Thursday, December 27, 2007

VMU in Rogers, Arkansas??

I got into a conversation recently with my ex-boyfriend, whom I went to high school with, but who now also lives in Austin, about all the growth occurring in our hometown of Rogers, Arkansas. When he and I were both born, it was a tiny little empty town of less than 4,000 people, but is now the fastest-growing region of the country, and the town itself has now capped 50,000 official residents. It's only one in a series of what used to be small, distinct towns that have all grown together into one, sprawling suburb of more than 200,000 people. It starts with Bentonville, Wal-Mart headquarters, then turns into Rogers (where Wal-Mart was actually founded, but lays claim to little else), then becomes Springdale, a mostly poor, and fairly trashy farming and agricultural community that is now pretty much exclusively Mexican, which in turn segues into Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, and the place most people would probably consider the cultural and liberal seat of not just Northwest Arkansas, but probably all of Arkansas. (It's actually very much like Austin, with a similar feel and geography, but with only about 80,000 people.) All these little towns are connected by HWY 540 (aka, the "bypass" to those in the know).

But I digress. In the last few years Rogers has exploded really more than any of these other towns for reasons I have yet to figure out (especially considering it's a dry county, which yes, means you can't buy alcohol anywhere in Benton County). Every chain store and restaurant you can possibly imagine (and some you can't....) have moved in, with shopping centers, gated communities, and suburb upon suburb upon suburb sprouting up in every direction, with names like Camelot Estates, except they all look the same, all the houses are fucking ginormous, and at last inspection, most of them remain largely empty. Town has really started moving south, out by my parents' house, which used to be in the fucking country, and last time I was here I rode my bike through a large, turny, sprawling neighborhood out behind my parents' property (5 acres that they're holding onto for dear life!) that was complete, but every single house was empty. It was really eerie, and felt weirdly post-apocalyptic or something.

Anyway, I was talking to my ex about all of this, and I was arguing that though it was all very nice and good for the people living here and the economy and all that, I just really despised all of it. I remember once upon a time not so long ago, that with the exception of Wal-Mart, almost every business in Rogers was locally owned and unique. Getting a Burger King was a novelty when I was about 6, and for the most part, it was all neatly contained. You had the historic downtown area, with lots of neat little shops, a few apartments, the library, and lots of tiny old houses with big porches and bigger character. A couple of streets branched off from downtown, both north and south and east and west, but that was about it. As of today, with the exception of a smattering of authentic Mexican restaurants, downtown is the only part of town that has retained any character, walkability, or local flavor (there's even a really hip coffee shop with Morrissey posters and hipsters and shit).

The old Peachtree Hotel downtown, now a retirement community.

It's hard to make people like my family understand why despite "having everything you could ever want" this place feels more like hell to me than ever (so I don't try, I just let it go, because why bother). My ex was arguing that despite the plasticity, sameness and sprawl of it all, the growth meant that attitudes were changing. When we were in high school, if you went to the movies with blue hair, or were 2 guys walking around downtown together after dark, you were taking your lives in your hands. Not so anymore, and I see his point. If you go to the movies now, you see all kinds of people, from frat boys, to soccer moms, to young, punk rock kids, to even (gasp!) black people! (I kid you not, you wouldn't have seen a black person in Rogers more than 5 years ago.)

While I agree with him, I find it frustrating that you have to trade one for the other. Or do you? Austin is a town that has proved you can grow but still retain local flavor and character. Maybe I'm romanticizing Rogers' past after all.

There are signs of good things, though. The new centerpiece of the city, the Pinnacle Promenade, an outdoor, pedestrian mall filled with stores like Banana Republic and Sephora, is creating a density all its own. It's right next to the highway (and about 2 seconds from my parents), has an interesting, playful design (it's all very art deco and actually sort of attractive), and is driving up real estate. They're building a huge, new state of the art hospital (and turning the old one near downtown into a solely mental health facility), a Westin hotel, and among other! (Granted, the ones going in right now are above a bank and a gas station, but the impetus is there.) Signs are sprouting up in large pastures near my parents' house advertising space for vertical mixed use, and apparently, some people are even starting to pressure city council to start looking into public transportation! That'll never, ever happen, but at least people are thinking about these things.

An outdoor scene from the Pinnacle Promenade.

Being at home sometimes is exhausting and enfuriating as I watch all of this happen. If I have my way about it, I'll never live here ever again, so I have no emotional attachment to it, and the people here seem to like it, so I guess I should just stop worrying. But when they put in a new Wal-Mart and shopping center about a 5-minute walk from my parents' house and call it Tuscany Square, and make it look like what I can only presume is some stupid developer's version of Venetian, except it's hideously ugly and stupid, and isn't even the correct region of Italy to call Tuscan, it makes me so depressed I can't stand it. Maybe not because I see every ounce of character this city ever had being sucked away, but maybe because I know that this happens everywhere. And people like it. And they think it's cosmopolitan and urban, and hating it makes me feel like such a self-righteous schmuck, but I do hate it. And it takes 45 minutes to get anywhere, even though the town is about 7 miles wide. I mean, is there no foresight? I guess the land is limitless, but don't they realize the resources aren't? The whole area is one giant, faceless suburb not even in search of a city and it all makes me feel so disconnected from everything (including my past) that it actually creates anxiety for me when I'm here.

I guess that's why for the most part, I try not to leave my parents' house when I visit. Which suits me just fine.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Vacation

Today I became furious with my mother in Borders because she said I wasn't spending enough money on my sister-in-law. Because clearly it's not the thought that counts, it's the amount you spend.

Not that I'm keeping score or anything, but last year, my sister-in-law and my brother together bought me a t-shirt. Which is fine. It's a lovely and thoughtful t-shirt (the Colbert Nation t-shirt), but I'm not allowed to buy a $6 book (even though I knew what I wanted to get her before I saw that it was on sale) because it makes me cheap?

And people wonder why I hate Christmas. Why can't I just buy what I want to buy people regardless of how much it cost?

Tonight I fell asleep in church and my elbow slipped off the end of the rail and I almost fell off the pew.

My sister-in-law spilled communion juice on the pastor and he didn't finish blessing her because he was so irritated. We both were laughing hysterically and couldn't stop.

Last night my mother became visibly (and verbally) angry with me for saying that when I decided to have kids I just want to adopt black foster kids with AIDS that no one else will take. Because someone has to love them. I guess that's not what Jesus would do.

Today at my grandma's house I found an old board game from the 80's called Therapy, where each player uses a couch to move around the board and has to answer personal questions about the stages of life and analyze the other players. And it's kinda racy.

If my friends in Austin think they're going to get out of playing this game with me, they're sadly mistaken.

Tonight I've had 3 glasses of whiskey, and earlier today my father walked in on me jerking off in my room.

That's embarassing but expected when you're 12, but when you're 30, it's just humiliating and pathetic.

Tonight Tom made me laugh.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crush Alert

Why I no longer get crushes on celebrities: Maybe I'm far too much of a geek.

His blog is here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I certainly don't think he should be president

but I'm liking Ron Paul more and more every day.

If you have no other choice

Last night I went to I Love Video with the intent to rent Night Train Murders after hearing Eli Roth talk about what a huge influence it was on Hostel 2 on the commentary of that movie (which is great, by the way; I highly recommend it), but instead impulsively rented a little documentary called Follow My Voice, about recording a tribute album to Hedwig and the Angry Inch by a bunch of indie rock hipsters (Sleater-Kinney, Ben Folds, Frank Black, Jonathan Richman, Polyphonic Spree, They Might Be Giants, Cyndi Lauper, Yo La Tengo, The Breeders, Stephen Colbert, and a few more).

Mixed in to behind the scenes recording of the record, however, are video diaries of several teenagers attending the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan, which is a school composed primarily of gay and transgender students (and what proceeds of the CD are benefitting), but open to anyone who wants to come there because they don't fit in at a regular school, or they feel threatened, or whatever. At first the video diaries kind of annoyed me, and I thought they were boring, and I just wanted to see more bands doing awesome songs, but the longer the movie went on, the more it roped me in. I started to see a structure to the film, which is that it was taking the themes of the songs and weaving it into the themes of the kids' diaries to, essentially, create the structure, or plot, of the documentary. It's subtle, and doesn't always work, but when it does work, it's incredible. I got all choked up watching a transgender teenager getting her hair done for prom, while the Polyphonic Spree performed "Wig in a Box" (perhaps my favorite song from the whole movie), which is totally ridiculous, but it just works.

All in all, it turned out to be a really inspiring film, and the scene towards the end, when the high school finally opens as a fully-accredited high school in New York, and the police have to set up fencing to keep back the protestors, but the kids walk through anyway, beaming, as they are also cheered on by many, many supporters, just warms the heart and really gives one hope. (It's also quite reminiscent of footage of the integration of Central High in Little Rock back in the 50's, which is some of the most amazing stuff I've ever seen.)

Okay, I know I'm not being very eloquent here, but I just woke up. If you love Hedwig, or just love rock-n-roll, or just love great documentaries, check it out. You can buy the CD here, though I'm not sure the proceeds are still going to the school, since I checked the actual web site of the record label, and it no longer exists.

In the meantime, enjoy some "Wig in a Box" from the movie!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

buzzes like a fridge

I started reading Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel this week, for the second time. Not because I thought it was so great the first time I read it, but because of the opposite. I was 18, in my freshman year of college, and I just didn't get it. I totally lost patience with it, despite plowing through it, and thought it was the whiniest, most self-absorbed piece of tripe I'd ever read. More than once, I wanted to throw the book across the room, and scream, "Get over yourself!!" So when I saw it on a friend's bookshelf this week, I decided to give it another chance, with 12 years and a whole hell of a lot of life experience to bring a new perspective to it.

Well, I still think it's a pretty terrible book. I still think it's whiny and self-absorbed, and the girl can't write particularly well, but it's definitely striking a different chord with me this time. This time, those things don't make me lose patience because I think I can relate to it a lot more. Not least the feeling that when you're depressed, or when you think you're genuinely losing your marbles, you do become pretty self-absorbed, sometimes by necessity. I pick up on the wisdom a little more this time around, and think that she's got some pretty insightful things to say, not just about depression and hysteria, but about the way our society treats mental illness and the people who suffer from it.

One aspect I particularly enjoy is her juxtaposition of the way depression is viewed against the way drug abuse is viewed. Drug abuse is so tangible, it's so - for all intents and purposes - socially condoned and glamorized. Drug use is seen as something people need to be rescued from, that can be fixed. All manner of inappropriate, destructive, thoughtless, and dangerous behavior can be explained away in drug abuse, and as long as the abuser gets help eventually, generally it's all forgotten and chalked up to the drug. It's not the person's fault, it's the drug. As long as no one dies, it's live and let live.

But anyone who's depressed, or has any kind of personality disorder doesn't get the "get out of jail free" card that drug users get. When Wurtzel was a teenager, slashing up her legs with razors and taking overdoses of allergy medications at summer camp, she was told she had no reason to feel so bad, that all she needed was exercise and more socializing, and the problem was mostly ignored. But, she claims, if she'd been going to parties and snorting coke or shooting up heroin, her parents would have had her in the best treatment facility they could afford before the sun was up.

Drug abuse is seen as a disease, whereas personality disorders are seen as flaws. She even hypothesizes that maybe one reason so many people take so many drugs is not necessarily because they just want to be taking drugs, but because it's the only tangible way, short of a serious suicide attempt, to make people understand how awful they feel and that they might just need some serious help. See, if I take drugs, and engage in a slow but serious physical self-destruction, then maybe someone will take my pain seriously.

It's not an argument, I have to say, that I disagree with.

Just because people can hold their lives together, and keep a job, and do their schoolwork and pay their bills, doesn't mean they don't feel like they're crumbling on the inside. It doesn't mean that they're not still constantly filled with a despair so overwhelming that it feels like a physical presence upon, or within, their body, like a slow-growing cancer. Just because a person can get through the day without bursting into tears every time they actually feel like bursting into tears, doesn't mean that life doesn't fill them with an abject terror and sadness that never ceases, no matter what they do, or don't do. It just means they've learned to work around it, fit it into their schedule, fold it into their daily routine. Make it a part of who they are. Some people don't have the luxury of a total breakdown, and I guess in some people's eyes, if you can actually detach yourself from your life enough to say, Well, maybe if I have this breakdown this weekend, like I really want to, it will put my school career in jeopardy or push my poor mother over the edge, so I can't do it. I have to suck it up and keep going, no matter how impossible it may seem or feel, well then, you're not really that bad off.

But god forbid anyone should go out on weekends and do some blow, or need a drink in the morning to face the awful world and the aching dullness of their life.

Those are the people that have serious problems. And sometimes, they're the ones that get the help, often from the intervention of other people. Because it's physical.

Those other people, well, they just need to get some perspective, I guess.

Or so it goes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Hutto Immigrant Detention Facility

The other day, my friend Deneice showed me a cool documentary she made for her broadcasting class at school, about the Hutto Immigrant Detention Facility, 45 miles north of Austin. For those that don't know, it's basically a holding facility for undocumented immigrants that are picked up until something can be done with them. It's run by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit adult corrections company.

The problem with this place, primarily, is that they hold children there. Entire families are crammed into retrofitted cells (the whole building used to be a medium-security prison), and are locked in. The children are allowed to go play for a little bit each day, but only in a small playground surrounded by razor wire and armed guards. They are disciplined by guards who threaten to separate them from their parents. Pregnant women are also held, with little to no prenatal care.

A cell for an immigrant family.

Is this really what immigration control in the United States has come to? Imprisoning children and threatening them with isolation and violence?

The ACLU, naturally, filed a lawsuit earlier this year and won, requiring the "facility" to make some much-needed improvements. On the link, Barbara Hines, at the bottom right, who has a podcast you can link to, was also interviewed for Deneice's documentary.

My award-winning philosophy paper about Nietzsche*

(Probably not my best work, but considering the vagueness of the assignment (find a text that's confounding, make sense of it, and tell the professor about how you made sense of it in less than 40 pages and make it intelligent), I think I did all right.)

The falseness of an opinion is not for us any objection to it: it is here, perhaps, that our new language sounds most strangely. The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing; and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us; that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely imagined world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live – that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. To recognize untruth as a condition of life: that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Coming from a place of extreme nominal understanding regarding Nietzsche and his works, the idea of the Will to Power so prominent throughout them is interpreted by myself as the rising up of the oppressed. That is the first thing that comes to mind, though it also represents the power of the powerful. It means, to me, that within every human being lies not only the desire, but a desperate need (indeed, one’s life depends on it) to, at the very least, be in control of their own destiny. At its worst, it is the idea of dominance over growth, moral law enacted simply for the sake of control, not for the sake of personal growth, discovery, or revelation. Or, put another way, it is the enacting of the control of your own outcomes against the dominance of others.

While watching footage of the World Trade Centers’ collapse six years ago, and individuals jumping to their deaths to escape the fiery hell of the burning buildings, I heard a psychologist on the news say that the suicides of those people was in fact a very healthy reaction to an inevitably life-threatening situation. By assessing the crisis rationally, and understanding that they were doomed no matter what, they chose, probably with some combination of panic and level-headed matter-of-factness, their own method of death. Granted, their options were limited, but when faced with the agony of melting, or with the certainty of falling, they chose the certainty. They took control in a hopeless situation where their options were limited, and nonetheless willed themselves to have the smallest modicum of power in a powerless situation. I don’t know why, but while reading the passage by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil, this is what came to my mind.

Robert Cavalier, of the Carnegie Mellon philosophy department, describes the “will to power” as a necessary simplifying of the chaos of nature, and by extension, the chaos of man. He argues that it is precisely this simplification, or “structuring,” that gives individuals power, whether real or perceived. A common psychological theory is that human beings create a narrative for their lives; they take events of their lives and structure them to tell a story that makes sense to them. It is not uncommon, the theory goes, to slightly modify and reinterpret reality so as to make sense in the larger “story” and stream of plot that has been created. Events that confound the storyline, or don’t fit into the larger picture, or are simply unwanted, are often discarded, either consciously or unconsciously, if it makes the story too complex or too untidy. Thus, in the most rudimentary, but also complex way possible, a person has taken control of their life and molded events to fit their own larger picture.

This non-reality is something that I think Nietzsche understood a long time ago, and is largely what he is attacking in Beyond Good and Evil. For something to be “beyond” what it is a part of (such as Nietzsche arguing that evolved morality is beyond both conventional good and evil) that “something” must transcend what it is a part of. To Nietzsche, at least in my interpretation, conventional religion and morality (particularly Christianity) is part of this false story, this created myth, that people tell themselves to feel powerful in a chaotic and scary world. For Nietzsche, I think, this is what “conventional morality” amounts to: a gross simplification in the face of overwhelming ambiguity. For to embrace that ambiguity, or uncertainty, the individual has to come to terms with what they could lose: a solid foundation of assuredness, and possibly even themselves. Some say that faith itself, particularly religious faith, is an acceptance of the uncertainty of the world of the divine, but that may only be true for the most spiritually evolved among us. More often than not, religious “certainty” supplants faith, in order to create a rigid ideology, the mortal enemy of true spiritual evolution and faith. Ideology exists only in the face of insecurity; dogmatic devotion to an impossible ideal replaces genuine seeking. Real answers can only be discovered if one is willing to risk experimentation and questioning without ever discovering a truth, or certainty. This openness, this freedom, is the exact opposite of fundamentalism. Nietzsche disdains these self-perpetuating and stifling lies, but concedes that they are perhaps necessary for society as a whole to continue to function. For without them, he says, “…the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life.” But why?

Children generally grow up absorbing the beliefs and behaviors of those around them, especially parents or caretakers, rarely questioning the script and role they’ve been delivered since the day of their birth. Traditions are passed down and expectations are expressed, either overtly or indirectly. Until they know better, children see their parents as God, and everything they do, from their language to behavior, is taken note of and digested by children. Some people continue on through life indefinitely drifting, never truly questioning anything, or repressing doubts, for fear of upsetting the status quo, or unprepared for the strength it might take to become autonomous. Others, however, through choice or circumstance, make a resolute decision to embrace uncertainty and the falling away from, or “dying,” if you will, of their old or comfortable life. Some don’t have a choice: they’re given their script as they’re about to walk out onto the proverbial stage, and their script is written in an indecipherable language. Try as they might to learn the new language, quickly and without error, they simply can’t. So they’re pushed on stage, and they either flounder or they improvise.

When a person throws away their script in order to write a new one, they make a deliberate choice. They’ve taken what they see as false opinion and renounced that life, negated its worth, at least to them, and effectively killed it. This is the death that Nietzsche refers to. In order to evolve, old ways must die. Usually the script is never complete unless one prematurely pronounces it so; true “being” is an endless becoming, a never-ending journey for truth and self. The “they-self” concept of how one has created an identity in relation to what others expect of them is gone, replaced by a resolute choice to become, or create, something new.

Growing up, I always felt different, from day one. It was difficult for me to relate to other kids, especially boys, and I had no interest in sports. Friends came and went, and the majority of my relationships with other kids were short-lived. It wasn’t until puberty, really, and the budding of sexual desires, that I began to fully understand what it was that set me apart. Despite my growing attraction to other boys that was both confusing and exciting, and my growing disinterest in girls as anything other than companions, I still held on to my prescribed script for dear life. Letting go of my future storyline was too scary, too unknown. I fell into a vicious pattern of self-deception: still told myself I would get married someday, I would have children, and a family, and I would live the life that I was expected to live. I mean, what else was there? Despite being an avid reader with a huge imagination, the only world I truly knew was rural Arkansas. I knew there was more out there, but I didn’t understand it. Falling in love with my best friend at 16, and having him return those feelings, was the final nail in the coffin of my old life. It took another good 5 years to become comfortable with the idea of letting the old life truly die, and to have the courage to construct a new one in the way I saw most appropriate, but with that final decision, the new world was created, and my own moral and intellectual limits of my effective freedom were killed.

In many ways, I continue to define myself by what I am not, by my opposition to what I find most distasteful: complacency, blind religious faith, a denial of the true self. I seek to see reality in everything, and to view any adherence to mythology as a weak-willed embrace of a false certainty in the face of a vague and scary uncertainty. But the uncertainty is the reality, multiplicity the true liberator of the human psyche. Without a recognition of “logical fictions,” Nietzsche claims, man would die in his own meaninglessness. To have to discover your own path, and create your own destiny, as the existentialist believes we must all do in the absence of God, would provoke too much anguish and self-doubt in all of mankind, and surely lead to the death of life. But what I believe Nietzsche is arguing is that, if mankind as a whole could abandon these false notions, this “constant counterfeiting,” then as a species, we could evolve beyond our conventional and tired notions of morality, of even viewing morality in terms of good and evil. A transcendent morality might take its place, one in which all beings were equal and autonomy could be prized and strived for, instead of feared, denigrated, and eventually murdered.

*By "award-winning," I mean I got an A.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Another Austin blog

This one's about condos: Austin Towers. It's self-described as a guide to condo shopping in Austin, but it also provides lots of commentary, insights, and general information on the changing face of central Austin. And since I'm totally obsessed with all this shit, I really like it. I actually spent hours on it the other night just clicking around on all the links.

One recent post I really enjoyed was about Austin's density problem. Density is measured by the number of people living per square mile, and Austin came in 20th in the top 25 with only 2,610 people per square mile (as opposed to New York's nearly 27,000 people per square mile, followed by San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia in the top 5). The count was taken in 2000, though, so I'm sure it's improved since then, but no one can argue that Austin isn't suburban. If you need any further evidence, look to the fact that many proprietors of failed businesses in the 2nd Street District blame their failure on a lack of good parking.

Anyway, that's what all this crazy condo business is looking to improve, so let's hope it does.

Urban Roots

Urban Roots is a program developed by Youth Launch, an Austin-based nonprofit, to educate Austin's inner-city youth about growing food and healthy eating. I spoke to a representative at the farmer's market this morning, and he said they plan to break ground by April of 2008, and get kids planting food and tending a garden. It's designed to teach the kids about sustainable agriculture, and they will donate I think he said 25% of the food to soup kitchens and keep or sell the rest.

This week, December 8-13th, they are teaming up with Edible Austin and a whole host of local restaurants to help raise money in what they are calling "Eat Local Week." The restaurants on the list have all agreed to have one meal on the menu that's made entirely from locally-grown food, and that $1 from every meal sold throughout the week will be donated to the Urban Roots program.

So Austinites, if you go out to eat this week, think about visiting one of the sponsoring restaurants and buying the local meal. The list of participating restaurants and markets is here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Boy Scout Ambivalence

By now I'm sure everyone's heard that the Boy Scouts got kicked out of their headquarters in Philadelphia for refusing to change their anti-gay bigotry. I understand the city's position and I don't sympathize with the Boy Scouts at all, but something about this kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Municipal officials said the clash stemmed from a duty to defend civil rights and an obligation to abide by a local law that bars taxpayer support for any group that discriminates. Boy Scout officials said it was about preserving their culture, protecting the right of private organizations to remain exclusive and defending traditions like requiring members to swear an oath of duty to God and prohibiting membership by anyone who is openly homosexual.

This week the Boy Scouts made their last stand and lost.

“At the end of the day, you can not be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination,” said City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who represents the district where the building is located. “Negotiations are over.”

I don't know much about the Boy Scouts; as a kid I was never remotely interested in joining (I was in the Webloes for one year, but my best girlfriend down the street couldn't be in them, so I quit), but I know that for a lot of kids, it's a lifesaver. I would prefer that their lifesaver not be such an intolerant lot, but nevertheless, sometimes I think there are things that trump being progressive. Of course, if the city is going to take a hardline approach to this stuff, it can't go around making exceptions, especially for religious groups, which, in any other circumstance I'd say kick the free-loading bastards out.

Philadelphia has an astronomical crime rate and ridiculous poverty levels, and at least according to a Boy Scout spokesman for the Philadelphia chapter, having to pay the full rent on the building (which the city estimates at $200,000 annually) would require that they cut funding for summer camps for low-income, inner-city kids. Maybe that's not true, or maybe it's irrelevant. It seems too bad, though, that it has to be either/or. The whole situation kind of depresses me.

But what I guess is really too bad is that the Boy Scouts have to be such bigots. That doesn't serve anybody.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Coulda been....

This past week I've been working on my final philosophy paper which is about a section of Beyond Good & Evil by Nietzsche. My paper is sort of a dissection of the concept of will to power and how "conventional morality" is for weak people (thus, the title of the book). It's not my best paper, that's certain, but the assignment was rather vague, purposefully. But it's not a terrible paper, either, and the fact that I could probably write another 50 pages doesn't help (the length limit was "under 40 pages; however long it takes you to write something intelligent. And I'll be the judge of what's intelligent."). That's the problem with philosophy and why philosophers are all just a little bit crazy: the constant asking of questions while never really getting any real answers. An entire life of "what-if's" and "how about's" seems like it could drive a person mad. Psychology's not much better but at least you can apply practical uses from psychology and you can do testing. Some answers are better than no answers. Although I'm sure any philosopher worth his salt would argue with me until next week that no answers are ever found in philosophy. And also that that's not the point.

I feel like my life is a constant series of "what-if's" as well, only I don't call it philosophy, I call it being obsessive. Does everyone do this? I don't know: readers, do you all constantly do this as well?

Like, I think things like:

- What if I had ended up going to Sarah Lawrence instead of moving to Dallas, which is what I really wanted to do? I never could have gotten in to Sarah Lawrence, and even if I had, I never could have afforded it, but what if I had? What would I be doing now?

- What if I had stayed in Arkansas instead of going to college in Dallas?

- What if I had moved to Los Angeles after I got out of school instead of moving to Austin?

- What if, about 9 months after moving to Austin, I had packed up again and moved to New York, like I very nearly did? Collier was moving back and needed a roommate and she asked me if Travis (my boyfriend at the time) and I would be interested in taking the extra room? I was all for it, but naturally, Travis wanted nothing to do with it. I almost broke up with him and left anyway, but he'd just moved to Austin from Arkansas to be with me about 4 months prior, so of course I couldn't do that. Only a total douchebag would do that.

- What if I hadn't met the friends that I met? What if I met them now, instead of years ago? Would we still have hit it off, or is meeting people always a result of a very specific set of circumstances that brings you together at a specific time?

It's all sort of terrifying and endlessly exhausting to think about, but I always do.

Sorry the posts lately have not only been slow, but also incredibly lame. School's over after this week, so hopefully I'll get back on track. These last 3 weeks have almost killed me.