October 2, 2012

Minimalism Week: Apple or PC

We're talking minimalism this week.

Minimalism Example #2:
Do you buy an expensive laptop that lasts a while, or a cheap laptop you have to replace every 2 years?

Because buying a cheap $300 laptop was a no-brainer for us compared to buying a Macbook. But our first one barely last 2 years. Then, we bought another $300 replacement. And it's been awful, too. I can't imagine doing it again.

Similarly, we loved buying the Magic Bullet over the expensive Vitamix. But we're on our 4th.

At what point are we just being stupid through our attempts at being fiscally smart?

Give me answers, as well as new examples to talk about this week.

Yes, I know the right answer is "you don't need a laptop."


October 1, 2012

Minimalism Week: Home Decoration for Perpetual Thanksgiving

A whole week on minimalism sounds a little much, no? ...get it?

But, as the concept of "life minimalism" has become more and more mainstream (perhaps due to financial necessity), and as my friends are getting more and more involved in evangelizing the movement itself, I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and want to talk this one through.

In general, I'm not sure many people disagree with the premise.

Spend less money. Care less about money. Spend less time on the non-important. Spend more time on the things you love most.

But, let's talk through some examples this week.

Minimalism Example #1:
Furnishing your house for special occassions or for everyday living?

We buy a dining room table that seats 10 so we're prepared to do so. Except not only do we only have 2.5 people living in our household (which would occupy only 1/4 of this table at mealtime), we don't even eat in that room at all.

The average American dining room is perefectly designed for Thanksgiving...once a year...if you host.

Our living room also comfortably seats 5. Twice what we need.

Now, I think being able to entertain is awesome. I think living in community is everything.

But theoretically, you could furnish your house for everyday living, and spend the savings to take your friends out for extravagant events throughout the year, right?

When I think about the furniture in my house I use daily, it makes me wonder if that should become the standard to which you decide to buy it?

Give me answers, as well as new examples to talk about this week.

September 27, 2012

Only Hire Artists

Artists are unrealistic in their brainstorming. They are overly attached to their ideas. They are moody.

But they care deeply. They love beauty. And they are passionate about creating.

Why would you want to work with anyone else?

September 21, 2012

The Purpose of Art is to Communicate

Art is a blessing to its creator, but how selfish to be only that.

The artist should spend half their time discovering something worth saying.

And the other half determining ways to say it most beautifully.

September 19, 2012

Art That Persuades: Love Through Song or Show?

I often complain about the empty nature of modern music. That most songs don't even attempt to communicate. Catchy without content.

This often segues to my broad and incorrect dismissal of guy-girl romance songs as being too shallow for the beautiful and powerful potential that is the art of music.

Yet, at the same time, I find myself rooting for the love storyline in every new TV show I watch.

So, where does my hypocrisy come from? I obviously don't think we are out of things to say/show/feel in this grandiose world of love. So, what's the difference?

Is it simply because it's harder to build tension and work to a satisfying resolve in the huge span of a 3-minute song - whereas a season or more of television gives you plenty of time to fall for the love story yourself?

More simply put, do the brevity of songs require a different way of telling a love story?

September 17, 2012

Getting Smarter vs. Getting Art’r

Not until college did I develop a real passion for learning. But, I fell pretty hard for it.

And for the past few years, I've been relatively obsessed with becoming the smartest person on Earth. But now (perhaps due to the fact I have not yet become that), I'm questioning the tactic altogether.

Whether or not possessing knowledge is all that valuable if you are unable to persuade others of its merits?

Whether or not it is even mere knowledge that truly persuades, or whether art is more effective at doing so?

For instance, I can provide you with economic statistics that speak to the real societal problems of gender preference, neglect and abuse.

Or I can show you this video.

And the video wins.

Because while knowledge is persuasive. So is emotion. So is beauty. So is music. And the arguments get better when you include them.

So, while I currently have what I believe are the "arguments" for a few things I am particularly passionate about, should my next pursuit be, not to enhance these argument, but rather determine the most artistically compelling way to present the information I currently have?

We're going to keep diving into this this week, until you've convinced me what to do with the next small part of my life.

September 14, 2012

Why Declaring Yourself ‘Independent’ is Stupid

Declaring yourself 'independent' is stupid.

Now, this isn't a "you're throwing away your vote" rant. It's about the uselessness of the word itself.

You saying, "I'm independent", tells me absolutely nothing about your political convictions.

I get it. Believe me, I get it. Neither of our two major political parties accurately define you. In fact, perhaps the hypocrisy, inconsistency and corruption downright embarrass you - so much so you wouldn't dare have someone make the mistake of lumping you in with one of...them.

And so, you declare 'independent'. But, that tells me nothing.

Perhaps it's because another term would suffer the same downside. If you claim "libertarian", I might paint you as one who either hates poor people or really likes weed.

But that mistake would be on me - my misunderstanding of the definition of the word.

Whereas, your claim of "independent" offers no definition at all. It communicates nothing. It's entirely useless.

So let's stop using it.

September 11, 2012

Do Pragmatists Lean Democrat and Idealists Lean Republican?

Last week, I ran a quick social experiment on Facebook and Twitter to test a theory - whether or not a correlation existed between those who self-identify as either "pragmatist" or "idealist", and whether or not these might be more helpful philosophical identifiers when it comes to our political debate.

This theory stemmed from anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann's research and subsequent book, "When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God".

While Luhrmann is quite delicate regarding the intent of her research, I will more crudely summarize it as, "How is it possible that smart, rational people can believe in an invisible God?"

The topic lends itself to interesting political curiosities, and yet, Luhrmann intentionally avoids them. Yet, she makes one particular comment I found incredibly insightful.
"Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes. When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become - what humans could and should be, rather than who they are."
And this is a different debate than we're currently having. Between what's possible and what's realistic?
Between how we SHOULD live? vs. how we should govern based on how we DO live?

For example, a conservative's malice toward the Social Security system may not only be perceived fiscal unsustainability, but that it incentivizes unpreparedness. That (ideally) we would be better off if people all planned ahead. The liberal replies, "But people don't, and if you take away social security, you'll have 50 million new homeless people tomorrow." The conservative counters with, "But they should plan ahead!" The liberal replies, "But they don't!"

This theory might also explain a common critique of inconsistency with a conservative's claim in a desire for small government, while simultaneously desiring deep government intervention on social issues. While this is assuredly hypocritical if small government is truly their desired end game, a belief in both fiscal and social conservatism could be considered intellectually consistent with their personal philosophy of "idealism" - what they desire man to become.

So, did my social experiment and your results match my theory?

No. This theory - that self-identified pragmatists would lean democrat, and self-identified idealists would lean republican, only barely edged out the opposite, 9 to 8.

Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Pragmatist (D)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)
Idealist (R)

Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Idealist (D)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)
Pragmatist (R)

However, I wonder if this variance stems from a definitional problem - what we all thought "idealism" meant Let me know what you think now - if this more comprehensive explanation changes your vote.

Because all too often, we leave political discussions wondering how the other person can be that stupid? But what if we're trying to create totally different looking end games?

September 7, 2012

How Politically Inconsistent We All Are

This video is not a knock against Democrats.

You could easily make dozens of similar videos poking fun at Republicans.

This is simply a reminder of how incredibly politically inconsistent we all are.

But we don't have to be. Start over.

Thanks to Sean Carter for the recommendation.

August 31, 2012

The Skill of Finding Context: Spotting Straight vs. Satire

Ever seen an article from The Onion get linked to with a shocked, "Can you believe this???" caption from one of your friends attached to it?

No, I can't. And you shouldn't.

Not just because it's from The Onion. But because I expect you to be able to instantly recognize the context of a headline that says "Gay Marine Beaten to Bloody Pulp to Fire Up RNC Crowd."

You shouldn't have to know The Onion writes (amazing) satire. I expect you to be able to recognize the absurdity of absurd statements (even when they're perhaps all too close to potential truth.)

This is a problem I deal with on Facebook fairly often. I use satire (I lie), in the hopes of making people laugh. And to my continued shock, people seem to have a real problem with this. They can't seem to tell the difference - can't spot the context clues.

Now, these people have no context confusion when watching a comedian start off with a line, "So last night, I met this woman..." While this premise is very plausible, we assume it's not true. Comedians tell jokes. The context clues aren't in the wording itself, but in the fact that the speaker is a comedian.

Of course, that prevents a guy like Bill Murray from being able to answer any normal question with any sort of seriousness. If asked what he thinks about the Presidential election, no matter what he replies with, we're going to laugh. Because we have a built-in assumption that he's going to be funny. Bill Murray's existence creates a context clue of satire in our head.

But we need to be able to get past this. We need to be able to recognize satire no matter whom the speaker.

Is this a learnable skill? Because it seems like an incredibly valuable one to possess?