A blog dedicated to art, entertainment, language, and culture.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Enjoying What You Do

In the grand scheme of things, I'm certain that being a teacher was not what I was cut out for.  But you can tell when someone really wants to do their job.  Years ago, I went with a friend to a Voodoo Glow Skulls concert in Cincinnati where I met two such people.  Beyond a metal railing between us and the band stood two big, black bouncers, contrasting heavily against the predominantly white audience of lanky rudies and punk rockers.

After the first band closed out their act people began to move to the front of the stage, against this railing.  As a teenage boy, I was there aiming for the front, so I could see one of the bands up close.  The Voodoo Glow Skulls were the hardest and loudest of the ska bands performing that night.  At the time, that meant I wanted to be in a prime shoving and jumping location.  The front would be packed and we would be wild.  My friend and I, while waiting, struck up a conversation with the two bouncers.

They said their job was to stop people from getting on the stage.  This obvious point lead us to ask an obvious question: what they do if someone jumps the fence.  The two became almost gleefully animated, doing a number of semi-joking gestures, they said "We hit them."  It made sense.  That is a bouncer's job.  Sure they jokingly would dance a little while the bands played, but at the end of the night their job was hit people.

They didn't really enjoy standing around, waiting for someone to move.  What we thought was so exciting, watching some ska band I would all but entirely forget the existence of in later life, was exciting to me, but they couldn't care less.  They told us that they wanted someone to jump the railing.  Come across.  Shoot for the stage.  Then they would get to the good part... y'know...where they hit the guy.

That's really what the bouncers were there to do.  Everything else was waiting.  I can relate to this.  My school spends a week testing students every four months, which means I spend the entire day standing at the back of a classroom, watching nothing.  I grade papers and wait for them to finish their work as I pretend to oversee them.  But, that's the moment when I really miss teaching.  Even when it's exhausting, it feels infinitely more rewarding than the dull waiting that can seem eternal.

I think you can tell you like what you do (or at very least appreciate it) if you are bored by not doing it.  When ceaseless periods of "nothing" are happening and you are relieved then you might want to get another job.  However, if you get antsy and long to go back to the grind - whether that grind be teaching or busting heads - then it's certainly worth sticking around.

Truth be told, my friend and I began to feel bad for the poor bouncers.  There was almost a melancholy behind their eyes.  They were genuinely bored and needed someone to hit!  So, we asked if one of us jumping the rail would make them happy.  "Thrilled!" was the reply.  I asked if they would hit me knowing that I was just doing it as a favor.  And in dead seriousness they answered they would definitely hit me.  They would have to hit me.  I considered what was more important, their happiness or my body's well-being.

Eventually, I pulled away from the uncomfortable pressing and shoving that happens toward the front of the stage and was swept into the more intentional and enjoyable shoving that was the mosh pit.  I don't really mosh anymore.  I don't really go to shows, especially the punk rock or ska variety.  I guess I'm just out of the habit.  And I have no idea what songs were played that night or what any of the bands looked like... or honestly, what they sounded like.  I just remember these two guys who wanted to do their job and how I almost let them beat me up to make their night a little better.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How Carrots Got Me in Trouble with the Law

Korea would be a terrible place to quit smoking.  The cost of a pack of cigarettes here is around 2500 won, which in American is about two dollars.  With those prices, it's damn near impossible to make an economic argument to "give up the habit".  If you really want to quit stateside New York will hand you the best reason to stop, with the average cost per pack nearing thirteen dollars.  But there were times when I was living in Ohio that I toyed with the idea of quitting.

For a couple of years, it seemed like I was spending my Summers locked in my apartment by myself biting my nails and avoiding any risk of socializing with other smokers.  The tobacco pipe was a good way to slow the habit, and if I were to quit tomorrow, it would be the route I'd take again.  The trick is to replace all cigarette paraphernalia with pipe.  So you walk out on your back porch and light your pipe.  That might not sound all too different from cigarettes, but there's a problem with pipes.

Pipes take a long time to smoke.  You sit around puffing at them, trying to light and re-light the tobacco.  Then you keep thinking to yourself, "Boy I should be done by now...this is getting dull..."  It's the square-man's mind.  Cigarettes are more addicting than say cigars because (for one) they are quick.  Pull one out, burn it down in several minutes and you can go on with your life.  Bali bali.  A pipe is something you have to take your time with.  So eventually, the only times I smoked were when I was really desperate, which went from daily to never.

Then a new roommate moved in.  I was sitting on the couch playing a game and he went to the back porch right where I could watch him.  Before his bags were in the door, he lit up and I bummed one.

The next Summer, I tried again with a slightly different, slightly stranger tactic.  I'm not sure what drove me to use the method, but I had heard that carrots help subdue nicotine cravings.  So I bought bags of baby carrots.  I ate them everyday as replacements for cigarettes.  I would pace a parking lot or my balcony, holding a carrot between my fore and middle finger, sucking it, chewing it.  Just trying to kill the physical addiction before the mental one, I guess.

Then there was that one bad night.  I couldn't sleep.  Oh, I was nuts for them.  My mind was busy.  There was a lot to think about, and when your mind is running the cravings are at their worst.  So I was out in the parking lot at three or four A.M. on a hot night, barefoot, with a bag of carrots in one hand while stuffing my face with the other.  That's when the cop car slowly came around the corner, drove between me and my building, then pulled up right next to me.

In the front seat sat an infinitely humored police officer with a flashlight.  In the back was a very unhappy dog.  I could practically see myself in this man's eyes.  And I did not look clean.  He asked if everything was alright and what I was doing.  Nothing in me was trying to be funny when I answered that I was eating carrots.  Then I stammered around for a couple minutes trying to explain the ludicrous idea that carrots could help someone quit smoking.  Then he asked about my shoes.

It was about at that moment that I decided to start smoking again.  Dignity has a price, and if it's about a pack a day then I can handle it.  When cops drive by an apartment and see a ratty white boy smoking in the parking lot at 3 A.M. barefoot, they don't take a second glance.  The ratty white boy eating carrots barefoot at 3 A.M. attracts attention.

If there is a lesson to be learned from my experience, it might have something to do with not smoking in the first place.  Don't smoke, kids.  Alternatively, the moral might be eating carrots and self-improvement will only get you hassled by the man.  Don't eat carrots, kids.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How Breaking Dawn Broke Me

There's an Amsterdam liquor known as Agwa that is essentially a combination of coca leaf and alcohol, and when mixed with red bull forms a lethal concoction called, appropriately enough, an "Agwa Bomb."  You might not feel the alcohol working a few shots in, but that's just because you're taking in copious amounts of stimulants at the same time.  If history has taught us anything about alcoholic energy drinks, it's that the stimulants and depressants, when mixed, do not balance each other out.

So Friday night, a friend soon to be leaving Korea convinced myself and another person that if we split the cost of a bottle of Agwa three ways, it would be remarkably cheap compared to just buying shots.  At first, we entered the bar with a fair number group of people.  Thus we became benevolent with our bottle, spreading it around like the party mad hero of a crunk-rap video.  Eventually, it was gone...and none of us felt drunk.

Some of our party had left the bar early.  This meant our second bottle of Agwa could be shared the right way.  Split among four people instead of seven, one would think that the bottle would last, but it the contents seemed to disappear unusually fast.  At the end of the night, the "soberest" among the group were trying to kill the last drops from the third bottle to protect the lives of our flailing friends, crashing around the room.

The above is explanation for the exhausted, hungover state I was in the next day, when I went to see Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in theaters.  Twilight is a film franchise that people either adore or loath, and I loath it, especially the extremely offensive second installment.  But by the time Breaking Dawn Part 1 hit theaters, everyone knew the films were god awful and not getting more progressive in their gender relations.  I found Part 1 shockingly scary at points and hilarious at others, so I genuinely wanted to see the last episode.

The movie began as my sleep deprivation really grabbed hold of me.  It started to drag me under as the film's opening score guided us across a vast, wintry landscape.  The first names began to appear in the opening credits, big words in a deep red.  Oh, sleep could not come fast enough.  

Then everything changed.  The red letters in the names were flushed away, replaced by a cleansing white.  This would have been a very simple, elegant use of obvious symbolism.  The blood is washed away, presumably by snow or dawn... but the names' colors were not the only thing changing.  The font was changing too.  It was going from a serifed typeface to a simpler sans-serif form, like Calibri or Arial.

If you've ever used Microsoft Word, you know the frustration of creating a new document and then having to go through the effort of changing the typeface from ugly, little Calibri to the aesthetically pleasing Times New Roman.  You've probably noticed that there is a size difference between the two fonts.  Times New Roman is bigger than Calibri.  The opening credits of Breaking Dawn Part 2 didn't seem to understand the problems with wiping from one font to another, because there is this difference in size, as well as spacing and shape between the two that drove my sleep deprived mind toward madness.

I just sat there repeating "why" over and over and then I noticed the gravest of opening credit sins.  Occasionally, the background would show an image in red that converted to white somehow and the credits were trying to sync with it... and failing... miserably...  The first line of the movie had yet to be uttered, and I was witnessing something that was so terrible it nearly crushed my fragile mind.  I didn't know if I was about to go into a panic attack or laughing spell.  I did neither.  I was just so in awe of it all.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

We'll Probably Laugh About This When We're All Dead

Something incredible happened in the year 2010.  Back then, we moved from the present into the incredible future.  You might be thinking that we’re always in the present, but I have reasonable evidence that you’re wrong (and probably crazy).  See, for the longest time futuristic science fiction took place in a post-millennial world.  And as we all know, the most significant and life defining of these works was the Mega Man video game series for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  It defined a generation…

For those of you too young to remember the past, Mega Man featured a sleek, high-tech world where nearly everything was a robot, and it also took place in the year 200X.  It was meant to be a vague period in the future, so far away that we probably couldn’t even fathom it with our thick, ape-like skulls of the past.  But now, no matter what digit you would choose to replace the letter X with, we live in a post-Mega Man era.  Hence, we exist in the future.

You should probably start working on replacing your present tense verbs with future ones, but for the sake of sanity, I will continue to write primarily in present tense.

There’s a problem with our utopian future that we probably should address.  What science fiction taught me is that future humanity will embrace science.  And we’ve done a fair job.  Sure the world is a little less Flash Gordon and little too Bladerunner for my tastes, but we have some pretty sweet futuristic tech.  We have boxes you can slip gray junk into and it will come out delicious, steaming food.  We have telecreens that can be used to observe the entire world from a bird’s eye view.  And we have jetpacks!  But for some reason, we also seem to have this endless appetite for hating science.

I remember recently sitting through an uncomfortably long and large Shinchonji cult event with a Mormon, and trying to convince her that science didn’t operate solely on the principle of “faith”.  There’s a lot of stuff in that sentence that should be explained, but we can worry about most of it later.  The important thing (for now) is that I didn’t do a great job arguing that airplanes did not work on faith.  Airplanes do not work on faith.  They use science!

The funny thing is that people who argue science is just another religion tend to ignore how many scientific innovations they use every day.  While I may not be able to tell you how penicillin or a jet engine works, there is a scientist who can with ease.  Science is not just understanding how or why something works, but finding practical uses for it in our lives.  So we probably shouldn’t be embracing the kind of deranged ignorance that…

O _ O

The above would be the greatest parody of the American people ever created, if it were not real.  See, the joke is that people are chanting "USA, USA" to drown out a person demanding action against a well-documented scientific problem that affects the entire world.  Why would you chant USA when someone is yelling about climate change?  You chant USA during a World Cup game or curling at the Olympics.  It shows team spirit, but here it seems to imply that science, or at very least climate science, is anti-American.  And who could argue with a room full of people shouting USA!  Soccer fans from the Ireland or Bolivia could, but a scientist couldn’t.

Science is a pretty apolitical body as a whole.  Sure, politics could deal with ethical questions regarding scientific research, but “believing” in global warming doesn’t actually lean one left or right.  It’s kind of strange to even see someone waving a banner about climate change at a Republican event, but apparently so many people in that group felt science was against their core values as Americans that they chose to drown out his words by repeating the name of their country.  Plus, the man didn't really seem to want to have a political debate.  He just wanted people to "talk" about climate change, or "End Climate Silence."  But they sure shut him up!  It’s all weird and not very "future-y."

So I ask you, people of the twenty-first century, do you really want to spend your future ignoring sc-