Saturday, October 30, 2010

First Webcam Video

I just bought a new webcam, installed it, and posted my first video with it to Facebook earlier today. And then I figured that if I'm using this blog to nakedly reflect the "real me," this would be a good place to post the video as well. Actually, I plan to post more videos of myself here over time, if I can think of anything to talk about, but this is my first foray into such Internet visibility.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Chew or Not to Chew?

A local news channel posted on its Facebook page the following question: A congressman has asked the Giants and the Rangers not to chew tobacco on the field in this year's World Series. What do you think about that?

Almost everyone has responded by excoriating the congressman for not attending to more important things and by defending the right of baseball players to do what baseball players have always done. Yet, as you might suspect, I posted a rather different response that, despite its deliberate rhetorical excess, makes what I consider to be some valid points:

Why do any of you care if a congressman merely ASKS the players not to chew tobacco during the World Series? He's not trying to legislate against tobacco chewing. Apparently nobody else had the testicular fortitude to do it, so he stepped up to the plate to try to spare our nation's impressionable youth from being exposed to that vile habit during American baseball's most visible and iconic event. You should be applauding him for what he did instead of condemning him for it! How is it that you've allowed your exaggerated, reflexive hatred of government to override your concern for the health and well-being of your children?

The only problem I have with the good congressman is his naivety in thinking that major league baseball players are smart enough to heed his intelligent advice or that they give a damn about our children or anyone else but their overpaid and overly famous and pampered selves.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Comment to Roger Ebert About Life and Death

Roger Ebert has an outstanding blog that uses the films he reviews as a taking off point for more extended reflections on the themes and issues raised by those films. In a recent entry about Clint Eastwood's new film "Hereafter," he makes the following comments about death:

"When I write that I expect to experience no more after death than I experienced before birth, I receive comments from people who pity me. They wonder how I can possibly live with such a bleak prospect. I find it more cheerful than most of the other possibilities that have been floated. I don't want to come back as an insect, haunt unquiet places as a ghost, or gaze down benevolently on my loved ones below as they, and all their generations to the end of time, die from mayhem or disease. I am also offered the possibility that I will be absorbed in God's love for all eternity, which is a better offer, but lacking in definition. If that means what it seems to mean, and if God is infinite (as he must be), then the role played by "me" can hardly be aware or conscious in any meaningful way. But I will become part of the universal, you say? I already am. You, too...We live, we die. That is not a tragedy. The tragedy would be never having been born."

I just replied with a comment that awaits Ebert's approval before it appears. Here is what I wrote:

Roger, I agree with you that there's nothing "bleak" about the prospect of dying and returning to the same state of non-consciousness that presumably characterized us before we existed. But I disagree with you that there would be anything "tragic" about never being born in the first place. For whom would it be tragic? If one never existed, there would be nothing to regret missing out on the experience it never existed to have.

In fact, I'd go further and agree with philosopher David Benetar's premise in "Better Never to Have Been" that if our lives are simply, as Alan Watts characterized the prevailing non-religious view, "a trip from the maternity ward to the crematorium," and, as Benatar argues, fraught with more pain and suffering than pleasure and happiness, the REAL "tragedy" for most if not all of us is that we WERE born. We'd have been better off had we never been at all.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Road Rage

Last week my wife and I were driving somewhere when I almost got into a violent altercation with someone. I was driving to an unfamiliar location and realized that I was in the wrong lane with a left turn coming up, and when I signaled and tried to move into the left turn lane, the big SUV behind me sped up to make sure I couldn't move over, as a woman in the passenger seat glared down at me as they raced by like she was thinking, "Screw you."

Well, I did manage to get over behind the SUV, and as we both sat at a red light, I made an angry gesture to the driver of the SUV. No, I didn't flip him the bird. I shook my fist at him. He saw me and opened the driver side door part way as though he was going to jump out and confront me right there, but it appeared as though the woman passenger stopped him from following through on his folly. He slammed his door shut and jerked around in his seat like he was completely beside himself with fury.

I don't know what I would have done if he had gotten out of his vehicle and moved toward me. I know I would have stayed in the car, but what if he started pounding on it or kicking it? What if he had a gun? He certainly seemed angry enough that if he had a gun, he wouldn't have thought twice about using it, especially if he hadn't had a female passenger to talk him out of it.

If he had had a gun and started walking toward me with it, I think I'd have tried to run him over. If he'd damaged the car with punches or kicks, I or my wife would have tried to get his license number and report him.

But what about the gesture I made to him? Should I have done it? Did he deserve to see my displeasure over the way he conducted himself when I tried to move into the left turn lane just before the stoplight? I think he deserved it. But what people deserve and what we should give them if it puts ourselves and our loved ones in danger are, perhaps, separate issues with the latter overriding the former.

In retrospect, I wish I had made no gesture, although a perverse part of me is glad I did. But if I had it to do over, should I have made the gesture I did or some other one? If another one, what should it have been? I kind of think that showing him the back of my open hand would have been better. It wouldn't have been overtly vulgar like flipping him the bird, or confrontational like showing him my fist. He would have probably thought I was flipping him the bird or challenging him to a fight anyway, but at least I'd have the satisfaction of knowing that I did neither, assuming he didn't shoot me and I was able to feel anything afterward.

What kind of society do we live in with people like the jerk in the SUV with his stereotypical Harley sticker on the back and, perhaps, a gun or crowbar under his seat driving on our public roads? Or am I the villain in this story?