Tuesday, December 30, 2008

God Put a Smile Upon My Face... Reflections IX

So many things have been happening since I last wrote in this blog. I can't believe how blessed I have become.... I guess getting out of a time of such "dryness" is always a good feeling. I feel as though things are really starting to change for the better.
It is interesting that in life, we can be right in front of something (or someone) for so long, and yet never truly know them... until we put forth an effort. I think that through my time at Simpson I have truly failed to encapsulate the notions of a community, and have rather lost myself in the "shuffles" of everyday life.
I guess stepping back and looking around... I have finally been able to notice those things which always been apparent, but up until recently haven't been available.
The time of Christmas break has been a real challenge, as it has kept me from a continuance of these feelings, but even in this time of limitation, I have found such great blessings.
I am not (at this time) going to truly lay out what this blessing encompasses, because it is still such a great mystery to me at this time, and I am too intrigued to stop.
Sometimes what we think we have always known surprises us... and most of the time it happens not at our convenience, but on the timing of its own "drum".
I don't know how things are going to happen in the next coming months, but I am excited to find out. For the first time (in a really long time), I am really excited about the unknown (and what that brings). For most of my life I have always told myself that the unknown was a terrible thing, and that change is something that happens as part of a cruel fate. But in the last month or so, and specifically in the last 2.5 weeks, this new understanding of "the unknown" has reignited my understanding of my current situation, and excited me to continue to pursue....
For one out there, these words I do hope reach, and in that reach I hope they allow a smile...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Middle Aisle Critic vol. 11--> Oscar Predictions, vol.1 (assumptions)

I know that it is a little early to announce the winners, but I figured for the sake of the argument that I would make some early predictions. As a film analyzer/ critic, I find that the more films that I see, the keener my sense for predictions become. This has been both a blessing, and a curse, as I sometimes write off entire films for simply being "too conventional" that may deserve to be critiqued on its own account (and not in comparison to other films). This is hard not to do, because so much "territory" has been covered in the last 108 years, that it is difficult to truly express new conventions, but I find myself amazed continually by films that come along, and create within themselves something distinct.

When looking at the films that have come out this year, one can make the assumption that studios focused much more on sequels, blockbusters, and franchise based films. Not a lot of "artistic" films have been appearing, and only now (as the season is coming to full speed) has the focus shifted. This is both an interesting case study of high art vs. pop art, but also an interesting view of marketing, green lighting films, and capitalizing on a certain genre for the sake of a box office draw.

In this short analysis, I will be laying out a few films that I believe will get (at the least) notoriety among critics and film goers, but also hold the possibility for Academy nominations.

For the Sake of the Argument I am going to limit my proposals to just a few cases...This is not an exhaustive list, and this is not set in stone, I am still waiting to see most of these films and so I can only make assumptions on the basis of outsider analysis.

Article #1- Wall*E
--> In looking over the best events leading up to the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture, one could argue that the award fills all the requirements for elevating an excellent film to a high honor. But this isn't the highest honor, and in fact only one animated film has ever been nominated for Best Picture! This was Beauty and the Best back in the early 9os!
The Best Animated Picture Award should be encouraging filmmakers to make high quality animated films from any genre, for any age group (kids, families, 13 and up, etc.). Some films are starting to change this (namely Persepolis), and in this shift we are seeing that Pixar (if they are running) have a serious contender in high quality films that happen to be done in animation. The question remains however, could an animated film win in another category (exluding the technical/sound/original song categories)?
Could Wall*E, one of the highest rated films out this year (with great critical and commercial acclaim), be a film that surpases its genre and enters into contention for the highest picture of the year?
The film is excellent, and little can be found that detracts from the films immense charm, but is it Best picture worthy? And even if it is, will the Academy "bend" the rules to allow it to run for the higher award?

Article #2- Possibilities (2)

*Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)--> Critics are calling it a major comeback/trial for Rourke, who has pretty much been muddling around for the past 8 years (other than a certain evil metropolis, or a certain dog the bounty hunter ripoff)
*Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button)--> C'mon its Brad Pitt! He has only been nominated once, and that was in a Supporting Role (in one of my favorite films! 12 Monkeys)
*Will Smith (Seven Pounds)--> Will Smith reuniting with his "Pursuit of Happyness" director= a big push for a nomination. Whether he gets it or not, I admire the guy for strategically planning the realease of this movie smack dab in the middle of the fall season.
*Sean Penn (Milk)--> Sean Penn breaks away from his usual Liberal self.... just kidding... will Penn really be the driving force of the movie, or are the performances of the supporting cast really what gives the film the heart + soul?
*Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)--> This may be a long shot, as there hasn't been much buzz around this project (possibly being shadowed by Changeling), but Eastwood has the crotchety old man down, and I admire the fact that he is still putting out films of this caliber at his age!
*Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)--> So awesome, I feel like I am seeing Richard Nixon when I watch the trailer. That is a performance you couldn't ad-lib.

*Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road/The Reader)-->
From what I have heard Kate Winselt's performances in both of these films are exceptionally good. I am a pretty big Winslet fan, and if any actress deserves a win it should be her.
*Meryl Streep (Doubt)-->Do you honestly believe that she wouldn't? I mean its Meryl Streep... She is one of the most prominant Oscar winners ever in this category... On the other hand, do we really need to give her another one? I mean she must be running out of mantle space by now. The role looks primed for her, almost as if they had her in mind when they were originally writting it (joke... its an adaption from a play... but who knows could be true)
*Angelina Jolie (Changeling)--> I just thought she did a great job. I never could take her seriously until I saw this film. At times she seemed to be a bit emotional, but it was part of the personality of the character, and it truly fit the flow and feel of the picture.
*Kate Blanchett (Benjamin Button)--> She is usually really good, I don't think she will disapoint.

Supp. Actor
*Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)--> Amazing dedication mixed with a truly talented actor who never truly reached the potential that he creates in this film. The rest of Ledger's career will be shadowed by this performance, and looking at all the critical/commercial success, I would say that he deserves it more than anyone else at this point.
*Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)--> Sheen is talented actor who seems to play similar types of roles (which may change as he is cast as the Cheshire Cat in the upcoming Tim Burton film "Alice in Wonderland"). Sheen as David Frost is the type of film role that we are used to seeing Sheen play, but in his defense he does it very well.
*Philip Seymour-Hoffman (Doubt)--> While it wouldn't be as glamorous as his Best Actor win 3 years ago, a Best Supporting oscar could show the versatility and dedication that Hoffman produces in his work.
*Josh Brolin (Milk)--> I must say that I am very impressed by Brolin as of late. The guy is funny, talented, and stirring in his roles and represents a new face in Hollywood (something that is somewhat needed). Brolin's role in Milk seems to stir up a lot of controversy (from both sides) and it is the kind of role that simply will not sacrifice itself as a "second tier" role.

Supp. Actress
*Penelope Cruz (Vikki Christie Barcelona)--> I loved this film, and I really feel like Cruz is one underrated actress. She is really talented, yet she sometimes gets overlooked for being "stuck up". The role she plays in this film is quite pivitol and without her I feel it simply would not have worked.
*Amy Adams (Doubt)--> The timidness, and all around dexterity of her performance in Doubt seems to "cry out" for a nomination. Adams is another young actress that truly represents a "new face" in Hollywood. She can play a great counterbalance to actors like Hoffman + Streep
*Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)--> I think shes great. She is one of those actresses that pops up every once in a while, and then seems to dissapear to smaller projects for a period of time. From the look of the trailer she seems to play a counterbalance to Rourke, who may not be as directed without her.

Best Picture (difficult to say)
*Benjamin Button
*Slumdog Millionaire
*Wall*E (?)
*The Wrestler
*The Dark Knight (?)
*Revolutionary Road

Best Director (harder to concieve)
*Danny Boyle
*Ron Howard
*David Fincher
*Sam Mendes
*Clint Eastwood
*Chris Nolan
*Darren Aronofsky

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Middle Aisle Critic vol. 10--> Possibilities

In recent film news, the film "The Dark Knight" has been taken under consideration as being a possibility for a Best Picture nomination, and more specifically, Heath Ledger is in possible consideration for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. If this does occur, it would make the award a "posthumus" award, which only Peter Finch has successfully won for an acting nomination. This would make history, in a sense, in several ways. The first way would be simply that Ledger becomes the second actor to win an Academy award after his death. The second, which is much more ambiguous, concerns the role of "popular" film over "artistic" film. Traditionally the Academy didn't have the issue that it is now dealing with, since before recent years, winners of the "Best Picture" award were films that grossed more than any other, as well as standing above the crowd as being "high art". In the last few years we have seen a shift, which has promoted smaller, limited release films at a much higher rate than blockbuster type films. This says a lot about the quality of blockbuster films, but also raises the question: "What if a film is garnered great by the general consensus, but not the critical community?" or better yet (in the case of 'The Dark Knight') "What if a film from a genre not usually critically successful, but almost always commercially succesful, becomes regarded highly by both the general populous, and the critical community? If this occurs, has their been a shift from "high art" to "pop art"? Or are the changes occurring simply reflections of a time when blockbuster films took both commerical and critical acclaim?"
These are the questions I ask myself in considering whether films like 'The Dark Knight' or 'Wall-E' should be recieved outside of their normal mediums (MTV movies awards for TDK, and Best Animated Feature), and regarded as one of the best of the entire year?
I loved both of those films, and they stand as two (admist others) pedastals of quality that I haven't seen too much of this year (besides a few other select films).
Who knows... could Pixar and Christopher Nolan sweep the Oscars? Or will the votes reigning in throughout the academy speak against this? There are politics involved, but is it necessarily bad if critics want to perserve "The Academy" image?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving is only a few days away....

I can't believe how fast this semester has gone by. I haven't even really been able to piece everything together, as of late, let alone realize how quickly my senior year has transpired. Over the course of the last 3 months I have found myself getting very tired, worn out, encouraged, discouraged, enlightened, remembered, forgotten, expanding in size, and all around growing.
I have been developing new friendships, encouraging old ones, and saying goodbye to others. I have found that my biggest struggle has been in trying to place myself in the "here and now" and not looking towards the future so much. This is hard to not do, as I feel like I have to make a decision so soon, but in all reality I don't.
This upcoming week in San Francisco should be good, as I will finally be able to relax a bit. I have 3 upcoming presentations, 1 semester paper, 2 regular papers, and a powerpoint to finish before finals and I am making good headway into it.
Soon I will head home, and then the Virgin Islands for a week... crazy I know... two cruises in two years... on Christmas again (which has more downsides than you would realize)...

But I'm excited... excited for new things, for new experiences, for new chances...
2009 isn't that far away...
I'm ready.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

High and Dry... Reflections VIII

Recently I have been in reflection on my current stasis, and have found (from all corners) confusion, difficulty, and "dead end" feelings that have merely broadened this looming shadow hanging over my head (and in my soul). When the question "what are you gonna do with yourself after you graduate?", is both exciting and terrifying. I have no real idea! And in fact, I had been verbalizing a particular thought so much that it become like second nature to say it, even though I may not have even been really considering what that would entail. I guess there are several reasons why I have felt so "high and dry" in this time of my life, and here they are...
Disclaimer: these are just thoughts that have had the last few weeks... they are merely musings and frustrations...

I lack a sense of pursuing anything, I have no goal to strive for other than graduating (and with my thoughts in such a murky place, I cannot even concentrate on what I am doing here and now!). I feel as though there is nothing "out there", and that the reason I feel so out of place is because I am stuck in this void between knowing and the unknown.
I am tired of doing the same thing all the time. I feel like my life is already figured out for me... that everything I have to do, everyone I am going to meet, anything that I am going to think is already going to be thought out... there is no spontaneity.
I feel like a cliche... I feel like people expect me to act a certain way, talk a certain way, be a certain way... and they judge me by their perception of me
I have found that I once had difficulty voicing my opinions, and now am finding that I overpower those around me with my flagrant use of opinons.... I am working on it... I am working on listening... and waiting to have something truly good to say... its hard...
In the male/female romantic relationship department...girls don't like me...haha...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drop off...

Impending the awaiting downfall
of my everloving downcasted being
the lines of my face match those of 50
the strokes of my heart seem unnormal
with every waking tension I strive
but with each step, I forget
each step, I miss something
each step, something is lost...

Monday, October 6, 2008

what I'm striving for...reflections VI b.

I realized after I had written the previous blog entry that I hadn't really considered all that I had written. I sat down and wrote that blog in about 15 minutes without any real thought, and for that I felt I should rebut.

On Education:
*I don't think that grades really reflect how much you have actually learned in many cases. I feel like some of the best classes I took at Simpson, ended with me having a "C" in the class, but a wealth of new information to mess with.
*I don't always enjoy new ideas, in fact sometimes I dread them. Sometimes I feel like many of the theories and ideas of past philosophers, theorists, politicians, and others add to an ever growing issue rather than an ever-growing good. It is good to reach out and invest and learn, but it is also good to moderate, to "sift out" information that will neither help or hinder your "search"

On life, love, and the pursuit of happiness:
*I would like to have all of the above please... thank you, and come again...
*I have felt both full of it, and completely devoid of it...
*I would like to actual find what I am looking for and not have to create a sense of false security...

In Response to a previous blog (concerning Race and Issues in Diversity):
*An American culture is one that is formed in the way we communicate to each other, and in the way that we communicate ourselves to others around the world. Just like when we think of Australians being a "certain way", Australians should think of us in a "certain way". Our movies, our music, our clothing trends, our ideas are definitely American in every sense of its being. If we simply say that America has no culture, we simply do not identify any impact on anything around us (yes even corporations, architecture, art, societal norms, institutions, geography, history, and traits).

On Politics
*If the will of the people sways to one side or the other, the end result will ultimately be the same in that each side has promised to act... but rather looking at the results, we should be looking at the problem.

what I'm striving for..... reflections VI

Everyone has a goal of some sorts.
Even if we say that we are striving to inhibit "nothingness" we are still striving towards an ultimate goal. In the case of education, I have always been one who wants so much more, yet gets discouraged along the way and simply succumbs to the overbearing load of responsibility. This year I have been really struggling to balance my free time with my homework time. I want to know more, I am yearning to, yet I allow all the distractions in the world into my sphere of attention and lose focus so easily. Why? Because I make excuses like: "I have too much stress", or "There's no way I could reasonably do all these things in this short amount of time", or "I would rather play Oblivion than study for a Grubbs test, regardless of the fact that up till that point I hadn't even cracked open the book resulting in a rush study session". These things and many more get me discouraged. I know I have the potential, yet I feel tired... tired from 4 years of studying, going to class, taking tests, and making excuses(lol... the last one is a joke).
My thirst for knowledge is overshadowed by my ability to make up a good excuse, and in that I feel weak. In that I feel that I haven't quite measured the balance, and because of that I have suffered for it (both in grades, and in what I could know)...

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Middle Aisle Critique: Fall 2008 Analysis

10 Films that have prospective chances for the awards season, in no particular order.
(Articles to Come)

10. Doubt

Faith is an issue these days (no matter who you are, you are somehow effected by faith, whether that be in God, Humanity, a vision, or an ideal), and many people have simply "thrown in their cards" because life is, well hard. Dealing with an issue like doubt, many turn and simply give up whatever choices they have made in the past (presumably for good) and simply lose what we would call hope.
In the new trailer for the upcoming film "Doubt", we have issues of faith put into question in regards to the character of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who has quite surprised me these past few years). He plays a priest of what looks like a Chicago/New York parish, and is accused by the head of the sisters (played by Meryl Streep) to have committed a wrongful act to a student, by way of a statement made by a young sister (Amy Adams). The film has the look and feeling of an independent film, but boasts performances that could possibly ignite nominations. This is a film based on a play (one of two in this blog), and has the dimensions of dialogue and character development down (from what I hear). The question will be if the film can surpass its rather simple premise for an in depth look at deception, faith, and of course doubt.

09. W.

From what Oliver Stone is stating, W. is a film that is going to attempt both a satirical, and a sympathetic look at the life and career of our current commander in chief. Whether this will ultimately play out as a mockery, or a fair representation; we still have quite a cast to portray the politicians in question (everyone from Karl Rove to Tony Blair to Condi). Usually historical perspectives/analysis are done after someone has left office, or even passed on and so it is quite interesting that he chose such a pivotal time for this film to release (namely smack dab in the middle of the election!)

08. The Soloist

A couple years ago Robert Downey Jr. would have probably made very few top-ten lists of rising stars, he probably was not discussed in film speaking circles, and he certainly wasn't deemed to be anything more than a one time big shot (academy award nominee for best picture for the film "Chaplin"). With his post-rehab jumpstart behind him, Robert Downey Jr. has now become "the face of cool" among members of this generation. He struck several critics for his portrayal of Journalist Paul Avery in the film Zodiac (2007), Ignited a widely successful comic book franchise (which no-one thought would ever conceptually work) with Iron Man (2008), and managed to show some comedic prowess as the relatively "straight man" in Tropic Thunder (2008). Critics are flocking to him, big leading roles are being laid at his feet, the film going public is now listening, and in a matter of a few short months, our "Tony Stark" has become a household name (kind of like what happened with Johnny Depp, but less drastically). His upcoming project "The Soloist" will add some more dimension to Downey Jr's repertoire as it is another "based on a true story/drama/involving journalism" and it could easily be a good enough role to elevate him into much more dramatic roles (much like what he did in Chaplin, but with this super stardom at his side). 2008 is definitely the year of the Downey Jr. in this critic's opinion.

07. Defiance

With two WWII historical films in the works at this time it will be interesting to see which film will garner better historical accuracy. They deal with two different fronts in the war (South Pacific vs. Eastern Europe), which is actually a very beneficial way to examine the already largely interpreted subject. Defiance will basically either make Daniel Craig's career more than James Bond, or will simply be another film in a string of unnoticed performances (The Invasion, The Golden Compass...etc.)

06. Australia

Hugh Jackman's career of great interest as he has completely redefined who he is as an actor three times in the span of ten years (broadway star, action hero, dramatic actor) and still doesn't get much in terms of recognition. I can say that many of his performances have left me thinking that more could have been examined, yet other films I feel really examined his talents (The Fountain). Australia will also help Nicole Kidman, who in my opinion is the most overpaid, least interesting actress in Hollywood these days. There is really no reason to like her, yet Hollywood studios seem to put her on such a pedestal that can really only be defined as "post-tom cruise success". Australia though may be the saving grace for the both of them. Baz Luhrman is the key to the success (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) and with his direction and early buzz concerning the trailers we might be looking at some nominations (maybe even for acting).

05. Milk

Controversy describes more than our insecurities, it uncovers something innate within the human psyche. Sean Penn is the kind of actor that likes to push boundaries, yet doesn't always do so in ways that garner authenticity. The film "Milk" will be an exercise in pushing people's buttons and that's why I would say that it represents a wild card during this movie season.

04. Revolutionary Road

This film represents the traditional drama that we are used to seeing during the Oscar season. This is the type of film that the Academy flocks to, but in recent years hasn't been as elevated as it once was. Attention span has a lot to do with it as many American film goers don't have the patience for a dialogue-driven, period piece drama. But the most important thing about these types of films are not the words that they are saying, but rather what they are not saying. What they are not saying speaks much louder. I would propose that films like this are ultimately reflects of modern time, yet are like photographs taken in a different time and place (a different context, if you will) and thus it feels familiar yet also distant.

The Next three films are my top three choices for success during the fall/winter movie season leading up to the Academy Awards:

03. Frost/Nixon

The play by Morgan Peter is both a character study of real life individuals and an interesting study of introspective journalism. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen both reprise their roles from the acclaimed play, and just from the trailer we get the impression that they are attempting to translate the compelling play into a full fledged drama. I think they both could very well get nominated for performances, but I don't think that the trailer completely justifies the tone of the film until the last 1:00 minute of it. The trailer gives off a comedic lighthearted tone and shifts to a much more dramatic swing. It will be interesting to see a balance of both considering the breadth of the subject material.

02. The Road

Viggo Mortensen is definitely one of the most underrated actors working today. His work in the Lord of the Rings films, Eastern Promises, and even Appaloosa are examples of an actor's dedication to a film role (much like the Brando school of acting whose best example is last years Academy Award winner for Best Actor in a leading role: Daniel Day-Lewis. The Road (by Cormac McCarthy, who has become quite a hot topic around Hollywood these days) looks to be a gripping post-apocalyptic morality film that will be both a drastic example of single individuals striving against insurmountable odds, and a introspective look at the effects of scarcity in civilization (as most of the population has died).

01. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Brad Pitt will receive a nomination, I am just preparing you for when it happens. He went away for awhile (doing Humanitarian work) doing a film here and there (Oceans 13, Mr and Mrs. Smith) but is starting to make a comeback (with Burn after Reading). David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac) is to me, one of the most original directors of this generation and if anyone could defy expectations for a film like this it would be him. I feel plenty of nominations on the way, as well as plenty of critical acclaim. It could all just be an estimate though.

A friend and I were discussing the Academy Awards the other day, and we both found it very perplexing that politics play into the choices so intricately that they already have the choices for what will be deemed "the top films" of the season. One the one hand I support the Academies decisions, but on the other hand I don't understand why they would "mark" certain films before they have even been viewed/critiqued.

Let the Night Surround You, We are Half-way to the stars.

Tonight I have been trying to piece together these past three weeks and for no rhyme or reason have found that I haven't really transitioned the whole way.

I have found that I have spent way too much money at Yaks (which should for all logical purposes should be cheaper)

I have found I have wasted so many hours in my room playing PS3.... no fault to my roomate for buying it, but it majorly distracts me...haha

I have come to finally realize how many relationships I have left at Simpson, what with so many gone with graduation and other obligations...

I have found that lacking a car at 21 is one of the most difficult things, and one hell of a blessing in some cases (money!!!!)

I have found that my presence at Simpson is not very defined...

I have found that my pursuit of someone was overshadowed by my pursuit of an answer and thus become virtually disconnected this past month to the point where I no longer can really do anything.

I have noticed that I am beginning to try and branch out.

I have noticed that I haven't met anyone...

I notice the night...and everything that comes with it (joy or sorrow regardless)...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Race + Culture (The Changing Face of the World) + Thoughts and Concessions from an educated middle class white male christian moderate..Reflections IV

It seems that every semester of my college education has followed patterns in the subject matter. Regardless of the classes primary goal, it seems that certain concepts/ideas/figures become intricate to the education process of a liberal arts, westernized understanding of society and the utmost cosmos. Last year I found that much of the focus was on the media, and literature. This year I feel (at least this semester) the focus has been on culture, race, philosophy, and politics. I am currently taking a political science introduction, as well as several communication classes, Intro to Theology, and cross cultural conflict. Every class seems to complement the next, which makes it easier to group together (for study purposes), but more difficult in terms of defining differences of opinion.
In High School I remember my friend Nick Moffit and I spent an entire lunch period discussing the unfairness of the current scholarship program. We realized that as single, white males who were not Jewish, of a minority, not going into a specialized profession (like Engineering), part of a cult (like the Mason's), and not playing a particular sport (although curling has always been a love of mine..ha ha) we were not going to get any sort of assistance when it came to paying for college. It was both depressing and humorous (I remember Nick was gonna pretend he was Jewish just to get some Orthodox Judaism Society scholarships), but it ultimately led to make many assumptions that I am still dealing with today.
Racism and Prejudice are awful things, and I say this with the sincerest means available. Ignorance plagues our perceptions of other cultures to a point that we compartmentalize people just because they are "not like us". We have (for the most part) lost that individual racism that was so prevalent for the past 100+ years, but our society is not free of racism. We discussed this in my Group communication class the other day, that individual racism (dependent on one's own view of another) is no longer the biggest issue; but rather Structural racism (which is dependent on historical institutional views/stereotypes/misconceptions that are seemingly still resonating within us, even if we ourselves are not outwardly expressing these ideas) that keeps us from accepting others. It is in essence societal I suppose, but does not have to be that way! The caste systems of India may be far away from the shores of America, but within our own constructs we deal with just as resounding of an issue, namely the issuing of unfair prejudice upon people who haven't had a chance to live out "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that guys like John Adams, John Hancock, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson fought for in our countries independence.
When thinking in terms of our country today, we face an issue that is not new, yet is ever changing (just as our country itself) and that is immigration of other cultures. However even though the positives of culture can improve society itself, it seems that the negative aspects weigh heavily on the other side. Now is that to say that because of immigration to the United States (and up to this point I am talking about the United States) we are not able to provide opportunities for ourselves? No, but what I am suggesting is that because of the cultural influx that is affecting America on so many levels (economy, crime, safety) we have begun to lose what cultural identity America did have, because it has now become a less definable quality. There are people who move to America (legally or illegally) that will not learn the language, will not follow the law, will not follow the culture, because they want the freedoms but not the repercussions. It seems that what was once deemed as an escape has become a lack of institutional responsibility. It simply is not enough for those within the nation (already citizens) and those coming in (legal or not) to say things like: "Oh I didn't know" or even "That's not my problem, lets let someone else deal with it".
I am making very bold statements here, and I hope that no one is offended. I simply feel the need to express this frustration openly, because I feel that it is an issue that is rarely discussed to a degree such as this. Am I saying that we should expel immigration? No, Of COURSE NOT!!
I would even go as far as to say that much of the immigration within the country and the improvement of minority situations have been able to keep America thriving so well (considering our birth rate is not as high as it could be).
If anything I think that as a nation of people we should be promoting culture within our communities (of all kinds), as well as finding a definable ability to say "This is what America is". We don't lack an American culture (like many believe), we just fail to recognize it (whether that is out of ignorance, or a lack of adhering to what everyone else is doing). I am saying all this because I have become worried about the future of this nation. I fear that one day in the future my children will walk down the street and not be able to communicate with those around them. I fear a time when racial injustice becomes as prevalent as it was before the Civil rights movement.
I have great respect for people like Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders who stood in the face of oppression and not only stood ground but faced the opposition with both truth and love. As I look upon my own heritage (Irish-Welsh-Italian), I see times in history where my ancestors were treated injustly in coming to America. In fact there was a time when the Irish and the Italians were considered to be racial "mongrels" during times of immigration in the early 1900s. You couldn't even get a job if you were Irish! I look back at that time and it makes me cringe! While we (the Irish/Italians) never had it as difficult as the Blacks (and I would never compare the two) we still struggled just as any other immigrant race struggles within America.
We talk of being politically correct and of not offending those around us, yet it seems that as long as you don't say anything bad about every other race (besides white) you are safe, and that placing the blame on every white person for the sins of many seems to be unjust. It is both a difficult issue and one that resonates with every person (none of which have it completely figured out).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life is (vol. 1)- Restlessness

I've discovered my taste in music changes rapidly over short periods of time. There are certain elements to what I like, but my musical taste is not limited to a single variety of rock, nor is it limited to a certain time (era) or place (Brit rock, stuff from America, etc..). Lately I have been enjoying much more standalone examples of alternative music (like Blur, Wintersleep, Alice in Chains, Oasis, and Rage). I guess it's a sense of restlessness within me that turns to music that hits hard yet dissapates in a way that makes you feel as though you are part of the experience (whether that means the lyrics themselves are resonating or not is up to interpretation).
This restlessness I think has in part to do with the summer ending... I can't wait for it to be over. I think I just reached a point a few days ago (Tuesday I believe) when I hung up the towel and said "Just let me go on vacation now, I don't care anymore". At that moment I had finally expressed what had been going through my head for the entire month of August.
Times change, people change, these are things that we know deep down but when addressed with them, I think most people hate to confront it. I am no different, I see something like this coming and I all of a sudden don't know what to do about it. My roomate (and one of my best friends) isn't coming back to Simpson. I know why, and I empathize and understand that it is probably the best thing for him to do.. but that doesn't make it something that I wanted to happen. Consequently I have hit a snag within another relationship (which shall not be named) which I had taken a blind eye to until most recently. I knew the snag was there, but there has been literally no way of fixing it (at this current moment, considering the factors causing it), luckily I have had some conversation over it and it seems to have at least been understood by the other, and hopefully that will help us at a future time (who knows?).
Maybe that's what happens when you get attached to something for so long, only to find it won't happen exactly as you had planned and have to reroute in order to figure out some other way of making things work out.
I am leaving for Washington on Saturday (the 23rd) and couldn't be happier to get out of here for awhile (no offense I just need a break alright...). I think it was I have needed for the entire month and the more I talk about it, the more restless I get.
Life... more specifically 'waiting', is that restlessness that dangles in front of you when you need an escape...

Monday, July 28, 2008

These Girls... reflections on singleness

I believe a famous comedian once pointed out that whenever an individual is "single" all that person sees around them are couples, people getting married, and people in love; He continued by noting that the opposite (being in love/relationship) causes you only to see single people (ranging from mildly to greatly attractive, I think is how he put it)...
I know that for me (being single) the first half reigns true. But I don't know if it is a physiological thing, or if it is merely coincidence (being that a lot of my friends are in relationships/ married).
I always found it funny when girls would tell me "oh you don't want a girlfriend", as if they were in on a secret that I was not aware of. Is it the complications relationships bring to the table that make them so undesirable, or is it the responsibility of caring for another person that makes this whole notion of "relationship" a hassle? I never understood it, but in many ways as I held onto this notion I found that I was better off in certain circumstances, because it kept me from making a few mistakes.
Being single gives an individual a perspective that is very different from someone who is in a relationship. I could write down a bunch of logistical terms explaining groupings of singleness, but that would merely be a hypocritical notion at this point. Throughout being single, I have learned so many things, yet I feel like I am lacking in something that I cannot (for the life of me) create within myself. It is not that I need someone else to tell me who I am, nor am I saying that I need someone else to give me a sense of purpose. I believe that you must first love (and care) for yourself before you can expect to love another (to love thy neighbor as thyself, logically requires an individual to first love themselves so that they have the capacity to love others and ultimately God), but it is ultimately the love of the other person that you put above your own needs. That is something that you simply will not hear out of the mouths of 99% of divorced couples, because the blame is always placed on the other, and never the self... Chivalry is indeed dead in its historical context, yet can be seen (in modern times) and acted upon if people were willing to put the needs of another above and beyond their own. For whatever reason, we have lost sight of this... one can only guess how..
Sometimes it is easy to forget that the opposite gender might be interested, because after a long period of time you just forget what it felt like to be in a relationship, you don't notice simple ques, you just merely exercise what you have, and what you know... It can be a depressing notion, but also a notion of patience. If one who is single is willing to wait for someone to truly "knock them on their feet", then it is more a virtue than a sign of weakness. Although in certain circumstances, singleness requires that an individual hold out for a possible future decision that may at times seem bleak, then this virtue becomes almost a part of that person... so ingrained that it takes on an essence of its own.
Maybe writing this entry is out of character, maybe its even too bold for my own tastes.. but as I write it I think back upon the past 3 years of singleness and I wonder at what it has taught me, and I look towards the future and wonder (with curiosity and skeptical enthusiasm) at what could be.
How long do I wait?

Friday, July 18, 2008

...After All I'm Only Sleeping... reflections on 'No Man is an Island'

"If I love my brothers according to the truth, my love for them will be true not only to them but also to myself."- Thomas Merton 'No Man is an Island' pg. 10

Lately I feel the strain of a tedious monotonous lifestyle that only breaks character when I am surrounded by people that I care about. I guess it is essential to have some sort of continuity in relationships, but it seems like it with all the outside influences, the individuals ongoing perseverance for a personally unique identity, and the need for new and refreshing experiences; can make it very difficult to truly encounter the love that Christ expressed for us all. How can you reach the whole world when you cannot treat yourself of the diseases that you yourself carry? And how much better can that journey be with the aid of those closest to you?
It may sound like a jumble of ideas, but these are questions that I have been thinking through while reading Merton's great book.

He states: "We can be, in some sense, friends to all men because there is no man on earth with whom we do not have something in common. But it would be false to treat too many men as intimate friends" and then again "The lives of all the men we meet and know are woven into our own destiny, together with the lives of many we shall never know on earth. But certain ones, very few, are our close friends. Because we have more in common with them, we are able to love them with a special selfless perfection, since we have more to share. They are inseparable from our own destiny, and, therefore, our love for them is especially holy: it is a manifestation of God in our lives." (Merton, 11-12)

I see this not as an excuse for not "branching out", but rather as a helpful reminder of how our immediate impact can effect those around us. Rather than thinking we need to "get out" of our current status in order to "reach the world", we forget that experiencing God, discovering our role as the beloved, and ultimately what many deem as "simple processes" like: prayer, devotion, and worship; are things that can be achieved in such fine detail wherever a wandering soul may find themselves. We get so used to this "save the lost, save the world" mentality that we forget why we are doing it in the first place and ultimately get "lost" in a Christian subculture that does more harm than good.

I want to close with this short selection:

"Man is divided against himself and against God by his own selfishness, which divides him against his brother. This division cannot be healed by a love that places itself only on one side of the rift. Love must reach over to both sides and draw them together. We cannot love ourselves unless we love others, and we cannot love others unless we love ourselves. But a selfish love of ourselves makes us incapable of loving others. The difficulty of this commandment lies in the paradox that it would have us love ourselves unselfishly, because even our love of ourselves is something we owe to others." (Merton, XX)

Wish to discuss anything you read?

Bring it on...haha.. but really I would love to discuss it with anyone.