In defense of the arts… in schools

These are dark days for artists and the arts. By “artists” and “the arts” I do not mean the avant-garde stereotype of indulgent silliness. Someone overturning a silverware drawer into the opening of a piano and calling it “music.” A few haphazard strings of glass and feather collected on a coathanger presented as “sculpture.”

No, I’m talking about some of the highest forms of human expression. Music. Painting. Sculpture. Literature. Dance. Theatre. The most elevated means of creativity known to mankind. Slowly and almost certainly being pushed further and further back from the forefront of our collective thought.

What is the cause of this? What has prompted this retreat from the more sublime manifestations of our culture? Don’t we understand what such a withdrawal means — if not to our civilization as a whole but to our very souls? Indeed, without art, the crudeness of reality makes the world unbearable.

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Advice to people who argue like jerks

Talking-News-Heads

While visiting my brother I found myself flipping through channels in the ninth circle of Hell (otherwise known as cable news). Two guests were debating about the latest public policy or gossip column. Pundit A let me know that Pundit B hates the truth. Pundit B told me about the secret “WAR on _____” (You haven’t heard of that war yet? Because you’re probably fighting it.) The host “moderates” the discussion by provoking one or both guests, stating something that’s phrased as a question, but I’m not too sure is an actually query (e.g. “How could a decent human being possibly support what you believe?”). Everyone’s screaming, so I turned back to Adventure Time.

Do you think I’m being sarcastic? (Okay, maybe just a little.) But I know that as sure as God made little green apples, some of you’ve experienced this same disbelief in the state of public debate. Even if, like me, you really aren’t a much of a TV viewer, just go on your Facebook and check out any thread with over 30 comments. Yeah, you get it now.

What’s most painful for me is when I find myself ironically cussing at the tube. Or, writing a 2,000 word essay telling someone on the Internet that they are wrong. As much as I hate it, I am very much the problem that I want to solve.

It seems like peaceful, dissenting discourse proves itself more challenging by the day. A recent story in The Atlantic magazine about Frank Luntz, a veteran political consultant, illuminates the increasing divide between Americans, as well as the nature of the conversation. Luntz says Americans “want to impose their opinions, rather than express them,” and asks if political conversation had always been controversial. Maybe so, but not like this… not like this.

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Looking back on 10 years of Facebook

9 Years of Facebook

When I first joined Facebook in 2004, I didn’t think much of it… basically it had all the flair of a business card. You couldn’t “Like” anything on someone else’s profile page. During the first few years there was no “neutral” area (now referred to as a News Feed), you could only view your own profile page (or “Wall” as it was termed then), and you couldn’t even post photos.

In those bygone days Myspace (which had a lot more bells and whistles) was king of the nascent social media upswell. Twitter had not yet made a peep. Google was just a search engine, without the Plus. But social media sites as a whole were still a tad on the fringe then, as most people seemed to prefer blogs and message boards. My, what a difference 10 years makes.

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You’re only as good as the good you do

All my life I’ve had people building me up. Whether it was my mom telling me how I was most brilliant boy in the entire neighborhood, or the well-meaning teachers telling me to believe in myself and I could accomplish anything.

But, now that I am a man, the people I am most thankful for are the ones who 1.) assured me that I was nowhere near as accomplished as I could (or should) be, and 2.) upbraided me for squandering my God-given potential to simply “coast” or settle for the bare minimum.

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