Friday, July 30, 2010

Change is the only thing that's constant

I'm starting to learn that many good writers write daily, sometimes for hours. I've noticed that I make usually about a half dozen entries on this blog a month. Maybe I should be writing more. After all the more I write the better I will become at it. Great writers also read a lot also. I read a lot on the internet. I read a lot of news, but a great deal of my knowledge lately has come from watching videos on YouTube that explain concepts of science and philosophy and economics. This is very typical of the young today who can't even deal with the cliff notes anymore and have resorted to watching and listening to videos instead of actually reading about any of it. It is a pattern that a friend advised me to not get comfortable with.

Spelling is not an issue anymore thanks to the spell check mechanism. But spell check cannot make you a exceptional writer. I hate the laziness that comes and goes in me. I don't even have to get off my couch to do what I am doing now, and still I find an excuse to be lazy and not do it. Remember when you had to actually go out to obtain knowledge about a subject, to the library in the freezing cold? Those days are long gone and with it, that energy one had to have.

I did keep a written journal for years at a time and wrote several notebooks worth of events, documenting various stages of my life from high school to as recently as a few months ago. I still have one that I stopped writing in and for some reason I guess I stopped, maybe because of this blog. But in my notebooks I would write much more personal things regarding my personal life, and on this blog I've chosen for it to not be about my silly mundane day-to-day problems. My old journals I burned and destroyed years ago so no one could read them. I guess I wish I could have saved them until now, they'd be fascinating to read.

I really wish I was writing about my experiences hanging out with metal heads in high school in the 90s. It was a great era and subculture to document since a lot has changed in New York in the past ten years, and also because the heavy metal culture that existed back then has significantly waned. Change is the only thing that's constant. And that's never more true than in the secular metropolis.

High school was tough. I had a really hard time fitting in. Even among my own clique I was kind of the outcast. It took me a really long time to find myself, and to find my place. I'm still kind of looking but I'm a lot more focused now. I really wish back then I had the knowledge I have now, or at least (since saying that has become so cliche) I wish that I was as passionate about the same subjects back then as I am now (namely atheism and philosophy). I was always into atheism pretty much, but never had the passion to really dig deep into the philosophy behind it and religion. Also, I wish I had payed attention to more of the cultural changes over the years as they evolved slowly instead being shocked by seemingly abrupt changes that were really just the result of years my neglect towards them.

I remember hanging out downtown in Manhattan back in the late 90s when for example, Washington Square Park was still a big hangout spot for skaters getting high, when drug dealers were ubiquitous, police surveillance was low, and it wasn't full of yuppie families. The East Village used to be a great place for people watching: Punks with crazy hair, Goths with crazy piercings and facial tattoos. Now it all looks so yuppie and uniform. Sure there are the hipsters, but they get boring to look at shortly and they are in no way as eccentric as the characters of yesteryear. As a teenager, traveling downtown was like entering a magical place, far different from my boring working class Queens neighborhood. It seemed like you could get away with anything there (except being square). Things that weren't acceptable in any other neighborhood all found a sanctuary downtown.

And then....it all changed. September 11th, gentrification, crime going down, rising rents, artists and creative types moving out, yuppies moving in, family oriented programs, Bloomberg, Sex and the City wannabees, metrosexualism, and corporate chain stores on nearly every corner. Ahhhh!!!! Well it was all the inevitable. There were so many movies and TV shows that glorified the Cosmopolitan New York lifestyle. I partly blame New York's cultural downfall on this. Once something gets hot and demand goes up you can expect exactly what happened. Gone are the days where New York was a place where a struggling artist can go to, and cram down in a cheap, albeit tiny apartment in a seedy part of the Lower East Side. Now some Wall Street banker will be happy to pay $2,500 a month for that said hole in the wall. I do wish I was older to have had experienced the old NY more, but then I'd have to give up all that I've so become accustomed to (namely the internet and not getting mugged).

All I can do is reminisce over it, and watch old movies and documentaries about that bygone era.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Confusing Message About Faith

I hate how we in America like to stress the importance of faith, but at the same time like to stress the importance of moderation, religious moderation. The two seem contradictory to me. How can you embrace faith strongly and be moderate at the same time? Are these ideas stressed by the same parties or different ones? It seems to me like they are coming from the same source.

I remember during the Bush era especially the emphasis put on our nation to keeps its faith strong and secure. Then they urge the Islamic world to move towards moderation. What I really get from this message is the urge to embrace the Christian faith. What the right wingers and conservatives really want is for all the people of the world to embrace Christianity, but they can't come out and say it like that because it might offend Jews, Muslims and Hindus. So, instead they spew out this debatable message to embrace faith while urging some towards moderation. What they want is people to embrace Christian faith, while people of other faiths should embrace moderation. I agree that Muslims should move towards moderation, as I think all people of faith should. I'd go a step further and urge all people of faith to move towards Atheism, in a calm and timely manner.

This issue of moderation is another thing. What does it mean to be a moderate? It plainly means that one must disregard all the beliefs of their faith that seem outdated and don't make sense anymore. For example a moderate Muslim, might look at the prohibition against alcohol and say, "Ok I'll scrape that." He might look at rules forbidding sex before marriage, the mandatory praying of 5 times a day, the rule to distrust Christians and Jews, the allowance of slavery and the subjugation of women and say, "Ok OK I'll scrape those too." And voila! Now we have the modern Muslim, compatible with Western culture, able to live amongst infidels without conflict. Or do we?

Whenever a Muslim is accused of being or having ties to, right wing Islamic fundamentalists, there's always that inevitable defense of the claims that they are very moderate and harbor no extremest beliefs at all. So, then the accused must now put on this show about how they're actually very westernized and not one of those types of Muslims, who takes their faith literally. So if taking ones faith literally means being an enemy to the West, or an enemy to freedom, then why is faith a good thing? Why must we keep this silly parade going on about faith being a good thing? When will the world realize that less faith is a good thing, not more? The whole world is never going to embrace your faith, you Muslims and Christians. And even if it did it wouldn't make the world a better place at all. Just look at how Sunnis and Shiites and Catholics and Protestants alike have been hating and killing each other for hundreds of years, all while praying to the same God. More faith is not a good thing and it is my duty to spread this word.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Queens Farm Indian Pow Wow

Continuing with my ongoing love affair with New York, I mentioned to a friend recently about how my travels made me realize how just how much I love this city. I went to an Indian Pow Wow today and saw some Native Americans dancing in their traditional ways. It was quite a sight, although it was a small gathering. A fierce storm came over and it starting pouring rain and it ended the dancing prematurely. I did get to eat an Indian Taco, which wasn't all that good, but nonetheless I respect it as respect the Native Americans.





There are festivals out west that draw thousands of Indians and spectators alike. I hope to visit one of them one day. The Pow Wow took place at the last remaining continually used farm in New York City, called Queens Farm. A working farm in the city, with a green house and crops being growth just as they are on thousands of acres across the Midwest. I love that about New York: You have the dense urbanality of Manhattan, and a working farm within the limits of the city. How many cities can claim this? Not many.

So as my love affair with New York continues, I have been with other cities, yes I've cheated on New York. But I always come back here. New York is my long term lover, others were mere flings, even one night stands. But I often long for New York even when I'm in the middle of a fling with another city. Few cities keep interested on a long term like New York does. But then again, there are a shit load of cities I haven't been to. I've never caroused through Paris or Barcelona, or Venice, or Berlin, or Rio. So who knows. One day another city might win over my heart. Or New York might drive me crazy as it often does, but to the breaking point, where I leave her in a fit of anger never to return again (due to my stubbornness).

We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Atheist I Could Have Been

What to do on a summer afternoon? While I enjoy writing, I don't do it as much as I guess I should. I don't read as much as I guess I should either. I'm therefore not as good a writer as I think I should be, or could be. I was talking with a friend recently about what lifestyle we all envision for ourselves ideally. I told him that I'd love to be the president of an Atheist club on a college campus somewhere. I'd coordinate and participate in debates with the Christian club and Muslim club and the Jewish club. We'd grow members through carefully written propaganda and meetings. Oh that would be so great.

I remember when I was in community college passing by a hallway window display from the Muslim club showing their supposed reasons it's a good idea to embrace Islam. One part I remember mentioned that evolution was originally a racist idea, their reason apparently to not believe in evolution or Darwinism. Well in truth, it's true that early on, evolution was used by some people to justify racism. Darwin himself was a racist, or at least had racist tendencies. He thought that blacks weren't as evolved as whites. He was sexist also, and thought that women were inferior to men. All true. But it still says nothing about whether evolution is true or not. There maybe some uncomfortable consequences upon the discovery of the mechanism that brought about the world's species and ultimately us, but should we throw out scientific knowledge simply because it makes us confront uncomfortable possibilities? I say no. The religious often say yes, which why many others and I believe religion hinders scientific advancement and is one of the main reasons why Atheists don't like religion.

I would have loved to debate the Muslim club on those issues in a public forum, just like the debates I love to watch online. If only I was as into and as knowledgeable about religion as I am now. Damn. Even just a year ago I wasn't into religion and Atheism with the passion that I have now. I was always into it a little bit but It really kicked off last September, when I started watching online videos of Atheist debates and quickly became addicted to them. I would have gotten into a totally different career field if I was like that back then. I would not be in the boring technology field like I am now, but instead philosophy, history, or science. It's not too late but....who knows.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Blog Name

I just changed the name of my blog to "Atheism and the City." It just popped into my head while writing my last blog entry. I often find it difficult to find an appropriate title for my blogs and sometimes choose to write the blog first, and then find a title based on the blog's contents. So I Googled "Atheism and the City" and what a surprise, it's not on the internet anywhere, amazingly. Usually almost every creative idea I thought that I had thought of when Googled turned out that someone else thought of it first. I was a lovely delight to see no one has used this before.

My old blog name was my silly attempt to make it seem like I didn't even want to write this blog and was forced to do it. Well in actuality I was: this blog was created as part of a school assignment last summer. Now I guess because of that I can use it to grow my ideas, and my writing for the benefactor of creating and sustaining like-minded individuals, so that we can together create and sustain the secular society. Which in the end, will benefit all of us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Back from the Far East



I just flew in from Hong Kong a few days ago. I'm adjusting back to New York and suffering from some severe jet-lag. I'm up all night and asleep almost all day, there is a 12 hour time difference between the two cities. My time in Hong Kong was fun, I got lucky with good weather considering summer is their rainy season. I was mostly alone by myself just walking around and sightseeing. I got a bunch of cool shots of the H.K. skyline. In H.K. there is pretty much the skyline to see. I wasn't there to spend any money. I didn't buy any souvenirs. I was really there to experience what it's like to walk around on the streets and see the cityscape. H.K. does have a lot of really tall buildings. They say if has the best skyline in the world, better than N.Y.'s. Well I'm not sure about that. I'd have to wait until lower Manhattan is rebuilt to compare them equally. H.K.'s skyline is just as good as New York's is. I'd say N.Y.'s is just slightly better.

H.K. does have a lot of skyscrapers. More than N.Y. Walking around H.K. you do get a real sense of the urbanization and really feel like you are walking in a real city, and not some puny half-ass city. Its streets are tight and development is highly dense. The subway system, or MTR as they call it there is decent. It's pretty fast and smooth. A decent amount of people speak English there. Although it is still considered the official language, you mostly hear Chinese being spoken everywhere.



I went to Mount Victoria and got some cool shots of the skyline from there. The Tram ride up is exciting. It hits an almost 45 degree angle at some points and there's a point when you can feel your ears pop. The view is breath taking.



Final thoughts on H.K. What does walking around H.K. feel like? It feels kind of like Chinatown, Manhattan, when you suddenly realize that you are the only non-Asian person on the whole block. Now just imagine the whole city like that and there you have Hong Kong. Well, not quite exactly. There are a decent amount of Westerners in H.K. most are tourists though. There are these Indian guys who try to sell you suits on the street. I was warned of these guys before I arrived. These guys apparently live there.

While traveling, I did miss New York almost immediately. I guess I'm just so attached to this city. New York does seem so much more cleaner than H.K. Many buildings there look like they are on the verge of collapse. They are either old or poorly maintained and overused. People there are living on top of each other packed in like sardines. Only the financial district downtown can match the density that most Hongkongers are living under. It is more pedestrian friendly than Tokyo is, however I still think that NYC is one of the most pedestrian friendly major city in the world.

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