Father Issues

I acknowledge that I have some father issues. These can be summed up in four statements:

1) My biological father was (and still is, I’m sure) an abusive, manipulative, and violent man. I truly consider him the most evil person I have ever personally known.

2) I deeply hate him.

3) I am a total jerk to my adoptive father most of the time, and for some reason he still deeply cares about me.

4) Despite number 3, I have realized that deep down I really, badly want to do things that will make my adoptive father show his approval of me.

The first statement is just a couple of facts that won’t change. As for the second statement, I realize that it’s probably unhealthy to harbor such a strong hatred. My close friends have warned me that it’s probably hurting me more, that it’s letting him win, etc. But the fact is, you don’t just wake up one day and decide that you aren’t going to hate your former abuser anymore. It takes a long time. I have had years now, years away from him to calm down my anger. But it just hasn’t changed; I still would, given the chance, try to make him feel pain like he always did to me. I realize that’s an issue that should be worked on, but I feel helpless to do anything about it right now. Maybe it just needs some time before I’ll be able to reflect on things with a cooler head.

The third statement is something I’m not really to proud of, but half the time I feel like I can’t help it. I don’t even really know why I’m such an ass to him. Maybe it has something to do with him taking the verbal abuse much more passively than my biological father would have? I don’t know. All I know is, I get angry and take things out on him and he ends up very sad. Part of me feels bad about it, but the rest of me feels like I can’t help it. I’m sure I can, it’s just another thing I need to figure out and work on.

The fourth statement was kind of surprising to me, but I realized it was true. When I lived at home, I was constantly trying to impress him. I would show him my programming projects, I would take on more than I could handle with my class load at school, I would do anything to earn his approval. And when, instead of a good job, he offered me helpful criticism–because I can recognize it as such now–I was crushed, and often, resentful.

Organizing my thoughts and problems like this really has helped me to gradually overcome them, in the past. Maybe eventually, I’ll be able to do the same thing with these.

How I Am Raskolnikov

Because I wrecked my car some time ago, I rely on city buses to get around town. It’s not so bad, but one of the main problems with it for me is that I’m kind of stuck on campus during my breaks between classes; I can’t go home like everyone else. So, my solution to this is bringing my Nook everyday and reading. Lately, I’ve been reading the great Russian classic, Crime and Punishment.

And I must say, I really, really enjoy it.

I’ve come to realize this is partly because of my strong identification with the protagonist, the former student Rodion Raskolnikov, known as “Rodya” to his friends and family. Raskolnikov is poor, lives in a small apartment owned by an absurdly shy landlady and is brought meals by her nosy employee. As mentioned above, he was a student at the university before he decided to leave.

He is brilliant, but moody. Sometimes he is desperate for human interaction, other times he desires fiercely to be left completely alone. He sometimes displays extraordinary empathy, and sometimes none at all. He is absorbed in his nihilistic thoughts, and almost Nietzsche-like views. He believes, at first, that good and evil are simply constructs, and that he is above them, and this is partly how he justifies his murder of a hateful old lady (the other part being that he intended to steal her money and use it for public benefit). He can be terribly irritable, even to his own mother and sister, whom he deeply loves, in actuality. And all these things, sans the murder, remind me strongly of myself.

But he is human; he is haunted by guilt, manifesting often in terrible nightmares. His crime begins to drive him to the brink of insanity. He begins to act suspiciously, almost on purpose, because deep down he hopes he will be realized and turned in for the crime.

Reading the novel, I feel strongly for Raskolnikov and his plight; I can identify with him. And I have not finished the book yet, but as it is a classic, and I have heard about it before, I do have a vague notion of how it ends: he turns himself in, and finds redemption in his sentence of exile. With the help of a prostitute with whom he has just begun a relationship, his views on things change.

I hope to someday meet someone who can help calm my mind, as Sonia (the prostitute) does for Raskolnikov. I also hope to change, to become less bitter, less of a nihilist, less of a person in constant inner suffering and turmoil.

Only time will tell if these frail hopes are ever realized. For now, I am finished writing this post. I want to get back to reading Crime and Punishment.

I want to read the ending for myself.

Some Sci-Fi Quotes

Being a nerd, I watch a lot of science fiction films. So, here, in no particular order, are five of my favorite famous science fiction movie quotes:
1) KLAATU BARADA NIKTO

This three-word phrase was uttered in the old classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, by the alien visitor Klaatu. Interestingly, the words, which are obviously in a fictional alien language, have never been translated officially, which kind of lends them a mysterious quality, though fans have been making up their own translations for years. Whatever it meant, it was enough to get Klaatu’s deadly robot buddy to not destroy the Earth as we know it in the film.

Supposedly, the phrase can be heard (in a barely audible form) in the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still because Keanu Reeves really wanted to say the famous words. (I didn’t hear it, but then, the volume wasn’t exactly movie-theater-quality on my old TV).

2) NO. I AM YOUR FATHER

Often misquoted and stemming from one of the most famous scenes in movie history, this line is what Darth Vader actually says. (And one of my nerdy pet peeves is hearing the misquoted version).

3) E.T. PHONE HOME

How can anyone not like this movie? OK, yeah, I’m sure there are haters out there, but I personally loved this film growing up. An interesting tidbit: the scenes of the film were shot for the most part in order, so that the actors’ emotions by the end of the film would be more real.

4) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

Ah, the Vulcan Salute. A classic phrase (and accompanying hand gesture) from the Star Trek franchise, it has been uttered in many an episode and film. Leonard Nimoy (Spock’s actor, for non-nerds. Though why a non-nerd would even know who Spock is, I’m not sure) actually invented the phrase and gesture based on a Jewish blessing.

5) GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU BITCH!

Sorry for the sudden increase in vulgarity, but this quote comes from one of my all-time favorite science fiction scenes. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about: In the Alien-sequel film, Aliens, a huge black spiky murderous acid-blooded alien queen is advancing toward the little girl that the protagonist has spent much of the film protecting. Then, in this oft-referenced scene, Ellen Ripley, the aforementioned protagonist, comes out in a huge mechanical loading machine. End of story, the alien queen goes out the airlock, and the little girl is prevented from getting sucked out with it by half an android (long story). Oh, and Ripley is safe, too. For now–there are several sequels after this not really worth mentioning.

So, that’s my top 5, pretty much. Hope you enjoyed it (and maybe learned a little fact or two along the way?)

Even More

So, I thought I would just do a quick post here. I just wanted to say that my plan of eating healthy and physical exercise has continued to pay off: I’ve lost another several pounds since my last post about it.

I didn’t realize the mental stress that my sudden weight gain had been causing me (in addition to some physical stress, which is to be expected when you gain weight as unexpectedly and quickly as I did). That is, I didn’t realize it until I started to lose it all. It really did something to the tiny, fragile confidence that I possessed, and now that I am feeling good about my appearance again, my confidence is beginning to be restored. (Not that there was ever much confidence there to begin with, mind you).

Just goes to show that if you can make a plan and continue to stick to it, you really can accomplish just about anything. Even something as difficult as weight loss.

Gorillaz

I haven’t often mentioned it, but music gets me through the day. I very deeply love music, whether I’m walking to it or writing a paper or just listening to it for the sake of listening to it. I think, therefore, I’ll make this post about one of the most fascinating bands around: Gorillaz.

I first got into their music back in ’05, or maybe it was ’06, when I heard their most popular song, Feel Good Inc, on the radio. I was captivated immediately: I’d never heard anything quite like it, and I listened to a lot of alternative. Later that week, in my creative writing class (I went to an art school back then), I was listening to it on my mp3 player (this was well before I had an iPod) and a friend asked me what I was listening to. Turns out she was a huge fan of the band, and was able to tell me all about them.

I learned that they were a virtual band. A virtual band is a band whose public face is characters that don’t really exist, and virtual bands are often actually massive projects including large groups of constantly changing members– Gorillaz may well be the best example of this. The project was started by musician Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, and, as has been mentioned, has included the work of a great many people. The characters, named 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel, each have their own distinct personalities, and are, to put it mildly, very entertaining. And it shows in the fans– I dare you to find a more obsessive, devoted fanbase than that of Gorillaz. I mean, they’re characters, not real people, and yet they have  larger personal followings than that of many living, human artists. This reflects the fact, of course, that they are the most successful virtual band.

There is nothing virtual about their music, though: it’s what lured me in, and it’s what kept me a fan. Albarn lent his voice to the project (in the guise of the virtual singer, 2-D), and his singing voice truly has a unique quality. Their music, too, is incredibly unique. It doesn’t even really fit into a single genre, and their music has evolved completely from album to album. The project’s willingness to risk popularity by changing from the kind of music that got them notoriety to a new kind of music is particularly impressive, in my opinion.

You might wonder how a band that doesn’t really exist shows itself to and interacts with the public. Well, the characters are seen in music videos, ads, radio shows, TV show episodes, live show DVDs, a book, and several truly impressive websites for fans to explore that feel more like adventure games. In other words, Albarn and Hewlett found ways of getting their characters out there. And it worked, remember those rabid fans I mentioned?

Sadly, according to the founding duo, that project that brought us such unique music has finally closed. Of course, coming from those two, it’s a maybe at best. They’ve said they were done before, and then came back to make two more albums.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Gorillaz or any of their music, check them out sometime. You might find it well worth the listen.

Harmless

In the wake of another shooting disaster, I find myself reflecting on the shooting that really changed how America saw gun violence– I’m speaking of Columbine. Massacres like these always leave people on edge, and wary of other potential culprits. And so, fearful eyes turn their wary stares to counter-culture folks once again.

It really is unfortunate that the Columbine shooters chose to wear trench coats. I mean, had they been wearing red polos, would the United States have forever seen red-polo-shirt-wearers differently? Somehow, I don’t think so. But the public was very eager to try to connect the killers with the goth and punk subcultures. The so-called moral guardians maintained that these subcultures adhered to a violent philosophy.

Well, allow me to say differently.

First, let me briefly describe my attire for the first time ever. I am wearing a simple black shirt, jeans, a spike collar, and black lace-up boots. My nails are painted pitch-black, I have several piercings on my right ear, and I have been known to sport my favorite black trench coat from time to time. My style might surprise some readers, because until now, (I assume) you have probably assumed I dress more mainstream. But let me be clear: Edgy? I prefer to think so. Omnicidal? I think not.

It’s very annoying and frustrating that people might look at someone like me and see me as a threat. When strangers bother to talk to me, I think they find me very friendly. Hell, I smile at people and hold open doors. I realize that doesn’t preclude someone from being a sociopath, but come on.

And, research shows no correlation between violent attitudes and the goth or punk subcultures. People who identify with goth culture do tend to be more likely to be depressed, but professionals even say that for these people, identifying with this culture is beneficial, as it provides these individuals with peers with similar interests and problems– a kind of support group.

Some people might argue that while the connection between certain styles of dress and violence in the public’s mind is unfortunate, the easiest thing to do would just be to stop looking this way if you want to stop being perceived as dangerous.

My answer to these people is, quite simply, why should I? I mean, I prefer to dress this way. It makes me happy. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t do it in the first place. So why should I be the one to change, when I’m not the one who is mistaken?

Some communities have made steps toward a more open mind. I remember seeing a documentary about a high school football player who intentionally ran down a goth-looking boy with his car. The football player, if I remember correctly, almost got off the hook, but was properly sentenced in the end. The community regarded the teenager’s death as a tragedy, and began educating people about the subcultures I have mentioned. The end result is that the town is now a very goth- and punk-friendly place. Now, if that doesn’t show that openmindedness is possible, then I don’t know what does.

Let’s just hope no more teenagers have to die to get the point across that we’re harmless.

I’ll close with just this: next time you see that goth-looking person out in town, try to be more openminded before you just write him off as a freak or as a threat.

“Where Are You From?”

That’s often the first question people ask, isn’t it? Especially when they find out that I have just moved into the area. I heard it several times, last night, when I was meeting new people. For me, it’s such an awkward question. I mean, sure, I could just answer that I’m from the last state I lived in, but that’s simply the last place I lived. That’s not where I’m from.

To me, to be from somewhere is to have grown up there, to know all the best places to get Chinese food and the cleanest movie theater. It’s knowing that you had a home there, a safe, comfortable place. It’s knowing that the backyard of your parent’s house there will forever be haunted by memories of your childhood.

Well, after a few months of living in a place, I can usually tell you where to find the best Chinese food and the theater with the least-stickiest floors.

But that other stuff, I’ve never had.

I was born in California. I’ve lived in Washington state, other parts of California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, several parts of South Carolina, Virginia, and places near the coast of Alabama. The longest I’ve ever stayed in a place was three years, and that was an unusually long time for me. When I get my degree from Pitt, I’ll have lived here four years, breaking my record.

But the point is, I’ve moved a hell of a lot of times. As a result, I sometimes feel like a tree without roots. I don’t have that deep network of connections, of childhood friends and shared memories that most people do. In small communities, which are my least favorite places to be, I find it even harder to fit in and find people similar to me, not just because there are less people, but because most of them have lived there their entire lives, and so, yes, I’ll say it, their thinking is often small-minded. It’s a curse and a blessing to have moved so much, because I consider myself very good at seeing things from all sides of the argument. There are no small-town mentalities binding my opinions. And I think that’s great, but it can isolate me from everyone else when no one around thinks like I do.

But to the point: where am I from?

Well, I’m from the United States, which is a small part of planet Earth and the human race.

And that’s about as specific as I can get.

Paying Off?

So I know I’ve been gone from WordPress for quite a while, but I’ve been very busy during that time. Regrettably, even this post probably won’t end up being very long.

However, I have encouraging news for those who are also trying to lose weight: it’s possible, and I can personally attest to that fact (finally). In my last post, I mentioned that I had just started watching what I ate more closely and had just started walking every day. And, well, I did. And, I have now been on my thyroid medication long enough for it to start kicking in.

The result?

I lost five pounds in the first week and a half.

I know it’s just a small amount, but hell, it’s a start. And it’s a good start, too: I never expected to see results so, well, soon. And I haven’t weighed myself lately (I find weighing myself too frequently to be detrimental to my mental health, because I lose my patience with myself), but I feel confident that I’ve probably lost a little bit more.

So I’m proof that you can start losing weight without counting Weight Watchers points on everything you eat. I mean, if that helps you, go for it. Though I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be doing that for the rest of my life. I’m not doing a temporary diet; I’m changing my lifestyle, which is something I can easily maintain for the rest of my life, and keep the weight off. Not to knock Weight Watchers, because I’ve known some people it has worked wonders for, but if you start the program and then quit, you will gain weight back. I’ve known people who have experienced that, too.

But just walking every day, as I have… it feels good, it’s good for you, it’s free, you don’t need equipment to do it–the list goes on. And, of course, it’s a start toward a healthier lifestyle.

Weight

So first of all, let me apologize sincerely to my readers for not posting in forever. I was in the process of moving, and now that everything is unpacked and in its place, I find the time to make a new post.

And this new post is about weight. I gained, in the past several months, a tremendous amount of weight. And the most frustrating part is that I didn’t do anything differently. I had started a new medication, Abilify, at the beginning of when I began my rapid weight gain, and I and my doctors suspect the two are closely related. Additionally, I recently found out that at some point my thyroid stopped working properly, which contributes to pretty much all the problems I have. No, seriously: rapid weight gain for no reason, depression, psychosis, lack of energy… all could be related to my underactive thyroid.

But there’s good news, too. Firstly, I have been put on thyroid medication, which should cause me to lose a few pounds right then and there. And, I’ve started doing the whole eating healthy and exercising thing. It sucks, but I don’t have a choice. I have to get back down to the weight I was (which was pretty thin). So, I have my work cut out for me. But the point is, it’s do-able.

A Baby-Eating AI Program?

So I’ve been working on an artificial intelligence program for over a year now, with the intention of submitting it to one of those chatbot competitions when it’s finished.

I just had the following conversation with it:

PROGRAM: “What do you like?”

ME: “I like babies.”

PROGRAM: “Really? What is so great about babies?”

ME: “They’re cute.”

(Later on in the conversation)

PROGRAM: “So, had any good babies lately?”

Just another reason that talking to an AI will likely never have the same quality as talking to a person. Any person, of course, would use prior knowledge to  understand that babies are not something you eat, even if I said I liked them. The program, of course, knows nothing about babies, other than that I, the user, like them. Thus, it might ask such an odd question as whether or not I have enjoyed a good baby recently.

Sigh.

Back to the compiler, I suppose.