Perpetual Student of the Kwan

Calling myself a martial artist would be a gross exaggeration. I’m certainly no match for Ip Man! However, my obsession with anime aroused my fascination with oriental martial arts techniques. I had even dreamt of achieving super-saiyan level!

…To this day, I still cherish that dream

When I was eight years old, my parents enrolled me in a karate class after hearing about my brief encounter with a bully during recess. This particular course taught a Korean varient of Karate called Tang Soo Do.

hwangkeeIn 1937, a 23-year-old Hwang Kee returned to his native Korea after two years working at the Manchurian railroads in China. During his stay in China, Hwang Kee allegedly learned Kung Fu, complementing his training in Subak during his high school years. Upon returning to Korea, Hwang Kee had hoped to continue his martial arts education. Unfortunately, his aspirations were limited by the Japanese Occupation of Korea during World War II.

The carnage of a global battle didn’t prevent Hwang Kee from pursuing his life-long passion. During the early 1940s, Hwang Kee spent the majority of the time at the library, burying himself in books and articles about Okinawan Shotokan Karate.

In 1945, Hwang Kee opened his first kwan, which he christened Hwa Soo Do (flowering gmckickhand way) Muk Do Kwan. Five years later, he renamed his school Tang Soo Do (empty hand) Muk Do Kwan to emphasize the empty-handed techniques derived from Shotokan Karate.

Unlike most martial arts, the envied black belt does not exist in Tang Soo Do. In Korean culture, the color black symbolizes perfection. However, every Tang Soo Do practitioner is fully aware that perfection is unattainable. The highest rank a student can achieve is a humble 10th degree midnight blue belt. Although not as edgy as its black counterpart, the midnight blue reminds a practitioner that he will always be a student.

This is true in every field. Whether you’re a professor, a doctor, a CEO or even the president of the United States, you will always remain a student.

I was enrolled in Tang Soo Do for only two years, before the demands of middle school assignments and extracurriculars occupied the majority of my free time. However, my years in Tang Soo Do instilled in me the importance of humbleness. If we perceive ourselves as experts, we’ll lack the incentive to pursue knowledge. If we lack that incentive, we hinder our own personal growth.


Book Review: Revival

Stephen King is renowned for his epic horror novels. Since the publication of his debut book, Carrie, King has spent the last three decades reveling in fame and literary recognition. His prose is simple and meant to appeal to a middlebrow readership. Nevertheless, King is able to write in a way that captures the imagination and invites the reader into the depths of his world.

Revival was published in 2014. Similarly to most of King’s books, the story is set in his 51vNbL-8w0L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_home state of Maine (at least during the first half of the novel). The novel chronicles the life of Jamie Morton, from age six to his late fifties, and highlights his encounters with a charming, yet eccentric preacher named Charles Daniel Jacobs.

Although the story is written from the first-person perspective of Jamie Morton, Jacobs could qualify as the lead protagonist as well. This tale is just as much about him as it is about Jamie.

Charles Daniel Jacobs is introduced as an young, enthusiastic Methodist preacher who arrives in tiny Maine town of Harrow with his wife and son for his first pastoral assignment.  In Harrow, Jacobs meets six-year-old Jamie and immediately takes a liking to him. Jacobs exposes Jamie to the bizarre, yet fascinating world of electricity, of which Jacobs exhibits an infatuated obsession.

One fateful day, Jacobs’ wife and son fall victim to a car accident. Unfortunately, they didn’t survive which tears Jacobs apart. On the following Sunday at the local Methodist church, Jacobs delivers a heart-wrenching diatribe, later termed by the parishioners and townspeople as “The Terrible Sermon”. Jacobs lashes at God and derides religion as nothing but an insurance fraud. Unsurprisingly, Jacobs leaves town. However, that wouldn’t be the last time Jamie sees him..

The novel effectistephen-kingvely touches on numerous themes that are all intertwined, including religion, tragedies, death and the esoteric potential of electricity. Although the story drags into numerous irrelevant subplots of Jamie’s life, it leads towards a bone-chilling, Lovecraftesque climax, and unveiling the mysteries of death and the afterlife.

Revival, in echoing Stephen King’s own perspective, exposes the covert manipulation of tent revivals. In one passage, Charles Jacobs cynically chides the enthusiastic attendees as “rubes” who only “want to be healed”.

I’m reminded of the numerous charismatic retreats I was dragged to as a child. Although the majority of the congregation were seemingly rejuvenated by the spirited ambiance, I was disturbed by the exaggerated displays of emotion and the complete surrender to blind faith.

A priest (or lay minister) would spew a series of half-baked Christian platitudes, ending every two sentences with “Praise the Lord”, and the congregation would cling to his every word. Yet numerous of my fellow parishioners flocked to these retreats, even if they regularly fail to attend Sunday mass. As Charles Jacobs said, people just want to be healed. And with life’s innumerable burdens and calamities, who could blame them?

This is where the esoteric secrets of electricity come in. As a young preacher, Jacobs devoted himself to studying electricity as a hobby and often used it as a teaching tool for the church youth group.

When Jamie’s brother, Connie, lost his voice, Jacobs riskfully harnessed the powers of electricity to heal Connie of his affliction. That was the first time Jacobs utilize electricity behind its typical application of lighting a bulb.

After the terrible sermon, Jacobs was driven into obsession over electricity. He would discover that the healing potential of electricity could ignite a new type of “revival”. However, in his old age, there was one mission that was left to be accomplished. And he would need the assistance of a fifty-something year old Jamie Morton.

Despite the handful of irrelevant subplot, this novel is worth reading. If you’re a lapsed Christian, this story will make you reflect on your own religious upbringing and give you further insight on the inner-workings of religion

“In Our Own Image”

Death is ironic. Through death, one can emerge as an immortal being, transcending the his/her human nature. Although he was never adorned with the title “Mahatma”, since his assassination, Martin Luther King has been elevated to the status of a demigod in the minds of the American populace. King’s legacy is so polished and immaculate that it would be social suicide for anyone to criticize him. 

Therefore, in order to lend credibility to their often ill-conceived ideologies, politicians and media pundits alike are inclined to project their ideas onto the persona of Martin Luther King. After all, if Martin Luther King himself supported their perspective on a certain sociopolitical issue, they’re instantly immuned from critique. 

Conservative pundits continuously claim that Martin Luther King was a Republican who staunchly opposed the insidiously subtle racism of the Democratic Party. If Martin Luther King was alive today, he would be appalled by the antics of the Black Lives Matter movement. If Martin Luther King was among us, he would bluntly admonish Barack Obama for his supposedly Marxist leanings. If Martin Luther King was still living, he would chide those shamelessly slothful welfare queens living off the teat of the government. Since his untimely passing, Martin Luther King has been resurrected as the token Black mascot for the American Right Wing.

When the leaders of historically-influential populist movements pass away,  we have this inexplicable proclivity to hoist a halo upon their legacies and present them as demigods in our national folklore. Similarly for gods, Saints, and biblical heroes, we carve statues of them in line with an image to our liking. For example, the medieval European Christians saw Jesus Christ as one of their own. So they painted him as a sexy White-skinned adonis. 

Martin Luther King was not the conservative folk hero heralded by Fox News. Nor was he the whitewashed character whom we read about in elementary school. It’s time we remove our rosy-tinted goggles and acquaint   ourselves with the real Martin Luther King. 

Martin Luther King was born to a Baptist pastor named Micheal King and his wife, Alberta. The child was named after his father, Micheal. Five years later, after attending the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Conference in Berlin, the reverend  decided to change both his and his son’s names to Martin Luther in honor of the Protestant Reformer. 

Martin Luther King was a precocious child. He skipped two grades on account of his high intelligence. At age 13, He became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station. During his junior year of high school, he won an oratory contest which foreshadowed his future career. In addition, he went straight to Morehouse College after his junior year. 

Although he had profound doubts concerning the Christian doctrine during his adolescence, Martin Luther King, electrified by his faith, enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary to fulfill his pastoral ambitions. He was deeply influenced by the Social Gospel movement, which proposed applying Christian principles towards alleviating social problems including poverty, crime, alcoholism, inadequate labor conditions and racial tensions. Although taboo during 1940s, King was involved in a relationship with a German immigrant who worked as a cook for the college cafeteria. Unfortunately due to pressure by his friends and parents, King was forced to call off the relationship.

King had to settle for a Black woman named Coretta Scott, whom he met through a mutual friend. King would find himself at odds with most feminists today. During the Civil Rights struggle, King expected his wife to stay out of the public eye, expecting her to be a stay-at-home mother to their four children. 

Martin Luther King received his doctoral degree in 1955 from Boston University with his dissertation entitled The Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillach and Henry Nelson Wieman. Although he is universally praised for his impressive educational credentials, in 1991, it was revealed that portions of King’s dissertation was plagiarized. Although the academic inquiry at Boston University didn’t revoke King’s doctorate, stressing that the dissertation still made “an intelligent and original contribution to scholarship”, the inquiry concluded that numerous passages were included without appropriate citation of sources. Obviously, this unsavory truth of King’s academic career does not negate his leadership in the Civil Rights Struggle. But we need to understand that King was, at the end of the day, a human being burdened with his own flaws. 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott launched Martin Luther King into the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1955, a young woman was arrested for refusing to sit at the back of the bus in compliance with Jim Crow regulations in Montgomery, Alabama. Her name was Claudette Colvin. She was a fifteen year old local schoolgirl. Meanwhile, the local chapter of the NAACP was waiting for an opportunity to launch a public protest in respond to the racially-discriminatory policies in the American South. Colvin’s case presented the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, Claudette Colvin was a unmarried, pregnant teenager so it was imprudent to use her as the public face for a protest demonstration. 

A few months later, the NAACP decided to ochrastrate a confrontation, similar to Colvin’s. Rosa Parks, secretary of the local NAACP chapter sat in one of the front seats of a bus. When she refused to comply with orders to move to the back, Parks was immediately arrested. A public protest ensued for third hundred and eighty days, which was later christened “The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955”. 

Throughout the protest demonstration, Martin Luther King, as a dynamic speaker with an erudite mind, emerged as the muscles and brains of the movement. He gained nationwide fame, launching him as the public face of Civil Rights. 

A year after the Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the collaboration of Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery and Baynard Ruskin. The SCLC harnessed the organizational abilities and cultural influence of Black churches to conduct protests for civil rights reform. 

Baynard Ruskin is a long-forgotten figure in the Civil Rights Struggle. He was a veteran activist for Civil Rights, long before Martin Luther King came into the scene. He organized the first March on Washington with A.Philip Randolph in 1941 to demand equal employment opportunities for Blacks. He immersed himself in the anti-colonial struggles in Africa and Southern Asia. He led a protest demonstration against the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. And he was involved in the first Freedom Ride to challenge the Jim Crow regulations of the American South. 

Despite Ruskin’s open homosexuality Martin Luther King accepted him as a close aide and was influenced by his nonviolent strategies, which Ruskin, in turn, learned from his involvement in the Quit India Movement. However, due to pressure from other activists, Martin Luther King was forced to distance himself from Baynard Ruskin. 

Contrary to claims made by certain political pundits, King thought it was more prudent not to endorse a political party. In fact, he reasoned that a position of non-alignment would enable him to look at both major political parties with objectivity. King was equally scathing of both the Democratic and Republican Party on their poor civil rights record and disregard for the plight of Black Americans. 

Martin Luther King was a ardent proponent of Democratic Socialism. In fact, if he was alive today, King would have found himself to the left of Bernie Sanders on the political spectrum. King stated that capitalism had failed to provide the basic nescessities for working class people, particularly Blacks. However he was reluctant to be outspoken about his economic views due to the sheer anti-communist sentiments during the Cold War era. 

One viewpoint of King’s that would have ostracized him from the current political arena was his advocacy for reparations. King stated that Blacks should be compensated by the federal government for historical atrocities. In fact, he proposed a compensatory passage of $50 billion over ten years! 

In addition, King’s views on Planned Parenthood would have isolated him from conservative Christian circles. In 1966, he was awarded the Margerat Sanger Award and during his acceptance speech, he lauded the work of Planned Parenthood saying “Family Planning, to relate population to world resources, is practical and necessary”. 

In school, we never learn about King’s socioeconomic views. If we did, we would have quickly realized that Martin Luther King would not be accepted in today’s political arena. He would have been lambasted as a “Radical Marxist”, “a Reparation-seeking Opportunist”, an “Abortionist” etc. etc. So instead, we’re presented a sanitized version of Martin Luther King, palatable to our conservative sensibilities. 

As a representative of the SCLC, Martin Luther King was one of the “Big Six” instrumental in the March on Washington in 1963, along with Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the Young Urban League, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters(who also led the 1941 March), John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee and James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality. 

Martin Luther King delivered his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech (which he also delivered in Detroit six months previous). The positive reception of that speech echoed across the nation, leading to the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tt

After the March on Washington, King continued his fiery activism. In 1966, he and Ralph Abernathy moved into the slums of Chicago’s South Side to express solidarity with the economically marginalized. King and Abernathy relentlessly fought against redlining and other discriminatory housing practices. This led to the 1968 Fair Housing Act

It’s no secret that King was vehemently opposed to American involvement in Vietnam. However, he was also critical of certain elements within the Anti-War movement, most notably, the hippies. 

In April of 1968, King had joined Black sanitary workers in Memphis in their protest rally. He delivered his “I’ve been on the mountaintop” at the rally. The following day, on the eighth of April, King was murdered by James Earl Ray. 

Martin Luther King left behind a wife and four children. Despite his laudable public image, King was not the ideal family man. Ralph Abernathy revealed in his autobiography that King had a “weakness for women”. His womanizing reputation was somewhat well-known, even among his enemies including J. Edger Hoover. Lyndon B Johnson often accused King of being a “hypocritical preacher” in light of those accusations. In fact, it is rumored that on the night before his assassination, King was having an affair in his hotel room!

It’s a classic preacher-in-a-brothel situation. We’ve all heard news stories of holier-than-thou clergymen getting their freak on with some loose broad. Many of them were even forced to remove the collar. However, I’m sure none of us would imagine one of our national heroes being in the same company as Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker! 

Nevertheless, King’s moral failings in his personal life does not tarnish his public legacy. The only people burdened by King’s infidelity are his wife and children. In other words, it’s a personal family matter and we don’t have the right to judge. 

This is the real story of Martin Luther King, the man. He was an ordinary man with an extraordinary legacy. But he was a man nevertheless. We should acknowledge that if we truly want to pay him homage.

Stupid Christmas Traditions

I don’t completely hate Christmas. After all, I’m not the grinch. But here’s a list of everything about Christmas that irritates me to the core.

1) Santa Claus 


Where all the hos at?!

Honestly, I have never understood the whole premise behind Santa Claus. Maybe because, unlike most households, leaving cookies and milk for Santa wasn’t a Christmas tradition in my home while I was growing up.

We tell children that if they’re “good” all year, they are entitled to toys manufactured in the North Pole(of which they’ll probably get bored and promptly discard within the following two months)

I’m sorry, but that’s not how the real world works.

A person’s moral compass should not be influenced by the possibility of an external reward. Expecting goodies for “being good” is no different than sucking up!

Children should be taught the value of inner principles. They should view themselves as morally accountable to other people in addition to themselves.

Children should also realize that life, unfortunately, isn’t always fair. In other words, even if they’re as compassionate, kind-hearted and thoughtful as Mr.Rogers, life could still fuck them in the ass! It’s better for them to acknowledge that inescapable fact at an early age. Otherwise, we’re just hindering their potential at personal growth.

2) Christmas Songs

I know most people love the Holiday classics, however, when they’re endlessly played at restaurants, department stores, elevators, waiting rooms, the supermarket, office parties  etc., I start to consider seasoning my meals with a vial of cyanide!

3) The “War on Christmas”

Every holiday season, there’s always some right-wing abrasive blowhard on the radio (most likely, Rush Limbaugh) or some pompous blowhard on television (most likely, Bill O’Reilly) lamenting over a traumatic incident in which their local cashier had the audacity to wish them “Happy Holidays” rather than a “Merry Christmas”!

Oh, and on the flipside, you also have liberal atheists, with too much time on their hands, decrying over a bloody nativity display in the town square.

download-17I thought the holidays (yea I said “Holidays” sue me) were supposed to be the one time of year where we could avoid politicized bullshit. In fact, during this Christmas, I don’t want to hear anything about the recent election, Black Lives Matter, the Alt-Right, Political Correctness, ISIS or Castro’s supposed legacy. I really don’t care at this point. All I want to do is gluttonously stuff my mouth with pumpkin pie, decorated gingerbread cookies and eggnog.

People Complaining about Commercialization

Let’s be real. Consumerism is the real reason for the season. I mean Baby Jesus is cute and everything, but seasonal economic stimulation is the real miracle!

And by the way, no one is forcing you to shop! Get off your high horse!! 

Christmas Movies


World’s worst parent

Holiday-themed films aren’t entirely terrible. However, they’re extremely overhyped, especially when they’re constantly being screened on every fucking channel during the entire month of December! Most of those movies are dated and only serve to indulge our nostalgic inclinations. For example, Home Alone was an unremarkably-scripted movie starring a very annoying child artist (although its sequel has a very notable cameo by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named). However, as children, we all watched Home Alone and now, the movie triggers fond memories of a simpler time. This illustrates how memberberries can have an outstandingly potent effect on us

New Years Resolutions 

Oh, you say you going to start eating healthier and exercise more? So….What are you doing  with that glass of eggnog and that piece of pie? january-gymers

Advice to My Future Daughter  

I don’t have any plans on having children anytime soon.  To be honest, I’m not even ready for a romantic relationship, nor do I envision myself ever being in such an arrangement ! But I often wonder about the future, contemplating on how things will turn out in 2035. Since childhood, I’ve dreamt about achieving super-saiyan mode by that year. Although, realistically speaking, I’d probably have to settle for a stable 9-5 office job.

There’s a higher chance I’ll remain a confirmed bachelor, as I enjoy my freedom and individuality with no incentive to relinquish either. The chances that I’ll invite someone to live with me in my fortress of solitude.

But who knows, maybe I’ll be enticed by a beautiful girl and have a couple of children.  If I do procreate like other members of my species, I imagine having one of each gender, a son and a daughter, similarly to my own parents.

Although I am currently childless., I am well aware that raising a daughter is different, and perhaps more challenging, than raising a son.  A girl’s world is drastically different from her male counterpart.  The pressure pushed on girls is something boys would never been able to relate to (myself included).

Fast forward to the year 2035.  The concept of the nation-state has been eradicated in favor of the New World Order, a dystopian society dictated by super-intelligent robots and antropomorphized Apple products…..
OK Fine!  Maybe that scenario is less likely to happen. Most likely, I’ll be living a quiet, yet content life with my own family.  I’ll be in my early 40’s.  Graying but hopefully not balding! My children will be approaching their teenage years and like all teenagers, they will be searching for their own identities.   The teenage years are a difficult time for everyone, and definitely more challenging for girls.  Here are some bits of advice I would give to my daughter in no particular order of importance.

The Mind
1) Our ability to reason separates us from the animals.  Always utilize your critical thinking skills in every situation
2) There is no such thing as useless knowledge.  The more you know, the further you will go.
3) Always find ways to enhance your reasoning skills.    Do Sudoku or play Chess regularly.  Believe me, it will pay off in the end.
4) Jog everyday and eat a healthy diet.  Your brain will thank you

Family Life
5) Loyality to family is important.
6) That being said, if a family member is doing something wrong or harmful, it is your responsibility to call them on it
7) If either your mother or I tell you to do something you don’t want, don’t just disobey us.  Formulate a rational argument against our request and we’ll consider it.
8) Both your mother and I are open-minded people.  You can come to us for anything, even if you are in trouble or are about to do something we may disapprove of.

Formulating Your Own Identity
9) We traditionally identify ourselves with either our ethnicity/nationality or our careers.  However, such methods of identification are completely arbitrary.  In reality, identity is fluid.  We are not the same people we are ten years ago…nor will we be the same in another 10 years.
10) Maintain your individuality.  You solely define who you are.  Never give in to peer pressure.
11) Some people think one’s purpose in life is pre-programmed within us by a deity.  However, I personally believe its up to the individual to determine his or her purpose.  If you want to give your own life meaning, experience the world.  Travel.  Read.  Network with people.  Volunteer and give back to society.  Be as productive as possible.

The Birds and the Bees
Your mother is going to handle the bulk of this topic for obvious reasons.  However, here are a few bits of advice I have for you
12) If there is such a thing as sacred, human sexuality falls under that category.  I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the physical oneness experienced by two people.  Its intoxicating and invigorating.  However, Sexuality is not something to be taken lightly.
13) I personally think notions of “sex after marriage” is outdated and unrealistic.  However, I strongly advice you on waiting until your early twenties before engaging in sex.  As a teenager, you wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional baggage associated with sexual intercourse.
14) Maintain standards for yourself. Something so intrinsically beautiful should be done with someone whom you have a strong passionate love for.
15) Its not common for a parent to advice safe sex, however, this is the real world.  Young people should have access to information in order to protect themselves.  You are young and you don’t want to do anything that could negatively affect the rest of your life.  So be safe.
16) Disregards words like “slut” and “prud”.  A person’s sexuality is his/her own business and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Surviving in a Boys World 
Even in the 21st century, there are girls are held to a different standard than boys. But you don’t have to be a second-class citizen in a semi-patriarchal world.
16) Don’t be afraid of words like “bossy”. In fact, take pride in them!
17) The world needs more girls in STEM fields.  The number of female computer programmers has decreased!  My advice is, if you’re good at mathematics and you love technology, nothing should prevent you from pursuing engineering.

Surviving in a Girls World
18) When drama happens within your circle of female friends, dissociate from it completely.  Do not get involved
19) Avoid gossip at all times.  People’s personal lives are none of your business!
20) If you feel that one of your own friends is talking behind your back, distance yourself from her.           Who needs friends like that?

Conquering Anxiety
If you’re my child, you have a 50% of having high levels of anxiety.  Here are some ways to avoid panic attacks.

21) Meditate.  Clear your mind every day.22) Don’t worry about things which you have no control over. Whatever happens, happens.  Just keep moving forward.

23) Be active in your community.  Believe me, engaging in community  activities will distract you from your own inner emotions.
24) Don’t be insecure around other people.  EVERY human being has his/ her own insecurities.  Don’t think of yourself as pathetic.
25) Everyone has flaws.  Don’t dwell on them.  Instead, focus on enhancing your positive attributes.
My biggest advice is know that I will always love you, unconditionally.  Do well in life, sweetheart 🙂

Movie Review: American Sniper

Before I dive into my critique of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I want to elaborate on why I do film reviews. First, it goes without saying that I am an ardent cinephile. I’ve been in love with the art of filmmaking for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my aversion towards the celebrity lifestyle, I definitely would have pursued a career in Hollywood (or Bollywood).

Second, I’m not the only one who loves movies. Everybody loves watching  movies. Everyone can quote random dialogues from films released twenty years ago. Some of our most cherished memories have been shaped around the movie-watching experience.

Therefore, films are one of the best mediums for social commentary. For decades, Filmmakers have utilized their craft to convey an important lesson to their audiences. Born on the Fourth of July poignantly captured the anguish and pain endured by numerous Vietnam veterans. Mummy Dearest (despite the unintentionally laughable acting) exposed the prevalence of child abuse. Inside Out persuaded us to get in touch with our inner emotions. Therefore, cinema has an incredibly tremendous impact on our culture.

This brings us to American Sniper. Clint Eastwood has continuously proved himself to be a sage in filmmaking. American Sniper is no exception. It was, no doubt, a brilliantly-produced masterpiece. In addition, Bradley Cooper was exceptional in the biographical role of Chris Kyle. In terms of film quality, I have nothing negative to say.

I watched this movie a year and a half ago in theaters with a couple of my friends. I remember the theatre room was packed, unsurprisingly. Upon the film’s conclusion, with the credits rolling through the depiction of Chris Kyle’s real life funeral, the theatre room fell into an eerie silence. As the screen went pitch-black, the silence continued. After a few moments, as my friends and I gathered our belongings, a spontaneous applause erupted. Some of the audience members had tears running down their cheeks.
The reason I’m telling this is to illustrate the depth of emotions this film evoked from the American public. In post-9/11 America, this movie had a cathartic impact on its viewers. Because of this film’s monumental significance, I’m even more disappointed by its distorted depictions of the events following 9/11.

The movie implies that 9/11 was the primary motive behind the US invasion of Iraq. That botched episode, which basically annihilated George W Bush’s credibility as president, was glorified in the film as a noble cause.

Ironically, Clint Eastwood is known for being firmly anti-war. He has vocally disapproved of American military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Eastwood insisted that American Sniper was written to be an anti-war film!

Although most have doubt his assertion, I actually believe him. Eastwood aspired to depict the disastrous effects war has on one’s mental health. He never intended to produce a historical documentary. Eastwood primarily wanted to illustrate how PTSD not only affects soldiers, but their families, especially their spouses who are pressured to pick up the pieces.

In order to accurately depict the impact of PTSD, Clint Eastwood did a character sketch of Chris Kyle and portray the battlefield through his eyes. Unfortunately, Chris Kyle’s subjective perspective completely obfuscated the historically-factual account of the Iraq War. Therefore, future generations watching this movie will have an inaccurate picture of the Iraq War.

American Sniper attempts to humanize a person famed for his 150 kills. Chris Kyle is depicted as being helplessly trapped in the shadows of moral ambiguity that envelopes over the reality of the battlefield. However, Chris Kyle’s autobiography confirms that he is a self -aggrandizing liar and a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in shooting defenseless Iraqi children! Kyle represents the worst of the US armed forces and does not deserve to be lionized in an cinematic production!

Nativity Display Controversy

A Christmas-themed controversy is currently brewing in Menominee, an town located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In numerous small towns across America, it’s customary to set up a nativity scene in the town square or in city hall during the holiday season. However, for this humble yooper settlement of eight thousand residents, this year will be different.

download-16The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist organization “dedicated to persevering the separation of church and state”, filed a complaint, on behalf of an anonymous Menominee resident, urging the town to discontinue their annual Christmas tradition. According to the FFRF, a nativity display on public property is a constitutional violation, contradicting the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Since the launching of that complaint, residents of Menominee are now relying on a local parish to set up the nativity display.

Menominee is one of a myriad of towns and cities to be threatened by a lawsuit regarding the display of a nativity scene. For the last decade, organizations including the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists have become increasingly aggressive and emboldened in asserting the “separation of church and state”. Their public relations representatives have appeared on national television and defended their actions by claiming to fight for all religious minorities against what they perceive to be Christian domination of the holiday season. captu

Honestly, these types of news stories really distress me. They’re just examples of self-victimization and manufactured fake outrage in 21st century America.

I’m not religious. In fact, I’m actually critical of certain aspects of Christian theology. However,  I don’t feel threatened or marginalized by the slight of a nativity scene. In India, roadside shrines on public roads are ubiquitous and I’m not offended whenever I come across them while travelling from one village to another to visit relatives. I don’t feel compelled to convert to any religion. Religious displays simply have no impact on me, whatsoever.

Now, proponents for the removal of these nativity scenes point to the Constitution, specifically to the establishment clause which prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored religion. To which I say “who cares?”. I’m not a legal scholar however, I don’t understand how a cheap, plastic exhibition of the nativity is an endorsement of any religion. No resident is being pressured to join a church or profess a belief in a deity. Nativity scenes are just nothing more than a fun annual tradition for numerous small towns and shouldn’t be discontinued over a complaint from one disgruntled resident.

It’s not often that I find myself siding with a religious cause. This is probably the only instance in which conservative Christians can rely on me as an ally. However, for me, this has very little to do with religious expression. My solidarity with the Religious Right (strictly on this matter) is a counterstrike against the hyper-legalistic culture overtaking America that promotes frivolous lawsuits and PC policing.

Creating a Holiday Safe Space 

The Christmas season (oh I’m sorry, I meant “The Holidays”) are upon us. So, in anticipation of the festivities, here’s a list of Christmas songs we should dutifully avoid to prevent microaggressions 

O Christmas Tree: Appropriation of German culture

Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer: Blatantly Ableist 

White Christmas: A aggressive assertion of White Privilege

Hark The Herald Angels: Male Privilege ( “glory to the newborn King”)

Away in a Manger: Classist

Feliz Navidad: Appropriating the Spanish language

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Promotion of Rape Culture

Twelve Days of Christmas: Too capitalistic

We wish you a merry Christmas: Male privilege ( for you and your king)

Deck the Halls: Too consumer-driven

Jingle Bells: Exploitation of horses (“in a one-horse open sleigh)

Little Donkey: Appropriation of Mexican culture

Silent Night: Slut-Shaming (“round yon virgin”)

Mary, Did You Know: Classist (“Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule all nations”)

Movie Review: Dazed and Confused

Most of the films I’ve reviewed for this blog were released within the past couple of years. So, I thought a change of pace was in order. And so, my devoted reader, I present to you my take on Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. 

Dazed and Confused images-7is a 1993 coming-of-age comedy set in the suburbs of Austin, Texas in 1976. The film is most notable for launching the careers of Mathew McConaughey and Ben Affleck into stardom. Dazed and Confused was one of many cinematic productions that capitalized off of the nostalgic idealization of the 1970’s that implanted itself in pop culture during the better part of the 1990’s. Sort of like how we, today, are infatuated with anything from the 1990’s.

I’m not going to debrief on the synopsis because…well…there really isn’t much of a story MCDDAAN EC010to tell. It’s just a bunch of stereotypically rebellious teenagers from the 1970’s idly dawdling from one scene to another. This movie reminded me of That 70’s Show (and I wouldn’t be surprised if That 70’s Show was inspired by Dazed and Confused). However, unlike The 70’s Show, the characters in Dazed and Confused weren’t likeable, nor very interesting.

Sure, there were a handful of quotable lines including the semi-pedophilic “That’s what I like about high school girls. I keep on getting older, they stay the same age” along with the contrarian yet all too real “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”. But that’s about it.

The only reason you should watch this movie is for the sake of cultural literacy. This movie has been referenced countless times on TV shows, comedy specials and even movies. I suppose Dazed and Confused is akin to films like Forrest Gump, The Breakfast Club or Home Alone. While you, personally, may not appreciated them, if you haven’t seen any of those aforementioned movies, you can’t call yourself a true, red-blooded American.


Oh Look, Another Rampage on Campus

Yesterday, in Ohio State University, it was reported that a third-year student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan carried out a knife attack on campus, injuring 11 people. The assailant has been killed by police and the 11 who are injured are now hospitalized under intensive care.

The motives of Artan’s attacks aren’t 100% clear. However, in a Facebook post before the rampage, Artan urged America to “to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah”. He continued “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday”.

In addition, Artan was profiled by the campus newspaper where he expressed his fears of being a Muslim in America, claiming that he was “struggling to find a place to pray in peace in large campus but scared of everything going on in the media”.

Although a myriad of self-described liberals may disagree, Artan’s rampage was clearly motivated by his Islamic beliefs. At the moment, we don’t have a list of all the imams and sheikhs he subscribed to. However, he was blatantly influenced by a radicalized ideology which ignited a fire of rage urging him to stab those eleven innocent people.

However, contrary to the views of many, Islam is not the sole culprit. And although Abdul Razak Ali Artan is a refugee originally from Somalia, his refugee status has nothing to do with his actions. However, rather than digging through the layers of motives behind the rampage, most people would rather spout anti-Muslim/anti-refugee rhetoric to score political points. This is unproductive.

Mass attacks are becoming more commonplace in America. From the Columbine shooting to Eliot Rodger’s rampage in Santa Monica, California, the majority of these attacks have been perpetrated by young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Every time we hear of an attack, we instinctually blame video games, or violent TV shows, or music, or drugs.

However, in the majority of those attacks, social isolation and self-victimization are often the most significant factors. They often ferment an identity crisis, causing one to perceive the world in terms of us vs them.

 Artan was feeling isolated as a Muslim in America. He clearly stated that he was “struggling…and scared of everything”. Eliot Rodger was also undergoing a similar internal struggle, as he was constantly being rejected by co-eds and ostracized from social life. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were similarly deemed as outcasts during their senior year at Columbine High School.

By the viewing the world in terms of us vs them, a person would perceive his peers as his enemies. Enemies he needed to destroy. This mode of thinking becomes even more apparent when one embraces a radicalized ideology, which is often the case for socially-isolated young men who, being young, are easily impressionable. Eliot Rodger frequented PUA and MRA forums. The Orlando shooter was influenced by the activities of ISIS. Even Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by the Oklahoma City bombings carried out by Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been impassioned by a series of sermons given by some Salafi imam.

I’m not excusing the perpetrators of their horrific actions. However, if we really want to curb the instances of mass shooting and rampages, we have to seek out the multi-layered motives behind such actions.