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Nov. 10th, 2010

Writer's Block: You must remember this

How do memories influence the decisions you make? Is it better to embrace memories, even the painful ones, or cast them off?

"Better by far you should forget and smile/Than that you should remember and be sad." Rossetti's words express a very tempting state of mind. I've often found myself inclined to take my memory, give it a good rinse in the Lethe, and hang it out to dry of all memories. All guilt, all remorse, and lost possibilities evaporated. Yet if I were to lose these, and I recognize this fully, I would lose all objective experience which led to the formation of who I have become today. I am not entirely a creature of multiple circumstances summed up. Nevertheless, in the world of free will which we inhabit, the choices we make are more or less exclusive - they shut other doors, if not all doors. Were these doors not shut but continually opened again, then we should never be able to make out a path for ourselves. Consequence is essential to the human condition.

Sep. 14th, 2010

9/11 - Paradigm Shifted

Here is an entry I sent in for the J & C for their reflection on 9/11 that somehow got lost in the mail. I post it here for your reflection.


It was SAT week at Frankfort High School. We were just finishing the first section of the day when our teacher interrupted to announce that the Twin Towers had been attacked.
      I don't believe there was a student in the classroom who ever took her seriously. She was a mousey little woman who sneezed like a dying kazoo. In all her earnestness, we still couldn't help but think it was a strange practical joke. Yet as soon as we left school, we knew that to say this was no joke was the understatement of the century.
      I spent the rest of the day at home, watching THE footage repeating endlessly. After a few hours of that, my mind had finally become de-numbed enough to realize that my future no longer seemed certain. My thoughts kept turning to the possibility of a war, a war I might become involved in. (War on Iraq was declared almost two years later - on my birthday. Talk about dates to remember.) There was no escaping the news, either. My father would watch the news into the early hours of the morning for many months to come. Now, certainly, we see how much this event has become a part of our psyche, almost a given.
     It is deceivingly easy to think of life as one long unbroken stream, when in reality the events in it have shattered it into a million pieces. Some of these events are so small to us as to be unoticable, but each life has one or two hinge, in which life takes an almost entirely new direction, so big that we know it. 9/11 was a date that altered a high-schoolers status quo forever. Suddenly the important issues weren't getting a car or eating at the Milky Way for lunch. Our minds were turned to matters like foreign affairs, patriotism, courage, religion, even death. The Eleventh of September was the day where we unwillingly became adults.

Aug. 29th, 2010

Writer's Block: What's my motivation?

If you could replace any actor/actress in a film with someone else, who would you replace, and why?

Aug. 25th, 2010

The Clan of the Cave Fox

My immoral, non-therapeutic Deist friend was kind enough to send an article my way from The Times a few days ago on the subject of "Emerging Adulthood". Experience has taught me to approach anything "Emerging" with caution.* However, the author did make some important points on the direction that American family life has been taking recently and the psychological effects this is going to have, especially on 'twentysomethings'. My friend summed it up better than I could:

The article is premised on the idea that you grow up, leave at
18, married and job by early 20's . . .which was the life, true, that
our parents and grandparents and perhaps great-grandparents lived, and
it was the more normal state of affairs for 20th century America.

But that's a 'normal' state of affairs for a very small bit of the
world in a very small bit of human history. As I've mentioned to you,
in Macedonia extended families live together their whole lives,
perhaps not happily, but functional. It's unpleasant for the teenagers
and twenty-somethings, but probably the best possible situation for
raising children in the first place, with grandmother always there
cooking and the old uncles offering card games and life advice. Or so
it seems.

Could this be an emerging American expression of this sentiment? Sure,
kids would like to live off their parents. But could it also mean
that, given the economic circumstances (and of course, the fruits of
the sexual revolution which delay marriage), that children don't feel
the need to break up the family structure so soon, and would be happy
to add to it in an extended way?

I am inclined to agree with my friend. As disheartening as this might seem the traditional American conception of family, we must remember that there is an even greater tradition preceding our own, which admits a great many more generations of a family than ours currently does.

Life today for the twentysomething graduating college seems very fractured. I have experienced this firsthand. Nothing puts a wet blanket over your future plans as much as the prospect of moving back in with your parents, or in my case, my parent.

One of the points this article didn't address to my satisfaction is the effect the increasing number of live-at-home twentysomethings is going to have on the parents. Congruent to the former trend of the child leaving home for better prospects has been an increase in the psychological condition most commonly called "empty nest syndrome". Parents are left with the prospect of having no one to care for, now that their children have become autonomous. They have been set free from a great burden, yet at the same time, they have nothing conrete to fill the gap which has been left open. This is the period where mid-life crises and divorces are most likely. I've had to experience one myself, as one of my parents went through four different living arrangements in the space of five years. Their latest designs for a house have been, thankfully, postponed for the moment. But now that their children have found permanent job prospects harder and harder to come by, adults must help support them as they return home, and any inclinations to burst out are squashed. **

But we must ask (as my friend has said), now that there has been this reestablishment of a vertical relationship in the family beyond the merely formative years, should it not extend even further? Must the immediate family only consist of parents and children? And as long as the family unit encompasses the grandparents [and greats and so forth], what is stopping it from becoming horizontal as well as vertical? Should we return to the model which has been the norm for most of Western Civilization up until very recently - the large family, or clan? Fr. Franz Schmidberger has this to say about our former paring of the size of the family, and its results:

" . . .Our modern consumer society looks upon grandparents as a burden; there is no space for them in the house and they are subsequently packed off to the nursing home. The family of three generations is reduced to a mere two, and this impoverishment in terms of human warmth causes pain to the children. Hence they, too, leave home at an early stage to seek out a room or an apartment of their own, and the family of two generations quickly dwindles to one. The parents are left with an empty nest, but the development does not end there. Now living as singles, the children soon discover they are not meant for solitude and promptly cast around for other young people to share their hobbies and their time with them. They want to have fun with their peers, and this desire results in the genesis of a new type of "family", such as communes and, in the worst cases, rock bands. These young people will stick together and defend their interests with their own lives if need be. The traditional family has gone out the window, and what can come in the door but a totally contorted alternative!" (Franz Schmidberger, "Family and Education in Today's World", The Angelus, November 2007)

Could the current sociological situation be a reverse in this trend, a 'reinvesting' of human warmth in the family? The presence of "sisters and cousins whom we reckon by the dozens and our aunts" might seem overpowering to our current conception of two parents, one point five kids. Even Macedonian teenagers, as my friend mentions, chafe at sharing space with so many of their relatives. Yet with a 'clan' of these proportions under one roof, domestic responsibilities and decision-making will not be such a monumental job as they are now.

Large clans tend towards delegation of work - everyone learning to 'pull their own weight'. Different family members will have different strengths and weaknesses; the presence of more family relieves the burden placed on a smaller family to do so many jobs. Plus, common goals will lead towards greater bonds between And we need not limit this to the sense of cooking meals and doing laundry. As my friend pointed out, grandparents and uncles will help in the social education of the younger set. As parents are engaged in their work, the elderly will be free to watch over the children and impart to them the wisdom which comes through age. Grandparents will have the opportunity to instill the traditions of their family at the very least and those of the community on a larger scale. Furthermore, supporting our grandparents in this way is a much more humane approach than the common desire to send grandparents off to a nursing home where they will end up out of sight - and out of mind.

Finally, we should consider this from the viewpoint of investment at home. Are parents, faced with housing their children as well as their parents and their close relatives, more likely to proceed to abandon their current homes in hopes of moving out to a housing development and investing in a bland, throwaway McMansion? One would hope not. The need for stability in such an environment should reinforce the instincts of thriftiness, patience, and humility. People won't go for quickly disposable houses, but will trade in for permanence. They will want something that will last longer, and when it does decay they can invest their own time and money into the home maintenance, thereby through the 'sweat of their brow' making the house a symbolic part of the family. They will want something they can hand down to their children, a house that has acquired the personality of the family, something that it would be undreamable to abandon for another home.

The nuclear family in America has achieved critical mass, in many ways. The bonds that once held it firmly together - public opinion, inheritance, ancestral ties - are being eroded. What we have now in the return of the twentysomethings' homecoming is an opportunity of sorts to start rebuilding it. Who's to say that bigger families won't help in the restoration of all the above? Taken again from Fr. Schmidberger, it must be remembered that "the common good of a family [. . .] is their mutual harmony as they dwell together in an ambience of peace and joy that allows individuals to develop freely and without material cares. The bonum commune ranks above the bonum individuale." Perhaps the reestablishment of the bonum commune on the small scale of the family can eventually help bring about a greater sense of the bonum commune in our nation in the days to come.


* Too many videos from Health Class about "Your Emerging Manhood". You know the type. Plus, there's the whole Emerging Church business that is (hopefully) slowly dying out.

**Mind you, I am not taking credit for directly influencing such decisions on the parts of my parents, and I, as well as any self-respecting twentysomething, is looking toward gainful employment. I am often curious as to what tension I must pose for my parents. Still, tension has this effect on emotion, in that it delays and defers rash action, quite often into reflection.

Aug. 24th, 2010

Writer's Block: Money ain’t a thing

If money were no object, what technology big or small would you buy tomorrow?

A canoe.

Aug. 18th, 2010

Writer's Block: Star struck

Why do people care so much about the private lives of celebrities? Is it idol worship, schadenfreude, or something entirely different?

People delve into the personal affairs of celebrities because they find it exhilarating to find some common link between them. Oh really, that model eats those brand of pretzels? This news anchor uses this type of lipstick?  One of the greatest piano players in the world walks his dog at the same time of day I do?


Part of us feels excited to see idols and heroes acting just like us. In some ways, this commonality empowers us to aspire to greater things - after all, if Joe Q. Moviestar can do it, why can't I do it myself? Or, at the very least, it vindicates us - if Joe Q. Moviestar was caught with a Hungarian underwear model, what's the problem with me glaring at pictures of Mrs. Jane Q. Moviestar?    

Carl Sagan once said that we human beings are "significance junkies". I will agree that we are hardwired to pick up instances of coincidence. That we share something in common with characters so faraway, so nebulous, so sacred as the popular excites us. As this world grows smaller, however, and more and more people are offered the opportunity to touch the hem of the garment of celebre du jour, it has begun to lose its luster. This doesn't have to be the case at all. Frankly, people should be astonished that they have something in common with their next-door neighbor, their sister, their best friend - should be excited that similarities exist at all.

Aug. 9th, 2010

Writer's Block: My Journey

If you had the chance to travel anywhere in the world for a year, where would you go?

Anywhere just as long as they have a Consulate for the State of Denial. I'd have to say Scotland or Eastern Europe. Although the former is probably more desirable since Jacobites tend to behave themselves better than Slavs nowadays. But the country is beautiful and it's ideally located to travel elsewhere in Europe. Unless you mean I'm confined to the country; but I'd still most likely go with Scotland.

Jul. 13th, 2010

Writer's Block: Let the Music Play

How can the right music make a party better? What music do you usually put on to get the party started?

Bagpipes can get any Hawaiian luau jumpin'.

(no subject)

"There is no unemployment on the land."
-- Peter Maurin

Want Beverage Choice, Hoosiers? Then Don't Support Change It Indiana.

So, there was a conference at my place of employment (Payless Supermarket) last week promoting a potential reform in Indiana's blue laws called Change It Indiana. (There might've been an exclamation point after Change It - it seems to be the fad for potential legislators to shout at us anymore.) It involved a gaggle of suits meeting up in the liquor section talking about how much easier it would be for everyone in the state if supermarkets could sell liquor on Sundays as well as cold beer. Of course, whenever I hear the word "change" I reach for my pistol, moreso in light of this last presidential election. (Not, of course, that the current administration has offered much in the way of change, but I'll give them the benefit of doubt.) And frankly, I think that the Change It campaign is one of the worst things that could happen for the local community.

First, getting a few things straight: I am not a prohibitionist. I see nothing wrong with the consumption of alcohol during any day of the week. Neither am I a libertarian. Granted, I do believe that restraint from any certain luxury for a defined amount of time is beneficial (e.g. fasting, fish on Fridays). But I don't believe that changing these laws would affect statistics on alcohol-related crimes or injury.

However, I do want to approach this from both an economic and, inherently, a regional standpoint. Right now, liquor stores and bars have the advantage of being able to sell cold beer or to serve alcohol on Sundays, respectively. Supermarkets want to "level the playing field", if Beverage Choice is to be believed. But how level would this field be? Supermarkets already own such a large investment of capital and resources as to be able to sell liquor at a much cheaper cost than most locally owned businesses. Being able to sell refrigerated beer, as well as serving it on days where supermarkets are forbidden to do so, are local businesses two main "bargaining chips." Losing these, it will not so much be that the playing field of alcohol sales is level as it is that it will be tipped strongly in support of those businesses who already have quite edge over the independent owner. 

This will not be the work of that nebulous entity "the people", let alone Hoosiers. Sure, many people think that they will benefit by the passing of this bill, but they will not be the ones who have conceived it in the first place. Complaint is not formulation. It is not a grassroots campaign. It is being pushed by the Alliance of Responsible Alcohol Retailers, which includes Kroger, Meijer, CVS and Circle K stores.

1) I ask you to compare the selection offered at the above stores compared with the locally run breweries. Do the large chains on average surpass the selection of the smaller local stores? How many local names do the former carry in comparison with the latter?

2) One of the big issues pushed at the Beverage Choice website is not the amount of revenue generated for Hoosiers:

Indiana loses millions of dollars in tax revenues annually by banning Sunday sales of alcohol.

TAX revenues. This Alliance is appealing to the ever-hungry money purse of government. Rather than commending the government to tighten its economic belt and nobly learning to make do with what it has (frugality), the Alliance has played off of the government's greed to amass more and more wealth into its hands. It does this because it knows big government all two well: after all, the two are second cousins once-removed. 

According to a policy analysis by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, allowing Sunday sales would increase the sale of spirits, beer and wine. [We are dealing with sharp minds, here!] By providing a more convenient shopping experience for the consumer, Sunday sales could bring nearly $9 million in additional sales tax and excise tax revenues to the State of Indiana.

Let me ask you this: when was the last time that an increase in tax revenue satisfied the state treasury? When was the last time that they decided that enough was enough, they've asked for plenty, and they won't need any more in the way of taxation? (Isn't the fact that they're using this argument now pushing the fact that they are not, indeed, currently satisfied?) When have they used taxes sufficiently to the improvement of government-run services?

And there’s another economic impact to this. Now, Hoosier businesses in border communities are also losing out on revenue as Indiana residents cross state lines to purchase alcohol in neighboring states.

Hoosiers are losing out on revenue whenever they buy from major companies. How much of the money spent at a Wal-mart do you think is reinvested in the local community? When a large corporation establishes itself in a community, how much does that go towards generating business in the surrounding area? If anything, such convenience (as it tends to eliminate local competition) will drain a town of its communitarian spirit. I have yet to see a bustling small economy pop up in conjunction with the appearance of a Wal-mart Super Center. The only thing it breeds are its bastard children, the pitiful consumers as best exemplified by www.peopleofwalmart.com 

The majority of supporters will say that this is for freedom of choice. Again, if the choice gets narrowed down to whatever the corporations decide to sell, for how much they decide to sell, how can this in any way be said to be choice? Hilaire Belloc proved prophetic in this warning: when it comes down to basics, Marxists and Capitalists differ in degree, and not in kind. As capitalism rots, as it is bound to do (and it is on its way right now) this degree will be lessened until the two are one in the same. Likewise, those who argue for personal autonomy - so aptly summed up in the commonly heard phrase "whateva I do wut I want" - will ultimately find themselves working hand in hand for those agents most opposed to freedom of any sort - the economic oligarchs of mega-corporationism.

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