“When we blame, we give away our power.”
-Greg Anderson

I like this quote about blame because it really captures the essence of how I feel about the subject. I believe that so much of what is wrong in the world right now has to do with blame. I think one of the issues that keeps racism alive is that it is a lot easier to point the fingers at others for our problems instead of being personally accountable for them.
As a controlling person I have a hard time dealing with a lot of situations. Throughout the years I have gotten a lot better at dealing with things but it has taken a lot of effort. The serenity prayer helps, but at times it is hard to apply. I take it a step further and think about reaction. How I let myself react to a situation will always affect the outcome of the situation at an internal emotional level.

We cannot control others actions, feelings or thoughts. The more we try, the worse our interpersonal relationships become. It gets even trickier when we fool ourselves into thinking that we can actually predict other people’s behavior. While we might think we know someone really good, we are not inside them and we cannot predict how a person is always going to think or act. Even if we can we should not, I think this is one of the things that stops change from going forward. People go back to their old ways because there is always that expectation of how they have always acted. Predisposition is powerful enough to make situation go in a direction it should.

Racism is fueled in part by prejudice; it is not always fueled by pure ignorance. It is a learned behavior that comes from those close to us. It comes from our environment and society overall. I have had the opportunity to grow up in a country where racism exists but it is a different kind of racism. I know that racism is a learned behavior because I have seen many different faces of it. While there is something to say about fear of those things we are not familiar with and instinct, diversity it is not necessarily the solution to racism. I never felt discriminated against race wise while I lived in Colombia, but I have felt it many times since I lived in the U.S.

Are people less racist in Colombia? Not necessarily, but the behaviors learned over there a lot different than they are in the U.S. One of the most comical difference between the two countries comes from a simple saying. “I worked like a black man” in Colombia, means you had to work really hard that day. The same sentence in the U.S. would instantly be considered racist and would not be understood.

Chicago and Midland are far apart in the racist level. Believe it or not I have felt less discriminated in a small town in America than in the big city. I have also felt a lot of racism from my own race. Dating outside my race has always been an issue for people in my own race. Racism is one of societies sickness and unless we all acknowledge it, it is never going to get better. At the same time we have to be very careful diagnosing it, because I believe there are plenty of hypochondria running out there calling racism things that are not.

“Pulling the race card” has become a cliché. It is sad that it minimizes real struggle because it makes a blanket statement of something that is a real problem and puts it right next to fear. Fear fuels a lot of the perception of racism. When you feel discriminated against you are guessing what someone else is thinking about you, and while most of the time you might be right, statistically you cannot be always right. Not every single person of a different race is going to hate you because of the color of your skin. When you constantly feel prosecuted, you develop a kind of social paranoia that makes you even more racist in my opinion than anyone around you.

I believe that oppression does exist, but the only people that can do anything to change it are the oppressed ones. They need to break the chains that bind them and I believe one of them is blame. When you blame others for your problems you are empowering them to continue their behavior. You are the only capable of changing the situation. You have control over how you look at every situation. You are the one to blame.

I know Kung Fu

That is my favorite line from the Matrix. While learning Kung Fu seems to be just a little bit harder in real life than just plugging into a computer, it is a nice dream to be able to inject knowledge into your brain. The real world is a little different, your muscles tend to burn after a good work out… sometimes during. It has been 2 days since my first Kung Fu lesson and I am still having some trouble moving.

I am out of shape. Even when I have been in better shape I have always been on the heavy side. While I don’t use the “I am big boned” excuse, saying that or even hearing it always makes me think of Dennis Leary’s joke “Dinosaurs were big boned,” I do think that my genetic make up predisposes me to be on the heavy side. Heck, I drink water and get fat. Even if I was in better shape I think this first work out would have still kicked my butt.

Since I moved to Midland I have been looking for a Martial Arts school. I have even written about my strategy and quest. Staying true to what I said, I did not just find the right school, I found the right teacher. I do admit that the prospect of starting all over at other Tae Kwon Do schools was not very appealing either. Out of the Martial Arts I have practiced, Tae Kwon Do was the one I practiced the longest. While my goal was to become a good martial artist and not to get a black belt, the prospect of having to pay for all of the belts I had “earned” all over was not really all that appealing to my budget.

Sifu (Master) already taught me something very important. It is not about how many forms you know, it is not about what belts you have, it is not about how flashy your martial arts are. All of those things are trying to impress other people. The true quest is to impress you. If your Kung Fu is great, you are a duck and not a chicken. Sorry, inside joke.

Since my first conversation with Sifu Chung, I knew I was talking with someone I would greatly respect. One of the most important things for me is to feel like the Sifu is accepting me as a student rather than my money. He told me in our first conversation that he was not a car salesman, he told me the price for the classes and what I would get from them. He was so wise in that comparison, because it is a perfect description of the feeling I had gotten when I had been “shopping around” at others schools.

Car shopping had always been a super stressful experience and it is still something I do not enjoy. There had always been that sales aspect of the transaction where things were a little murky and numbers flew around like daggers. Just like buying the car from our friend Dave, talking to Sifu was not stressful at all. Everything was very clear and on the table. There was no, here is all we offer and then… are you willing to pay this much for it. While you can consider both of them as different sales approaches, I like the up front one a lot better.

I got to try a class for free, no commitment beyond signing the waiver that is required for insurance purposes. From the first moment I stepped into the school I knew I was in a special place. I met Sifu’s son first, he invited me to look around and told me to wait there. He was going to teach class at another school, so he pretty much opened up the school and went on. One by one the other students started showing up and none of them made me feel like I was being judged. Going to a new school can be difficult if the other students are dismissive of you, or if they are arrogant about their level of training. I thankfully felt none of that. Everyone greeted me at different times during my stay at the school and made me feel like I was an old friend. It never felt like people trying to make small talk.

The class was relaxed, friendly and very focused. It was surprising to me because I was not given a series of rules when I walked into the training area like I had in the past with most other arts. Most rules in other schools had been followed but they did not help the class understand the respect they were trying to convey or the focus they were supposed to encourage. Sifu has a wealth of knowledge and he is very willing to share it. He had no problem involving the whole class in an explanation of a single movement in a form. He explained why it was done, its application and purpose to great detail. He was also very humble about his knowledge and explained everything with humor.

I was not able to even finish the warm up. The movements in Kung Fu are completely different than those in Tae Kwon Do. While Hapkido does have some similarity in movement, the stances seem to be a lot wider and my legs do not have the strength to support my upper body for extended periods of time just yet. Also my hips are not doing what they are supposed to, but I think with time and practice they will. I learned the first part of the very first form, it will take me some time to master it but I want to do it really bad. The other excellent part about the school is that you are taught the application of the form along with the form. It really introduces the self-defense aspect of kung fu without breaking the flow. While the art centers on the form, it is like sun and other aspect of martial arts are the planets in a very cohesive solar system.

I miss my old teacher, he is my friend and I have decided that if I ever want to get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do I want to get it from him. In the mean time, I am excited to say that Chung’s School of Praying Mantis is going to be my new Martial arts school. I am also very excited to say that I have found a new teacher, Sifu Henry Chung, son of Grandmaster Chung Ho Yin, which in the end is the most important thing. Neo might be able to learn Kung Fu in seconds, but you know, I truly believe that success is not about the goal; it’s all about the journey.

Am I watching a movie or a commercial?

When I watch a movie I do not expect to be bombarded by product placement. It is bad enough that watching the super bowl has turned into a lets watch the super bowl commercial affair. The game could completely be mediocre but we watch just to see what Budweiser uses for frogs this year.

Man has Nick Cage done a 180 on my book. He used to be an actor that I though was excellent, Raising Arizona, Face Off, even Gone in 60 seconds. Now he just seems to want to be the center of the movie that is narrated by him, with only the product that he is pedaling to compete for camera time. It was an all out assault on my wallet to watch weatherman. It seemed like the guy selling the product placement during the movie had a fast food addiction. I think every single place for fast food was represented either as being eaten or thrown at Cage.

The movie also seems to be getting paid to drop the F bomb. Almost every single character in the movie uses it like it was part of their contract.

That was not the sad part about the movie. One of the characters was reduced to being a smoking kid that is called camel toe… and while the kid seems oblivious to what the insult means, the movie does a very graphic job at explaining to us what camel toe is. Keep your kids away for sure. While the movie does do a couple of PSA with don’t let your kid smoke, and don’t let the guidance counselor fondle your teenager, I recommend you stay away from this movie. It will for sure make you want to throw some junk food at the screen.

Friday Feast Feb 24

Second time doing the Friday meme! :) Here is the Friday Feast!

Choose one: moving to another state, having triplets, or never being able to eat chocolate again.

This one is easy since I really don’t like chocolate.

Name a news story that truly shocked you.

Jurassic Beaver

What was your very first job?

Game attendant at a video game rental store. You could actually rent a Nintendo by the hour back then…

Main Course
If you had the chance to read the diary of someone you’re really close to, would you? Why or why not?

Without them knowing, no. I have in the past run into information about me that was not meant for me and it was not a good feeling.

What’s something you’re looking forward to?

Lunch and getting some errands taken care off.

You think your job sucks?

Do you like to work outdoors?  Do you like to enjoy nature and its beauty?  Does your health permit you to sit in below freezing weather?  Are you prone to frostbite?

I want to know how they get people to hold a sign for hours in freezing weather.

Recently a couple of stores are going out of business around my area.  They are closing the ToysRUs in Midland and the Kmart in Saginaw.  Both places have hired people to hold signs announcing their closing and the current discounts.  As they get closer to finally selling everything they give bigger discounts.  I am very uncomfortable with the idea of someone having to hold a sign for hours in the middle of winter, but from the marketing stand point it seems that we all look at the signs just because there is someone actually holding them up.  They could just stick the signs in the ground and I am sure many people would just ignore them… but it seems that seeing another human in a precarious situation grabs our attention.

If you have never had to stand in a place for a long period of time you have no idea how difficult this can be.  During college I worked at a movie theater.  One day I was assigned to “rip tickets.”  I worked at a very busy movie theater with 24 houses (screens).  I had to stand there for over 4 hours straight without a break.  My calves were burning so bad during the last hour that just shifting my weight from leg to leg was doing nothing to alleviate the pain.  This was inside of a climate-controlled place; I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to stand for extended periods of time holding a sign in the middle of winter.

I am sure that the people doing this are not getting paid more than minimum wage.  I also know that they are probably glad to have a job.  It still bothers me that I feel the attention we pay to the signs has a little bit of cruelty mixed into it.  Should we still patronize the businesses that make people perform this almost inhumane task?