Friday, April 27, 2007

Link to an Excellent Blog! (Life Without Cars)

You absolutely have to go to Orson Scott Card's website and read his latest essay "Life Without Cars." It goes with a lot of my imaginings about recreating life here on Earth to give Nature back most of its land while giving mankind a place to live. Of course, I'm thinking more of in the future where public transportation is commonly of the high tech nature that Japan has currently, where commercial buildings such as grocery stores and the like are totally underground, much like Washington DC has below their hotels near the Metro, and where everyone has an apartment of suitable size in buildings where electricity, water, etc... are all taken care of in a joint manner, ecologically sound and economically viable. But OSC's essay is a good start.

Of course, none of this can happen because the car industry would balk at the whole idea. Not to mention the oil industry, the department and road building industry, construction, big business, and almost everyone else involved with Consumerism in America. I'm not talking about Capitalism, but the ideology that says to make as much money now as possible, the heck with the future, and who cares about the people, the environment, or anyone else as long as the funds pour in.

But I'm a little cynical about this world. Anyway, here's the link to OSC's amazing blog. Feel free to read his other essays about world topics. Good stuff.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


First off, I'm not going to say much about the Virginia Tech incident, since most everyone else has already mentioned it, and I think it's clear that it had the same effect on everyone, from college students who remember their own dorm lives, to American citizens in general. There is, however, one thing to be said. In all the news reports I've seen over the past couple of days, only one anchor has expressed the same feelings I have had over the past little bit. Glenn Beck showed how superficial the media is being about the whole thing, how they try to make you emotional over the thing, only so you can watch more, so that the people who are making money off of advertisements can continue making money. He talked about the real emotions that all of us felt after Columbine, and 9/11, but now not so much after this, since we've all become desensitized to violence over the years. It doesn't shock us anymore. Not much shocks me, anymore.

But one thing I do want to talk about is the individual emotion that caused all this. Anger. Anger is plaque that forms around the heart and slowly eats away at it, until there's nothing left but anger beating blood through the body. The killer was dead long before he killed himself. It's the worse emotion that you can feel, because it only feeds on the injustices in this world, but at the same time, making you incapable of doing anything about them. You suppress it down and it festers there, like some cancer, until there's nothing left but that anger. I had that, many years ago, but unlike many people, I have worked it free and dissolved it, because the only way of getting rid of it is by becoming friends with people, by caring about others, and by loving them. And so many people nowadays, even ones with relationships and whatnot, aren't truly letting go of that anger.

The reason I chose to write about this is that I see way too much anger as I go through my life. At work, in the people my brother deals with everyday, in the people that create the songs and the TV shows that influence everyone. Anger is there. And it doesn't have to. Sure, everyone can be frustrated. I'm frustrated everyday, about something I can't get done, or because of the differences of opinions between me and my co-workers, or whatever. But frustration is simply the liquid form of anger. It's dissoluble, it's easy to get rid of. And you dissolve it by caring, by feeling love and being around people you care about. Negativity is neutralized by Positive emotions. And all this sounds so self-helpish and superficial. But it's not, since it's validated by the philosophies I ascribe to. From Christianity to Aristotle's ideas, from William Blake to Henry David Thoreau, the path through anger, cynicism, and frustration is shown by "loving your neighbors as yourself." Frankly, it's hard to do, because the only way to get through an Anger-affected heart is to try and become their friend, through understanding and forgiveness, and it's so hard to do. But we have to try. It's what we're all here for. If we can't do something positive to affect the lives of the people around us, then we have no purpose. Anyway, my opinion on all this is that we have to take the hateful words that spew out of the killer's anger-hardened heart, and irradiate the same feelings in our own bodies. We don't want to become like him. I hope that this situation is a cathartic one for all of us. I hope so, I really do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Leaving Early, Pacman Jones, and Hip Hop

Should we, at a restaurant, leave before desert? When the sweetest part of the dinner is about to take place, when the talking comes to a climax, would we just get up, pay the bill, and leave? I find that most people would do just that, when it comes to other things. We went to the Bill Gaither Homecoming concert last night, and I was astonished to see people who had paid good money for their tickets get up and leave with a good thirty minutes left in the concert. They missed some wonderful singing, sweet laughter, fellowship, desert, as I would call it. But they had the overwhelming urge to leave, sensing some need to get out of the Gwinnett arena before everyone else. This type of behavior has never made sense to me. You bought your tickets, knowing where you were to go-in this case being an arena in Gwinnett county-and by buying those tickets, you had acknowledged the traffic problem and should have stayed until the end of the program. The same thing should have be said for sports games. Some of the most exciting plays in sports history have been missed by the people who, sensing the need to beat the traffic, left before the game was over. But even if the game is well in hand by one team or the other, that is no excuse to leave a game you have paid good money to witness. The exception for this is weather or other emergencies, since it is not worth becoming ill to satisfy what I consider a business contract made in good faith between you and the teams (or singers) you go to witness. Of course, my family did leave the OU-USC Orange Bowl in 2005, since we were losing 55-19. But it wasn't supposed to be that cold in Miami, be that physical or psychological.


Today on Outside the Lines, they brought up the issues of racial discrimination in sports. It brought up a very interesting point, connecting together a lot of the current issues that have happened recently (the Imus remarks, the lifting of charges from the Duke Lacrosse team, the suspending of Pacman Jones from the Tenn. Titans.) with an overall argument dealing with underlying issues that have surrounded African-Americans for at least a hundred years. Let me back up and set some background. After the Civil War, there was a debate between two African-American scholars, WEB Dubois and Booker T. Washington. There was a sociological argument in how former slaves should be brought up to the social level of the rest of society. One (and I must apologize, I don't remember which one said what, it's been a long time) said that since the slaves had been brought here against their will, and oppressed by their white owners, that it was up to the rest of society to help them rise financially and otherwise to a position equal to that of the rest of America. The other (and I think it was Washington that said this, I think) said that it was up to the African Americans to educate themselves and earn their way up to the level of their white counterparts. I am greatly generalizing this, but the argument survives today in the platforms of the political parties. I won't go into this right now, but it's obvious what who believes.

Anyway, I thought the points that OTL was making today were very good points, not only from the area of sports, but of all areas of society where the perception of the African American lifestyle is an issue. They brought up Pacman Jones in that the NFL was trying to change the perception that people have on the African American players that make up that percentage of the rosters. It was amazing, an article showing the lineup of NFL players that had been arrested in the past year. 41 players all together, 2 white, 39 black. The image of this made for a remarkable picture in the article Newsweek put together. Why has the NFL and society failed these players? Or more specifically, what makes the players think that they can do whatever they have been charged with (which goes from DUI to drugs to domestic abuse), and do it without any inkling that they are doing something that is morally wrong? It is a shame that two gifted quarterbacks, Payton Manning and Michael Vick (or his brother Marcus) have gone in two totally different directions when it comes to the ethical behavior of the individual players. It could also be argued that African American music, or more specifically, current hip-hop music, would also condone the behaviors that those 41 players have been arrested for. The answer to this came from a newspaper editor on OTL, who said that in music, they are writing about things they are familiar with. This is a common and often helpful way of creating an artistic work. If you write or paint or compose something that is totally unfamiliar to you, it is more of a chance that it will be unsatisfactory to the people who have some more common link to the subject that you are writing about. But why should we except the condoning of behaviors outlined in hip-hop music? Doesn't this make it all the more important to try to stamp out the behaviors and attitudes that make the songs relevant in the first place? The shooting of police officers or the abuse of females are ethical issues (murder and abuse) that need to be rectified. It is this point that either the government should step in and regulate the actions of its people (an option that would be totally undemocratic and would result in major upheaval), or the people who are singing about these things would need to correct the attitudes themselves. If the songs were meant as a corrective measure, like many folk songs were in the 60's, this would not be an issue. However, it's clear that most songs that contain mature elements are almost in celebration of the culture. How can a culture be celebrated if, in the vast majority of instances, that culture is in violation of ethical standards that have been universally accepted?

Further, it is this argument that justifies the suspensions brought on by the NFL to Pacman Jones and others, but that it is only a band-aid to what really needs to happen. In this instance, the NFL office is the government that is trying to regulate the behavior of its denizens. It should be up to the individual players to govern their own individual behaviors. To this end, the ideas I've brought up in past blogs seem to fit in here. The behaviors often seen in people such as Pacman Jones and artists like Bobby Brown only further denigrate the African American race to the whole of America. Which is most unfortunate, for the freeing of the slaves in the 1860's, and the civil rights movement a century later, should have resulted in the uplifting of a society of people up to the standards by which we all deem to live. Martin Luther King Jr. would be appalled at the way some African Americans see their society today. And of course, applying that to the rest of society, Imus thought it perfectly acceptable to talk about the African American society in the way that some of them refer to themselves as. I don't agree with all this, but it happened. I agree with Washington that members of all races and cultures should endevor to follow the ethical values ingrained in every one of us, and individually, follow "the greater good" and make the world not such a cynical place. Such is the path we take through the world of Experience (Blake).

Friday, April 13, 2007

News Alerts, Turtle Cashiers, and things that bug me. :)

I just realized, it's been eleven days since I've posted anything. That's too long...I've been reading Jung recently, trying to get a handle on what I've heard about his philosophies. So far it's nothing I haven't already talked about, which is a good thing, because it means that Jung's ideas are so ingrained into my mind, and most modern English Majors, that they've become an integral part of our culture. Anyway, on to my post...


It's time for another "Things that Bug Me!" It's hard to do these posts, actually, because trying to remember enough of them to post is's the ADD. Course, that might be a good thing, since, if I can't remember what it is that bugged me, it won't really bug me until it happens . Whatever.... anyway...

This is picky, but since we live in a time where information is constantly being thrown at us, and I'll admit, I always have the television on when i'm at home in my room, television becomes, for most of us, simply background noise. It's almost like we have to sub-divide our brains while we're doing anything, because, like the need for noise, the need for multitasking is almost as strong. So, since television producers know this, they put little sound effects that will get our attention. In the olden times, the only thing they had was the emergency alert noise. Now, however, we have cable news channels and whatnot that try to get your attention in anyway they can. One annoying way that they do this is by using a noise to alert you to whatever (they think) is important. From Fox News' "Fox News Alert" with corresponding noise, to ESPN, who is now using their alert tone to tell you whats coming up next in Sportcenter, it draws you out of whatever you are doing and into the present, usually in which nothing is usually important or something they've not covered a million times. Drives me nuts. Sportcenter repeats itself over and over, and so it should be background noise. So this little ditty they have now is irritating.

Just experienced this last night. I go to Kroger to get some light bulbs (for some reason, every light has to be on in the house constantly (not me, I can see in the dark)), and so I get that, plus some water for the Bill Gaither Homecoming concert tonight, and I get in line. It's 10:30. Kroger has shut down their self-scan lines, and has replaced competent cashiers with the ugliest, slowest, least customer friendly cashiers possible. It's like they found rocks with arms and legs and showed them how to scan groceries. Now, first of all, self-scan registers would take care of the myriad of people who just need light bulbs, and then that would leave the midnight shoppers there for the other cashier or two. But Kroger is trying to save money, and probably still doesn't trust the customer to correctly scan their groceries (like that's so hard!!) and so they shut those down, and then they look through their rosters and find the slowest people to scan groceries late at night where it won't make as much difference because of the light volume of customers. The result being that the lines back up, making the customers annoyed, and then the cashiers are rude, making it unlikely we'll ever return to shop there. A definite no-no in the land of retail.

And on a related note, they do the same thing at Walmart, but a little different. So I'm at Walmart getting a few things, and I'm resigned to the fact that I'm gonna have to wait in line for three hours, listening to the whiny kids and annoying women on their cell phones talking about things they have no business talking about on their cell phones in the middle of a store, and so since I have less than 20 items, I look for the express line. Except the express line is manned by the slowest possible cashier ever to scan a gallon of milk. And they always do this! Its called an Express lane!! It means you get out more quickly! So then I go to the self scan line, where I can scan my own groceries thank you very much, and the customer in front of me has a problem scanning something (and lets face it, not everyone has been working retail all their lives). The light goes on, the too loud female voice announces to the whole store that someone is having problems... and the cashier at the end of the self scan registers doesn't look up from whatever it was that they were doing. Cleaning their fingernails...whatever. I enjoy doing self-scan because it makes me be at three places at once. A cashier doing self-scan should be outgoing, busy, and able to help customers out and make them want to come back to those lines. But they don't, and they don't, and the lines elsewhere back up and self scan registers don't live up to their full potential. On a positive note, Kroger on the north side of Conyers has a cashier that works like this. To me, she's annoyingly loud and too outgoing, but that's just me. She's an excellent cashier and encourages customers to return.

So this turned into a retail post. But since that's where I spend most of my time, either shopping or selling, that works for me. I'm going to send this post, modified, to Kroger so that maybe they'll head me.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Turn Your Radio On

The inability to think literally, as I have been saying, has hurt us in more ways that I can name, but I want to look at one example that I've been thinking about in the past couple of days. When I went to church, at a Baptist church here in the area, I remember sitting in Sunday School, reading through the tract book they give us for conducting Sunday School, and thinking how much like herds of cattle we are. The school "teachers" had no formal education in theology, nor did they concern themselves much with topics of a religious nature. They did take great care to apply the fundamental teachings of Christ to their experiences (a nurse and a fire fighter) but that's about it. Mostly, they asked the questions they were supposed to ask (the ones out of the tract.) and get the answers they were supposed to get. Why ask the question if all you expect is the "right" answer? If everyone in the room gives you the same answer, and it's the one you expect, there's no real reason to ask it, is there? For instance, if they were to ask who your heros are, or who you look up to, say in a lesson about Timothy and Paul, the whole class would answer, almost in unison, "God" first, and then maybe their parents, teachers, policemen (firefighters and doctors, obviously)...etc... but that would be about it. There would be no other discussion. The questions would all be like that. No deep, theological or philosophical conversations. And then after the obligatory mumbling through of the lesson, a lesson in which nothing was learned, things would denigrate to the latest football game or whatever, and then we would hold hands, pray, and leave. And nothing would be learned, no thoughts would linger beyond the time of church to tap you on the shoulder at nine in the evening. It was a wasted hour, and I grew tired of it. So now I don't go to that church, and I question whether there would be any class in any church in these parts that would have a teacher that would be able to hold a class in a manner that would suit me. Let me give an example...

A couple of nights ago, my mom got a new Bill Gaither Video, Love Can Turn the World, and in it, Gloria Gaither wrote a b-roll for Russ Taff to say in front of the school where they had shot film. He said something to the effect that scientists had found that the smallest bits of matter in the universe were strings of music, much like what Bob Greene talks about in The Elegant Universe. But instead of going into quantum physics, Russ went another way. Inside all of us are these same strings of sound, music of the spheres, as some of the ancient philosophers called them (Pythagoras, I believe). Inside of us are strands of DNA that, included with the songs of life are the encoding that make us what we are. Now, if we are to take as true, and we must, if we believe the the Bible is Truth (the Word was God and the Word is God.), that God made us in his own image, then would it be possible to assume that he made us out of music, of song, of the very fragments of the universe that He himself created? In this case, we can forgo the idea that God will look like a human being, or that Angels have wings and feet and whatnot, but rather, we ascend and "sing" for all eternity His praises, in the form that He gave us when we were first created, out of the dust of the Earth, out of the musical strings of the universe. This very directly agrees with science, with the beliefs in Theosophy and Pantheology, that God is everywhere. Now, unlike Yoda's "force," we cannot manipulate it with our minds, but we can pray, and ask God, who is the source of all that "force," to manipulate it for us.

I find it very hard to argue with this, but there will be people who would, because in this, the traditional beliefs of God having two hands and human like figures is done away with. It destroys the idea of God as some perfect "form" of a human (see Plato's metaphysical beliefs), and replaces it with an abstract form of science which is difficult for even the lay person to understand and believe. But perhaps that is what God intended, because a truth that is hard to believe is hard to perceive as the truth. And you will find no Sunday School class talking about these types of things (at least not generally, there may be some amazing class in a Church somewhere that does... I hope so.), because it is better to build up the walls to all but the most traditional of thoughts, and the fundamentalists would call anything else heresy.