“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Stan Lee

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and unlike previous Spider-Man movies that followed the adventures of Peter Parker, the main character of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Miles Morales. The basic premise of the film is that Miles Morales attains the abilities of Spider-Man and must assume the mantle of Spider-Man after the death of Peter Parker in Miles’s fictional universe. Consequently, he must master his new found abilities and defeat the primary villain whose plans could destroy the city. During the course of the film, Miles is joined by the Spider-Man characters of other universes who assist Miles on his journey and provide him with training, guidance, mentorship, and support. …


The Matrix Trilogy is arguably one of the greatest science fiction trilogies ever made. Set in the future, The Matrix Trilogy explores a dystopian world where humans and self-aware machines are at war with one another with the majority of humanity imprisoned in an artificial, digitally simulated world called The Matrix. Although these movies contain some of the greatest action sequences in all of film, the premise of the trilogies allowed the movies to explore deeply philosophical themes surrounding humanity, annihilation, choice and self-determination, and society.

Through the interplay between different characters, interweaving storylines, and the tension between factions The Matrix Trilogy shines a light on new ways to think of the problems we face as individuals, as a society, and as humanity. Though these films never arrive to a complete conclusion or a complete understanding of these ideas, they almost certainly provide us with a new way of thinking about these challenges and in some cases perhaps even offers us some hope for the future. …


Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite film trilogies of all time, and I believe that Peter Jackson deserves an enormous amount of credit for the choices he made in what to include, what to leave out, what to change, and what to emphasize from the source material to the movie. Even though it’s been nearly 20 years since the films were released, I often find myself re-watching different scenes and returning to the characters that were portrayed. …


(This essay looks extensively at the movie Saving Private Ryan and Episode 3 of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers)

As I have stated in the past, I believe that film is one of the highest forms of artistic storytelling, and I believe that this applies to war movies just as it applies to movies of any other genre. I don’t watch war movies to glorify violence, nor do I watch war movies with the illusion that I will be better informed — better informed either of the historical events or of the personal experiences of those that lived through it. I don’t watch war movies as a hero fantasy or as a method of deconstruction of events. I watch these movies to experience a powerful story, where the central theme presented is often times a story of solidarity and camaraderie in the face of pain and adversity. I don’t watch these movies thinking that the movie is at all reflective of what actual people experience. …


My Past

I was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. I spent my childhood and adolescence growing up in Tinton Falls, a small suburban town in New Jersey that was near Fort Monmouth, NJ. My father worked as a civilian employee for the US Army. Throughout my school years, many of my classmates and friends were children of enlisted soldiers and officers. My family wasn’t perfect and growing up wasn’t always easy for me, but looking back, it was more than I could possibly ask for. Because the truth is, I shouldn’t have even been born.

My father fought for the South Vietnamese Army and was trained by US Army soldiers. My father survived the war, but when South Vietnam fell, it was a US Navy Vessel that gave the refugee boat my father was fleeing on a US Flag to fly so that they could sail to port in the Philippines. Without a home, the US took my father and his family in and gave them a chance at a new life. …


It seems clear that around the world we are seeing a rise in authoritarianism. However, within this rise of authoritarianism that we see globally, what I find most alarming is the resurgence of ethnofascism. It was with the recent events we are seeing around the world and the rise of ideology that I wanted to take a moment to attempt my own critique of ideology and offer what I could to those struggling for their own right to self-determination.

Ethnofascist Ideology

“On the contrary, fascism had no quintessence. Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions.” …


People ask me all the time, “you must meet some crazy sorts of people.” And the answer is of course, I meet all sorts of people and have all types of driving experiences, both positive and negative. However, as a ride-share driver, the vast, vast, vast majority of my rides are boring and uneventful. Although I’ve definitely had a decent amount of interesting, entertaining, and profound experiences, these represent a very small share of rides. So far, I have only been sharing the good experiences or the most profound rides or the rides I thought were interesting. …


The ways in which life works out are truly strange, at the mercy of circumstance, and determined so much by chance. The decisions we make and the outcomes of those decisions are very difficult to predict and any vision of the future is obscured by a thick shroud of unpredictability, improbability, and sometimes pure chance. Not only this, but I’ve found that not only are our lives drastically impacted by our own independent decisions, but that our decisions also impact the lives of those around us in ways we are often unable to anticipate. Furthermore, it is undeniable that the reverse is also true: the actions and decisions of others affect our own circumstances, our own livelihoods, and our own ability to interpret, understand, and act in the world. I think that the duality of the human experience extends beyond the individual and extends into our relationships with the people that we encounter in our experience of life and existence — the push and pull between each other, how our actions feed back on the actions of others and how their actions feed forward on our future decisions, and the rippling nature of consequence through the web of human interactions. …


I actually rather enjoy driving — I find driving to be relaxing and is an activity that helps me gather my thoughts and clear my head. During long car rides, I like to catch up on podcasts, listen to music, and just work through questions or ideas that I’ve been toying with but haven’t fully resolved or completed. And as I figure out my future career and what life has in store for me, the idea of getting paid to drive made immediate sense.

Since starting, ride-share driving is easily one of the most edifying experiences I’ve had in my life. The common theme to many of my life experiences are the interactions and stories I’ve taken away from those I came into contact with and those I worked with — ride-share driving is no different. And although I’ve only been driving for a short time, the stories I’ve been able to collect, the experiences of the passengers I’ve driven, and the universality of the human condition seems to be reinforced with every new passenger I encounter. …


Approval of Partners

Anyone who has driven for a ride-sharing service has likely had a clown car experience — an experience where way, way too many people try to fit into a car that is clearly too small for the number of riders. Some people are okay with it, some people are not very happy about doing so. One evening, I was picking up a group of women coming from a wedding reception and heading to an after party, and not even 1 second after I had agreed to take them, I found 9 people crammed into a car that was only meant to seat 5 at most — I was in the driver side, 2 women were in the front passenger seat, and 6 women were stuffed like sardines in the back. …

About

Gabriel Pham

Living My Best Life

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