starving for substance

Hooray for Nihilism!

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on March 31, 2009

This is going to be a bunch of loosely connected paragraphs and assorted thoughts going through my head.

So today when I left my apartment I was kind of in a rush.  No time for socks, I had to go with the Crocs.  Despite their obvious ugliness, I have quite a fondness for my Crocs.  They’ve served me well over the past 2.5 years I’ve owned them and would say they’re worth the $30 I paid for them.  However, their “no-slip” bottoms have worn down to the point that when wet, walking on linoleum is like walking on ice.  After wiping out or nearly wiping out on three separate occasions today, I’ve decided that it is time to retire the Crocs.

I take a lot of pride in getting a lot of use out of the things I own.  My laptop is still going (though rarely used now) at 4 years, I had my phone for three before changing it for another plan, most of my clothes I wear now I’ve had since high school, the list goes on.  My pride comes from the fact that I try and maximize the value out of everything I have so I can look down on others for their frivolity (once, I thought a restaurant ripped me off so I ate all the condiments they left on the table).  This attitude comes from never being able to afford what the cool kids had in school, so I started taking the high road by telling myself I was better than the cool kids for not having what they did.  Then I realized none of that mattered anyways but the habits still stuck.

I’ve realized lately how much stuff I have.  Most of the hoodies in my closet could be replaced with a decent spring jacket.  I have so many shirts I don’t wear because I do the laundry every 2 weeks and have more than 14 shirts.  There’s so much excess in my life, and even though I spent one month in Mexico with relatively little, it’s so easy to get trapped once again into the consumer culture of America.  Where my pair of Crocs are a “good investment” instead of a “luxury I never needed in the first place.”  In the grand scheme of life, it’s not going to matter that I kept those Crocs for 2.5 years, it’s not going to matter that those $30 2.5 years ago could be better spent (anyone up for a time-value of money problem?).

One of the classes I’m taking right now is a creative writing class, and it’s one of the funnest classes I’ve taken in undergrad.  However, reading through the stories of my classmates, it’s almost comical.  In order to properly portray the depth of their feelings and issues they present in their stories, they always have someone die.  I think there’s only been 2 stories submitted so far that have not included the death/suicide of one of the characters.  While some of the stories are good, most have good ideas but are poorly written.  Yet the gravity that the writer attaches to the story by including death pushes the boundaries of absurdity.

It was reading one of these stories in Espresso Royale where I thought back to Mexico, at an orphanage where I met a kid whose family died in a fire.  Contrasting real life and the contrived lives of the characters in the stories my classmates write was pretty depressing.  One nine-year old’s real life was worse than the fictional lives of a character the author designed to suffer.

While this thought was still on my mind, another person at a table nearby was explaining how difficult the material she was learning in her accounting class was.  This is why I started listening in on the topic, though I usually like eavesdropping on conversations anyways.  She was talking to a friend about different ways inventory can be recorded (LIFO and FIFO for all you readers with accy backgrounds), and blah blah blah.  This isn’t exactly high level stuff.  At the easiest, it’s just an understanding of the definition, and at the hardest application of the topic, she’s probably talking about cost accounting and again, it’s not rocket science.

It’s funny how our problems are only as serious as the weight we attach to them.  Someone complaining about the differences of the LIFO and FIFO method while another kid sat rather content knowing that there was a God who loved him despite his circumstances.  Who had more reasons to complain and who was the one complaining?  There’s me, slipping and sliding in an old pair of Crocs, completely missing the point that the cost of everything I’m wearing could probably feed a 3rd world kid for a year.

I’ve become so disgusted with the banality in American life while neglecting the fact that that’s all my life has become.  A collection of mundane problems that I exaggerate well out of proportion.  While I’m a firm believer in thinking that our problems are relative (I’ve never been a starving kid in Africa so why should this be something driving me to change?), there is a grain of truth in the fact.  That’s why this is one of my favorite Onion articles.

How many Christians don’t stop complaining about what’s going on in their lives or in their world?  I’m not saying that life isn’t difficult, I’m saying that if we really are Christians, and our life has been changed by the Gospel of Jesus, then why do we continually complain about how boring class is, how hard the CPA exam is going to be, how much it sucks that a pair of Crocs have worn out?  If the greatest problem in our life is sin, then why are not continually thankful that this problem is gone?  Instead, why do we look for other problems to attach weight to, to be so self-aggrandizing in making our lives look like they’re more important than they are?

I know we know the answers, but there’s a difference between knowing the answers and living them out.  To paraphrase a John Piper quote, the reason why no one asks about the hope that is in us is because we look like we’re living for the things of this world.  And how do we look like we’re living for the things of this world?  By acting like your entire life is dependent on whether or not we pass a test.  Or look a certain way.  Or whatever b.s. reason that’s out there.

And I think as I look at this blog, that’s all I do.  Instead of joy, I look at the things I don’t like in my life and blow them out of proportion.  This has only become a platform for complaining with a “holy” sounding slant, that if I redeem a post at the end, it justifies whatever else I said in it.  Essentially, I’m writing to the world like I’m some super important person, and that it’s such a privilege that you all get to be privy to my thoughts and emotions.  For the 3 of you that actually read this, and if you’ve been following along, this blog was supposed to be about poop.  Well that’s failed because I like talking about me.  So a change in direction is coming.

Thanks for reading (if you did).

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I Don’t Like Basketball But…

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on March 26, 2009

…I will buy a pair of Gilbert Arenas’ shoes.

Why you may ask?

I actually really admire the guy a lot.  In terms of talent, he’s probably average for the NBA, but he works his butt off.  He sleeps at the arena so he can practice more, he makes audacious promises that he sometimes keeps, he just practices practices and practices.  For that, I admire him.  But then he has probably one of the zanier personalities, he isn’t afraid to run his mouth, and besides Jason Statham, is one of the few male celebrities I have a man-crush on.

He’s pretty much the coolest mainstream athlete in the world today.  I will post some links to prove my point.

He makes bets with fans, and gets their email addresses so he can pay them.

His wikipedia entry talks enough about how awesome he is.

Here is a nice amalgamation of awesome trivia facts.

His blog won an award for best celebrity blogger in 2007.

He intentionally got arrested so he could stand up for a teammate…and said he couldn’t get arrested because he’s a basketball player.

Honestly though.  I really don’t like the game of basketball.  Usually the only reason why I play it is so I can get to know other people or it’s a nice cardio workout.  Sure I’d like to be good at it and I really wish I could dunk, but I don’t find it to be the most exciting game, and I don’t find it particularly fun to play.  It’s more fun to make fun of people and play dirty than to play the game “right.”

That being said, I really wish I could dunk and I really want to own a pair of Gilbert Arenas’ shoes.

Donations are appreciated as I’m really poor.

Rebuilding

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on March 26, 2009

My parents thought it would be a good idea to remodel.  They were supposed to be done by the end of last week, but when I got home, the whole bottom floor and basement of our house was gutted.  The rooms that weren’t completely gutted are packed with the stuff in the rooms that were gutted.  That being said, the kitchen is almost done and it looks sweet.

Through this process, I’ve learned a few things.

1)  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. My dad’s current profession is turning apartment complexes into condos and selling them.  The stigma with real estate used to be wealth.  A few years ago, saying “Oh, my dad is in real estate” made me look like someone who grew up in a country club.  Now when I say “my dad is in real estate,” people give me pitying looks and point me to the nearest thrift store.  Oddly enough, we’ve never been rich, having missed the booming market and now suffering through a pits of this one.  However, because of what my dad does, he’s built up some relationships with suppliers and contractors.  So when it came time to remodel our house, he was able to purchase all appliances, cabinets, flooring, and whatever else at cost.  All he does is pay his contractors for labor, and they install everything.  How much money does this save?  I don’t feel comfortable saying the exact figure online, but it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars.  From talking to him, I got the impression that if you buy a nice house, the guy who built it has a margin probably close to $100k.  So in knowing the right people, he’s basically tacked on a butt-ton of money to the equity of our house, at no cost to him.  I’m still in a state of awe at the amount of money we’ve saved, and even more in awe of the amount of money people are willing to pay.

2)  Know How to Use Your Credit Cards.  Credit cards can be great if you’re smart about them.  If you’re a student, build your credit by making small purchases and paying your bills on time.  By the time you graduate, you should have built a nice credit history and can reap the benefits.  Don’t screw up though because the dangers are extremely real.  If you’re working and your company reimburses you for purchases, even better.  Put them on a rewards card and get what are essentially free points.  What is this good for?  Over winter break, a 50″ plasma TV was sitting in our family room that my dad had basically gotten for free.  The principle is risk management, not avoidance.

3)  Hotels Are Great.  One of the things I have to do over break is write a paper.  My room has no free workspace where I can spread some books out and sit comfortably for a few hours.  My town is backwards enough to consider 9pm late, so when the library or coffeeshop closes, I have nowhere to work.  Inspired by a trip to New York, I scouted out some hotels in the area (for some reason, there are 4-5 within a 10 minute radius of me), and found one with a nice place to work.  The benefits?  Ample workspace, plenty of light, nice bathrooms, and it never closes.  Driving back home, I had another thought.  I could probably meet people for breakfast there, and it’d be free.  Or, at Champaign, my small group could go to one of the local hotels for breakfast after lockin.  Just a thought…

4)  I wouldn’t mind working in construction.  I’m all about the satisfaction from completing a project, and when I’m physically invested in something, it seems that much sweeter.  Of course the fact that I went to college and not trade school puts me at odds with everyone else in the biz, but it still looks like a fun job.

5)  Why are Korean/Asian Males wimps? I don’t know if this is a thought or just a truthful observation, but why are all Korean males so prissy?  They do their hair, they dress all nice, it’s really disheartening to see.  What’s even worse are those Korean/Asian thugs.  Nowadays at UofI, these are the ones that wear their baggy Asian frat shirts with numbers on the back, absurd nicknames, and gaudy Greek letters across the front.  Nothing stinks more of insecurity/hilarity than that.  I honestly have problems taking Asian people in Asian frats seriously after seeing them decked out in that garb.  Why do we have to so fiercely identify with our ethnicity?  Is that the only thing we can find security in?

By the way, I guess I’m back to blogging.  I’m sure all my loyal fans are thrilled, though apparently all my hits are coming from people looking for foam blocks they can fill foam pits with.  Sorry to those of you from google search, but no foam pits here.