Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Myspace blogs, Get rid of commercials, Thank You.

I went looking today for Blogs on Myspace that actually say something... thinking that a Blog is actually a journal or diary or something, or even a media in which people actually have some sort of civilized conversations about something... A Blog for all seasons.

I'm probably wrong in the conclusion that there are no people out there that actually have something to say that the world wants to hear. When I looked at the most popular blogs, I saw that people want to hear the words of famous people. So you have to be famous to be paid attention to. In today's society, that makes sense. You transfer to the Internet, a place where everyone is equal and can speak their mind, the heirarchy of fame, fortune, and fortunateness that people have in real life. Sure, there are places on the Internet where the oppressed and the minorities speak. I know of a few of them, but they are also places you must find, seeking vigilantly. And those are the places that the Internet is actually built for. But if you look at MySpace, it is a commerically created format for people who are already famous to "get in touch" with their fans, or for everyday people to put silly photos, call each other names, and interact with each other in the way they would in real life, except for they aren't. It brings about the paradox of the Internet. A new way of communicating, and in effect, it has brought in a new kind of incommunication. And in part, capitalism is to blame.

In the past, each new medium of communication has brought in a wave of capitalistic ventures, that, while effective to some extent, basically it litters the medium with useless, barely tolerable information. Starting with radio (actually, newspapers, but I won't go back that far.) the airwaves are filled with commericals that actually take up more time than the program their trying to pay for. Trying to listen to Steve and Vicky in the morning on Star 94 is a futile exercise, unless I just want to hear the traffic (at 6:45am). Between the endless commericals and the truly awful songs (thank goodness the Fray are still getting some playtime), there's nothing coming out of my speakers but noise pollution. Information that must be weeded out and discarded like so much junk.

Same thing with TV. Commercials on TV are simply time for me to get something to eat or to pee. There are times that the commericals are on I forget what I'm watching and try to find something else on. The only good part about some commericals nowadays is that they are often better than the show that is playing. No one watches the Super Bowl for the game anymore. It's for the commercials.

Another medium invented for communication... the telephone. Enter in the capital venture of Telemarketers.

And then the computer revolution. E-mail particularly is a medium that is awash with uneeded trash from businesses and (often illegal) other schemes to take your money. SPAM. It gets so that people don't want to check their e-mail or even give it out because they don't want their mailboxes polluted with junk. (Which goes for snail-mail as well. I get so much junk mail now, but it all goes into the trash, just like the Spam goes into the Spam folder and then deleted. No problem for me, but others see it as a burden more than Atlas had to bear.)

So the solution for all this? Invent ways to climb over the advertisements.... and charge for it! Make money to get rid of the people trying to contact you to make money. It's a self-fulfilling cycle. For phones, there are those telemarketer zapppers. For e-mail, countless spam programs (some scam ones actually act in the opposite way, telling you to get rid of spyware and spam, but actually, it collects your information and sends you more e-mails and spyware.... ) have been created, and while some companies have free ones, it still doesn't make any sense why we have to put up with it in the first place.

The radio has XM, Cable has HBO and premium channels, programs like Eudora will get rid of advertising if you pay them money. The medium becomes purposefully aggrivating, so that you pay that same medium money to get it to shut up! It's like that Merriachi band in the Mexican restaraunt. They play for your entertainment, but they are also playing for you so that you will pay them money to make them go away!

So where was I... oh yes... back to MySpace. I look at some of my friends pages, and they simply are advertisements for one company or the other, or for some band or whatever, and while I do wholeheartedly agree that supporting the businesses you use is great, the medium of MySpace is supposed to be used for communication with friends, classmates, business prospects...etc. Instead, all you have are advertisements, people sending spam , flashy graphics that have a link to the graphic makers website..etc.. The communication breaks down. The real person is no longer there. Instead, it is replaced by capitalistic nonsense. That's why my MySpace page looks so dull, because I will not have that stuff littering my page unless I put it there myself. I endorse Neopets, and Transformers, and all the music I listen to. They can stay on my page, but that's it. If I want to know what's going on with a band I listen to, I'll go to their page and look. They don't need to send me anything. Obtrusiveness becomes an interruption. Uneeded communcation leads to noise pollution and discarded information.

I look over at my blog totals, and it says that 341 separate looks have been made on my blogs... And while I want people to read it, I cannot help but think that there are programs out there that are scanning blogs for keywords so that they can send an e-mail to my box advertising this or that. I hope that people are reading this... but I don't care whether anyone actually is or not. I'm sharing my journal cause that's what I want to do. No one's ever responded to them, out of 341 people, so what makes me think that any of them are actually reading it. (I know that my friends are, from time to time, so some of them are real, and I greatly appreciate them.) If someone likes what I say, send me a note and say so. That's true communication, that's what MySpace is for. All I see on other pages is mostly junk.


I wanted to say something about Christmas, but since Orson Scott Card has said it so wonderfully on his "blog," and that since I agree with his statements, I'll refer you to his page. That is a blog that is worth reading every week. Amazing insights, and I value his movie reviews above most other critics out there. I can't wait to see what he thought about the Eragon movie. Go see this weeks review at this page, and read some of the rest of it too. His analysis of the Middle East conflict is amazing as well.


On a small review note, you must go to Germany and buy a copy of Declan Galbraith's new CD, Thank You. He takes contemporary classics like Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven" or Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" (a hit in UK, not here) and blends in his spectacular voice. You might be able to pick it up (here in the US) from Amazon or from or Ebay, because they're not selling it yet here. You can download (legally) songs from his first album, or buy it off Amazon as well. I'll put a link of that one here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Selective Hearing

I firmly believe that we are, at this very moment, experiencing an evolutionary event, one that will change the way we think, the way we process information, our very existence....
Well, maybe not, but it's astonishing some of the reports that have come out recently about kids sleeping through fire alarms.

Related situations surround us everyday. My brother, who is a sheriff in Rockdale County, has seen many examples of officers who, with lights and sirens blaring, will not be able to get around drivers because they simply do not see or hear them. He has to use the air horn (which are like those installed in trains) in order to be recognized some of the time.

I realize that sometimes I don't hear people because of my ADD... okay, I don't hear people a lot of the time... but there's a reason for this, and it's the same reason that children sleep through fire alarms.
All sense data that we recieve goes into our brains and are converted to nerve electric messages (or something like that). Everything we hear is converted by the ear and brain and processed. However, there is a very basic difference between the way that anyone born since about 1975 (give or take a decade) processes information from their elders. In this era of noise pollution, with TV, radio, cell phones, constant noise... our brains have to figure out what to process and what to ignore and discard as background noise. Our brains multitask on many different levels. Right now I am listening to the news while doing this, and with most children, they can have a TV on, the computer, radio (okay, IPod), while IM'ing their friends, and all while doing their homework.

The fundamental ability that everyone from my generation on down is learning to do is to filter out unwanted information in an effort to make sense of so much data being shoved into us every day. This becomes selective hearing. We hear what we want to hear. Now, the side effect of this is that children often do not hear their parents because, since usually what parents have to say to children is usually not wanted by the child, they simply ignore it.

Of course, this is exacerbated by the inability of the parent to discipline their child. By yelling at the child, he or she simply ignores the yelling, or for that matter, any noise that is that loud. The child does not want to get up, he learns to ignore the yelling parent that wants them to get up. Thus the fire alarm going off neglects to send the brain the information that you need to get up and get out because the brain as already decided that anything that loud must be discarded as unnecessary information.
This is, of course, why my mom finishes every sentence with "did'ja hear me?" I don't pay attention because I'm thinking about other things, and so my head discards unneeded information, like anything my mom says. Now, that is a lack of self discipline, or an effect of ADD, and I'm wrong for ignoring her sometimes, but you have to understand that with so much information flooding our minds every second, it comes to the point that we have to discard some things while digesting the more important information.

Thus the Sounds of Silence are no more. Because I've actually seen it when, at a concert, that everything goes quiet, and someone has to start screaming, because the silence is frightening to people. A lack of noise, a lack of information, is unnerving to most people my age or younger. It would be like Linus without his blanket. Noise, be it TV or music or whatever, is an essential part of our society. We have to process information constantly, even if it is just background noise.

So, selective hearing is simply an evolutionary adjustment to the changing environment in which we live. It is a method of survival. With children, though, it leads to ignoring parents, sleeping through fire alarms, and leading to a lack of discipline or self control.

Next time you have a chance, try Earobics, which is an education web site that sells software to help children process information in the midst of background noise and distractions. Talk about a hard game... try the advanced online games on the site (check in Game Goo)... it was hard for me to do!
So finally we have an answer to the classic question... If a tree falls in the forest, even if there were people around, they would be too busy listening to their IPods to notice.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bowl Season, Secret Santa, Cybertron.

Well, so begins the Bowl Season for College Football, and tonight the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl was played, and Gerald Wolfe was stuffed at the line of scrimage, and the Quarterback for TCU, Ballard, shows again how great Mid-Major conference QBs are.

I love watching Mid-Major conference games because the talented people coming out of these schools are showcased in remarkable fashion. Ballard rushed for 3 touchdowns, of which the first one had Ballard getting tackled three times and then did a somersault over a NIU player into the end zone. Amazing work! He'll be playing in the NFL for sure, although it might be as an RB, not a QB.

Unfortunately, I'll miss Friday's New Orleans Bowl, in which Rice plays Troy St.


I love the signs put up in the break room at Borders, which tells everyone that all Secret Santa activities are "due" on Friday. Now based on the past blog entries, you know what I'm going to say here. God didn't put a deadline on giving his gift. Salvation wasn't "due" anytime. You give because you want to, not because there's a deadline.


And while we're on gifts, you've got to see , where they have images of the new Transformers Masterpiece Starscream. Amazing work from Takara toys. Also, there's endless information on the toys, the new movie, and anything Transformer related.

Going to bed... post something more meaningful next time.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Book Review: Darkness Visible by William Golding

Nothing major going on here, just the insane business of the holidays working at Borders, so I thought I'd give a book review of one that will be reprinted next year, Darkness Visible by William Golding:

In Lord of the Flies, Golding demonstrated the darkness that lies within all of us, and how it appears when rules go by the wayside. In Darkness Visible, he goes one step further. Born out of dark circumstances, the young and innocent are corrupted by their adult counterparts, and, because there is no one to teach them rules, they become devoured in their own addictions. This is a complex, gothic novel that will stay in the minds of readers for a long time afterwards. It will remind some readers of Orson Scott Card's Songmaster.

Basically, Golding applies the philosophy he set out in LOTF to today's society. The whole idea of what Golding uses here is somewhat confusing. In LOTF, society (the culture and rules that hold the boys together) unravels, turning the boys into feral beings. Only a couple of kids maintain the values that he believes in. At the end of the book (especially the recent movie), Golding paralells this to the wars going on at the time he wrote it. That the few who can keep their values are often overcome by those who are without morals or a system of beliefs. When the system breaks down, cahos ensues.

Now, in Darkness Visible Golding takes this idea and applies it to a society integrated into civilization. The feral subconscious that lies within all of us, the temptations, the obsessions, come out in the main characters. Sex, drugs, crime, each character succumbs to his or her own temptation. And it's the adults who seduce the younger generation with those temptation.

However, there's one important change at the end. The experiment is this: can a person who has succumbed to the subconscious desires within (the darkness) finally control those desires and eventually reappear from that desire. An amazing book--a psychological study, an examination on society, a great novel, and a magnificent work of literature.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Little things that Bug Me...

Everyone has pet peeves, and there are some that just bug the everliving snot out of me.

If I'm in the bathroom, I have no interest to hear another guy come in, talking on his cell phone, while peeing... it's rude to the person talking on the phone, and rude to me because I have to hear this conversation when that is the last point in my life I want to have or hear a conversation! Lynn Truss compares this behavior in her book Talk to the Hand to a bubble of private space that surrounds each and every one of us. To some people, that private space means they can do whatever they want inside of that space, from sing along with too loud music to talk on the cell phone, whenever and about whatever they want. This private space also allows them to destroy books, lay down books wherever they want, and generally not care about things that are not theirs. Although a bit complicated, Truss' book is a great read.

This is a retail thing. If you are going to get change out of a role of change.... take all the change out and throw the wrapper away. Don't take half of the pennies out and leave half a role sitting in the till for someone else to finish emptying! Drives me nuts!!!

Out of date flyers. If your garage sale or event or whatever is taking place on the 15th of November, go back to the advertising bulletin boards and take the flyers down by the week after. I used to go around the college and take out of date flyers down. And don't put five flyers on the same board... we can read one just as well as five.

Chimney smoke in August. I can always tell when it gets below 60 degrees here in Georgia. It hits 59, and every fireplace hearth in the neighborhood is lit up, with smoke pluming out of the roofs. That's what central heat is for. I'm allergic to fireplace smoke, and once people realize that we are living in the 21st century and that central heat (or space heaters) are much more efficient than the firsplace, the better off I'll be. Me and my sinuses thank you (yes I know I used "me" in the sentence wrong. It was for emphasis.

I've already mentioned some in other posts, but these were some that probably wouldn't have fit in anywhere else.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Neil Postman, Gift-giving, other random thoughts.

I don't think Neil Postman went far enough in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. His idea was that the media (the way in which we communicate) shapes what we communicate. Postman was very much interested in the concept of the News broadcast, where the whole world is given to you in 15 second snapshots, all geared toward the idea that something absolutely wonderful will happen after the next commercial. It leads you through bombings, deaths, fires, rapes, cats in gutters, only to lead you to weather, sports, and then to some insignificant Youtube like video of something really weird happening, as if that were the highlight of the whole hour. So what if the kid is stuck in the vending machine, the hike in gas prices or the threat of nuclear holocost from N. Korea or Luxembourg or whoever wants to annihilate us next is much more important and relevant to our lives.

But that's not what is paramount to the media (see ideas in posts below). My contention is that the media (the way in which we communicate) has become our reality. To rephrase, Postman maintains that the "Medium is the Message." I go further, the "Medium is the Reality." It happened about the same time that TV really started infiltrating our living rooms (and more importantly, our bedrooms. There's no point in having sex until after we've seen the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (bless his soul) or (heaven forbid) Jay Leno.) Why bother living in our reality, where people work for a living and raise children and clean the house, when we can watch endless hours of TV or surf the Internet or play Video Games to our hearts content (or until our arteries clog and we die of heart attacks, either way.). This effects the very manner in which we look at reality. How many times has a worker at the Borders Cafe held up her scoop and asked if I want ice in my Mr. Pibb, and all I can think of is "of Kellogg's Raisin Bran "Two Scoops!"" How many can instantly quote the phone number for Empire Carpets or Safe Auto. I watched Amber and Lee watch TV, and when those commercials came on, they sang the numbers without even looking at the screen or looking up from what they were doing (playing Yugi-oh, I think.) It's been ingrained into the younger generations' minds.

I told a customer yesterday (she was looking for classics to introduce to her child) that children don't seem interested in a book unless the main character has a show on Nickelodeon or Disney or something. Farewell Peter Pan, hello Spongebob Squarepants. And this is the state of reality. Peter Pan would have no one to recruit for Neverland, because everyone would be happy here in their own Private Neverland here in America. Society here is content with no one growing up or accepting responsibility for their actions because people who don't grow up are impotent and easily persuaded by the next piece of candy or the next shiny new something or the other that is advertised. Remove the serious parts of the world, disguise the unfortunate or turn it into hilarious youtube videos, and make all your problems go away with a trip to the mall and the swipe of a credit card and the purchase of an Xbox 360 or the latest purse or whatever. Woe to the world when the children of America take over, because there will be no one to stop whoever from taking over the rest of it.


It seems strange that I would post two blogs about Christianity, since I am not an overly religious person. But I do believe in what I said, and I think that, like all things, one's faith must be carefully looked at and improved, in whatever one believes. I had a strange experience that validated the thoughts I had on Christmas and Gift-giving. I went to Chick-Fila to get something to eat for lunch, and turns out, silly me, that I forgot my Debit card in my pants pocket at home. Well, an older African American gentleman pulled out cash and insisted that he pay for my lunch. What was unusual about this was my reaction to it. I felt bad at first, as if I had done something wrong (which, to some extent, I had), and I didn't want to face this person who was paying for my lunch. But this feeling is exactly the wrong feeling to have. Open hearted giving (he was not in the same line as me, so it wasn't because he was in a hurry. He wanted to help me out), especially in this Christmas season, is a reminder of what I said below, that the giving of one's time, money, services, in an open-hearted, generous manner emulates the act of God giving Jesus to an unworthy peoples. I did nothing to deserve him paying for my lunch, but he did it anyway. We as a human race did nothing to deserve God sending his Son to die for our sins, but he did it anyway. What happened at Chick-fila emulates and validates what happened on the cross, because at first we are ashamed at our mistakes, but then we turn to the giving of thanks to the person (or God) that has generously given of himself. This feeling is what is lost when we fill Christmas lists or do Secret Santa's or expect a gift or a thank you card from friends or family.


It's cold here (my friends in Maine will laugh at me, it's around 25 here.) Thank goodness the cat we take care of is very well furred and doesn't mind the cold. My brother wraps Puddy up in his blanket before he goes to bed late at night. It looks like a Puddy Burrito. Cats are so independent. They can take care of themselves, for the most part, unless they get into the insides of the car to keep warm. Hit the Hood of your car before you get in to start it. That should startle any cat that has gotten in there. It's much better than having cat hair come through the AC.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

"Celebritization of the News"

Conan O'Brian was interviewing Tom Brokaw a couple of nights ago, and Conan came up with an interesting question (which is more than Leno has done in ages). Has the news been infiltrated with what he called "the celebritization of the news"? A masterful question, since it seems that people would much rather hear of the latest controversy around Terrell Owens or Michael Vick or who Jessica Simpson is currently dating than they would about real news that has an impact on their daily lives. This got me thinking, Conans' very right.

This didn't start recently, it began back with the start of news shows like Entertainment tonight and Extra... but really didn't begin until TV and technology made it possible to track a celeb's every move. Cell Phone cameras, Internet ability to transmit video, handheld video cameras. But also there is the effect of the MTV generation, in which attention spans of anyone falls to about a week or two at most when it comes to a celebrity. Brittney Spears must appear somewhere every night so that the news shows will give an update about who, what, where, and why on her daily. She somehow gets on the news because she had her child in her lap while driving, a move that countless normal people have done in the past without getting called by DFCS. TO must find a way to attract the media's attention (well, before he hooked up with Romo and started playing football), even when her despises the media to begin with. It's an ADD world, and celebrities have no choice but to marry the media, even when they hate them.

But what makes all this bad is that often the news of Tom Cruise marrying... Again... overtakes much more serious and relevant news. And it's done deliberately by the media, because they know that people would much rather here about Brittney than Britan, or Simpson rather than Sudan. The media is right... irrelevant news is much more appealling than news that makes a difference, because it is calmly reassuring (ignorance is bliss) instead of putting fear or alarm into someone. That is why, if the world ends, Headline News will be the best news show to watch. We want calmly reassuring, we don't care about the deaths in Africa or the War on terror, because it makes us realize that there is an entire world out there in which bad things happen, and in which we can either do nothing about, or we could do something about it, if we wanted to work hard enough to do it.

We feed on the fluff of the world, and neglect to get down to anything of substance. That is the real issue of celebritization of the news.


I know that some blogs are supposed to be about someone's real life... I've read those... and if something comes up in my life that needs writing about, I'll do that... but for now, opinions, things I think about, those will do for me. It's a place for me to write down my thoughts.


I always watch Whose Line is It anyway from 10 to 11pm on ABC Family... good stuff... as long as they stay away from certain skit games... Scenes from a Hat is the best, Millionaire Game and Helping Hands are atrocious. Makes me wish I had a DVD of it all to get around all the games I don't like.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Secret Santa... the bane of Christmas

I've been very busy with Borders and the insane number of people that are shopping now. Every time I have a minute to do a blog, the amount I want to post is more than I have time to do... so... here's a short one.

My fellow employees started a Secret Santa thing at work. Every business does it. I guess it's because every business wants everyone to feel involved, and let's face it, there are some employees that you'd rather give Arsenic to rather than a gift of some sort. In my opinion, this type of gift giving is directly against the philosophies behind Christmas.

So here's why I declined to do Secret Santa and will never do it:

1) I'm usually broke, and so buying a gift for someone I probably don't know or whatever is pointless. I'd rather buy some penguin something for Bel whom I know will like it than buy some trinket of nothing that will probably get returned.

2) Buying a gift should be an act of thinking of a friend while buying it. There should be a process involved where you find a present, all the while thinking of that person, what he/she would like, and remembering all the good times you've had with him/her. Doing a Secret Santa thing negates all this. It basically says, you have to buy a gift for this person, but that person, in turn, will not know who you are. It's like a Reality TV show for Christmas. Why all the suspense? I like surprises just as much as anyone, but I don't want to have to worry about that while I'm trying to do my job.

3) Linda and Robin Williams (see post below) have a song called "The First Christmas Gift." In it, he basically says that God sent Jesus as the first Christmas Gift. The Lyrics near the end read:

"As we rush through crowded days on hurried shopping trips
As we credit card our way down our Yuletide lists
Let openhearted offerings celebrate the King of Kings
The Fount of Love sent from above
The First Christmas Gift."

I believe whole heartedly in this lyric. Why should I give a gift to someone because of a game? Giving a gift, in this way of thinking, is emulating the giving spirit in which God sent Jesus to Earth to die for our sins. It is part of the image in which he created us. God didn't have to send Jesus down to Earth. He wasn't told to do it, no one's name was drawn from a hat. The first Christmas Gift was given openly, generously, out of love and compassion. So should we give our gifts this Christmas.

This brings me to one final thing. All this week I have helped customers fulfill wish lists as if they were orders sent to the workers at Subway. I remember making the same lists. If I were those parents, I would gladly accept the lists, but I would use it a suggestion, not as precisely what they are getting for Christmas. This too eliminates the pure meaning of giving gifts at Christmastime. It is far more meaningful for me to hunt for a gift that I know is exactly what they want without them asking for it. We never asked for a savior, but God gave one anyway, because it's what we wanted, an escape from Death. It makes me feel good, thinking about the good times I've had with my friends while looking for gifts, or cards, or whatever. That is the true act of Christmas Shopping. Joy overcomes all the negativity and hustle and bustle that seems to ooze from customers. It makes the act of giving a joy, not a chore.

So while you are out shopping for your friends and loved ones, think about them, and buy whatever you think they will want with love in your heart, and with the idea that what you are doing is repeating, in some small way, what was done 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.