How BJJ is changing me

I took BJJ about four years ago for the first time in an academy in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, off a recommendation from a friend. I enjoyed it quite a lot and did it for a few months until my job piled me up with a bunch of overtime. I didn’t much complain at the time because I was making a whole lot of money. Recently I took up the sport again, this time at a new Academy. I decided to pick it up again after reading a book titled “Lost Connection” by Johann Hari. One of the book’s highlights was how many people go through depression because they don’t feel any real sense of community, and from listening to a few self-help podcasts I learned that taking up martial arts is not only a great(and fun) way of staying in shape, but that you can also find a sense of community. So I began my search for an academy that was a reasonable distance from my house as well as had a schedule that accommodated mines(I tend to work in the evenings so I needed something with morning classes) and I found a place that worked in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. After taking a trial class, I found the instructor referred to as the professor to be friendly( in my earlier experiences in martial arts classes that hasn’t always been the case). After the class, I decided to sign up.

At first, I was going fairly regularly about three times a week but then I fell into a bit of a rote(or depression) and stopped attending classes and just took up drinking in the morning. I’m a borderline alcoholic, and one of my motivations for taking up martial arts was to have something else to do in the morning besides drinking. As I stopped frequenting the classes the Professor(as everyone calls the instructor) would begin sending me text messages and calling asking me if everything was ok, I found this very thoughtful (especially since I already signed a one-year commitment) most places would just bill you monthly without thinking too much about whether you came or not. So told him I felt a bit depressed and that was the reason I wasn’t attending.

I went back to my morning routine of drinking just before I go to work. I’m not going to sit here and codon drinking before my shift starts but it was something I did for a long time. But one day it was different as I came into work somebody from the main office decided to come on shift and have a conversation with me (for the sake of discrepancy I’m not going to reveal what line of work I was in) after a brief conversation with the said person I was called downstairs to speak with my supervisor. I would find out from my Supervisor that the person who had a conversation with me reported to the higher-ups that I was intoxicated and I had to go home. I learned the following day I was suspended until further notice.

I wasn’t at all to bothered by this, I figured I would just go and collect unemployment(like the previous times I’ve been suspended) and I would use this free time to work on myself and do things I wanted to do but never had the free time for. This didn’t exactly go as planned at first, instead of doing anything productive I went into the bad habit of just drinking all day. All this while the professor would call me from time to time to check on me(since I wasn’t attending class anymore).

Finally one day after laying in my bed all day just watching movies, I decided that I was dipping into a very unhealthy situation and decided that I had to leave my room. So I took a shower, got dressed, and went to a BJJ class. At first, that class was especially hard since I took a bit of a hiatus and all I was doing was drinking all day but bared through it. After going consistently for the next couple of days my whole outlook began to change, I felt less angry and depressed, two moods that led me to drink. I stopped drinking altogether. Practicing Bjj has made me feel less like a loser, that even though I’m not working, I’m still accomplishing something. This new resurgence in myself from BJJ spilled over to other parts of life, as mentioned I stopped drinking I even got motivated to look for another job, in fact, I had two job offers that paid better than my previous gig.

I’m still new at the sport, but for anyone who feels a bit down his luck, why not give BJJ a try, it might change you or at least you’ll learn how to kick ass!

Mindful Tidbit 1

Once when I was young, maybe about 17, I was taking a nightly walk when I saw a dog barking at me. I started messing with the dog when I heard a loud firm voice yell out to leave that dog alone. I was a bit intimidated. I was a timid youth, so I walked away automatically. I recall this memory from time to time. A bit of youthful indiscretion and timidness hunts me a bit.

Why have sex

Why do we have sex? Why do human beings put so much effort into having it? The basic answer would be because it feels pleasurable. Yes that is true sex can be quite a pleasurable sensation, but there are many pleasurable things like eating a piece of chocolate or getting a nice soothing massage, but yet we don’t put anywhere near the amount of time and effort to do these things as put towards having sex. Another answer is for the purpose of reproduction, but with the plethora of birth control oppositions (birth control pills, condoms, etc) is that really a viable reason why most people have for having sex particularly in the western world.

What is the purpose of sex, easy enough to answer it is the mechanism that organisms use to propagate its genes into the next generation(well at least half) and why do organisms( multi-cellular organisms such mammals, fish, and birds) use this method? Well, some have theorized that it helps bolster their progenies immune system by having shared its genetic information from two genetically distinct parents. Currents theories place the emergence of sex around five hundred millions years ago.

All life purpose on this planet earth is to reproduce( as nihilistic as that sounds) and it is no different for humans. Our urge to have sex is a by-product of ions of evolutionary history. Our ability to discriminate between sexual partners under the guise of physical attraction is also a by-product of our evolutionary history. People who are physically attractive are supposed to have a good immune system so the theory goes.

And what about the differences between the sexes when it comes towards their attitudes about. Anyone who has dealings with both men and women would discover their attitudes towards sex are decisively different. While men are more prone to sexual escapades and seem to be less discriminatory when comes to who they have sex with. Women are generally more coy. This makes since when you realize the two sex don’t share the same burden when it comes to sex, i.e women get pregnant and will take the brunt of the child rearing so it makes sense for them to be the more prejudicial who they copulate with. Men, on the other hand, are programmed to have sex with as many partners as possible(if they actually choose to do this, is their own choice of course). Need proof on how promiscuous men can be, gay men, are a perfect example their ability to have sometimes hundreds of sexual partners is because of course they are not inhibited by women’s natural coyness.

So back to my original argument on why have sex. To be more emotionally attach to somebody, reasonable argument, your brain those release certain chemical that almost make you more attach to the person you are having sex with(evidence suggest this is more true for women than it is for men), but a lot of people hookup all the time, sometimes even having one night stands. Can you really be emotionally attached to a person you are minimally familiar with, and what about the countless women who give up their bodies to alpha males(i.e athletes, rappers, politician, and other men of statues) can you really say these women love these men, perhaps on a very superficial level?

Humans potency to have sex is nothing more than just evolutionary mechanisms put in place to make sure we are acting on evolutionary obligations to propagate genes into the next generation.

My issue with homelessness

Living in New York City as the case of any major city throughout the world one of the many daily occurrences you encounter is that of homelessness. As I walk into the subway and sit down I expect some person claiming to be homeless and needing some help. I actually see the same person sometimes multiple times a week asking for money. I used to be pretty generous and give money to the homeless(especially if they had a visible handicap) but then one day I asked myself a question about why were there so many people who were homeless and what policy can be put into place to really address the problem.

First and foremost homelessness, particularly in NYC, gets over exaggerated. About less the one percent of New Yorkers are homeless. And to further break the number down most homeless people suffer from either substances abuse or mental illness which inhibits them from carrying out basic life necessities such holding a steady job or maintaining basic hygiene. If you want to alleviate homelessness more mental health hospitals and fewer shelters would prove much more effective. Now can we go around and put every homeless person who we suspect to be crazy and rush them to a mental institution no( at least not exactly) It would best be done through a system where a homeless person breaks a law such as public urination or vagrancy and having a psychiatrist do an evaluation to see if that person is susceptible to go into society and of course getting the person to consent to be institutionalized (unless the person is deemed a danger to himself or others and such consent wouldn’t be needed).

And second, the idea that I am going to give every homeless person who asks me for money throughout my day my hard earn cash to encourage them further to beg doesn’t help anybody. It came to me one day that many homeless people actually are already receiving government assistance through disability and SSI checks that they beg because they know they can get over on people. A typical New York City subway train contains ten cars. So if you were homeless and ambitious enough to beg for money on every subway car and get at least two people to give you a dollar you can earn twenty dollars per train. You hit five trains in a day you can make up to a hundred dollars a day just begging for money(untaxed mind you). So homelessness for some can be pretty lucrative.

If you don’t buy my point look at how the Japanese deal with their homeless issues. Which can best be explained by watching this video–oCVP18A. I myself had gotten a chance to visit Tokyo a few years back and was struck by how different homelessness was over there than it is here. First, no homeless person can ever be seen begging, Second I didn’t encounter any homeless person that reeked of foul odor as is the case In NYC(whole subway carts will be emptied just because passengers can’t take the smell of some the homeless person in it.). Third most homeless people live in these makeshift communities in the Tokyo subway systems.

I do believe that we should help people who are down on their luck for their sake and ours but I just think we’re going the wrong way about it. And that by having an honest and more open dialogue we’ll really help these down trodden individuals.

My thoughts before my birthday

Getting older can be seen as a dreadful experience. When we are young we feel as if things will get better as time passes but then comes that truth for most of us around our mid-twenties that this is not the case. Things only get worse, your body slowly deteriorates, you notice you are not quite as energetic as you once were. I can remember getting up in the morning and going to the park and playing basketball for the entire day. Now such thought I fine to be dreadful. I’m about to turn 28. Now to most that would seem to be a still relatively young age but to me, it’s the beginning of the spiral. The Sought of the optimism that I once had has begun fleeting. When I was younger I felt as if I had a plethora of opportunities in front of me to pursue but not anymore. Can I become doctor probably, if I wanted to start working at 40? Can I become a professional athlete no that ship had sailed after high school? Am I’m going to still be able to talk to young girls(young as in between 18 & 24) and they still find me attractive or am I going to be that old guy pushing too hard?

Now comes the question of whether or not I accomplish anything worthwhile. or have I just wasted my youth. Can I look back as I get older and say I lived a fulfilling life? I guess the answer to that question is both comparative and subjective. In one hand am I comparing my life to other people around or people I see in the media? Secondly, am I comparing my life to an unrealistic idealistic way how my life should have turned out. The true answer is I don’t fully know, but I do feel at times I missed out on opportunities when I was young that I’ll never be able to get a chance at as I get older. I suppose the best thing for me to do is accept the fact that I am getting older, that one day I will die, this is just the process of life, how life has carried on, on this earth since microbes first populated the earth.

Life is just a processes that goes on. People overcome their childhood; to reach adulthood, and get married, and have kids, and then they die leaving their children to continue on to the same processes. Many people cope with this by using religion as a comfort, which is OK I guess but what about us who don’t have a god, is there some alternative for us, some sort of spirituality that can help us as a leading light in this darkness we call life. Are maybe we should just accept a materialistic world that has no real purpose.

To Be human is something I guess you just have to overcome as spoken by Zarathustra. We all cling on to things to help us forget about life, whether it’s movies, watching our favorite television show, following our favorite sport team, reading a thrilling novel, are engaging in an addictive video game, these are all just distraction to the inevitable that someday we are all going to die, and the earth will continue to orbit the sun. just as some person who lived in China during the 12 century in the small city village, had a family, was happy, suffered and died. Yet I know nothing of this person but I’m sure he existed just as trillions of other organism existed on this planet.

But I guess this all doesn’t have to be negative. I recently came across the philosophy of optimistic nihilism, that the mere knowledge of the pointlessness of life can be our refuge. Why does it matter that your boss berated you for doing a bad job, what does matter that you lost that pick up game of basketball, what does matter that you and your spouse of ten years are getting a divorce? Because to the eyes of the universe, none of it matter.

But I suppose these are just fleeting thought that some will embrace, some will reject, and some will be indifferent to.

My review of Paris

From May 23, 2017, until June 4, 2017, I was in Paris France. It was my second time ever outside the United States( The only other country I’ve been to was Japan) and my first time in France. I didn’t really have any expectation before I came to France. I decided to come to Paris as a vacation. The reason I choose Paris is that for the past year I’ve been teaching myself French. So I thought to myself France would probably be the best place to get some practice in. So here goes my review of the entire trip(from of course my own personal opinion)

Paris I found to be pretty boring and really expensive to the sum of my experience there. The entire city looks virtually the same with its cliche three to four story buildings. I found myself sometimes in new parts of the city wondering to myself “if I’ve been here before”. You can walk the city for hours yet see the same old canals and cobbled streets. Now I’m from New York City and I’m used to experiencing total different scenery after a couple hours of walking. In New York, neighborhoods can look totally different from each other and have a totally different vibe altogether. This is not true of Paris where the entire city can be pretty uniform in both scenery and vibe.

Now the second strife I had with paris is how extremely expensive it was(particularly the food). In Paris, there is a lot of bistros and one can commonly observers Parisians eating outside many of these bistros. I myself ate at some of these places and yes the food is good, but I soon found out bistros where the only places one could find good quality food (of course the exception is if you cook your own dinner). In New York if I was hungry and wanted to eat out on a budget I have a plethora of options, maybe I can go to the local deli and order a hero for four dollars or maybe go to a Chinese takeout and order meal for less than six dollars. This is not true of Paris where you will be hard pressed to find any fast food joints. I’ve seen about two McDonald(which were not as good as the McDonald’s in America in my opinion) there are no food trucks in Paris. The only option I found myself taking if I wanted to eat for cheap was to visit a supermarket and buy some refrigerated sandwich(which let me tell you aren’t really that good and doesn’t certainly doesn’t fill you up).

There are a ton of scamming gypsies all over Paris, they congregate by the tourist attraction, usually asking tourist if they would like to sign some form and then asking them for some Euros. Here’s one example, my second day I went to visit The world famous Musee d’Orsay(It contain the famous Van Gogh self-portrait) I was across the street from the museum when a woman who I thought was deaf(as she played the role) came up to me with some forms with a pledge to donate to some bogus institution for the deaf. I smiled and signed to her that I wasn’t interested in making any pledges. As I crossed the street I see here going up to two females and immediately conversing with them. I must tell you I was a little upset at this revelation of deceit. She had me perfectly fool that she was deaf and had me feeling a slight remorseful for her. I witness more gypsy scamming besides this such as an old gypsy woman asking children at a McDonald’s for food, the children proceeded to give her food, she smiled and took the food. I walked outside ten minutes later to find this woman with a bag full of bread( I guess that wasn’t enough to satiate her treacherous hunger). I also notice that virtually all the homeless in Paris are in fact gypsies and they can be seen sitting on cardboard(sometimes entire families including children) and begging for money.

Overall I believe Paris is overtly hyped up as this great and magnificent city. But hey I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. Me.. myself I am more of a big city cosmopolitan kind of guy. I like to walk around a large city and be in awe like I am in New York and I was in Tokyo.

The argument on prisons

Recently I had had a few debates with several people about the relevancy of prisons. Whether or not prisons where an appropriate form of punishment in our modern times. The opposing view was that prisons did more harm than good, by further indoctrinating people into crime or that prisons permanently hinders people from ever fully entering mainstream society after they are released. Off course many people who hold an anti-prison viewpoint don’t give an alternative to prisons or when they do it’s a vague answer such as rehabilitation, without giving details on how this rehabilitation would be administered.

I am not at all condoning our justice system. There is certainly many ways in which it can be approved. It is particularly audacious that the United States has less than five percent of the global population but holds about twenty-five percent of its prison population. So I say the problem isn’t necessarily prisons, but the fact that we have too many people in prisons and that one particular ethnic group is overly represented among that prison population. 

I wholeheartedly believe that many offenses that warrant prison sentences today are unjust. Such as drug offenses, which on the surface is a victimless crime since it involves two consenting parties, the drug dealer and the purchaser of the drug. I also believe crimes like tax evasion and failure to pay child support shouldn’t warrant prison time since it does more bad than good by having society pay for the maintenance of offenders who essentially didn’t pay society in the first place, an unusual sense of justice if one truly thinks about it.

To run any modern society you need to establish a government with effective rule of law. The government must have some coercive power to make sure all it’s populace abide her laws. How do you deter people from engaging in crime? By establishing punitive retribution for anyone who breaks the law. The most popular form of such a retribution in all nations is a prison system. In prehistoric human societies, humans probably carried punishment on an offender in three ways. The first was in a form of payment to the offending party through cattle, tools, or involuntary servitude; second would be in exclusion from the clan or in other words being permanently banned from the group; third would have been death.

All three are used today in a modified form, the first through fines that one would pay( usually as tickets for a minor offense); The second would be imprisonment which is essentially separating someone from everyone else, and third (although not very common among industrialized nation) is the death penalty.

Many would argue that prison act as a conditioning for criminals, but has that to do with the Prisons are the innate conditions of the prisoner himself. Among people there are just bad apples, some people are naturally more aggressive; more impulsive; less able to use foresight in their decisions as compared to others, coupled this with unsavory environment leaves some prone to criminality, and of course leaves the rest of us with the difficult decision of the best way to deal with said crime.

Off course I am not arguing against any imposition of reform. I feel as if reform is important particularly in the case of minor offenders. But this should be available as an opposition for prisoners and not so much a requirement. First and foremost prisons are meant as punishment and should be seen as such, consequences are that best deterrent to ill behavior. Still, access to some reformatory programs would be good for both the inmate and society. Programs such as skill training or educational opportunity would help inmates reintegrate into mainstream society after being released from prison.

In point, in order to truly argue against prisons, you have come up with a system that both keeps society safe and can address how to reduce crime.


Dangers and misconceptions of masculinity among Black males

On an early bus ride to work one cold morning, I had a conversation with an old drunkard. The conversation began when he had made a remark of the book I was reading, which happened to be the “Souls of Black folk” by W.E.B Dubois. He remarked how I was reading a very important book, to paraphrase him 

“ The black man is lost…..the black man isn’t the gangsta…..the white man is the real gangsta….the black man is weak…you see how they emasculate the black by having him wear dresses and these kids think it’s cool…. The black woman doesn’t respect the black man(as he was saying this he pointed to two black female passengers who were in front of us)” He spoke on until his stop.

This brief conversation left an impression on me. Everything this drunkard old man said wasn’t nothing I haven’t particularly heard before spurted out particularly by older black men. I must say some aspects of his brief speech I actually agree on.

Chiefly that the black man is emasculated. But his emasculation has nothing to do with black men being depicted as being gay or wearing a dress but is because the black man in this country holds no power.  A brief definition of masculinity states “possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men”. This is, of course, a very broad definition leaving one to have many interpretations of this. But generally, masculinity is associated with power. Now let’s define power( in the noun sense). In a quick google search, I have came upon two definitions. First, “the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality”, second, “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events”.

Is the black man in this country in possession of either definition. I am in particular interest of the second definition as it is potent to my argument. When asking yourself who are the most powerful people in the world what comes to mind. For most people, it might be a political leader or a business magnet, two groups that exempt the second definition to the fullest. Now consider your typical political or business leader, what else comes to mind? Generally men, who wear suits, that are well spoken, and who possess great intelligence. Men of these positions are not your general ideals of urban masculinity. They are generally not physically imposing or brash in their speech, but yet they hold considerable power in any modern society.

Now when you began to think of the race associated with these types of men it generally tends to be white (i.e Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Elon Musk) of course there are notable exceptions(Barack Obama, Jay-Z), but in general we see the men with all the real power in our society as white men.

In Urban culture masculinity is heavily associated with gangsterism( the exhibition of gangsta behavior,  promiscuity with many women, and the ability to murder other men with little remorse), This is something I have encountered many times myself as a black man who grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, NY. Your entire identity is based on not being deemed soft and earning the respect of your peers through the acts of violence. OF course, this isn’t exclusive among inner city blacks( I can think of Machismoism in Latin America as an outward example), but this is dangerously pervasive in the black community among black males.

I believe the contemporary understanding of what it mean to be a man in the black community leads to violence in the inner city, the sexual objectification of black women, and the pervasiveness of homophobia in the black community. I believe that as black men we need to question what it really means to be a man, and if that definition is holding us back from achieving true masculinity i.e power.

Social media and narcissism

As I scroll through my Instagram feed I can’t help but notice similar patterns appearing. Mainly people(particularly females) posting relentless selfies. It dawns on me then that Instagram was just a place for people to feel as if they are important as if a hundred million other people haven’t posted the same type of picture. I see nothing but pretty girl amassing tens of thousands sometimes million of followers for nothing other than being pretty. By the luck of a genetic lottery, you can have thousands of people all over the world follow and take an interest in your daily life.

It becomes as if some people live their lives for social media. Going on trips just to brag about where they went later on facebook. Going out to fancy restaurants just to take a picture of their meal. Posting how depressed they are to gain sympathy from their virtual friends. It becomes quite disgusting in many aspects. This has become such big business that people literally make a living from posting on social media. Companies will penny out a lot of many for kylie Jenner seventy million Instagram followers. So it becomes profitable for her to endlessly post pictures of the “glorious life” she lives, her famous friends, extravagant parties, trips to far away getaways, all make her extra richer.

Social media has become a place to feed upon essential human needs, first is to gossip and second is to satiate the feeling of boredom. We as human are naturally nosey and want to know what our neighbors are doing so we scroll through their news feed, pry into their photos, and see what friends we share. Second, in this passive digital time, we are constantly seeking an avenue to pass time by. As Heidegger pointed out boredom is the acknowledgment that time is passing, if your job is unstimulating you have your phone and scroll through  Instagram. But is social media the best way to learn from each other or the most constructive use of our free time? The answer to both these questions is probably no!

According to recent studies, prolong use of social media increases your chances of depression. Why is this? Because people feel their lives are inadequate compared to others they see on Instagram and facebook. But what they don’t realize is that people don’t show the “nitty gritty” side of their lives on facebook(unless of course to gain sympathy from a depressing post). People generally curate their lives on the internet.

I wonder constantly if people do this just to feel good about themselves. Those Brittany post a photo of herself in a bikini just to gain appraisal from her followers? Does John post about his recent promotion to gain flags of congratulations? These internet celebrities essentially do nothing but indirectly brag about how much better their lives are compared to everyone else, and people just passively feed into this virtual game of appraisement

I myself use social media and do fall trap to everything I bare onto this post. I have at times taken a hiatus from facebook and have generally felt much better for it. I only use Facebook or Instagram as a way to promote any of my endeavors. This being said there are legitimate benefits to social media, whether it be promoting a product or service, getting an important message out, or keeping in touch with far-away friends and relatives. The question is what are you using it for?

The Answer to the Great American Pandemic

A short film I made a couple of years ago. It wasn’t the best of quality, but I did try my best on it. The premises of the short, is a satire of the black male experience in the United States.