Tag Archives: culture

Nashville, TN – The Music City (Alternatively: The Cowboy Boots and Neon Signs City)

I visited Nashville, Tennessee over labor day with my wife.  I’ve always known it was a town famous for country music and cowboy boots – but somehow I didn’t get the memo about the non-stop party. The nightlife was better than expected, the food was classically southern, and the music is country.

Nashville 1

There was a lot of good food. Especially the fried chicken at Hattie B’s toward West End.

Nashville 2

The Downtown area includes horse and buggy rides, cowboy-style bars, neon signs, and plenty of alcohol.

Nashville 3

When you get away from the bars – Nashville is also quiet and beautiful.

Nashville 4

There is no shortage of folk music and street performers.

Nashville 5

Big Government Part 1: Privacy vs. Security

On September 11, 2001 at 8:46am Flight 11 was rammed into WTC 1 at 446 mph. At that moment everything changed for America. The great nation and we people contemplated our own vulnerability. We were afraid. We were angry. We never wanted something like this to happen again.

Just over a month later on October 26, 2001 the Bush Administration exploited the fear and confusion among the American people to pass the most privacy-intrusive legislation in world history: The Patriot Act of 2001. Which begs a second question: How did they write AND pass such a comprehensive piece of legislation so quickly? (But maybe that’s another discussion.)

Surveillance State

Since 2001 it has become “common sense” that Americans will have to give up a piece of their privacy for the sake of “National Security”. The Government has since then installed at least 30 million surveillance cameras, built the largest spy data center on the planet, purchased a number of aerial surveillance drones, and more.

It is now fact that all of our emails, our voice conversations, and public actions are logged, tracked, and archived.

And in spite of Government surveillance capability tragedies such as the Sandy Hook and Auaura, Colorado shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. But instead of questioning the effectiveness of privacy related policy most popular media sources have demanded more surveillance.

Safety vs. Big Brother

I am not an advocate of the “Government is out to get you” school of thought, but I do question the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Government’s public safety tactics and installation Orwellian Big Brother style society. And while I do not foresee the Government becoming a Stalinist dictatorship (and least not anytime soon) – I do see a cultural shift of Government reliance – which I think is detrimental and dangerous.

For example, after the Boston Marathon Bombings local and federal authorities used the security cameras and surveillance data to identify and locate Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. In some ways this was proof positive that surveillance brings justice – but did it?

After the initial bombing Boston was shut down for nearly a week. Businesses closed, people were not allowed to leave their homes, and police were searching private homes at will for the suspects. People lived in a police state for days AND it cost the city billions.

So which was worse for Boston – the bombing or what followed? I would argue that the terrorist tactic wasn’t to blow up as many people as possible (the bomb was light for terrorist standards), but to exploit the Government’s security tactics in effort to disrupt society and cost them a lot of money. If so, it work.

I’m honestly happy we caught the terrorists, but when we deal with situations in such a manner the terrorist accomplish their goal – MAYHAM. Hardly anyone wants to discuss this though.

Big Data

Another problem with all of this surveillance is management.

I have worked as an IT security consultant for the last five years and I have experienced first hand the challenges of big data. There are various security and access concerns, storage issues, questions about how to mine, sort, and search data – and it’s all very, very expensive.

The amount of data the Government is allowed to collect is an immediate red flag. Who is accessing my data? What are they doing with it? How do we know China isn’t stealing it? Why are they allowed to have my data? Who is checking up on the Government? And how much is it costing the tax payer? And is it worth it?

Why We Need Privacy

Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted nothing more than to go in your room and shut the door? Every now and again your Mom would walk in unannounced and you would shout “Knock first!”

What about if you found out your parents were listening in on your phone calls or reading your texts? I cringe just thinking about it.

Were you plotting little terrorist attacks or rubbing paint all over the carpet? Probably not. You probably weren’t doing anything wrong, but the idea of someone eavesdropping on your private life seemed awful.

Similarly, all of America deserves its privacy. We want privacy because there are certain aspects of our personal lives that belong to us. There are certain aspects of being free that include no one knowing about it. It is a fundamental part of humanity. A part of humanity that if ignored will lead to hostility and resentment.

That’s part of the problem with Big, Intrusive, Governments.

Featured Image Photo Credit

Untitled

Fear is in the air…

Last weekend my wife and I were at a birthday party for her elderly grandfather. His brother, who we don’t know very well, was there too and when I was introduced to him, it was mentioned that he was the one who had hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail over five months.  I was talking to my wife’s uncle about our upcoming hike up to Machcu Picchu over the summer and he said I should talk to this guy since he’s as expert a hiker as they get.

I made mention of our four day trek up the mountain to Machu Picchu to him and my father in law  happened to hear us. Later I stepped out onto the back porch to play with the kids in the yard and he ambushed my wife and me. His hands were shaking, his voice trembling and he was literally scared for our lives.

He urged my wife not to go on the hike. He warned of impending doom- kidnappings, mudslides, disease, bugs, drug smugglers and everything else in the world you could ever hope to be afraid of! I started to argue with him a bit, saying thousands of people make this hike every year, or that it was a trip of a life time, etc… then I just stopped. I looked him square in the eyes and said, “We’re not scared”.

My father in law kept arguing with me, despite there being no argument at all, like a religious zealot arguing the existence of God to an indifferent atheist who offered up no counter argument, no disagreement, just a simple “I don’t believe in God.”

Today my wife told me this trip has turned out to be a huge debacle in the family. My father in law has apparently been on a crusade to illicit the support of other family members to talk us out of this trip into what he must consider the bowels of hell.

It’s so queer to me to imagine being so gripped by fear. Not simply afraid, but gripped, seized, consumed. I don’t think my father in law is driven by any other emotion but absolute fear. I wonder if he even knows where Peru is, what its people are like, or what language they speak there.

I admit, this trip will not be devoid of danger, but then again what is? Surely, even a routine drive down to Costco, whizzing down the interstate at 80 mph surrounded by dozens of autonomous vehicles manned by people screaming at their children, fiddling with the radio, eating fast food or God forbid, texting while driving is riddled with just as many life threatening dangers, especially if you consider many of us drive on a daily basis!

Perpetuating a Culture of Fear

I think that my father-in-law’s fearful emotions are definitely more magnified than the average person’s, and he definitely wears them on his sleeve for the world to see, but when you consider the constant trickle of fearful reporting we’re fed by the media on a daily basis, is it really all that unreasonable?

After the Boston Marathon bombings, we saw martial law enacted live in Watertown, MA and who protested it? Who was upset by it? For a period of time, all freedoms were stripped, federal agents went door to door, tanks roamed the streets, transportation was forbidden and the only establishments allowed to be open were some donut shops! Was this an SNL skit or just the Federal Government poking fun at how pathetic we’ve become?

Immediately following the bombings I watched the memes roll out one by one. I saw George Stephanopoulos immediately jump to the idea that we might become a security state similar to Israel. I saw local reports that there would be deeper searches and pat downs to enter Turner Field for Braves baseball games, then I saw the average man on the street interviewed and praising it!

PLEASE TAKE OUR FREEDOMS. WE NEED SAFETY. PROTECT US!

If you’re my father-in-law, a relatively uneducated guy who has never really been anywhere, knows little of others cultures, religions or geopolitics and accepts the news as even somewhat truthful like most of us, then of course you’re going to be scared shitless. We’re constantly being conditioned to FUCKING COWER! To duck and cover. To greet frisking and full body x-rays with a smile, because it’s what is good for us, it is what keeps us safe.

But I’m not scared, and even if I was I would still defy the desire to give up freedom for a misplaced sense of safety.

-Holden

49

Travel Inspires

The space is what I loved. Acres of green land perfectly manicured by nature. A dense forest and green pastures then an opening where a Georgian style mansion stood. There was peace.

49

There was real quiet. The kind of quiet that you actually notice. Only the sound of a few birds and the wind. No car horns, no hum of technology, just quiet. I could imagine myself in a quiet study with the windows open and a fresh cup of coffee. Maybe I would be reading or writing something myself. I would relax with a fire going and take a look outside the window for inspiration.

I felt the same way in Guatemala. On top of the mountain staring down at the coffee plantation and small villages below. Only a few small houses were this high. A modest brick home with two bedrooms and a rustic kitchen and a beautiful garden. In the distance a few dormant volcanoes. Here too the people are in no rush and the escape of the constant hum of civilization is gone. One thing I notice – the dark. The dark is deeper than at home. Sleep follows easier because of it.

When I return home from places like these I always have ideas of getting away for good. This time, when we returned from Ireland, I made up my mind I would buy 20 acres in South Georgia. Twenty acres away from anyone where I could build a modest cabin in the center of my own land. My own land where I could sit in my own little study, filled with old books, souvenirs from travels, and freshly ground coffee.

“That’s what I’ll do,” I tell myself. “I’ll move away from it all.” Maybe that’s my favorite part about travel – the inspiration. Maybe I will have that cabin and study one day.

Obama

American Exceptionalism: America viewed poorly by the world

Before I started traveling internationally on a regular basis I honestly thought the rest of the world loved America. I never really questioned the media hype about American Exceptionalism. Having never been anywhere else I took it all as truth. We are the best. The saviors of the world, right… Of course I never said that publically and I was always respectful of other cultures, but these feelings just came naturally. I didn’t realize there was any other way to think.

Looking back with new information it’s not surprising that that “love” for America is fading. You can only be that arrogant asshole for so long before you start losing friends. The more I travel the more I realize what people expect of me as an American is not who I am.

The Caricature of America

I’ve had conversations with people from all over the world and never has anyone came right out and said “We don’t like America.”, but what they have said is “You aren’t what I expected.” or “I like you more than I thought I would.” It seems there is a vivid difference between how people feel about our leaders, how Americans are portrayed in the media, and who we actually are as individuals.

Obama

I remember having a conversation with one young women in Japan about what she expected me to be like and what she thought America was like. She described the jersey shore and the movie American pie. A caricature of American pop culture, war mongering, and fist pumping. Great. Of course she realized those stereotypes are unreasonable, but a part of our image is what is on TV.

As Americans I think it is easy to forget how truly isolated we are over here on this side of the world. Our distance has lead to a subtle arrogance and lack of cultural understanding that comes natural to the rest of the world. Perhaps this has lead to a slight feeling of superiority and elitism – we believe the crap we are selling ourselves. In turn American pop culture (sometimes the worst parts) are exported to the rest of the world. This leaves a gap between who Americans really are and what non-Americans think we are.

The research shows we aren’t popular either. Study after study finds America is viewed as uncaring and generally disliked. Here are a few of the stats:

1. http://www.pewglobal.org/2005/06/23/us-image-up-slightly-but-still-negative/
2. http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbc06-3/index.html
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Americanism
4. http://www.pewresearch.org/2006/05/09/the-problem-of-american-exceptionalism/

So what is the solution?

Get out there America. Read a book, gather some culture, talk to the people, and TRAVEL! Get out of your comfort zone and realize there is a whole other world out there filled with people who have different thoughts, ideas, and experiences. It’s not scary. Show the rest of the world we care. Show them that we know a thing or two about them, that we want to learn, and that we aren’t a bunch of drunk frat boys as seem on TV.

If we continue to let the politicians and media tell the rest of the world who WE are then the rest of the world will start to believe them.

Guatemala

Two lessons you can learn from hard times

If someone were to ask me why bad things happen I would probably have two answers.

1. To learn from it.
2. To bring us all together.

All of the adversity I’ve experienced in my life has served to make me stronger and bring me closer to those who can relate to the things we’ve gone through.

When my Mom attempted suicide a few months back I poured my heart out on this dear old blog. I received over 20 comments of encouragement from people I’ve never met all offering advice and/or compassion. So when someone is going through something hard I offer this:

Try to learn from the experience and/or allow that pain to draw you closer to those who care. If you channel the negativity into power that’s when you grow. A bad childhood can lead to maturity and strength. Abuse may lead to empathy and a deep sense of compassion. Crying on your best friend’s shoulder can form a bond that is more akin to a brotherhood.

If everything was perfect all the time I can’t help but think we would be shallow, horrible species. Sometimes people who have been sheltered and pampered their entire life are the worst of mankind. Spoiled in the most literal sense of the word.

Be thankful for the hard times. Those are the experiences that truly shape who you are.

sunset6

Jesus the Sun God?

There are undeniable correlations from religion to religion. For example, almost all religions have a flood story. In the story the creator flooded the earth because of our bad behavior, but a few chosen were spared and left to repopulate the earth. This theme can be found across the Globe from the Mayans, the Greeks, and of course in Christianity.

Some might argue these correlations are evidence of the truth of the story. Obviously the flood happened because sparse populations all across the globe are talking about it. Right?

Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think a more likely scenario is that over time these legends and stories have been borrowed and integrated. It’s important to remember that much of religion and culture is based on oral tradition – and if you’ve ever played the telephone game (where you pass a sentence around a group of people until it gets back to the original person and laugh at how much it has changed) you know that ideas and “truth” can change drastically in a short period of time.

Historicity of Jesus

One thing a lot of people fail to realize is that the history and story of Jesus was not written down until almost 100 years after his life and death. Most of these stories (some compiled in the bible) come from corespondents and letters written by Christians. (i.e., Letters of Paul).

Some people have the mis-understanding that the Paul, John, Matthew, etc. from the books of the bible are eye witnesses – Jesus’s disciples. This is just not accurate. No Priest or Pastor would disagree with me there. So ask yourself: how much of the story was changed, exaggerated, mis-remembered, and manipulated after 100 years of oral tradition?

Edit: The information to follow is highly disputed and for the most part subject to interpretation. After you watch the video give this website a once over and decide how serious to take it.

In general, describing Jesus goes something like this:

1. Born of a Virgin
2. Performed Miracles
3. Known as the light, the truth, God’s Son, etc.
4. 12 disciples
5. December 25th: Star of Bethlehem, followed by three kings on his birth night
6. Sacrificed himself for the sins of the people
7. Resurrected after 3 days

It turns out this story, like the flood story, is pretty common. See the video below.

eBook: I need your help

As I write this blog post I am approximately half way through my first ebook entitled:

Liberty and Reason
Five controversial issues that affect your Freedom

Essentially the idea is to tackle five controversial issues (i.e., Gun Control, War on Drugs, Abortion, etc.) and walk through each one on a logical basis in an attempt to develop a stance. I offer my own opinion as well as statistics and data to support each point, much like this blog, except I have taken a little more time for research and readability.

So far, at least one of my previously held opinions has been changed – which is hopefully a good sign as related to my research.

What do I need from you?

This is where you come in, my faithful and loyal readers. I want to know:

1. What would make you want to read this ebook?
2. Would you buy a book if it was offered in hard copy (for say, $2 – $5)?
3. Publishing: Anyone have any experience or advice? Know any publishers?
4. Any general comments, questions, and suggestions welcome.

I am pretty excited about the whole process and your feedback is very important to me. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

Over 50% of my income to taxation: Why I’m mad as hell and you should be too!

I think we’ve been bamboozled. We’ve been tricked by catch phrases and fun words like “liberty” and “freedom”. We’ve been fooled into thinking we are somehow better off than everyone else. We’ve been lied to and told that our “capitalist” economy is the strongest, our people the most free, and our opportunity the most rich. Lies.

We are as taxes, as spied on, as lied to, and as manipulated as almost any other Government on Earth. We are kept fat and happy with illusions. By the media telling us how bad it is everywhere else, by “Honey Boo Boo” and cheap hamburgers. Too fat and brainwashed to care. To apathetic to do anything about it.

“At least we aren’t over there.”  We say.

A First For Me

Today marks the first major tax hike I have experienced since the start of my career. I’m mad. I can’t justify this setback internally. Why am I giving away more security for myself and family to an entity that is making no investment in me? How do I benefit? My family? My community? How can I give away over 50% of my income and still the Government ask for take more?

Payroll/Income Taxes. Property Taxes. Sales Taxes. Communication (phone/cell phone) Taxes. Social Security Taxes. State Taxes. City Taxes. Fuel and Energy Taxes. Taxes to pay for my car tags each year. Increased costs of goods via trade and import taxes. Fees for passports and licences. Inheritance Tax. The list goes on forever.

The myth is that the Government is spreading the wealth. Helping the poor. Taxing the rich to give to the needy. Robin Hood. This is a lie – not just because I say so, but because it’s a fucking lie. This increased tax is for everyone. Not just by means of increased costs of goods and services, but actually and really a higher tax for nearly everyone.

Over Taxed, Under Serviced

We may all see at least a 2% loss of take home pay. Is it fair that a guy making $50,000 is expected to survive off of $25,000 a year (or less!)? That person would be considered fairly poor by almost any standard. At what point are we over taxed and under serviced?

Is that point when our nation is 15 Trillion in debt? Is that point when our country has recession as a direct result of our Government’s fiscal policy? Is that point when other nations hate us because our Government instills a feeling of dread and terror on them in the form of Drones and military superiority? Is that point when a man who takes home $25,000 a year is considered middle class? What are we thinking?

Obama promised no new taxes for the middle class. The super-rich begged for more taxes, it seemed. Yet today, while I watch my income fall by at least 2% I see the stock market fly upward at over 200 points. Someone is getting rich today, not me. Someone is laughing about the end of the fiscal cliff, not me. The super-rich are more rich than ever – smart enough to avoid the Government and capitalize on new legislation. We’ve been fooled.

Where do we go from here?

I don’t know. I just want people to stand up and say: “This isn’t right.” Something is broken. We have to admit that when a Government takes by force half your income, there is a problem.

You can’t leave the country. Too much social stigma, too expensive, to much Government, too costly personally. You can’t complain. You are labelled crazy or jailed. You can’t refuse to participate – you will be breaking the law and jailed.

To be honest, nothing will happen. Most people will be happily abused until they become uncomfortable. Until they become hungry, until their cable is shut off, until they can’t drive to Wal-Mart, until it’s too late.

For now, I’ll keep complaining here. A blog no one reads anyways.