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)