Envy: Asset or Misery?

“Jealousy is a dog’s bark which attracts thieves.” – Karl Kraus

Envy: Good or bad? When considering the full extent of emotions people feel on a daily basis, few have a more negative stigma then envy. Envy is explicitly banned in the Ten Commandments and there are very few parents who teach their children to be envious of the siblings and classmates. It doesn’t take a great amount of introspection to conclude that envy is a torment that negatively affects quality of life. So where does the good come in?

Envy drives progress. World leaders, business magnates, and world-class athletes achieve tremendous success for one simple reason: the desire to be the best. At their core they are envious of those they perceive as being better than them. Even two of the wealthiest individuals the world has ever seen, John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, had a constant feud each with the desire to best the other. For them, all of the money in the world wasn’t enough to make them happy. They were more concerned about the game. Industrial Revolution entrepreneurs, fueled by envy, drove America to become the world’s super power. Despite the positive effect of envy on the US’s world standing, is this really a productive model for the average citizen to follow?

In theory, envy sounds great. It’s hard to turn on the TV without seeing someone being lauded for having the drive to ‘be the best’. This competitive spirit pushes technology, culture, and society to its limits. The axiom, ‘if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards,’ comes to mind. After all, as previously mentioned, society would not be where it is today if it weren’t for progress driven individuals. But does progress have to come at the expense of others? Can a seemingly innate drive to beat others be quelled? I think it should.

Progress should not come from a desire to best others. Progress should come from an individual’s desire to become the best person they can be. This sounds like a cliché, but I believe it. A desire to become the best will never be assuaged. No one can be the best forever. The best is completely subjective and will always be up for debate. For example people constantly debate as to who is the best writer of all time. A consensus will never be made. Therefore if your goal is to be the best, you are relying on other’s opinions to validate yourself and your accomplishments. Your accomplishments are your own. By comparing yourself to others, you do a disservice to yourself as a person. Aside from your close family and friends, most people could care less about your accomplishments. They care only as long as it affects them. Why root your purpose in life on the opinions of those that don’t really care about you?

Envy cannot lead to happiness. Once you make it your goal to best everyone else, it is hard to stop. You may become the owner of a very successful business but there will be someone who owns a larger, more profitable, and more successful business then you. Your wants begin to drift from basic internal desires to complex external ones. There will always be someone who is smarter, richer, more successful. Let the desire to better yourself, not the success of others, be the driving factor in your search for success.

-MWez

What will you regret?

Recently I have been fascinated over this idea: what makes people happy? The more I explore the more I can narrow it down to a few themes, but the most common theme is regret. As a relatively young person, regret is intriguing to me because one of my biggest fears it that I will have regret later in life.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” – Henry David Thoreau

Regret plagues many people. All one has to do is Google ‘quotes about regret’ and they will be bombarded with thousands of inspirational pictures and quotes with the goal of assuaging one’s feelings of regret. Regret comes naturally. Decision-making can be very difficult and many times one has to choose between multiple unknowns. It is natural, once those unknowns are known, to ponder if you made the right decision. Regret can be crippling and has led many down the path toward alcohol and drug addiction and in extreme cases suicide.

But what do people regret? Do they regret not working hard enough? Do they regret not taking a chance? Do they regret not following their passion or succumbing to the pressures of others? It’s hard to pin-point any one of the these causes, and the truth is that is different for each person. I could talk about this for days but instead I will go directly into what I believe causes regret.

People regret not being honest with themselves. This sounds both abstract and obvious at the same time, but I truly believe that most people do not realize this. There are people who truly find happiness by working their hardest and becoming the best. There are other people who truly find happiness doing nothing. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. It is up to the individual to make that decision. Where on the spectrum do you fall? This is much harder to do than it sounds, mostly due to the multitude of external factors.

The only way to obtain this realization is to take chances. Don’t study for a test; stay out all night drinking instead. Or study for the test and miss out on the party. Take the mindless job you’d only do for the money/stability…or turn it down. Take a sober month, just to feel the difference. Gauge your response levels to each choice and in turn you should feel pretty good about what you’ll regret and what you won’t.
The hardest part is being honest with yourself throughout these trials. What really makes you happy could go against preconceived ideas that you thought you were against, but you find you actually like. Or vice versa.

-MWez

What I Got Out of College.

College was an interesting experience; and almost nothing like what I anticipated. I will say I didn’t have a typical college experience. I participated in ROTC and went to a small liberal arts college, a privilege that most of America is not afforded. I attended college with the intention of majoring in International Studies, minoring in Arabic Language, and finding a job working for the government. As I plan to graduate in less then two months I couldn’t be farther from that initial plan. This is the number one thing I learned in college; stay flexible.

College can honestly be whatever you make it. Whether you want it to be one crazy frat party, or you want it to be a safe-haven for intellectual discussion, you can find it. Although, sadly, the latter is much more difficult to find. People go to college for a variety of reasons, but most can be boiled down to two basic agendas: (1) to get a job and (2) it’s what you’re supposed to do. Students claim these are not what they want out of college, but of those people, the majority use it as a facade. College is a highly competitive, envy-filled, pseudo-intellectual environment, and there is really no way around that.

Colleges are run like corporations.The administration is a business and they act like it. They have one goal: to make money. If a college could find a way to hire subpar professors while maintaining subpar academic standards, yet still make money; I’m sure they would do just that. This is essential in understanding everything about college. The President of the College is merely a spokesperson, whose objective is to raise money for the school.

There are some professors out there who truly have a passion for teaching, but in my experience these professors are the exception. Most professors are in college because they have a need to be in academia, and the only reputable job within academia is to be a professor. (I have my own reasons and for saying need to be in academia but I won’t go into them here) They only care about putting their own name forward, don’t care much about the students, and their main objective is to show how intellectually superior they are to everyone else.

The students are not as diverse as colleges or the students themselves claim. Writing about the dynamic of college students could fill an entire book. But I am too lazy to go into it right now.

I used college to discover what I like and don’t like. Pretty simple. I entered college thinking I liked a lot of things that I actually don’t, and I thought I didn’t like things that I actually do. I honestly wish that college was not a necessity. It’s extremely overpriced, partially ineffective, and for many people it can amount to a wasted four years. Use college to discover yourself. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Don’t use college for academic purposes only. The social lessons learned from college can be extremely useful. Look at the social dynamics from different angles and determine for yourself what you like and don’t like. Realize that things are not going to work out the way you think they will or should. Don’t go into college expecting it to be a stimulating intellectual community or a place where you can escape from the real world. College is tied to the same cultural standards that the rest of society is. Realize that a lot changes between student’s freshman and senior years, which creates for an almost volatile climate. College students are young, opinionated, judgmental and competitive. Be skeptical of people, but have trust in those you believe you can trust. Most importantly, do what makes you happy, and do your best to learn how to not care what other people think. It will make college, and life, much more enjoyable.

Can Beer Commercials Indicate an American Cultural Shift?

I have never thought of the Super Bowl as a ritual; however, being a life-long football fan I have been glued to the TV on Super Sunday for as long as I can remember. I decided to take an objective look at something that I have viewed as one of the major plights of capitalism: mass consumerism. (Thankfully the Eagles weren’t playing or else I would have not been able to focus on anything but the extreme stress the game would have presented me with.)

Image

I have always been slightly anti-consumer culture. Of course I indulge in a cell phone, laptop, etc., but compared to my peers I have always enjoyed face-to-face conversation as well as being outside away from electronics. Looking at my generation, I have frequently been faced with a sense of sadness over where culture is heading. This year, as I ordered five dominoes pizzas and forty wings and fired up the projector in my living room, I decided to put my focus on the positives of consumerism. The Super Bowl is the perfect time to do this because it is essentially a celebration of American consumerism, as the commercials are viewed as being almost as important as the game itself, unless of course your team is playing.

This year, two products dominated the commercials: cars and beer. Cars represent the height of American consumerism. Cars are the ultimate status symbol in the United States and considering how much money car companies are pouring into their advertisements, it is clear this trend is not going to change. Americans buy specific cars because they want to impress others. I don’t agree with this and I don’t think I ever will. A car does not determine the man/women. Beer commercials, on the other hand, are an interesting study. Drinking beer does not make one think immediately of consumer culture. But the way companies typically market their products make it clear the beer conglomerates think they are. For a while, beer was marketed against other beers. Beer companies wanted you to think that because you drank their beer you were better then other people. Either you are more American, of a higher class, or had better taste. I saw a shift from that approach in this year’s commercials and this shift has made me optimistic for our future.

The beer commercials focused on getting together with friends and enjoying a cold beverage. They weren’t bashing the other beer companies, they were simply saying enjoy our beer and you will better enjoy your time with your friends. While it can be debated if that is true, it is nice to see that Americans are beginning to value their time with each other. Instead of watching the game with your friends via Skype and texting, Americans want to get together and experience each other’s company. It is not about what beer choice indicates about you individually, it is about what the beer can do for people as a whole, ‘enjoy your time with friends better with our beer’, is much better then ‘drink our beer because your friends will think you are better than them’.

The Best Songs on Eric Church’s The Outsiders

My review of The Outsiders (http://tinyurl.com/l5jutzz) received a lot of traffic and was  posted on a radio station’s blog saying that it was ridiculous. I stand by what I wrote. The album is not as original as everyone thinks and is highly overproduced. I commend Eric for making an album that is vastly different form the typical Nashville format but I reviewed this album objectively. No, I don’t think the album was good, but I do believe it has some very good songs.  Because I am not a critic and I am a huge Eric Church fan I’m going to review these songs below;

1. A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young

I think this is one of Eric Church’s best songs. This is the format where Eric shines; a stripped down, acoustic guitar focused melody. The lyrics are excellent and the song is very emotional. Songs like this should have been the foundation of  his album. Yes he is a hard rocker and those songs should be there as well but this is what Eric does best.

Grade: A

2. Give Me Back My Hometown

This song harmoniously combines  rock, country, and folk elements. This is a terrific song that has a powerful storyline. It is both genuine and well produced. Eric showcased his voice as well as his ear for music and put together a great single.

Grade: A-

3. Dark Side

This song may be better then “Give Me Back My Hometown” but it is not the progressive sound Eric Church was “trying” to have on this album. As I said before, this is the format where Eric Church shines. He does it the best whether he wants to admit it or not.

Grade: A/A-

4. The Outsiders

I really liked this song when it came out. I saw it as a statement song. I thought it was his proclamation to tell the world that he was not going to conform. I did not want the entire album to be in this style because it can only be used for one maybe two songs in an album. But this song on its own is very good.

Grade: B+

5. Talladega

This is another good song but it’s NOT original. It is the farthest thing from it. This song has been made a million times over. Eric claims he wrote/recorded over 100 songs for this album but did not want to include material that had been done before. Well this song has been done before. I like the song and I like Eric’s approach to it but it clearly goes against what Eric said he wanted the album to be about.

Grade: B

6. Like a Wrecking Ball

This song is good. I don’t like the reverb on Eric’s voice and I think it gets a little monotonous but the song is solid. It tells the very personal/intimate side of a story that has been done a million times; an artist on the road away from his wife/girlfriend. I think the lyrics could have been tightened up a bit but overall it’s a good song.

Grade: B

-MWez

Album Review: Eric Church’s The Outsiders

Eric Church has been my favorite mainstream country artist for some time. I love his style, lyrics, approach and sound. He is currently one of the few genuine artists on county radio. I thought both the lead singles; The Outsiders and Give Me Back My Hometown were great songs and were a precursor for things to come. I expected the album to be one of the bests of 2014.

Image

After listening to the entire album I was very disappointed. The Outsiders is bad, the entire album feels disjointed, and Eric has tried way too hard to be different. He clearly went into the recording studio with one thing in mind: to create an album that could not be categorized into one specific genre. Eric has succeeded. Church didn’t create an album that blends genres harmoniously, no, he created an album that’s so bad, no genre is going to want to claim it. The album is an unoriginal cliche trying all too hard to paint Eric and his fans as Outsiders. I thought the lead off single was a statement. Eric wanted people to know that he would not conform to the musical format that is being released on country radio today. I did not expect the entire album to sound identical to The Outsiders (single) and harp on the same themes throughout, but it does. The lyrics are neither intriguing nor relatable. I doubt Church himself could relate anything on the album back to his real life.

Eric should have stuck with he does best; making country music with some rock influences. He should have written songs that are either true or at least relatable to his life. It’s one thing to have one song on your album that portrays yourself as a tough-guy outsider, its another thing to make an entire album with the intention of beating us over the head with the idea. The album sounds nothing like what he has released in the past. I understand artists grow overtime but this is too much. Eric needs to sit back and remember who he is and where he actually came from.

Grade: C/C+

-MWez

Steakhouses: Classy Before Classy Was Cool

Time for a rambling post. This post is partly inspired by my dinner last night at a steakhouse that I had never been to before. I was pleasantly surprised and will most definitely be returning. But first let me explain the title.

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 1.18.20 AM

“Classy before classy was cool.” Overtime the world has become increasingly less classy. I’m not trying to to make a social statement here but it doesn’t take much investigation to realize that over the last 20 years culture has changed. Modernism has taken over and new progressive restaurants have become the places to be. I don’t dislike these restaurants, in fact I happen to like many of them, but it has become a competition to see who can design the most hip/vogue restaurant. I resent this because it has pushed out the classic eateries. Life has become so gaudy that classiness has become a rare find. With that being said; this trend could be reversing as all trends do. But that is not the point of this post, the point of this post is to praise the classic steakhouse.

I love steakhouses. I am a red meat/red wine kind of guy. If I am going to spend some money on a nice dinner a steakhouse is going to be at the top of my list. I have frequently been told  that a steak is a steak. I don’t agree with that. I enjoy cooking steaks but, the best steaks I have had in my life have all been at steakhouses. It may just be that I am a hopeless romantic but when I am at a steakhouse I feel as though I am part of history. I like the style, the culture, and the elegance that accompanies steakhouses. At  many ‘hip’ restaurants I feel as though I am being rushed out the door to make room for the next. This is not how steakhouses operate. Their patrons are there to enjoy the full meal experience and the restaurant accommodates them.

A few nights ago I ate at a Longhorn Steakhouse. I went with my girlfriend for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised. I have been to some of the most famous and expensive steakhouses in the world and would I trade them for Longhorn? No. But longhorn was a great deal. I had a glass of whiskey and a glass of wine, my girlfriend had a cocktail, and we both split the 30 oz porterhouse which comes with two sides and two salads, for a grand total of $75. I left Longhorn pleased and with every intention of returning. It confirmed my opinion that steakhouses, of all varieties, are my favorite restaurants. If anyone is on a budget but wants a solid steakhouse experience I recommend Longhorn. But by no means does it replace some of the ‘classier’ steakhouses.

Heres to a glass of red wine and a nice cut of red meat.

-MWez