Friday, June 30, 2006

Call me Milton

I’m wasting the final minutes of a pre-holiday Friday afternoon at the state university in Ohio where I work, writing meandering dialogue for a play that won’t seem to start moving and listening to The Killers’ Hot Fuss album. It seems I am not quite the man I thought I was in my previous post. The layouts I designed didn’t quite fly like I had hoped. But that’s ok. I have all next week to really mess things up.

I also learned this afternoon that, despite administration’s intimations to the contrary, I am moving out of my office in August or maybe September to make room for visiting librarians who may or may not be here until next Summer (2007). I get to move my tiny little lab, my boxes full of wires and connector thingies, and the two workstations and desks for my student workers into an office that is slightly smaller than where I currently live. This office is essentially a hallway between two major offices on my floor.

Oh yeah. It doubles as a storage closet!

This is good news, though. It means that once I get moved in and everyone realizes I am the loose tire without a valve stem, I can make the casual suggestion that perhaps working from home will serve as a viable alternative to on campus employment while the library renovation plans get started. Once the library renovation is completed (somewhere between 10 years and 200 years from now), I can move back into the storage closet. My student workers should have graduated by then.

So it looks like fun times here at Sasquatch Headquarters! Wahoo!

I’m sure they’ll get it all worked out. And if they don’t, I’m not too worried. It means I get to hang out in the comfortable computer labs with my laptop while they decide what’s going on.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

I am the man.

I just designed two separate and somewhat complicated Wikimedia layouts and stylesheets for the library wiki we’re running at the state university in Ohio where I work. Additionally, I set up an off-wiki account request form, finished up some scripts for another site, cleaned up my e-mail account, and even had time to check out all the blogs I’ve missed in the past week. Not only that, but I did it all before noon.

In case you couldn’t tell. I’m back on the caffeine. And, lo, it is a good thing. At least until the stomach cramps start, that is.

Now that I’m finished with work-related work, I’m off to work on the three plays I need to write over the next two months. I hope your Fourth of July weekend is exciting. Try not to pour acid all over your eyeballs... like I did last year...when I was completely, really, I was...I'm serious...stop looking at me like that.

Given all the fun going on the Middle East right now, why not check out the Armageddon Flow Chart, just to see how close we are to destruction.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Updates from The Sasquatch

So the play is over and everything is pretty much back to normal here at Sasquatch headquarters. There are a couple of interesting things going on around here, most of which you would likely rather not hear. But I’ll tell you anyway. Because this is my site and I’ll do as I please, thank you very much.

Did I mention that I have a girlfriend, now? If not, I do! Her name is Jen and she lives in the original home of the Sasquatch, Cincinnati. We’ve known each other for a while and we’ve been interested in each other for a while. Only neither of us had the guts to say anything about it. At the risk of sounding sexist, I should have said something about it earlier, but I didn’t. No matter. The present is what counts and at present we are together. Here is a picture of us together in Toronto over Memorial Day weekend.

** ** ** **

Now that the play is over, it would only seem logical that I should move onto other projects. Or maybe pay attention to my real job. Thankfully, that is not the case. I have several other dramatic performances to begin planning. The first is a play I’m writing for the Columbus area Firelight Theater Company (which does not yet have a website). The second is a collection of one acts I’ve been writing, which Wildwood will likely perform. Now, those of you out there in the know might start thinking to yourselves, “woah. The Sasquatch is writing for two separate theater companies!” Not so fast, bucko. The same people populate both companies. One is church related and the other is not so church related.

That means I can actually say bad words in the non church-related company!

Finally, I have yet another play I’m writing, which is for no group in particular, based on the book of Job. It's a comedy, though, so don't be afraid. I probably won’t finish that one until next year, though, since I still have to write The Book™, and start that cartoon with Chad.

I’m also thinking about going back to grad school, only this time I’d study library science instead of Information Systems. Sure, Library Science isn’t what it used to be, but I think the industry is merely undergoing a massive change, and those with library degrees as well as an I.T. background will find themselves in high demand in the near future. If not, at least I’ll have a happy pile of debt to deal with. That has to count for something, right?

I gave up caffeine. Yes. Me, the guy who is single-handedly responsible for bringing Diet Mountain Dew into the mainstream through continuous consumption of the sweet nectar, has given up his nasty vice. It’s been almost four days since I quit and, now that the gremlins have stopped gnawing on my head, I’m beginning to see the world through new, clearer eyes. Continued side effects include, rampant dizziness, unending exhaustion, a powerful and unquenchable thirst, a constant ringing in the ears, and a slightly more mature outlook on how to approach the world.

Perhaps I should go back.

Oh yeah. I might also be diabetic. Have a nice day!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pointless Essay #Q: Tolerance

The library of the large state university in Ohio where I work had a staff appreciation lunch on the big lawn today. I had the opportunity to sit with two ladies from the Slavic and Cyrillic library, and we talked about our jobs. I learned that the two ladies are from very different backgrounds. One is Bosnian and the other is Croatian. That might not mean much here in America, but in Eastern Europe that’s like saying one is Sunni and the other is Shiite, or one is Capulet and the other a Montegue.

One is a Hatfield and the other a McCoy.

Due to the nature of their collection, they often have guests from Eastern Europe over to visit. They will stay in the city of the large state university in Ohio where I work and spend their days pouring over the vast collection of ancient literature and whatnot. The ladies told me that their personal heritage can sometimes come into play.

“We have to warn people that I am from Serbia and she is from Croatia,” one lady said, “because sometimes they make inappropriate and disparaging comments about one race or the other if they don’t know. It might not sound right to us here in the States, but that’s just how they do things over there.”

We went on to talk about the geographical landscape of Eastern Europe and how, in order to retain their history, culture, and heritage, many groups also retained the social prejudices that went along with it. Otherwise, they argued, this heritage would be lost forever. ”It’s unfortunate,” they said, “but that’s the world they live in.”

After this happy conversation, they asked me what I did. I told them that I sat around all day, watching movies on my computer and posting to my blog and they smiled, saying that it sounded interesting. (actually, I told them what I did and they were immediately bored beyond belief; which is ironic, considering they deal with ancient Slavic tax records all day). They asked if this was my first experience working in a library and I said that I had worked as a Circulation manager at the highly esteemed University of Cincinnati Medical School library (you can’t spell SUCKS with out UC!), and that this was the city in which I was raised.

“Cincinnati’s a weird town,” one of them told me. “I’ve never understood it. Everybody there is so f**king conservative. I hate it.”

“Yes,” the other lady said, “What’s the deal with you people?”

Now I understood that they were joking, but I still found it mildly ironic that these ladies, who had spent a great deal of time discussing the great pains to they take in order to avoid offending people with Slavic backgrounds, would so easily speak about Cincinnatians and conservatives in such broad, derisive, and stereotypical terms, especially when you consider that they had never met me and knew nothing about me.

I told them that Cincinnati was a lot like Eastern Europe when it comes to tolerance and diversity and the acceptance of outside cultures. Due to its geographical landscape of surrounding hills, the city developed through small valley towns in between the hills which, for many years, remained isolated from the others with only a few rare exceptions. As the city grew and the towns expanded, the small pockets of civilization had to choose whether to give up their individuality and welcome outsiders or remain as they were. Many of the small towns refused to accept outsiders, which is why many people who move into the city from other locations can still feel like outsiders even after living their for over a decade. It is also why the city feels like it is stuck in the ‘70s, and has slowly begun a cultural descent that is eaten on one side by the aging population of those who were here in its heyday and on the other, the rampant flashy, suburbanized, tract housing blandness that threatens to destroy most cities across America.

I went on to say that, while the county is excessively conservative, the city is actually quite liberal. There is a vibrant arts and music scene, there are major sports teams with rich histories, and there are two major universities that contribute to the global community of science, art, architecture, and literature. The majority of Cincinnati’s politicians are democrats, and nearly every mayor in the city’s history has been rabidly liberal. This is the city that spawned Jerry Springer, remember.

“Well they need to stop being so damn conservative and just get with the times,” the ladies said, and we moved on to discuss other things.

I was surprised, though, that these women, who were open to other cultures outside the American landscape, would be close-minded when it came to domestic differences. This is, I think, a problem with the way we view society here in America. Have you noticed that both sides of the political spectrum make it a habit of accusing the other of close-mindedness? It’s almost to the point that this has become the defining characteristic of “those with whom we disagree,” and this is likely a large part of why so many people on either side of the equation refuse to discuss issues with people who challenge them.

This is a gross misconception about society as a whole. Most of us work with people who think differently. Pro choice people work hand in hand with pro life people. Homosexuals and conservative Christians shop in the same supermarkets. Democrats and Republicans sit next to each other at company picnics, eat the same food, drink the same beer, and often laugh at the same jokes. We are not as different as the popular beliefs make us out to be.

So how do we define cultural diversity and tolerance? Does tolerance mean that we should accept differing opinions as equally correct, even if those opinions exist in diametric opposition? Does it mean that we should recognize our differences and merely learn to co-exist? Or does it mean we should recognize people’s right to be wrong about stuff, realize that many of our deeply held beliefs and convictions are likely just as wrong, and commit to learning from other people through community?

I’ve always believed it’s the third one. While it is the most difficult, it can also be the most rewarding. It means that some of us conservative Christians can learn a thing or two about standing up to opposition (like Christ did) through the struggles faced by many in the homosexual community, many at the hands of our brethren. It means that socialists and free market capitalists can finally come together and realize that where one idea is weak, the other is strong, and that an economic ideal likely exists with both ends of the spectrum working in concert. It means Eastern Europeans realizing that historical mistakes really do repeat themselves if we fail to learn from them, and that the correct response to this repetition is not to sit back and call those involved close-minded, but rather to actively work towards quelling those mistakes before they get started.

And it means that fat, bald, white guys from Cincinnati should realize that this is a difficult thing for Eastern Europeans to do. Or anyone else for that matter.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Only A Week Away

ADDENDUM: Many thanks to Chad for the trailer production and to Poindexter for taking all the snazzy pictures.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pointless Essay: Reasonable Faith

P.Z. Myers over at Pahryngula has an interesting post on faith, arguing that it is worthless in modern society. He has this to say:

“Faith is a hole in your brain. Faith stops critical thinking. Faith is a failure point inculcated into people's minds, an unguarded weak point that allows all kinds of nasty, maggoty, wretched ideas to crawl into their heads and take up occupancy. Supporting faith is like supporting people who refuse to be vaccinated: they're harmless in and of themselves, they may be perfectly healthy right now, but they represent fertile ground for disease, and they represent potential severe damage to the social compact. When you're in a culture that worships Abraham's insanity, you're fostering the nonsense that enables the Son of Sam.”

In response to somebody else’s post about the idiotic pseudo-requirement that politicians must be people of faith in order to advance, PZ continues further with this:

“When the core of the institution is an acceptance of irrational, the ones who will climb to the top are those most able to exploit the delusions of the masses, or who are most earnest and unhesitating in their endorsement of foolishness.”
PZ is showing his hand. He launches into a derisive rant about faith without ever having defined it for us. To him, apparently, faith is an acceptance of the irrational, not an acceptance of something that, while rationality may exist to varying degrees, is not or cannot be proven beyond a certain extent. According to PZ, believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster requires faith, but adhering to a scientific description, which is merely an inexact human approximation of reality, as truth and not an approximation of such requires absolutely no leap in logic. Science requires faith as well, and if you disagree, please explain whether you believe the Big Bang or String Theory of cosmogony (or something else) and share with us the perfect line of logic that has lead you to this conclusion.

Then give me a reason to believe that naturalism is the only valid system for determining existence and reality. I’m all ears.

P.Z. states that all religious belief is irrational and that we should conclude that statements of faith are merely the actions of small minds that do not wish to do the kind of work necessary to succeed. P.Z. makes the classic atheistic mistake when discussing issues of faith and spirituality. When confronted with an idea he either cannot handle or disagrees with, he merely changes the rules so that he does not have to. He argues from preclusion. He says that the supernatural cannot exist because its very existence does not fit into his limited, naturalistic worldview. The supernatural isn’t natural therefore it doesn’t exist. The astute observer will realize, of course, that it is quite irrational to assume that all of existence can be defined by our understanding of science, especially given the fact that scientists themselves claim there is a whole lot out there we just don’t understand. This kind of thinking requires a great deal of – oh, the irony – faith.

It’s easy to call yourself the tallest man in the world if you limit your definition of humanity to those people who are your height and shorter.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually agree with some of what Dr. Myers has to say. I don’t like the idea that politicians must pander to certain sections of religious society in order to get elected. I also believe that people quite often rely on faith as a crutch and refuse to think about things deeply. There’s a quote in the Bible somewhere that says as much, too, I think. It says (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Why are you still messing with this easy stuff. You should have moved onto meatier things a long time ago. Get moving!” I don’t like the big Bang argument that goes like this: “God said it and BANG, it happened.” This type of thinking severely limits human understanding and it cheapens everyone as a whole.

This does not mean that we should discount all faith in every situation, only those which are clearly irrational. This, of course, begs the question. What is rational? This is the position he should have argued. P.Z. obviously has some issues with people who believe in God. He thinks it’s irrational, but rather than explain the distinction between the kind of faith required to accept something that is irrational and the kind of faith it takes to believe something that is completely rational and yet not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, he assumes all faith is obviously counter to standard logic, refuses to address those things he finds irrational about Christianity or any kind of religion for that matter, calls those who are open about their faith some nasty names, and moves on. In short, he sidesteps the argument because he lacks the mental cajones to engage in the debate.

He says that faith is a “hole in the brain,” but I wonder if he believes the same of his own.