Friday, December 23, 2016

Three Paragraphs: Chance the Rapper

This time last year, I pulled out the top ten albums on Pitchfork's best of list. I tend to be sort of hit-or-miss with Pitchfork recommendations because they pay a lot closer attention to lyrical content than I do, and put less emphasis on the sound. However, every now and then I line up with their thoughts and the best of list usually helps me to push past some of my musical prejudices. Last year helped me to appreciate Kendrick Lamar more. This year I started listening to Chance the Rapper who I had missed in the noise of the general music press.

I'd love to share Chance with some of the people I talk to. Sometimes when I'm working at youth group I want to put music on, but the problem is that so much of the music I listen to is rooted in exploring loss or injustice or the ugly parts of life or it comes out of a place where there's honest talk about sex, or drugs, or violence, or its just mentioned because that's a part of life. I can't imagine the conversations I'd have to have with parents if they wanted to know where their kids were learning these new words from. There's adults where I have the same problem. I don't know how to articulate something like Chance's album to other people because I see so much depth in it when you go looking, but I don't think most people I interact with on the daily could get past the fact that "this is rap music". I think they'd have the same reaction my Grade 5 teacher had. "Rap music is fast talking over rhythmic music with lots of vulgarity". They don't want to parse curse words into something with more depth they just feel awkward about it.

This has got to be a complete shift in the way that people think about culture and language and I honestly don't know if I'll see it. I know if I have kids or when I talk to kids about music and culture I'll want to talk about it in a way that emphasizes that we look behind what's on the surface to understand the story someone is telling and understanding how some language gets limited to certain spheres and certain people. Maybe after a few generations of that you can get your stodgy uncle listening to "Same Drugs".

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Three Paragraphs: Churchill

"Winston Churchill was a great prime minister. Except then World War 2 ended and he wasn't as great anymore."

Some friends of mine have a lot of respect for Winston Churchill. I guess I do too. World War 2 is such a crystal clear conflict. There were these people who were evil. There were these people who fought those evil people and so they were good. Then there were the Russians. Even World War 2 isn't clear. Winston Churchill seems to have been the perfect man for this time. He kept Britain together during one of its most difficult periods. He cranked out some fantastic quotes. Then the war ended and until recently I heard very little about what he accomplished as the Prime Minister of a peace time nation.

Both wars just seem so crystalline now compared to what we experience on a day to day basis. As we identify people more and more as individuals, I come to realize that I can't say "The Russians" anymore. There is Putin, there are his followers, there are his opponents, there are the people in his country who may or may not care about what he does. Millions of individual people who live in Russia but who can't be grouped as "The Russians". I think someone like Churchill wouldn't do well today. Too much granularity in the political landscape. Too much individuality. No collectivism to rally the Russians against.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Three Paragraphs: Naomi's Road

When I was eight or nine years old my sister gave me a book to read called Naomi's Road. It's about a girl's experience of the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War Two. The book was perfect for me at that time because I understood about as much of what Naomi describes in the book as Naomi did. I finished the book and thought "she had a really strange life during the war. I hope things work out for her."

Today I was reading my twitter feed and was reminded of the Japanese Interment in North America. I think its history is more screwed up in Canada because of all the repossession that happened where the government basically stole the livelihood of all the people interned and left them to their own devices to figure it out. I was reminded of all of this because of a series of photographs by an American photojournalist who took pictures during the war that were locked away because they were viewed as sympathetic toward the Japanese by the American Government at the time. You can see some of those pictures here.

I feel a bit like nine-year old me sometimes. Gloriously oblivious to all of the things happening in the world and leaving situations thinking "I hope it works out for them".

Friday, December 9, 2016

Three Paragraphs: Three Reflexes

*blink*

*puts hands in mouth*

*Ctrl+T*

The * is a useful way to mark actions in internet writing. It tells you that what you're reading isn't a word, but is instead a description of what that person is doing. The three actions I have described above have something in common. They're all reflexes.

The first one is universal. Everyone blinks. You're doing it right now. Now you're trying not to because I'm making you self-conscious. Now you're giving up and doing it anyways. Let's move on. The next one is common but not universal. I stick my fingers in my mouth all the time without thinking. Some of my co-workers bump my elbows when I do it. It doesn't make me stop. It's reflexive. It means I'm stressed. I can't figure out how to stop because I don't even notice when I'm doing it.

The last one is the keyboard shortcut for opening a new tab in your browser. I have done it so much, I don't even have to look down at the keyboard to make it happen. My pinky drops down to ctrl, my index finger flexes out and presses "T" and then I'm punching in the first three letters of a website I've visited a thousand times. The I push the down arrow and start looking to see if there's anything new worth reading. 90% of the time there isn't. Ctrl+T doesn't provide a magical portal to a new word. Yet I'm pushing it hundreds of times a day without even thinking. Where did I even learn this behaviour? I don't know. Like the slap of the elbow, there's no stopping it because I'm not even thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thoughts from Arrival

On Monday I needed to kill some time. They were spraying our apartment for cockroaches and I had to stay out for a few hours. Unable to go home, I decided to go see a movie. I ended up choosing "Arrival" with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. A review I read ahead of time said that it was "emotionally devastating". This was true. I cried.

I'm still thinking about it a few days later. Without going into detail about the film, I was affected by it's thoughts on human relationships. We have this dual joy and tragedy created by every interaction we have with another person or animal that we care about. First is the joy that comes from being together. To build a relationship with someone is to feel joy and comfort and companionship. The good moments in a friendship or marriage or other kinds of relationship are the kind of good that you don't find anywhere else in the world. I think that's where life is at its absolute best. And so the tragedy is the knowledge that every one of those relationships will end at some point with the death either of ourselves or of the other person.When we choose to operate in the moment, then our feelings about that relationship are tied to the state of that person at that time. But if we think about the relationship as a single unit encompassing both the joy of togetherness and the pain of separation, then every relationship becomes much more complex. It's not either joy or pain. It's a feeling in the moment, tempered by all the other feelings that go along with that relationship; hopes about the future, moments of tension in the past, feelings of anger, tender moments.

I tend to want a more pure emotional experience. Either let me be really happy or let me be really sad but don't try and mute things out by mixing feelings together. After watching this movie, I'm starting to rethink that. It's foolish to deny that we can anticipate a variety of experiences in a relationship. It's wiser to accept those variety of tones and use them to carry us through both highs and lows.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Don't Look Back in Anger

Yesterday I was angry. I was very angry. You might ask me "Ben, what was it that got you so angry", and I would have to tell you that I do not know. I can remember the experience of being angry quite vividly. I wanted to punch something, I had a hard time engaging in conversation, and everything was tipping me off. But there was no single thing that had made me so angry. It was more like a million tiny things had pushed the boulder of my anger down a hill and now there was no stopping.

It is amazing how difficult it can be to alter your own emotions when something like this happens. There was no moment for me to let go of, and as I got angry each subsequent offense made me more and more frustrated. First it was because we were talking about someone that made me upset, then it was because the equipment was broken, and then people started asking me questions and I got even more agitated even though it usually would have been fine.

I was blessed to find out that yesterday was a short day for me. I thought I would be there until 2, but I had misread my schedule and discovered that I was actually to go home at 10:30 am. This turned out to be the thing which turned aside my anger in that moment and so there was no chance to learn how to cool off in the moment. So today when I go back, I will need to consider how I stop from getting angry in the first place.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Playing games with Strangers

Sometime in the Spring of last year I finished my full time studies at Tyndale and switched over to being a part time student. I only had three credits left to finish and I spread them out across a few semesters. I had dropped part time work while I finished my studies because I was also finishing an internship at a church, so when May of 2015 rolled around, there was a considerable lull in my schedule. One day while I was sitting around looking for something to do, I picked up Destiny which I had bought the previous September for my PS3 because I had some birthday money I needed to spend. I had played it for maybe three hours and then given up on it. I picked it back up because people kept talking about how great it was. Flash forward a year and a half and Destiny has ironically saved me a ton of money. I have spent less than $150 since buying it because I literally have no interest in playing other games. It's fun, it always gives me something to do, and I can play at any time for short bursts.

Destiny is an inherently social game in some senses. It's always online and the game world is constantly populated by other players who are on different adventures which come in contact with yours at a tangent. Their names flash by in an instant and disappear. Because the game matches you by internet connection, you will sometimes get matched up with the same strangers more than once. I encountered the same guy in one of the social spaces of the game on two separate occasions about a month apart. We figured out it's because we're both in Toronto.

The game also blocks access to some parts if you don't have enough "friends" to play with. I use the term friends loosely here. It just means that you are connected with people that you have communicated with outside of the game. When I first started playing I mostly ignored this kind of stuff because I had no microphone and no way to communicate with other people so I figured it was basically off limits. As I played more, I found some tools that help you to meet other players, including a really helpful website called the100.io

This morning I completed an achievement that marked the end of stuff to do in the second year of the game. It involved a coordinated effort between six people in specific roles to do in a reasonable amount of time. I had never played with any of the five I did it with before. We finished the whole thing in an hour. I was breathing heavily the entire time, nervous that I was going to screw up for this group of strangers. I didn't. We were successful.

If you had told me two years ago that I would be doing this kind of thing I wouldn't have believed you. I am generally afraid of strangers. How I get by at Starbucks always amazes me. And I know it's a video game and it's kind of stupid, but it feels good to be able to say that I can participate in something I enjoy with other people who also enjoy it and we can happily enjoy it all together. I am happy to have finished the second year of Destiny, and I hope this transfers into other parts of life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nothing

I don't have much to say today. It is early, I am tired, I am about to go to work. The creative juices are not exactly flowing in those conditions.

But I wanted to say that I have nothing to say, so you wouldn't get the wrong idea.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Grandpa

When I was a little kid, my grandpa was great because of all the cool stuff he did. He flew model airplanes, went fishing, had a model sailboat, and pulled us behind the tube. He also did things that I don't remember and only saw later through video. There's a clip of him laying on the floor at the cottage making funny faces at me while I smile back at him and hid behind a large toy car. This goes on for like twenty minutes. He makes faces, I laugh and pull his hat over his face, he makes funny noises, I laugh more. There's no sense of urgency like he's going to leave as soon as he gets a chance. He's just there enthralled with me (also let's hear it for my dad who captured this whole moment on camera for me to reminisce over later). It's obvious from watching him that he cared about the people around him.

As an adult, I admired my grandpa probably about as much as anyone could because I heard about the story of his life. My dad had always told me that he hadn't finished high school because he needed to work when he was younger, but I never put it all together. My grandpa worked for GM in Oshawa and through his unique combination of natural intuition, a desire to learn, and his incredible work ethic, worked his way up to an engineering-type situation with the company. Through it all he was able to provide very well for his family and take retirement at a time when he was still able to enjoy it.

Grandpa had some quirks. He liked to do what he liked to do and I realize now that it was a bit odd at times, but in the time I spent with him he was always generous. He wanted to share the things he loved with other people, whether that was life lessons or money or fishing or stories from his time at GM. He was always opening himself to others and I admire that. My Grandpa Ed Gresik passed away this morning. I will miss him, but he will always be with me through these things I remember which he left behind.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Camping

I spent a night at a campground in Toronto this week (Glen Rouge for those of you who are curious). It sits in the middle of Rouge Park surrounded by greenery and right next to the Rouge River. It is very pretty. It's campsites are also very close together.

In regular life it's uncommon for the personal problems of families to spill into the public sphere. A kid might have a temper tantrum but then he's taken into the bathroom and he calms down. When you're camping though, there's no space to get away from other people. If you're having a crisis then it's happening right there on site 24 and there's nothing anyone else around is going to do about it. This happened while we were camping and it just reminded me that the home life of other people is often very different from my own.

It also reminded me why when I have taken trips in the past it's usually been to a place that is far far away from other people. I like a camping trip that gives an experience of the great outdoors, and while I always enjoy being reminded of the human experience, I'd really just rather a little peace and quiet.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Where they Belong

I get a little bit angry when people don't put things back the way they are supposed to go. Amanda is the one who hears this from me most often, but I think people at work are starting to get it too. On one level I feel bad for not being more laid back about this kind of stuff. In many cases it's really not a huge deal. But in other cases it does feel like a huge deal. At home messes that were once cleaned up reappear after a day because someone started a pile of clothes. At work the organizational system is constantly shifting as others that I work with are returning things to different locations.

I am conflicted about this because I know that when things remain static and everything has a place then it's that much easier to get work done. You are not constantly looking for things when you go to do something. It saves me so much time at work to know that every time I open the fridge, the lemonade is right there and if I had to look every time it would make the whole thing an incredible chore.

But at the same moment I don't want to fall into the trap of insisting everything is done my way. I need to be flexible and accommodating and understand what kinds of layouts other people want. This is why I want to be laid back. I don't want to insist on my own way every time and be accused of being selfish. I want things to work for everyone. It's just hard to do that in a constructive way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Idly Scrolling

I get tired a lot in between working two jobs and having lots of stuff to do at home. There are lots of times when I get home from work and I can't really work up the strength to get off the couch. I think under these circumstances, the best thing for me to do is lay down and go to sleep so I can at least try and get some energy back. And yet what I usually end up doing is flipping through Reddit or Instagram or some other content stream on my phone endlessly for like an hour. I think I'm not the only one that does this too. The stream may change, but the practice of flipping instead of resting happens.

I catch myself thinking sometimes "I am too tired to do anything meaningful, but I don't want to just sleep because that seems like a waste of time". I feel like I'll be missing out if I just lay down and take a nap instead of getting up. I know that this is stupid. When I'm on top of things, I put my phone down and go back to bed. But it still amazes me how hard that is when I know exactly what I am doing and I know exactly why it is stupid.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Real Job

When I was little, I used to hate doing my homework. I'd be at home wanting to play Super Nintendo or something like that and then my mom would say "do your homework" and then I'd be slacking off and she'd say something like "you won't be able to do this when you have a real job". I'd always turn around and say "It'll be different when I have a real job because I'll be getting paid for it."

As an adult, that has turned out to be true. The things I get paid to do have tended to be things that I take a lot of pride in. It's not always the case, but I think money does change how you think about work. At camp, as I gradually go paid more and more each summer I took my work more seriously. As time has gone on and I've started getting paid for church work, I put a lot more pressure on myself to do a good job.

There's always moments where you're glad you weren't an idiot as a kid. This is one of them. School is different from real jobs, and now that I have a real job I'm not slinking away to play video games in the middle of the day.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Odd Time Off

Yesterday I was driving from Westport to Toronto. Making that drive on a Sunday inevitably leads to me following a crush of traffic on the way back in because everyone is coming into the city. There were moments where we slowed down for no reason other than the sheer volume of cars heading East. The whole time I drove I thought about how there was a reason why I hated following the schedule of other people.

See working in the Church and working at Starbucks where I work most weekends, I have gotten the ability to be off at times when few others are. My schedule doesn't conform to that of the average Monday to Friday 9-5 person and I like that. I can go shopping when the mall is empty. I can go to the cottage on a Wednesday when there's no traffic and no people.

But when I have to travel on a conventional day, it just makes me want to stay home on weekends and avoid trying to follow the patterns of others. I know sometimes I have to (like next weekend), but I would much rather work weekends and enjoy peaceful time off during the week than scramble around in traffic and crowds.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Toronto is Home

I'm in Westport this weekend to preach. More accurately I'm in Westport right now to preach and then when I finish I'm driving back to Toronto to do something at Willowdale tonight. As I was driving up here last night I realized that this is the first summer since 2005 that I have not spent any time at Iawah whatsoever. Last year I was only there for a few hours because I was preaching on a Sunday. This year I'm not even doing that.

The stranger thing for me is that I don't really care. I am happy with how things are going in Toronto right now. Sure they're busy and I don't always get time to see all my friends, but we have a community of people around us, I don't feel alone, and I feel good about what we have there. I feel zero pull whatsoever to go back to camp right now.

I think that's best. I used to spend time there because people I cared about were there. Now they are gone so I don't feel the same pull to be there. Instead I am drawn to where the people I care about are. For the most part they are in Toronto, so Toronto is where I want to be. And I must say it feels good to live in a place that feels like home.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Gospel According to Leviticus

This may appear a bit non-sequitur for some who read what I write, but I'm leading the evening Bible study at our church for the next two or three weeks while my pastor is away on vacation and study leave. Tonight we're reading Leviticus 5:1-13 together and I wrote the following reflection on it for the study. I figured I'd share it here since I'm not likely to be writing anything else today.


---------

When we read the Bible, we can be struck by two equally wrong ideas about God. The first idea is that God does not care how we live because he knows we cannot live how he desires. This idea leads us to cling to Jesus as a “feel good” saviour, the parent who picks us up from jail without trying to help us change. The second idea is that God tells us how to live without considering how we will do it, and so it’s up to us to just figure it out on our own so we may please him. In this situation Jesus is a distant and uncaring saviour who we call from prison only to hear “figure it out yourself. You’re an adult”. Neither one of these pictures is good news.

            When we read Leviticus, it may be tempting to read the rituals surrounding the mechanics of sacrifice or what animals are supposed to be offered for which kinds of sins, and dismiss it as background to which Christians are supposed to be glad they don’t have to deal with.
But God’s instructions for how his people and his Priests in Israel should worship give us more than that. One thing they give us is glimpses into how God is showing his goodness even as he gives the Levitical laws, and how we see this goodness continue through Jesus.

            I find the Gospel in this passage in the words “If he cannot afford as much as a sheep(7)” and “If he cannot afford two doves or two pigeons(11)”. To me these words are good news because they show me that God cares how I live. They are also good news because they show me that God wants me to be able to live the way he asks. In ancient times where you ate what you grew with your flocks and your fields, asking the people to sacrifice animals for their sins was an incredible test of faith. In his commentary, Gordon Wenham says “In the overfed West we can easily fail to realize what was involved in offering an unblemished animal in sacrifice. Meat was a rare luxury in OT times for all but the very rich (cf. Nathan’s parable [about the sheep told to David after he slept with Bathsheeba and killed Uriah] 2 Samuel 12:1-6).[1]” If it was a luxury for the rich and the common people, it would have been a hardship for the poor to try and raise or afford an animal to sacrifice for their sins.

            And so there is this consideration within the text. God desires faith in sacrifice from his people, but he does want to starve them or impoverish them. He has allowances for those who cannot offer the sheep to offer birds, or if they could not afford that then a few pounds of flour (a tenth of an Ephah would be about seven pounds). If we think back to the two false pictures of Jesus I mentioned at the beginning, neither one would need these exceptions. If God didn’t care if we lived how he wanted because of Jesus saving work, then he needn’t have bothered to make it possible for the poor to sacrifice for their sins. If God made his pronouncements with the expectations that we would figure it out, then he wouldn’t have been so compassionate in considering how his people would make a living.

            So from Leviticus 5:1-13 I learn this. God cares deeply about how we live. Deeply enough that he sent his Son to teach us how we should live and share with us what the kingdom of God is like. God also wants to make a way for us to live the kingdom out now. That is why he sends his Spirit to us to live in us and enable us to walk more and more in his ways each step of every day.



[1] Gordon Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 51.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Incentives

I am fascinated by incentives. The carrots that people dangle in front of each other to get them to do things they might not otherwise do. The book "Freakonomics" is sort of obsessed with this idea that if we provide the right incentive, we can get people to do just about anything. I'm not sure I follow their logic as closely as it seems to reek of enlightenment thinking that suggests man is just a machine that follows social laws and can be understood, but I do agree that incentives are a powerful tool for understanding why we do the things that we do.

Like for example I don't read books unless it is for school (generally speaking of course. There are exceptions to this because I don't believe people respond only to incentives remember), but when it's for school I will push myself to read just about anything even if I find it either boring or terribly written or I find the ideas within to be ridiculous. There's an incentive (usually a grade for a course that I had to pay real money for) that gets me to do something.

While incentives are interesting and fascinating to find and understand, they do take some of the mystery out of life once you find them. Like imagine introducing your hobbies because of incentives.

"Hi, I'm Ben and I like to garden because the incentives it provides are appealing to me."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

March 24th, 2016: Why do you go to church?

If you do anything for long enough, it's possible that you start to forget why you are doing it in the first place. Doing something because you have always done it becomes a reason all by itself. So when someone asks you "Hey, why do you do that?" in a normal conversation and you can't give an answer right away, that's probably a sign that you should stop and take a second to think about why you do. A friend got me with the question in the title of today's post. We were catching up and she said "so why do you go to church?" and I said some things, but I don't know if I gave an honest answer.

There are many reasons for why I go to church. The most practical is that I want to be a pastor and so for the sake of my future career, I join and get involved in a church now so that later on I have some  credibility. If that was the only reason though, that would be pretty selfish. It's not. There are deeper reasons.

There is a bit that Louis CK gave on a late night talk show once where he talked about how life was incredibly sad and there was this dark place that you go to sometimes when you don't have anything to distract you. I go to that place a lot. I describe it to Amanda as an existential crisis. I just sit there and pour over the thought that I exist and that I am scared and sad. Some people seem to be okay accepting that. I cannot do that. If my only choice was to live with that feeling without any sense of resolution, I would not be able to go on.

I don't always enjoy church. It makes me anxious because there are people and because I never know what I am supposed to be doing (which is because of my famous social anxiety). "Are people judging me? Should I be talking to someone right now? I am scared. I am going to hide in a corner until I leave" Yet every Sunday I make an effort to go now. I push past it because I have to be there yes, but I also push past it because of that pit inside me. Because if I didn't show up, I would be consumed with fear for the rest of the week. With no one else to share a sense of hope about the future and a faith in a God who is making all things right, I would have a hard time desiring to do anything except locking myself in a room and avoiding all human contact.

I cannot believe that God would create me only to have me curled up in a ball on the floor for the rest of my life filled with existential dread. I don't think he did. Church is a place where I can go to celebrate that this sense of dread is a lie and there is something to look forward to. As hard as it can be for me, church is a place filled with people who are gathered around the same hope. So yes, I go to church because I want to work. But I also go to church because I want to live.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22nd, 2016

Sorry for the spotty posts this weekend. Amanda and I were celebrating our anniversary and then other stuff got in the way.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 19th, 2016: Some babble about flavours and tasting

We recorded a podcast while we were celebrating our anniversary and eating chips. It's not very deep but maybe you will enjoy it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18th, 2016

Yesterday was really busy. I arrived home at midnight and collapsed into bed. I did not record anything. I thought that would be okay. You can listen to yesterday's post which I didn't advertise instead. Enjoy that. I will get back to recording today.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17th, 2016: Two Thoughts on Ted Rogers being thrown in the harbour

I'm going to get in trouble for something I said in here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16th, 2016: Acquiring New Music

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15th, 2016: Jason on why you should cheer for sports teams that don't always win

Special thanks to Jason for letting me say insensitive things about his favourite sports teams and letting me interview him in his living room.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14th, 2016: Amanda on her Paper

There is some language in this one, but I elected to leave it in.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13th, 2016

Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 12th, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 11th, 2016

Yesterday's post was the beginning of a very expensive experiment. I'm always trying to think of ways to coerce myself into sticking to things and spending money is one of those ways. If I spend money I might keep doing it consistently because I'll feel bad about wasting so much. I have been wanting to do more interviews with people I know and practice my audio editing skills.

My old recording equipment would have worked, but suddenly it all decided it would be obsolete and would no longer operate with any of the software I still have. Whoops. So I purchased a small handheld recorder with some good microphones attached and decided I would use that. It would be more convenient anyway. I recorded yesterdays post and then went to edit it. Whoops, the program that I received free with the recorder has no playback cursor. That means there's no way to see where in the file you are listening. If you're trying to cut out pieces of audio then that's kind of important. After fighting with it for an hour, I gave up and purchased a subscription to Adobe Audition which I'm much more familiar with. So now I'm really invested in this exercise and really frustrated with technology.

My plan is to upload some sort of audio content every day. I have to stagger it because it can take me a while to edit the files. I've already recorded the file for tomorrow, but it needs to be touched up and scheduled and so it won't go up until Saturday. What this means is that starting tomorrow I will be trying to put up an audio clip every day. It will probably be mostly monologues but there might be a few interviews here and there. For now they will just be posted here, but eventually I will set up a podcast feed so it's easier to keep up with.

With that said, I will stop typing and start talking.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10th, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

March 5th, 2016

I did not have to do anything yesterday. I had no work scheduled, and I only had plans to see friends in the evening. That meant the entire day was mine to do with as I pleased or as I felt led to. I did not feel led to do very much. I spent most of the day playing video games, talking to Amanda, and tidying up here and there but I would not say that I accomplished anything significant.

See, I didn't have to do anything and I also didn't want to do anything that required effort. There is Greek and Hebrew that I could study but that is taxing and time consuming. There are topics I could write about but that requires sustained bursts of motivation. There are books I could be reading but that requires sitting down and being somewhat idle for a prolonged period of time. I didn't have to do anything and I didn't want to do anything that was hard.

In the winter, I have pointed to my seasonal lows as a reason for why I seemed to accomplish so little. I get less done in the winter because I have less energy and things are more difficult for me. But winter is pretty much over. Sure there is still snow on the ground and the like, but the sun comes up closer to 7 AM now and there isn't the near constant darkness that usually occurs in the winter. The air is becoming more humid and breathable again. Things are improving and there are less and less excuses for my own idleness. As the summer begins may I get out of my bed and back on track.



Friday, February 26, 2016

February 26th, 2016

I was working at a new store last week. I was there on a trial and feeling extremely nervous. I had gotten through a few hours and finally had a chance to check in with the manager. She said

"Smile more. You look really serious."

Such is the struggle of having an angry resting face. Your resting face is the one you make when you're not thinking about how to present your face. If I think happy thoughts, my face looks happy but if I'm not thinking about anything in particular then I look pretty angry. The manager was pointing out the shape of my face when I'm not thinking.

I'm trying to improve. I have no work for a little while so I'm practicing in practical situations. When I walk to the store, I try to smile and look less serious. It is so hard to force your face into a different position. My resting smile is barely there, but when I put it on I feel like the biggest idiot in the world. I look happy, but for no reason in particular.

I think others appreciate when they see smiles around them, so I'm motivated to keep practicing. And practicing my smile is certainly helping me to be less angry at strangers, but it takes a lot of work and I don't know if it will stick. You'll be able to tell next time you see me on the street.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21st, 2016 The Change Of The Season

I like winter for the most part. I like the things you get to to in winter like skating and skiing. I like the way the sky reflects all the lights from the city when it's snowing. I love the holiday season with all of its optimism. I think it's pretty okay. My body on the other hand is not a big fan. Everything happens slower for me in the winter. I am less creative, less active, and less optimistic. I spend less time with friends. I hibernate. It can be difficult to watch myself close off from the world for January and February and not accomplish much of what I accomplished during the rest of the year.

As soon as the first day above five degrees hits though, it's like I become a totally different person. I launch open the windows, start cleaning up everything in the house, and get in touch with everyone I know to make plans. I feel a sense of energy coming over me as I breathe the warm and humid outside air deeply for the first time in months. Yesterday the weather turned and today I'm feeling noticeably better.

I hope you also enjoy the turn from winter to spring (whenever that happens). February is the worst of months, but it's nearly over and when it is done there's another glorious ten months of weather hospitable to human joy. Enjoy them while they last.

Friday, February 12, 2016

On The Seven Dirty Words

If you start reading backwards through the archive, you may begin to notice some older posts have been edited. Actually you probably won't unless you pay far more attention than you should. I am going back over old posts and applying copy edits and tweaking some of my choice of wordplay. The copy edits are for personal satisfaction (typos drive me insane). The language choices are in response to some comments I have gotten about my choice of language. You will still find "vulgar" words in some posts that fit within the Seven Dirty Words. They will be significantly less frequent than they used to be.

I recognize that people will read the things that I write and then make judgements about me based on those things. That is fair and so I ought to make sure that the things that I write match up with the person that I am within reason. There is little point in going all the way back and trying to edit every piece of content I have created over the years because at a certain point in time, I can point to things I have written and say "that is how I felt about this then, but that is not how I feel about this now". But with the seven dirty words, I've felt a certain way for a while and it seemed good to me to update my use of language historically so it matched that belief.



Words have power because we give them power. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the seven dirty words. They are a collections of sounds produced by your mouth. But we assign them a meaning and that means that we have to consider how other people are going to respond to them. I have to think about how my language makes other people feel. The go-to passage about language in the Bible comes from Ephesians "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." In other words don't tear people down with your language. If I'm going to use certain words, I want to make sure it's not creating problems for other people that I am around. This is why I use polite language in public spheres.

But there are certain situations where the crassness of the seven dirty words can be appropriate. Some topics don't earn the privilege of polite language and some issues require a force of language that cannot always be reached with polite vocabulary. For this reason I use these words when other words do not accomplish the same purposes as well, and when others listening would not be brought down by them. Sometimes people do things that are so unspeakably selfish that "asshole" is the only title that carries enough force to communicate that selfishness. It's not for use in every situation (hence the editing) but when applied appropriately and with the right audience, these words can help to enhance the force of whatever it is you're saying.

Friday, February 5, 2016

February 5th, 2016

Newton's first law states that objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. I love to stay at rest unless something crazy happens. I think most people do. Unless you are driven to action by some force outside yourself, it is much easier to sit on your couch and just keep watching Netflix until the sun goes down and another day passes. This phenomena means that when I break the cycle of inaction, even if it is for something strange, I feel really great and that generates force which can push me further out of the state of inaction. Then instead of a downward spiral, it becomes an upward spiral.

Yesterday I resisted the urge to stay home and do nothing because I recognize that sometimes I have a limited amount of time to do something and that means I really ought to do it today. Yesterday I needed to go to North York for a little bit to do some learning about a place where I might be working. It took forty five minutes to get there and forty five minutes to return, but I am glad that I went because I feel so much better prepared now than I did yesterday. I resisted the urge to stay home and do nothing and that was a good thing.

Today I need to get groceries and continue to work on a few other positive developments. I want to remember yesterday when I think about it so that I am able to push forward and work on these things instead of sitting around and being lazy. I want the upward spiral to continue.

Friday, January 22, 2016

January 22, 2016

Dave Chapelle is coming to Toronto. This is a big deal because he hasn't done a lot of touring as of late and he' s still immensely popular. I saw an ad for the shows on Facebook and took a note to try and get tickets, but then promptly forgot about it. No tickets for me.

But the story doesn't end there. There were some very restrictive stipulations on the website where tickets were being sold. From the show's description
Admission to this event is STRICTLY NON-TRANSFERABLE. At the venue you will be required to present the credit card associated with your order and valid photo ID in order for you to be granted admission to the show. All members of your party must be present when your credentials are being verified for admission & enter the venue together. Name changes, refunds or any other revisions to your order will not be permitted
I have heard of and seen artists doing lots of this lately. Because concert tickets can be purchased online, people have developed pieces of software that are able to automatically buy up large swatches of tickets which someone (a scalper, let's be honest) can then resell potentially at a huge profit (which seems to have happened already for this show). It's a practice which makes artists pissed because it turns concerts into elitist events where only those able to pay the 300% markup are able to get in, and it means the majority of "real revenue" generated from ticket resales goes to scaplers and not to the promoter or the artist or literally anyone else doing all of the work.

My interest in this particular show was reignited when I spotted a reddit thread on the topic. It also made me angry about scalpers all over again. I know that we're all capitalists and money talks and you can basically buy whatever you want for enough money. I also know that I have done this for a show which turned out to be one of the greatest performances that I have ever seen, but I get so angry about the injustice in all of this. Someone does work in concert with a pile of other people to put on a concert. You get an artist (or group of artists), a booker, a promoter, a ticket resale company (I'll complain about them another time), sound and lighting people, ticket takers, concession staff, and a landlord that has a venue worth using for shows. All of these people divide up these ticket revenues between them. But then on the side a bunch of greedy scalpers discover that they can buy a piece of that pie and sell it for two more whole pies, all for the small price of setting up some bots, communicating with desperate concert goers, and ignoring the shame that this whole process should bring about.

I wish there was a solution to this problem, but sadly it's about incentives. There is an incentive for people to put on shows, there are incentives for people to go to them, and there are incentives for you to be a terrible person and game the system for huge profit. Yet another example of things that make me endlessly angry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January 20th, 2016

I read part of a book a few years ago called "Crazy Like Us" which talked about how Psychology impacted the rest of the world. As Psychology developed quickly in the West in the 20th Century, its ideas were shared with those in other countries and something odd began to happen. Disorders which were listed in resources like the DSM began to appear in places where they had never appeared before. It wasn't just that people were seeing things for the first time. Some behavioural changes occurred in other countries as they learned about American Psychology. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia began to occur in countries where people had previously not dealt with such things. By spreading American Psychology as "the way we work", there was an enormous amount of cultural expressions of mental health and well being that were lost. Simply by giving diagnoses, people's behaviour changed.

I worry about that kind of suggestibility for one reason. In the winter I typically slow down. There's usually a few weeks where I notice that I do not have flashes of inspiration or bursts of energy. I nap a lot if there's time. I drag if there isn't. I play a lot of video games. Then sometime around March when they days are noticeably longer, I start to pick up again. I've started identifying this as seasonal depression, but I hesitate.

What if it's not depression? What if I'm just giving into my own selfish desires to nap all the time, be a lazy irresponsible butt, and ignoring everyone else? Being depressed and being an asshole can look the same from the outside and I'm afraid that I'm being the latter and not the former. I don't want to use what fogginess I feel in the winter as an excuse to ignore my responsibility to the rest of the world.

I'm still napping more. I'm still playing video games. But I'm trying to do things I don't like. I'm trying to read and visit people and get out of the apartment occasionally. I may be foggy, but I won't be fogged in.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12th, 2016

I get scared by things. Not like spiders or heights or the dark. I get scared by big things. Things like death or loneliness, or a stock market chart that goes down and down and down. Those are the things that scare me. And those things never go away. They linger, happy to ruin my day over and over and over again as they carry their hefty burdens and cast them over my back to drag me down.

The stock market or the economy in particular is the one that really gets me. How will I continue to survive? It's awfully selfish of me but I think about others to. I think about other friends with student debt or children or aging parents with small pensions all the while thinking about how it is that we will survive. How we will pay rent. How we will pay medical bills. How we will keep more going out than coming in.

But I am also worried about survival. How will I keep food in the pantry and a roof overhead without creating insanity in my household? I was looking at the chart for the Canadian Dollar. It's fallen thirty cents over the last three years. That's a little scary. With oil dropping lower, that is even scarier. I don't know what major industries Canada has left to prop it up. I work in the service industry, but we survive on the backs of other industries that pay people enough to use our services. Will there be enough of those people to keep service alive?

Probably? Maybe? The world changes so fast and I'm never sure if I'll be able to keep up or if I'll get turfed with no job and no way of working my way back into the system. On top of all of this, there is an endless sense of futility as I don't see any way of improving the situation. Politics is a gong-show because in order for the government to do stuff they need money but they don't have money when no one is working, and no one wants to give them more money ("My tax dollars, blah, blah, blah"). I don't really feel like I can trust businesses to think about the good of the country they operate in since they can just pack up and move and other countries are only too happy to have them.

Here's what I truly fear about the stock market. I fear a world ruled by selfish people serving exclusively selfish ends, seeking to enrich only themselves, and ignoring everyone else around them. I fear that no one will step in to do the noble thing or the good thing and share their wealth in a way that benefits their neighbour. I worry that I will watch many become increasing rich and comfortable while everyone else whither away to nothing in service of this greed.

I'm not scared of spiders, but I am scared of people.

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8th, 2016

The older I get, the harder it is to keep up with everybody. I have friends in many different places so it's hard to get together in person, and then I have worries about making plans with them. Friendship takes a lot more effort when it's over a long distance and sometimes I don't follow through.

I feel bad about this. I feel bad that my lack of social graces keeps me away from people. I feel bad that I probably leave others feeling like I don't care about them. I care about people. It's just too hard to maintain these gimpy long-distance relationships when there are so many other demands on your time. I wish I could give people a "goodbye" card that would indicate that we could reopen the relationship later, but for now it was on hold.

Once, when I was in high school, I went to band camp in Michigan. For a week I played saxophone in a jazz band and a concert band with a bunch of kids from Grand Rapids. We had a good time. They were all nice. We told jokes. It was cool.

At the end of the week we said our goodbyes. I am never in Grand Rapids, I did not have Facebook, and there was no reason for me to ever contact these kids again. When we left I said "I will never see you again, so goodbye". I didn't feel guilty about saying that at all. It was true. I've never so much as heard a whisper from any of them. There was something nice about having such a clean break.

But I can't always do that. I can't because really fantastic and wonderful people that I have cared about at one point in time or another are spread out all over everywhere and I have time to see them, but not enough time to see all of them. I don't even know how to start scheduling visits. If I made an effort to see all the people I want to, I don't think I'd do anything else on my weekends. So I feel guilty for not seeing them, but I can't truly say goodbye when there's a chance. I wish there was a process for this.