Monday, March 11, 2013

We're ALL in this together!

Not too long ago I read a book by Chrystia Freeland called The Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.

After reading it, I have had the very strong and very agreeable feeling that we can come together in this country of ours, all of us, the reds, the blues, and the greens and everyone who picks out their own hue.

When 1% of the population has 40% of all the wealth we're all of us ALL OF US!!! in the same boat and on the same side. (With the exception of about 1% of the population, and believe me, I don't know any of them.) Like you, probably, I am in the bottom 80% in terms of wealth. Among us 80% we have less than 1/6 of what that top 1% has!  The top 1% have a lot of us hoodwinked into going along. Their media outlets see to that.

Call yourself a Libertarian, call yourself a Republican, call yourself a Democrat, an Independent, or even a Green Party member.  We are pretty likely to agree that we need to redistribute wealth in the United States.

Well, maybe you don't agree. Maybe you like the way wealth is distributed in America today. I wonder if your mind would change if you knew more.

The video below will help you see clearly how wealth is "shared" in the US today.

I hope you will see this video and to share it with everyone you know. It's WELL worth the 7 minutes it takes to see it.

Links: The Plutocrats

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bring Me Sunshine

After my rant about television, I thought it would be appropriate to share the sort of video I do enjoy.

I found out about this one when I ran into two of my ukulele friends, Jim & Jon, while shopping downtown. Jim Corbett told me about it.

Thanks, Jim!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Television Curmudgeon

Call me a television curmudgeon.

I stopped regularly watching television when I left home for college in the fall of 1969.

Since 1969 I've not seen countless TV series and sporting events. Like everyone else, I see television in stores and pizza restaurants, in hotel rooms occasionally. But most weeks I see zero minutes of television.

When I am present at conversations about TV I have nearly nothing to say. If I do open my mouth, I can feel my welcome immediately wear thin and fray to tatters. Almost no one wants to hear me out on this subject.

I am willing to acknowledge that I could be wrong about television. A number of people whose opinions I value have recommended that I be willing to try modern television programming and see whether I might change my mind.

So, based on a number of recommendations about the same shows, I decided to watch a couple of seasons of well-reviewed and highly-regarded television dramas. With the wonders of the Internet & Netflix's streaming service, I can watch TV on my computer without having to buy a television set—a tossed blessing if ever there was one.

I saw Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. As my trusted friends and family predicted, I found both to be very entertaining indeed—almost addictive. It probably helped that the main character in Breaking Bad, Walter White, is a teacher, and a supporting character in Sons of Anarchy is a young female physician, like my daughter. These characters helped me enter the story narratives.

But—please hear me out—my opinion with regard to including television in my life is largely unchanged.

I've seen enough.

One important reason for reverting to a no-television existence is that television altered and disturbed my dream life. For most of my adult life I have been able to remember at least one of my dream cycles.  My dreams are ordinarily interesting and often very helpful in figuring out what's happening at the edges of my conscious mind. Dreams enrich my waking life.

During my television bender—it took me almost three months to see the television series—my dream life was occupied, yes, occupied is the word, because it connotes an unfriendly military occupation. My dreams were occupied with working through the upsetting material portrayed in the shows. Both shows contain a lot of violence.

Another important reason is that television is simply time consuming. Watching these dramas preempted other activities that I enjoy and value, like playing my ukulele, learning piano, walking, paddling, and cooking. At least until I retire, opportunity for these activities is limited to a few hours a day. Precious, in other words.

Now, to anticipate a common objection: not everything that appears on a screen is a waste of time.

I probably misunderstood Marshall McLuhan's famous phrase,  "the medium is the message" to condemn everything that appears on a screen, but if that is what he meant, I would respectfully disagree.

I do benefit from Youtube videos like those that show me how to strum a ukulele like Israel Kamakawiwo'ole playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  I do benefit from watching documentaries like Searching for Sugarman.

Television is not always a waste of time, a pointless pastime, or a dream-disturber. But it can be any of those things while being lusciously and seductively addictive.

That's why, when it comes to television, I'm still a curmudgeon.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Pale Blue Dot

NASA photo showing Earth as a pale blue dot at the left edge of the bright rings.

Saturn eclipsing the Sun as seen by the Cassini space explorer.
Earth is the tiny blue dot just outside of the bright inner rings.
Click on the photo to enlarge it enough to see planet Earth.

Carl Sagan had this to say about another NASA photograph similar to this one:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.