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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Allan’s Advice #2 – The Rating System

Hey guys hoped you liked my last post maybe it will become a classic itself someday. This is the second entry in the Allan’s Advice column and I think that this is a good topic to piggy back off the classic conundrum. The last part of the post I talked about what makes a classic is all based upon perspective. I am probably eventually going to write a post about perspectives because I feel like it is such a vital part in almost everything that we do. For now, I’ll go in depth about a particular topic that is the rating system and how it is used to influence decisions about what we think is good or not.

The inspiration for this topic came from when I was trying to buy a new set of headphones on Amazon. My mom is dead set on making me research almost everything I want to buy especially on the internet so I had to look around and she wanted me to pay careful attention to the reviews by others. I was reading through them and she saw this one terrible review and then it was almost as if she wrote off the possibility of ever purchasing the headphones because of that one bad review. I thought that was ridiculous and then began to wonder if the fate of other people’s future purchases hinges on the possibility of one or a couple bad reviews. For this reason I decided to write this advice post.

The thing that I don’t like about the rating system, and unfortunately it’s an unavoidable problem, but it is completely biased and is used to influence others to think the same way. It is in a way a form of propaganda to shift views to a certain way or thinking. It is basically like my advice because it is completely biased based upon my values and what I believe in. You must take it with a grain of salt because it isn’t founded from your own personal values as nothing can completely do unless it comes from you. To avoid confusion you should relate to the ones that align most with yours and not be too influenced by others. This also isn’t full proof because by looking at only similar views you don’t get a full spectrum of views and possibly be inclined to only look you way which is not only ignorant but it is bad habit to not play devil’s advocate every once in a while.

When deciding about buying something or seeing a movie or whatever it is that gets reviewed or rated, I think you should turn to your instincts for final judgment. I often find myself disagreeing with the reviews of a critic who gets paid to rate products. Maybe I am oblivious to the art of bestowing judgment upon things but in most cases I don’t concur with their reviews. The reason is because they live a different life. I am going to probably refer to this in the perspective note but the real reason that you would rate things differently compared to them is because they have grown up and lived with different experiences. If you grew up with a family that likes actions movies then you will be more inclined and biased to give those types of movies a better rating then say a horror flick. These experiences shaped their perspectives that might not necessarily line up with your own so their view on how good something is only applies to them. Systems like rating and reviews are opinionated so what works for them might not work for you.

There is also an element of luck and randomness that can affect the review system. When dealing with reviews the critic is supposed to look at basically every aspect of it that is worth rating and then share their opinions with you. By doing so, there are so many variables involved that could easily sway an opinion a certain way unfairly. If you are a critic and you are testing out a camera and there’s a glitch that erases all your pictures, then you probably won’t give it a good review. That glitch was just a fluke that is one of the many factors that can impact a judgment for a review but doesn’t effectively represent the product as a whole.

Reviews aren’t always a bad thing however. As with many scientific studies that involve people, they broaden their use cases and test groups in order to minimize the chance of things like random error and flukes. You should apply this technique when looking at buying a new product or going to see a movie or whatever it is that reviews could influence your decisions. By broadening your spectrum, you are allowing yourself a more accurate overall viewpoint before deciding not to buy something. The thing to take away from this is that before you decide not to buy something off Amazon because of a couple bad reviews, don’t be dissuaded because so many variables could have affected their decisions, like a fluke or biased opinion, and some might not apply to you.

-Allan Nicholas

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook #30 - The Classics Conundrum

Wow the big three one! This whole blog thing has been awesome and I'm so glad that you guys have been reading. The inspiration for this note came from a discussion that we had during English class last week. Are originals better than the sequels? This seems to be a timeless discussion and goes across almost endless mediums. One of the areas where it is most widely discussed is through the media and especially the entertainment industry. We always see like in the movies sequels and trilogies and we usually are divided in our views on what is better, the original or the sequel. This note is to describe the different views and factors that apply to both and you make the decision which one you like better and then decide which one will be classics or not.

So originals are what we know as the first and the starting place for possible sequels to be built upon. It sets the foundation for more to come and while it doesn’t necessarily have any sequels of its own it clears the path for more to come in the future. While nowadays nothing is completely original because it uses different aspects of the things that came before it. I can't really find anything that is completely original because it usually takes some aspects of another things that came before, no matter how minute. In a sense everything is a sequel in some way or another, that borrows like techniques or styles from previous works. Regardless of this there are still originals made from everything we know. From songs to movies to even legislative laws anything can become a classic.

To be a classic it requires several things. One of the main requirement is that it is to transcend time. Regardless of the world's ever changing events, classics should be ever prevalent yet still be unchanged by current events. It is a delicate balance that comes with becoming a classic and can be hard to achieve that status. I don't really know what it takes to become a classic because I haven't written a bestselling novel or multimillion blockbuster that was recognized as a classic. Maybe it takes perfect timing, being in an era that was willing to accept your ideas and opinions. There have been works that have been criticized as being ahead of their time because their environment wasn’t willing to accept their views or it wasn’t the right time for the world to relate to those ideas. I read somewhere that songs like Kanye West's Love Lockdown and Daniel Powter's Bad Day were popular because they were made at a time when the nation could relate and it encompassed the values of that time. Or maybe it has to deal with luck and just appealing to a highly popular critic like Oprah and then the nation carries on that view and then your own views become idealized as a classic.

Classics take time and an audience before they can attain that status. Some works have been acknowledged as being "instant classics" but I think that is a paradox in and of itself. I think you need time to determine if something is classic-worthy because I believe the ultimate nemesis of a classic is time. Things years later must still be loved without having the spotlight. Anything you can think of that has been called a classic widespread still can be popular by those who feel it is classic without actually being the latest thing on the news. There are things out there called cult classics that haven’t necessarily been mainstream but still are revered by those who appreciate its values and ideas. My dad brought up this movie called Pulp Fiction that didn’t necessarily get rave reviews or widespread attention but laid the foundation for those involved in its existence. John Travolta played a role in this movie and it helped propel him into the fame game after he had been gone from Hollywood for a while before Pulp Fiction's creation. Classics are staples and milestones that represent a sense of style and can capture the essence of what was going on at the time. For this reason they might not, but not always, be relevant anymore with current events but still find some way to relate and capture an audience with its greatness. The audience is one of the most important parts when creating a classic because you need to build a fan base that regards you as a classic. Like with Pulp Fiction, you don't necessarily need to have a large audience but a dedicated one that truly believes in the values displayed in your work. On the other end of the spectrum, there are works that were monumental and spurred attention worldwide allowing the public to get a better sense of its values and therefore have a better chance of attaining classic status. You also have to be aware of the "fad factor" that is just representing a temporary trend that is successful short term but nowhere close to being classic worthy. You can see even today on the radio how many artists only have the potential of being one hit wonders. They are great at representing the values and ideas at the time of its inception but can't hold up down the road and can sometimes fall into the abyss of lost works. This is where sequels come in to continue on the legacy of the original and optimally create buzz and excitement for the original in the process.

One of the major flaws I see people make is assume that originals equate to classics and this is false. I believe that sequels can also become classics but it requires more work because originals lay the foundation for the sequels to be built upon so the credit usually goes to the original. Depending on the way you look at it, sequels can have the shorter end up the stick by having the responsibility of living up to expectations created by the original. They must recapture the audience with at least the same effectiveness of maybe even better in order to be viewed as being successful. They can't just expect to rehash the same material and be considered great again because one of the main components of a classic is its time resistance and time has changed since when the sequel was made. As with a lot of things, there are exceptions to this rule as there have been countless Rocky Balboa movies made that have been relatively successful but not necessarily the same amount of success as the original. While time was the enemy of a classic, hype is the arch-villain to a sequel. Sequels have the sometimes insurmountable task of overcoming all the hype that can follow a classic. People want to believe that the next rendition will only improve upon the first and get better and better increasing the hype level to unreachable heights. By setting expectations too high, you will only end up in disappointment in your attempts to piggyback on a classic. A good example of this is the Star Wars saga that reached almost unheard of levels of success leading it to become a classic in its own right. The hype coming from the originals as well as the hiatus George Lucas had between the makings of the original 3 movies, basically set up the next 3 movies for failure. Times had changed since the 70's making it so the next 3 movies had to find their own niche in order to achieve admiration and respect comparable to the originals. They didn’t live up to expectations as it was almost impossible to and therefore are looked down upon compared to the original trilogy.

The origins of your work can play a factor in its ability to become a classic. Coming from underground or mainstream can in a way be a predetermined fate. I believe that people in general are moving inclined to want an underground work become successful and rise to fame because it represents hope and epitomizes the rags to riches story. It instills this sense of hope in people because it shows them that you don't have to be rich or a well known corporation in order to build a classic. The perfect example of this phenomena is The Blair Witch Project shot in Fredrick County with only a camcorder that can be considered a classic in its style that inspired future movies like Cloverfield. It had a budget of around 500,000 dollars that is basically pocket change compared to the expenditures of movies like Avatar which cost $237 million to produce. Your origins probably don't play as big a role though, when compared to the other factors that do. I believe the biggest factors in making a classic are the themes and views present in your work that will make or break you in your attempts to achieve success and possibly the status of a classic.

Now I want to try and capture the essence of the conversation that took place during English class between people like Abby, Angie, Joel, Yechun, Kevin, Andrew, Jimmy, and me. I don't remember how this conversation started but we had a discussion about the different mediums that classics can be in and how that can affect their success and meaningfulness. The two main mediums we were discussing were between books and videogames and how the two affect the creation of classics. I was talking about how time can't affect the content of a book as much as say a video game because with time new technology is made and new game play is thus made available while with books they have mostly stayed the same in form as the years have progressed. Kevin made a good point about how the styles and such can change and now I have changed my opinion. I have realized that time can affect all mediums thus changing the way classics are made. As the world changes so do the values and those are represented in the writing of books that can then lay the foundation for similar styled books in the future. The same applies to video games and almost everything else where the environment affects the different aspects of a classic and thus paves the road for future sequels.

I believe that the classic conundrum is a touchy topic because like many other things, it is really based upon perspective when everything is said and done. To gain an audience you must appeal to them through means like ethos, logos, and pathos and by doing so it is completely subjective to the values of the public. While you might find a movie about love not appealing your neighbor might and that is why it is so hard to judge what is a classic and not. There are some timeless themes and such that can be attributed to the success of works such as good vs. evil and with Romeo and Juliet, two lovers that are torn because of factors like feuding families. In a way classics don't exist equally in the eyes of others because everyone doesn’t have the same interests and values. You must decide for yourself what you find is a classic and if a sequel is better than the original or and that is the conundrum.

-Allan Nicholas

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 29 - What are we a product of?

Hey guys I hope you liked the idea for the new column "Allan's Advice" and if you have anything to contribute please message me what you have to say and I'll put it on the blog. So Jon Witt not only suggested one but TWO topics so this is my crack at the second one of his ideas. He wanted me to talk about is a person more of a product of nature(genes) or nurture (environment)? My straight up answer is that we as humans are products of both. My interpretation on his suggestion was by nature he meant the hereditary factors involved in the creation of a person. The other side of the spectrum, the environment, is the upbringing and your surroundings that play a role in your everyday life.

Hereditary factors involved in the determination of a person are passed down from generation to generation. Whether you like it or not, the characteristics, at least from a biological standpoint, of your parents play a role in how you yourself will end up. If your parents are known for having high blood pressure then there is a good chance that you will in your future have it too. While not always a 100% guarantee, it can be said that DNA lays the framework and sets the foundation for what you are capable of and your limitations. Not only does the nature aspect involve hereditary characteristics and DNA but also the internal factors that go beyond genes. I am not sure if I believe that DNA plays a role in your personality but, at least from what I am told, chemical imbalances and other mutations and such in our genes can be a determining factor in what makes you who you are. If it is true that your DNA will make you a naturally optimistic or always mad at the world then perhaps the nature aspect of origination does play a larger role in what makes a person than I thought. I believe that this note can relate very strongly with notes I have wrote in the past. To support the nature argument, I believe that the note a wrote about skills and interests does justice to this topic. As I said previously I am still conflicted on if I believe that personality and your temperament is one characteristic determined from birth, but there are definitely other things that are determined from your genes. I think that your are born with a set of abilities and things that you’re are naturally inclined to be better at then others and this is derived from your nature.

I believe that what you are born with you are stuck with for the most part, especially in regards to physical appearance, but there are ways to change them and most have some leeway. For instance, if by your very nature you are naturally husky compared to others, then you probably have the ability to lose some weight. Some other aspects you may not be so lucky with like height which I am conflicted with. I was born with genes that have made me for my life so far, less than average height wise. I could wear elevator shoes to try to gain some extra inches but truly I am stuck with my height unless I get a growth spurt in the coming years. If you are the one who finds the silver lining in this you will probably want to make the best of your nature. If you are have some built-in strengths, then you will want to improve upon them and this also applies to your weaknesses as well. Your genes get modified and grow with you in a sense so just like with the height example, as I get older my nature changes as well.

Of the two, I think that nurture plays a bigger role in the product that is man. Because your nature grows as you do I think that how it grows and what directions it takes are highly dependent upon your environment and your experiences. We are constantly changing as we grow and things like our interests and outlook changes as well. This is why your image or style changes through the years because we live in a world that gets modified each and every day. Just like my very first note about the environment, I think it plays a monumental role in who we become and what we are capable of doing. Social and peer pressures also play a huge role in who we end up being. A good example of this would be a decade like the 1970's where a person's surroundings were all about disco. This caused people across the nation to grow afros or long hair and start wearing bellbottoms. I don't think anyone would have voluntarily changed themselves unless their environment encouraged and nurtured them to think that those things were cool. Your experiences that your environment puts you through also play a role in your outcome because they shape your values and make you view life through a certain perspective. If you experience something unique that others don't then you will end up being different from them.

Parents not only play a role in your nature by passing down their genes but they also play a major role in your environment because they are usually the most impacting and influencing factor on you. When you are a kid, you are subjected to all their views and opinions and especially the values that they instill in you. If you are taught that cheating and stealing is bad, then that causes you to be nurtured to think a certain way and therefore influencing how you will turn out. Your parents are also subject to these variables as well. A good firsthand example that made me realize this was the fact that my parents hate it whenever I play rap or hip-hop music in the house. When I asked them why they told me that they hadn't grown up with it and it wasn’t popular in their time so they never grew a liking to it. This is the epitome of the nurture side because it shows that their environment shaped the way they look at a genre of music.

We are all under the influence of both factors but they both play different roles in determining who you are. Your nature lays the foundation and framework for who you are but your environment is what fills it in and constantly is changing. What your environment teaches you then is laid atop your nature and lead to the construction of you. Sometimes these two can conflict with each other as what your environment tells you sometimes doesn’t follow the values that your nature has. A good example is with peer pressure and how a lot of your environment is based upon what is popular because if it is popular it is more prevalent in your environment. However what is popular isn't always right and what your instincts tell you could be the complete opposite of what your surroundings are. I feel that in these situations, your nature is more important because it is less biased and more stable than your environment and if it has led you up to this point without too much harm then I would say your nature is pretty reliable. Just like a house, there aren't many radical changes done to the base but the rest can get remodeled or moved around just like the furniture in your real house. The foundation provides comfort and is a place of haven when we revert back to it but we still need to build upon our values and such or you would never grow or improve your life. Knowing the origins of what is influencing helps you determine what you are.

If there is one thing that you should get out of this note is that humans are, by far, not a final product. Nobody is perfect and who we are constantly changes as time passes. I think the best way to think of us is like a rough draft where it is constantly being revised and improved upon for as long as we live. We undergo a journey or self discovery through life and I think a lot of people are confused about who they are. They aren't sure what they are deep down or they might not like what they see so they try to hide it. I think being fake is worse than not knowing who you are because ignorance can be bliss sometimes and by covering up your true self or not realizing what the truth is, you can be causing terrible consequences to ensue. Like in the Great Gatsby, Gatsby was trying to make his life a fairytale and clinging on to a past and not willing to acknowledge the true Daisy anymore and caused his life to end terribly. If you aren't satisfied with who you are you should try to improve your life and make it how you want. With that said, there is a fine line between becoming something else and being something you're not. If you make the best of your life and stay as true as you can to who you are then your life will be as successful as possible regardless of what you are a product of.

-Allan Nicholas

Monday, March 22, 2010

Allan's Advice #1 - Pro Con Lists

Hey guys this is a new little project that I just got inspired to do. It's basically a column where whenever I experience something that personally affected me I will share the morals of the story. Maybe if this get popular enough people can even share their own morals and lessons they’ve learned through everything that life puts us through. There are definitely things that I have gone through in my own life that I have learned from and by looking at the lessons it taught me, it helped me improve my life from then on. I am sure there have been events like these in your own lives that have taught you an important value or lesson that has let you improve upon and it would be cool if you guys can share those with the rest of us. Hopefully this will end up being something that allows others to relate through and improve their lives upon by taking these lessons under consideration in their futures.

The original inspiration for this column was an experience that happened the other day to me. I was forced to make a decision about what I was going to do this summer and deadlines arose for one project I wanted to do so I couldn’t postpone the decision any longer. I was stuck at a crossroad for joining a project now or taking my chances and waiting to try and get accepted into another internship that I wanted to do more. I didn’t know if I should risk it and wait for the other one or risk doing a program that I might have not enjoyed. As what any kid who is conflicted would do, I turned to my mom and gave me a solution that is almost as ambiguous as when parents say "we'll see." She straight up told me that she didn’t know which one I should take and that obviously wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I then came to the realization that too much variety can be a bad thing and that being told what to do isn't always a bad thing. When I was stuck between two options and didn’t know which one to choose I became anxious and wished that someone would pick for me. Sometimes a solution for this predicament would be to do an Enni Menni Mine Mo type thing but this decision was a high impact pivotal moment (just like the note I wrote) and I wasn’t willing to risk a big decision on such a method. My mom saw me distressed and then suggested I should make a pro con list. I was shocked I hadn't thought of it before and immediately wrote down all the factors and variables involved in both possibilities. Pro Con lists are amazing because they help provide as much of an unbiased decision as possible. They do this by highlighting all the potential outcomes of making a certain choice, both good and bad, thus giving you a broader scope of what to take under consideration when making a decision. Sometimes decisions are crapshoots where no one can tell you which way to turn or one choice may not seem better or worse from the others. Sometimes they are completely equal and it doesn’t make a difference what you choose to do but you will probably feel anxious when having to choose one over the other. Thankfully, with my pro con list completed, I was able to see the big picture and realized that waiting to see if a got into the other program was more worthwhile and in return gave me the relief of feeling like the earth's pressure was lifted off my shoulders. I highly recommend using a pro con list whenever you have to decide something and unsure which choice to take. They definitely have helped me out and hopefully they will for you too in your future decisions and choices.

-Allan Nicholas

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 28 - The Leader/Follower Relationship

Hey guys! I'm excited to have my first official recommended topic! This topic was suggested by Jonathan Witt and he asked is it better to be a feared ruler/leader/government official or a loved one? I wanted to get a little bit more in depth and look at the leaders and the relationship that they have with their followers. Leaders and followers at their core are very similar but I think the main difference between a leader and a follower is that leaders are the ones willing to act on their beliefs while followers will push for their values but under the leadership of someone else. There are times leaders are put into positions of power where they were just at the right place right time to be put into a leadership position.

Leaders and their followers have a unique relationship because they are one cohesive body supposedly working for the same goals. They must work together in order to achieve the results they desire. Most of the times leaders gain support for their causes by appealing to others through things like logos ethos and pathos. A strong way to attract followers is by appealing to their emotions and relating to their situations and have a common vision on how to improve their lifestyles. Not all leaders gain voluntary followers as sometimes the followers are put into compromising situations where they must follow the orders and commands of others. One prominent example is through the use of blackmail where a person leads and commands another through the use of infringing material. Others for the most part follow leaders because they abide by the same principles that the leader does and share a common goal or something to that effect with said leader. But in the cases with governments, at least with the United States, we must be under the leadership of the candidate who gained the most popular support regardless of if we see eye to eye with their political viewpoints. The way the United States political system is set up, it is supposed to be that the most popular candidate will be elected to sovereignty essentially setting them up to be supported by at least some of their followers because if they didn’t have any support then they most likely wouldn’t have gotten elected into a leadership position.

In regards to if it is better to be loved or feared as a ruler, I believe it is completely subjective to the person, how they try to acquire power, and how they exert it on their followers. The epitome of a feared ruler is a demagogues who utilized tactics like lying, extortion, bribery, and propaganda to gain leverage over those who they rule. They also are fans of threats and they usually aren't empty as a feared leader might condemn those who oppose to their rule as an example to show what they are capable of. Demagogues who can effectively execute fear tactics have the potential to end up very powerful because people are easily coaxed into doing things if there are negative outcomes by not following the leader. Threatening one's very existence by saying you're going to murder them is a very effective way in getting someone to follow your orders. This type of ruling does have some potential negative impacts on the leader themselves by giving their followers a negative morale. If their followers amass enough people with mentalities inclined towards mutiny, then you will most likely have the beginnings of a revolt on your hands. If your followers gain the courage to oppress you and no longer follow you then you have essentially lost all power and have failed in respects of a leader.

If you are adored by your audience you have the amazing ability of appealing to their emotions and wants with a positive light. They are on the complete opposite spectrum from demagogues and are beloved as popular public figures. They have mastered the arts of compromise and have found a way to keep all their followers happy without committing any acts that would go against any one of those who support them. There are some disadvantages with being a loved leader because it is very hard to appease to the wills of every single follower. While ruling, you will most likely upset some followers through your actions and possibly cause them to overthrow you because in their eyes you aren't effectively doing your job. In general, leaders who try to be adored start out more popular during the beginnings of their terms than in the end because people are excited and have hope for that leader. Down the road however, that leader may do things that upset the public and cause their approval rating to decrease. In the case of the U.S.A. government, Obama has the extremely difficult job of trying to get the public to follow his views without upsetting them too much. Being a loved leader is beneficial because it shows your followers that you care for their needs and when you can abide by your followers views they will be much happier and you will probably prosper more than if you were feared.

I believe that these tactics don't dictate if you are a good leader or not but are just determining factors on what you do as a leader. I do however believe that your outlook on how to lead does play a role in what you are capable as a leader. If you try to appeal to your followers but always do things to upset them, then you probably won't be an effective leader. In the case of demagogues, you can have terrible values but still effectively control and leader others. In the case of Hitler, he had a TERRIBLE values and views on what to do as a leader but he effectively carried them out because he could lead his people to do his bidding. Leaders are good at assembling their followers and inspire them into working for a common cause or goal. I do believe that society as a whole is better when the leader appeases to the public just like what our government is trying to do. People who try to be popular with their followers lead and use their power in the name of others, while those who are feared only have to serve themselves. If a leader tries to abide to their followers values then they can better relate to them and then find ways to become a better leader. I believe that a leader has a certain obligation to their followers and if they have all the power without regards for its effect on their followers, then they can basically do whatever they want without any restrictions. As with many other topics, I also believe that there isn't one right or wrong way to go about ruling. If you rule for yourself then your one opinion on how to rule doesn’t represent the world and is more likely to be wrong then if you were to rule in the name of others who in turn have a much broader sense of what is right and wrong. What is right and wrong is determined by the current status of the world and your environment. In times like these, it would be wrong to build a whole bunch of nuclear weapons and it would probably be a good idea to be more concerned with fixing the economy. What makes a good leader is really dependent upon a variety of factors that is very complicated to understand. I think it is very hard to judge if a leader will be good beforehand but I think if you are dedicated in your goals and the environment at the time of your leadership position is optimal to those goals, then you are definitely capable of both great and/or terrible things.

-Allan Nicholas

Monday, March 15, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook #27 - Can Money Buy Happiness?

New podcast is up! #4! Check it out if you haven't yet. So after doing an English worksheet about how strongly we agree or disagree with aphorisms, the one "can money buy happiness" came up. It took me a bit to think about this one and I was talking to Angie about this (see I mentioned you ; P) and I have come to the conclusion that I believe it can. I remember back in like the 5th grade we had a debate club and I was against Brandon Nixon and my topic was about should we continue to produce the penny or not lol. I didn’t really like my topic much but I remember another one was about if money can buy you happiness. I can't really remember the points my fellow 5th Graders made but I felt like this issue is long overdue at gaining coverage again.

First off it would be good to define exactly what happiness. A quick Google search will yield results such as "Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. A variety of philosophical, religious, psychological and biological approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources." Almost all people strive for happiness but it is a very eluding goal that can be approached with a variety of actions. Emotions are a very grey area because a lot of stimuli provided by our environment causes different reactions in the individuals who experience it. For instance, seeing Obama win the elections could have brought joy to those who supported him but McCain fans probably felt emotions very similar to disappointment and remorse. People react differently to almost everything that incites a response. What may cause happiness to one person may causing anger in another. Emotions are so hard to control because our reactions and feelings are ever changing but always present. You may be bored one moment but the next you have a sudden excited and having fun. Regardless of your constant acknowledgement of your emotions or not, you will always have some sort of feelings and they can be very hard to control.

There is a lot of stimulus that the world has in store each and every day. There are two main forms of stimulus that provoke emotional responses and they are concrete and abstract. Concrete refers to physical things such as material possessions and especially ones with high value. For some reason we love things that hold high value both in the eyes of society and our own personal perspective. The idea of a value is completely abstract but ranges from both abstract and concrete stimuli. This value is in almost every stimulus we experience but its magnitude varies from such a wide spectrum from the completely minute to having such a high value we'd be willing to sacrifice anything to ensure its protection of safety. With money it can be monetary value but with objects it can hold sentimental value or other things that will bring happiness to an individual who sees it as valuable. One of the most influential factors in our happiness that derives from abstract origins is our relationships and in particular, our relationships with those that we care about. Those we love whether it's parents, significant others, best friends and many others, these people who we hold at the utmost importance hold a very significant part in our emotional stability and one action, or remark and they can cause a shift in its balance. Acknowledgement also can play a unique role in your goal to achieving happiness by being given recognition for your deeds by others who you want to be recognized by. For instance, having people leave comments rate or subscribe for the work that I do in the podcast and blogs makes me very happy.
One of the major proponents of concrete stimuli is money as the title of this blog post entails. Money itself I don't believe causes happiness but the status it brings and the potential of what your expenditures can be bought with it once you have amassed a certain amount of funds. These expenditures can then provide stimulus that peaks your interests and in turn provides happiness. Whether you have a spare $60 to pick up the new call of duty game because you love action or buying new clothes because you like looking nice, the possibilities are endless for what you can do with your money and what you can in turn do to create happiness. While this has noticeable advantages it has been viewed as being short sighted because money can only provide short term happiness and only abstract methods can provide more permanent solutions to finding and keeping happiness. Eventually you're going to get sick of that videogame or be out of style and require more money to get the next installment of whatever the next fad is. It is a vicious cycle because you can never have enough money and this is a major factor of all the horrible events occurring today led by emotions of greed. Money is like an addicting drug in the fact that once you realize what you can do with money you will always crave more and more and in extreme cases, you'll be willing to do anything to get it. Especially during these tough economic times, people are having difficulty in finding money causing a sense of melancholy because people don't have the financial resources to provide for material things that provide them happiness. Money isn't always used for happiness and sometimes for necessities like shelter and food. For the most part however, we get too carried away with the desires that we have and feel like money is an easy fix for these troubles we are having.

In my opinion money doesn’t equal happiness. Money can bring happiness but it doesn’t always equate to it but you should realize that there are other options and methods in attaining happiness. There are definitely situations where money can bring happiness and you should definitely take advantage of it as a solution if you believe it will cause benefits to you that will outweigh the costs and effects of it, especially in respect to other emotions such a greed. There are also situations when abstract things such as relationships can exclusively provide happiness Sometimes there are even situations where a combination of both is necessary in order to make yourself and maybe even others happy. Happiness is a surprisingly contagious emotion and your actions can provide happiness in others through the use of abstract and concrete means. Whether you say "I love you" or buy a gift for someone else, there are many ways in order to incite feelings of happiness. There are many forms of gaining happiness and while it may seem like an ever elusive concept, there are many ways to find what makes you happy.

-Allan Nicholas

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 26 – Pivotal Moments

Whoa it’s been a while since I’ve written one… well not really but it feels like ages. So if you haven’t heard I’m on iTunes now! Just search “Philosophy is Phun” and BAM!! I’m right there it’s like magic. So subscribe, download, rate, review, the whole shebang.

Today I wasn’t at school for long because of the robotics competition today and it was really interesting and I met a lot of smart people. I also had some cool conversations too and one that stood out was with Jason Lee during lunch about a whole bunch of stuff and one topic in particular was about how a lot of things are relative. I was going to write about that but then I had a sudden inspiration about pivotal moments that got spurred by the realization that I HAVE SAT’s SATURDAY! The time has finally come and it made me think that the results of my SAT’s can be very influential in my college acceptance and therefore in my future. This is what the note will be about so get ready! (Note: This note is semi-opinionated too so don’t get offended by my views)

So as you know SAT’s are this Saturday. Your scores on these tests can possibly play a very pivotal role as with many colleges, it is the second thing that they look at after your transcript and if you don’t make it past a certain score then you get canned. It is depressing that your whole future can possibly boil down to how you performed on a test on one day. Luckily you can take it multiple times and they are gradually becoming less influential in the college selection process. This made me think about the things we do every day that play a role in what our futures shape out to be. If you are a believer in free will then you will come to the conclusion that every action you take plays a role in how your future will turn out and then in turn play an influential part in your everyday life. What you are capable of achieving allows your potential outcomes to be chosen from a wider range. If you can get a better SAT score than someone else you most likely have a wider selection of colleges to choose from who will accept you than the person who scored lower. However, this isn’t a definite rule and as with most rules there are exceptions. For the most though, it can be said that the more capable you are the more opportunities are available to you.

With the opportunities presented to you, there also come choices as well. These choices force you to make a decision about what further action you’re going to take. There are sometimes when you can accomplish everything without sacrificing one choice over the other but there are a lot of situations where the phrase “can’t have your cake and eat it too” is applicable. This is where the opportunity cost comes in. With every pivotal moment presented to you come choices where you have to weigh the pros and cons of the possible outcomes. If you are presented with a once in a lifetime chance at an amazing job you’ve always wanted to do, you also must consider things like the time constraints it will place on your life and other aspects that will help bring you to a realistic conclusion on how you should live your life. If you choose to take the job and it comes with so many catches then you probably wouldn’t have made that decision if you knew the full story. There are pivotal moments that have huge impact on your life and therefore causing you to take careful consideration when making a decision. Doing good on the SAT’s will probably impact your future more than deciding to get a new hair cut will. These high impact decisions will most likely cause stress because you get a better feel for how the results will impact your future. You start to fear the worst because there is a possibility that if you fail the SAT’s then you won’t get into the college you dreamed of and ruin your future. While this is possible it probably isn’t likely and you won’t completely ruin your life forever. Regardless, when faced with a high impact moment, the pressure isn’t usually far behind. You get nervous for fear of making a wrong choice and not achieving an optimal result and by this thinking you psych yourself out leaving yourself more vulnerable to choking when the actual moment comes.

There is a difference with the SAT example and getting your hair cut. This is because the SAT’s are based upon your abilities while your hair cut is more dependent upon a decision. With decisions we are usually always capable of making all the choices and options available to us. We can decide whether we want to get a haircut or not and usually are capable of reaching both decisions unless there are things like monetary constraints. With the SAT’s however they are dependent upon your performance and with performances you can’t always achieve the desired results. Sometimes you have an off day that can severely limit your capabilities and in turn affect the results of a pivotal moment. When making decisions, it is easier to reach the desired outcome more than opportunities and moments that are dependent upon your abilities at a certain place and time.

Like with the off day example affecting your performance, there are also factors that can affect your decisions. Sometimes your decisions aren’t solely based upon what you believe is right but is dependent upon the situation and time in which you make the decision. A good example are spur of the moment decisions that aren’t based upon long term considerations and solely made because you were motivated and determined to travel down a set path when the time came to make the decision. This can lead to many undesirable outcomes that aren’t really the paths you would have wished to travel down. Alcohol and drugs also affect our decision making abilities. Other things like peer pressure also play a role in altering own abilities to make our own decisions. The decision to have sex just because you were intoxicated leaves repercussions that you might have not expected or wanted like maybe a child or STD that will limit the opportunities available to you in the future.

High impact moments aren’t the only situations deserving of the opportunity cost judgment because almost everything you do has an effect on your future and can create new paths or outcomes your wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. For instance, you decide to go to a party hosted by a friend you don’t really know that well but you end up meeting your future wife there that you wouldn’t have otherwise or you decided not to take a plane that ends up crashing. If you die then that sure limits your other potential outcomes for you to live and experience in the future. While these situations are hypothetical, they still are possibilities that are always present in today’s world. This is what leaves me to the conclusion that almost everything we do and situations where we can diverge from a set course are pivotal moments.

If you look at every decision you make as having the potential to change your life forever, then you will most likely consider other outcomes you could have taken leaving you with a sense of regret for not experiencing the other paths. This is especially present in situations where the outcome isn’t what you expected or desired. You would want to reverse time and remake your decisions knowing how one of those decisions would result in an undesirable outcome. As with the previous examples, they are what we call “what if’s.” There are possible outcomes that could happen if you decide to take a certain path or do a certain action. They make you think and possibly believe that you could improve your current situation leaving you with a feeling of regret with the choices you made in the past. I believe reviewing the past is important in respect to learning from your past mistakes, but in situations where it leaves regret, reminiscing is usually the wrong course of action to take when you could be doing much more productive things. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and you should learn not to regret because, one you will be much happier in life and also not limited by what you can further achieve. If you always dwell in the past you are spending your resources like time in ways that will only make you sad. Sometimes you get second chances that allow you to basically relive and remake decisions but they are too rare in order to rely on them. For this reason you should only look forward when making decisions because they will allow you to get a clearer view of what you should do in order to get to where you want to be.

On a little tangent I believe that everything you do basically sets your life down another path and in turn puts a parallel universe in motion. I believe that there are basically infinite parallel universes that are based upon the different choices we could have made but didn’t, even down to the most minute thing like there is a parallel universe for just one displaced hair. When you are at a pivotal moment where you have multiple outcomes I believe the time stream splits off into multiple universes. Just my opinions and my outlook on pivotal moments and hope you enjoyed so rate, comment and subscribe to the blog, podcast, and YouTube videos!

-Allan Nicholas

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 25 – The Truth

Got my 3rd Podcast up on YouTube! Did you check it out? If not go here and I will soon post it on Facebook once it allows me to. Yesterday I tried to record a podcast with Tommy about how everybody’s perception of reality is different and even though we couldn’t get the podcast right I later saw Shutter Island and it supported the fact that everybody’s reality is different. Hopefully we’ll be able to rerecord it in the future but until then this note will have to suffice.

It is hard to tell if everybody’s perspective on life is exactly different because we can’t see life through someone else’s eyes. It is very difficult for humans in the first place to walk in someone else’s shoes but to see life the way someone else does is almost downright impossible. There’s no way to tell at least nowadays what’s going through someone’s mind. Their perceptions are all based upon their beliefs values morals and knowledge as well as many other things. They react to things differently based upon how their brains process the information they absorb through their senses from their surroundings and environment. Because of this I wanted to relate it to the truth and how it is hard to find and there may not be an absolute truth.

Just like in the movies, you try to figure out the truth by using detective skills and investigate. To get a good grasp of the whole situation you try to get a feel for the whole story. The most effective way in deducting what’s going on is through experience and actually being in a situation as it occurs. This allows you to almost completely understand what happened and in turn uncover the truth. There is a possibility that how you see the world can skew your perspective on what was actually happening. For instance, if you were in a sad mood and you reminisce on that day a few years down the road you can remember that situation as being depressing. As the years pass then the people who had firsthand experience like actually being in a situation when it occurred will slowly decrease in numbers and it’ll be harder and harder to get accurate opinions and views in what was happening. The veterans of war die with age and people who were involved in the wars no longer are there to provide semi-accurate descriptions. I say semi-accurate because nothing is completely on the money because nobody is an omnipotent being that knows exactly what happened. Because there are less firsthand sources people only have the past artifacts to provide a basis for the history we believe as the truth. To understand what was going on like in the Neanderthal era we only have artifacts like their bones and cave drawings to give us a perspective. This perspective however is the limit of our knowledge on what was going on and therefore the extent of the truth that we have. Tommy also made a good point about how the history and past recorded history is written by the victors. This means that victor’s truth might and probably doesn’t match up with what actually occurred at that time. Therefore the truth is a very slippery subject that sometimes is out of reach or not able to be fully uncovered because the recorded history usually only gives one perspective.

Besides firsthand experience, there are also clues and evidence that try to help and uncover the truth. These clues can possibly lead to a trail that can in turn lead to a deduction on what happened. These clues are particularly vital in areas like criminal investigation try to deduce the culprit of the crime committed. These clues are good because, while they can’t talk and actually tell you what happened, they do provide and unbiased viewpoint on what actually happened. Like with the revisionist history example of how history is written by the victors, things involving sentient opinions and viewpoints are often biased. They can be biased for numerous reasons some being emotions and motives. Some people may be motivated or have a reason not to tell the complete truth. With inanimate objects, they don’t have any moods or emotions that could possibly convolute the truth. If you take a video or picture of a situation, it is the upmost truth or at least as close to the truth as you can get. If you have a false idea of the truth and review a video taken of a situation you can then realize what actually happened. For instance if I thought that the shirt I wore one day was blue but I took a picture of my shirt then I could look back and realize that the shirt was actually red. However, there is also ways to tamper with this evidence as with revisionist history. There are things such a Photoshop that allow you to modify the supposed truth.

Luckily in everyday life it isn’t too hard to find out the truth. There are also situations where the truth isn’t that important in knowing and other times where you just don’t care enough to try and delve and investigate a situation. There are other times where you don’t want to know the truth. Situations where the truth can be hurtful, lies can be set up in order to prevent these damaging truths. They could be little things such as white lies or other more serious things too. There are definitely times where I wish I didn’t know the truth and sometimes the truth is a very tricky subject. I believe the quote “You can’t handle the truth” applies very well to describe how sometimes it is best not to try to elucidate a situation. Keeping the truth from others also can be bad because it limits ones perspective and leads to false understandings of the truth. When you don’t completely understand a situation or are led to believe a lie, it can be almost as bad a knowing the truth. When you don’t get a complete view of a situation then your distorted version of the truth leads to rumors. Rumors spread like wildfire because the truth can be completely ignored or exaggerated so it provides exciting information to those who hear it and then in turn wish to spread it through gossip. The truth is a form of information and in a world where information is available at the press or a button on the internet it is hard but vital to weed through and try to find the truth. There can be multiple truths as well that can only partially reveal what really happened. Truth can be defined as information that has been verified that conforms to reality or actuality. Sometimes the truth is important but other times it is completely irrelevant in going about living your life.

-Allan Nicholas

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 24 - Fights

Philosophy on Facebook # 24 - Fights

Unfortunately Tommy and I had a really good podcast about everybody having a different reality that is affected by our perceptions but the screen capture didn’t record the audio so we were there looking like idiots and I didn’t want to post that lol. I up’d the video quality and it still isn’t that great but for webcam I think it is going to be the best we can get it. It will just look really blurry on YouTube with the compression software they utilize but on Facebook it should be decent. I think we’re going to rerecord it tomorrow sometime so there’s still time to join and be a part of it if you want.

So there was an interesting event that took place at Hammond on Friday about the guy getting arrested and this spurred a very long conversation during Ms. Hogg's world history class courtesy of Julie Rose query about what was going on. This note is going to try and basically encompass our conversation during the class. This is all based off of memory so if it doesn’t do the topic justice, don’t get too mad lol.

I think a good way to start off this topic is to say that if you’re a human then you are going to have problems. These problems could be specifically directed towards other people but what is important is the way you deal with it. Your approach to solving these conflicts with others is all based upon your upbringing and your environment. Your environment is comprised of many factors that can include your economic status and the current situations you have to deal with. Your upbringing is the way you have learned from experience through growing up how to deal with problems. Everybody has different approaches to solving a problem and these different outlooks all have different outcomes. One way that has been very prominent at Hammond recently is through physical means and by that I mean fighting.

Eric Bricker brought up a very good point about how the media is a major factor in instilling certain values into their audience that can cause them to be inclined to solve conflicts through the use of brute force. He worded it much better than I can but what he was basically saying was that media has been playing a role in the aggressiveness in society today. Think about it, a lot of what’s on TV is about violence and action. It is telling the viewers that there are positive benefits associated with being violent and aggressive in order to try and achieve you goals or fixing conflicts. For instance, if you are a badass then you beat the crap out of villains in order to receive appreciation and notoriety among females. It also gives alibis for the use of force and provides justification for why you should do it. A popular reasoning behind utilizing physical force is the idea of honor and when someone disgraces or insults it you have to defend it and the way they do it is through fighting. People are being taught to follow these strategies as they grow up. Because youth are extremely sensitive to the stimulus that’s everywhere especially provided by the media and their parents, they are in turn using force to solve their problems as well.

Not only does the environment that the media sets up for their viewers to encourage violence, but parents or lack of parents also plays a factor in this temperament. While media tends to encourage this behavior, parents can tend not to discourage this behavior which is just as worse. In situations where violence derives, the households of those members committing illegal actions usually don’t have any parental figures to instill society’s “proper” values and behaviors. Amy Simpson said in class that a lot of parents possibly just don’t care about their children to take the time to try and put them down a path of good. The parents might not necessarily care about their children but due to monetary constraints, they could be preoccupied with jobs and other important things involved in getting by. This lack of parental guidance can definitely pose as a variable in the issue of the increasing levels of hostility not only in Hammond but in the world. On the flip side, not only can parents choose to not discourage the use of force but can also encourage it due to their role model status among their children. If the child sees their dad using force or dealing drugs then they idolize him because he is their parental figure and can believe that those actions are what they should follow and abide by in their futures. These hereditary values then create a vicious cycle which travels down the generations and teach the next generation to use violence as well in order to solve conflicts.

Another important value that I feel like people are having difficulty in deciding how to approach is with trying to achieve credit and respect. You have to work and earn a status in life and while sometimes it is provided to you based on heredity factors like being born into a rich family, only through action can you change it, especially if you want to improve it. Some people use force to try and improve their lifestyle and go through possibly illegal means in order to provide for their families and themselves. Their intention is valid but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and by selling drugs and using guns, it jeopardizes their whole existence and could put those who they love in danger. I feel like kids nowadays are being forced into these paths especially due to financial constraints that are increasing due to the current economic climate. I know personally that people in school always say that the next incoming freshman class is just getting worse and worse and that tomorrow’s generation is doomed to fail because of the values we are instilling in them. It is our responsibility to provide a good example. If all they see on TV is a gangster making it big through illegal means fulfilling a rag to riches storyline then those who can relate to the rags situation then see those illegal methods as a way to get out of their poor conditions. Paul Fedynsky also brought up a good point by saying that if you’re a freshman and all you see is older kids doing drugs and fighting in order to get what they want then you will be more inclined to pursue those same paths to achieving a goal. Their perspective could be that the world is a very unforgiving and unfriendly dog eat dog world and you need to be tough and be feared in order to be successful.

Also associated with fighting are the supposed social implications that come from the outcomes of fights. Ms Hogg said that you can basically rise to celebrity status through fighting and if you successfully beat the crap out of someone you can potentially be idolized for your skills and strength. Sometimes people who engage in this type of activity don’t fear the legal implications because they can view it as an ultimatum between life and death in very extreme cases. For them all they could see is that you have to be tough and do bad things in order to build a reputation and get out of their current situation and improve their quality of life or die trying. People who have this outlook can have very stubborn views and therefore it is hard to change their views because they aren’t afraid of the consequences and punishment in store for their actions. In today’s society the general consensus of values and morals is to not resort to violence or drugs and other illegal methods in order to live your life. The ironic part of this is that those who abide by these rules aren’t in situations where they would have to resort to selling drugs in order to live or get by.

Disclosure: I personally don’t have any experience or can in any way shape or form relate to these feelings so what I’m writing about could not apply or be the truth at all but it is the perception I’ve gained from watching movies and seeing fights and things like that occur but we are personally being affected by the actions of others.

-Allan Nicholas

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 23 - Identities and Anonymity

Hey guys so I've updated the blog a lot like with feeds to my YouTube account and basically the only things I have left to do is to make an audio version of my videos and set up a podcast on iTunes. I could really use your guys help though in this. What I want to make happen is that whenever I post a new video on YouTube I want iTunes to add this as both a new video and audio podcast to my iTunes account but I have no idea how to make this happen. I have my videos as an RSS feed but whenever I try to submit it to iTunes it says that there aren't any podcasts on the feed. I don't know if it is because of YouTube's video format and since YouTube only streams requiring internet access maybe that's why iTunes is denying it. Hopefully I'll be able to figure it out.
So this one I wanted to talk about anonymity and the state of being anonymous. Yes it is a hard word to say like with anemone in Finding Nemo lol. I got the inspiration for this one when looking on Facebook and seeing all the formspring posts. If you haven't realized people can be complete douche bags when you give them the opportunity to give their opinions anonymously. While being anonymous the people hiding behind it or using it as cover are basically given a blank check to fully unload all of their opinions or beliefs without the threat of reaction from their audience. There aren't any risks involved with being anonymous because it strips the identity from the opinions and viewpoints. The bond between your and your views is severed restricting the possibilities of negative repercussions to you.

Your identity is the big picture of who you are. It can but isn't limited to encompassing your style, beliefs, appearance, and many other factors that, when combined, make up your collective being. Without a name to associate ones beliefs to, your identity is meaningless thus forming anonymity. When your anonymous, people may take your viewpoints as less serious because you aren't willing to bridge your identity with your views. Some people call those who hide behind anonymity cowards because they believe those anonymous are too afraid to take responsibility for their beliefs and thus not willing to deal with the consequences of them. On formspring people are given full capabilities of being an ass hole because they aren't being held personally responsible for what they say. If you are being antagonized by these people you may counter and say that they are cowards but just by giving them the opportunity to say things while anonymous gives them power. On the internet it is becoming more prominent the fact that people can be assholes on the internet and not suffer any repercussions for their actions. The terminology to classify these people is "trolls" and they are so widespread it is almost impossible not to find one. Just go to a YouTube video and look in the comments and there are people there considered trolls. Identities are essentially worthless on the internet because basically everywhere except Facebook they allow users to create new personas allowing them to be whoever they want. This can cause horrible outcomes as criminals can hide under these fake personas online and cause harm in the real world like with rapists and such.

Not all anonymity is bad however. As I said before it allows you to voice your true feelings and opinions without being prosecuted for them. There are plenty of examples in the news where someone gives insider information while being anonymous. This anonymity that they hide behind is used as cover to protect their real identities and possible family members while still revealing important information that could be vital that the public needs to know about. Playing the devil's advocate role, you still have to be cautious in what you believe from an anonymous source because they also have the freedom to say whatever they want regardless of its validity. This anonymity does provide a sense of security and maintains privacy in a world that is increasingly limiting these opportunities for privacy. Your identity is a very important in who you are and you must protect it because if anyone gets control or a hold over it your name can be completely ruined. One of the biggest crimes nowadays is identity theft and it is royally screwing some people's lives over so by being anonymous you help preserve you identity.

Whatever a person does, their name is attached with their actions and if someone else has your identity then their actions are attached with your name. It is representative of you without actually being controlled by you. You can voluntarily have other people represent your name and because of this fact it is at the upmost importance that you trust those who hold your identity in their hands. As good example is with the president and how he holds the identity of the United States in his hands and whatever he does, the U.S.'s name is attached to his actions so he always has to be politically correct in fear of slandering and defaming the U.S.'s name. Representatives can be a good way in gaining positive publicity through the actions of others like if you are sponsoring an athlete and they accomplish great feats your brand in turn rises to great heights as well. Tiger Woods' identity was put in a compromising situation causing his sponsors to look bad as well because it can be misconstrued that they are promoting such behavior. That is why companies like Gatorade pulled their support for Tiger Woods once it became apparent he was involved in some looked down upon behaviors. If Tiger Woods name was never attached to these conspiracies his life would be looking a lot better right now. Being framed for things is similar to the implications identity theft can impose on a person. If you are held responsible for something you didn’t do then it is to the same effect that you actually committed those actions regardless if you did or not. It is imperative that you keep your identity clean and if going anonymous will keep it from being stained then it may be a necessary course of action. However if you are being required to go anonymous because of your actions then you may want to step back and reconsider if it is really worth committing them.

-Allan Nicholas