Monday, December 31, 2012

Hey, we made it!

Glad to see you have survived the Apocalypse to get to enjoy all the holidays have to offer. I was thinking this is where I have to put the obligatory "year in review" segment. Lately, I've been receiving some signs that are steering me in a looking-forward direction than looking-back. So I will take this opportunity to share what that is exactly.

It is the idea of making the everyday or commonplace sacred. Allow me to share some places where it has popped up recently to show you where my reminders came from.

Father Mike's homily.

A text from a friend recommending an author.

A book that I had stopped reading that I was spurred to finish due to the aforementioned text message.

A television show.

My Christmas tree.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of each experience. I just wanted to demonstrate how the world is a funny place. I wasn't looking for the sacred or God in those moments (OK, well, I was at mass, but not in the way I was approaching it). Every single message literally, not figuratively, said, "Stop and look around, Bobby. Every moment is a chance to be "holy". No matter what you are doing, you are in the presence of God. Don't fetishize your faith. Let it be with you now, while checking your email, cooking dinner, playing with your dog, filling out a purchase order request. Stop and realize that nothing you do is mundane. You're life is a prayer and should be lived that way."

I obviously paraphrased a bit there, but let me clarify what I mean by "holy". Holy in this context doesn't mean good or well-behaved or pure. I think we've taken that word to mean something it doesn't in English. Holy really means closer to God. Perhaps I should make up a new word, Heidegger-style, like grace-filled, or God-sensing. The most difficult part is that it's really describing an emotion or a state of being and not an action. I've found that to keep one's consciousness in a particular state is the hardest thing there is. I actually feel it's what has kept me, and most people, from reaching a higher level of consciousness. We all have moments of profound emotion and thought elevation, but it is the rarest person, the saint if you will, that can sustain that level. With that I will leave to discover what that means for yourself. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cave of forgotten dreams

I am currently watching Cave of Forgotten Dreams. They just said that the cave was only used for drawing and ritual. It made me think off my visit to Newgrange. I wonder if the burial mounds in Ireland and England were mesolithic man's attempt to recreate the caves of continental Europe. No matter the case, these discoveries and experiences never cease to instill a feeling of awe in our prehistoric ancestors. We are amazing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ron Paul and the Rebirth of Common Sense

So there is a great article that talks about Ron Paul's criticism of the left's and the right's knee-jerk reactions to the Newtown tragedy. My post isn't about that horrible day or even Mr. Paul's response. I want to use this as a really good example of why I am a Libertarian.

I assume that most people think that Libertarians don't give a crap about anybody and that it is a very "me first" outlook. I probably won't be able to dissuade you if you connect your political view to your personal view of the world. I believe that there should be more money given to the poor and more opportunities to the less fortunate, that we should support research and promote peace throughout the world. I just think that the government is the worst way to do it. Republicans say things like that, but they lust for just as much power as anyone else. Democrats claim to want what is in everyone else's best interest, but they do it by taking away people's freedoms, or only supporting the rights of those they deem worthy. I could cite you a bibliography of all the great thinkers I've read that have convinced me that individual freedom and a free society is the only way to progress in human society. What the hell, here's a few: Nietzsche, Popper, Kant, Sartre, Franklin, Jefferson...

This brings me back to Paul. He criticized the right for wanting to put armed guards in schools, he criticized the left for wanting to curb people's gun rights. He and I agree on one big thing here. Government intervention is not the answer. There needs to be a voice of dissension when both side are selling you the same answer from different ends. The real words behind the rhetoric coming from both sides is, "Give us more power, by relinquishing yours, and we'll keep everyone safe and sound."  We have become two very bad things as a society. One that looks for instant gratification (the same satisfaction that sent into two unwinable wars) and a society that looks to others, particularly authority figures to bring us that gratification. We are becoming a nation of lap dogs, waiting for our owners to open the door so we can go outside, when we have the ability to open it ourselves. The world of freedom and self-actualization is out there if we can only accept that exploration involves danger and risk and that we will never insulate ourselves from that even if we decide to hide in our "caves".

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What do you really want?

I had an experience today that illustrated one of my favorite paradoxes in ethics. There was a lady that was obviously lost at the hospital today. As is my habit I asked, "May I help you?" She immediately went into a tirade about how no one knows how to give directions around here, I've been walking around for 10 minutes, I'm late for my procedure now... Finally, I cut her off saying, "Where do you need to be?" thinking that time is of the essence.

She continued her rant, "The people at the desk told me to go down this hall, make a right, I did that and the people there told me I wasn't in the right place, so I came back to this hallway, etc."

"Ma'am, I am going to walk you to wherever you need to be, but I need to know where that is."

"They said it's by the main entrance."

"Oh that is right at the end of this hallway. Let's ask the information people here at the main entrance if they know where you need to be."

I begin, "Hi, this nice lady is having..." "I have been walking around lost for the last 10 minutes. Dr So-and-so is early and ready to start and I can't find the place, people should walk you to where you need to be, I was right over there at registration *I will spare you the continued 3 more minutes of complaining*"

We finally figure out she needs to go to the surgery waiting room, which is literally 5 steps from the main entrance. Where her husband is standing, waiting for her. I will not conjecture at this point that she probably didn't listen when the registration person told her that if she had a rock, she could hit it from where she was sitting. Perhaps our person received bad directions. That's not my point.

My point is that what she needed was to have her procedure done. What she wanted was to complain about how it was other people's fault that she was lost. The thing that she was doing was actually hindering her from achieving her real goal. Stephen Covey wrote in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People of the concept of win-win. I won't go into the details here, but the essence boils down to that in order for this to happen, people need to look deep and see what they really want. Here's a really poor example that I made up:  Bob and John both want the corner office. Neither is budging. They talk it out and realize that what they both want is more room to meet with clients. John agrees to let Bob have the office and converts Bob's office into a casual meeting place. The aforementioned lady couldn't see past her need to vent about her frustrations to see that it was actually making her more late for her appointment. What she truly wanted was to be on time for her procedure. The behavior she was exhibiting was accomplishing the exact opposite.

The new year is fast approaching. I think I'm going to make my resolution to make sure that the things that I want are really the things that I want. Oh, and for those of you keeping score at home: the paradox is in the theory of Egoism. The theory says that people always do what is in their best interest. The paradox lies in the question, "Do people actually do what's in their best interest, or what they think is in their best interest; which may not actually be in their best interest?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's the Most Prozac Day of the Year

You may be thinking that the title of today's entry is referring to the amount of people that experience the let-down of post-Christmas. I am actually referring to December 26th itself. If this day were self-aware, I imagine we would skip right to the 27th, because 12/26 would have offed itself about 1600 years ago. Other than two turtle doves, the second day of Christmas completely gets the shaft. At least the 12th day of Christmas gets to be "little" Christmas. A diminutive nickname nonetheless, but at least Greek Orthodox churches and some Hispanic communities celebrate it.

This brings me to another annoying feature of "Elf on the Shelf". The elf leaves on Christmas eve to go back to the North Pole. Seriously? They get to hang out at your house and mess with your stuff all, during what I imagine to be the busy season in Santa's workshop, and head back before the big guy even gets there?! Once again, the other 11 days of Christmas are treated like chopped liver. Ok, so its not the elf itself that get's on my nerves (It does, but I'm making a point!). It just raises two glaring problems in my mind.

One: Did kids really need something to get them fired up waiting for Christmas? Were there parents sitting around saying, "Gee, little Johnny doesn't seem to be obsessively crossing off days on the calendar and spell checking his letter Santa as feverishly as last year?" How do we get him really fired up about the month before Christmas?" I am pretty sure I haven't met a 6 year old yet that needs some addition impetus to get them excited about the arrival of Christmas. First point, the elf is redundant.

Two: I think there is somewhere that kids do need to get fired up about this season. Here's a hint, it has nothing to do with Santa, or elves, or presents. It's the impending birth of Jesus. We have wonderful tools already in place for that. The Advent calendar, Advent wreath, Jesse tree are just a few. There was also a wonderful Advent flyer of things to do with your children that I thought were really cool. Getting a map of the middle east and tracking Joseph and Mary's trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was one such suggestion. How great would it be to get your kid's focused on Bethlehem instead of the arctic circle?

But I digress. Wow, you're getting two rants today! My original point was that we spend all this time preparing for this holiday. Shopping, putting up lights, baking, getting the tree, shopping, "holiday" parties, writing and sending cards; all this happens before the actual holiday. We've taken all the mirth and merriment of the Christmas time and put it in Advent! Then we squeeze Christmas itself into one evening and day. Christmas needs a ton more time to be celebrated. I'm finally in the mood to listen to Christmas music and there is not one single station that hasn't returned to their normal programming. I really wish someone would come up with an elf on the shelf like concept to help us get fired up about the other 11 days of Christmas. And there are still some really good reasons to keep partying! The Epiphany (that's when the three wisemen came, ya heathens), the celebration of Mary as Mother of God, Jesus' presentation in the temple, Jesus' Baptism. So let's keep spreading that holiday cheer and help talk December 26th off the ledge!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


A couple posts ago, I talked about belief and William James and some other things, pointing out our inability to choose to believe or disbelieve. The next part of the question is, "What does it take to get one to buy into a concept?" I don't know that I've ever asked the question, "What would it take for me to give up my belief in notion X?" Perhaps this is a gedanken experiment that is a complete waste of time. There may be some beliefs that are held so deeply that there are no facts or truths that could change one's mind. Despite what some atheists have pointed out about science or human psychology that has them completely convinced that God does not exist, their examples seem to fit fine into my belief in a higher power. Or at least that they don't refute it. But what about those that aren't absolute truths? In reality, most people stick with what they know. I've seen people switch political affiliations, sports teams, religious denominations, dietary habits, sexual orientation, beliefs about other people's sexual orientations, you name it. At one time, or another, they switched their belief in what was right or true or appropriate.

Now the big question is, do we go out and seek it? Do we try and bolster our belief, or go out in search of what might negate our belief? I had an interesting conversation with someone recently that had many questions about the Catholic faith (which happens to be the faith that I profess to believe). The big question was the good ol' protestant objection that Catholics pray to saints. The truth is that Catholics don't pray to saints, they ask saints to intercede for them, just like if you asked me to pray that you'll recover from an illness. You are asking me to pray for you. Think of the word 'for' as in, "Can you finish addressing these envelopes for me?" See the distinction? Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked with my example. The point is, that was a belief that she held due to misinformation or a misunderstanding. It got me to thinking, how many of these do I hold? How many things do I believe because I've never considered the alternative, or that I haven't bothered to fully grasp the situation? Or even more poignant, How many times have I read or heard something that did in fact change my perception, but I quickly shook the idea out of my head as preposterous?

I don't think we live in a world where we can constantly be revisiting and second guessing everything we believe. There are things that I believe just based on routine alone. I don't even think about them. I believe that gravity will be working just fine and that all the laws of physics apply when I put my feet on the floor and get out of bed in the morning. I believe my cheerios will have the taste of honey nut. I believe that the red light will eventually change to green. In fact, if these things didn't happen, I would be generally surprised and most likely begin searching for a reason why it behaved differently. My cheerios taste like apple jacks! It must be because my wife switched our brand of cereal.The light is not changing. There must be a malfunction, or maybe there is a police officer controlling it because of an emergency. We find it hard to believe that honey nut cheerios would just suddenly stop tasting like honey nut cheerios for no reason. All of these truths, though, are a posteriori. There is nothing inherent in the object itself that makes them have to be that way. We would have a hard time imagining a square circle, as roundness is part of what a circle is, but we can easily conjure up an image of fire that is cold to the touch. It would be fascinating and novel, but completely conceivable. So try a gedanken experiment if you have some free time. Pick something trivial that you believe in and try to think of all the ways it could be proven false.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's here!

Mayan Apocalyspe! WOOHOO! Stop yelling at the monitor. I know nothing happened. I mean there is still like 10 hours left of 12/21/12, but yeah, if anything was going to happen it probably would've started by now. I feel like I'm back in grade school, when the weather forecast said snow and you wake up to find nothing but grass and asphalt outside your bedroom window. Looks like we're going to school kids! Put on your slacks and sweater vests! (unless you went to public school, then put on your ripped jeans and Metallica T-shirt! At least that's what I always assumed you wore in the late 80s/early 90s.)

So did anyone use this time to reflect on what they really wanted to do with their life? I mean I know I've spent the last month poking fun at ridiculous things that could signal the end of the world, but what if today was your last day on Earth? What if today was the last day for the Earth altogether? Is there a difference between those two questions for you? Would you have lived life differently, knowing that you would not be leaving behind a legacy or someone to remember you? I was just afraid now that the apocalypse is passing, that you wouldn't have something to keep you up at night. You're Welcome.

Speaking of things that keep you up at night, I got a dog. Let me rephrase, I got a puppy. A chocolate lab puppy. He's the biggest jerk I've ever met. If you really want to give your ego a check, get a puppy. Nothing will lower your self-importance like cleaning up poop from every single room in your house, following said doo-doo bandito constantly around the house to ensure he does not repeat the heinous act, and basically having your entire life ruled by something 1/20th your size. I am obviously not handling this well. I've also read a lot about training your puppy. People who write puppy training books are also the biggest jerks I've ever met. Every "expert" has said that to get him to stop biting you should say ouch and pull your hand away. My puppy then barks at me in a way that says, "Stop being a pussy, that doesn't hurt," and then lunges at my hand even more lustily than before. Spray him with a water bottle? He likes it. Shake a can of rocks? He bites the can. Try to turn your back to him? He bites your calf. Try and put him in time out? He barks for 2 hours non-stop. I'm just letting everyone know that I'm not complaining or looking for advice. This article is my white flag. You have won, Max. The house is yours. I'm moving back in with my mom.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 30, this is it!

Well, here we are, one day from the Apocalypse. Today's sign comes from me. The sign is my feeling of regret for all the things I didn't get around to doing. I would like to compose a list for you of all the things I wish I had done. Do not confuse this with a bucket list. This is way better than a bucket list. One is not bound to be compelled to accomplish any of these things, as they are things that I wish I did, not things that I want to do.

1. Visited Machu Pichu. I've looked into this. The whole trip sounds like a huge pain in the ass, but I would have like to have done it.

2. Learned to play the guitar. I have no interest in practicing, performing, or developing callouses. I just think about how awesome I'd be at guitar if I starting playing when I was in my teens.

3. Learn to weld. Because who doesn't want to know how to do that? Is there an activity that makes you look more bad ass?

4. Attended one of those week long concert event thingies. Just like Machu Pichu, this sounds completely awful. I went to a one day festival, and all I remember is being thirsty, since waters were like $8 a bottle. But man, don't people have the best stories when they come back from them?

5. Learned to speak Spanish. It would totally have helped out when meeting some of my in-laws over the last 10 years. ah, regrets.

6. Skydived... skydove? I only have it on here since I'm pretty sure it's obligatory. I got really close to convincing myself I wanted to jump out of a plane. The outing got cancelled three separate times. I'm pretty sure that was God calling me a jackass.

7. Went into outer space. Just to clarify: I mean like star wars or star trek space. Current space travel looks boring as hell. "Oh my God, we're going to into outer space, what should we do?" "Science experiments!" What a waste.

8. Through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Seriously, who has that kind of time? And I like things like food and warmth and showers and not being eaten by a bear or raped by a hobo. Too long, but always cool to say you wanted to do it.

9. Met someone rich or famous, had them find me captivating, insist that they take me on some whirlwind month of visiting exotic locales all over the world on their private jet, yacht, and train car.

10. Got really good at chess.

11. Swam in a pool filled with something other than water. I'm not picky. Maybe jell-o or noodles (no sauce, that's icky) or packing foam peanuts, hundred dollar bills Scrooge McDuck style... What? It's my list. Make your own if you think that's weird.

12. Been CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I have no idea, it just sounds like a sweet deal.

13. Achieved complete enlightenment. Maybe that comes with a front row seat to the end of the world!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2 more days of the world as we know it!

We must be getting close to the end. These signs are starting to write themselves.

Eagle attempts to carry off human child.

There is a video. It is awesome. Stop reading this and watch it already!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

3 days left!

I know that blog has been getting a little heavy and long winded lately. So I will keep it quick and light and fluffy. And let's make two-for Tuesday!

Irish television to remake "Cheers". Yeah, I had to reread the article link too. Does Ireland really need to revive the concept of a show that revolves around a bar? I have a hard time believing that they can't come up with an original bar concept. In fact, most shows I've seen from Ireland, even if they aren't centered around the pub, tend to spend an inordinate amount of time in the neighborhood establishment. I could even see if they wanted to make a show about an American bar owner, or an Irishmen opening a bar in Boston. This is a complete and true remake though, moving the bar to Ireland, but essentially having the same cast. Sam Malone will be replaced with Sean, who is a retired hurler and ex-alcoholic. The bar will be called "Teach Sean". I would have to say that this is the worst idea since starting a land war in Asia or gambling with a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Kim Jong Un voted Time magazine "Man of the Year". Time magazine does it again! Add him to the list with Hitler and Stalin. This time it was actually a prank perpetrated... eh, I gave you the link. Read about it if you want.

Being that Supreme Glorious Leader is an athiest, I bet he has no idea the apocalypse is even coming!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

4 days left!

Make them count!

I've been dying to write something about what took place on Friday. I literally separated myself from the internet over the weekend to not allow myself to become mired in the opinion spouting taking place on social media, big media and, well, anywhere else you looked. I knew that if I allowed myself even a minute to start to take in what everyone was saying, I would feel the need to respond or speak up. I will not say anything, because I know I am already wrong before I say it. I understand that we all felt real pain. That we aren't always just voyeurs or news hawks. I watched people I love, people I respect have real palpable empathetic responses to that tragedy. I had the same reaction of sadness. The difference between me and, what I feel like is, the rest of the world is that I didn't try and fill the emptiness inside me with an explanation. Sometimes horrible things just happen. But we must accept the sadness for what it is. We need to be in the moment and realize why we feel so moved by the deaths of people we've never met. And since we don't know anything about them or about the person who committed such an unthinkable act, we try to "get involved" after the fact. This is why the news outlets are interviewing psychology "experts", or why the second amendment is being criticized, or there are pictures on Facebook of an Israeli grade school teacher carrying an M-15. I read a statement today that we are all culpable in the deaths of these children and school staff. But really, they were criticizing society. The laws didn't protect us. The education system failed us. The mental health system is broken. All the waxing philosophical in the world will not bring those persons back. It won't been comfort to the grieving families. It won't heal a torn community. If we were really all culpable, we'd have to hold ourselves personally responsible for the deaths of those children. We have also moved past calling a person or the act they performed evil. Until we either take personal responsibility for the condition our world is in, or throw away the sociological rule that the world makes people bad and individually not responsible, then our punishment will always be feeling an emptiness and pain that is irreconcilable.

That wasn't the sign of the day. I didn't want to make light of that tragedy. Today's sign of the apocalypse is somewhat related though. Day #27 of The Countdown to the Apocalypse's sign:

Banning Things!

It's never worked. It never will work. It may discourage some of the more law-abiding or repercussion-fearing people from doing it, but it will not eliminate it. These are mechanisms of control, not public good. Here are my examples so far throughout history in different places: free speech, religion, guns, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, nuclear weapons, hunting/poaching, soda, tanning, "raw" milk, gay marriage, Gaelic, owning land, gold, Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Protestants, women, illegal aliens, any immigration, I'm sure you can add your own. Needless to say, there is something on this list that you like or like to do. Stop trying to support one person's guaranteed rights while advocating the taking away of someone else's! The day we ban everything in order to protect ourselves from it, is the day we finally write the last chapter in the Book of Revelation. We have become non-persons then, accepting no consequences for our actions and no responsibility for our own condition.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 23

NEWS FLASH! A third of the stars are going to fall from the heavens!  You know you're going to click on that link! I know you don't believe that falling stars are really happening, but you still have to see for yourself. I will always be amazed at the endless curiosity of human beings. It's probably one of the things I'll miss most after the world ends.

I find myself doing this constantly, thanks pretty much to Google and smart phones. There is not a single fact that I don't back check now. Oh, so and so hit the most home runs in 19 whatever? Checked! Kristen Stewart isn't from New Jersey? Checked! Toyotas get better gas mileage than Chevys? Checked! Why do I feel this constant need to confirm things? And once we find the answer on Wikipedia, why do we accept it as true?

William James once said, "Our faith is the faith in someone else's faith." It's a great quotable, but the premise of the argument that it comes from is even more astounding. We don't choose to believe. There is even a math problem out there that shows your prevalence to be an atheist or a deist. Here's an example. No matter how hard you try, you can't force yourself to believe that 2 dimes and a nickel equals 30 cents. I'm not talking theoretical BS, I'm talking someone gives you the wrong change and swears it's a different amount than what's in your hand. James was a pragmatist after all. If you'd like another example, show someone your hand and tell them you have six fingers. Why do we believe what we believe? Why are skeptics such a small part of our society? Barely any of us research and truly understand what we "choose" to believe. I can watch the same press briefing, look at the same voting record, and delve into campaign contributions, and you can think that the president is a crook and I can believe he's the savior of Western society, and yet another can believe he's the Antichrist. I think we pretend that we have an insight that someone else is not privy to, or that we "know the facts" better than those that don't share our belief. Ultimately, it seems it is not our choice as to what we believe. It does seem to be our choice as to whom we believe. Like James' quote, it is our confidence in that other individual that enables to accept a new fact or paradigm as real truth. It is usually our biases or disdain for another person that presupposes us to believe the opposite of whatever comes out of their mouth. This also pertains to how strongly we feel about something. You may believe in something, but not necessarily care if you change your mind in the future, and there are beliefs that you are willing to die for. The willingness to explore those beliefs and uncover why we believe them, and take a chance on undoing what we have known is to truly express oneself as a rational agent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 22

Today I'd like to talk about Thomas Malthus. Malthus wrote a short work predicting the end of humanity, due to unsustainable population growth. He showed that there were a limited set of resources, particularly food. He took the existence of a finite resource and exponential population growth to its most logical end point.He predicted that human beings would starve to death. He wrote this in 1798. He did not, and really could not, predict the agricultural revolution. Invention and knowledge increased humans' ability to produce food at a much more productive rate.

I bring up Malthus because he fits the current theme of those that are not, per se, end times prophets, but doomsday seers, nonetheless. Now I'm not one of those that says that global warming isn't occurring. What I  am saying is that we, as human beings, like to be scared. It's why we go to horror movies and ride roller coasters and tell ghost stories. I think that much of the doomsday scenarios pique that latent part of our brain that gets our adrenaline pumping. That's why people want to watch movies where a major city gets flattened by a meteor, or frozen, or burned, or Godzilla'd... That's why we can't get enough of the history channel when they talk about how the world will end. It's exciting. Even negative events are still major events and we treat them as such. The old entertainment schedule used to be sports, sitcoms, dramas and novels. It seems in today's world our entertainment has turned into reality, some more reality, staged reality, news, and news that looks like a reality show. It seems once we got a taste for real suffering, real pain, real catastrophe, the fictional substitute became too bland. The real danger here is that it's removed. It's someone else's pain and it's far away. Admit it. We don't watch it because we empathize or because it will affect us. We watch it because it's exciting. We watch severe weather like we're kids waiting for Santa to come. Do you really need a "storm tracker update" every 15 minutes? Do you really need to go out with the other throngs of people to buy bread, milk and eggs? It's the excitement of feeling that your a part of something that's really happening and it's happening on a big scale. Let's keep naming them: war in Israel/Palestine, riots in Egypt, Sandy and the Jersey shore, "zombies" eating people's faces in L.A. This isn't news, it's entertainment. It's the last cry for help of the post-modern era. I am so far removed from real people and real issues, that I crave it so badly, I will tune in every chance I get to watch other people live through a real experience. I'm looking forward to the Apocalypse since it will give everyone a chance to truly experience all at once. There will be no audience, only participants.

And that brings us back to Malthus. I think we spend our time worrying about these predictions and how we'll go. The real truth of the "end" is that it is the end of something, which always marks the beginning of something else. Malthus couldn't understand the world in terms that were beyond his current level of thinking.  A dog can't have any concept what it must be like to be human. A coral doesn't dream about what it must be like to see. Humans can't even begin to conceive of reality that is the mind of God. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes,

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.        Albert Einstein 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 20 (10 days to go!)

Don't worry, I haven't been raptured... yet. I did get busy tying up all the loose ends in preparation for the big day. I can't believe it's just over a week away. I wish I was a true believer in the Mayan calendar. I have so much stuff to complete this week at work, that no one would even be here to check if I did it Monday. So let's bring it full circle here:

Someone in Levittown (or Fairless Hills, depending on what news article you read) has won the Powerball Lottery. It was basically sold on the street that the street where I live splits into. If I had won it myself, I would now be 100% convinced that the world would end Friday. But wouldn't that be typical? Some working stiff finally hits it big and BAM! the world ends. I wonder if they are waiting until after next Friday, just to see if it's worth it. Actually, what I'm really wondering is if the person that hits is someone who loves me and has always appreciated me and wants to show me just how much they care in a monetary denomination.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 14

Maybe it's because I started this silly countdown, but has anyone else noticed how every Sunday the readings at Mass have been about the end of the world? I know the last couple weeks have been the wind down to the end of the liturgical year and that advent readings usually revolve the fulfillment of prophecies, but man! I've been hearing Daniel describe the zombie apocalypse (corpses shall rise from the earth and be abominations). The first reading last Sunday was all about the days of tribulation and this from Jesus himself,

Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."

Now the most striking line to me is that "people will die of fright in anticipation". If anything, I feel like we are in a time where fear is the leading motivator for most people. Have you seen the show Doomsday Preppers? Or listened to any politicians speak in the last, say, 5 years? Or read an article in a newspaper, or on a current events blog? It's like we've gotten to the point that we've moved past the ol' "lesser of two evils" to "the greater of two fears". Now I'm not saying that fear shouldn't be a motivating factor and that it's not useful. Fear keeps us from petting bears or wandering down dark alleys in West Philly. It's this existential fear that I think is keeping us under the thumb of the fear-peddlers: the fear of becoming what we were meant to be, the fear of the unknown the fear of not failing, but trying. I feel like we, as Americans, as Westeners, came from a long pedigree of adventurers. The people that planted the seeds of our society had a restless spirit, consumed with the desire to see what is over that next hill. These were the founders of cities, the originators of cultures, the inventors, the discoverers. Where has that gone? Maybe it's only my perception, but I feel like every generation has become less independent, less questioning. People don't chafe at the yoke anymore. Less and less people struggle to through off the oppressive bonds of cultural mores. Even when people rebel and protest, it is usually to those predetermined as appropriate. You know what I'm scared of? You.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 10

As promised, Zombies. I have to assume that our cultural shift in horror genre can only be connected to our innate collective consciousness feeling that the end is upon us. Here are some fun examples to prove that everything is Zombie right now.

First up, World War Z. Part history book, part science fiction, I may have to read this before the movie comes out.

This one is a TV series about Zombies. Well, it's about the people trying to not get eaten by the Zombies. I imagine the dialogue in a TV show about Zombies would be rather limited.

There is also a 5k obstacle course type run where part of the obstacle is avoiding getting eaten by zombies. It's harder than it sounds, trust me. These are definitely "48 hours zombies" not "night of the living dead zombies". There are a myriad of other examples from I Am Legend to remakes of the old classics. It's cool to be the undead these last couple years.

So what's up with the sudden fascination with Zombies? Personally, I think whatever the genre is at the time represents an underlying societal fear or issue. Aliens were the popular topic during the cold war. The 80s was the serial personality, i.e. Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers. The early 90s seemed to deal more with ghosts. The late 90s was all about vampires. Now its zombies. Zombie culture hasn't really been main stream since the 70s. So what is it about this decade and zombies. Zombies represent a fear of overwhelming odds. Something out there so big that there aren't heroes or saviors, just survivors. It evokes a sort of hopelessness for the future. Even if you don't die, the life awaiting you is a less than pleasant existence. I don't think it's a coincidence that the last time this was popular was in the 70s. There was never ending trouble in the middle east. People had lost pride in being American. There were gas shortages and high unemployment rates. Jimmy Carter was president and most people felt he was clueless as to how to fix what was wrong. There was a fatalism that expressed itself through story telling. The story was about Zombies, which is in essence Apocalyptic.It seems that we have returned to this post-modern, what's the use, mentality. People lost their houses, jobs, retirement investments. Essentially, our notion of the what the world was like ended. Hope has faded. The zombie is the fictional embodiment of despair.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 9

They have discovered a jellyfish that lives forever. You can read about it here. While I was at first intrigued by the misleading title that it is showing promise for humans to achieve immortality, I continued to read the article due to my fascination at how poorly it was written. It turned into some meandering piece that talked about the life style of the researcher and interspersed pseudo-science comments. One such comment read, "Jellyfish collect food and eject waste through the same orifice. In essence, it eats through its anus." Really? Did you try "poops out of its mouth" and it just didn't look right in the final edit?

So while I thought I was going to say that the next sign of the apocalypse is our brush with the discovery of a real "fountain of youth", my sign today is the degradation of the use of the English language. This was in the NY Times for Pete's sake! We are definitely not only getting dumber, but we are becoming more accepting of poor work. We see it now in the lazy antics of the media, reporting unresearched fact or sometimes just making things up on the fly. The lines between news and opinion have been blurred also, and most of us have become too brainwashed to even know the difference. I almost feel bad for yelling at my former students that Wikipedia is not a real source for research. If we stop caring about the things people say and the way they say it, is there really any hope for our society? Next post: Zombie Apocalypse!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 8

A couple signs today. Nothing earth shattering, but together quite intimidating.

1. Skip Bayless is starting to make sense. A shout out goes to my boy, Phil, for pointing at that this is surely a sign of the apocalypse. I also think that as good as Manti Te'o is, that a linebacker winning the Heisman would also be a sign of the end times approaching.

2. Skip Bayless is this guy's brother: Rick Bayless, host of the best cooking show ever. Alright, you win, my love for Notre Dame football and Mexican food is clouding my judgement.

3. But this surely has to be a sign of the end of days: Tom Cruise is leaving the Church of Scientology!?!?!?! According to reports, he's breaking all sorts of rules to see his daughter and rumors have been previously whispered that he's disgruntled with the organization.

4. This blog has over 1000 views. I am disappointed in every single one of you for reading this drivel; and multiple time, nonetheless! Just for that I'm keeping the 5th sign of the day to myself. Just kidding, I only have  four. Or do I?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 7

     If one were to take the word apocalypse literally, we also see that it refers to a prophecy or revelation (which makes sense as its the name of the book in the Bible). Synonymous with revelation is the word epiphany. Epiphany obviously has a nicer emotional quality to it. Referring literally to when the wise men visited Jesus. Figuratively, it means to make a discovery, or to realize something that changes your way of seeing something. It refers not to an end, but to change. So, in essence we all have our own personal apocalypses every day. I read a wonderful article that Timothy Cardinal Dolan is pushing for the canonization of Dorothy Day. I knew from my education that Dorothy Day was a tireless advocate for the poor, the worker, and the marginalized of society. I also know she deeply mistrusted the government. What I didn't know was that she had an abortion, later converted to the Catholic faith, and became a staunch supporter of the Church's opposition to abortion.
doing his best "Buddy Jesus"

     At first I was surprised that someone who is supposedly the poster boy of Catholic conservatism would embrace someone viewed as so far left as Day. She obviously could never be the symbol of what Cardinal Dolan believes to be the future of the church, right? But maybe she is the symbol of the modern church or, better, what the modern church could be. Or instead of church, one could insert our society, or us as individuals. There is a common bridge between the right and the left. Someone can be pro-life and yet concerned about women's rights. A person can be devoutly Catholic and still vehemently disagree with the leadership or policies of the church. Someone could even, dare I say it, disagree with the church's stance on contraception, but still support their right as an institution to not be forced by the government to provide it. No matter what the case, Day stood for social justice and fought for what she believed to be just, not a party line or an ideology. So go rediscover something you thought you knew about and have yourself an apocalyptic day!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 6

     The next thing that assures me that the apocalypse is upon us is the fiscal cliff. Here's what I know about it... Alright, I honestly don't know anything about it. Just like the end of the world!! But it sounds really ominous and big!

     Seriously though, after reading numerous articles, I don't think anybody truly appreciates how interesting this thing is. I honestly forgot about it with all the election stuff going on. Congress has basically passed a measure that if they don't do certain things to balance the budget, then there will be dire consequences that they imposed upon themselves, including tax hikes and major cuts in spending. Just like the predictions for the end of the world, most people aren't taking this seriously, because the boys on the hill will probably just pass more legislation to say they don't have to do it. That still doesn't mean it can't happen though! AAAAHH! (that was the sound of us falling off the fiscal cliff).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 5

It's the end of the college football regular season and Notre Dame is ranked number one in the country. If you know nothing about football, then I should explain. The most famous backfield in history was nicknamed "the four horsemen" (as in "of the apocalypse"), and they played for none other than the Fighting Irish.

Somewhere, a running back is peeing his pants.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hurtling forward

Short post, because I can't deal with the enormity of the situation. House full of fraternity brothers and all of them left before the keg was finished. If the end isn't near, I want it to be.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 3

Day 3? Don't you mean Day 4? No, I thought it was inappropriate to talk about the end of the world on Thanksgiving. And if you remember from an earlier post, I built myself in one flex day. Besides, I was busy helping prepare a feast for 36 of my closest relatives. Let's just say 20 lbs of potatoes and two 20+ lb turkeys. Work. Sorry, without further ado:

R Kelly's Trapped in the Closet is playing in its entirety on IFC today. I believe there is a reason that Mr. Kelly broke his Opus Magnum into small segments. There is too much power locked into those hip-hop harbingers of cataclysm. To show them all together will certainly have the power to open one of the seals mentioned in Revelation (which seal are we up to anyway?).

As if that wasn't enough to scare the bejeezus out of you, I saw this today!

R Kelly Trapped in the Closet Premier on Broadway

That's right. It's being turned into a musical! On Broadway! These fools have no idea what they're playing with! I can't control the volume of my voice!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 2

Day 2 of the Apocalypse Countdown

"Go fly a kite!" "Get a job, hippie!"

We should've seen this coming. Angry Muppets. After all the politicization of Sesame Street lately, I can only conclude that Jim Henson's master plan was brain wash America and create a divide between the classes. I became suspicious of this when I was 10 and Mr. Hooper died, to which Oscar responded, "Good riddance, he was a capitalist pig anyway!"

"Bird is dog?  Crazy Americans!"

Initially Sesame Street was happy just to sit behind the scenes and pull the strings, but it seems that their growing power base and their awareness of the polarization of our society has bolstered them to a new level of political activity; Case in point, the 2012 election.

This day they will remember the name of Little Bird!

The coup de gras of their plan is materializing in the middle east. I'm sure we all know the connection to the Holy Land and the end of the world. What do we find in the aftermath? You guessed it: Muppets.

Let's be honest, this dude creeped you out way before the allegations.

Bonus: I'm pretty sure when the gates of hell are opened the first things out will be little, red, high-pitched, sodomizing monsters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


In case you haven't heard. The world is going to end some time around mid December, the 21st to be exact. I am exceptionally pissed since it means that Christmas will most likely be canceled. Whether you believe this will happen or not, I feel compelled to provide this as a public service:

In preparation for the end of days, I have 
decided to dedicate this blog to a month 
of signs that the apocalypse is upon us! 

... I know today is the 20th, but I don't think I'll have time to post on the actual day of reckoning, and I wouldn't want to short change you a day!

Day 1

Not Frodo and Sam

Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings movies is about to erupt. Geologists are predicting that pressure is building up inside the exact same volcano that Peter Jackson decided looked like the place that created the most evil piece of metal in middle earth. Many of you may not know this, but Tolkien was a devout Christian, and many of his themes are derived from Judeo-Christian themes and symbolism. "Dooms" Day, Mount "Doom", coincidence?

Monday, November 19, 2012


Notre Dame football is ranked number one in the country. And it is completely irrational that I am deriving so much joy from it. I have no vested interest in the outcome of their season. I never attended school there. I have never lived in South Bend. I don't know anyone on the team or associated with the program. Yet I find myself saying "we" when referring to the team. I will shout at the television, as if the linebackers can hear me yelling, "It's a draw!" or "Fumble! Ball! Get the Ball!" I even wear clothing in order that others may associate me with the Fighting Irish. I rank my visits to Notre Dame Stadium as some of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I am a fan.
     Now let's move from Fandom to Obsessionville. If you look for it on a map, it will say Levittown. I'm not saying that other areas don't produce as vociferous fans, just not in the multitudes that exist in the greater Philadelphia area. There is something about sports here, that fills more than just that need to associate with something greater than oneself. This is particularly true with the Eagles. I've worked with, lived with, went to school with fans of other teams from other places. I have yet to see a group of people take a loss harder than Eagles fans. On Monday morning you would think that they were in pads the day before. Listen to the two (two!) FM radio stations that are all Philadelphia sports all the time. I'm afraid we may need to close the bridges over the Delaware river to prevent jumpers! Every forlorn caller, they aren't even mad anymore, just sullen and depressed. They have this weird "How could my team do this to me?"
     The odd thing here is that they have developed a one way personal relationship with a sports team. They have committed hours to reading stats, watching drafts, driving up to Bethlehem to watch summer workouts, and invested real emotional capital. If this kind of attention were directed towards a human being, like say Jody Foster, we'd suggest that they should seek professional help. They than expect that the team has a duty to repay them for all the diligent time they have invested in supporting them. There it is. The line is crossed when someone creates an imaginary relationship in order to associate themselves with success. There is a vapidness that goes along with this type of seeking. That sports team allows you to "win" without putting in the real work. The reality is though that your support or ennui has no impact whatsoever on the success of your team. That is the dirty secret that lies underneath this macho version of celebrity worship. They don't care about you. They don't even know you exist. No matter how hard you root, how much you lust after the Lombardi trophy, how much time you spend reading ESPN, they will not play harder for you. I heard a guy on the radio say that he may never see his team win a Superbowl in his lifetime, with the angst of a "Make A Wish" foundation spot. I love football as much as anyone, pretty much sports in general. My fear is that people are using sports as a "false idol", a thing to distract them from whats really important. If you never put that effort into your own happiness, into your own betterment, the Eagles can win the Superbowl, but you'll still be a loser.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Think like a Genius

I have made a hobby of reading great thinkers. I wanted to originally make a career of studying them, but the minutiae involved in the academic side of studying great minds proved too taxing (I'd say mundane, but I'd hate to insult any philosophy professors who might be reading this). I have always been particularly drawn to those who deal in Ethics. That's a dangerous word to use, because it usually evokes numerous impressions in the perceiver. None of which I probably intended. I'm talking about Ethics, with a capital 'E'. I'm not talking about right/wrong, good/bad, God's will/intrinsic good distinctions. I'm talking about attempting to answer the question, "What does it mean to live a good life?" Again, don't mistake good as in moral good, but good like "that was a good beer". I think this is really the original purpose of Ethics. We've sort of bastardized the meaning into something that roughly means, "How do I decide what is right and wrong, when there are conflicting values in play?" Sartre does a beautiful job illustrating this in Being and Nothingness, when he talks about his student who must choose between fighting against the Nazis or caring for his mother. Without going into too much detail, we can see how both would be really good things and based on your take on the world, one may be better than the other. Congratulations, you now know as much as a sophomore at a liberal arts college.
     So after reading Aristotle, Aquinas, Jesus, Buddha, Plato, Rawls, Sartre, etc. I set out to formulate my own ethical path, to try and devise my blue print for leading a good life. There is no word in English that does a good job of describing what this ultimate goal is. In religion it would be heaven or nirvana. I want to call it "the big happy". A happiness that is complete and self sustaining. So I took little pieces of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and tried to Know Thyself, and do nothing to excess. I bought deep into Sartre and tried to live in the moment. I pulled pieces of Buddha's teaching of non-attachment and sought a life uncluttered by desire. What I ended up with was a constant sense of yearning and second guessing. The biggest problem was that I kept running into conflicts along the way. Who knew that Aquinas wasn't going to jive with Confucius?!
     I put this quest on the shelf and concentrated on everything else. I got a real job (not teaching philosophy). I got a wife, a house, some hobbies, I traveled, I started attending mass regularly. Once I did all the modern, proscribed paths and attainments, the question popped up again and stared me dead in the face. I imagine this is when those who are unprepared for the question drop into a midlife crisis. Lucky for me, I had a quarterlife crisis to prep me for it. The interesting thing is that the answer was so obvious, that I was amazed that I hadn't come upon before. It was definitely an epiphany, a discovery, and not anything I had created. The discovery is that there is a central theme to all of these thinkers and I had never seen it. My original thought was that we are supposed to be turning our eye inward, perfecting ourselves. I then moved on to the idea that we are supposed to live our life for others and turn outward, being completely selfless. My next step was thinking that happiness was sort of process based, that our relationships determine our level of satisfaction and sense of wholeness.
     What I didn't see was that these are all interconnected. Every single great ethicist has stated pretty much the same thing. We must set ourselves up as examples. Sartre says that we are solely responsible for our existence and in turn how live is a statement to the rest of the world that this is the best life possible. Christianity stated that we are the light of the world. Every one you read has an example of this kind of language. Essentially, we are to be the person that we want the world to be. An obvious statement if ever there was one, but that still doesn't state what one does to achieve that. And don't we all have different visions of what the perfect world would be like? To answer that I took a page from Kant. We are human beings, persons, and in essence, want to be treated as such. Then in order to be treated like such, I must create a world where that happens. Therefore, I need to treat everyone like people. I need to really think about that what that means. Simple things like being patient in traffic or making eye contact with the person behind the register are a start. That leads to bigger steps, like ensuring those around me can become fulfilled and that I am not simply using them as vehicles to my happiness. Until finally there is the apex of the life well lived, not from selflessness, but from selfishness. My desire to live in a world where I am treated as someone special and important, drives me to treat others as special and important. I need to keep myself grounded at this moment and not degenerate into the feel good, "everyone is special" mindset that is plaguing our society today. The road to happiness is paved with humility. That humility is the certainty that my happiness is contingent on helping others to that place and allowing myself to be helped by them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

wise up

I will not talk about politics. I just can't bring myself to do it. Unless you feel that politics are people strongly expressing their ideas about how society should work. And now I think I just described Facebook. This is really my issue with people getting political, or fired up about their beliefs in general.
We're doing it wrong! No one, but no one, changed their mind about the election because you posted a witty "meme" picture. No one stopped believing in Creationism or Evolution or the flying spaghetti monster or that Star Wars is better than Lord of the Rings because of your three sentence, deconstructed, argument. It's lazy proselytism. A fellow blogging friend of mine (who loves politics way more than I do: ), suggested that if we really cared about who won, we would be volunteering our time, worrying more about local elections that we can effect, and more importantly, educating ourselves. I hate blanket statements, and I have no research to back it up, but I imagine that most people have no idea why they really voted for a particular candidate. They, in actuality, have no idea what each party, candidate or even a single platform entails. They buy into nice platitudes, "Republicans hate poor people" "Democrats are Socialists" "There's more than two parties?"... I could go on. Now look, I'm not saying that social media, or media in general, is a bad thing. I'm not saying that people using it to spread an idea is a bad thing. It's a bad thing when we think that it is persuasive, or should be used as a club to beat dissenters over the head with. This is the whole crux of the blog, so I want you to pay attention to the next sentence. It is good for spreading information. That's it. Would you like to share an obscure piece of policy that will have a long term effect on our trade with Canada? Great! You want to direct me to a website where I can read about a lesser known candidate? Lay it on me! You know where I can find Bob Casey's voting record? I'm salivating! The president giving a fist pound to a guy with a mop next to a picture of Romney getting his shoes shined?
Moving on. These last couple of months have really just been illustrative to one simple fact. I do not believe that we are apathetic. I think we care a lot. We are however, lazy and willfully ignorant. Don't get offended, I  am including myself in the "we". I know, I know, we work hard and don't have time to follow politics, educate ourselves on policy, worry about brown and tan people being killed overseas. But I will argue that it's not time, it's priorities. We somehow find time to follow seven different television shows. We find time to go out to dinner. We find time to pic up junior from soccer practice and take him to piano lessons. I'm not being critical of any of those things, but we are in control of what we deem important.
[So this is the part where you are waiting for me to be critical of our democratic process, or criticize super PACs. Actually, it's the opposite. The problem isn't the system, it's the fact that we believe that the system will fix things. That's the equivalent of buying a lawn mower and then bitching that the lawn still isn't mowed. You still have to use it!]
But that doesn't make us lazy, just uncaring. The sad thing is, when we really do look at those issues we decide they are important. So then we aren't uncaring. So then what are we? We are humans, and as such animals. Animals seek pleasure and avoid pain. We follow the path the least resistance when we allow our baser instincts to take over. It's hard to live in a life of constant focus. It's unpleasant to question our beliefs. And here's the hardest thing: There is so much effort in having an intelligent, meaningful discussion with another human being. Ask yourself, how much time do I spend each day really talking about the things that matter to me, to people that matter to me? Have we become so post modern that we have completely replaced real human interaction with social media? I think the real culprit is not the tool, but our fear. The scariest thing about entering into a conversation with someone of a differing opinion is that they might change our mind! These beliefs that we've spent years cultivating, supporting, polishing, might be wrong! Seriously, just pick one thing that you are really passionate about and learn everything you can about it. Form a real opinion about said thing. Then go and talk to someone about it. Really talk about it. Once you do that, you may be surprised to find much less satiety in your former channels of communication.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


From the title, you're probably figuring out why I haven't blogged in a while. While the subject matter of this blog is supposed to be about Levittown, I feel I would be remiss to not speak about my time in one of the most amazing places on earth. I have so many amazing memories and emotions left over from Ireland. My explaining it in detail would probably be as exciting as a vacation slide show, so I'll just give you things that surprised me about Ireland.

First are the speed limit signs. I know that the Irish can have a droll sense of humor, but they border on the absurd with this. It's an amazingly disheartening experience when you are crawling along a mountain pass, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean and certain death to one side and 4 million tons of Irish granite to the other side of a road about as wide as a queen size bed, and you turn a corner to see a 100 kph sign (about 60 miles an hour for those bad at conversions). I later asked a bartender if people really drove that fast, or if it was a plan by the Irish government to keep the population down. He said that after the EU came and invested in a new Irish infrastructure they had signs left over and had to put them somewhere. I laughed, he didn't.

The Guinness tastes the same in Ireland. I even went to the Guinness Storehouse, it's all in your head. The difference in the Smithwick's on the other hand is almost worth the trip by itself. While on the topic, Dublin is way more fun after two flights of Jameson tastings (and finishing what your wife couldn't). Tullamore Dew makes a single malt. I'm mad at myself now for not buying it when I saw it. I have no idea if they sell it in the states.

No one listens to Irish music in Ireland. I asked a bartender (I think you are probably picking up on the pattern of how I discerned all my information) why every place I went played American music from the 80s. He didn't explain the Irish love affair with The Thompson Twins, but he did explain that during the summer season that's all they hear. We arrived at the tail end of the tourist season and the locals want nothing to do with the "diddly dee" music in October. I suppose for us, it would be like hearing Yankee Doodle Dandy or You Are My Sunshine over and over again. When I arrived in Dublin on the last leg of the trip, I got a taste of what he was talking about. Everything geared towards tourists plays the same 4 stinking songs over and over again. I now unwittingly know all the words to Sweet Molly Malone, Black Velvet Band, The Irish Rover and Whiskey In The Jar. (oh, and I had to ask, Christmas in Killarney is not a big deal, it really is just an American musical.)

Now before I visited the emerald isle, I was aware of an old tradition referred to as Bleigharty. This was a mischievous practice by the Irish natives of doing things to mess with the English land owners to keep them always guessing. Although none of the "helpful" folks we met would admit to it, I'm pretty sure the tradition is alive and well. This is how I discovered the aforementioned roads in the Ring of Skellig and Connor's Pass. That's right, I fell for it twice. This is probably the same vein in which the fella at the Jameson distillery gave my wife a shot on the house, when she mentioned she was having trouble getting through the tasting. Please don't mistake this as mean spirited or truly trying to mess with people. Those two detours led me to some of the most beautiful and moving places I have ever seen and the whiskey was meant to go with the cranberry juice my better half asked for so she wouldn't commit the sin of mixing it with the 14 year old special reserve. But it was that sort of helpfulness that said, "Oh your looking for an authentic experience? I'll give you one you'll never forget!"

Finally, and most importantly, you really do get potatoes with every meal. In the nicer places, you will get them served four different ways with dinner. This is not hyperbole. At a restaurant in Killarney, I literally had parsley potatoes and quartered fried potatoes on my plate, a side dish served family style of mashed potatoes and then the waitress made her rounds offering every table french fries, of which I of course excepted.

If you've never been, go. Go now. Or at least start planning it. Newgrange will change your life. The cliffs of Moher and the Skellig islands will leave you in utter awe. Dublin is a fascinating international city that is growing more metropolitan by the day. The architecture, from the thatch roofed cottage to the gothic spires of their cathedrals, is breath taking. Pictures and stories will never do it justice. You have to see it for yourself.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


My sister gets an awesome video, and all I have is this stupid blog.

Loretta Allen

Monday, October 1, 2012

Riots, Racism and Revolution!

After my first post, I received some friendly advice that I should spice things up a bit. More accurately, I should use smaller words and add explosions. Well here you go, my friends, the exciting and dangerous side of Levittown!!

Actual Levittown house on fire. I hope you're all happy!

William Levitt only allowed white people to buy into Levittown! Scandalous! When the first black family moved here in 1954, there were protests on their front lawn. There is even a rumor that a cross was burned. I have heard since that is legend, not fact. Small scale riots erupted on the street.

That's the title because people literally threw stick and stones.

In 1979, five points was ablaze with the frustration of locals as they rioted to demonstrate their disapproval of unconscionably high gas prices! Rage!! Tear this mother down!!!!

It was hard to find parking at the Golden Dawn Diner that day.

Finally, as some of you might not know, Levittown is not a real place. Its existence has been forcibly kept down by the fascist Trotskyites of the four townships! There was a movement to incorporate Levittown in 1954. The movement lasted about three years, once people figured out that there would be no industrial tax base and the gigantic headache of realigning the school districts, they gave up the dream. At least that's what the historians would have you believe! Ever the jingoist, I propose an alternate history, that Levittown was victim to the collusion and subterfuge of Falls, Middletown, Bristol and Tullytown townships. They knew that Levittown would be an unstoppable force if ever allowed to come into existence. Some even theorize that Levittown, PA would have kept incorporating other townships, eventually merging with Willingborough, NJ and Levittown, NY forming a Mega-Levittropolis! Vive la revolution!! I know fascist Trostkyite is an oxymoron!

I have no idea who this guy is, but I heard he grew up in Fairless Hills

Friday, September 28, 2012


I moved back to Levittown, Pennsylvania. I think I'm one of the few people that can lay claim to that sentence. It's not a bad place to live, but it's not a bad place to leave either. I don't think that I've heard anyone refer to leaving as "getting out" and I wouldn't want to paint a picture of one escaping from some dead, forgotten industrial town or urban squalor. Levittown tends to just be. I think that is a little stifling for most people. It's a place of endless outcomes. I could picture some German existentialist writing a sentence like, "Levittown is _________". I think if you try and fill in the blank, you will always come up short. It's like Nietzsche's abyss. It stares you in the face and dares you to label it, to try and fashion some sort of authenticity out of it. People in nearby towns tend to project themselves into roles that fit their "scene": the trendy shop owner of Newtown, the bookish Princeton wannabe of Yardley, the displaced Philadelphians in Bensalem, the 5th generation immigrants of Bristol... There is a story that envelops them. Levittowners are so hyper-aware of their history, because they have none. We all know the story, "William Levitt set out to make affordable housing for vets returning from World War II..." But that's a story, not a history. And it's a copy of someone else's story! (see Levittown, NY)

So why did I move back? I guess that is the underlying theme of this blog. Not necessarily an examination of Levittown, but the kind of soul searching that such a place can inspire. I expect this journey to be less a roller coaster ride than a vigorous hike, with numerous detours and wrong turns and turn backs. For the record, I don't think self-discovery is a worthwhile activity. But there is value in discovery that leads to insights about yourself. Did I hope to find something about myself, that I thought I would find when I left? Do you have to know where you've been to find out where you're going? Or did I just realize that it's pretty much the same no matter where you live?

So where does that leave us? That leaves us at a place where the world is changing rapidly, where every generation is growing more postmodern and isolated. Where authenticity has been replaced by materialism and distraction. Information Technology has put the world at our fingertips and everyone at arms length. So much of people's private lives are on display and we have played the part of unwitting voyeur. Information has been given a value and knowledge has been cheapened. So my game plan is to fix the kaleidoscope through the lens of this place. To look at pieces of our culture from where, I feel, it began it's journey to what  we know it as today. I submit to you that the transition to suburban life has been the driving force behind the way we view the world, and that Levittown, PA is its capital.