ska.  And believe me, that guy at that birthday party was a GAMER if I ever saw one.  So why?

First, I think that, for some or many of us, seeing other people become very excited about something about which we know nothing produces a feeling of isolation and exclusion.  (There’s a tangent there that I could go down, but I won’t this time.)  We might not immediately identify it as such, but trust me–that’s what it is.  So all of these other people like this thing that we’ve not heard of until after everyone else was talking about it; OR what happened was some people talked about it/we noticed it a while ago and we had little or no interest to check it out then, and now it’s really popular but we didn’t join the club early.  So we’re at a crossroads.  We can get into whatever-it-is, too, but then it might look like we were getting into just because everyone else is.  This is 21st century America–we don’t follow, so that’s likely out of the question.  We can choose to ignore it, but chances are that if it’s big enough to reach this point, it’s too big to avoid for the forseeable future.  Lastly, we can just go ahead and decide that we don’t like it, whether we’ve checked it out or not.

If it ended there, there would be really no discussion.  I have no doubt that for some people it does.  But the fact is, many put their identities into their opinions.  You don’t have to look too hard see this.  I had  a co-worker who was passionately anti-plastic and pro-organic.  I have an old friend who is viciously child-free.  I know tons of people from the midwest who base their lives around being pro-life or as creationists.  This finds its way into “lighter” subjects, too.  Ever meet someone who really doesn’t like Pepsi or Coke, or both (RC rules!)?  Try having a conversation with someone who is in their teens or early 20’s that doesn’t like Justin Beiber.  An amusing recent one was people who didn’t like Lost.  Are you old enough to remember Sega vs. Nintendo, like I am?  Oh, and a really valid example within video games is this apparent new school vs. old school gaming rivalry going on today.  The list can go on.  I even fall into this, unfortunately (I’m working on changing that, though).  Talk to me about “emo” music sometime; yeesh.  In each of those cases, it’s likely that at least some of their identity, as they see it, is found in those opinions.  The litmus test for this is to take the opposing point of view and see how they react.  Do they shrug off the fact that you see something differently than them, or do they debate with you?  So now they have an opinion about this thing that other people got into that they didn’t, and part of who they think they are is found in what they think about that thing.

What happens next for the full “Hipster Syndrome” effect is that the superiority complex shows up.  It says, “Not only do I not like this thing they like, but I am clearly much smarter than them to not have bought into it!”  After all, if it was actually worth anything, you’d have been into it, too, right?  The interesting thing here is that it doesn’t take weeks or months to reach this point–often, the “Hipster Syndrome” sufferer can end up at this point within a few hours to a few days of the topic in question first coming up.  And once you’re here, it’ll take an enormous amount of humility to get past it; especially since so many modern people (as I’ve observed over the last decade or more) are blissfully unaware of their own internal, mental workings (or at least blissfully dishonest about them).

So the IKEA guy knew little to nothing about IKEA when it was announced one was being built in his town.  He didn’t get or understand the hype*, so rather than shrug it off and not be worried about it, he found identity in being someone who refused to have anything to do with the place.  This was intensified when he finally did make a visit while looking for something he needed and experienced frustration with various aspects of the store, retroactively justifying his dislike for it and likely further solidifying his identity as an IKEA-hater.

I was into ska music right before groups like (early) No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones became popular.  When I would mention that I liked ska to someone, they would often ask if that meant that I enjoyed those bands.  Since those bands already had a large, mainstream following by that point, I could not lay claim to “knowing the band first.”  Rather than seeing if I liked their music on my own, I instead touted my superiority to not only those who thought those bands were better than the bands I did like, but also to those who just liked them in general.

. . . except creepier.

While I can’t confirm this at all, I have my suspicions that the gamer at that birthday party a few years ago loved his Compy back in the 80’s.  When the NES and other gaming consoles hit the scene, he either didn’t get around to getting one or his parents said, “You have a computer, that’s enough.”  After trying games here and there with a game controller throughout his childhood and adolescence, he became frustrated because he was more used to keyboard-based input, and likely felt left out of the conversations that his peers would have at lunch about the new games that were out, or even watching them swap games to try, or talk about visits to the video store to rent some.  By the time the mid- and late-90’s came around, and PC gaming began leading the industry again, he was able to justify his distaste for consoles by quoting the superiority of his prefered method.  Now that PC games are arguably even with console games in their capabilities, he’s dug his heels into the ground of his camp and displays distrust and condescension towards anyone who sees things differently.

So, in an attempt to tie all this together, I stated earlier that I don’t operate out of the assumption that popular equals good, as some do.  But the other extreme of that is believing that popular equals bad.  I don’t know the IKEA guy’s background, but his initial reaction to hype surrounding something he didn’t know led him to an immediate distaste for it.  I remember once hearing the band Save Ferris, recognizing them as ska, and then just days later saw that some of the more popular guys at my school liked them–solidifying the fact that I would detest them henceforth.  And the gamer?  I quote, “I don’t DO consoles . . .” in the middle of a conversation about Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Consoles equal bad games.  I would want to suggest that people pay more attention to their motivations, and don’t let “popular or not” influence you one way or the other . . . but I’m not preaching here.  I’m thinking.  And when I think, I provide no solutions.

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*Let us be clear that to have bought into the (possibly excessive) hype surrounding something, and then experiencing it and being let down, is not the same as outright despising something that has hype surrounding it.  The author of the IKEA post does end up going to the store and determines that he finds the patrons to be zombie-like, the names of the products to be laughable, and the floor plan to be frustrating.  That’s justification in retrospect, and it’s also entirely possible that his experience was as negative as it was because he entered into it with such low expectations.

The Inconsistency of “Tolerance”

Here on WordPress, the main page of the site produces several blog posts that are published on that particular day, and it’s great to skim what others write and even find some really fun blogs and/or interesting discussions.  The latter was the case last Friday when I read a post that was a call for society to practice tolerance across the board; that we should recognize, as people, we are all different and will have different likes, preferences, beliefs, desires, etc., and we should respect and accept the fact that those differences do and will exist, and accepting this is important above all else (and of course, it is most important in the areas of sexuality, religion, and culture).  You can read the whole thing here.

Now I, like many Christians, have an immediate clash with this kind of approach.  However, while many who share my uneasiness tended to take the “if you tolerate everything, you have to tolerate intolerance, which contradicts the purpose of tolerance in the first place” angle (some did so eloquently, others no so much), I opted for more of the “such a call to action is as much a ‘do things my way’ demand as anything else” angle.  Yet I’m not writing this to reiterate my comment.  The author did reply, clarified (I assume) her own meaning a little more, and thanked me for adding to the discussion.  On such a forum I could not ask for a more mature response.

Instead, what I’m writing about today is about many of the other comments that were left by the hundreds of readers of this post.  The following is a very clear example of what happens when you get a bunch of people into the same place that have all opened up their hearts and turned off their brains.  Sometimes they claim to agree with the author but add their own two cents, thus contradicting the original post, then the author would thank them for reading and say that she agreed–neither one of them noticing that their ideas are incompatible.  Other times they contradict themselves in the same sentence.  Even the author is so bent on mushy feelings that it seems she won’t even stand up for what she has said.  As I said before, I think she’s mature in the way she’s handled the comments, and I have no intention of belittling her, but that doesn’t mean I think she knows what she’s talking about.

Here are some excerpts from some comments and my responses to them.  (All comments are copied and pasted, so . . . you know . . . [sic]).

(the Author, in response to my comment) I respect you opinion and that you disagree with my approach, but I am not trying to say that it is the way I think it should be, therefore it is the gospel truth. All I tried to do is put into words what i feel, which is what most people tried to, is what you tried to do with your comments. . . .

Except that she DID say that it was the way she thought it should be.  That was the very nature of her post.  It’s right there in the title: “The World Would be a Better Place If . . .”  Maybe she’s new to the “game” when it comes to expressing these kinds of opinions, but honestly if you aren’t prepared to commit to what you say you shouldn’t get in the ring.

If people give up identifying themselves as separate to each other, then and only then, we will witness a shift in the consciousness of the world.

How about some Sociology 101?  There are essentially two different, overarching, cultural structures:  collectivism and individualism.  Collectivism is a society like China or North Korea where the individual’s desires are irrelevant, and the desires and expectations of family and society trump all.  Individualism is the opposite, meaning each individual person is allowed and expected to define themselves.  “Tolerance” is an individualist point of view in that each person is expected and encouraged to find their own truths and respect those that others make for themselves.  This comment, though presented as being in line with the post (and even agreed upon by the author), is a collectivistic idea, in that our lives are all intertwined and we need to understand that the things we decide for ourselves effect others.  The two are contradictory, but neither the author nor the commenter noticed.

It’s true that a lot of us struggle to take in ideas and concepts which are different from ours, once we grasp the idea of respecting another individual for who he/she is, the world would definitely be a better place.  I think we do not need to harness hatred for others, but it is not necessary to preach the love for all humans. Acceptance will do It is very neutral.

I find this one fascinating because this person is insisting that “loving one another” is unnecessary–just accepting is fine.  Well, I could argue all day about how demanding the minimal “acceptance” is not nearly enough to make any place better, but instead let me ask a different question, since this is the perfect opportunity to pull out an old debate:  isn’t “hatred” an idea or concept that is different from your own, and therefore should be taken in or respected?  If that strikes you as a silly or tired argument, then let me ask who draws the line, and where?

(In response to another comment that stated such things as “rapists should rape other rapists,” etc., seemingly facetiously) If a person kills another, that is clearly wrong and the LAW should deal with them. If a man loves another man, who has been harmed? I think you are confusing ‘harming people’ (which is wrong) with ‘offending people’s sensibilities’, which is due to their own beliefs.  Lifestyle choices should not even come into the realm of law and punishment, unless that lifestyle choice ends in somebody being harmed. . . .

There is an assumption made here that this commenter thinks is basic, human understanding, but is actually based out of beliefs: harming someone, anyone, ever, is wrong.  Not every society ever (and currently) has agreed that harming anyone is inherently wrong.  In fact, the “do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody” philosophy is not only one point of view among thousands, but is also fairly recent.  This also flies in the face of the relativism of “tolerance” because that is an absolute statement.  There is this ignorance among the “tolerant” in that they don’t always realize that many of the truths to which they cling are dependent upon a system of absolute truth.  More of this on its way . . .

Thank you for this post and your thoughts. It’s disappointing how some people go to that slippery slope when thinking of acceptance of difference.  Certain things are true: abuse of power, or acceptance of what happens within the context of any power imbalance is wrong: that means certain things should never be accepted: acceptance; hate, hypocrisy and abuse.

On what is this person basing their belief that “certain things are true?”  Who determines this imbalance of power?  Based on my own beliefs, demanding that every religion be accepted as equally valid is an imbalance, because those other religions are not truth.  Giving equal precedence to (what I believe are) lies and deceptions is not balanced, so you can begin to see how the phrase “power imbalance” is cripplingly ambiguous.  More coming still . . .

We all just want to be accepted as we are. Who knows why God made some people Gay? Who knows why God made my eyes blue? But they are and that cannot be changed Being Gay is not a choice and being Gay is NOT A SIN. Best response is simply to give thanks and accept yourself first.

I have gotten into discussions before where I suggested that homosexuality is not genetic but could be a result of genetic predisposition and certain environmental factors that would vary from person to person.  I’ve made the “mistake” of suggesting this to be similar to how someone could be predisposed to be an aloholic or have a violent personality, and the person on the other side of the argument almost always hits back with, “are you suggesting that being gay is like being an alcoholic or abusive?”  The hole in the logic of that rebuttal is a mile wide, but  there’s no strong way to respond without saying, “Yes, I do.”  In a nutshell: I hate that rebuttal.  So I want to say that if I can’t use that comparisson to support my view, you cannot compare homosexuality to being born with blue eyes.  But alas, back to the other issues in this comment.  Note the lack of reference here.  ” . . . being Gay is NOT A SIN.”  Why isn’t it?  And why is accepting  yourself first the best response?  I believe the opposite of those things and my reference is the Bible.  Agree or disagree, I have a reference; this person’s reference appears to be how they feel.

What’s with people taking tolerance into the deep end?? Is racism tolerant of people with different cultures or ethnicities? Is murder tolerant of the desire for someone to live a full life? Tolerance is a slipperly slope apparently! One day we accept homosexuals as normal, next we’ll accepting the pedofile down the street to watch the kids! A loving, tolerant community wouldn’t allow sex trafficing, pedofilia, rape, or anything that harms the community. (and no, having homosexuals around doesn’t harm the community.) It’s not intolerance, it’s just true human nature.

This person obviously finds the (admittedly tired) argument of “if you accept everything, you must accept pedophilia” to be invalid.  I feel the need to remind them that as recently as 30 years ago, and certainly 50-60 years ago, the idea of government-recognized gay marriage was laughable, so don’t underestimate the power of some confused person’s sympathy to a misguided person’s ploy over time.

. . . No God of mine would support such lack of compassion.

Interpreted:  “My ‘God’ agrees with me.”  One of the more serious problems I see in all of this is those who aren’t atheists or agnostics seem to think that their self- and culturally-determined beliefs are also what God deems good or bad.  That’s rather egocentric, don’t you think?  I certainly believe God loves us and that God is infinitely more compassionate than we could imagine, but I’m not basing that idea off of my list of preferences.

. . . It seems that some people are really caught up in believing their thoughts. If everyone paid a little less attention to their thoughts and a little bit more to the present moment, we’d be on our way to a happier place.

What’s so funny to me about this last one is that I completely agree with the first sentence, albeit with an entirely different focus.  But the rest of the comment, not so much.  What dictates that “the present moment” is superior to other moments?  I should just give up my beliefs and opinions and go the way that society is going?  Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the direction of the present moment is a direct result of someone’s thoughts.  I think what this person means is “people need to pay less attention to the thoughts they have that don’t agree with what I think is right.”

There’s a lot more comments in there, but I think I’m done.  It does frustrate me to hold to my point of view on these things because people assume that playing “devil’s advocate” with their philosophies means that one supports hatred.  Well of course I don’t.  Yet I don’t think, either, that hatred is our world’s number one problem. . . . that’s a post for another time, though.

A Few Random Thoughts Upon Returning from Carbondale

So I just got back to Seattle from my church network’s annual Summer Conference, held in my college town and home of four years, Carbondale, Illinois.  Throughout my few days back, I had some thoughts and observations about the town, the restaurants, and a few other things, and have been looking forward to writing them out upon returning home.

The Nightlife movie critics are beyond ridiculous . . .

In late 2003, I picked up a Nightlife on a Thursday or Friday, as I often did, and read the review for the newly released Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  In a nutshell, they said, “Since there’s a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this new summer-quality movie, some people might actually manage to mistake it for real cinema.”  A couple of years later, I read the review for Batman Begins, and the reviewer gave it (I think) one star out of five, complaining that it takes itself too seriously to be a movie about a comic book character, and you don’t even get to see Batman until more than an hour into the movie.  Well, I opened one up while standing in line at Don Taco this past Wednesday and read short excerpts from the review on The A-Team, which I LOVED, and I honestly don’t think the reviewer watched the movie.  Sure, he was probably in the theater, but he didn’t WATCH it.  All of his complaints are complaints of someone who has managed to combine a reasonable jaded-ness in light of modern Hollywood, with a serious over-abundance of self-importance and ego.  He decided, “this is a movie that is based off of a cheesy TV show from the 80’s, when few big movies are anything but updates and remakes anyway, therefore it’s worthless and I don’t care.”  At least I know few people there take those guys seriously.

The Giant City Water Tower is a lot like YouTube . . .

I guess I knew that years ago, too, but now I have a really good comparison to get it across to people who have never been there.  It’s 85-86 steps up to an observation deck, spiraling around a central support structure, and it’s all covered in Sharpie® and Bic® messages that have the maturity and taste of comments on YouTube.  Some of these graffiti artists appear to actually seek out comments from other people they don’t know to belittle and mock their memories there.  I could do a long rant on how disturbing it is that such actions are tolerated more and more, but I’ll spare you and me from that one.   The oldest marking I saw was from 1999, and someone CARVED it into the paint, so the rain can’t wash it off like all the stuff from April 2009 and before.

New Kahala has the worst service I’ve ever experienced . . .

Disclaimer: I’ve never been impressed with New Kahala.  People remember it fondly alongside their college memories, which is fair (I cling to Don Taco over all, and, depending on the day, Italian Village over Quatro’s, so it’s all subjective).  The food’s not bad, as long as there are no roaches in it (talk to my wife), but I’ve NEVER felt welcome there.  The restaurant owners and employees have only ever managed to make me feel like a burden to them.  The dining room has the feel that it’s only been spot-cleaned for the last 20 years, and the passive-aggressive notes around the counter give the customer a sense of, “complaining is futile.”  The guy that ordered his food before me ordered some kind of soup to go.  He was sitting at a booth waiting for it when the guy that seemed to be in charge came out and brashly asked if he wanted a styrofoam container or a bowl.  “I’d like a bowl,” the guy said.  A few minutes later they give him his soup in a bowl that’s clearly intended to be used in the restaurant.  When he told the lady who gave it to him that he had specified it to go, she argued with him for four minutes along side that guy who was in charge, saying, “We ASKED you if you wanted it in a container or a bowl, and you said a BOWL!  Why did you say you wanted it in a BOWL if you wanted it in a CONTAINER?”  Then they reluctantly re-packaged the soup and the guy was on his way.  I guess there’s really no sense in complaining about New Kahala for too long since I’m only ever there once every year or two, anyway.  Especially since the customer service in Carbondale restaurants is pretty low overall (most food service workers there treat you like an inconvenience; I know I did it when I was one).  But if the average score for everyone is 4 out of 10, New Kahala is a 1.

I can’t believe the Hangar 9 is gone . . .

If there was one hangout that defined my memories of Carbondale over everything else, it was the Hangar.  I know people are polarized over it, as with anything else there, but I loved it.  And now it’s gone.  It’s one thing to leave a place behind with so many memories; it’s something else to find out that the places where those memories took place  no longer exist.   . . . but the more I think about it, it’s probably best that I don’t cling to those memories too closely.  It’s still weird, though.

I like SIU’s expansions . . .

I’ve heard from some people that the new library sucks, but from the outside it looks pretty nice.  And Saluki Way is coming along well.  I just hope they can turn that enrollment drop around (but then again, the enrollment has been “dropping” to around 18,000 students since I went there).

Steak n’ Shake changes, as lots of things do.  Yet some things do not . . .

I could go on and on about how the changes to Steak n’ Shake fascinate me (in mostly good ways), from the re-painting of the walls red, to the re-structuring of the booths in section 4 (which is over a year old now, but whatever), to the re-writing of the menu to a much more customer-friendly and affordable setup (such as including fries with burgers).  But this post will be long enough, so I’ll share ONE.  At one point during my second and final visit to my old place of employment, I saw Ed stick his head out of the entrance to the back section, look around at the dining floor, then head back to the back.  Ed was and is the dishwasher.  He was a pain in the butt.  I later went to the cash register to pay my bill, and I asked my server and service trainer, Nicole (I think), “So tell me–is it still like pulling teeth to get Ed to wash silverware?”  Without flinching for a millisecond, despite having never met me and not knowing until that moment I was a former employee, she responded, “Like pulling teeth and getting a root canal.”  I feel for Nicole and her co-workers as only former Carbondale SnS employees can.  I’d pass on the tricks I learned to get him to do it, but honestly I had all but completely blocked my memories of that man until I saw him that night.

My old house is in nearly the same shape it was when I lived there, but I’m shocked at how run down it is/was . . .

409 South Washington, if you live in or near the ‘Dale and want to check it out.  We were two doors down from Italian Village when I lived there, until three months before I left when my neighbor’s house burned down.  It’s in serious need of a paint job or new siding, and new windows.  And doors.  And, if the inside hasn’t changed (which it likely hasn’t), some drywall.  But if Frankie keeps that rent low like she did when I was there, she doesn’t have to do those things because the college students will fight to get into that location for that price.  That’s college town property ownership, I guess.

It’s nice to see that someone’s living in my old apartment behind the mall . . .

I’m making a mental note to blog my story about our apartment building getting struck by lightning.  Heck, I could do several blogs on Country Club Circle stories.  But, it’s not Country Club Circle anymore, the pool’s been filled in, and it seems that they’ve finally repaired building 10.  I know for a fact that two conferences ago I was able to walk into my old apartment.  At that point, me and Adam and Justin were still the last people to have lived there, and they hadn’t locked the doors yet.  I wonder if they ever straightened out the foundation.  Oh, I’m excited for these CCC stories, now!

This church network is awesome . . .

I’ve tried to word it a number of ways, now.  I can’t really explain it.  The people in my church and in my network all truly love Jesus and are all genuinely interested in following him and are all awesome.  I can’t elaborate more without going into tangents that I’m not interested in putting out to the masses on the interwebs.  So that’s all you get.

Until next year, C-dale!

If you made it this year, what observations or thoughts did you have?