12.15.2011

The NEW BLOG is LIVE

Okay, I've got the new blog up and ready, though there are still a few tweaks that need to be applied.

MY NEW BLOG


Hope to see you there soon! And thanks for stopping by the Listening Room!

12.14.2011

BIG NEWS

Well, I suppose it may be big news to someone...

Though the Listening Room will remain out of action for the foreseeable future I am in the process of putting up another blog...an "Agaetis Byrjun", if you will, a "fresh start". I don't suppose it will be much different in content than this one. Probably more of a "journal" with photos and videos gleaned from crap I find on the Internet and such. More of my own pictures, scanned and all. Pictures of the dog. Old school pictures. A bunch of crap like that. And I'm sure I'll post any reviews, write-ups, fiction etc. The main change will be the design. I know I could just completely overhaul the Listening Room, toss out the links and stuff, but I really don't want to do that. I'd rather just leave it the way it is, provide a link in a prominent spot on the new blog and start anew.

As for the Wordpress blog...I don't see myself working on that one too much in the days to come. It kind of took a turn towards a religion blog and I just don't know if I'm up for writing about that subject often enough to justify the upkeep of the blog. Plus, Wordpress is SO limited in what you can do with designing a blog...it's frustrating. Of course, not all of that blog was devoted to religion. There's a tribute to REM I wrote when I found out they'd broken up. There's a lengthy piece I did about a screening of Sigur Ros' film "Inni". A reminiscence of the first time I saw U2. I will likely cut and paste those into the new blog.

I don't know when it will go live but obviously I'll come back and leave a link when it does. It would probably already be up if not for some background photo issues I came against the other day when I first decided to work on it...so it would appear that Wordpress does not have the market cornered when it comes to frustrating it's users.

See you later!

8.02.2011

The Listening Room closes it's doors.

Well, folks, after almost 10 years of blogging here at Blogger I have decided to make a clean break and leave the ol' Listening Room to the moths. It's not so much that I'm disappointed with Blogger itself...even though I really don't like the new text editor and the dashboard...but I've been wanting to do something with Wordpress for a long time anyway. This will be as good a chance as any to work out a new focus and direction for what I'm wanting to move on with. It will still be a haven of narcissism but hopefully will not get so cluttered with junk on the way. I've gone through many changes since first starting this blog, most of which were well documented in it's pages. I'm hoping to settle down now, to get comfortable with the worldview I've returned to. After all the stuff I've written about the "paths" I was taking with all the sidetracking and abandoning, I am very ready to get back to what I've believed all along...

You're welcome to visit and/or bookmark my new blog. I hope that my friends who keep up with this one will come with me. I would never delete the Listening Room because there's just too much history here...but from now on you can find me, if you so desire, at:

HALFWAY BETWEEN GENIUS & BUFFOON 

Well folks, it's been a good run. Thanks!
James Casey

7.30.2011

Pure insanity.

Trollery

On a trip to Oklahoma City a few days ago I engaged in a lively discussion with my son. He had recently written a blog post about Internet trolls for his site "Eyes On Everything" and so the subject came up as to whether it was necessarilly a "bad" thing to be one. Admittedly it had been a few days since I'd read his article, so I wasn't really prepared to talk about the points he had brought up. I think it was mainly about the definition of a "troll" and a description of the different methods they employ. It may have had a bit more to it, but we took the conversation to another level so I don't think it mattered that I wasn't up-to-speed about what he had written. In other words, there wasn't anything in the post that I didn't already know.

So...is it okay to be a "troll"? Is trolling a good thing or bad? If the former, to what ends? If the latter, why? What does engaging in trollish behavior say about the person who practices it? Does it matter? Is it just a necessary side effect of the anonymity the Internet provides?

Pretty vague questions, to be sure. Is it "okay" to be a troll? Well, you'd think it was no big deal seeing the vast armies of trolls plundering YouTube, facebook, Twitter and countless message boards/communities. The only way to avoid them is to ignore them (remember that, it's important...nay, essential). So is it socially acceptable? Does it even matter? After all, the rules have changed with the widespread cultural saturation of the Internet. Only time will tell if the intense negativity of trolls (and the vile screes of genuine haters) will become manifest in cultural indifference as time goes by.

But what do I think? Is it okay? Personally I say "no", it's not okay. It's not cool. There is nothing about trolling which benefits anyone, especially the one doing the trolling. It's a waste of time. The kind of pleasure that can be had in trolling is on the same immature level as picking the wings off of flies. It's mean and manipulative. Manipulation is what trolling is all about, everyone knows that. So who has that right? Who has the right to manipulate another human being? From where within the psyche does this urge to manipulate arise? I'd venture to guess that it's not a *good* place, and it's certainly not a method of catharsis that is healty, mentally or spiritually.

"But that's just it," says the troll. "It's catharsis. It allows me the chance to get out all my aggressions without physically hurting anyone." Sounds good, until you consider the chance that your mode of aggression therapy has the very real power to hurt another person. Feelings are hurt easily...this may not sound like such a big deal, kind of wimpy, right? People's "feelings"... they should grow thicker skin, eh? Well, they shouldn't have to. It's hard enough to deal with the bullshit life throws your way without having some idiot tell you your mother's a cow or the religion you hold dear is a pack of lies... And you never know. You could well be messing with someone who has just about had enough, who is one insult away from buying a gun and shooting himself in the head...or using that gun to mow down a few school kids before turning it on himself. You'd think that the remote POSSIBILITY of something like that happening would be a wake-up call to the trolls, that they would realize the "power" that is available to them can be quite destructive, not just some mischevious fun. But you know what? It won't. Because it's just too much fun being a troll.

What makes it so fun? My son says trolls are so into it because it lets them invent completely new personas for themselves. Of course you can do that without being a troll, and no doubt that is a very interesting experiment to conduct. But I suppose the troll aspects come into play when you try to push some buttons just to see how someone else would react to the avatar you've created. It's not you, right? So you can say anything you want. You can pick a cyber-fight. You can make someone fall in love with you, not even knowing that the screen name is not a real person at all (naive, I know, but you would be surprised...). And all of this without any repurcussions in the "real world".

So what does that say about you, my troll friend? It says that on some level you can't handle the real world and/or your place in it. The level of cruelty in your Internet jousts is in direct proportion to how frightened you are to hurl them at a real person, to their face. No integrity whatsoever. Does that matter to you? Does your anonymity change the fact that you're a coward, oh nameless troll? No, it does not. It magnifies it.

That is how I feel. I feel justified in expressing and holding these opinions because I once engaged in trollish behavior myself. For several years, to be honest. I look back on those days and I am ashamed of myself. I regret the time and effort I wasted in targeting people and waging war with them. I know why I did it, and I know how I thought it was so much fun. Those things reflect aspects of my personality that I should have left where they belong, instead of bringing them closer to the fore, giving them chance to grow. Perhaps had I not nurtured them by trolling they would be buried even deeper, robbed of the chance to do any more damage. I didn't care about the people whose minds I messed with. I said, "this person is a screen name, nothing more". That's all they were to me. I could say whatever I wanted because a screen name doesn't have emotions.

If you are a troll and happen to be reading this, please understand that I'm not judging or condemning you. Only your hobby. My only advice to you is that you consider the feelings of the people you are toying with. Go to a bar, walk up to a stranger, unleash your best troll line and stand up to the possibility that he will knock the shit out of you. You'll get what you deserve.
I had a dream last night that I worked at Wal-Mart. I had put one of my own CDs in the store's player that piped in music for the store. It was actually a copy of the podcast I made a couple of months ago and at one point it was getting very weird. I got really scared that the management would take notice and I'd get fired. I expected to see customers with stunned looks pushing their carts around, heads turning to the right and to the left attempting to find out where the noise was coming from. So I went to retrieve the disc hoping that it wouldn't be too late to save my job. But I couldn't find it. It wasn't anywhere that I remembered it being. I was starting to get a little scared. It came to mind that probably they didn't even normally play music on the store PA. In actual waking fact, they don't, but I could not convince myself of this. I eventually did find the player. It was some strange component version of Windows Media Player. So strange.

7.28.2011

A Commentary on the Sad State of Religious/Atheist Sloganeering Apparel

A couple of weeks ago I was at Best Buy with my son. I don't remember if we were there to purchase anything in particular, just walking around checking out the merchandise. Best Buy is possibly my favorite store for window shopping.

Anyway, I'm headed toward the televisions when I noticed a lady in a green shirt that sported the recognizable Mountain Dew logo. My son has one just like it. At least I thought so until I looked a little closer and saw that it didn't saw "Mountain Dew" at all. I could have sworn that the shirt said "Meant to Die".

"What in the world is that all about?" I thought. "Meant to die???" Lime green is not exactly a "goth" color, so I figured it probably wasn't some suicidal message. Besides, she couldn't have been any younger than 45. She certainly didn't look like your typical Smiths fan. I doubt she'd even heard of the Cure. So what was this "Meant to Die" business?

I decided my eyes had failed me so I sent my son to investigate. He came back with the affirmation, indeed the shirt read "Meant to Die". That's all we could read of it, but I knew at that point, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there had to be more words on it. Furthermore I knew that there was a very good chance that those words were either a.) part of a Bible verse or b.) a pithy slogan that would identify the wearer as a Christian. Most likely a variation on the product's own tag line.

Sure enough, a Google search turned up a similar garment on eBay which confirmed not one, but both of my suspicions. "Jesus MEANT TO DIE for you!" accompanied with the text of John 15:13 ("Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"...I have no idea what translation it's from. Probably "The Message").

I've seen these shirts. I guess everyone has by now, but I've actually shopped in a Mardel so I've seen a LOT of them. And every single one is as hoaky and corny as it gets. I'm sorry if I offend anyone with my opinion of them but I cannot for the life of me understand why ANYONE, Christian or otherwise, would want to wear them. Okay, it's parody. Parody can be very funny so there's always the chance that people who buy them do so because they think they're humorous. I can even understand why folks would want to display a Bible verse or something important to them. But the verses are always associated with something really dumb.

For instance, there is a shirt that looks exactly like swag from the movie "Twilight", only it reads "theLight" with John 8:12 attached. How about the Subway deli logo mutated to read "HisWay" with the "slogan" beneath, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life".  Or perhaps you'd rather have the shirt that sports the Allstate Insurance logo altered to read "Allfaith. You're in good hands. Providing the best life insurance since the birth of Jesus Christ". How can it get much more inane than "King of Kings" placed between the familiar buns on the Burger King logo. And this isn't even the tip of the iceberg.Though it's not a product rip-off, one of my favorites simply reads "Get STONED like Paul! Acts 14:19-20. Stand your ground for CHRIST!" I include it because it's such a fine example of just how stupid these things can get.

It was actually kind of difficult to track down a photo of the "Meant to Die" shirt. It was there in the links but when I clicked them it was apparent they had been removed. I can only assume that the good people at Mountain Dew were a little miffed at the theft of their intellectual property and took measures to save their brand from ridicule. It's a real wonder that more companies and corporations don't follow that lead. Then again, I suppose even a reminder of their ad campaigns and logos to the general public is worth a few cringes.

What makes a person want to wear one of these things? Do they think it's some kind of witness to the lost who just might happen to see it and be curious? Surely not. I cannot for the life of me imagine any non-believer stopping and asking about someone's t-shirt... Besides, you're supposed to reach out to them, not hope they come to you. If I, as a Christian, see these things for the kitsch they are, how much more so an atheist? People aren't laughing at the shirts. At least not in the way they might if the designs were actually funny. They're laughing at how pathetic they are.

Keith Green, whose ministry was defined by integrity and straight-forwardness, called the shirts and the other trinkets that go with them "Jesus Junk". And this was in the early 80s, can you imagine what he would think if he saw the pervasiveness of this trash now?

It IS junk, and it's a waste of money. It's an embarrassment to Christendom and a sad, sad testimony to just how irreverent Christians have become. Maybe I sound like Judas chastising Jesus for allowing the woman to pour expensive perfume on his feet...he was upset that money was being wasted, money that could be better used to feed the poor and help the needy. Jesus called Judas' bluff on that one, but I don't think there's a lot in common between anointing from adoration and spending twenty-five bucks on a Hane's XXL Beefy-T ruined by a ridiculous design that actually gives the impression that the wearer is only trying to "fit in". Yes, I do believe that is a motivator for people who get this crap. Everyone wants to be a part of something, and when they are it is only natural to want everyone to know about it. But come on! This is the church we're talking about!

$25 ain't much, but you'd do better to give it to a panhandler than the guy who owns the Christian bookstore in the mall (though I guess he has to eat, too...that's a whole different post). Let's all get together and agree to put an end to this cultural enigma. Let's get serious.

Okay...I've said some really, really harsh things about goofy Christian t-shirts. And I'm 100% sincere that they are a negative thing to the church. In that Google search I spoke of earlier I was led to an atheist blog where the blog owner and the majority of people leaving comments were saying basically the same thing (though not quite as civilly). It was clear that they disapproved, but I was surprised at the level of hostility the topic seemed to stir in many of them. Almost as if it were an affront, a personal insult to them that someone would wear a shirt proclaiming and/or associated with a religion. I wasn't surprised at all, because these militant atheists seem to be very touchy about the subject. In fact, I have noticed, in my travels through cyberspace, that there is a lot of hatred directed at religion and the people who don't share their worldview (funny, but it seems like the majority of these "attacks" are directed at Christians and Christianity in general). So it's only natural that atheist scorn for something as wacky as Jesus Ts would be expected.

The word "hypocrisy" began running through my mind. No doubt anybody would have figured it out, so it was strange that they didn't see it.

Let's do another Google search, shall we? And this time we'll enter "atheist t-shirts" in the search field. Or just go straight to "a theists online" (or don't, if you're easily offended). Here you'll find t-shirts, mugs, trinkets and other crap sporting these nice designs (warning: these are in extreme bad taste):

```The universally recognized yellow diamond that usually reads "Baby On Board", only here it's suspended above the Lord on the cross and says "Christ on Boards".

```"WWJD" = We Won, Jesus Died

```"Haven't you forgotten about Jesus? Isn't it about time you did?"

```"I Heart Roman Lions"

```"There's a sucker BORN AGAIN every minute!" (beneath a drawing of Jesus laughing condescendingly).

```"Silly Christian, Myths are for Kids"

Okay, that's enough. More than enough, actually. My point is obvious and surely it has been made. It's true that these things are not all derivative of company logos, but that's neither here. These are not meant to promote atheism so much as to offend theists. Is that what atheism is about, I have to wonder? Nothing better to do than try to bully people who don't happen to agree with you? See who can wear the most offensive clothing?

Friends, that is HATE, pure and simple. I don't put all atheists in that box, just like I know that most Christians aren't wasting money on useless garbage. But it is interesting to compare the stuff some Christians would wear on their chests as opposed to their unbelieving neighbors.

I'll take goofy over mean any day.


7.08.2011

Skype Laughter Chain

I love to hear people laugh. Odd, you say, for such a cantankerous old fart? I cannot disagree, though I may not be as grumpy as all that. This video is the funniest thing, I do believe, that I've ever seen in the 49 years I've been roaming this planet. It's the only one of it's kind, although there are some videos of people cracking up watching THIS video...it's just not the same. This one shows how laughter is contagious by a continuous chain of people laughing at the video of the person you've just seen (and that person only, so it's not a cumulative effect. I could watch many, many of these and not be bored. On the contrary, I would look forward to the next because the only sound more awesome than an orgasmic moan is a belly laugh. And that's a fact.

7.06.2011

...and for crying out loud, LISTEN TO THE PODCAST! I would say that I put a lot of work into it, and I guess it did require a lot of time and effort...but I enjoyed every minute. It's a chance for you to hear some music you likely have not heard presented in a format that is unique and original, if I may say so myself.