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99 reasons why I’m better than you (#triggerwarning: #socialjustice)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2014 by Anton A. Hill

So the wife and I are getting groceries at Whole Foods (yeah, yeah, fuck off). I’m wearing my brand-ass new Persol shades (seriously, fuck off). We’re set on getting some post-shopping vegan, chocolate sorbet (if you don’t fuck off, I swear…). The checker makes a light-hearted comment on my shades. Something like, “Too bright in here?” Or, “Going to the beach?” You know, something humorous, chatty, polite.

But ignorant.

See, what he was doing was making a judgment on my wearing sunglasses indoors. He was operating from a place of able-bodied privilege where people like him don’t have to wear shades inside because they have no fear of getting skull-cracking headaches if they don’t. I answered, “Awfully presumptive of you. Here I am shopping, giving you guys my money, and you feel you have the right to mock my disability?”

Oh, shit. Wait. I didn’t say that. Know why I didn’t say that? Because, the site name notwithstanding, I’m not a fucking blowhard, self-righteous, offended-for-its-own-sake asshole. What I actually did was make some equally polite, humorous, smile-filled comment about the beach or something. Why? While I stand by the points I made in the third paragraph, it comes down to priorities. Was he operating out of ignorance? Yes. Was he making a bit of a judgment based on that ignorance? Yes. Does he arguably operate out of a place of privilege (I know you love that word)? Yes. But what do I gain by making a huge, public scene over a very trivial matter? Sure, it’s an opportunity to educate him on a social irritant he’d most likely otherwise never be aware of, but the process by which I’d most likely have to have done that would’ve cost more time, energy, and social awkwardness than I felt it was worth. Essentially, he meant no harm. Pick your battles. Move on.

I’ve spent a good amount of time on the webtubes chatting with those who consider themselves marginalized in some way or another. In many of those cases, I agree with their sentiment, but not with how they’re choosing to express it or how they’re choosing to, what they consider, affect change. If you’re one of those kinds of people, you feel your blood boil when someone accidentally, usually out of ignorance, uses a less-than-flattering phrase, makes an assumption, or some other crime against humanity, consider the following reasons why I’m a better person than you are.

  1. I hope for a lot, I expect little. We’d all like to be in a world where we’re all treated well and when we’re not, people apologize, change their behavior, and puppies and rainbows. But with competing ideas come competing freedoms, values, agendas, and so on. The hoped-for reality is often opposite to the actual reality. And while actual usually becomes hoped-for, it often takes a long time, with lots of struggle. As such, I try not to act on or pronounce too many absolutes. There simply aren’t that many. And when people act as if there are and pronounce things as such, conflicts arise.
  2. I’m patient. I have to be. Most people arrive to the conversation with loads of assumptions, not the least of which is that they’re right. About everything. Then, they tend to operate out of their assumptions, often treating me as if I’m wrong, even in a subject I’m a lifelong expert on. But I don’t hate them for that. Near as I can tell, we all do it. I see each of those occasions as an opportunity for discussion, learning, and so on.
  3. I don’t mind repeating myself. Over and over again. And I do this a lot. I can’t tell you how often I get the same questions. Usually verbatim. All the time. There was one week where I had to give the same spiel to three different people. What keeps me sane? I know that for each person, it’s the first time they’re asking and it’s not their problem it’s my 1000th time answering.
  4. I have a sense of humor. Ask anyone. I’m happy to be mocked. Usually, the only offense I take is if I just don’t think the mocking is that creative. But I don’t mind it. Not one bit. In fact, I often join in.
  5. I don’t expect you to read my mind. I know what I look like. It’s very often been pointed out. I’m a tall, thin, white guy. Since I’m usually socially seen with my wife, it’s obvious I’m hetero. Given those attributes, most people assume that there’s nothing “wrong” with me. And depending on definitions, they’re right. But along with that nothing-“wrong” assumption comes the expectation that I fit in with their image of what a straight, white guy is. As in no challenges, no sense of social oppression, and no willingness to learn about it. Thus, when we engage, I don’t expect others to just “get it.”
  6. I’m always willing to discuss, even when it becomes uncomfortable. Unlike many people I’ve observed, I don’t fly off the handle the second someone makes an assumption or asks a question. I don’t pull “trigger warning” cards (which I do have). I don’t take most things for granted. So if someone asks what I think of ableism and we seem to have a disagreement, I don’t just tell them to shut up and listen. Even if it is warranted.
  7. -99. I lied.

With this manifesto, I’m committing to calming the fuck down myself. I’ll do my best to not seek out controversy over these issues (or others) in my on-line presence. I can’t promise I won’t ever slip–some things really, really piss me off–but I’m gonna give it a go.

Maybe you should too.

“I can see through time!”–#LisaSimpson

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 19, 2014 by Anton A. Hill

So I got really, really high the other week. This is very rare for me. I’ve only smoked about five times ever. I’ve only gotten high, where I noticed it, twice. The first time was forever ago when I was an intern at a production company in Hollywood. And it was intense. But nowhere near this.

I was at a friend’s for dinner. He had the whole setup. The bong, the joints, the crackers. I don’t do bongs. Not since the first time. I hate the whole process around it, mainly because I’m pyrophobic, so the very notion of turning a lighter upside down and holding it on while I toke sounds awful and dangerous.

I had never smoked a joint. It was awkward. I’ve done cigars and e-cigs and that’s easy. But I got two good drags. I felt pretty much nothing.

Seconds later, my friend busts out the crackers. They seemed perfectly harmless. I ate five. Tasted just like Cheez-Its. I felt nothing again. My friend warned me that though I was not currently feeling it, goddamn would I.

Goddamn did I.

You know all those stories you heard in college, usually from your roommate, about feeling paranoid while high? You know how you thought those were all horseshit? That he, and others, were either being really hyperbolic or just lying through their teeth?

You were wrong.

Within moments of my Uber cab picking me up, I was convinced that my driver was going to murder me and make a lampshade out of my skin. I’m not kidding at all. Except about the lampshade part. I was so afraid of him killing me that I didn’t text my other half to tell her I was afraid because I was afraid he’d notice my texting and kill me.

For about 20 agonizing minutes, I had to repeat to myself that no, he was not gonna murder me, I didn’t recognize where we were because it was a route I didn’t normally take by bus or by car, everything was gonna be fine, and calm the fuck down.

Didn’t work.

Even as I exited the guy’s truck, l was sure he was gonna kill me. It wasn’t till I got inside and closed the door that I relaxed. But that wasn’t the end.

Oh, no.

Within minutes of arriving home and warning the better half that I was high, the shit kicked in. Full throttle. All the way.

For hours my short-term memory was completely blasted and I could not tell what was real, and the difference between what I was saying in my head vs. out loud.

It was so Memento.

I remember literally (yes, literally) sitting there talking to my wife and I couldn’t remember whether what I’d just told her I actually just told her or I just thought I’d told her.

At one point, she suggested I try to distract myself by watching a TNG episode on my iPhone. The next thing I knew, I was holding my iPhone for some reason. I heard her laugh and couldn’t remember telling a joke.

Seriously.

In my racing mind, I had all kinds of thoughts. Some pretty crazy. Which I won’t retell here. The point is, though, I honestly couldn’t tell whether I was just thinking them or saying them. But I couldn’t ask that because that would sound crazy.

I finally came up with a system. I deduced that if, in the immediate past, I’d done or said something truly offensive or dangerous, then in whatever given moment, I’d be experiencing the consequences of those actions. Therefore, the fact that I was not experiencing any negative consequences (other than the wife laughing at me), I could reasonably assume I’d not done or said anything truly awful.

But!

I couldn’t remember this full process from one moment to the next so I had to come up with a single word that I could just repeat which would convey to me, in those passing and forgotten moments, everything I needed to know.

“Calm.”

I repeated this to myself over and over. I reminded myself that no matter what fear I had presently, the fact was that were it worthy, “calm” wouldn’t be applicable, and yet that’s what was being repeated.

“Calm.”

I soon calmed. And once calmed, I could focus a bit more. And here’s the point of this post. I admitted to the wife that I honestly couldn’t tell what was real or not. Whatever natural separator we have in our brains wasn’t functioning in me.

This led me to wonder, for weeks now, how do we tell what’s real or not? I assume there’s some switch somewhere. Some chemical. Some neuron. Something which, somehow, tells us, “This is real. This is not.”

This is what I found.

I find this fascinating because the religious often make claims of plausibility and possibility, often of miracle-claims or general god-claims. I find these debates useless because many of the standards most of us use aren’t truly objective. So then it gets down to what the individual finds plausible based on his own standards. And individuals believe some pretty kooky shit.

As unpleasant as some aspects of the above experience were, I actually look forward to future crackers.

(The supernatural claims of) #FengShui are #bullshit!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 15, 2014 by Anton A. Hill

But first, a definition of FS itself:

“Feng Shui is a system of aesthetics that involves the creation of harmony between people and their environment. At its most basic form, Feng Shui discusses how the Universal energy known as ‘Chi’ affects you. Chi enters through your front door, traveling throughout various centers of your home. If there is clutter in your home, the Chi gets stuck, and the energy becomes stagnant. This eventually affects the residents of the home in various ways. For example, feeling lethargic, fatigued, unfocused, or even sick are all results of ‘stuck Chi.’ In order to ‘free the Chi,’ the clutter needs to be eliminated and furniture needs to be moved. A Feng Shui consultant can be invaluable in helping you place items or furniture to maximize harmony in your home. Remember that you are reflected in your home, and your home is reflected in you.”
–Lady

Let’s get the positive out of the way. A “system of aesthetics” is awesome. I’ve seen pictures of homes and offices that have been organized according to FS principles and it’s a very cool design system. When taken on those grounds alone, I say if you wanna pay for someone to deck out your space according to these principles, have a ball.

Onward… Continue reading

Thank you, #EthanHill, for recommending @PennJillette’s @bigthink video!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 15, 2014 by Anton A. Hill

My Conversation with Jamie M.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 15, 2014 by Anton A. Hill

Jamie M.
Nice. I’m sure you got under my skin because I am surrounded by those who chose not to challenge my intelligence and simply go with the flow of life. People who really think things through can fascinate and infuriate me all at once. Ignorance is bliss…usually those who choose to be simple will lash out when you force deeper knowledge on them. So…Thank you for the challenge. While I don’t think you and I will always agree, I find you to be “Awesome” as well.

Jamie M.
As for my beliefs…Its not like I haven’t been driving down the road some days and thinking to myself that as much as I’m certain there is a God and all the stories in the Bible are true, is as certain as the those in the past believed in Zeus and others believe in “Allah” and Mormons in that prophet and baptizing the dead and if they can be “perfect” they can become Gods themselves…I am not devoid of intelligence and find myself seeking out “proof” articles, historical documentation of the places, people and things in the Bible and yet even then, is it simply a very dated glorified book of history? And then I was pregnant a second time and realized that while I could take the side of total ignorance and believe in blind faith, and I could take the total side of demanding impirical proof and believing in nothing…there are people in life who see each other person as just bags of skin, bones and fat. While technically I want my surgeons to see me that way…much like a computer and every single symptom can be resolved biologically, I don’t want anyone else to view me as a human being as void of intrinsic value. I feel that intrinsic value lies within that “light” inside a person and my heart would break at the thought that the soul doesn’t contain that, and that this part of you would die with the body…so…I choose to “blindly” believe there is “more” to life and to death then I honestly can know, or prove, I don’t know what it is for sure, there are convincing sides on each side, but I want to believe in Angels, I want to believe there is a God…but the ultimate truths to me are this: NO ONE will ever know until they are dead. And if there really is a God, if there really is an omnicient being so perfect and so intelligent to create all this, why the HELL are we so sure our primitive, limited brain capacity could POSSIBLY understand, decipher, and interpret all that He/She/It has created and made available? Why on earth do we fight over things we will never know for sure till we either take that eternal dirt nap and nothing else ever exists or cross to the other side and find out well DAMN…it WAS true.?? SO…that dream I was confiding in Jeff? More of a personal want/desire/need…sure my brain synapsis probably fired off a simple dream to convince me of what I already wanted to believe was true…but again who is to say that God, in the whole “infinite wisdom” couldn’t have created that dream because he knew thats what could convince my silly small mind? Who says Big Bang and DNA and Science isn’t all God created and he’s up there smiling and laughing at us for trying to interpret his ultimate design? *shrug* Thats why I don’t judge you for not believing, because hell, you could be right, I don’t judge Jeff for believing because again, he could be right. And as for me? I believe in the Golden Thread…one simple golden truth runs through all religions, faiths, beliefs, and we probably couldn’t pinpoint it if we tried…we all have a small portion right (likely the “goodness morality etc.. part” but we also likely have the majority of it wrong. I’ll know when I’m dead I guess. Meanwhile the subject and the belief systems of others will continue to fascinate me.

Hey Jamie,

To be clear, I never challenged your intelligence. I have no doubt that you’re intelligent. I challenged your claims. It may not seem it, but there’s a very big difference. No, we may not always agree, but I find it’s through discourse that progress is made.

See now, you state both that you’re certain that there is a God and that the stories of the Bible are true. First, how do you know this, and second, are you referring to all of the stories of the Bible, or just the ones that seem reasonable? As in, do you believe that the entire universe was created in six literal 24-hour days? Do you believe that Noah literally built a boat capable of holding at least two of every single species on Earth? In both cases (and more), we know the earlier origins of these stories. I think they’re both Sumerian. In the case of Noah, I think there’s an almost 1:1 correlation between it and some parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh, though I’m not sure on that one.

You mention the historical documentation of the Bible. Are you aware that places mentioned in the Odyssey literally existed and exist? And yet I feel safe in assuming that you don’t think that Athena literally spoke to Odysseus. Also, though there are accounts in the Bible that can be corroborated by external sources, do you thus believe that such corroboration is sufficient evidence of the supernatural claims made? If you do, I refer you to the Odyssey and other semi-historical epic literature.

I take issue with your assertion that to rely on empirical evidence is to “believe in nothing.” We atheists believe in a large number of things, including, but not limited to, the value of life, love, happiness, compassion, etc. To suggest that a value of compassion, for example, necessarily arises from a belief in the supernatural is demonstrably false.

Your suggestion that to understand that humans are biological machines and thus devoid of intrinsic value is a false dichotomy. It’s obviously possible to find intrinsic value in lots of things without the hand of the supernatural.

I don’t understand why you say it would break your heart to consider that a “light” isn’t contained in a soul. First, I don’t honestly know what you mean by that and second, we know from biology and neurology that all that we are is defined through brain activity. This has been demonstrated. Why is it such a terrible thing to find value in what we have in our brains?

What convincing ideas are there in support of life after death?

If you consider yourself an honest person, which I’m sure you do, don’t you want to believe in things that are true rather than things that you want to be true? I want it to be true that if I were to leap off the top of the Empire State Building that I would land safely without a scratch, but the evidence for gravity is overwhelming. To deny such is completely delusional and useless.

Why do you want to believe in angels and God? What about those ideas is attractive to you? We actually know exactly what happens upon death. Brain activity ceases. End of story.

I understand what you mean by the possibility of an omni- God, but the question is, how do you prove this? By that same reasoning, I could justify a belief in Zeus and leprechauns because I want to believe in them. At least Zeus has direct, physical evidence of His power. I’ve seen lightning.

Assuming that “damn it was true” is logically equivalent to assuming that there is a Valhalla and that the ancient Norwegians were right. Why not assume that the Egyptians were right and that the area outside the Nile is the land of the dead? Better start building that pyramid. According to them, it’s the only way by which you get to Heaven.

I understand your feelings on your dream, but even by your own admission, you recognize that you employed the Confirmation Bias fallacy. You sought that which would convince you of what you wanted to be convinced and, surprise, you were convinced. You already recognize the testable possibility that it was generated by your brain. Thus, acknowledging the inherent flaws in your dream hypothesis and the inherent value in an empirical explanation, why even bother with the dream hypothesis?

The problem with suggesting that the Big Bang, DNA, and Science are the products of God is that they include a whole host of ethical questions which the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent,
omnibenevolent god doesn’t answer. For example, why would God implement a system that requires that sentient beings devour each other? Where the vast majority of all living things have gone and will go extinct? Where most of those living won’t live past the age of 20? Where most living will die of starvation, disease, and worse? And God knew all of this would happen before He created it. A God laughing indeed. The cruel, cosmic jester.

I appreciate the lack of judgement, but honestly, there’s no need and it’s a bit of arrogant presumption on your and Jeff’s part. You don’t take the notion of Zeus seriously and I wager you’d find the idea of someone who does laughable. Yet the amount of evidence for Zeus and Yahweh is identical. Zero. It’s only by sheer chance and government backing that your chosen belief system is socially acceptable.

I also find it pretty intellectually dishonest to suggest that *anyone* could be right. You don’t actually believe this. You don’t believe that leprechauns might exist. You don’t believe that Osiris may have died for your sins. And you don’t for exactly the same reason that I don’t believe in Yahweh or His family. No evidence.

I disagree with your assertion on the Golden Thread. That compassion exists is not a result of religion. This is demonstrable in the least in the historical appearance of religion occurring after the historical appearance of compassion. How do I know this? There’s evidence that pre-historic man took care of its elderly and weak at no benefit to itself. Compassion, kindness, good will, whatever you’d like to call these things, all have group benefits that outweigh self-promotion.

In short, all things that you’ve asserted to be good and attributable to a god are demonstrable through science. As for the rest? No evidence.

Best,

Anton.

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