Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A little bit about myself

Many years ago, I created a page on my web site that provided some details about me in a question-and-answer format. I figure it's time to update my faux interview with myself:

Interviewer - Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Me - My name is Ray, I live in the South Park neighborhood of San Diego, California. Professionally, I work for Cutek (pronounced q-tek) and my job is to provide consulting and custom programming services for credit unions that run on the Symitar Episys platform. (It's a bit of a niche market -- I used to work for Symitar in their product development department, so I know their Episys software inside and out.) Personally, I'm married to Kara and we have two black lab mixes named Buster and Gracie.

Also, I was born and spent the first seven or eight years of my life in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. My family moved to San Diego in 1974 and I lived in El Cajon, California from late-1974, early-1975 until I graduated from El Cajon Valley High School in 1985. I then spent a semester and a half in Los Angeles attending the University of Southern California until I ran out of money, had to drop out, and moved back to El Cajon in 1986. Around 1989, I moved to the city of San Diego and I bounced around neighborhoods of San Diego until I met Kara and moved in with her in 1999. Oh, and I was married to someone else in the mid-90s, but I won't talk about that here.

Interviewer - What do you look like?

Me - There are tons of pictures of me in my Flickr photo stream. I'm the one with the ever-changing facial hair. If you want to know what I used to look like, I have some older pictures on my old web site.

Note: For the next few questions, I play the Interviewer role as an adversary and ask the same types of questions that I often hear from god-believers.

Interviewer - I've heard that you call yourself an atheist. What is an atheist, anyway?

Me - My answer is still the same as it was several years ago. I like to break the word into it's 2 root parts, "a"meaning without, and "the(os)" meaning religion. Thus, an atheist is someone who is without religion, or more commonly, someone who is without a god. Some atheists may have a slightly differentdefinition, but this is mine. Also, I'm not an agnostic - to me, agnostics are people who can't make up their minds.

Interviewer - Why are you an atheist?

Me - Just like everybody else in the world, I was born an atheist. My parents tried to raise me as a Catholic (I went through all the major milestones: I was baptized, received communion and, finally, confirmation), but I always spent more time admiring the stained glass windows, architecture, and decorations of the church than listening to the mass. When we stopped going to Catholic church (except for major holidays), my mom tried to infuse me with religion by sending me to various other-than-Catholic-denomination Sunday schools and bible camps (actually, I think she just wanted us out of the house), but I never really paid any attention to the indoctrination attempts. Finally, one day when I was thirteen, I was walking home from school talking to "god" in my head when the realization popped into my head that I was really just talking to myself. I've been an atheist since that day and I've never looked back. It did take a few years, though, before I "came out" as an atheist to my family.

Interviewer - Why don't you believe in God?

Me - First, before I explain this, let me clarify something. I always spell god in lowercase (unless I am playing the questioner or if sentence rules dictate it.) This is because I consider god to be a pronoun, not a proper name. I do not believe in any god because, I believe that gods are myths, I don't need gods to make my life "complete", and the whole concept of god makes no sense to me. I am a logicial, sensible person - I realize that there are things that are not easily explained by science (yet), but it takes an unreasonable leap of faith to assume that a god is behind it. Gods do not fit into my equations.

Interviewer - Aren't you worried about getting into heaven?

- I don't believe in Heaven or Hell, or Satan, or angels, or any other religious trappings (although, I do rather enjoy demon and devil artwork).

- Then, what do you think happens when you die?

- Nothing. When I die, I'll be dead. There is no afterlife, my "soul" will not leave my body, and I will cease to exist. (poof)

Interviewer - How can you go on living?

- Easy, I want to. I have no desire to die because I know that once I die, it's over baby. I like my existence and I want to live forever. I realize that this is highly unlikely, but,hey, I'm gonna try my hardest to live as long as I can and enjoy as much of it as I can.

- What does your family think?

- My mom and Chuck (her husband) are religious and they worry about me. My sister and her family are deeply involved in their church and I believe they worry about me as well. They probably do a lot of praying for me. My dad's not so religious and I don't think he worries about it much, of if he does, he doesn't let on in any way.

It's nice to know that my family cares about me, but I don't really care whether they pray for me or not. I mean, if it gives them comfort to do this, more power to them. I just think of it as a waste of time.

- Is the fact that you are an atheist the most important thing to you?

- Absolutely Not! The fact that I am an atheist may influence my views on many issues, but it is not all that I am. I am a complex, thoughtful, caring person - who happens to be an atheist. While this is important to me, I am much more than just an atheist. My life does not revolve around me being an atheist, my job has nothing to do with me being an atheist, and the little pleasures that I enjoy have very little to do with being an atheist. Everything about me has everything to do with me being me.

Interviewer - What else can you tell me about yourself?

- That's what my blog is for and if you read my posts, you'll probably get a good feel for who I am. If I had to apply labels to myself, they would include (in alphabetical order): amateur photographer, atheist, independent thinker, intelligent, liberal, likes dogs, loves his wife, married, politically aware, progressive, stirrer-upper and locally involved person.

Suffer The Innocents - Oh, really?

I pick up a copy of San Diego CityBEAT every week (religiously, you could say) and I usually agree or sympathize with the opinions of the editor. Not this week.

Apparently, the regular editor was on vacation so they had a guest "opinion" from Carl Luna today. His editorial, Suffer the innocents: The Diocese's other victims, concerns the liabilities stemming from 150 lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, their filing for bankruptcy protection, and his feeling that his (Mr. Luna's) rights and interests should be taken into consideration by the court:
"But it is my hope that, in achieving justice, the rights and interests of the hundreds of thousands of people who make up this diocese will also be taken into consideration."
Go and read the editorial and then read my letter to the editor:

"WTF? As you've testified in your editorial, you've spent thousands of dollars and hours over the last 18 years building your diocese and now that that same diocese has been found to be harboring and supporting the crimes of its priests, you don't think your diocese should be held responsible for compensating the victims? And your reason for thinking that your diocese should not be responsible is because you are innocent? Are you insane? You and the "hundreds of thousands of people who make up this diocese" are directly responsible for this mess. You funded it, you supported it and you made it what it is today. If you hadn't had such blind "faith" in your leaders, you wouldn't be in this mess. Claiming innocence at this point is just plain selfish.

If you really feel that you are innocent and that you were tricked or misled by your leaders, then leave your diocese and sue the Catholic church to get your money back. Otherwise, quit complaining and own up to your own responsibility for this mess."
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Movie Catch-up

Kara and I caught two movies at the local all-digital projection cinema this weekend so I thought I would post my thoughts on the movies we've seen in the last year.

First up is the most recent movie, the one we saw this afternoon: Knocked Up. We had both been looking forward to seeing this and it did not disappoint. It was great to see some of the freaks and geeks back together again and Judd Apatow is really good at writing dialog and scenes that look and sound like people we know. I got the feeling, though, that many in the audience didn't quite get "it" with a few of the scenes that Kara and I were loudly laughing about. Maybe it's generational or maybe we're just more in tune with the movie-fan subculture.

Spoiler Alert: The following may contain spoilers, especially if you haven't seen Little Children - read at your own risk

Yesterday, we saw Pirates 3. I liked the first pirates OK but Kara really liked it. The second one... we both thought it sucked. The 3rd one was much better than the 2nd, but that's faint praise. I didn't remember any of the plot from the 2nd installment so I was completely lost for the first hour of this one. The battle scenes (which, is really 90% of the movie) had no excitement to them. The only truly interesting thing in the movie were the scenes with multiple Johnny Depp and even those scenes got tired after a few times. If you haven't seen the second movie, don't bother with the third. Just wait until next year when they show it non-stop on HBO.

Between the two big-screen flicks this weekend, we watched Little Children on DVD. It was an interesting movie, worth the rental, but I don't quite get all the critical acclaim heaped on it. Jackie Earle Haley was great, but I think he got nominated for best supporting actor half because he did a great acting job in both this and All the King's Men and half because his character castrated himself with a butcher knife (see Mel Gibson's career for reference).

On a side note, I remembered Jackie Earle Haley as a child young adult actor in the great coming-of-age movie from 1979, Breaking Away. If you haven't seen Breaking Away, go out and rent it.

Getting back to movies we've seen (past tense), Spider-Man 3 was wonderful. Sure, it's not as good as the second one, but few movies are that good. It's still Sam Raimi, it's still Bruce, and it's still Spider-Man. After the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man was my favorite comic book character growing up and I always loved the marvel team-ups where there were multiple heroes and multiple villains. If I had one complaint, it was that the movie wasn't long enough; there was so many characters and plot points and it would definitely benefit from a LOTR-style extended version (just like the first two LOTR, though not the third which was already too long).

Going back a few more weeks, I thought Grindhouse was greatly entertaining (more so for RR's Planet Terror than QT's Death Proof), Blades of Glory was, well, another fun if mindless Will Ferrell film and 300 was very good. Speaking of 300, I borrowed the Troy DVD many moons ago from my friend Jim and finally got around to watching it just this past week; it was OK, but 300 was so much better that I think I liked Troy less for having seen 300 first.

Taking a half-step backwards, I wanted to see Stranger Than Fiction last year when it was in theatres but we never got around to it until it came out on DVD. If I had seen it last year, it would have been one of my favorite films of last year. All I can say now is that it was excellent and I highly recommend it. Also, in that same half-step but a little to the side, I miss GOB and Arrested Development. Arrested Development was one of the great TV series and it's just too bad that it couldn't find an audience. Oh, and if you haven't figured out the half-step, it's the two Wills: Will Arnett and Will Ferrell.

Getting back to the movie theatre crawl, Hot Fuzz was OK (Shaun of the Dead was soo much better), Zodiac was excellent, as was Breach. Pan's Labyrinth was also excellent.

If I include DVD watching, Blood Diamonds was excellent while Music and Lyrics By was barely tolerable (we were looking for something light and Drew Barrymore usually delivers - not so much for this one though). Also, we didn't see Cars until this year on DVD and it's the first Pixar film that was not only not excellent, it pretty much just plain sucked. But, after seeing Cars and thinking about just how sad a commentary it is to note that the United States has become a nation of NASCAR and wrestling-loving red-state-necks, made me appreciate just how close we've come to the society visualized by Mike Judge in his under-rated and underseen Idiocracy. (Kara and her mom hated Idiocracy, but I enjoyed it and it gave me my favorite catch-phrase of the year, "Ow, my balls!".)

Going back much farther and into last year, I liked Children of Men, although I thought the cinematography was just annoying and not visionary (as some critics labelled it). And in the battle of Victorian magicians, The Prestige was a much, much, much better movie than The Illusionist, although I will say that I did enjoy both movies. The Prestige would have been perfect except that I was sorely disappointed by the ending. Not enough to not recommend it highly and not enough to spoil it for you.

I could keep on going, but I think I'll stop now.