Thursday, May 5, 2016

About Those Ancestry Results . . .




So, my results from the DNA ethnicity test I took 6 weeks ago found their way into my inbox this morning. If you recall, I detailed the decision to have this done in my previous blog entry titled, "Who Do I Think I Am." In that post, I speculated about what my own ethnicity might be. Go check it out if you want some context.

Or, I suppose I can just rehash those guesses below:

European: 52%
African: 38%
Native American: 8%

I based this on the fact that my father is from the Dominican Republic, and that Dominican people are usually blessed with a healthy dose of both African and European influences in their genetic makeup. I say "blessed" because, in my frank opinion, mixing is the best! Yeah, I said it. I want the whole world to just stop with the ignorance and MINGLE already, yo!

Also guiding my guesswork is the relatively new knowledge that my maternal grandmother comes from a mixed African American/Caucasian background herself. And although she would end up marrying an Anglo-Scots-Irish man from North Carolina and having my mother and aunt with him, I figured that my grandma's African-American roots combined with my father's Afro-Caribbean roots would reveal to me somewhere between 1/3rd and 1/2 of my total ethnic makeup as hailing from West Africa.



My lovely maternal grandma, Frances.


And while I assumed that more than half of my makeup would be European, I thought it would be barely above half. I know my father's side wasn't completely African-descendant, and that because of Spain's influence in the Caribbean, that I would naturally get a lot of Spanish or Iberian markers in my test results. But I figured that the African side of my ancestry would still be rather sizable.

Turns out I guessed rather poorly on both accounts!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Who Do I Think I Am?

So, recently I went through with it and ordered my DNA testing kit through Ancestry.com. It arrived speedily in the mail, and I then spat into a tube, mixed in some blue preserving liquid, capped it off and shook the tube like the Dickens -- and then dropped it off in the mail.




Now, apparently, I wait around 6 weeks to receive my results. What am I expecting to get out of all this? Well, it's mostly to satisfy my curiosity.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Watch Them Grow . . .



In my previous post, I observed how wonderful children are in their ability to learn new things; and, more importantly, their ability to divine from context the meaning of strange or new concepts to their young, agile minds. Children really do exemplify the hopes of our race.

I'm reminded of this each time I watch children at play. No matter how sad I'm feeling, or lonely, or just downright dejected at the events of my life, sitting off to the side in a large social gathering where children are present, observing them interact and play with one another, I find myself so happy and feeling alive in spite of things. It's truly remarkable!

Try it sometime.

Children are the most beautiful achievements we humans are capable of creating. Nothing else equals the seemingly simple act of procreation, the process by which we pass on our genes and ensure the future survival of our species. And although it now appears as if I will never get to experience the joy of having my own children--something that has recently provided me with a great source of unending agony and misery--I can't deny that I love children. I'm one of those people that find babies beautiful no matter their superficial features, and am always on the lookout for their well-being and happiness. I loathe anyone who can harm a child, or bring to them sadness.

I especially hate it when I see parents mistreating their kids in public. It gets me so angry! At those times I feel that these are people who do not deserve to have children. Cursing kids out and ridiculing them in public? What kind of man or woman are you that you would treat your own issue in such a way? Fucking despicable!

For me, it seems profoundly unfair that such people are allowed to have children, and yet someone like me cannot. At least, I don't think I will in this lifetime. Perhaps someday I might meet that special someone willing to go through this journey with me, and hopefully I am not too old for the process by that time. I'm turning 40 later this year, after all, so I still have around 10 - 20 more years for it to happen. Don't think I will want to by the time I'm 50, though---but who knows!

Still, in the meantime, I'll continue to be the doting "uncle" of several of my friends' own children. A position I cherish and honor, and love being in, but which gives me endless opportunities to regret the turns in my own life that have prevented me from experiencing parenthood the way they have.




As I watch children at play, I think of all their potential. I see in them all the ways they are living a better childhood than the one I had. All my friends are doing standout jobs of raising their children in the most loving and nurturing manner possible. This makes me so happy to see! And I vow to always protect these children in my own special way, too. I love them as if they are my own, and will never allow harm to come to them. And if my plight is to watch the children of my friends grow up to adulthood while never having any of my own ... it is my privilege nonetheless. They have taught me so many wonderful lessons about humanity, and continue to do so. In their eyes I see the endless possibilities of their futures unfold. I see that they will achieve far more than I ever could, and this I feel is as it should be.

You know, I'm reminded of that one song by the great Louis Armstrong. You know it, too. It's called "What a Wonderful World." Listen to it by clicking here, if you'd like.

Whenever I hear this song, one particular passage manages to elicit tears each and every time. I swear, it's like clockwork! I don't know why, but it always hits me right in the feels. This part right here:

"I hear babies crying,
I watch them grow.
They'll learn much more,
Than I'll never know . . ."

Oh my god -- waterworks!

Am I just a great, dumb fool for getting so emotional over this? I don't know. But although they're tears, they are happy ones. For me, nothing makes me happier than witnessing little ones gradually becoming not so tiny, smarty pants people! Watching children, you can sometimes--almost!--literally see their minds learning and becoming better. The rate at which they assimilate new concepts and observations about the world around them is astonishing. Truly a wonder to behold.




And this is why I say we ought to cherish our children. I know that's a corny line somewhere, but it happens to be no less true. They remind me of the greatness in us all. They make me want to believe in humanity and all that we have yet to achieve.

Children bring hope for the future.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Learning Mind Stays The Fittest!




Children are wonderful! Their minds are so flexible, effortlessly learning and expanding in order to make as much sense of the confusing world around them as possible. Of course, as a species our survival dictated that our young learn as much and as quickly as possible to adapt to a dangerous world and live to pass on such skill to their own offspring. But on a social level, it is no less miraculous how kids represent the best and purest expression of what makes us so uniquely human!

I was thinking this today because I recall a specific trend in my writing workshops of a long time ago. See, I have this tendency when I write to not force feed the reader too much information. Perhaps I rely on this trick too much, but I've always found it more interesting to have my readers derive meaning from the context of a situation rather than to have to spell everything out. But this tendency has gotten me in trouble more often than not. Whether due to laziness or to this persistent need among workshoppers to find something--anything!--wrong with a particular story, I find that a lot of people like to be *told* rather than to *infer* the meaning a particular scene, passage, or even word.

Case in point: I wrote this story once that used quite a few Chinese phrases in it. I speak Chinese, and my fellow students in my workshop knew that I spoke Chinese. And in one particular scene in this fictional short piece I wrote in college, my Chinese character used the term "yang guizi" while berating a bunch of white guys bullying her. Wouldn't you know it, quite a few people in my class had an issue with my use of the term.

Now, for those who don't know what the term means, I'll spell it out right here unlike in that story. Yang guizi is a strongly derogatory term used by Mandarin speakers to insult or express displeasure at foreigners, and predominantly "white" foreigners at that. The term means "foreign devil." It really translates to "foreign ghost" -- but in Chinese culture, ghosts are far less passive and more insidious (i.e., demonic) than Western ghosts. Then of course there is the case of equating the white skin of Caucasians to that of ghosts as well, and the phrase becomes even more apt. So if you are reading this and you are what most of the world considers "white," ... now you know what it means if you ever hear this phrase while in a setting with lots of Chinese people. I jest, of course. It's considered quite rude, and most Chinese people would not care to use it lest they portray themselves as uncouth. But among less scrupulous individuals . . . . ?

Anyway, in this story my Chinese protagonist uses the term in a completely unconscious act of reflex against her attackers. And, no, I didn't have my narrative voice break through in that moment to explain for non-Chinese readers what it meant. I figured my character's anger, the exclamation mark at the end, and the ensuing circumstances of her current predicament in being bullied for being Chinese, would provide the adequate context needed to understand the spirit of her epithet if not the literal translation.

But what so many at my workshop said to me in their admonishment was: Hey, nimrod, why don't you explain what this girl is saying so that the rest of us can understand?! I'm paraphrasing, of course, but I think you get the gist. And to which I replied, more or less:

Oh really? You mean to tell me you couldn't figure it out for yourselves? Or are you just using purposeful ignorance in the place of true criticism? Because I really couldn't tell.


See no . . . monkey???


But this brings me back to my opening remarks. It has me pondering this recent realization: That somewhere during the transition from childhood to adult, some of us lose this ability to simply accept one's ignorance on certain matters, and therefore forget to exercise the ability to infer meaning from the context surrounding a confusing or inexplicable occurrence.

In other words: kids know they don't know everything, and so they actively seek enlightenment in other ways. Mostly by asking a billion questions a day, sure. But at least they demonstrate a questing, ever-learning mind. Adults, on the other hand, seem to operate on the assumption that they should know EVERYTHING by now ... and therefore do not have the patience to seek out for themselves the meaning of something new or foreign to their sphere of specialty knowledge.

I recently read a bedtime story to some cute and precocious grade schoolers I know. And although the book had some words or phrases that may have been a little too complex for their age range, they didn't interrupt me every few seconds wanting specifically to know the meaning of these things. I could see that they had accepted what they didn't know, and used the context of how the confusing words were being used with which to inform themselves instead. Nifty trick, hey!

More of us adults need to keep our minds learning like kids do so effortlessly. When you do, you accept that not everything is going to make sense. You accept that sometimes you may have to do a little more work in order to understand an experience outside of your comfort zone. Or, if dealing with a culture foreign to your own, to not flash your privilege and assume it is the *other's* responsibility to educate you.




So, the lesson here is: keep learning, kiddos! (A phrase my Mandarin professor used to say to us all the time in class. No, seriously.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Impostor Syndrome

Over on his blog, Whatever, popular SF author John Scalzi talks about a phenomenon he's been experiencing a lot lately among fellow writers while attending conventions and other social-professional gatherings: Impostor Syndrome. In his own words, here's how he describes the term:


"Impostor Syndrome, briefly put, is the feeling that one’s achievements and status are a fluke, and that sooner or later one will be revealed as a fraud. Anecdotally speaking, it seems, Imposter Syndrome affects a lot of writers, editors and other folks in the publishing life. I think this is in part because the writing life is a precarious one, financially and otherwise, and also in part because people in publishing seem to be a generally neurotic lot anyway. Imposter Syndrome is just another log on that particular fire."


As a struggling writer myself (struggling in that I'm constantly trying to improve my craft and "get better"), I'm certainly no stranger to crippling self-doubt. But I'm not sure I would classify myself under suffering from this particular syndrome. Then again, I have not yet reached the level of professional accomplishment within the field of SF publishing as the folk Scalzi is referring to in his piece. Yet I get the feeling that even when I do reach such a level, I probably will feel as if I worked my ass off to get there, and probably won't have much time to wonder if perhaps I am an impostor.

I mean, like I said before, I have my own level of self critique/doubt that is always in the back of my mind as I write. But I have a peculiar realization when it comes to that nagging voice telling me that I will never amount to anything, ever.

It's there, truthfully, only because I'm strong enough to have that voice there.

In other words, that self doubt does not trouble me. It is not my disability, because I cannot be harmed or hampered in such manner. That voice is more like that of an aggressive high school coach, or perhaps boot camp drill sergeant is more accurate. It berates me, it yells at me, it tells me that I'm no fucking good and that no one will ever love me, maggot! But it does so because deep down that voice just wants me to succeed. See? It wants me to develop a thick skin and to shrug off such negativity and continue pushing myself forward. To be the best me I can be because that's all I can be!

And because I'm actually very well grounded and come from an upbringing of constant positive reinforcement -- from, first, my mother; and then later, my grandmother and aunt -- that the opposite of such positivity really has very little effect on my ego. I hear the voice loud and clear, yes; but I never allow it to truly reach me.

I do, however, know a few people who are the opposite of myself. Who try their best to convince everyone else that they suffer no such voices in their heads. That they've always known they were meant for great things, and that it never once even crossed their minds to ever doubt themselves.

And, great. That's awesome! More power to you, sister. But, honestly? I suspect that most of them are quite delusional. At least one guy I know personally is most definitely full of his own shit. He likes to talk a big game about how good he is at his craft, but yet never really puts in the real work it takes to actually be good at it. How can that be?

Well, as they say: the BS is strong in this one!

This person never likes to hear me talk down about my own work. He gives me a look as if I'm committing artistic suicide. He claims that he never doubts himself. But, really? Never? How is that even possible? For me, self doubt is how an artist perfects himself. Or, at least, motivates himself to keep going and improve. A person who does not possess even a modicum of this self-critique . . . well, how can he ever get better at his craft?

No, what I suspect is that such a person is in fact quite insecure in their abilities. Ironically, he lives in constant, neurotic fear of failure. Moreover, he may even suffer from great personal depression. The type of person who truly *needs* to believe that he is the best thing that has ever happened to his field of practice, or else he has no reason for being. In his mind, that voice is quite crippling indeed! And so, to hide this perceived weakness, he protects himself behind aggrandized claims to greatness and braggadocio. By promoting a persona that is above such things as doubt and uncertainty.

And that to me, my friends, is the true Impostor Syndrome. It is not when one questions one's right to be in a position to receive recognition and accolades for one's artistic achievements. Perhaps, instead, the real impostor is the artist who feels he should be handed such platitudes based simply on the God-given genius he was born with, and to which he never really needed to work at.

Such people are the true enigmas; the doppelgängers, if you will, of artistic merit.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Model Spotlight: SONAL CHAUHAN



Sometimes you have to go back into the past before you can spotlight a present day beauty. In this case, I first saw Miss Chauhan in the brainless, goofy, but stupidly endearing action dramedy, Legend, way way back in 2014. I remember at the time thinking that she was heart-achingly beautiful, if perhaps a little too vapid in her role. And then, quite frankly, I forgot all about her. Until last week, when a friend of mine posted a video clip from that same movie on Facebook. And then it was love at first sight all over again! Honestly, I had forgotten how seriously gorgeous this woman is! So with that in mind, I'd like to formally introduce you all to my latest Bollywood hottie (Bolly-hottie?) crush.


Name:  Sonal Singh Chauhan
Age:  28
Profession:  Model/Actress
Hometown:  New Delhi, India
Accolades:  Miss World Tourism (2005); Filmfare award nominee for "Best Female Debut" on the 2008 film, Jannat.
Best Known:  As Zora in the breakout Bollywood megahit, Jannat (2008).
Current:  Finalized filming on Dictator, a Telugu language action drama just released this week. She shares a leading role in the film alongside Nandamuri Balakrishna and Anjali.


Sonal Chauhan was born on May 16, 1987 in New Delhi to a Rajput family originally hailing from the state of Uttar Pradesh to the east. In her early teens, Sonal's face graced magazine covers and won her a slew of beauty contests, but she always maintained good grades in school. In college she studied Philosophy with top honors at the nation's capital, but was propelled into the world of fashion modelling almost immediately when she became a Miss World contestant at the time, and then later won the crown as 2005's Miss World Tourism in Malaysia.




The win--a first for India--led to many runway and photo op gigs, as well as appearances in several music videos for top hits of the time in her home country. But Miss Chauhan's fate was to be tied to the big screen when she was "discovered" by a film director while eating at a restaurant in Mumbai. The film he would place her in as co-star was Jannat, and it became a huge international success, garnering Sonal a nominee for "Best Female Debut" artist at the 2009 Filmfare awards (which she lost to the equally stunning and talented Kollywood actress, Asin Thottumkal).




Since then, Sonal Chauhan has appeared in numerous films from various industries throughout the sub-continent. Most recently as Nandini in the film, Sher; and as Simran in Size Zero. The latter of which is one of my personal favorite Tollywood films of 2015.

But, really, if you need to determine the honest truth behind my crush on Miss Chauhan, I'll simply submit these stunning photos below as further proof:


Sonal Chauhan




























Previous Model Spotlights:
Deepika Padukone
Nazneen Contractor
Priyanka Chopra
Riya Ray
Asal Soltani

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Awkwaaaard!

So, I went to the movies the day after New Year's. Here's what happened at the concession stand:

Cutie Cashier: "Here's your change. Enjoy the movie!"
Me: "Thanks, you too."
CC: *laughs at me*
Me: *laughs at me, too*
Me: "I mean ... heh ... You have a good day, too. I mean, er ... Happy New Year?"

*smacks forehead*

Don't you hate it when that happens? Funny thing is, I wasn't even flummoxed or anything. I didn't stammer because the cashier happened to be extremely hot. To be honest, with the mood I've been in as of late, I barely even acknowledged her hotness. I just get so accustomed to blanket responding with "Thanks, you too" to every non-personal human interaction I have out in public. It's a bad habit I need to break.

On the plus side, cashier girl did say I was cute. That kinda, sorta made my day. And this time, I did *not* say "Thanks, you too" by way of response. Although--damn it! I totally should have, right?

Well, let no one confuse me for being suave.

Anyway . . .

HAPPY 2016, people!!! I hope you have a good one!

As usual, my New Year's Eve sucked big time. I spent it at home all by my lonesome. It's always a sad time for me since it is the 30th anniversary of the single most tragic event to happen in my life, and that means the holiday will never be the same for me as it is for everyone else.

But, you know, some day this decade I would like to spend it with someone special. That's all.

In related news ... yes, my love life sucks. I've been dealt a severe blow in that department this holiday season (why do all such bad things happen then?), and it's forcing me to reevaluate my priorities. Or, more specifically, to reevaluate ME!

What have I come up with so far? Well, not much really. But I'm starting to get the feeling that I might need a change in scenery.

I'm not there yet, but I'm currently contemplating whether I should look into picking up and moving to another part of the country. I recently visited my brother in Houston, and I have to say it's left me with a lot to think about. I never thought the day would ever come that I would seriously consider Texas as a place to live, but H-Town left a good impression on me. I mean, sure, I seriously cannot deal with hot weather and humidity -- but isn't that what AC was invented for? Like I said, I'm not quite packing up the moving truck and putting in notice at work just yet. But who knows . . .



Met a long time online blogger friend while in H-Town.



Or, I could just move to Vermont like I always wanted to. That would be nice. A state more in keeping with my seasonal climate needs. I'm very comfortable in that state, being that I lived there for 4 years during college. But unlike Houston, I have absolutely no family there in VT. Or friends, for that matter.

So, I'm not sure yet where I should go. But I do know that I might have to leave New York someday soon. More and more my ties here are weakening.

But enough of that (for now).

I'll leave you all on this one happy note. My photography seems to be getting better and better with the more practice I commit to the hobby. Just recently this particular photo has been garnering a lot of praise and attention in online circles:






I shot this back in mid-October whilst practicing my nighttime photography skills (again) in the Brooklyn Heights section of the city (again). This is the Manhattan Bridge, and I took it while standing in the freezing cold (for October) and what seemed to be gale force winds. I had to struggle to keep the tripod stable long enough for the super long exposure I needed to achieve this shot.

But hey, pretty nifty, eh? I mean, if I do say so myself! What I really love about this photo--besides the awesome color palette and that super shiny, creamy looking water surface--is that you can spy the very tip of the Empire State Building peeking out of the skyline there in the background. It was lit up purple on this night, but I have no idea why. The ESD lights up with different colors depending on which noble cause or person the city is commemorating on any given night. Or perhaps the lighting person in charge likes the artist, Prince, a lot?

Who knows. But, yeah ... so apparently a lot of people love this particular photo. And that makes me feel all tingly proud inside! I'm thinking of having it blown out to hang on my wall at home. What do you think?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Achievement Unlocked: Story Sold!!!

I'm happy to report that I've sold one of my short stories, "The Collector," to the speculative fiction magazine: Space and Time. Huzzah! Let the rejoicing begin!

I used to read this magazine a lot when I first graduated college. It's been around since just before I was born, but I didn't discover it until I was browsing through the mag racks at a local Barnes & Noble in downtown Manhattan during one of my lunch breaks. I picked it up for the catchy cover, of course. And because it was in the section with all the other big-name Speculative Fiction magazines of the time: AnalogOmni; Asimov's; The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; etc. Those were good years to be young and possessing so much free time! *sigh*






Anyway, this is very exciting news for me to say the least! Due to personal struggles in recent years--the details of which some of you already know--I've been way behind in my writerly output. Wouldn't you know, but it's very hard to find inspiration when your life's going all topsy-turvy. It's been 5 years since my last sale, believe it or not. Something I would be ashamed of only if, in fact, I had been writing in all that time. Which I was not. Not regularly, anyway.

Still, it's a good feeling to know that things are *finally* starting to return to normal for me on the creative front. And I'm very happy that it was this particular story, "The Collector," to help me clear away the cobwebs as I get back to the grind of fiction writing again. This story is very dear to my heart, and features the first time I've ever written in the 2nd-Person narrative (think those old choose-your-own-adventure books for reference; "you open the door to the hidden room...").

"The Collector" is a tale of what happens when an ancient enemy of Mankind falls in love with a mortal woman, and has to chose between duty and happiness. I wrote it a few years ago, revised it a couple of times, sent it out to various places last year, got it rejected by all those places, sat on it for a few more months, polished it off some more, and then finally found a publication willing to buy it off me.

As they say, perseverance pays off!

Space and Time Magazine marks my first foray into semi-pro payment markets, which typically pay 1 - 5¢/word on short stories. Before now, all my sales have been to so-called "token" markets, which usually don't rate per word, but instead only pay a nominal amount of between $5 - $35 per story. Which ain't bad when you're starting out, and I guess you have to start somewhere. But it had always been my goal to keep advancing my game up the pay scale as I practice my craft, and so I have done just that with this sale. I love progress!

Also, my previous sales have all been to electronic-only markets. Which means: online sites only. This recent sale will mark the first time a story of mine will appear in an honest-to-goodness print publication. And that, my friends, is very nice!

And there you have it. The good news I wanted to share. I've known about this for several months now, but only today did I read through my contract, sign it, and send it off to the publisher. So I guess that makes it official! I had to write a little author's bio as well, which was certainly surreal for me. So much has changed since the last time I had to write one back in 2010. Wow!

As of right now, there has been no specific issue number or date relayed to me for when exactly my story will appear in Space and Time. This has yet to be determined by the publisher. But once that changes, you'll definitely be the first to know about it here on The Bimillennial Man.

And, one last thing: Thank you to all my regulars here, silent or otherwise -- some of whom are part of my crit group -- who have always supported me and suffered through some early drafts of previous stories I've shared. It truly means a lot to me. You all do!

Onward and upward, y'all!

Monday, December 7, 2015

So, Houston ... It Looks Like I Will Be In You Soon!



No, not in the biblical way. Har, har.

I know it seems rather last minute, but in fact I've been planning to visit my younger brother for some time now. He's lived in Houston since 2003, and in all that time no one from our family has ever stopped by to visit. That changes this Christmas season!

True, it will only be myself visiting him for the holidays, but that counts for something! I haven't seen my little bro since his Vegas wedding back in 2012. The wedding was supposed to take place in Houston, but the venue got changed to Sin City rather abruptly and so the fam never did get the chance to visit his fair city.


My bro and I at his wedding.


So here's my dilemma:

Houston peeps, what the hell is there to DO in your neck of the woods? Keep in mind that I'm from New York City, so it could be that I'm rather spoiled of course. But try as I might, I just can't figure out anything to wile away my time with while I'm there. I'm going to be in the Katy/Houston area for 6 days--from mid-week on through the weekend and beyond. I won't say when exactly, but you can probably guess considering the time of year and all.

So, can you help a fella out? Any suggestions?

I have to say, I'm really liking the weather in Houston this time of year. Nothing but 60s and 70s to be seen. Occasionally a few 80s, even. Whoa! So, I guess this really is the only time of year when the city is not sitting in a thick pea soup of humid hotness, eh? NICE!!!

So, there you have it. I'll be hopping on a jet plane shortly. It looks like the flight is only 4 hours. I've been on longer day drives to upstate New York. All right!!! You know, I think this will be the shortest flight I've taken in over a decade. Even the Vegas one was longer!

And, naturally, if any of you would care to meet up during my brief stay in your city -- you know how to get in touch with me.

Or, you know, just drop a comment in the box below. That works.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Previously Me

From around the ages of 5 to 7, my mother had this annoying habit of refusing us kids the chance to get out of bed in the morning on weekends when we were dying to get up and watch cartoons. The rule was that we had to wake her up and ask her permission first before we could turn on the tv. And if she said "no," then we'd have to return to our beds and simply lie awake there until she deigned to get up herself and grant us our freedom. Problem was, my mother was a very heavy sleeper and a notorious late riser. She sometimes didn't wake up until just after noon!

This was extremely frustrating to me, obviously, but it also allowed me time to sit in bed for hours and ruminate on life's big mysteries. No, seriously, I spent a lot of time in my head in those early years when my mom was still alive and oversleeping on weekends. At that time, I only just recently became acquainted with the concept of God, and that his scary long-haired, mustachioed son had been murdered and nailed to wood planks for something that was supposed to be good for all of us. 


Dudes! WTF, seriously? Jesus!


Seemed crazy to a kid like me in those days ... but then, I already knew by that point that the adult world made no damn sense! So I just filed this away among more crazy shit adults believed in that didn't seem to reconcile with my uninformed view of the world around me.

So, hence, while I would wile away the Saturday morning hours in bed, I would attempt to make sense of said world in my own precocious way. Many of my ruminations have long since been forgotten. Or, in some cases, my conclusions were too embarrassing for me to want to admit to nowadays. Such as the morning I thought to myself: Is baby shampoo made from real live babies?

But sometimes my mental wanderings lead to more ... philosophical territory. Such as the morning I tried to understand what happened to people when they died. Informed, no doubt, by the passing of my youngest brother a year prior; and also fueled by the recent indoctrination, on mother's decree, of us kids into the Catholic church (something we were not born into, since her own upbringing was Presbyterian) -- I can see now why it was supposedly so important to little 5-year old me to ponder this concept. Where did we go after we die, anyway?

In my little mind, I imagined a ghost like figure rising up from the deceased body it had just inhabited, and heading toward the sky where I believed God was supposed to live. I think I had seen this allusion once in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and so the visual vocabulary was already imprinted on me. Up and up the ghost of the dearly departed would rise, and then an old man sitting on a cloud would lift up a finger to stop its ascent, before pointing back down the opposite end of the cloud to the Earth spinning below. And down that spirit would plunge ... down, down, down, returning to the ground where a baby was just being born. And into that baby the spirit would dissolve, and the newborn's eyes would open to the world for the first time.




Now, everyone I tell this story to these days think that I'm full of shit! That a little 5-year old boy, without any knowledge of other world religions, could have possibly thought up the theory of reincarnation all by himself.

And yet, I say to this: where in all that did I just say I invented the concept? Given the fact that more than one culture on this planet firmly possess the belief system that our souls are engaged in a constantly moving wheel of birth, life, death, and rebirth: did it ever occur to anyone that a child with a significantly curious and open mind might just tap into something that, to him, is just an obvious forgone conclusion? That, perhaps, he was just awakening to a realization that should have been as natural to every other human being as the sun rising each morning?

For me, I thought I figured it all out. And it wasn't until some years later when I was a 'tween of about 11 or 12, that I discovered other, more ancient, peoples had already beaten me to the punch! And that this so-called theory of mine was in fact called "reincarnation."


Something quite like this.


Scary, no? It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, there may be some truth to all this.

And if so, then what about our past lives? Do we have them? And if so further: is it possible to remember them?

I honestly don't claim to know the answer for sure (heh, heh), but I suspect it might be true.

But I'm also crazily intrigued by the possible lives my particular "soul" has lived. I can't quite put the finger on why exactly, but I get this sense that my soul has been wandering this planet for a very, very long time. It's a feeling I've had since early in my childhood. I've always had this "world weary" heaviness in my heart, like as if I've been through the ringer and back again -- and this was clearly before even all the major bad shit that was yet to happen to the younger me in this current lifetime occurred.

So what have I done in my previous lives. Who was I, and did I lead mostly good lives instead of bad over the millennia? I do get the feeling that, before this life, my soul hadn't been in circulation for centuries. Like as if the last time I was human was back when the center of the world was still in the Middle East. Who knows, maybe I did something so bad back then that I had to spend the next 400 to 500 years as various forms of insect before I could eventually work my way back up to human form. Exciting, eh?!


Was I a feared marauder of villages?


Who knows? It's possible! And maybe that will be a blog post ... for another time, eh?

And what about you? Do you have an old soul? Or do you feel like a Spring chicken in this game of (eternal) Life?

Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Have Some Have-Nots: Or, The Rise Of The Privileged Poor

So, yeah, I think I just came to the realization that I did all 4 years of my undergrad college life completely and utterly WRONG!!!

After reading this New York Times opinion piece on "the privileged poor" who benefit from going to elite high schools before entering college. Having read that piece, and seeing the research and statistics which fueled the author's opinions, I'm faced with the startling realization with what was wrong with my transition to the elite liberal arts college I attended. I'm upset at myself, mostly, as these conclusions shed light on a few troubling moments during my 4 years spent going to school in Northern Vermont. Moments with which I wish I had conducted myself better, and for which I'm also ashamed of my behavior. But in my defense, this article also shows that perhaps I was not entirely to blame.

Seriously, you should go read it. Here's an excerpt:


"My research shows that, on average, half of the lower-income black undergraduates at elite colleges today come from private high schools like Andover and Dalton. As early as middle school (and sometimes sooner), students participate in programs like Prep for Prep and A Better Chance. These programs remove lower-income students from typically distressed public schools and place them in predominantly white, resource-rich, affluent private schools. Elite colleges effectively hedge their bets: They recruit those already familiar with the social and cultural norms that pervade their own campuses.
"As a sociologist, I study this new diversity at elite colleges. I call lower-income undergraduates who graduated from private high schools the privileged poor. Although they receive excellent educations, my research shows that their ability to navigate the informal social rules that govern elite college life is what really gives them advantages relative to their lower-income peers who did not attend elite high schools, those whom I call the doubly disadvantaged.Although also academically gifted and driven, they enter college with less exposure to the unsaid expectations of elite academic settings."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More To Say On Introversion

*gulp* It's getting tight in here. Halp!!!


At the very tail end of 2014, I wrote this blog entry describing why "I am the way I am." Among other things, I took the time in said entry to go on about this idea of introversion. About how it's not the absence of social skill, nor is it the fear of interaction. But in fact, an introvert is someone who feels drained of energy when interacting with large groups of people in a social setting. Particularly if those people are not close loved ones or friends.

I've been thinking about that blog entry a lot because of a recent experience I had over the 3-day holiday weekend. While attending a BBQ/cookout being thrown by my sweetheart's parents at her childhood home this Labor Day, a bunch of us started debating the latest big-issue topics of the day. Stuff like Transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, the Kardashians ... and other very important subjects. Now, I must preface all that I'm about to say by first revealing that these people are all close to me. They're like my second family, and I've known them for going on two decades now.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Real Women Have Curves



I *hate* this phrase! Or, rather, how it's being misappropriated by a certain younger portion of the population these days.

I think it's about time I address it. This particular saying that's been gaining traction in recent years, partly in reaction to the rail-thin and often anorexic-inducing trends in the fashion industry. Mostly the professional advertising segment of said industry, which includes modelling.

Now, see, I'm fully behind the idea that women should not feel pressured into looking a certain way. Reducing a person's self worth to how they look on the outside, and ignoring what they have going for themselves on the inside, is a dismissive attitude that can do a lot of harm. People should feel good for what they are, not how they look. This is true, of course, on a general level. Come on, we all know this!

But what is the saying "real women have curves" really about? Is it giving fatty Americans and women from other Western, industrialized nations free license to revel in their largeness? No. If you think that, then you are simply not getting it. The message. Which is, to wit: that it's okay to be naturally not-thin. That's it in a nutshell. And so if she has a bit more cushioning, what's it to you? If she's comfortable with herself, why are you trying to make her feel bad for not being a rail-thin Barbie doll? And I say women only because the phrase itself is being gender-specific. Yet we all know that this issue is not assigned to women alone. Men suffer with body image as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The "S" in Summertime is for "Sweating"



At least, this used to always be the case for me.

Confession #1: I hate to sweat! It's really uncomfortable, especially for a neat freak like myself.

Confession #2: I've never revealed this, but my discomfort from sweating is actually one of the major factors for why I claim to hate summer so much. It really is my least favorite season.

So, you see, many years ago when I was a wee lad, I got a summer job working in the produce section of a high-end supermarket in the upper east side of Manhattan. To walk there from the subway, however, took 20 minutes -- part of which was uphill. That summer was also one of the hottest on record. And at that time I still lived at home with my grandmother, which meant no AC whatsoever to come home to after a hard day at work.

I think you get the picture.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Update On The New Camera

It's been around three months now since I decided to pursue this new hobby, and I have to say things have been progressing rather nicely in terms of my education on the basic points of digital SLR photography. You may recall back in April I bought myself a used entry-level camera--the Canon "Rebel" T5i, to be precise, with 18-55mm IS STM lens--for the purpose of teaching myself how to take better photos.

And it's been a whirlwind of discovery ever since! I've attended a couple of 3-hour entry level courses offered by Canon themselves, but for the most part I've been practicing all on my own, reading everything I can get my hands on and watching just about as many Youtube videos on various photo taking techniques as my brain can handle without melting. It's been crazy!




But slowly I feel that I'm starting to get the hang of things. Around 2 weeks after starting to use my DSLR cam, I switched from automatic settings to using semi-manual controls--what Canon calls its "Creative Zone." Around one week after that, I forced myself to venture into full manual mode, supposedly as the professionals do. Although, to be honest, I find that my favorite mode to sit on is "Aperture Priority," which allows you to fiddle with the lens opening on the fly, but lets the camera handle the shutter speed. I still manually select the light sensor sensitivity, though--aka, the ISO. I've been told to go ahead and leave that on auto, too, but I sometimes like to leave the sensitivity low even when there is not a lot of ambient light around. For artistic reasons and, frankly, because, the look this achieves is just my personal taste.

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