Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another Winning Personal Ad

In my series on analyzing the personal ads on Craigslist, I found another "winner." Of course, I'm speaking ironically (moronically?). This ad is actually pretty scary. I lifted it straight from Craigslist, keeping the font sizes and other info.

Huge woman wants small man. PICTURES PLEASE! - 28 (Portland, OR)

Date: 2012-05-30, 10:50PM PDT

I am a big, voluptuous and fabulous woman, but the big men don't do it for me. I want to be the big spoon! I want to press my voluptuous boobs into your tiny little back. You may think this is a joke, but I'm a strong woman and I need someone I can dominate. I want to crush someone between my thighs (lovingly of course.) Please respond if interested and please send a pic! I would like to see how small you are. ;)

As one who peruses the personal ads on occasion, I'm struck by the number of obese women who post ads on the site. The statistics I've heard on the news is that 30 to 40% of Americans are "overweight", but on Craigslist personals, its more like 100%. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating it bit. It's probably more like 99.2%. What's different about the above ad is that she's so in your face about it. I mean, seriously: "I want to press my voluptuous boobs into your tiny little back"?!? Why would she think that's even a turn-on?

Since I moved to Portland six summers ago, I could've had 5 different girlfriends by now. Every single one of them was obese and was interested in me. As a person who has been skinny my entire life, and who has some Asian heritage, and who has lived 6 years of my life in Europe, I have a strong aversion (repulsion is probably a more accurate word) to obesity. I know its probably not politically correct to say so and people's feelings get hurt, but I simply do not find anything about obesity to be physically (or sexually) attractive. Nada. Some people don't find skinny people attractive, or someone of a different ethnic or racial background than them, or someone of the opposite gender. We all have our preferences, but somehow, to even mention not being attracted to obesity, its considered "cruel" or "mean" or "politically incorrect." No, it's simply being honest.

What the 5 obese women who were interested in me had in common was that they all had a very demanding / forceful / forward personality. I wondered about why I seem to attract obese women, especially the aggressive / overly-assertive kind. For me, personality matters. I like the vibe of a woman like Queen Latifah, who carries her weight rather well. Her personality, intelligence, and sense of humour make her attractive, despite her physical size. But none of these obese women had Queen Latifah's personality. I suspect that they all thought that they could push me around and dominate me. In fact, when I was new to Portland, one lady I had met through Craigslist gave me a tour of Portland. We had walked past a store on Hawthorne Boulevard (Portland's alternative neighbourhood) that sold leather outfits and other accessories to spice up a kinky couple's sex life. Despite having only met a few hours earlier, she felt comfortable enough to tell me that she wanted to put me in leather and chains. I was stunned that she even thought I would find that idea interesting or a turn-on. It was a major turn-0ff. The last thing I wanted to see was this obese woman's naked body.

Two of my cousins are big girls who had married smaller men (both guys were shorter and skinnier than I am). The older one joked to us that she slaps her husband around. It was funny hearing her say that while he stood by her side and said nothing. I never could understand their relationship. I do understand that some men have such an uncontrollable sex drive that they will be in less than ideal relationships in order to "get some" on a regular basis. Single obese women are plenty available for guys who are into that. The guys will endure all kinds of demands and domination just because they get some on a regular basis.

For me, though, I believe in true gender equality. I'm not interested in dominating a woman or ordering her around, nor am I interested in being dominated or "henpecked" (cuckolded). I find a relationship based on intelligence and mutual respect to be the most desirable / ideal. I'm not interested in power plays or the whole domination versus submission fantasies that some people have.

As for this woman in the ad, I can't imagine anything exciting or attractive about being suffocated by the excess flab of an obese woman. It would be one of the worst forms of torture that I could ever imagine. She wants to "crush someone with her thighs"? I think she's been watching too much of that James Bond movie with the villainess Xenia Onatopp (who was sexy in a demonic way and nowhere near obese). There probably are guys in Portland who will answer to her ad just because they need it and she's willing to give it to them.

For the next installment, hopefully I will find a personal ad that actually appeals to me, rather than the freaky ones that I find repulsive. Tune in next time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Makes a Great Album

On Tuesday at work, I learned that some people at the company I work for had learned that I have a blog because someone in the music industry had read Monday's post about my review of Kaya's album and wanted to know who I was. I'm hesitant about letting people know I have a blog, particular employers because you never know how people take things. A few months ago, a former employee's blog was discovered and it created quite a stir.

I knew there was a risk of discovery if I reviewed Kaya's album on my blog, but I decided the risk was worth it because this album is truly amazing and worth promoting. I have been listening to it at least 5 times a day for the past week and a half, sometimes back to back listening sessions! It just grows on me from the first listen and has a positive effect on my personal energy dynamic.

When a co-worker walked up to my cubicle to announce that my blog had been discovered and people were interested in my review, I felt embarrassed. In my review, I was giving my honest "first impression" and I felt bad that I mentioned not being taken by Kaya's singing voice. I did not mean to give any impression that this was a "flaw" in any way. Singers have different and unique voices. Some are better than others. Among my favourite male voices, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Eros Ramazzotti, Youssou N'Dour, and Peter Gabriel stand out as incredible voices that I love listening to. I think Youssou N'Dour, in particular, has the most unique voice of all.

But there is more than just the singing voice to take into consideration. My all-time favourite singer is Johnny Clegg. I remember reading somewhere that Johnny Clegg considers himself a songwriter and anthropologist first, a musician second, and a singer third. He has a unique voice that is easily identifiable, but if I were to compare voices, as much as I love Clegg's music, he's no Bocelli. And he doesn't have to be, because his music is great and he has a unique niche all his own.

That's how I feel about Kaya. Yes, I was not impressed by his vocal talents on the first few listens (I would not have described it as "husky" but "muffled", as it is sometimes hard to hear what he's singing). But I've probably listened to the album at least 40 times now and the voice is part of magic of his music. At first, I thought, "This would sound even better if Josh Groban was singing it!" But, while I like the incredible sound of Groban's voice, I don't like every song that he sings.

When it comes to music, the melody is the most important to me. This is ironic, coming from a writer and I've actually had arguments with guys in the Navy over melody versus lyrics as being the most important aspect of a song. For me, though, I actually feel music so the melody matters. Plus, since adolescence, I've been exposed to foreign pop songs (in German, French, Italian, Thai, and Spanish) and my like or dislike (or indifference) was purely based on the sound of the song. Was the melody catchy, inspiring, moving? Did it grab me or resonate at a deep level? After melody, the lyrics play the next most important role. One development that I liked in music was the use of sampling. For example, in 1999 0r 2000, Jessica Simpson scored a hit that used the melody of John Mellencamp's classic from the 1980s "Jack and Diane." The song had brand new lyrics and was called "I Think I'm In Love With You." The melody remained the same but she made it fresh. Some music critics call sampling "laziness", but I think its much better to reuse a great melody and have new lyrics than to "remake" the same song. It might turn out even better the second time around (consider it a form of musical reincarnation).

Lyrics can add greatly to the genius of a song. Or it could be humourous. Think about the song "Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang. Not only is the melody catchy as hell, but so are the lyrics. What might the song be like if it told a more serious message / story? To use a more recent example, I've been meaning to review Madonna's latest CD. Some of the songs have strange lyrics, which harms the song. This album has not been selling well and as a review in Rolling Stone magazine pointed out, more than half the songs on the album reference her ex-husband Guy Ritchie, and not in a good way. It's an angry album, even if the music is dance floor trance. Too bad. Madonna is someone who doesn't have a great singing voice, but I have all of her CDs and I love her music, though she can overkill on the sex topic.

So there you have it. When it comes to music, melody is #1 for me, lyrics #2, and voice is #3. Music / melody is the most important because it has an effect on my soul. It usually takes a few listens for me to get a sense of an album and it'll either hook me or it won't. With a band like U2, I was never fully taken by The Joshua Tree, which most people consider a masterpiece. I love a few songs, but as a whole, I just didn't love it. When Achtung, Baby came out, I wasn't interested in giving it a fair listen until a friend of mine sent me a copy. I was taken in by the first listen and loved it. Then they followed up with another great album, Zooropa. I was not a fan of 1997's Pop but their 2000 release All That You Can't Leave Behind took me in at the first listen and refused to let go nearly two years later. It now sits comfortably at #3 on my list of Favourite Albums of All Time (behind Johnny Clegg and Savuka's Cruel Crazy Beautiful World at #1 and Midnight Oil's Earth and Sun and Moon at #2). In 2009, I was really excited about U2's latest release, No Line on the Horizon. I bought it on release day but after a few listens, it simply failed to grab me. I like a few songs on there, but it was a dud.

It is actually quite rare that I will like every single song on an album. Even Johnny Clegg's last release, Human, from 2010 (its a great album that was my favourite release that year) has a song or two that I'm not in love with. I think the last album that I heard where I loved every single track is by Portland band The Retrofits on their 2007 release, Away From Here. That album had heavy rotations on my CD player. I was still listening to it quite a bit two years after its release. Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor is an example of an album I did not like on the first few listens, but it eventually grew on me to the point where I was still listening to it quite a bit two years after its release.

So, where do I put Kaya's Born Under the Star of Change? I believe that this album will continue to be played frequently on my CD player through the end of summer. In fact, I had the thought recently that this album has all the ingredients to be a great "Road Trip album." I need to take this album on the road and blast it from the car stereo as I'm driving through some gorgeous scenery. Perhaps that's something to do this summer.

I really love this album and can't stop listening to it. What an amazing discovery. I appreciate all the hard work and love that went into making such a fantastic album. Even the arrangement of the songs is perfect (the best albums I find are ones where the first track is a strong opening song that gets your attention and then the second song is an even better song, so it builds on your anticipation, with strong songs throughout and ending on a strong, contemplative note). I said in my review that "One Word" was my favourite of the 13 tracks. That is true, but "The Day of Questions" is a close second. I can't get enough of that song. I'll listen to it on repeat. This is the song I'd love to blast on the car stereo while driving down the highway singing along.

Its funny to think that I had recently lamented the state of music today and how difficult it is to find great, inspiring music. Then Born Under the Star of Change comes along and reminds you what great music is supposed to sound like. I'm pretty confident that I will likely not hear a better album than this one for the remainder of 2012.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Music Video Monday: Kaya

Here's the music video by Kaya, called "The Alchemist", which has apparently made it onto the Top 40 Adult Contemporary charts. I'm actually not surprised, because the song shares the same title as a very popular novel by Paulo Coehlo. I'm not sure if that is intentional or not, but I'm glad that he's getting some radio play. I actually haven't listened to a radio station since I started working for the music distribution company, so I have no idea what's popular or current unless I happen to hear it by some other means.

Kaya came to my attention a few months ago when his profile and new album were featured on the cover of the music catalog devoted to alternative rock / heavy metal / hard rock / industrial rock / death metal / punk genres of music. I thought this was odd, because the album cover is not in keeping with the rather dark and death-obsessed covers of the albums that are featured inside the catalog. His song titles all sounded positive and very spiritual: "Born Under the Star of Change", "The Alchemist", "No Coincidence", "The End of the World", "The Day of Questions", "She's My Guide", and "What is Human."

I asked several co-workers about this strange marketing technique, but no one seemed to know. They did tell me that Kaya would not appeal to the independent music stores that cater to the hardcore / heavy music genre. As one who is familiar with the personal nature of people's musical tastes, I completely understand why Kaya would not appeal to a person who prefers loud music with provocative cover art. But for me personally, I was looking forward to giving his album a fair listen. His musical themes on spiritual topics seemed aimed directly at me!

On May 18th, on the final day of our annual label conference, I attended a dinner and then got to see Kaya perform a few songs for us. I must say that I was not a fan of his voice. A review called it "husky", but I'm not sure about that. He doesn't seem to be a natural singer but has a dream to be a singer, so he pursued it. He was popular in his native Quebec and even opened for Celine Dion before walking away and pursuing a spiritual life.

He became an avid dream interpreter, and even wrote a book about dreams, called How to Interpret Dreams & Signs. According to the promos, Kaya has slept for 20 hours a day and had amazingly vivid dreams, sometimes as many as 50 per sleep cycle. 20 hours a day? I get a headache if I sleep more than 10 hours. Who has time to write down and interpret 50 dreams?!? This seems entirely too much. However, I got a free autographed copy of his book and am reading it with interest.

Since his performance at label conference, I have listened to his album, Born Under the Star of Change, several times a day and have grown to love it. His voice takes some getting used to, but its unique to him. Sure, it might sound even better if Josh Groban was singing these songs, but this is Kaya's project and what an amazing one it is. The songs are inspirational with a strong positive vibration that touches you at the soul level. This may actually end up becoming my favourite album of the year (a distinction I thought might go to Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball, but I like the feelings I have when I listen to Kaya's spiritually-infused album).

The cover booklet not only offers the song lyrics, but also the background information for the inspiration of the song. Here are my thoughts on his songs:

"Born Under the Star of Change" is the lead song and what a perfect one to start the album with. The lyrics resonate to the current feeling around the world: "You built your life, playing by the rules, that held no truth, that were misleading. Being someone else, you lost yourself, in the world of illusions and false meaning. But you were not made for this and you will not stay in this...You were born under the star of change, born to turn the page, time for awakening, time for a new beginning..."

Okay, now that we are awakened, the second track is "The Alchemist." Its about having the power to turn "vicious stones into precious stones." Alchemy is a popular idea among New Age spiritualists. Its based on the ancient legends of turning lead into gold, but in spiritual circles, its more about an inner transformation of our undesirable life experiences into useful lessons to draw strength from. I really hope this song will reach #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles chart. And if Paulo Coehlo's novel The Alchemist ever gets made into a movie, I hope the movie's producers will use this song for the opening or closing credits in the film.

"Finally Free" is about a young lady who was dying and changed his life. She inspired him in a more spiritual direction for his music and its a sweet tribute to the young lady who touched his life. Apparently, Kaya is involved with several foundations devoted to sick or terminal children to help accomplish their dreams and they have touched his life as much as his music had touched their lives.

"Seven Seconds Too Late" is about being in the moment so that we don't miss the opportunity when "love comes to us, but we don't recognize it, it can disappear and not come back for a long time." Yikes! The song is a ballad with a hint of Spanish guitar rhythms.

"One Word" is my favourite song on the album and I hope he releases it as the next single. I personally think that its the strongest song on this album. In his explanation of this song's origins, he wrote: "music is a deep expression of our soul states, of who we are, or of what we'd like to be." As I wrote last week, the vibration of the music we listen to does have an effect on our soul and can inspire us to our best selves or lead us towards our self-destruction, thus why it is important to listen to uplifting music rather than the dense / harder genres.

"No Coincidence" is exactly what he means. During the performance at label conference, Kaya said that he doesn't believe in coincidence, meaning that a coincidence we have was meant to happen and can't be dismissed as a random occurrence according to statistical probabilities. In his explanation for this song, Kaya wrote: "This song is a good example of how I follow and am receptive to synchronicity. For me, Destiny, signs and symbols are a way of life; they're really real and concrete. I've learned that the broad lines of our lives are prepared metaphysically long before they take form in reality. What I love most of all is to listen and follow these coincidences to live my life, make my decisions and fulfill my life program." Amen to that!

Here are the beginning lyrics to this song: "As I look in your eyes, I see a light, a flame that awakened me inside. A message I can't ignore, it seems like I've known you before. Is it an open door to my soul, or just a simple twist of fate? And I know this was meant to be, there's no coincidence, ooh...ooh, no coincidence..."

"In the Heart of the Sun" has a kind of Middle Eastern flair to it and is about attaining self-awareness. This would also make a great single for radio airplay.

"I Always Come Back" is a song that Kaya did not write, but he feels that it told his life story in a simple song. He was a hermit for a few years before he decided to come back and record music again.

"The End of the World" is the perfect song for 2012! In the song, he expresses his view that he believes "the end" that people feel is more about the battle waging within in our process of spiritual transformation to be more than we were indoctrinated to be by our society, religions, culture, education systems. What's truly amazing is the charitable view that Kaya holds of religious fundamentalists who hold such horrific visions of end times. Here's what he wrote in his explanation of this song: "Fundamentally, the extremists who hold this kind of apocalyptic outlook are really lovely people. They are very intense in their convictions, their faith and beliefs and their spiritual practice even if some of them follow paths that lead to despair. Because of a lack of knowledge, they don't realize that they are talking about themselves, about the end of their own world, about the great, intense, sometimes destructive upheavals they are experiencing within themselves, at the heart of their search for new values, new life principles."

"The Day of Questions" is another song that deserves to be a single. It has such a positive, infectious vibe to it and an amazing back story. He had written it 15 years ago and forgot about it until he found it in his tape recorder in his desk and pressed play. He felt like he was meeting his younger self, when he was struggling with depression during an intense period of his life.

"A Woman of Experience" is a beautiful ballad dedicated to his wife. He wrote that it was a #1 song in Canada 15 years ago and was instrumental in getting him back into music after he had walked away from it all. The original song was recorded in French, so this English version is new for American listeners.

"She's My Guide" sounds like its about his spiritual guide, but he said that its about his daughter. Its a beautiful love song, from a parent to a child.

"What is Human" is the last track on the album and its great advice for anyone who has difficulty being consistent between their work and personal lives. Kaya wrote: "Many people have discrepancies in their personal and social dimensions. At work, they are nice and kind, whereas in their love or personal life, they suffer from great lacks, fear of not succeeding and some are prepared to go to any lengths to achieve success." I especially love the last stanza's lyrics: "We own a golden palace, yet we lock ourselves away in the tiniest closet and say we're running out of space. We need the courage to open the door."

This album is truly amazing and an inspiration. It grew on me as I listened to it over and over. There was great care and love that went into the recording of this album and it shows. I noticed in the past week how positive my energy feels after I listen to this album. I can't recall any album outside of Enya's that are as spiritual as Born Under the Star of Change. At least, spiritual in a universal way. As one who has listened to hundreds of albums distributed by the company I work for in the past year and a half, Kaya's release is the best one by far and I hope it will find great success, resonating with music fans who want something deeper than what normally gets played on the radio. Buy this album. Your soul will thank you many times for doing so.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heavy Metal Poisoning

Another Facebook post leads to a debate! Geez, I did not expect this one. Yesterday, I had posted a video link of Kaya's song, "The Alchemist." I'll write more about Kaya for Monday's post, but briefly, Kaya is an artist on a label distributed by the company I work for and I got the chance to meet him on Friday at our label conference, when he performed a few songs from his CD that was recently released. He's a spiritual guy who recorded an incredibly spiritual album (more on this for Monday's post). The most baffling thing I've seen at the company I work for is that they featured him on the cover of a catalog that is devoted to alternative rock / punk rock / death metal / industrial rock music. No one at work understood this. It simply did not make logical sense because people who like the alternative and hard music of industrial rock and metal genres would not like some New Agey spiritual guy and his very Adult Contemporary pop album.

So I had posted on my Facebook wall about this absurdity and one guy took exception to my comments regarding alternative music genre and the hard rock / heavy metal / industrial rock. I tried to explain and explain, but it was no use. He disagreed (obviously because he loves the genre) and so did a cousin of mine and one lady I know from church. Their defensiveness was interesting to me, but because they like these genres, they don't seem to understand my point.

My point is that music has a vibration to it and the harder musical styles (I include gangsta rap in this category as well) register a much lower / denser vibration. I used the term "negative vibration" which caused the defenses to come out. None of the three who disagreed with my view understood what I meant. They all claim to derive energy from the intense, pulse-pounding music in the harder genres. I can understand that. When you feel angry, you also feel kind of powerful, but its still "negative energy." Its rooted in ego, not spirit.

As I tried to explain using other examples, just because a meal at McDonald's taste good doesn't mean its good for the body. Also, just because people feel euphorically blissful when they take drugs doesn't mean that its a good thing to do for the body. Some people feel euphoric bliss from meditation and there are no negative side effects or bad effects on the body from that. But they still did not agree with my view regarding the dense energy vibrations of heavy metal music.

So I tried another tact. There are pregnant women who put headphones over their bellies to play classical music to their unborn babies. I've never heard of a pregnant woman who has done this with heavy metal music. Another example: studies have been done that show that students who study to classical music have done much better than those who listen to other kinds of music or none at all. Another example: Go to any church service or religious service (Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, etc.) and the music you hear is soft, uplifting, positive...whether a choir or chanting. You don't hear heavy metal, though I suppose that there are a few alternative style churches doing that to appeal to a certain demographic of people. And yet another point: earlier this year, I went to a concert by a group of people who play the harp for those who are in the process of dying. I had never heard of such a thing before, but wasn't surprised that the instrument used is the harp. When I started working for the music company, I discovered a Christmas music CD featuring the harp and I quickly fell in love with that CD. There was something so incredibly uplifting about the harp. Why doesn't this group play heavy metal music to the dying?

The reason is because music carries a vibration and you can see the effects it has on people. A few years ago, I did an all-Enya weekend where I did nothing but listen to Enya all weekend long. I was shocked by how different I felt when Monday came around. I was so much more at peace than I was on the Friday before that weekend began. Even though these heavy metal fans disagree with me, they don't understand that I know what I'm talking about. I actually "feel" music deep at the soul level. I remember in my Senior year in high school, my government teacher played Jane's Addiction in class at one girl's request and I felt unsettled all day. I couldn't stand it and asked if he would play Johnny Clegg one day in class. And speaking of Johnny Clegg, I know that his music has performed miracles in my life. I think part of the reason why my early 20s were so successful in the amount of synchronistic experiences I had (between 1991 and 1994) was because I was really into Johnny Clegg's positive vibration music. It kept me at the high energy level required to manifest your dreams into reality.

As a young teen in Nebraska, all the males I knew were into heavy metal music. It was embarrassing to admit that I preferred Top 40 pop, because that was the preference of the girls in the school I went to. Guys weren't supposed to like pop music, but I couldn't help myself. 80s pop just has a feel good vibration to it. Even now, its amazing to read the comments on YouTube of any 80s music video. The youth of today seem to envy those of us who grew up on 80s pop.

Anyhow, in my Boy Scout troop, the Scoutmaster's son was into heavy metal and brainwashed his 3 year old sister into liking his music. His teenage sister preferred pop music. It was funny to see the 3 year old go up to people at church and say things like "Bark at the moon!" (Ozzy Osbourne reference) or "Shout at the Devil!" (I can't remember, but I think that was Motley Crue). This heavy metal Scout flirted with the dark side and it led to his frying his brain on drugs in college. He was cruel towards my brother and I. The music didn't help. This was a time when the album art featured provocative images, particularly the scary Iron Maiden art that featured a skeletal human killing people. The lyrics referenced Satan, suicide, murder, death. Even the names are hardcore: Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Ratt, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, KISS, Metallica, The Skorpions, Gwar, Twisted Sister, and W.A.S.P. to name just a few.

I'll admit that I did (and still do) like the music of Van Halen, Def Leppard, Guns n' Roses, Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi, but they are rather tame and seemed to be more Top 40 radio friendly. It was primarily the music of the heavy metal bands that caused a Senator's wife to launch a crusade to bring parental warning labels to albums, earning the wrath of music fans, notably Frank Zappa. This Senator's wife, of course, is Tipper Gore. I have a copy of her book, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society. Its a great time capsule to the music of the mid-1980s. But to be fair, it was actually Prince's Purple Rain album that sparked her interest in a crusade for record labeling.

Back to the point, though, there is an energy vibration to music and it does affect you in ways that you might not be consciously aware of. The people I know who are quite spiritual do not listen to such music. There's something about their disposition that you can tell. They just emanate peace and fulfillment. When you listen to the harder music genres, there's a lot of anger in the lyrics, a lot of yelling, and the music can sound like discordant noise. White supremacist bands are notoriously hard core metal. It feeds the hate and gives a false sense of powerful energy to people who feel powerless. I would expect that the level of drug experimentation might be high among listeners of this kind of music. There is no feeling of peace from this kind of music and if anyone thinks so, they are deluding themselves.

At work, whenever the monthly catalog comes out for the subsidiary company that focuses on the alternative / heavy music genre, I'll flip through and the album cover art reflects a dark, negative vibe full of violence and ugliness. By contrast, the subsidiary company that distributes New Age, World Music, and meditation CDs show album covers that feature light, colour, diverse cultures, beautiful scenes of the earth. The vibe is completely different. I can feel it just from flipping through the two catalogs.

The final point I tried to make to those who disagree with me is that there is nothing wrong with listening to music that resonates with us, as most people have diverse interests when it comes to music. However, if you listen to a lot of this denser vibration music, it will affect your overall countenance and keep you in a negative energy dynamic. We always have free will in the choices we make, but if we wonder why we're stuck in a private hell, changing the music you listen to might be one way to begin the changes necessary to alter the course of your life.

Another thing I pointed out was that people are aware of the effect of music on people. Go to your local mall. There are stores such as Hollister that play a denser music designed to keep adults away and to attract teenagers into the store. It works. Though I like Hollister, whenever I hear the music as I pass by the store, I don't go in because the music is not peaceful. By contrast, there are a few MAX light rail stations that play classical music. Apparently, studies have shown that teenagers and young people in their 20s aren't likely to hang out at MAX stations where classical music is playing. Why is that? Even as a teenager, though I wasn't into classical music, every time I heard it, I felt smarter, more cultured. I knew it was good music and reflected the highest aspirations of a culture, even though I was really into pop music exclusively. I find it interesting that playing classical music at MAX stations is an effective crime prevention technique.

I suppose that my views regarding the energy vibrations in music comes across as New Age mumbo jumbo on Facebook, but I don't think I'm wrong on this issue, even if my cousin seems to think so. I see my viewpoint validated in studies that I've read, in techniques that store owners and mass transit officials try, in pregnant women hoping to increase their unborn baby's intelligence, and in the dying wishes of hospice patients. Music that lifts us up, inspires us, and fills us with positive energy vibrations has a profound impact on our lives. That's why you don't see many old people liking the harder music genres or why churches don't have those songs in the worship services. At some point, we have to cast off the negative influences and energy in our lives before it consumes us or leads to our own self-destruction. But don't take my word for it. Experiment with the different music genres and see how it makes you feel after a weekend of exclusive listening to that specific genre. Positive musical energy should make you feel expanded: more peaceful, more loving, more inspired. What have you got to lose?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More Fun With Personal Ads

In the latest installment of analyzing personal ads on Craigslist, here's an interesting one:

I've been out of the game for a little over a year, by choice!! But if you've ever gone celebate then you can understand the frustration that can come from pent up "energy". I want a man that wants a women with meat on her bones, but will also be attracted to a little less meat on her bones. My weight fluxuates. Im a chic. I go on diets. I get off diets. I want a guy that has a bigger bone structure than me but not obese.Im aware that starting my query with physical aspects makes me shallow but I want to be "physically" attracted to the man Im with. This next statement is probably not surprising. I want a guy thats a nice asshole, which sounds weird. I did not just say I want a guy with a nice asshole!! What I mean is someone who is kind of a dick. Someone who can be sarcastic, somewhat vulgar, mischevious, strong willed, and protective. On the other hand lets not forget being sweet, opening doors, well shivalry and mannors when needed. Dorkiness is a plus.

Because sex is a big aspect of intimate realationships: Sexually I need a little kink. I haven't been open with my sexuality in the past but after this year of abstenance I've realized that "normal" sex is boring to me. I need a guy that can be open and unashamed to explore new horizones. Im not looking to email back and forth forever. So pic for pic and lets meet up soon. If you want to email a quick description of a fantasy you want to try, that would be interesting. In the subject line put something funny.
Okay. Scary! This ad has ZERO appeal to me. The reason why I wanted to feature it in my series of analyzing personal ads is because of the absurdity of her request. She wrote that she wants a guy who is a "nice asshole." Wow. Really? She wants a guy who is "kind of a dick." Sounds like she's addicted to the drama. I get it though. Nice guys are "boring" while unpredictable bad boys are exciting. Particularly to women who love the intense drama of a dysfunctional relationship. What I wonder about is how she finds a balance in some guy. What does he have to do on a first date to show that he is both a nice guy and an asshole? And isn't such quality considered "passive aggressive"? You know, like being a demanding jerk to a waiter or waitress, but leaving a nice tip.

Besides her lack of spelling ability, she sounds like someone who would make relationships a complete hell. And her sexual demands are outrageous. "Normal sex" is "boring" to her? I wonder what she means by "normal". I bet she's a dominatrix type or a complete nympho. Its rare to find a personal ad that is so explicit regarding sex. Most women who post ads seem to post a comment stating that they don't want any nude pictures or rude and sexual comments in the response. That's understandable. But I hope this strange lady gets all the freaky responses that her ad deserves.

I also wonder if her weight fluctuations is an indication of her overall instability. She does sound a bit psychologically unstable. You know, the kind of psychotic woman who would go all "Fatal Attraction" on you when you break it off. But none of that matters to me, because this ad has nothing appealing that would make me respond. When I read an ad like this, my thinking is that this woman has some serious issues that she's not dealing with and would not be good for a relationship.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Dream Home Library

Someone on Facebook posted this photo and when I saw it, my soul immediately sighed. This is the kind of home library that I would love to have someday. Just looking at it fills me with peace. My dream is to have a nice cozy home someday and one room would have to be a library, with a complete wall of shelves from floor to ceiling. The idea of a two story library, like this one, is awesome, too. The quote is nice. Cicero was a smart Roman and it still resonates today.

I just thought I'd post this on my blog as a kind of "vision board" wish list to hopefully manifest into reality someday soon (before age 50!). Its nice to dream about, but there are other things I need to work on manifesting into my experience first. But when I do have my own home someday with a library room, I will be calling it The Jack Kerouac Library. The categories of books that I own include: Jack Kerouac / Beat Generation, Politics, Spirituality, Christianity, Literary Fiction, Biographies, Psychology, and writing reference. It would be nice to see all my books lined up on shelves, instead of stored in boxes and some on scattered bookshelves in someone else's home.

Here's to manifesting this long-held dream of mine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When One's Personal Views Hurts the Feelings of a Friend

Yesterday, I received a strange email message from a friend of mine I've known for 12 years. It was a like a punch in the gut. Here's what she said:

"obviously i have always known you had issues with the lds church, but your comments are rude, disrespectful, and innaccurate. your opinions are not facts, something you would do well to remember, even as you criticize everyone and everything else."

She did not reference anything that I had written that she was responding to. I can only assume that she somehow saw a lengthy dialogue I had on the Community of Christ's Facebook page. I responded to her, reiterating that I value her friendship and respect who she is and her beliefs. I love my Mormon friends because our bond transcends religious differences. The friends I had made with the Mormon BYU students during our Washington Seminar experience came about because of personal compatibility, similar political views, similar life experiences, and a love of traveling and knowledge. These qualities are enough to foster a deep friendship that can survive any differences regarding how we view spirituality and religious ideas. I really thought she understood this.

There is much that I admire and envy about Mormons. I love their values. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I've had Mormon friends since elementary school. Not only do our churches share the same history for the first 14 years of the movement, but our values are similar. This was especially true when I had more in common with Mormon Missionaries in Italy than I did with my fellow sailors.

Because I respect and cherish my Mormon friends, I have never told them what I think of their church as an organization or what I think of their church leadership. I don't see a point to that. It's their church and their culture, not mine. If they can live and function in such a church, then it's not my concern or interest. I'm not interested in converting people to the church I belong or to persuade my friends to leave the church of their family and upbringing. I respect my friends and the life experiences and associations that helped make them who they are. When I visit my Mormon friends, I love attending their ward with them on Sundays.

But, if a Mormon friend decides to "dig around" and see what I wrote online somewhere and are shocked when I express my honest opinions about the LDS Church and its leadership, then I'm not responsible if they are "offended." They searched for it and let's not forget, these are comments that I had made among members of my faith community. If my Mormon friends shared their honest views about the Community of Christ on some LDS Church webboard, that's their business. I don't make a point to search out what my friends might say about my church, because it doesn't matter to me. I understand that one's church affiliation is personal. I value my friends for who they are. Just because I don't like the controlling nature of their church and its conservative, corporate culture and views does not mean that I don't like my friends. They are much stronger people than I am, though, because I could not stand to be in the small minority having to keep my opinions quiet just to "get along" with fellow church members.

I suspect that my friend did take my comments too personally, and I feel bad for her. I did tell her, though, that if she doesn't want to be friends with me any more, she could de-friend me and she will never hear from me again. So far, she has not done that. As for what she wrote, I do not "have issues" with the LDS Church. It has no power or relevance in my life and I don't believe LDS doctrines to be true (except for the "eternal progression" view, which fits in well with my beliefs on evolution and reincarnation). Also, there are a lot of ex-Mormon groups out there where people feel the same way. I've attended a few ex-Mormon meetings this year and their views regarding the controlling nature of the LDS Church matches my views from what I've read and observed. For many members, this might not bother them, but for others, it represents a problem. In my personal life experience, I grew up in a church that promotes "free will" / agency above all else and no one in church leadership or Priesthood have ever told me how to live my life or ask intrusive questions about my personal life and habits, yet this is constantly done in the LDS Church, particularly during a Bishop's interview so that a member can get a "Temple Recommend" card that allows them access into the LDS Temples in cities around the world. In contrast, the Community of Christ owns two temples (in Kirtland OH and Independence MO) and not only can members go inside without a special authorization card, but so can non-member visitors. It is in keeping with my church's views on inclusion and reaching out to people, rather than making an exclusive club that divides people into "worthy" and "unworthy."

She might find my views to be "inaccurate", but I beg to differ. I'm interested in objective reality, not putting one's church in the best possible light and ignoring the controversial aspects just because it makes one's church look bad. As I learned from ex-Mormons, at this year's LDS General Conference in April, one of the biggest messages was reaching out to members who have left the LDS Church. Apparently, the LDS Church is facing a substantial exodus of members due to the LDS Church's financial involvement in "Prop. 8" (Prop H8) in California in 2008 (the gay marriage ban) and not doing enough to stop the suicides of gay Mormons. The gay issue has become so big that I was shocked to learn that BYU amended its honour code to allow students who "suffer from Same Sex Attraction" to remain at BYU (so long as they maintain the part of the honour code that requires sexual abstinence in all unmarried students). When I was at BYU, students could be expelled if they openly declared their homosexuality / same-sex attraction.

I am posting below the portion of the dialogue that is relevant to the controversy so you can see what I wrote in a discussion / debate with a fellow Community of Christ church member named John (who has "Restorationist" leanings, meaning that he is part of the more conservative faction within the Community of Christ). It was actually surprising that he was so defensive of Mitt Romney and the LDS Church because Restorationists tend to be very anti-Mormon.

Me: Also, despite Romney's denials, the LDS Church leadership would control Romney and have far greater influence on American policy like no other religion in the history of our republic. Seeing firsthand the totalitarian way the LDS ran BYU, I say, "hell no!"

John: I hope Romney wins and does all the things that Nicholas fears. That way, Nicholas will see the error of his thinking. I wonder how long it will take him to admit his error in comparing Romney to Bush? Will he ever get over his perception of totalitarian Mormons? Maybe, maybe not, but Romney has a political record that you can view, and it is not influenced by his membership in the LDS church. I defy Nicholas to show where in Romney's political career, he has been influenced by LDS leadership. It is not a credible statement, and it is fear mongering. By the way Jeff Moor, I apologize, on behalf of the group, for allowing Nicholas to call you a redneck, but we do not have an active moderator in this group, so name calling, unfortunately, occurs. A more polite, logical, and reasonable response would be to ask you where you are from, and your position on gay marriage, since that is the topic of the post.

Me: John, when someone misspells words into the idioms that rednecks are known to use ("fer" instead of "for", "yer" instead of "your", etc.), it gives the impression that you're not all that intelligent and if you want to make an intelligent argument, the spelling of words makes it that much more difficult to take your views seriously. That's not meant to be insulting...just a point of fact.

When I was at BYU, there were several professors who spoke about the "White Horse Prophecy" and many Mormons see the Romney presidency as the possible fulfilment of this prophecy. Romney may have been a more moderate governor, but he was governor in the most liberal state in the country. To win the skeptical evangelical vote, he has to pander to their wishes. Each Republican president has moved the country further to the right and Romney will make us all miss the moderation of the Bush presidency.

No worries, though. I think Romney will lose.

BaurakAle Ahman Ben Tsiyon:I agree with Nicholas on the Romney LDS control thing...

John: ‎Nicholas do you think the White Horse Prophesy is fair game, in the debates that are scheduled this fall? Can you name any Mormon/LDS aurthority who thinks Romney is the possible fullfillment of this prophesy?

Me: Not during a debate, but fair game for the media to run stories in newspapers and for pundits to discuss.

The LDS leadership aren't open and honest about what they really believe. I remember Gordon B. Hinckley telling Larry King in the late 1990s that the LDS does not teach that men will become gods of their own world someday. That was an outright lie, because it was constantly taught at BYU.

Krista: The LDS are a lot like a secret society. They have temple rituals / beliefs which they keep secret.

John: So your statement that "many Mormons see the Romney presidency as the possible fullfillment of this prophesy" is conjecture?

Nicholas: White Horse Prophecy was taught at BYU and many Mormons I know and knew at BYU believe it is true.

John: ‎Krista, I have never heard anyone say what Nicholas is stating, so I assume he is making it up, stirring the pot, so to speak, also known as rumor mongering.

Me: John, did you go to BYU? If you haven't, then you don't know anything about Mormons.

Krista: ‎John, What are you referring to? The Larry King thing?

Me: Krista, apparently, I struck a nerve with John and now he's coming after me the same way he went after Terri and Pat when they didn't agree with his views. Whatever.

John: LOL, my whole family converted to LDS back in 1983, and then got out a few years later, except for my brother, who is an elder, and now his 2 son's are also in the LDS priesthood. How much you know about the LDS is not the issue here, it is more about Nicholas denigrating others that he does not care for. From Wikipedia article that you linked: US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he considers the White Horse Prophecy to be a matter of "speculation and discussion by [LDS] church members" and "not official [LDS] church doctrine."[5]

John: Nicholas, I am not asking you or anyone else to agree with my views. My views are my own, as are yours. But you like to attribute statements without giving references, so that, sir, is fear mongering, rumor spreading, and desperate. I rather enjoy this conversation, so no harm done to my nervous system.

Me: I don't have a problem with Mormons...but when it comes to power and their tendency to abuse it, then it is a problem, especially since we have freedom of religion in this country. I don't believe Romney will go against the wishes of his prophet.

John, I've never heard you speak out against the fear mongering among conservatives regarding Obama's race, religion, birth place. I think you're showing your bias. I'm hardly engaging in fear mongering. Romney is a Temple-worthy Mormon who obeys his prophet. Obama is not a Kenyan-born Muslim terrorist.

John: What about Harry Reid, or other Mormons in power at the federal level?
Nicholas, can you cite a specific time that Romney "obeyed his prophet"? I have never heard anyone use that argument against Romney. You seem to be making the same argument that JFK had to deal with back in 1960, anti catholics tried to defeat JFK by suggesting that electing JFK would be handing power to the pope. As to fear mongering, I speak out against it all the time, especially on Community of Christ discussion pages, as we all know, fear comes from ignorance. We have nothing to fear, when we put our trust in the Lord. We do not have to fear Romney, or any other politician. It is your fear that I have been addressing in this mornings discussion. Of course I do not fear President Obama, and I would never suggest that President Obama is obeying the Reverend Wright.

Krista: I have concerns with anyone in a leadership role who will do what those above him in his church tell him for fear of losing a temple recommend or simply for reasons of theology. With Romney there's the case of telling the girl whose life was in danger from her pregnancy that she should not have an abortion, and then there's the case of him telling a pregnant single mother that the church wanted her to give the child up for adoption and when she refused told her

‘Well, this is what the church wants you to do, and if you don’t, then you could be excommunicated for failing to follow the leadership of the church,’"

What would Romney do if the leadership of the church told him to do something and that he'd be excommunicated if he did not?

Oh, Romney's "I do not recall" defense has been used for both of those incidents, as well as the bullying incident in boarding school. Interesting that.

Me: John, I'm not a fan of Harry Reid, either. I think he's a bit wimpy and weak. I don't have a problem with Mormons in public office, but they need to be clear about where they stand and would they obey the prophet if going against the beliefs or goals of the LDS Church could lead to excommunication or disfellowship.

As for Kennedy, he stated in a speech that he was an American and respected the separation of Church and State. Also, I don't think the Catholic Church is as totalitarian as the LDS Church. When I lived in Italy, the most Catholic of countries, I was stunned to learn that most Italians viewed the Pope as a well meaning grandfather that they ignored. Meaning, most Italian Catholics don't abide by the Catholic view of not using birth control. American Catholics don't seem to be obedient to the Pope, so the Pope is more symbolic than anything.

Based on what I learned at BYU, I simply do not trust the LDS Church when it comes to our government. And based on Romney's pattern of behaviour going back to high school, I just don't see this guy having a moral core. He will do whatever to advance his career and his religion.

This doesn't mean that I base my views on "fear" because I'm not a fearful person. I believe America is destined to become an authoritarian theocratic police state and each Republican president seems to move us closer in that direction. I'll do what I can to prevent that from happening, but if it does happen, it will take courageous people to speak out and fight for democracy.

Also, John, Obama gave a speech on race and religion in which he criticized Rev. Wright and eventually he severed ties with Wright when Wright kept making controversial statements. I do not see Romney having the strength of courage to publicly criticize his prophet or sever ties. The LDS Church does control its members through tithing and Temple recommends. This goes beyond anything that the Catholic Church or any Evangelical Christian church does.

John: Nicholas, do you think paying tithing is bad? If Romney pays tithing, isn't that a positive? How can you turn paying tithing into a negative? We should all want to give generously, even sacrificially, and if you do so, the Lord has promised a multiplicity of blessings. Obviously, the LDS have been blessed financially for keeping a strict accounting/tithing. Can you say the same?

Me: John, I love how you twist things. You ought to be a politician...or Satan.

I never said that tithing is bad. Just that it was used as a controlling device in the LDS Church. My larger point is that Romney doesn't have the guts to speak against his church leaders so when people vote for him in November, they are also voting for the First Presidency of the LDS Church. No thanks.

Here's Mormonism in a nutshell: To become a god of your own world with multiple goddess wives, you have to make it to Celestial Glory, which requires that you be a Temple-worthy Mormon all of your life and a Priesthood holder. You cannot get into the Temple without paying your tithing. The Mormons found a perfect way to get people to pay the strict 10%, no matter one's level of income.

If a person makes below the rate of poverty, 10% is money not going to basic living needs like food, housing, utilities, transportation to work. If a person is wealthy like Romney or have enough to put into regular savings account and retirement accounts, 10% is not a big deal.

Tithings should not be tied to anything, such as Temple recommend / afterlife exaltation; or to financial blessings in the future. It should be promoted for what it is: a means to help the church pay its bills.

As for Romney, I don't support him because he's a Republican. If there was a liberal Mormon Democrat who was running for president and I liked his or her personality, life experience, and goals, I'd vote for that person. When I was on BYU's Washington Seminar program, I had the chance to meet and become friends with Mormons who are liberal Democrats and who don't believe everything the LDS Church and prophets teach them. That's what I look for: independence from your chosen clergy, not obedience under threat of execommunication or denial of afterlife benefits. Obama passed the test when he separated himself from his controversial pastor. Romney has not taken that test, nor will he. He's a good Mormon boy: obedient to his prophet, just as he's told to be all his life.

John: ‎Nicholas, Every church has tithing/contribution suggestions, and every church could be criticized, based on your criteria. You have explained what you don't like about the LDS tithing system, and criticize it all you want, but it is still voluntary, and most LDS I know give joyfully, as they see the good works being done all around them by fellow LDS. You don't like the LDS tithing system, fine, but the early church practiced a much more strict tithing meathod called consecration Many LDS testify that tithing has been the greatest blessing in their life, and in the lives around them.

Me: Of course tithing paying Mormons are going to say that, when their entire salvation system depends on it! If people love giving a strict 10% of their income to church, why isn't this phenomenon more common? Why do liberal churches have a harder time getting tithing from members? Its because there is no tie to a beneficial afterlife or avoidance of a hellish one!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Music Video Monday: Beastie Boys

On Friday, music fans learned that Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys died at the age of 47. It came as quite the shock. The Beastie Boys were the first rap group that I actually liked, but my like of them only came after everyone else I knew at the time was already into them. I was a teenager in Germany at the time. Their debut album, License to Ill, was released in the U.S. in November 1986. It was probably sometime in the spring of 1987 with the release of the song and music video "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" tearing up the charts that they became popular among military dependents living on American bases in Germany. I did not like that song at all, so I didn't pay much attention to them.

However, in the summer of 1987, I took up skateboarding as an amateur hobby / interest and the crowd I was hanging with would listen to License To Ill all summer long. That's when I really got into them, as they had so many songs on that album that were so much better than their lead single. I will review the album on this Friday's "Flashback Friday." This week's Music Video Monday is in tribute to Adam Yauch for his contributions to the band and for helping to make the Beastie Boys an especially noteworthy band that lasted far longer than they otherwise might've (Adam was a big supporter of the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet movement). Before the Beastie Boys came along, the big name rap groups / stars were all African American: Run DMC, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, and Doug E. Fresh. I admit that it probably took a group of young white guys to make "rap" non-threatening and more acceptable for suburbanite kids.

I decided to go with "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" over "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" because its a much better song (probably my favourite on their album). Enjoy!

Friday, May 04, 2012

May the 4th Be With You: Flashback Friday on Attack of the Clones

As Star Wars fans are well aware, May 4th has become "Star Wars Day". If you've never seen these films, then you probably might be wondering why May 4th, since all six movies were released between May 22nd and Memorial Day in the years 1977, 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, and 2005. Why May 4? Because of the most memorable phrase in the series: "May the Force Be With You." Okay, so saying, "May the Fourth Be With You" makes it sound like you have a lisp, but it works.

Of the prequel trilogy, Episode II: Attack of the Clones is far and away my favourite one. Which is not surprising, as I love Empire Strikes Back the best of the entire series and this one made quite a few allusions / tributes to the greatest of all episodes. And like Empire, Episode II is the most spiritual film within the trilogy.

For example:

The Jedi Archives / Library is mesmerizing for the eyes and I imagine this is how the library in the spiritual dimension might look. Can't wait to see that someday. I'll be spending a lot of time in there, I'm sure.

The other spiritual scene that I love is when Obi-wan Kenobi interrupts Master Yoda teaching Jedi younglings to solve a problem regarding a missing planet. The three dimensional map of the galaxy is awesome and Obi-wan uses the force to locate where the planet should be. I'd love to be able to access information that way. Yoda asks the younglings for an answer about why the planet of Kamino does not appear on the map. When one of them answered, "Someone erased it from the archive memory," Yoda laughed and said, "Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is." I love his laugh. Reminds me of the Dalai Lama.

Obi-wan flies off to Kamino, which is a water planet that has some fierce storms. I love the scenes on Kamino, with the lean and super tall aliens that walk with grace and have an interesting way of speaking. Obi-wan learns about their cloning technology and that the Republic had ordered a clone army of more than a million over a decade ago.

We're introduced to Jango Fett, the father of Boba Fett, who is a popular character from the original trilogy. As Star Wars fans learned, all the Storm Troopers are clones of Jango Fett (played by a New Zealand actor with a Maori background) and Boba Fett is an unaltered clone (according to the movie series' mythology, clones have a speedy growth gene so that they will be fully grown and trained in ten years rather than twenty, and they are also docile so they don't question orders). There's an exciting fight on the stormy landing platform between Obi-wan and Jango and when both are aboard their ships on their way to the Mars-like planet of Geonosis, they fly through an asteroid belt (another allusion to the great Empire Strikes Back).

Many fans complained about the romantic scenes between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. While I didn't think it was all that vomit-inducing, I did think it was a little cliched. They mess around in a field of flowers before taking a tumble over each other, they have a romantic dinner, and then things get intense when they sit on a loveseat next to the fireplace. In these scenes, Anakin reveals his political thoughts (he's okay with a strong-leader / authoritarian form of government) and Padme shares about her first love. They shared a kiss on a beautiful patio overlooking what we know as Lake Como, Italy but is the Lake District on the planet Naboo. What a beautiful place! When I lived in Italy in the early 1990s, I had never even heard of Lake Como. Someday, when I make it back to Italy, I want to visit Lake Como. I'm sure I'll feel like I'm in another world.

Visions of his mother in pain causes Anakin to violate Obi-wan's orders and fly to his home planet of Tatooine to rescue his mother from the vicious Sand People. When he slaughters the whole village and confesses to Padme, she doesn't get scared away but her compassion is drawn towards him. She should've seen the warning signs, though. Anakin whines about Obi-wan and claims that he will become the most powerful Jedi of all time and prevent people from dying.

The final action sequence on the film takes place in a gladiator type event on Geonosis, which is inhabited by insect aliens who were the creators of the battle droids that were used by the Trade Federation in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The fight gets expanded when the Jedi joins, and then the Clone troopers for a major battle sequence. The insect aliens were also the creators of the Death Star and give their plans to Count Dooku, who is also known as Darth Tyranus, who became Darth Sidious's apprentice after Darth Maul's demise in the first episode. His task was to start the war between the Clone troopers of the Republic and the battle droids of the Trade Federation. This war is instrumental for the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to move the Republic towards an empire.

The most crowd-pleasing scene in this Episode is Yoda's lightsaber battle with Count Dooku. Fans have been waiting to see this for a long time and it did not fail to excite. Yoda moves with lightning speed and the humour is enhanced when he pretends to be too old to walk without a cane towards an incapacitated Obi-wan and Anakin after his fight. Count Dooku manages to escape and the flight of his ship with solar sail back to Coruscant is one of the most visually stunning moments in this film. I love the design and look of it.

Also, what I love about this film are the early action sequences in Coruscant, the capital planet of the Republic (the whole planet is one big city, which is interesting in theory but unlikely to ever be reality because there are no natural resources to sustain such a planet). Chase sequences through the multi-layered "streets" surpass anything in any other movie with car chases. Obi-wan and Anakin were chasing down a bounty hunter that tried to kill Padme Amidala twice. Audiences get to see the relations between the two Jedi. Anakin admits that Obi-wan is the closest thing he has to a father, but he's still rebellious and still in love with Padme, even though she told him, "You'll always be that little boy on Tatooine." Not exactly the kind of words a young man wants to hear from the lady he loves.

It's hard to believe that this film was released ten years ago now. Where does the time go? I saw this film 6 times in the theater and if it comes out in 3-D next year, I'll probably go see it, even though I was disappointed with the 3-D conversion of Episode I this year. It's difficult to convert a film to 3-D, but filming in 3-D, such as Avatar and Hugo makes for a fantastic movie going experience. Perhaps George Lucas should make a third trilogy (post-Return of the Jedi) and film in 3-D! Of course, that won't happen, because he's much older now and making a trilogy is a brutal undertaking of ten years of his life. While fanboys seem to hate the prequels and some even go so far as to say that Lucas "ruined" the series for them (really?), I actually love the prequels for the visual effects. The prequels are a feast for the eyes, while the original trilogy is beloved for the characters and storyline. Plus, people need to take in to consideration that you tend to love what you saw first. For example, if you love a song, you'll probably hate the remake, but if you heard the remake first, you might prefer it to the original song. Also, there were less expectations for the original trilogy when they came out. The expectations were huge on the prequels and fanboys already created their theories about how Darth Vader and the Empire came into being. Because their theories didn't match George Lucas' vision, they hate the prequels. I'm just grateful that Lucas made the prequels. It was quite the thrill ride in the summers of 1999, 2002, and 2005.

So, don't fret. May the Fourth Be With You!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The False Choice of Mermaids or Whales

A friend of mine posted something she saw online somewhere onto her Facebook page and I thought it was interesting to comment on. I don't know who wrote it. Here it is first, before my thoughts about it:

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

"Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia. They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I'd rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies. We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.

Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: "How amazing am I ?! "

I know that my view might be considered controversial and I apologize in advance if people are "offended", but I think it needs to be said. This was obviously written to inspire women who are obese to feel comfortable about their weight. However, the choice offered is unrealistic because it really is comparing apples to oranges. How can you compare a real live animal (a whale) to a mythological creature that bears some human resemblance (a mermaid)? I know that the person who wrote that actually mentioned the fact that mermaids were not real, but it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Here's the hard truth: the human body was never meant to be obese. The obesity is symptomatic of a society that promotes fast food, junk food, and laziness (the drive by window at fast food restaurants could only have been invented in America). Obesity is over-abundance. People are consuming more food than the body needs. In a world of growing scarcity (where increased population meets decreasing natural resources), one could argue that obesity is a sin. When there are millions of people who don't have enough food and face real starvation, we live in a land of abundance to the point where people waste food and over-consume what their body actually needs.

I will acknowledge that there are possible negative effects on the body due to growth hormones injected into the meat that we eat and that people don't intend to get obese. Once you put the weight on, it really is a big challenge to get rid of it. Losing weight takes a lot more energy than putting on weight.

On Craigslist personal ads, I see a lot of women's ads who use the term "BBW" (for "Big, Beautiful Woman"), and some are even claiming to work out in the gym to lose the weight (something they might consider doing BEFORE they put out an ad). Interestingly, some BBWs write in their ads, "if you're not into a bigger body, please move on..." Gladly, ma'am! Does anyone think obesity is physically attractive? Sure, there might be a great soul beneath that big body, but is it bad of people to not be naturally attracted to obesity? The extra weight people carry does affect the way they look, not just the body, but also the face. Look at pictures of Kathleen Turner as a young woman versus the way she looks now. Likewise for Kristi Alley. Then look at a picture of someone like Sophia Loren as a young woman and as she now looks. She's never lost her beauty. She shines!

There's a book called "French Women Don't Get Fat" and for anyone who has been to Europe, you don't see nearly as many obese people on the Continent than you do in North America. Why is that? The French eat a lot of cheese and buttered confections with their meals. The Italians eat pasta like its a national birthright (it is!). And yet, the number of obese people is a small portion of society (the bell curve, where the majority are within the weight standards). Some say that its a lifestyle difference. Europeans walk a lot more than Americans do. Every city in Europe has a pedestrian only shopping district. But also, they eat smaller portions of food. One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced when I returned to the U.S. after living 3 years in Italy as a young man in the early 1990s was how much food we're served in restaurants. In Europe, most places don't have a "doggie bag" (or box) to give you for the excess food. You're given an adequate amount to eat for a single meal. How much food does our bodies need, anyway? Each bite we take makes an impact on the overall environment and the amount of energy that goes into producing our food.

Ever notice in movie theaters that a "small" drink is actually more than 32 ounces? And you want the supersized large?!? That's a lot of sugary soda while you're sitting down watching a movie. For me, even the "small" drink is too much for me. And the concession stand cashier always tries to sell up, which is ridiculous. Getting a medium means I won't be able to sit through the entire movie without running to the bathroom. Who came up with this absurdity? Starbucks sizes their cups by "tall", "grande", and "venti". Is using the word "small" an insult or something?

What about seats on a bus? Many times, an obese person will sit next to me and I end up having a difficult time breathing. They take up so much space and even part of my seat! Is this right? Should buses (and airplanes) make larger seats to accommodate our growing girth as a nation?

In that ode to obesity that I posted, what I find most offensive and inaccurate about the statement is the following:

"We gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies. We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated."

That's such a crock of shit. What a freaking lie! No, you can't gain weight because you accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge. That is the realm of your brain, which we only use a small percentage of anyway. Wisdom and knowledge have ZERO CALORIES!! The reason you gain weight is because you EAT MORE THAN YOUR BODY NEEDS and you do not have a regular exercise regime to burn more calories than you take in. That's the truth. Anything else is a lie told by your ego to make you feel better about your weight. Obesity has nothing to do with being "cultivated." It has to do with not understanding one's own body and what the body needs or doesn't need. It's truly sad if there are people who use that unrealistic view of obesity to build up one's self esteem. Truth requires hard facts and data. It requires a complete lifestyle change and a change in one's diet. Shedding the weight is a lot more difficult than not allowing oneself to get obese in the first place. It's not easy, but its better to make a regular commitment to change than to believe lies.

So, don't choose to be either a whale or a mermaid. Be a human being who is kind to one's body and respectful of the impact our consumption habits have on the planet's eco-system. Eating smaller portions is not going to starve you to death. Just get you back in touch with the real you.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

More Republican Hypocrisy

Another day, another manufactured outrage from the Fox Propaganda Network and its echo chamber on the radio dial and in the halls of Congress. This time, its about a political ad released by the Obama campaign in which former President Clinton praised President Obama for his handling of the operation to get Bin Laden in last year's raid in Pakistan. As is usually the case with the rightwing, they cried foul for a president using an event for partisan political purposes! Even more galling, Mitt Romney is on record as saying in the 2007-2008 election cycle that it is not worth spending millions of dollars to go after one man. So, put him down for "no", he would not have given the order to take out Bin Laden. Score for Obama, who said in that election cycle that if he had information that Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, he wouldn't hesitate to give the order.

But hearing the rightwing echo chamber complain about President Obama's campaign commercial that highlights one of the biggest accomplishments of his administration just strikes a hypocritical chord. After all, this comes from the very political party that gave us this on May 1st, 2003:

So, you really want to go there? No one has exploited 9/11 and the collapse of governments in Afghanistan and Iraq as much as Bush and the Republican Party! They rammed it down our collective throats in the 2004 election. Fox News reporters (male and female alike) gushed about Bush's supposed manhood when he strutted on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in his flight suit, which emphasized his crotch. He basically got the world's biggest blowjob from a news organization that pretends to be "fair and balanced."

I have a long memory and I will never forget the gloating by rightwingers about Bush's "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq (it was declared after Saddam's regime collapsed, but long before Saddam was ever captured or thousands of American deaths in the years to come). As the war raged on and this publicity stunt became an embarrassment, the Bush Administration blamed the U.S. Navy for putting up the "Mission Accomplished" banner. When I heard that lame excuse, I knew it was a lie because the Navy would never do something like that without direction from the White House. The Bush Administration basically used a Navy warship for propaganda purposes. Other pertinent details about that include the fact that the Lincoln had been deployed for 9 or 10 months, which was far longer than the standard 6 month deployment that ships undergo. They were off the coast of San Diego, so Bush's flight from the Naval Air Station in San Diego to the ship was a short one. Also, the event only took place when the ship was in a certain direction so that the glowing sun would look good on Bush, as well as the skyline of San Diego could not be seen in the shot during Bush's landing and speech on the flight deck. It was pure theatrics and was intended to be used in the 2004 campaign commercials (but because of the ongoing deaths in Iraq of American soldiers, it became an embarrassment because of the "Mission Accomplished" banner).

So, what's going on here? Isn't it obvious? The Republican Party is jealous. They can't admit that President Obama has been a successful foreign policy president. His decision in Libya proved to be the right one and it went exactly the way the Bush Administration had claimed that our invasion of Iraq would go. Bush slept on 9/11 (metaphorically, of course. In reality, he was reading "My Pet Goat" to elementary school kids in Florida) and said that he didn't care if Bin Laden was ever brought to justice or eliminated. Besides, Bin Laden served as an effective boogeyman to frighten ignorant Americans into voting against their own economic self interest one more time. It worked in 2004 and we ended up with four more years of one disaster after another.

Pundits complaining about Obama "spiking the football" after a touchdown really need to look in the mirror. Don't they remember the in your face gloating by the Bush Administration? Don't they remember Bush's flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln to claim victory? As someone said on one of the talk shows, if Obama spiked the football after a touchdown, Bush played a showboat before the game even began!!

The more Republicans gripe about Obama, the more they reveal themselves to be out of touch hypocrites. This is why it is important to have a good memory, because these people are counting on America's short term memory in order to trick people again into voting against their own economic self interest. I do not like dishonesty and phony outrage, especially by people who have done exactly what they accuse someone else does. This is classic "projection" and one more reason why the Republican Party deserves to be out of power for the next twenty-five years until they prove themselves free of destructive ideologues.

It is amusing, though, that having a black president who has been successful in foreign policy so far get under these people's skin. But the fault is with them. After all, who were the people who went to Austin, Texas in 1998 begging some son of a former president, who has a very thin resume and a track record of failing in everything he tried (including bankrupting two companies he was CEO of), to run for President in 2000? They went with an incompetent idiot and his presidency left the country in ruins. If you don't want to get jealous that there's a competent, intelligent, and successful Democratic president in the White House, then by all means, pick the very best among your party's elected officials to be your nominee and let's see what happens. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney is not that guy. Better luck in 2016, assholes!