Sunday, April 12, 2009

Idioplicity(Easter in America)

April 12, 2009....where does one go when one needs basic living supplies(milk, orange juice, chocolate chip muffins)? America, better known as Wal Mart of course. Wal Mart is indicative of all things that we have come to value in this country: unbridled greed, the ubiquitous spread of idiocy(err, simplicity), and the cutthroat business nature that allows a certain store to stay open, no. matter. what. Strolling through the aisles, I didn't find the crowd that I would have expected on this second most holy of Christian holidays in a nation that refuses to define itself as Christian, yet constantly inundates its citizens to live as "Good Catholics/Protestants/Lutherans/Baptists/etc". Instead, I found mostly normal looking people there. No homeless or under sheltered crowd, just average Americans taking a drive to Wal Mart on another Sunday. As Americans, we love the idioplistic. Something so simple that it catches our attention while simultaneously realizing we will be dumber after partaking in the activity. In a culture fueled by people following the actions of other on Twitter and Facebook instead of going out and trying to do something worthwhile themselves, it isn't hard to imagine how idioplism quickly spread like a California wildfire. Hell, I'll admit, there are times even I capitulate to the seemingly unwielding influence of popular culture. After reading several articles on public policy(culminating with one on No Child Left Behind, a subject that always gets my blood pumping), I decided to listen to some music on one of the mothers of all American Idioplism: YouTube. I combed the site for awhile and was able to find the most watched videos of all time. It goes something like this:

10. Jonas Brothers- Burnin Up
9. Jonas Brothers- SOS
8. Chris Brown- Kiss Kiss
7. Britney Spears - Womanizer
6. Miley Cyrus - 7 Things
5. Alicia Keys- No One
4. Leona Lewis- Bleeding Love
3. Rihanna- Don't Stop the Music
2. Chris Brown- With You
1. Avril Lavigne- Girlfriend

And just in case you weren't one of the 118,281,200 people to view this video, let me give you a short sample of the lyrics:

You're so fine, I want you mine, you're so delicious
I think about you all the time, you're so addictive
Don't you know what I can do to make you feel alright?
Alright, alright, alright

Don't pretend, I think you know I'm precious
And so yeah, I'm a hey, hey princess
I can tell you like me too and you know I'm right
I'm right, I'm right, I'm right

She's like so whatever
You could do so much better
I think we should get together now
And that's what everybody's talking about

Now, imagine packaging up that list and those lyrics to your grandparents 50 years ago, April 12, 1959, which is unquestionably the period of American dominance in the world. Could you imagine the looks on their faces when they see that a song named Womanizer and the lyrics "She's like so whatever" dominate the American interface? It's no wonder the rest of the world often looks at us with mocking disdain. We don't have the scholarly nature of the Europeans(most Europeans think of us as complete morons) or the studious nature of the Asians. Yet, somehow, even after all these criticisms the world has looked and looks to us for direction in everything from scientific innovation to implementation and constraints of democracy. I did not write this piece to attack the things that we have done well in the past and I still feel that we do well now. Rather, this is a close examination of the rest of America, the media driven idiocracy that the rest of the world sees us. The point is this: America has always been attracted to simplicity. Technology has now made it possible to transfer ideas instantly, and the sheer nature of the beast is that the ones that don't take much effort to understand will be spread the fastest and most frequently. I'm just not sure when we crossed over from admiration of simplicity to admiration of idiocy. Somewhere in between, idioplicity, may be the best word to describe popular culture of our generation. So shape up America, or we may be the first generation whose grandkids look at us and say, "How were we spawned from such idiots?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

my trip back home and our point of no return

I have wanted to write about several things that have been on my mind for awhile, but only now as I'm scurrying to review my biology material that I will never more than memorize for tomorrow do I find the time to sit down and type out a new entry.

First, I went home this weekend to Pittsburgh for the second time this semester(the other being for the Super Bowl). I hadn't planned on coming home more than once before spring break, but the Super Bowl is an extenuating circumstance and this last weekend was more to see friends and get away from State College. After a night out on Friday and a dinner with a good friend on Saturday, I realized how much I missed the place. I miss it for a few reasons. First, the people in Pittsburgh are different than people up here. PSU is a melting pot for people from Maryland, Pittsburgh, Philly, New Jersey, New York, and everywhere in between. And the supposed "we think we're better than you" chain seems to run from east to west until it stops in State College, PA. Everywhere you go up here you get this incredibly annoying sense of unbridled arrogance when you tell people that you're from Pittsburgh. Their first thoughts are, people from Pittsburgh are obviously less intelligent than I am. I mean, come on, I was born in New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia, so it is in my DNA that I am smarter, funnier, and most importantly, cooler than them. It isn't until you leave your general metropolitain area that you realize that their are varied attitudes towards life. Growing up there were always kids from certain neighborhoods that would look down on you because they had more money, but never before did I meet people from a geographic region that all thought they were actually inherently better than me. Personally, I feel that confidence is one of the most important traits you can have or acquire. You have to think that you're good at what you do or you'll never convince others of it; but when confidence spills over into arrogance, I think that your head begins getting too inflated for your own good and eventually you will be knocked back down into reality with the rest of us. Okay, enough about that. I was actually just trying to say that I had a really good time in Pittsburgh hanging out with people whose company I greatly enjoy. So enough said.

Next, I would like to address another issue that I have been dealing with recently. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about several really good friends I have met up here. As a matter of fact, the four of us used to hang out all the time for all of last semester and a portion of this semester. Then, something happened. Something that I will not discuss here, but rest assured, really isn't that big of a deal given the context of other things that could have happened. It really just boiled down to a comment that was made that should not have been and one that was apologized for several times over. However, that could have been the end of it, but a certain person allowed the situation to escalate, and took steps to worsen the original commentor's time out with the group and other friends in general. Now, we have reached or almost reached a point of no return which never had to be reached. All could have been resolved easily, and we could have all gone back to being just friends, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. I guess that's the thing about a group of friends that is reliant as much on relationships instead of friendships. When one portion of the group fails, it goes back to being individual friendships instead of having fun with the group. That's all for now.

Until next time,


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

my religion

For the first time in my life, last Friday, I attended a fellowship group. I didn't actually attend it. I was sort of dragged there by a friend on the way to the bar. As much of a coincidence as that was, it ended up being an Asian American Christian Fellowship. I don't know about you, but where else would one want to spend a Friday evening? Don't get me wrong, I went to Lutheran Sunday School for ten years, frequently attended church, and hell, I'll say it, I even got involved with the youth group for awhile. But never had I ever non willingly came to a place where people gathered on their own accord to worship God. What was advertised to be "no more than 30 minutes" ended up taking about 2 hours. It wouldn't have been such a problem if the specials at Penn State bars started later, but unfortunately they begin at 10.

Anyways, yesterday in French class, we had a review before our three part exam the rest of the week. As a part of the review, we would pair up and go to the chalkboard in pairs. Since my usual partner was not there that day, I got paired with the girl that usually sits next to him. I don't know about you, but when you become friends with a couple of people in the class, I tend to not pay attention to who else is in the class. Unforunately, this character flaw reared its ugly head as I looked up to find I was partnered with the girl who was the lead singer at the Fellowship. We locked eyes at the same time and realized where we had seen each other before. The subsequent seconds went something like this:

Christian Singer Girl: Oh my God! You were totally at the Fellowship on Friday!
Me: Yeah, you caught me, I was there. (Fake smile)
CSG: Well, what did you think of it?
Me: The music was great, I liked it a lot.
CSG: Awesome, so will we be seeing you again?
Me: Oh, unfortunately I'm going to Maryland this weekend.
CSG: That's totally okay, I'll just remind you again next week!

So now, I'm sure I'll be constantly reminded about the Fellowship until I finally capitulate one week and go back there. I don't mind people having strong faith in something, because let's face it, life can be really fucked up sometimes and it doesn't hurt to have something to lean on. I just hate the fact that someone who doesn't know anything about me is pushing me to give in so easily to something without fully evaluating my options. After much research, thought, and observation in my life I have come to one conclusion: in some way, shape, or form, something with a sum greater than its parts created everything around us. In short, I see no way that something came from nothing. Golden numbers such as pi, e, and theta don't keep showing up for no reason. The elliptical shape of our galaxy, our graphs of certain numbers, and our fingerprints is, in my view, undoubtedly linked by some sort of design. The point is this: if you come to the conclusion that God certaintly exists through nature or deep rooted faith, I credit you with having made an intelligent choice. However, I don't think it's any of your business to go around spreading that message like a crazed lunatic. May each man or woman come to whatever conclusion they want on their own.

Until next time,


Monday, January 19, 2009

my self evaluation

New years seem to go faster and faster with every preceding one. Before, I have done some sort of survey that shows what I have accomplished or learned over the span of the year. However, I've decided to just write about certain things because I feel that it is more revealing about how things really are going.

2008 can best be described by one word: change. I watched as an entire nation began to rally around a president for the first time in my lifetime. I saw disturbing anguish, unbridled joy, and all sorts of in betweens. I met some amazing new friends and watched time rip away the old ones that I had. I begun to realize how difficult it is to foster human relationships over long periods of time and distance. Thankfully, I spent most of 2008 as a happy person. For about a month and a half I was bogged down worrying about a girl that ended up not being worth my time. Otherwise, I learned a lot from both school and working as a fund manager over the summer. I had the experience of turning 21, which still lives as the second best weekend I had during my college experience, second only to the syracuse trip we took earlier in the year. All in all, I have to say that 2008 was the best year that I've had in a long time and I'm just beginning to understand what it takes to truly be happy.

I heard somewhere that the most difficult evaluations are the ones that we are all eventually forced to give ourselves. So here goes. I've never really done this myself, but I have a feeling that it's going to be cathartic to do this. First and foremost, I've realized that I need to control my temper. There is a fine line between being passionate about things and letting my temper control my actions. For the most part, I'm able to do this, but there are still some situations that I get into and I allow my emotions to take over and get the best of me. As an aside, I remember a story from my childhood that demonstrates this perfectly. When I was a younger kid, I participated in hitting leagues in indoor cages. During the entire season, we were one of the worst teams in the league. However, when we got into the playoffs we began to hit very well and ended up making it all the way to the championship game. We were winning big until the bottom of the last inning when the other team came back and ended up winning the game. Despite the fact that there was nothing I could have done, I stormed out of there and refused to shake the hands of the other team or the people running the league. As it turns out, a few years later I tried out for a local all star team and one of the people that had run the league was one of the assistant coaches. To make a longer story shorter, I did not make the team, yet learned a lesson as I looked back that people will forget events, but they will never forget how you acted towards them. In essence, I need to learn how to keep myself peaceful enough on the inside that things that are happening outside of my control won't affect my mood. Furthermore, I need to stop worrying about things that are not that significant in the grand scheme of things. I have learned that by concerning yourself with the unimportant you tend to overlook or cause something that ends up being very significant. The most important thing for me is to try to take an unbiased view of things that are happening around me and figure out which of them are important. Finally, I need to learn to let go of things in my past that I can no longer change. This is perhaps the most difficult of the three as I am always left wondering what could have been had I taken a different course of action or not so. In the end though, that only goes so far as everything comes to a head at some point and things that have happened will have ended up the way they were eventually. In conclusion, I just have a few things that I would like to try to improve upon as a person and I will gradually take steps towards acheiving those goals now.

Until next time,


Thursday, December 25, 2008

short greetings

It's Christmas Day, so let me begin with a Merry Christmas to everyone. This is going to be short and sweet because I'm planning on crashing and getting some rest soon, but I was doing some excavating today and I found this. It brought back memories of when I was writing poetry on almost a daily basis and it felt good to sift through some of those old works again. Perhaps I'll get back to writing again some day, but that wouldn't be for some time to come.

Until next time,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

spatial relations

After three days of being back in Pittsburgh, I'm ready to leave again. Not so much in the sense that I hate everything that is Pittsburgh, but more that there is absolutely nothing to do here. Anytime I come back it's the same people, same enviornment, same activities. I need variation in life to keep my curiosity and vivacity in check. On the other hand, driving through the streets of South Baldwin reminds me of my childhood so much that it's something that I need to refresh myself with every once in awhile.

While looking through photo albums over Thanksgiving break, I came across a photo that struck me as particularly interesting. It was the summer of 1992, and we had moved into our first house. I was standing at the front door with a plate of potato salad and a wide grin. Before that summer, we had moved from apartment to apartment until we were finally able to settle on a one story ranch in South Baldwin. Upon first moving in, I vaguely recall thinking to myself that we had so much space in the house that we would never be able to find each other(this is a legitimate concern for a four year old). Most of our childhood before the age of ten are brief flashes of memories and occasional words, smells, and sights that bring us back to something we may have forgotten. We spent ten years in that house, and as I drove by it today I began to posture why I was always so damn happy when we were there.

To jump to an obvious conclusion, I was a child. And all children are smiling and having fun because they aren't burdened by things that we consider significant. If there's one thing you should take from childhood, it's not to let things that really, really don't matter affect you the way that they do when you grow up. However, upon further mental inquiry, I realized that this was not the only reason that I was always happy. It turns out the reason was rather simple. At the time, we lived in a house that is roughly half the size of the one that we live in right now. Quite simply, if there was a problem, there was nowhere to run to. It had to shared. It had to be resolved. Too often in life we seperate ourselves spatially from someone if we have a problem, and that tends to be the worst thing for it. While it is occasionally helpful to talk to someone about it, the best way to ameliorate any situation is to go to the source. Not only this, but success was shared as well. I would never consider my family poor, but there are times that I realize now that our lives were made much....well something with money. We would spend every summer night doing things like catching baseball or chasing after lightning bugs or seeing how fast we could run through the Section 8 housing in my backyard to get to Leland Field. Yet when we moved from the close quarters of the ranch to the two story home we live in now, that simplicity seemed to be compromised. Undoubtedly, some space between people is necessary. To always be in each other's business is annoying and truthfully somewhat frightening to me. Yet we must remember that physical space creates untold rifts between people. Slowly but surely, extra space creates silence, and eventually all we hear are echoes of how things used to be.

Until next time,


Friday, December 19, 2008


"Happiness only good when shared."

-Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild

It is only now as I sit in a desolate apartment on the last Friday of the semester alone does this simple quote about happiness make sense. The alone time that I have now has allowed me to reflect on all the things that went on during this semester. Despite the fact that I am extremely tired on the count of studying for almost 70 hours this past week for finals, I have found some brainpower to write what will hopefully be a short, yet meaningful post.

As this semester began, I laid on extremely shaky ground. This summer had been one spent mainly hanging out with people that I had not spent a lot of time with in the past(minus bradburn). With my best friend Mike Nayhouse away for all but two weeks of the summer, I was forced to make new friends. I succeeded for the most part and had an amazing time hanging out in Pittsburgh, Ocean City for a week, and Canada for a weekend. However, when I came back to school, I was faced with the prospect of having two new roommates, having two old roommates living in different places, no longer having a girlfriend, and being generally unsure about where I stood school wise. Upon arriving here, I took it upon myself to hang out with Steve and Joey from Apartment 246 during the week that nobody was up here before classes started. A new roommate of mine, Nate, joined us several times and I quickly learned that despite the fact that it was hard to see old roommates leave, change wasn't as bad as I had expected it to be. The first month went almost according to last year: classes during the week and house or frat parties on the weekend. Then something funny happened: I turned 21. The first night that I legally went out was a Thursday at The Saloon. It ended up being an infamous night that I won't soon forgot as almost all the people at Penn State that were close to me at the time were able to make it out. The weekend continued on from there when myself, Mark, Christina(who wasn't able to make it out the night before), PJ, and Kim went back to The Saloon for round two. After an epic night, the weekend culminated with my birthday party which saw dancing on top of tables, passing out under chairs, and other general fun that accompanies a party at 334. In the following weeks, I began to get to know Kim better. I was introduced to her last year when Dave and I attended a party at her old apartment. After going to the bars several times with her after turning 21 I realized that she was a laid back person that was about having fun and keeping people smiling. From there, a couple more weeks passed until I found a solid group of people to go out with on a regular basis. It turns out that group ended up being myself, Kim, Steve, and Kristin. To describe the four of us together is like trying to describe a tornado: a lot of energy and you're never sure exactly where it's going to hit or what the damage will be like. Throughout the semester, we survived seeing exes at bars, pieces of glass in feet, and outright lies told about all of us at one point or another. More importantly though, we survived these things together. Not to discount the importance of my relationship with my family, my friends in Pittsburgh, or my other friends at Penn State, but I will forever associate this semester with the four of us. Each of us brought a different piece of positive attitude that contributed to the whole. Steve was always the person to keep a smile on his face no matter what and always tell you exactly what was on his mind. Kim was always quick to tell stories about how much she loved her kindergarten class and how she would "go Jersey on your ass" if you messed with her. Her humorous sarcasm often carried the conversation and often kept us laughing throughout the night. Kristin was always the one to go out and push all of us to spend our time together in the best fashion. Only once this semester can I remember seeing Kristin without a smile on her face. And me, well I fit in somewhere. I like to think that my awkward dancing and stories about anything and everything helped to lighten the mood as well. I doubt that it is the last time that all of us will be together(considering Kristin and Steve are dating now which is completely awesome for both of them!), but I felt the need to pay homage to our going out group. The other cast of characters that came out with us throughout the semester I have talked about in previous blogs, but I would be amiss to not mention them. Matt Eisel is one of my best friends in the world and would literally do anything for me. He pushes himself to live on the edge every day yet has a way of relating to everyone else that has helped all of us(myself included) grow in character. Ronald Koenig is my other new roommate and there are plenty of good things I can say about the man, yet what strikes me most about Ronald is how much he would do anything for his friends. You can't go wrong with a man like that on your side. Finally, the relationships with the friends I had from Penn State McKeesport have almost uniformely grown stronger throughout the three semesters we have been up here together. I still remember us talking about the Beer Pong Constitution in Winchester's class sophmore year. Despite the fact we never wrote one, we had plenty of other memorable moments and quotes that we will tell about for years to come.

Above all, this semester has taught me that happiness is achieved on a whole new level when it can be shared with a group of close friends. To accept the choices that you have made in life and the person that you are is a form of internal happiness that is hard to match. Yet this pales in comparison to the happiness that you get from being with a group of people or person that are/is imporant to you. Unfortunately, it isn't until the clicking of the keys echo off the walls of a lonely apartment that I realize the friends I have are truly amazing people(mainly for associating with me). I will miss all of my friends that are graduating this semester and those that are going elsewhere to student teach. To the rest of you that will be coming back next semester, I hope that you're ready to do it again. To end with a famous quote, "Lately it occurs to me/ What a long, strange trip it's been."