What is Success?

I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting video onto my YouTube channel and the first one is already up! I will be putting up at least 2 videos a week – one vlog and one news round up. The news round ups will be Monday and vlogs should be up Wednesday, Friday at the latest. Hope you guys enjoy!

The Bus Driver

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! (If you have not read The Fault in Our Stars or The Magicians they are both quoted, although heavily out of context)

Today I finished rereading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green phenomenal author and nerd activist (I don’t know if that’s what I should really call him that but I’m calling him an activist) who has this amazing knack for bringing nerdy people together and then inspiring them to do great things.  The book ends on a sad note which makes you want to cry both tears of sadness and tears of relief.  One of the ending lines is “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” – pg. 313.  Immediately I was transported back to one of the defining lines of The Magicians by Lev Grossman where the main character, Quentin, is talking to his girlfriend Alice.  “[Quentin:] ‘You can’t just decide to be happy.’ [Alice] ‘No, you can’t.  But you can sure as hell decide to be miserable.'”  – pg. 325  What do these things have to do with the bus driver? I’ll get to that, just bear with me a bit. Continue reading

Bigotry Doesn’t Care About Your Intentions

Racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and other forms of discrimination that limit opportunities to people based on some unchangeable fact about themselves don’t care about intentions.

Forms of discrimination have become a very different sort of beast in the current day.  It’s no longer the obvious racism such as the Jim Crow laws.  Racism, sexism, ageism, and much discrimination is now a subtle subconscious mindset that, if one is not paying attention, can be perpetuated unwillingly and unknowingly.  Because of this it is increasingly easy to contribute to these subconscious paradigms unwillingly and accidentally.

There are very obvious sorts of discrimination, but it’s the unconscious reflexive sort of actions that truly contribute to discrimination in our current world.  Actions such as checking one’s wallet when they pass a black person or holding on extra tight to their purse can be the subtle sort of unconscious racism that permeates our culture and constitutes our subconscious racist paradigms.  They are socially constituted and culturally ingrained through stereotypes. Continue reading

Happiness and Passion – Doing the Things You Love

I’ve been somewhat estranged from what I originally meant this blog to be lately.  The Miracle of Mindfulness and Conventions was a post that wasn’t really related to the Geek/Nerd community except in its loose connection to conventions.  But more so, the post was about being happy and how we can take the unique experiences that we have as Geeks and Nerds and apply it to being happy.

Today I want to talk about a TEDx Video that I saw – “How To Find And Do Work You Love” by Scott Dinsmore.  A little background – Scott Dinsmore worked for a Fortune 500 company attempting to build his resume.  He quickly realized that he hated his job and decided to quit.  After quitting he became a “self-expert”, an expert of himself, and he read.  He then started Live Your Legend. He then networked and talked with as many people as he could and made a dream of his come true – he did a TED Talk.

This whole idea of Living Your Legend is about finding what you are passionate about and finding the work that you “can NOT do.”  When I hear this phrase I’m reminded of so many people that I have met through Steampunk and Conventions.  Silversark Clothier, Eric Larson (AKA Lord Bobbins of TeslaCon), Joseph CR Vourteque of Steampunk Chicago, Corvus Elroy (creator of Bhaloidam), and many others.  I admire these people for doing the work that they love and for pursuing it so passionately.

What I have learned from all this is that there are so many people out there who are completely unhappy with the job they’re doing.  A lot of what I’ve read recently and have watched on intellectual channels such as TED is that people, in order to be happy, should be doing work that they no only have passion for, but gives them purpose.  Work you love is not only work that you are passionate about, but when you’re done at the end of the day – tired and exhausted – you know that you’ve made a difference somewhere that you want to make.

I think that this ultimately holds true and that we should be trying to make our own dreams come true by pursuing the work that we not only love but by pursuing the work that gives us purpose.

Comment and let me know – if you could quit your job and do anything that you wanted to do, what would it be?

Best,

Your Resident (not really) Anthropologist

Note:  This got accidentally published (I’m not entirely sure how).  When it was published it was unfinished and I was somewhat embarrassed, but people liked my post despite the fact that it ended in mid-sentence so I decided that I had to finish the post.  I’m glad that I finished it.  I’m changing up the website and might be getting a new theme (might even purchase one!).

The YouTube Learning Community

John Green, author of Looking For Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars (among other great novels), was recently featured on TED Talks in a talk called The Paper Town Academy.  This talk is phenomenal and you should watch it here. He talks about cartography, fake towns, fake towns turning into real towns, and (most prominently) the idea of a Learning Community.

John Green’s talk focuses on the idea of being a part of a learning community.  A learning community is a community which heralds the idea of intellectualism and the act of learning new things.  There is a new learning community developing on YouTube and that is what I’m going to talk to you about today.  I believe that the YouTube learning community represents a shift in the mentality of, at least, some people.  A mentality where we no longer feel insecure about our desire to learn and be intelligent.

The reason I think this community is so special is because of the way I was mocked for my want to be a part of the learning community.  I was once at a bar with some friends.  We were all chatting and they were all talking about music – a passion that my friend holds above all other passions.  I was relatively isolated and alone as most of the people there were friends of friends.  I was like an 8th wheel (which is weird because with 7 others around you would think I could engage someone in conversation).  We were talking and someone mentioned something – I use vagueness here because I cannot remember what the subject was.  What I do remember was popping into the conversation saying “Wow, that really reminds me of the thinker.”  Before I could even elaborate, speak further my friend responded, and  I will never forget the response I got.  “Really?! You’re talking about art and the thinker in a bar? Really?” And then he continued to ignore me.  And there I sat – sad and even more alone than I had been before.

I share this story because I wanted – oh so desperately did I want – to be a part of the community that wants to learn.  He did too, but he wanted to be a part of the music learning community.  But because he viewed the community of learning I wanted to be a part of as “intellectual” and as (I somewhat assume) “pretentious” he would constantly shut me down, mock my comments of intellectual attempt, and disengage me from any group I was a part of.

I believe the YouTube community of learners can change that.  Do you love physics?  Check out Minute Physics on YouTube.  Do you love slow motion and want to learn something unique?  Check out Smarter Everyday.  Do you love History?  Check out Crash Course (Done by John Green).  Science? SciShow! These are all YouTube channels that cater to the YouTube Learning Community.

However, this doesn’t solve the problem entirely.  I didn’t just want to learn, I wanted to engage in the community of learners.  I wanted to talk, discuss, and engage in deep discourse about the world around us and how we perceive said world.  While I found some of this in college, I also found that students more often would just wait for me to answer questions in class (because I rose my hand and engaged in classes) rather than engage each other.  They merely wanted to achieve a grade (not even necessarily a good one), an arbitrary hurdle which dictates apparently how smart we are.

If you look at the channels that I have put above, you will see that the comments section is actually filled with engaging and encouraging comments.  People ask questions, answer other people’s questions, and generally engage each other as a learning community.  This is how YouTube has helped me out of the alienated funk that my friend put me in.  This is a place, sacred and secluded from those who don’t want to engage the learning community, where learners can engage with each other about learning.  Learning thus becomes about learning the things that you want to learn, understanding the answers to the questions that YOU want to ask, and not jumping through the arbitrary hurdles set forth by school districts who decide what you should learn, how much of it you should learn, and how proficient you should be at it by testing you and assigning a symbol which represents your perceived intelligence.

I hope that this community will continue to grow and that learning, in any capacity, will be completely acceptable – whether it be understanding literary works of art, the deep rooted history of Batman or Superman, the ability to recite poetry, the laws of economics, the laws of physics, etc.

Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

Sub-Culture – Why Call Them Sub-Cultures

I was thinking today about the different sub-cultures that exist.  Personally I am a part of many different sub-cultures, Steampunk, Gamers, Martial Artists, and some others.  But why do we call them sub-cultures?  I originally thought I had the answer, which seemed rather obvious when I used to ask myself this question.  The answer I had was – they exist underneath the surface.  Steampunk, for example, is by no means part of the mainstream.  It’s becoming extremely popular, but the culture of Steampunk exists underneath the surface of society.  The reason that I now question this understanding is asking myself the question what makes something culture and not sub-culture?

Studying Anthropology culture should be very easy for me to define.  And, of course, I can give you an academic definition – a set of beliefs, symbols, and ideas which connect people and through which people come together.  (This is my own definition, and I think many would agree on this definition).  However, what makes something mainstream culture?  If sub-cultures exist beneath the surface than non-sub-cultures should most assuredly exist at the surface, or more importantly they are the surface of society.  But if this is the case then how do we define these things?

How do we create this dichotomy between culture and sub-culture?  How large does a culture have to be for it to no longer be sub-culture?

I would argue that all culture is sub-culture because it encompasses only a subset of the overall human population.  Using AIs this how we should define culture versus sub-culture?merica as an example, American culture cannot be defined in any single way.  There is a culture of the South, East, West, and North and there are overlapping areas of this four circle Venn Diagram.  These cultures are made distinct through their geographical location.  But then, which one of these is America Culture?  What about political culture.  We have liberals and conservatives in America.  We also have Republicans and Democrats.  By no means are these cultures overlapped as there are liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, as well as conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.  So which one encompasses America and which one is the true culture of America?

I could go on and on about this but my answer has now shifted to why we use the term sub-culture.  I now answer saying that sub-culture only encompasses a subset of all people.  But this describes all culture.  Even something as gigantic as the culture which surrounds Justin Beiber, as mainstream and widespread as it is, is only a subset of people.  Beatlemania was even merely a subset of all people living in America.  San Diego Comic-Con has over 100,000 attendees every year.  That is gigantic, and many people still wanted to attend who didn’t get a chance.  Does that make it large enough to go from sub-culture to regular culture?

I think we should understand that while we use the term sub-culture for culture which lays underneath the surface of “mainstream” culture, no culture actually lays beneath the surface.  The surface itself is not comprised of any single culture that all people are a part of, but that the surface itself is a mosaic of brightly colored cultural pieces that people use to connect to other people through.  It’s just that some pieces are more brightly colored and larger than others.

The Culture of Bullying

Bullying is a hard topic for many people.  Those who are bullies often times hide behind the charade that they’re just poking fun, having a good time, and if you don’t like what they’re doing then you just don’t get the “joke” and you should leave. However, there is a distinct difference between poking fun and being a bully – and it’s called context.  Poking fun between friends, snarky banter,

The biggest issue that is happening in schools is referred to as exclusionary bullying.  Exclusionary bullying happens when people are made to feel outcast, alienated, and separate from the group (in contrast when snarky banter happens between friends it creates a bond).  By spreading rumors, mocking someone for the way they look or dress, or poking fun at the things that people feel insecure about, the person who is targeted is made to feel too inadequate to be a part of the group and they become excluded and alienated from everyone else.  This leads to things like depression in youth and has been documented.

What does this have to do with gaming?  Online gaming culture is rife with this sort of behavior.  When someone is mocked for low skill, a poor k/d spread, or an “inability” to perform well in online gaming they are being bullied by people, and often by people who are no better than they are.  Personally, when I encounter this sort of behavior I put down my controller and turn my system off.  I don’t want to be subjected to this sort of behavior because someone thinks that I’m not good enough to play with them.

But even more importantly is when someone doesn’t take the action that I take – removing myself from such abuse – and they continue to subject themselves to this behavior online.  When you continue to subject yourself to such behavior you end up accepting it and it becomes the standard.  It then becomes a widely accepted behavior and others begin to do it as well.  It’s the “Jones” effect.  When you see someone doing something you want to be a part of it, and when people aren’t encouraging online the only people you hear are those who are bullying online.  It seems even more common in the younger generation than the older generation now.  What was once trolling is now becoming an intention to hurt another to make one’s self feel better.

This creates a culture of bullying in online gaming.  When you see someone who performs poorly it should be standard to encourage them, not make them feel bad about themselves.  If we want gaming to be successful and a truly accepted form of entertainment, which I argue it still is not, then we should be encouraging people to game more and create a powerful and uplifting environment online for people to game in.

We need to check ourselves at the controller and remember that, just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean that your actions are meaningless.