Friday, July 31, 2009

13.1


Nope, it's not a new Windows update. 13.1 is the distance I will trek in September to accomplish my first half marathon. Let the training commence.

Technically the training began in April (as my religious readers recollect) when I set a goal to break 20 minutes in a 5-km. I defected by a few seconds, but given the inclement weather, I was pleased. Completing a half-marathon is not a goal in and of itself like it may be for some.

Every Saturday (or Sunday) I run in Washington by the Potomac for at least 7 miles after weight training. Two days ago I ran 8 miles on a treadmill in one hour exactly. Deviating slightly from a training recipe, I'm aspiring to place in the top 100 men out of over 1000 likely participants.

Therefore I'll need to maintain a brisk 7:15 per mile pace. Doable, so long as I adequately prepare. My training incorporates various cross-training; basketball, tennis, swimming, speed, weights, endurance, etc. Muscle confusion and cardiovascular stamina are key requisites for attaining my goal.

I bought a new pair of running shoes to prevent injuries due to instability. I've battled plantar fascitis and heel spurs the past six months, and am making a concerted effort not to over train.

I'm also in my 11th day of vegetarianism and there's already a noticeable difference in how I feel and look. Cravings for meat are still rampant, yet my discipline annuls. I feel lighter, healthier, more ethical and reward myself by indulging in dessert more frequently.

I expect my vegetarian diet will actuate my goals to reality.

Other notes of my life: Found an outdoor pool open to the public in Georgetown, frequented last weekend. Reading King Lear in my quest to read aloud every play written by Shakespeare. Made it to the semi-finals in my Falls Church, VA basketball league. Lost by one in overtime...Have also been following the health care debacle in Congress...Met Congressman Kucinich yesterday and asked him about a Department of Peace...Finishing up my book regarding Thomas Merton's life...Will travel to Silver Spring tomorrow to visit an exhibit on peace...Earlier that morning I have tickets to a qualifying match at the Legg Mason Tennis Tournament.

Comments, concerns, things you'd like to see more of....let me know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Improving Vocabulary


Writing and speaking are forums to express thoughts cohesively. Writing allots more time for reflection and composition. When speaking most of us don't possess the reserves to impart our intelligence** (measured by our word choice) explicitly. **A way I gauge my (and others) intelligence is by word choice, often a direct reflection of how well read they are.**

As a public-speaker I utilize words that resonate with my audience. The most effective communicators understand the niches of their audience's and tailor the message accordingly. The gravitas is earned by tweaking the tone and word choice.

A dichotomy exists where some proclaim using uncommon words in speech and writing distracts the reader from the message (a la William F. Buckley). If you can simplify writing, why not? Isn't the message more important than delivery?

Recently, I've labored to include words into my writing (and speech) that aren't prevalent. Adhering to my personal philosophy of self-improvement - and writing as an invaluable component of my life - I decided to take steps to augment my prose.

The most exigent factor in an essay is using the most accurate word that summarizes and describes the precise meaning intended.

For example, "The frustration I felt was made worse by his incessant snoring." Let's try again, "The frustration I felt was exacerbated by his incessant snoring."

Which sentence do you prefer? Surely, exacerbated has an abundance of synonyms I could've used, but you get the picture. Had I replaced exacerbated with fomented, I would be guilty of fishing for words outside my vernacular. Because, foment means to instigate, and is therefore incorrect word choice. We can all agree that using a polysyllable word incorrectly is only pontificating and laughably boastful (see George Bush's "strategery").

My cardinal interest is using the right word at the right time.

The second priority is to orchestrate sentences with variety. I'm always disappointed with complacency and how many people allow laziness to consume their vocabulary. I think we should all strive to integrate new words into conversations (and essays). Therefore by using words that are relatively unknown am I discouraging (by turning people away) or encouraging (by hoping they follow suit)?

The answer is unclear.

As an avid reader, I encounter unfamiliar words on a familiar basis. Instead of submitting to my ignorance, I resarch the word and input it into my vernacular. That morsel of knowledge becomes potential arsenal for future essays.

I just wanted to elucidate for those who noticed an increase in 'haughty' language.

Feel free to disagree, but please acknowledge my current endeavor as nothing more than an intended extension of who I am.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Women and Peace


Yesterday night my class focused on the role women play in peacemaking. We witnessed a documentary starring a woman who confronts men who holler and degrade women on the street. With a video camera in hand and a matching accomplice she turns the table on these men immediately after the offense. You should watch the sweat drip off these guys' faces as she grills them.

It's pathetic. Skewed on the barbecue.

Men are accreditable with purveying demeaning remarks to women every day. Men who don't levy these humiliating statements are often unaware of the fear and subjugation these women encounter (or choose to ignore it). With little self-restraint and unlikely repercussions, many men believe it's okay to harass female strangers.

It's not.

Alarming statistics show at least half of women have been attacked by a man at some point in their lives. And I can't even fathom the percentage in some third-world nations where rape is as common as skipping a meal.

My heart bleeds for women regarding the misogyny they face daily. Obviously, I believe women should enroll in self-defense courses and equip themselves as much as possible to stave off a potential attacker.

However the meat of the responsibility falls on men.

Men might dismiss my accusation that they're enablers, but really they need to examine their behavior. Even if a man doesn't verbalize his thoughts, if he turns around and stalks the woman as she walks away, he is wrong.

Certainly, there is a level or cordiality that is acceptable and a line is not distinctly drawn. It's not to say, you can never appreciate a woman's beauty or acknowledge her presence. It's like pornography, I may not be able to delineate a precise definition, but you know it when you see it. And it's much better to err on the side of caution.

Secondly, men need to be protectors of women. And that entails elucidating and confronting other men on the spot. It takes courage and surely, you never know when you'll encounter a lunatic, but it's a risk men should be willing to take. When you fiercely believe in something you are willing to die for it (which is much different than willing to kill for it). More men need the courage and instruction in how to handle these circumstances - without endangering themselves in the process.

Men who decide not to intervene when they see an injustice are practically accomplices.

A concomitant issue is the gray area of iniquity. Rape is not exclusive to physical assault. When consensus ceases, so should the sex. Pushing liquor onto a woman is another form of rape. To pressure and manipulate are all contributing factors to assault.

Knowledge is power. For my female readers - it would do you well to convey these issues to men you are close with. The more they comprehend, the more likely they'll take action.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Congrats to Lance!!


Abundant praise envelopes worldwide craze,
Many anticipated him to fail during his travail,
He was slightly outdone by a younger gun,
Yellow he isn't, albeit revamped and risen,

A new approach is his current boast,
Breaking wind much to our chagrin,
Did we expect more, or do we adore?,
Determination and will zooming up the hills,

Tour de Lance - our recalcitrance,
Alter the lens witness instead,
A man of honor nowhere near a goner,
Assisting's admirable for history's certifiable,

Proof competition is no deterrent to be miffed at,
The one true glory is appreciating the journey,
Unlikely to fade for his heart succumbs and craves,
To the spirit within underneath his skin...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Preventing Inertia


President Obama had imposed deadlines for Congress to pass health care reform legislation. Sadly, his request has been shrugged and brisked aside. Amid increasingly sour public approval and skepticism over any overhaul (fueled by powerful interest groups), the mandate for change has stymied. And the biggest losers once again, are the American people.

The cowards representing us have failed to fulfill their duties. The "Blue-Dog" Democrats sheer anxiety for losing re-election bids provided breathing room for right-wing demagogues and powerful insurance companies. Petty promises reneged, a continuance of politics as usual engulfs us.

The supposed, "Change we can believe in," is losing momentum rapidly. Though I will not deflect responsibility from the majority party.

Democrats were elected due to overwhelming dissatisfaction from Republican reign. And the victory wasn't marginal. Theoretically, the Senate should have enough votes not only to pass legislation, but to force the GOP into taciturnity. However, moderates within the party have utilized their collective power to recede real change.

Instead, we get stagnation.

I applaud President Obama for having the gumption to impart deadlines. He's faced criticism from all fragments of the political spectrum - for dare I say, demanding action. Similarly, while he was campaigning for the presidency, he wanted a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq. Pundits pounced at his naivity.

"The terrorists will outlast the deadlines!" they exclaimed. "What if we don't succeed in time?" they shouted. Hence, the pendulum swings from one extreme to the next. No timetables. No plans. No measure of success or failure.

Imposing deadlines requires people to understand severity. When a project is time-sensitive, it connotates priority. And priority stems from necessity. Living beings thrive on incentive. And a marketable way of achieving it is through deadlines for progress. There absolutely needs to be deadlines, per without them, projects get buried and remain unfuliflled.

Shame on democrats for bowing into obscurity instead of embracing the heat radiating from the limelight. The limelight that would've surfaced from passing comprehensive reform.

Apologies to the uninsured. When you're poor, or unfortunate, you don't count. In America.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wicked...


Last weekend I traveled to New York City, the big apple. I departed from Chinatown to Port Authority and back, which is practically a hop, skip away, but elongated per traffic. The trip took approximately 5 hours on the way there and 4 to return. The essay I posted two days ago I composed by hand while on the bus (or should I say scribbled).

I had tickets for Wicked on Broadway. I have an ex-girlfriend who was moderately obsessed with Wicked, so I was casually familiar with the songs and premise.

But to see it live on Broadway elevated my appreciation. It's a wonderful play and I encourage all of my readers to see it.

Almost every song deserves its own elaboration, albeit, "No Good Deed," is one I hone in on today. Completely, the saying is, 'no good deed goes unpunished.'

Let me provide a personal flirtation I had with this. This week I've been assigned with assisting our program managers place international students. Abroad students are given priority for they require Visa's, extensive paperwork, etc...Hence, we place these students first.

Without a specified assignment, I took initiative and contacted every agency that had previously worked with international interns in our software database (a plethora let me tell ya). An arduous process, especially because I intended to impress the organizations by addressing each one individually, rather than sending one mass email.

Today, we dedicate office time to coordinating referrals for these students. Many of my colleagues have been corresponding with the agencies I channeled. Which means my email was supplemental (which could confuse some of them---I knew this and basically asterisked my email as such).

In essence, many colleagues were upset that I either 'eclipsed' them or 'overburdened' their contacts.

Hence, no good deed goes unpunished. Obviously, my intent was to alleviate some of the encumbrance. Whereas my mitigating gesture instead discombobulated.

Woe is me.

In Wicked, the cruelty of the Wicked Witch's life isn't in her undeniable exhibition or bizarre color. It's in her luckless actions which are constantly misinterpreted and the ironic results of selfless behavior.

It's easy to get disenchanted or hampered down with perception. Most times it's uncontrollable and futile to demand otherwise. Which reminds me of Mother Theresa's poem I posted yesterday. Do good anyway. What is perceived as selfish or malevolent could actually be altruistic, depending on whose eyes we're looking from.

The only judgment of supreme value is of yourself and a deity (if one so believes).

So go ahead. Just do good anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Essay for My Class

“You’re a novice, Conor.”

“An idealist.”

“A dreamer.”

“Na├»ve.”

“Unrealistic.”

Flippant statements like these are casually and persistently thrown at peacemakers.

However, we have a response.

Peacemakers know better than to be trivially dismissed by the “wisdom of realists” To paraphrase Gandhi, the only reason I’m alive and able to compose this essay is through some preservation of non-violence.

Defending the merits of non-violence over violence is purely perfunctory. Per the transcendental value of ahimsa is an indisputable axiom. Unfortunately, the military industrial complex conjoined with media complicity and government propaganda has severely sabotaged this maxim.

By obfuscating issues and linguistically manipulating concepts, nations across the world mischievously deceive citizens. For once you accept the concept of a just war; you’re vulnerable to further unintelligent influence. In short, we’re being duped unbeknownst to ourselves.

Although I’m a fervent believer in striving for perfection, I’m not foolish to believe I’ll achieve it. Eradicating evil is futile, but equipping people with discipline, knowledge, peace, and love will bring us much further than continued ignorance or helpless submission. Much of the world nebbishy exists as Henry David Thoreau put it, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I know from personal experience.

It’s time to change, and I want to be a catalyst of the movement.

My journey into Satyagraha wasn’t always easy. For many years, I was an acknowledged hypocrite—ill prepared to tackle life’s quandaries coming from a secular background. After identifying good and evil, what binds you to the proper action? This conundrum rattles my brain relentlessly.

Sure, I was ethically opposed to slaughtering animals, physical altercations, and prostitution, yet I indulged nonetheless. Existentially grasping for inner strength and resolution, I found solace and advice in books. However I didn’t buy any particular book, hook, line and sinker.

My mind is provincially opposed to aggregating my thoughts into one doctrine. And so I question everything. And learned something; by incorporating various tenets of philosophy and religion via my texts I’ve slowly grown more spiritual. From Kafka to C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare to Timothy Keller, Sam Harris to Calvin Miller, I immersed myself in material. And what I found was a gnawing inner loathing.

I felt guilt for being white. I felt guilt for the luxury and wealth that surrounded me.

I recognized a distinct advantage I held over others was not solely monetary (though indeed it was), rather intangible. I had abundant love and support. My parents are happily married. I have collegiately educated siblings. I was taller, more attractive than my peers. My athletic prowess and the subsequent accolades resulting from my achievements enabled a surly complex to form. My arrogance pervaded my demeanor and I scoffed at others.

I didn’t need a degree in psychology to ascertain my outward disdain for others was a personal projection. My silver spoon shined brightly, yet I was discontent with my dedication to apathy.

Why care? I believed it better to live an indulgent life than one of principle.

Until recently.

For many years I used my intelligence to manipulate situations in my favor. For example, I would justify my hobby of shoplifting by hedonistically enjoying the thrill and nihilistically rejecting exploitation through capitalism. Despite my various immoral actions, I’d muster some weathered excuse for my behavior. Audaciously, I’d explain sleeping with prostitutes as a philanthropic venture. How else were these women to earn a living?

Toying with my inner torment, my conscience finally matured and developed much to my chagrin.

Karma has its way of leveling the playing field. Eventually the thrills I sought became cheaper. The scenarios I controlled backfired. The misery in my heart was commensurate to the misery I’d caused.

It’s difficult to determine a precise moment of epiphany. Albeit, after reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, I felt empowered.

Empowerment came through penitence. Filling my heart with love and forgiveness forged a new component of my soul. I forgave others for their misdeeds, but more importantly, forgave me. However, if I ceased my progress there, it would be like rescuing a toddler from drowning only to abandon it onshore.

More was required.

So I continued searching for something everlasting. Previously eschewing any notion of permanence (worried I’d then forfeit malleability) I found something percolating my brain.

Peace.

I will dedicate my life to the promotion of non-violent action and education. Finally, my mental excavation exposed the core of my existence. Although I was dismayed by how quickly my new found passion was ridiculed. Friends of mine attempted to dilute my righteousness. Suddenly, I was out of the mainstream and no longer a pragmatist. Pathetically guffawed.

My transformative experience over the past year produced many obstacles like the aforementioned. At times I relapse and stunt my progress. Other times I feel helpless and ineffective. Yet the reserves I possess via Satyagraha propel me past these impediments.

So what’s the next step?

The most obvious step is self-cleansing. Like Jack Nicolson mocks in Anger Management, “He was wondering how a man weighing 600 pounds could teach people about self-discipline (referring to Buddha).” And Like Gandhi proclaimed, “You must be the change you wish to see.” In order to attain credibility, I have to adhere to the principles I demand in others.

Additionally, the marketing plan for peace pales in comparison to the organized inculcation used by the military.

Modifications need to be made there as well.

People, being supremely susceptible to advertisements, desire a cause or product to ingratiate into. Why not peace? Obviously it’s because the overwhelming influence and power military holds. Fear is a great motivator (And a great governmental tactic). Yet, marketing with love also has its advantages.

Working within the paradigm that exists, I try to replicate the appearance of my peers, thereby maintaining credibility while altering the prisms of philosophy. Succinctly, rather than separating myself from society via reclusiveness, I maneuver within. I believe my efficacy is stronger when people don’t perceive me as outlandish (even though unfortunately, I am). Hence, by placing emphasis on my appearance and health on the outset, people will be more inclined to revere and respect what I have to say. Basically, I’m using a clever sales technique to persuade - though I’m conscious not to discount the gravity of my product.

A product I can tattoo in my skin. A product that’s innate value doesn’t always pay immediate dividends. But a product that is benevolent and universal. A product that warms the heart yet is immaterial.

I don’t profess omniscience. At 23 years young, my journey is meager compared to many—in this sense, the critics are right, I am a novice. By emulating the men and women of peace, I’m following in giant footsteps.

What gives me strength is the confidence I’m on the right track.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Riddle


I chomp down on the sweetness from the fruit,
My eyes wide open all the night,
Batman save us from the loot,
You're entering a city with no disguise...

Where will I be this weekend???

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Meeting Congressman McGovern


Per one of the experiential internship components via The Washington Center (TWC), students are mandated to visit the congressional office from their home district. Home, meaning their permanent residence, not necessarily correlating with where they attend college. This is a recent segment, and my role within TWC is to facilitate and chaperon the students during the visit.

Each visit is unique.

Some students are given minimal time and are left unfulfilled. Others receive almost royal treatment and chat with the representative him/herself. Pending on the attitude of the office and the environment of the day, students are treated to a hands-on Congressional experience.

Two days ago, I accompanied some students from Massachusetts en route to Congressman McGovern's office. McGovern (unrelated to George - however previously worked under him) met with us in person and was quite generous with his candidness and time.

Students are required to do some background research on the Congressman and are encouraged to inquire regarding whatever suits their fancy. Could be career related. Perhaps an issue of concern. Sometimes, they plainly request a biography.

Of course, I wanted to ask a couple questions.

I asked him if he would support federally mandated peace education in public education. He said he would. He elaborated on a friendship he had with a writer from The Washington Post. My ears perked. Colman McCarthy (my professor).

I responded that Colman was a friend of mine and he smiled broadly. "Tell him I say, hi," he requested. I assured him I would. I asked him if he would cease voting for war funding. Can't say I elicited a direct or concise answer to that one.

Congressmen, in their constant efforts to appease their constituents, attempt to represent their district adequately. Yet, does the resounding voice of the people begin with the citizens, or does the representative speak and the constituents adhere to him? Surely, it's complicated with special interest groups (lobbying, PAC's, 501(c)'s, etc..) and wealthy donors, yet the paradox exists. The chicken or the egg?

For example, surely after a member of Congress has been reelected a few times, he begins setting the policy for his constituents. Like a preacher, he tells them what they need (to do and support). Eventually, although he's semi-responsive to voters, he's invulnerable per his incumbency status. Not to mention his gerrymandered district. It'd take a monumental blunder to even force a campaign!?

Therefore more Congressman should utilize their political capital. Set the tone. Take a stand. The worst thing that happens is you don't get reelected. So what? You have a good pension and you'll make a great living speaking publicly and writing books. Providing commentary or working for an interest group, the possibilities are limitless.

Just takes some ballsy politicians. And that's not exclusive to men.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pics of 6 Flags and my Bro...

Dylan.
On the metro...The only safe ride of the day. Sort of.
Intimidating stares before the go-kart race.
Waiting in one of the maannnnyyyy lines.
Moments before the free fall.
When you shoot like Kobe, it's baffling to miss.
Conferring with my coach, before the 3-Point Shootout.
Us, after the water ride. Or actually, before. We got soaked.
Pathetic smile. Feel much fear, anxiety ;)...
The safest place to be. Underneath the Batwing.
Entering a ride early in the morning. My expression = fear. Dylan's = excitement.
We lost ten pounds each at 6 Flags, walking around and standing in lines. In the morning with rampant energy.
Me and my bro outside by the Potomac in Georgetown.
Pre-fireworks. Post-workout. Excellent view. 4th of July.
Something fishy about this picture. Me outside a famous seafood distributor in SW DC.
Me by the dock of the SW Waterfront.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Agony

Test his mettle via aches and pain,
Tribulations undergone not resistant to strain,
An insignificant component of his wealth is green,
Abundant love, hope, family, freedom, is what's bequeathed,

Attempt no deviation for the lection at hand,
Disappointment often triumphs when expectations are grand,
Although it's hard to pity self-implemented maxims,
Nonetheless his spirit demands it not asks him,

Euphoria is solely an illusion,
Gaudy, pretentious, not to mention intrusive,
It gets in the way of what truly matters,
Improvement, righteousness, reconciling, giving back so,

Show me how to manipulate this situation,
Per intelligence begets increased frustration,
Lusting for love or longing for contentment,
Results in prolonged annoyance conjoined with,

The knowledge of figurative superiority,
In an ulterior life removed from the ordinary,
A life where the regrets don't bite like piranhas,
Sick entertainment for Gods - mere fodder,

If there's confusion it's truly my intent,
How else to explain exasperation than that?,
My heart beats faintly afar in the distance,
Dismayed by my actions, my nebbishy existence

Friday, July 10, 2009

Exasperation

Underneath the mess that is his brain,
Lies increased agony, fervently pained,
A disappointment lurks that's quite bombastic,
Repression is key for his mind's elastic,


He convinces himself the course is fair,
The weather lovely, eager to share,
The wisdom from the books he's read,
Indoctrinated like a Wizard's head,


The delf exposes a doughty side,
For it's strenuous to persistently hide,
The loathing he feels for his name,
Eliciting more than muddled shame,


The results he seeks - surmised perfection,
Annoyed he can't emancipate evil's reflection,
Although evil (in this sense) in a staged light,
Atypical from the normal blight,


Why is it he expects so much?,
Meaningful work, heroics, angelic touch,
For he wants held these in his grasp,
Expunged much effort to get them back,


Now frustrated by his defeats,
Even the mightiest - pathetically weak,
Ingrained in his head to strive further,
Retreat back in solemn demure,

It can be summed up in a few words,
Missed chances, impotence, forever lurk,
His manifest destiny's the greatest ever,
Unfortunately he remains disenchanted forever

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brother in Town...

Dylan, my 18 year-old brother, flew into Dulles airport yesterday from London. He spent approximately six weeks traveling through Europe. He has a multitude of crazy and entertaining stories to share. He took the trip as a cultural learning experience with his friend Alex. They both graduated high school a few weeks before embarking on their journey.

On his way back to Durango, Colorado (he'll be attending CU Boulder in the fall) Dylan decided to spend some time with his older brother (me!!!) in DC. It's great to play host.

Dylan is a wonderful brother. He's supportive, he listens, he looks up to me and is never demanding. He's smart, attractive, and athletic. He loves people. And he's fiercely loyal to those he's close to. Dylan is definitely the calmest and most appeasing (along with my Mother) in my family. For example, yesterday I caught him sitting on the floor in my apartment, so I asked him, "Why sit on the floor, I have chairs?"

He shrugged. He didn't mind. He's easy going. He has yet to find anything that pulls at his heart's strings. His passion. I'm hoping during the next couple years he'll mold himself into a more passionate person. I'm confident in his abilities and have faith in his progress.

So if the posts are slow, blame it on him ;). Also, am looking to post some photos of his visit with me, so stay tuned. We're going to 6 Flags on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Meeting Cpl. Bateman


Last night was the sixth class (of ten) in my course with Professor Colman McCarthy. He was accompanied by a guest named Chantelle Bateman. Chantelle is a Marine who served in Iraq. After ingratiating herself with ROTC since her freshman year of high school, she dreamed of a 'higher calling.' Enamored by a television character from "A Different World," she glamorized the prospect of serving her country.

Plus, she wanted a way to help subsidize college.

So she enlisted in the Marine Corps and within a calendar year, was deployed to Iraq. However, during her tribulations in boot camp and on the wire, she became deeper and deeper dismayed by her decision. At the same time she began reading a phenomenal book by John Perkins called, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man." - see hyperlink. This served as an impetus to her disassociation with United States military operations.

During our class, she gave an interlude of her background followed by an extensive Q&A. She spoke of being misled by recruiters, the sexual harassment she faced from fellow Americans, the complete destruction of her psyche in boot camp, etc...

She became increasingly agitated during her time abroad, listening to racial slurs huffed toward Muslims (by US troops) and asked her comrades if they'd call African-American's niggers if they were fighting in Africa (Bateman is African-American). She asked us to imagine what our worst fears were and have them magnified and persistent. Like rampant conflagration, a living hell.

She needed a way out.

When she returned to the US she was amazed and insulted by the lack of support from the VA. The acclimation process into everyday life proved more difficult than she imagined. She relapsed at times into the darkness she encountered in Iraq.

Fortunately, she got her feet set firmly on the ground and began working for IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). Bateman now works tirelessly fighting US occupations abroad and is involved locally as well.

This course is perplexedly elementary, yet revelatory at the same time. The concepts of peace and non-violence seem so obviously true and righteous. Yet rarely, if ever, do most people take the time to confirm that notion or practice it. It reminds me of philosophy.

A clever philosopher can convince you thoroughly as soon as you accept her initial axiom. From then on, she's earned the leverage to persuade in one way or another. And you will be left gullible and vulnerable.

Therefore, challenge the principles of war. The righteousness of the death penalty. The traditions of carnivorous consumption. If ever something becomes non-negotiable, it requires not less analysis, but more.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Movie Review...


My Uncle Harold will belittle you until he's blue in the face. He'll ridicule your pitiable education and deductive skills without a drop of remorse. For, you are what you eat - you get what you deserve. He demands you matriculate in a field where one can be knowledgeable of something, anything. For then, you may be equipped with enough marginal information to engage him in conversation.

That is, without constant lambaste and scoffing laughter. After all, this is the man who once said he knew, 'Everything about everything.'

In comes Boris. Boris is the protagonist (gosh, that's ill-fitting) of the new film, 'Whatever Works' by Woody Allen. Like many of Allen's films, the audience's annoyance comes from the inherent flaws of his characters. Especially when his films center around people so deplorable. Intended of course.

Yet even the sourest of lemons can be used for lemonade.

'Whatever Works' is the story of happenstance and reluctant transformation. From repressed agony to indulgent hedonism Allen's characters charade their inner selves for years. Not until circumstance and hysterical epiphanies do the characters awake from their stupor and embrace their individuality.

And boy are they individuals.

This film teaches a story that it's better late than never. It carries the Shakespearean weight of
chance and fate. Each one of us has moments of uttermost failure, collapse, insignificance or even blatant hurt in our lives. What to make of these trying times? Why continue at all?

Ever extricate yourself (from yourself) and analyze how you got where you are? More succinctly, ask how the people you surround yourself with got to be such an integral part of your life's cast? It's incredible. Maybe you met your lover from a former lover who now hates you both. Maybe your best friend used to be an arch nemesis. Maybe during a moment of darkness and depression came someone who offered light and joy. People whom we never expected to impact us, often bear the greatest influence.

And so tells the film, 'Whatever Works.' It's a beautiful display of life's quirks and nuances. At times teaching us how not to behave, and at others promoting our instincts. A propitious example that if we carpe diem, and never lose hope, a greater plan may be in store for us.

Watch it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pics from The Trip Part 4...

Dad and I. One of the few pictures we have together.
A lonely windsurfer. Not to be confused with the much more difficult kiteboarding (which Pops and I did).
Downtown Cabarete. The main road around 3PM.
A view outside the bars of the DREAM Project.
A wonderful design in the stairway of the DREAM Project.
The donation room. Most of what you see came from private donors like us, or church groups from the United States.
A mural some students made of their friends.
Apple generously donated these modern computers for student education.
Previously the biggest philanthropic donors to the DREAM Project.
A library inside the DREAM Project. Most books were in Spanish. Some in Creole and select few in English.
Jesus and some locals at a tiny home. Promoting the status quo? Or enabling them for progress?
At the DREAM Project, a shaded area where students can eat and play.
Looking out from inside the DREAM Project.
A mural at the DREAM Project.
My first pic of the day from horseback riding.
A local boy who acted like a proud guard as he escorted us through the jungle.
The dogs in the Dominican were so friendly. Literally almost every dog we met. Except when the cats were around.
Me ready to rock and roll. Yes, the horses were small. And I felt bad. He got me back when we trotted.
Near the beginning of our ride.
Mmmmmmmmm. Paradise.
Growing up he always told me, "It's not how you feel, it's how you look." Case in point.
Our leader. I'd always beg him to slow down. No Mas Rapido, Por Favor. My groin was sore and I kept getting weird side cramps when we'd gallop.
Some scenery from our ride.
A few local girls we passed while horseback riding. They walked with us for about half mile.
Pops on a horse.