Rock the “No Thank You” Vote

Have you ever told anyone before that you’re choosing NOT to vote in the presidential election? I imagine you have. And I can guess the response you’ve gotten, the almost involuntarily emetic regurgitation of that same cliqued expression, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!”. To me, that is just one of the dumbest things someone can say. Seriously, would you apply the same logic to a Cuban for electing Fidel Castro their president? You know, despite him being the only one on the ballot. Is it really that much more different to us in the US when you only have a whopping two people to choose from?

This presidential election period, I went in with some naïve optimism. I really liked Ron Paul. I felt that he was an honest person, good hearted, and holstering some excellent ideas for change. However, it didn’t take too long for optimism to deflate back into a more stable state, that is, realism. Ron Paul’s beliefs of equality were a bit too unorthodox for main stream media, so they effectively lowered the volume on his campaign– silencing his chances of winning in the primaries. Now, I’ve reached a Zen of complete and unabated disillusionment with our democratic process. At the moment, it looks like McCain (of whom, I can’t actually find a single breathing supporter) has taken the Republican nomination. And on the Democrat side, it’s still a toss-up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I have nothing against the two democratic nominees (nor anything to say ‘for’ them); I’ve been focusing all of my energy on the republican candidates, which is the party, among a paucity of choices, I tend to align closest with. But I am not going to vote for McCain, so what am I left with for options?

If you have ever seen the movie “Waking Life”, you’ll recall a character in that movie that describes our democratic process rather well: “The powers that be wants us to be passive observers… And they haven’t given us any other options outside the occasional purely symbolic participatory act of voting. You want the puppet on the right or the puppet on the left?”.

The notion you’re fed to believe all your life, that voting is this pure form of self-expression, that you’re a small, yet vital cog in a democratic machine that requires your voice, is incredibly overstated. I’m not suggesting that voting is unimportant, or irrelevant. Because, to some small extent, it is, especially at the local level. But where it is most important, the big decisions, when deciding who will control the lever for this massive train that is the US, that decision, is not yours to make. If no candidate fits your liking, I say don’t vote. That is a decision you (thankfully still) have a right to make. So, adieu, go forth, and “let [your] own lack of a voice be heard” (Waking Life).

Txt-Msg-Speak, LOL

I sometimes talk/write like what I’ve recently been exposed to. When in the company of London folk, I can’t help but talk London-esque — over-pronouncing every syllable, resorting to olden juvenile forms of censure, words like “Mikey”, “Lick”. Such the same with the Scottish, when I visit the ol’RiRi. “What’ll ya Halve boys?”. In this instance, I’m influenced by neither of the colors of the British Isle. Instead, it happens that just a few days ago I saw the movie A Clockwork Orange. (Excellent film!) I’ve read the book — years ago — but haven’t till recently seen the Kubric film. Words — especially my paltry descriptions and poor writing — can do a review of it no justice, so I’ll dismiss even the thought of such a proceeding. Let me just say, the movie is rather rich and filling. And as consequence, it makes you feel fat and happy. There is no better feeling; those happy seconds after gross indulgence (before guilt sets in) is a transient joy often denied in our Atkins friendly, South Beach anxious lifestyle. All I really mean to say is, that for a while, I may adopt some of the expressions of that “charming and faithful narrator”. And do pardon the solecisms. (Tis a breathy aside.)

As I was saying (or rather, as I “wasn’t” saying) my Friday afternoons are typical. Two of my fellow collegues (or said rightly, two of my closest friends), head along the cobbled streets of downtown Providence — jolly-like being a Friday — and head over to the looonie-loo Starbucks round the corner, to fetch ourselves a nice cup’o’tea and maybe a scone to nibble some.

After getting our tea, and making a few involuntary side-cracks over “Ethos” (the Starbucks-brand water) and pushing ourselfs out those heavy doors back into the duldrums of Providence, it is often at that point, we pause, in respect to Chris taking a moment to light a smoke-stick, ‘fore we continue on our way, with airy confidence and — perhaps — unwarranted arrogance over society-at-larger. It is usally at this leg of the journey, from the exit of Starbucks, with a burnt engram of Ethos water still fresh in our mind, that we often muse about one particular habit of society(-at-larger) of which we find must disconecerting.

Today, it happened that Chris had recently received a text message from a friend of his, a younger girl laconically stating the words: “AT WORK LOL”.

To this, my friend pointed out the blatant misuse of the acronym “LOL”. For, in truth, if we were to take the acronym literally, how silly would that image be? Is it truly gut-bustingly funny, the idea, the very notion, of being– hear me out –, ahem, “AT WORK!” (HAHAHAHAA!). It is a word carelessly used and slowly shedding meaning. If it were always meant to be taken literally, walking down the hallways of a college dorm would feel eerily similar to that of a traveling circus of clown trailers. You’d expect students commute on unicycles with 3 foot shoes, red bulbous noses, and polka-doted bow ties. It would be a silly, silly world. Right, right?

Well, fortunately, it’s not the case. The word “LOL” is not be taken with the pretension of any meaning. I imagine it wont be long till it’s replaced by three spaces instead of letters and then vanish from existence — like so many other words. To this, my friends and I had a jolly-fun laugh at the matter. Chris made an interesting comment that our generation (not their generation) invented the very notion of tech-speak via the IRC channel days. However, we are getting older (truism), and as such, our influence over what is cool is fading out at every placental wash and umbilical snipping.

To go back to the story: my friend readily accepted our instruction to reply to her “txt” in like manner, with the message: “ME 2 ROFL”

And again, on the compression of the “send” key, a belch of condescending laughter continued.

I fear text-message-speak is approaching the eerie 1984-esque dictionary of Orwell’s Newspeak. Where words are being deleted, and only a limited few, 10, maybe 20, are left to express our needs, and desires. Imagine an 11th edition dictionary of text-message-speak: small enough to copy onto your right palm. What then? When the vocabulary of language diminishes, isn’t precision of thought and expression choked along with it?

Right, Right? lol.

Melodie

After several months of programming — and several months of NOT programming — I’ve finally finished a new programming project, codename: Melodie. There are still a few tiny rough edges in the program (as in any program, see MS Vista) but at this point, the application is functional enough for me to distribute for a wider audience.

Okay, I imagine the first question is “What is Melodie?”, and the second, “Why does anyone care?”. Well, Melodie is a song projection software that allows churches (or any such assembly) to present onto a screen hymns or songs, or bible scriptures, for an audience. It is built with a whole slew of features: including, the coveted “Dual Screen” capability, a very capable search mechanism, a scrolling text feature, and even a neat little playlist module. And, best of all, Melodie is free to use. I’ve preloaded the software with about 200 public domain hymns, and the entire version of the King James Bible (most of the other bible versions are copyrighted, can you believe it?). I’ve even given Melodie its own website: http://melodie.ariyam.com (yes, melodie.com was taken).

So, If you’re running a church-like assembly, and looking for an application to project your songs, and looking for a really neat and powerful little tool that is free. Well, here it is! Enjoy.

The Melodie Download Site

100 Book, New Year Goal

I am so underread. (And only someone underread would even dare use an expression as ‘underread’.) It’s true, I don’t know a lick of contemporary literature. Except for the names you can’t escape, like Dan Brown, Rowling, or Tolkien, the rest of the authors’ names stir no recall to me. You might as well be reading off the batting order of the ’87 Cubs for all I know– and it would indeed produce the same dumb look in my expression.

So in effort to combat my own literary ignorance, I’ve taken on a new campaign for the new year. My goal is to read all 100 books from the Modern Library Best 100 Reader’s list. Firstly, I refuse to call it a “New Year’s Resolution”, and thereby nominate it for failure. Instead, I’m going to stick to using the word “goal”. Sounds silly and irrelevant, I imagine. But you see, with the word “goal”, you don’t feel like such a loser when you fail– like when use the word “resolution”. Actually, I would even suggest that with a goal, no one really expects you to succeed, and when you do, your accomplishment is met with nothing but lavish praise and incredulity.

So there you have it: my 100 book reading list. And I extend to you the same challenge. Let’s make it a goal.

Desert of Sorrows

Desert of Sorrows

A Strange Desert,
Wretched and ill foreboding,
A land of Barren plains.
Yet ‘fore hope went dry,
Steady rhythm resounded,
And upon me a Rider came.
“To where’s the sun?”, I asked,
“And its lesser lantern pair?
Or that speckled net of wonder
Sprawling endless through the air?
To what score Dynasty age
Has the Blight claimed rule?
Royal famines, imperious plagues,
Ranks of disease boast unsubdued.
Why does my soul unceasing suffer,
The threads of flesh tear ripe anew?
Why do I see Evil’s shadow cast
Onto every space, mixed in every hue.
O, Rider Hear, and make good a Christian friend,
Gather first this wandering soul,
and make my sorrows end.”

As the rider mutely listened
O’er my desperate plea,
His eyes cast solemn answers,
Perhaps, to where my solace be.
He wiped upon a sweaty brow,
A lamp flickered o’er his chin,
And with words moist in sorrow
Here did he begin:

“O Pilgrim hear, a fellow Christian friend.
I can not save your wandering soul,
Nor make your sorrows end.
For the sun reigns not o’er these skies,
Nor doth the Moon reflect its light.
But sorrows come and fester here,
While we wail and repine our life.
Hope’s in the past, the present is torment
And the future and present are one.
Pain writhes and scorches,
The soul faints and flinches,
Though nothing has near yet begun.
But stay, good friend, sip this bane
While we sit and wait for death.
And when it comes, though sting be great,
Still we’re cursed with life and breath.”

Imaginary Lines

I accept the monotony of the routined life implicitly almost all the time: getting up, dressing up, showering, working, laughing, playing, teasing, eating, drinking, yelling, reading, sleeping. And then to repeat that refrain, repeat that refrain, till it would seem silly not to. But, all of sudden, at the heightened numbness of any peripheral sense apart from those familiar gerunds that constitute life as I know it, when all seems regular and commonplace, I do something simple, like cut my nails for instance, and the whole prosaic world and its happenings become engulfed in inapprehensible wonder.

These nails! How perfectly construed? What if they weren’t there? Can you imagine long nail-less stumps for digits? How grotesque and unimaginable. How came it to be so? How came I to be so? What am I doing here, breathing, with a history a life, and who are all these people around me. What gives me thought and a mind so curious and introspective to even contemplate such extraordinary wonder?

These unfathomable wonders of life and our tiny presence in it is so baffling and indescribably awesome, that it seems like our traces through life and our every waking hour should be spent unraveling this mystery of mysteries–for, every mystery in earth is contained within this one encompassing mystery. Who killed John Peters with the saltwater reel? Well, why does John Peter deserve life in the first place? Who gave him life, worry later who took it away? Where are my ill-forsaken keys, how I wonder!? Where could they have mysteriously been deposited? I have looked in every crevice of this house; I have turned over the furniture in every possible direction, every corner of space has been looked after; the chain of events leading from its possession to its uncanny disappearance have been measured and vivisected to every possible degree and circumstance, and yet still, no keys!

How pitiful and irrelevant such a care, when juxtaposed to such a care of cares! How collogued time with space to form such an elaborate grid of life, for which we may lose our keys in some coordinate yet unsearched. The laws of nature, as we may think we know it, are such that a pair of keys cannot be vaporized into nothingness without a cause. The immutable laws, as we may think we know it, assert with virulence that something must occupy space, and the keys therefore, in the finite space of this earth, must exist somewhere.

Yet on further contemplation on such trivialities, I wonder, our existence on earth was accepted in all its mystery and wonder without question — breaking the laws of nature, as we know it. The heavenly bodies, the sun of incalculable magnificence and in whose existence we are all indebted to, exists and is so positioned without question. Even our eyes suddenly retain the memory of life, and we are introduced to a mother a father and we slowly accept this as life — but isn’t it a wonder beyond measure? A wonder that breaks the logic-machine of natural law but we accept this most central awe implicitly, yet the other laws of nature we claim will never bend. If it started with an immense bend of law unwritten, and isn’t the whole container of life supernatural in itself? And, if so, why do we not accept the things within to be capable of the supernatural? It seems preposterous. Superman can exist! Magic is never a farce. The feeding of five thousand with five loaves and two fishes cannot at all seem unreasonable! Neither, the escape of death onto resurrection, or the walking on of water.

To return to the keys, if someone were to say, “perhaps the keys have sprouted wings of such unprecedented proportion that it has escaped the envious grasp of earthly gravity and is now floating through space and time into galaxies yet unknown to us”, such a position, considering the implausibility of happenstance that has created what we know of as life and life has created the keys, isn’t it at all possible?

Ron Paul: disguised as a politician

For a while now, “hopefuls” for the 2008 presidential election, have been, well, “hopeless”. They have been nothing more to me than peripheral annoyance. Like that buzzing fly that keeps flapping in your ears, and after every shoo and slap of the hand, comes right back tauntingly to the same ear. I can’t get myself to trust any of them. Everything they say is so carefully worded to avoid alienating any voter group, and in essence, they end up saying nothing. And when they do say something meaningful — as in something that’s not nothing — they end up recanting the comment or pretend they never said it: a gracious example (ge.), Hillary on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. But John Edwards cleans this one up quickly before it seeps into the fabric, “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes.” Talk about pitch pots-o-tea and black kettles!

Just look at all these candidates. Is this really the best we can come up with? It’s like a game of Scrabble, in which after pulling out 7 tiles out of the pouch, our rack has nothing but vowels. If we had the option, I imagine the American people would be willing to lose a turn and try their luck again at another 7 tiles. But with Dubya on the other end mockingly placing down proper nouns on the board like “Iraq”, and “Al-Qaeda” for which we’ve left woefully unchallenged (who also overrode the Scrabble laws to permit a blank to transform into a hyphen), it hastens us to desperately seek out a replacement.

And I have felt this way, invidiously apathetic towards our current candidate pool, till about late this week. No, I didn’t completely hang my coat in despair, it was actually something surprisingly serendipitous. By accident, I stumbled upon a clip of one of the candidates. It was clip of one of the Republican debates where a candidate known as Ron Paul was among the contenders. I have never seen any one quite like him. Normally, for people like Giuliani, Obama, I’d use the phrase “a politician disguised as a nice person”. But, in this rare instance, Paul seems to be a “genuinely nice person disguised as a politician”. I have never in my life, heard anyone — politician or otherwise — talk so honestly before. Ron Paul caught my attention on that clip, and from there I looked up more clips and my appreciation and enthusiasm for him has grown steadily ever since. I’m so enthusiastic in fact, that I’m writing a blog entry about him! And tell, when is the last time I actually wrote a meaningful blog entry? I can’t think of one!

Ron Paul seems honest, clear, precise, and unrelenting to his position despite growing unpopularity with other shnobby members of his party. He’s a medical doctor, an obstetrician, a former army surgeon, and a strict constitutionalist. And although he has been pulling low numbers in scientific polls, he has a tremendous lead on online polls — more than any of the other candidates. His name has been goggled more times than any of the other candidates; he’s raised more money online than any one else; and I believe he has more friends on myspace than “Tom”.

Here are some clips that will give you an idea of Ron Paul’s platform. I recommend you watch at least the first one, or the last one (which is biased and campaign-ish but is still spot on with Dr Paul’s philosophy.)

1. Republican Debate, Ron vs Guliani

2. Sean Hannity is an idiot

3. Great philosphy

4. Great Overview of Dr. Paul’s beliefs

Most of the media would lead you to believe he is not doing as well as the internet data would suggest. My theory on this is that the media is downplaying Ron Paul’s appeal to maintain an illusion that they, the media, are the only qualified bearers of the stethoscope that measures the American pulse. This may have been true at a time, when people had no other choice but to listen to what losers like Bill O’reily, Sean Hannaty, or USA today have to say. But since the internet, I think the media’s true usefulness is starting to erode. The accuracy of the information they have been peddling for years, and the clear one-sided biasness of it is starting to become more transparent. There are some exceptions: Jon Stewart’s Daily Show for one, as well as Jay Leno, and Steven Colbert. It’s interesting that the comedy news sources seem to be the most truthful. But all the rest, I’m really starting to take less seriously – if at all.

Hopefully, the media and the rest will start thinking clearly and take Ron Paul more seriously. Otherwise, we’ll lose again, and we’ll be challenged on simple terms like “liberty”, “freedom”, “rights”, “peace”, and we’ll be forced to take them off the board — they won’t exist anymore in the American Dictionary, and now you lose a turn.

Daylight’s Savings Day!

It is the most wonderful time of the year. (Now, re-read that last sentence chirping that tireless melody — yes, you know which one.)

Christmas doesn’t come in December — silly rabbit — it comes in November (now). Daylight’s savings autumn edition is — bar none (a phrase I’ll never understand but will continue to use) — the MOST wonderful time of the year.

Seriously, I know what your thinking: I’m full of it. “It” being burnt umber-esque tainted sarcasm. And you would be right—most of the time. Most of the time I am in fact full of it. “It” being burnt umber-esque tainted sarcasm. But this time you would be wrong. Seriously, can there be a better gift than an extra hour of your life to carry with you for a whole year? How sweetly scented that dewy morning, awaking under a cranky alarm to a fretted hour, until that pleasant synapse cracks in your mind, feathering the reminder that you may steal an extra hour of soporific bliss. What dopamine deluded joy that hour breeds! Then there’s the whole week of hazy uncertainty of time, and the occasional gift of a free hour reoccurring over and over again! The Passat doesn’t know any better; it thinks it’s 7 O’clock; you think it’s 7’O’clock. But oh no, alas!, it is not! You have a whole hour! Stretch out your arms, close your eyes, and let yourself fall back, in your best Dharma and Greg impression, against the wild flowers. Make garden-angels in the tall grass, wallow away the autumn day; you can, the hour is yours, spend it liberally, freely, and at your will.

Daylight savings day (autumn edition) is the hidden holiday in our calendar. Is there a gift more valuable than a free hour of life? True, it’s only a mirage, legerdemain of the horologist. But the same who would hold to such, are the same who shut their porch-light off at Halloween; the same who belittle the Christmas tree and spurn the commercial-hollowedness of the Valentine—the Scrooge-alikes of our dreaded time. Don’t let them ruin the moment. Enjoy your daylight’s savings time while it lasts. Fool yourself as long as you can and replay the gift of the free hour.

For there is no gift more valuable than life. And when an hour of life is given to you, take it, seize it, and slap that snooze button! — for merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream!

Chris and I at the casino

Today, after work, on Payday-Friday, a hazy, mid-summer afternoon, I went with my friend Chris to a place in Rhode Island called Twin Rivers: a newer slightly less trashy—still white trashy—RI casino. I don’t gamble, nor do I ever go to casinos (neither does Chris) however, today is Chris’s birthday, and it’s hard to say “no” to someone on their birthday. Anyway, I went, –and my God, –that place, on a 4:30pm afternoon, is the single most depressing place in all of Rhode Island.

Outside is typical casino: valet parking, black jaguars near the landing, immaculate landscaping, spectacular large glass doors, fountains, and dressy employees with silly hats that like to open doors. It was pomp and posh on the outside, but once you walked in, it was really something else. There were old people, as far as the eye can see, with thick blind-people sunglasses; there were people pushing their own oxygen tanks like it was a baby on a stroller. And of course it wasn’t all old people, there were younger middle-aged people too, all unfashionably unkempt, wearing homemade-vintage ripped t-shirts, domestic abuse label tank tops, smelling generally suspicious (eau de suspicion), and all unabashedly exposing their dark-gothic tattoos. It felt more or less like you were at the DMV.

But that wasn’t the depressing part. As we walked in, to this dark scintillating indoors, and the outdoor sun was checked at the door, my friend commented that among the vast ocean of people, he couldn’t spot a single smiling face. It was true. No one was happy! It was an eerie juxtaposition of sullen faces partially flickering under a flashing orgy of video slot machines—machines lined out like cornfields, orderly and in the thousands; it was a veritable slot-machine farm.

The games all suggest “fun” and “adventure”: “Pirate’s Gold”, the “Monopoly”, “Wheel of Fortune”, “The Hot Penny”, the “Pharaoh’s Mistress”. However, they are all the SAME GAME: a variation of that old “bar, cherry, 7 game”, but with different icons matching the theme of the title. But the whole non sequitur part of it (for me at least) was that the games weren’t even that fun; they’re rather monotonous. And people just sit there, pushing the same worn out button, “replay bid”, “replay bid”, over and over again, until the initial 40$ allotment they planned on spending has been efficiently depleted, and the other 60$ they didn’t plan on spending is almost at a rounded nil. And while this is going on, obsequious waitresses go around asking the same run down question, stated as a ballpark-vendor assertion, “Beverages! … Beverages!” The same waitress asked us if we wanted beverages about 19 times, and we said no 19 times; she refused to be subdued to response conditioning, unlike Pavlov’s dog.

Well, overall it’s a very strange place to be. I won’t say I didn’t have a good time, or enjoy the company (because I did). But I think for my own sake, I need to remain a tourist, rather than a local. Otherwise, please, come get me.

Back from Virginia

After arriving last week from a family trip to the snail-looking state of Virigina, I’ve come to a conclusion: there is absolutely nothing to see in Virginia.

True, there are some mountains. True, even some grass, and a couple of trees. But other than the foliage, your not looking at much. I thought it quite amusing that when I asked someone “What’s there to do in Virginia?”. And after a short straining minute of concentration, they replied: “You can go to DC”.

Washing D.C.! So, the only saving grace of Virgina, is it borders a more interesting state– or worse yet, a “district” (whatever that means).

Well, good thing there’s Delaware, Miss Virgina. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have a date to the prom.