Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spoken Word: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

Thought I'd try something different this week, I hope you enjoy it. There is a few tongue-twisted moments, especially near the end of the first video, but it should be ok. I'm too lazy to re-record.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Subdued Sensibility

I'm pretty late for this week's blog post, but I'll get to that in a bit.

Thus far, I have managed to keep one of my 2008 New Years Resolutions, which was to maintain this weekly blog. Although there may have been some bumps and corner cutting along the way, I am proud that I have managed to keep my resolution for almost half the year. As I may have mentioned before, I have a problem with procrastination.

For this particular week, I was plagued with Team Fortress 2, an online multi-player game that I got for my birthday and one which I'm determined to master. I'm taking the time right now to make a blog post as I know full well that if I start playing again at anytime, I won't get anything done.

While procrastination is not something new and unique to myself (I'm sure all of us procrastinate a bit at some point or another), my ability to forgo logic in the process is utterly fascinating. Not only do I somehow overcome overbearing logic that would otherwise motive weaker willed people, but I counter my own logic with reasoning that justifies my actions.

I'll say right now that I fully intend to give up TF2 starting Sunday evening up until my Black belt testing on June 13th. Whether that will happen or not is still in the air. In my mind there is a constant and fierce battle between my motivated personality and my slacker one. Certainly I can become incredibly engrossed in work, evident in quite a few projects that I have undertaken so far this year. However, the hardest part always seems to be getting started. For example, I procrastinate sleep. I can feel a strong urge to rest, but I simply cannot seem to remove myself from whatever activity I'm engaged in and drag myself into bed and close my eyes. Pulling all nighters during exam times have seem to ingrain a habit of staying up late even when there isn't anything to do. For the most part, I would play games, but I would stop that once my mental and motor responsiveness decays. Even then, I would chug along for a couple more hours doing random things until I absolutely must collapse on the bed.

This happens often enough that I can recognize the onset early on. Yet, somehow, I cannot prevent myself from entering the vicious cycle. This is what I called subdued sensibility. The concept is a variation of a decision making trick that I crafted up a while back. The decision making trick is simple: you use a random event, such as a toss of the coin or roll of the dice, to help you make a decision. Once the decision is made by the random event, you examine your own feelings about the decision outcome and, based on your emotions, you can figure out which decision is, in actuality, your preference. For example, if you're deciding between two colours on a purchase (maybe a DS?), you can toss a coin to force one choice upon yourself. If you don't mind the decision, then you go with the coin, but if you're hesitant and not that willing to act on the coin, your preference is obviously the alternative. While this method does not take into consideration third variables, such whether you actually want either in the first place, it does help to make a vast majority of binary decisions.

Subdued sensibility, on the other hand, is a concept that explains your thinking process when you rationalize some action over what logical reasoning dictates. For example, if you know you should be studying, but end up watching a hockey game on TV, your mind provides you with an excuse to ignore studying for the duration of the game. You may suffer regret, or cognitive dissonance, afterwards, but while you're procrastinating, normal sensibility has been ostracized.

The solution? Utilize your brain and make a contingency plan. Do not rely on yourself to make the right decision at the crucial moment. That situation is not unlike relying on a freshly awaken mind to correctly decided between getting up and going back to bed. More likely that not, if you haven't trained yourself, you would go back to bed. My little sister told me recently that she sleeps on the floor on important dates so to prevent herself from oversleeping. Myself, I have developed many systems to keep me from procrastinating. The current one involves keeping a To Do list on Google calendar. However, I may need to change up my habits again as this system is starting to wane in effectiveness. If you have suggestions, I'm willing to give them a shot if I haven't already. 

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Entertaining ourselves to death

There is a book on my shelf by the late Neil Postman entitled, Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Mr. Postman attacks society's love affair with technology, reasoning that it would inevitably lead to our ruination. Mind you, I personally have only read excerpts of Postman's writings. His book sits on my shelf with at least two years worth of dust on it. In the articles that I have read, I've only found a hint of the technophobia that Postman is accused of spreading. And while some of his ideas are rightly laughable given our knowledge today, there are some sound arguments that should be brought into light.

We need not look further than pollution to see that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because of our technology and our attitude towards technology. It is said that the next generation is the last chance humankind will get to clean up their mess. To some, that's a scary thought, to others, it means that they don't have to worry about it. Unfortunately, the actions of the next generation are partially determined by nurture and a pedagogy dictated by "do as I say and not as I do" has rarely encountered success. We love our cars, electricity and consumption too much to even slow down and try to make a minimal difference. Not to point any fingers, but I'm sure that everyone is guilty of being unwilling to give up something that would have benefited the future of the Earth.

This mindset is our irrational love affair with technology. Even though we know better, we make excuses for ourselves to get out of them. Naturally there are many people doing a lot for the good cause, but there are still more things that even they can do. Again, this is say without the intent to offend. Cynicism is a theme of this blog after all.

So I was sick last week. I ended up playing a lot of video games while I was bed-ridden. While I can understand the need for modern day conveniences like fast transportation and illumination after sunset, I still don't know why there is so much investment in entertainment. This is not directly technology related, but is something that has been on mind every since the Playstation 2 was announced.

The PS2 is apparently so powerful that it can be used to direct a warhead. To use such technology and other resource to entertain children seems to me to be equivalent to harnessing the nuclear power of the sun to make a single lollipop for a 3 year old. Economy and "market opportunities" are a subsidiary nuance born from our love affair with technology, stemming from the industrial revolution and onwards. While I do love my video games (ask anyone), it still boggles my mind that there are people out there who can do incredible work to forward the significant progress of mankind and they are, instead, working on the next Mario game.

It is strange to think that we are dooming ourselves in entertainment and convenience, but I suppose of the motives for such actions are escapism and laziness, then it is merited. I still have more to say on this topic, but this is a suitable introduction.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last of M&M Comics

Stricken with illness this week and I can't quite bring myself to do anything. Only 4 more M&M comics left in the archives, so I guess I'll throw them up for this week. I can't believe I've managed to keep this blog up to date for 5 months now. Not too shabby if I don't say so myself.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jung at Heart (part two)

There are many arguments for and against the stereotypes portrayed on television. It seems that, no matter how you argue, television does have a role to play in influencing youths. Mr. Carl Jung had an idea about the human psyche that involved stereotypes, or archetypes, that people inherently knew from birth. These preconceptions guided people's behaviours in their day to day interactions with other people.

Inherent knowledge aside, I feel that television plays a vital role in helping people encode and decipher identities. That is, television presents stereotypes that become subconsciously ingrained into modern culture and people draw from those images to mold themselves into an easily recognizable stereotype. Television, in other words, act as the "key" in this code: people who identify themselves in a particular way want others to identify them in the same way and so they assume qualities that have been associated with that identity, regardless of whether that quality defines them as a person. These stereotypes that people learn from television and other pop culture media also helps them in identifying other people. People are quick to judge, not because of bias, but because there is a need to rectify the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to interact with someone.

Here's an example. My girlfriend got her Bachelors last year in June, but she went back to school in order to become a high school teacher. Before her practicum, she expressed a dire need to go out and buy some "teacher" clothes and a "teacher" bag. These are items that would allow her to show that she wasn't a student, but a teacher. By acquiring and using these items, she is hoping that other people will identify her as a teacher and not as something else.

This is not a bad thing. Rather, it is a necessary thing. People do not walk around with a large version of their business card pinned to their shirt to help you identify them. There is a reason why the police and other important people have uniforms. It is because there is a need for people to recognize and correctly identify each other. Television is a huge factor in this communication process, however, as I mentioned last week, some of the "stereotypes" that it portrays is dangerously wrong and is being picked up and assimilated by the wrong demographic.

So, while we can't and we shouldn't stop television from stereotyping people, there are some things that we have to be careful about. Along with the images of "adulthood" being shown to the tweens, there are still some unfair and malicious portrayals of the homosexual demographic on television as well, which can cause some serious harm to people trying to encode their identity and to people trying to decode it.

As human beings, our mind works at a million miles a second. It is important that we learn to understand where our feelings and behaviours come from. Doing so will allow us to improve ourselves and the way we interact with others. If for nothing else, it will help us to hone our encoding/decoding ability.