What does religion mean?

Arguing your religion

Cathedral in Spain

While I’ve been pretty busy lately, I’ve not been so busy to avoid getting embroiled in religious arguments – online and off.

And I’ve gotten into no less than three just in the past 24 hours – mainly due to Pope Francis supporting evolution, which the Church as done since at least 1950.

Oddly, all three arguments have been with atheists. The thing is that they don’t understand the basic definition of the word, “religion.”

Is religion a belief in god?

No, because that would mean that religions like Taoism and Buddhism, which have no god, are not religions. Yet they are.

Religion is “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.”

It’s how we organize the world for ourselves.

The reason why you get so annoyed with all those gun enthusiasts, staunch vegetarians, rabid animals righters, virulent Liberals/Conservatives, etc. is because you’re tired of having their religion shoved down your throat.

It’s how they see the world and they want – badly for some reason – for you to see it the same way.

In any case, atheists see the world and our role in it sans god. And that is absolutely fine with me.

But just like you probably don’t want to be harangued at the airport by (American) Christian fundamentalists, I don’t want want to asked to explain how I see the world as it relates to me while eating a late-night gyro.

Logically, there’s zero difference in those that utilize peer pressure and shame to put down a religion as there is to build one up. The core point is the same: see the world as I see it, or you are dammed/wrong/stupid, descended from apes, etc.

It’s this weird militant atheism that people seem to have that I find the most peculiar – like furiously sleeping. As if how I see the world affects them.

Some people just wanna eat a gyro in peace and I say, let them.

Him: You don’t really believe in god do you?
Me: Why does what I do in my head matter so much to you?

Location: work
Mood: wishing for a breakfast gyro
Music: can’t stop can’t stop, I’m still looking now
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King for a day

The Men Made of Stone Hit Number 1

The Men Made of Stone Vigilante Justice

Because of my work lifestyle, some weeks are quiet while others are ridonk busy. Last week was the latter.

Earlier in the week, my buddy Gilson Oliveira from Resilience Marketing gave me a ring and said he wanted to try a few things to market The Men Made of Stone; I said yes, since most of his ideas are pretty brilliant.

He said that Friday and Saturday would be interesting. Didn’t have too much time to really think about it.

Friday, I was up in the Bronx and then White Plains for clients and then stuck on the highway during rush hour. It wasn’t until late that night when I had a chance to check my personal emails.

And I was floored.

The Men Made of Stone Ranking

My book was the number one Noir Crime ebook – beating out Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among the Tombstones - as well as the number two Vigilante Justice book – not even ebook, just book.

It was all pretty amazing. Now the question is: What to do next?

Been fleshing out some more fiction in my head but I switched over to non-fiction, specifically dating, for a while with A Great First Date and A Great Online Dating Profile, only because there’s a ton of information for those topics I can cull from this blog.

Of course, I could also write about what I actually do professionally, which is what Gilson recommends.

I suppose writers just have to write. What the next thing will be, I’m not sure. Not yet, anyway.

Me: That’s amazing, you’re like a magician. How do you do it?
Him: (laughing) Well, it’s a good book. And if I’m a magician, you know I can’t tell you.

Location: the office, shortly
Mood: busy, busy, busy
Music: I’ve heard it said or maybe read
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Asian-ish

The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1

When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.

Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?

But the Asian influences were everywhere:

  • The Emperor / The Emperor
  • The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
  • Martial arts / Martial arts
  • The force / Qi
  • Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
  • Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks

In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.

And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.

But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.

And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.

For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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Zebras cannot be tamed because they live with lions

Environment isn’t everything, but it’s a lot

Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, ...
Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, but not to lions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a kid, I wondered why no one ever rode around on a zebra. After all, they’re just a type of horse, right?

Well, it turns out that they cannot be tamed. They’re just too ornery and wild. Which, of course, begs the question, Why are they so ornery and wild?

The reason is because they live where lions live. And, over thousands of years, they’ve adapted to dealing with them.

For example, when they kick, they don’t randomly kick like a horse with one leg, instead, they balance on their front legs, aim, and then kick – with both legs.

While I didn’t have the most pleasant childhood here in NYC, it wasn’t all bad. At this age, I think that, overall, it’s been a net positive that I grew up in this particular corner of the world.

It’s made me anti-fragile.

And people don’t really understand why I spend my free time swinging sticks at people or being smashed by sweaty dudes. Suppose I do it to keep me that way.

Zebras don’t look like much. But you can only kill them, capture them, or let them be; they can’t be controlled. They won’t be submitted.

You gotta respect that.

The Men Made of Stone

On a different note entirely, I dropped the price of The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 on Amazon for the rest of this week because I’m trying out a few things with them.

If you enjoy my writing here, give it a go!

Location: in rainy NYC
Mood: rainy
Music: didn’t even stopped to see that, that It was breaking me
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Got rid of two bookshelves

Traveling and shredding

FujiRAWlg-00018

Wife: Now that it’s cooled down, maybe we should go somewhere.
Me: I liked you better when the summer sapped your will to live.

Last week, was all over the place again.

On Tuesday, headed to Inwood for a client meeting but they gave me the wrong address (!?) so I had to cab it out to The Bronx.

Then off to Queens, Long Island, back to Manhattan, out to New Jersey, and then a series of nondescript motels for the rest of the week. Pretty exhausting.

Did have a chance to see my parents, the in-laws, and some fish tacos at a Cheesecake Factory, though. So not a complete washout.

This week is just more work.

Fish Tacos at the Cheesecake Factory

Been trying to minimize the amount of paper/books I have so I’ve either been:

  1. buying ebook versions of my favorites and donating the physical versions to the guy that sells books on the sidewalks OR
  2.  heading over to Kinkos, cutting the spine off of them, and then scanning them into my computer to read on my tablet.

Must have done this for over 100 books in the past week.

Insomnia does have its (limited) benefits.

Her: Nice, you got rid of a whole bookshelf!
Me: (pointing to corner) Two. I got rid of two bookshelves.

Bookshelf

Location: back home, for now
Mood: busy
Music: Finally I’m where I want to be, I didn’t think this life was gonna be for me
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Everything is easy once someone shows you how

Bart-Oh-Low-May-Day and the Egg

Egg of Columbus from WikiCommons
(c) Wikicommons

Today is Columbus Day here in the States and for years, I rolled my eyes at people that felt it should be renamed. Tradition and whatnot.

Then someone sent me this Oatmeal comic, which I found pretty eye-opening. Ended up doing some more reading and he really was a horrible human being.

So now I’m in the other camp and agree that the name – although not the holiday itself – should be reconsidered.

Still, there’s this apocryphal story I like about him, which is called the Egg of Columbus.

The story goes that a buncha dudes were sitting around Columbus and essentially saying that, at some point, someone from Europe would have “found” America.

Columbus ignores them and, instead, asks for an egg.

He says to the men, “Stand this egg up one side.” The men can’t. So he then takes it, cracks the bottom of it, and then stands it up.

Then he says something like, Everything is easy once someone shows you how.

I imagine he then throws the deuce, flips the table over, tells them all the screw themselves, and says, peace out.

My brother did something similar when I was a little kid – the balancing the egg part.

I couldn’t figure it out and then he took some salt, poured it on the table, and sat the egg up in that. Some 30 years later, and I still remember it.

Speaking of which, he figured out how to save (most of) the pictures from my camera card.

Smart fella, my brother. Everything is easy once someone shows you how.

Now off to work – no Bartolomé/Indigenous People Day for this fat boy.
UFC Fighter Angela Hill at Formerly Crows

Here’s one of the few pictures that made it through – with Angela Hill from the UFC.

Location: The New World
Mood: excited
Music: baby, as long as skies are blue
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From the Archives: Soul and What’s for Sale?

You don’t have a soul, you are a soul

Wall in Downtown Manhattan

Was planning on writing this thing about how the first Hollywood sex symbol was a Japanese man but I’ll do that in a few weeks.

For now, here are two entries from the archives.

You are a soul
You know when someone talks about selling your soul, or whatnot? That irritates me. Because you’re not a body with a soul. You are a soul. You just happen to have a body.

 

What’s for sale?
The makers of the PBR have decided to package their decidedly inexpensive brew as a luxury beer in China. How high end? $40 a bottle high end.

Silly Chinese. But wait – that’s just what the makers of Stella Artois did here.

PBR for far less than $40 in NYC

Location: running out the door
Mood: full
Music: hope, which then turned into a quiet thought
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40th Weekend Conversations

Went to two 40th birthday parties

Mojitos in Jersey City

Three friends turned 40 over the weekend so there were three events on Saturday I had to go to. Only made it to two of them. My liver barely made it through the second one.

The memory card that had all the pics that I took didn’t make it at all.

I’m so bummed, I had some great shots. That is before everything turned very blurry.

Me: Happy 40th! It’s all downhill from here.
Him: Hey, thanks for coming!
Me: Of course I was coming.

The first one was with my buddy Rick, whom I’ve known since college. We met 21 years ago, a number I’m still having difficultly wrapping my head around.

His wife took out an entire half of the Experimental Cocktail Club, which was very cool. (Damn, I wish I had some pictures to show you). And she had an open bar, which was even cooler. But the coolest thing? Top shelf rum I’ve never had.

French Bartender: You’re a rum drinker? I’ve got something for you. It’s a French rum aged in cognac barrels.
Me: Can I drink it neat?
Him: (slightly offended) But of course!

Had much more than I should have. After some catching up with people I’d not seen in ages, dashed/stumbled off to the second joint.

That party was for the owner of Evolution Muay Thai, where another buddy Kung and The Ultimate Fighter contestant Angela Hill were. Angela told me some cool stories behind the scenes, none of which I can reprint here.

Hadn’t meant to stay quite as long as I did  but people – mostly Kung – kept buying me drinks.

Me: I can’t, I’m already snockered.
Him: (handing me drink) Too late – got you some rum.

Managed to get drinks spilled on me on me not once, not twice, but thrice.

Him: You’re going back to the bathroom!? You just came out!
Me: You just spilled on me again!
Him: Ooooh, my bad.

Had my revenge the next morning, though.

Me: How ya feeling? I had rum all night so I feel pretty good. RUM IS THE BEST. Sorry, I shouldn’t shout. What time did you call it a night?
Kung: 4 or so. Today is a lost day
Me: Ouch. Hopefully you can stay home and coffee it up.
Him: Oh yeah! I’m building a pillow fort.
Me: That’s why I build one the night before. It’s all about proper planning.
Him: Last night I was lucky to find my bed when I got home.
Me: Found bed, missed toilet. The wife will not be pleased when she returns.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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My Father and the Cherry Trees

Returning home stronger

Washington DC, Monument from Lincoln

Him: Is everything ok with you? Can I help you with anything?
Me: I’m fine dad, really.

Saw my pop the other day. He’s getting on in years and I worry about him. He’s a short guy but I remember as a kid that he seemed huge to me. Now that he’s older, he seems even smaller.

His birthday’s coming up soon and I’m trying to wrap my head around just how much older he actually is. I forget at times. After all, parents are simply just your parents – it’s hard to see them as anything else.

And I suppose the opposite is true as well; parents look at their children as naked helpless things.

It worries me just how much he worries about us. It doesn’t matter how much money we might make nor how secure we are in life, parents will always worry, I suppose.

Had to dash to a meeting so I didn’t have too much time to spend with him. But I wanted to tell him a story. Since I didn’t have time to tell him, I’ll tell you.

In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo sent a gift of Japanese cherry trees to Washington DC as a symbol of friendship. A total of 3,020 from a famous group of trees along the Arakawa River in Tokyo were planted in West Potomac Park.

Then World War II happened. The relationship went to hell and only healed afterward.

In 1956, it was discovered that the cherry trees of the Arakawa River were badly damaged, most likely due to the war. So the US donated some of the cherry trees that they were given. They were the same stock – the very same family – of trees from 1912. But they were stronger than the original stock. They could flourish when the original trees that never left could not.

I wrote once to my grandma when she passed to not worry so much about my mom. She was safe here.

And to my pop, I want him to know we are too. We’re safe.

Because sometimes when you send things out into the world, they return home stronger.

Perhaps one day I’ll have children of my own. And I’ll send them off into the world.

I’ll try not to worry about them too much but I’m sure I will.

But I hope they return home someday, stronger than when they left.

Him: I worry about all of you.
Me: I know you do, dad. You don’t have to.

Location: yesterday, lunch with my dad
Mood: nostalgic
Music: Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
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The City (Not Constantinople)

Istanbul means “The City”

Beers at Pier I in NYC

The wife and I had family and friends over in our hood this past weekend; one couple we met for a bike ride in Riverside Park near our home, the other was at another apartment in our building.

We figure if we wait long enough, everyone will filter through our neck of The City at some point.

It’s like that line in Fools Rush In where the Matt Perry character goes:

There’s a spot in Central Park, the Bethesda Fountain, where if you sit there long enough, the entire city walks by.

That’s how I feel about New York City. Or, as we call it, The City.

I’m sure you do that too; you call whatever major metropolitan city around you simply, “The City.”

A Goose in Manhattan

Turns out, people have been doing that for centuries. There was a cover song that was popular when I was a kid called Istanbul (Not Constantinople) that had a line that went:

Why they changed it I can’t say People just liked it better that way.

Actually, the name “Istanbul” comes from the Greek “istimbolin,” which simply means, “To The City.”

Which just goes to show that we’re all probably more similar than we are dissimilar.

And I suppose even then, there was some couple in some part of the city that was wondering if they should move out to where there’s green grass and shade or stay in The City forever.

A Goose in Riverside Park

One thing that we do love about living here is that everything is just a stroll away. Then again, this may not always be a good thing.

Her: There are just two bags of potato chips here.
Me: Yeah, I forgot what I needed to get at the drugstore.
Her: You went out to get some ibuprofen and instead come back with two bags of chips?!
Me: (…) In my defense, they were on sale.

Location: the city, of course
Mood: patient
Music: Even old New York was once New Amsterdam

The musings of an insomnia-plagued writer in the city that never sleeps.

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