Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Joy

I'm not a music person, not really.  I mean, I enjoy music, of course.  Well, certain music.  But it never really seems to... I don't know, transport me the way it seems to for so many other people.  Maybe it's some sort of in-born temperament thing, or maybe it's because I never really learned the language of music properly, I don't know, but music rarely speaks to me the way many other types of art do.

I'm best with highly narrative music.  I do love me a good story, more than almost anything else, and music can certainly be a way to do that well.  When there's no real story evident though (to me, at least), I find it much harder to grab onto it, emotionally speaking, and it becomes just sort of pretty sounds to me.  I find this is especially bad with things like jazz and classical music, music that I know - I know - can be profoundly emotional artistic statements, but the meaning, the true genius of these pieces, always seems to be just out of sight for me, and I feel like I'm missing out.  It's like listening to a foreign language: you may find it pretty, even beautiful, but you don't understand.

Sometimes, though, sometimes... I catch a glimpse.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Anti-Vaccine = Pro-Disease

It's taken me a long time to write this post, because it just makes me so very mad.  I can't even include many of the pictures I originally considered in this post, because it makes me too angry.  People who know me know that I don't get mad easily, probably not nearly as easily as I should.  If I am going to get riled up about something, it's most likely to be less an interpersonal thing and more some big, social issue.  I've touched on some already: civil rights, creationism in public schools, etc.  If you really, truly want me to get spitting mad, though, one of the best ways is to bring up anti-vaccinationists.

Smallpox vaccine
Surely you've heard about it by now, from someone, somewhere.  The story most often goes that vaccines contain some sort of toxins that cause developmental problems -- primarily autism -- in children, and that the rise in cases of autism since the early 1990s is directly caused by an increase in the number of vaccines children get.  Supporters of this idea cite their personal experience, where their children only started showing signs of autism shortly after getting vaccinated, and a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in The Lancet.  They claim that children are getting too many and too dangerous vaccines, that they are being pushed on us by the pharmaceutical companies not for health reasons, which are negligible compared to the risks, but because of profit and greed.

This drives me insane.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: The Book Thief

For some reason, when I go to the library I often get out books on a theme, usually unintentionally. A few months ago (because I take a while to read and, more importantly, write), the theme was "books and censorship." Oddly specific, I know. It largely started because of a novel that happened to catch my eye in the young adult section: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, about a young girl who steals books in Nazi Germany, narrated by Death, all sort of things that appeal to me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

11 Great Things About Baltimore

You know, Baltimore gets a lot of bad press.  Much of what people know about it comes from Homicide: Life on the Street or, more recently, The Wire.  It's not unusual for visitors here to expect little better than a war zone, instead of the few bad neighborhoods that all cities have.  It doesn't help that our (now former) mayor was recently convicted for stealing gift cards from needy children.  Even when we top a "best-of" list, the news story is how surprising it is that we're not "worst-of".  However, in the six-plus years I've been working and/or living in this city, I've grown to love it, and here are a few reasons why.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Duty to God

Exactly one hundred years ago last month, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America, several months after being helped on a foggy London street by a boy who refused a tip, explaining that he was simply a Boy Scout doing his daily good turn.  Much has changed over the past century, but much has not.

I've mentioned before that even if I wanted to get back into Scouts as a leader I couldn't, not without being dishonest with them and with myself.  See, I'm an atheist, and the Godless are one of the three "G"s not allowed into the Boy Scouts, along with Girls and Gays.  I was only just starting to figure this out in high school, after I was well into Scouts (and had earned the Methodist religious award).  Even though I've only started calling myself an atheist within the last few years, at the time I was definitely at least an agnostic, and became pretty uncomfortable with the religious aspects.  I kept my mouth shut, though, because I loved Scouts, and wanted to see it through to my Eagle.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of COURSE I Knew That....

The majority of my posts have been of the "lengthy diatribes on serious social issues," and I've been snowed in for the past five days, so I think it's time to lighten up a bit.  (Don't worry, we'll get back to the social commentary soon enough.)  With that in mind, here's a brief list of pretty obvious things I didn't realize until well after I should have, along with the age of realization.  Note that they are all from my late teens or later.
  1. "The Beatles" is a pun, not just a creative misspelling.  I remember realizing this, and thinking back to the old episode of The Simpsons where Homer is in a barbershop quartet.  The whole story was a reference to the Beatles, I understood that at the time, but when they were thinking up a name and Professor Skinner said they needed "a name that's witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it," and Apu suggested "The Be Sharps" it sailed right over my head.
    Approximate age of realization: 18
  2. The lead singer of Rush is male.  All right, to be fair about this, I never really listened to Rush all that much.  Honestly, they kind of annoy me.  Not that big of a deal.
    Approximate age of realization: 19
  3. My grandmother has a New York accent.  And boy, do I mean a strong one.  It's not like it's subtle or anything; it's full-on New Yawker.  She's just always talked (tawked) like that, and I never really gave it a second thought.  She just had Grandma voice, that was all.
    Approximate age of realization: 22
  4. The song "Black Velvet" is about Elvis.  This one was really more a case of never actually listening to the lyrics outside of the chorus.  I do that a lot, actually.  I usually have to make an effort to listen to lyrics, and not just drift off during songs.  I was driving home one day and the song came on the radio for the billionth time during my lifetime and I thought "Hey, I wonder what the rest of the song is about?"  Turns out it's obviously and blatantly Elvis.  Huh.
    Approximate age of realization: 25
  5. The word "segue" is pronounced "segway."  See, okay, I knew the word pronounced "segway," and could use it properly in a spoken sentence, and I knew the word spelled "segue," and could use it properly in a written sentence, but I thought the former was spelled "segway" and the latter was pronounced "seeg" (long "e", hard "g").  I guess I thought they were synonyms or something.  I finally realized it when someone else mentioned to me that they were once confused on that point.  I kept my mouth shut.
    Approximate age of realization: 26
  6. The term "upwards of" a number means "more than," not "almost."  I have no excuse for this one whatsoever.  This is also one of the few where I was caught out by someone, and had to be convinced of my error, because my version was so ingrained in my head by that point.
    Approximate age of realization: 27
  7. The old joke "I don't trust anything that bleeds for three days and doesn't die" is talking about women. This is one that I first heard long before I knew what a period was, and by the time I did know had long since relegated it to the back of my mind, in the "weird crap that makes no sense" bin.  It was revived years later while watching Mel Brooks's High Anxiety, but since the joke in the movie is that the guy had actually been bleeding for several days without dying, it didn't help.  It only popped up in my head and clicked into place for no apparent reason I can remember maybe a year ago.
    Approximate age of realization: 27 
  8. The cookie brand "Chips Ahoy!" is a pun on the phrase "Ship ahoy!"  Nothing special triggered this one.  A commercial came on TV, and it just suddenly clicked.  This was maybe a few weeks ago.
    Exact age of realization: 28
So there you go.  All minor things, to be sure, but still.  So what sort of things did you not realize until embarrassingly late in life?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jack Chick Is My Inspiration

If you know or live near some seriously conservative Christians, or have a predilection for snarking on crazy conservative paraphernalia, then you very likely have, at some point or another, stumbled across the Chick tract.  If you aren't familiar with them, check that link to their Wikipedia page for a brief introduction or, better yet, read a few at random from the official website, where they are all freely available.

Briefly, they are small, short booklets containing a comic-book-style story that usually tells how a certain thing (such as Halloween, Harry Potter, Catholicism, and homosexuality) is horrendously evil, will make you go to hell, and that Jesus is the only salvation.  Now, as you can surely guess, these things are pretty much completely antithetical to my personal philosophy.  As such, it would be easy for me to write a post here making fun of a specific tract, decrying how horrid his strawmen and stereotypes (used for "humorous" effect, of course), or going point-by-point through one to show how inaccurate it is.  Many people online and off have done so, much better than I can.  So instead, I want to tell you why these tracts, and by extension, their creator. Jack Chick, are an inspiration to me.

Let me tell you a story.