Meandering Thoughts on the Eve of My 21st Birthday

I turn 21 tomorrow (today, as of the actual publishing of this post). This post could have been profound, meaningful, or at the very least relevant. But it’s going to be what it’s going to be: a brief tour of the thoughts meandering about my head on this Monday evening.

Sitting in the library of my college, there’s a girl behind me speaking an Eastern European(?) language. She’s being a little loud for the likes of the woman seated across from her, but she takes no notice. And the woman doesn’t do anything more than scowl over at her. 

What does it feel like to be 21? Our society says that’s when we’re legally adults. We can be tried as adults when we turn 18, but at 21 we’re trusted to “drink responsibly” in public places. Funny, our system of rites of passage. We can drive a metal death machine at age 16, but can’t be trusted to make national political choices for another two years. We also have to wait this long before we’re able to decide whether or not that “Edward + Bella 4EVER” tattoo will stay looking good on our lower back for the rest of our lives. At 18, we can apply for an apartment lease, or to be exotic dancers, or buy cigarettes. We can even decide to tie the knot without our parents’ consent.

And then we can’t take so much as a sip of social ethanol until three more years after that. It’s really no sensible system at all.

In some cultures, we’re adults when we’re 13 or when we hit puberty – when our voices and bodies change. For girls, when we start to bleed. In this grand old culture of the U.S. of A., all we have are arbitrary distinctions. One day, you can be sent to juvie. The next day, you can be condemned to death by a jury of your peers. What a mess.

In Taiwan, where my family is from, and in many other countries, there virtually is no drinking age restriction. It may be different from social group to social group, but in public restaurants and properties, no one really gives much mind to how old you are when you drink. And is it a surprise that alcoholism here and in such countries is lower than that of the United States? When will we as a society learn that forced prohibition never sustainably works?

The girl’s quiet now. I feel self-conscious typing so loudly now.

I have nothing planned for this momentous birthday. I hear that all birthdays after this one aren’t even worth celebrating (or lamenting). Maybe the decade birthdays. How depressing. Soon, I’ll be able to go into those places with the NO MINORS signs. “Haha,” I’ll think, grinning from ear to ear, “I am no longer a minor in this society. Fiddle dee dee.”

Whoop di doo?

Seriously, when will the actual feeling of adulthood start creeping into my head? As far as I know, I’m still a kid. I’m still a wandering pup in a big wide world still looking for a warm belly when I can. Just because the invisible law of this country deems me to be an “adult,” doesn’t mean I am one. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever really feel like one.  Society’ll do all it can to pile on bills, taxes, 8-to-5 jobs, and other “adult responsibilities” to trick me into thinking I’m one. Who in our culture is truly mature? I feel like we’re all domesticated puppy dogs – a culture of unrealized wolves. It’s all a farce.

It is just way too quiet now. What is this, a library or something?

Can someone help me contain my excitement?

But look at this, I’m being such a bore, such a yumm yucker. I know I’ll have enjoy myself – if not on my birthday, then later on in life. Christ, I’ve already had a great deal of fun. There’s nothing to complain about (without getting existentially angsty). Being 21 and beyond is going to be pretty all right. Also, the quiet life sounds nice, but even moderation needs to be taken into moderation. The party-hardy and rave scene will never by my regular diet, but it sure sounds like fun to try out here and there like Grandma’s super fatty, ultra salty, so damn bad yet so damn good home cooking. We can be in danger of having too much ice cream, but we can also be in danger of having too much broccoli as well.

Here is where I sigh a sigh of resignation and acceptance. Adulthood’s going to have to be taken just like everything else. One step at a time. And what the heck do I know? I’m still a baby. I still got time to be proven right (but hopefully oh, so wrong. Hopefully.) And I’m going to put this one last thing out there, that no matter how introverted anyone is, they should soak their big toe out in the waves just once [in a while] at the very least. Really, we only live once, as the kids say. And that’s all I my wandering mind has to say about that.

So Happy Birthday, Sigmund Freud, George Clooney, and Maximilien Robespierre. May 6th is going to be a lovely day. Even if it didn’t work out so well for the Hindenburg.

Oh, she’s started talking on the phone again. I don’t feel so bad anymore.

I may have posted this before, but it’s a video worth watching at least twice.

Do you remember turning 21? And if you aren’t yet there, what are your feelings on looming “adulthood?”

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Easter, Eggs, and The Etymologicon

My family, not being particularly religious, doesn’t celebrate Easter. The most we do is take my youngest siblings Easter egg hunting. Maybe eat at Red Robin. And that’s if we’re feeling particularly special on this otherwise normal Sunday.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an “Easter is a pagan holiday and Jesus doesn’t exist post.” Over on The Big Blog of All the S#!t I Know, I’ve been partaking in [not really] the April A-Z Challenge. The month is almost over and I’m only on the letter “E.” Hooray for laziness. And I’ve also been neglecting this blog, so I’m just using the topic of Easter as inspiration and to segue into talking about etymology (because it’s alliterative, of course).

Words are fascinating, to express my feelings simply. They rock my crocs and allow me to convey ideas both inane and relevant. As much as I aspire to be one, I am no professional linguist, just an amateur lover of language. For fellow word-lovers, a fun read is The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth, the blogger over at The Inky Fool. Forsyth is a level 99 etymology nerd, which makes me both love him and be jealous of him. It’s a lot of etymology packed into less than 300 pages and every other page, you’ll be going “Oh! So that’s where that comes from!”

Another site logophiles will find equally fun and useful is the Online Etymology Dictionary, started by one guy who was also a huge etymology nerd and figured the interwebs needed a proper, coherent etymological dictionary. It’s been added to by loads of people and has become pretty extensive. It’s my go-to site for looking up basic etymologies of words. “Hm, I wonder where the word ‘cockroach’ comes from?” Oh well let’s see. European dude’s bastardization of the Spanish “cucaracha” (chafer, beetle, kind of caterpillar – is “cuca” related to cocoon?)

A certaine India Bug, called by the Spaniards a Cacarootch, the which creeping into Chests they eat and defile with their ill-sented dung [Capt. John Smith, “Virginia,” 1624]. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

And this often leads to a descent into the etymology hole, much like the Wikipedia hole and the cute-animals-on-YouTube hole.

Etymology’s fun isn’t just in memorizing where words come from. Words are more than packaged, literal definitions. They are social vehicles that get us from A to B to X, Y, Z. They get us out of bed and through the door, at dinner with a friend to bed with a lover. The etymology of “etymology” is from the Greek for “the study of the true sense.” This includes the social, cultural history of the word, the psychologies involved with its evolution and use. While a gene pool and a swimming pool might not technically have the same historical origins, is it a coincidence that both senses of pool are tied so closely together in our minds?

A gene pool is a collection of DNA. A swimming pool is a collection of water. So what if the gene pool sense of “pool” comes from the French for chicken, poule, and the swimming pool “pool” is from the Old English/Germanic pol for small body of water? As with John Smith’s mishearing of “cockroach,” when someone hears a language they are unfamiliar with, they automatically search for and attach to familiar-sounding words, whether or not they’re actual cognates. It’s narrow-minded to think words are nothing more than what the Oxford English Dictionary says they are. As a friend of mine said, “Remember that language is no more or less real than math, and words are no more things than unicorns.”

To me, that pretty much sums it up.

Do you have a passion for words? Or are they just tools to get you through the day? Other thoughts?

It’s Friday, Let’s Freewrite

The clock in the bottom right corner of my screen just changed from 12:43 AM to 12:44 AM, the result of a few lines of code marking arbitrary time. As I sit here wondering why I am still awake and why I haven’t attempted to shut down my computer, I look around at the random paraphernalia of my life: books, shelves, plants, clothes, guitar, cords, bags, clock… There’s that time again, except that clock is set four minutes faster than my watch (which actually reads the same time as the clock in he bottom right corner of my screen – down to the second).

The little autosave message at the bottom right corner of  my textbox informs me that a draft of this post was saved at 12:48:20 am. And it just saved again at 12:49:20 am. What does it mean.

If I sit quietly enough, I can hear the faint ticking of my watch. I sometimes hear it at night when I rest my hand under my head to sleep. It’s either soothing or disturbing or it’s not even there, depending on the day, depending on how tired I am. Recently, the insomnia’s been at it again, poking and prodding and nudging, too tired to go to sleep, too conscious to stay awake. What am I writing.

This is stupid. Time… Time for sleep.

The Purge, or How I Stopped Murdering and Loved Civilization [Warning: Caps Lock Abuse Ahead]

Hi folks, it’s been a while. Let’s watch this trailer together:

[I’ll give you a moment to let that soak in, think about it, take a bathroom break…]

Back? All settled in with your tea/soda/lager/drink-of-choice? Good. Let’s begin.

JESUS W. CHRIST. IF I HEAR ANOTHER WORD ABOUT HOW TERRIBLE HUMANITY IS, I’M GOING TO- I’M GOING TO- sit at my computer and tell the handful of you who read this blog how wrong it is.

Truly though, it is annoying seeing depictions and hearing accounts of how ugly and evil human nature is. AND DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME IT’S TRUE. (Not until after I’ve stated my case, of course. Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments all you like.) The mere concept of “evil” is ridiculous. It’s man-made. There is no such thing as “good” and “evil.” These are concepts people long, long, long, long ago came up with to try to make sense of things that happen, to try to justify further actions. And at the most general, these concepts do help. However, it’s like trying to reinvent the wheel – in this case, the wheel is natural selection.

Natural selection, most simply, is this: whatever works continues.

If people had a natural instinct to just kill each other off, we never would have survived this far. If people had a natural instinct to avoid other people at all costs, to never share food, to go on a murderous rampage everyday, homo sapiens would have become extinct eons ago. We wouldn’t have stood a chance against natural selection.

Which is why portrayals of humanity as bloodthirsty, solely selfish, xenophobic morons grind my rustily churning cogs and gears. And this pessimistic view has existed for a long time. You can look back to Hobbes and the overused “nasty, brutish, and short” idea of our ancestors and even Rousseau, who got it less wrong than Hobbes, but still fell for the view of original man as a loner. WE ARE NOT LONERS. WE ARE SUPER SOCIAL ANIMALS. Everyday is a party for homo sapiens. Even introverts like me need people. We might not want to be around people 24/7, but we need community and a healthy support system just like everyone else.

But it’s the quiet ones you gotta look out for. Do you know why the “quiet ones” crack and do terrible things such as shoot up schools and theaters? Because they are ALONE. In our individualistic, capitalist society, we are all alone. They don’t blow places and people up because it’s in their inner nature to do so; they do it because that is what our society molded them to be. If you have fallen under the impression that humanity is shit because of the existence of suicide bombers, school shooters, and terrorists, it is because you do not realize that THESE ARE THE EXCEPTIONS, NOT THE NORM. The reason why violence is so sensational is because it ISN’T NORMAL. For every person who bombs a marathon, hundreds of people rush in to aid the victims.

Why? Is it because we’re monsters, who would happily kill others if given the chance? HELLS TO THE NO.

It’s because we are social, compassionate animals, who – like all other generally successful animals – want to keep our species alive, even if we are not conscious of it. Sometimes this is hard to see. Sometimes it is hard to sift through the bullshit that the media and the powers-that-be play before our eyes and shove down our throats. They want you to think that without corporations and stricter government, we’d all be evil animals that would turn on one another in a heart beat. [The only thing preventing people from killing and stealing are laws, of course!] They want you to forget that it’s because they control the food supply, the security, and the wealth that we sometimes resort to acts of desperation to be released from our suffocation. It is hard to see what humans are like in nature because we have fought so hard to be distinct from nature. The narrative we are fed is the one where humans are not at the top of the food chain, but that we are transcendent of it (or some such nonsense). This is where the conflict and dissonance arise from.

We are animals. We are not murderous. We are not evil. We are simply animals. And all we want is to continue living, satisfied and fulfilled.

In summation, at the time of my writing this, the movie The Purge hasn’t been released, so I haven’t seen it. Maybe the message of the movie really is that humanity isn’t so bad. Who knows? I don’t know, but if you see the movie I’d actually like to hear what you think of it. The trailer just triggered that whole response up there, but we all know that trailers can be terribly misleading. Thank you for reading this far and I promise I will return to the lighter stressful college stuff soon.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think, even if you disagree – especially if you disagree – because I really want to explore this issue in depth. 

In related thingymajigs:

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (Oh, Shut Up)

The sky is falling! It’s a plane! The British are coming!

Oh the Interwebs just love their daily dose of hysteria. To be honest, I rather dislike the news. To clarify, I dislike the news media culture. Learning about what goes on in the world outside of my little bubble is great. I love to learn and I enjoy, to a degree, hearing about how messed up humanity is. As George Carlin would say “It’s entertainment! Live a little!”

But to go back to news media culture and why it sucks – it’s ratings-driven. HBO’s The Newsroom offers a really neat – if overly dramaticized – view of the politics and backstage workings of newscasting. Jeff Daniels plays the highest paid news anchor on TV, who seeks the good old days of hard-hitting journalism. It’s reality. The powers that be of the news media culture know what we want to see because they have skillfully manufactured it. They spoon feed us stories of terrorism, poverty, political scandals, showing us how dark and miserable the rest of the world is (and how lucky the first world is). And then they give us pieces of hope, where they shower us with stories of found puppies, revitalized children, and stupid renditions of that awful, awful “Harlem Shake” trend.

It’s the end of the world, folks! Have you heard? North Korea’s gonna’ nuke us! Duck and cover, kids – they gonna’ go Gangnam style on our asses. Haven’t you seen that Olympus Has Fallen movie? Did you see how easily those Koreans took over the White House? It’s totally plausible. Secret service agents are obviously inept. They’re trained to mindlessly run out into the front lawn to get mowed down by superior Korean weaponry. Gerard Butler, save us!

Olympus Has Fallen - secret service agents mowed down by North Koreans

Shown: Convenient stupidity of unimportant characters for purposes of plot progression.

And to hell with international politics – have you heard that Roger Ebert passed away? A moment’s silence please for the king of film criticism.

Silenced yet? Give yourself and Mr. Ebert a thumbs up.

All right, moving on.

In happier news, the Craigslist Killer has been sentenced to death! Yippee…? Yeah. You see?  The news is depressing. Death, death, death. Well, death sells. If modern executions were broadcast on television, you could bet that that would get some of the highest ratings of anything in the history of “entertainment.” However, that’s actually a topic of discussion for another time.

Now that I’ve raised your spirits, here’s R.E.M.’s music video of “It’s the End of the World.”

What do you think of the news? Informational? Entertaining? Trash *cough*FOX*cough*? What’s your favorite recent news story?