promises are kept

thoughts from the mind of Mitch Brown

Month: June, 2012

You should support my blog and a few words on writing.

I’ve been doing this blog since May, and the reaction has been minimal. I would really like more feedback. If you see something that catches your eye, comment on it, and remember, you don’t have to agree with me; I welcome the presentation of a counterpoint. I really need as much support as possible. If you like what you see, you should share the link on your Facebook. If you are on Word Press, you should follow this blog or mention it and provide a link to it on your own blog.

 So why did I start this blog? To be honest, I’m trying to become a blog star, and secondly, I am compulsed to write, and it’s been like that for some time. On my way to class, while sitting in the laundromat, or lying awake in bed, drifting off to sleep, I’m arranging sentences, paragraphs, nouns, adverbs, etc. etc. in my head. My writing is pre mediated in my head before it ever spills out onto the page. It’s like even if I am physically separated from a keyboard, I am still mentally connected to one.

 I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a writer first and a journalist second. Journalism has a certain set of rules that differs from what someone would write for an essay. I don’t think most people are able to easily switch writing styles. (And still keep them straight) You can teach someone proper grammatical rules, but teaching those rules does not guarantee someone will become a good writer. 

 When I took Comp I, we had to put some of our rough drafts online, so fellow students in the class could comment, and I remember this one guy’s writing was absolute shit, not because it was chalked full of grammatical errors. His writing was lifeless, written in a dull prose. He wrote about a day at the beach, but it read more like an instruction manual.  A good writer is extracting something internal or intrinsic and leaving it on the page, and a select few have the gift. You can’t extract something that isn’t there.

 I do a lot of metacognition and self-analysis, and I’ve realized I view the world through gifted, unsympathetic eyes. My outlook is “I did it, why can’t you?” Oh yeah, that’s right, we don’t all have the same aptitudes and talents, so much for the Tabula Rasa personality theory and egalitarianism.

 At this point, nothing angers me more than the promotion of egalitarianism. It’s a bullshit notion that flies in the face of empirical data. It’s a philosophy that denies and downplays innate and intrinsic traits that differ from person to person, traits that could serve as an advantage or disadvantage in certain areas and situations. No, not everyone can be anything they want to be. A retard is not going to be able to work for NASA, and the reason why is biological and genetic. If you are going to take a look at the human race, in its entirety, you cannot discount and dismiss such things. (And still get an accurate picture)  

 I once had someone look over my writing and say “I wish I could write like that.” So how is that I became such a proficient writer. One reason is that I’ve been writing for a long time. I learned to read at an early age, around age four or five. At age seven, I began writing short stories, and it just bubbled from there. Through formal, training, which means college, I’ve been able to hone and sharpen my writing skills, but if those skills weren’t there in the first place, there would be nothing to build on. My writing is just as much an extension of the self as it is a learned skill: For me, it comes as naturally as breathing.

 

 

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The Value Of Empiricism

Empiricism is one of my favorite words in the English language. Empiricism is central to building a rational base of knowledge about the world around us. It is the idea that what we know is best defined, solidified, and confirmed by what we can observe, qualify, and quantify. You might have heard the term “empirical data” before. Empiricism is a way in which reality can be discerned from fantasy and delusion.

 Empiricism began to really take hold and spread during the 18th century European Enlightenment. Ideas of empiricism were championed by intellectual giants like David Hume and Francis Bacon, who’s works influenced America’s Founding Fathers, most notably Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. The Enlightenment era was a continuation of the ideas of the Renaissance. The age of Enlightenment laid the foundations for the scientific revolution and one of the earliest schools of psychology—behaviorism. A feature of the Enlightenment was the rejection of religious dogma and superstition in favor of figuring out how the world works along the lines of natural laws. David Hume wrote a treatise in which he rejected Biblical miracles. Why did he reject them? Because theses miracles were incongruent with established natural laws, laws defined by empiricism. We know snakes can’t talk because they don’t have vocal cords.

But empiricism can be applied to more than just debunking religious myths. I use empiricism in my day to day life. I am constantly taking in all that’s around me, doing a continual compare and contrast. It’s like my brain is equipped with its own stenographer, and I’m always jotting down mental notes on all that I see, hear, and come into contact with. Through my embracing of empiricism, I’ve developed a mentality similar to that of a lawyer or detective, which can fluster and frustrate people if they come to me with bullshit. I can easily call it out, expose it, and back bullshitters and liars into a corner. I agree with Carl Sagan when he said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

How does the empiricist respond when someone tells him or her about having a personal relationship with flying invisible pink elephants? We would reject such silly, delusional nonsense.

Empiricism can be applied to nearly all facets of life. I know an acquaintance who talks about her boyfriend like he is some kind of genius, and she has repeatedly mentioned how well-read he is. I’ve known him for a while, and I’ve had classes with him, but I just don’t see what she is talking about. Is it because I’m not looking hard enough? Or is it because it isn’t there? The only indication of him being well-read I’ve witnessed is when he once mentioned Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve determined he is someone of average, or maybe slightly below average, intelligence, yet his girlfriend talks about him like he’s gifted, but I’ve seen nothing from him that would validate her claim. The gifted can’t hide their intellectual gifts for very long: these gifts have a way of shining through, often manifesting at a young age. Her talking him up, exaggerating his intellectual abilities is most likely due to an emotional attachment. (Because she loves him) As an empiricist, this is something I could never do. I’m going to tell it like it is, regardless of how pretty or ugly the facts are.

 What is the empiricist left to think when someone makes a claim that is not consistent with empirical data or what their own senses have recorded? We either become skeptical of said claim; reject it all together, or in some cases laugh at it.

 I’ve encountered an example of what I’m talking about in a recent class. It was a general comm course that focused on a bunch of touchy feely type shit. We addressed the issue of stereotypes, and according to the professor teaching the class, some stereotypes have validity to them and others do not. He said that the notion of the “dumb jock” was an unjustified stereotype.

Have we somehow been transported back to 1984 and placed smack dab in the middle of the conflict between the Alpha Betas and the Tri Lambs? There are certain words I’ve expunged from my vocabulary, jock is one, and poser is another. We aren’t in high school, and I’m past that. My view on the “student athletes” at UCM is that they don’t seem to be very bright. Most of them seem to be of average to below average intelligence. (like the majority of students at UCM) Such a statement isn’t based on animosity or a personal prejudice; it’s based on observation and interaction. If they were the bright, super-smart types, they wouldn’t be on the basketball team; they would be on the debate team. It’s like that part in the Breakfast Club when Judd Nelson tells Anthony Michael Hall “you’re a genius because you can’t make a lamp.” If the student athletes were geniuses, they wouldn’t be student athletes. They would be the academically focused students. The skills of these two groups are in separate realms. It’s why I don’t associate with the student athletes. (I have no reason to)We inhabit two different spheres that do not intersect.

 The professor teaching the class declared the “dumb jock” to be an inaccurate stereotype; however, in the classroom sat a UCM basketball player who seemed to confirm the stereotype. He would sit in the very last row. What can we learn from that? What traits are associated with those who sit in the back of the classroom verses those who sit at the head of the class? Students who sit in the front are typically active learners and active listeners, and what about those who sit in the back? Well, hopefully, you can figure it out. The professor seemed to have a liking for this star basketball player. He would constantly ask him questions, drawing him into the class conversation, and they weren’t textbook info questions. They were semi-personal questions that also pertained to the lessons. Nine times out of ten, the athlete would answer by saying “watcha you mean.” To put it lightly, he seemed slow.

My son is my heart. Im bout 2 be da best father i can be 2 my son.

i hoop 4 EKU and im just all around kool dude dat like havin fun. im pretty laid back. hit me up if u wanna kno anythang else

   

 What you have just read was lifted from this basketball player’s Facebook. What can we infer about him by reading such drivel? I’m led to believe the person who wrote it is operating at a sub-par literacy level. It looks like it was written by someone who is possibly borderline illiterate. I honestly felt sorry for him after reading that. I learned to read and write at an early age and have always shown proficiency in those areas, and I can’t understand how the world would look through semi-literate eyes.

 When the professor went on about how the “dumb jock” is just a stereotype, yet provided no evidence to refute or disprove the “stereotype,” I thought what he said was a massive load of bullshit, bullshit based on his own personal preference. His inaccurate exaggeration of the intelligence level of student athletes was probably done because he’s a sports fan. The behavior of most of the student athletes at UCM corroborates the so-called stereotype. It was through reliance upon empiricism I was able to arrive at my conclusion.

What’s Wrong With Music Today

Music has been a part of my life for as long I can remember, but now a days, I find myself disinterested in most of what’s being recorded. It wasn’t always this way. My discovery of underground music, my discovery of punk and hardcore hit like a bolt out of the blue. A lot of music I hear being made today doesn’t affect me like that music did so many years ago.

I came of age during a wonderful time for music, the alternative boom of the 1990s. In the early 90s, for a brief moment, the musical status quo was turned topsy turvy due to the sucess of Nirvana’s Nevermind. In the fall of 1992, I would come home from school and see videos from Sonic Youth and Morrissey on MTV. This period of time was so brief ,from about 1992-1994, the point when alternative went mainstream, and an alarming number of artists who actually maintained a sense of artistic integrity were able to gain mass exposure like never before.(without compromising their sound) Of course the prevailing pop formula was re-established in the late 90s, due to the rise of the boy-bands and the teen pop phenomenon.

The chart success of Nevermind was often described as coming out of nowhere, but it was actually a culmination of an underground music scene, which had previously existed on the fringes, reaching a point of critical mass, and finally boiling over into the mainstream via Nirvana. I remember reading a Nirvana biography entitled Come As You Are. The book was littered with references to a number of bands I had never heard ,and in some cases never heard of. I had to know what this stuff sounded like. I had to know what Black Flag, Husker Du, and the Bad Brains sounded like. Around age 13, I started searching out music that was before my time. I had recently been introduced to the music of the Sex Pistols, the Smiths, and David Bowie, but it was a couple days after my 14th birthday that I bought Black Flag’s Damaged album, and life would never sound the same again. The album was recorded and released in 1981, the year after I was born, but I felt such a deep connection to the record. Black Flag is my favorite band of all time, and that album is my favorite album of all time.

The intensity of Damaged is unrivaled. It’s pure sonic napalm, a musical embodiment of rage, anger, and nihilism. I was frustrated and pissed off, and the album resonated with me, saying everything I felt, but was unable to express at the time. After listening to the album, I dove head first into whatever underground music I could find. After getting into Black Flag, I started listening to the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Agnostic Front, and a host of other bands. I feel in the love with early 80’s hardcore. I still play that old-school stuff. Also during this time, I was searching out underground music from the era I was growing up in. I first heard AFI back in 1995 on an obscure compilation, which now goes for hefty price, called This Is Berkeley, Not West Bay. I spent my teens into my twenties listening to punk and hardcore, and now they are genres I no longer pay much attention to, with the most notable exception being that of Madball.

I think one can not have a true understanding of artwork, movies, or music without an understanding of what was going on during the era they were made in, a historical perspective. An understanding of events of a particular era can produce a greater understanding of what influenced and inspired the artist’s work.

 The nihilism and anxiety that was prevalent in so much of the the hardcore-punk of the early ’80s was partially a result of the increased tension between America and the Soviet Union. Many historians and political analysts have cited the early ’80s as the closest the two super-powers ever came to a nuclear showdown since the Cuban missile crisis of the ’60s. You can hear the anxiety over the threat of “mutually assured destruction” in the lyrics of the Circle Jerks’ song Stars and Stripes: “What they did past or present, got us in this situation, predicament, no where to run, everybody’s building bombs.”/ “Science, modern technology digged your grave, care of Moscow and DC, votes you never gave.”

 Let’s switch gears into the present: What can be learned about what is on the minds of young people by looking at the lyrics of contemporary pop music? It doesn’t even seem like there is much there. I have a hunch that the popularization of “swag” rap is actually a plot by the Illuminati to dumb down the youth population. Ok, that was me joking, but seriously, I see humanity in a state of devolution, which appears to be the most noticeable among millennials. I see a society that is rapidly hurdling towards what is depicted in the movie Idiocracy. Ke$ha becomes the perfect soundtrack for the dumbing down of a society that was never all that bright to begin with, and I really don’t have a problem with Ke$ha. It’s obvious she is doing a send up, a parody, an exaggeration, similar to what the Beastie Boys did on License to Ill.

 

In contemporary pop music, the party life has become a central lyrical focus, a defining feature of this era . Some would say that’s nothing new: just look at Animal House. As long as there have been college kids, there have been festivities. That’s true, but I’ve noticed an excelration concerning a love of partying, like the ante has been upped. In the the 70s, FourLoko and Tilt were not available. The weed around today is stronger than that of the 60s and 70s; it contains higher levels of THC. The credo of the current party generation seems to be to “go hardcore,” to “go all out,” to live without concern for consequences. This mentality is displayed in songs like Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild and Free” and movies like Project X. Are these celebrations of debauchery and recklessness a reflection of youth culture or are they creating it? That’s a chicken/egg question that I don’t have an answer for. Is the return of the party life in music a response to so many things turning to shit and falling apart, so more people are eager to boogie down to take their minds of the collective problems we face as a nation?

 Music is still an integral part of my life although I don’t like most of what’s being made. My musical tastes have expanded far beyond the confines of the punk and hardcore of my teens. When I actually pay money for a CD, yes I still do that, 70 percent of the time it’s hip-hop, but I’m not talking about Lil Wayne or Gucci Mane. I’m talking about underground hip-hop,Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique, Ill Bill, MF Doom. Most mainstream so-called hip-hop/rap holds no interest for me. It’s rather mindless, often presenting the worst, most degrading, stereotypical representations of so called “black culture,” serving up images that harken back to the days of the minstrel show. So much of it sounds like it was manufactured on a conveyor belt. It’s monolithic and monochromatic, but with underground/independent hip-hop there is a diversity,a variety, concerning flow, beats, and subject matter. There is a universe of difference between Talib Kweli and Brotha Lynch Hung, yet they are both equally hip-hop and equally talented. One of the reasons why mainstream (false) hip-hop does nothing for me is because I focus on lyricism. I want to hear more than someone talking about diamonds in his mouth or I got my drink my cup type of stuff.

 A prime example of what I want to hear in hip-hop is Vinnie Paz. ( of Jedi Mind Tricks) When I bought JMT’s 2006 album-Servants in Heaven,Kings In Hell-I was blown away. The lyrical content of the album was a combination of gritty, grimey street level content combined with complex political and theological themes. Some of the lyrics went so deep, they served as a catalyst for me doing research: I had to in order to follow what Vinnie was talking about. Example: “Fuck around and get laced with the Luger if you sympathize with the Hellenization of Judah.” A Luger is a pistol, but I wasn’t able to decipher the second part of that verse until I took a class on the history of the ancient world.

Throughout all the various changes and twists and turns in my life, music was always there, and it always will be there. My days of stage-diving and roughhousing in the pit are long gone, and the Doc Martens were retired years ago, but some of the spirit from those days still remains. The way I function today is a lot different than how I lived at age 19, but one feature from those days still remains: I have never truly conformed, given one inch, or submitted to bullshit. That’s a quintessential “punk rock” attitude. Sure, I’m in college now, working towards a “professional” career, and to a certain extent, I’ve learned how to “play the game,” to shake hands and break bread with people I don’t really like when it’s called for, but I have never, and will never sacrifice who I am, my core ideas, and principles, and regardless of what future changes will happen in my future, I will still need a soundtrack to my life.

Random Thoughts Vol.4: Unfiltered Once Again

*I really don’t understand when someone says “ I don’t know what I’m trying to say.” A former co-worker once said those words to me, and I responded with “it must not be that important.” I can’t wrap my mind around such a thing: because everything I see, feel, or experience I can summarize and tell you about it, either in written form or verbal form. Mike said my ability to to do this is because I’m so linguistically oriented. He told me I think of things in terms of words. How else would you think of things? In bleeps and beeps like R2D2?

I also can’t fathom what is going on in mind of someone who says they can’t explain how they feel. When I hear that, I just assume they are mentally deficient in some respect. Also, very rarely do I fumble with words. When someone does, I just want to yell SPIT IT OUT, DUMBASS, and I really don’t understand when someone tries to articulate a thought or statement and does a shitty job of it. I think my lack of understanding about such shit is related to the way I think and process information.

The people who stumble and fumble with what they are trying to say are formulating what they are going to say when the mouth starts moving. I’ve already thought about what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it before my the words come out of my mouth. Mike said my efficiency in proverbial combat comes from how linguistically oriented I am. I’m able to embarrass the fuck out of someone for saying something stupid without even raising my voice. If, and when I can, I will proceed to poke holes in an argument until it’s deflated. Mike said when I do this it’s with an equal mix of elegance and brutality.

For some reason, I’m often able to easily understand foreigners who speak English with a heavy accent. Depending on how good their English is, like ninety percent of the time, a thick accent doesn’t get in the way of me understanding what they’ve said. Mike said it’s because I pay attention to every word that comes out of someone’s mouth.

*Any type of reward, pleasure, or comfort that is proceeded by discomfort automatically intensifies the feeling of the reward/comfort. Let’s just say I get caught in a heavy downpour walking home from somewhere. It’s windy; it’s really pouring down, starting to storm. Let’s just say it takes me 10 minutes to get back home. When I open the door and set foot in my apartment, it will feel like the greatest relief in the world at that moment.