The Measure of a Man

Guest post by Tim Champion

Way back in 1986, Boston asked us the question “What does it take to be a man?”

The answer they came up with was, in part:

The will to give and not receive

The strength to say what you believe

The heart to feel what others feel inside

To see what they can see.

This isn’t a bad stab at it, but as always, the question remains… “What more?” Let’s take this time to talk about work, though you’ll find many aspects all connect like strands of a web.

From a personal standpoint, I started asking what it took to be a man when I realized I was surrounded by men, but wasn’t yet a peer. Immediately, I found myself asking how one ascended to this brotherhood. I had some larger than life role models that I wanted to impress, somehow. I had people outside of my immediate family that I wanted to think more of me. I was big for my age, but that didn’t make me a man. It did earn me some advanced level chores, though…. Lucky me.

When I was thirteen, my dad decided I needed a good work ethic, since my people skills were, shall we say, unpolished. He arranged for the farmer that he worked for as a young man to put me to work as well. I did the usual small farm stuff: herding and milking cows, baling hay, (and later, alfalfa, which is a new lesson in work), doing some light farm-type construction, and even keeping the calves safe from wildlife that ventured in from the woods.

This all taught me a few things:

1) Work is hard. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called work, and someone else would have come along and done it already. It’s also completely necessary. Things do not happen by accident. You have to work toward a design, rather than expect a windfall.

2) No one cares how tired you are. Every single day is a grind, but the cows still needed milked. They don’t care about the show you wanted to see, the girl who wanted to catch a movie, or the fact that homework is piling up. There’s work to be done, and the guy handing you HIS money needs to know you’re pulling your weight. He’s investing money in you, for your labor, in hopes that he can turn a buck on it and his product. You do well for him, and you keep your job. Excel for him, and you get more. I got a raise every few months, thanks to the fact that I left every drop of sweat I had on his land.

3) The new guy. At some point, we’re all going to be the new guy. You’re going to suffer like only the new guy can. Initiations happen. You’ll wonder why you’re even there. It sucks. Embrace it. EMBRACE THE SUCK. It’s the time of maximum learning, and if you want to last, you need to learn it all. Don’t whine to HR about feeling left out. Catch up. Carve your own spot out… with your bare hands, if you have to. Just make sure you know what you’re doing, or you’ll go up in flames. Did I mention “Learning”?

4) The fourth big lesson I can pass on, and it’s as important now as it’s ever been, is this: There is NO guarantee of security. There’s always a chance you’ll do your best, and still come up short. Some guy’s nephew will beat you to the position. Someone, somewhere, hates you, and you’ll lose a job you busted your ass for. It’s ok, and here’s why: as someone who did their very best, for the sake of the work itself, you’ll have competence and a good reputation in your field.

5) Last one: Sacrifice. You don’t get anything of value for nothing. For everything you do, you build new opportunities and contacts. Those give you more options. It’s that simple. Yes, this is a quaint way of saying that the work never ends, but it’s also true that at a certain point of expertise, you get to pick the work that you do. This is more valuable than the money you’ll make. If time = money, the inverse is also true, labor = soul. You might be raking it in hand over fist, but are you ok with it? Is the work to your liking enough that you don’t mind the heartbeats and breath you’re investing in it? That’s the question. If it is, go you. If not, you need to do better for yourself through training or re-education in a new field. Remember, we all learned how to do the thing. If you need to learn a new thing, you can.
In closing: Work ethic, experience, reputation, results. In that order.

Let me stress something…

YOU. CANNOT. BUY. THESE. THINGS.

Not for any amount of anything.

After a few years of this, you tend to develop this thing called “character”. You actually want to do the work right, because a job well done is, in fact, its own reward. One of the major traits of a man is that he takes pride in looking at the quality of his completed work, whether it’s the way the yard turned out, the new deck he built, or the family he raised. Don’t ever be afraid to look at something you did, “and see that it was good”. Being proud of your work is normal. Finding ways to hone your craft is exemplary.

So when someone asks what it takes to become a man, I tell them you don’t become one, you make yourself one from the ground up. YOU get to be the architect of your character, your self worth, and ultimately, your public image.

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WE’RE CLONING WHO?? Nerd Rage #189

WE’RE CLONING WHO?? Nerd Rage #189

We discuss Kavanaugh and the US Open, along with Star Trek AND Star Wars! Just ignore that whole cloning thing…

Also, someone was tipsy. In vino veritas!

Enjoy!

It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

Watch: It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

More McCain-ia!, plus gun-grabbers vs. gun rights advocates: who’s less civil? Political false equivalencies galore, emotionalism vs. stoicism, Osei’s review of The Incredible Hulk, and music theory/videogame and cinema music are all discussed in this episode of Nerd Rage! Watch, subscribe, like, comment, and share!

Porn Is Not Harmful, or So They Say

Hoo boy, where do I even start with this one?

Let’s start with “any man that tells you he doesn’t watch it is probably lying to you.” When you yourself watch pornography, it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing this statement. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that “everyone does it”? The problem with this statement is that it’s false.

I do believe it is true to say that most people intentionally consume porn; it has simply saturated our culture that thoroughly. But this idea that there isn’t a soul untouched by it, or uninterested in it, or willingly avoiding it? That’s ridiculous. Of course there is. Being inundated in porn culture leads us to believe that everyone is secretly a closet pervert like ourselves; we end up living in a (disturbingly large) bubble that keeps us from realizing that there is a world away from internet porn and that some people still live in it. There are still some people who want to live in it.

Let’s look at “insecurity,” as though it is simply blind paranoia that would lead to someone hating porn or refusing to date someone who has or still does consume it. But what do you have to be insecure about when it comes to porn consumption? Is it being compared against other attractive women (or men)? Is it fearing that your significant other’s eye is being drawn askance? Is it being replaced emotionally? How about physically?

Wait, but these are all things that can and do happen when someone watches porn. So is it insecurity or justified fear?

I’ve written before about my struggles with porn. I’ve spent the bulk of my life struggling with feelings of guilt and shame, disappointment and weariness. Pornography is harmful; I’m my own best example. But I don’t need to stop at myself.

When I started following Fight the New Drug, it made me conscientious of the fact that not all porn on the internet is fun. The performers aren’t always having a blast, they aren’t always doing things they really want to do or are comfortable with.

That’s when I started to notice; you can see it. You can see when performers are tired, when they’ve exhausted themselves, but have to keep going to finish a shoot. You can see when female performers are in pain, or when they’re disgusted by certain acts or actions. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes; what happens to these people before the camera is turned on or after its turned off? Have they been coerced? Are they desperate? Do they numb the pain with drugs?

The people you saw on that video on Pornhub are just that: people. They aren’t sex machines or gods. They aren’t just images on a screen; they’re flesh and blood human beings. Human beings who have either chosen to or been coerced into using their bodies for the basest of acts.

I mentioned my feelings of guilt over porn before, because porn has harmed me. It has shaped my character into something…small. A jaunt into the comments of these videos brings you to the other side of this coin. Whereas I hide what I do, the comments are filled with all forms of degeneracy.

Men (with the occasional woman) appraise the performers (most often the woman) on looks and how they act, treating them as a piece of meat hanging in a butchery. They ask for names, so that they might hunt down more videos of the person in question. Most are blind to what I can see. To the degradation and the humiliation. They comment gleefully on how “excited” and “into it” she seems to be, and certainly there are videos where they are. It is always striking, however, when the commenter is blind to the obvious.

It’s even worse when the commenter likes it. When they see that the woman on the screen is unhappy, is being humiliated. And they cheer it on. They write out the most vile ideas from the dark hole that is their minds. Yet people say porn causes no harm. They are wrong. It twists individuals into horrid gremlins, mutilating their souls, wringing from them empathy and humanity. On the outside, they still lead normal lives. But on the inside, they hide their darkest desires. And those desires may one day come out, often onto the shoulders of a girlfriend or boyfriend, wife or husband.

And what of the women who watch porn, a cohort the OP proudly declares herself a part of? Perhaps she believes herself to be fine, to be unharmed (I doubt it). But what about everyone else? What about the women who become what I described above? What about those who have their self-image tied directly to how large their breasts are, how curvy their bodies are, how long they can perform in bed, all because they saw another woman on a screen?

Porn is harmful. No matter what anyone says, it is harmful. Somewhere along the line, it is hurting someone. It debases humanity in the cruelest of ways, turning something beautiful and meaningful, the greatest act of intimacy on this planet, into something comparable to the rutting of dogs. Humanity should be better than that. We should see the nobility within ourselves and aspire to it.

Instead, we’ll burn ourselves to the ground, all for a little bit of empty pleasure.

Spoiler Free Infinity Wars Movie Review

Written by @indepgirlism (Shane) and shared here with permission. 

Spoiler free (mostly) review of Avengers: Infinity War.

 
First off, this is incredibly difficult to write. Once you see the movie, you’ll understand. Secondly, this is a movie to see on the big screen. More on that in a minute. Lastly, the follow up movie CAN NOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!!

 
Ok, so let’s dive in.

 
The multitude of story lines is astounding. Between the complicated relationship between Gamora and Thanos, Thanos wanting to collect all the Infinity Stones, Thor trying to rebuild Asgaard, the Guardians doing their thing, the Avengers no longer working as a team, Spider-Man trying to prove himself, and all the side love stories, I thought they could never do it all in one movie. And I am right…sort of. There is another installment coming which should resolve any cliffhangers, but this installment handled everything brilliantly, carefully, and kept the humor Marvel movies are known for!

 
It is a long movie (2 hours and 30 minutes) though it does not feel that long.

 
Thanos is fleshed out as a truly 3 dimensional character. We learn about his drive, his plan, his pain, and his deep emotions. This is a villain who is not just evil for the sake of being evil. He has a purpose. You may disagree with his purpose, but there is no denying that he has thought this through in great detail! His motivation is solid, if flawed.

 
His relationship with Gamora is heart breaking. That’s all I can really divulge at this point.

 
In my estimation, the pivotal character throughout the film is Doctor Strange. He plays things very close to his chest and makes choices that seem contrary to the ultimate goal of stopping Thanos. His mystery and arrogance is masterfully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 
And can we talk about Steve Rodgers for a minute? His defection from Tony Stark is somewhat vindicated in this film. I am looking forward to a final resolution and/or battle between those two. Rodgers has aligned himself with T’Challa/Black Panther, and the pairing really works! Both men are pragmatic and powerful. Their partnership is one that I want to see more of.

 
IW brings in some new faces which I hope will play a bigger part in the next installment. I can see where the writers are going, though I have been wrong in the past.

 
Now on to the practical side of things. My kids have grown up with the Marvel movies. They know and love these characters through and through. My kids are ages 17, 14, and 12. The movie has a PG-13 rating. There are good reasons for this. My 17 year old loved the movie. I am ok with my 14 year old seeing it. My 12 year old is a hard no. This caused tears and some shouting (on her end, not mine), but I know she is not ready for this story to be told to her. If you have younger kids, I would recommend screening the movie first. Only you know your kids and what they can handle, so make a wise choice in whether or not they should see it on the big screen or at home.

 
There is only one end credit scene. It is at the bitter end of the credits, and needs to be seen. Trust me. It really is worth the wait.

 
Visually, this is a STUNNING film. Great locations, perfect CGI, and beautiful imagery. It’s not going to be nominated for the big Oscar categories (a shame really because Robert Downey, Jr. puts in his best performance as Tony Stark yet), but the whole of the film is fantastic. Solid story, great dialogue, good pacing, and spot on performances. I can’t say enough good things about the film.

 
One final note: this is not your typical Marvel movie. The humor is there, and is used perfectly through the film, but it is not the focus. Again, small children should be taken only IF you feel they can handle it AFTER you have screened it. I can not stress that enough.

 
Go see it. Then go see it again. It’s that good.

The Insidious Nature of Arrogance

I have been quietly observing the coverage and opinion sharing surrounding Trump and his salacious past for a while now. As his affairs have come to light, people have become ever more divided in their opinions over him. On one side, you have those who call Trump the worst kind of cad and liar, and on the other are those who insist they can and should overlook his past in favor of the good he may do now.

Both sides have valid points.

I have been reluctant to weigh in with my own opinion because I know that the people who are vehemently opposed to Trump will become apoplectic and will question my character by extension. It is similar to the irrational attacks levied by the hard core pro-Trump side whenever I have been critical of him, but oddly enough it is the antis who have been the most unpleasant since the election.

That is, I had been unwilling to weigh in… until today.

Earlier I saw this post and my immediate reaction was surprise that the NY Times should be concerned with character. They do, after all, have a history of blatant biasfabrication, and political spin. It is ironic, given their history, that they should have published an opinion on precisely this topic. If they were subject to their own standards, I would be compelled to assign them to the dust bin of the corrupt and unreadable. I suppose, then, that it is good to separate the publication itself from the succession of questionable posts and journalists that have been published within its periodicals. 

The post itself talks about Trump’s past and the support he gets from conservatives today despite what could politely be called a colorful history. It calls into question, specifically, the character of Mike Pence, but also that of the whole of conservatism and the right. 

As to the character of Pence, I can only say that you need not agree with him in all things to acknowledge he is a man of honor. I believe that he feels he can do some good in his position as VP, and that he could influence Trump’s life in a positive direction. 

I believe we can all agree that Trump could use all the positive influence he can get. Of course his past indiscretions are inexcusable. They may be understandable in a sense, but I wouldn’t attempt to justify them. Therein lies the source of the divide over support for Trump. He has been, at least, honest about his vices. That alone sets him apart from most politicians, many of whom behave exactly like Trump privately and then publicly play at being virtuous. 

It doesn’t help the discussion at all when one considers that the integrity of the presidency was utterly destroyed under Clinton, and that this was defended and approved by the very media outlets that have engaged in perpetual pearl-clutching since Trump’s nomination. Hypocrisy is alive and well and its most ardent champion is mainstream media. 

Which brings me back to the Divide, and the most common refrain associated with said divide, “Consistency!” “Character!” “Conviction!”

I found this quote from the Times post particularly telling: 

“Conservatives have twisted themselves into knots trying to excuse Trump’s vulgarities as acceptable and somehow set them apart from the supposed productivity of the man himself, somehow cleaving the sin from the sinner.”

Concerning the questions of character and convictions, and the contention within conservatism and particularly among Christians, is this not precisely what we ought to do?? Not make excuses, but to separate the sin from the sinner? Can we not acknowledge that things done may be unequivocally wrong while also acknowledging that people may be redeemed? 

Before you counter with, “Yes, but..,” let me reminded you that not one of us can redeem ourselves by our own power alone. If you have ever sought forgiveness or absolution then you cannot claim any more innate goodness or virtue than the President can. The act alone is proof that we are not good for goodness sake, whatever childhood songs may say. 

This brings me to what I perceive to be the insidious arrogance of “better than.” 

It is possible for a conservative Christian to support Trump’s presidency and abhor his dalliances. Jesus did not tell us to seek our salvation in politics, nor did he say that we should hawk our “fruits” in the public square by proudly proclaiming the superiority of our vote. When the elites of his day tried to trap him in an inconsistency, he merely said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” What our duty as a voter is, then, depends on a very personal conviction that is God’s alone to judge, as He alone is the one to place such convictions on us. 

It is disturbing to me to see such prideful and contentious interactions among otherwise delightful people. Yes, we should definitely be concerned with character, but first and foremost and always the character that concerns us most should be our own. If we cannot hold a mirror to our own pride and foibles, and seek always to remain humbled by what we find there, then we have no business becoming the arbiters of virtue in other people’s lives. 

We may not like what it says about us that our Representatives are such fallible and fallen individuals, but let us not delude ourselves with the fantasy that we each and all have not at some point been just as given to vice as they are. They are the reflection we turn away from. They are the beams we avoid in our search for specks

I can already predict the rebuttals to this opinion and I may in time address them, but I believe we can gain an understanding of what are simplistically called “inconsistencies” by remembering the many instances wherein God uses secular leaders to perform wise and good acts, and how sometimes a part can redeem the whole. These things did not come about by posturing, however; they were the result of real conviction, real faith, and constant prayer. I can’t help thinking our time would be better spent in the pursuit of self improvement and spiritual communion rather than in endless arguments over who is the “better” person based on whether or not they support the President as a politician or as a person.

To that end, I would leave you with a passage from The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis:

“We are deceived by looking on the outside of things. We suppose ourselves to be roughly not much worse than Y, whom all acknowledge for a decent sort of person, and certainly (though we should not claim it out loud) better than the abominable X. Even on the superficial level we are probably deceived about this. Don’t be too sure that your friends think you as good as Y. The very fact that you selected him for the comparison is suspicious: he is probably head and shoulders above you and your circle. But let us suppose that Y and yourself both appear “not bad”. How far Y’s appearance is deceptive, is between Y and God. His may not be deceptive: you know that yours is. 

In an instant of time -while your friend hesitates for a word- what things pass through your mind? We have never told the whole truth. We may confess ugly facts -the meanest cowardice or the shabbiest and most prosaic impurity- but the tone is false. The very act of confessing -an infinitesimally hypocritical glance- a dash of humour- all this contrives to disassociate the facts from your very self. No one could guess how familiar, and in a sense, congenial to your soul these things were, how much of a piece with all the rest: down there, in the dreaming inner warmth, they struck no such discordant note, were not nearly so odd and detachable from the rest of you, as they seem when they are turned into words. We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues…”

Self-Awareness

Or, more to the point, the sheer lack of it.

I thought it would be a fun exercise to break this down. So let’s take the first tweet, which seems to assume that saying “trans women are women” enough will eventually make it true. I had actually seen this one before and mostly dismissed it as nonsense. You can’t simply declare something to be true and expect everyone around you to accept it as well. Indeed, the past few years have more than proved this to be a very dangerous approach when dealing with reality. What someone else says is true (particularly unsupported by evidence/supported only by ones feelings) is not always so.

Which leads to the small reply thread after it. Now, let me start by saying that this is the internet, and many overtures given are frequently not done in good faith. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that telling someone to “get fucked” in response to a (seemingly) polite request to debate the matter is probably a bad thing.

There is nothing more immature than being given a chance to make your argument and immediately shut it down. And really, this is the crux of the problem with so many debates today; it is not only that people don’t want to listen, they don’t want to persuade either. They think that merely stating their case is enough for everyone else to shut up and accept it. They make no room for people being apathetic, let alone people actively disagreeing or being hostile to the idea. They presume that there is no such thing as a rational or sincere counter-arguments to their beliefs and so choose to act like an ignorant child.

Of course, the problem is further compounded by folks like the quote retweet I took this from. Too many people in the world see this sort of immature behavior and, instead of calling it for what it is, reinforce it, calling it good and right.

Pay close attention to the words chosen, however. “the correct way to debate with a transphobe.”

As though there’s a debate.

As though this person isn’t making the enormous assumption that the person who asked to debate is somehow irrational and not worthy of attention.

Well, maybe, just maybe, Dirak is getting shit because Dirak had a shitty opinion to begin with.

I’m sure that there have been many less polite responses to the original tweet, but given that Dirak responds to the polite ones like an asshole, maybe nothing about this reaction is surprising at all.

Maybe we should stop acting like being stupid children in response to opinions and people we dislike is somehow the height of rhetoric.

Then again, we’re all stupid children now.

The Power of Fan Films

With the release of “The Empire Strikes Back – Revisited,” I’ve been in a bit of a Star Wars mood. Given that Revisited is a fan project, my mind has lately turned to thinking about other fan projects. The fans are the biggest part of why Star Wars survived its drought years between Episode III and Episode VII.

It was not only fans watching The Clone Wars or Rebels that kept the franchise afloat, however. It was fans creating new things: new stories, new tales, new places, new characters. This zeal is what kept Star Wars alive more than anything.

Now, I want to share some of that creative brilliance with you.

Days Past

Honestly, I actually ran across this film while searching for some of my old favorites. It’s not really much of a surprise I didn’t know about it before, given it came out at the beginning of the month. But I’m glad I found it.

Days Past is a look at the relationship between a teacher and her pupil after the fall of the Republic…but it’s not what you expect. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling the plot. However, I would like to give this film credit for the quality of its set; it looks so authentic. Additionally, the character work is phenomenal, and the actors deserve a great deal of credit for bringing them to life.

DARTH MAUL: Apprentice

One of the big problems with the lightsaber duels in the Prequels is their choreography. Wait, just hear me out for a second! The problem is that the movies are overly focused on being flashy and cool, to the point where the fights are no longer convincing. Now, that’s not to say that this fan film does not do that; it does. I would like to note the one Jedi who flips into a shot for no reason whatsoever. Indeed, the entire point of the film is to be a cool, flashy lightsaber duel between a group of Jedi and Darth Maul.

But there’s something about the way it is handled that feels more…real. Not every strike is well-practiced and coordinated. There isn’t nearly as much pointless posturing between combatants. There’s even a bit of emotional pull (though nothing like Days Past). And if you don’t care about any of that…Darth Maul.

Hoshino

Something I’ve observed is that fan films tend to be much better when they’re shorter. If they go above the twenty minute mark, their quality starts to decline. I presume this is because the limitations inherent in any fan production start to catch up with them. They have all that time to fill, but only one or two writers, a limited number of crew and actors, limited special effects, limited budget…

Hence why films like Hoshino tend to be so good. The actual movie is only six minutes long, but it is so focused that it feels longer. Its characterization is splendid and it tells its tale so effectively. It has very little action…and it does not need it. The characters drive the story and that is wonderful.

TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story

Everyone loves Jedi. They have special powers and laser swords and lots of authority. But Jedi aren’t the only denizens of the galaxy, are they? There are trillions of people in Star Wars; what about their stories? TK-436 tries to tell one of those stories.

Now, I could nitpick the technical details in the special effects. Lasers aren’t always colored correctly, X-Wings flying around with their wings closed…but I would be missing the point, wouldn’t I? No, instead, I’ll just focus on the emotional tale of a stormtrooper forced to confront his past in the middle of a grim battle on a distant world.

I think I’m going to have to make another post. I didn’t talk about nearly all the fan films I wanted to…

Can and Should

A man was fired recently. Contrary to what the left would have the general public believe, it is not because he was sexist, or racist, or opposed the shallow vanity that passes for diversity today. No, he was fired only because he dared to have a serious, nuanced opinion that did not conform exactly to leftist groupthink. It did not matter that his opinions largely matched up to the left’s; that he did not toe the line exactly was the problem. So Google, one of the greatest tech giants in the world, fired him.

Now, you might say, “Google is a private organization! They can do whatever they want!” Which they can. But that’s a non sequitur. That they are free to practice whatever hiring and firing decision is not the point, nor am I advocating for restrictions on this. Lord knows if I don’t think that Christian groups should be forced to have gay and Muslim leaders, than no one ought to be forcing Google to hire or retain employees against their will.

However, that does not mean Google did the right thing (indeed, they may have done something very bad, as it turns out).

Indeed, this is a major problem with our society. We equate the freedom to do something with its rightness. We fail to differentiate between the words “can” and “should.”

Can we fire this person? Yes. Should we fire this person? Probably not.

Can we force this baker out of business for refusing to bake a cake that goes against their beliefs? Probably. Should we ruin this person’s livelihood? Probably not.

Can I get blasted drunk this weekend? Yes. Is this a terribly good idea? My hangover will probably tell me no.

Can I sleep around? Yes. Should I run the risk of diseases, pregnancy, or emotional turmoil? I’m going with no.

Can I strut around like I know everything the world has to offer? Yes. Should I, given I’ve only lived a bit north of a quarter century? No.

The problem is that we don’t treat ourselves and our freedom with any real respect. We, as a society, earnestly believe that because we are free to do something, there is nothing wrong with actually doing it. We believe that there should be nothing restraining us from any action, good or bad.

I don’t believe that. I believe that one of the goals of life should be to lead a dignified and respectable life. We ought not be going around behaving stupidly and foolishly. We should not go around heedless of others and even ourselves. Bear in mind, I’m not advocating for leading dull, uninteresting lives (I know I do, and I’m not necessarily proud of that). Sure, we’ll occasionally do wild, crazy. even stupid things. We will do mean and unkind things. We might even think those things worthwhile, that the costs associated with those actions are outweighed by the (perceived) positives. Should we make a habit of it, though? Should we turn those things into our lifestyle?

Shouldn’t we have enough self-awareness to realize when we are making mistakes? Or is that sort of self-reflection outmoded too?