BoJack Horseman Spoke to Me in a Very Real Way

Today I binge watched the new Netflix series BoJack Horseman. I had plans today, but I hurt my knee yesterday and let that be an excuse to sit on the couch instead of doing much of anything. When I first saw the promo material for this show I thought it would be a two-dimensional comedy with a few witty bits and some overdone hackney acting. After one episode I saw that this show had something to offer. I didn’t think it was gonna be gold, but rather high grade bronze. Well, I just barreled through all twelve episodes and I’m happy to report I was dead wrong.

This show was fantastic for many reasons. I’ll start with those we can all appreciate and then go into what made it resonate with me like a mirrored tuning fork.

The acting: I loved Will Arnett in Arrested Development. I thought he was okay in 30 Rock. I haven’t liked any of his other work that I can recall. I thought he was a one note actor who could deliver a few punchlines well and that was about it. He proved with this show that he’s got amazing depth. I felt for this character so hard. Aaron Paul was amazing in Breaking Bad, but did he have any other note? Yep. He starts as the typical stoner comedy relief, but as the show coalesces into something bigger than the vast majority of comedy shows ever become, his character becomes a multi-dimensional force that I both loved and understood. I don’t wanna belabor my point by singling out every actor so I’ll just say that I didn’t pick up on a single bad performance by any of the actors regular or guest star.

The comedy: As someone who’s been performing comedy my entire adult life I get a bit numb to it. I love to laugh, but I don’t always laugh as easily or as often at TV and movies as I think most people do. That said, when I find something I love (George Carlin, Freaks & Geeks, Groundhog Day, etc.) I cherish it. It’s like my brain is a VIP club that only let’s the best of the best comedy performances in, but once in there I elevate them to Platinum member status immediately. This show does comedy in a way that reminds me of The Simpsons (one of the absolute best) while not copying it. Sure, BoJack uses a lot of comedic devices that every writer uses, but I look at those devices like bricks or tools. If you’re gonna be a plumber, you have to use a wrench. If you’re gonna be a comedy writer you have to use a few styles of joke and scene juxtaposition. I truly can’t think of any other animated show this was like. When I say it reminds me of The Simpsons, I mean that only in the way that someone who grew up watching The Simpsons can relate to. But by no means was it copied. Raphael Bob-Waksberg and his team of writers made a show familiar enough to relate to and original enough to spark interest.

The story lines: Somehow this show transcends through it’s twelve episode arc from a lot of jokes and seemingly tired character types (stoner loser, uptight feminist smart girl, full of himself guy, oblivious happy dude) to a heart tugging, truth telling show that hits the well constructed jokes even harder, but never detracts from the real human experience (irony since half the characters are animals) that makes it such an amazing piece of literature.

The wisdom: Fair warning, I’m gonna share some quotes from later in the show. I don’t believe they are spoilers, but just in case you’re super sensitive to that, avoid this next paragraph.

“Sometimes I feel I was born with a leak. And any goodness I started with just slowly spilt out of me. And now it’s all gone. And I’ll never get it back in me.”

“BoJack, when people find out that someone like you who seems larger than life is actually just as wounded and vulnerable as they are it makes them feel less lonely.”

“Maybe that’s what flawed, sad fatties want from other celebrities, but from BoJack Horseman they want a heroic horse stud who is awesome and can save them from their flawed sad fatty lives.”

“That’s the problem with life, right? Either you know what you want and you don’t get what you want. Or you get what you want and then you don’t know what you want.”

“That’s the thing, I don’t think I believe in a deep down. I kinda think all you are is just the things that you do.”

“No, I’m running from nothing. I’m terrified of nothing. People come up to me. They want my autograph. They want my picture. They think they recognize something in me. And I wanna be that person they think I am, but I’m not. They see greatness in me that they mistake for goodness. I know there’s nothing there. As fast as I run, I can’t get away from that.”

I felt so many chords in myself struck by so much of this show. To me this show is so different from a lot of the stuff I grew up on. Or at least, I gleam different messages from this show than the stuff I grew up on. When I would watch shows as a kid, the characters seemed to be so much more black and white. There was always a clear bad guy and a good guy. I knew who to root for in Crocodile Dundee. And I knew who to root against. It was easy. And that seemed evident in a lot of movies that I loved and still do love. Ghostbusters, Robocop, The Running Man, Office Space, etc.

And it wasn’t just about good/bad guys. It was also love. We knew that no matter how many women Billy Crystal dated or how many men Meg Ryan dated, we the audience knew that they were right for each other. Every other character they hooked up with or dated were clearly just hurdles to leap over en route to the finish line – the love of their life. But real life isn’t a movie. After you hook up with your long term friend on New Year’s Eve (spoiler alert?) you still have to keep living life. And life will always have ups and downs. It’s filled with decisions that have no clear right or wrong choices, but rather just possibilities.

And I agree with the character of Diane who said she doesn’t believe in deep down. At least I think I do now. Before today I think I would have said that there is such a thing as inherently good or bad. But, what if there is no ‘real’ version of any of us that is good or bad? Maybe our ‘real’ selves are just constantly flowing time of experience. It’s not like at the deepest part of ourselves is a stone that is one color or another. But rather at the deepest depths of ourselves is nothing more than what we’re doing at the moment. And we’re all capable of doing ‘good’ things and ‘bad’ things. We’re all capable of having a moral code in our mind and breaking it on occasion for reasons that seem to completely not justify breaking it.

So, here are some of the bullet points I came away from after watching the twelve episodes of the show:

-Everyone is flawed and we all tend to appreciate each other’s flaws to a degree.

-It’s not abnormal to want to appear to be better than you are. In fact, a lot of us probably do that, but in so doing tend to make poor decisions.

-Asking for forgiveness does not give us the right or expectation to expect getting it.

-True love is likely a helluva lot more complicated than it is in any movie I’ve ever seen.

-Nothing is supposed to be. It simply is what becomes. Life is a lot like the weather. Tornadoes aren’t bad. The wind has no intent to destroy homes anymore than rain intends to help provide for life. We just try to adapt to everything and make the best choices we feel we can at the time.

-Sometimes what we think we want isn’t really the thing that will bring us happiness.

I don’t wanna go into all the details, but all of this really resonated with me. As an impatient actor who believes he is talented enough to be doing way better than he is (why am I writing that in third person?) I saw BoJack as a not wholly dissimilar prophetic character. We’re not exactly alike in how we were brought up, but his inability to experience joy despite achieving what he seemed to always want could easily be me if I ever got a modicum of wealth and fame.

And also, like BoJack I desperately need to believe that I’m a good person despite many past decisions that were clearly not indicative of the adjective ‘good.’ But I still see myself as a good guy. And I think the problem is that there’s no such thing as a good guy. There may be people who do ‘good’ things more often than others, but we’re all on a continuum. I’m not claiming anything outrageous like saying Hitler or Rasputin or Pol Pot are not wholly evil. But at the same time, I can’t equate them with the bad guys I read about in comic books. No matter how bad they were, any human being is still a complex web of choices and environment. We should all still get punished for making choices that go against the law, but I’ve broken the law myself. No felonies ever (that I’m aware of), but that doesn’t make me automatically better than someone who has broken other laws. If I was raised in a different circumstance, maybe I would have made different choices that would have lead to hard prison time.

In addition, I feel like I have to demonstrate to people that I’m awesome. I feel like I need to come off as a hero and not a flawed sad person. Not that I’m sad all the time, but I feel like I can’t show people that I ever get that way. And therefore I don’t allow myself to feel that way nearly as often as I really do. And feeling sad isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes we have to go through all the emotions to maintain a healthy life.

This is all to say that I love the writers of film and TV who see the grey in humanity. Black and white just doesn’t ring true. That doesn’t mean a fantasy world where bad guys are wholly bad can be fine for certain stories. But I need to realize that some stories are just fantasy. While others (like BoJack for example) get closer to the complexities of real life. And in this particular case, the show spoke to me in a way that got me thinking a lot about myself and what life really is and how my choices affect everything else.

Thanks, y’all!
Rich

The Frightening Power of Choice

I was somewhere in my early to mid twenties the first time I realized that life wasn’t about a destiny set out for us by something else. Sure, life puts up obstacles sometimes, but I remember really believing that life was more or less planned. Not the details, but the big stuff. At some point I was gonna meet someone who I would marry and the two of us would have kids and I would buy a house and work a job and retire one day. Family trips and reunions and weddings and all that would pop up in there as well.

It’s not that I believed that I had no choice in the matter. It just seemed like the only choice available. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, but the small corner I lived in was a town called River Oaks. And it felt like despite being completely surrounded by Fort Worth, River Oaks still felt and acted like a small town in the middle of nowhere. Lotta old people. Hardly any ‘rich’ people. Most people seemed to know most everyone else. Old men gathered at the Whataburger at 5AM to drink coffee and hang out. And it seemed to me at the time that everyone went through a very similar cycle of life akin to the one I described above.

I went to college close to home, so I didn’t get the experience of living in a new state or metro area even, but I did get exposed to a few new types of people. My horizons expanded somewhat, but even still a lot of people I knew back then assumed they would get married and have kids at some point.

But after graduation I didn’t get an amazing job or anything. I moved back in with my parents and worked two part time jobs close to home. Something wasn’t right. You see, my life was basically planned and this was the point I was supposed to meet my future wife, get a great job and live on my own. None of those things happened my first year out of college. So, I did something slightly unusual for people from River Oaks. I moved to a new state by my own choice. Most of the people I knew growing up stayed in Fort Worth, or at least the state. And the ones who moved to a different state usually did so because of the military.

Even my move to Chicago wasn’t wholly my choice. I did it because three of my close friends wanted to move there and pursue improv. So, I jumped on that bus – actually it was a Penske truck, but you get the metaphor. After living in Chicago a while the thought occurred to me for the first time that I may never live in my hometown again. I didn’t think I would stay in Chicago forever, but the fact that I uprooted myself once meant I could likely do it again as many times as I wanted. That kind freaked me out. Extrapolating, I realized that this also meant that where I would live the majority of my life is as of yet unknown. Then I realized that a lot of things in life are unknown. Wait a second…

I didn’t have to get married or have kids. I didn’t have to do anything except die when my life was over. Everything else was my choice. Oh crap! That means I’m the one flying the plane! Up until this point I felt like a passenger. I had a few decisions to make like if I wanted cranberry juice or coke, but regardless of those choices, the plane was still gonna land in the same place. But now… Now every choice I makes mean completely affecting every future possibility.

I was half exhilarated and half scared to death. I was happy that I didn’t feel a requirement to have children. I never felt a natural desire to be a parent other than the fact that everyone of age seemed to be doing that in my hometown. But I was scared, because this literally meant that it was my choice to create a specific person or not. And that was way too much pressure.

Studies have shown that when given many choices, humans tend to not make up their minds nearly as quickly or as often as when they are given fewer choices. Here’s a citation on that: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conquering-cyber-overload/201102/flooding-your-brain-s-engine-how-you-can-have-too-much-good-th And it also shows that too many choices can leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice. That’s crazy! And it’s very informative.

I look at life right now like a Rube-Goldberg device (if you don’t know that is, watch this Ok Go video http://youtu.be/qybUFnY7Y8w ) that I’m building. So, that means that if I don’t build the first four dominos in a particular way, there’s no way they can knock down the other set of dominos. Physics demands that one domino touches another to knock it over. I can’t put four in a row and then leave six inches of space and put four more. They have to connect. For life this means that whatever choices you make now have to line up in a particular way in order for you to achieve a specific outcome. There may be many different choices that’ll lead you to the same outcome, but overall there are millions of decisions you’ll make (maybe billions?) and there are definitely many many ways to choose that disallow you to achieve a particular goal.

For example, if you wanna be a DJ on the radio, one choice you could make would be to attend a higher education school to teach you. I worked on my college radio for example. Had I stuck with it, I could have theoretically become a professional DJ on a major market stations at some point. However, I personally know a few people who have on-air radio shows and did not go that route. One girl I know is part of a morning zoo show because she got a bit of fame on a season of American Idol and parlayed that into a radio job. She never went to school. So, there are two choices right there that lead to the same point. But no matter how many total number of choices could get you to be a professional radio DJ, there are obviously a much much larger number of potential choices to prevent you from ever becoming a radio DJ.

My point is that, literally when I go to bed or what emails I choose to read, or whether or not I skip shaving for a few days are all examples of choices that could on any day have a huge effect on my future. Here’s a real life example: I was FB friends with a guy I’d never actually met because I’d seen him perform and we had a bunch of common friends. He lived in LA and I happened to be on FB when I saw him post looking for a room to film a scene. I had such a room in my apt building (thanks to a number of choices I made when looking for an apartment) and offered it to him. He shot his short film there and as a thank you offered me a small part. So, I literally have an imdb credit because I happened to be on FB at that time and he happened to post that and I happened to have what he needed.

All decisions presented to you only come in the wake of the millions of decisions you’ve already made. So, now I feel the pressure. Anything I do could really effect everything else I ever do. It’s the classic stone makes ripples in a pond analogy. So, here I am with this horrible realization that I have the power to make my own choices and that too many possibilities necessarily negatively affect the human brain when making a choice and how we feel about after we made it.

I really wish I could go back to that ignorant version of myself that had this calming feeling that I only had a few minor choices to make, but the big stuff was taken care of for me. Part of me doesn’t want that, because it involves permanently forgetting knowledge about the universe, but the other part of me values happiness over knowledge.

So, here I am 33 years old, never married, no kids and the weight of millions of future scenarios resting on every minute decision of my life. I still feel good about not ever having kids, but most everything else feels pretty up in the air right now. The only thing I feel I really know for sure is that I’d rather not be miserable in any shape, way, form or fashion if that’s possible. Or at least drastically minimize any misery to a 5% or less ratio the rest of my life. I’m not saying I’m miserable right now. I feel I do good at keeping it near the 10-15% range most of the time.

So, I ask you, how do you cope with the knowledge that every decision has far reaching effects? How do you make any choice knowing that you literally have the power to make one of millions of possible choices with every decision you are presented? Does it bother you at all? Do you not really care? And if so, how did you get to that point? I would like to get there, because I feel like I have no idea which choice to pick when it comes to life decisions most of the time.

Thanks, y’all!

“They took our jobs” – The Coming Robotic Revolution

The quote in the title is from an episode of South Park where people from the future come back to the present time to work and send money to their families in the future that has become a very tough place to find work. It’s a hilarious episode if you have a sick sense of humor like me, but it’s accuracy is a bit lacking (as it should be).

However, jobs are going to disappear soon. In fact, some jobs already have. And we’re not losing them to immigrants, but machines. In a way this is nothing new. We lost many jobs to machines over the years, but nothing like what’s going to happen.

Historically, we started replacing human workers with machines by replacing human muscle. The cotton gin, the steam engine, airplanes, the telephone, etc. allowed us to do things we weren’t physically capable of doing like talking to someone over long distances or plowing a whole field in a single day. No problem though, because more jobs were created. Instead of driving a horse and buggy, people learned how to conduct trains or drive taxis. Instead of working in the field, someone may have learned how to build or repair farming equipment. Mail once delivered by the pony express is now delivered by trucks and planes operated by human beings. The jobs created by technology mostly used machines to do the physical work and used humans to operate them with their brain power.

In essence, most jobs are simply needs to be satisfied. When I order food at a deli I need food and therefore need it communicated what I want and then I need it prepared. A human is needed to understand my communication and interpret that into the physical manifestation of making a sandwich. But what happens when the needs of humans goes away? As with the industrial revolution, many of the physical needs were met by machines. The forklift allows us to satisfy the need of moving larger, heavier crates of products more quickly, easily and safely than having a bunch of humans carry it. But a forklift is a tool with no brain. The human brain controls it. Well, what happens when a piece of software has the ‘brain power’ to operate the forklift or make sandwiches?

What properties do human beings have to offer besides our bodies and our brains? Will we be needed? Despite what many people believe, I think the answer is ‘no.’

In China right now there are restaurants that have robots take food from the kitchen to the customer. They also take the food orders. So, the job (or needs) of a human waiter are now being satisfied by a non-human. You may think that these machines could never do as good of a job as a human. I haven’t been waited on by a robot, so I cannot say for sure that they are human level equivalent right now, but history gives us every reason to believe that whatever level robots are operating at the moment, that level will be much higher in the future.

Think about video games. There was a time when we sat in awe of a machine that allowed us to play a very rudimentary version of tennis called Pong. Now, our video games have the ability to show us nearly life like graphics and extremely detailed and complex scenarios and story lines. When I first played Halo I remember being in awe as well. The computer was smart enough to allow me to walk in any direction I wanted. The possibilities seemed endless.

Why should we think that robots will be any different? If the robots in the world right now are the Atari of robots, then what will the Xbox of robots look like? Much like we could barely imagine a game as complex as Halo back in the early 1980s my guess is that we can barely imagine a robot as complex as one made ten or fifteen years from now.

If you still don’t believe me just google a few things like ‘self driving cars’ or ‘articles written by bots’ or ‘Asimo.’ The robots we have right now both software (like Watson another fascinating thing to google) or hardware (google Baxter robot) are already impressive. Soon, they’ll be amazing.

Assuming I’ve convinced you that robots will soon have the ability to perform on par or better than humans, I have a question: Is it wrong to use robots to do human jobs if they can do them as well or better than humans?

Let’s take waiters for example. Many waiters in the US are young people who are just doing the job until they get out of college or sell their screenplay or find something better. But there are also many career waiters – people who whether by choice or lack of choice have accepted that they’ll likely wait tables the majority of their working lives. What happens to those people if robots can do their job as well as they can (or better)? Will restaurant owners still hire humans because they feel it’s the right thing? Maybe. But I doubt it. Employers are not evil or at least not necessarily evil. If I owned a restaurant and I could buy a robot for $20,000 who could do the job of a single waiter who would cost me around $15,000/year in wages, but would work seven days a week from open til close and never call in sick (or rarely need repairs) I would probably do it. What if the robot only cost me $10,000? Or $5000?

According to irs.gov over 27 million people use a piece of software to help them do their taxes. How many more people could work as accountants if everyone hired a person instead of buying software? What about websites? I hired a web designer years ago to build a site for me. Now, you can use free software to do it. What about my job? I’m an actor/entertainer. A hundred and fifty years ago if you wanted entertainment you had to pay to go see an actual live show. Now, with video games, Netflix, and youtube you don’t have to leave your home. Sure, humans are responsible for all of those things, so you’re still allowing humans to work, but how many more jobs would there be if everyone rejected technology and went out to see a live show any time they wanted entertainment?

My point is that we don’t tend to value the needs of putting people to work more than we value convenience and cheaper costs. That’s not to say we don’t value the need for people to work. We just historically choose convenience and cost over that.

But now, machines threaten jobs on a scale unprecedented and people are starting to notice. Most of us would likely gasp at the idea of putting approximately three million transportation workers in the US out of a job by replacing them all with self driving autos. But if the cost is lower, the work is done more efficiently, and the robots are safer than humans, can we really make an argument that we should ignore all that and still hire humans? I can’t see that happening. Those jobs will go away.

Here’s the problem that few people seem to understand. When the industrial revolution took jobs away, it offered more different jobs in their place. But if jobs are simply needs and humans only have two things to offer – body and mind – then what other jobs could be created for us? I don’t have a skill to offer the world beyond my body and my brain. And I don’t think that robots will be able to do everything humans are capable of (at least not yet), but they don’t have to do everything in order to have a huge impact on the world’s economy.

Basically, I’m saying (and it’s not an original thought from only me) that within the next 20-50 years the world will necessarily have to change everything we are used to in the way of jobs and how to live our daily lives. If robots take over transportation, restaurant service, manufacturing, cleaning, organizing and other types of jobs then we will have a huge portion of the population who are not only out of work, but who are out of options for work. And no amount of higher education will help, because the jobs simply won’t exist.

I for one am a fan of the future. I want robots to do more and more stuff. I want the roads to be safer with self driving autos. I want robots to be able to clean buildings without the need for janitors. Why? Because I want society to change. I want human beings to be forced to look at our circumstances and make real change to everything we know to be true. I think it gives us the opportunity to make society way better. It also gives us the opportunity to make society way worse. But I have faith that humanity will prevail. Is that faith misguided? I hope not. But think of it like this, 25,000 years ago humans needed to ‘work’ all day to survive. We needed to make animal skin clothing, hunt, gather, prepare meals, build shelter, build weapons, etc. Now we still mostly have to work, but we also have free time. Time to spend with friends or to enjoy a movie or even write a symphony. What fun, cool stuff will we do with ourselves if robots take care of the lion’s share of the necessary stuff and allow us more free time to innovate and discover?

What kind of change would society need to endure in order to balance all this? I’m not sure. But I know it would have to be big. Way bigger than any change I’ve seen in my lifetime. Probably bigger than anyone has seen ever. One possibility is the idea of doing away with the concept of money altogether. Sound impossible? It does to me too, but maybe future generations will look back at the concept of money as something as antiquated as the plague or eight track tapes.

Maybe society could live on a credit system where credits are given for many different reasons. Just like Monopoly, people would receive money simply for existing another year (or passing go). Maybe we could employ a baseline income that everyone gets. I don’t know how that would work, but I’m not an expert. What I do know is that these are the serious conversations we should be having right now. Maybe the US (or the UN or someone) should be holding conventions with some of the world’s smartest people to come up with a new paradigm shift that would aim to ease the inevitable transition from a human based economy to a robot based economy.

The first step is awareness. People need to know that robots are here and they’re improving. People need to know that this is not some scifi concept that may come true one day, but instead is a sci-real concept that is coming extremely soon. Hopefully, just making people aware that human jobs are going to go away dramatically will start the movement that everyone will be concerned with the future and encourage our governments to start planning.

To sum up my point, I believe the machines will take our jobs. I think we need to accept this, enjoy this and work hard to redefine society. We should not fear technology like so many luddites from human history, but rather celebrate our own abilities to advance ourselves to a point where we no longer live to work, but rather just live. And even more importantly, we need to prepare society in the same way we would batten down the hatches before a hurricane. But the robots aren’t a destructive evil force. We can prepare for good things as well just like we decorate the home for a holiday. The robotic revolution should be something to look forward to and prepare for…like a vacation to Hawaii or a surprise birthday party.

“They took our jobs,” doesn’t have to be negative. Rephrase it to say, “Thankfully they [robots] removed our need for jobs and allowed us to evolve into a new and interesting population of animal unlike any the world has ever seen.” Sure it’s not nearly as funny, but for me it provides a lot of hope.

Some of the links I used to research for this post:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/22/239789038/coffee-coming-up-nice-and-hot-and-prepared-by-a-robot
http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/28/5758734/uber-will-eventually-replace-all-its-drivers-with-self-driving-cars
http://online.wsj.com/articles/for-this-author-10-000-wikipedia-articles-is-a-good-days-work-1405305001

http://singularityhub.com/2014/03/25/more-news-is-being-written-by-robots-than-you-think/
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/15/harvard-kilobot-swarm-future-of-robotics

Let’s Be Cops & Other Summer Movies

This weekend I saw Let’s Be Cops and Expendables 3. I love movies. And I sometimes find that I really like certain movies that are universally panned. Sometimes I agree with the majority, but sometimes I really champion the ones on the fringe. This is a post about some movies I’ve seen this summer:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I wrote a whole post about this a few weeks ago, because it was that awful. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 19%. I think it should have received 0%, but I’ll take what I can get. F-

Let’s Be Cops – RT gave it 17%. I have NO idea how. I loved this movie from start to finish. In many comedies there are plot holes that viewers generally agree to ignore in the vein of ‘don’t over think it, it’s just a comedy.’ But occasionally, you get a tightly written script that I feel is worthy of note. My Cousin Vinny is one of my favorite comedies of all time, but even it has a plot hole. LBC had zero. Everything seemed to make sense and also make me laugh. I loved the characters. I cheered for them. I identified with aspects of their personality. I hadn’t read anything about this movie before seeing it, and I’m shocked that so few critics liked it. I really loved the hell out of it. It was fun, smart, well written & even slightly emotional. A+

Expendables 3 – Loved it! RT gave it 35%. That’s better than I thought, but still less than I think it deserves. Sure, it’s a shoot ’em up action flick, but it’s great at what it does. Explosions, ass kicking, nearly super human stunts, and general bad-assery. I thought it was well shot, well directed and the acting was more than good enough for what it needed to be. It’s a niche film. If you don’t like action you won’t like it. But if you do, I can’t imagine you won’t like Ex 3. Just a bunch of fun on a super high budget. A

A Million Ways to Die In the West – RT = 35%. I thought it was not a total waste of time. It had some fun moments and was overall well put together. Nothing to write home about, but it’s good enough to kill a few hours while eating popcorn. B-

Lucy – The premise of this movie is that humans only use 10% of their brains. That premise is not true. But then again…it’s an action movie, so it doesn’t need to be based on truth. Avengers’ premise is also not true, but that movie was awesome. Lucy was fun and smart and full of butt kicking. And it’s narrative was different than what I expected. I can’t explain it any better than to say it felt more like an indy film with a high budget, big names, and a lot of action rather than a high budget Hollywood action film. B

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – RT = 91%. And I think it deserved that, because this movie was super well done. Great sci fi story. Great emotions. Amazing CGI/special effects. It did a great job of continuing the story from Rise of the Planet of the Apes and still showed a very plausible storyline to bridge to the original Planet of the Apes. A

Hercules – RT = 65% And I thought it deserved even better. Turns out Brett Ratner directed it. I historically dislike Ratner’s work. So, I was glad I didn’t know this was his until the end. As soon as his name came up in the credits I did a double take. I just watched a movie I thoroughly enjoyed and it was directed by him? Cool. Maybe he’s gotten better. Maybe this movie just worked for his style. Either way, I recommend it highly. Dwayne Johnson and cast do a great job of balancing epic action film with light hearted moments of humor. A-

How to Train Your Dragon II – I LOVED the first one. So, I had high expectations. And the sequel met and surpassed those expectations. The only reason I can figure this movie didn’t make $400 million is because the advertising was so sparse. Very few people I knew even realized it was out. But the movie was amazing. Absolute greatness. A+

Guardians of the Galaxy – They hype is totally true. This movie is fun. It’s well written. Well acted. The CGI/special effects/set design is incredible. I feared it would be cheesy from the previews, but I was way wrong. It’s amazing. My only complaint is that it was such a fast fun thrill ride that it seemed to go by too fast. I would have loved 10-15 more minutes of slower pacing scenes just to help me catch my breath. But that is a minor complaint about an otherwise amazing film. A+

Other Summer Blockbusters I saw:

The Purge Anarchy – A
Amazing Spider-Man 2 – C
X-Men DoFP – A
Neighbors – C+
Captain America: Winter Soldier – A

Here’s the interesting thing to me…this year’s movies are making a lot less than previous years. So, far the top grossing movie so far is Captain America at a paltry $259 million. In 2013 eight movies came out that made more money. In 2012 seven movies made more. 2011 – four movies. 2010 – seven movies.

Obviously this is a bad year, but is that all it is? Is it reflective of all the other entertainment options we have like Netflix & HBO Go? Or is it the fault of the movie industry for not enticing us out to the theatre with enough advertising? Or are the movies just not as good? Or something else?

I hope this is not looked back on by historians as the first year we really saw the trend to stay at home instead of going to the theatre really kicked in. What if movie theaters are completely different in 20 years? What if they don’t even exist? What if movies are simply released to our personal 3D glasses that allows us to see the screen at both optimal distance and angle and guarantees us no issues with parking or other people talking during the movie?

Of course, only time will tell for sure.

Thanks y’all!
Rich

‘Christian’ – A Subjective Term

Are you a Christian? Do you know someone who claims to be Christian? What does that word mean? Dictionary.com has a few definitions for both the adjective & noun, but the two I’ll use are ‘a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity’ and ‘a person who exemplifies in his/her life the teachings of Jesus Christ.’ I’ve also heard that the word translates to ‘little Christ.’ Regardless of which definition you go with, my point is that it’s meaning has no real consensus.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that everyone in the world agreed to the fact that ‘Christian’ means ‘follower of Christ’s teachings.’ Cool. But there will be staunch disagreement on what exactly that means. Some people say they are Christians who love gay people. Other people who claim to be Christians hate gay people. Some people who claim to be Christians are okay with gay people, but ‘hate the sin’ of gay people. Which group is correct? Is it open to interpretation? If so, then the definition of the word Christian is fluid as well. And if that’s the case then it’s ability to define someone is limited to a vague generality with several possible exceptions. It has no more relevancy than saying something is ‘new-ish.’ The concept of ‘new’ is a very relative word that must always be placed in context to have meaning. Cosmically speaking anything under a billion years old could be considered new. As far as human life is concerned we tend to stop using the word ‘new’ within the first year of life.

I pose that the word ‘Christian’ means different things to different people. Recently I posted an article on FB about some people who claim Christianity said that Robin Williams’ death means that he is currently in hell. As I assumed, it flared some tempers. Some people commented to the effect that ‘the people in the article may claim Christianity, but they’re not really Christians.’ And that got me thinking. The people the article was talking about may very well believe that my friends who commented are in fact not really Christian. In other words, there are different types of people who claim the Christian religion who invalidate the claims of other people who claim the same religion. Who’s right?

If you’re left handed, there’s little ambiguity to that term. If your left hand is more dominant than you’re right hand then you are left handed. If both hands are equal, you’re ambidextrous. You might also be right handed. But that’s not a subjective term at all. We can test that. If you write a sentence on paper with each hand, we simply compare the handwriting. Whichever one appears legible and smooth was written by your dominant hand. If both were then you’re ambidextrous. We have a test for hand dominance.

We have no test for Christianity. If you claim Christianity and someone else claims you’re not then you have no test to prove it. Any ‘proof’ you have could be as easily dismissed as your initial claim. You may say, “I’ve been Baptized in a church and I have a video of it I can show you.” Someone could easily retort with, “I don’t recognize your Church’s authority to Baptize in the name of Christ.” Who’s the authority in this situation who can say who is correct? You may say, “That’s easy. God is the ultimate authority.” Fine. How will God let us know who is correct? Will he speak in an audible voice? Most Christians I’ve ever known or read or seen lecture would agree that God rarely ever does that. And most Christians I know would be skeptical about a claim from anyone that God did this. Most Christians would likely say that God reveals his truths to us internally through the Holy Spirit. Cool. Except, we still have no way of verifying that other than to take a person’s word for it.

“Hey just so you know, God told me that I was definitely a follower of his Son and you’re not.” Response, “Actually, God told me through the Holy Spirit that you can’t hear the spirit and anything you feel is just your own desires you mistake for the Spirit.” Well crap. Now what do we do?

My whole point to this is to say that religion is a very subjective thing. You may think that you have done the research and the studying that qualify you as an expert in the Bible. And I’m not gonna disagree with you. Many people I’ve known have devoted their lives to studying Church History, Ancient Greek, Hebrew writings, etc. But even among the most knowledgable people out there, there is still disagreement. For example, William Lane Craig is considered a top name in his field of theology. He’s written a number of books. He flies all over the world debating atheists and people like that. He seems like a genius to me. I don’t agree with everything he says all the time (but then again there’s not another human being on the planet I agree with 100%), but I respect the hell outta the guy for being so smart and so dedicated to his study. Craig does not believe that the Earth is only 10,000 years old. And yet there are many young earth creationists out there who believe that the only correct way to interpret the Bible is to do so literally and therefore the Earth simply must by somewhere around 6000-10,000 years old.

Now, I’m aware that generally speaking Christians don’t accuse each other of not being a Christian based simply on their belief of the age of the earth. But some do. And there are other beliefs that cause some Christians to judge other claimers of the religion as not correct. The gay issue comes up. There are gay churches out there. Churches who specifically cater to the LBGT community. I know people who claim to be Christians that believe there’s no way someone can be both pro-gay and following Jesus. Who’s right? Again, it’s super subjective. Do we go with the majority? Well according to a poll I found here http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/ 50.1% of the world’s Christians are Catholic. Does that mean the Catholics interpret the Bible correctly because there’s more of them? But not all Catholics even agree. The the protestants are in second place with 36.7%. But we know they’re splintered up into hundreds of denominations that largely disagree on things big and small. Don’t even start a conversation with someone about Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Why? Because it’ll bore you to sleep. But did you have a choice in falling asleep or was there a possibility that you would have stayed awake? Snore.

I’m not quite sure why I wanted to write about this, but I do think it’s important to discuss. If Christianity is truly subjective then what does it mean to identify yourself as one? I think it’s kinda like a venn diagram with hundreds of different circles. They all overlap in a few beliefs such as ‘Jesus was God (or at least a demigod),’ ‘The Bible (or parts of it at least) were written or inspired by a supernatural force (usually God himself or the Holy Spirit).’ And that may be it. And honestly, there may be people who claim Christianity that disagree with even those statements. So, insted of thinking of a venn diagram with nice round circles, think of it more like an abstract painting where every type of ‘Christian’ is a different shape. Parts of many of the shapes exist with no overlap to any other shape. Some overlap heavily. Some overlap more lightly. But no two shapes overlap just the space of each other.

So, here’s what I’m trying to say I guess…If you believe you have the authority to determine that someone who claims Christianity is not a Christian, maybe recognize the fact that while you believe it, you have no way of definitively convincing anyone else that you’re correct in your belief. And maybe if we all realize that our Christianity (or maybe any religion) is nothing more than subjective beliefs (similar to our political beliefs or our taste in movies) then we will be less apt to judge and hate each other for our claimed religions. Religion can be important for many people. But your judgement of anyone else’ religion is nothing by unnecessary negativity. Sure, it’s cool if you disagree with someone. I’m a Tony Romo fan. So, I know what it’s like to want to convince people that my choice of quarterback is amazing despite popular opinion. And sometimes I’ll admit I get frustrated when people won’t believe me that he has amazing numbers.

I digress. My point is that we all wanna believe we’re correct. But if something’s subjective then we don’t have to feel the need to get judgmental, or pissy, or emotional about anyone else’ subjective choice in life. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we just worried about our own religion and not the religion of others? In other words, if you think that someone who just died is burning in hell, maybe just keep that to yourself. Or if you don’t like gays marrying, then don’t attend gay weddings. Or if you don’t like abortions then simply don’t get one. Or if don’t like pornography then don’t watch it. Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them. But telling someone that they are wrong for their interpretations of their religion just doesn’t make any sense in light of the subjectivity of the religion.

Rather than using your first amendment rights to act like a jerk just ask yourself those important three questions given to us by Craig Ferguson: “Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said by me? Does this need to be said by me right now?” Again, I’m not telling you what to believe. But why you gotta get up in people’s faces with what you believe? Maybe just chill out and stop saying stuff, because you think you have the monopoly on the teaching’s of Christ.

Just a thought. But then again, maybe I’m wrong.

Thanks for reading, y’all!
Rich

I Hate My Jealousy

I’m quite jealous of people who don’t get jealous of people.

I sometimes fear that I’m Veruca Salt from the movie musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I know I’m not exactly like her, but to even be in the same ballpark as her really sucks. She wanted everything. And she wanted it now. And she was ‘a bad egg.’ I don’t wanna be a bad egg. But try as I might I get bitter and jealous so much at the fact that I don’t have what I want. Like Veruca I seem to want everything. And I tend to get jealous of and sometimes even resent people for getting things I don’t have.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” -Nelson Mandela

I hate that I resent people. I really wish I could change it. I don’t like that about me. I used to believe that everyone was like me and most everyone was just better at not showing it outwardly. Now, I’m not so sure. I now believe that there are people who genuinely don’t get jealous or bitter very often. I’m still not sure about this. I can’t really know what’s going on inside other people’s heads, but I can tell you it bothers me. I want to not be like this.

Robin Williams is in the news right now, because he committed suicide. I hate this for a number of reasons. Firstly I hate it because I don’t like knowing anyone is in so much pain (mentally, physically or both) that they end their life. Secondly, I hate it because the world lost a true treasure. But the third reason I hate it is because I feel it relates to my situation. Let me be clear. I’m not suicidal. I have not given any serious consideration to it. This post is not a cry for help before I do anything like that. But I do feel a real fear that I’ll never be truly satisfied with life.

Robin Williams has an academy award. He’s in several movies that are considered some of the greatest movies of all time both comedically and dramatically. He toured the country and the world doing comedy for sold out houses. Basically, he achieved in life what I think I want to achieve in life. And despite all that he still lacked something in his life that would allow him to be happy. I doubt I’ll ever achieve anything close to his level of fame or success. But what if I do achieve it and I’m still not happy with my life? What if I race to the prize, get the prize and then find that I’m still a bitter, jealous person who can’t be really happy?

I’d like to think that there’s a certain minimum in life that if achieved, I could happily live with. And then anything more would be gravy. But the evidence doesn’t support that. When I moved to Chicago at 23 my goal was to make a living as a comedian. I did that by 27. Then my goal was to work for Second City. I did that by 28 as a teacher in their training center. Then my goal became to work for Second City as a performer. I did that at 29 when I performed on my first gig for them on a cruise ship. Six contracts later I realized that what I really wanted was to perform in their touring company.

I never did that. But let’s say that hypothetically they did hire me to that. Chances are I would have wanted to perform on their stages after that. And if I had achieved that would that have been enough? Probably not. I probably would have set even higher goals to get on The Daily Show or a sitcom or something. Don’t get me wrong, I still would love to be on a sitcom or something like that. But my point is that it’s not just a goal I’d like to achieve. It’s a goal I feel I must achieve before I can be truly happy.

There are many examples of this in real life and literature. Jon Favreau’s character in Swingers isn’t happy with his life even though Vince Vaughn’s character points out that Jon’s life is way better than his. Orny Adams in the documentary Comedian is a professional touring stand up, but still seems to be upset by the fact that he’s not more successful.

As I write this I look at my dog. All she wants is food, for me to throw the ball, and to be constantly around me and her mother (my girlfriend) all the time. When she has those things, she seems to be completely satisfied with life. I’m jealous of my dog. She doesn’t beat herself up for not being famous. She just wants me to throw the ball.

I’m reminded of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Wag the Dog. He pulled off a major accomplishment to help the United States. But he couldn’t tell anyone. And that wasn’t okay. He needed the credit. And his need for that led to (spoiler alert) his death.

Well, I would love to be on TV. I would love to be a movie star or a touring stand up or both. And I’m going to keep pursuing that stuff. But what I don’t want is to be disappointed in myself for not doing that stuff. I’d rather just love my life and do things because I have a healthy desire to do them and not do things because I feel like I’m a failure if I don’t do them.

There was a time in my life I was offered a job to sell shoes in Kona. That’s on the big island of Hawaii. And I pondered it seriously. I turned it down, but I really thought about it. What would it be like to free myself from the career path I’m trying to create for myself? What would it be like to sell shoes 40 hours a week and spend the rest of the time surfing and reading on the beach and swimming with whales in January?

For some reason I always assumed I deserved the best. Dunno why. But I thought velvet ropes should part for me. That beautiful women should trip over themselves to get to me. That everyone was gonna love me and want me to be in their movies and wanna interview me. There’s no evidence to indicate why this is should be, but at the same time I believed it. And now I live a life that isn’t bad at all, but could never measure up to what my imagination expected for me. And every day that I don’t live a life worthy of Entourage, I feel like I’m failing the unreasonable expectations of my uninformed adolescent brain.

So, here’s my plea. Does anyone know how to change this? Has anyone gone through this journey and emerged victorious on the other side? I’ve tried many things. I’ve tried to remember that my life isn’t bad at all. I’ve tried to be thankful for everything I’ve ever had. I’ve tried to apply logic to the situation by realizing that the odds of any one person achieving what I demand of myself are infinitesimally small no matter the level of talent. None of those have really worked. They’ve helped, but not worked. So, I ask anyone who bothers to read this…how can I fundamentally change my outlook on life to be happy in the moment and pursue a healthy desire to be successful rather than treat success like the only door to self satisfaction and berate myself for not having it?

Thanks y’all!
Rich

Hollywood At It’s Worst – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

When I was a kid I had all things TMNT. I had the ninja turtle blimp, sewer, pizza shooter, parachutes, board game, Nintendo game, all the movies on VHS, movie posters and other TMNT posters taking up every square inch of wall in my room. I had all the toys, the comics, the coloring books, etc. If it was licensed through Playmates Toys, chances are good that I had it.

So, I’m a bit of a fan. When I heard they were making a new live action movie I got excited. Then I heard Michael Bay was producing. And a lot of my friends assumed it would suck. Well, not me. Sure, Michael Bay doesn’t have a perfect track record, but I think movies like Bad Boys and The Rock were fun. I still watch them occasionally and I still love them. And besides, he’s only producing. How much influence would he have?

Then the trailers came out…And they looked awful.

Some people to my surprise felt the trailers were good and changed their minds about the hopefulness of the movie. I felt crazy. Those trailers sucked hard. How could anyone believe any different?

So, on the day I got two of my friends to come with me. I made sure to be all medicated (I live in California) which means that I might enjoy it even if it sucked, because when I’m medicated I can enjoy watching my screen saver some times.

I couldn’t have been a better audience. Life long fan, stoned outta my gourd, and I had low expectations. Surely this will be at least somewhat entertaining, right?

No.

This movie defied expectations. If the bar was set as low as one foot off the ground, the movie itself made it about as high as half an inch. I walked out of that theatre feeling like a piece of my childhood had just been spat on, kicked, and laughed at.

Let’s break it down:

By the way, there will some SPOILERS, but if you’re still wanting to see it do so at your own risk.

Will Arnett – Sometimes we like to see a comedian in a movie who will give us exactly what we expect. Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy – an amazing piece of film – doesn’t go out of his way to be completely different from his character in Parks & Rec. But the movie in no way acknowledges his previous character and Pratt plays the emotional truth of Star Lord so well that we love it. Arnett on the other hand plays Will Arnett. The lines they wrote for him could have been improved by the skilled hand of a twelve year old. And they even made a blatant inside joke to his Arrested Development character GOB. It was done in a way that made it to where I was not watching an actor give a performance, but rather a man playing a hack version of himself. It was off putting, one-dimensional, and distracting.

Megan Fox – Bless her little heart. She tries. She fails. I don’t like to harp on A list celebs, because I know that the vast majority work their ass off to be able to get to where they are, but this girl has to go. Granted, the script would have received a D at a community college writing course, but she brought nothing to the table. I’ve seen good actors work with bad scripts. Denzel Washington made his character in Virtuosity pop despite some ridiculous dialogue. I’m not saying she’s terrible – although I’m not dismissing that – but she’s certainly not competent enough to make a badly written character any better.

Animation – Splinter’s animation was that of most video games. I’m sorry Hollywood, but if you are gonna invest that much money into a movie, get the damn animation right. Your five main characters are animated. Six if you count shredder. It was simply bad.

Art? – In the comic books the turtles are shorter than most people. They are often referred to as four foot tall turtles. I don’t care if you take creative license. But making them massively huge super strong ‘bulletproof’ things was unnecessary and frankly boring.

The Shredder – Couldn’t have been more stupid. Here’s how I assume they conceived of the idea for this shredder suit. A movie exec asked his three year old son what Shredder should look like and his son responded with:

“It’s a million knives.”

Sold. Let’s make The Shredder a comically absurd cartoonish creation capable of firing knives through the air. Sigh.

The Script – “We’re bulletproof,” might be the dumbest line in the film, but it had plenty of competition. It was difficult to tell if the lines written were worse or if the performances of the lines were worse. Either way, it made for a dreadful experience.

So, as you can see I think the movie was bad. However, I feel that there is a potential silver lining. It’s possible (although not bloody likely) that this movie was perfect. And I’ll explain how.

As much as I love the Turtles, I freely admit that they sold out harder than any toy brand before them. There was Ninja Turtle cereal, canned pasta, place mats, car floor mats, Turtle Wax, and even a corporately constructed touring four piece band. And yes I did see the TMNT Coming Out of their Shells Tour when they played Six Flags Over Texas. That was my first concert.

In addition, Michael Bay has a reputation for stuffing the maximum limit of special effects and explosions into his movies while not putting much energy or effort into plot or characters.

Combine those two things and you’ve got the perfect marriage of Hollywood sell outs. Now bare with me. This is gonna get weird.

What if director Jonathan Liebesman is actually a frikkin genius and intentionally made a movie that failed in every possible category as a statement on the status of Hollywood? Still with me? Let me go deeper.

For as long as I’ve been alive I have seen Hollywood take jabs at itself for being too flippant and vacuous with their own filmmaking. There are many examples. I’ll just highlight a few:

Kate & Leopold features a scene from a movie that isn’t real. It’s a romantic comedy that hits all the tired old formulas of romcoms alongside a cheesy love song.

Last Action Hero is all about making fun of action movies and their silly tropes.

Extras does an excellent job of showing a sitcom that started as a writer’s pride and was transformed by ‘suits’ to be a catch phrase based show with no real depth.

What if this new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a huge piece of irony. Liebesman simply chose to put all the schlock that Hollywood does badly into one film? And what’s more he knew that making this choice would still likely give the studio exactly what it wanted – a decent box office draw.

Just for the record, I don’t think my cockamamie theory is true. I think Hollywood just outdid itself by doing all the things we make fun of it for doing when they made this movie. But I hold out hope that this is really a big inside joke. A thesis statement if you will that says, ‘This is what happens when we let Hollywood take characters so precious to us and just shit all over them.”
Regardless, I think I’m going to go re-watch the first TMNT movie from 1990 that I still completely love.

Thanks, y’all!
Rich

Down With Rudeness #downwithrudeness

The planet would be better off if every human being was more polite. The extra politeness won’t necessarily help us find a cure for cancer any quicker or discover intelligent life outside of our planet any sooner. Nor would we experience less hurricanes or earthquakes. But what would it hurt?

If there’s no reason for us all to not be polite then isn’t it worth a shot to try? I am amazed when I witness impoliteness in people. Why would you be rude to someone? We’re all descended from a common ancestor. We’re all in the same species. We all share 99% of our DNA. We’re all tethered to this rocky planet in the backwater solar system somewhere inside the much much much larger galaxy we call the Milky Way. And that galaxy is surrounded by indescribably large and far away galaxies that number in the multiple billions. So, knowing all that why the hell would we cop attitude? It doesn’t make any sense.

That said, I’ve done it myself many times. I get in these moods sometimes. Usually they’re preceded by a set of annoying or troubling circumstances. And when I’m in those moods I get short tempered and often forget my manners. I hate it after it happens. I usually hate it when it’s happening. I never choose to be rude, because I think I’ll enjoy the experience. But try as I might I have not yet been able to stay polite 100% of the time. I would like to. I would like to never be rude no matter what the circumstances.

Maybe there are ways that we as a society can think of to aid us in this quest. Because the world might just be a better place if we all did that. Like, a lot better. Like more than 100% better. Okay, I have no idea if ‘more than 100%’ is even mathematically possible, but it would get a lot better.

Let’s say I post this on FB: “People who want to end women’s right to choose are short sighted and wrong.” That’s not a nice status. Even though it’s true, it’s not nice. So, why not be both? Why not reword it to something like, “I believe a women’s right to choose is important and I disagree with/don’t wholly understand the opposing side’s beliefs or reasons for them, but would love to be taught that from someone so I could better understand and potentially even challenge my own beliefs and reassess my stance.” Obviously it’s a bit long for a Facebook status, so I’d have to come up with a more concise way of illustrating my point of view. But I never altered my meaning by making the status more polite. Now my status won’t infuriate as many people. Hopefully, nobody, but definitely less people than the first status would have pissed off.

Now sometimes we are rude when we don’t intend to be or realize we’re being. That happens. My friend recently posted a Facebook status that read, “You know what I find incredibly hypocritical? The President commits an adulterous act and people say it is his private life, leave him alone. A football player knocks out his wife and people are calling for retribution.”

Obviously, that sparked a lot of controversy. But after swapping comments back in forth for a while, he said the following: “We humans are incredibly hypocritical. We do not even know the levels of our hypocrisy. As a Christian, I have had to think long and hard about the hypocrisy in my life.” He wasn’t saying that a football player knocking out his wife was in any way excusable, nor was he saying that hypocrites are bad people. But I thought he was saying that. And part of the reason I thought that was because I took his status as slightly personal. It seemed to me that he was judging my beliefs as wrong and then calling me a name that

But, after I read that comment about us all being critical, I realized that he was not being rude intentionally. He believes that he is a hypocrite just like every other person on the planet. He isn’t using the word to refer to a small percentage of the population as ‘bad people.’ But his original status update did not make that part clear at all. And even though he knew it in his head, his words did not reflect that and wound up sounding quite ‘holier than thou’ and impolite. So, I told him that I believe him to be a great guy and a person who would never intentionally wanna be rude to someone else. And then I explained why I thought his status update was rude and how he could simply reword it mean the very same thing, but not be misinterpreted as inconsiderate and rude.

If you’re curios I said his originally status update could read like this: “People who want a football player to be punished for beating his wife who also said the former president should be left alone and it was no one else’ business when he cheated on his wife are hypocritical. But I also believe that every human being is hypocritical also. And that includes myself. I am just hypocritical about other things.” Obviously that’s a long status and could greatly benefit from a better linguist’s edits, but the point is that we can have our cake and eat it too in this situation. We can make a bold and controversial statement (either in real life or on social media) and not incite feelings hurt and disgust from our fellow human beings. People don’t tend to hate the actual opinions nearly as much as they hate the manner in which those opinions were expressed.

For example, I don’t hate anyone for simply believing that abortions should be illegal. I disagree with thier opinions, but I try not to let that get in the way of my friendship. I see them as seperate. If I love you then I love you for who you are. I have friends that I disagree with on some very big and important issues. But I love them and I respect their right to disagree with me for their own reasons.

Politicians are rarely like this. They never seem to listen to their debate opponents. And they always seem to speak to each other with a sense of belittling each other. And that’s just gross. Why not have a rational, calm, and polite debate? Maybe if you listened to your debater’s words instead of being blinded by his delivery then you could learn something new. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be convinced to change your mind about something. And instead of looking at that last possibility as a sign of weakness – the infamous ‘flip-flopper’ label reserved for making politicians sound like they have no soul – we could look at that as a strength. A willingness to change our mind about an issue when presented with good evidence and/or a new way of thinking about it should be the way we operate. It’s the most logical thing. It will almost certainly yield the greatest chance for agreement and real improvement.

It works in science. When scientists disagree about something and then the evidence comes in they all (the vast majority) come down on the same side. No scientist for example is still arguing that Newtonian physics are more accurate than the Theory of Relativity. When the theory was first proposed it was not believed to be true. It was attempting to bust down ideas that had lived for hundreds of years. But eventually the math was checked and the experiments showed their results. Now, they all use the Theory of Relativity to make their models and calculations and they get more results from the theory than they would if they hung onto Newtonian physics.

So, let’s all try to be nicer to each other. Let’s not hit ‘post’ on FB until we’ve read it over a few times and decided that it’s not a rude statement. Make sure it won’t be misinterpreted by the majority of people to be rooted in a point of view that is selfish, proud or just plain mean. The world will be a better place. I don’t know how much better, but I’d love to make this movement successful and then we can measure how much better the world becomes (poverty level, homicide count, scientific process, etc.). Even if the numbers are small (say as low as 5% better) wouldn’t that still be worth it? We literally have NOTHING to lose.

So, who’s with me? Let’s all start using the hashtag #donewithrudeness in our tweets and FB statuses. Maybe it’ll catch on and maybe the world will be a slightly better place. What’s the downside?

Thanks, y’all!
Rich