Showing posts with label new york. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer In The City - Debate Meetup



Last weekend I attended a local debate club meeting in Bryant Park. It's a monthly gathering of debating enthusiasts. We get together in a circle, a topic is voted on, and then we debate either for it or against it. Sometimes we're organized into groups where one group has to debate for or against an issue against the other group, and sometimes we debate as individuals.

I've never liked debating on the other side of an issue that is opposite my views, but it is good to be challenged in such a way. I arrived late, and had to quickly learn the topic and argue for a position within minutes of arriving. The topic was whether you were for or against political correction. Being highly knowledgeable on a conglomeration of subjects, I was able to easily throw in my 2 cents into the argument without much hesitation.

Later we debated the legitimacy of foreign intervention (such as with the debate over Syria) and I referenced a blog where I wrote about "Just War" and used the criterion Hitchens used to justify the Iraq War to make a case that foreign interventions - especially in cases of genocide are sometimes warranted. It went over well and it gave my argument the awe of expertise.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sex & The City: The Time I Dated A Christian




Several years back I found myself sitting alone in a Starbucks coffee shop in Manhattan killing time. I had no idea that I was being watched. The young barista working there came up to me and smiled. She said she thought I was cute, and then offered me her phone number. I was pleasantly surprised since these kinds of things didn't happen everyday. I accepted her offer and eventually left. I remember her smiling to me as I walked out.

Several days later I either called or texted her and we decided to meet in Union Square Park, right across the street from the Starbucks. Like many first dates, it was awkward, but this encounter was even more so because we didn't even know each other at all. So we spent the day walking around the city, talking, and getting to know one another. We ended up in a Barnes & Noble sitting on the floor, looking at pictures in magazines and making gross jokes about the people in them.

She was a southern girl, with a slight accent, from Georgia - right outside of Atlanta if I can remember properly, and came to New York to chase her dreams of becoming an actress. (Oh how cliche.) I wasn't familiar with the ways of the south all that much but she was very easy going and we got along. She told me she thought I was cute and decided to be brave and go for it. I remember her telling me her thoughts before doing so. The worst that could happen, she told me, would be either that I was gay or taken, and that in either case she'd be risking humiliation. I praised her courage.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Philosophy & The City



The other day I went to a philosophy Meetup group in Manhattan to mingle with other philosophy-lovers. It always guarantees good conversation, especially when enhanced with strong drink. The topic was "The Big Three - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle". It lead to some interesting conversations about the Euthyphro Dilemma - my favorite one-liner and I think the single most useful bit of philosophy that the ancient wisdom of the Greeks have left us.

What amazes me however when conversing with philosophically minded people in a big, secular, liberal city like New York, is how deeply permeated moral nihilism is. With this one guy I was talking to on morality, I simply asked him what would be morally good. He responded by saying "I don't know. I couldn't tell you that." I pressed further asking him to just give me his opinion of what would be morally right, and again he said, "It's what anyone does, there's no such thing as right or wrong."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bike Ride On A Beautiful Spring Day


I am sick of thinking about religion. Seriously. It gets nauseating after a while. For the moment let me digress onto something I rarely do: writing about my day. Late this afternoon I went on a bike ride around my borough of Queens. I snapped a few shots of the city and scenery. Take a look below.


1. The Upper East Side across Hell's Gate









5. LIC piers



6. The "Freedom Tower" officially called 1 WTC. Almost complete.



7. Chrysler Building.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

15 Things To Consider When You're Feeling Down




Last summer when I had lost my job, it gave me time to reevaluate my life and use my time differently. I was sitting in Union Square park enjoying a beautiful sunny day and I decided to jot down a few ideas to consider now that I didn't have to spend so many long hours in the cubicle. Here is what I wrote. Take from it whatever makes sense and whatever you feel can make a positive difference in your life.


  1. Got to Meetup groups to keep active
  2. Continue writing every day and reading
  3. Go out! Enjoy the summer. Enjoy the outdoors!
  4. Make projects and stick to them!
  5. Make some art!
  6. Connect with people that matter
  7. Collaborate with like-minded individuals
  8. Indulge in your passions!
  9. Enjoy life!
  10. Stay positive, live positive!
  11. Learn a new skill that you did not have time to learn before
  12. Don't be lazy
  13. Do not let apathy rule you
  14. Make life your bitch
  15. Be confident in who you are, be true to who you are



Monday, April 15, 2013

Natural Born Skeptic: My Atheist Journey Part 4


Nihilism And The Search For Deeper Meaning

For a while in my early twenties I suppose you could say that I had lapsed into a kind of hedonistic existential nihilism. I started partying more to the point where it basically became my life. Drinking and smoking marijuana became an almost daily routine. The metal head crowd that I had hung out with in high school had fragmented into smaller groups who shared common mutual interests and I had followed along with the ones who were the more heavy drinkers and users. My best friend at the time was a Russian immigrant who came to the US as an early teen. He actually believed in the ancient Norse gods Odin and Thor. Although most of the time we were busy drinking and smoking and going to nightclubs, we occasionally had an intellectual conversation where our world views came into the light. I’d ask him how sincere he was about his beliefs and if he actually thought Odin was real. I’d occasionally attack the logic he used to justify his beliefs and I quickly found out just how irrational some belief systems are and what absurdities they can be founded on. My best friend had came to the conclusion that Odin was real when he was camping one day in the woods and had run out of water. Feeling like he was going to die of thirst, he prayed to Odin and shortly thereafter found a bottle of water sitting in the woods. To him, this was a sign from Odin that he was real, and from that moment onward, Odin was his god. Now mind you, I was probably high when he told me this story, but you can imagine for yourself how utterly preposterous his applied logic was in determining that his god was real.

Most of my other friends were atheist, agnostic, or lapsed Catholics. I did however have one Muslim friend who was one of the heaviest partiers of us all.  One day after driving me home from a party he gave me a book entitled, A BRIEF ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING ISLAM. He told me that he was meaning to give it to me for some time because he recognized in me that I was smart and a thinker about some of the bigger and deeper issues. It was one of those books that tries to use modern scientific discoveries to show that they were predicted in the Qur’an hundreds of years ago before anyone else could have known. This is offered as a case that the Qur’an is “proof” that it was divinely inspired and therefore that Islam is the one true faith. Now the skeptic in me has looked at this supposed “proof” and concluded that it is a ridiculous stretch of the imagination. The Qur’an is so vague in its descriptions of these purported “facts” that it take great leaps of faith to reconcile them with modern science, and on top of that, it gets many of its “facts” flat out wrong. But at that time, I wasn’t fully aware of this, and after briefly looking through the book, I literally threw it down on a shelf and it collected dust for about 5 years.

During this nihilistic party phase in my early twenties I just wasn’t that interested in religion and philosophy. That early spark of intrigue had faded and became replaced by hedonistic indulgence. Living in New York City where there are thousands of bars and clubs, my life revolved around bar hoping and club hoping, chasing after the next one night stand, and getting fucked up on beer, liquor, marijuana and the occasional club drug. I was a nihilist living in the moment, working the odd job here and there, with no deeper purpose, meaning or direction. The occasional discussion about metaphysical worldviews always involved me articulating my skepticism and disbelief but it was almost never seriously challenged because most of the people in my social circle either weren’t believers, or if they believed, they weren’t religious about their beliefs. Although I had an affinity for indulgence myself, as the years went on I started gravitating towards deeper more intellectual topics. I wanted to have intellectual conversations with my friends instead of just talking about whatever gossip and drama happened to be going on at the time. I started growing tired of the mindless self-indulgence that I saw going on everyday amongst my friends. I stopped caring about the silly one-upmanship that we were all trying to pull on each other to gratify our precious egos. I was searching for something deeper and more intellectually satisfying in my life but unlike those people who are susceptible to religion, my natural born skepticism wouldn’t steer me towards god.



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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Natural Born Skeptic: My Atheist Journey Part 3


The Atheist Goes to College

When I first got to college I immediately took some courses in philosophy. The philosophy of ethics really attracted me in particular. Unfortunately, at the time I was still in my late teens and was entering the beginning of a heavy party phase, and so my grades were sadly not as good as they could’ve been. However, the seed had been planted, and I began to think more deeply about questions of philosophy and ethics than ever before. I remember being in philosophy class one day and the professor asked everyone to raise their hand if they believed in god. To my amazement, almost everyone in class raised their hand. It turned out that I was one of the few, if not the only atheist in the class. Even with this newfound recognition of my minority status, I never felt any serious pressure to conform to those around me when it came to religion or god perhaps because New York is such a secular city. Even though many people in New York believe in god, they generally aren't religious about and it keep it to themselves.

College is traditionally when we truly grow, and as I started making new friends and spent time with a more diverse crowd of people, I learned that religious belief and concepts of “god” were about as diverse as people’s tastes in food and music. I learned that no two people quite believe in the same concept of god. Many friends I made who called themselves “Catholic” were really only Catholic in title. They had premarital sex, used birth control, were pro-choice, they never actually went to church, and on the outside conducted themselves almost indistinguishable from any other secular nontheist. These kinds of people are what I like to call non-religious theists. They technically believe in a god that perhaps intervened a long time ago, but they more or less accept that events that happen in the world are natural, and they aren’t at all religious about their beliefs. I don’t have that much of a problem with these kinds of theists as quite a few of them I have called friends during my life; they’re more like the benign tumors of theism. It’s only if and when they cross the line of secularism that my alarm goes off. So many of those students who raised their hands that day in philosophy class and affirmed their belief in god really just believed in some sort of vague spiritual force or energy that exists somewhere out there, or they believed in some kind of powerful anthropomorphized being they call “God”. It’s another form of relatively benign belief in the supernatural that I can live with, as long as that line of secularism is respected.

Some theists say that colleges are just atheist and secular factories designed to transform good natured god-fearing kids into godless moral relativists. I’ve argued with quite a few of these types over the years, but as I recall, there is a bit of truth to this claim. In my introduction to ethics textbook, which I still have, it does ask the reader to question the source of their morality and we had a few class exercises that challenged the idea of grounding your morals in religion. For example, if you believe that you should do what god says because otherwise he will punish you, we learned in class that in a sense it would turn morality into a mere obedience system whereby the actual “morals” themselves could be meaningless and all that would matter is what you believe god commands you. God could command you to plunder and kill, and you would be obligated to do so unless face his punishment. This was my first introduction to what I would later learn is called the Euthyphro Dilemma and it was the first time I had thought about morality in such a way. Most college students who came from religious backgrounds who were confronted with this dilemma I’m sure have had to reconsider why they believe it’s good to obey god. These kinds of courses do force the theist to reexamine their beliefs and I suppose that is why many theists think colleges exist only to churn out godless secularists. As a non believer, was never challenged in college on the metaphysical grounding of my beliefs, but I was challenged often as to why I hold certain ethical views – but that was the whole point of the class. Contrary to what many theists presume, we were never taught the idea that moral relativism was the solution to all of the world’s problems.

While cleaning my apartment I came across some old college term papers from one of my philosophy classes. There was an assignment where we had to create a mock trial whereby we were to imagine ourselves being accused like Socrates was in The Apology of blasphemy or some sort of thought crime and we were to write a transcript of the trial’s proceedings. So (naturally) I imagined myself living in a world where atheism was a crime and I was put on trial and asked to justify my lack of belief in god. In it, I explain to the prosecutor why I’m an atheist:


I myself am an Atheist, I don't think religion is evil, I understand it has many good aspects of it, but I just do not have a place for it in my life. Let us say for example I didn't live in this era and place of religious freedom. I probably wouldn't be an Atheist, but lets [sic] say I was in a time and place where Atheists faced punishment or even death. I am accused by the authority for not believing in God. My devotion to Atheism is so that I am willing to [face] whatever punishment they have for me, even death.

Pros [Prosecutor]: So you began to question the very existence of God. Was there a particular moment in your life when you began to question God, such as a traumatic event or was it a gradual process?
Me: It was a gradual process. I didn't wake up one morning and say "I don't believe in God." I guess as I got older I just didn't except the explanations religion gives you. I mean it's so vague.
Pros: So you weren't convinced from what you were taught as a child. And I’m assuming you have your own theory and beliefs of how the world was created. What is it that you believe in?
Me: Evolution.
Pros: Evolution. I see. I've heard of this theory. Something about how we humans, are descendents from Monkeys.
Me: Yes, and it was the Apes not the Monkeys.
Pros: And this is what you believe in? You are positively sure that evolution is true.
Me: From the evidence I have see, yes, and it makes a whole lot more sense to me than religion had.

It's funny how I justified the world's existence through evolution, which not only does it not address the origin of the universe, it doesn't even address the origin of life itself! At nineteen, I wasn't as knowledgeable about the cosmological arguments or any of the other ones which theism uses. (That didn't stop me from getting an A on the paper though.)


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Friday, April 12, 2013

Natural Born Skeptic: My Atheist Journey Part 2


Natural Born Skeptic

So there I was, a kid growing up in New York City in the 1990s, hailing from a secular home, and completely non-religious. I wasn’t all that different from my peers around me to be honest with you. New York is what I like to call the secular metropolis. Most of my peers and friends growing up weren’t religious at all. None of any of my close friends went to church. Belief in god and religion almost never came up in conversation. Looking back it seemed we were all a bunch of teenage nihilists, with a healthy rebellious spirit. We’d rather drink beer, talk about music and girls and ideas on how to get into trouble to keep us from being bored. Throughout all of my teen years I went through life basically living under the assumption of atheism. I seemed to have an intrinsic inclination towards the naturalistic worldview. I don’t recall ever believing that there were supernatural agencies at work behind anything that happened to me. I even thought that the spiritual idea of karma and the “what goes around, comes around” philosophy was nothing but wishful unsubstantiated nonsense. To me, things just happened, and it was foolish to look for a deeper intentional agency to explain what naturally occurred. When I got an outbreak of acne as a teenager, I didn’t go blaming it on god or karma; I blamed it on my genes that I inherited from my parents as the root cause. There was always a rational scientific explanation in my worldview.

There was one time when I was about 8 or 9 and was playing in the park that was part of the apartment complex I grew up in with the neighborhood kids and I remember this strange girl suddenly showed up. Her name was “Linda” and no one had ever seen her before.  She must’ve been visiting someone living nearby, perhaps a relative. I remember her trying to play with us and that all she wanted to talk about was god and that Jesus Christ died for our sins and how we all needed to recognize this amazing event. We weren’t particularly amused. At some point, I remember sitting down with her on one of the benches with my friends and I was spearheading a campaign of rationalism and doubt against her infatuation with the divinity of Jesus and her insistence that we all believe like her. My memories are a little fuzzy, but I recall that we went back and forth debating for hours until dusk that afternoon. Then there were other times when someone would make a speech about how karma rules the world, and I instinctually interjected with a dose of skepticism against such claims letting it be known that there was no such evidence to justify those beliefs. It seems that I was a natural born skeptic, or perhaps a natural born atheist. When Blasé Pascal spoke of the person who says to himself, “[I] am so made that I cannot believe”, he was speaking about people like me.

In high school I started hanging out with these kids who were wannabe Satanists. They were metal heads who fancied death metal and thrash metal and rejected most mainstream alternative and hard rock as being too “gay”. Although I never quite got into death metal, I started getting into Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and thoroughly enjoyed the caricatures they made about the religious right’s hypocrisy. In this new crowd that I hung out with, it was cool to hate on and make fun of religions like Christianity. I couldn’t have imagined what it would’ve been like to have been an actual practicing believer in god during those days. I would’ve most likely have had to keep those beliefs “in the closet” so to speak or else face the taunts and teases and possibility of being ostracized. But still, even in this anti religious environment in the late 1990s in high school, when death metal music and Marilyn Manson were at their peaks, I wasn’t at all a militant atheist. I never spoke adamantly about my lack of faith in god; I was never confrontational or tried to convert others to think like me. I pretty much kept my atheism to myself, only making it publicly known when the topic of god occasionally came up. But whenever god or religion did come up, I always remember expressing the voice of doubt towards anyone who even remotely believed.



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Monday, January 21, 2013

Nostalgia



I've always had a thing for nostalgia. As memories fade we often remember the past as being somewhat better that it actually was. For me there is no nostalgia for my youth. Adolescence for me was a very uncomfortable time and I would never want to go back to it. Instead, nostalgia for me is thinking about times before I was born, like Paris in the 20s or New York in the 1950s. It would be interesting to have been around to experience those times.

If I had been around in New York in the 1950s for example, I'd definitely want to absorb the beat culture happening in Greenwich Village at the time. I'd go to poetry readings and drink whiskey in smoke filled jazz clubs. I'd converse with bohemians, intellectuals and seek the comfort and hospitality of liberal women. It seemed like such a grand era. It was cheap to live in the city back then too, and more money could be spent on things that are important, like alcohol and nightlife. But, there are serious things to consider, such as the open racial and gender discrimination of the day. Alas, it will never be, but it is fun to fantasize.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer 2012




It is mid-September once again and you know what that means: summer is almost over. It seems that every year I feel the urge to announce this and wrap up the summer's events in a blog. So what can I say about the summer of 2012? Well, I can say that it has been somewhat of a more pleasant summer that many of recent past. This summer I had a lot more free time on my hands thanks to unemployment and that has been sort of a blessing considering how overworked I had become in the past 2 years.

I was partying just about every weekend this summer, taking advantage of the hot nights. In the spring me and some of the coworkers I had gotten along with started going out drinking every Friday night in the city and even to Brooklyn a few times. We had a lot of fun I must say, especially taking my friends to some of the hipster hangouts that I frequent. With my friends from outside of work, we did our share of partying, mainly on Saturday night. It is quite fun, I have to say, going out and living the party lifestyle, if only for the weekend. I do enjoy a fair share of the show-off factor in it, and by that I mean going out just to be seen at a cool place, or with cool people. Perhaps that's what summers in New York are for when you're still "young".



I did go camping a few weeks ago too as this has become an annual tradition. This time we had access to a car and drove deeper into the woods than we had gone before and explored some unchartered territory. We set up our tents and made a fire and we always do, and smoked weed and pigged out on our food. One of my friends was camping for the first time since he was a child and it was funny laughing at his inexperience and unique approach to many of its challenges. Like for one thing he bought all of his supplies at the super market right before we left which included a fresh pickle wrapped in plastic.

I started going to more MeetUp.com groups this summer with some of the atheist groups I've joined. I met some decent people who are as passionate about atheism as me and it's always interesting to discuss relevant topics. I went to another Mets game for free as I did last year, and I also went to a free concert in Brooklyn to see Antibalas, an afro-cuban funk band that I like whose lyrics are anti-corporate greed.



With my free time I don't think that I have used it as wisely as I could have. I made a list of things to focus on while unemployed which included not to give into apathy, but I haven't always succeeded. Perhaps the time I spend slaving away at work is truly putting my time to good use since without it I might otherwise be wasting it on unproductive nonsense.

I did go on several bike rides that were to places that I had been many times. I think I should be going to explore neighborhoods that are not so no predictable. I hear Prospect Park is quite nice. I wouldn't mind going there while the weather is still conducive to such activity. I have to say that a part of me was wishing for fall-like weather, partly because of the fact that I bought some jackets for the fall that I am wishing to put to use. We had a few cooler than normal days recently and that wish has suddenly dried up when realizing what cooler temperatures actually feel like. I want summer like weather for at least a few more weeks.

So as summer 2012 comes to an end I am again very typically longing for it to last just a bit longer. Summer can never be too long in my book. I can say that I had my share of fun this year, even though most of it now resides in the hazy, inebriated memories of many weekend nights, carousing through the streets and bars of the city. Here's to summer!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Generation Why?

I am now 30 years old. I don't know how it happened, but it did. My twenties somehow vanished. But I have the ability now to reflect back on 20 years of cultural change. I was reading recently about my generation, the so called "millennials", also known as Generation Y. No one fully agrees when the dates of any generation begin and end, but Generation Y usually begins around 1980 or 1981. I am very lucky to have been born just before the internet and cell phones became ubiquitous because a whole generation of teenagers now have no idea what it is like not to have the internet instantly at the tip of their fingers via a laptop, tablet, or smart phone.

Back in the early 1990s when I was a young tween, nobody had heard of the internet except for some of those deep in the IT industry. It has been said that this was the last era of innocence in the America. In order to get porn, we had to get our hands on a magazine, which wasn't always so easy, or we had to get access to the dirty channels on cable, which also wasn't so easy. Now all of that trouble is gone due to the internet. The early 90s was the last time when you didn't have mountains of information so easily accessible just like parents didn't have.

We didn't have cell phones either. If you wanted to call someone outside you needed a payphone and the person you were calling had to be home. I remember when the beeper was the hot must have item, especially among Hip Hop heads. Of coarse I never had one. When cell phones started becoming more popular around 2000, it changed everything. Suddenly you couldn't pretend to not be home or have missed the call. Now you were accessible where ever you were, and there was backlash against it. I remember not being the only person I hung out with who hated cell phones when they first came out. Not only did you have to overhear people's annoying conversations outside, they always seemed to interrupt at just the wrong moment. I got a cell phone relatively late compared to most of my friends because I held out for so long until finally realizing resistance was futile. Now I feel naked leaving home without one.

Culturally I remember the 90s through the lens of the Hip Hop culture of New York, that was pierced with grunge. Until the late 90s, I never paid much attention to any other music other than Hip Hop. For me most of the 90s was baggy pants, wannabe gangsta looks, fades, graffiti, Wu-tang Clan, and bike rides around my 'hood on my BMX. During my Jr. High School years I used to hang out with this older Romanian kid who had zits all over his face. He was a trouble maker who used to lie constantly to show off. Behind a hill we called Dead Man's Hill there was this abandoned lot a block from my house that the neighborhood kids and us used to break into. It had an abandoned gas station in it that you could go into and there was a tree with a rope hanging from it that you could swing from like Tarzan over a pit of broken glass and rocks. There were a lot of second generation Irish kids in the neighborhood back then that I used to know and occasionally hang out with. Most of them were troublemakers, who used to fight all the time and engage in petty vandalism. We'd smash out windows of the gas station, graffiti it up and occasionally light fires. It was like a shared club house. I never really liked any of them, and by the late 90s, most of them disappeared, probably having moved away in response to the neighborhood becoming more ethnic.

Throughout the 90s immigrants were moving in, mostly from East and South Asia and various parts of Latin America. I saw the neighborhood change from predominantly white in the early 90s, to predominantly Asian/Latino in the late 90s. When I was about 9 or 10 my best friend was this Korean kid who lived in my building. One day when we were hanging out in the lot near one of the many pits filled with broken glass and garbage and we ran into this huge group of older Korean teenagers. We befriended them and they told us stories of being jumped and having to fight with the white kids in the neighborhood who didn't like them. When I reflect back on these memories it's so weird, because today with how ethnically diverse Queens is, you would never imagine that happening, but back in the early 90s it was the reality for many of the first waves of immigrants who came to settle in the neighborhoods of Western Queens. I remember that day standing there, where all those Korean kids were standing on one side of the pit as if they were going to have their picture taken. I later found out that there were skin head gangs in New York back in the 90s. There was DMS the Doc Marten Skinheads, know for wearing Doc Marten boots. They mostly died out by the late 90s and I never ran into them. Had I been about 5 years older I might have known or seen some of them.

I remember growing up with Generation X in mind during the 90s. When I got to High School, my first encounter with metal and grunge culture enlightened me to a whole new lifestyle that I knew next to nothing about. I started hanging out with them and I learned about the music they listened to. Back then I thought this metal/grunge culture was very much a part of Gen X. Nirvana, although disbanded after the death of Kurt Cobain was still very popular, and it was Nirvana that I associated with Generation X more than any other. Gen X was the generation of not giving a shit about anything, of hating society, hating school, not conforming, and being nihilistic in every sense. I think of lot of us who came of age in the 90s identified with this ideology. Being at the cusp of Generation Y I feel halfway in between Y and X. I don't particularly feel like I belong to any generation to be honest, but Generation Y to me are all those 20 something hipsters you see in Williamsburg.

Characteristically Generation Y is said to be more socially conscious that its predecessor. Generation Y is Generation We, who cares about the environment, animals and social justice. It became cool to be active is some sort of positive social cause for change or justice. We are are clearly headed in the right direction if even a little bit, because as I've written before, the apathy of the black community in America is responsible for many of its cyclical problems: Let's hope that Generation X's apathy will not remain a long term generational practice. Furthermore since I'm political, I like being part of a generation that is socially conscious.

So when I reflect on my generation years from now what will I remember? I think Generation Y's care will have inspired the following generations to carry the torch, although I'm not all that concerned with it. I hope that the greedy corporate fucks who are running the show now, many of them Boomers, will die out as Generation X and Y replaces them with a more compassionate view of the world and the people in it. That's hope for you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Manifest Destiny


None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
 -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I've been increasingly complaining to friends on how I am currently dissatisfied with my life. Sure I appear to have plenty of fun debating the issues of the day, as well as the ones of years past. But with the pleasures of drinking and partying diminishing, and with discontent with my job and overall lifestyle growing, I have recently had a lot to reflect on. One downtrodden friend of mine, proclaims how lucky I am to even have a job in such hard times. He sounds as if he'd instantly switch places with me, and take my job in cubicle hell.

I, in a way, don't blame him, but rebut his ideas that having a job is anything good. I then wonder, why do feel the need to keep my job? Well the money first and foremost. I have to pay down my debts; I have to pay my rent and my other bills. It are these liabilities that I feel keep me in the mental bondage that is work. If only I were debt-free, if only I didn't have to pay rent or worry about money at all. If I could only somehow, live like a free-loading hippie, traveling where I want, being a political activist, or a champion for the atheist cause, with no rent to pay, or bills for that matter, maybe then I would be, are I say it, happy.

Is working in a cubicle for the next 40 years my idea of considered life? I don't hold on tightly to ideas that are against any form of structured work. There's nothing wrong with sitting in a cubicle if that's what one fancies. Perhaps if behind my desk I was writing for secular causes, or collaborating with link-minded individuals on such matters, I wouldn't be so discontent.

It deeply scares me that I might have to sit in a cubicle for even just another 5 years laboring towards something I don't really care about, and around people I don't really care to be around. The problem I have is that the things I am most passionate about, are not really things that make one particularly wealthy, apart from a select few. Sometimes I think, that if only I was one of those Wall Street types, preoccupied with money and financial markets, I would be able to maximize my passion and get ridiculously wealthy off of it. But such is not my character; I detest those greedy Wall Street, money market schemers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years After Septermber 11th


The ten year anniversary of September 11th is upon us. I knew I had to write a blog about my past reflections on the event. I was deeply touched by the events of that day and it had a huge effect on my viewpoints. The following is description on what I did that day and my life ....

At the end of the summer of 2001, I had enrolled in classes at LaGuardia Community college not far from where I live. I was 19 years old and was in search for some direction. I was also unemployed, virtually broke, and of course living with my mother. At LaGuardia, I was going to pursue a liberal arts curriculum, in hopes that somewhere along the line I would find a subject that I could make into my career.

My first day of college was September 10th. I remember I had grown my hair out long to look like the old school rock stars that I admired. I get to class and see that there is a friend from high school sitting in the back, and I sit next to him and we talk. We are shocked to hear from the professor, that the curriculum will be about hip hop music. After class we take a subway to forest hills to buy the textbook for the class, The Vibe History of Hip Hop, and talk about our lives since graduating high school the year before.

The next day of class is September 11th. I walk to the 52nd street train stop of the number 7 line. The station is angled just so that the World Trade Center is directly down the tracks. I can see that the north tower is up in smoke and I assume it is a fire. I remember seeing an old Asian lady point at the towers saying "oh my god". I didn't really even think about it that much and assumed that it was probably a fire. I take the train and get to class. I remember hearing from the professor say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but class continued as normal.

I can't remember if class dismissed early, but shortly thereafter, I remember my friend and I going to get our college ID cards in the basement. While on line, I remember hearing a woman who worked at the college screaming and running down the hall. We get a glimpse of the TV in one of the offices and it says that both World Trade Center Towers have collapsed. I am completely shocked at this moment and everyone is now talking about it. I get my ID card and my picture is taken at a moment just after the towers collapsed. I still have this ID card.

After we get our IDs the college is full of people talking about the news. The subways and buses are all not running and so we are forced to walk home. Gazing towards the location of the World Trade Center, we can see the wall of dust that are the remnants of the towers, being pushed towards the south east towards Brooklyn.

I get home and I turn on the TV and watch it for the rest of the day. My mom who has just woken up is shockingly unimpressed by the terrorist attacked and by the end of the day she is actually tired of all the new coverage. That's my mom for you.

The news did its job of dramatizing the events of that day. America was forever changed, but New York City was changed even more. It was here that the most dramatic and deadliest outcome of that day unfolded. My fellow classmates and I had developed a sort of bond because of the tragic events.

Now 10 years later I can reflect back on that day. The rebuilding is underway, after a long delay. I have to say that I am quite impressed with the new World Trade Center design. I hate to say it but, I actually like the new design better than the twin towers. I felt the twin towers were actually simplistically bland. They were icons of the boxy international style that was so popular after World War II. The new towers are sleek, glass emeralds. Post modern complexions, yet relatively simple at the same time. I am particularly excited about Tower 2, with its 4 diamonds slicing the building diagonally. I cannot wait until it's all finished.

Tower 2:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer 2011


We are in the midst of a sweltering typically New York City heat wave. Temperatures are in the high 90s and the humidity is not much lower. So far summer has been nothing but work. Last weekend I slept in and didn't even go out. I was just too damn tired. I realize now what a stupid decision that was. Summer will be over before I know it, and I should spend every free day I have out enjoying life and the outdoors even if it is by myself.

Work is still sucking my life and time away. I have money now so I can't complain, but it seems that I have no time to spend it. It's such a catch 22: last summer I was unemployed and had little money, but I had all the time in the world to hang out and enjoy my life. This summer I have plenty of spending money but I'm working like a dog, and it seems like I have no time to spend it, let alone enjoy it.

Weekends seem to disappear over night. Before I know it, it's Monday morning and time to go to work. I even have to work on the weekend sometimes. It is such a horrible wager to make. Be broke, or be busy all the time.

I'm going to Washington D.C. in the end of August, I'll take a flight over to Oregon after that. Something to look forward to but not much. I need to get out more, but my job pretty much ruins the possibility of doing anything on the weekday. I remember back when I used to be a security guard and I worked 40 hours a week. This was the summer of 2005. I remember that summer as been a particularly fun summer mostly because I discovered this bar called Lit in the East Village and it was a particularly good spot for easy hook ups. But I can't remember what I did on work nights. I assume I mostly went home, I think a few nights I went out or hung out in friend's houses. I smoked a lot of pot back then so memory is a bit hazy.

It's mid-summer and so far the fun has yet to begun.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Thinker


As the Sun sets over the Secular Metropolis, the thinker begins his blog, eyes glued to the screen of his laptop, fingers sweaty from their constant contact with the keyboard. What is on his mind that is so important to write about? It is his obsession with New York? His passion for Atheism? His analysis of social dynamics? His love of science? Maybe all of the above.

I love writing in the third person. It requires a bit more thinking when writing about yourself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manhattan Memories


Back in the 1990s when I was a fledgling teenager, my father used to live on east 15th street in Manhattan. Since my parents had divorced, I'd go and visit him sometimes on the weekends. He lived in this tiny railroad apartment in a prewar, 6 story walk up that was so old and rickety, the floors and walls were literally caved in. There was this sense that the whole building could collapse at any moment. There was never any sun light that shined through the windows because there was another building about 6 feet away. This meant you had to keep the lights on even in the middle of the day. Depressing at this may sound, what made up for it was the fact that right outside was downtown Manhattan.

My father had close friend who had two sons a little younger than me. He had an Italian wife and they lived in Stuyvesant Town just a few blocks away. They were a typical Manhattan family, politically liberal and cultured, although they were not quite yuppies. This was the mid 1990s, back when a working class blue collar family could afford to live in Manhattan. We would all get together, sometimes accompanied with my dad's girlfriend, and go do things in the city. We'd go to the South Street Sea Port, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Museums. Sometimes we'd just walk around downtown and take in outdoor street festivals and shows. We'd always eat out at restaurants. They were good times. There was always an exciting cultural event that was going on. After all, this was Manahattan, and rarely ever a let down.

I have few pictures from that era; this was the days before digital cameras. I do have memories however. There were these neighborhood kids several years older than me who we knew that would hang out on the stoops of the apartments. They were Latino, new-yoricans, most likely. Downtown kids, before it became so fashionable. We went to Katz Deli over on Houston street, and my dad, always the outgoing one, would joke about the orgasm scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally that was filmed there. We'd go to Greenwich Village when it was still very bohemian and absorb the culture. I think one time we even went during the gay pride week or parade and my dad's Irish girlfriend pointed out a bald headed man in full drag. "Only in New York" she commented. We all laughed.

I was along for the ride. My dad would pick me up in Queens and drive me to the city. We did an awful lot of driving around the city back then come to think of it. My dad after all was a limousine driver. That Lincoln Town Car I remember took us so many miles.

We'd all go out to Veniero's on 11th street and indulge in the Italian pastries while making a lot of noise. We'd walk out into the hot summer night air feeling a little relieved, still cold from the air conditioning. The hustle and bustle of the city providing the ambiance around us. Summer nights in the city when you're a teenager, so many unforgettable memories.

And it was all so secular. Religion was never a part of our adventures on the town. There was never any church or inculcation into any faith. We seemed like a bunch of secular humanists/cosmopolitan New Yorkers. There was a slight Buddhist/Hindu element from my dad's side, but never anything actual meditation or chanting. It was more like the occasional wishing to an unknown energy that you'd strike it rich. It was more like the self-serving god than anything real, whether tangible or otherwise. The secular element made it that so much better. There was no religion trying to make me feel guilty or for me to rebel against. There were no forced rituals or scriptural memorization. Religion simply just wasn't there. Thank god for that.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New York: A Love/Hate Relationship


I'm going crazy because of work. I am working 11 hour days and getting barely half of that in sleep every night. Everyday I commute into the city, packed into to a train like a Sardine. I take an elevator up to the 23rd floor. The view from up there isn't as spectacular as you would think. Then I do the same routine on the way back home.

I know that in New York you have to work hard. I love this city but the amount of time you have to work is draining me on my life and energy. I almost long for a slower paced, hippie retreat in the middle of nowhere.

But, I still love this city. I still love its energy. Maybe the reason I have no energy is because the city is absorbing all of mine? I was watching some old newsreels about New York. They're fun to watch. Newsreels were shown in movie theaters during the intermission. It's interesting to watch these old newsreels to see how things were way back when.

In one called City of Magic from 1956, you can hear the narrator's enthusiasm for the big apple. I too carry that enthusiasm for New York tucked under my jaded expression. I know if I move away, I will get that longing for New York that I've had on extended trips away. New York was the biggest city in the world at that time, an unrivaled metropolis. It had to tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building. The city must have exhilarated so many imaginations and thrilled so many hearts back then, as it still does today.



Transportation in New York back in the 1950s:



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Urbanology


I am still obsessed with cities for some reason. Being that I live in one of the greatest, I love to compare it to others. One new sites I found allows you to take panoramic "virtual tours" from aerial shots of different point over New York City and other cities around the world. Check it out, it's pretty fun to play with if you're into seeing the city from above.

http://www.pixelcase.com.au/

http://www.pixelcase.com.au/vr/2009/newyork/

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Queens...


From Queens, the city is an emerald shining from afar. The early morning rays of a golden Sun glisten on thousands of tiny mirrors and reflect back at you. They are a mere twinkle in your eye. The pointy peaks and angled canopies of this metal forest get bigger as you approach aboard a rickety silver machine, passing ethnic neighborhoods as diverse as the world itself. There's the China-man standing next to you with the horrible breath, the Ecuadorian bundled up in a hoodie, face barely visible, the red-headed Mormon reading the Book of Latter Day Saints. You are all headed into the Emerald city to perform some seemingly necessary function that keeps it well oiled and operational. You look around. Some are yuppie suits with office jobs. Others work in restaurants, or in retail. As the train rattles over its skeletal bridge, you glance down at the morning paper with barely enough room to hold it in front of you. This could be any day, why does it have to be today? Your iPod is almost dying. Why does it have to be now? The doors open and let out the masses. Finally you have a chance to read the paper properly. You glance to your peripheral vision. Could this be a seat that has opened up? No, it's too good to be true. It'll be snatched up before you walk over to it. But it isn't. It's still available. You hesitate. Do you really need it as much as the old lady who just walked in? Why don't you let her have it? Keep reading the paper. There a conflict in Korea. The economy still stinks. You think about your job for a moment. Could it be worse not having one? Could you actually be the lucky one who is going to a job? Could your reality be someone else's dream? Then suddenly you realize you're not in Queens anymore. You're in the city. Hurry up and get to work young man, you'll be late.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Same Faces Everyday


It's strange how you can see the same people everyday on the subway in such a large city like New York. I used to think that everyday I saw different people on my commute to work. I usually don't notice who I ride the train with, but recently I have started to see the same people on the subway everyday. I've gone through this routine of riding the train into the city every morning, so many times. I've almost always worked in Manhattan. However, it hasn't been until now, that I've started to notice the same faces on the train on my way into Manhattan.

There are so many immigrants where I live, mostly Asians and Latinos. They seem almost in a way, anonymous to me. Most of them are the rednecks of their country, if you will. They are from the countryside and rural areas. They come here to work, many of them illegally. Most are totally out of style, and can't speak english. They are the type of people that I usually never notice. They all look similar, and they all look different at the same time.

7 million riders everyday.

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