Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The End of Childhood (Introduction)

I'm going to attempt this... but I might have to do it in several parts, because I don't feel like writing a book right now. Besides, Neil Postman has already done it. So if you want to understand where I'm going to, read the following books and see the connections:

*** Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

*** The Disappearance of Childhood, also by Neil Postman

*** Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

*** Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (or at least "The Pedestrian", a short story of the same theme)

*** Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss.

Basically, I want to summarize Postman's ideas, apply them to the 21st century, to my daily experiences, and to link them to other ideas from the books above.

The core idea is that Childhood, as defined by Postman, is disappearing, More importantly, however, is the idea that Adulthood, as defined, is also vanishing, merging into one group of people. This is happening because the way that we communicate with each other has changed significantly since the beginning of the 20th century, and is continuing to change today. In short, Childhood cannot survive in a world of Reality TV, the Internet, and constant bombardment of information through electronic means. Hopefully I won't be too wordy.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Balanced Calendar, Who Really Benefits?

Let's try this again. I learned a valuable lesson in trying to post this blog last time. MySpace has a few bugs in it, and so it completely lost this post when I tried to post it! Well, now I'll put it in Notepad and then copy/paste it in.

This week Rockdale County is out of school for their "Winter Break." They're following a "Balanced Calendar," one that gives the students and teachers six weeks of school followed by a week off. Frankly, I wish I had that when I was in school. What I wanted to consider, though, is who really benefits from the extra week off, and what does that say about our society.

Obviously, the Balanced Calendar benefits the teachers the most. Having a week off after 6 weeks of intense babysitting, trying to control monsters who have no sense of right and wrong, is about the only way to help preserve the teachers' slipping sanities and help them get through from year to year. Teacher burnout is so high these days anyway. I couldn't even get through one year! (The whole issue of the conduct of the students is another blog, one I'm wanting to get into, but not now.)

One thing is certain, it does not benefit the students themselves. Sure, the students love having the week off, but the educational effects of giving students a whole week off are more than what you think. Students can forget quite a few things in just one week. Of course, for the advanced classes, a week can be just enough time to assign Red Badge of Courage to read, or give some major project, which, in my opinion, is not fair for the students. If they have a week off between quarters (?), then let them have that week off to recover as well.

It doesn't benefit parents of those students, either. Suddenly, parents have to provide food and babysitting for young children for a week. Which means finding a Day Care place or a babysitter, waiting long lines in grocery stores...etc... They have to actually parent those children, have to deal with them for a whole week.
(Again, this raises questions I want to deal with, but later.)

It takes but a logical leap to figure out who really benefits from this new Balanced Calendar schedule. The school calendar reflects the culture's economy. In the beginning of Public Education, school was based around an agricultural society, the breaks, around harvesting the crops and providing a work force for the farmers. Teenagers worked on the farms and helped provide for their families. In recent times, specialization occurred in the work force, and the numbers of college graduates were able to find specialized jobs in their fields. Teenagers were then needed to fill the jobs where menial tasks were done (retail, services...etc). A school schedule where there was one large summer break was needed again helped to fuel an economy.

Now however, with the workforce inundated with college students that can no longer get stable jobs with their college degrees, teenagers are consistently being pushed out of those jobs. There is no need to keep them out of school for extended periods. While educators will say that this will help to develop the education of those students, and they might be right, it actually does something else. With fewer people able to get a job (because of the shorter summer breaks), the Balanced Calendar benefits unemployed college graduates. Employees can now be more picky than ever. It is a shame that, despite this, customer service has not gotten any better.

What about the Elementary age children? Those that cannot get a job? Take a look at the grocery stores during those weeks, or the wrecked Children's sections at your local Borders. The children must be provided for, fed, entertained, taken to movies, or babysat if the parents work. All this costs money. All this benefits the local businesses and helps to fuel the economy. In short, Capitalism benefits from the Balanced Calendar.

This isn't a suprising revelation. The mighty dollar governs most everything in our society, at the expense of most everything. And while I'm not anti-capitalistic (I work at a retail store, this week off is proving profitable for everyone at Stonecrest mall.), I do think that there is a responsibilty that we make sure that our need for the dollar does not blind us to the bigger picture. With China and India becoming superpowers, the way that we educate our children will eventually determine how our economy is shaped. If the Balanced Calendar is determined not to have an academic advantage, it must be rethought. Of course, the timing of the school isn't the only thing that needs to be looked at. The way school is run in Japan, for instance, is based around the strengths of the individual students, whether it be technical, academic, or general. But I digress.

Citizens have to take a look at the underlying motives behind what's going on in the educational world, in government, in most every part of a person's life, and determine wether or not the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. I'm not sure about the Balanced Calendar, but I think that the old calendar was outdated and in for some reworking. The school schedule should be shaped around the society it serves, and maybe the current calendar is the best one. I'm not sure. I do know, however, that it makes this week at Borders busy and profitable, so I can't argue with that.

The next few blogs will be in reference to Neil Postman's ideas, especially in his book The Disapperance of Childhood, which I am currently reading. It changes the way people should look at the media, at childhood, and at the reasons behind the mess in the Children's section most nights.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day...my thoughts

As much as I am opposed to making a day commercialized for cards, candy, and going out to restaurants, there is a certain need for a day to look at love. And a day coming out of the cold of winter, into the warmth of spring, past the cold, drab days where keeping the chill out of your bones, yes, this is the perfect day for it.

But when the day actually comes, there is a problem. Usually, to experience the wonder of Valentine's Day, one must generally be in a relationship. That is something that I have never had, at least, not one where Eros was involved. I have loved some people deeply, and have been in relationships that have satisfied my need to have made a difference in this life. If I died today, I would be satisfied with the life I have led. However, the need to be with people continues, even if relationships are not present. And it becomes hard to do that now, when the social avenues of school, college...etc.. are over. But that's okay. Because with a few important exceptions, there's nothing I would have done differently in forming the friendships and relationships that I have managed.

I know that know, looking at Valentine's Day and the future, that the rest of my life won't be in solitude. It will take a certain measure of independence, the kind I cannot get right now. As with everything, it will take more money, and an apartment or whatever of my own. I will get there, I know it. And it will be good for me. With independence, I can come and go as I please, use my off time to go to places, do things. It is very hard to do that now. I might even find a place where a good walking track is, and at least keep me from gaining weight. There is a need for balance, intellectually, physically, socially, that I'm just not getting right now.

I guess that Valentine's is a day where, if you're dating, it's great, and if you're not in a relationship, you try to act as if it's just another day. It somehow never works quite that way.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Clarification of Abortion Issue

I was thinking over my last blog entry, and the Abortion part of it struck me as odd. I was thinking about what I said, and it seems that I had made an error. Normally, I would take the blog and re-edit it. But as I was thinking about it, the error itself is worth noting.

I said that I was pro-life, and then I gave the reasons why I thought that. The statement itself was true, but it is not what the blog was about. What I gave as a reason for my being against abortion was a moral reason, not one based on government. It had nothing to do with Law.

Being a person whose core belief in Government is that they should stay out of people's business, that people should govern themselves based on the Ideal (what is right and wrong), I said that I was pro-life, and therefore implied the Government should repeal Roe v. Wade and make Abortion illegal. This is not what I meant at all.

Making a moral statement, that all life is sacred and that embryos should be given every chance to grow and to be happy, is one thing. But in a journal entry that was devoted to Government, a moral opinion must be set aside.

But since I cannot say that the Government should just butt out and let a woman kill her unborn child because she doesn't want it (medical reasons or danger to the woman is another story), I must stick with my original thought. That people must govern themselves, to do right, to avoid evil, and to use their belief in God, in themselves, in whatever philosophies they believe in, right and wrong, to determine what they should do in this regard.

I'm not generally a political person. I care nothing for politics or government. As I said in my last post, I believe that individuals can contribute more to their world through love and compassion than through the techincalities of law. So I don't tend to make this a blog of political statements, just like I didn't intend to make it a religious one. But since each of those are a part of my life, they do belong here.

A different subject next time.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

My Political Beliefs

Someone at work asked me about my Political stance. This is a delicate issue, since politics is something that is so polarizing for today's society. And the media plays its part. The more division there is between the parties, the more controversy, and so the more news there is. A government that actually works together is a dull one, although it gets much more done.
But anyway, there are two ways of trying to define my personal political beliefs: by pointing on a ideological graph different people that I agree with, and then place me someplace in the middle, or by talking about the philosophies behind my beliefs. I'll do both.

At the very core of my beliefs is a paragraph from Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience." Instead of typing it out, I'll place a link, here . It's the last paragraph in the essay. It basically says that, following the idea that A government governs best that governs least. Now, I'm not talking about anarchy here, but rather a clearly defined role that the government has in the lives of their citizens. Further, Thoreau says that he envisions a government in which the individual is truly the governing power. In other words, government by the individual, for the individual, is the ideal form. While you might say, well, isn't that democracy? No. Because our own government believes that the majority rules, and that society as a whole develops the rules in which we all live.

Now, the important leap that Thoreau, and I, make, is that if the Individual knew right from wrong, and governed his or her own life according to the Ideal, then there would be no need for the government to "govern" his life.

Of course this is the Ideal method. We live in the real world, where morals differ greatly between different people, cultures...etc..., where people live without conscious, where mental disorders curb some people's ability to determine right from wrong, and where parenting skills have so dulled the difference in children that now instant gratification overcomes any moral philosophy.

Thus the decision is whether to live your life thinking ideally, that people should have the ability to govern themselves, or to live thinking realistically, thinking that individuals are unable to control their urges, and that the government must step in to provide boundaries for its citizens.

I have decided, even with all the evidence pointing away from it, that people should have the ability to govern themselves, and that the government is not needed to tell us what to do and how to live. So where does that put me, on this one core issue, as far as the current American political system. Democrats believe in a strong central government with rules to govern lives. Democrats think Realistically, in that they believe in the Government's power to guide it's citizens down the right path. On the other hand, Republicans tend to think Idealistically, tending to leave people (and businesses) to govern themselves as much as possible.

Except that's not true at all. Republicans are all for letting people govern themselves as long as morality is not involved. But when an issue like Gay Marriage or Abortion or whatever becomes involved, they tend to stomp hard on the side of strict regulations on their citizens' private lives. Democrats would govern every aspect of a person's life... gun control, smoking, but tend to be more lenient on social issues.

Except that's not totally right either. Nothing in politics is black or white. You have to examine a single issue, one that's highly polarizing, to realize where the parties stand. Let's look at Gay Marriage, since it's highly polarizing. Republicans would tend to be against it, even though they are not for the federal government controlling its citizen's lives, because it is a moral issue and tends to be against Christian beliefs. Democrats, while they might oppose it for political reasons (their constituents, for the most part, are Christian and therefore oppose it) would not be for legislation since it is governing a religious issue, even though Democrats usually favor a stronger, more guiding central government.
So there is a conundrum here.

Let's take a look at other things, current events and political stances, and I'll outline what I believe.

* The Iraq War. Might as well start off here. I do agree with the war in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and the war on Terror in general. I don't agree with how Bush has done it, or his reasonings behind going into Iraq, but the idea was sound enough. Let's face it, Bush should have been honest with himself when he went for Iraq first. He was going in there to finish what his father started. Not because someone had hidden Nukes there. Iran doesn't have to do that, they make them out in the open. What Iraq had or didn't have, I'm not sure, but I do know that Bush should have been more honest about his decisions and revealed them more to the public. Instead, the Iraq war is unpopular, and Senators are waiting in line to bash Bush and to find any reason to pull the troops out. Of course, it's the media that has helped to propigate the unpopularity of the war. The Vietnam War was much more bloody than the present day one, with thousands dying every week. But we see the Iraq war as being identical in scope because the media reports on every soldier killed and every bomb exploded. Al-Queida (sp) is counting on it. In almost every case, the media rears its ugly head to make any issue more polarizing and more devisive than before.

*Stem Cell Research. As long as the embryos are going to be destroyed anyway (through a failed fertilization attempt or whatever), what's the harm in giving this unfortunate happening a chance to do something good for people?

*Abortion. I'm pro-life. But not for any religious reason or whatever. I measure any given life in potential happiness. The potential for any one child to be born is one spot of potential happiness to spring forth. I could not end a life when the potential is there for great joy and laughter as the child grows up.

So to take a look at these issues, I believe in a little of both of the parties platforms. I guess if I have to pick a party, I would pick the one that Thoreau would have belonged to... the Libertarian party. Strong on Foreign policy, but believing in the good of the individual to govern in place of rules and regulations on the private lives of its citizens.

And this fits in with one of the people I greatly admire, Bob Barr, former senator (Republican) from Georgia. He did head the impeachment process against Clinton. Because he lied on the stand, nothing more. More interestingly, he voted against the Gay Marriage amendment for Georgia because he believed that the Government should stay out of the lives of its citizens, even when questions of morality are involved. It is not the government's job to tell us what we can and cannot do. It's not surprising that Barr recently quit the Republican party and joined the Libertarians, as he was unhappy with the direction the GOP was heading.

Other people I agree with or admire... There is no greater politician today that can stand up for what he believes in than Zell Miller. Amazing orator, reminiscent of the firey preachers of old. He took Georgia, developed the Hope scholarship, maintained a strong economy that has persisted through down times, and has changed the lives of so many Georgians. I greatly admire him, and he's a Democrat, but one that's conservative on many issues.

Along the same lines, Joe Lieberman chose to run as an Independent from Conneticut, and won over his own Democratic adversary. While I don't agree with his ideas on regulating violence on TV and Video games, his support of Bush's tax breaks, the war in Iraq, and his brilliant debate against Chaney in the 2000 election makes me wonder if he would have won over Bush when Gore couldn't.

To finish off the graph of politicians I admire, we have to place a dot on the Republican side, too, since I've voted Republican on almost everything since I was able. We lost a brilliant man when Ronald Reagan died. And if you watch Fox News and listen to former Oklahoman Senator J.C. Watts (whom I'm convinced would be the first African-American President if he would run, but he's wise enough not to. It's like standing in front of a moving train, it ages you like 30 years. Clinton now looks older than G. Bush Sr., and Carter looks worse than Castro does, and he's on death's door.), you'll be blown away by his beliefs, his ability to connect faith with the government (which should be together, unlike what most people say), and his ability to get a word in edgewise when Hannity and Colmes are at it.

So now, make a graph with a X and Y axis, with Left and Right being what they are (Democrat and Republican) and Socialism at the top and Libertarianism at the bottom. (The Y axis represents the amount of control the government has on people's lives. Too far to the bottom is Anarchy, and too far to the top is Totalitarianism) Now place the dots of the people I (or you) admire and agree with. That puts me someplace on the Right, bottom. Republican and Libertarian, but not so far to the right that I would be considered a strong Conservative.

Anyway, you get where I'm coming from, where I stand on the ideological spectrum of politics and Government. Finally, though, I have to say this. That what happens in Washington or Atlanta or wherever you might happen to live, while important, is not nearly as important as what happens right around you. The individual governs his own space, and has the ability to do far more good for the world than any politician ever could. Love is never passed by a vote, Caring is not a bill to be debated. The people who spend all day worrying about what their government his hiding or scheming or whatever has done nothing to help the people around them. In 2000, Bush ran on Compassionate Conservatism. I don't really know what he was talking about, and it never really panned out. I do know this. That I am going to care about my friends and love those whom I love, and whatever happens in Iraq or Washington or wherever doesn't mean a whole lot to me. If we all get blown to Oz by some Nuke from Iran, at least I will know that I loved someone here on Earth, and that I cared about the people around me.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Bowl 41, Ads, other comments

My obligatory SuperBowl comments. Somehow Superbowls always end up as being anticlimatical, since most NFC teams are just cannon fodder for the AFC teams. Last night was no exception. Payton Manning won his first championship game, which is good for him. But his performance of last weeks game against the Patriots was so much better, so much more befitting an MVP award than the game last night. This year we've been spectators to some of the best football games in recent memory, and so the other games, those that were more important, turned out to be dull in comparison. I watched it, and enjoyed seeing a live football game for the last time until August, but it didn't come with the excitement of a truly great game. The adrenaline just wasn't there.


Similarly, the ads were a letdown. Most people who aren't football fans watch for the commercials. Hopefully last night they focused more on their friends and the food, cause the ads were mediocre at best. It's like the marketing people tried too hard to market their stuff to the most base male football fan, without thought to the intelligent people, the women watching, the people who enjoy something that took creativity to make. No commerical stood out, like previous years, and while some got a chuckle, or whatever, it became where the ads were actually bathroom breaks.

What I wanted was something like the Geico.com ads, the caveman series. A marvelous ad campaign. Or the frogs from Budweiser from long ago. Publix has been doing amazing work with there commercials! But clearly, no imagination went into most of the ads shown last night.


So ended a dull night. I shouldn't have taken off work, but I had one vacation day left, and my manager had no problem with me using it then. I'm off today, but I'm usually off on Monday's, so that's not a problem. I like being on the schedule I'm on, and so doing something special like that puts me off kilter. Most people like to be on the normal schedules they have put for themselves. We are all creatures of habit. It's better to stay that way. That's why people get sick coming off vacations or off times, because their bodies are just not used to doing something so different. While people yearn for vacations... something tells me that we yearn for normalcy even more. It is our goal in life to make normalcy bearable, even enjoyable. James Taylor wrote, "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time..." I agree. And right now, I'd rather be at work, or at home watching Star Trek, or anything that I would normally be doing. Predictablilty is sometimes bad, but I don't think the mundane is such a bad thing. There's no use in doing something new and fantastic every time you turn around. The small joys of life are enough. I hope that one day I'll be able to share those small joys with someone else, but for now I'll just enjoy the passage of time on my day off. (And probably take my Prozac, which I haven't done.)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Quicky Points... Responsible Journalism, Book Reviews, and Josta.

My local Fox station, WAGA, reported today on an investigation where they found hispanic grocery stores sold persrciption drugs over the counter illegally. They went in, described what drugs they bought, how much they bought them for, and then confronted about it. It's sweeps month, this is normal stuff.

Except, the media was practicing irresponsible journalism. They told everyone in the Atlanta area that they can go to small, Hispanic grocery stores and buy drugs. Their profits are bound to skyrocket, and very little will be done by the police. You might as well report on bombings and show exactly how terrorists make the bombs. I've never seen the media act as irresponsibly as Fox 5 did.


I finished All the King's Men finally, after starting in October. It takes that long to read a Robert Penn Warren novel. An amazing book, worthy of reading twice at least. See my earlier blog for a review of it.

I also finished Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo. If I had to grade it, I'd give it a C+. The characters are shallow, the plot unbelievable, and the story unexplainable. But it was enjoyable. It had a wit that I enjoyed, a couple of characters that, in a better novel, would have been highly sympathizable (is that a word?).

The main problem was that the author never explains the rules of Foo well enough to let us suspend our disbelief, and the fact that "fate" has so much to do with the movements of the characters, it makes it even harder to believe the story. It is clear that the author has a long way to go to become an experienced master of his trade. I will say that, once that has happened, his books will be well worth reading. I would instead recommend Diane Duane's Wizard series or MacHale's Pendragon series. I'm now going to read The Navigator. Seems promising enough. Linked below.


I made Josta Reborn! Amazingly similar to its Josta ancestor. The problem with it is finding the ingredients. Bawls is easy-they now sell it at Target. Pepsi is simple. The Sobe Dragonfruit drink is more difficult. I found mine at a Shell station here in Conyers, but I did not find it at Krogers, Walmart, Target, and other gas stations. It's also similar in effects.