Beginnings

August 31, 2009 at 4:58 pm (Life, School) (, , , , , )

The first day of the new semester has come and gone. I’m not sure I feel any better or wiser; I just feel like I’ve progressed further down the line of education. I suppose that’s part of the deal, eh? My schedule’s going to be pretty full with all the practicing and registering with the DMV for my learner’s permit and God knows what else I can come up with.

I’ve been going to bed at nine. I think I might try and push that up to ten, just so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night because my bladder is so ridiculously full. That’s one nightly ritual I can live without. However, ten is the latest simply because I’ll probably be getting up between 7.00 and 7.30 for the rest of the semester. This allows me to hitch a ride to school with C. Yeah, it gets me there an hour earlier than I have to be, but I figure I can take a book along, listen to music or actually socialize with people for a change. I managed to avoid that for much of the last semester. I’m making an active effort to no longer do that.

So I arrived in the music building a full hour earlier than I had to and immediately proceeded to fall back into old habits, which includes sitting quietly and not interacting with whoever may be in the hall with me. At some point, one guy looked at me as I dropped my iPod back into my bag and said, “Did you dye your hair?”

“Yeah, I did. And cut it, too.”

“OH MAN! I’m sorry! You’ve been chilling there the whole time and I didn’t even recognize you. It looks great. How was your summer?”

I was a little stunned because I end up considering myself fairly mousy for most part. I know I’m not, but I can fade into the background pretty well if I want to. I didn’t feel super confident my first semester. As I’ve stated here before, I’m getting over that phase. I need to be more outgoing, talk to people and just be myself. I’m just surprised this guy had noticed my existence the semester before at all. I got up and chatted with him for a bit, then more people drifted in, all of whom also recognized me. I talked to them until they had to go to class, at which point I sat back down and watched some more of Pushing Daisies on my iPod.

Someone sat next to me and I tried not to listen in on their conversation on the phone. I’d thought the voice sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure. Turned out it was T, one of the girls who’d been in my class during the first summer session. She signed off the phone and we talked for about half an hour; turns out we have some classes together. I should be okay.

My music theory class is small, which is fantastic. Same prof as last semester, as I’d requested. Thank God it went through. Not that I have anything against the other guy who teaches it, but Prof. S has a different understanding of teaching that meshes well with my personality and way of learning. Once I find something I work well with, I try not to change it. My lab class also runs at the same time it did last year. I felt a little uncertain during the half-hour break between Chorus and Lab, but some new girl broke the ice by telling me she thought I was really pretty and it went from there.

All in all, I’d say it’s been a pretty good day. I finished a book I’d been postponing reading for quite some time due to the fact it was my dad who handed it to me. My father and I don’t usually agree on what either of us consider a great read. This book, Eine exklusive Liebe is not something I’d consider a FANTASTIC read, but it was a good book. It was written by a woman a little older than my sister in an attempt to reconcile and explore her grandparents’ double suicide and how that tied into her understanding of herself and her family, and to rediscover some of the history lost in the concept of “We don’t talk about that.” I’d say pick it up if you understand German; it’s not a must read, but I wouldn’t consider it a waste of paper and time, either.

It was just a little ironic how the book closed with naming the locksmith’s fee. My dog’s life had basically been reduced to a hospital bill and an euthanasia fee. I wonder if it is part of human nature to grasp at numbers in an attempt to understand something, even as it constitutes a cruel twist because there is simply no way of attaching monetary value to a life.

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An Open Letter

June 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

Dear Sir,

I realize you thought you were doing a good thing. Your thoughts were tainted by the grandeur of martyring yourself for the cause, ending a reign of terror, a genocide. You were stopping a godless murderer from ending the lives of defenseless children, those who had no voice. You and your friends, you were to speak for these innocents, you were going to protect them.

What you call ideology I call madness. What you call an innocent child I call a cluster of cells, a the half-formed beginnings of what – after birth – will be a human being, with no personality or viability. What you call murder I call choice. Those you condemn I support.

What you do not realize, sir, is that you have no right to make decisions for someone with little choice in the matter. For every woman who, in utmost emotional pain, fells the decision to have a “late-term” abortion does so with a heavy heart. It is a traumatic, invasive, terrible procedure. Those “children” are wanted. You have no concept of the terror and anger and sadness these women feel as they grasp their partners’ hands throughout the procedure. You have no idea of how these people have to pick the pieces of their shattered dreams and hopes they pinned on that pregnancy. Everything they’d wished for is dashed with one visit to prenatal care.

You may think you have the right to judge and shun these women and men, harass them and shame them. It is my duty to correct you, sir.

You are no hero. You are, in fact, an awful human being, as is every single one of your friends at Operation Rescue. How dare you take it into your own hands to pass judgement on someone else when you spend so much time arguing your belief in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. You are nothing but a useless worm. Do you think this is what your God wants?

How ever did you think it was right, even just to shoot another living, breathing human being? You are no martyr, sir, you are an asshole. You committed a heinous crime against another person, defying one of the Ten Commandments, if you feel inclined to placing worth on your own goddamn Bible. Does “thou shalt not kill” ring a bell? No? Then perhaps you are not as familiar with your own scriptures. You are a horrid person, sir. What you and your friends are doing is called domestic terrorism. You shot a man providing invaluable, important services to those who needed them the most. You shot a true humanitarian. Countless of Dr. Tiller’s patients are stepping forward to tell their stories. You are instilling fear in the hearts of innocent people, making them afraid to seek the help and make the choices they need to. Did you know all of them are anonymous because they are afraid of you, of the things you do in the name of a God who surely condemns what you did just as much as anyone with even an ounce of brain matter does?

I hope you rot in Hell.

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The Idiot Pandemic

May 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

I truly believe that is what we are fighting these days. Not swine flu, not cancer. The idiot pandemic. Idiocy spans the globe and is somehow distilled down to its essence by the time it reaches the internet, making for one gigantic influx of stupid that kills your brain cells by simply looking at it.

A recent development in my Facebook news feed has left me with the distinct feeling of wanting to smack my forehead against a wall. Preferably solid brick wall. The stupid is just insurmountable. Somehow, a lot of my German friends have taken to calling each other “homo.” A lot. Every other status update, its comment section or wall post includes the word “homo” as an insult or greeting.

Now, in theory, it should not bother me. The root of the word is in Latin. Simply, it means “human.” However, I will not accredit them with that much intelligence. What they mean is “homosexual.” Their goal is to insult each other.

I fume at the misuse of said word, turning a simple description of someone’s perfectly acceptable sexual orientation into something bad. This is exactly why we’re having such trouble. So many people are latently homosexophobic and because many homosexuals are afraid of being outed, no one tells them these people are being assholes. The fact people seem to think it’s okay to use this word as an insult or form of greeting is horrid. I know that at least one of these people has an openly homosexual friend. That is what ticks me off most – you have a friend who has entrusted you with the knowledge of them being different from about 97% of the population. And yet you see it fit to use their sexual orientation to throw around carelessly?

I do not like the implications of this ignorance. I have made a point to point it out in my own status update, but I still feel that all of the offenders deserve this:

middle-finger

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A Royal Pain

April 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

bo obamaAs we welcome our newest member of the Obama family into the White House, there has been unprecedented nastiness pervading the nation. People are all up in arms about the fact that Bo, seen on the left, is a purebred Portuguese Water Dog. Many are complaining that the Obamas should have picked a shelter dog! Why did they not pick a mutt! Wah wah wah!

My dears, let me clarify: Malia Obama has severe allergies to dog dander. No matter how good your intentions, it is best to pick a purebred dog that will not set off her allergies. There is no such guarantee with mutts. When you buy a purebred, you know exactly what you are in for; there are no unexpected signs of aggression, no mysterious illness, nothing. Purebreds are predictable in temperament and this is precisely what anyone who has never owned a dog before needs.

Secondly, Bo IS a rescue dog of sorts. His previous owners returned him to the breeder. He was homeless. He needed a family. He seems like a sweet, even-tempered dog, which is ideal for first-time dog owners and especially owners in such high-level stress situations. They need a dog that will not piss itself with excitement every time a helicopter lands on the White House lawn or a foreign dignitary comes to pet him.

Bo’s breeders are respectable, registered, humane breeders who had the good sense to take a dog they had sold back when said dog could no longer live with his family. Humane breeders will always, always take a dog back, no matter what the circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the humane breeders who are contributing to the homeless pet population and influx of sickly purebred animals. It is backyard breeders, puppy mills and idiots who do not get their pets neutered. People also seem to forget that the First Family is not their personal Sims computer game; we have no right whatsoever to interfere with their choice of school for their children, their choice of designers – or not – to wear or which dog they adopt. There was no such outrage when Clinton adopted Buddy, a purebred chocolate lab; or when Bush brought his two Scottish Terriers to the White House. Why now?

I, too, am the owner of a purebred dog. Lena joined my family when she was thirteen weeks old, after she had been returned to her breeder by her previous owners. Lena earsMy parents had previously taken in dogs that had been abused by their owners, a cocker spaniel and a mutt, and had bad experiences with both of those dogs. When we purchased our first Golden Retriever – after much research into what breed would be compatible with a family with small children – we knew exactly what to expect. Whisper was the sweetest, dearest dog you could ever imagine.

Lena, my current dog, is a sweetheart. She’ll let you do anything to her (as evidenced by my younger sister torturing sad puppyface on the kitchen floor). If she’s had enough, she will get up and leave, preferably seeking shelter with me. She has not been around young children much, yet instinctively knows that she is not to play rough with them, has never snapped at one or made any threatening move. Much as I like mutts, I have had better experiences with purebreds simply because I knew what behavior to expect when. Besides – mutts wouldn’t be around were it not for the purebred dogs mingling, no? People pick what is right for them and their circumstances, and in the Obamas’ case, it was a purebred dog that would be of even temper, would not set off allergies and would be compliant to training.

To the whiners, I say: Shut the fuck up. It is not your decision to make which dog enters the White House, just as it was never your decision to yammer about which school Malia and Sasha Obama would attend.

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My Beef

April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm (Life) (, , , , , , )

I am part of a liberal Jewish community back in Germany that is based around the MTV military chapel. We have not had a rabbi in years; to give you an idea, there currently are 1,426,713 active duty service members and another 1,259,000 in the reserves. There are about twelve rabbis in uniform, nine of which are orthodox.

My community hasn’t had a rabbi in years. The community has been pretty self-sufficient; we arranged for services on our own, contracted a non-trained cantor, had a ley leader represent us at the chaplains’ meetings. I invested a lot of my own time into this community, leading services when our cantor was gone, kashering the kitchen, keeping children entertained, clean-up duty, organizing services, going through checklists of what we did and did not need. While we weren’t many, we usually did okay – some people rotated through, but there was always a stable core to the community that was formed, in fact, by local civilians, not by service (wo)men or dependents.

As of last month, we have a rabbi again, an orthodox one. In one fell sweep, he has ripped any and all control over how we conduct services, how we organize situations, has completely changed times on when services are held, etc. According to those who I am in contact with, he is not exactly hostile towards the civilians, but not terribly welcoming either.

So, what inspired this? Well, as you all know, it’s Passover now. Usually our community organizes it and has a pretty grand old time. This year, the rabbi decided he needed to take things into his own hands despite the fact he would not be there. Instead of letting us do our normal thing, he imported a yeshiva student to conduct the service.

Our community has not had a rabbi for about ten years. This means ten Passover seders we managed to conduct on our own. What did he think we do before God sent us this divine message in form of Rabbi Jerkwad? Scratch our ape-like heads and chant “Ugga!” like heathens?

Christ on a cracker. If there is a God, then please, I would like for him to take this jackass back off our hands. I refuse to attend any services this man holds just because he is orthodox and I do not agree with orthodox Judaism. For all I know, he might very likely be segregating the community by gender and because he’s orthodox, he is sure to believe women are not allowed to touch the Torah. Fuck this shit.

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Your Political Agenda is Uncouth

March 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm (News) (, , , , , )

I logged onto Facebook today to find a post by someone I considered a friend concerning this article. It’s about a freak accident in which two young women were killed in a plane crash; the plane crashed into a “memorial” for all the “babies” that have been “killed” with abortions. These young women are the daughters of a man who runs the largest abortion “business” in California. Innocent people died here in a freak accident. What did she have to say?

“Well I think THAT is a message from God if there ever was one.”

I am still shell-shocked from reading that. Innocent people – most of which had nothing to do with the abortions – die in a freak accident, and that’s what you have to say? You seriously believe your God is a vengeful God, the kind that somehow punishes some who are unrighteous by your standards, but who lets you spew hatred?

What happened to charity? What happened to compassion? What happened to kindness?

Religion is not about selectively adhering to principles. It’s all or none. If you act like a decent human being, do not mix fibers, don’t eat shellfish, do not have premarital sex – maybe then we can discuss the fact these people are not righteous by your standards. But I know you. You had premarital sex. You mix fibers. You eat whatever you want. You are unkind to others. You have no right and no place to claim others deserve to die for providing women with the service of CHOICE where their own body is concerned. What is right for you is not right for everyone else.

I feel like crying, honestly.

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Authority and Disobedience

March 25, 2009 at 11:13 pm (School, Writing) (, , , , )

Several of you may have already read this, as it was an assignment to be written for my English class. However, I need a space filler while I contemplate more interesting things to write about on here. We recently discussed the research study called the Milgram Experiment in less formal places. Officially, the published paper was (pretentiously) called “Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority.” If you follow the link, you will find a more detailed description of what the research was about, but a brief summary is appropriate.

After watching the Nuremburg trials, Stanley Milgram was stunned and somewhat appalled to find many of the Nazis on trial to either be unrepentant or unwilling to take responsibility for the atrocities they had committed. He posed himself the question “How far can a human be pushed until they reach a point at which they will disobey authority?” So he conducted a study with Yale in which he tested male subjects aged 18 to 40 from all types of educational and social backgrounds in the following situation: The subject was placed in a room with an experimenter who functioned as the authority. In another room was an actor – the fact it was an actor was not disclosed to the subject. The subject was to administer electroshocks to the actor when commanded by the experimenter.

Milgram found that it took an astonishingly long time for almost all of the subjects to disobey; many of them showed signs of psychological distress and extreme tension, but it was only at 120 V shocks that the first subjects began disobeying the authority. Many subjects continued administering shocks when absolved of the personal responsibility for hurting another human being or only verbally protested. Milgram was obviously appalled by these findings and raised the question that, if humans are so willing to follow authority, this kind of power in the hand of a government with malicious intent could be fatal. Then he proposed this: “Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience.”

My task was to work with the following assignment: “In paragraph 47, Milgram comments, ‘Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience.’ What do you think of this hypothesis? Are there such models? Ought there to be? Have such models appeared since the experiment was conducted? Explain your stand on Milgram’s statement.” I thought the topic was interesting enough to post here.

Models for Disobedience?

Disobedience is, in itself, an unpredictable form of refusing to conform to certain standards or to blatantly resist an instruction given by a third party or society. For Milgram to state that “Perhaps our culture does not provide adequate models for disobedience”  (467) is nonsensical. A model of for disobedience would imply a rigidly structured set of rules to be followed, therefore defeating the purpose of disobedience. Would a person truly be disobedient if he or she were simply complying with the laws of disobedience? Clearly the answer is “no.”

The act of disobeying is natural to humans, as we are a species gifted with the ability to form critical thoughts and reflect past, present and future. An intrinsic moral compass that allows us to compare reality to our ideological standards guides us. When our perception of what is right and what is wrong collides with what we witness in our lives, we are inclined to demonstrate our ability to disobey so long as we are fully responsible for our actions. This was the catch in both Milgram’s experiment and day-to-day life.

Closely linked to resistance, disobedience comes in many forms. It is possible to violently resist conformity just as it is possible to take a passive, more intellectual path to disobeying a strict set of rules. Depending on the circumstances, it is up to the individual in such a situation to rely on their own judgment. Disobedience can be as simple as not obeying a command or as complex as resisting the general societal consensus on what is right. During the Third Reich, disobedience was not simply disagreeing with what the government dictated, it was actively seeking to save individuals or raise awareness to the government’s inhumane practices. The lack of a model for their disobedience was apparent in the diversity of disobedience, ranging from assassination attempts to intellectual resistance from groups such as the White Rose, which was group of college students eventually executed for writing and circulating flyers condemning the politics of the Nazis.

One could argue that the extreme conditions and the indoctrination into a collective mindset would not be able to offer up a model for resistance in the first place, but at least it is plain as day that disobedience was not accepted as an appropriate phenomenon, which made it a valid act. Various forms of disobedience manifested themselves in pop culture in the last fifty years, all of which became moot once they were accepted as trendy. One such “model for disobedience” is punk. Punk was considered to be a real breakthrough for its time, delivering a message of anti-authoritarianism, anarchy, direction action and non-conformity. It quickly developed into a subculture of its own through which young people could defy the beliefs of the older generation by listening to loud music, protesting the establishment (The Man) with their dress and hair and radical politics. However, over the years, punk became a more mainstream phenomenon that pressured its followers into a pre-made mold of “disobedience,” which defeated the purpose of such actions. With the establishment of rules to be followed in order to disobey, the intentions become muzzy at best.

At the end of the day, disobedience is a matter of personal choice and it shaped by the beliefs and background of the individual. There can be no standardized form of disobedience because there is no standardized form of society.

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