Why I Listen to Screamo

One of my favorite movies ever.

At this point in my life I really should know better than to play the music and  movies that I like for other people: I have a terrible track record. Starting with playing a Bloodhound Gang song for a girlfriend in high school (I still think Asleep at the Wheel is sort of catchy, but I’m deliberately not linking to it out of shame) and going up through playing Voices of a Distant Star for my parents a couple of years ago. At the conclusion my mother–my own mother–responded with “That was supposed to be good?” For the record: it is very, very good and I highly recommend it. See? I know better, but I still can’t stop.

In that vein, I wrote a long piece that I’m inordinately proud of called “Why I Listen to Screamo” and posted it at Times and Seasons last night. I had misgivings about posting it, but I thought that the piece was interesting even if you didn’t listen to the music. Then again, with several YouTube videos embedded of Thrice, Underoath, and Emery, folks probably will listen to the music. And if you haven’t listened to that kind of music before, it can sound a bit like sonic assault and battery. (The fact that I drew a direct parallel between “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “The Artist in the Ambulance” probably didn’t win me any new friends either!)

I know that, in a sense, I should stop. But I’m not sure if I really want to or not. Playing eclectic music and movies for people backfires more often than not, but I’m sort of hoping it’s like a high-risk / high-reward activity. Maybe the “hits” will be fewer, but the connections formed will be all the sweeter for it? Who knows, but if any of this has drawn your interest, go read my original piece and let me know (there) what you think.

Meet the Difficult Run Editors

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

Nathaniel launched Difficult Run in November 2012 and ran the website alone until August 2013, when he invited the first Difficult Run Editors to join him in adding content to the site.

Nathaniel’s background is in math, systems engineering, and economics. He is interested in technology, science fiction, and theology. He is an avid runner, but not a very fast one. He currently works as chief scientist for a software development and consulting firm in Richmond, VA. He is married to fellow DREditor Ro and together they have two little children.

In addition to Difficult Run, Nathaniel blogs regularly for Times And Seasons and writes a lot of reviews on Goodreads.

All posts by Nathaniel.

Adam

Adam

Without a post-graduate degree nor any current plans to obtain one, Adam must compensate by being louder. He has a background in computer science and has worked in web technology for a number of years. He, like everyone, enjoys discussions about politics, science, religion and technology. He loves his wife, reading, video games, basketball, and Jeff Goldblum.

All posts by Adam.

Allen

Allen

Allen is obsessed with books. When moving to the USA he packed two suitcases full of them, and dreads being stuck without something to read. He is pursuing a major in journalism, is married to an amazing woman and together raise a beautiful daughter. His interests include religion, Jewish, Eastern European, and Middle-Eastern history and current affairs. He has also been known to have an allergic reaction to the term “literary theory.”

All posts by Allen.

Bryan

Bryan

Bryan is a chemical engineer, a materials science master’s student, and a Catholic. His interests include country western dancing, camping, video gaming, target shooting, and (unsurprisingly) debate. If it exists, he will argue about it.

All posts by Bryan.

Ro

Ro

Robin (Ro) joined this blog because she is awesome. She’s not very wordy. The End.

No, OK. Ro is a PhD student in Computer Science with a strong background in Mathematics. She thinks running is for crazy people. She enjoys reading, playing games, doing family history, and baking pies. All of these she rarely gets to do because she is a PhD student. With children.

Ro doesn’t blog anywhere else. See excuse above. (Full disclosure: Ro and Nathaniel are married.)

All posts by Ro.

Walker

Walker

Walker joined Difficult Run as an editor in August 2013.

Walker is currently a grad student at John Hopkins University. He also did previous graduate work at the University of North Texas. His interests include religion (particularly Mormonism), economics, management, psychology, and public policy. He attempts to juggle these interests with his need to play guitar, an unhealthy obsession with James Bond movies (note the tux), and his lovely wife.

In addition to Difficult Run, Walker also blogs at Times & Seasons and Worlds Without End.

All posts by Walker.

Mahonri (Emeritus)

Mahonri

Mahonri Stewart is a national award winning playwright, with over a dozen of his plays produced in both the United States and Europe. He is also working on becoming a screenwriter, having had his screenplays optioned and win film festival prizes. He would also love to work in television some day, as he loves long form storytelling. Mahonri is currently an MFA Dramatic Writing student at Arizona State University so that he can officially legitimize his impractical career choices. He is very happy to be a husband and a father, and has an unhealthy obsession with Doctor Who and the X-Men. He also blogs at And My Soul Hungered, Magic and Mutants, and the Association for Mormon Letters’s Dawning of a Brighter Day.

Mahonri went on emeritus status in March 2014 to focus on other projects.

All posts by Mahonri.

Monica (Emeritus)

Monica

Monica is earning her master’s in forensic science with a focus on DNA; she has a bachelor’s in chemical biology. Her interests include biology, the justice system, swing dancing, and the Epic Rap Battles of History. She has a toddler, an internship, a job, and a thesis. After that comes blogging.

Monica went on emeritus status in January 2016 to tend to her little vampire.

All posts by Monica.

About Difficult Run

I’m Nathaniel Givens, and Difficult Run started out as my personal blog in November 2012. In August 2013, I turned it into a group blog by adding a bunch of my talented friends as fellow editors. (You can see the current roster here.) When I started DR, I was working a job in the DC area that had me away from my family Sunday through Friday. It was a tough, lonely period but I wanted to make the most of time I had away from my kids so I started the blog and took the name from a signpost I passed on my run (or bike ride) to and from work.

2014-01-04 Difficult Run

It turns out that Difficult Run is just the name of the little stream that runs under the bridge in the photo, but I liked the idea of putting a positive spin on adversity. After all: if a workout isn’t difficult then you’re not accomplishing anything.

DR had about 57,000 visitors in its first complete year of existence (2013) and then another 50,000 visitors in the first two months of 2014. So far,the top 5 most-visited stories are:

  1. On Rape Culture in the Ensign (The Lack Thereof)
  2. Health Insurance vs. Food Insurance
  3. A Society Meet for Male Priesthood
  4. Understanding the Missing Empathy of Ender’s Author
  5. True Math Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

Currently, we post short new pieces on a daily basis. These usually link to content elsewhere along with some new commentary. We also post longer, original features on a weekly basis. You can follow DR via email, via RSS, or on Facebook.

By the way, if you’re curious about the tagline for the website, we pick them from song lyrics more or less at random and change it up every now and then. Here’s a post that keeps track of all the past taglines, and where they come from.

(Last updated: March 12, 2014)

The Minority Report UI Has Finally Arrived

You have to watch the video to believe it, so here goes:

This technology, as the Wired article makes clear, is not some academic prototype in an MIT basement lab somewhere. Nope, this puppy is ready for primetime. You can preorder it now, and it’s going to be bundled with Asus computers. The technology is incredibly well-timed because Windows 8 (which is being adopted at rates slower than Vista) is touchscreen-ready, and the Leap Motion allows users to access all the touch-screen options of Windows 8 without touching the screen. This is good if the screen is out of comfortable reach or if you don’t want to smudge your screen, and it means that Leap Motion isn’t just a shiny gadget. It’s a tool you can actually use.

I don’t know who is more excited right now, me or Steve Ballmer.

Penny-Arcade on Faith

So… I’m still having trouble picking my jaw up off the floor after coming across Extra Credit’s Religion in Games (part 2 of 2) over at Penny-Arcade TV. In response to the question, “Why aren’t there more examples of examining faith in video games”, they respond simply: “Because gamers are antagonistic to faith.” (I’m pararphrasing, these quotes aren’t word-for-word.)

As if that little nugget of honesty wasn’t enough, they followed it up with the bold claim that all science is faith-based. This is absolutely true, but I’m utterly shocked that a prominent voice in the gaming community would A – hold that opinion and B – have the temerity to state it publicly.

So, both as as a stunning departure from the party-line of secularism and as a pretty good explanation of reasonable faith in its own right, I commend this video to your eyeballs.

Gun Control For You But Not Me

I spend a lot of time talking about the dangers of vilifying the other side, and that makes it a tricky proposition to criticize without being hypocritical. This is tricky both in terms of perception (I don’t want to look like a jerk), but in a more important way it’s challenging to try and strike a balance between being genuinely open and fair to ideas you disagree with while still  maintaining the ability to have an opinion. I believe that it’s possible to have epistemic humility about your politics without pretending that all opinions are equally valid.

But it’s a tightrope.

With that in mind, I can’t help but observe that a lot of liberal commentary about gun control seems to bear out the conservative accusation that liberals are elitist. Here are some examples:

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein is leading the charge for a new assault weapons ban. Her proposal would ban large swathes of current guns and accessories, including the standard-issue magazines for virtually every modern handgun sold. (Her bill puts the limit at 10, most handgun magazines have about 15.) And yet, Dianne Feinstein is a concealed carry permit holder, and I have little doubt that the gun she carries would violate her own law.
  • Michael Moore says “calm down, white people, and put away your guns,” but the bodyguards he employs carry guns. In 2005 one was arrested for carrying an unlicensed firearm at JFK.
  • David Gregory wants us to know how scary high-capacity magazines are, so he waved one in front the NRA’s Wayne Lapierre. Trouble is: that high-capacity magazine is already banned in Washington DC, and so Gregory was breaking the law and, as it turns out, the DC cops had already warned him about that.
  • Then there was the New York paper that decided to publish a map with the names and home addresses of all the concealed carry permit holders in their area, and yet seemed surprised when a blogger responded by publishing the names and home addresses of all the employees of the paper on his blog.

I understand that these cases are not all necessarily cut-and-dry hypocrisy. Prominent figures like senators and famous movie makers attract more attention and are possibly more at risk than an average member of the public. David Gregory may have possessed a high-capacity magazine, but he didn’t even own a gun to go with it so clearly he wasn’t a threat to anyone. And some of the employees whose addresses were published had absolutely nothing to do with the story about where the permit holders live.

But at the same time, there’s real substance to each of these problems. Prominent people may or may not be in danger (I don’t know the statistics), but it seems unfair that they should have recourse to self-defense that the rest of us do not when, after all, even ordinary citizens get death threats. In fact, I purchased my first gun in direct response to a death threat made against my wife. We called the cops and they came over and listened to the message, but it’s not like they have either the manpower or the legal obligation to protect every individual citizen who receives a death threat.

And sure, Gregory didn’t want to use the high capacity magazine for any purpose, but he is subject to laws just like the rest of us. I disagree with a lot of gun control laws, but I’ve never taken my high capacity magazines where they are legally prohibited just to make a point. I’ve actually never felt the inclination to do so, but even if I did I would certainly not expect to be held immune from the law because I don’t think it was intended to cover my specific case.

On a philosophical level, I think there really is something to the idea that liberal ideas are–all else being equal–intrinsically more seductive to those who consider themselves to be superior to the general public. This is why, I believe, Hollywood and Harvard are so overwhelmingly liberal. Laws that tell people who to conduct themselves are far more palatable when you believe that they are written by the enlightened for the governance of the ignorant and, of course, that you are enlightened.

Why Banning Assault Weapons Is Futile

This is another really informative article on gun control and, specifically, on the futility of an assault weapons ban. Even though I’m generally well-informed on gun-control there were a lot of very surprising facts in here.

For example, the Virginia Tech shooter had nearly 20 magazines in his backpack, which is the reason he was able to reload so quickly. I’d always known that even 10-round magazines (the proposed limit in Senator Feinstein’s new version of the assault weapons ban) would provide ample bullets in theory, but I didn’t realize there was such a stark and tragic real-world example of this fact.

The article also includes two examples of assault weapons being used in actual home defense stories. In one, a 15-year old boy protected his 12-year old sister when 2 men broke into their home by firing at them with an AR-15 rifle. The story was actually well-publicized, but most journalists left out the fact that the rifle he used was an assault rifle.

In any case, read the entire thing and send it along to your friends.

Excellent Article On Concealed Carry

I had been planning on writing a long article to explain what it’s like to carry concealed to all my friends who have no experience in the practice or its associated culture. That actually described me for most of my life, since I didn’t grow up around guns or shoot my first gun until well into my 20s. However, a friend posted this article from Harper’s, and now I don’t need to write mine. It’s a long but excellent piece that matches almost exactly what I would have written.

I agree strongly with 2 of the 3 conclusions that the article draws:

  1. We should allow people to carry concealed, and in more places than we currently do.
  2. We should make the training requirements for concealed carry much more rigorous
  3. I plan on continuing to carry concealed (where it’s legal), although the author has decided it’s not worth the trouble for him.

In any case: go read it.

The Surreality of American Politics

German remains at Verdun.

It’s hard to overstate the visceral impact of World War I on the nations who were scarred by it. Part of the shock came from the staggering casualties. In countries where fighting took place, over 16% of the entire population was killed (Serbia), with even  major nations like France and Germany lost more than 3 or 4% of their populations. The scale of the devastation was compounded by the sense that modernity itself had betrayed civilization, however. Prior to World War 1 disease was always deadlier than human weapons, but this changed in World War 1. With newly invented weapons science–the guiding light since the dawn of the Enlightenment–had betrayed an entire civilization. The governments, churches, and other modern institutions that created and perpetuated the war without any ability to foresee it’s true cost cast centuries of political and philosophical progress into doubt.

An example of surreal art: The Elephant Celebes

Surrealism (along with its progenitor Dadaism and its successor Postmodernism) was the reaction to this horror. With it, Western society recoiled convulsively from the core conceit of modernity: the supremacy of  logic and reason. The Surrealist Manifesto advocated expressing thought in the “absence of all control exercised by reason” and took as its core article of faith “the omnipotence of dream.” When confronted with the War to End All Wars, the surrealists decided that if reality had become the the ultimate nightmare, any and all dreams and hallucinations were superior to reality.

Read moreThe Surreality of American Politics