Monday, September 28, 2009

Race for the Cure - San Francisco

I’ll take a cue from my blogging-friend Whole Wheat Toast’s The Toasted Blog and create a photo-oriented blog post. Letting the pictures tell the story, this will be an enjoyable blog post to compile.

Before the Race 

Team Convent/Stuart Hall

I wanted to be 1337










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Taking a Picture

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During the Race

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Race for the Cure 184

Race for the Cure 205

Race for the Cure 209  Crossing the Finish Line

After the Race

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Race for the Cure 234

Race for the Cure 229

This’ll be it for now. In the coming weeks, we’ll be revisiting a very old post from a year back. Look forward to that!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Sites 41

Sunday Sites 41 brings us these posts. SparkNotes seems to have a differing opinion on nerdiness than I had in a post from earlier this month. Tech Blogger, damn good one at that. I really can’t believe that I haven’t shared this link earlier. It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan. "There are very few people I would consider not only above anything I could put together, but above everyone else period. Whole Wheat Toast is grade A+ with a period at the end. You can look but you won't find someone more in tune to this city and what it really feels/looks like. Keep it going Whole Wheat. Fucking beautiful work." ~ Lets_dothat (A testimonial on Flickr)

I’ll have another special post up in a day or two. Look forward to that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Very Best of

A week or two ago, I included a site named in a Sunday Sites feature. A database of quotes gathered through IRC and other chat mediums, it is one of the funniest sites online. What you see here is a compilation of quotes that I have collected throughout my experience with
5f88d1f2d09ff1ca4383618 (Highly Recommended) (Highly Recommended) What does STFU mean? (highly, highly recommended) Oh, so that’s why we’re so lonely =D Quite possibly, the best conversation on the site Another reason why we’re so lonely =D Self owned? (highly, highly recommended)
(Special thanks to Sean Patrick for helping me collect these quotes)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Sites 40

Well, Sunday Sites has been going on for more than forty weeks. Here we go again! This will be a short one, with only three sites. But do expect something big and amazing to come out this week. Transcripts of Barack Obama’s speeches. I recently found out about Derek Sivers. His blog posts are incredibly short and meaningful. Highly recommended. Hack’d

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama’s Address, Slippery-Slopes and Scrutiny

President Barack Obama gathered a great amount of controversy in the week before he made his speech to American students. Conservative parents feared that the speech would be tantamount to indoctrination, forbidding their children to listen to it. Republican bloggers blasted the president, fearing that such a speech would be tantamount to mind-control. An outraged senator accused Obama of attempting to promote socialism. The speech itself had little controversial content, merely encouraging pupils to do well in school. So then, where did all this controversy come from?

The sad truth of the matter is that such fear is the result of a dangerous slippery-slope. Previous, Republican presidents have made the same speech to schools in the past. The fact that Obama is liberal, coupled with his recent healthcare bill, caused many conservative parents to misconstrue the announcement of the speech as an attempt at indoctrination. By blowing the speech out of proportion and context, they were responsible for creating their own hysteria.

Hysteria and its Effects

Previous Republican presidents have made similar addresses to American students, none of them have faced the same scrutiny that Obama was placed under. No complaints were made when Reagan spoke to students in 1988. No demands of censorship were made when George W. Bush read to students in 2001. Yet, Obama's association with liberal values garnered him a false reputation for indoctrination. Thus, Americans panicked, vehemently demanding censorship out of fear and close-mindedness.

However, the most disturbing part of this issue is that parents blatantly demanded that schools not broadcast the message. These demands are tantamount to censorship, and represent an attempt to suppress the intellectual freedom of students. By preventing students from accessing this knowledge, they are preventing them from being able to make their own, independent decisions. Thereby preventing children from developing individuality. While parents blast Obama for indoctrinating their children, they fail to see that their own indoctrination of their children is far more harmful than any presidential address conceived.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Sites 39: Nerds

Jumping off Wedsnesday’s post on the problem of nerd-bashing and its effects, I thought having a Sunday Sites devoted to that topic would be appropriate. Nerd Self-Tests for diagnosis are not a new thing. There are hundreds of them online, many of them give insight into the stereotype. My score is straight through the roof. Guide to Dating: Why Nerds Aren’t as Bad as they are Thought to Be. Shyness is usually associated with nerdity. Read on. A treasure trove of nerd humor and quotes. Why Nerds are Unpopular by Paul Graham The Urban Dictionary gives us some excellent information on the topic. A lengthy and excellent interview on nerds and the discrimination that they face. A book review discussing nerdiness. Philp Guo on Popularity and Nerdiness. One of my favorite bloggers.

That’s it for this week. Check out the Facebook page for My Back Pages if you want to start a discussion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nerds and Popularity: A Social Analysis

While I was in middle school, popularity was extremely divisive. The school lunch tables rarely interacted with each other, and when they did, it was seldom amicable. The problem of nerdiness plagued me for my years at primary school. The archetypical nerd is unsexy, interested in obscure topics and has few or no friends. Typically considered to be a problem, the discrimination that they face is part of a larger problem of anti-intellectualism and social conformity. This blog post will 220px-Spock_vulcan-saluteanalyze the affects of nerd-stereotyping has on both nerds and non-nerds.

Yes, A Problem Exists
My greatest fear in writing this post is that my readers will dismiss the problem without thought. I find that such people have been sheltered and unexposed to the sad truth of this discrimination. They may simply write off their experiences with nerds and the teenage social structure as simple, light-hearted jokes, remaining completely ignorant of the far-reaching damage it has caused.

The putrid hatred that nerds face is a caustic acid that causes massive emotional and mental damage. In the worst cases, the misery is so great that they commit suicide. This hatred is supported not only by their peers, but school administrators, parents and popular culture.
On April 20, 1999, the Columbine Massacre occurred, bringing social outcasts and their behavior into public scrutiny. Harris and Klebold were both labeled as “nerds” for their anti-social behavior and their interests in obscure gothic culture. The massacre that they started brought nerds into scrutiny. That day started somewhat of a “witch-hunt”, fearing another shooting, administrators sought to eliminate nerds. By sending nerds to behavior modification specialists, they created a popular slippery-slope out of ignorance and misinformation. They created imaginary enemies.

WikipedianMarlith’s Theory
Middle school presents the most vicious social structure that children face during their educational career. Personal popularity is extremely divisive during that time. As a result, many children become willing to push their more helpless peers down the ladder through constant derision. Such slurs are repeated to the extent that they become misconstrued as truth.

In addition, the preteen years present to children a desire to mature as rapidly as possible. The aggressive children’s media supports this, by pushing forward their vision of “cool”, they only reaffirm the stereotype for them. The upcoming teenage years are what preteens look forward to and what they perceive to be “cool”. Hypersexualized gossip and machismo are often highlighted in tween media. People who lack interest in such topics are radically different from the crowd, and thus, are labeled as nerds and social outcasts by their preteen peers.

The tween years also present the greatest extent of social conformity. Conformity comes directly out of a fear of being ridiculed. A kid that is interested in Pokemon at twelve will be derided by their classmates. To avoid such derision, he would hide his interest in Pokemon to avoid being perceived as “nerdy”. By conforming to preteen social norms he oppresses himself.

The popular culture does nothing but ingrain this stereotype into our collective social consciousness. Villains in science-fiction media are DrWallaceBreenHL2typically depicted as nerds. Take for example, Wallace Breen from the video game Half-Life 2. Within the Half-Life universe, Breen is the director of the Black-Mesa Research Facility. Brutally intelligent, he negotiates an agreement with an invading extraterrestrial race to enslave humanity in exchange for power. Establishing a dictatorial government, Breen fits very much into the nerd stereotype. This only reinforces the misinformed belief that anti-social people threaten society.

Vicious Social Structures and the Media Problem
Developmental psychologist Gil Noam highlights some issues that characterize preteen development.
  • Self strongly defined by group.
  • Self defined through others’ eyes
  • Sense of belonging essential to well-being
  • Hypervigilance about being liked and accepted
These social worries take the prime position of importance in tween minds. As a result, marketing has been quick to take advantage of them. The anxiety over “belonging” is what powers the preteen media. Thus, we have gossip magazines pushing forward a preoccupation with identity.
As a result, nerds, who are not concerned with “belonging”, are left completely out of the social turbulence of that time. They stand aloof to the common interests of their peers, unknowingly adhering to unfashionable passions. Thus, they are mercilessly teased and must change their behavior or feign an interest to avoid such derision.

Video Games and Anime: Why Stuff that Excites Nerds Bores Everyone Else
When asked what nerds do for fun, most non-nerds would respond with video games and anime.
Video games have become mainstream now. While in the nineties, video games were niche, a small market was powered by smalltime hobbyists. Playing games was considered a nerdy activity back
Now, in the year 2009, the market is massive, powered by great corporations and powered by non-nerds. At this point, the fact that someone plays video games is not justification to classify that person as a nerd. The type of games that one plays governs the classification of people as nerds. Take a look at some big games from the last few years.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ~ Infinity Ward (2007)
  • World of Warcraft ~ Blizzard (2004)
  • Guitar Hero ~ Various (2009)
  • Chrono Trigger ~ Square Enix (1996)
  • Command and Conquer 3 ~ EA Los Angeles (2007)
  • Madden 10 ~ Electronic Arts (2009)
From the list provided, a great distinction can be seen in the types of games listed and the audience that they target.

Modern Warfare and Guitar Hero are both pick-up-and-play games. They are simple with little back story. With little to understand and simple, reflex based gameplay, such games are not complex. Thus, they are popularly perceived to be non-nerdy.

Take a look at games like World of Warcraft, Chrono Trigger and Command and Conquer and a clear distinction between the two camps appears. The latter games require a high-entry fee. Interest in them takes a long time to develop.

Command and Conquer requires the player to understand a complex backstory and universe, as well as memorize formations, unit types and resource types. World of Warcraft requires the player to understand a fantasy universe with conflicts between kingdoms and races, in addition to that, the player must master a complex battle-system and participate in an alternative economy. The sheer investment that these games require of their audience separates them from the likes of Modern Warfare and causes their fans to be perceived as nerds.

Intelligent, Yet Ugly and Awkward: The Unsexiness Stereotype and Why Lewis Skolnick Will Never Get Laid
Nerds are typically considered to be unattractive and awkward, knowing more obscure Metroid characters than they do girls. Once again, stereotyping rears its ugly head to portray such people as unsexy and creepy.
As I stated above, popularity is the most divisive factor for middle-school kids. At this time, social conformity and sexual flaunting begin to take place. Intelligence at this point is widely perceived to be unsexy, as the kids who were always “good at math” were usually the most aloof to the social structure. Being smart would only distance kids from their popular peers. Abnormality is shunned during this period, and thus, intelligence is perceived to be unsexy.

The fact that intelligence pleases adults is a contributing factor to the unsexiness stereotype. Kids who get good grades are usually perceived to be “suck-ups” who exist to please teachers. Their peers eventually fall upon a slippery-slope. They conclude that nerds are far more likely to snitch on their peers as well as suppress sexual contact in order to gain adult approval. Thus, the closeness that nerds have with adults causes them to be perceived as unsexy.

Status Anxiety
Kids who are weird or unpopular or nerdy get treated with contempt and feel less confident; therefore they seem less appealing, at least while everyone is under the spell that lasts until later in high school. Then most kids wake up and realize that variety is the spice of life, and nerd/geek persecution abates dramatically ~ David Anderegg

If nerds are the archetypical model of the unpopular, anti-social kids, than the exact opposite of them will be popular, highly social kids. Popularity is important to preteens, and thus, nerd-persecutors oftewhite-nerdyn seek to push nerds down the social ladder. Status anxiety is fueled by insecurity, fear of ridicule. Nerds are self-unconscious, making them an easy target for their persecutors.

The kids who are hurt most by stereotyping are the ones who suppress their own interests to fit in. Nerd-bashing does nothing but promote anti-intellectualism and cause pain to its victims. Preteen social-conformity is on the rise because of stereotyping, causing self-destructive behavior on the parts of both nerds and non-nerds.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Sites 38

Hey. I have a special blog post coming out on Wednesday, the ninth of September. Look forward to it. A Boy’s Horror on his First Solo  Muni Ride An intensely controversial topic, Obama goes to schools to seek supporters. Is this moral? How is this any more indoctrinating than what kids learn in schools now? Freedom of expression? What do you think? Analysis of the aforementioned speech.

Also, if you haven’t already, feel free to add yourself as a fan of My Back Pages on Facebook:

That’s it for this week. See you Wednesday.