My Book The People’s War now out!

Uncategorized

cover 2Well. I have released my novel on Kindle. Those of you who have been fans of my blog will definitely like this book. It is a fictional account of the Tank Man, who stood in front of the tanks after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The novel tracks the lives of several people including the Tank Man himself during the protests. The People’s War also describes the turmoil during the protests and the struggle of the student movement to gain footing in the consciousness of China.

Find it on Kindle. Please, also, feel free to leave a review.

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Shot of Reason

Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Injection

We all know how I feel about vaccines. Vaccines do not cause autism and there is no reputable study that proves this.

A recent study released shows that campaigns intended to lure anti-vaccination parents back to the dark side of reason have backfired, turning parents who were lukewarm to the idea into total crusaders against the needle.

What bothered me about the story was not the argument of vaccination vs. anti-vaccination. It’s the core issue of people being turned off when they’re confronted with an opposing view. There was another study done in 2006 when people who considered themselves conservative were shown a fake report arguing the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were then given a report that factually refuted false report’s claims. Did the test subjects shift their thinking? Nope. Apparently being accosted with facts only strengthened their resolve.

That’s a problem with people that has always bothered me. And this isn’t about conservative vs. progressive, science vs. God, global warming vs. Big Oil. It’s about basic logic and how our biases can so easily overpower our abilities to think straight.

I’ve touched on this before, about thinking. We become quite entrenched in our beliefs and once we reach that state, we can’t be convinced otherwise, facts be damned. We’ll result to all different types of faulty arguments to hang on to our cause, strawman logic, anecdotal evidence, sometimes just outright denial.

But why? Why do we latch on to our personal ideas and refuse to let go? The problem really boils down to one thing: laziness. That’s a dangerous combination. Considering two sides to a debate takes work. Keeping an open mind actually requires intellectual energy that we are either too lazy or too obstinate to maintain.

A closed mind requires no energy. It requires no thought process. It requires no ability to comprehend. It makes life simple because we don’t have to waste time trying to understand a different point of view.

The other danger non-thinking laziness presents is that it propagates pseudo-debates. Thanks to petroleum-funded “research” about global warming, they have managed to create a “debate” about the issue that does not exist. More than 95 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that it’s our fault. But those who stand to lose billions and possibly trillions to CO2 emissions caps and other regulations have created an image of a two-sided issue. You don’t really need to have a debate, just the appearance of one, to confuse those who haven’t yet made up their mind. Once the undecided people find out which side they’re on politically, they gravitate in that direction and there you go, a contentious issue where there previously was none.

The anti-vaccination folk have now done the same thing and they don’t even have well-funded, contrarian research on their side. The numbers of those without vaccines are going up, as are the number of cases of preventable diseases like whooping cough.

How exactly do you solve this problem? How do you get people to stop blindly going in the direction they’ve always traveled?

It starts with one thing: thinking. But that can’t happen with a closed mind.

Yes, it is art

Uncategorized

Game art

There’s been a long-brewing debate in recent years about whether video games fit the definition.

Many critics of artistic expression including film, music, TV and such are, for the most part, against the notion of video games as art. Their reasons vary. Most say games don’t qualify because it’s an interactive medium.

Others don’t really give an explanation. They just say games ain’t art.

My beloved, late Roger Ebert certainly didn’t think it was art either.

Many of the naysayers are quick to point out that they don’t play games often, if at all. That, I believe, is the root of their denial. I don’t think it’s fair though. If they’re going on gut reaction rather than some detailed, thought-out thesis, then I fail to see how they can declare video games art or not.

New forms of art are always dismissed when it appears on the horizon. TV was once called a “vast wasteland.” Film too was not considered art at first. Nobody doubts their art status now.

I would venture to say that if some played video games over a long period of time, not just a few days or months even, but for years, they might change their mind. If they played a shoot ‘em up or a role-playing game and that’s all they base their decision on, then I could see how they feel video games are not art.

But if the only movie you ever watched was Gigli or Grandma’s Boy could you be blamed for saying film isn’t art?

I’ve been playing video games since Super Mario Brothers (yes, the 8-bit version). For the longest time I felt video games were certainly not on the same level as any other art. But as time wore on and games improved with better graphics, better story lines and better audio, I changed. The first time I played Limbo, all I could think of was that its universe was just breathtaking. How anyone could play that game and not call it art is beyond me.

One of the things I notice about those who argue against video games as art is their methodology. Many times they negate it as art because of some aspect that games have, such as keeping score, which critics claim art should not include. I’ve read from one critic who said if video games are an art so is basketball, which would make Michael Jordan an artist. (That argument is ridiculous of course because critics themselves judge art. Hell, rottentomatoes.com and metacritic.com give numerical scores for movies, TV, music and video games.)

So they point to an existing facet of video games to disqualify them. They do not, however, discount video games for anything that it lacks. This is interesting.

Like opera or film, video games contain many important elements to what is considered art: visuals, music, spoken word, text and more. How can mediums that encompass all forms of art not itself be art? If that were the case then museums are not art despite their architecture.

As some proponents of video games have pointed out, maybe it’s a waste of time to define what art is. If people can read great works like Ulysses, look at great paintings by Picasso and listen to classical music and THEN disagree as to whether they’re good or not, then I don’t see how you can proclaim any iron-clad definition of what art is.

Maybe instead of asking what art is, we should ask, “What is the purpose of art?” Why does anyone spend days creating a painting? Why does anyone spend hours walking through a museum to look at them? Why does anyone compose and produce opera? Why does anyone watch opera?

Once we can pinpoint the inspiration for creating and appreciating art, maybe then can we define it.

To me, that will never happen because people will always disagree. Views change over time. Delineating art status to me is no different than language, which also morphs. If the rules of commas, capitalization and language structures shift with the times, so then does art.

My personal favorite response to the question “what is art?”

Jack Donaghy.

“It’s paintings of horses!”

Old Life II

Uncategorized

type1

I was interviewing him because he was charged with murdering his wife. He shot her after an argument, one of several.

He was driving his car and she was driving hers. When they passed each other at an intersection he reached out if his car window with a gun and shot her through her window. He tried to commit suicide, putting the barrel in his mouth when police got to the scene. The cops talked him into surrendering.

It was definitely one of the oddest husband-on-wife homicides I’d covered.

He told me when I interviewed him that he was joking with her. “Playing around” he called it. He wasn’t trying to kill her, he said.

I never understood why guys confess murder to a journalist. Usually it’s for attention, I think. Sometimes I wonder if it’s to spite the detectives who they refused to talk to. He was the second defendant who opened up about his crime to me.

This guy told me he wanted to apologize to his mother-in-law. He never had a family, he explained. He grew up in a broken home, parents were never around. Neglect. Abuse. You name it.

When he married, his in-laws became his family, especially his wife’s mother.

He repeated over and over, he just wanted to tell her he was sorry about what he did. That’s why he let me interview him.

I’m not sure what that meant to her. She wouldn’t return my calls to talk to about his confession.

I did get subpoenaed. My notes were copied for the prosecutors. The guy plead out though. Fifty years. I didn’t have to testify.

A Growing Life

Uncategorized

gracet

A year ago today, my daughter Grace was born. It was not a good birth and she wound up entering this world in an emergency C-section.

It was scary. Then once she was born, my wife had preeclampsia. Scarier. We were at the hospital for five days before mom and baby were healthy enough to go home.

A lot’s changed since that day. We went through the months of waking up in the middle of the night, searching for a daycare, taking her to the doctor, dealing with coughs, hearing her laugh for the first time, seeing her crawl. It’s been a lot in just short 12 months.

She’s beautiful too. Everywhere we go, people stop us and talk to her, telling her how cute and sweet she is. It’s like she’s a celebrity or something.

I named this blog Sublime Life in part because of what I experienced when I first saw my daughter. It was beyond what you can feel and describe. It was a deep sensation and my soul was stirred. Things were different, forever.

You’ll notice my Instagram feed on the right is full of pictures of Grace. I have something worth sharing now on social media. I event spent hours upon hours to make the four-minute video of her first year.

I find myself happy for no reason. I smile when she comes home and she smiles at me. The simple developments are enough to fill me with joy.

In short, it’s been sublime.

Your Own Life

Politics, Uncategorized

Well, not long after I wrote about the absurdity of a company’s efforts to patent DNA locations and that Big Agriculture owns modified genes in seeds, the Supreme Court came out with a decision today saying a corporate entity cannot stake claim to naturally existing DNA.

For once, someone agreed with me.

Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion in the Big Agriculture case, wrote the opinion for the court issued today.

“We merely hold that genes and the information they encode are not patent eligible… simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material,” he wrote.

The company CAN hold patents on DNA that it has changed, which is very much akin to the previously-mentioned, genetically-modified seed case.

Click on the pic below to read the full decision:

Own life

Trust Us

Politics, Uncategorized

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the nice things about the law, despite everyone’s grumblings, is that it’s based on black and white interpretation. When a judge comes down with a decision, he bases it on his interpretation of the text.

The law can be based on bills passed by legislature, contract clauses and decisions from previous cases. There’s always some written letter which the law is read, digested and interpreted. Period.

Then there’s this.

A judge ruled yesterday that organic farmers cannot bar the evil, giant, biotech Monsanto from suing them for unwittingly using seeds from organic plants that are cross-pollinated from genetically-modified plants. The judge said Monsanto has already promised it wouldn’t sue organic farmers in said circumstances and that it states so on its website:

“…we do not pursue farmers for the accidental presence of our patented technology in their fields or crops.”

Apparently that’s supposed to be enough to sate organic farmers’ fears that they could be sued when they accidentally use Monsanto-tainted seeds.

Monsanto likes to play like it’s this very altruistic, yet capitalistic company who only sues and intimidates farmers because those farmers are breaking patent law. But their genetically-modified seeds are working their genes into regular, organic corn. That means once “organic” seeds begin to see more of the Monstanto genes, then the organic crop magically becomes Monsanto property and subject to a contract which the organic farmer never signed.

This is unnerving and scary. Patenting life I mean.

Even scarier? That justices would base their opinion not on case law, not on passed legislation, but a website. A website? Why not base a decision on the back of a cereal box or a billboard ad?

Judges need to stick to the law and the pure sources thereof. We can argue and bicker all day on a court’s opinion about the law. But when those opinions are based on text that is not designated law, it’s dangerous. It means that we could essentially make our own laws on our own websites. We can make a contract that’s binding on the Internet that doesn’t require any signature.

Also, Congress, presidents and the federal courts have been very generous with Monsanto in the past. But now they don’t even have to go through them anymore. They can just write their own contracts online, with no approval from authority.

Yeah, scary.

Oh yeah, that legal case about whether it was legal to patent life, was settled in the Supreme Court. The decision was a boon for Monsanto, who was not a party in the case. But the justice who wrote the majority opinion in that case, Clarence Thomas, is the former general counsel of Monsanto.

Food for thought.

Big Thought

Philosophy, Uncategorized

I firmly believe that most all human problems are attributed to one flaw: our unwillingness to think when it’s inconvenient. We all have the capacity to think. It’s just that it takes effort most of the time and it seems like a task to think beyond what we experience.

Investment failures, prejudicial bias, political partisanship, relationship problems, they can all be traced back to a refusal to review, to think.

Not thinking makes life easy. We don’t have to see others’ points of view or try to comprehend something unpleasant. Life is simple when we can take something that we don’t want to deal with and put it in a closet and shut the door.

Being a black-and-white thinker is effortless. Despite all of our attempts to make our mind a canvas with one dimension, it goes against nature. The world is like a gem, with facets all around that refract light into different colors from different angles. To understand all of those differences, you need to be willing to look at them.

When we sit in our own personal corners and watch the world from that perspective, we stop growing. This is when we become “set in our ways.” We don’t want to learn new ways of doing things. We don’t want to make the effort to comprehend someone else’s point of view. We don’t want to understand different cultures. We don’t want to know why some abstract painting is art. We want people to do things our way. We want people to speak our language. That’s when things get dangerous. When we stop progressing, we draw lines in the sand and would rather fight than think about an alternative.

Lack of thinking generates a world of calamity. It creates enemies, starts wars and sets us all on the path of disaster.

There are those who will say “there are times when you must act and not think.” This is true, especially in times of a response to violence or the specter of violence. But our action can be the appropriate reaction when we think about how we’ll react before we are forced to confront a situation and make a hasty decision.

Be a thinker. Everything starts with a thought, an idea. Reason, choice, action, worship, epiphany and emotion— they are all products of thought. What goes on in your mind eventually matriculates to your actions. What you think influences what you do and what you do is who you are. Every bad deed and every good deed you’ve done started in your mind first before it became an action.

Be a thinker. No matter how disturbing or difficult the situation, thinking may not find you the answer, but it will get you closer.

Be a thinker. People may deride you because you seem unwilling to settle on one view. They’ll call you a lazy dreamer, pretentious and say your head’s in the clouds. They’ll say you think too much and don’t do. It isn’t true. Just because you take your time acting doesn’t mean you don’t take action; it means you know when to act.

At the end of the day, this is all about understanding both yourself and your world. It’s important to understand and to apply thinking to everything you experience because it spawns new ideas and new approaches to old problems. Understanding leads to generating better solutions both for you and your world.

Living with one view is not thinking. Living with a single stance stymies understanding. That stagnancy causes your mind to atrophy and you end up being only what the world will allow.

Think about it.

(originally posted on Medium.com)

New Hope CCLXVI

Philosophy, Uncategorized

hat

For the first time in 2,000 years, the Roman Catholic Church has a pope born in the New World.

He’s doing things differently too. Francis, the Jesuit, opts for less opulence when it comes to the pomp that surrounds the pontiff. His muted demeanor is a symbol for what the church should be doing right now, operating with a little humility. After several years of the pedophile priest scandals, it’s time to make amends and show the flock that their leadership is worthy.

And yet, a month into his new vocation, some aren’t happy with Francis because he’s not kissing the asses of particular factions which Benedict courted.

I was born and raised a Catholic and I had always been proud of my religious heritage. This is mostly because I was brought up in an area with a lot of heavy evangelical influence. Since the pedophile accusations and allegations of the coverup came to the surface, I don’t find myself kneeling in the church very often. I sure as hell haven’t been to confession.

I’m angry at the upper echelon of Catholic management because instead of trying to hide the pederasts and their scandals, they should have hung them out to dry and turned them into the police.

Why didn’t they do that? My theory is money. They knew once it got out that they had a problem, there would be lawsuits, losses and settlements. They didn’t care about having predators preying on the flock, they were concerned most with their finances.

That is obscene. If this is a religion and espouses beliefs and rituals done in the name of a God, then how could they live with themselves knowing children are being victimized?

I’m also angry with fellow Catholics for their passiveness in dealing with the problem. If they really wanted to stop the problem, they should have hit the church where it counts the most— the pocketbook. One Sunday without tithes from every Catholic in this world and Rome would have had a course correction in their legal strategy.

Pope John Paul II (on the path to sainthood) and Pope Benedict dealt poorly with this and willfully ignored sidestepped the problem. Now there’s a new man in a white cap. There’s a lot of hope that he can solve these problems.

But what are people concerned with now? He washed two women’s feet at a recent ceremony and that angered traditionalists.

So we’re more concerned about a pope washing women’s feet and not priests fondling children?

I’m so relieved we have our priorities straight.

Godspeed Frank.

Uncategorized

I don”t reblog a lot but I really enjoyed this, mostly because it’s exactly how I felt when I left the newspaper business.

Sticky Valentines

Here I am interviewing a Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue official.

I get asked two questions several times a week, and I brush off both with a verbal swat.

One — because I’m in my late 20s, I suppose – is when are you getting married? And the other, because it seems like small talk, is why did you leave the newspaper?

I could answer both with a single word: Money.

But I usually deflect the marriage subject, wrongly justifying it as an acceptable passing question, with a practical reason: I’m not eager to have children. And I answer the news question with something to which my audience can nod along: “It didn’t seem like a sustainable career path.”

But that’s a cold and detached answer. I don’t feel cold and detached about news, and I only give that response under the assumption that people don’t want to hang around for the full story – ironically, the same reason newspapers aren’t really working anymore.

So…

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