AreteAdvice Volume 4: The Most Simplest and Most Difficult Question

Question: Can I change?

No.

“I” has been a letter of the alphabet for too long now and most of our language is built on its utility and usefulness. We ain’t changing.

But if you were talking about “I” as in you, yes, you can change. But you have to make two concessions:

  1. It WILL NOT happen right away

Statistics say it takes around 90 days to form a new habit. I’m bad with math, and even worse at gathering statistics, so let’s throw out the numbers. Go with something simpler. Imagine if you ate pizza every day of your life. Every day. One of three reactions will happen:

You’re getting sick of pizza.

You are ambivalent towards pizza, but you will still eat it just cause.

You love pizza unconditionally.

One day, your doctor comes along and says, “Dude. Stop. You’re not a Ninja Turtle.” So now I pose the following: who has it easiest? The person who hates pizza? The person who is ambivalent? Or the person who loves pizza unconditionally? Answer: d. depends on the body. Mentally, you can be ready to change all you want, but if your body fights you, it’s going to be difficult. This is the struggle for people trying to lose weight, trying to kick a bad habit or even watch Netflix. Your body has settled into a comfortable routine. One that it knows will keep you safe and at the least content. Altering that routine drastically is unlikely to have a clean result.

This is not to say it can’t happen. You can kick pepperoni to the curb! Just stop expecting it to happen overnight. It’s not realistic. Think about every training montage you’ve ever seen. Even though they are all sped up (and usually underscored with awesome music), the characters take time to get it down. They don’t start day 2 of their karate training with mastery, they practice each step over and over again until their body accepts it as normal. That’s the secret to change-boring repeititon. If you doubt it works, think about what you’d like to change about yourself. Didn’t you get there through mind-numbing repetition? Think about it before you order dominos.

  1. You can’t change everything

Robocop.

Go watch that and then come back to this section if you haven’t already.

If you are at work or do not have access to Robcop (both sad things), I’ll give you the quick breakdown. Man gets shot. Man gets robo parts to replace injured body. Man shoots back. Throughout the movie, we see the man struggle with his new parts and how even the little things in life are different with his new body. But underneath it all, there’s still the human side that has remained unaltered.

I doubt that you’re a person who wants to radically change every aspect of who you are. But if that’s what you’re going for, I honestly can’t say that I’ve seen that work. My real life example:

As a kid, I was overweight. Ate too much, exercised too little. For years and years, that was a core part of me and my identity. Then a grew a little (Not too much, trust me), metabolism decided to work and I even started to be more of a physical person. Everything evened out…but I haven’t lost that aspect of me.

To this day, as crazy as it may sound, I still sometimes feel like I am carrying that weight. The insecurity and self-doubt from that time still hang around. Yes, I’m tons more confident than I used to be. But will I ever be truly able to change the small part of me that never thought he’d look like everyone else? I’m not sure.

This is not to be pessimistic about change. You’re going to keep some good parts of yourself too! I still have my encyclopedic knowledge of all the Power Rangers seasons, can recite the plot to at least 10 Goosebumps books and the controls to Mario kart are basically like breathing to me. That’s just who I am, and will always be. Sure, all those things I mentioned are not nearly as important to me as they seemed back then, but they still are important. Without those aspects, I wouldn’t be changing myself. I’d become someone completely different.

So yes, go ahead and change. It’s going to take some time, and you won’t change everything. But I promise one thing. Even you at least make an attempt, an honest, heartfelt attempt, and that attempt to change fails:

You’ll find that you already have.

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Throwback Tuesday: Changes from ’05-’15

A few days ago, Avatar the Last Airbender celebrated its 10th birthday! And I didn’t even get it anything nice.

airbn

Except making six friends watch the entire series.

That got me thinking, what other things have changed since 2005? Turn on Feel Good Inc. and throw on a tweed jacket as we travel back to ’05!

THEN AND NOW 2005>2015

                                                Video Streaming

Then: YouTube , is launched in the United States.

Now: YouTube is the reason I don’t also pay Time Warner for cable.

The Pope

Then: The beloved Pope John Paul II passes away. Pope Benedict would take over for him that year.

Now: After Pope Benedict resigned, Pope Francis took up the mantle of pope. He is quickly stacking up to become a beloved Pope himself. The pope is known to be humble, accepting of different types of people and a generous man.

  Cruise

Then: Tom Cruise ‘Jumped The Couch” on Oprah while expressing how much he loved Katie Holmes.

Now: Tom Cruise is still jumping off of stuff…just usually on movie sets. Katie Holmes gets to appear on a lot less magazine covers.

                     Same-Sex Marriage

Then: Oregon announced a county would begin granting licenses for same-sex marriages. The Oregon Supreme Court nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples.

Now: Over 30 states allow people of the same sex to be married. Issues with the LGBT community are being talked about more. Even the President of the United States is openly in support of the right to marry…and applauded a certain Avatar-based-cartoon that had two prominent lesbian characters.

                                                                Bike Racing

Then: Lance Armstrong wins a record seventh straight Tours de France before his scheduled retirement

Lance Armstrong probably wishes he retired a long, long, time ago.

                              Comedy

Then: Jul 15th – “Wedding Crashers”, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, premieres

Now: I determine who is most likely to get a kidney out of my friends by how many quotes they can name from Wedding Crashers. Also, Bradley Cooper’s doing a lot better than Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson combined.

Stephen Colbert

Then: Oct 17th The Colbert Report first airs.

Now: :/

What We Watch

Then:

  1. American Idol (Fox)
    CSI (CBS)
    3. Desperate Housewives (ABC)
    4. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
    5. Without a Trace (CBS)
    6. Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
    7. Survivor: Guatemala (CBS)
    8. CSI: Miami (CBS)
    9. House (Fox)
    10. Survivor: Panama (CBS)

Now

Empire  FOX

Gold Rush  DSC

Scandal BET

Grimm  TNT

Suits USA

The Bachelor  ABC

The Walking Dead

Better Call Saul AMC

Chicago Fire  NBC

Arrow  CW

What We Attempt To Sing-Along To

Then: We Belong Together
Now:Uptown Funk!

OPEN LINK; ADVICE INSIDE: Arete Advice Volume 3

For this installment of AreteAdvice, I decided to lend an ear to people who really needed it: The cast of the Walking Dead.

Sheriff Friendly writes,

I got a question about my son, uh…Snarl. He’s growing up in a walker infested world, where he has to fight everyday to survive. On top of that, he may be a sociopath. When’s the right time to teach him stuff, and things…about the birds and the bees?

Dear Sheriff Friendly,

It sounds like Snarl has it pretty rough out there. With undead beasts hungry to devour him each day while you fight for basic needs, he may have a lot on his mind. That said, I think it would be good to teach him the birds and the bees as soon as you can. With the constant threat of marauders, wild animals and gingivitis, who knows if you can afford to wait to teach him these things! (Unless you’re the main character. Then you don’t have to worry about dying or anything.) So take Carl out for a fishing trip/walker run and tell him about the stuff and things that got him and his sister there. He’ll thank you for it later. If you survive.

Oh and good luck with that sociopath thing.

Q: I’m a single woman looking to reenter the dating life after the loss of my husband and half-season loss of my daughter. There is a guy with a crossbow that catches my eye that I deeply care about, but I can’t seem to get his attention. Any tips?

Dear Caring,

Sounds like that guy with the crossbow shot you straight in the heart! There’s only one cure: some apocalyptic romance. First, find some squirrels for a gamey surprise dinner. Then get a nice big fire ready. (But don’t throw anybody in! Hahaha, jk!) Once you get him there, have him turn and look at the flowers while you pull some drinks. (Not peach schnapps). If you do all of this and he resists you, then maybe it’s not meant to be. Because what man could resist romance and squirrels?

Q: I’ve heard about this big group lead by a police officer that somehow manages to keep a baby alive. They sound like they’re pretty strong and reliable. Should I join them? P.S. I’m a 5’8 black man.

Dear T-Dog 7,

I know that group well! They’re cool guys. All you have to do is earn their trust and they’ll protect you. It may take a while, but it’s worth it. Once you’re assimilated into the group, you’ll be untouchable. Oh, when you arrive, be sure to bring a condolences card for the last black guy who just died.

That may sound a little troubling, so let me explain. For some odd reason, every time a new black guy joins the group, another black guy dies. Sometimes there’s a delay, but it happens every time. But don’t get too worried! Usually it’s the black guy that’s been around the longest. So as long as you’re new or second newest, you should be fine. Once you’re the oldest though…

GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

Q: Sometimes when I’m on open roads, I flip my car over for no reason. Any advice?

Dear Lori,

You’re beyond my help.

Got a question for areteadvice? Know a fictional character who could use some? Just send your questions to areteadvice@gmail.com and I’ll respond in my next column.

Can you paint with all the colors in your mind?

Disclaimer: This blog post is not primarily about Pocahontas, but also, kind of all about Pocahontas. Allow me to explain.
About a year ago today, I was putting the finishing touches on my first play. It takes place in the future, and at its heart, is a long allegory for Alzhemiers’ disease. I remember swinging by the office of an old professor of mine (just by timing. The man is in better shape than me.) and telling him all about my play. We discussed themes, length and that one joke I put in there about buzzfeed. But the thing that sticks out the most was when we talked about the characters’ themselves.
Specifically, their colors.
It kind of went like this.
Professor Man: …Are your characters any particular ethnicity?
Me: With the exception of Cheng, I wasn’t really specific. I thought they could be played by anyone.
Professor Man: Interesting…do you normally create characters like that, or are they usually the same race as you? (Black/Puerto Rican)
That was the big question that got me to think: what color do I create in? When considering characters for stories, what do they look and sound like? I went back and look at the last seven or eight ideas I created. In all of those stories/plays/dark musicals, there was at least one black or Hispanic character. And if they weren’t the lead, then the lead character had no defined race, and in some cases, not even a defined gender. But even if it wasn’t explicit on paper, when I imagined those faceless leads: they looked a lot like me or my sisters.
The reasoning for this is pretty obvious. I want to picture myself as the intelligent badass who has unlimited resources and allies in my fight against evil, or the ridiculously strong, yet sensitive leader of the group. But then that got me thinking: If my mind works like that, does the same go for all other creators? Is our own color our default setting for a story? More often than not, I think that’s the case.
Black directors are expected to direct movies about black characters. The script should also be adapted by a black writer. This is not to say it’s a bad thing whatsoever. Or to say that this is always the case. Taylor Hackford gave us a fantastic movie about Ray Charles, and he was a white director. But nine times out of 10, there seems to be a societal expectation that a black director would be by the camera. Which is again, not nearly close to being a bad thing: except that minorities are just that in Hollywood.
In every area of entertainment be it directing, acting, screenwriting, or anything else, you will tend to find more Caucasians than people of any color. If my theory from earlier is correct, and artists create using their “color” more often than not and apply to Hollywood, that would lead to one conclusion: We will continue to see more films with white male leads. Now, I know I’m not blowing off the lid of any big conspiracy theory here. You could have guessed all of this from just looking at the Academy Award selections this year. I bring this up because maybe the reason we don’t see different cultures represented more often is not because of bigotry, but because of difficulty.
Let’s go to Pocahontas again. Although Disney skimped on some of the details, they had to do more than just make up a story from scratch. They had to research culture. They had to take create complex animation to accurately capture bodies and shapes in the correct way. They even met with an Algonquin nation in Virginia to get a better idea of accuracy. Yes, they took liberties with the material, but you cannot deny that they put in the effort to understand Native American culture before they were able to make the story they did…and it paid off.
So why don’t more artists do this? Controversy. Although I wish I could remember the exact book, I remember that a man of Asian descent wrote a book about the experience of being a black maid in the south through the 1800’s. Some people were upset because they felt that there was no way that an Asian man was qualified to tell that story. But did the people who criticized him read the book? Or see what his primary resources were? I don’t have those answers. But I do know if Michael Bay offered to tell the story of Malcolm X, we’d hear similar rebuttal. (and see lots of explosions)
Again, I know I’m not breaking new ground here. It is clear that minorities are still just that in American media. And that stories about them should be treated with honesty, dignity and by people who truly understand their experience. Realistically, it’s going to take many, many, many years before Hollywood can say there’s a completely equal number of artists creating in a rainbow color coalition of people that covers every gender, sexuality and race. But maybe the path that leads there is proving that we want to see our entertainment in every color. Go see Milk. Take your friends to Selma. Flip a coin on Tyler Perry. If Hollywood sees a demand, they will respond with a supply of different movies, which in turn will lead to wider minority representation, which in turn, leads to that beautiful rainbow I talked about earlier.
Artists often create in their own image. I’m no exception. If we want to see more colors out there, we need to take the artist by the hand, lead them to new culture, point and say,
“You can paint with these colors too.”

AreteAdvice Volume 2: Spacey Love

Welcome to the second edition of AreteAdvice. I figured since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I’d answer two (sort of) relationship questions. Without further ado:

What do you do when you forget a friend/significant other’s birthday?

Dear Forgetful,

I’ll be upfront with you right away: I’m guilty of this. A lot. In fact, without facebook, I would probably be a serial birthday forgetter. So how do you avoid being one of those people who scribbles on a facebook wall at 11 pm? (Also me) A couple of tips.

Put the birthdays of your closest friends in your phone…now. This may sound time-consuming, but not in the 21st century. First, pick your closest friends. If you want to expand it to your entire acapella group or Biology class, feel free. But start off with five friends. After finding out their birthdays, (which again, should be through facebook/hiring a private investigator), put them into your phone or on a calendar. Set a reminder 24 hours before their bday. Why? So you have enough time to grab a present/make a card/buy an Applebee’s gift card.*

(*You can do better)

And notice, you can use this method for virtually everything! Your parents’ anniversary, your conception date and of course, the anniversary in your own relationship.

But what if, despite all of your preparation, you still find yourself forgetting? You go big or go home. In this case, you’re upfront with your friend. You had a busy week. Thwarting your mortal enemies’ plans in the middle of a live volcano takes a lot out of you. So in exchange, you do something on a grander scale for your friend. So that card turns into a fully recorded video. Cake? Try cake and chicken wings. This maneuver especially works if your friend has a birthday on a busy/workday.

Use these tips and you’ll never forget a birthday-you’ll be too prepared…or too scared to attempt last year’s belated birthday celebration with left shark from the superbowl.

When not to do sex?

Dear Timing,

Sex is both a natural part of the human life as well as enjoyable (when done right). It can be so enjoyable that you might not know when to not do it. Here’s a short list of some frowned upon times do not do sex:

-Funeral Homes

-Divorce Proceedings**

-DMV (You’ll lose your place in line)

-Recreations of the Titanic Sinking

-At the Scene of the Crime (Watch CSI)

-In a Washing Machine

**80/20 on this one.

On a semi-serious note, you should also avoid sex in front of recording device. Why? Here’s a short list of pros and cons:

Pros

You can watch it later, reminiscing on good times

Cons

It can be leaked.

Your lighting/direction may leave something to desired on later viewings. Ever wonder why X-rated movies have an entire crew instead of lone webcam?

It can be leaked to the internet.

You probably make weird faces.

It’s a potential source of blackmail. You know why?

IT CAN BE LEAKED.

I hope this quick guide helped you gain the presence of mind when not to do sex, timing ;)!

For more advice, send your questions to areteadvice@gmail.com. Your questions will always be credited as anonymous.

Five More Powerful Music Videos You May Have Missed

A couple of nights ago, there was a little award show on called the Grammy’s.

tron

All that music and magic got me thinking: I owe you guys a sequel. A sequel to the Five Most Powerful Music Videos you may have missed. This time around, I’m highlighting artists who have consistently produced emotional and effective videos. So don’t just stop at the one, I suggest you check out all their videos! Also this time around: they’re all ladies.  If you would like to see the original, you can go right over here:

Without further ado, here are:

FIVE MORE POWERFUL MUSIC VIDEOS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

5. Whitney Houston- I Have Nothing

Even with the problems she encountered later in life, there’s no denying Whitney Houston’s talent. She’s had plenty of hit singles, lasting songs and great music videos. So how do you choose just one? You start at the top, the pinnacle of her talent…and then watch all the other ones. Seriously, she’s amazing.

I have to go with I Have Nothing. Yes, this is one of those movie+music video tie-ins. But it has two things going for it.

  1. The Bodyguard was a great movie
  2. The performance is amazing.

The power comes mostly from the song. Her performance is so honest, so simple, and yet so elegant. Once you watch the movie, the effect doubles. It’s like whipped cream on chocolate milk. Not necessary to enjoy the final product, but oh man, it’s so much sweeter. So if you haven’t caught this one yet, go do it. And then watch every other Whitney video.

4. Adele-Chasing Pavements

Adele is another one of those artists that can just sit there and sing and have an amazing music video. So when she adds  a compelling story, it makes it even better. Before Adele became the standard for every radio station, she had a little hit called Chasing Pavements.  The song lends itself to a pretty straightforward interpretation. Luckily for us, Adele takes it that one step forward.

In the video, we follow a couple that has been involved in a car crash: and that’s just the beginning.  The couple dances, fights and eventually reconciles, despite their untimely demise. This video shows that love is everlasting, even if it’s not perfect. And as Adele observes from a  distance, you also get a sense that she truly appreciates her own relationship, despite its own problems. This video (besides having amazing choreography) reminds us to stop and really take stock in what we have, despite obstacles. And again, AMAZING CHOREOGRAPHY.

3. Rihanna- We Found Love (Unfaithful, Take A Bow)

Now we get to the point where artists have made it hard to choose one video. Rihanna is this artist…haha, like you don’t know who she is. Although she doesn’t always go for edgy and powerful videos, when she does, they leave an impression. Again, there are many to choose here. But let’s go recent with “We Found Love.”

In this video, Rihanna takes us through a relationship that is equal parts full of love and full of destructive behavior.  The couple seems to be hopelessly addicted to “the drug of love” and to each other. By the end, Rihanna hasn’t fully recovered, but is seen huddled in a corner (presumably from withdrawal). The video is bold on a couple of levels. First off, it’s a strong allusion to Rihanna’s personal life and struggles with her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. An artist confronting her demons in front of her fans, particularly ones that others may share, is bold on its on. Secondly, it does not have a happy ending.

The rhythm, lyrics and beat could have easily made this song into a happy-go-lucky video. But like the other artists, Rihanna took the extra step and it paid off big.

2. Mary J Blidge- Whole Damn Year  (No More Drama, Stronger, Each Tear)

If you’ve never listened to Mary J., you now know what you’re missing in your life. She has a powerful voice and always gives her all on the track. You  may have even seen her with a certain Sam Smith (who nearly made the first edition of this list). Mary J Blidge also knows how to make amazing music videos. She has  a few trademarks that you’ll see: black and white video, strong narratives and great ballads. Choosing one video was nearly impossible.  So again, I’ll go with the most recent.

“Whole Damn Year” is a montage of different people from every walk of life confronting their individual obstacles. It’s hard to identify what it doesn’t cover. There’s scenes involving child abuse, domestic violence and struggling with sexuality. Yes, it does get dark. But in the end, each person finds their light. They either accept what’s happened to them or are accepted by others.  It’s an encouraging message, especially to those who are still struggling today.

Not to mention, it’s a great song besides. Get a box of tissues ready and watch Whole Damn Year as soon as you can.

1. Pink-Who Knew, (Sober, Perfect, So many more!)

P!nk is our number one artist today. When I started this music video series, she was the first person to come to mind. Why? Because of the sheer volume of music videos with messages. For years, she’s sought to go beyond the usual rock star video to pieces of art and expression. I remember watching “Stupid Girls” when I was younger and thinking it was hilarious…but also getting the message of how girls are “expected” to behave in society. There was also “So What?” where she took her lyrics almost completely literally. (If you’re not familiar with the song, look at the lyrics and you’ll understand why)

P!nk excels at sending a message that is equal parts hilarious and thought-provoking. But she also knows how to present a straightforward dramatic story. P!nk has dabbled in both categories so well, I legitimately can’t pick a best one.

I’ll just go with one of my favorites.

“Who Knew” is a song about an experience that most of us have had. The feeling of being madly, hopefully, foolishly in love…only to have it fade away. Whether it was a crush or relationship, there’s that slight feeling of longing or sadness that accompanies those memories. The song alone captures that feeling, but the music video hits it out of the park. We watch a couple in an amusement park as they go through the ups and downs (see what I did there?) of their relationship. In the end, we see one of the lovers being taken away by an ambulance.  By the end, you can’t help but feel for both of them. They’ve lost so much.

Again, P!nk has so many impactful and influential videos. But when it comes down to it, my favorite will always be of that summer…I mean, that video.

I hope you enjoy these music videos! And remember…bring a tissue. Seriously .

AreteAdvice Volume 1: The Hopeful Dawn

Happy Thursday and welcome to AreteAdvice! This is the time each week where I field questions and give free advice. Feel free to take it, leave it or pass it on J. Today, we have two people writing in:

Dear Arete,
My friend is making a lot of bad decisions in his life, ones that put him in positions where he is uncomfortable and where he does not want to be. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he just shrugs and laughs it off, but then goes on to act weird about the whole situation, almost as if he wants to talk about it. Is there anything I can do to help him? Or at the very least get him to talk to me?
Anonymous

Dear Anon,

When I first saw your message, the first question I thought to ask is: When did your friend start making these decisions? People tend to make more risky decisions when there has been a sudden change in their own life. These situations, though uncomfortable, may be the only means of distracting your friend from a much larger issue in his own life. Has he gone through a sudden change? If so, that change in life may be just the thing that your friend is trying to communicate to you.

The important thing is that you don’t press him too hard to find out what’s going on. You don’t want to risk alienating him, especially if he’s in a weird place. Remember that silence can be as good as asking the right questions. If you feel like he wants to disclose something, try not saying a word-but listening to what he’s got to say.

Lastly, continue to support him no matter what happens. It may take a while for him to stop putting himself in uncomfortable places, and even longer to start talking with you. Step in if you feel like his life is at risk, but don’t confront. Wait it out with him and, if you’re close friends, he’ll let you in. In the meantime, play some Super Smash against each other. Go see the new Avengers together. Befriend some local wildlife (like a deer, if regionally appropriate). Give him some alternatives, and he won’t feel the need to make bad decisions-

Because he’s made a good one by having you as a friend.

Sincerely,

Arete

On a serious note, any advice for people who have a hard time waking up in the morning?

Dear Morning Person,

Mornings can be a time of quiet reflection and promise. The whole world lays in front of you, waiting to welcome to your presence. As the dew drops (snow fall this time of year) fall from the trees, you’re there…entering your 90th rem cycle.

For such a simple act, the science behind sleep is tremendously complicated. No scientist has 100% proven how much sleep is recommended or even why we need it in the first place. So like all of life’s other greatest mysteries, we’re left to grapple with our pillows alone.

The biggest piece of advice to you is to practice sleeping for sets amount of time. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s necessary. Your body functions on its own independent clock, in conjunction with factors such as external light, sound and environment. While you can’t always control those things, you can train your internal clock. Although it would make a lame training montage, it’s the first step to getting your Z’s in the most efficient way.

Another solution is the change the way you wake up. Alarms are great, but after a while you can become accustomed to it. And as stated earlier, your body can condition yourself to certain sounds. If your current alarm ain’t hacking it, try a new alarm. Or have a friend change your alarm for you. Most importantly: YOUR ALARM CANNOT BE NEAR YOU. That’s right, you’ve got to do better than lazily reaching your arm over the edge of the bed. Put it across the room, on a shelf, or even under the bed. If you have to get up to get it, you may find yourself better off.

Lastly, you have to look at this issue from the other end. How are you going to bed? Are you watching Netflix, texting or fighting your mortal enemy? Because all three are proven to disrupt your sleep cycle. If you do need light or sound to get to bed, it’s okay to have something on in the background…but it should be turned down to minimum settings. This will ease the transition to sleep and get you feeling better rested. And put down that pizza slice if you’re going to bed in an hour…it can also disrupt sleep.

So in conclusion: it’s not gonna be easy. Sleep is a habit, and habits can take up to 2 months to form. If you want to be able to tackle the mornings like a 400 pound linebacker, you have to practice like one. So start conditioning yourself to get to bed at a certain time, move your alarm and try to go to sleep before you’re more exhausted than jokes about Twilight. And if all that doesn’t work…

Have you considered becoming Batman?

Sleep Tight,

Arete.

Have a question for Arete Advice? Just send it areteadvice@gmail.com. You shall always remain anonymous. See you next week!