Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nostalgia, or Life without Electricty

It was Turner, the famous British Landscape painter, who brought the forests of England, as well as the rest of Europe, into favor with the art scene during the late 1700's. Without his influence, artists like Monet and Caspar David Friedrich would not have recieved the high praise for simple paintings of scenery. But the need for landscape scenes in England during this time was important for more than just art. It was a symbol of the vanishing forests of England, that were being replaced by factories and the Industrial Revolution.

My point is that the most popular art exists when the objects that are being painted are being destroyed. Currently, impressionist paintings are among the most prevalent posters found in dorm rooms today (aside from scantily clad women). We find beauty in landscapes found in Alaska or Montana because, for the most of us, we have never seen such beauty. For the people living in urban areas, especially here in the south, mountains and snow are only seen on TV and on the paintings in stores. Further, one of the most popular new videos for the Christmas holiday is the video Yule log, since most people now living in urban areas have no fireplaces, they must make do with an electronic one.

Perhaps this is one reason why bluegrass music is just as popular today as it was in times past. It is why places like Williamsburg and Stone Mountain exist and thrive, because the yearning for the earlier, simpler times pervade into our consciousness. We want to slow down, to become like our grandparents and our ancestors. Of course, we would not want to give up our modern luxuries, but at the same time, a log cabin someplace far away would be ideal for most of us, if even for a few days or so. I've often admired a log fishing cabin on Highway 212 going to Milledgeville as a great place for me to live if I ever had more money than I knew what to do with. It's right on the banks of Lake Sinclair, and it probably costs a bundle (but of course, that's why we value it so much, because the dreams of the people with money to be able to get away from everything for a few days is often overwhelming. If I had a simple cabin next to a lake, with a simple T1 line to access the Internet :), that would be everything I need.

I'm talking about Nostalgia. The yearning for simpler times that have been destroyed by modern day society. And it's in line for capitalism to do this, because then they can offer islands of simple bliss far away from society for outrageous amounts of money. And of course these places are far away from cities, so that you have to drive for hours to get there, which then it's necessary to have a car and to put lots of gas into said car. This is capitalism at it's finest, and this is also what OSC was talking about in that blog I referenced to earlier. The perfect example is Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee. Houses that cost millions of dollars, an hour away from Atlanta, and no nothing for miles. But to live on a lake in the middle of nowhere, that would be the life. Of course the houses have to be mansions with cable and internet and cell phones and stuff, instead of the fishing cabins I would be happy with.

Of course, Nostalgia isn't a bad thing totally. I was getting all the cynicism out of the way. There is something very peaceful about nostalgia, in the music, in the writings, in the paintings. I have often found such peace in the songs of Michael Nesmith, as well as the writings of Henry David Thoreau. a good book for younger kids is Gary Paulsen's The Island. There are so many wonderful works of art, music, and books, that give a sense of Nostalgia, but nothing like actually going to the small towns in America and seeing how people used to live, and in some cases, still live today. I was watching a TV show on PBS that talked about the unusual side-of-the-road architechture in small town America. It made me smile, and laugh, and wish that I was working in some local bookstore in DeepStep, Georgia, because I feel there's something missing in today's world that existed in great abundance in the times of my grandparents.

I remember walking down the neighborhood of my youth, Rolling Green, and seeing no one out, even though it was a warm summer day, and realizing that everyone was inside playing video games, or out playing one of the myriad of soccer games that were scheduled every day of the year. No time to actually get out and be kids. I enjoy even today going over to Factory Shoals Park in Newton Co. near Lake Jackson and going to the swimming hole there. It's such a refreshing change of pace. But for the most part, most kids nowadays will never know those pleasures. They will be whisked away to arranged sports games to play dates where the main focus will be some sort of electronic diversion, or they will spend hours in front of the TV playing their Wiis or their PS3s. And I'm just as guilty as they are. We should all spend time without electricity, and see what our imaginations will think of to keep us happy. People would be happier doing this than what they think.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Polarization of Society

I generally don't worry about the Yahoo! Answer function, but the question they posed about the political situation of America today intrigued me, so I answered it. My answer below, and I'll take a look at the issue and follow up at some point, because it's closely related to many things I've talked about before.

Why have political parties become so polarized that they fail to address the concerns of most Americans?

One answer is to look at the underlying motives of today's political leaders. What makes them believe what they believe? One answer (and certainly not the only one), is that while Democracy is the governmental system we exist under, we must look at government through the eyes of the business man, through the system of capitalism under which we have so thrived. Most issues under the dome are considered not only for what is good for the people or the nation, but also what is good for the financial goals of each congressman's constituents and the companies that have invested interest in the country.

The problem that we are having today is when the goals of the businessman become more important than the happiness, well-being, or even safety, of the citizens. It is at that point that capitalism mutates into a more sinister system. I have been calling it "Consumerism." This is a system of capitalism that focuses on short term benefits, cares nothing about the future, and sees the citizens as a resource, to use and abuse however it sees fit. Certainly there are many companies today that realize that, while the practices and decisions they make will profit them now, the cost may be the lives of its consumers, or the well-being of the planet.

Now, what this has to do with the question? It is necessary to look at the financial aspects of any decision in Washington in order to see the motives behind the support or opposition to that decision. Would funding the Iraq War be a blessing for airline makers, ammunition companies, oil and gas companies? Or would the instability of the Middle East actually hurt the economy? Money definitely has a primary role in what our congressmen decide.

Combine that with the philosophy behind Consumerism. Things must happen now, quickly, without regards to consequences in the future. The media, of course, instigates this in the continual hounding of officials about this issue or the other. The Iraq war should have been over a week after it began, and Iraq should now be a thriving country of happy capitalist free men and women who would be happy to spend their money for our benefit. Of course, it doesn't work that way. And when it doesn't, people must find some more radical action to make it happen quicker. It seems that today, people are living much more quickly in their daily lives, in their beliefs, in the way that they expect the country to run. Trials should be over in an hour, since that's the way Matlock did them. So too should wars, or negotiations, or whatever the case may be. The pendulum that so often swings from one side to the other, has been swinging more quickly in the past few years, with no need for a Hegelian synthesis of opposing viewpoints. To compromise would be to slow the pendulum down, and this cannot happen.

This is a complex question, with many answers, many different reasons why that polarization has happened in government (and not just government, but most of society has become polarized about everything. You choose only Coke, or you like either Paris or Lindsey, or you love someone or hate them.). I cannot answer this in one simple question, but I will try and look at it and give a better answer. I do have a blog: , which you are welcome to browse through. This question has given me something to think about, and to respond to, when I get around to it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Water Water Everywhere...

I've been away a while... not much going on here. I've been reading the essays of Carl Jung, and finding that most of it is what I already know (I think I said that the last blog entry). So I won't bore anyone with that....

We're having a drought here in Georgia...wildfires happening to the south of us and no rain to be seen. I wish we could get the rain that's being dumped on Oklahoma and whatnot and transfer it over here. And it's not just us... you see pictures in the news constantly of countries that are in drought, and people that die of no water, etc...Some sociologists and environmentalists predict that the next global war will occur over water supplies, and not religion or land or whatever.

But I'm here to tell you right now that if the whole country dries up, and the grasses die and trees are engulfed in flames, that the Mall at Stonecrest will have deep green grass and dew-laiden bushes every day. Obviously the watering ban means nothing to them. There's probably some exception made to big businesses or for places where appearance would affect profit. I have seen on more than one occasion the sprinklers being on in the middle of the day, well past the watering restriction times. And the sprinklers are not always aimed at the vegetation. I can honestly say that Stonecrest Mall has the cleanest pavement around. The cement will never thirst. When the summer progresses, and towns announce that they have 30 days of water left, let us all thank Stonecrest for having such beautiful green lawns, instead of water for the citizens to drink.

Of course, it's not just Stonecrest that is the culprit here. I've seen GC&SU do the same thing. Middle of summer, drought conditions, but the azaelas in back of Atkinson Hall were watered every day.

The reasoning for this goes back to my last post. The goal for the mall is to provide an island, an oasis, if you will, from everyday life. A place where you can spend the day with beautiful landscaping and inviting smells and sounds, with Target built like a castle on the hill, surrounded by lush trees and camoflauging brush that hides the parking lots. All of this so you can spend the day at the mall, inside, spending your money on whatever your heart desires. Further, the mall is isolated from the rest of the world. You have to drive 20 minutes to get there. But the mall wouldn't have it any other way. And I'm sure that the Sam's Club loves it, since they have gas pumps all ready to take you home. And when the suburban sprawl gets too close, we'll build another mall, maybe out near Social Circle, and we can all drive a half hour to escape our lives for an afternoon of consmerist ecstacy. I think that the people at Atlantic Station in Atlanta have it figured out right. That's the way we should do it. And they can use the water, in my opinion, because people are living, shopping, and enjoying themselves right there. OSC was so right about the neighborhood issue. There's still so much to be done to reconstruct the towns and cities into places where people can live with themselves, with nature, and each other. But the cynic in me says that there are so many consmerist-minded organizations (oil, transportation, etc..) that would fight the creations of true neighborhoods. I often think it would be interesting to see how a modern version of the company-run town would work. If, for instance, Wal-mart would have apartments on top of there store for their employees to live in, or have a major factory have a school where the children can go to and a general store to go to, much like the AFB at Warner Robbins.

Just some thoughts. It's time we start getting to know our neighbors, and not just a brief nod as we fly to the Malls, like some shining city in the desert. Which, if the lack of rain continues, is just what Stonecrest will become.