jump to navigation

For the mental. October 20, 2010

Posted by Jordan in Books, Quotes.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

Excerpt from The End Of Faith, by Sam Harris – Chapter One, pages 11 and 12

The young man boards the bus as it leaves the terminal. He wears an overcoat. Beneath his overcoat, he is wearing a bomb. His pockets are filled with nails, ball bearings, and rat poison.

The bus is crowded and headed for the heart of the city. The young man takes his seat beside a middle-aged couple. He will wait for the bus to reach its next stop. The couple at his side appears to be shopping for a new refrigerator. The woman has decided on a model, but her husband worries that it will be too expensive. He indicates another one in a brochure that lies open on her lap. The next stop comes into view. The bus doors swing. The woman observes that the model her husband has selected will not fit in the space underneath their cabinets. New passengers have taken the last remaining seats and begun gathering in the aisle. The bus is now full. The young man smiles. With the press of a button he destroys himself, the couple at his side, and twenty others on the bus. The nails, ball bearings, and rat poison ensure further casualties on the street and in the surrounding cars. All has gone according to plan.

The young man’s parents soon learn of his fate. Although saddened to have lost a son, they feel tremendous pride at his accomplishment. They know that he has gone to heaven and prepared the way for them to follow. He has also sent his victims to hell for eternity. It is a double victory. The neighbors find the event a great cause for celebration and honor the young man’s parents by giving them gifts of food and money.

These are the facts. This is all we know for certain about the young man. Is there anything else that we can infer about him on the basis of his behavior? Was he popular in school? Was he rich or was he poor? Was he of low or high intelligence? His actions leave no clue at all. Did he have a college education? Did he have a bright future as a mechanical engineer? His behavior is simply mute on questions of this sort, and hundreds like them. Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it-easy — to guess the young man’s religion?

Ok, so, I apparently forgot how to blog for a week. Nice. My apologies. April 12, 2009

Posted by Jordan in Books, Quotes.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Spent some time at Barnes & Noble Friday night. I had just finished eating a late lunch/early dinner with a friend, didn’t particularly feel like heading back to the house, so I did what I usually do in those situations: surround myself with books and/or music, either at Barnes & Noble or at Hastings. That night, it was B & N. I headed up there with the intention of just chizlaxin’ (“chizlaxin'” = chillin’ + relaxing), scoping some books for a little while, and trying to decompress a bit. I, of course, should have known better. It’s never that easy.

So, I get there and start looking around for some interesting reading material. What did I find? The books I checked out and spend a bit of time with are as follows (titles are linked to the Amazon page):

God’s Problem

Atheist Delusions

Columbine

Critique Of Pure Reason

I’m not entirely sure how many other guys around my age spend their Friday nights at bookstores with reading material like that, but I do, apparently.

 

Here, for no particular reason other than my being a longtime fan of it, is a quote from Charles Bukowski:

“There’s nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don’t live up until their death. They don’t honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can’t hear it. Most people’s deaths are a sham. There’s nothing left to die.”

Personality Types, according to Helen Fisher (I’m a Negotiator) March 25, 2009

Posted by Jordan in Books, Thoughts.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
3 comments

I checked out Helen Fisher’s latest book a few days ago, titled Why Him? Why Her?, and I found it really interesting. In it, she goes over some of the biological reasons behind why we fall in love with some people, but not with others. She also touches on the “nature vs. nurture” debate, and how, for quite some time, the “nurture” side (how we are raised, our parents, the environment we grow up in, etc.) was thought to play a pretty significant role in determining our relationship preferences. Ms. Fisher doesn’t seek to dismiss that school of thought entirely, as that stuff obviously affects us to a certain extent, but she discusses at length some of the new research that’s been done on body chemistry, and how it’s become more and more obvious that a large part of who we are, as far as personality and temperament goes, is determined by the “nature” side. (Wow, that last sentence had FIVE commas. Nice.)

Through the research she’s done, there are four main personality types that she’s defined. Almost everyone has traits from all four types, on some level, but there are one or two that are usually at the forefront, and she has designed a personality test that can measure how strongly you exhibit tendencies of each of the four. There are fourteen statements for each of the four types, and you’re measured on how strongly you agree or disagree with each of them.

There’s the Explorer, who usually tends to rely on his/her impulses. Explorers are the closest personality type to what people usually call “adrenaline junkies” or “thrill seekers”. While the Builder, another of her personality types, generally finds comfort and relaxation from routine, Explorers are just the opposite – they thrive off of spontaneity, and they feel stagnated by nearly any sort of predictable, repetitive activity or routine. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, sexual, open-minded, and eager. They love trying new things, and are always up for an adventure.

There’s the Builder, who usually tends to rely on his/her values. Builders have a clear idea of what they do and do not agree with, and they conduct themselves based on that. Their values are the most “traditional” of the four personality types, and they view most long-held customs or traditions as good indicators that should be followed. Family is almost always a big priority. Ms. Fisher designated this type as the “Builder” for pretty obvious reasons – they are the primary “building blocks” of society, and Builders treasure and seek out stable environments for themselves and their loved ones.

There’s the Director, who usually tends to rely on his/her logic. Directors shoot for the stars, and, when they know what they want, they go after it with everything they have. They value getting to the point and speaking directly, and they normally don’t have much patience for procrastinating or for doing things that aren’t directly related to what they’re trying to take care of. They understand complex machines fairly easily, and are interested in seeing how things work, or in seeing rules and procedures that govern systems. Directors look at the world from a fairly scientific perspective, and, as such, are open to new ideas, just not new ideas that lack support, evidence, or justification.

Last, there’s the Negotiator, who usually tends to rely on his/her intuition. If the Director looks at the world like a scientist, the Negotiator looks at the world like a philosopher. Every topic or thought, no matter how big or small, can be dissected and looked at from multiple angles. Negotiators are emotional, passionate, empathetic, romantic, and nurturing. They also have the most idealistic view of love and romance – they would rather live alone than be in an unfulfilling relationship, and they are enchanted by the idea of true love, and of a soulmate. Being connected to and invested in others is part of what makes life worth living for Negotiators, and they find it hard to maintain interest in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that doesn’t allow them to find common emotional ground.

So, I took the test, because I had become quite curious about what kind of results I would get, and because I had gotten a rough idea about where I would fall, and I wanted to see if I was right. (I was.) You’re scored on each of the fourteen statements on a scale of zero, one, two, or three, based on how strongly you identify with the statement. This is repeated four times, so that at the end of the test, you have four numbers between zero and forty-two, each of them corresponding to how much you agreed with the overall set of statements for each personality type.

For the Explorer set of statements, I scored in the mid-twenties – twenty-four or twenty-five.

For the Builder set, I scored lower – about twenty or twenty-one.

For the Director set, I scored almost identically to how I scored on the Builder set – about twenty.

For the Negotiator set? My score was almost the maximum score possible, which is forty-two. I think I was at thirty-eight or thirty-nine. I immediately had a strong positive reaction to almost every one of the statements – stuff like “I enjoy it when an author takes a sidetrack to say something beautiful or meaningful”, “After watching a particularly emotional film, I often still feel moved by it several hours later”, and “I like to get to know my friends’ deepest needs and feelings”. Moreover, when I read the chapter specifically about Negotiators, I caught myself agreeing with just about everything, and thinking, “That totally sounds like me!”

the twilight director’s notebook, hoodies, professional wrestling, and a tragic loss. March 19, 2009

Posted by Jordan in Books, Thoughts, Twilight.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
10 comments

So, after an unsuccessful Wal-Mart run late Monday night to see if they had any copies of the Twilight Director’s Notebook on the shelves, I dropped by again last night and grabbed it.

It’s smaller than I figured it would be – I was thinking it would be comparable to that Movie Companion that was put out last year, but it’s more compact. It’s actually really close to the books, as far as dimensions go, which works too. Also expected softcover – don’t know why, just the vibe I got from reading about it – but it’s hardback. I’ve read some complaints about all the text actually being hand-lettered by Catherine Hardwicke, mostly that it can get a bit difficult to read sometimes, but I totally disagree – her writing gives the pages lots of personality and energy. There are doodles and annotations all over the place, which, going with the idea they probably wanted, makes it feel more like a real journal.

Also, LOVED the picture and description of what Catherine’s copy of Twilight looks like now – creases everywhere, scotch tape on the spine, Post-It notes sticking out. Fantastic. So broken-in and … comfortable. Like opening it up is as if you’re stepping into your favorite pair of shoes, or throwing on your favorite hoodie that’s like a bedroom that you can wear. Mine will, eventually, probably look like that … the next time I read it, which will likely be sooner rather than later, I need to grab some pens and start color-coding certain parts of it and just flowing, almost like you do when you write in a journal. Is it weird to, while reading a book, experience some of the same feelings you get when adding to a journal or diary? Like it’s almost … private? Like, even though the words you’re reading aren’t yours, there’s still that feeling of intimacy that you get when reading a journal entry or reading over a long e-mail before sending it? I don’t know … that might not make sense, but it makes sense to me, and I think the effect those books have on people is amazing.

Honestly, it almost feels weird, or insufficient, to use the word “read” to describe the act of reading them, because you’re doing more than that. You’re stepping into something. To use another clothing analogy – and this might not resonate with those of you who aren’t as awestruck as I am by the incredibly high Awesomeness Quotient of hoodies – it’s like the difference between wearing a hoodie with the hood off and wearing one with the hood on. Again, I’m sort of a hoodie fanboy, so bear with me (as my Analogy Rollercoaster threatens to run completely off the tracks), but it’s a COMPLETELY different experience, I assure you. 

Wearing one with the hood off is still ok, because you know the hood is there if you need it. It’s like a safety net – like the “Kill” and “Reset” buttons Tommy Lee has tattooed on his arm. It’s available, should your situation change.

But wearing one with the hood on? Dude. That’s REAL. For anyone that used to watch WWE (back when it was still the WWF), it’s like when Vince McMahon would be in the ring talking about whatever, and then, all of a sudden, the glass would break, Steve Austin’s music would come on, he’d saunter out with a steel chair in tow, the crowd would be going completely berserk, and Jim Ross would be absolutely beside himself, like “OHMIGAWD, IT’S STONE COLD! HE’S HERE! BUSINESS IS FOR DAMN SURE GONNA PICK UP, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!” Yeah. That’s what going from “sans hood” to “hood power: activated” is like. It’s taking things up a notch.

That’s what reading The Twilight Saga is. That’s the difference. Going allll the way back to my original point (I promise, I do have one), saying that you “read” them is just not enough. That’s such a cold, sanitized way of describing it – as if the interaction you have with the books is nothing more than simply reading the words. There are, I would suspect, thousands (if not millions) of other Twilighters out there who would join me in profound disagreement with that. We know how much more there is to it than that, and how strong the connection is.

Another thought: I absolutely can not wait for The Official Guide, whenever they actually figure out the release date for it. I’m really interested to see what ends up being included, and, of course, completely geeking out over it with the girls at Letters To Twilight.

Last thing: I heard earlier tonight about Natasha Richardson’s tragic passing. That’s awful. Awful. I love watching her in the remake of The Parent Trap, and watching that movie now (and seeing how she just brightens up every scene that she’s in) will be quite sad. Also, I feel terrible for Liam Neeson and their sons. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies ever (I watch it, at a minimum, a couple of times a year), and seeing him in that movie now will be heartbreaking, considering that his character has just lost his wife.

sweeping up a life. March 13, 2009

Posted by Jordan in Books, Quotes.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Excerpt from Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama – Chapter Thirteen, pages 249-251

 

“I’m telling you, man, the world is a place.”

“Say, the world is a place, huh.”

“That’s just what I’m saying.”

We were walking back to the car after dinner in Hyde Park, and Johnnie was in an expansive mood. He often got like this, especially after a good meal and wine. The first time I met him, when he was still working with a downtown civic group, he had started explaining the relationship between jazz and Eastern religion, then swerved into an analysis of black women’s behinds, before coming to a stop on the subject of Federal Reserve Bank policy. In such moments his eyes would grow wide; his voice would speed up; his round, bearded face would glow with a childlike wonder. That was part of the reason I’d hired Johnnie, I suppose, that curiosity of his, his appreciation of the absurd. He was a philosopher of the blues.

“I’ll give you an example,” Johnnie was saying to me now. “The other day, I’m headed for a meeting up in the State of Illinois Building. You know how it’s open in the middle, right . . . big atrium and all that. Well, the guy I’m supposed to be meeting with is late, so I’m just standing there looking down at the lobby from the twelfth floor, checking out the architecture, when all of a sudden this body flies past me. A suicide.”

“You didn’t tell me about that —”

“Yeah, well, shook me up pretty good. High up as I was, I could hear the body land like it was right there next to me. Terrible sound. Soon as it happened, these office workers rushed up to the guardrail to see what was going on. We’re all looking down, and sure enough the body’s lying there, all twisted and limp. People started screaming, covering their eyes. But the strange thing was, after people got through screaming, they’d go back to the railing to get a second look. Then they’d scream and cover their eyes all over again. Now why would they do that? Like, what do they expect the second time around? But see, folks are funny like that. We can’t help ourselves with that morbid shit. . . .

“Anyway, the cops come, they rope things off and take the body away. Then the building crew starts cleaning things up. Nothing special, you know — just a broom and a mop. Sweeping up a life. Whole thing’s cleaned up in maybe five minutes. Makes sense, I guess . . . I mean, it’s not like you need special equipment or suits or something. But it starts me thinking, How’s that gonna feel to be one of those janitors, mopping up somebody’s remains? Somebody’s got to do it, right? But how you gonna feel that night eating dinner?”

“Who was it that jumped?”

“That’s the other thing, Barack!” Johnnie took a drag from his cigarette and let the smoke roll from his mouth. “It was a young white girl, man, sixteen maybe, seventeen. One of these punk rock types, with blue hair and a ring through her nose. Afterward, I’m wondering what she was thinking about while she was riding up the elevator. I mean, folks musta been standing right next to her on the way up. Maybe they looked her over, decided she was a freak, and went back to thinking about their own business. You know, their promotion, or the Bulls game, or whatever. And the whole time this girl’s just standing there next to them with all that pain inside her. Got to be a lot of pain, doc, ’cause right before she jumps, you figure she looks down and knows that shit is gonna hurt.”

Johnnie stamped out his cigarette. “So that’s what I’m saying, Barack. Whole panorama of life out there. Crazy shit going on. You got to ask yourself, is this kinda stuff happening elsewhere? Is there any precedent for all this shit? You ever ask yourself that?”

“The world’s a place,” I repeated.

“See there! It’s serious, man.”

Cornel West September 30, 2008

Posted by Jordan in Books, Quotes, Thoughts.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Here’s Cornel West, Professor of Religion at Princeton, being interviewed in Rolling Stone last fall. The interviewer has just asked West whether or not he is optimistic about the future …

“The categories of optimism and pessimism don’t exist for me. I’m a blues man. A blues man is a prisoner of hope, and hope is a qualitatively different category than optimism. Optimism is a secular construct, a calculation of probability. Black folk in America have never been optimistic about the future – what have we had to be optimistic about? But we are people of hope. Hope wrestles with despair, but it doesn’t generate optimism. It just generates this energy to be courageous, to bear witness, to see what the end is going to be. No guarantee, unfinished, open-ended. I am a prisoner of hope. I’m going to die full of hope. There’s no doubt about that, because that is a choice I make. But at the same time, the end doesn’t look too good right now.”

Now, I don’t agree with some of West’s views, but that is nothing close to an opinionated invalidation of all of them, and his clarity and honesty here are just fantastic. In my most recent example of biting off more than I can chew, I bought The Cornel West Reader the other day, and I hope to be able to start digesting some of that soon. It’s the kind of meal that requires many sittings to polish off. At over 600 pages total, and around 550 pages of legit content, it’s quite the tome, but it deserves to be, as the material encompasses decades of essays and interviews. You might (heavy, heavy emphasis on “might”) see some thoughts on his ideas in this space at some point, but don’t quote me on that one.