Monday, January 25, 2016

it is what it is while you only live once

We have all made bad decisions.  Recently I chose to watch some of   30 minutes of my life are now gone forever.  Another day I watched “Big Brother.”  Same outcome though at least I got a good nap out of it.
Real Housewives of Someplace (I believe they are all interchangeable).
We all make bad decisions.  But there is a new phenomenon.  A public declaration that our bad ideas are actually good ones.  We are not making ‘bad’ decisions.  Our bad decisions are merely striving for life.  Or so we claim.
The new terms of rationalization:  YOLO and “It is what it is.”  Now, the former seems to have passed its peak.  But, for quite some time,  I would always hear that phrase accompanied by a bad decision.  “Yeah, I poured lighter fluid on my thumb and put it near the barbeque grill…YOLO!” or…”Yeah, I had a dozen shots and went for a drive…YOLO.”  Just deal with it…you intercoursed up—you made a bad decision.  While YOLO is true, so is YODO=You only die once.
Now, my other peeve is “It is what it is.”  This is what I hear when defecation has occurred in one’s life.  “My (boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, significant other, pet lemur) left me…Oh well, it it what it is.”  Or… “Yeah, I shaved for the eighth day in a row with an old razor and my face now resembles a topographical map of the Moon…It is what it is…” 
“It is what it is”—a phrase we use to publicly admit we will not give anything critical thought, we will not take responsibility for our actions, we will not accept fault for consequences to ourselves and others.  We don’t have to. Because it is what it is. 
I can’t argue the point.  Something certainly is what it is.  Zero will indeed equal zero.  Now God supposedly said something similar:  “I am that I am.”  (at least that’s what director Cecil B De Mille said in the Ten Commandments.)  It sounds cooler to say it if you’re God, or Cecil B.  De Mille.  Well, you are what you are and it is what it is.  And with this knowledge, we can….?

So, in conclusion,  what important lessons do we learn from YOLO and “It is what it is..”?  That occasionally all of us need something to say when we actually have nothing to say.  And we don’t want to think about it. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

                  "Kill the Brain and You Kill the Ghoul”—this is either the worst motto for any teacher to live by or the key to killing zombies according to Night of theLiving Dead, the movie that led us to the Walking Dead.
                  So, this post could be about George Romero setting the arbitrary rules that zombies, when re-animated, must eat people.  In a zombie-reality, zombies may not crave human flesh but merely crave rutabagas.  Our world would not be lessened if our rutabaga supply was depleted by the Meandering Dead.   
                  But that is not the topic of this post.
                  Watching TV it does seem that the idea “Kill the Brain and..Kill the Ghoul” is the choice of a new generation.  Our attention span is getting shorter and TV is helping this.  Binge watching 30-Rock is so easy because each episode is only 21:30 long.  If you watch the show in syndication, almost 30 percent of the time is spent in commercials.  If you enjoy TheWalking Dead, as all humans should do, be prepared to spend about 33% of each hour watching commercials.  Why does this matter? Well, everything around is conspiring to make our attention span shorter.
                  God forbid we get emotionally engaged in any TV show.  A commercial break of four minutes will often take our attention away.  God forbid we relax and allow ourselves to be lost in mediated literature.  A commercial break will sweep us to a reality in which we learn that apparently every drug that saves our lives can kill us in twelve other ways.  Or that without hair, we can not find love. 
                  A very smart student recently pointed out to me that our shorter attention span affects us in other ways.  We don’t read the whole article anymore.  We read some of an article, get the gist and use that gist as a basis for our facts.  If we read the whole article, we would get all the details and all the context.   We don’t have time to read the whole article.  Not when we are receiving a Facebook message informing us of that a friend has found an actual use for rutabagas. 
                  According to the first 30 seconds of a news story I saw on Fox News and the first four paragraphs of an article I read in some online newspaper, ISIS is trying to destroy us. (I may have read it somewhere else, like a blog, a facebook post or random ramble or something on my computer)   
                  Seems like ISIS does not need to go to this effort.  We are destroying ourselves just fine.  Uncritical acceptance of all media content as being accurate, equating bloggers with actual journalists, the diminishing population of actual journalists combined with our ever-shorter attention span is destroying our minds, our brains.  And when we destroy our brains, we destroy the ISIS version of ghouls--us.

What I See When I See “Saw”

So, this holiday season in my annual attempt to avoid the movies of the holiday season I sat with my daughter to watch “Saw”, followed by “Saw2.”  Consistent with federal law regarding horror films, no such film offers closure—just a means of setting up infinite sequels. 
                  “Saw” is different than the standard horror offerings.  The killer in “Saw” is not just a teen who was not invited to a dance ten years ago--who has grown into an adult that needs to kill all who attend the federally mandated reunion of all those that did attend the dance. 
                   Jigsaw has a motive.  He only kills those not living lives of perceived value.  Jigsaw passes judgment on the quality of the life that was lived, without understanding the back story of the person and without fact checking—just assuming the assortment of offered facts are accurate.  So, in other words, Jigsaw does the same thing that Facebook users do. 
                  Saw is a perfect film for our social media driven society—without understanding the context of the life we are judging, we get to post things without critical thought,  without consideration of the effects or whether our basis for judgments are justified.  Just like Jigsaw.
                  A generic Facebook post is a meme and a quote as the author of the meme hopes—and often has his/her hopes rewarded—that someone will look at a quote and a meme and assume whatever is there must be valid.  Because if there is a picture AND a quote—well, that level of sincerity and credibility can not be doubted, according to sarcastic bloggers.  
                  Jigsaw is self assured that his assumptions and interpretations are accurate or at least hopes they are to help him justify his barbarism.  Are meme artists similarly self assured or do they know they are dealing in defecation? 
                  It is easy for many to applaud Jigsaw for his righteousness against a selected set of characters that have lived perceived lives of limited value.  Perhaps Jigsaw is also popular because he represents both the meme artists and those that repost the works of meme artists.  No critical thought is needed to produce such memes or to believe such memes.  Quite often, taking literally 15 seconds can show us whether a Facebook post is valid or not.  Does Jigsaw take that much time to reflect on the lives he tortures?  Do we take that much time to assure that we are not sending bovine defecation to our Facebook friends?  Or are some social media authors rightfully depending on the fact that no one will challenge a meme? 

                  Now I do grant you that sending and accepting a meme based on no fact at all is a lesser offense than grinding someone’s nose under a semi’s wheels.  But is either a good idea? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

No links in this blog.  Just some thoughts.

Reflecting on a moment can ruin the moment.  Not always.  But it might.  I learned that today.

I just got back from walking in the snow, the quiet broken only by my shoes scaring away snow from my path, a gentle breeze that should be cold but feels good on a January-like day. Surrounded by the woods and the hills of Tennessee that we graciously call mountains, while the real mountains reside in other parts of the state, I realized what a lovely moment it was.  How peaceful.  How right.

When I got back to my apartment, I saw three young people sledding down the new three inch offering of snow.  Two were sledding. One was taping on a cell phone.  Two were enjoying the moment.  One was taping the moment.  All three were apparently in fear that the moment was so transient that if it was not saved on video, it never happened.

It made me realize something about the phrase “in the moment.”  There are two versions of this.  One version of “in the moment” is actually three moments.  The current moment is surrounded by the moments of the past.  Some may experience these as moments of lacking.  Perhaps they remember lacking what are thought to have been essential elements needed for contentment.  Those missing elements of  past moments may cause a  focus on any present current needs—elements of life still perceived to be missing,  along with the realization of the moment’s transient nature. 

Directly in front of our current moment is the future, which becomes our hopes and fears of the benefits and consequences of the moment.    Those that surround themselves with the past and the future as they live each moment are missing so much.  So many moments are just perfect without having to overlay the context of a realized past and an uncertain future. 

There are those that are probably in the moment in its truest sense.  Each moment is individual.  There is certainly time for reflection upon the meaning of the past and the benefits and consequences perhaps derived from the moment.  But the moment is singular.  It is now.  It is unencumbered by context. Truly living “in the moment.”

Unfortunately, I fall in to the 3-moment category of experiencing life.  I know I am missing something.  I know I am not alone.  I am joined by all those that fear they have to have video of the moment.  To prove it existed.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013:The Year Trust Died

A year end summary.  It's required from all media.  A list is always preferred.  Polls about how people feel about a list is especially nice.  So here is my summary.  It starts off as a bummer but ends on a bright note.

2013:  The Year Trust Died

There is even a poll that somewhat proves trust is dead.  Well, not dead, but dying.  The percentage of people who trust their fellow man is at an all time low.    Two out of three people don't trust the person sitting next to them.  2/3 are not trusting.  That is up from one half some 40 years ago.  

And why do we doubt each other?  Well, Congress has a 9% approval rating.  Certain legislators would certainly filibuster their own stays of execution, especially if Obama supported the bill.   Global warming is being debated.  Because we can't trust anybody on this issue, obviously.  

Some mistrust science.  Not sure why science has become so politicized.  Oh wait, I do know why and so do you.  

Media have not helped the trust issue.. We can't even trust our most venerated institutions. 

60 Minutes screwed up this year. Apparently, a very adventuresome reporter with great personal demographics didn't check her source's credibility.  One of the most central tenets of journalism is to check your sources.  Lara Logan and her producers failed. And now we can't even trust the program CBS built into one of the few last vestiges of traditional journalism.

So we don't trust the media that much anymore.  FOX and MSNBC help with the mistrust telling us who not to trust but who to offer our full time hate to.  

That we don't trust the media that much anymore probably comes from the media not trusting us.  The media collectively think we're shallow, attention-deficit people with the collective IQ of a pop up toaster.  Proof?  When one of our greatest humans died, Nelson Mendela, his funeral was covered.  We didn't hear the impassioned pleas of world leaders and South Africans to use the great man as a role model.  We did hear that during this meeting of world leaders celebrating one of the unifying forces of all time that our President shook the hand of Cuba's leader.  We heard in great detail that the sign language interpreter was a fraud.  CNN offered about ten seconds of Obama's speech.  

The media didn't trust us to maybe hear words of wisdom. Instead, we heard words of trivia.  Words of sarcasm, derision and political implications regarding a handshake.  (The conversation, as it was, between Castro and Obama included 5 words.  Not even a verb was included.)  

Oh, and a six year old was suspended for kissing a girl. Apparently six year olds can not get partway to first base without prior written permission.
Teaching six year olds to mistrust each other is a good start to the process.

I can discuss the NSA and its contributions to a lack of trust but so many others already have.  

So, losing trust, we retreat into our cocoons.  Our comfort zone where we are assured of truths that we have always had.  Where we have always known what was right and real and true.  And the other side is, of course, wrong to the point of delusion with a side order of stupidity.  

There is, however, much room for hope that all trust is not dead.  

The new Pope has been such a welcome change.  Instead of focusing on who to hate and what to condemn, he asked for and showed by example, that compassion is a gift to be shared.  Even Jewish folks like me can appreciate his messages.

And an act of random kindness did remarkable things for my own trust.  Two days before Christmas, my wife was using the snow blower on our driveway when she fell, breaking her ankle.  She started crawling toward our house where I was sleeping.  Her pain was extraordinary as her shattered ankle swelled.  Crawling a few feet at a time until she had to stop because the pain was overwhelming.  A stranger in a pickup truck noticed someone making snow angels.  Then he and his wife noticed it wasn't a child doing snow angels but a grown person crawling.

He and his wife pulled up our driveway, assessed my wife and rang our doorbell.  I quickly dressed and he and I put my wife in the front seat of his truck.  His wonderful wife sat in the back with me offering support and encouragement as he drove over 8 inches of new snow covering a bed of ice to get us to the hospital.  Upon arriving, he ran in to the emergency ward, grabbed a wheelchair and got it outside to help me get my wife onto the wheelchair and into the hospital.  

He gave me his card as he drove away.  He gave us his card in case we needed a ride home or anywhere else on this snowy, icy day.  On his way home, he finished shoveling off our driveway so we could return home. 

I called to thank him and get his address so we could send him something. He did not want anything in return.  He said he did it because it was the right thing to do and his faith calls him toward such actions.  

He is one of many who would have done the same thing.  There are also many who would have chosen not to get involved.  

So, my trust levels have taken a turn for the positive.  There is still a long road to recover the trust levels of my youth.  There is a long road to recovery just from the damage done to trust by 2013.  Nelson Mendela was a source of trust.  The Pope is a source of trust.  And a stranger named Mike is a source of trust that I will share via this story and hopefully, I will pay it forward.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hope and Journalism Are Not Dead. Just ask Sorkin.

"The Newsroom" concluded its second season.  If this is like the last break after season one, it will be just 43 weeks before we see season three.  

Show creator Aaron Sorkin did for news what he did for government in "The West Wing."   He painted a picture of an ideal world of virtuous people doing what they would be doing in an ideal world where pride, service to the public and professionalism still reign.  And he makes it fun to watch.  I lost my youthful idealism.  Aaron Sorkin never lost his and I appreciate that.

Some have pointed out flaws in the writing and storyline of "The Newsroom."  This is still a rare show that assumes the audience is not dopey. The show hopes that the audience has not become so overwhelmed by the cynicism that cable news offers that its viewers can accept the idea of hope.  

While its realism has been severely doubted by those that actually do this for a living, a relief from cynicism and a reassertion of journalism as a profession that needs to reattain its position as a respected and truthful industry is very welcome. 

While star Jeff Daniels tweeted that the show will be back for season three and HBO hinted the same, Sorkin has not committed.  Come on Aaron.  43 weeks from now, I will need the recharge in my faith.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

So, has Facebook made us less human?

In the movie "Network", Howard Beall asked the rhetorical question, "What's so bad about dehumanization?"  Like so many issues raised by that movie 37 years ago, this question is relevant today.  Facebook is under fire for planning changes to its privacy policy. There is much hyperventilation.

We are commodities. Corporations break us down into demographic and psychographic categories being judged by our marketing attractiveness.  Our government breaks us down into categories based on the degree of national threat we pose, based on our digital communication.  We are categorized.  We always were but now what we buy, where we shop, what we say, what we view online, what we say online---is all being scrutinized by someone who doesn't know or care about us.

So, what's so bad about dehumanization?  We will go to work today or look for work today, care about our families and complain about the deficiencies in our government and take for granted those things in our government that do work.  We are going to have the same day we had 37 years ago.  Except our privacy is being compromised and we are aware of it.  Have we truly lost our freedom and have our lives materially changed due to all this information being tracked?  The philosophical arguments with these practices are compelling. The practical effects of this seem a bit less obtrusive or life changing.  

Are we any less human today then 37 years ago?