Sunday, December 30, 2007


There is such a stupendous feeling when you witness an act of perfection. It's an emotional response that is unique amongst other reactions, recorded in the memory much like the witnessing of a tragedy, and perhaps, thankfully, a little more common. But you can't tell the exact date or where you were, but you certainly know the feeling. It especially comes into play when watching sports (especially when it's something that you personally cannot do.) It is witnessing Tiger Woods dismantle everyone else on the course, until it is more a competition with himself and the gods of golf than anything else. It is holding your breath and sitting on the edge of your seat or whatever cliche you want to use. It's better when the act is someone you root for, but you have to acknowledge it when the act is done against you.

Since tonight the New England Patriots have gone 16-0, in a game that was, in itself, an act of perfection, I thought I'd look back at other events I've witnessed that were absolutely perfect:

The only perfect game I've ever seen personally, was, unfortunately, the 2005 Orange Bowl, where USC took apart OU 55-19 (the score might not be right, but it's close) Leinhart and Bush and Lyndale were playing catch out there against an Oklahoma team that, except for the Big 12 championship, looked like the best team ever to play college Football. Thank goodness for Texas and Vince Young the next year.

Brett Farve raised himself to the status of demi-god on the Monday night after his father died a few years back. Threw for 5 touchdowns and had a perfect passer rating.

Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10.0 on the jump to earn the girl gymnastics team a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics (mind you, these are events I've actually watched, which is why I'm not putting in Lance Armstrong's 7 strait Tour De France wins, cause I didn't see that, it didn't effect me at all.)

Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa's breaking the....oh, wait, nevermind....

Randy Johnson pitching a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves, which was amazing, even if it was the Braves that lost.

The Oklahoma defense during the 2000 Orange Bowl (BCS Championship Game) against Florida State. It didn't matter if OU turned over the ball or if they had to punt, FSU could do nothing with the ball, and the only points they made were the 2 points OU gave them as a safety as a measure of clock management.

I would almost put Ken Jennings Jeopardy run on here, but that's not sports perfection, and it wasn't perfect, by any means.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind when I ask myself about Perfection. Now all the Patriots have to do is win the playoffs and the Superbowl, without making it seem anti-climatic. If I know the teams still in the playoffs, those will be good games!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Living Years

Album Review: Declan Galbraith, Ego You

Trying to review albums performed by minors is difficult, especially when it's not their first, and when, as teenagers, their voices are constantly changing. So you can have songs on the same album with a voice that is an octave higher than others, depending on when they've been cut. And then there's the selection of music by those who are trying to manage the child singer's career. What do the fans want to hear? What will sell the most? What is the singer able to do? What songs are cheapest to get as far as royalties...etc... Inevitably, as a breakthrough artist grows up, and the voice changes and the "newness" wears off, money becomes harder to come by, the albums wan in quality.

An example... Billy Gilman. Whose first album was amazing, and following a Christmas album, a sophomore album, and an album project with the late Mattie Stepanek (Heartsongs fame), Billy was unexpectedly cut from Sony when the record companies merged and shed artists in order to cope with the loss of business (supposedly because of online downloading, which is another blog). All those previous albums were amazing in their own ways. Not all songs were listenable, but an easy re-edit, and you have albums with superb songs and an amazing talent which should have become the next superstar. Unfortunately, the people who supervised his career decided on Country ballads to woo young girls and their parents. So the next album, a self-titled one, was a major let down for me. The songs were safe, harmless, and full of instrumental fluffiness, background vocals which covered up his lowering voice (which wasn't as stable as it was earlier), and almost a desperate attempt to find a niche in the country scene, which is obviously not where he needed to go. My advice would be to get a new voice trainer, go to college, and emerge as a writer, maybe singing Christian or pop/rock songs, not country ballads which is only ruining his career in the way that those mindless movies did Elvis' acting career. I couldn't listen to it.

So enter Declan Galbraith, a nine year old with a voice as high and pure as an angel and the critical praise of his first album that gave him a very good record deal. Unfortunately for his fans, he waited a little too long for his second album, and his voice was changing by the time he recorded it. But still, there were wonderful tracks recorded with Declan's powerful voice. It seemed that he had mastered his changing voice and was being given songs that were ideal for his abilities.

Now he releases Ego You, an album full of pop ballads and covers of teenage wooing songs (i.e. the Partridge Family, I Think I Love You) with the same instrumental annoyances and background vocals that overshadow Declan's lowering voice. And I would totally write off the album and wait for him to gain independence and control over his career, except for a couple of things that makes this album worth looking on Itunes for.

There are four decent tracks. The title track, "Ego You" mixes a good rock background with some complex lyrics. "Sister Golden Hair", a cover from the band America, is great. I would almost rather hear him singing Eagles type music, maybe a country-rock blend. Declan does a great job of it. The unreleased track from the single EP is good, too.

What blew me away was track 15. "The Living Years," a cover from Mike and the Mechanics. the song is awesome by itself, the only hit for that group, and someone arrainged this cover for Declan and he hit a home run with it! I'm gonna put this one on my "repeat" album, a cd of songs that each one I can put on repeat and listen to repeatedly for hours.

The lyrics deserve mentioning... you can search for them easily by putting in the title. It deals with the difficulties of a father-son relationship, but I interpret it in a different way. If we broaden the perspective, it is the inability of the older generation to understand the fast moving, more liberal thinking philsophies of the computer generation. And I've seen countless examples of the quickening chasm between the technologies and lifestyles of older people and younger becoming an almost impossible hurdle to overcome. And yet... we are the children who are going to carry America on their shoulders, and so how damaging is it to let beliefs and traditions of a previous generation get in the way of supporting those who would make this world a better place for all to live in? The song speaks volumes for those that hurt within because of those differences, or who feel that those things that need to be said to those loved ones could never be said because of the walls between us (mixed metaphor, but it worked better.) I'll probably go into this later, when I have processed it more.


Okay, so this blog was probably boring, and I didn't say much, but that's okay. I'm resting from the constant retail zoo that is pre-Christmas shopping, and sometimes it's good just to let your mind be mush. I'll think later. Write now, I have to finish putting up the tree and wrapping my presents.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Nostalgia Part 3


So close to Christmas, at Borders we have Holiday music on all the time. I know that most of my co-workers can't stand it, and for the most part, only the contemporary groups like TSO or Manneheim are tolerated. And those are fine, because those groups take the idea of Christmas and the holiday season (with all the emotions that go along with it) seriously. A good blend of secular, religious, and new Christmas music that throws the unexpected in with the familiar. When you go to places like Kroger or whereever, the majority of Christmas tunes you hear come from old crooners like Perry Como or Andy Williams. We know that Bing Crosby is dreaming of a White Christmas, because somewhere on Earth that song is being played right now. So I got to thinking, why is it that, while millions of other groups can cover the old classics, that those songs being played on retail overheads are the traditional songs, with the traditional lyrics (whether or not they are the religious or merely the secular is a thought for another day), and all seamlessly brought together to bring nostalgia and delight to those shoppers who are trying to buy just the right thing for their loved ones.

And perhaps that feeling is exactly why you never hear modern day versions of Christmas classics in retail stores. Nostalgia is not brought about by Coldplay singing Chestnuts Roasting, or the Spice Girls decking the halls. It is a note, a feeling brought about by the familiarity of the old singers. A deliberately created feeling, nostalgia is. Because at this point in the year, it is the music producers that try to incorporate the old classics into holiday muzak to create the yearning for the olden days, when people could afford to get presents and the food on the table was large and home cooked (which is advantageous to grocery stores).

It sounds like I'm being cynical towards the feeling of nostalgia, and if you read my other postings on the subject, there are times when I am. But the nostalgic feelings that are real and genuine are often indistinguishable from the ones created by Hollywood or the music producers whose sole purpose is to sell products, through the TV or walking down the halls of malls throughout the land.

While I'm on the subject, I find that nostalgia is not just defined as the yearning of things past, of cultural simplicity, of children running down the dirt road playing with something without batteries. Often, nostalgia is the yearning for these things, but placed in an ideal world. Not just the past, of happier times of childhood (which, and let's face it, not everyone, or almost no one, has a happy childhood), but rather the times that we would like for that childhood to be. Sure, I never climbed a tree when I was living in Oklahoma, and while I'm not heartbroken because I didn't, there is a sense of loss that that part of my childhood was missing. This is the feeling of nostalgia, of missing things that never happened. And so when we start to think of these things, when we get nostalgic, it is obviously the parts of our childhood that we never got to fulfill that makes wish we could go back and relive those times. That is nostalgia. And it's depressing, but it's often a sweet sadness. It is pain and pleasure all rolled into one. Just like most emotions; you can't have one without the other.

The group Counting Crows said:

"The price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings."

I think he said it right.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some Random Thoughts

There have been things lately that I've noticed or thought about and said, "I should write a blog about that," but the thoughts never connected into something larger. So these are just small things that were of interest to me...

Christmas Ornament shopping... So I went to Hallmark to get the yearly Christmas ornaments to adorn our not yet put up tree. I usually try to get ornaments that have something to do with my life or the life of the person I'm buying for. So I was looking for a police Christmas ornament for my brother who is a police officer. I found Firefighters, Doctors, Teachers, Military... but no Police ornaments. It was amazing that all the service providers in our community are represented by Hallmark except the people that keep us safe at night from criminals. Yet Firefighters have their own fire engine series of ornaments. They give just as valuable a service, but cannot be villanized because they keep people from doing things they shouldn't be doing in the first place. We make policemen into heroes when they are tragically killed (as in 9/11), but when they are forced to kill a violent criminal who is aiming a gun at them, they are made into some monster who should have used some other method to save the life of a poor, unfortunate soul who suddenly becomes the victim of a "police" shooting. Maybe Hallmark, if not society in general (to be fair, I have not checked other places for an ornament honoring police officers), should look at honoring the people that keep the general population safe (at least more than what is already done).


I loved the statement in a recent Rockdale Citizen from someone who obviously works at Blockbuster: "If its just out in theatres, it's not going to be at your local video store." Or at Borders, which I have to follow, "If it just came out in Hardback, it's not going to be out in Paperback. It's amazing how many people asked if HP7 was out in Paperback the night it first came out!


Christopher, a worker at our Seattle's Best Cafe, and a professional bartender before he joined us, made the most amazing Hazelnut Kremecula a couple of nights ago. Go get one!

I went to the restroom a couple of nights ago (I'm sure you all wanted to know that. ), and found, on the TP rack next to the stool, a tract from some church telling how to be saved, and to repent of our sins. And while that is God's word and the foundation for the Christian faith, there are much better places to be contemplating Divinity than the public restroom at a mall! God deserves better than that. We need to have a contemplation room at public places. That would be a place where the walls would be sound proof, and all wireless signals would be cut off, so that no cell phones would work. It might have plants or whatever, but it would be a place for people to sit down and think and rest and escape from the world for a while. A person would make a fortune doing it.... although that's a stupid thought, cause if you leave the cell phone at home, and go for a leisurely stroll at any one of the state parks, God has provided you with places to contemplate life, the universe, and everything. We don't need to be so rushed that the only time we have for reading a prepared tract (things we should be finding out for ourselves and reading the Bible and such) in a public restroom.
My next post, I want to revisit some of my earlier posts, because there are emotions I'm seeing that I'm astonished at how superficial, and yet how real and powerful they can be.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kid Icarus; difficulty in Video Games


On a whim, with the music of level one rolling around in my head, I decided to search for Kid Icarus on the web, to see what web sites were out there. Kid Icarus, for those who are unfamiliar with video game history, was a game originally put out for the 8 bit Nintendo system. It followed by a sequel for the Game Boy, but that was about it. It dealt with the hero, Kid Icarus, fighting mythological monsters in an attempt to rescue some fair damsel in distress. The normal fair for computer games. But anyway, I found a site that reviewed the game, since now you can play those classic games on the Wii system. The review went on and on about how hard the game was, how repetitive the levels and how annoying some of the jumps were. This got me to thinking, because I loved the game, and found it to be fairly easy. What makes an old 8-bit game like Kid Icarus a difficult game, while modern day games, while dazzling in graphics and action, seem fairly easy? My answer is this... that people now a days, with the instant availability of game walkthroughs and cheat codes, find that any game with any difficulty at all is too hard. There is no balance in a game, no thrill in beating a boss that, when you finally take away that last life meter, makes you exhale and feel like you've truly slayed a monster.

But that's not to say that all video games from that era are easy... there were different games with different difficulty levels, and the truly great ones were the ones that could keep the plot line and story detailed, with the action and the skill level not easy, by any means, but not extremely difficult, either. Let's take some of the greatest series in video game history for examples. The Mega Man series, which has now infiltrated every console system and the PC available, started out with Mega Man 1 and 2, which were amazing games, challenging and fun. Mega Man 3 was a little harder, but still beatable. 4 through 7, however, for the 8 bit system, were ridiculous. I couldn't get past even one level, and only managed to beat them using cheat codes. Ninja Gaiden for the 8 bit was impossible, as was NG3, but the second installment was thrilling, and when I finally beat it, after several hours on the same level, it was marvelous. Castlevania 2 was great, and I beat it after many hours playing it, but 1 was hard, but playable, and 3 was impossible. Luckily, when the Super Nintendo came out, Mega Man and Castlevania came out with amazing games. We're still waiting for NG. Zelda was the only game series that had the balance right the whole time, as far as the games that I have played. The Legend of Zelda series has some of the best video games ever made (1, 3, and Ocarina).

But now there are cheat codes for everything, and the games are usually so short because they have tried to up the graphics to such a point that there is more glitter than substance. One notable exception is Half-Life, which is the only first person shooter I'll play, mainly because it actually has a plot line. Also, play American Mcgee's Alice sometime.... an amazing plot line with a balance that I've not seen in quite a while. (Okay, so we had to use the god code for the last boss, but that's okay. The story line was completed, and that's the main thing.)

So balance, just like in life, is essential for a video game to continue it's life cycle beyond one system. And those video games which have the correct balance have become a part of our culture. Everyone knows who Mario is, or Zelda. And you put a copy of SMB1 in front of someone, even today, and they'll get hours of pleasure out of it. Thank goodness for the emulators to bring back the ability to play games that I have gathering dust in my closet, so that the memories that they contain can always be renewed... like visiting an old friend.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Boy Bands and mainstream culture.

Yahoo! Music had an article about Boy Bands, and so I had to put my 2 cents in. Too bad it only had a 3000 character limit. I used every single one. :)


There is nothing so polarizing in music than the selection of pop icons. And if one band is glorified in a decade, the others will be vilified by that particular fan. BSB fans will consider Nysnc the enemy, much like Coke and Pepsi are direct competitors. Looking at it historically, there have been waves of pop music popularity. The creation of rock and roll can be partially given to the rise of such teen idols as Frankie Avalon, but true "boy bands" rose in the 1960's with the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show (in the US, I know little about trends overseas). It is amazing that cable television would help their competitors, The Monkees, rise from drugs, depression, and horse racing to the monumental comeback they experienced in 1986. Nor surprisingly, groups like Menudo and New Kids on the Block were also popular then. I call this the 80's wave of pop music. (Most of this is simple history, but I'm building toward a point.)

The pendulum of popular culture swung back the other direction with Alternative (REM) and other sounds of teen angst. The rebellion of such positive attitudes and the embracing of negativity was partly the aging of the young fans of the 80's to turn against their childhood and grow up into a world so often invaded by cynicism. (It is also interesting to look at the positive messages in music and parallel them to economic ups and downs in the US economy.)

So when the 1997 pop revolution began, a new sound of positive love songs and catchy musical rips were beginning to be felt in Europe with bands such as BSB and the Spice Girls, and as most things in Europe do, they would have eventually come to the US with as much force as they did. However, it is my contention that if it were not for the amazing song writing abilities and positive outlook of Hanson, the door would not have been opened as quickly for pop music again in America. I seem to recall an interview where Nick Carter (or one of the BSB) said as much.

granted, the days of MMMBop are long gone, and Hanson has matured, and in some instances, continue to produce music and to influence the music scene as much as Middle of Nowhere did (although, frankly, I can't get into their latest album, _The Walk_, it lacks the pop roots that made _Underneath_ a great album)

While boy bands are now as numerous as Walmarts here in the US, and perhaps the airwaves are inundated with sub-par writing and simplistic messages of love and lust, an important realization must be made. Pop has never died off from the 1990's hype, mainly because the availability of music has exploded with the Internet, with Apple's Ipods, and with the diversification of tastes, cultures, and the mainstream acceptance of most music as a personal choice among individuals. So pop can exist along side hip-hop, country, or hard rock, and in some cases, can blend into any of the other genres. It's a positive step toward acceptance of other cultures, and one Pop music should be proud of.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post II

I went back to the post I did last year, and found that I'm still basically the same person I was a year ago. I've made a few new friends, and almost lost some. But life is a roller coaster; it would be foolish to think that I would sit here, a year later, and not my share of sorrows and joys. (I'm still thankful for my heater.)

I've learned that the cravings we have must be regulated and controlled, lest they tear us up inside. I've learned that friends are the best support system that anyone can have, and can serve more than Prozac or any psychologist ever could. But that it takes effort to keep up those relationships, and while I'm not the best at communication, I am trying more. And I've learned that there are a lot of friends to be made out there, if you know where to look, to find commonalities and become pilgrims traveling down the same road.

So, to be thankful for my friends, as I've said last year, is the most important thing. My new friends, like Gannon and Lucas, who have problems and joys and sorrows, but are wonderful people that I'm sure I'll get to know better. I'd like to thank Trey Toler for being friends with my brother Lee, and helping him to be grounded in reality while flights of fancy and sorrows abound around him. Lee, after all, is still a child, and Trey has helped him stay there, while still maturing and learning his way through the Realm of Experience. I'd also like to thank Miss Tavia for opening her house for Lee when he needs her, as I cannot, being here in Conyers.

I'm also thankful for Cathe and my manager Angie, who are a wonderful couple and are there to support me in my work and in my life. And for fixing really good casseroles and making a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner when Cathe clearly did not feel like it. Big hearts and clear minds are in short supply in this world, and it's good to have some around.

So Happy Thanksgiving to the people reading this, and to the people that know me or would like to know me. I still mean what I said about reading your blogs on one day a year, or your journals, or whatever. To know where you've been, where you'd like to go, and what brought you to this point. It's also good to know that, through blogs and journals, that you're not alone.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pizza, Cookies, Food for Thought.

I come home from work last night, and my brother has ordered Pizza. Papa John's Pizza. One with Ham and spinach, and no tomato sauce (which is his... he's got Acid Reflux so bad that he had to buy three different trumpets in high school/college because the acid in his saliva ate through the front part of it.) And one with pepperoni and bacon. Now, first of all, the bacon on most pizzas is burnt and hard and gets in my teeth. Secondly, the tomato sauce is either shoveled on there or not present at all, the crust is rubbery, and the cheese is dry. But my mom and brother like it, cause it's "not as greasy as Pizza Hut's pizza."

Which is true. And aside from the garlic-butter-ultrafattening-itssogood sauce they put with each pizza, Papa John's pizzas are inferior to most other pizzas, including the ones you get for a dollar at the grocery store. Pizza Huts pizza's have the ideal amount of tomato sauce, ultra greasy cheese and pepperoni, piping hot cheesy goodness. And I'll gladly exchange adding the garlic butter for the moistness of PH's pizzas any day, and we're not even talking about the stuffed crust or the Triple-decker pizza that they really need to bring back. And I feel so sorry for the myriads of college students at Georgia College in Milledgeville who have had to use PJ's pizza for their meetings because PH doesn't deliver down there.


Okay, I'm gonna complain about my own company right now. So corporate people can listen in, or tune out, I don't care. Went to the cafe yesterday, looking for something sweet, and found Seattle's Best Ovensong Chocolate Chip cookies. Looked really good, so I bought one, took it downstairs, and warmed it up. The chocolate tasted much like plastic, and the cookie was sub-par. Why, oh Why did they switch from the amazing cookies they had before. Their White Chocolate cookie from the beginning of Seattle's Best Cafe, warmed up, was the best cookie I've ever tasted. It leaves the current cookies tasting like dust. So Borders, or Seattle's Best, if you're reading this, please go back to the old cookies, and you can charge whatever you want for them and I'll gladly buy them. The best things are always discontinued.


I was recently talking to a friend about Shoney's, whose declining sales and closing stores have effectively brought an end to American food restaurants in America. And for good reason, the quality of the food has declined, and the customer service has gone down. But there's something to be said for eating comfort food, good old American food, when nothing else will do. I crave Shoney's salad bar occasionally. I miss the breakfast bar with the strawberry shortcake and the french toast sticks and the eggs with the cheese sauce. And the Shoney's brownie ice cream dessert is something only to be outdone by Applebee's brownie ice cream sundae. So good! But I guess the time to eat American food is gone, replaced by Chinese or Italian or Mexican or whatever, most of which have been Americanized and disguised as such.


Finally, you can read all of that and listen to my arteries clog, but you also have to realize that food is one of the pleasures in this world I enjoy, and that society has not tabooed in one form or another.

Capitalism urges it, even as they promote diet plans to combat against it. Go to any magazine rack and pick up Ladies' Home Journal, and you'll find, in big letters, the latest greatest diet plan inside, pictured along side some amazing looking chocolate cream something or another.

Religion uses food in every measure of their faith. Even Jesus ate before he was crucified. The Methodists probably get more converts through good cooking than good preaching, and who hasn't wanted to drink a little more of Jesus' blood or eat more of the body of Christ (oyster crackers) during the Lord's Supper when all we want to do is sing the Doxology and run over to the Olive Garden and beat the lines.

Even our own brains, where Seratonin is raised by most any food, needs food to regulate mood and energy levels. And why is it that sweet tastes so good after salty?

In fact, and this is getting down to the point, that most pleasures that our world provides is ultimately going to cause pain, sickness, or death. If we're talking about wine, or sex, or food, or thrills of excitement and danger, each has the ability to kill us in one way or another. And that's not a depressing point to make. Bob Dylan sang, "He not being born is busy dying," and James Taylor chimed in, "The secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time." So, yes, the things we take pleasure, vices, if you will, will probably end up putting us in our graves, but who wants to live a long and miserable life? We should find our joys in life and treasure them, whether they be a good cheesecake or a precious loved one. And not worry about the problems that come down the road. It sounds Epicurean, and to some extent, it does. But if we add the self-regulation that a good, moral mind must exert on itself, then such vices are kept in balance, and we can enjoy life while acknowledging that we must die at some point. So let me have my greasy Pizza Hut pizza, and my moist White Chocolate chip cookie, and snuggle with one I love, because death is always not far away, and I would rather die knowing the sweetness of life, rather than the bitterness of trying to outmaneuver the grave.

Friday, November 2, 2007

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, The Anonymity of Porn

I've been reading a classical essay on Love by C.S. Lewis, called The Four Loves. Many years ago I used the chapter on friendship as a part of a research paper that I wrote on the theory of Friendship being just as important as love, and if blessed by God, is just as if not more uniting in soul and spirit. What struck me as interesting this time was the chapter on Eros. (For reference, the four loves, according to Lewis, are Affection (Storge, or Family love), Friendship (Philia or Amacitia), Eros, and Charity (loving the unlovable.) )

In the chapter on Eros, Lewis divides Erotic love into two separate entities. Lust (which he calls Venus, which makes no sense, since Eros and Venus are the same Greek/Roman deity. I would cast Lust into more the realm of Dionysus or Bacchus) can exist without Eros. Remarkably, Lewis says that fulfilling lust is simply a biological need, as desire, much as being hungry or sleepy. He doesn't apply the puritan philosophies that all lust is Satanic and should be repulsed. Hunger is not a sin, neither is passing gas, so the biological desire to have sex is not one either. It's when the sex violates a bond, or a promise, such as marriage, or creates some sort of wrongness, then that is the sin that must be forgiven. Lewis reminds me of Joel Osteen, in that God has the only right to determine what is right and wrong, what sin has been committed. We cannot determine that anothers act of passion is a sin, is right or wrong, since that is between God and that other person. We have only the responsibility to love one another and to apply the laws of our nation to determine justice. Divine justice, forgiven through Grace, is determined by God, not by some preacher or the followers of any religion.

C.S. Lewis lived many years ago, and did not experience the wonders of the Internet. I wonder what he would have said, having seen the anonymity that the Internet provides its users. His point in the Eros chapter that made the biggest impact on me was the idea that nudity, the removal of clothing, turns us into human ideals, mere shadows of the Human form (as Plato would say). We become man and woman (or two people), passionate and universal. And this is all good theory, but when I read this, I immediately thought of the impact that pornography has on people viewing it.

What is it that we see in porn? Sure, there is the attractive body (bodies) of our fellow man (or woman), naked in all his glory, performing some sexual act and inviting us to watch. Opponents of pornography, such as women's groups, would say that porn, from posing in Playboy to participating in adult entertainment, is denigrating and insulting to the woman and to womenkind. I would counter that instead, porn makes one anonymous. Because, especially with adult videos, we incorporate ourselves into the movie, replacing the partner of our choice with ourselves. We moan when they moan, we reach our climax when they do. And the cameramen know this and spend more time on closeups, where the face of the other person is not shown, so that we can pretend we are that person. The people on the screen become the anonymous, universal place holders of man or woman.

This is why pornography is so addicting. Not because of the actors on the screen or in the magazine, but rather because we replace them with ourselves, and in this, we can fulfill lustful needs without having another person there. And, in some cases, it's the only way to do this. Because socially speaking, not everyone has the ability to find that special Beloved (as Lewis says) to merge lust and Eros together and spend a lifetime with. It is the lust aspect of Eros that turns love into a craving, and without lust, the lack of a loved one in our lives becomes bearable. We hold off making a bad choice which might hurt someone by releasing the tension that lust, a simple biological need, creates in our lives.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It’s time once again...

for a things that bug me post!! ...

If you go to a store parking lot at midnight, or at 5 in the morning, aside from any drug deals or makeout sessions you might interrupt, you'll also see this truck racing around the parking lot, sorta looks like a carpet cleaner on wheels. The street sweeper's job is to clean the parking lot of all debris. His other job is to scare the daylights out of anyone parking in the lot at the time. There is no pattern to his driving, and he drives at speeds just under uncontrollable. He's a auto insurance nightmare waiting to happen.

In a messup that will never be mentioned in Journalism classes, a broadcaster at ESPN was describing and predicting the upcoming San Diego Chargers game against the Houston Texans. He expertly described the crowd that, wanting to escape the wildfires and willing to come together to watch their beloved team win an emotional game, would be a key part of the game. He did so by using the old cliche "The stadium will be on fire."

If you were unfortunate enough to get in trouble with the law, which in my experience, is just about everyone, and you come to court to face the judge, wear something more than what you would wear on the street. At a recent trip to State court to support a friend (long story), I saw an African American gentleman prepare to meet the judge wearing saggy pants and a t-shirt with the grim reaper on it. His future is grim indeed.

And while we're at it. The same thing goes for clothes at work... for some reason, I've seen employees come to work wearing jeans with holes in them, spaghetti strapped shirts where you can see bra straps, and other unsightly issues. Working in customer service, the worker should be wearing comfortable, conservative clothing with an air of confidence, not an air of wanting to mow the lawn later. Unless you work at Hot Topic or something, where your dress sells the atmosphere of the shop itself. That's different.

But to my main gripe, and this one' s personal. I want an apartment. I want independence, and the chance to grow and develop myself as I want to. But it's just not going to happen anytime soon. It eats at me sometimes, and it's a craving that won't go away. Cravings are things that often drive us toward achieving them, as goals, but often, when the object or goal we desire is so far out of reach or is unobtainable, it becomes something that eats at us, and the goal becomes even stronger. The struggle is to keep your mind, and feet, firmly on the ground and not do anything rash that, trying to leap for that distant peak, will leave you fall short, and falling. Hopefully one day, I can obtain that dream. For right now, I will sit in my room and finish this blog.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Servants of the Unmaker

I've been talking about Libertarianism, or in the philosophical realm, the idea that people are self regulated, that right and wrong are kept in check by people's own morals, religious beliefs..etc. Of course this is not realistic, and that is why the government has set up agencies such as the police, DFCS (family services), and the military, to handle the people who cannot seem to act according to what they know is right and wrong. And maybe I'm just naive, but I have witnessed more acts of maliciousness and wrong in the past few years than I care to ever see. And I'm not talking about political leaders or terrorists, I'm talking about family members, about people who live next door to you and me that have neither the ability nor the will to do what's right based upon ethical or moral values.

We live our lives everyday trying to do the right thing. Helping people out, caring, loving, improving ourselves and others, trying to achieve something. Orson Scott Card talks about "The Maker," his form of God in his novel series Seventh Son. In this, The Maker is constantly trying to build things up, to improve the lives of everyone and everything. And the Unmaker, Satan in these books, tries to tear them all down. And there are people that will try to help the Unmaker do his dirty work. And it usually, in this world, deals with money. A changing of a will, child support, daily finances, the goods that someone leaves behind. And they'll do anything, anything at all, to achieve their goals. I've seen more egregious acts of maliciousness, more examples of human cruelty... I don't know. I wish people could be nicer to each other, because it's those people that care that find themselves in the middle, or find themselves on the wrong end of those malicious acts. Why do such bad things happen to such good people? (Yes, that's a religious question, but I'm not asking it in a religious way.)

And it causes so much pain, so many problems, and yet we go about our days, poisioning our own wells, and if we get down or depressed because of things these immoral people do, we take Prozac and go on with it, doing the best we can. And perhaps that's all we can do. But it makes for so many people with issues, with hearts to bleed and tears to weep. We shouldn't have that many tears to cry. But we do. It hurts me to see so many innocent people get hurt by those who would cause pain. The children... people I care about, and they get taken from their parents (mother) and shoved about, and they turn hard and cynical about the world around them. They grow up to quickly and are thrust into the World of Experience (Blake), well before their time.

It hurts. It really does. I can only help as many people as I can, care about the people around me, love them with all my heart, and try to protect them from the people who are malicious and evil. And hope that in the mean time, I don't get caught on the wrong side of the firing range. Of course, I could just not care. I could go about my life self-centered and ignore all that I see around me. But of course you know I can't. And if that gets me into trouble, then I shall go to the grave with my head held high, knowing that I could bring happiness to those I love, that I could protect those I care about from such evilness.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Short Book Reviews, Random Thoughts, and a Thank you.

Children of Our Children by Clifford D. Simak: One of the problems that readers have in today's world is that we are so much more used to large, heavy books with many characters, descriptions, and lavish lyrical prose. I am not saying that's a bad thing, but rather a symptom of the complex society we live in. Television shows have long stopped the ability to resolve all problems in 22 and a half minutes, but rather piece together the complicated lives of the characters through a whole season. Or, rather, the conclusions are not so wrapped up, but either take several episodes to resolve, or more interestingly, never do.

The casualties of this style of books and television are the books of the past that seem to be more Hemmingwayesque or that make the characters and description and put them behind the themes and ideas behind the book. Science fiction especially. It is obvious from watching the original Star Trek vs. the newer series, that the characterization is much more complex and the plot lines much more complicated in the newer shows. This is the fatal flaw in Children of our Children. It reads more of a serialized book, or a plot outline for a much more complex and richer novel. The characters meant nothing to me, nor really the plot or themes, only the resolution of the book, which, unfortunately, never came. It just ended. Not one of his better books, and much more worth a complete overhaul and a delving into the situations rather than skipping across the surface.

I also understand why my dad didn't like short stories, for the same reasons. I tried reading a selection or two from a sci-fi collection I had, and found the stories to be mere snippets of a story, with quick and rushed plots, characters, and ideas. Wholly unsatisfying. That is not to say that sci-fi short stories can't be wonderful. Read in high school literature books "Cold Equations" or Bradbury's "The Pedestrian." Amazing works of literature and science fiction!

StoneCrest Mall (actually, the landscaping company that services Stonecrest) is still watering their lawns everyday, which is ridiculous, seeing as how Georgia is on a complete outdoor water ban. What's worse is that they justify that by claiming they have to redo the sod now. Not that I care what my yard looks like, necessarily, but it's not fair that everyone else should have yellow yards while the corporations have dark green lawns.

If you work retail, you should have a demeanor about you that says, "I am here to serve the customers." There should be a vivaciousness about you that shows you actually care about the people you are helping and that there is nothing in the world you would rather be doing than helping them. In any retail job. From what I'm doing at Borders to the french fry flipper at McDonald's. I was driving back from Snellville when I stopped in at a Wendy's to get a quick bite to eat before work. I figured that going in would be quicker than drive thru, and Wendy's here instantly has your hamburger ready. It's called Fast Food. Well, I go in, and the cashier looks like she is a somnambulist, that she could care less about the people around her, and her memory was nothing. She kept looking at the monitor to see each and every thing that she had to put in the bag. It was incompetence personified. I was 15 minutes late for work, and more importantly, I know never to go to that Wendy's again. The other customers in line were fed up, too, and when they summoned the manager, she did little better than the person under her. That's not the way to keep customers.
And some people would think, "Well, that's fast food, you should expect that." Guess what, I don't. There should be the same courtesy and perceived helpfulness there as people selling furniture or cars or whatever. They should strive to sell the best hamburger and, more importantly, the best customer service they can give.
I just bought the coolest book. It's a collectors guide for all G1 Transformers, with pictures of each figure, all parts and pieces, and what not to do when playing with them (oops... most of my old series 1 toys are quite broken). An amazing book. Now they should do the same with the foreign toys and the newer sets.
Finally, I know I've said it elsewhere, but I'm so grateful to have such wonderful friends and brothers as I do. They make my life worth living, and I'll be there for them as long as I'm still kicking. No matter what. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family Pictures, Lord of the Flies: Chaos and the Individual

I was digging through a box of family pictures the other day, and after pouring through tons of pictures, I came to a startling conclusion. My brother has tons of pictures, in all his uniforms, from ROTC to Police officer to whatever. Even my cat has around 30 pictures taken of him in different poses. And don't get me wrong, my brother and even my cat are very photogenic. But after going through that box of pictures, all the pictures taken after 2000, I could find only 2 pictures that were clear and were taken of me. It's a shame really, that only a handful of pictures were taken of me after I finished my English degree. When I came to Borders and observed this phenomenon, I found I was not alone. Most of the people that worked with me just didn't have pictures taken of them that are recent.

Now, there's something to be said for getting pictures taken every few years in order to give the police something recent to go on, and it's also reasonable to assume that pictures are much more often taken of children and people in uniform more than regular people not doing anything. And pets. Hopefully I'll be able to put more pictures on my Myspace page when I get some made, not just of me, but of my friends (which will be so that only those friends can see them), and maybe some other things as well. Anyway, I was miffed at the lack of pictures of me at the moment. You'll have to forgive the moment of self-centeredness.

I just realized that I've been doing this for a year now, and I've written 75 blogs in that year. I've learned so much doing this, being able to write and extrapolate and cogitate, mixing theories and possibilities, and realizing how much more I have to learn, socially and physically and mentally. Balance is the most important aspect of anyone's life, and it's something that, right now, I'm lacking in.

CBS is currently running a show called Kid Nation, which is a reality show with little pretense that it actually is a show where children make all the decisions. Of course there are adults on the other end of those cameras, and there are doctors and educators and all kinds of people taking care of the actors and actresses. This is less about a social experiment and more about contrived entertainment. More of a true social experiment was the novel (and subsequent movies) Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The social experiment in the novel was that children were stranded on an island without adults, and they had to survive, create a social structure, and organize a society in which everyone could survive. Well, according to Golding, it is impossible, and the children turned into savages and the ones who couldn't survive, didn't. Of course, Golding was also paralleling the idea of the island as a microcosmic social experiment to the Earth and humans as the so called children who are trying to survive. As a novel that is actually a social commentary, the novel works excellently. The movie made in the 1990's shows this explicitly as, after the boys are rescued, there is a shot of bombers flying overhead toward their destination, in some past war. This shot alone instantly compares the animal behavior of the children with the primitive ideas of mankind that blowing each other up would actually solve anything. The social and political heirarchy will break down into chaos. And while this is normally true, I believe, because cahos will always reign over order, it does not always have to be this way.

Where Golding falls short in his experiment (or perhaps he does include it in the two main characters), is that individuality often succeeds in maintaining order and goodness while society degrades itself into anarchy. This is such a Romantic idea that most cynics cannot see it in modern times. I cannot help but think that an individual who maintains the ideas of right and wrong and keeps them solidly has to overcome most of the temptations that would lead one down the path of societal denigration. A child by themselves, when faced with his own morals and beliefs, will come closer to doing what's right than a child influenced by , say, a school class of his peers. Morality and ethics only preservere in the individual, and will constantly break down in the face of society.

But I've often wondered if that idea of individuality could be harnessed in such a way that the society of individuals that exist in that microcosm might withstand the temptations of the unmaker (OSC reference) and maintain the heirarchy intact. And I'm not just talking about a society or a town or a classroom (for an interesting read on this, try The Butterfly Effect, by an author I can't remember right now, but rather a family structure where children live basically without the effect of a competent parent. Would it be possible, given individuals that have an ingrained moral and ethical code (which I believe most people have), to have a collection of children that could maintain the social heirarchy and not denigrate into cahos the way Golding would have us believe? I do believe it is possible. I once thought about writing about a program where orphans or children who had been put in foster homes...etc... would be put into a program where they would live with themselves, govern themselves, and use their skills to contribute to society. It had sort of a Lord of the Flies feel, and also some of the more nostalgic elements that I was talking about in my last blog. And I have found that, in some instances, it can work, for individuals. In a world without parental guidance, some children can grow up with ethical and moral values and function quite well in society. Of course, I have a feeling that such cases are rare. But of course, there wasn't a plot, just an idea, a philosophy.

Of course, this blog post is connected to one I did earlier about Golding's work Darkness Visible.

(I don't like the cover of the book below, try finding the green one in a used bookstore someplace)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Anger Rethought

A long time ago I wrote a post on Anger, dealing with the play Equus by Peter Schaffer. In that, I said that anger was something that a person could own, it was the result of the culmination of experiences that he or she had during life. And that anger, while it could be suppressed, controlled, even eliminated through the help of religion, physcology, and drugs, is not something that should be altogether gotten rid of. There is a purpose behind that anger, a passion that one must feel in order to live life, to have the power to change things, to make things better for the people living around them.

But now, I wonder, is there not another type of anger that has developed within the youths' psyche today that has nothing to do with the experiences that they have gone through? Certainly the loss of innocence, at such an early age, would produce a certain amount of dissatisfaction in a life. The loss of beliefs once held as dear to a child, like the loss of Santa, or the realization that their parents aren't perfect, would create some sore feelings. But I wonder, how much of those feelings are expressed in the music, art, fashion of today's youths? I hear the lyrics of today's hip-hop and heavy metal bands, and I wonder at the unchecked anger that comes from them. Where does that anger come from, and is it something that is truly felt, or is it something that is portrayed as a vehicle to sell music. When does it become anger for anger's sake? I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. While I can relate the Goth movement back to certain feelings of anger and passion that have been taken up by people as far back as literature and art can show us, I do not understand the overwhelming negativity that is portrayed by those people. I do know that even today's youth, who are certainly not children anymore (see previous blogs), have the experiences necessary to feel quite a bit of pain and anger at the world. But is that perception of the world captured by a movement that seeks to profit off of it? Is Hot Topics formed because of the desire to rebel against the society of their parents (which is ironic because the conservative, capitalist parents are actually handing down their ideas to their children, who are using them to profit using the very free-wheeling rebellion that is against that idea.) For instance, System of a Down (a rock band) has an album that basically calls for the public to steal it (in reference to the P2P revolution currently taking place.) The rebellion that the album title calls for is ironic because System of a Down, who by all accounts is against the current system, relies on it for profit and continuance of their craft.

But back to the personal side of this. When the enhancement of those rebellious feelings is caused by free enterprise, the effect is often enhanced on a psychological level. Feelings of hatred, mistrust of authority figures, and missing opportunities of advancement given to youth by those authority figures, are all negative symptoms of a basic fight for independence that has been taken in recent times to a more extreme rebellion than in the olden times, when kids ran away to join the circus. When those rebellious feelings destroy the potential in a person, keeping them from becoming the person that they were meant to be, then we have a most definite problem. Someone who likes Goth, and wears black and grows their hair out long, but still is able to harness the potential and opportunities that society gives them, that can use that sense of independence to further their own being, should be commended in being able to preserve uniqueness while still taking advantage of society. But the forces that would tear an individual apart, whether it be from some supernatural, religious being, or from the Consumerist society that can benefit from such self-destruction, do not make it easy for a teenager, with the sudden freedom and power that they have, to take advantage of society in this manner. Most of the time, they are sucked into the emotions that they feel, and the potential that is there is wiped away. I feel sad for those people, and will work hard to see that the people that I care about do not follow down those roads. Anger should be owned and harnessed, but not be the owner and the destroyer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everyone needs a Psychiatrist

Everyone needs one. And I'm not saying everyone's crazy, or that all of America needs Prozac (although one could argue that), but everyone needs that person that they can talk to about their lives. There are so many people that are shut in, without someone to talk to. In olden times, back in the days of my last blog, people talked to their barbers. Or in other places, it was a barkeeper (Quark). But nowadays, with the Internet and ipods and isolation and suburban flight, no one talks to anyone anymore. Face to Face. In a time when communication is supposed to be faster and more instant than ever before, people sure can't talk to each other. I feel like I'm talking to people in a McDonald's drive through.

So what do we do, in this modernist, J. Prufrockian world where you can talk and converse but never really say anything or convey anything? What you need is a person whose job it is to listen, to give limited advice, and to be able to use the advantages of the medical community to make things better. In short, people need Psychiatrists to just listen.

I went into the Psychiatrist's office, and sat down, and realized that the first treatment they give is the waiting room. Because in that room are fellow citizens with much worse problems that you have. It does make you feel better that 1), people have problems...they all do... and 2) that maybe, just maybe, your problems aren't as bad as you think.

On a side note, I am certain that the people in there today were depressed because they had all bought SUVs and were now paying their souls in gasoline. I could barely see my car for all the vans in the parking lot. :)

And I saw teenagers who were angry, and parents that were frustrated, and I realized that any issues I have aren't as bad as what I thought. Where does the anger come from, anyway? Why the music that is nothing but screaming and negative tones and timbre, why the blackness and the moroseness? And why is it so popular? I've always wanted to know. I'm sure there's some connection between the Goth, metal, teen-angst movement and the more Gothic movements of literature and art. I'll ask some people I know that know.

The one incredible irony about psychiatrists is that most people that want to go into counseling have issues of their own, have agendas and beliefs that are certainly not neutral. A good psychiatrist almost has to leave their whole personality behind in their office and remain as "Troiesque" as possible. Unfortunately, the people I've seen who are in counseling, not necessarily in Psychiatry, but other counseling jobs, simply cannot do that. This turns the counseling world into a place where the doctor might be worse off than the patient.

I have found a psychiatrist in Conyers that can remain neutral, and pleasant, and gives limited advice that doesn't come from any agenda, and above all, can listen. And that can really help, along with the waiting room and the expertly designed offices. Oh, and the medication, which is necessary in today's world of chemical imbalances and high stress living.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nostalgia, Part 2

My stepfather used to drive an ice cream truck, and so a couple of times he let me come along with him as he made his rounds. There was such a feeling of wonder as we drove through the neighborhoods in Conyers, delivering ice cream to the low socioeconomic areas, knowing that the money the parents were giving the kids may have been much better used toward electricity or water. The money was used to buy a moment of happiness to the kids, and while in the past I have criticized materialism and buying love, in this instance I do think that happiness through an ice cream sandwich and a trucking ringing a bell and chugging down the road is worth it.

And as we were driving down the barely drivable road in the trailer park, I noticed that these children, mostly without AC or TV or cable or internet or whatever, played and developed and adapted, and were happy. Much happier than the suburban rich people that wind up shooting people in schools. Although I know that I could not assess the happiness of the kids in the trailer park just by one glance, I had a certain feeling of longing toward the simplicity of life that they were experiencing. Of course I know that's wrong, that they might have had to deal with things that no child should have to deal with, and that the idea of the child in the trailer park is similar to that of Russeau and his "noble savage" idea. I am a Romantic at heart, and so while I live in the 21st century in a world of technology, I long for a time more recognizable to someone like Thoreau.

If you really want to understand what I'm talking about, read Ray Bradbury's work Dandelion Wine. It's a work of pure nostalgia, and the lyricism of the language lifts that life right off the page and makes the modern world disappear. Nostalgia is such a complex emotion, because while the pleasure of thinking about living in a somewhat fictional world where things are more simple, there is also the realization that those people had to deal with hardships that our modern technologies have done away with. Some diseases, electricity, running water, bathrooms inside the house.... but also things that are not so obvious, such as having to write everything by hand, or being able to look up anything via the internet and have a decent chance of actually finding what you're looking for in about 5 minutes or less. And then there's the boredom, which is two fold, because while it did exist in "olden" times, there were always things to do, either because of endless chores (clothes and dishes had to be hand washed), or by using your imagination and play games with whatever you had around the house (unlike now, when you buy your games for the Xbox or whatever).

So when we yearn for simpler times, when we wax nostalgic, we also are admitting that those times are gone, and that something precious that we had is now lost to us. Whether it's the natural progressiveness of society, or some memory of childhood we long to regain, we have changed the way we live. The interesting thing about that is that often times, nostalgia looks back through rose-colored glasses. We see all the good times without seeing the bad. And it's painful, in some cases, to see what we have lost and then have to accept those losses, almost like losing a loved one, except it is part of ourselves that we have lost. But there still is hope that those times that we yearn for can still be recaptured, in the children that we see playing ball on the street corner, in the look on their faces as we give them ice cream from a truck with an antique bell on top, in the small towns that have somehow escaped the interstates and highways that bring such speed to modern life. Would that today's children have to claim such memories before they can move on to the world of TV and online gaming. But, I am afraid, that that childhood is rapidly disappearing (see earlier blogs), an we are becoming a society of all one memory, all one society. I am afraid that soon, the swimming holes will be empty, and the swing of bats in neighborhoods will soon fall silent. Let us hope that, in the future, when our children are studying algebra and engineering in elementary school, when school becomes something you do in front of a screen, that sometime, those children wander outdoors and unplug themselves for a moment from computers and ipods and cell phones, and find joy in the simpler things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random Thoughts and a Book Review

I can't find my basil. My mom fixed sheep-burgers last night ("nothin' but mutton to eat") and covered them with a tomato sauce. Which screamed basil. And I couldn't find it, so I settled for a little oregano. Didn't seem to do much, which makes sense, cause I use Oregano on salad, sandwiches..that sort of thing. Basil goes best on tomato based dishes. Anyway...


Things have happened recently that have brought back to mind my earlier posts about Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood. We are living in a society where children are treated more and more like adults, expected to learn adult things at an early age, and yet we are shocked when adult things happen to them. Due to the intense flow of information that barrages them everyday without the moral or legal implications to go with it, children must deal with the vices of being an adult far younger than what they used to. Because they know about it. Like I said before, I didn't know any curse words until I moved to Georgia at the age of 10. Nowadays, most kids know all the f's and c's and s's and whatever by the time they enter kindergarten. Not to mention the vices they are exposed to everyday on the internet, cable tv...etc...

But I am not here to try and control the flow of information like most politicians would do, because it is not my place to do so. I will not advocate NetNanny or turning off the TV because that would be restricting the base of knowledge available to everyone including children. Rather, I suggest parents provide sons and daughters with the skills to interpret information and the self-control to know what is acceptable for them. I know this is a near impossible thing to do, for parenting is not what it used to be (and I should know, I've taught the kids and seen them destroying the kid's section at Borders while the parents stand idly by.).

And that is the second half of this little rant. For while childhood is vanishing, so is adulthood. People my age have reduced themselves into an instant gratification, get whatever you want (on credit), epicurean society where consumerism and self-destructive tendencies far outweigh self control and self improvement. And maybe that's because people cannot attain the level of success that their parents sometimes have. But that's okay, because with credit, bankruptcy, and the endless supply of amusement, fast food, drugs, and mindless games that are available, you can easily remain blissfully ignorant of the potential that you have. It's a Brave New World, and we are all being controlled by people who are exploiting us gently, poisoning us with superficial happiness. And I'm just as guilty of this as everyone else. For who would not want to live happily ever after, even if ever after is about 20 years shorter than what you could live. It all connects, all to the profit of consumerists, and all to the determent of you and me. (Oh, and as a disclaimer, I'm not advocating communism. I have a great faith in the free market system, in capitalism in all it's glory. There is nothing more consistent with human nature and the drive for improvement than full blown capitalism. What I am advocating is a need for responsibility. Make money, tons of it, but not by treating your customers as cattle that can be fattened up and served to those that eat them.)


I recently tried to read McCarthy's The Road, since I've heard so much positive reviews about it and I dig post-apocalyptic novels. I've went to Amazon and read the reviews, and for the most part, they were glowing. Except for one that I read that said, "I dont' get it." I agree with that reviewer. I don't get it.

A book must have certain things to be a good read. A plot. Characters that you can sympathize or believe in. Some sort of message would be nice, too. Those are just things you have to have. It's like watching a porn movie. The plot doesn't matter, only the sex scenes. That's why you watch it.

The Road totally lacks those things which make a book successful. I couldn't identify or even believe in the characters, and there was virtually no plot, other than a man and a boy trying to survive in a post-nuclear world. It was like a porn movie with no sex. Maybe I'm missing something. I hope so. I just couldn't finish it.


As a good review, I read The Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak. It was one of my dad's old sci-fi books, and so I randomly picked a book out of the hundreds and read it. It was a mix of Sagan's Contact and any number of Star Trek episodes I could name. The characters were shallow, but the plot and the themes were strong and driving. It is like I have said before, pure science fiction stories rely on strong, believable science theory, and less on the characters involved. In this, Simak delivered amazingly. The sacrifice to this is to move the people out of the way of the science. In some cases, like Michael Chricton's Andromeda Strain, it makes the book insufferable. But if you take the book and read it as if you were watching an original Star Trek episode, where the message and the cool sci-fi technology outshines these puny things called humans, then it works wonderfully.

I recommend this book highly, if you can find it, or for a better Simak book, try Ring Around the Sun.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Un-news, Celebrity trash, and the big 30.

Neil Postman should be rolling over in his grave right now. TMZ is ready to bring their own Television show, and NBC is going to put it where Wheel of Fortune is now. And that in itself is okay, because they are putting Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on the WATL channel together. The significance of this is that they believe that a show by TMZ is more important and will draw more ratings than a classic game show that has been a staple of people's lives for years. And you know what, they're right.

The concept of un-news, a show about the celebrity nonsense that is created up by Hollywood, is one that has been around for a while. Entertainment Tonight has been on for ages, but with the concept of the Internet, and more importantly, the ability for anyone to take pictures, shoot video, to make news by themselves with online blogs, youtube, myspace...etc..., proves that news is everywhere, and is easily sold to those who could make money from it. People thrive on the idea that superstars rise and fall on a whim. A person on a pillar is positioned so that someone can knock the pillar over. It is the way that this world works, unfortunately. People are so ready to see the downfall of the famous, and the media knows this, so anything they can do to bring about gossip and maliciousness, they will do. Because it sells. Perhaps this started with the O.J. Simpson trial; certainly it exploded with it. And Michael Jackson, and now the teenage girls that seem to be so much in the news.

And this would, in some small way, not be so bad. My life isn't really effected by these idiots that take such perverse pleasure in ruining somones life. Nor is it effected by the celebrities that decide, for whatever reason, to deliberately take those plunges into controversial actions in order to make their sick form of celebrity even more acute. It does bother me a whole lot when the actions of such teenage sluts (for that's what they are), effect the lives of people I care about. And not always in a conscious way. The lives of Brittany Spears, or Paris Hilton, demonstrate that the lives of the controversial and morally questionable can actually be desirable. It causes teenage girls who want to emulate their "role models" to do things that they would not normally do, like not eat, or have promiscuous sex or do drugs...etc... And with people that I care about, this bothers me.

But does showing the filth of today's society bother the media at all? No, it does not, and for justifiable reasons. According to the media, people are attracted to those stories... the Nielsen media group says as much, and so it's what the majority of the people want, and since that's the case, the media is going to provide this. And whatever the majority of the viewing public wants, that's the best thing for the media because they want the largest possible base of viewers to sell advertisements from sponsors. Which makes the stations money, and which causes the viewers to go out and purchase those products. A very justifiable excuse to promote the denigration of today's ethics and morals through showing the downfall of role models, and putting that in a positive light. So while this is news, according to the media, I call it "un-news," because instead of having at least a neutral effect on people's lives, or even a positive one (it is necessary to know the weather, the stock reports, consumer information, even the sports reviews, for entertainment purposes), instead it shows a negative side of life, and places them all in a positive way for the people that want to emulate them. So I would suggest a boycott of any news stories that would show "un-news." It would be the only way to effectively change the material being thrown at us everyday. Not that I expect this to happen, but I do know that when TMZ starts their show, I will not be watching.


I could take this in any number of ways now, but I choose to take lyrics from a gospel song by the Gaither Vocal Band:

The call of fortune made me a pilgrim
To journey to fame's promised heights
But as I climbed, the promise faded
and wind blew lonely all through the night

Mark Lowry does such a great job with this song. I think it all boils down to realistic goals.There is so much hope placed in the lottery, in American Idol, in grand dreams with slim chances. And while it's good to work towards your dreams, focusing in on realistic goals (joining the High School Chorus rather than dreaming of American Idol with no steps in between.) is a much better way of doing what you enjoy without putting (excuse the cliche) all your eggs in one basket. Because sometimes the price you pay for going for an unrealistic goal is too great. For athletes, steroids take too high a stake on the body. And sometimes the things that future actors or singers will do bring nothing but misery and pain. When goals are not achieved, or they seem to far out of reach, sometimes people will take other measures to escape from the perceived failure of that goal. Drugs, sex, running away... etc. All to attain a dream that was too high, too unrealistic. Further, the constant bombardment of the controversial lives of people like Spears or Lohan (who was such a great actress before she flushed her life down the toilet), only further emphasizes that those behaviors will help achieve the lifestyles that they are currently living. It's so sad, and when I think of people with such promising lives ahead of them, wasting it on such frivolity... There are so many wonderful things to be done that does not require entertaining people or even having large amounts of money. I am content with my life (although I have goals and desires to make it better). If I died today, I would be satisfied with what I've already done, with the people that are a part of my life, and of the people I have helped and the memories I have made. It's all good. It doesn't take a lot of money or having done something incredible to achieve this. :) ***

I'll stop rambling now. It is my birthday today, and I'm 30 now. And I'm happy.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Steroids, creating a level playing field

There has been a lot of conversation recently about Barry Bonds and the home run records he has broken, as well as the Home Run chase of 1998. Everyone saying how they are all cheating, and that they all have to have an asterisk put by their records. Recently, there have been books released defending the actions of Floyd Landis, the bicycle racer. There are growing arguments about these and other athletes about how using enhancing drugs to build muscle, to achieve greater records, to get better contracts, whether or not their accomplishments should even be recorded if they have been convicted of using them. Well, I want to play devil's advocate here, because there are many points where steroids, et al..., could be considered justifiable....

The rules for using technology in different sports (the latest, the greatest) differ widely, and mostly because of financial reasons. In NASCAR, if a team doesn't have the money to invest in their cars as the more widely known teams, then those new innovations in the cars would be a distinct advantage for those with more money. To level the playing field, NASCAR inspects and fines those drivers whose mechanics have used parts that are not sanctioned by the sport. However, new and improved golf clubs or balls are frequently used, making longer shots attainable. So why does Jeff Gordon get fined, but Tiger Woods does not?

It is therefore reasonable to assume that new technology in the fields of human development, such as vitamins, hormones, steroids, drugs...etc... should either be allowed, or not. It becomes clear from the above argument that the leveling of the playing field is caused not because of cheating concerns or because of a concern for the health of the players, but rather because not everyone can afford to take pills to make more muscle mass. In a true consumerist society, there would not be a concern for the health of players, and indeed, there are some who feel this way. It would be better, and far more profitable for the athlete in question to take steroids, be wildly successful, and be paid muchas dollars, and then worry about the effects of steroids later. It is reasonable to assume that health technology will continue to develop drugs that will change the mass and density of muscles, creating more superhuman athletes than the natural born athletes of years past. It is also reasonable to assume that steroids will be created that have less negative effects on the human body. What then if the drugs have no discernible negative side effects?

We have already reached the time when all records broken are done with the help of some aid, technology, or development that people like Jim Thorpe did not have in the early 20th century. And so the records should probably stand side by side, as those of the natural era, and those of the technological era are achieved so much differently. Not an asterisk, but rather two different records.

And there will be further records broken, and achievements made with the creation of artificially enhanced human organs... eyes, or arms, or regulatory systems that will make tiring at the end of the game a thing of the past. Science fiction has already seen this played out in novels, and it is safe to assume, much like cell phones, the internet, and other incredible advances, that one day, those bionic additions to the human body will be accessible to those people, like athletes, to afford them. How then will we regulate them, and when records are broken with the keen perception of an eye that is not human, will those records have to have asterisks as well, or will they be totally new records?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Reviews: Harry Potter 7 & The Book of Lost Things

Book Reviews: HP7 and The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.

First off, let me say that I loved the whole Harry Potter series, although there were some books that were better than others, as any book series would be. The seventh book is not my absolute favorite (that would be 4 and 6), but it is not the worst, either (5). The last book, is, however, the spring to complete the philosophical nature of the books, and bring together a mythos that rivals the best of English Literature or American Movies. I will defer the actual review to Orson Scott Card, who I mostly agree with. The interesting thing about his review is that he starts off by describing how and where he read it. I think this important, because there are very few books that can universally be described in this fashion. I can recall where I was reading Sorrows of Young Werther, but that's just because it was an epiphany of Romantic thought inside my conscious mind. Or Lord of the Rings, and that is probably one of the few book(s) that can be talked about universally in this fashion. Nor can any book be compared to movie premieres like Rowling's works have been with the decorations, the fanfare that comes with the release of each one. My Leaky Cauldron sign has gone home with me, one that I used for three release parties, as well as my grandmothers 1850's rice kettle and my big blue stuffed snake. Rarely does a book have a significant effect on the countries' economy as HP has done. The movie industry was hurt because everyone spent money and time on the book rather than going out to see a movie. It is significant to see the way that a book effects everyone's lives outside of the book itself to realize just how important and amazing it is.

As for the book itself, the seventh volume, the philosophical, moral, literary arguments have already been made. I find it ironic that the themes of the last book are almost Christian in nature, which would surprise a lot of people that are trying to keep the books from school libraries. Of course, the ironic thing is that the movie that's coming out this December, the Golden Compass, was written by Philip Pullman, a well known atheist, whose last book is spent making God the bad guy. .But most of those arguments are spelled out more clearly on OSC's website, which I gave the addresses for in the last blog entry.


I want to go more in depth in reviewing John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things.Think of Hemingway writing a fairy tale, and add the bluntness of Koontz or King. Sparsity of description, vagueness of color in the land of Faerie, which, by necessity must be vague. The novel is an amazing addition to Ende's Neverending Story or King's Eyes of the Dragon. Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the book are the stories in which Connolly takes the original Grimm or Andersen fairy tales, or tales from mythology, and twists them into horrible, although strangely realistic, tales that, for some reason, fascinate David, the protagonist. The coming of age tale, the Bildungsroman, also blends into this novel, recalling Tolkien's Hobbit or many of Orson Scott Card's works. You feel sympathetic or repulsed by each character in the tale, and this is significant, because Connolly uses little description or dialogue by which to establish reader emotions. You identify with the characters because of a priori knowledge, or in other words, the characters are real because we have encountered them many times before, in stories and in our own real lives. The Crooked Man could be Mephistopheles, or Satan, or Rumpelstiltskin, or the villain of King's The Stand. There are characters representing the stepmother, the oppressed worker, the hopeless Romantic, the societal outcast, etc... amazing story-writing, and I agree with him in one the interviews he gave on his web site that this should be a stand alone book, without sequels, because it is one story among many in the land of Faerie, and that David's story is told to the fullest, and needs no follow up. I read this book right after HP7, and it was the perfect "rebound" book, as it were, with no "series commitment" to be made, but a deep and thought-provoking novel that kept it from falling flat after J.K. Rowling's tome.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Happy Birthday!, Reprise, Gorillaz, Michael Vick Redux.

First off, Happy Birthday to my Yurble, who turns 1 year old today. I joined Neopets one year ago (although I could have joined it much earlier, like in 2000), and I can tell you that it's an addictive, wonderful way to waste time on the World Wide Web. The TNT has done a great job of making the virtual world one that makes you feel like you're at home with it, and, despite their recent attempts at the "Neomall," the site is totally free. The Altador Cup was amazing (although we didn't win, Mystery Island came in 5th place), and the plots recently have been engaging and fun. I look forward to getting 1 million NPs, leveling up my Yurble, and being able to beat the bosses at the end of the plots. And if you want to join Neopets, just let me know, and I'll send you a referral card.


In Borders a few days ago, I rang up a customer, a mother, with her daughter (about 5 or 6) and her grandmother. All throughout the transaction, which was kids books for the child, she begged for candy, interrupting her mother, which told her no firmly. Which was all good, until her grandmother stepped in and bought her the candy she was whining for. All that did was reinforce the idea that her grandmother loved her more than her mother did, because Materialism, in today's society, is Love. I've already written blogs about this, November of 2006, so I won't re-hash that, but it was worth noting that sometimes, if the parents say no, the grandparents say yes, and that's not always a good thing.


i've been listening to the Gorillaz CD Demon Days, which is not something I would usually listen to, but it caught my attention when it was being played over the radio at work. It's what I call a concept album, because it's not one that you listen to for individual songs (although "Feel Good Inc" was a single hit), but rather it is a work of art, a masterpiece where images are painted through sounds. And I've looked at the Lyrics, and found that, for the most part, they don't really make all that much sense, but that, in this rare case, it doesn't matter. The words themselves make a landscape of sound (the word "soundscape" was used for Paul Simon's latest flop, Surprise and so I don't use that term). And this makes sense, because, according to the Gorillaz unofficial fansite, that was what the band creators were attempting. It was a sojourn through night, through the terrors and dreams and sounds and issues of the night time, with social commentary thrown in. Very well done, and although I do skip the tracks where a lot of rapping is done, I appreciate this work much more than other hip-hop/rap music. The last three tracks make up a theatrical story that, along with the video of Feel Good Inc., produces a world that is at once mesmerizing, foreboding, and nostalgic, all at the same time.


Okay, since I said something about Vick in my earliest blogs, I'll say something about the recent events as well. I think that we can all agree that Vick has talent athletically, and that he could have been a really good Quarterback (see my earlier post, October of 2006). However, that has now all been flushed down the toilet because of his own choices. There is nothing to be done for him now except prayer. We all have the urges to do things violent or wrong, and we have to abide by the laws that society and our culture sets down for us. Moreover, we have to understand that the choices we make that effect other people (or animals) must be made with their best interests. Obviously Vick has made the wrong choices, and the sad thing is, that he might not learn from the bad choices, even if he does wind up in prison. We can only pray that he does. If football (organized violence) isn't violent enough, then go find a good video game to beat people up on, and not taking things out on wives, friends, strangers, or animals. I think that's one reason violent video games can be a good thing, although there are many arguments to oppose that theory.

And why, oh why did they trade Matt Schabb to the Texans?????? Well, hopefully Joey Harrington can thrive under Patrino, and he can return to the excellence he had at the University of Oregon.

Next time I'll post my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows without spoilers (I think) and the appropriate links to OSC's reviews and arguments. I'm sorta waiting until he does his review to post mine, so I can link to it.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I don't go see movies much, as there is just not a lot out there that interests me at all, but of course I went to see Transformers when it came out last week. It's not often that something of this magnitude is made, and after having read other movie interviews, I think I can see what most adults are missing. The reviewer in the Rockdale Citizen made the statement that the TF toyline went out of "vogue" 20 years ago. It would be the same as saying that Star Wars went out of vogue as soon as ROTJ came out in 1983. He doesn't realize the magnitude of influence that TFs had on the children of the 80's. And of course the children of the 1980's are now 25-35 and have kids of their own. They are ready to spread the whole concept of TFs to another generation. The whole idea of imagining mechanical objects to become sentient beings capable of thought and feeling is amazing, and a clear step forward from the awe and wonder of seeing a train or a plane or the Space Shuttle as most kids did in the mid 80's. And now with computers interacting with us on a daily basis, it is not too far reached to imagine that robots could think and feel and interact with humans. Asimov came up with the same ideas back in the 1940's, and there were mentions of mechanical beings well before that.

It is almost second nature to imagine that you can fly, or that your car could simply do a Back to the Future move and fly into the sky like a plane. For children of the 1980's, it was impossible to look at a mechanical object and not think of it growing legs, arms, and a head and conversing with you, or taking you away from whatever it was that you were doing. A TF could take you to friends that had moved away, or to places warmer, or cooler, or just back home. It was the imagination that kept you safely away from whatever reality was throwing at you at the time. Tolkien would have talked about suspension of disbelief, but further than that, its the projection of the impossible that takes you away from the present. Staring out of the car window while going whatever and imagining yourself flying or whatever is a pleasant way to spend the time, or at least, that what we did before the days of Game Boys or PSPs.

The amazing part about TFs, and what makes them everything that would allow for escape, is what I am calling "mythos." In other words, the familiarity in which we process the TFs, the a priori knowledge that comes to us from the archetypes of good and evil so eloquently talked about by Jung, everything that results in Transformer-ness. Most successful entertaining ventures, if they are to be taken seriously, must have a "mythos" built in. Final Fantasy is one example. Each FF game has the same characterization, the same philosophies built into them. It matters little that most of the characters and plot lines change from game to game. As long as each Transformers show includes that "mythos," it is certain to be successful. (Of course, this is also why Beast Machines was so dreadful. The idea that Cybertron could become a biological planet. Silly producers. It is also the main reason that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was so bad, and also why FF: Advent Children failed to live up to what it certainly could have been. They reduced the Final Fantasy "mythos" to bare mentioning, while making the plot no more than a series of battle scenes. There was no "glue" to bring it all together and make it as glorious as FFVII was.

So onto the movie review... Transformers takes everything that is the toy line and the mythology that has surrounded it and turns it into "reality" on the movie screen. The plot line is similar to most of the TF shows, usually with Bumblebee initiating human/Autobot contact, and follows with the battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron. Michael Bay did an excellent job of integrating the mythos of the original series and movie into this one so that the older audience members (me) recognized and emotionally registered them. One great move was the use of Cullen's voice as Optimus (Cullen has made a career of playing Optimus, and he does it well). Another was the amazing uses of key phrases by the human characters ("More than meets the eye"). It was an amazing movie, with special effects made only as Skywalker Light and Sound could do, as well as ILM. (It was ironic that Michael Bay's first job was a clerical position at Lucasfilm.)

However, the movie is not without its faults, and I would amiss not to mention them. Most Transformers fanatics will think this blasphemy, and the problems the movie had is not enough to take away from the brilliance of the directing, the special effects, the "mythos" of the Transformers which was so well embedded .

1) The comedic bits in the movie worked out for the most part, but, as the Rockdale Citizen reviewer put it, the comedy that goes on with the Sector Seven people needed to be cut. It just doesn't work. Also, it is interesting to note that all the African American actors (with the notable exception of the voice over of Jazz) are all comic relief, and very much stereotyped.

2) The Autobots are all very well characterized, but not all of the Decepticons are. They needed to be fleshed out just a little more. Sure, those who know who Devastator was (not the G1 gestalt team, but from Armada) will know his personality, but those who weren't familiar with this would need a little more from him, Blackout, and perhaps Starscream. It is worth noting that Alan Dean Foster does a wonderful job with this in the books he wrote for the movie.

3) The slo-mo scenes didn't do much for the movie. In particular, the scenes showing human soldiers getting into their F-22s. My suspicion is that these scenes were necessary to put in since most of the filming of the film took place on various US military bases. The pro-military scenes were put in to do a little product placement in the movie and recruit for the Air Force. It was probably in the permission forms someplace. And that's fine. I have no problem with that, except that Transformers needs to be about the robots as much as possible, and not the humans around them.

Overall, I give the movie an A-, and I can't wait for the DVD to come out, in what ever mega-super-collectors edition they deem fit, and I'm sure I'll get it at Borders. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Recently, in Atlanta, there have been a string of shootings involving police officers. This is probably the same instances you can find in almost any major American city. Without fail, the media will interview the cousin or brother of the person that was shot, and the police will be vilified, and the civil rights activists will play the race card, and it will become much more than a person committing a crime and getting caught. The media is feeding on society's feelings toward people who enforce the laws. People will always resist the boundary makers. Everyone does it, from running the occasional stop sign to downloading music to ripping those tags off of mattresses. The truth is that police officers are providing a service to their communities. They are arbitrators, peacemakers, and in some cases baby-sitters. They are the people that are called first in any given situation (whether you actually need them or not) and are usually the last people you want to see. They are necessary. But like the teachers who try to educate children, they are massively underpaid for the everyday messes they are obliged to put up with. And in some ways, they have the same characteristics. Meaning that the teacher and the policeman are both given the power to enforce laws and rules to their constituents.

The other similarity is that both the police officer and the teacher are, like I said, massively underpaid. The excuse for this, is, of course, that those occupations are "a calling," and that the people who become those professions are sacrificing their pay for the common good of mankind. It's almost like they are martyrs to our society. And like Jesus, they are also ridiculed for their services. This is the dichotomy that both the teacher and the policeman experience on a daily basis. They spend all their time trying to uphold the law, bring education to the citizens of America, and yet, for each thing they do, they get lambasted on the news, made fun of in the media, and stereotyped as some of the worse people. Policemen are always getting blamed for being too physical, too harsh with the criminals, even when the offenders are armed and would want nothing better than to see the cops get killed. And teachers are so often criticized for punishing students in any form. They cannot give homework because so many students have other obligations, and yet the parents cannot understand when the students get such low grades on tests, standard or otherwise. And if that isn't enough, any teacher, male or female, single or married, has to be paranoid about any situation, because if a student or a parent doesn't like something you did, they can make up a story about how the teacher made a pass at their student and get them fired. The very people who are trying to provide a critical service to America are the same people that get paid little, and are given respect less.

Not all careers are handled this way. Firefighters are angels. And while they are paid similarly to police officers, they don't get any of the brutality complaints. Because firefighters are out solely to protect people (and their property) from fire. The villain in this case is nature, not man (as a criminal or a student would be). Meteorologists fight the weather, and so they aren't put through the ringer when they mis-forecast a severe storm. Or maybe our society hasn't denigrated to that point. But just wait. What happens to doctors now on a continual basis (and shouldn't, doctors fight microscopic organisms and provide a critical service to society, and yet their malpractice insurance forces many doctors out of business.) will happen to a weather guy sooner or later. Just wait until someone dies of a tornado and a lawyer gets some hair-brained idea that it was the weatherman's fault for not forecasting the tornado or its path. This is the way society is, unfortunately.

Next time, I'll review Transformers, which I just saw, and loved. Although, and some fanatics might disagree with me, it does have its flaws.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Altador Cup, TPIR, and Mario Party

I'm currently in the middle of the latest feature on the Neopets website. The Altador Cup is a soccer type game taking place with 16 different teams and millions of people playing it all over the world. It's thrilling for me to be involved in a contest of that magnitude. And it's interesting that I'm actually at least not bad at the game itself, because I'll be the first to confess that my eye-hand coordination is not the best in the world, and you have to get the angles just right. I'm a member of the Mystery Island team (partially because the Goalie is a Yurble), and we're doing really well. Should be in 4th or 5th place right now. Krawk Island and Roo Island are in 1st and 2nd place. I know this doesn't make any sense to have someone who just analyzed the works of Carl Jung be so enthralled with a child's game, but it's quite addicting. Honestly, it makes you feel like you're part of a community, and since that's the main reasoning behind much of what human's do, and the Internet does it so well. Like my brother, who plays Everquest or WOW or whatever, I'm joining into a community on a much simpler level.

One of the things I considered as I played this game was exactly how much of the game is actually fixed by the Neopets company. Little things that they could do if they wanted to influence the outcome of the game. And it's quite possible for them to do it without the knowledge of the people playing it. Little things, like tweaking the speed in which the computer's goalie intercepts the ball, or changing the randomness from which we get the Mutant or Dragian balls. The only thing they can't influence is the amount of playing that the players do, or their skill in doing so. It's very similar to playing Mario Party on the Nintendo 64. Now, to be fair, I've not played Mario Party 2 on up, just one, but let's take it as an example. Playing it on an emulator on my computer, I was able to save the game at any instance and force the computer to re-roll the dice on the board game. To my astonishment, every time I did that, the computer rolled the exact same roll. The game had been designed to roll whatever at whatever time. The only randomness was my skill at playing the mini-games. Thus the game was not truly random at all, but fixed to give the players, computer or human, a distinct advantage or disadvantage.

Also, take the game show The Price is Right. I know it's blasphemy to talk about such an icon of television culture, and I watch the show religiously, but there are parts of the game that are influenced by the outcome of the taping. The prices that are wrong can be made easier or harder to make the games easier or harder based on how many people are winning. Take "Half Off" for instance. Those prices are so easy to determine which ones are wrong, because they want you to be able to have at least a 25% chance of getting the money. The odds have to be correct. And with Wheel of Fortune, the puzzles at the end can be easy or hard, depending on how much money has been won. They would never let me on TPIR, because, for one, I'm too calm. And also, I know the ways to influence the odds to be more in my favor.

It's not exactly cheating, but it is influencing the game to make the outcome desirable for the people who's interests it serves. Not that that makes me not enjoy the games any less (a triple negative, you figure it out), on the contrary, it adds a bit of fun at figuring out how the powers that be want the game to come out. And we'll not even talk about the Reality TV shows, which are probably more fixed than anything else.

And I'm not dissing Neopets, either. They do a wonderful job at getting us all addicted to the games they have, and make us care about the events happening on their virtual world. So GO MI!! And I hope we win at least third place, or at least, I hope that TNT (the Neopets team) lets us try for it anyway.