Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review: The Search for WondLa

It's one of the rare science fiction books written for children nowadays. Today's books are either half-comic diaries written for 3rd graders (I'm gonna write one too, it'll be called The Diary of a Blimpy Kid), or it's teen angst filled vampires and goth boys with dark eyebrows. Very little is what you would call speculative fiction. I have been impressed with the resurgence of "dystopian" worlds in the Young Adult section, although I have been a little hesitant to read them. The problem with writing most futuristic fiction is that you have to resist the urge to relate current political views with the outcome of mankind. It irks me when authors who are writing for entertainment decide to stick a platform from either party into a character. It usually sticks out like a sore thumb, turning an otherwise sympathetic character into a mechanical airhorn for a political party. And there have been some doosies in my reading. For instance, the Communist dragon in Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series. I stopped reading the book because of that. Or when Queen Amadala says, "And this is how freedom ends, with thunderous applause," during the newest Star Wars movies. And sometimes whole movies, like Avatar, are nothing but a platform for Environmental zealots, who are all anti-business and all for the government regulating everything. There are some recent books, like Brave Story, which I read a few months back, which has a little of that in it, but it's easy to overlook.

It's one of the main complaints I have with The Search for WondLa, as Rovendeer, the traveling Jimmy Cricket that accompanies Eva Nine on her journey, sometimes becomes a chorus that says general statements about the bad guys that are actually supposed to be about us.

The book itself, though, flows along quite nicely, with good plot twists and the usual "to be continued" thing at the end, as it's the beginning of a series. I read it quickly and easily, and would recommend it to any kid who liked Avatar, for instance, or Wall-E, which it was quite similar to, in theme. I always kept wondering, what would Orson Scott Card have done with this book? How much more depth and natural flow it would have had, even with the themes that were put in. As usual with children's books, it had a lot more potential. Of course, that's me talking, as the works of Card are books for adults that are about kids, and this book is a book for kids. How wonderful are those in which a balanced is reached.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Smoking and Half Dollars

I remember once, while returning from Bethany, from my Aunt Oyita's house, that I promised my dad I would never smoke. It shouldn't be a surprise that I kept that promise, as, except for a decent addiction to Dr. Pepper, that's about all I'll allow. I want to keep my inhibitions in check, my self-control (what I have of it) in balance, so all that other stuff is out of the question. That's why I don't like hearing Milledgeville being talked about as just a whole town of bars. And I've seen the hoops that smokers have to jump through when it comes to having a cigarette. Going outside, in the rain, in the snow, the cold, down flights of stairs, through security, just to smoke. I'm too lazy to do all that.

But what I don't agree with are the laws that state legislators have passed forbidding smoking in x,y, and z areas. Public buildings, like city halls and such, I have no problem with. The government owns the buildings, and they can do whatever they want. For privately owned businesses, I feel they can do what they feel will help their profitability. They are owners of private buildings, and they have the right to govern their area however they want. To say that smoking should be outlawed in all privately owned buildings just because it is harmful to one's health, it's silly. Now, managers and owners of businesses should certainly know the health problems caused by second hand smoke, and areas should be made for smokers. Everyone has a free choice, especially when it comes to places like stores, restaurants, bars...etc. The manager has a choice whether to allow or forbid smoking, and the customer has a choice, knowing what the regulations are, whether to visit that establishment. No government regulations are needed. And if they want to endure the effects of second hand smoke, then so be it. It's their choice.

What really got me interested in this topic was the recent passing of laws in New York City by the City council which outlaws smoking in public parks (such as central park) and public beaches. There is no way that second hand smoke is going to affect anyone else in an open area like that. It is a violation of the freedoms of the citizens of New York, just because picking on smokers is an easy target and popular with the politicians to gain poll points.

It is a popular notion for Libertarians to support the legalization of drugs, prostitution...etc... and they get wildly criticized for this. The overall point is that the deregulation of such items comes from individual freedom that we all should enjoy. We should be able to regulate ourselves, using discipline to enjoy our freedom while not harming or inhibiting the freedoms of anyone else. Thus it is that smoking falls under this realm. It should be up to the individual to regulate themselves on whether smoking in an area would be appropriate.

My mother's birthday was the other week, and I got her one of those maps that we use to keep Quarters in. The National Park Quarters are really cool looking, and especially since Oklahoma's quarter, that of the Chickishaw National Recreational Area (Platt National Park of old) will be issued at the end of the year.

While looking for all the quarters I had to put into the map, I found tons of the old coins I had from working at the grocery stores. Among them is a 1923 half-dollar, which I got one night as I finished counting my till. I guess the value of such things is different to other people. What I would consider valuable because of its old age, someone else just saw 50 cents they could use. Probably for cigarettes, which is why this blog connects with the other one.

How much treasure would one throw away just for the satisfaction of a vice? A habit? What lifestyle changes would they accept just to fulfill their addiction? I think these are rhetorical questions, as it's easy to see just what one will do. Take the recent rash of former governors who have brought their mistresses along for the ride, destroying families and creating quite the stir in the process. That list keeps growing every day. And this is something that does harm other people, so the idea of self-regulation should come into play. I guess its the power that one wields that makes them blind to the consequences of doing the wrong thing.

And it's those vices that create other afflictions to society. Madoff wasn't stealing money from thousands of people just to get money, but rather he was using it to keep himself in the height of luxury. And when the greed of those people reflect on all the honest, rich investors at Wall Street, they all look bad. Then the government steps in with regulations ad nauseum. Self-regulate, and this won't happen. But any vice that won't hurt other people, as long as you can afford it without compromising the absolute morals in which this world is based, I don't see a problem with. But there are many idiots out there that don't regulate anything, except through the absence of reason and the impulsive pursuit of one's addictions. And there are idiots out there that will pay for cigarettes with a 1923 half-dollar, which I will be more than willing to trade for.