Tuesday, July 8, 2014

France is Out, but Zidane Still Rules!

My favourite foreign football team France is unfortunately out of the World Cup. However, we can all have some Zidane fun!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lady Gaga's Latest Stunt is Stupid

Lady Gaga is known for her outrageous stunts. But even by Gaga's old standards, the latest one is very sick - literally. At her recent South by Southwest performance, she had a performer vomit green slime all over her.

Firstly, I don't know why anyone would want to watch this. It has only made me like Gaga even less, and I don't think I can listen to any of her songs in the same way ever again.

And then there's also the glamourising eating disorders issue. That is also unforgivable, in my opinion. I think she owes the public an apology over this, at least. Maybe she can make amends by doing something for the cause of preventing and treating eating disorders, like making a PSA.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Princess Spirit that Does Not Grow Old

When I was younger, a friend and I had a discussion about what it means to be a princess, or what their essential spirit is. We were not talking about princesses of royal families in real life of course, we were talking about mythological princesses who were also often heroines in one way or another. We came up with a list that was something like the following:

1) Belief in one self's ability to make things right in the end.
2) Never giving in despite the odds being against you.
3) Being proud of your sense of style, even if others don't like it.
4) Never change who you are, even if others bully you for it.
5) Loving life, and loving the people around you.
6) Helping those less fortunate around you. Sometimes this requires courage too.

My friend and I agreed to keep ourselves up to these pillars of princessdom. As we grew up, some of these things were sorely tested along the way. Many people gave up on these ideas. But not me. The more they were tested, the tighter I held on to them. Eventually, I realised that these were great pillars of life that can apply to many situations, including all the new challenges that were ahead of me personally, and ahead of us as a society.

The princess spirit never grew old for me. It never will either.

Here's some musical inspiration - especially for point 5 above

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Applaud Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s Decision to Veto Anti-Gay Bill

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed a controversial bill that had passed a few days previously, which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay people, on the basis of religious beliefs.

Whilst I have rarely agreed with Governor Brewer in the past, I applaud her decision this time.

The bill was just morally unacceptable, in my opinion. There are absolutely no religious beliefs that require a person to refuse to serve gay people that I am aware of. There are people with religious beliefs that oppose gay weddings being held in their church, but no country in the world has made that kind of 'service' compulsory for any church to offer to anyone in the first place.

Therefore, let me put it bluntly - the bill was all about being mean to gay people, in my opinion. It's not acceptable to me morally, and I believe it's not acceptable to many people morally. If this doesn't deserve a veto, I don't know what does.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Facebook Distorts the World

Most of us have Facebook. You probably have one. And many people log onto Facebook multiple times a day. You probably do, or you may know somebody who does.

But paying too much attention to Facebook may not be that healthy.

In an ideal world, people would post their happy moments as well as their problems in life to share with friends. However, many people like to look better than they really feel in life. Therefore, many people only share the best moments in their life. As a result, there are often way too many picture perfect lives in Facebook Land.

Don't feel like you need to live up to those picture perfect lives. They don't exist in reality.

On another note, I wonder what part of human nature has caused this phenomenon? What's the shame in sharing the less glamorous moments of your life, I wonder?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Things to Do for Success

Every now and then, we need some motivation to carry on. So here's something my friend and I want to share with you. Success in life doesn't come quickly, but if we do these three things right, it will come eventually.

1) Start Working ASAP
Many dreams and goals in the modern world require complex navigation to achieve. This has meant that some people plan obsessively. But this wastes your time. When you move forward with your project, whatever it is, you will find out more about it. By the time you get some significant progress, things may have changed so much that your plans have become irrelevant. So have rough outline type plans to guide yourself wherever you are going, but never plan obsessively.

2) Stay the Course
As we all know, dreams take long to achieve, and they take even longer in this complex and big modern world of ours. We must keep ourselves motivated enough to stay the course, which can be many years. Or else, we would just have a long list of uncompleted projects and goals.

3) Keep a Firm Eye on the Target
As we come across barrier after barrier and detour after detour, it is easy to lose sight of our actual target and get distracted by other things. We need to remind ourselves to keep a firm eye on our actual target, and brush aside things like irrelevant comments, difficult people and unfair circumstances (as long as not grossly unfair enough to warrant a complaint). These things should not be able to stop us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's a Long Ride: Living the Practical Life whilst Chasing your Dreams

When you were younger, you could have all these wild dreams about the future. But then, you also needed to deal with the reality of what was then right now - schoolwork, exams, all the practical stuff associated with your life at the time. After all, if you failed that test, your parents would likely give you a hard time, and you didn't want that.

Now that you are an adult, it's a similar situation. In parallel with dreaming big and trying to achieve your dreams, you also need to take care of things like making ends meet and paying bills. It's just how life is. It's just that these things have replaced your schoolwork and exams as the things you 'just need to do' in life.

Don't let all these things drag you down though. Although like school you need to do these things 'well enough' to avoid trouble, you shouldn't let your spirit of dreaming get tarnished by any setbacks in these practical everyday things. After all, a poor score on one test at school didn't affect your dreams about the future, right?

Another thing is that, for dream chasing young adults these days, 'settling down' has become a thing of the past. The practical realities of the biological clock and dreams taking longer to come true means that we often will need to think about starting families before the dreams in life have come true. However, starting a family doesn't mean we need to adopt the 'settling down' philosophy of previous generations. To us, the duties and hard work associated with starting a family is just another thing we have to juggle in life, on the long road towards achieving our dreams.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Taking your Dreams Outside of the System

As we discussed in the last section, the world, when taken as a whole, can often be seen as being run by one big impersonal and unemotional system that 'just works' but will sometimes quash your dreams without even trying. Realising this, one great way to protect and nurture your dreams is to take as much of it 'outside the system' as possible.

But what is 'in the system' and what is 'outside the system'? Anything that requires input or approval from established interests as an essential ingredient for success is relying on part of 'the system', I believe. If your life goals are that you want to travel the world or write a novel that other people will want to read, they really don't rely much on any company, government or any established interests, if you think about it. Surely, it may take some time and money, but you can work towards it with your own effort. But if you dream relies on a series of promotions within a corporate or political hierarchy, then they essentially rely on the decisions of powerful people in charge of different parts of the system. I am not saying that those dreams are any less valid, it's just that putting all your dreaming eggs in a basket like those is a big risk to take in life. It essentially sets you up to have a high risk of being quashed in spirit.

Fortunately, there are many ways of achieving the same kind of dream in this world, and usually not all of them need to involve 'the system' that much. For example, if your dream is to 'make a difference in the technology world', you can either work for a tech company, hope to climb up the ranks there, and eventually influence the kind of products it makes or the ethics it conducts its business by. But another way of doing it is to learn some programming yourself, and write and release your own dream software. Yet another way is by starting a tech blog, and sharing around ideas that may help shape the tech sphere. The difference is that first way relies on the system, and the other two ways don't. You mileage may vary even with the two ways that don't rely on the system, but it's not like another year without a promotion can quash your spirit so easily. In this world where dreams take so long to achieve, it's really an advantage not to be subjected to barrier after barrier where you may be quashed by the system each time.

I am not saying that you should give up your dreams that are somewhat tied to the system. What I am saying is that, you may need to develop other dreams in parallel, if your primary dream is tied to the system. This way, your dreaming spirit cannot be easily quashed by some random corporate decision, perhaps caused by some random economic event. This alone will make you feel much better about yourself in the longer run, trust me.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Music I Love: Taylor Swift - White Horse

When Does Somebody Become Old?

So where do we draw the line between 'young' and 'old'? Is it 25? 30? 40? 50? Or 60?

I actually believe being old is not a number, but a life stage you enter when you are ready to. When 25 year olds get told that they are old, it often causes a crisis (as we have been talking about so far). When 40 year olds get told that they are old, it doesn't cause such a major crisis usually, but they surely don't like it much either. But when a 70 year old gets told that they are old, chances are that they would be willing to accept it as a matter of fact. The typical 70 year old doesn't enjoy the physical limitations of being old, like lower mobility, back pain and having to take their medication every day, but they are probably not that bothered to be considered by society as old people.

I believe people are content to accept the label 'old' when they are ready. This would be when they have done what they set out to do in life, and have played the role they were born to play. This surely can be said of most 70 year olds out there, hence their contentment with being old. At 40, chances are that you have only very partially achieved the above contentment, hence you don't want to be old yet. At 25, chances are that you haven't even fully explored your dreams and your own narrative in life, to be told that you are old is like being told that life is almost over even before it really had a chance to bloom. In other words, you are old and are contented to be so when you feel that you have done your life's work. To tell a 25 or a 40 year old that they are old is simply illogical and cruel, even if that is what our media is effectively saying.

Old is settled, content and accomplished then. The opposite of 'old' is 'young'. If that's the case, then young must carry with it ideas of being unsettled, not yet content and wanting more in life. Because being old is settled and content, it is calm and charming in its own way, and not only the people who are ready to be old can appreciate that, we the not-yet-old can also appreciate these qualities in old people. Because being young is unsettled and unsatisfied, it carries with it an energy to do things, an energy to dream, an energy to achieve. In other words, the state of being 'young' carries with it the required energy to do what it takes to become accomplished and contented in life, and when the work is done, this energy ceases and is replaced by a calm contented feeling that is the state of being 'old'. In life, if you want to live it fully, first you need to be young and fully embrace that spirit of being young by embracing your dreams and going for it with all your energy. Then, when your life's work is done, you will enter into a contented old age. The more you are able to embrace being young, the more you are able to have a contented, golden old age.

Therefore it is important for young people to embrace being young, and it is truly toxic that some sections of the culture are making them feel old. This is why we must fight back against the distortion.

30 is the new 20, we often people say. And 40 is the new 30 too, apparently. Many people have laughed at these slogans, as if they are silly things people say. After all, physically 30 cannot really be the new 20, right? And a 40 year old will always look and function like a 40 year old, no matter if it's 2014, 1984 or 1954, right? They are just thing people say to cope with getting older in a youth obsessed culture, making this difficult reality easier to swallow, right?

Physically, thirty is the new twenty really makes no sense, I agree. But socially, it makes perfect sense. Why? As we concluded in the last section, people need to be 'young' so that they have the energy to achieve their life's work, and then when they feel accomplished they can enter old age contentedly. In a previous section we also concluded that people actually generally take longer to find their dreams, to work towards their goals, and to do their life's work to their contentment. That naturally means that people NEED to remain in the state of being young for a longer period than ever before in human history. A longer life expectancy has made that convenient too, but the driver behind this really is the delay in being accomplished in this day and age, rather than the fact that many people live into their 80s and beyond.

Many people have a strong reluctance, consciously or subconsciously, to embrace this concept of an extended youth. After all, this goes against our logical upbringing. Many things in this world have an absolute value that is objective and unchanging. Your ten dollar note cannot be extended into twenty dollars after all. This leads many people to think that any extension in the state of being young is purely wishful thinking from those who do not want to age gracefully. But as we have established, the states of being 'young' and 'old' shouldn't be defined by absolute numbers, but should be seen as two different life stages. Unlike your age, which is a simple mathematical calculation whose formula stays constant throughout history, life stages are relative, and in different periods of human history, different life stages have emerged (and more rarely some have been erased). The life stage of being a teenager, for example, only emerged during the last century, even though it seems to be just part of common sense nowadays. Even though it wasn't there for most of human history, for our generation the extended youth is real - you can embrace it, or if you don't, you will be forcing yourself to grow old before your time, a truly bitter experience.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taylor Swift as a Countercultural Icon?

Taylor Swift was definitely a special artist for me. I didn't notice it back when I first learnt about her, but I did notice it as soon as early 2009, when she first became popular worldwide. There was something that made her different, although I couldn't quite pinpoint it.

Then in 2011, Amity Shlaes, writing in Bloomberg (Read here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-01/taylor-swift-as-counterculture-icon-for-teens-commentary-by-amity-shlaes.html), proclaimed Taylor to be a 'Counterculture Icon for Teens'. I personally think she put it quite well in that article. Most music was "anti-parent, or at least parent-free", Shlaes explained, and that "most parents have assumed there was nothing you could change about this dynamic". At that end of the article, having examined Taylor Swift's pro-family style and her popularity, Shlaes concluded that "maybe the professional entertainers held sway too long".

Taylor Swift is what a popular cultural icon should be like, to me, and to many other people. Of course, there will always be those who prefer people like Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Rihanna and the like, but to me, it's just normal human nature to prefer someone like Taylor Swift over them.

So do I agree that Taylor Swift can be seen as a Countercultural Icon? Yes and No. What she does can seem countercultural at times, compared to the 'norm' out there. But then, it's probably because the 'norm' has been distorted. Rather than being countercultural, I suggest that Taylor Swift represents a return to what normal everyday people desire to see in their entertainment scene, taking back power from those who have too long controlled the scene and think they know what's best.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How a Tweet got One Direction's Liam Payne Misunderstood

I don't watch things like Duck Dynasty, but many people do, and many are big fans of the show. Which is understandable - some people do like that sort of thing. One of them is One Direction's Liam Payne, apparently.

After Willie's father, Phil, made some anti-gay comments in an interview with GQ magazine last month, praising Duck Dynasty's people in public has become a no-no in some sections of the community. Recently, Liam tweeted to Willie Robertson, saying 'huge love to you/your family huge respect for your business prosperities and the family values you still all behold'. This did not go down well with some sections of the internet. Some people went on and on about how disappointed with Liam they were.

Liam clarified himself later. "Being a fan of someones show and the way they still hold a family together doesnt mean i am ok with all they say," he wrote. But some people still weren't satisfied.

I am heartened to see people take a stand against homophobia, as always. But I think in this instance some people have gone a little bit overboard. I mean, I do trust that Liam didn't mean to support homphobia, it's hard to believe otherwise really. So why are some people not letting this go? It's as if nobody can say anything remotely controversial nowadays (except when it relates to drug use). It's sad, really.

Equally saddening is some people's picking on Liam's use of the 'buzzword' family values. I mean, I understand that the fundamentalist right version of 'family values' wasn't exactly gay inclusive, but haven't we moved beyond that? Family values can be inclusive of everyone, and that is the kind of family values I subscribe to myself. Indeed, it is family values that are driving me to put marriage equality at the top of my political priorities. Please don't hate on 'family values' just because some people have distorted it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You Need a Roadmap, and Some Priorities

With dreams taking longer than ever to achieve, the ride can seem long and dark at times. Having an all or none approach can add to this. This is where you have one big end goal, which probably won't be achieved until 10 or 20 years later. Meanwhile, you will have a decade or two of feeling not achieved, desperately asking 'are we there yet'. This could be enough to zap your spirit out before you can get to the end.

Therefore, there are two things I wouldn't recommend a person to set out on their journey of dreams without: a roadmap, and a sense of priorities.

The first thing is to get your priorities right. You want that package that is your ultimate goal at the end, but you have to decide which parts of it you really want the most, and which parts of it must come before the others. Set out on achieving these first.

Say your goal is to live in New York City and write a book about it. However, you currently live in a small town in New Zealand, and don't even have the money to travel to New York to have a look at the place. Your two first goals may be to familiarise yourself with New York, its landmarks, its culture and the way people think about it, and get a higher paying job so you can save some money for your eventual move. With the internet nowadays, it is very easy to get somewhat familiar with big global destinations like New York. You can get familiar with where things are in the city for a start. Google maps or any other mapping application can be useful for that. You may try to get into Street View and 'walk' a block or two to get a sense of how the places connect together on the street level. You would also try to read the many articles people write about New York. Articles like 50 Things I Love About New York or 40 Reasons to Hate New York, or even things like 30 Signs You Grew Up in Manhattan can be very useful sources of information for you. It will take years to go through all of that and get it absorbed into your brain, trust me. Meanwhile, during your day, you may like to start looking for a job if you don't already have one, or look for a second job or a higher paying one. You may decide to return to education so that you can get even higher paying jobs later on.

Then you need to draw up a roadmap. Using the example above, once you have saved some money, your next step may be to move to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, to get a feel of how city life is like. Auckland may be a lot smaller than New York, but it has skyscrapers, international food and lots of business activity, some of the experiences you will find in New York. It may help you get used to New York when you eventually get there. An alternative would be to take a two month holiday in a nearby large multicultural city like Sydney, Australia, which also has all these things, perhaps on a slightly larger scale. Meanwhile, you will want to continue to connect with the cultural phenomenon that is New York. You may want to watch so many New York movies that you become so familiar with the settings you can point to where they are exactly on a map. You may want to make some New York friends online. When you feel you have enough knowledge and connection to New York, perhaps you can start writing parts of your book. You will have to modify and rewrite parts of it when you actually get to see the place, but it's great to make a start when you already have something to write.

Eventually, your dream may be achieved in a similar fashion to your roadmap plan, or maybe not. Maybe you'll find something even more suitable in your life. But in any case, none of it goes to waste, and every bit of it would have helped coloured your life vividly. Twenty years down the line, it's quite likely you would have lived in New York and finished your book. Or alternatively, you may have decided to just settle in Auckland, but have a cultural connection to New York. By then you might have already seen the city on two or three different trips there during your annual leaves, paid for with the money you saved over the years. Although you didn't write a book about living in New York, you did write a book about your connection to New York and your opinions about the city as a New Zealander, an even more unique thing. You might have also written another book about living in Auckland, or perhaps a book comparing and contrasting the two cities. Either way, the dream did not go to waste.

One important thing is that you enjoy the process as much as the outcome. In my example above, there would be new experiences and inspirations every year along the way. It's not the final act of moving to New York (or not) that mattered, it's the knowledge, experiences and friendships gained over the years that were the main gains from this big dream.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When the World will not Accept that 'You are Special'

Unfortunately, even if you believe that you are special, it doesn't follow that everyone will believe the same about you. In fact, it is almost ridiculous to expect the big machine that is 'the system' to believe that anybody is special, when it clearly functions more like robot than human.

Even if you have it resolved that you are special and you are going to embrace it, the world will still pour buckets of cold water onto your flame from time to time.

I believe the best solution to this problem is to continue to do the work you need to do, whilst ignoring this kind of critique. It's like how you dealt with the school teacher who never liked you, who would find opportunities to criticise you whenever he could. I think the best attitude to have to those parts of the world which insist on treating you like nothing special is the same attitude you had to this teacher. You still had to do the assignments and tests in his class, but you knew what he said was usually irrelevant. You did the work in his class well enough, but you avoided letting his critiques get to you.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Friday, January 3, 2014

You ARE Special - Reasons to Remind Yourself

You are special, and you were born to do some special work in this life. You are the way you are because there is some special work out there that requires someone like you to do it. Without you, that piece of the puzzle will be missing.

Your are special because you are special to someone. It may be your partner, your parents, or somebody you will meet in the future. It may even be someone you don't know - but they know you, and cherish your existence.

You are special, because no other mind in the world thinks and works in the same way, and has the same material (experiences and memories) to work on. As a result, no other mind will have the same output on a given topic.

You are special, and the world would be missing a unique part of its richness if you did not exist. It would be like a colourful quilt made up of pieces of different colours, but one piece was missing. Wouldn't it be sad?

Even your imperfections are unique, and they make you even more special. Only with your imperfections you could have experienced the world in this particular way, and have the particular memories you have. You can then use that experience to help other people, especially others with the same imperfections.