Technicolor Sexplosion
20 most recent entries

Date:In the year of our Lord, Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 18 hours and 36 minutes
Subject:Socialize Health Care Less than the Military
Security:Public

A discussion in support of John Mackey's Wall Street Journal op-ed was recently forwarded to me by a family member. Though I'd heard about the op-ed, I hadn't actually read it until now. I thought I would share the response I sent:

Perhaps the statistic on people waiting in line for some sort of care in Canada is true, though I'd be interested to see what specific treatments they're actually waiting on. I think a much more relevant statistic is that we have more than the equivalent of the entire population of Canada that can't receive any health care at all beyond emergency treatment. The only reason they're not in a line because there's nothing for them at the end of it.

I take issue with the quote "All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments." Opponents of a public option love to recall this imagery. Let's get two things straight. First, we already ration health care. It's just insurance company bureaucrats rather than public servants who do it. Second, there are innumerable ways to implement publicly funded health care options, and a couple dozen different successful models we can learn from. This mythical waiting list that is universally associated with any medical socialization damages the debate and obscures the rich world of options open to us. Japan, for example, has a form of quasi-socialized health care that is actually speedier than our own. You can go to a specialist without a referral at any time, no appointment necessary. The treatment will probably be higher quality. Oh, and by the way, you'll pay less than half as much (yes, including the increased taxes).

Of course, every medical system, no matter its degree of socialization (if any) will have unique problems (and unique advantages). But complaining about a particular facet by which two of the plethora of socialized systems has a longer waiting list for nonessential treatment is a bit like criticizing the paint color of your neighbor's Lexus while you're not sure if your '89 Camry is going to get you to work tomorrow.

Now let's address this s-word that people love to talk about in this debate. That word, of course, is "socialism". Let me point out that virtually everybody in this country is in favor of some degree of socialism even if they don't realize it. Whenever you drive, you depreciate public funds through your wear on the highway. Or, take the military. I argue that our military is actually the most socialist entity we have, as it's distributed with near perfect equity. A homeless person receives just as much military protection as Bill Gates. That's far more socialist than any welfare scheme we have. Americans are in love with socialism, it's just a lover we tend to deny on a regular basis. Need I also remind people that there's nothing inherently anti-government-service in our system of government -- let's not forget that a publicly-run postal service was written into our Constitution by our founding fathers.

Does this mean your choices are more limited? Does the government decide where you can drive? Does the government decide who deserves to get hit with a foreign bomb? No. And likewise, there's no government bureaucrat in a dark room who is going to decide you can't get that liver transplant. Insurance bureaucrats, however, do that every day.

If you still want to deny that lover of yours, let me know, and please include a plan for privatizing the military in your response.

The debate over what should be socialized, however, is quite valid. Everybody wants a socialized military and nearly as many want a socialized interstate system. Next to nobody wants socialized electronics and jewelry industries. And all that is fine with me.

I argue in favor of partial socialization of our health care industry, as in virtually every case among modernized countries, it has resulted in lower costs, increased coverage and more often than not, higher quality. This is not an argument that we have an intrinsic "right" to health care any more than we have a right to military protection. But it's something that simply works better -- and by better I mean cheaper, faster and with higher quality -- with a healthy dose of socialism. For health care, I want far less socialism than we have in our military and far more than we have in our jewelry industry, the exact amount of which is a topic worth debating. But the whole "slippery slope" argument that letting even a little in will result in some sort of communist state and wealth depletion is just wacky, no matter how much I respect Prime Minister Thatcher.

So I encourage people to think rationally about this, and not imagine this mythical communist motherstate every time somebody talks about public funding of health care. You're already the eager recipient of a great deal of socialism. It is up to us to make thoughtful decisions about where and how government should intervene. And in this particular case, a certain amount of government intervention will lead to more choice, better quality and lower costs for everybody.

11 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Thursday, August 13th, 2009 at 0 hours and 11 minutes
Subject:Bureaucracy as Uniquely Human
Security:Public

So, my friend Johnny told me I need to take after him and start writing a poem a week. He has since sent me nagging emails to remind me. So, I guess I better crank at least one out.

This one is in line with my theme of standard bureaucratic environments being less than optimal at engaging the whole individual. I don't know what this meter is called, but I thought it would work well in a musical!

Specialization
(written for a musical)

My work I would defenestrate
If it would not obliderate
My paycheck;
That's just my point of view.

Though most we did capitulate
And dreams did not eventuate
From youth;
I wish I never knew.

But our egos we inflate
Over tiny tasks particulate
For dollars;
They are big deals, it's true.

So daily we sit obstinate
And true falsehoods we venerate
For comfort;
A modern work crew.


Background: I've started thinking about why humans function in a bureaucracy. I'm reminded of this video that pizzuti posted a while back, and something struck me. The fact that humans can go through motions without understanding why is absolutely necessary for us to function in modern bureaucracies. If we had to understand the justification behind every action, management of large masses of people simply couldn't occur, as nobody on the ground would have the necessary context to cooperate. But at the same time, it often leads to us doing our jobs without any sense of meaning.

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 22 hours and 00 minutes
Subject:Van Speaks
Security:Public

It recently came to my attention that d2leddy advised people to "Hop on the Vanwagon". I'm not sure what I did to deserve this, but I assume a resulting update is expected.

Speaking of him, I just got back from spending a weekend at his and vbseth's home, the experience of which was most useful. The couple was complimented by 2 dogs, 5 cats, 60,000 cucumbers and a veritable plethora of sundry poultry.

My life in Washington has become always busy and usually dull. I needed the lack of artificial stimuli to let my mind start working on the backlog of observations about the world. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for this city. I have a tremendous number of brilliant and exciting friends here. It's just so hard to corner them into have a real conversation sometimes. People are so scared of honesty, reflection and thought. I'm slowly assembling a list of people in my life that I fantasize about making visit me in a log cabin somewhere with no distractions so we can all just talk.

Obviously, I don't really write any more. Part of that is the lack of time, but only part. A bigger piece is my lack of analysis. My days tend to be so full of obligations that I haven't been performing my specialty lately -- thinking about what I've seen.

I feel like Moldova these days. I have a rich past, a renegade province and plenty of wine -- but I'm depressed with nothing going on at the moment, seeming mundane and insignificant compared to my neighbors. I have a lot of earned value, but end most days feeling useless. I just looked back on a few journal entries from when I first arrived in DC. I was more like Singapore then -- small, but smart and exciting, with things to offer. Oh well, at least I still know how to misuse or overuse commas and em-dashes.

I've probably been going through something akin to an early mid-life crisis. I'm starting to feel some of the same feelings I felt at my last job (the awful one), but not because the job is bad. It's not. Fundamentally, I have a very good job, nothing like the last one that actively sucked. The pay and benefits are nice, the people I work with are competent and the work is relatively high-profile for my industry. But the job doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I realize that's a rather frivolous complaint in -- wait, everybody in unison -- "in this economy", but it's what I need to be happy. The thing is, I know what sort of work I need to do to be happy, or at least I think I do. I just don't know how to get into it. It's all very insular. And they require pesky things like graduate degrees or experience in the field. Hmph. It's almost as if bright eyes and optimism aren't enough any more. Maybe I lost the bright eyes.

In any case, the last thing teh interweb needs is another WASP complaining about his lack of spiritual actualization. It's my job to fix and I have the resources to do it. I'm just pissed off about it right now.

Sorry I've been silent lately. I do sporadically read LJ, but please let me know if there's something I need to know!

8 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 at 23 hours and 36 minutes
Subject:Van ity
Security:Public

My latest standard "About Me" (for Facebook, LJ, etc.) in draft form. Seeking comment.

I find the world's beauty overwhelming, even when people are at their ugliest. The mediocrity of ideas in humanity's modern institutions, however, astounds and depresses me. Sometimes I drink too much. I grew up in America's Deep South -- Mississippi, specifically -- and taught Cotillion when I was in high school. My personality has been to dust and rebirth three times so far. I live and breathe modern-day Rome -- Washington, DC, specifically -- but have an interest in its counterpart to the East, rising back to its place after a brief respite. I've even dabbled in learning the language.

I'm excessively flirtatious and may have the most diverse dating history of anybody I know, decorated by both genders and many ethnicities (arguably all of them, depending on the academic sense in which you count them). As I watch my body slowly change over time, I strategically plan my socialization as I reconstitute the rawer aspects of my human sexuality.

I regret I know only one language fluently, but am glad a useful one was chosen for me.

My heart tends to stay in many, many places at once. I have a vast and boring intellectual bureaucracy to keep that facet of me in check. But, it's good at its job.

I disavow the quaint notion of Aristotelian logic, including its hot topic of the day, human sexual orientation.

The facts that my mother still seems proud of me and boyfriend tolerates me are really quite phenomenal. I wouldn't blame either of them for walking away.

Years ago, I got lost on the River Gambia in a rain storm, led by a one-eyed captain who didn't have a compass. I was shaken down by the Russian mafia and managed to get out of it giving up only 300 MDL ($20) (separate experience). I first held a gun when I was six years old and my father set me down in a swamp to hunt alligators. I walked around Iceland at three in the morning, talking to a Frenchman contemplating suicide. I shook over a thousand hands at a wedding in an Indian desert town. I love the national anthem of Azerbaijan.

I work in a technical industry. After college, I applied to 2,000 jobs before I got an interview, so don't bitch to me about the job market. I have not owned a TV or microwave for years. They fall under my general umbrella of frivolous and possibly damaging technologies.

I most likely want to hear what you have to say. Just shoot me an email, and don't make it small talk.

16 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 22 hours and 01 minutes
Subject:Yummy!
Security:Public

I just devised a new staple meal, the first batch of which I hope to make tomorrow.

The following makes eight (8) meals:

1.8 lbs brn rice
2.6 lbs chicken breast
1.1 lbs broccoli
24 egg whites

If my calculations are correct, for each meal, a total of 305 calories comes 53% from protein, 42% from carbs and 6% from fat.

This doesn't include some other seasonings and vegetables, notably some olive oil when cooking the chicken, which will increase the fat content a bit.

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 7 hours and 26 minutes
Subject:The President of the United States of America
Security:Public

President Barack Hussein Obama.

Sorry, I just love typing that. I think I got it out of my system. I'm done.

President Barack Hussein Obama.

Okay, I'm really done now. Promise.

Okay, maybe not. Wait for it.

EDIT:
----

From Wikipedia:

"Barack Hussein Obama II (pronounced /bəˈrɑːk hʊˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/; born August 4, 1961) is the forty-fourth and current President of the United States of America."

Sorry. Just had to add that.

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 21 hours and 59 minutes
Subject:President Barack Hussein Obama
Security:Public

I am saying this to all of the cynical, he's-not-a-messiah, nothing-is-really-changing, he's-not-really-black, this-euphoria-is-dangerous, change-doesn't-just-happen crowd:

Chill out. We're not delusional. We just know how to appreciate a good afterglow. The complexities of this situation will set in soon enough for all of us without your help, but until then, stop ruining it.

Loves you more than my luggage. Kthx,
Van

11 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 13 hours and 40 minutes
Subject:Racial Identity in America
Security:Public

I've recently been commenting on some postings by micahblitz among others, regarding the nature of racism in America. A lot of the discussion is highly theoretical. I'm thinking about how I feel about some of the topics and, if I integrate them, how to convey them to a wider audience.

But one topic that I haven't really thought about before this is "white identity".

My thoughts on white identityCollapse )

Theoretical question -- yes, I'm going somewhere with this, and will follow up soon.
You are downtown late at night, alone. You're walking in a relatively upscale neighborhood with low crime. However, there have been a couple of shootings in the area recently that made big headlines. Directly ahead, you see a group of five young black men walking towards you. They're talking loudly, laughing, and moving back and forth, and generally taking up the entire sidewalk as they walk toward you.

Describe the race and/or ethnicity do you identify as, if any?

What would be your reaction to this situation?

27 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 at 22 hours and 54 minutes
Subject:Jumping the Gun - My Contact Info
Security:Public

This is probably premature, but I'll go ahead and jump on the bandwagon to be safe. In case LJ suddenly disappears, here's my contact info if you're inclined to keep it!

Van Allen Goodwin
Mobile: (+1) 202-316-7005
Home Address: 1727 Massachusetts Ave. NW #110, Washington, DC, 20036, United States of America (map)
Email for personal business: positron@redstroke.com
Email for professional/community business: van@vangoodwin.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514867890
AIM: Zscheya
Y!: cinthroployola
MSN: positron@redstroke.com
ICQ: 7265633
GChat: van@vangoodwin.com
(Download vCard)

14 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 10 hours and 30 minutes
Subject:Dream Home
Security:Public

When someone has a lot of time to not work as I have recently, one starts thinking about things like how they would spend their money if they had an income. I started thinking about my dream home. If I could have my precisely ideal living space, what would it look like? What I found was that it's surprisingly humble (for a dream home).

Size and orientation:

  • One bedroom condominium unit, upper-mid-floor
  • Approximately 900-1,000 sq feet (84-93 sq meters)
  • Includes terrace that runs the length of both the bedroom and the main living area, offering floor-to-ceiling windows to the inside, with entrances to both rooms
  • Preferably faces westward
  • Includes one bedroom, one combined living/kitchen area, one bathroom, one closet/changing area and one small utility/laundry room

Finishes:
  • Exposed walls, ceilings and floors that show the raw materials (mostly concrete) and ductwork of the building
  • Picture hanging rail running around the ceiling of all rooms (to change the scenery constantly without having to drill into walls)
  • Generally renewable or reused materials (i.e., bamboo, paperstone, scrap granite, etc.)
  • Nothing fake (i.e., all doors are solid; all wood surfaces reflect the real wood rather than a more expensive one; anything that looks old really is old rather than made to look like it, etc.)

The main living area:
This will actually be both the living and sleeping area. I'll use a Murphy bed to convert it to a living-only area when necessary. Other furniture will include a large U-shaped sectional surrounding a coffee/cocktail table, one book case and a dining table for 6. There will be audio entertainment, but no television. People are forced to look each other in the eye at my home.

Kitchen area:
Will include fridge/freezer, small gas stove, oven, sink and two-drawer dishwasher. The jury is still out on the microwave. Not sure if that's a good idea -- they make food too available, lower quality and less demanding of appreciation.

Closet/changing area:
Will offer good organizational capacity for clothes, but not necessarily a lot of space. It should encourage focusing on the quality of a few items rather than the choice of many cheap items. It will reside between the bathroom and either one of the other areas.

Bathroom:
Has natural light; Includes a large combo bath/shower, sink and toilet. Will also have a waterless urinal

Laundry/utility room:
Includes high-efficiency washer/dryer, storage for cleaning supplies, home network equipment (switch, wireless router), and one server to coordinate data backups, handle home automation and function as an audio media server; also houses a survival safe, which includes 5-7 days of emergency supplies, wind-up radio, weapon and a collection of both Dollars and Euros

The bedroom (which I make not a bedroom):
This is a combined office, workout and entertainment area. I've actually decided I can have a TV here (first time I'd have had one in years). But, workout equipment (rather than a couch) faces the TV. So, the TV can be used for entertainment while my body is in use, but I'm forced to be physically active if I'm watching TV. The office area, which includes a large desk and computer, will face the opposite direction, and will include my choice of either a desk chair or Swiss ball for sitting.

Luckily, my dream home is somewhat attainable, even at DC prices. What do you think?

13 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 15 hours and 18 minutes
Subject:My Girl
Security:Public


But no matter what, I will still miss her:





2 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Thursday, November 6th, 2008 at 12 hours and 39 minutes
Subject:Pictures
Security:Public










10 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Saturday, November 1st, 2008 at 14 hours and 13 minutes
Subject:Van Answers: Barack Obama is a Socialist and Why Should I Pay for Your Health Care Anyway?
Security:Public

This is one of the biggest concerns I hear from my McCain-supporting friends.  There are some others I also want to address, but this is a big one.

Let's make one point clear.  Every single dollar taken from you in taxes is redistributed wealth.  Every single dollar the government spends is redistributed wealth.  Changing the amount or allocation of that redistribution by a small degree does not make someone a capitalist or socialist.  Sometimes your tax dollars go to pay for public roads.  Sometimes they pay for our common military.  Sometimes they pay for bridges to nowhere.  But in every case, the point of a tax is clear -- we take money from the people to create a common value for our common society.  We can have a spirited and completely valid debate about the value of any particular decision regarding collective money, but calling someone a socialist simply because they would make different value decisions helps nobody.

Being a socialist means you are in favor of complete collective ownership of a society's means of production.  That is not Barack Obama.  He is not a socialist.  Clear?  Okay, let's continue.

It's common to ask questions like, "Why should I pay for your health care?"  Maybe nobody has ever given you a good answer to that question.  That's why I'm here.

Why should I pay for your roads?  Well, let's say you're a hard worker, but you've gone bankrupt due to high medical bills because your insurance company said your condition was pre-existing.  In spite of that tragedy, you want to do what any good American should do -- pull yourself up by your boot straps.  You want to be productive, you want to work hard, and you don't want to go on welfare.  But you simply can't afford to drive to work because you haven't paid your monthly roadway access fee.  I guess you could take out a loan.  Oh, wait, I guess we all know how that story would go right now.

By paying for roads with public money, we ensure people have access to the economy and society as a whole.  It makes our country fluid.  Aside from a small group of people, we've reached a consensus that redistributing wealth to pay for roads is a good idea.

So, we've established that you're probably not against wealth redistribution in principle.  You simply disagree with Barack Obama on the exact programs it should be distributed to and/or the associated tax rates.  Now that is a topic actually worth discussing.

Why should I pay for your health care?  First, it will be cheaper for everybody.  Yes, even you.  Yes, even the people who aren't even paying for it now.  Yes, even the rich and the middle class and Joe the Plumber and your mentally unstable cousin.  Yes, even Bill Gates.  Yes, even military personnel.  Yes, even the CEOs of medical insurance companies.  Yes, even doctors and nurses.  Everybody.  Every single person in the United States will have lower overall costs with public health care funding.  I guarantee you that there will not be a single exception among the entire lot of all 300 million of us.  "Everybody benefits" I think is the key point I'm trying to make here.  But that is an important point to make when you're talking about a program being worthy of public funding.

Per capita, Americans spend more on health care than any other nation on the planet.  Yes, even more than what the socialist-leaning French pay for health care in the form of taxes.  Sometimes these costs are hidden.  Maybe your company absorbs most of the cost of your insurance.  But those costs are reflected in ways like lower wages or increased product costs.

But why do we spend over 15% (and rising) of our entire economy for health care that is ranked average at best as compared to other developed nations?  Well, I'll give you one of several reasons we have the most economically inefficient health care in the world. 

Currently, there is no incentive for preventative care.  If your insurance company pays for your preventative care, you will have likely moved on to a different insurance company before the benefits of that cost are realized.  In other words, you have to get really sick (and thus have far more costly treatment) before your insurance steps up to the plate.  Not only is this tremendously more expensive, it causes a loss of life and severely decreased capacity for production when people are ill or injured.  This hurts our economy as a whole.

Think about this real-life economic illustration.  I know someone with minor skin cancer.  It could be very easily and very cheaply treated right now.  But, she doesn't have money or insurance.  That skin cancer is probably going to spread.  She will end up in the hospital, at a tremendous expense to the health care system, the cost of which is spread to all of us anyway in the form of higher insurance rates and out-of-pocket costs.  You (yes, you, the one reading this) will have saved a nickel and spent 95 cents.  She will probably die.  Her young children will then go into State custody, which you will pay for.  Those children now run a high risk of going on welfare and causing crime, which results in higher costs for you and greater uninsured injuries.  This is a real cycle that we see in case after case.  It is also potentially millions of dollars of damage that could be prevented right now with a few thousand.

This is not a sob story, but an illustration of why public funding of health care makes fiscal sense.  I'm not even saying she deserves sympathy -- she may not.  But it makes sense to pay for preserving a productive member of society now instead of paying for the repercussions of her illness later.

A key point here is that we're already collectively paying for health care, and paying even higher prices where there is a lack thereof.  We're just doing it in a disorganized and inefficient manner.

Barack Obama has a plan to organize this collective spending we are already engaged in and I invite you to research it.  Yes, it does bring a lot of health care funding under government control, and that can be scary.  But this is a clear case where the benefits outweigh the costs.

Now, you may raise a legitimate concern.  Where does it stop?  Should I pay for your home, your clothes?  This is a valid question.  But recognizing the benefit of publicly funded health care does not mean you support public funding of everything.  We pick and choose like we've always done.  This is simply one to pick.

What I now ask of you is to think about this rationally.  If you have an economic consideration I obviously haven't thought of, I want to hear it.  If you find value in maintaining a principled approach against public financing of anything no matter the cost, that's your right.  But no matter what you do, promise you will do it with clear thought and your own independent research, not calling people socialists or arbitrarily deciding which government programs qualify as socialist agendas.  After you have done that, I welcome any feedback you may have.

Thanks,
Van

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 17 hours and 21 minutes
Subject:Cleaning Up my Online Presence
Security:Public

Edit Journal Privacy

Change "Everyone (Public)" posts to "Just Me (Private)", between 1999-01-01 and 2007-12-31.
797 matching posts have been found.

Are you sure you want to update these entries?

Yes. Click.




Just cleaning up a few things.

And yes, I'm still alive, but I haven't been using LJ much these days. I still read sometimes, though. Add me on Facebook if you haven't already!

7 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 18 hours and 40 minutes
Subject:Cultural Misunderstandings
Security:Public

I found this conversation very interesting. It's between me and a Chinese friend who is at an international gathering for his new job. This is unedited, except to protect identities and to get rid of extraneous new lines.

Van's Friend hey Van
Van: Hi!
Van's Friend i feel frustrated
Van: Again?
Van's Friend yes
Van's Friend this time with cultural differences
Van: I see.
Van's Friend a british guy and a jordan guy insisted to put "Mr. T" at the beginning of our slides
Van's Friend I don't know who that is
Van's Friend then I searched for it, and was totally shocked by the ugly vulgar guy doing that "I pity you" sign
Van's Friend they found it funny, i found it unpleasant
Van's Friend so i refuse to add it to the slides
Van: That is a tough one. Have you told them?
Van's Friend yes
Van: And what was their reaction?
Van's Friend they said i was over reacting
Van: Who are the audience of these slides?
Van's Friend the other team members
Van's Friend and some managers
Van: Are they primarily American?
Van's Friend nope. many british. some indian. some Chinese. some african. some american
Van: What about the team members that suggested it?
Van's Friend the guy who came up with this idea is from Jordan
Van: That's interesting. Well, that one is a big cultural issue. You have to know Mr. T well enough for him to be nostalgic before this can be funny to the audience. And if you don't get it, chances are a lot of the audience won't either. That may be a point to bring up to them.
Van's Friend the Kenya girl besides me didn't get it either
Van: Right. The Americans and British will probably get it. Some Indians may. The Chinese and Africans probably won't.
Van's Friend anyway
Van: But aside from that, it sounds like they may still be in college mode. Mr. T usually isn't appropriate for a professional audience in your field.
Van's Friend he's like 26... even i am 24. it's over, the crazy college life.
Van: It takes a while for a lot of people to realize that.

2 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Sunday, July 27th, 2008 at 11 hours and 53 minutes
Subject:Watching Movies
Security:Public

For the first time in my life, I think I'm starting to get movies. I've typically had difficulty tolerating them because I think they're boring and their depth of activity seemed too low to keep my interest as compared to real life. In real life, like this café I'm sitting in now, a tremendous amount is going on. Each table has a rhythm marked by facial expressions, hand motions, words, and inflections of voices. Each table is its own little symphony, and I can dart among them at will. It's a playground.

Movies seem synthetic. One tiny strain of real life is artificially extracted, stripped of its nuance, highlighted in Technicolor and decorated with gaudy props like a white trash Christmas.

But recently I've learned not to be so up-tight about it. Yesterday a friend convinced me to go see Brideshead Revisited, which I loved. I actually slouched down in my seat and watched it for what it was rather than stress myself out trying to find all the missing pieces. I thought that since a cast of who-knows-how-many people were paid to produce this thing, I should let them do all the work. It was relaxing.

And last weekend, a friend took me to see Ngor yiu sing ming ("My Name is Fame"), an little piece being shown at the Smithsonian, straight from the Hong Kong Film Festival. I hadn't quite gotten the relaxing thing down at that point, but I was getting better. That film was really well done. I liked the cultural collision when in the film, one of the characters made a racial reference that would have been more accepted in the film's culture (a "dark-skinned Filipina" should have been doing the manual labor, apparently), and the American audience turned so tense the room suddenly became stuffy.

I might have to see a few shows during my hotly anticipated unemployment.

2 comments | post a comment



Date:In the year of our Lord, Sunday, June 8th, 2008 at 22 hours and 14 minutes
Subject:My day today
Security:Public

Today was a very good day.

  • Woke up at 11 AM. Showered.
  • Discussed a friend's visit to the recent conference on the global food crisis over (ironically) lunch. Breakfast burrito. Coffee. Fruit.
  • Iced mocha. Skim.
  • Picked back up Introducing Descartes, the first in a series of "Introducing…" books I tend to read, since this sort of thing apparently got d2leddy's seal of approval, and that's good enough for me.
  • Caught up on some work from home, where I'm trying to do my tiny part on the job to improve our nation's health care IT infrastructure.
  • Walked out into the hot, humid, sunny day. Iced green tea. Sat down in Dupont Circle. Watched the kids play in the fountain, and then the teenage girl with skinny legs who waded in it like a stork. Listened to the amateur country musician play. Meditated and regained control of my body until the sweat stopped and everything seemed clearer.
  • Home. More Descartes. Apple wedges with peanut butter.
  • Set up date with aforementioned friend to discuss inflation over vodka shots in the next few weeks. Scandalous.
  • Gym. Core body, sideways crunches holding a Swedish ball between my ankles. Crunches. Curls. Leg presses. Shoulder presses. Trembly legs.
  • Home. 16 oz cold skim milk with protein powder. Well shaken. Drank it in 90 seconds.
  • Change. Whole foods. Chicken wrap, pita bread, 2 avocados (to go with the pita bread over the next 2 days), a sink drain guard and one scented candle.
  • Home. Water. Shower, exfoliate, moisturize, buff.
  • Ate my chicken wrap.
  • Next: Catch up on more work. Pita and avocado maybe. Descartes. Bed.

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Monday, May 12th, 2008 at 23 hours and 03 minutes
Subject:I Should Have Been a Priest
Security:Public

I should have been a priest.

In a different time, in a different culture, perhaps fifty years ago, or perhaps fifty years from now, I'd have been a good one. But right now I'm in that netherspace, where certain aspects of my lifestyle and my philosophical views are neither shunned enough to be hidden, nor understood enough to be accepted.

Sometimes I feel lost in life because I look at all the things I really suck at. And I think, "Maybe I'm doing the wrong thing for a career, or the wrong thing with my life as a whole."

So, I evaluate if there's something else I should be doing. When I think about all the useful traits I have and all of my shortcomings, really, I'm cut out to be a spiritual leader in an organized religion. Think about it.

I understand macro trends intuitively, and can relate them to micro circumstances. Furthermore, I know how to talk about it. In other words, if you come to me with a problem with your family, with your spiritual life, with your job, chances are I can not only identify how that relates to the changing world, but also explain it to you in a way that makes your environment come more into focus, giving you a better sense of control over your destiny.

I'm very good at making decisions through the lens of a complex philosophical system while at the same time not usually needing to hear anything through that lens. In other words, I can listen to what you have to say no matter if it agrees with my thought processes, understand it clearly without judgment, and not necessarily endorse any of it. This is a trait many people like to think they have, but it's in precious short supply (in fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of people I've ever met who can do this as well as I). It's also a necessary trait of a strong spiritual leader. It makes someone who can empathize but simultaneously offer guidance along a different path. It's fashionable to say that we should respect all views equally, but agreeing with a flawed thought process doesn't help anybody; offering strong and thoughtful guidance does.

Let's face it, I like being at the center of attention and I love traditional procedure. I would actually get off on conducting Sunday Mass (no pun intended).

I perform well in front of large groups. In fact, I'm more comfortable speaking to a thousand people than I am speaking to one.

I recognize subtle group dynamics and environmental factors intuitively. In fact, to this trait, combined with my ability to speak back to someone from their own point of view, I owe virtually every professional success I've ever had. When you get down to it, I've never been all that great at my jobs. I've performed adequately at them, but I've rarely been truly stellar at any of the actual work. I've merely survived (and sometimes excelled) by virtue of the fact that I know how to position myself to keep an environment from fucking me over. This is all due to traits that could be just as well used as a spiritual leader.

I have an ego large enough to offer some stability to my decisions about the world, but I have enough insecurity to allow for change. I will argue passionately in favor of the decisions at which I've methodically arrived, but if I really am shown to have made an error, I almost delight in the opportunity to tell people why I was wrong. Admitting I'm wrong is a proclamation of my continuous efforts to improve myself.

I learn the most from humble sources. Random people on the street in Africa and India have taught me far more about life than any college professor. I am not only comfortable with quiet reflection, I come out of it a better person. My mind creates new knowledge in reflection, not through seeing new things, but from learning more about the things I've seen. I respect some of the most accomplished people in human societies, but I don't find them fundamentally smarter than smart people anywhere else. I've had the privilege of meeting both extremes of peoples in terms of achievement, education and wealth, and I'm here to tell you, neither is fundamentally smarter than the other. I want to offer that understanding of universal value and potential back to masses of people.

Though I've become much better at it in recent years, I still have fundamental flaws with human interaction that keep me from becoming too close to most people. I wouldn't have to worry much about becoming personally involved with people in my parish because I'm honestly not comfortable doing it in my own right. The dressing of a priest compliments my functioning rather than inhibits it. I like the line it draws. I like the separation.

I do have fundamental philosophical differences with the Church, not the least of which is that I neither confirm nor deny the existence of the traditional God. But I don't think that's all that important, honestly. I know how to tow the line. I know how to function in hierarchies. I know something like Catholic philosophy, contrary to the popular opinion of the readership on LJ, is highly sophisticated and surprisingly adept at allowing for debate, so long as one knows how to avoid the land mines. I know how to avoid land mines (see the section on keeping an environment from fucking me over).

But I sit here, feeling mostly helpless about this realization. I know the Catholic Church doesn't want someone like me. I'm really not learned enough about other faiths to pull it off somewhere else. I don't know of anywhere I can go with this.

So I sit, lost, typically in front of a keyboard, doing acceptable work, making a decent salary, spinning gold into straw.

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Sunday, May 11th, 2008 at 12 hours and 02 minutes
Subject:Mother's Day
Security:Public

Female Spawners:

May the results of your reproductive efforts be fruitful. Your contribution to our species is appreciated.

- Van

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Date:In the year of our Lord, Sunday, April 20th, 2008 at 16 hours and 05 minutes
Subject:Pontiffitastic Updates
Security:Public

Just in case you missed all my pontiffitastic Facebook updates during the Pope's visit to DC, here is a recap for you. I know you appreciate this.

April 16th 18:00 Van is popealicious.
April 16th 21:12 Van is pontiffacious.
April 17th 12:24 Van is transubstantiating.
April 17th 15:52 Van is selling indulgences.
April 17th 21:22 Van is interdicting.
April 18th 07:24 Van is iconoclasting.
April 18th 11:24 Van is ex cathedracious.
April 18th 14:12 Van is schismatic.
April 18th 21:46 Van is done with the pontiffitastic facebook updates.

Thank you, that will be all.

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